I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures for some time now, and it was generally a positive experience. Still, as with most mini-games, there was room for improvement, so when the new rule-set launched earlier this year I was pretty excited. Cutting the rules down to their core elements and tying the game more strongly to the new Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition seemed like a great way to breathe new life into the community and bring new players to the table.

I bought several Dungeons of Dread booster packs, and overall they were as good as could be hoped. But what really drew me into the game, that one special thing that I felt could make or break this new revision, was the first booster set to include Huge figures. Finally, gamers have this set in Against the Giants.

Against the Giants is a hard set to review. Like all set releases, it has its definite ups and downs, but in this case both the positive and negative aspects seem to be drawn to extremes. Mutterings from pre-release events were generally positive, but there were definitely nay-sayers in the crowd. Then, when the online gallery went live, there was a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror. The fanbase complained that the paints looked ugly, the sculpts looked stiff and unnatural, and (of course) there weren’t enough dragons.

Well, despite the huge negative backlash against the set now that it’s readily available, I’m here to say that it’s okay. Not good, not terrible – certainly not the end of DDM as it has been occasionally heralded – just okay. It really depends on what you’re looking to get out of the game.

The paints, for example, are terrible and inconsistent. The sculpts, too, look much more static than the great action poses past sets have given us– not necessarily bad, but certainly less interesting. In a few cases, the few really low-quality sculpts combine with really low-quality paints for a terrible effect. The Hellwasp, in particular, looks more like something from an upcoming Pokemon game than something that’s likely to sting your eye out and force you to die slowly of insect venom in a dungeon somewhere.

Sure, there are exceptions to both of the above (the Bugbear Lancebreaker, Death Titan and Fire Bat jump immediately to mind as being excellent figures) but on the whole, there’s more disappointments than must-haves. So if you’re only into DDM for the awesome minis that you can put on your shelf to show off to girls (if they’d ever call you back…*sniff*) then maybe this set isn’t for you. The same goes for you people who must have the absolute BEST looking figures around for your D&D roleplaying sessions– go out and buy some metallic Reaper minis and paint them. Wizards of the Coast won’t know the difference. This set just isn’t made for you.

On the other hand, if you’re a fan, even casually, of the actual DDM skirmish game, then you can’t afford to miss this set. Even if you never get to play with the Epic ruleset or the Huge figures, some of the powers Against the Giants introduces are game-changing. Elves that can snipe through walls, giants that can warp next to any fire-type creature, budget goblins that can move dozens of spaces with the right companions– these and other effects will completely change the way the game is played.

Even commons have abilities that can turn the tide of a battle, so it’s possible for a casual player to pick up a booster or two and have a good time with the set. Obviously, some decent playtesting went into AtG, explaining the mostly positive buzz generated from pre-release games.

The final verdict? It’s a tough call. If you’re into playing the actual DDM skirmish game, give it a shot and see if you can live with the less-than-stellar figures. If aesthetics are more important to you, skip it and wait for Demonweb to drop in November.

What does this score mean? Check out our review scoring breakdown.