Here’s the big news of the week: Hasbro is expanding its line of Kre-O bricks to include the D&D brand. Previous Kre-O sets have included such big names as Transformers, G.I.Joe, and Battleship, with Star Trek (the new movie) being a recent addition.

Kre-What?

Kre-O is sets of plastic bricks that can be assembles into vehicles or setpieces. The name is apparently based on the Latin word “creo”  which translates as “create” only tweaked just enough to be trademarketable. Basically, Kre-O is Hasbro’s version of Lego.  It joins MegaBloks and  or Character Building (which does the Doctor Who Lego-compatible stuff) as copies of the ubiquitous Lego brand.

This isn’t a big thing as Lego itself was a knock-off of a long forgotten product, and Lego’s patent on its bricks expired back in 1989 (likely a big reason Lego replies so heavily on both licenced properties while increasing its IP, because all it has is the name and the money to afford licences).

So Kre-O = Lego and – in theory – the two products are roughly compatible.

The Press Release

PAWTUCKET, R.I. and SAN DIEGO, Calif. (July 16, 2013) — In anticipation of Comic-Con International in San Diego, Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS), announced today the expansion of their KRE-O construction brand to include DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, the iconic fantasy entertainment brand from Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. Fans at Comic-Con should stop by the Hasbro booth on Friday, July 19 at 9:00-10:00a.m. for a chance to receive a special edition KRE-O DUNGEONS & DRAGONS collectible poster while supplies last and view early KREON models. Kids and fans will be able to find KRE-O DUNGEONS & DRAGONS building sets at retail locations in January, 2014.

The KRE-O brand also celebrates the upcoming launch of the recently announced KRE-O CITYVILLE INVASION line at Comic-Con where visitors will be among the first to see the sets featuring DR. MAYHEM who has created a supernatural squad to aid him in world domination. Hasbro has changed the face of brick-based play with the introduction of innovative SONIC MOTION TECHNOLOGY seen for the first time in the KRE-O CITYVILLE INVASION line inspired by the new CityVille Invasion app by ZYNGA. Building sets equipped with SONIC MOTION TECHNOLOGY emit sound waves which trigger specific movements in special KRE-O bricks, creating a live action scene within the set. Fans can stop by the Hasbro booth to see SONIC MOTION TECHNOLOGY in action for the first time, get the first look at the exciting new world of KRE-O CITYVILLE INVASION, and see everything the evil DR. MAYHEM has in store for CityVille! The CITYVILLE INVASION line will be available at all major retail locations in early August. Families can also download the KRE-O CITYVILLE APP now on iTunes and Google Play.

“Since launching the KRE-O brand over two years ago, we’ve been able to tap into some of Hasbro’s most iconic brands and premier pop-culture licenses and bring them to life in a whole new way for kids and fans,” said Kim Boyd, Senior Global Marketing Director for the KRE-O brand, “We are excited to add fantasy inspired sets featuring DUNGEONS & DRAGONS as well as CITYVILLE INVASION to the KRE-O portfolio which also includes TRANSFORMERS, G.I. JOE and STAR TREK.”

Never before seen KRE-O STAR TREK, KRE-O TRANSFORMERS and KRE-O G.I. JOE building sets will also be on display in the Hasbro booth. Fans won’t want to miss these new reveals including the U.S.S. VENGENCE ship from the hit movie, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS from Paramount Pictures, directed by J.J. Abrams, which lands on shelves this fall.

Legal:

STAR TREK is © 2013 Paramount Pictures Corporation. ™ & © 2013 CBS Studios Inc. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries.

What We Know

Nothing.

Really. Pretty much all we know is they’re making D&D Kre-O, and this poster:

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The poster is clearly meant to evoke the cover of The Thousand Orcs and make use of one of D&D’s most famous characters. Kre-O does tend to use established names to make its figures. But the other brands are more known for their characters.

There’s not even a mention of this on the D&D website. I found out via Twitter, although ENWorld also has a reference.

Is This Good?

Let’s skip over the obvious benefit of “more toys to buy!” and look at other benefits.

Having D&D Kre-O means getting the brand name back out onto toy store shelves. And right beside such famous names as Transformers and G.I.Joe. Transformer (along with Star Trek) covers much of the Sci-Fi angle for bricks, while G.I.Joe (and *shudder* Battleship) encompasses the modern –with the two combined for vehicles– D&D is a nice lock for fantasy and medieval. Whenever they want to do a wizard or monster, that’s the easy go-to brand. Which is better for Kre-O as it’s slightly less generic than just “Castle” or “Kingdom” but it also makes the D&D name and properties more familiar.

Hooking kids young gets them involved in the brand. I love me some Legos and cannot wait for my son to be old enough to play with them without choking on a red 2×3 brick. It’ll be great if I can buy him some “Legos” with the D&D name and get him introduced to the monsters and famous heroes. Building your own figures then telling stories with the minifigs (called “kreons” apparently) is a lovely first step to RPGing: it’s already role-playing, you just need to slip the “gaming” in there.

It also leads into the next step: television. Lego has been doing quite well with TV with specials then TV shows and now a movie. Hasbro has its own network that regularly produces content based on its IP. It’s very easy to forget that all the Transformer shows and My Little Pony exist for one purpose: to sell toys. If they get a Kre-O show on the air, it means D&D might be able to sneak a cameo.

There’s one other potential benefit. I’ll get into that below.

What I’m Hoping For

D&D has gradually moved away from miniatures. The game is trying to make them less mandatory for several reasons. Mostly to allow for the Theater of the Mind play style. But a side reason is that WotC is no longer making plastic minis, so releasing a game that relies on a product that is no longer being produced (except by your competitor) is silly. Pre-painted plastic minis are expensive to make, being plastic (gas prices keep going up), made overseas (gas prices again), painted, and made in small numbers. And your audience only needs so many before they stop buying them. Market saturation is dangerous.

Kre-O works around that via quantity. By selling to a larger audience the per-figure cost drops. They might easily become a great option for miniatures. While more cartoony, kreons also allow for some great customization. You can pick your character’s head, torso, and legs and add accessories to your back, arms, and head. Plus weapons. Instant character variation.

For this reason, I hope the line doesn’t just stick to established characters but sells accessories packs and generic figures. Of course, with the D&D brand attached they can also theme these. It’s not just a “pack of wizard bits” but Elminster and assorted wizard clothing.

There’s one other huge potential benefit: terrain. D&D has always struggled with making interesting dungeons, especially 3D ones. Typically this is left for 3rd Party companies, although WotC took a stab with Dungeon Tiles. There are a few options for 3D terrain such as Dwarven Forge, Hirst Arts, and TerraClips but both are rather pricey. But what’s relatively cheap? Lego. Okay, the price of individual sets can get high but on a per brick basis it’s pretty low and when you look at what $200 can get you in terms of Lego or Dwarven Forge it favours the former. As such, I’m really hoping we don’t see a whole lot of specialized bases & sets but numerous generic locales that can be turned into a myriad of different dungeons and lairs. Plus, the more interchangeable the pieces are, the more it encourages buying multiple sets to add together rather than single sets that stand alone and don’t work with other bits.

It’d be great to be able to build a vast dungeon out of easily interlocking bricks, where I’m able to quickly remove sections to add rooms (secret chambers) or add second stories. Especially if it works with bricks I already own (or might be buying for my offspring).