Batman Miniatures Game: The Dark Knight Rises Boxed Set, Manufacturer: Knight Models
Review by Rick Hudson
Batteries to power! Turbines to speed! A game that has proved enormously popular over the last few years but is notable by its absence in wargaming magazines is Knight Models’ Batman Miniatures Game. This is a great shame as it is rather good: it is one of those games that pulls off the rather neat trick of having rules mechanics that recreate the feel of the source text: in other words when you are playing this game you feel you are playing a Batman game rather than a game that just happens to use Batman miniatures as playing pieces. The simple mechanics utilise an initiative system not unlike Bolt Action’s order dice which in context works rather well and evokes the feeling of a shambolic street fight between gangs rather than an ordered overly strategized set battle. The rules similarly facilitate leaping around roof tops and scooting up buildings and similar comic book shenanigans. Being a Batman game, all scenarios take place at night and the rules nicely accommodate limited visibility and the effects of street lighting on what can and cannot be seen by combatants.
Importantly, this game is a skirmish game that can be played with as few as three miniatures a-side, allowing the dedicated player to invest their gaming cash into creating a suitable playing area. Although buildings from many manufacturers can be used to do this, terrain is available from Knight Models that is very atmospheric and makes your gaming table look like Gotham rather than any old American city. Admittedly, the buildings available are made from card which is not ideal, but it is a thick robust card rather than flimsy rubbish.
The game is played by pitting two factions against each other in a street fight, however many scenarios are won by achieving objectives rather than just wiping out the opposition. There is great variety in the factions you can choose to play. A game needn’t feature Batman or any heroes at all: if you want the Joker to take on Two Face or Poison Ivy, or whoever, that’s all well and good. Additionally, the game allows for various versions of the Batman saga to be played. For example, different Batman figures, different Joker miniatures, different Catwoman miniatures etc. are all available. These different versions of the characters don’t just look different, but play differently from each other as each miniature comes with a card detailing the characters skills. If you want your Batman game to be faithful to classic comic book adventures, this can be done. If you want a darker game that is grounded in comic book writer Frank Miller’s take on Batman, no problem, and if you want a campier game that evokes the flavour of the 1960s TV series then this also can be achieved.
The range of miniatures available for this game is very wide. Of course, The Joker, Riddler and Penguin are all there, but more obscure villains (and heroes) that will please aficionados are also there waiting for you to spend your money on them: Scarecrow; Clayface; the Court of Owls; and Ras Al Ghul being just some examples.
My only significant criticism of the game itself is that it is very ‘bits heavy’. I’m not a fan of trinketry, and the Batman Miniatures Game does utilise a number of markers, counters, templates and so on, which I do find a bit frustrating. But on balance these gewgaws do add rather than detract from game-play.
So how much does this all cost then? Well, in principle nothing apart from what you choose to spend on miniatures. Rules and printable versions of templates and the like are available as free downloads from Knight Models’ website. So, everyone’s happy there. However, Knight Models have released a starter set aimed on attracting new players that pretty much gives you everything you need to play with the option to expand, but no real need to buy anything else. This boxed set is very much not free… it weighs in at £115.00 and is therefore a big investment. But, to be fair- you get a whole bunch of stuff for your £115.00.
Being based specifically on the film Dark Knight Rises (2012) we get a particular selection of miniatures: for the goodies we have Batman, Catwoman and three Gotham City cops; and for the baddies we have the supervillain Bane, Miranda Tate and three of Bane’s mercenary goons. We also have a motorbike that can be assembled with either Bats himself or Catwoman as a rider. We also have the Tumbler, which for the uninitiated is the Batmobile. On the bad side these miniatures are resin, and I really don’t like resin miniatures. But, to be fair, the resin used is a hardier material than we are used to seeing used for wargaming figs. On the good side the sculpts are excellent- very finely detailed and very well posed. The box also comes with all the cards, markers and similar jazz that you need to play as well as dice (d6s) and a couple of card buildings. Overall this is a rather nice package, and a great introduction to a great game. Cheap? No. Value for money? Yes. The rulebook included is only a slimmed down basic version of the rules, but seeing as the full rules are free, I can’t see anyone squawking about that too loudly.
My only criticism of this boxed set is that I don’t really like the choice of villain. Bane’s a bit of a characterless character in my view, and I’d have much preferred a boxed set that wasn’t based on this particular film and didn’t feature this particular villain. But I am being sucked into a plunging vortex of my own nerdery here, so won’t pursue that point any further. I do have to confess a bias with regards to this game: I do love American comics and am one of those people who can tell you the name of the planet the Silver Surfer came from, who drew Spiderman in 1963 and will go on and on about how a TV or film version of a superhero story is wrong. Consequently, you may feel that I would be an absolute sucker for this game irrespective of how good it was. However, I will stress that my obsession with comics is so great that this game would have to be very good indeed if I was going to be positive about it in any way whatsoever, and if there were even the slightest flaws in it I would be shrieking blasphemy and heresy at the top of my lungs from the rooftops. So, take it from me, this is a very, very good game and uses very, very good miniatures.