The Future of Spartan

This Christmas I was very lucky to get a huge Terran Alliance fleet for Firestorm Armada from my folks, and some Covenant cruisers to make my fleet for Dystopian Wars even bigger. As I sat filing, trimming and gluing last night something dawned on me. I don’t understand my Spartan hobby any more. Or at least the direction in which it’s going.

That’s not to say that I don’t understand the rules – although I do (barely) – or what I need for my fleets – the big shit – but Spartan Games are churning out so much stuff at the moment I don’t know what I’m supposed to be looking at. One of my main reasons for getting a Terran fleet is to tie in with games of Firestorm Invasion. Except that no one plays it. Because nothing has come out. I’d have got into Dystopian Legions if the models were cheaper and the entire faction ranges were available but instead we have to wait for the decent stuff and even then, without a proper rule book, I wouldn’t know what to get anyway.

It’s all so frustratingly half arsed.

One of my biggest issues with the Spartan rule books, aside from the confusing lay out, was the lack of scenarios and campaign rules. It doesn’t give you anywhere to go in terms of playing games unless you fancy coming up with scenarios on your own. But without a basic scenario to work off it means gamers are going to find it harder than normal to get the balance right.

Spartan Games have started to address this gripe with campaign books that also, according to the blurb about Storm of Steel, incorporate significant rule changes. So now not only do we have to spend money on something that should have been in the rule book in the first place, but now have multiple books just to play the game at all. And I’m not entirely clear why there’s a sudden emphasis on armoured units when the land based element of Dystopian Legions is already armoured units. Plus the game was meant to be combined arms…

And there’s new fluff too!

It strikes me that Spartan Games are doing exactly what Games Workshop did all those years ago: which is publish compendium after anthology after expansion so you needed three or four books just to play the fecking game. And if someone doesn’t have all the books you’re forced to revert back to the original rules, so it’s fair.

I’m all for expanding the universes of Spartan’s IP. In fact, I really think it’s needed especially on the background front, I just don’t understand why they’re doing it with expansions – other than the commercially motivated reason – as those that don’t want or can’t afford the extra books lose out.

Throw in the scattergun approach to releases and I just don’t know where to start or, more to the point, what to do next.

Something I’ve never understood about other wargaming companies, not specifically Spartan Games – is the reluctance to follow Games Workshop’s approach to writing and structuring games and releases. There is a very good reason they’re the behemoth they are and it’s not just because they charge the most money. Rule book. Army book. Core release one faction at a time. And more than just a starter set as it doesn’t give gamers anywhere to go.

It’s an immensely frustrating position to be in as a gamer. And it’s another barrier to playing the games. Confusing core rules and then a whopping £40 for two books that improve and clarify the book you’ve already spent £20 on. And at the end of it all you still don’t have the whole picture on exactly who’s who and what’s what! It’s mental. I so desperately want to take charge of the studio and can the supplements and sort the rule books out. Re-release the lot so they make sense, the fluff is rich and coherent and campaign rules are actually included. And put an end to the random extra units and the endless supplements to use them. All the factions have their own book or the rules have the lot all crammed in at a GW comparable cost.

I do love Spartan, their games and models. This isn’t a bashing, hating, rant. I just feel like they’re going in too many directions without doing any one game to the best of their ability. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

16 thoughts on “The Future of Spartan

  1. I can’t speak for firestorm, but i believe their direction with Dystopian Wars and Legions has been pretty good (granted it would have been nice to a have proper tank for each faction at launch for legions) but i think they really wanted to test the waters before the big stuff. They must have done something right as 4 people are interested at my club which is 3 more then dystopian wars. They also release a bit of fluff via their blog with the short stories which are generally pretty good.

    Although i question the use of metal for dystopian legions that was my biggest shock with it.

    Although i agree that the campaign books are a little strange and they do need to take a step back and co-ordinate their releases better i never know when things are being released…
    Also Spartan i want my Turks released for Dystopian Wars and Legions 😉 and maybe some Australia mercs…

    1. The problem is that all these new units don’t have existing rules and what’s the point in posting new fluff on the website? If gamers don’t visit it they’re missing out.

    2. For Firestorm they’d need to either release one or two more starters, or expand on the available lines to fill these up. Three or four starter sets would (at least locally) generate a lot of interest, both in terms of variance (and thus replayability) and ‘investment security’ (knowing that the games will actually be supported long term is one of the critical factors deciding interest around here).

      Firestorm Armada is actually one of the more sensibly released games (excepting the fact that much of the hardback RB is invalidated by extensive errata…) . The campaign book adds new (voluntary) options, scenarios and factions, withouth forcing anyone starting with the basic game to get it (although it is very cheap, compared to other campaign books). However, reducing the time between model releases would’t hurt sales….

      I actually like the ‘get rules with the model’ idea behind PP and Spartan releases (I recently started Hordes, and have so far to need anything besides the RB, as everything is included in the cards, at least to start with) , it is when these cards are later updated or amended, or the faction gets a lot of special rules in an later expansion, that things gets messy (I think Spartan could learn a thing or two from PP regarding this… )

  2. I have to agree with you about Spartan’s rulebooks, some of the most confusing and page hopping rules I’ve ever read.

    However I think the real issue there is that they now have 4 core games, and a special project section too. Supporting all 4 equally for such a small(relatively) company must be a struggle.

    If they are to keep all 4 games running I think they would be better served to follow the Privateer Press release model. So each year each core game gets an update, with new rules/models for all factions in the game in a single book. Models themselves get released on a monthly schedule so gamers are getting something new over the whole year.

    That said I am planning on selling my Dystopian wars fleet. I like the game but for me it’s caught between 2 stools. It’s not really streamlined enough to be a fast, fun game and yet the random critical chart and cards pull it back for being game with a lot of depth.

    Pitty, as they sure do produce some lovely models.

    1. Well, the Privateer “model” is the same problem on steroids.

      Where do I start?

      I wanna play.. say.. the blue faction (Cygnar?), but I cannot just buy one book that has me covered. Instead it’s all spread over a crapton of different annual books, which come with buckets of stuff for all the other factions I’m – starting up – less interested initially.

      For some of the “catch-somebody’s-interest” units like the Colossals, I’m force to buy a whole fething book just to add one centre-piece unit.

      And next year round, I’ll have to buy the next update to keep my army-rules complete.

      Thanks. I’ll pass.

      1. I agree here with the pp method it is far worse then what spartan are doing (not the least since i don’t like their fluff)

      2. Almost true. The majority of rules for each unit/model come on the card included in the box/blister. The books have new rules as the game is expanded by new classes of models.

        You can play a colossal without buying the book as the new. If you have access to a tablet/smartphone you could download Warroom and use the rules reference to see what colossals add to the game. (Yes, I know warroom has issues, but as a reference tool it works ok)

        Personally I like it as I get to see the new rules for model I’ll be facing, reducing the number of times I have to ask “What does he/she/it do?”

        To play a PP game I need the core rule book and cards that come with each model, similar to Spartan. GW i need a rule book, models and an army book, which may or may not be written for the edition of the game I’m playing. As ever it’s your choice but I know what expansion model I prefer.

      3. But how do you know what the model does before buying it. That is where the books come in handy. you know if it is worth buying or not, but then you are left with a book that is mostly filled with stuff you don’t need…

  3. Hmmm, so having no idea what you opponents models can do is such an advantage.

    But each to their own. Wonder how much all the Necron players enjoyed the 9 year gap between codexs?

    But as ever ymmv

  4. They just made all the rule books free which is great. Firestorm armada/invasion are the most interesting games to me followed by dystopian legions

  5. Plus the GW release model is actually this

    see what sells best
    release space marines
    release new rule book that breaks the game
    update space marines
    release space marine chapter
    release new rule book that breaks the game
    release massively overpowered other team , ie necrons/grey knights
    release new rule book that breaks the game

  6. I honeslty think it’s less to do with their business model, or even lack thereof, and much more to do with the fact that they are trying to do too much too quickly. They have a great number of games, and they are trying to advance them all simultaneously, and yet they are still a very small company.

    Yes, they need to focus better, but they’ve kind of painted themselves into a corner in that respect.

    1. Very true. They have sort of over extended themselves, to the point where they now have no time to plan anything or structure what they do, because the company has to focus on all of their games all at the same time to keep the different fan bases happy.

      Its not an enviable position and I hope they come up with a solution soon.

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