Growing up, I cut my teeth on interactive table top games like Hero's Quest and Dungeons and Dragons. I remember begging my younger brothers to try all the games so I would have someone to play with. As I got older I found it increasingly difficult to find anyone to join me. Eventually I discovered MMORPGs and, naturally, my gaming focus shifted gears.
Recently I was introduced to a new game that incorporates both my current infatuation with MMOs and my lifelong love for table top gaming. Who would do such a thing you ask? Someone you may know all too well if you grew up collecting baseball cards -- Upper Deck Entertainment. I sat down for a game of their new 'World of WarCraft: Miniatures Game' with Anna Maria Mannino from Upper Deck's marketing division.
Upper Deck is, once again, pushing the World of WarCraft franchise adding to their already popular Trading Card Game with this new offering. In my opinion, they're onto something big! Expected to hit store shelves on November 11th this quality product is everything you would expect from a box that says Blizzard and Upper Deck!
To play the game you'll need a starter pack, with a retail value of $24.99. Included are four minis, with all the cards and bases you'll need to use them, six dice and a double sided map. You can also buy booster packs for $14.99, which will include 3 additional miniatures. The booster packs are randomized but there is some consistency in terms of which factions you'll get. I was told that the randomization helps serve as a "chase" element to help prevent everyone from getting the epic figures, Leeroy Jenkins and Thrall the Warchief to give you two examples. While I would recommend getting both a starter pack and a booster pack, you don't need to. The starter pack has everything you’ll need for a 2v2 player game.
Now an important thing to know before trying to play is that this is a turn based game. More importantly it uses a unique turn based system in which turns are based off the master time clock. Each Miniature has a personalized base that tracks the units hit points and turn that the individual unit is on. Whenever a character moves or attacks, turns are used. Different kinds of attacks take more turns. For instance your character's basic attack might only take two turns but using one of their spells or abilities might take up to four. This helps balance the individual units as well as create balanced teams.
Now, one of the great things about the UBases that the miniature units need to function is also the only peeve that I have about this game. They detach from the miniature so that you have both a collectible and a game piece. Unfortunately, removing them is not difficult. In fact, they usually come off by themselves. I've found it extremely difficult to keep the bases on minis. Some work better than others but, for the most part, this is a flaw in the game that will hopefully be corrected.
When I brought up this concern to Upper Deck they assured me that they were working to help alleviate any player issues that may appear with the UBases. They are offering a number of ways for players replace them, if the ones that came with their Minis don’t work well. First, UBases will be offered as prizes in both hobby league kits and in OP events. Also, UBases will be available on the Upper Deck Points Store. UBases will also be available through Upper Deck’s Customer Service. Anna Maria said: "Upper Deck is commited to providing a great gaming experience, and wants to make it easy for players to replace UBases that are not up to par."
Let me to tell you about the cards that come with each miniature. The character cards describe each figure. They give you their faction, race, class and physical attributes. One of the attributes is honor which is used to calculate how many victory points you need to win the game. You gain victory points two different ways; either be on or adjacent to a capture point, which will give you one point every fifth turn -- or you can kill one of your opponents miniatures, which will then respawn but not before you collect your four victory points. In order to win you must earn the number of victory points that your team's cumulative honor is worth. This helps further create unit balance and makes it possible to do a 3v3 and 4v4. Essentially the more units you have, the longer each game will take!
Each miniature also comes with two special skill or spell cards that lay face down so that your opponent cannot see what you have. Some of them have a 'cast time' which you can only use while you're attacking. There are, however, a few instant cast abilities that you can use while you're defending or in conjunction with an attack. You can only use each ability card every tenth turn so while these cards are extremely powerful, there is a strategic element that makes these cards invaluable.
Now it wouldn't be a World of WarCraft collectable game if the possibility of in-game loot didn't exist! With every booster pack you buy you also have the chance to get a card for a redeemable in-game item. One of the cards included in the first run of the product is a unique Epic Bear Mount. There will be a limited number of these cards so players lucky enough to get their hands on one will certainly be happy about that. Future expansions of the product will have different loot so you’ll always have something to look forward to, no matter how many booster packs you buy.
Another set that will be available in December will, in my opinion be the way to go for those of you who already know what to expect and want to fully explore the game. The Deluxe Edition will include everything you get in a starter pack, one of three maps that are exclusive to the Deluxe Edition and they will also always contain an in-game loot card. This option will be available for $39.99 and will likely be in very high demand with the limited number that will be available.
I asked Anna Maria about her feelings on the overall quality of the game and she said, "One of the things that Upper Deck is known for is baseball cards because we came in and completely revolutionized the industry because our cards were so much cooler than anyone else’s and that's the bar that we set for ourselves with the Miniature Game". After playing the game extensively over the last couple of weeks I can attest to the quality of the product. It's fun, it's addicting, it's WarCraft.
Andrew "Tamat" Beegle