- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

Collectible games give lovers of strategic challenges, trading cards and miniature figures a way to become part of their favorite comic books, cartoons and movies.

Here are just a few of the latest releases to meld pop-culture universes with hands-on action.

Horrorclix Starter Set

(WizKids, $14.99, for ages 13 and older)

The company that turned DC and Marvel comic-book stars into HeroClix figures offers an ode to classic and modern-day fright movies with its latest collectible miniatures game.

Using a set of 96 pre-painted, 1-inch-tall plastic figures with a patented combat dial on each, players create a world filled with vampires, werewolves, zombies, occultists, slashers, spirits and an occasional hero.

Familiar, but not licensed, legends culled from the fertile minds of John Carpenter, Robert Louis Stevenson, George Romero, Wes Craven, H.P. Lovecraft and other pop-culture agents of horror abound, and WizKids pulls no punches on their graphic design.

Blood and body parts routinely hang from the figures, and weapons of torture, talons and fanged teeth are incorporated into the characters poised to strike.

Players battle on a blood-splattered two-sided grid map, which is included and represents either a crumbling mausoleum or haunted house.

The starter set also offers six monsters and monster cards, 12 plot-twist cards, 12 victim tokens, one Tree of the Damned, two tombstone 3-D objects, two six-sided dice, one ring for turning the combat dial, and a rule book.

Game mechanics: The turn-based challenge requires that players assemble a squad of horror characters based on a set number of points. Victim tokens are first placed on the map board. Based on the numbers found on the combat dial and a pair of bones (dice), creatures then move around spaces, strategically kill helpless humans and an opponent’s spawns from hell. Plot-twist cards can help or hurt the innocents, while color-coded monster cards (shockingly devoid of art) can add to a figure’s powers.

Coolest characters: It is a toss-up between the Bane Wolf, a werewolf designed by Drew Williams that drags a bloodied moose head, and the Jester, a fat clown designed by James Carter that wields a bloody serrated knife and holds a quintet of decapitated heads — pleasant dreams.

Difficulty: A solid 6 on a scale ranging from 1 (easiest) to 10 (somebody get me an aspirin), thanks to the complicated nuances of flying monsters, hourglass icons, two-sided crossroads cards and my inability to twist the combat dial, even when helped by the ring.

Expanded possibilities: Booster packs ($7.99) offer a mix of four (common to rare) figures and cards for each, two plot-twist cards and a victim token.

Additionally, conventioneers who hit major gaming shows the rest of this year might be able to buy the 16-inch-tall, Lovecraftian Great Cthulhu figure.

Dreamblade Starter Set

(Wizards of the Coast, $29.99, for ages 13 and older)

A new miniatures strategy game takes players into the universe of the mind as they become specially trained psychics who command a warband of creatures.

Beautifully designed characters tap into man’s ancient archetypes and mythologies and use the emotions of valor, fear, madness and passion in an attempt to dominate a dreamscape.

Actual action mixes number-based initiatives, lucky dice rolls and the use of highly detailed, beefy 40-mm-tall figures that move around a grid map.

The initial release offers a set of 96 pre-painted figures. Many of these highlight muscle definition, armor engravings and translucent appendages to easily transform them into displayable works of art.

Additionally, the use of a more pliable plastic makes the rugged, transportable figures as sturdy as they are gorgeous.

The starter set includes 16 randomized pre-painted plastic miniatures broken up into one rare, three uncommons and 12 common characters — all with stats on their base, a double-sided map, nine six-sided dice and a colorful rule book.

Game mechanics: On a battle mat of 25 cells, two players or teams use 16 figures each and must strategically move them into scoring cells, collect the most conquest points and win a turn. The first player to win six turns is victorious.

The roll of a single die spawns figures, while the roll of a group of specialty dice (and a character’s attack and defense number, located on its base) determine the outcome of battles between figures occupying the same cells.

Coolest characters: The Steelborn Griffin is impressive: His metallic wings tower more than 3 inches tall. So, too, is the purple Painmonger with his wrist- and ankle-based spiked weapons and scarred chest. Those with weirder tastes will enjoy the Misbegotten Mutant, which holds a massive pipe wrench and melds translucent fleshy innards with gray scaly skin.

Difficulty: 8.5. Not having multilayered rules or complicated powers tied to long-winded text on trading cards makes the game a breath of fresh air within the genre. The learning curve is greatly enhanced by a map that clearly spells out the rules for a roughly 45-minute match. Only the use of blade skills might confuse newcomers.

Expanded possibilities: Booster packs ($14.99) contain seven (common to rare) figures.

Also, look in November for the first expansion set of the Dreamblade’s universe. Baxar’s War incorporates 60 new figures into the game with characters that can poison and terrify opponents ($14.99 for seven figures).

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com, visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Web site (www.washingtontimes.com/blogs) or write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide