I just picked up my delinquent copy of No Quarter 55 the other day, and I just heard the rumblings of a Theme Force for Dr. Arkadius, the mad scientist of the Thornfall alliance. This has got me thinking about theme forces, and what they do for all games, not just for Warmachine.

I started tabletop games playing Warhammer 40k, and in that game, there was a ton of theme built into every army. While every codex presented the vanilla force of the faction, they also had tons of themed forces you could run. Cadians, Evil Sunz, Black Templars, Biel Tan and specific Hive Fleets dictated your army selection and gave you different benefits for taking them. From the beginning, though, some were obviously considered more powerful than others, and certain books, especially campaign books, boosted it to a completely different level. I remember playing an army of Warp Spiders that was completely bonkers, and might have even been good if I could have proxied it to try it out. Instead, I ended up buying and owning the very characterful Lost and the Damned, which was dropped from the main lineup as soon as the Eye of Terror campaign was over.

The LaTD list was really powerful because it combined sepecific aspects of armies that were otherwise balanced separately into a single force, while limiting the forces that would normally be available to the main (Imperial Guard) force. This is the core of almost every themed army I’ve encountered. Its also why they have such a pull on the communities that they are involved in. If your allowed to run only your favorite model/unit in an army and get bonus’ for it, who wouldn’t?

But thats the rub, here. Most people don’t want to limit themselves because its creative, fluff filled, or interesting. Many people simply want bonuses to how a game functions for limiting themselves in their model choice. I don’t think theme forces really have a place, and though they are tempting, they are generally loose/loose for the communities they are part of.

Inherently, themes break the rules of the game in a drastic way that is extremely hard to balance correctly. This leads to themes that become either the default play style, or that are never used. They are simply black and white, with no gray in between. In Infinity, the use of sectorial armies, and by extension their link teams, is a large part of their discussion of list building and play strategy. I don’t vehemently hate them like I once did but I still cannot see why I wouldn’t just use them in every game, because the link teams are so extremely strong, in my opinion, that they can only be overcome by out-skilling your opponent, becoming a win-more button. Warmachine and Hordes have the signature theme lists for each caster, and sometimes more than one. These, too, I find moderately bothersome. These give various bonuses to the army you play because you restrict yourself in unit choice,  but sometimes the restriction is a moot point because the caster in question would only want to use those models anyway, thus rewarding the clear and normal build for a caster. I wouldn’t be against this if it was true for all of them, but many of them are fairly divergent from the normal way the game encourages you to play, and instead promote strange and janky army lists.

I think Malifaux does it the least wrong, but that’s because it has rules on the models cards that reward you for taking thematic models with them. The Ortegas have family, and the Drill Sergeant buffs models of the guardsman type. This form of theme building is interesting and more balanced to me because the model as it is intended has synergy with other specific models, thus rewarding you for taking them. It is build into the basic premise of the game instead of adding another layer of rules on top.

So, what do you think? Are themed lists and armies the way to go?

 

I’ve been playing Dark Souls II for months now. And I’ve not been extremely committed to it. Something about the game has just slowed my progress to a crawl, where it didn’t in the original. Maybe I should just bulk up and approach the game much like I did the first time, but I’m not sure even that will stave off the sheer brute force I feel I need to have to beat the game.

This time around, as I’ve mentioned, I am trying to play the game as it feels it is supposed to be played. I’ve leveled up my stats in a way that seems more educated, I’m using a weapon that takes a bit more finesse, and I am wearing armor that doesn’t make me roll around like I way a million pounds. Unfortunately, that seems to not be what the game wants me to do, as I keep running into areas that routinely bash my head in.

Continue reading

Sometimes, its good to reflect on ones self and to look in a mirror and find out who you really are.

For me, it was a lesson I learned in high school, in a philosophy class where I was exposed to ideas and thoughts that had really never been shown to me. I took each part of me, my thought processes and my preconceptions and examined them. Those I embraced, I put back on the stack, rebuilding me. Those I disliked were tossed away like so many cracked and deformed bricks.

What I found out, through that ruthless process, was that I truly enjoyed competition. It doesn’t always have to be with others, sometimes I compete with myself, but often times it is. This is exponentially more so when you get to games. It gets bad when I am trying to best my own time while running, or make sure that I get home faster than I did yesterday, but with games it elevates itself to an entirely new level.

I love games because they are a competition, though there are three different versions of competition within games.

The first is the simplest, and is the competition of one person against either a single or multiple opponents. This is when you are trying to be the master of the game, and be better than your opponents at the game. I love these games because it lets me think in direct puzzle mode, engaging the parts of my brain that are trying to figure out whats the best path to victory against a similarly clever opponent. These games tend to give me the greatest pleasure because the opponent is a living, thinking, intelligent person like myself who is also out to get me down. Warmachine really hits this off for me, with Tabletop games filling in as well. Deckbuilding games and some board games come in here, but they also hit the second concept as well.

The second is harder to get good at, and also harder to get right. This is player against the designer. Many video games play this way to me – Its why I always play on hard. In this version of competition, you’re pitting your skills, knowledge and intelligence against a person who has play tested this game a hundred-hundred times and though that they came up with everything. They know every way to win, and every path to victory you’ll take and most often they know before you do. I enjoy video games in this manner because I can pass judgement on the game designer without knowing or ever encountering him or her based on their game. It is much harder to viciously drub a pleasant opponent and then call them terrible at the game when they are sitting across from you smiling and drinking a beer. This is also the way I view most deck building games. The creators of that type of game were definitely trying to balance the game around something, and I really take a perverse joy in trying to beat the balance to death within the rules of the game while also beating my opponents.

The final version is pretty much the most fun I can have playing games, and that’s cooperative. This version the competition is against the game itself. To me, this is significantly different from a developer competition because you have to work as a team to beat the game with your other players. You have to combine the good sportsman of the first game with the ruthlessness of the second. You have no rules arbiter or referee, and you surely don’t have someone who wants to interpret the rules any way other than for the benefit of the players, so its got to be a hard, hard game in order to be any fun, and hard games are the most fun.

With all that said, I know that while I am competitive, I still let the narrative and casual gamer out alongside the artistic one.  In MTG this means that while I want them to hum and work with brutal precision, I have an insane fixation on strange themes with my decks. This means that I don’t really like mercs in my faction armies in Warmachine, and it means that I love reading the fluff wording during board games. Knowing that I am competitive also helps me suppress it when I need to, though it is hard. It means that I can step back and try to just flow with the game as opposed to forcing, especially in multiplayer games, my style of games on the rest of my friends.

Its important to know where you stand on the spectrum of gamers, and why you stand there. It helps you decide what games you like, and why. It also helps you interact with the other players of a game in a manner that makes both of you feel comfortable, because you can just say what you are without having the opponent get through the vast majority of a game before figuring it out.

Finally, and most importantly, it lets you know how you’ll get the most fun out of a game that you own or play. For me, I have to look at the models and the rules. If the rules aren’t good enough to be competitive, its going to be a little hard for me to embrace, but if they seem clean and clear cut, I’ll be all over it.

So take a few minutes and determine for yourself what type of gamer you are and embrace it. Get all in it. Become it. But control it and turn it off when you interact with gamers who are different from you. Its always better to play games with others than never play a game again.

The NOVA open has come and gone, and with it a great burden off my shoulders. I didn’t manage to get my Cepahlyx painted in time, but I still threw down on the tabletop despite my constant judging. I managed to eke out wins in both games – one against Siege and one against Sorscha 2. It was great playing against Dan and Bill.

The events were packed all weekend, which amazed everyone involved. Here is the breakdown (from what I remember)

Thursday Tier Tournament: 37 players
Friday Team Tournament: 13 teams of 3 – 39 players
Friday Hardcore – 31 Players
Saturday SR2014 – 39 Players
Saturday Iron Gauntlet – 16 players
Sunday Masters – 16 players
Sunday Scrambles 21 players (of which 16 actually got to play, sad!)

That is a fantastic turnout for our fourth year, and a 100% year over year increase in attendance.

What really mattered, though, was that there were so few incidents. The players were, overall, excellent, and the level of competition was exceedingly good. We had pull from several states, and it really felt like it, as I saw lists that we just don’t see here in my meta. We pulled in over 80 players from around the region, and with an Official Iron Gauntlet Qualifier next year, I am thinking we can really become an excellent tournament.

That’s not to say that there weren’t hiccups. There are always things that can be done better, clearer and faster, and we are really looking into them but for the most part they were, while serious to the individual players, minor to the overall scheme. Tighten up communication about alternates, Make sure all the information is the same in the booklet, the primer, and the draft primer, and get the tournaments running in heats to save time.

What I heard that made me the happiest, though, was the direct, honest feedback from the players of the game. It ranged from effluent praise to frustrated critisism, but for the most part it was suggestions on how to make next year better and run smoothly. I got suggestions on what events to pair against each other, what sizes everyone liked, and how to get the most out of every tournament. Its great to know that the people you run these events for, the players of the tournaments, are just as invested as you are in an event. I can’t wait to see who makes it out for next years Iron Gauntlet and Warmachine Weekend Qualifiers!

But I’d be hard pressed not to include my favorite moment of the weekend, which happened not to be Warmachine, somehow. Instead it was when I saw Gutier from Corvus Belli sitting at the cafe and sat down to have a chat with him.  He was pleasant, energetic and extremely cool to talk to. Its good to know that I’m not the only one who gets so immersed in their own worlds that they become real.

I have to give a tip of my hat to both the Infinity guys and the Malifaux guys, who seemed to be running some awesome tournaments where everyone was enjoying themselves. I was sad to see the infinity guys pushed out and into their own small room, but they had some really awesome terrain. The Malifaux guys were just so exceedingly friendly and pleasant – though I knew nothing about their tournaments – that they were a blast to share space with.

Finally, I want to mention Greenman Designs, who make some really cool acrylic measuring templates and other tools. He was extremely enthusiastic and mentioned getting a whole line of warmachine stuff up and running, including some omni-measuring tools as well as sliding scatter template. My buddy has the first Cygnar Flavored one, and its really awesome. He even takes whatever custom design and can cut it out in whatever color you want – Color is independent of product, so you can always get what you want. His prices were reasonable, as well. Give him a look if you have a chance!

Till next time,

Jonathon

Gencon is like Nerd Christmas, and boy was it fun this year. Information poured in from every direction about every game I play and it was a glorious Thursday and Friday. Honestly, I am still trying to digest it, and some of the information still will be in its raw form.

Malifuax had the pre-release of its Crossroads book, which has both the Wave 2 models from the edition conversion, and some new models here and there. This is the one I’ve spent the least time Digesting. Gmort on the forum loaded up these daily congregations of pics, which I’ll just link here.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

There is some really cool art in there, and when the book and decks finally release, I look forward to playing some more Malifaux. The Beta wore me out just reading about it, so its nice to have that joy creeping backin.

Infinity, with its coming 3rd edition, had a ton of information to share as well. Almost all of it was revealed in a video Here.

I do like the Japanese dude on a bike, showing off the the new style bikes and the larger 55″ footprint

Yojimbo, I assume?

There is also an awesome pic of Bostria giving out one of the changes:

adding 15% to the retreat threshold for 3rd

We’ve also got some fantastic concept and 3d sculpts, and a ton of pictures of them, that they are working on.

Of course I focused my attention, though, on the Haqqialam, because its my faction, and I have to say: When I first saw the Jannisary model, I cried out that the jannisaries were fine. When I saw the HMG model, I was instantly corrected, that model is freaking great.

This guy!

I look forward to the new Hassassin with a Missile Launcher

One day, I'll play a Hassassin army

One day, I’ll play a Hassassin army

A new Kum Character

to go with the thousand bikes I am going to buy

to go with the thousand bikes I am going to buy

And  a resculpt of the Maghariba Guard

A bad ass machine, here

A bad ass machine, here

 

Finally, there are the Warmachine Gencon pre-releases, which came out like a flood last Thursday, as the store opened and the pre-release cards were unboxed.

Overall, I like them all. They have their own flavor and I really think that they will stand on their own once the Doom Cycle shakes out.

Bradigus is a caster after my own heart. He is a druid that plays well with wolds, which is the only thing I want in a Circle caster. One day, I’ll probably build an army for him.

Absylonia 2 is an intriguing model to me, with a host of strange spells and abilities. Most of the time when that happens its because I just don’t get it, and get suckered on the table. I look forward to facing her.

Helga is crazy-fun. I initially thought that Cyclone was Twister, and was exceedingly unimpressed. Simply changing that one spell makes her 1000% more fun. I approve!

Jaga Jaga is freaking bonkers! I really like both her new spells, Gravewind and Spellpiercer. Her feat, as well, is completely awesome, and I look forward to using it one day here soon.

Xerxis 2, being that I play Skorne, is going to be a blast to play. Mobility is a ton of fun, and his beast bond is exceedingly good. 13/19 with transfers and 19 HP is nothing to scoff at either. Ignite is good, but is nothing extra special, as Skorne has a ton of high end damage buffs. I do look forward to sending Tiberion some 11″ and outside 10″ of Xerxis area during the feat. Who knows, maybe I even use Fate Walker to get him back in his standard control area after the turn ends.

Till Next time!

Warmachine Tactics had an update today, and I have mixed emotions due to it. One on hand, all of the backers will be getting a beta key very soon, but on the other hand the release of the single player missions will be delayed until at least November.

I get to play Tactics now, and I am excited! I get to play against people all over the place, and might even be able to set up some games with people I know. I am also looking forward to making suggestions and changes to the game.when I wastTalking with Jay at Lock and Load, he made me realize they are looking for every stupid suggestion and every idea and thought. Everything is taken seriously, even to the point that he took notes while we were just having a friendly conversation.

That joy is tempered by the fact that we will miss the target launch date, and not by a small amount of time. Originally set for an ambitious August release, I had backed the game specifically for the single player content, and was not very interested in the multiplayer aspect of the game, as I have a largely established and consistent real life playgroup.  The announcement that they will be delaying the release of No Mans Land and the subsequent Fire and Ice and Dark Seduction first player missions is disappointing, but not something unexpected, honestly, and I am going to keep confidence that they’ll put out missions that are fun, balanced, and engaging with only minor bugs. That confidence will only last so long, and though this is only the first delay, If the product keeps getting pushed back until there isn’t anything resembling the time frame they expected, I’ll be more than a little upset. But kickstarter isn’t something I expect to even be close to on time, really. I can’t think of a scenario in our modern times where you hear about a product being on time and under budget, and kickstarter is no different.

I am looking forward to trying out Cryx in multiplayer. I want to see the differences in play style and feel, but I also want to see how long the games take. I have limited interruption-free time, and I would love to visit the digital realm of Warmachine,  even if it is a beta of a game that’s not really like Warmachine in a way that I can really get better at it.

And, remember, this is a true beta. I’ve heard horror stories about how its not ready for release, and its very slow, unoptimized and buggy. I think thats the point, really. This is the first beta in a long time that really goes for its name, and that is OK with me. The more people that they can get looking at the game and trying to break it wide open, the more likely they are to find a bunch of problems and fix them before the game hits the virtual shelves.

I’ll be standing by, checking my spam and inboxes for my beta key, and I’m going to look to get a few games in here and there. Look me up when you get a chance!

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A while back I mentioned that Infinity was going to have a new version of their game come out this year, and over the last few weeks, their has been a flurry of activity around what these changes will bring.

Infinity is sticking to the time tested version of edition change, and has already done all the work. Unlike Warmachine, Malifaux, D&D and numerous Kickstarters, there will be no public beta test of this edition. I think this is a bold move, in the modern age of minis games, but not one without its perks. The game is built buy a Spanish language company, but a large portion of its community are decidedly not. While this includes the USA, it has a broad appeal across Europe. This has created problems with translation to other languages, including English, obscuring the original intent of rules. The decision not to let the community test the product signals confidence in the product that they have,  it also signals that they don’t feel they need the community input to make a balanced, enjoyable game. It also shows that they feel they have achieved a very solid translation, and I hope that they have achieved that goal. I think one of the defining traits of a good minis game is the tightness of the rules set, and Infinity, while good, has a ton of growing room in the clarity department. I don’t like arguing over obscure or strangely interpreted rules in any system. I have high hopes for N3, something I try to keep myself from doing.

These are the changes I have found and/or been exposed to:

  • Combat Camo – What used to be an unopposed shot will now be an opposed shot, but the target suffers a -3 penalty on their return fire. Almost all the math shows that this is a nearly lateral change. Before, you could only shoot back, with no penalty, if the sniper completely missed, you now get a chance to defend yourself, but with a penalty. While it is a lateral change, it does make the game easier to explain and more enjoyable to the defender due to rolling v. not rolling.
  • Capped Modifiers: Supposedly, all modifiers are being capped at +12 and -12. I don’t think this is incredibly common, but in a game that can stock mods, making shots impossible is something to try and avoid.
  • Ranges are being changed, and though I don’t get the particulars and nuances of the numbers, many people smarter than me are extremely enthused. Changes of note
    • Double effective range of grenades, from 0-4″ to 0-8″
    • Double the bonus of the shotgun at short range (+6) which is the only gun to achieve the +6
    • HMG’s have reduced good ranges, making other guns stronger chouces.
    • Sniper Rifles are stronger at long range than they are now, and also the penatly maxes at -3, which X-Visors ignore.
  • Climbing: Climbing is now a long skill that does not require a roll, no longer being betrayed by the dice and plummeting to your death.
  • Discover gets a minor range buff, now being +0 at 8-36″
  • Measurement: Ranges are now measured from Edge to Edge, instead of Center to Edge.
  • Silhouette LOS – When determining LOS from/to a model, you may use a pre-determined silhouette instead of true LOS.
  • Inaction: A rule that allows you to activate a trooper/model but they don’t do anything. It just forces an opponent to declare ARO’s
  • MSV1:  reduces combat camo and TO camo by -3
  • Kinematika is a new skill, that adds 1 inch further with every ARO Dodge, and has levels
  • BTS: is now a positive stat, like all the rest.
  • Smoke: A model touching smoke is considered part of the smoke cloud its touching. I assume that it simply means that he is completely concealed, not that his base can conceal others.
  • And, my favorite change:
  • Loss of Lieutenant – The loss of your LT will no longer cripple your order pool and loose you a turn. Instead, each model becomes Irregular, only able to spend orders on themselves. Using the LT order will now also reveal the LT. You also get an auto-promote of a new LT
  • The dispersion template has been changed in N3 too, it now has ten scatter directions instead of eight – the 9/10 and 2/3 results have been ungrouped.
  • Finally, there are some significant changes to models points and stats here, but they are of factions that I don’t really understand the significance.

Relic Knights is lucky that its game play seems to be fun, different and completely cool, because otherwise, I’d have just pitched the bunch of models I’ve assembled into the trash or to someone else, because I supremely disappointed.

Nearly every model I put together was either boring, stupid, flat or some combination of the three. The saving grace of the Corsairs line is Calico Kate and The Iron Chef. Every other model falls extremely short of my admittedly low expectations that I had for them.

Battle Box:
Harker: This model is the definition of sad. His art is cool and posed well, but his model is completely static and flat. I was originally really stoked to get him, but this really tempered my enthusiasm for him.
– Caesar – This model is actually not that bad, but its really hard to mess up a bird on a sword. I do believe that part of my disappointment was that they had planted the idea that it was going to be a dude holding the bird, but due to rules, Caesar has to be a separate model

Corsairs: Man, this is a trifecta of terrible, with each model worse than the last. Lola Bunny Ears honestly isn’t that bad of a model. She’s cylindrical even though she could have easily been made more dynamic by splaying her army just a little bit. Then, we have Scoliosis Boy.  His pose is so weird it just pulls me away. Finally we have Flatso. I’m just so rottenly disappointed by this model that it makes me angry. That they give you two in a box of Corsairs, and then foist two of the units on you is just icing on the crap cake.

Broadsides: Now, here is a model that doesn’t make me want to hurl chunks. Its about as average as you can get, but that seems to be the bar set for this lineup of models. What makes this thing aggravating is that is a huge pain in the ass to assemble!

Extra Models
Kenobo and Moffet: I don’t violently hate Kenobo, His sword is a bit large, and his nose is freakishly large, but I can get over both of those. Moffet is another story. I don’t think I like anything about her. Her face is mashed, her hand lost a ton of detail in plastic, and her sword is uninspiring.

Iron Chef and Squall. I like Iron Chef, I really do, which is great because he is one of the models I expected to like the least. I might change out his strange circular weapon for a blade, but that’d be it. Squall has a strange stance, but otherwise is a really cool model.

Blowhards: Man, am I disappointed. They look nothing like the art I wanted and are extremely static. Just not my cup of tea here.

Wildspace Gabe and Fleshreaper: These models look like they have to be painted to really get a good look at them. I originally thought that Gabe had an awful face, but I think its just sculpted weird to get the effect they needed. Fleshreaper is both tiny and not terrible.

Isabeau Durrant: I’m not upset with this model for anything other than her hair being a separate piece.  Unless paint can save it, its going to look like a whig. Not ok

Calico Kate: I’m over my 500 word count, but I didn’t want to leave without stating how pleased I am with this model, the one I was most dreading. With the bomb-and-Sword pose, I think she looks really cool, though I did have to re-position her sword. She’s got that Cheesecake flair, but it doesn’t look terrible on the model. Skully, however, is freaking TINY!

the more I look over the line, the more convinced I am that there ins’t a single faction that I’d enjoy every model from, or even most models, and thats a shame. Thankfully, the game plays pretty cool, and I like both resource management systems they have going. At least for now, those rules are a saving grace.

I’m also upping my word count to 750. Jesus is 500 small! so tiny! its Fun Size, not even Bite Sized

My brother introduced me to Kickstarter shortly about a year before Relic Knights, and a short time before the Double Fine Adventure. Since that day, I’ve backed Six successful projects. In order: Wasteland 2, Reaper Bones, Relic KnightsWild West Exodus, Warmachine Tactics and Reaper Bones II. I have had fairly good success with these, and even though some have not delivered on their goods, I only really get worked up about two of them.

The key, I think, is that I view a Kickstarter as a perpetual investment into a possible product that is beyond the scope and ken of the people creating it. I don’t look at these games as pre-orders or great deals on product. I don’t expect them to ship on time, or even close to on time. I am pleased if the product ever releases, as there are enough projects out there that never deliver to make me pleased just to receive product before I die. I am also not terribly hard on the creators of a Kickstarter project, as I expect them to be completely convinced that what they are promising is both feasible and possible, while in reality none of them are.

This brings me to the two Kickstarters I feel the most about. They follow parallel, if opposite courses of frustration and aggravation. To me, they are both failures, but not for the reasons I think people expect to be attributed to each of the games. The timeline is strange, but bear with me, as I take you down the path of disappointment provided by two different companies.

The Initial Sell
Main Image

 

Relic Knights was the first Kickstarter I really backed with a group of other people. It came up through a group email, and I was heavily on the fence. I’d hemmed and hawed about whether or not I should join in, and if it was worth it for me to play another game. In the end, with my friends all talking about it, and a number of people getting into it, I joined the fray. I split a 2 player set with a friend of mine, and added all of the possible models for my faction into the pledge. I’d decided on the Star Nebula Corsairs because their look was the most unique. Well, except for Noh, but everyone was getting Noh and I have compulsive originality syndrome, forcing me to the least represented faction.

Wild West Exodus (WWX) was a bit of a different beast. I managed to find it all on my own and fall in love with the Warrior Nation models. I advertised it out to friends and other miniatures gamers and got a very lukewarm response. The models weren’t everyone’s style, and it just never clicked. though a few people said that they were going to pledge, remember only a few actually buying into the game. I got in with two other people, and we split a huge bundle three ways. I was going to have opponents and a nascent group. I’d also had a chance to look over the beta rules, but they were extremely rough and were said to be in the midst of a rewrite in order to make them better. I just couldn’t get attached to the rules. They were, though, clunky and obtuse, with some very strange interactions that I just didn’t think worked out. I was optimistic that they would sort the issues out because there was enough chatter on the beta forums for them to have to take notice. It turns out, however, that for the first time in my life I had been overly optimistic.

What really set these experiences apart for me was the initial enthusiasm. I was able to latch onto the WWX product line in a manner that was surprising even to my self, and enabled me to look past some of the warning signs of the game. Relic Knights was simply a peer pressure purchase because all the cool kids, and most of my friends, were doin’ it.

The Post-Kickstarter Insanity

Once the Relic Knights Kickstarter finished, I was able to easily hand over my money and get the products I wanted on order. My friend set it all up, and all I had to do was wait. The early updates were positive and flush with thanks, grateful that we’d pledged to support a great game. I was having a different friend who’d pledged forward me the email updates to keep me in tune with what was happening at the Relic Knights home base. Soon afterwards, however, Cool Mini or Not, one of the companies involved immediately started in on another Kickstarter, for another miniatures game. I wasn’t pleased by the development because I was, and am, convinced that you should finish what you start before moving onto something else.

Wild-West-Exodus-badge

WWX was abysmal in terms of making sure that I got the models I wanted. Each update seemed to provide a new spreadsheet with new calculations in order to get each model, in addition to the spreadsheet seemingly built by an anachronistic scribe summoned from the 14th century. It felt like it took me days to understand what the wizards tome wished me to do to unlock the awesomeness of the Warrior Nation faction, and in the end my greater persistence overcame the terrors of the Outlaw Spreadsheet. I would now be receiving, in a few short months, an enormous package of beautiful miniatures. I was frustrated, exhausted and ground down, but I had done it.

The big difference here was that I was able to pawn off all the pain of the pledge manager to another person. Without the burden of trying to sort through all the garbage that WWX made me go through in order to get their product, I was much happier at the direct outcome of the Kickstarter for Relic Knights than I was for WWX. I will say, as a side note, that I was exceedingly suspicious of the WWX backer numbers. See, the fluff has the game powered by a mysterious substance unique to the world, called RJ 1027. WWX had, exactly, 1027 backers. Some people might say that’s fluffy and funny, but I just call it unsavory.

The Beta Process

Relic Knights original beta test book was terrible. Awful even. There were problems with wording, phrasing and any number of other parts of the book that made the game nearly unplayable. Among the most egregious to me was that cover was ill defined and, as it is now, very powerful. Now, I will say that as an extremely avid Warmachine fan, I do expect a games rules to have a certain rigid fluidity to them. They say what they mean, and they mean what they say, and all is fair. This was exactly the opposite of the Relic Knights book. However, due to overwhelming beta testing from the backers and everyone who could get their hands on a downloaded copy, the game was hammered into something that is clear and concise, while still presenting the solid rules. I’ve been reading over the book since it delivered, and I can pretty much say I’ve not encountered any problems or contradictions. I am sure they are in the book, they just aren’t there at first glance, nor even at a heavy read. Soda Pop did it right by asking, receiving and even relishing in the criticism and assistance with making this game the best game as envisioned by the game designer and as it matched that vision with the consumer.

Geronimo

If you’re not familiar yet with the pattern here, I’ll just lay it out. Everything that Soda Pop did right, WWX did completely wrong. Their beta rules were a terrible pile of trash that was better served as toilet paper and scrap coding than the paper and files that contained it. The first update was exceedingly insulting, to boot! though there were changed affected by the beta players and readers, they were mostly rules clarifications and spelling errors. Where balance was concerned, and where game play came into question, I felt we were being told, in only so many words, go STFU! The biggest portion of this came to the fore when it came to the overwhelming rule. With some models having tons of action points and a pile of attacks per action, there were models that could shred entire armies of weenie troops. However, the overwhelming rule stated that for every model beyond the first that you could make attacks against, your Strikes (attacks) were reduced by one. This served, many in the community claimed, to make only the good fighters worse while not affecting all the little guys, as attacks could never be reduced below 1. It seemed counter intuitive that the game, which reveled in the glory of its characters would make its characters suffer such humiliation at the hands of the hired help. Instead of trying something else or reworking the rule to make sense to the player base, they instead told the player base they were wrong in the most passive aggressive manner possible: A call out in the rules directly addressed their gripes, and told them to take a hike; that the rule was meant to reduce the effectiveness of a nasty model, and nothing more. It was just poorly done. The rules went through a few more changed, but at this point I was already frustrated with their lack of compassion for the customer and completely put off by their obstinate predilection to go forward with their vision, flawed or not.

Both Processes were frustrating, but I find that working with a company and fine tuning the rules for balance, fun and concept to be a fantastically enjoyable endeavor. When this works well, it creates a set of rules that many of the fans of the game enjoy. When done wrong, it will drive away players in droves and hordes.

The Long Wait

The wait for the Relic Knights Kickstarter was one of joyful nothingness. It was long, which is true, but each time I got a forwarded update, it seemed to be straight forward and honest. I know that there are many who would disagree, but I don’t remember getting offended by a single report from the front. Instead, I took the absence of the miniatures calmly, as I had nearly a thousand miniatures, of witch maybe 30% are painted and I’ve put just over 60% on the table. What Relic Knights did, as each successive shipment and delivery date was set and then broken, was assure me that they would have their own day. The Reaper Bones models delivered and had their day. The Wild West Exodus Miniatures came and were assembled in a flurry of activity. Even Warmachine Tactics miniatures came, and even one was painted. Still, I had not anything from Soda Pop. Finally, the wait started to end, slowly and viscously the tracking number slid into mailboxes with the urgency of molasses on a winters morning. Then, our turn came, and my friend alerted me, almost 18 months later, that Relic Knights was on the way.

WWX had a plan, and it showed. They were constantly updating their models, putting out their masters and showing us 3d renders prior to print. Some of those renders were so reviled that they were sent back to the artists and re sculpted to make their vision more in line with the actual sculpt as the backers saw it, though there was, to no ones surprise, a model that the community didn’t like that was explained instead of changed, which would normally be just fine, except the model is so ridiculously goofy looking that it defied reason that this model would be the one they would take a stand on. It was also, to amplify the problem, after a number of community demanded re sculpts that they had given in to, so the expectation was there. The plan that WWX had, however, completely collapsed under its own weight once they received the product. With a tiny number of staff, they were overwhelmed on the first day of shipping with the sheer scope of the project, and you could tell. For me, it was at this point that the Updates started turning belligerent, blaming the customer for the delays. Maybe it was just my sensitivity, but telling us that the flexibility you allowed us in your hellish spreadsheet is causing the problems with shipping doesn’t help anyone.

Though Relic Knights made me wait almost a year longer than WWX to receive my product, I really felt the wait of the WWX product much heavier. It was, I feel, Simply the communication methods that were used and how the backers were treated. In one case, they were treated like a burden, and in the other was just constant disappointment.

The Models
Relic Knights has delivered and I am, very shortly, going to be wrapping my head around the finer points of the rules. I am, however, exuberantly disappointed in the models that I have assembled so far. This is becoming extremely crushing to me as I wanted to paint these models, but with their sub par sculpts and their bland character, they are not inspiring me to pull out the paint and put aside my current project. Instead, as I slowly assemble each one, I get deeper and deeper into a mode of apathy with the models. What was once going to be an interesting painting project has now turned into a decision on which models will ever get paint.

SNC

When the WWX models showed up, I could not wait to put them together. Each model in turn was cooler and more grandiose than the next, and though they had their flaws in a number of the models, I was excited to start painting them. Some represented a great chance at practicing flesh and skin tones, while others were going to allow me to play around with OSL or furs. Some models, though, seemed like they were foisted on me without me fully knowing what I was getting, and stayed in the sprue throughout the process. Though the enthusiasm was tempered a bit by the completely abysmal treatment of a number of rules, I was still positive I could affect change and be part of a better game.

Both lines of models seemed to crop up with problems. The plastic used by RK is not the greatest, and the resin used by WWX echos that same quality. I was, however, pleased by the WWX plastics that were very similar to the Wyrd plastics that have received so much attention. Even though Relic Knights has less models, I definitely put together the WWX models faster.

Current Times

Relic Knights still have some models in the boxes as I struggle to get the desire to assemble the models. Each one has been a disappointment that built upon the failings of the second model I assembled. Thankfully, the concept of the rules, the variety of the game, and the coolness of the Relic Knights has kept me involved. I am anxious to try out the rules set, get a couple games in and pass a judgement on whether or not I’ll actually enjoy the game. All signs point, it seems, to yes. There is a nagging worry in the back of my head, though, that the game size is too small for me. While I like the concept of 8-10 models, it is extremely hard to break the core of those models up and try different things, especially when you might only get one game a week or so. Small Squads seem to be more to my liking, and I really look forward to trying to get my friends to play 70 points!.

Today, almost all of my models for WWX are in a box as well. However, that box is now in transit to Kansas and their new owner who will hopefully enjoy them more than I. The models were great and looked to be extremely fun to paint, but I’ll most likely never bother. The rules had holes in them as large as a bus, and it was extremely disappointing to me to see a game with so much potential waste itself. I mentioned, on now-deleted posts and a podcast interview that I enjoyed 97% of the rules, but the 3% that were terrible were so bad as to drive me off. A single line of text in the rules that stated that LOS was going to be True LOS is a small fraction of a set of game rules that interacts with every game and gamer, and there were a few of those that floated around the rule set. In addition, the scenarios were, and from everything I hear are still, not balanced. Even the competitive scenarios were built from too much story and not enough fairness. One does not always want fairness, but it should be obvious if and why and by the exact amount a scenario is unfair. It should also compensate for that unfairness somehow within the rules, and I never saw that WWX did. For my vocal criticism, I was tossed out of the community, my memory excised and my texts burned. There is no history of me except for those who know where to look by my absence.

While it might not be obvious at first, these two games have followed very parallel lines of delivery with exciting Kickstarters, perilous delivery, rough rules sets, and problems with models. However, the way that each now sits in my life is extremely divergent. One could be said to have a chance, and potential excitement. The other’s excitement was slain brutally with but a glimmer of a hope still in its infant eyes.

 

Till next week’s Monday battle report, or maybe even 2!

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