Saturday, July 18, 2015

More Games Workshop Fun

So, some time ago I wrote about changes to the way GW retails its products and what that did to the stock price. It really spoke to what their idea of customer service and loyalty was all about. I posted updates to the blog entry for a while and their stock never fully recovered. This week GW decided they had not done enough damage to their customer loyalty and reputation. This week they decided to kill off Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WHFB).

GW pulled an end of days to their story. Chaos destroyed everything. The Lizard men left the planet. The Elves sunk their city and everyone else just died. Then the god of the world captured a spark of its essence and created a new game. A skirmish game. Similar to 40k called Age of Sigmar. The new game features no point values for army selection and advantages to any ranged unit.

This action has touched off a firestorm of negativity in the WHFB community. There are many folks out there who have invested a great deal of time and money creating armies for this game. All of the miniatures can be used for the new game but they must be re-based onto round bases to fit within the new rules.

Some have even take their displeasure to the extreme. There are videos on youtube of people burning their WHFB armies. I have watched a few of these and while I could not destroy hundreds of dollars worth of miniatures the videos are fun to watch.

It will be interesting to watch the stock price. On Friday 7/17 it dropped to around 504 before rebounding to 506 by the end of the day. We might even see a short term rise as people snatch up all of the models they had always wanted for WHFB but soon will not be available

If you have a large army or two for WHFB what do you do now? You can still play the game with your friends. GW cannot take away what is already out there. You could try the new game but skirmish is already out there in several other competitors games and if that was your thing you'd already be playing it. Really, the only thing your are losing here the GW certified play. if that is your thing then you are really hosed but f you've only played at your FLGS for fun you can continue to do that; GW cannot stop you.

Oh, and if you are curious about the game here is the link to the rules: GW also has stats for every miniature ever made for WHFB in the scrolls section. You can read these rules for yourself and decide if a four page pdf for a skirmish game can really replace 28 years of development and thick hardcover books.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Getting Started

A recent blog entry about the Basic Fantasy RPG got me to thinking about where I really started with gaming and miniatures. In 1977 Rankin/Bass (the Rudolph and Frosty guys) released the Hobbit animated movie. The same year Ralph Bakshi released the animated movie Wizards. This set up a movie release of epic proportions that many thought would dwarf Star Wars. In 1978 Ralph Bakshi was set to release the animated version of  The Lord of The Rings. The film was going to feature unbelievable animated sequences along with rotoscoped animation to assist with the creation of the battle sequences. The film was at best a mild success and covered a little less of half the trilogy.

In 1978 video games existed but they were an expensive toy that not everyone could afford. I was an avid comic fan and I liked to read fantasy and science fiction. One day in the summer of 1978 a friend and I were at the downtown location of Lazarus, a regional department store in the area. We decided to visit the 6th floor (toys) to see if they had video games set up to play. They did not have video games but there was a display that floored me. There was a large table probably about eight feet wide by twelve feet long covered in armies. The Battle of Five Armies from the Hobbit was depicted on the table. There were hundreds of painted 25 MM figures on rail road style terrain and a large figure of Smaug for good measure. This was a display for a new licensed miniatures line from a company called Heritage Miniatures who was promoting the upcoming Lord of the Rings movie.

Heritage was well ahead of their time. They had aggressively licensed multiple properties for lines of miniatures and rules to create battles from these properties. The properties included John Carter, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. This was a jaw dropping discovery. These small metal statues that could be painted to look exactly like the real thing and rules to govern play. Wow. Sign me up!  I didn't have a lot of money that day but I walked out of the store with a package of hobbits, the hobbit companions, Frodo and Golum, a green martian warrior, and John Carter and Deja Thoris.

I took them home and painted many of them using acrylic paints I had leftover from other projects. I knew nothing about how they should be painted but just a general idea based on my imagination from reading the books. I now owned my first fantasy miniatures but no rules to go along with them. I had always enjoyed board games and recently we had played a lot of Risk but for now I didn't know exactly how to play these games.

On the blister packs of the miniatures I had purchased was an address for requesting a catalog. So, off went my fifty cents and I awaited my catalog. When it arrived I poured over the lists of miniatures that were availible and plotted out what rule set I would attempt to acquire. Then while going through a normal every day Sears catalog I discovered the licensed SPI War of the Ring board game. I received it as a gift for Christmas that year and spent the next four months convincing people to play the character version of the game (the simplest version). The joy of watching Aragorn equipped with both the Sword that was Broken and the One Ring kill the Witch King and all the Nazgul was amazing. Good times but still no miniatures.

Now early in 1979 I started talking to a classmate about gaming. He revealed that he had played a new type of game called Dungeons and Dragons. I had seen the game available in mail-order catalogs but until now I had never met anyone who had played it. I pushed and pleaded until finally I got invited to a game. The game was starting on Friday night at about 7:00 PM. I didn't know what this game would be like but I was sure I would like it. I got there early and started creating my first character. Now I was the creator! Then I got to see the crazy, wonderful dice. They were chipping and hard to read, nothing like the dice of today but I thought they were the coolest things I had ever seen. The best part for me came when we organized the party for travel and formed a marching order...using unpainted lead miniatures! Now I was sure, this was for me.

Within a few weeks of this first game I learned that there was a local wargames store called "The Soldier Shop". The place was fantastic. I walked out with my very own set of polyhedral dice and two relatively new books. The Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual and the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook... and a wizard miniature. I was also able to sign up for a fantasy miniatures battle* the very next week in the shop. In the days before the internet it took about a year from first encounter with miniatures to actually playing in a fantasy battle containing hundreds of miniatures. 

Notes: More information about all the things I mentioned this time.

Wizards: I loved this movie. The second link is the full movie on youtube.

The Hobbit: I still love this today.

LOTR: This movie was ok but it followed the books more closely than the more recent trilogy.

Heritage Miniatures: The company is long gone. Many of their sculpts were done by a gentleman named Siegfried...also known as Duke Siegfried. Duke was a huge advocate of the hobby before he died. I met and thanked him just before he quit traveling a few years back.

TSR Hobbies: A garage company that changed gaming.

Wizard Mini: a very early paint job for me.

*The battle was played out using a blend of traditional fantasy races (Lord of the Rings, etc) and races from a game called Empire of the Petal Throne from the mind of  M.A.R. Barker. The rules were mostly home brewed with a dash of Dungeons and Dragons and a little Chainmail.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Just Tried: Robinson Crusoe

I had the opportunity to try a new board game last week. The game is Robinson Crusoe : Adventures on the Cursed Island by ZMan Games. It is a cooperative gave for 1 to 4 players where the object of the game is to survive long enough to get rescued. This involves gathering food, supplies, building items and finally creating a signal fire to call for help.

Full disclosure; I am generally not a fan of cooperative games. Most people love Pandemic but I find it excruciating. I thought Defenders of the Realm was just okay. I do really like Arkham Horror but I think that it mitigates the punishment inflicted on the players more than the others. I like that the players have more choices and they seem to really make a difference.

So, back to Robinson Crusoe. You and your team has been shipwrecked. Working together the island must be explored, supplies must be gathered and items must be built to allow you to survive long enough to build a signal fire and win the game. Each player gets two actions per turn which he can play on one or two items. When all players have placed their actions they are resolved in a specific order until the turn is completed. Two actions on an item is essentially an automatic success while one action requires a roll of dice to complete and there could be complications (see below).

The game has a mechanic where the environment gets an event card once per turn. This card almost always does something bad. The card then goes into the threat box and if it is not dealt with it gets shuffled back into the event deck and does something worse when it comes back up again. I am not a big fan of just having a punishment card every turn but at least you can minimize its effect on the game.

Likewise when you are building something or gathering resources if the players don't put full manpower on the project then dice are used to resolve the outcome. This determines if the player takes damage, builds the item or if a card must be drawn. Here the cards are almost always bad and they usually get shuffled back into the event deck for nastiness inflicted on the players late.

Our group took a very cautious approach to the game. We took two actions on nearly everything we attempted. This kept our party damage down and the number of cards down as well. This was a conscious choice by the players where other groups might risk more while attempting to build more items and gather more resources.

Overall, I found the game enjoyable and would play it again. It would never be my first choice of a game to play with a group and will not purchase my own copy. However, if the "gang" wanted to play I would sign up. I think I still prefer Arkham Horror because of the Lovecraft theme. I would give it a solid 3 out of 5 stars (or coconuts in this case).

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Basic Fantasy Round Up

A week ago I posted a link to get free PDFs for the Basic Fantasy RPG. I downloaded the free basic rules and started reading them. I liked them so well I invested in the hard copy version which was under six dollars on Amazon. I have been reading the rules more in depth since then and I am sorely tempted to dump 5th and Pathfinder. I probably won't do that but I did teach my nine year old daughter this game and we had a blast playing it.

When I first started playing DnD in 1978 there were few options and most were incomplete. I remember playing for the first time and begging the DM (or moderator as Jerry liked to be called) to borrow the white boxed set of books. He relented after a couple of games and I poured through the books to discover their secret. I was surprised to find there was just the barest of bones to these rules.

The Basic Fantasy RPG is a razor thin rule set. Creating a character, the four basic character classes, equipment, spells, monsters and magic items crammed into 170 pages. Even in this thin state, by today's standards anyway, this book would have ruled in 1978. It still rocks today.

It has a familiar feel. Like I have read it before. Since it is a derived ruleset that is not surprising. What is wonderful about the rules is that they feel as if they would be easy to pick up and remember.

The system is based on the D20 system that WOTC introduced with DnD 3rd edition. The rules have been slimmed down and modernized. This leads to a mix of new and old mechanics. For example, a high Armor Class class is better just like the modern versions but the Thief skills (and Thief is old school as well) come from a table just like the old days.

The rules as just right for introducing new players to Fantasy Role playing games or if you miss role-playing and don't want to spend much to try it again. The rules are cheap and modules, aids and accessories are plentiful. What are you waiting for?