Monday, 20 May 2013

Opportunity Lost

Most people who care would already know that Games Workshop has canceled its production of its Specialist games.
Apparently the speculated reasoning behind  this decision is that they were unprofitable. Now I don't have any idea how much it cost to produce, store and ship the diminished quantity of models they would sell to the public.
It must be significantly less then what they make out of their big three games Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000 and Lord of the Rings/Hobbit strategy battle game. Perhaps they think that redirecting their resources towards the big 3 will reap higher profit margins.
However there must be some money to be made, there has been a surge in the last ten years of other games companies moving in on GWs turf. Some of these companies compete directly with GW fan-base while others have moved into the margins that GW has abandoned.
Tiny cute 40k perfect for roleplay.

Spartan Games is a company that produces some very nice games.  Their three most popular are Uncharted seas, Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars and are very similar to three of GWs specialist games Man O' War, Battlefleet Gothic and Epic Armageddon. Spartan Games has not ripped off GamesWorkshop, their games are fully realised creations with their own unique rules and back-story. But would there have been room in the market had not GW abandoned its share of the customer base?

Another very popular GW specialist game is Blood Bowl and another Company that has found a receptive market in the space abandoned by GW is Mantic Games -  their DreadBall has become quite popular. I wonder if people will stay loyal to Blood Bowl when DreadBall has a slew of teams and with more on the way?
In the grim darkness of the far future
there is only gang war!
My last and favorite GamesWorkshop Specialist game is Necromunda.  I never got a chance to play but the time for that may still yet come. The image of Necro/Goth Punk gangs battling over turf in the twisting foundations of a hive like mega-city has haunted my dreams. It seams that the idea of a SiFi skirmish level game, dominated with dense terrain is a popular concept. There are numerous companies that compete for this sliver of the wargaming market, a pair of the notable are Corvus Belli that produce Infinity and the upcoming DeadZone by Mantic.

While the percentage of profits of these smaller and less popular games may be a lot less then the big 3 they also were never supported like the big three. Some were given new rules and campaign supplements and the odd WhiteDwarf article. But there was nothing like the host of new editions, rules revision, FAQs and the army book/codex system for faction specific updates. The specialist games also helped newer customers enter the hobby who would otherwise be excluded because of the high cost of starting one of the core games. I myself was lured in by playing HeroQuest and SpaceCrusade. Another aspect is the specialist games with their often radically different play-styles, which helped prevent gamers from getting burnt out or bored with the core systems.

The main reason I am currently upset is the Epic & Battlefleet miniatures work great for role-play especially since Rouge Trader has some nifty rules for spaceship, ground vehicle & aerial combat. Also one of the recent acquisitions of my players was an Aquila Lander. I have loved the unusual look of the Aquila and the utilitarian style of the Arvus Lighter since I first saw it on the Forge World site. I have longed for a reason to purchase one of each but it seems it has been removed from the Forge World site along with its more reasonable prices Epic scale incarnation.

So many links 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Roleplay & Gaming Aids

When I first started playing tabletop games it was the Games Workshop based Milton Bradley board games HeroQuest and Space Crusade. My brother and I then moved to Warhammer 40,000 2nd ed. These games had a few things in common a great story and game universe, narrative driven conflict, loads of miniatures and 3D terrain.

Many years later my first experience of a true Role-playing game was a sit in on a session of D&D 4th ed. I wasn't familiar with the game universe but I could appreciate the imagery that the DM was weaving as the party played through a few interactions. I enjoyed the free form and unstructured nature of play. You could declare that you character was taking any type of action only constrained by your imagination and the roll of a d20.
I was a little bemused when it came to combat the DM would draw simple maps, the party and adversary's were represented by paper tokens.

HeroQuest Dungeons
I was expecting a board more like the HeroQuest dungeons of my childhood. 3D Doors and furniture, swarms of horrible monsters and mighty heroes all in miniature form. I was wondering why bother with the paper maps and tokens at all? The magic of the noncombat encounters seemed broken by the board game like combat. It wasn't until I got my hands on the player's hand book that I realised that D&D was two games. The free-form Role-Play game and not a bad tactical miniature skirmish game with structured rules. Any combat using the book rules would be difficult without a tactical map movement and positioning in combat was immensely important and tokens would be necessary to avoid confusion. After some research I found that in previous editions this was not always the case. And in the future it may no longer be the case.

Now that I am running a game, I find myself at an impasse. I like the feeling of a game has when it is condensed from the combined imaginations of my players. But I still long for a scene of tiny heroes crawling over the ruins of a destroyed alien city in the pursuit of forbidden treasure.

Warhammer 40K Terrain
The game system I am running is Rouge Trader and the combat rules seem malleable enough to used in a purely narrative fashion. However my long time geek love has been Warhammer 40k and its universe. A lot of what defines 40k is its armies of overpriced plastic warriors battling to the death on top of synthetic battlegrounds.

So the compromise I have reached is all of the noncombat and most of the minor combat encounters are played out in purely narrative form and the larger more important cliffhanger combat encounters I plan to do something special. Full 3D terrain and miniatures. I only have a small assortment of minis suitable for Rogue Trader mostly Reaper stock. The bulk of my GamesWorkshop figures are Orkoid so I have turned to paper-craft to fulfill my vision of blood-soaked away missions. Terrain would be supplied by the excellent quality World Works Games TerrainLinkX and the bulk of the opponents will be paper standees obtained for a very reasonable price from OneMonk Miniatures.

Paper-craft  products may be incredibly cheap but to produce a quality product takes time if I wasn't running a campaign book I don't think I would be able undertake these projects. Even with a pregenerated plot to follow I found I didn't have sufficient spare time, the TerrainLinkX is a nice product but it takes forever to cut, fold, glue and then leave to dry before gluing again. With a little CADfu and a A0 plotter I found a quicker way. The props and standees were still done the traditional slow way. While googling Paper-craft I stumbled upon some insane 40K vehicles by Eli Patoroch an insanely talented Russian 40k fan on 4shared.

A1 battle mat  

Closeup of TerrainLinX detail

Giant paper-craft bugs

The party is jumped in an alleyway

Tiles & alleyway junk from Worldworks