D&D Monster Pack: Cave Defenders Set Review

Recently being restocked by WizKids is the Dungeons & Dragons: Icons of the Realms Monster Pack: Cave Defenders set. WizKids’ monster pack range groups up a few monster types that a party might encounter while in a specific location, this time around focusing on what you might find in a cave. Including kobolds, bugbears and an ogre, all six miniatures are pre-painted and on solid black bases. Does this set deserve to enter play during your next adventure? Let’s find out!

Unlike the blind booster boxes in the Icons of the Realms product line, with a transparent front, gamers know what they will be getting in this set. Players are getting an Ogre (a large monster), 2 bugbears (medium sized monsters) and 3 kobolds (small sized monsters). All three monster types can be found with stat blocks in the standard D&D Monster Manual. They are all on solid black bases, not utilizing the new clear bases some WizKids miniatures are coming on. Their set number and the monster type they are is listed underneath, for example “Kobold (Bow) 3/6”. All 6 miniatures are pre-painted – allowing them to instantly hit the table and cause adventurers problems.

For those like myself that aren’t gifted with any painting talent the 6 miniatures come with a great quality paint job. There are certainly model painters out there that could do the detailing work to a higher standard, and those people should look towards WizKids’ Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures unpainted line. Still, there are details picked out, allowing the armour to look real and even the faces on the kobolds look like their artwork. Even up close the paint jobs hold up, with aspects like the bugbear fang teeth highlighted.

On top of the painting of the miniatures, the sculpts come with some awesome details. The ogre has a necklace of sorts – with what looks like a hand on it. The cloth wrapped around his spiked club matches the cloth wrapped around his midriff. As for the two bugbears, they look visually different aside from the pose and weapon. One wears chainmail with green cloth. The other has little to no armour and red cloth hanging from his belt. Even the Kobolds have differing armour, though due to their small size this is much less noticeable from across the table.

Each of the duplicate monsters are different sculpts, in different poses and armed with different weapons. The kobolds are all ready for a fight. One has a spear equipped, one with a bow and the other holds a sword. Unlike variants in the Icons of the Realms booster packs they are in slightly different stances, so it isn’t just a weapon replacement. The two bugbears follow this trend. One holds a battleaxe up high, while the other seems more to be charging with a mace in hand. The solitary but large sized ogre looks to be plodding along as ogres do, with a menacing looking spiked club in one hand. Even new players will instantly pick up that these are not friendly units.

The different weapons and poses are important so that dungeon masters (DMs) and players alike can more easily distinguish between the monsters. Instead of Kobold 1 – 3, players can shout “attack the one with the spear”! The sculpts therefore make communication a little easier but it isn’t the only use. Players can come across a bugbear and some kobolds in one room and then a different looking bugbear in the next. By having that variety, so that not every single kobold or bugbear looks the same, it just elevates the experience that little higher.

As a set, the Cave Defenders are all common monsters that low level parties will inevitably stumble across. Unless players are in some of the more unique Forgotten Realms locations, kobolds always seem to pop up. Even in the frozen landscape of Icewind Dale kobolds can be seen disguising themselves as humanoids, by standing on each other’s shoulders under a long winter coat. Therefore this is a set that will get a lot of use.

Monster Pack: Cave Defenders

The packaging is acceptable, with none of the weapons bent that can sometimes occur. Unlike the blind booster sets, with a clear plastic front, gamers know exactly what is included in this pack, so there isn’t a surprise or mystery. This style of packaging is throw-away by design, of course it is recyclable, so once opened you won’t be putting the minis back in as a storage solution. The minis are durable though reducing the risk of storing them in another way.

In comparison to a booster box from the Icons of the Realms range the Monster Pack: Cave Defenders set is more expensive. As well as having two additional figures, and paying for the premium of the miniatures being pre-painted, there is also a slight premium for knowing what you are getting. As a set though, there is enough for a decent cave encounter straight out of the box. Players do have the option to get similar unpainted miniatures in the Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures range. For many of us that cannot paint close to this standard, or just don’t have the time, the Monster Pack: Cave Defenders set is a very welcome, gorgeous product – that will continue to take a swipe at adventurers.

(Editor’s Note: The Dungeons & Dragons: Icons of the Realms Monster Pack: Cave Defenders set was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The set is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)