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× Buy your army to crush your enemies.

Miniature Skirmishes Using D&D 4th Edition

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06 May 2020 15:01 #310006 by blatz
Anyone have any experience with D&D 4th Edition? I know it's the edition everybody loves to hate. I'd always heard 4e sucked and leaned too hard into combat mechanics and miniatures on maps at the expense of roleplaying and so I steered clear. But that was before I got addicted to minis games...

Out of curiosity, I picked up a set of D&D 4e books on the cheap (less than 10 bucks each on Amazon for some of them).

First off, these books are really well written. Mechanically, this thing is rock solid and it does what it sets out to do extremely well. The 2 DM's guides might be the best DM guides of any edition, full stop. What they do, however, may not be everyone's cup of tea. The game is, unapologetically, primarily a system of creating and running cinematic encounters. I honestly have zero interest in running it as a "D&D" game but, holy shit, there is an AMAZING tactical skirmish game here. Like, with a little work, I could see this being my holy Grail minis game.

There’s a wealth of tools for creating just about any kind of encounter at any level. Traps, interesting terrain effects, multi-phase boss fights, rules for minion hordes, monster tactics, character powers designed around teamwork; so much to work with. Balance is baked into the character creation system as well as the encounter builder and there’s a slick method for adjusting the challenge level. Unlike the bullshit 5e challenge ratings, this system actually works and is super easy to use.

Gonna play with creating some boss fights but I was easily able to replicate some World of Warcraft bosses as a starting point. I also want to figure out a way to automate the monsters. Honestly shouldn’t be too hard and I think converting it to pure co-op will completely put it over the top for my kids.

The biggest downside I see is the complexity of the character sheets compared to Frostgrave, for example. You really need to play 1, maybe 2 characters. Personally, I love the idea of getting invested in playing one mini but maybe not for everyone.

They should have packaged 4e as the new Battlesystem and it would have been a huge success.
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06 May 2020 16:30 #310012 by dysjunct
I have a decent amount of experience with 4e. I think you are spot on that it is a great tactical skirmish game, as well as your observation that the complexity is a bit high for a pure minis type game.

You can do it just fine though. If you can, I’d pick up the 4e “Essentials” line of books for two reasons:

- They simplified the powers a lot, especially for the martial characters. I guess some people complained that there was not an easy point of entry for new players any more, like fighters traditionally were for the previous 30 years of the game. It might be more in line with what you’re looking for.

- They tweaked a lot of the math. 4e is not complex in play, but it has a lot of calculations behind-the-scenes, many of which were based on assumptions that turned out not to be quite accurate. For a game heavily focused on balance, you can see where this would go. Among other things, once you got out of the initial levels, combat would take FOREVER. The outcome was not in doubt but it just took too damn long to whittle down the HP of the enemies. The Essentials line went backed and largely fixed all this.

You might also try to pick up some PDFs of the Encounters program. I think they are all available now through legal means. That was the organized play program WOTC had during the 4e era. They were a bunch of highly modular, on-rails adventures that were basically set-piece combats linked together with light roleplaying scenes. Each adventure had 4 or so chapters; the idea being that you showed up at your FLGS every Wednesday, had a D&Dish experience that didn’t take more than two hours, and then went home. I think it would be great for what you’re describing. You could leave out the roleplaying if you wanted to jump right to the action. Try to get the physical ones if you can; they come with great maps and cardboard pogs for all the heroes and baddies needed for the adventure.

Lastly, at the very tail end of the 3.5e era, WOTC came out with a collectible D&D minis game that was really good. I think it was a dry run for 4e in a lot of ways: all the stats for your characters fit on a standard card, lots of keywords, abilities were tightly defined and balanced. It might be hard to find now, as it came out in the era of cheap plastic (that, and it’s 20 years old) but I had a lot of fun with it. You’d decide on a points budgets and an alignment and then build your warband based on that. You might be able to find the card stats for free and then come up with whatever minis/pogs work.

Good luck! It sounds like a fun project.
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06 May 2020 16:55 #310014 by blatz
Thanks for the tips!

I did some research and it appears the biggest reason for lengthy combat was broken monster math in early releases. Monster Manual 3 and the Essentials Monster Vault fixed the math. You can also pretty easily retrofit the old monsters with the new math. Also, I never plan to level anybody past 10. I'll let you know how it shakes out.

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06 May 2020 23:33 #310038 by Shellhead
My only modern D&D experience has been with 3.5 and Pathfinder, but I have to admit that the idea of playing 4th ed material like a miniatures game sounds enticing. A friend of mine ran a wild Gamma World game with whatever edition of Gamma World was using that same D&D 4.0 rule system, so getting that could add a lot of diversity to your scenarios.

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07 May 2020 10:01 #310048 by hotseatgames
I'm wondering if doing something like Rangers of Shadow Deep and perhaps rolling in D&D class stuff would be easier.

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07 May 2020 10:29 - 07 May 2020 10:32 #310051 by blatz
Oh, it would for sure be easier. We play Rangers and it's really fun but, like Frostgrave, that all-in-one d20 roll can wear on me after a while. And the monsters all start feeling pretty "samey."

I fully understand this would be a niche thing for when you want to really dig in and get invested playing a single miniature as your character. I think the big draw here is the pure sandbox nature of it. Almost no limits on what kind of character you want to run, 3 monster manuals full of monsters, easy to build encounters with objectives, etc.

Who knows, maybe it'll end up being more pain than it's worth. But we can't go anywhere and I'm bored. If nothing else, I'm starting to appreciate 4e as a game. It really was a pretty innovative edition. Maybe not what most people wanted but at least WOTC took a chance with something different and there's a damn good game in there.
Last edit: 07 May 2020 10:32 by blatz.
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