- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

“Star Wars” has infiltrated almost every pop-culture arena imaginable. So it seemed a natural choice for legendary trading-card and game developer Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) to use the license as an entry point into the world of miniature collectible figures.

Following on the backs of WizKids’ numerous HeroClix challenges — which rely on players using 1.5-inch figures standing on a combat dial to determine winners — the Hasbro-owned company offers a comparable challenge that uses a trading-card assist rather than the twist of a dial.

“We were looking for ways to expand interest in our ‘Star Wars’ gaming brand. Collectible miniature games have become more popular, and we heard some requests for ‘Star Wars,’” says Mary Elizabeth Allen, brand manager for Wizards of the Coast.

“We took the request to [Lucasfilm], and they thought it was a wonderful idea, particularly with the classic DVDs being released and the ‘Revenge of the Sith’ movie coming out.”

WOTC’s first effort, Star Wars: Rebel Storm, hit stores in September and incorporates a core collection of 60 figures from the films “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Return of the Jedi” into either a specific game for two to six players or as companions to the company’s massive, Dungeon and Dragons-like “Star Wars” role-playing adventures.

To get started with the miniatures-specific game, players purchase a starter set ($19.99) containing 10 figures (each with an illustrated statistics card), a fold-out battle grid, eight terrain tiles, a die and a rule book. Additional figures are available via booster packs containing seven figures each ($12.99).

The turn-based action requires combatants to assemble a squad of characters based on a set number of points. And through the luck of a die roll, the movement of figures on a grid system and use of mathematics in tandem with deciphering the stats card help determine the fate of the galaxy.

With the help of the fold-out battle grid, the game can take players to re-enact pivotal scenes, such as the Millennium Falcon escaping from the Death Star and the rescue of Princess Leia.

Figures come either the Rebel (i.e., Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and a Rebel pilot), Imperial (i.e., Darth Vader, Stormtrooper and Grand Moff Tarkin) or Fringe (i.e., Boba Fett, Jawa and Jabba the Hutt) factions. Each is made of highly resilient plastic, making them very portable and fairly indestructible — even to the point that if they bend in the wrong direction during an especially heated exchange, Miss Allen suggests, dropping them in hot water for a few minutes will straighten them out.

Games typically take about 30 minutes to complete, depending on their complexity. Although the figures barely do the onscreen characters justice, the hand-painted 34-millimeter pieces of plastic still get the job done.

Of course, the initial set is further broken down to rare, uncommon and common figures to add the collectible element and give folks a reason to search EBay for that hard-to-get Mara Jade miniature.

WOTC has also just released a helpful book titled “Ultimate Mission: Rebel Storm” ($29.95, 96 pages with a double-sided fold-out map) tied to the set that features new battles, terrain tiles and adventures to improve and expand game play.

Additionally, in the first week of December, the second set of figures arrives under the title Star Wars: Clone Strike. These 60 gems are characters from “Attack of the Clones” and “the Phantom Menace.” As an added incentive to jumping aboard the game, a preview figure from next year’s “Star Wars” movie, “Revenge of the Sith,” will be randomly inserted in starter packs ($19.99).

Those requiring more information or even help with setting up other scene recreations should check out the “Star Wars” portion of the WOTC Web site (www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=swminis).

• • •

WizKids, the company that started the miniature-collectible-figure-gaming frenzy, also has a new set of figures hitting shelves as part of an expansion of its popular Marvel HeroClix set.

The company’s Mutant Mayhem booster packs ($7.99 for four randomly inserted figures and one feat card, battlefield-condition card or bystander token) mixes heroes and villains from different story lines across the Marvel universe in battles using a combat dial mounted to each. The set includes 97 characters, an ultra-rare master-piece Spider-Man and an oversize Giant Man dressed in the Ultimates costume. It also marks the debut of such teams as Alpha Flight, along with the use of trading cards to add powers to the figures or update battle conditions.

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