Gamers Gonna Game

It’s that time of year again when the Games Workshop releases their financials and the community explodes with rumours that they’re going under, that Hasbro will buy them out, that they’re woefully out of touch and they can basically go fuck themselves.

I freely admit to being guilty of this to some degree in the past. I’m the first to admit that I gripe about the pricing model either on The Shell Case or on Of Dice & Men (I promise there’ll be another episode up soon!) with some regularity. And I stand by those comments. The models are expensive. But you know what? I still play their games and I still pay their prices so who’s the bigger mug?

Reading Twitter today I was quite shocked by some of the comments that wargamers were making. Whilst I’m sure similar comments were made 6 months ago and the 6 months before that and so on, I’ve just never noticed until now.

For a hobby that is as inclusive as ours I’m bummed out to see so many people are willing the company to fail. People that moved to Warmachine or other game systems as an act of protest or to spite the Games Workshop – as if the Games Workshop knows each and every one of us and gives a shit what we do, say or think – berate for playing Games Workshop games and celebrate every penny lost in profit as a personal victory. And before I get pelted with angry comments I have to point out that no company genuinely gives a shit what we do, say or think. Not truly. If they did the XBox One would be free and delivered on a velvet pillow by the glamour model of my choice (don’t pretend I’m the only one who made the suggestion on the forums).encourage

I play Games Workshop games. I play the games they discontinued too and whilst I really wish they hadn’t canned Battlefleet Gothic and Mordheim, I understand why they did. But as I say, my understanding, my compliance or even consent is not required. Just my acceptance because there’s sod all I can do about it. Because I’ll live a longer happier life if I do. And not because they’ll send the Black Ships for me otherwise.

But I also play other games. I love Mantic’s Dreadball. Although they’ve been in a case for a while , I really enjoy Dystopian Wars and Firestorm Armada. I love X-Wing. And Studio McVey’s Sedition Wars, and lots more games beside. Whilst I’m not a fan of the Warmachine fluff or the sculpting style I can appreciate the quality of the game. And I know I ‘bash on it’ during episodes of Of Dice & Men, but it is all in jest. I honestly don’t give a monkeys what games people play. All I care about is everyone having fun.

Games nights with The Chaps – good and dear friends all – are a bevy of game systems and that’s cool because the key ingredient is we’re having a giggle. Good games, good models, good mates and good banter. What more could you possibly want. Apart from maybe the aforementioned glamour model to serve light refreshments. But you can’t win them all.

The point is this, before arguments break out – and I’ve seen it happen – just let it go. I urge all to stop sabre rattling. To stop clamouring for a company’s demise when that company not only represents a lot of enjoyment but people’s livelihoods as well. It is callous to forget that there are folk, just like you and I, doing a job there. A select few make the decisions that impact on us and whether or not we agree with those decisions, the majority shouldn’t be punished. Yes people are entitled to and should have opinions and yes they should be discussed but let’s remember the object of the exercise is not to win at all costs, or to be nasty or snide or bitter or resentful for some imagined slight. We have zero rights. Zero say. You’re a director or a board member you have as much entitlement to piss and moan as you have to tell me what colour socks to wear.

DontBeADickYes it’s frustrating that prices go up. Yes Games Workshop have us over a barrel and yes they know it. But the reality is this: play their games or don’t. Pay their prices or don’t. Just don’t be a dick about it.

My Day at Salute

Salute2013

So yesterday was Salute 2013, a day that I spend the previous 365 days looking forward too hugely. And why? Aside from it being a massive room full of toy soldiers, games, scenery and even more toy soldiers, it’s a gathering of wargamers from across the country enjoying their hobby. It’s always great fun to see all the different people who are drawn to wargaming and what kind of games tickles their fancy.

I had a rip-roaring day. I always make a point of visiting as many companies as I can that have supported The Shell Case in one way or another. So I stopped by Amera and may or may not have impulsively preordered their new Dreadball Arena. Also spent a huge lump of wonga with Ainsty Castings on a tremendous 4×4 sci-fi installation board so you can expect a review of that soon.

I also managed to catch up with Andy from Heresy Miniatures and Jed from Antenociti’s Workshop – who I must apologise to for not popping back to see him but time ran out. Mantic got some of my pounds as I picked up Dreadball Season 2 and the Judwan team. I also picked up those Troopers from Heresy like I planned.

Two big highlights for me: A couple of highlights for me was catching up with friend of The Shell Case, and all round nice guy, Chris Wraight at the Black Library stand and we talked Horus Heresy and what was coming next. Excited doesn’t cover it.

I also got the opportunity to talk to Mike McVey about what’s next for Sedition Wars which, again, is hugely exciting and I can already see my bank balance shrinking but it’s so cool I don’t care. The shitter was that I was so engrossed that I missed out on the last limited edition Vanguard model that was on sale. But you can’t have em all.

I also got to chat with the guys from Pulp City about their impending second edition. I may have also picked up a couple of their models just because they’re way cool…

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Steel Crown Productions, the dudes behind Exodus Wars, are up to some way cool stuff and are really gaining momentum with the new ranges. By the time I caught up with one of the creators – Tom – there were a lot of empty pegs on their stand. I also came across a company called Ammon Miniatures who do some awesome stuff so make sure you look em up and check out their Indiegogo campaign.

 

An unexpected gem was what KR Multicase are up to. They’re producing wargaming tables and furniture. All I need to do now is get my man cave built in the back garden and I’ll be all set. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to speak to Dayl so I don’t have prices or anything for you but as and when I do I shall put them up.

I did spontaneously buy myself this bad boy from Forge World so it does rather look like I’ll be doing a small ally contingent of Tau to go with my Ultramarines.

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Just to be clear, as it’s allies I don’t break my ‘no new army’ rule. So there.

Obviously one of the highlights of the day was catching up with various #warmongers and sitting down with a dozen or so of them for lunch. There was much showing off of toys and the usual banter one would expect from all lads together.

It was a chuffing brilliant day with lots of good people, piles of money spent and piles of plastic, metal and resin to show for it. All I can say is roll on next yet.

Studio McVey Previews

The Studio McVey Blog

Studio McVey have previewed a couple of models that’ll be available at Salute this year. As I’m still riding high on my Sedition Wars buzz I can see myself handing Mr McVey all my money, a kidney, and possibly my first-born in exchange for these little beauties…

The first is the new miniature in the LE resin series – Ur-Fidyr – £18

The next two are previews for Sedition Wars miniatures – these are cast in high quality resin (just like the LE series), and are available in very limited quantities. Commodore Grist – £18 and Phaedrus Chirurge – £20.

So, yeah, gonna be buying these…

Sedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster – A Review

headerA long time ago in the midst of October 2011 I reviewed the beta rules for Sedition Wars and concluded that I had something rather special on my hands. Since then I kept a weather-eye on the Studio McVey website and was pleased to see Mike and the team launch a Kickstarter. I think it speaks volumes that of the £20,000 they asked for they raised £951,254.

This rather hefty lump of wonga enabled Studio McVey to produce the boxset Battle for Alabaster.

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In a nutshell the game represents the prologue of a galactic conflict between the forces of the Vanguard, the rebel Firebrands and the Strain a sentient nano-virus of alien origin unleashed by the Firebrand in an effort to destabilise the Vanguard’s interests in the region. Needless to say it all goes a bit tits up and a team is sent to Alabaster to investigate what the falangy is going on and contain the threat.

So what we have on our hands is a campaign driven strategy board game with a twist of, wait for it, horror. Now unlike a certain other ‘horror’ boardgame I reviewed not so long ago, the guys at Studio McVey understands that to encapsulate horror unpleasant things have to happen on the board beyond drawing a card and moving a counter. In Battle for Alabaster corpses get reanimated and the living experience a violent and agonising transformation into cybernetic beasties.

And the other big difference is that BfA has the toys to go with it. Aside from the box being crammed full of models they are all, without exception, gorgeous. All of them are superbly designed, sculpted and cast. And you get like 50 of em. We’ve not seen that many toys in a box set for quite some time… And it’s really nice to roll my sleeves up and have a play around in a straight up sci-fi world without any silly apocalypse or a grim dark future that’s only full of grim dark war.

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You also got data cards which are actually well laid out for a change, lots of counters and beautifully illustrated, double-sided gaming tiles. Chuck in a full colour rule book and you get a heck of a lot for your RRP of £59.99. If I’m honest the rulebook could be a little bit more premium for my tastes. For the money and the amount in the book something a bit more robust would have been nice. There’s also a few typos and term confusions but those are all minor niggles especially when you consider the game is, well, awesome.

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Rather than gush over the rules I’m going to skip straight to the back of the book and gush over the scenarios. Much like a video game, BfA offers players to choices, a quick play version which gives you 10 stand alone missions to play or a campaign. But what makes it good is that rather than the standard fare of in scenario X player 1 takes squad Y and player 2 takes horde Z, it gives you a points limit that you can spend more or less how you choose. This means that you can have a huge amount of fun tinkering with your units across various scenarios and it rather aptly allows not only every game to be different but the experience one gamer has from another to be significantly different. Especially with all the tomfoolery to be had with the Strain Exo-forms and their damned inconvenient evolving.

Again, if I’m honest, I would have liked a lot more fluff in the rule book than you get as I think world Mr McVey and his cohorts created is an interesting one. Instead you get almost short stories at the start of each scenario which do flesh things out a bit but not enough that those people completely fresh to the Sedition Wars Universe would fully understand what’s what. Don’t get me wrong, the stories are cool and elegantly explain what’s going on within the story but the game relies on the rules to explain who’s who and what they’re up to and that leaves the world a little cold in my opinion. But by no means boring. It’s still interesting, it’s still a grim old place by the sounds of things but, more importantly, the Vanguard are still badass and the Strain fucking horrible.

Overall the rules are well laid out. There’s a few instances where a rule could have been explained following on from another rather than 10 pages further along but, again, it’s a minor niggle and at least it doesn’t jump about a bit like some games I’ve played in the last few months. As I say, my only gripe is I could have done with a book a bit more substantial but I’ll get over it.

The game itself is brilliant. Aside from the intelligent campaign and scenarios the mechanic works surprisingly well. At first the way damage was inflicted seemed a little fussy but it’s just a new way of doing things and it walks that fine line between rolling fistfuls of dice and a balanced game. That aside, the mechanic is just easy. Turns have two stages: A tactical stage which allows both sides to prepare their forces but in profoundly different ways which almost adds a Risk-like element of thinking ahead and laying down plans. And an action stage in which faces get manged. And they will. And in good order because the mechanic concentrates on the action over anything else.

That’s not to say it’s not without it’s fiddly bits as there’s various status and weapon effects that you have to remember to use and keep track of. Then there’s the many sorts of unpleasantness that can befall your models: like being knocked prone, bleeding, corrosion and, in some cases, getting stuck. The comedy thing about corrosion is, if that’s what kills you, you don’t place a corpse marker. Because all that’s left is a small puddle. But the corpse markers themselves are important as the nano-spores – also markers can reanimate them into Necro-forms. All that said the game still flows and although for the first couple of games you’ll do a bit of rule flicking it falls well within the ‘let me just double check’ bracket rather than the ‘I have no idea what happens next’ one.

What’s really clever is the total difference between the tactical decisions the two sides have to make, on top of selecting their forces in the first place. Vanguard teams are all about combined arms and always knowing where ones medic is. The Strain it’s about getting all up in people’s shit. And ripping said shit off. But more over it’s about how you spend your tactical points allocation once those forces are on the ground that impacts on how that team performs. It’s all really rather good.

Battle for Alabaster is a superb game and as close to perfect as I’ve seen in a while. The little niggles are exactly that and I couldn’t care less about them. The models are brilliant – and there are loads of them – the artwork and tiles are excellent and it’s the perfect introduction to what I suspect to be a thriving wargaming universe. The only negative, if it can be called that, is that with 5 double-sided tiles in the box there will inevitable be add ons/supplements which could get pricy. But you know what? I don’t really care. If it means I get to play more of this game then I’ll happily hand over the readies.

Studio McVey will be at Salute this year so if Battle for Alabaster isn’t on your shopping list it really should be.

Additional models are also available from Firestorm Games from £5.39

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Kickstart

This evening’s post came about through chatting with my esteemed friend and fellow Alliance member Liam Hall – aka @MunkeyKungFu. A thoroughly upstanding sort and great to chat to, he’s always on hand with suggestions when I throw the subject of a blog post open to the Community, as I’m prone to do from time to time. And some of them are even sensible. On this occasion Liam struck gold as he mentioned Studio McVey’s awesome and gorgeous Sedition Wars and its current Kickstarter campaign.

Although I’ve written about Studio McVey in the past and was even lucky enough to write a first look review of Sedition Wars back in Ocotber last year, the subject of Kickstarter/Indie Go Go campaigns has been cropping up a lot lately both in the Community and with The Chaps as Project Awesome draws ever closer to being ‘finished’.

When I first heard about Community funding schemes I was in two minds as it seemed that the Community was propping up companies who wanted to fund new projects but couldn’t afford to. And then once all the new shiny toys were in production that same Community was going to give the company their money all over again. However, I didn’t appreciate the following:

1. You get cool shit for the money you pledge.

2. The companies that write the games we play or design the models we paint are as much a part of the Community as anyone else and there are times when they need our help.

A wargaming company is only as strong as its weakest enthusiast and so by encouraging the Community to invest in its future we not only feel a profound and enduring sense of connection – which will increase our enjoyment and help their business – but we ensure that the games we like to play endure. It is, for a change, a win win situation. Businesses remain viable and we get to play toys to our hearts content with the knowledge that we made a difference.

It may all seem a bit gushy but the fact is that times are just as tough for our niche market as they are for everyone else. We still spend our hobby allowance, come what may, but we’re spending less or it just isn’t going as far (are you listening GW?!). By spending our hobby allowance on a Kickstarter or Indie Go Go campaign we are still getting toys, or a limited edition print, or whatever, but we are also guaranteeing a toy fix for a couple of months time. The difference being that we helped when it was needed. Besides, without these campaigns being a success some companies would never get off the ground and others wouldn’t be able to expand and eventually fall by the way side and then we’d have no hobby at all. And that would suck.

But when you get down to it, the likes of Avatars of War are asking from a few quid to produce some pretty amazing toys and, in exchange for those few quids you actually get to have some. I’m sorry, is that the awesome train arriving at the station? Yes I believe it is! All aboard! The same goes for Studio McVey, or even the guys at Membraine Studios producing Exodus Wars. A big slice of awesome is your reward for helping them. Not to mention the ego boost and the sense of well deserved smugness.

There is no shortage of worthy causes. The following companies have campaigns running. I’m sure there are plenty more so feel free to leave a comment letting me know what they are and, providing they’re wargaming related I’ll add them in. But take a look and should the mood take you; donate to the cause. If I have some spare money next month, once I’ve paid for the wife’s birthday, I too shall be donating.

Avatars of WarDwarf Army Campaign

Membraine StudiosExodus Wars: Fractured Empire Campaign

McVey StudiosSedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster Campaign

Infamy MiniaturesJohn Watson Campaign

ManticKings of War

Sedition Wars – First Look Review

Studio McVey, as in Mike McVey, as in one of the founding members of ‘Eavy Metal, is currently working on a cracking  game called Sedition Wars. In its at the beta stage at the moment so you can expect the finished article to be rich and visually beautiful. For now the beta rules can be downloaded for free from the Sedition Wars forum.

Sedition Wars, in a nutshell, is about a conflict between the Vanguard and the rebel slaves and clones called the firebrand. Throw in techno-phage exforms called the Strain and you’ve got yourself a barn dance.

Before I get on to the game proper I have to talk about the models. Aside from being beautifully sculpted, dynamic and wonderfully styled, I’ve never in all my 22 years of gaming come across metal models that didn’t have mould lines. I have no idea how they managed it but Studio McVey seem to have casting down to perfection.

Below is the images from the Sedition Wars website of the samples I received. I know I promised I’d put up the images of my own paint job but I was too excited about the game to wait. I’ll put mine up in a separate post once I’ve finished them.

I especially love the corpsmen above. With a different paint job he’d make a cracking Bounty Hunter and he’d have to be called The Doctor.

The game is, essentially, a board game, the factions fighting over maps a kin to Space Hulk. And like Space Hulk the movement and shooting mechanic uses squares. Unlike Space Hulk, Sedition Wars uses, rather sensibly uses three different range bands which presents a variety of tactical choices, especially as the Strain – the force used in play testing – has a variety of grizzly weapons that do their thing at short-range. Sedition Works hard for you to take the fight to one another rather than the Space Hulk method of one side running head long into the others incoming fire.

The various troops/strain have skills available to them at the cost of tactics points which can do useful things like heal troops or hack networks…or just cause general untold misery to their foes. And as certain skills are only available to certain members of the team it does force you to keep the victory conditions in mind because if key members of the team get slotted then it’s game over.

Sedition Wars is excellent for two very simple reasons. The first being that the game mechanic is so straight forward. The turns flow smoothly. Combat is quick to get to grips with and works incredibly well considering both myself and my opponent were coming to it cold. It’s also assisted along by the Sedition Wars forcing you to complete each model’s actions in full before moving on to the next . It gives the game a very cinematic feel. Combine this with brilliantly balanced forces and spawning rules for the Strain and you feel like the Vanguard are constantly under pressure. Even with the relatively high strength of weapons the Vanguard have you only ever feel like you’re buying breathing space.

At one point in our play testing, 2 Phase 1 exoforms flanked my team (thanks to a nasty little move the Strain can do with nanos) and tore my trooper to bits. Not only was I forced to react but losing 1 member of a 5 man team forced me into an all or nothing assault. It paid off but only 3 of the team lived to tell the tale.

Although at an early stage, Sedition Wars is already shaping up to be a really good game. The rules are refreshingly simple to get to grips with meaning you spend more time breaking stuff to look tough than rulebook flicking. The weapons are varied and fun – try the grenade launcher and you’ll see what I mean – the factions are diverse and interesting. And the models and map are awesome.

With such strong models and accessible game mechanics, Sedition Wars deserves success, although I’d also be really intrigued to see how many maps will be included in the game and how they’ll be produced. And whether or not Studio McVey will go down the box set route at all.
I’d love to see maps done as tiles to allow for a degree of customisation and additional rules for writing your own Sedition Wars campaign. Whatever the finished article will be like, I can safely say I’m really looking forward to the full release of Sedition Wars.

The Promise of Things to Come

The postman was very warmly received this morning in my house as not one but two parcels were delivered. The first from the USA from those fine chaps at MERCSminis in the form of the full colour and thorouhgly lovely rulebook and complete CCC & USCR factions.

The pictures aren’t great but if you take a look at the MERCS website you’ll get an idea of the shiny that I have before me. The other parcels was from the one and only Mike McVey formerly of Games Workshop and now of McVey Studios. Sedition wars will be fully released soon and Mr McVey has agreed for me to write a first look review. So, along with a game mat that’ll remain under wraps for now, he sent me some of the awesome Vanguard models and a resin Strain model.

Again you can’t really see the shiny all that well so you’ll have to visit the site for finished articles but rest assured that over the next two or three weeks these bad boys are going to get painted up and full reviews hitting The Shell Case. Before that though, Gruntz will be getting the treatment. So stay tuned.