The Analog Gamer: Plastic Death

mage-knight-dungeons-pyramid.jpgA few years back, while trying desperately to perfect my RTS skills for an upcoming LAN party, I decided it was time to take a break. I made a visit my local gaming store to look at the recent book releases, hoping to find a new d20 related resource to help energize a slowly fading campaign. Browsing the shelves, I noticed a group hovering around the gaming tables that were almost always filled by Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic players. This time instead of paper cards in shiny plastic “card condoms” there were small plastic miniatures and a tape measure arrayed out before them.

“What the hell?” I wondered, these guys never put away their binders of cards, yet they were absorbed in this new game, picking up the pieces, turning something on the base and making clicking sounds as they advanced across the tabletop.

This was my first exposure to the addiction that I now call “Plastic Death”. I watched as the players pulled out a few miniatures, recorded their point values and then randomly placed cups and plates upside down on the 3′ x 3′ playing surface. The players surveyed the landscape like Douglas MacArthur and Hideki Tojo looking for advantage in the battlefield. It wasn’t long before my curiosity got the best of me and I sat down to play a demonstration scenario.

The system was simple. Far more simple than the Warhammer mini’s I’d lusted after for years and years, and it offered something that full scale miniature games hadn’t. It was easy to teach and approachable and didn’t seem to take 3 years to set up a game. The price of the figures and collectability also got my blood flowing. Players could buy a starter and two boosters and have a nice variety of random figures to outfit a quick skirmish.

Three hours later I drove home with my new minions ensconced in their boxes, ready to build and collect as many of the uniques ans rare figures as I could muster. My wife, who is also a gamer, was not very pleased. Despite my insisting that these new affordable plastic minis would serve a dual purpose – as both a strategy game figure and stand in miniatures for our many pen-and-paper RPGs, she sensed an obsession in the making and was willing to do anything in her power to protect her family from it.

Luckily my obsession was short lived. I enjoyed the simple gameplay mechanics but the storage of the minis, which unlike say RPG books or Magic cards, was difficult and space consuming. I realized quickly that no matter how much I liked collectible miniature games I would never have enough space to store or display them properly and so I walked away, sated with the few hundred figures I’d managed to amass in a short time.

From time to time I’ve poked my feet back into the water. Things have evolved in the market a great deal since I first set hands on those original Mage Knight figures. Dungeons & Dragons had officially embraced the miniature lifestyle, and Star Wars as well. There are collectible miniatures for Super Heroes, Horror Movie Monsters and even Battletech. Alas, Mage Knight has burned out and gone away but the quality and collectability of the current games is actually greater now. After all who wouldn’t want a nice Black Dragon miniature to add to your D&D game or desktop army when playing with minis?

Looking back I’m not surprised that these collectible games caught my eye, especially as I was in full swing of my Real Time Strategy obsession on the PC. There was a lot in common between the turn-based action of Mage Knight and the strategy I was trying to map out in my video games. While the tabletop version did not rely on build trees, resources or structures and it often lacked the grand scale or massive armies I was used to deploying in Command & Conquer, Age of Empires or Starcraft matches, it was a great way to share my love of strategy with friends who did not have the massive time or money to invest in a PC to play those games. (I discovered that not everyone uses their computers to game or wants too, but its easy to convince them to play with miniatures or cards ironically)

Enough with the fond recollections and on to the news:

Desert Of Desolation goes 4th Edition
previews807_umber.jpg Earlier this week, Wizards of the Coast announced it had begun the conversion process for its Dungeons & Dragons Collectible Miniature Game from the current 3.5 system to the upcoming 4th edition rules. Wizards released downloadable content via the D&D Mini’s website featuring updated creature cards for the Desert of Desolation expansion. Gamers who may not be miniature players but have an interest in character and monster abilities in the upcoming rule revision should definitely check out this “backdoor” preview of 4th edition. Wonder what the stats for an Umber Hulk will look like in 4th edition? While this might not be all the details from the 4th edition Monster Manual it sure gives a good idea of power levels and so forth.

Wizards also released the update timescale for the previous miniature releases on the site.
Details and downloads can be found here.

Magic the Gathering Online v.3 Arrives soon
A community letter from Magic Online brand manager Worth Wolpert explains the plans for the release of the forthcoming Magic Online v.3 and the changes players of the game can expect over the next two weeks.


We’ve been waiting a long time for the day Magic Online III becomes reality, and it’s almost here. In a few short days we will be turning off our current MOL system, v2.5 and going “dark” for a week or so while we migrate all of your user data, card collections, and such over to our new database in preparation for the launch of the system. When the timer gets to a specific number of days remaining, there are some events that are going to affect you all, so I wanted to illustrate what you can all expect in the coming weeks.
In the past few weeks while the timer has been on pause, we’ve made a couple small changes to our internal launch checklist, moving days around here and there, and extracting a small bit of time from the remaining countdown in the process.
We are going to resume the timer at L-17 today, and it will decrement to L-16 with the nightly web update at 9PM PST this evening, and proceed from there.

As of today the counter is at T-14. Check out the full details of the open Beta here.

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1 Comment on The Analog Gamer: Plastic Death


On February 1, 2008 at 1:20 pm