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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Banned

As many people know, as of Wednesday, I have been Banned from the WWX forums. Forever. So, I probably won’t be giving any reviews, good or bad, of their product. I am also fairly certain I won’t be playing the game as they have cut me off from the tournament rules, announcements of the locations of tournaments, and anyone that could possibly want to play, with the exception of one. Sadly, I’ve left behind a few people that I have no other way of contacting. Fortunately, I get to leave behind the pompous prick that was Romeo, same guy from battlefoam and a hundred other incidents in internet infamy.

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It took them only a little longer than they said, but in late December, my WWX models finally arrived. Thankfully, they are very nice models. Unfortunately, the rules leave a lot to be desired.

Geronimo, the model I backed the kickstarter for, is an enormous pile of plastic and resin larger than a Slayer. Sadly for me, their is a huge gap in his raised arm, and I can’t put him together yet.

The Great Elk, the second model I really, really loved, is an enormous model as well. Almost as tall as the Kraken, but not nearly as wide, long or cool, he takes up a goodly portion of his enormous base without enveloping it.

Sitting Bull, of which I have two, is a unique prospect. The game has True LOS rules, which are dumb, but the models here really exemplify why. Standard Sitting Bull is a pretty cool model. Alternate Sitting bull is also a cool model. But, due to the way TLOS is, the alternate is the only logical choice. He is 50% smaller and 3/4″ less wide. at only 1.5 inches tall, his alt for can hide behind many barriers that his original sculpt cannot.

Walks Lookings model is pretty cool, but the one hand keeps falling off because its stupid resin arm is glued by the smallest of small joins.

Sky Spirit is a fun model: Were-birds just aren’t as represented as they could be, and he’s taking full advantage with a giant spirit bow. Sadly, this model too has problems, and has a hole in his damned foot.

Energy Riders are next up, but, sadly I only have one. I ordered 3 energy riders, and got Energy rider #3. The other two will have to wait some time, I guess.

Stone Fist is the Cav leader, and he’s just not well designed. His horse goes together alright if they give you 2 front and 2 rear legs, instead of 3 rear and 1 front. His Torso, however, is busted as hell. The angle of the mold cut is terrible, and his arms don’t fit where they are supposed to. The best solution on the forums is to hot water-bend the model into place, which is a terrible solution. Yet another model I cannot finish.

Sadly, as I unpack, I realize that I ordered the wrong Mercenary model, and get stupid Jake Mattia instead of awesome Flowing River.
I mean, Jayne is cool and all, but who doesn’t want River Tam!

I’ve also got a pile of base inserts, but not enough to do the whole crew. I’ll just put them on important or good looking models.

The Hired Hands are the basic troopers, and they come in boxes of 10, with 5 melee and 5 Ranged, The models aren’t all good, but the ones that are, I really like. “Two Guns” and ” Fighting Backward” are both models I would rather do without. And while we’re at it, I’d like less static ranged options. oh well!

All in all, the models are a cool bunch. I’ll be glad to paint them up when the time comes, but there were so many problems with them overall, that its just, I don’t know its worth it. Maybe, like Malifaux, the 2e will be glorious!

I was going to put up this write-up about Wild West Exodus on Thursday, but a friend of mine convinced me that the Goreshade and Bane Cavalry one was better timed. Thankfully he did that because I found something today that makes this post a lot easier to write, though a little more depressing.

behold: The WWX Quickstart Rules.

This is the craziest quickstart document I’ve ever encountered. It is 8 pages of insane rules gibberish and tons of exceptions and special rules. Its not quick or a start.

My Journey through the WWX landscape is a sad trail. It was the first kickstarter I’d found all on my own, looking for miniatures games too stretch my budget a little farther. I happened across this strange-looking Wild West science-fictiony game. It had some really cool concept art and basic Miniatures. It was alternate earth, which had worked well for Malifaux, and the factions were intriguing.
The Outlaws, Lead by Jesse James
The Union, Lead by General Grant
The Enlightened, Lead by Dr. Carpathian
The Warrior Nations, Lead By Sitting Bull.

Each had their own take on the world, some more unique than others. the Outlaws were pretty standard, as was the Union. The Warrior Nations were an amalgamation of all the Native American Tribes. The Enlightened, however, threw me off. They are a strange amalgamation of Undead and technology that seemed a little off. Maybe its just the way that it clashes so starkly with the other three factions. Each of those are their own take on something in the world, while Carpathian and the Enlightened are from Left-center.
Anyway. I was happy with three of the four, so I moved forward with trying to spread the word. Maybe someone else will get into it with me.
I had no such luck. I did get 3 other people to jump in, and I was pretty stoked that maybe I’d get some games in once the rules came out. The models were cool, and I had hope for the game.

The of the Warrior Nation just called to me, Starting with this bad boy

Geronimo. Add to that Werewolf Sitting Bull, Wereeagle Sky Spirit, a giant Goddamned Elk. All the warrior nations to that point were a ton of fun, and As each new model was unlocked, more cool things showed up, including the new factions: Confederacy, Lawmen, El Ejercito Dorado, and Holy Order, Heavy support, Cavalry/Light support. Tons of cool looking models and neat ideas.

But, for every four good ideas, they had a terrible Idea. A giant $100 train that is not a model in the game, but has some part in scenarios, Mercenaries inspired by Firefly, Ladies models that cater to lonely men, and Weapon carts pushed around by bulky Indians.

The biggest problem I had, though, was the structure of the Pledge levels. It seemed designed to make you pledge much more than you’d like just to get what you wanted. Its different from the structure you normally see, the entices you to go bigger. This specific setup gives you more things, but they are generally more things you Don’t want in order to get what you do. there wasn’t a single pledge level that tried to steal you to one full faction, they all added more and more factions. It was… frustrating.

So, I was looking forward to the beta test rules to come out, but there was some trepidation: They would only come out once the pledges were finalized and the Kickstarter ended. In retrospect, I’ll not back anything that I can’t see the rules of first. It would have changed a lot of what I have done since then.

Because the rules were awful. The beta rules came out with some giant, gaping holes. Stats are difficult to comprehend and read, some abilities made no sense on the models they were on, and balance was completely shot through. It was so easy to tell that this game was built with fun cinematic battles in mind, and that the best way to play would definitely be casual, club or home tables. However, With every pledge came a free ticket to the AZ based Duelcon and entry into their first tournament to be held. They clearly had aspirations to be a balanced, tournament worthy game that held a candle to the big tournaments of other games. However, their scenarios were terrible. I don’t mean bad or sloppy. They were just awful. Deployment and initiative favored one player over the other, and placement of terrain was part of the game. I don’t know if any of you went through the point in minis games where you thought placement of terrain was part of the game, but its terrible. I gave some serious feedback. However, no lie, the responses were overwhelmingly negative. Many people expressed anger at the tournament and balance crowd, while the balance crowd was very frustrated with the “but its fun” crowd. It was among the worst forum experiences I have ever had, and it was very divisive and overwhelmingly negative. The final nail, though, was the final rules set. Very little was changed from the original setup, regardless of discussion or debate, no matter how reasonable. The biggest and most important change, though, was not a change. There was a very specific rule, and I can recall the details fairly clearly.

There was a rule that penalized characters that are good in combat for being in combat. Each turn, a model can make as many melee attacks in a Fight Action as their Strikes stat. So,Geronimo, Warrior Nation Boss has a Strikes of 4. He can make 4 melee attacks in a given round. Sounds awesome! However, The rule in question reduced the amount of strikes he could make in combat by the amount of people he was in melee with -1, to a minimum of 1. This rule absurdly penalizes characters who have the sole purpose of being in melee, for being in melee, while also not penalizing characters who are bad at melee. This was discussed very vehemently, and almost the whole of the community thought it was lame and made no sense. Outlaw miniatures response was overwhelmingly terrible: They put a call out in the next set of rules specifically stating why this rule was not terrible. No one was convinced and it was, by far, the strongest reason for me abandoning the game forum and escaping to a miniatures games that seemed good.

Fortunatly, the Outnumbered rule does not seem to be on the quickstart rules. This is a start in the correct direction. However, for every move forward they seem to move another step back.

Included in the rules are such strange, esoteric rules like:
Armor: -When a model is hit, it must make an Armor Roll. Roll a D10 and add the target’s Armor Stat to the roll. Then subtract from this total the Power of the weapon. A negative result means that your Armor has failed to stop the attack and the model has suffered Damage. Mark one Lifeblood box on the target’s card for each point of Damage suffered. When a model has its last remaining Lifeblood box marked, it is removed from the table as a casualty.

D10 + Armor – Weapon’s Power = Damage

Example 1: An Outlaw with Armor 1 is hit by a Union Soldier’s Blaster Pistol (Power 8). The Outlaw player rolls a D10 and gets a 4. Added
to its Armor 1, he gets a total of 5. Subtracting the 8 points of the weapon’s Power, you get a negative -3. This means that the Outlaw takes
3 Lifeblood damage from the hit.

This is insanely ridiculous. Negative number are confusing and foreign to the way a game should be. especially because the solution is so easy: Power -(Arm + roll) = Damage, expressed as a positive number. Example one can be so simply rewritten.

An Outlaw with Armor 1 is hit by a Union Soldier’s Blaster Pistol (Power 8). The Outlaw player rolls a D10 and gets a 4. Added
to its Armor 1, he gets a total of 5. Subtracting that from the 8 points of the weapon’s Power, you get 3. This means that the Outlaw takes
3 Lifeblood damage from the hit.

The only words I changed were in bold.

The final issue I am going to go into here is that bonuses and penalties are expressed in relation to the stat referenced. Because the stats are better when they are lower, (you want to roll over the number listed) the bonus and penalties are reversed. a +1 is bad, and a -1 is good. This could have easily been changed to be shown as a penalty or bonus to the roll itself, to better align the game with player expectations. Its complex for complexities sake, and really could have been done better, cleaner, and been a great game.

There are tons more stories about rules that were dumb or weird or didn’t make any sense, but I’ll let you imagine what was going on.

Fast Forward to recently, and I am starting to get excited about the models, as they are finally getting ready to ship. The container is in customs, getting pulled and checked, and we have simple weeks to wait. We get the update on kickstarter and it has a bonus surprise, a glimpse at the next Boss we can expect to have in December:

I’m pretty sure that the middle snippet is of a werecat of some sort, and to me, it struck my excitement level back up to 11. I could have a werecat leading my Warrior nation army around. There could only be glory!
But then, a day later, I found the link to the quickstart rules, and all hope was lost, again.

I’ll get a review of the models once I get them all in, and Hopefully I can send some of them off to someone who will really enjoy the game, while I paint up a cool set of Warrior Nation models to sit on a shelf somewhere.

This is the longest post I’ve written, and I’m sad that its negative. Thanks for Hanging in there!

The majority of the evening last night was spent Futzing around on various forums, solving a few puzzles of my own. Now that its done, though, there should be more time to nerd. A number of things popped up, that due to the way time flows linearly, I’ve not gotten to yet. I’ll address them soon enough, but here’s the short list.

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