Space Hulk Returns!

Games Workshop has surprised the gaming community with the surprise announcement that Space Hulk will be re-released in a few weeks, but you can see a new unboxing video right now! I actually had planned on doing this video just a few days before the announcement; I must have been getting signals from the Hive Mind.

If you’ve read my previous entry on Space Hulk, it may seem like I’ve done a complete 180 with my opinions. Well, that’s mostly true. I’ve been getting back into 40k, and Space Hulk is part of the mythos of the 40k universe, with its dark, claustrophobic environments pitting iconic enemies in mortal combat. I still stand behind my comments about the gameplay. Do I wish that the gameplay was more polished, had more modern mechanics, or was otherwise just better in some ways? Of course. But when you get into 40k, the lure  is as much about the atmosphere and rich background that you participate in as it is about the gameplay, if not even more so.

Miniature wargaming is a multi-faceted hobby, and in the case of 40k, the richness of the lore and the visual spectacle of the miniatures is usually enough to carry it past shortcomings in game mechanics. Space Hulk may not stand out in terms of gameplay (although the use of the timer for the Space Marine player stands out as a stroke of genius for both conveying the stark difference in speed and reaction time between the genestealers and Terminators and for creating tension during gameplay), but for those other reasons, I’m willing to give it another try.

Back In the Grimdark Saddle – Part 2: Growing the Swarm

One of the first steps of my plan for getting back into 40K:

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The Hive Mind eagerly welcomes its new spawn: eight assorted monstrous creatures, 12 hormagaunts, and 40 termagants.

In reflecting on my previous experience with 40K, I realized that some of the difficulty I had probably stemmed from a lack of minis. I had a decent-sized painted Tyranid army before these new acquisitions, along with a bunch of unpainted minis. I could field 1,000 – 1,200 points comfortably, but even getting to 1,500 points meant that I had to start padding it out with sub-optimal upgrades. At the 2,000 point level, I was using almost every bug I had, painted or not, including wasteful upgrades. Furthermore, I only had three monstrous creatures in my collection, which meant that they would be used almost invariably in any list I created.

So, after some planning and a few purchases, I now have a significantly larger swarm. Fortunately for me, a lot of people seem to like the studio colors for Hive Fleet Leviathan, and I was able to find a bunch of gaunts and a carnifex painted up and ready to go. They weren’t cheap, but they were priced competitively with what I could expect to pay with a commission painting service.

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Purchased minis on the left, my paintjobs on the right.

Getting 52 painted gaunts in one fell swoop to combine with my existing troops choices means that I probably won’t have to paint anymore for a while, which removes a big obstacle for me being able to get back into the game. This also means that I’ll be able to focus more on painting my new MCs. While painting troops starts feeling like a chore after the first dozen or so, monstrous creatures are another story and I’m looking forward to painting the big guys.

More minis means more options and not having to use the same things every time. More monstrous creatures means I’ll stand a better chance against vehicles. (At least I think so; I’m simultaneously trying to get caught up on the meta as I build up my army.) I feel like I’m off to a good start and I’m looking forward to getting some games in with my new nids.

Some Thoughts on the GW-FFG split

 

The split between Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games is the gaming world’s equivalent of the Brangelina split: whether you love them, are indifferent towards them, or fall somewhere in between, if you’re a gamer, you’re at least aware of these two companies and have likely played at least one of their myriad games. Whatever the reasons and whoever may be at fault (*looking at you, GW*), it’s clear who the biggest losers will be here: the members of the gaming community.

In the GW-FFG pairing, we witnessed what awesome things could come to be when the richness of GW’s intellectual properties was wedded to the excellent game design and mechanics that Fantasy Flight is known for: Chaos in the Old World; LCGs for both Warhammer Fantasy and 40K; an update of Talisman, followed by a 40K reimplementation; the Starcraft board game reborn as Forbidden Stars…Horus Heresy (What? You’ve never played Horus Heresy?).

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Not the most popular thing to come out of the FFG-GW partnership, but it’s a coffin box game, so you know there’s gotta be something awesome inside!

The Games Workshop license allowed games to be created that made up for both companies’ biggest weaknesses: clunky, sometimes dated mechanics in GW’s games, and FFG’s somewhat derivative, lackluster settings. The two company’s strengths complement each other perfectly , and the resultant products are greater than the sum of their parts; now that the parts are splitting back up, neither one has me excited.

Games Workshop has over the past year or so ramped up its release schedule of boardgames set in the 40K universe. Based on the various reviews I’ve read, while the minis are their typical high-quality, the gameplay elements are fairly mediocre. The customer base for them is primarily 40K players who buy them for the minis and who may not even bother with the included game. They hold little appeal for people who are strictly boardgamers; their typical sticker price, while usually representing a savings on miniatures for 40K players, is still much higher than what people to whom $60 or more for a single game is often the norm. Combined with the necessity of spending a significant amount of time assembling miniatures before you can even play the game (note that this doesn’t even take painting them into account), this makes them a non-starter for gamers who don’t dip into both the boardgame and miniature gaming pools.

On the other side of the fence, Fantasy Flight recently announced their new Runewars Miniatures game, which is scheduled to be released next year. Runewars is one of my absolute favorite boardgames, but I don’t know if I’d get into a miniatures game based on it.

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Another coffin box! This one’s more popular than the previous one, but it still doesn’t get the love it deserves.

I respect Fantasy Flight’s attempt to break into new territory with their upcoming Runewars Miniatures, and I suspect that they would have preferred continuing the license, focusing on what they’re good at rather than trying to create a new product to compete with their former partner, but I don’t feel confident that this one will have much impact or staying power. For one thing, unless they change aspects of their manufacturing processes, I feel that they may be venturing too far out from their core competencies. The quality of their minis included in their board games have always been very high — for board games. Compare them to almost any other bona fide miniatures company, and their relative quality is debatable.

I also find the combination of promoting the hobby aspect of painting miniatures combined with flat, 2D terrain to be strange and unappealing. I understand the necessity of flat terrain pieces when utilizing the Flightpath system, but it doesn’t negate my apprehensiveness. Flat terrain works with games like X-Wing and Armada where the terrain doesn’t take up a significant portion of the table and where flat terrain that miniatures can sit on top of helps enhance the sense of 3-dimensional movement on a 2-dimensional plane; but these games comfortably occupy a different space than what Runewars Miniatures will; while technically miniatures games, they’re really a hybrid between miniatures games and boardgames. They feature the collecting, army-building and free tabletop movement aspects of miniatures games, but they lack the features that establishe miniatures games as a hobby in their own right, distinct from boardgames: painting miniatures and using three-dimensional terrain pieces.

However, the biggest concern with a miniatures game set in the world of Terrinoth stems from their main weakness: a lack of compelling, engaging IP. Their sci-fi and fantasy settings aren’t bad, but they’re not great. But to capture the attention span and dollars which are necessary to build a customer base for a succesful miniatures game, what is needed even more than a solid ruleset or even great miniatures is an awesome setting. If you’re asking customers to get involved in something that will require a significant investment of time and money over the long haul in order to fully experience, you’d better deliver something awesome that will make the investment worthwhile.

Tabletop gaming will continue to be popular after the FFG-GW split. While they are big names in the industry, the fact remains that they are only two players in a growing market. I’m sure that Fantasy Flight will continue to create great games and Games Workshop will continue producing high-quality miniatures, but the gaming world will be that much poorer over the loss of what could have been.

A High Point for 2016

Tabletop games and sports might not seem like they share much in common, but aside from the one major difference in sports being primarily a physical activity and tabletop games being primarily mental, there are probably more underlying similarities than differences. At the very least, the fact that they are both forms of games gives them a common underlying foundation. And it is in the spirit of that commonality that I go outside the boundaries of the tabletop with this post:

Wrigley Field  Home Of The Chicago Cubs Site Of Chicago S Next    Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs on ending a 108 year-old drought and ending a 71 year-old curse, and to the Cleveland Indians for playing a great game! Game 7 was a nail-biter of a match, featuring a rain delay, 10 innnings, and a one-run margin of victory. Whether or not you’re a Cubs fan, or even a fan of baseball in general, if you’re a human being with a soul, the 2016 World Series stands out as a high point in what in many ways has been a dismal year marked with much sorrow and loss.