Celebrities playing role-playing games is (*gasp*) nothing new, though the popularity of it certainly has grown into the mainstream recently. Mainly thanks to Critical Role, famous actors, writers, producers, directors, etc. have shared their home games and jumped onto streaming services to share their stories and enthusiasm for gaming with the world. It’s a great trend, helping to popularize role-playing even more and giving countless people ideas and inspiration for their own home games. Probably the biggest star in the sphere of celebrity Dungeons & Dragons aficionados is Hollywood actor and mega geek Joe Manganiello. In addition to appearing multiple times on Critical Role, Joe has been DMing an epic home game for years that has included a stellar crew of players, and now the unique characters they’ve created are available in miniature form for you to use on your table in the WizKids Games Death Saves: War of Dragons sets!
Featured on Variety and in other places, Manganiello’s Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition War of Dragons campaign has featured luminaries in their fields like Tom Morello, Vince Vaughn, Paul “The Big Show” Wight, Dan Weiss, and more. Now Joe’s Death Saves brand has partnered with WizKids to create two box sets of pre-painted miniatures, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is probably the most impressive collection of figures I’ve seen in one place, maybe ever. These player characters and NPCs are stunning in their range of appearances and details, with a variety of races, classes, and equipment represented ranging from rogues to fighters, spellcasters to a half-scarred hulking behemoth. There are even some animal friends and a flying carpet!
The War of Dragons characters are divided into boxes, with about eight miniatures in each. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of each character’s background and stats because you’re not going to playing these as they were rolled up and fielded (and none but the actual players are experts on the War of Dragons campaign), but I will absolutely talk about how they look and what you can do with them.
Before we dive in, a quick word about the boxes themselves. The two sets share the exact same packaging, only differing in the numbering and the rundown of the included characters on the back. They are window boxes with a huge open space in the middle so you can see the awesome minis, and those are surrounded by a cool dark background with various lightning and fire effects. The Death Saves title is prominent in the top left corner and on the sides of the box, and the logo sits behind the figure tray. The back panel of each box shows off 3D renders of the figures inside it, and there’s a list of the characters at the bottom. It’s all pretty straightforward, but the iconography and background flair are really cool. You definitely know exactly what you’re getting!
In Death Saves War of Dragons Box 1 you’ll find:
- Kimathi Stormhollow (Tom Morello)
- Neruk the Unkillable (Ron Mathews)
- Phann Naïlo (John Cassel)
- Christopher Squawkin
Right off the bat we’ve got a wild cast of characters, and these are no first level adventurers. Legends all, most of them wield magical weapons replicated with translucent plastic, and are laden with fun gear. You’ve got a fierce Goliath fighter type with a blazing sword (Neruk), a dark wizard with orb and smoking staff (Maeglin), blue-skinned humanoid warrior (Lapp), magic-arrow shooting archer (Phann), and a heavily armored dwarf (Kimathi). They’re joined by not one but two birds! Poe is, of course, a raven while Christopher Squawkin is a seagull, two very useful miniatures for setting the scene of any game. Last but not least is the polar bear Brago who wears armor and even a helmet. Best of all, alternate parts let you mount Kimathi on Brago!
And in Box 2:
- Marat Occisor
- Kalatuur MinMax (Kyle Newman)
- Oriax (Nick Manganiello)
- Kasin (Vince Vaughn)
- Flying Carpet
- Jericho Blackwing (Ryan Verniere)
- Hugo Ledbetter (Dan Weiss)
- Ullac Jotunn (Paul “The Big Show” Wight)
Again, you can tell at first glance that these are epic level characters, heroes or villains whose actions shape the world around them. In this second set I’m looking at a feral barbarian (Kalatuur), roguish archer (Hugo), arcane warrior (Marat), a white-themed winged tiefling with warhammer (Oriax), undead feathered winged sentinel (Jericho), archmage (Kasin), and an ogre or half-giant chieftain whose magic has scarred half of his body (Ullac). As an added bonus, and honestly what I was absolutely thrilled to get my hands on, is a straightforward magical flying carpet model!
As you can see from the photos, every one of these miniatures is dripping with detail and character. These are “elite” pre-painted models in every sense of the word, with stellar sculpts, poses, and paint applications that include lots of metallic details, translucent plastic, and more. I truly don’t see a dud in the bunch, and I’m hard pressed to name my favorites. Among the minis that really speak to me in hand are Maeglin with his dark and brooding menace, Phann Naïlo looking like a superhero and letting fly with a sweet energy arrow, the dark warrior Marat Occisor who couldn’t look cooler, and Oriax with his awesome mix of angelic and devilish features. I’m a huge fan of useful miniatures and special features, so naturally I love Kimathi and the fact that you can use him on his own or mounted on Brago, and the mighty wizard Kasin (or just about anyone else) looks rad zooming around on the flying carpet.
The smol birds Poe and Christopher Squawkin and the gigantic Ullac Jotunn give you some range of sizes in these sets that complement the variety of character types and appearances. Colors across these sets are vibrant, dark on the more somber characters like Maeglin and Hugo and brighter on the more heroic and nature-based like Kasin and Lapp. Armor and clothing details abound, and the textures on things like Brago’s barding, Ullac’s burns, and Jericho’s wings are stellar. My only minor complaint here would be that the soft plastic on some of the figures, while it holds detail quite well, is easily warped on thin parts like staves and spears, but you should be able to bend or heat those parts and reset them. I’d also really love to see some women characters get this elite miniature treatment; the War of Dragons is apparently a big sausage fest (who knew?).
The Death Saves War of Dragons figures are going to see tons of play as player character models and physical representations of big bads like your tables have never faced before. The birds and carpet will find use in lots more games too, giving you really useful items in addition to the swanky characters. I would absolutely build characters and major NPCs specifically to use the War of Dragons miniatures; you’d be hard-pressed to find cooler models of these archetypes and even if you did, you’d have to build and paint them yourself.
WizKids has produced tons of awesome pre-painted fantasy miniatures, but these are truly something special. Both War of Dragons boxed sets are available now, MRSP $59.99 each. Get them now at your friendly local game store, comic store, or wherever you get your miniatures online! For more information head over to WizKids.
Review and photos by Scott Rubin.
Review samples courtesy of WizKids Games.