Tuesday, March 25, 2014

REVIEW: Kre-O Dungeons & Dragons Orc Beastmaster

Produced by Hasbro | Released February 2014

Kre-O Dungeons & Dragons
I'm sure I wasn't the only D&D fan that was somewhat surprised when Hasbro announced last year that they would be resurrecting the brand as a line of collectible construction sets and figures. It seemed an odd move from a company more known for their action figures, doubly so when the only other Kre-O sets available at the time were military-themed toys. How would Hasbro bring such iconic monsters and dungeon scenarios to life in brick form? 

When images of the first figures and playsets were released, I have to admit I was a little disappointed, as the proposed sets seemed shy of both dungeons and dragons, focusing instead on humanoid characters and sets that appeared to take more than one page from LEGO's Castle line-up. Still, as these are the first sets Kre-O has produced for the line and, hopefully, time will see the introduction of more obscure/less-humanoid characters to the mix, it seemed as good a time as any to jump in and see just what the line has to offer.
As mentioned above, the line features a handful of Castle-like construction sets, ranging from around $15 to $25, plus an assortment of carded ''Hero'' figures (which include a minifigure and accessories for around $4), a couple of firing ''battle'' sets ($10) and a line-up of ten blind-bagged ''Army Builder'' figures (pictured above.) Whilst there's a distinct absence of dungeon-delving and dragon-slaying in the first wave, which instead seems to focus on an Orcs Vs Humans battle theme, there's still some interesting stuff here, including the subject of today's Review, the blind-bag Orc Beastmaster.

The Orc Beastmaster
The Orc Beastmaster is available as Wave 1's blind-bagged ''Army Builder'' figure set. For those wondering, the code for the Beastmaster (which appears on the  back of the pack) will end ''10'' but you can also probably feel his war beast if you prefer to try and find him using touch alone.

With the figure found, let's see what you can expect to find within...

Sculpt & Design
The Orc Beastmaster follows the fairly standard pattern you'll be familiar with if you've bought any such blind-bag minifigures. At his core he uses the Kre-On buck, augmented with a few additional accessories/weapons and his own tampo transfer.
If you're looking for a highly detailed, super-sculpted figure then you should look elsewhere. But as an example of using a core Minifigure and a few custom parts to create a unique look then this is a pretty impressive figure.
One thing that is rather odd about the Kre-Ons is that their arms have a very ''robotic'' look to them. Unlike LEGO Minifigures, which feature quasi-human musculature, here the arms are formed from a rounded shoulder piece, somewhat skinny arm and then a very thick cuff. It's not terrible and could work for some figures but it does seem a very strange arrangement and I'm not entirely convinced that I like it.
What I do like is the hood worn by the Beastmaster. If you've purchased any of the GI Joe Kre-O sets then you'll probably recognize it, as a number of Ninja characters (such as Storm Shadow) use this piece and I can see why, as it's a very cool bit of design. Here it works neatly to convey the less-armored, more skirmisher/quasi-magic user look of the Beastmaster and, when I saw it, it was one of the pieces that really drew my attention to this figure.
As for the remainder of his design, it does a good job conveying his role. I like his light-armor look (more on that below) and the overall impression is a good one.

Again, the Kre-Ons aren't massively articulated, super-pose-able figures. And whilst they're not anywhere near as flexible as Mega Bloks' figures (even the pre-Micro Action Figure buck) they offer a wider range and scope of movement and motion compared to those found on LEGO's Minifigures.
Rather than sport single twist joints (like those seen on the LEGO Minifigures), the Kre-Ons use ball joints at the shoulder and hip. In addition, each also sports a twist joint at the waist, plus single twist joints at the wrist and neck. It doesn't sound as if such minor additions would really make much of a difference but it's surprising how much more flexible these figures are when compared to LEGO Minifigures. Granted, they're not up there with Mega Bloks' offerings but the twist waist and ball-joint arms/legs are a most welcome addition and can be used to produce some very cool poses.
The joints themselves work nicely, although - thanks to the hood piece - the head movement is limited. And it's also worth noting that it's quite easy to pop the limbs off by pushing the joint ''too far.'' This is by no means a criticism, just more something to be aware of, although - and this could simply be my figure - I found the Orc Beastmaster's left leg seemed to have a tendency to come loose more easily than his right. Like I say, minor points but worth noting.

Like most modern Minifigures, the Orc Beastmaster sports a series of tampo transfers rather than a conventional paint app. And whilst what's here is limited - only the face, chest front and leg front have transfers - they're neatly applied and nicely designed, with the Beastmaster featuring a very cool, savage expression and his strapped armor and loose ''tassel'' pieces looking particularly cool.

Extras & Accessories
For a figure of this size, there are actually a fair number of accessories, chief of which is the Beastmaster's actual beast, which I assume its a warg or battle wolf. This two-piece figure (the head/shoulders clip (rather loosely) into the body) isn't articulated and is cast from a fairly shiny plastic that actually masks a lot of its close-up detail, which is a shame. But it's no worse than some of the other ''pet'' figures we've seen in other lines, so I can live with it.
The Beastmaster also includes a spiked pick/staff weapon, the aforementioned hood, two bases (one green ''play'' stand and one Kre-O logo-ed ''display'' stand formed from a 2x4 brick), plus (not pictured) an instruction booklet (which features all 10 figures), a Battle Card (featuring stats for the Beastmaster - but no rules or instructions on how to use it) and a $3 off coupon on your next Kre-O purchase over $15. That's a pretty well-stacked pack, considering these figures retail for around the $3 mark..

Final Thoughts
I have to admit that my initial skepticism of the concept of Kre-O Dungeons and Dragons toys has been a little tempered with this purchase. Although I still think the line could benefit from some actual dungeons and more monsters (because really, how hard would it be to release a few corridor-themed traps and chambers or create such iconic creatures as Gelatinous Cubes, Mindflayers and Beholders?) I do see some promise in the Kre-O Dungeons & Dragons line. Right now it seems more focused on creating armies of generic fantasy Orcs and humans to battle each other than any kind of adventuring/questing but hopefully down the line we'll see the introduction of some more D&D-esque elements like traps, dungeon playsets and, of course, monsters. The pieces (no pun intended) are certainly in place to do so...

As for the Orc Beastmaster himself, he's a very cool-looking, nicely equipped and fun Minifigure. Generally there's not much really to say about Minifigures like this, as they tend to be fairly ''what you see is what you get'' and this is no exception, although I would add that if you've never seen a Kre-On before, you'll be pleasantly surprised (as I was) with how much expression and pose-ability that twist waist and the ball-jointed limbs bring to the party...

The actual beast is a little disappointing. I'd hoped for not only a better sculpt but also a little articulation. It would be neat if its mouth opened or the head could be tilted up and down to add some expression but this is really a very minor criticism and, these slight disappointments aside, this is a very good-looking set and certainly the one I'd recommend to anybody testing the Kre-O waters.

A fun, surprisingly pose-able, good-looking fantasy Minifigure.

Image Gallery


  1. My friend Brad would love this one!

    1. Like I said in the above, for a D&D line there's a distinct lack of Dungeons AND Dragons (the reality is the line is a very minor tweak to Oxford Toys' LEGO Castle-esque line) but the figures themselves are really quite neat. I'm on the look out for more, certainly!

  2. The certainly need some Dungeons and Dragons asap.

    I do like that Chest that can be turned into a Mimic, that shows there is hope for this line.

    Now they need a Beholder or Rust Monster, characters from the covers of the game books and scenarios (Aleena the Cleric from the red box tutorial).

    1. Yeah, there are so many iconic creatures they could introduce. To be fair they've done a pretty good job with some of the ''Warrior'' packs featuring Drizzt and Wulfgar, so maybe we'll see some more D&D-ish stuff coming our way as the line expands.


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