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     " The playability of the MINIATURES HANDBOOK is limited to that of roleplaying. What gives!?! "

      Title: Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures Handbook by Wizards of the Coast

      Format: D&D Table-Top Sourcebook

      Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo

      The Hype: The Dungeons and Dragons miniatures game has had one of the hottest releases in table-top history. It sold a million units in a matter of weeks, has been generally well received, and is certain to become a staple of tournament and convention gaming. So, hot on the heels of the general miniatures release is this companion sourcebook, all but guaranteed to enhance your miniatures gaming experience. But does it? Read on, my monkeys, read on.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Layout and Presentation: As with almost all books in the new 3rd (and 3.5) edition D&D line, the Minis Handbook is laid out beautifully and is decidedly easy to access. With character information in the front, new spells, feats, and monsters in the rear, and a friendly and accurate table of contents, navigation is a breeze. What is decidedly less impressive, however, is the artwork which, rather than sporting the near trademark full color painted illustrations of core books past, is instead composed almost exclusively of less than impressive photographs of less than gorgeous miniatures combined with some ridiculously unfinished sketches of what is either the conceptual art behind the figures or simply an artists rendition there-of (I'm honestly not sure which). And while not actually hard on the eye there is not, to my recollection, a single memorable or praise-worthy piece among them. 3 out of 5

      Playability: One of the drawbacks of Game Monkeys' category review system is that sometimes a single rant has to occupy more than one section. And, if you haven't already guessed, this is one of those times. Though it's not because the playability of the book is bad, per se, it's more because it's incomplete. You see, what the Miniatures Handbook really is, much to the shock and confusion of our staff, is not so much a miniatures supplement as it is a roleplaying one. True, it does feature the complete miniatures rules, lifted straight from the mini-pamphlet that comes with the mini's starter packs, but that is virtually all it covers about actual miniatures play. Included instead are a handful of new character and prestige classes, some feats and spells, and a dozen or so monsters though all, expressly, are designed for roleplaying, not miniature, gaming.
          The only two exceptions to this are 1) the conversion rules it gives you (basically meaning if you want to do the math you can approximately figure out how many miniatures hit points your character has and damage they do), though they lack functionability (they do not tell you how to calculate the point values for original creatures). And 2) the new rules for mass engagements for armies as opposed to squads, but these rules can be summed up into 1 simple statement: Move many units as if they were one unit, but roll attacks and take damage as per normal. That's it. End of the much touted, and overly anticipated, army rules. You still make individual rolls for each model and still play by almost identical rules, but now you know how many small, medium, and large creatures it takes to make a squad. Yippee.
          Now, don't get me wrong, defunct army rules are better than no army rules and the new classes, spells, feats, and monsters range from interesting to cool, but in reality the playability of the MINIATURES HANDBOOK is limited to that of roleplaying. What gives!?! 2 out of 5

      Desired Content: Now, I don't know about you, but if I pick up a "Miniatures Handbook" I'm expecting information, utilities, and general assets for playing a miniatures game. Instead what WotC has given us is a generic roleplaying supplement under the guise of miniatures play. And while it's true that the classes, etc., are all designed for more warrior/battlefield based play (including a fantastic new Prestige Class called "Combat Mage"), none of which are actually ruled for miniatures. Instead every monster, spell, feat, and weapon are all given with roleplaying stats along with the instructions….and this move should win a cajones of the year award…to "buy miniatures blister packs to get stats and rules for playing these options as miniatures."
          Wait. Let me say that again. The Miniatures Handbook tells you that if you want the miniatures rules for the things it contains you have to go buy the miniatures themselves? Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of a miniatures handbook? I mean, sure, don't include everything. Don't even include most things. But to not include anything…not a single table statted monster, not a single miniatures ruled item, not a bloody bit of playable miniatures information…it's un-frickin'-believeable.
          All you get…and boy do I mean all you get, is some roleplaying information (nice, but certainly not the point), the mass battle rules (which, I guarantee, are no more, and probably less, elaborate than the house rules you've been playing with), the basic minis rules, and a shove-off telling you if you want more to go buy the minis themselves (which, it's worth noting, of course already come with the basic minis rules). It's absolutely ridiculous and was patently nothing of what I desired in content. 1 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       While the roleplaying information was nice, it was really no different than any other D&D sourcebook out there. And since more than half of this book is filled reprinting the table-top rules that you'll get automatically when you buy the official miniatures I have a hard time seeing the point of picking this one up.

      The Good: Some cool rpg class stuff

      The Bad: No real miniatures content! What the hell!?!

      The Overall Ugly: I can't tell if this is horribly misguided or is a blatent scam, but either way stay clear.

      What it's Worth: Since you have to buy the minis anyway to get the table-top info, I'd say it's worth picking up only if you love some of the minis only classes they introduce in the blister packs and you really want to be able to play them in your campaign.

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