Epic Encounters: Tower of the Lich Empress Review

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Epic Encounters Tower of the Lich Empress Box SFG Photo

Prepare for more awesome adventures as we delve into another Epic Encounter from Steamforged Games! Take your Dungeons and Dragons party to the Tower of the Lich Empress in a suitably spectacular showdown that will be the pinnacle of any campaign.

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Epic Encounters: Tower of the Lich Empress Review – Summary

Just as was the case with Arena of the Undead Horde, Tower of the Lich Empress dazzles with its wondrous simplicity and staggering versatility. Whether you’re after that perfect final encounter for your long D&D campaign, or you just want an encounter to fill up an evening, Tower of the Lich Empress provides.

A mesmerising finale for any campaign or a staggering standalone centrepiece, Tower of the Lich Empress is a must-have for any DM, no matter your level of experience.

Epic Encounters: Tower of the Lich Empress Review – Introduction

Encounters are crucial to any Dungeons and Dragons campaign. A good, exciting and memorable encounter can leave players feeling as if they’ve had as engaging an experience on the table top as they would playing any videogame. It’s something that will be recalled in subsequent campaigns, and will keep players’ noses out of their phones and their eyes on their dice and figures.

I learned this the hard way the first time I ever tried to DM.

The group I was DMing for were, at the time, really into Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm. For the unfamiliar, Heroes of the Storm (or HotS) is a multiplayer online battle arena-style game that sees two teams of players face off over a map constructed around three lanes. The objective is to destroy your opponents fortifications, clearing a path to their home base, and then destroy that too in order to win the game.

I decided to try and bring a bit of this to an encounter in our campaign. I made a three-lane map set in the ruins of an ancient dwarven city and intended to have my players push towards a tower where a boss was hiding at the other end, whilst simultaneously fighting off waves of enemies with the help of their own minions. To up the tension and motivate my players to keep moving, one of the players was captured right before the beginning of the encounter by the big baddie hiding in his tower.

On paper, it sounds like a solid idea. In practice, it was a disaster of cataclysmic proportions that nigh-on ended the campaign there and then.

Turns took hours. My under-levelled players couldn’t clear the waves of enemies assaulting them anywhere near quick enough. Their own minions rolled extraordinarily poorly, and for several hours my poor players were cowered in their “home base” – all the while the captured player sat there waiting to be rescued.

Knowing what I know now, I can only look back on my early D&D encounters and cringe. Luckily for new DMs, however, the wizards at Steamforged Games have your back with their Epic Encounters boxes.

Fully compatible with Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition, an Epic Encounters box contains everything a struggling DM needs for their session: campaign rules, maps and high-quality miniatures (but what would you expect from the creators of the Dark Souls board game?), these boxes are in themselves entire one-shot adventures, but can also be used as a part of any ongoing adventure.

These boxes come in two flavours. The first are “Warband” boxes, like Arena of the Undead Horde (which we reviewed recently and playtested). Warband boxes contain a large number of varied miniatures and make for heart-pounding battles and adrenaline-fuelled skirmishes.

The other type of Epic Encounter comes packaged in a “Boss” box. Just like the one we have today.

Tower of the Lich Empress, Just like Arena of the Undead Horde before it, can be used in a number of ways. It’s perfectly usable as a quick standalone adventure, but can also be slotted into any ongoing Dungeons and Dragons campaign you may be running. It can also be used as an expansion to Arena of the Undead Horde, the campaign in which ends with the party gazing into the distance where the Tower of the Lich Empress rises on the far horizon.

But its content is very different to a Warband box, as players will face off against a single titanic foe: the Lich Empress.

Regular readers will know I absolutely loved the other Epic Encounters box Steamforged Games were kind enough to send us. The content of Arena of the Undead Horde proved to be as popular with my players as its versatility and ease-of-use was with me. So, Tower of the Lich Empress has some big shoes to fill.

Can it do it?

Epic Encounters: Tower of the Lich Empress Review – Unboxing

Tower of the Lich Empress comes in a slightly smaller box compared to Arena of the Undead Horde. Not entirely surprising given that there are significantly fewer miniatures in it.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Unboxing 1

The titular Lich Empress is resplendent on the front, upright in her throne and surrounded by flaming skulls.

Beneath the lid, we have the campaign booklet and the folded gaming mat. Don’t be put off by the booklet’s diminutive size: this is an incredible resource – but more on that in a minute.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Unboxing 2

Tower of the Lich Empress comes with a number of tokens for minions, too. The board slots nicely into the moulded plastic packaging to keep it secure, which is a nice touch.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Unboxing 3

And beneath the token board, we have our figure.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Unboxing 4

Lovingly packaged with great care, and in a few components, the Lich Empress requires only a little assembly before she’s ready to turn your players’ beloved characters into little puddles of PC goo.

Epic Encounters: Tower of the Lich Empress Review – Contents

So, Tower of the Lich Empress comes with the following bits and pieces:

  • 1 x Campaign Booklet
  • 1 x Double-sided A2 gaming mat
  • 12 x Tokens
  • 1 x Lich Empress miniature

On the surface, that might not actually seem like a huge amount, especially when compared to Arena of the Undead Horde, which came with a whopping 20 minis.

Bear with us, though. The genius of this box will become apparent as we take a closer look at all of its individual components.

Books

As I’ve mentioned already, the last time I looked at one of Steamforged Games’ Epic Encounters sets I was bedazzled by how great it was. This was in no small part due to Arena of the Undead Horde’s brilliant campaign booklet.

Clocking in at 37 pages, Tower of the Lich Empress’ book is only slightly thicker than Arena of the Undead Horde’s – and those pages are not wasted.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Book 1

The first couple of pages of Tower of the Lich Empress are dedicated to lore. A crucial part of creating any kind of encounter is giving your players a reason to care – and the booklet is here to help you do just that.

The booklet provides some loose narrative ideas to help the DM flesh out the encounter further: why have your players come here? What is it they are trying to do? And how can the Lich Empress fit into the narrative? There are no hard-and-fast rules, only suggestions to help the DM on their path – a testament to the versatility of the book.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Book 2
Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Book 3

The booklet then moves on to providing extensive – but not restrictive – details on how players can run their encounter. Utilising the map (which we’ll get to in a minute) as well as suggesting ways to use terrain, features in rooms, and the role of the Lich Empress’ reliquary, the booklet constructs a nigh-impenetrable framework within which DMs will be able to run their encounter.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Book 5

The writers at Steamforged have thought of answers to some of the most pressing ways players may try to one-up the Lich Empress and may risk derailing the encounter or ending it early. There’s advice on what to do should the players try and ambush the Lich Empress, if they try to rush her, or use magic against her. The book gently help the DM establish the sheer power of the Lich Empress without undermining their vision of their campaign.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Book 4
Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Book 7

And then we arrive at the final showdown itself, and things get really impressive.

Pages are dedicated to attack patterns in order to help keep the fight balanced. There are detailed explanations of each of the Lich Empress’ abilities. There’s even a “Cinematic Moments” section, designed to provide the DM with a few awe-inspiring moments to slot into the encounter.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Book 6

Afterwards, there are pages of stats for all of the Lich Empress’ minions, as well as no less than three different versions of the Lich Empress in order to help the DM ensure the encounter is fair.

It’s genuinely mesmerising just how well the Campaign Booklet balances the nuances of creating a suitably epic encounter whilst simultaneously remaining simple enough for beginners to easily grasp, yet not so restrictive as to hold back more experienced DMs. I

t’s a phenomenal resource, and a masterclass in Dungeons and Dragons. It’s testimony to the mastery of the team creating this product, and should be used as a reference for any DM – heck, for anyone – creating TTRPG content.

Wargear

Next up are all the bits and pieces in the box that are designed to get us playing our games. We’ve got two things to look at in this section today: a collection of tokens and the double-sided gaming mat.

Tokens

There are twelve tokens in the Tower of the Lich Empress Epic Encounter. These represent her minions.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Token Board

Readers of the Arena of the Undead Horde review will recognise the minions on these tokens. They are, of course, a number of the baddies from the from the Arena of the Undead Horde Epic Encounter, sans a pair of Knights, the Executioners, the Leonites, an Andabata, and a Duellist.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Tokens

Whilst these are perfectly serviceable tokens, owners of Arena of the Undead Horde will have the option to sub these tokens out with their plastic miniatures. Steamforged Games have accounted for that by adding this nice little token holder into the Tower of the Lich Empress’ packaging.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Token Slot

There’s even a hemispherical cutaway at the top of the slot so you can fit your finger around the tokens and lift them out with ease.

At the end of the day, cardboard tokens are cardboard tokens. There’s only so much that can be said about them. They pop from their board easily enough, and it’s obvious what’s what on each token. The thoughtful packaging, however, is an inspired touch as it’ll keep your tokens from rattling around in the box between uses and will ensure they remain nice for longer.

Double-Sided Gaming Mat

The A2 sized, double-sided gaming mat is a lovely addition to the box. Depicting the Lich Empress’ titular tower, the high-quality print is covered in details that will keep any party immersed.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Play Mat 2

Each area on both sides of the map relate to areas in the Campaign Booklet. These are pictured and numbered for the DM’s use. It’s worth noting, however, that each side of the map does not relate to a different area with alternate rules. Unlike in Arena of the Undead Horde, where one side of the mat was the Arena and the other was the Training Pit, both sides of the Tower of the Lich Empress’ are the same area but with different layouts.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Play Mat 1

It’s a little bit of a shame that there isn’t different written content for each side of the map. However, savvy DMs will easily be able to come up with uses for the great artwork.

The only issue with the map is that it’s made of paper. Paper maps mean two things: crease lines and tears. However, the paper is good quality so isn’t going to fall apart quickly.

It’s a nice inclusion, and goes further to help create a complete experience for both players and DMs.

Miniatures

There’s only one miniature in the Tower of the Lich Empress box but, boy, she’s quite impressive.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Miniatures 10

As you can see from the image below, she comes packaged with a great deal of care. The moulded plastic tray is carefully designed so as not to put pressure on the components when you remove them. The pieces sit comfortably, not loose enough to rattle around, nor so tight as to be difficult to remove.

The Lich Empress comes in a couple of parts, but only requires some very minor assembly. You won’t need any plastic cutters or glue in order to put her together. There’s the Lich Empress herself, sitting atop her great throne. The bottom of the throne slots into a square hole in the model’s sculpted base.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Miniatures 9

There are also four flaming skulls included with the model. These are attached to the base using the round pegs you can see in the images above and below.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Miniatures 8

Whilst modelers and painters will likely want to glue the Lich Empress together, I wouldn’t recommend it. There are a few reasons for this. The fist is due to these aforementioned flaming skulls.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Miniatures 3

Some of the Lich Empress’ suggested abilities require the skulls to move around the board and attack players. If you’ve glued them on, you aren’t going to be able to do this.

The second reason I’d advise steering clear from gluing her together is her box. Unfortunately, you can’t quite fit her back into her packaging if she’s assembled.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Miniatures 4

Whilst she may look snug in the image above, unfortunately you cannot place the plastic lid over the tray with the Lich Empress in this position.

But that aside, she’s a spectacular miniature that will delight miniature painters as much as D&D players.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Miniatures 6

She is covered in lots of varied textures an details, but nothing too difficult to get a brush around. The slightly cartoonish style helps to emphasises some of these areas. This which means that certain details are more exaggerated and will thus be even easier to paint.

Take a look at the trim on her robe in the image above, or the exaggerated folds in her sleeves. The best example of what I’m talking about, though, sits with the skulls’ overemphasised faces.

The effect isn’t crude, though. It’s characterful, and it helps emphasise these features on the model. The eye is drawn to these places, and this style will ensure the figures can be seen clearly when used.

Much like the miniatures in the Arena of the Undead Horde, the Lich Empress’ sculpt lends itself to big techniques. Drybrushing or using products such as Citadel’s Contrast Paints or Army Painter’s Speed Paints will yield great results. Big textures, wide surfaces, and not too much compromise on those little characterful details that make the model unique.

To give you a sense of how big she is, here’s a size comparison using a Space Marine Assault Intercessor.

Epic Encounters tower of the Lich Empress Miniatures Size Comparison

The Lich Empress a seriously impressive bit of kit. Looming over just about anything else you can field her with, she’ll make a stunning centrepiece to any battle.

The figure is a perfect way to complete what is a truly brilliant box. Coupled with good maps, tokens, and everything else you need to create a truly memorable session, the Lich Empress mini will make the Epic Encounter a truly, er, epic encounter.

Epic Encounters: Tower of the Lich Empress ReviewPlaytesting

As you may have seen if you’ve spotted out Arena of the Undead Horde review, we’ve recently decided to do something a bit different with our playtesting of products.

Being able to have a proper hands-on go with a boxed game is a vital part of the gaming experience. Because of how important this is to the overall experience and value of a product, we don’t feel this should be contained solely to being stuck part-way down a general review article.

Tower of the Lich Empress may come in a small box, but it’s an excellent product overflowing with content. Giving it a quick look as part of a wider review isn’t really going to cut it. Also, because it’s a D&D-related product, the experience had by a DM will be very different to the experience had by the adventuring party.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde FauxHammer Plays 6

You can read our full playtest of Tower of the Lich Empress here. It follows on rather nicely from our How to Play Arena of the Undead Horde, some come and see how the encounter ended – as well as a further look inside Norwich’s phenomenal The Games Table.

Epic Encounters: Tower of the Lich Empress Review – Price and Availability

You can buy Epic Encounters: Tower of the Lich Empress straight from Steamforged Games’ webstore for £44.99GBP/$44.95USD/€44.95EUR. The value isn’t quite as good as a miniature-laden Warband box, but Tower of the Lich Empress’ price feels fair.

Epic Encounters: Tower of the Lich Empress Review – Where to Next?

As a “Boss” box, Tower of the Lich Empress is designed to do exactly what it says on the tin. It is a final boss battle, a pinnacle moment in a campaign, that last, spectacular hurrah for the party.

Should DMs also need help constructing their campaign up to this point, Steamforged Games also have an accompanying “Warband” box. Referenced throughout this review, the spectacular Arena of the Undead Horde box compliments Tower of the Lich Empress. The Arena of the Undead Horde campaign precursors Tower of the Lich Empress. It also contains no fewer than 20 detailed miniatures you can use with the Lich Empress’ encounter.

If, then, you haven’t already got it, the obvious next stop has to be Arena of the Undead Horde.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Box SFG Photo
Source: Steamforged Games

Of course, you don’t have to have both boxes in order to get them most out of them. That’s part of the brilliance of these sets. They’re so versatile you can easily slip them in to any campaign you may have ongoing, original or otherwise.

An awesome precursor to Tower of the Lich Empress, Arena of the Undead Horde also has a load of miniatures that you can use with the Lich Empress.

It doesn’t stop there. Steamforged Games are always announcing new projects. During the time we were writing this review, they announced there would be another entry to their Epic Encounters series. Check out the announcement here.

As a range, Epic Encounters is already pretty big. There’s almost certainly something there that every D&D party will be able to make use of, no matter where in their campaign they are.

Steamforged Games also have loads of other products that will appeal to TTRPGers. Here at FauxHammer.com, we’re particularly excited about their RuneScape Kingdoms: Shadows of Elvarg Kickstarter, and were kindly sent a copy of the Horizon Zero Dawn board game for a future review.

Of course, Steamforged are also well known for their Dark Souls IP, and have a board, card and role-playing game in theirb webstore.

But that’s not all. The popular Bardsung and Godtear are Steamforged’s own IPs, and these miniature-heavy games certainly look the part.

Epic Encounters: Tower of the Lich Empress Review – Final Thoughts

ProsCons
Great miniature
Fantastic Campaign Booklet
Easy to learn and versatile campaign
Good value for money
Great for beginners
Lich Empress mini doesn’t fit in her box assembled
Paper maps prone to big fold lines

What an event. What a showdown. What a game.

Steamforged Games’ Epic Encounters boxes are the best thing to happen to D&D in a very, very long time, and as such Tower of the Lich Empress is a phenomenal resource for any DM. Whether you’re just after a one-shot adventure to take your party of intrepid heroes on, or you need an epic final battle to round off a years-long undead-themed campaign, Tower of the Lich Empress gives you all the tools you need to do this.

Simple, clear, well-though-out, and made with a huge degree of care, Steamforged Games’ pride for their product oozes out of this little box’s every pore. The miniature is awesome and the written elements are so carefully done that this box could slot into any D&D campaign with absolutely no effort.

Once again, I really am quite floored by the quality of this product. If only more manufacturers gave as much of a damn about their products as Steamforged Games do, the world would be a far better place.

I can’t not give it a five-star review. These Epic Encounters boxes are just that: epic.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Don’t forget to check out our full playtest of Tower of the Lich Empress, available here!

Like what you’ve seen in this review? Check out Steamforged Games’ brand-new Epic Encounters: Local Legends Kickstarter for more awesome D&D-compatible content!

Click this link & buy your hobby stuff from Element Games for the UK & Europe to support FauxHammer.com – Use Code “FAUX2768” at the checkout for double reward points.

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Author

  • Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

About VoltorRWH 103 Articles
Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

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