One of my favorite things about the GeekDad/GeekMom community is that, while we often bond over shared interests and celebrate common ground, we also each have our own unique likes, dislikes, and perspectives. For instance, our own “GeekDad Paints” series sees Anthony and Robin regularly share tips and tricks and helpful new product recommendations to those in our readership who relish the simple joy of customizing their gaming miniatures.
Still, while I always enjoy seeing what the fellows manage to come up with, I will readily admit that I am not the target audience. I am simply no good at painting minis and–more to the point–I don’t enjoy it.
It’s just not my thing, and thus growing up, this often meant that my tabletop roleplaying sessions either employed the unpainted lead miniatures of the day, jury-rigged stand-ins (“The pog attacks the Monopoly thimble for 2D6+2 damage.”), or, more often than not, no handy real-world analogs at all.
Thankfully, times have changed. Not only are pre-painted plastic miniatures a thing now, they are also readily available, generally affordable, and, perhaps more than any other gaming supplement, they easily bring your tabletop storytelling to that all-important next level of engagement.
Today we’ll be looking at two different series, both provided by WizKids Games: November’s Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes and D&D Icons of the Realms: Monster Menagerie II, which are newly available this month. Both series will be judged by the same 7 criteria—general character mold quality, paint detail, largest figures, smallest figures, standout mini, durability, and (the delightfully opaque) “other notable differences”—based solely on the contents provided in the two, 8-pack booster bricks pictured above.
Now, with that out of the way, let us turn our attention to our teams of worthy competitors.
Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes
D&D Icons of the Realms: Monster Menagerie II
Right out of the box—see what I did there?—we have to talk feathers, scales, and fur. While Deadly Foes leans heavily on the more profane aspects of Pathfinder lore (like the fallen Erinyes, the fierce Bearded Devil, the dreaded Thune Enforcer, and the diabolical Priest of Asmodeus), Monster Menagerie II casts a wider net, going for a more varied, holistic approach to the enduring D&D canon. We’re talking Hippogriffs and Bullywugs, Worgs and Mindflayers—not to mention a smattering of humans, elves, halflings, and the like for your players to enjoy. While this may just be my nostalgia talking, it’s really tough to beat all those classic Dungeons & Dragons archetypes in cleanly sculpted three-dimensional form!
Advantage: D&D Icons of the Realms: Monster Menagerie II (for overall variety… with a smattering of nostalgic feels)
Sure, the base figures take the cake for D&D, but Pathfinder more than makes up for it with painted details. While some of the Monster Menagerie II miniatures, especially its humanoid offerings, leave a lot to be desired with regard to the painted precision, Deadly Foes wowed me with its focus on minutiae like armor detail, jewelry, and heraldic iconography.
Advantage: Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes (with bonus points for extra pentagrams)
Let me make this clear: both lines really bring the variety when it comes to product size, with a typical four-mini box boasting one large, one small, and two medium figures (though, one large and three medium is far from unheard-of). Still, here we’re concerning ourselves with only the biggest, baddest boys on the block. With Monster Menagerie II, this means the massive Planetar Angel, the iconic Beholder, and a bevy of golems. They are pitted against the high-flying Giant Eagle (easily the single tallest fig in my review lot), as well as the various Hellbeasts in the Deadly Foes line. By the numbers, Pathfinder takes the lead with 16 super-sized minis to D&D‘s dozen. However, note that four of the Deadly Battles large-sized miniatures–hurray for oxymorons!–are not creatures but furniture, environmental features, or similar set dressings. (WizKids calls them “dungeon dressings.”) That said, I am inclined to give the edge to Monster Menagerie II. Because, you know, Beholder!
Advantage: D&D Icons of the Realms: Monster Menagerie II (for bald-faced Beholder love)
I believe it was the great Steve Martin who said, “Let’s get small.” In that regard, Pathfinder makes a valiant effort with both the tiny Celestial Lantern and the minuscule (yet hideous) Accuser Devil, but, as those are both flying figures mounted on clear plastic pedestals, they tower above the game table when compared to D&D‘s li’l bitty kobolds and goblins. However, upon further investigation, it’s Deadly Foes’ Imp that is, indeed, the shortest of the short. That, coupled with his minuscule floating kin, easily secures the victory for team Pathfinder.
Advantage: Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes (“And they can’t put you in a regular cell, either–because you’ll walk right out.”)
Not Your Average Dungeon Fare
While it will likely prove a controversial choice, my best-of-show pick from Pathfinder‘s offerings goes not to a creature but to one of those aforementioned dungeon dressings. Second only to yet another dungeon dressing (Rope Trick) in overall usefulness and unexpected awesomeness, Deadly Foes’ Cage is both perfectly sized to ensnare the player character or NPC of your choice and functional enough to hold them for as long as the play session necessitates. Similarly, on the D&D end, while my heart says Beholder, my mind knows that the acidic, striking Black Pudding is the fig I can’t keep my eye off of. Still, all things being equal, I’m more inclined to rage in the proverbial cage.
Advantage: Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes (“Gonna break my rusty caaaaaaaaage… and ruuuuuun.”)
While I wouldn’t willfully try and break my minis–I’m not a monster!–the inevitable scrapes and bumps of shipping alone proved an adequate enough test. Of the 32 (eight packs of four minis) Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes figures I inspected, only one had significant damage from it’s long journey to my front porch. My awesome, flame-cloaked Peri was, sadly, totally broken from its base. Similarly, only one of my 32 D&D Icons of the Realms: Monster Menagerie II figs showed up broken: a headless Human Monk. Admittedly, I was able to easily repair both with a little Krazy Glue (as one does), but we’re still going to call this one a draw.
Advantage: draw (no harm, no foul)
Because I’m Nit-Picky
Again, by numbers alone, Pathfinder is the easy winner: Deadly Foes boasts 52 figures (with 6 of those being dungeon dressings) while Monster Menagerie II features only 44. However, D&D‘s superior sculpts and unique “invisible” figure variants make up for its inferior numbers. In the end, though, Deadly Foes comes out on top because of one simple feature: you can easily read the white printed text on the bottom of each Pathfinder figure. The embossed text of the D&D figs? Not so much. It’s a minor difference, sure, but in a close race, every little bit helps.
Advantage: Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes (because I have old man eyes)
And the winner is… Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes. But just barely.
Addendum: Here’s the thing—Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes and D&D Icons of the Realms: Monster Menagerie II are more alike than different. With the same retail price ($15.99 per pack or $127.92 for the eight-booster brick–though Amazon does have the bricks slightly cheaper), the same figure scaling, and the same fantastic quality, the simple truth is both deserve a slot in your tabletop arsenal.
Pathfinder‘s Hobgoblin Archer can easily be D&D‘s half-goblin ranger, and that Monster Menagerie II Halfling Rogue can also be a… halfling… rogue… well, pretty much anywhere. See how easy that is?
No matter which series you choose or which tabletop system you plan to use them with, I have no doubt you’ll be happy with WizKids’ latest offerings. I know I am.
Review materials provided by: WizKids Games