I recently got my delivery of the Wizkids "D&D Classic Collection: Monsters A-C" boxed set. I'm usually pretty open about my dislike for Wizkids pre-painted models, but the video reviews of this set persuaded me.
The set are based on the original monster manual illustrations. This is broadly fine, but has resulted in a certain orange monster in the room. Once you look past that, there's some nice sculpts in the box, with some better than usual paint jobs on the monsters.
First up is the Ankheg. The aesthetic of these subterranean bugs has changed pretty significantly, but I really rather like this design. I also feel like I could easily use this with new Ankheg designs by simply adding into my world lore that there's some sexual dimorphism in the species.
The Ankheg is a great classic low level monster that can be a scary solo encounter for a low level party, or a pack of them for a tough encounter for a party that are around fourth or fifth level. Their acid spit means characters will need to think about how they're positioning themselves. With a lot of low level campaigns, the Ankheg feels like a monster whose model can get plenty of use.
The Basilisk is still an eight legged monster, but this one looks a little more naturalistic, and is longer and slinkier. As you can see below, the modern design (in this case from the Sand & Stone Wizkids range) is brighter and stumpier.
As well as using Basilisks for a "natural" monster in it's environment, I like them as a trained or allied monster in some scenarios. Eberron has a Daelkyr that's all about petrification, for example. You could also have some villains who've trained them as guard creatures. I also like the idea of elite troops trained in blind fighting using fully enclosed helms to protect them from the basilisks they fight alongside.
On the game side of things, I wouldn't want to put a Basilisk up against a party of inexperienced party at the level they're a good individual threat for. While there's only a low risk of petrification, it takes a 9th level caster to remove it once it happens, so it can be catastrophic on a low level party and very disruptive to an adventure. You need a party who understand how bad that is so they can take the right precautions to deal with it.
As supporting monsters against a higher level party they become a minor nuisance as the chance of failing a low difficulty petrification save becomes even less likely. So while I really like the aesthetic of having the party fight a Basilisk, they're very much a monster that rewards cautious, experienced players. That means they probably suit some styles of play much more than others.
I. I still don't know what to think about this Beholder. It's authentic to the original art, but the original art is goofy as fuck. This looks like some kind of kid's monster project that was home made and painted a weird colour.
Beholders are a tough tactical fight for high level characters. I'm not sure what game would suit this sort of silly nonsense over some sort of eldritch horror. This is a weird piece for people whose nostalgia this is, and I am not that target audience.
Next up is the Bulette. Another magical tunnelling monster this one is a lot tougher than the Ankheg. He's an intimidating looking chunky boy, and a good monstrous encounter for PCs, either as a wandering monster or even an objective for a side quest.
Comparing it to the Sand & Stone Bulette, it looks chunkier and also more naturalistic. I think I prefer the grey scales to the metallic look. This is sort of emphasising why I got this box - I really love several of these sculpts over any of the current alternatives.
A Carrion Crawler is an excellent weird monster that suits places where there's lots of dead things. They can really "spruce up" a dungeon or cave system if there's a lot of dead bodies around. It also gives a nice varied fight encounter from the rest of that section, while remaining "on theme". Of a similar power to an Ankheg, it's of a good level to provide a nice encounter in players' early levels, so is likely to see plenty of use.
Chimera are an excellent "end arc" boss for low level campaigns. The paint quality on this miniature is absolutely excellent compared to what I'm used to from Wizkids. This is the biggest model in the box, and a real centre-piece that won't disappoint as a fancy reveal at the end of a short campaign, or the early arc of a longer one.
Another petrification monster, the Cockatrice isn't that dangerous as long as you don't let it hit you. It's petrification isn't permanent so it's less devastating. I've used them as a warehouse's night guards - released to patrol the interior and trained to return to their cages for food in the morning.
In D&D, Couatl are Celestials, so unlikely to be combating PCs all that often. That said, there are spells that can summon them that PCs might have a use for, so having one to hand is going to be pretty handy.