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Opinions and comments needed on technique

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I am moving into the graphics portion of a game I've been developing. It is a virtual table to allow an RPG group the ability to play online. The game is developed using C# 2008 and Microsoft Access for the back end. For combat, I want to display the table using grids, much like D&D uses on actual tables with their grid system. I plan on using tiles. For the models of the objects and creatures, I'm torn. I'll probably just use a static sprite or something akin to the Civ games. Question: Do you feel I need to use XNA/DirectX or do you think I can get away with just using GDI+? Second... if I want to use animated sprites to indicate walking, fire moving back and forth, very simple things you might find on an old NES system back in the day... should I use GDI+ (if yes above) and what tool would you recommend for sprite creation and animation?

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