Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monster Vault Review

I'd like to write a full review of the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition Essentials line of products soon, but my cup already runneth over. Suffice it to say, for now, that Essentials gets two thumbs up from myself. More glowing would be to say that not only do I love it, but it's my preferred way to play D&D4. Now that's a loaded statement. 

However, today we'll concern ourselves with the D&D Essentials Monster Vault by Wizards of the Coast (or as I like to call it: "The best value for your gaming dollar on the RPG shelf"). 

Let's start off by showing you how many tokens you get in it:
Yes! That is a lot of tokens. And it's just the small ones.

Here are the big ones:
It may not look like a lot, but that's a 21.6cm X 28.6cm X 4.75cm box!

To give you a better idea, here are the frames that the tokens came from:
That's 2cm! (or ¾" for those of you that insist on using the Imperial system)

Now I know what you're thinking: "Pfft! I scoff! Miniature figurines are better than tokens, my good man!" While you are correct, beggars can't be choosers, and I like my non-randomized tokens very much, thank you! Besides, Reaper's Asylum imprint is doing a heck of a job in that department. Double besides, there's 320 tokens in the Monster Vault.

Now on to the material itself: As you'll read in my (glowing) Essentials review later on, the monsters presented in this book (10cm less wide than C5 format; 320 pages; softcover; full-color) are fully-compatible with your hardcover books. In fact, it's worth getting for someone who already has all the Monster Manuals (3 at the time of writing) because most of the monsters in here are new. Of course some are repeated, but you must remember that this is also meant to double as a player's first monster book. Some monsters are too iconic to not be reprinted. 

Let's use a few examples: The oft-used Kobold (we get it, WotC, you like the kobold. D&D players the world over must've exterminated this species by now). In the Monster Manual we have a level 1 minion (Kobold Minion), a level 1 skirmisher (Kobold Skirmisher), a level 1 Artillery (Kobold Slinger), a level 2 soldier (Kobold Dragonshield), and a level 3 artillery (leader) (Kobold Wyrmpriest). In the Monster Vault out of the four Kobold entries there, only the Slinger and Dragonshield are repeated. The book adds two new Kobolds: the Tunneler (level 1 minion skirmisher), and the Quickblade (level 1 skirmisher). Orc-wise we get 7 new orcs that aren't in the Monster Manual!

Finally, one thing that I think Wizards of the Coast also has right is the amount of modules they're producing again (I just wish they kept up the "letter-number" trend). This one comes with a level-4 adventure entitled Cairn of the Winter King™ along with a double-sided, color, poster map of  two of the large encounters in the adventure. I haven't had a chance to look over the adventure (because my DM ran a couple of elements from it, so I was told explicitly not to look at it), but I've played in a couple of the encounters and I can say that they're good. They didn't feel unbalanced, or too easy.

Overall, a good product, and well worth the $34 (Canadian) I paid for it. Like I said earlier, you'd be hard-pressed to find an item on your shop's RPG shelf that's as good a value as this. Outside of the other Essentials stuff, my next pick for value would have to go to any White Wolf product ($30 hardcover books? Yes please!), or Green Ronin's Dragon Age RPG.


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