We've had our grubby hands on these 2E rules for a while now, and here are my thoughts on the transition as well as the game in general.
To start, I want to commend Wizards for making the "upgrade" extremely accessible to existing players by making stat cards downloadable (though it's a bit slow and they've completed nearly half of the sets and a community chosen list of individuals from the earlier releases).
As outlined in the BGG description, the rules have been tweaked to match DND 4th edition, but the translation for the miniatures game hasn't been that drastic. I actually have not read any of the 4th ed. RPG rules so I don't know how much they have/haven't changed from 3.5.
The two most significant changes to me are the usage of factions in warband composition and the removal of morale checks.
I'm a bit ambivalent about the factions. On the one hand it does bring a little more coherency to the types of warbands you'll see, and it's flexible enough -- most figures belong to two. There's less likelihood that someone can just take the best "chaotic evil" [using the old alignments] figures and throwing them all together in a powergaming warband.
For me personally... don't ask me why, but I like to run all animal warbands and the new factions makes it harder to put together teams using the limited number of animals already in the game.
I will with certainty say that the loss of morale routing was a major disappointment. What made DND minis almost a lite wargame was the inclusion of morale, so that it wasn't just always hack n slash till the bitter end, and some more in depth strategy was required.
That said, this is still an enjoyable skirmish battle game. The mechanics are still a little richer and contain more depth than Star Wars miniatures, and is fun for beginners as well as for advanced players. Most of the bugs/kinks have been worked out, so there will be little debating and arguing over the rules interpretation and more time spent playing.
Besides the morale rule removal, the only other reservation I have with the rules is that they are seemingly designed for simple battles in quick play, tournament, or to assist the RPG; and thus lacks some of the longer term appeal that other non-collectible fantasy skirmish games contain -- i.e., experience gaining/character improvement, more interesting mission objectives, true dungeon crawling, etc. The Wizards site does contain a horde of scenarios, but most of them seem more like either puzzles or a setup for another simple battle.
By now nearly all DND creatures and character types have had at least one iteration represented in the minis, which in turn means most generic fantasy archetypes are also represented. This is certainly a boon for anyone that just wants to pick up their favorite heroes and monsters for a fun dungeon raid. Older figures can be easily found on the secondary market at reasonable prices.
In terms of figure quality, sadly, things have not improved much at all over the past few years. The plastic is still soft and weapons are nearly always curled or bent, though they are quite durable.
The ink washes are still a bit messy, as are the face/eye painting. This is a disappointment mainly because, in my opinion, Wizkids has significantly improved paint quality as well as introduced a harder yet still durable plastic for their Heroclix line.
The sculpts in the newest set, Against the Giants, again my opinion, are quite uninspired with the exception of the huges. I don't have more than a small handful of the normal figures and don't plan to get more. Most of the huges look fantastic, especially the Elder Red Dragons and Shadow Hulk -- almost good enough to be display pieces. It could be that the plastic is thicker and thus straighter; and the larger surface areas make make the inking and painting easier.
The other two more recent sets, Desert of Desolation and Dungeons of Dread, have some excellent figures and I would recommend picking but more of those.
Starter Set Review
In line with the rest of the Wizards (and also Wizkids) miniatures "starter" products, this new set features a predetermined set of figures. Most notable is the green dragon, but I've never been that fond of them and this one doesn't excite me either, in stats nor appearance, though many in my group do find it a good addition to the collection. There's also a dwarf that could be quite useful in the right build, but overall the miniatures in the starter are not that interesting.
The rulebook is the usual stapled booklet, which they have also posted online, and the counters and dice can easily be found elsewhere (or made in the case of the counters).
Personally I think the maps are the only worthwhile part of the starter, and thus I wouldn't completely recommend picking up this product.
I may have put forth more negative comments in my review then positive, however, my intention was only to point out its flaws with the acknowledgment that overall it is a good product.
It probably will not satisfy many gamers who have a background in more complex wargames and skirmish games, but for others interested in a fast and fun fantasy battles, this will be thoroughly enjoyed.
I would still recommend Mordheim and Confrontation Dogs of War over DND minis in terms of rules and gameplay, but the breadth of the miniatures available from Wizards makes it hard to resist.
I like this better than the previous version. No silly commander stuff or awkward diagonal movement. It is cleaned up quite a bit for a simple yet engaging minis game.
I also think the starter is better value than you think.
The Dwarf Battlemaster and Human Sellsword are great. I bought a second set just for these minis and extra maps.
I really like the fact that in v2 minis can now shift one square when engaged by an enemy, rather than being "locked down" (or taking an opportunity attack if they move away). I find it makes the battles more fluid.