Have you played the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game? If not, there's no reason to be intimidated. A 50-point skirmish is a quick and easy way to learn this fun game. For experienced players, a 50-point skirmish makes a fun and interesting change of pace -- a 50-point battle can be played in half the time of a 200 or 500-point game. These quick duels also provide an opportunity to use miniatures that seldom see action in 200- or 500-point games. In fact, many such 'second-tier' figures become top contenders in low-point matches. Play at the 50-point level is tight, fast, and fun.
In the Beginning
Since its introduction, the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game has evolved significantly. One thing that has changed over time is the point value of the warbands that are played. When the first set (Harbinger) was released in 2003, all games were assumed to be 100-point skirmishes by default. Now, 200-point skirmishes have become standard. With its introduction in the Giants of Legend set, the 500-point Epic skirmish also became a tournament-legal format that sees frequent play. With Iconic dragons now in the mix, even 1,000-point skirmishes are becoming popular.
The original Harbinger rule book suggested that players try out 50-, 200-, and other point value skirmishes for a change of pace. In the last few years, the focus has been almost entirely on 200- and 500-point games with less and less being heard about 100-point games, even though that's still a valid tournament format. With the release of the most recent sets, there appears to be a resurgence of interesting combinations and options for that level of play -- but what about an even lesser point value?
A Closer Look at 50-point Games
When it comes to learning how to play, the Quick Start Battle guide from the War Drums Starter Set is the best place to begin. Once the Quick Start Battle is mastered, 50-point games are a great next step. Players learn the basics of warband construction and how to pilot a warband with multiple creatures without the brain load that comes with complex, high-cost creatures. Constructing a fun and competitive 50-point warband can be very easy.
The pace of a 50-point game tends to be quick -- faster than what players are accustomed to in 200-point matches -- for several reasons: creatures have fewer spells and special actions to ponder over; combinations are simpler, meaning they require less time and precision to set up; and creatures have fewer hit points and lower saves, meaning they can often be killed or routed with fewer hits. The result is that a typical 50-point game usually plays to completion in less than half the time needed for a comparable 200- or 500-point skirmish. If you want to play, but you have only a half-hour available, a 50-point game should do the trick.
The same applies to multiplayer games. Under normal circumstances, these can take two or more hours to play. A 50-point multiplayer game can be played in an hour or less.
Finally, creatures take on different roles in a 50-point warband. A creature that's handled as a fodder piece in a 500-point warband or a utility piece in a 200-point warband could be considered a titan in a 50-point warband. Many creatures that see little if any use because they are not 'competitive' enough in a 200 or 500-point setting become viable, even powerful pieces in a 50-point warband. We'll look more closely at some of these gems later on.
League and Tournament Play
The 50-point skirmish format lends itself very well to league play. Games go quicker, meaning more matches can be played in limited time. The format is friendly to new players, meaning it's an ideal way to bring them into tournament action. It's also possible to run a sealed or draft 50-point tournament where each of the participants receives just one booster instead of two.
Playing a 50-point Skirmish
No special rules are required when playing a 50-point skirmish. The only modification is to the value of victory points. The award for occupying a victory area is 3 victory points in a 50-point skirmish, as compared to 5, 10, or 25 victory points in 100-, 200-, and 500-point skirmishes, respectively.
That being said, a few alternate rules can add a bit of fun to a game, and the 50-point match is a perfect format for experimentation. (You can try these in larger games as well, of course.) Pick one of these variants or roll 1d10 --
- Alternate Setup: All creatures gain the Wandering Monster special ability, unless they already have an ability that affects setup (i.e., Scout, Waylay).
- Alternate Starting Areas: A warband may start on any of its start areas or on its opponent's victory areas.
- Doomsday Clock: At the end of each round, award each player 3 victory points in addition to those earned for occupying a Victory Area.
- Earthquake: At the end of each creature's turn, roll 1d20. If the roll is 1-5, that creature takes 5 damage.
- Free Setup: Creatures may start on any legal square on the map. Players roll for setup initiative and then alternate placing two creatures on the map at a time. No creature may set up within 6 squares of an enemy creature. Victory points are not scored for occupying victory areas.
- Healing Circles: A creature that ends its turn on a Sacred Circle heals 5 points.
- Misty Morning: All creatures gain Conceal 6.
- Risky Victory: Treat all Victory Areas as if they were Risky Terrain.
- Statue Blessings: Any creature that is adjacent to a statue may, as an action that replaces attacks, activate a statue for a blessing. A creature may gain only one Statue Blessing per game. The player can choose any one of the following:
Variable Gravity: At the beginning of each round, one player rolls 1d20. On a roll of 1-10, all creatures lose Flight for that round. On a roll of 11-20, all creatures gain Flight for that round.
- Shield of Faith (+2 AC)
- Greater Magic Weapon (+2 Attack, Magic Damage)
- Major Resistance (+3 Saves)
- Blur: (Conceal 6)
- Invisibility (Invisible until it attacks, casts a spell, or uses a special ability that replaces attacks)
- Fly (Fly speed 8)
- Resist Energy (Resist 10 to chosen energy type)
- Energy Weapon Augmentation (choose ranged attacks or melee attacks; creature gains damage +5 fire, cold, acid, or electricity with the attack type chosen)
- Greater Vigor (Regeneration 5).
When building a warband for a 50-point skirmish, cost is an even bigger limiting factor than in other formats. The 70% rule still applies, so the maximum cost of any creature is 35 points.
There is no room for dead weight in a 50-point warband. Every creature needs to be efficient in its role and pull its own weight. What would normally be considered fodder pieces are generally not included -- even a 5-point creature is 10% of the total cost of the warband. Likewise, a utility or tech piece (one included primarily to provide support rather than direct combat power) had better provide something extremely useful in order to be included.
Conventional warband-building wisdom holds that total activations are key to a competitive warband, with seven being the generally accepted minimum -- in other words, a warband with fewer than seven creatures goes into a match at a significant disadvantage. Tournament, qualifier and finals results seem to bear this out. On closer examination, one sees that the majority of winning warbands have two to five 'core' creatures with fodder/utility creatures rounding out the activations. As noted above, however, there is little if any room for fodder pieces, let alone utility pieces, when you have only 50 points to spend. Because of this, strong 50-point warbands seldom include more than five creatures and sometimes have only two!
Commanders are another big issue for 50-point warband builders. Command abilities and bonuses are factored into the cost of a commander; this makes them more expensive than comparable non-commander creatures. Approximately two-thirds of all commanders available cost more than 35 points, making them unusable in a 50-point skirmish. Some of the remaining creatures are inefficient or weak. What's left is a rather sparse range of choices. As a result, many 50-point warbands won't have a commander -- and that's not necessarily a handicap.
In our companion article, we examine 50-point warbands to help you get the most from your upcoming battles.
About the Author
Jason Sallay (aka Foxman) lives in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) with his wife Carolyn and two young boys. He first started playing D&D in 1987 and hasn't stopped since. He works in the IT industry in desktop support. Jason originally started collecting D&D Miniatures for his tabletop game and then began playing the D&D Miniatures game "to get more use out of them."