Friday, May 20, 2022

40K Friday - Chaos Marine Updates


With word that the Traitor Legions are finally getting their 9th edition codex I'm looking forward to dusting off my Iron Warriors for the first time in a while. Alongside this GW announced that the World Eaters are getting their own codex like the Death Guard and the Thousand Sons so that will change things up a bit around here.  

It's good news but I think it's ridiculous that it's taken this long to make any real updates to the CSMs. Sure, armor of contempt, but never addressing the second wound update until over 2 years into the edition is just incredibly stupid. They're putting a White Dwarf update out for the World Eaters to tide us over until their codex comes out - they easily could have done the same thing for Chaos Marines at any time. 

Annoyance aside I am interested in seeing what else the new book holds. We know about armor of contempt, we know they're goin to two wounds, we know they're going to 3 attacks base, rumor is that they get a Doctrine system similar to the loyalists ... I have mixed feelings on that one. 

On the one hand, having a doctrine system will make them feel more like "marines".  That's cool. On the other hand I don't want it to be all that similar as then we get back into chaos marines feeling too much like loyalist marines with spikes and fewer options. So hopefully they do something interesting there. 

My Iron Warriors are pretty much ready to go. I've never had as much of a backlog with these guys as with some of my other armies.

  • I need to paint my Obliterators but that won't take long. 
  • I have a bike unit mostly painted but I'm waiting to see what they do with bikes for chaos before I finish them up.
  • I have a bunch of terminators I was going to allocate to them but like the bikes I'm waiting to see where the new codex takes them. There are rumors about melee weapons all being treated the same and ranged weapons having new limits reflecting the mix available in the current box and that would impact my plans. Termies are good right now and I'm sure I will still want some - it's just a question of loadout, really.

The army itself is mostly marines & havocs with a bunch of Rhinos, 3 Predators, 3 Vindicators, some raptors, some chosen, a unit of spawn, some Helbrutes, various characters including a daemon prince, and a Heldrake.  It's a pretty traditional chaos force, not a lot of daemon engines etc. It's around 6000 points depending on details. Hopefully they come out alright in the transition. 

I am not super excited about the emphasis on cultists in the previews so far. I don't know anyone who gets into chaos marines to build an army of normal humans with some mutations and I kind of think they should really consider moving it to a separate book  if they're going to start expanding it. If genestealer cults can be a faction it seems to me chaos cults could be one as well. Maybe mix in some daemons and maybe even the long-awaited traitor guard to really build out the faction. 

That said I am ready to get the army on the table again - hopefully soon. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The New Marvel RPG - Part I: Dice Mechanics


I was a fan of the TSR Marvel RPG back when it came out. I mean ... it wasn't Champions but we had some fun with it over the next few years.

I did not play the SAGA Marvel game. No experience, no reference, so no opinion on that one other than I know some people really liked it.  

It took a while but I eventually grokked the entirely different approach taken with MWP's Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and I have never had a bad session while running it. 

All of these were innovative in some way - TSR's version had the color chart with different levels of success mapped in. SAGA had the whole card mechanic thing. MWP was a very different take on superheroics and changed the way some of us look at these things. 

Now there is a new Marvel RPG. I've had it for a few weeks now. Read through it a few times, thought through it, haven't played it yet though I hope that will change in the near future. My rough take is that it feels pretty playable but I'm not sure it has the innovation that the other versions had. I think it will take a few posts to work thought the things I want to cover so let's start with the basics. 

The short take: It's sort of like a d20 game but with 3d6 instead of a d20. Add 3d6 together, add modifiers, and compare to a target number. Beat that target number and you succeed, roll under and you failed. 

They call it the "Action Check". One of the 3d6 dice needs to be a different color because it triggers special effects like the Wild Die in d6 Star Wars. They call that one the "Marvel die". Alrighty.

They also call this "d616" because it's a reference. It does help distinguish it from a normal 3d6 roll but we're pushing the "cute" envelope here. 

If the Wild Die - I mean Marvel Die - comes up as a 1 then you count it as a 6 - called a "Fantastic" roll. If this happens when the two normal dice come up 6's then you have the best possible roll in the game, called an Ultimate Fantastic roll.  

If the special die comes up a 1 when the other two dice come up as 1's (so triple 1's here) you do not get the free 6 - your total is "3", and it's a Botch, the worst possible roll in the game. 

I'm not sure how much they will really push the terminology but they do call it out so I'm noting them here. Specifically, a Fantastic success result (so a 6 on the Wild die) is called out as a "Yes and" type of result.  A Fantastic failure result (a 1 on the Wild die) is a "No but" type of outcome. Now the preceding rules section specially says "Fantastic" for a success and "Botch" for a fail, but here we get Fantastic Success and Fantastic Failure. I kind of like those terms better anyway and hey, it's a playtest set of rules so it won't be perfect.  

An "Ultimate Fantastic Success" is an auto-succeed and ignores any "Trouble" - more on that below.

I get the intent here. I'd say the goal is to get a range of results beyond pass/fail without having to do something like add in a bunch of special dice that generate interesting outcomes if you can interpret the runes in a timely fashion. This avoids both sending new players - and I suspect this game is aimed at a wide audience - out to buy a bunch of weird dice and complicating and slowing down play by asking a  GM to interpret a mix of symbols into a fun result. Some powers, especially attack powers, have an effect listed for a normal success and then a stronger effect and/or a bonus effect on a Fantastic Success so there are some places where this is already called out.

That's all fine - Savage Worlds does something similar with Success, Success and a Raise, Failure, and Critical Failure, then it also has Bennies mixed in to play around with that even more. 

So ... a player makes a roll - "Action Check" - to see if they pull something off. Similar to d20 there will be a target number. No, there is not really a standard number for this. There is a chart ... because there are Ranks. 

Ranks are basically Power Level from Mutants and Masterminds. They serve as a guideline and limiter for powers and challenges but are not really part of an assumed progression by all characters and you do not automatically start at 1. 

So first, you have to look at the rank of your character. That gives you the target number for a "Challenging" test. There are 7 levels of difficulty in Marvel Multiverse - Challenging is the middle, the +/- 0 level. Below that are "Routine" for a -2, "Easy" for a -4, and "Trivial" for a -7. Above it are "Difficult" for a +2, "Ridiculous" for a +4, and "Impossible" for a +7 to the base target number. This is of course shown on another chart:

Not a big fan of "Impossible" as a difficulty class. That's a word that literally means "you can't do it". Surely we can find another word to use there. On the other hand I do like "Ridiculous" as a difficulty ... a lot.

Most normal tasks will use this difficulty chart-based number. Sometimes though you are opposed by a living opponent. In those cases each character has a "Defense" number for each Ability as well which is based off of their particular details. A character "attacks" by rolling dice +modifiers to beat an opponents defense. 

So, say a PL10 hero ... I mean a Rank 10 hero, like Spider-Man, for example, wants to do something. Rank 10 gives a TN of 23. Say the GM thinks it's a bit tough to pull off so decides it's "Difficult". Now he needs a 25 ... on 3d6. Tricky.

This brings us to modifiers and here the game goes it's own way again. Every character has ability scores - taken from a point buy system - this is pretty normal. The ability score is a modifier to any action Checks using that ability. Basic human ability is rated "0", they can go as low as -4, and super abilities appear to run on a 1-10 scale. This is one of the 3 main sources of a modifier. The stats are:

  • Might
  • Agility
  • Resilience
  • Vigilance
  • Ego
  • Logic
Yeah it spells "Marvel" but they do acknowledge and own it in the book so I'm OK with it. They represent exactly what you think they do - and yes Ego is mental power just like in Champions.

Here's the sheet for Spider-Man. Im not going to cover all of it today but it's good to have an example.

Each character also has to choose an Archetype, of which there are six: Blaster, Bruiser, Genius, Polymath, Protector, and Striker. At first glance you might want to scream "classes!" but they are not quite that. The main aspect I am concerned with in this post is that they grant another set of modifiers for each ability based on your rank. Spider-Man is classified as a Polymath. Say he's trying to do an Agility-based Action Check. He would get the normal d616, +7 from his Agility, and then another +7 because he is a Rank10 Polymath.  Yes, there is another chart for each Archetype. I don't think this is automatically bad because once the numbers are on your character sheet you won't be consulting that chart again unless you rank up. 

This same chart also covers Defense at each Rank for that Archetype, and that number is modified by the characters Ability. Again, it's noted on the character sheet so you don't have to consult a chart every time you roll or get punched.

The third modifier is circumstantial stuff: It's dark. It's raining. It's alien tech. That kind of thing. There is no table for these it's left up to the GM. 

The last wrinkle to the dice system is "Edge" and "Trouble". 

  • Edge lets you reroll one die and take the better result. Yes you can have multiple "edges" and you can use them all on one roll as you see fit.
  • Trouble forces you to reroll one die and take the worse result. Yes you can have multiple "troubles" and could be forced to keep rerolling one or both dice. 
This is pretty much advantage and disadvantage from D&D 5th edition adapted for this dice system. I would say it is totally appropriate for a superhero game and fits in well. My only real question is when do you use this approach vs. using modifiers to the TN as described above. Would "It's raining" be worth a +4 to the TN, or would it be better as one or two steps of Trouble? This is where playing the game for a while would probably help a lot. 

Did someone say "Fantastic"?

The only overall mandated use of either that is mentioned is that for a Fantastic Success the default assumption is an Edge. So if you can't come up with anything more appropriate to the act then the player gets a reroll for their next action. I'd say a default on a botch to "Trouble" makes sense as well. 

I tend to think these should be a token or a point that one could spend at any time, like a Savage Worlds benny, and not tied to "the next action" but that's just me and is another thing some actual playing time would aid. 

The numbers are calibrated to give a hero of a given Rank about a 50/50 chance on a Challenging task. He has a +14 to a 3d6 roll using Agility , and his own Agility Defense is a 25. Average result on 3d6 is a 10.5 but since you can only roll either a 10 or an 11 he's right at 50%. If you look over the sample characters Modifiers and add 10.5 you will be right up against their Defenses, barring adjustments from specific Powers. 

I'm not sure I like the Difficulty chart by Rank. If, say, climbing this brick wall is a "Challenging" task then why is the target number a 15 for a Rank 1 character but a 23 for a Rank 10 character?  Theoretically, a higher rank makes you better at everything ... so then why do we have to up the difficulty for the higher rank as well? I'm sure the math is being worked to keep things in a certain range but this is scaling the world based on the character's power, something I am generally against in an RPG and it seems particularly egregious in a superhero RPG. D&D 5E manages to not do it this way. Savage Worlds, Shadowrun, Hero System ... all can have high-powered characters in a mostly normal world and none of them take this approach. It's my least favorite part of this game so far. 

Just as an example, let's say Iron Man decides to punch Captain America. Both of them are Rank 15. Melee attacks are Might vs. Agility. Stark has a Might modifier of +11. Cap has an Agility Defense of 24. Success is greater than or equal to so Tony needs to roll a 13 or better on 3d6 to do damage.

Say Cap returns the favor. he has a Might modifier of +13 while Tony has an Agility Defense of 28. Cap is going to need a 15 or better to tag Shellhead. 

While I'm not going into the full combat system here there would be a damage roll if either succeeded. Armor and shields absorb damage in this game so some of it would be mitigated and then the remainder would come off of their Health total. More on combat in a future post. 

So wow, a whole post on dice mechanics. It seems like a lot but this is where the chrome is in this game. This is the system for everything. You don't have skills and you don't have feats or advantages or disadvantages - everything you do is tied to a stat, an "Ability" and 1 out of 6 times you're going to get a bonus and 1 out of 6 times you're going to get a negative consequence of some kind. Once in 216 times you're going to be awesome and once in 216 rolls you're going to absolutely fail. I'm guessing that handing out Edge and Trouble all through a session is going to liven up play considerably. Knowing your odds of success will help tremendously in deciding when to use an Edge, and how screwed you are with a Trouble. 

More to come on this later in the week. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

40K Friday - A Bunch of Horus Heresy


Well, it looks like Horus Heresy is becoming GW's 3rd big game. I mean sure, they have the skirmish games like Kill Team and War Cry, and side games like Blood Bowl and Necromunda, but the effort they are putting into this launch is an order of magnitude higher in my eyes. 

That's not a small effort by any measure - and that's just for the launch.

Now I've never cared all that much about playing HH games outside of Epic back in the old days but I am very happy about this upsurge for reasons I will explain below but one of the negatives in my eyes was that it was pretty much marine on marine fights and despite having plenty of marine armies it just never really pushed my buttons. Well, they're fixing that and they're going to offer support even for discontinued models so it feels to me like they're handling this in a really good way. 

That said, even if I don't think I'll be playing HH anytime soon, why am I pumped up about this release?

Because it secures the future of regular marines in 40K. 

We've heard doom and gloom about the always-right-over-the-hill-of-the-next-codex-or-next-edition elimination of "normal" marines in favor of Primaris for a few years now. This seems very unlikely now as I am 100% sure there will be rules for everything in HH to use them in normal 40K. GW is not going to make a whole new/redone range of space marines and then block customers from using them in 40K.  So Rhinos. Spartans, Sicarans, Cataphractii Terminators, Contemptor dreads, and normal marines will be a part of the game for a long time. 

Now that doesn't mean that I think nothing will change. I suspect the upcoming 9th Edition MkII marine codex may have some notable changes. The big change I think would come with 10th edition in a few years and I suspect they will just make it "marines", dropping the Primaris distinction altogether game-wise. They may not keep all of the units for Firstborn Marines - bikers for example - in the main codex but 10th is a milestone that will matter to them and it will also run through the 40th anniversary of the game. We could see Firstborn in a separate codex altogether but I think the more likely outcome is dropping the distinction and then putting out a Horus Heresy codex for normal 40K that includes all of those units left out of the standard codex. We will see.

They are keeping things interesting at least.

Friday, April 8, 2022

40K Friday - Warhammer Plus ... 8 Months In


So I've talked about the service at launch and a month or so in but I haven't said much since - so how is it?

The short version? It's ... disappointing.

There is some really cool stuff here but they are so slow to release material that it feels like something is out of balance when it comes to price or content  - it just feels like there are problems in the pipeline somewhere. 

Animations are supposed to the big draw here, right? Well ...

  • Angels of Death is very cool, the "most" 40K thing on the service. There are ten episodes adding up to 190 minutes of space marines doing space marine stuff. It took the over 3 months to get all of that out, so it was not even an every week kind of release schedule, but the end result is good.
  • Hammer and Bolter has also made it to ten episodes. Now it took 7 months to get there and considering they launched with 3 episodes ready to watch it has been roughly one new 20-minute show per month. Seriously. That's terrible. What they have produced has been mostly interesting, at least. These are stand-alone stories and the subject matter has varied from orks to chaos marines to eldar to adeptus mechanicus and more so this is the not-marine area of content. I am still not a fan of the animation style but I can deal with it for now. It's just really slow to release. 
  • Oh look - they put Astartes up on the service ... all 13 minutes of it. Yeah, I'm not giving credit for something that was produced and freely available on YouTube before Warhammer Plus went live.
  • They have a 5 minute video of the armoring of a space marine.This is listed with the other animations as if it's a comparable work. It's not. This is effectively a videogame cutscene or a videocard rendering benchmark.
  • The Exodite - alright, it looked like we were getting a tau-focused show with some serious animation and we did ... for an episode or two. Then it became much more about the eldar ... then it ended! yes, apparently 3 ten-minute "episodes" are the complete series. It took 5 weeks to get the 2nd and 3rd episodes out. It looks pretty but there's no depth to it at all. This really just adds up to one episode of a show, not a complete series. 

They have battle reports too. In 8 months they've managed to put out 8 40k batreps, 3 Kill Team batreps, 5 Sigmar batreps, and 1 Warcry batrep. So, 17 battle reports showing people how the game  is played on a service that touts weekly content updates. That's roughly one every two weeks so far. That still seems light for the company that makes these games, makes these minis, and has staff devoted to making and testing and painting these things. There are YouTube channels with strong production values that release more frequently than that. 

There is an internal talk show that discusses their other shows, sort of like "Talking Dead" was with Walking Dead. I've never been super excited about these kinds of shows because I have a)friends and b) the internet where I can talk about them myself ... interactively. They've managed 4 episodes of this and if it's your cup of tea that's great but I would never pay for this kind of content. 

Beyond these we have:

  • Loremasters - there are 15 episodes of this now. It's the same thing I discussed in September. It's a guy reading well-travelled lore from other sources - there is nothing new here - mixed with slow pans and zooms of artwork you've seen many times before. I suppose it's something you could listen to while painting but even then if you've read, for example, any of the Gotrek books, you're not going to learn anything new about Gotrek in his episode of Loremasters. It's 18 minutes of summary ... like the Cliff's Notes version of an abridged audio book. 
  • 24 episodes of "Citadel Colour Masterclass" - it's a painting tutorial. Each one focuses on a specific subject - faces, ork flesh, grey knight armor - and it's totally fine but there are many, many painting tutorials out there on YouTube and the rest of the internet. I would never pay for this - considering the nature of the business, this should be something they put out on their YT channel and their web page for free. They do have videos like this on the Warhammer YT channel but it looks like they are different videos. Regardless, there are a lot of good painters out there who are happy to show off techniques for free. This is a nice extra but it's not a reason to subscribe. 
  • They have a "Learn to Play" series of videos for each of the games they make. Excellent! They should! Many game companies do this now - and no one should ever pay for them. Again, there are many free resources out there on the internet that can show you how to play Game X. 
  • Finally there are trailers. They have a trailers section for shows they have produced, are producing, and will be releasing in the future. They also release these on the YouTube channel so it's not as if they are exclusive or anything but I think it's symptomatic of this company's, and this service's problems - they think trailers are content. They're not - they are advertisements for what should be your real content. But when you don't have enough content you start announcing trailers as if they were the real show. 

The other part of the Warhammer Plus subscription service is the Vault and this is something I think could have some real value but it weirdly implemented right now. This web site allows you to access issues of older White Dwarf magazines and the "lore" parts of older codexes and game supplements - stuff from prior editions. This could be really cool but it's presented as  PDFs that can't really be downloaded separately, say into a reader program of some kind. They also have all of the game-specific material cut out which is jarring to those of us who were around in those days. It's a weirdly insecure policy, as if they're afraid someone might try to (gasp!) play one of those old versions of the game if they left the stats from Curse of the Wulfen or Warzone Valedor in there. I have mixed feelings about it right now but I think it could turn into a really cool repository of old Warhammer lore someday.  

The 40k app still has problems - I see bugs brought up almost every day in various online groups. I trust Battlescribe far more than do the 40k app, even after this much time. I have no idea what state the Sigmar app is in as I haven't touched it in months. 

Overall I have very mixed feelings on Warhammer Plus. Part of me says hey, it's only 6$ a month and if you're using one of the apps then all of the rest is a bonus. The problem is that there are free alternatives to everything it offers - many of which are better than what GW is offering. There are many battle reports, painting guides, lore channels, and even army builders out there. Even the vault material is out there in physical from, albeit for a price. The only thing that is truly exclusive to this service is the animation content and I feel like that was over-promised and under-delivered. It's been slow to release and when it is released there have been multi-week gaps between episodes which damages interest in the story - well, where there is one. I'm going to ride out the rest of my first year but at the end of that time I'm going to have to think about whether I want to keep supporting something that feels this lackluster. 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Star Trek Adventures Starter Set


I got this a while back and I felt like I really should post about it. While I have some quibbles with the rules themselves this is a really good starter set. It contains the expected basics for something like this: intro rules, intro adventure, pregen characters, a ship sheet, some map sheets, tokens, and dice.

The most recent starter box type products I have used are the Starter Kits for the various Star Wars games from FFG/whoever is doing it now. Those have similar contents - clearly an influence here and I have had good experiences running the Rebel set and the Jedi set for my players. I thought this would be an easy way to start my crew with the new STA game if the opportunity arises and I was pleasantly surprised as I read through this one.

First up the rules booklet is more thorough than I would have expected. It gives a solid presentation of the main rules, covers combat in a separate section, and the starship rules are in a separate section as well. You could certainly run the game with what is presented here. The only major mechanical element missing is character advancement - not really unexpected in a starter set.

The pregens are fine and representative of what you would find in a typical federation bridge crew. The ship is a Galaxy class so it should be familiar and fans will have a feel for what it can do under normal circumstances. 

The dice in this set are the same ones they sell separately.

The adventure is surprisingly good. There are three parts here and the first starts off fairly mundane - scan stuff. Beam over and check systems on another ship. Some basic combat. But that's alright here as this is very much a "learning the system" situation. It made me think about some of the old D&D Basic Sets in that way, although it is assumed a GM is running the game - it is not programmed self-instruction. This section is still decent as it introduces a mystery involving an old antagonist - one that is not over-used.

The second section involves further exploration of the mystery and brings in some familiar races. This time it expands to planetary exploration and action. 

The third section has a ton of potential as it brings in some major lore nuggets, space combat, and puts the PC's into position to make some major choices that could have a significant impact on the setting - much more so than a typical starter adventure.  This is not low-level characters in a starter dungeon type material - it's big time Trek and actually made we want to run this to see what my crew would do.

So yes, if you are considering checking out the game this is an excellent starting point and even if you already have the big core book a) the adventure is good and b) the small rulebook would be a handy player reference at the table. You could easily run this with a newly generated crew instead of the pregens and with experienced players that's probably the best option as we all know no one likes pre-gens. At 20-25$ most places it's a great way to start your campaign.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Ten years ago today ...


... my kids were mangling the Moathouse garrison on a spring break run.

I could probably do a lot of posts like this at this point. I suppose that's a good thing as I'm still at it but I'm also feeling the passage of time a bit these days as the last of them wrap up school and prepare to head out on their own - mixed emotions for sure. 

The same week we also had one of our early Marvel Heroic runs with Breakout from the main book. An awesome game cut down prematurely but we have good memories and I still break it out (Yeah I went there) from time to time. Plus now we have the latest general Cortex book in print and we're also waiting to see what the newest Marvel RPG turns out to be. Amazon is showing "April 19th" for the playtest release - hopefully it will be interesting at least.  

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Sentinels of Earth Prime and Kickstarter


Well, look what finally arrived on my front porch over the weekend! I say "finally because, well ...

Yeah ... that's straight from the Kickstarter page. That was set for a year after it funded, which seemed entirely reasonable. Actual delivery date: End of February 2022.

This really seemed like a slam dunk - see my original post on it here. See? I thought this sounded cool. Ask me how I feel about it now ...

Slam-dunk-wise this idea was to take the mechanics from Sentinels of the Multiverse - a well-known and well-liked game - and the setting from Mutants and Masterminds - another well-known and well-liked game with 15 years of development at that point - and make a new flavor of something cool. Both of these companies had been steadily releasing material, it looked like they had a plan - how did this crater so badly? How was this anything but a straight-up win? I don't know for sure but I have some ideas.

Splitting the effort across two small companies may have complicated things way too much. Greater Than Games was doing the mechanics even though Green Ronin was publishing the project overall. GTG got bogged down in finishing up their big finale module for SoTM (which ended up being 18 months late) and that pushed the rules work on SoEP back. Here's a KS update from 2018 where they already know the game is going to be a year late. Then here's another update from later in 2018 where they announce that the rules are finished. Alright, if the rules were done three and a half years ago why are we just now seeing the game?

Art is apparently hard. Like really hard. M&M has really good art and they wanted to maintain that standard - and I get that - but apparently they were not going to use any existing art ... they wanted it to be all new. 

Also the art had to wait for the decks to be designed to make sure it made sense for the card. I get that ... to a point ... and here is a 2019 update where the delays and the approach and the process are described. At that point they mention that they are in the final art order and yet that was still two and a half years ago. Then, more than a year later (Nov 2020) - hey! The art is done! So it took TWO YEARS to get the art for this game done after the rules were finished. I mean, I love M&M's art style but ... does it take two years to make the art for even a big book like Freedom City? And that was on top of the original year-long delay getting the rules written. 

At some point one starts to wonder if they couldn't have just written, tested, illustrated, and published their own card game in quite a bit less than five years time. I know, once you've made the deal for Sentinels with M&M characters and taken people's money you can't just change the deal but hopefully some things can be learned form this.

And no, I'm not giving allowances for the pandemic because this should have been done well before the pandemic ever started. That is a good example of why you don't want to get behind by a year or more on these kinds of things - sh*t falls out of the sky sometimes and disrupts your plans. Those first few years of delays though were all self-inflicted. Something that funded in 2017 and was due in 2018 doesn't get to claim "Covid". 

Side note: In the time between the start and finish of this project SoTM designed, launched, and published a second edition!

Second side note: In the time since I paid for this I backed 19 additional kickstarters, mostly RPG stuff. Only one of them came anywhere close to this kind of delay. 

The counterpoint in some ways to this is that I paid $40 for all of that - the listed price is $50 just for the main game. Remember when Kickstarter was kind of a deal? Nowadays it seems like it truly is a preorder system for things that would have been made anyway, particularly with Card or Board games and RPG's. I'm pretty sure Munchkin Batman would happen regardless of KS funding levels. I doubt Pinnacle is going to stop making Deadlands books anytime soon. And you typically get to pay the equivalent of full MSRP! And then not get your product for another year! Well, maybe a PDF ... but that's not what you paid for is it? I've cut way back on the number of Kickstarters I join - only 1 of those 19 I mentioned above was in the last two years. It really has changed and given a few experiences with things like this my policy is "let me know when I can buy it in a store or online" - I'm looking for finished products these days, not hope and promises. I'm happy to pay for things that interest me and look like they will add something to a game but I'm a lot less interested in paying up front for "someday"

To wrap up: Lots of mixed feelings on this one. 

  • Still like the concept - but I liked it more 5 years ago. We haven't played SoTM in a few years here. Our M&M campaigns have never focused on the "book" heroes so that's not a huge thing but just having it Freedom City themed with those locations and villains is still cool. Co-op board or card games can generate some of that RPG energy and that's a good thing. 
  • The price was a good deal but ... then it took 5 years to get here. 
  • Both of these companies seem like they know what they are doing  - but this one damaged my view of them in some ways. 
    • I did not back SoTM Definitive Edition - no way that's happening when I was still waiting on this one. I did back the RPG - we were only two years into this at that point -  and there were some delays but it still started and finished in far less time than this one did. 
    • Green Ronin has since gone to a Patreon model for a lot of their M&M work and for some "extra" type products that's probably OK but if the entire line is dependent on it I don't know. I just do not care about livestreams and voting options and most of the rest of what's listed on those pledge levels. What's the next book? When is it coming out? That's what I care about! 
I know there's a lot of crankiness in this post. I like to think these are real issues in the tabletop games industry right now - how do you fund your projects? How do you keep them on track? How do you keep small game lines alive? I would not claim to have big answers - all I can do is relate what I'm finding along the way.


Friday, February 18, 2022

40K Friday - Other Stuff


There hasn't been much 40K action around here lately. Blaster and I are both interested in the big Eldar update coming in their new codex. It looks like they're rolling Harlequins back into the main book and adding options for Corsairs too so it will be the "Big Book of Everything Eldar" once again - aside from the Dark Kin anyway. 

I've considered starting a Custodes army since it would be nice and small but I really need to finish the Necron Project I started last year. Got a lot done in December and then slowed way down in January ... I'm stuck on the "clearcoat" phase for a bunch of the army since it's been cooler here and a spray clearcoat is not something you want to experiment with below 70-ish degrees. 

The Blood Angels expansion continues as well. Still working on Death Company and Sanguinary Guard and I've added some painted Terminators and bikes ... and Rhinos. Not the most exciting unit and I held off for some time figuring I would mostly be jumping or drop podding or Stormravening-ing my troops in but ... a marine army should have some Rhinos in it ... or at least available. Now they do.

What has actually been getting some table time so far is Battletech. I mentioned it in the New Year's Eve post and the starting off 2022 post and it has continued steadily. We are playing again tomorrow and it's a lot of fun seeing it through fresh eyes again. I'm impressed with the effort that's gone into the current version of the game and the miniatures in particular - enough that I have picked up some pieces. Yes, I actually spent money on Battletech! That's a first for this decade at least, maybe the last two. Time spent playing it does matter.

I'll put up a full post all about it in the near future. 

Starting off the year I really thought there would be more Star Wars, particularly X-Wing and Armada as mentioned in those earlier posts. Well, I picked up some stuff, put them together, looked through the rules ... nada. Not much interest here right now. So, back on the shelf they go ... maybe a little later down the road they will see some action. 

That's pretty much it on the miniatures front this month. More to come on Battletech at least in the near future. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

X-Wing - Take 2


Our first dive into the X-Wing miniatures game was, uh, a -few- years ago ... and it stuck around as an every-once-in-a-while game for the apprentices and myself but it petered out eventually and the announcement of a 2nd edition in 2019 was a perfect reason to wash my hands of it for the foreseeable future. I'm not usually looking to spend money on a game nobody around here wants to play. 

Until now! I was reconnecting with an old friend and he's been digging in to Star Wars Legions over the past year and that started some old wheels to turning so I decided to check out the current state of Star Wars spaceship games. 

X-Wing is still in its 2nd edition  - current rules etc. are here. FFG was bought out by Asmodee who has moved all of the miniature games over to a different sub-company Atomic Mass Games who do the Marvel game and the various Star Wars miniatures games, including X-Wing. That's all fine as long as they keep making it and right now it looks like it's mostly been in a holding pattern - continuing production of the existing line without much new. That's also fine and word is that some new stuff from The Mandalorian should be coming along any time now so they are looking to the future. 

For the present I was aware there was a conversion kit for 2.0 for each faction back when it released. I did take a look at them and they seemed pretty pricey at the time for a game we were not playing and that's when I decided to let the game go. Looking around now though I was able to find them for a much more reasonable price and that certainly helped. Also I figured that I only needed the rebel and the empire sets as the other factions have flown off as some of the apprentices have moved on. The other upside was that they come with updates for ships I do not have and many 1st edition ships are fairly inexpensive online making future expansion of the squadrons fairly easy. 

So I ordered the two conversion sets and a few more ships and that first picture up top is the current state of things. I have a ridiculous pile of cards and cardboard so I also added some binders to hold the cards at least. I'm still looking at options for the ship tokens and the rest. I'm also looking over the X-Wing app which is where all the points are now kept instead of on the cards. I've heard mixed things about it but I'm going to give it a try. And no, I haven't played it yet - this is all getting it into shape and ready to play and I expect we will get a game in fairly soon. 

After re-acquainting myself with the game I'd say it still has the 3 big advantages I noted years ago:

  • It's Star Wars! This is something we all would have killed to have as kids and now that we're all adults we don't have to scrape together allowances or lunch money to play x-wings shooting at tie fighters with the Millennium Falcon!
  • It has a relatively short play time. The games we played ... I don't think we ever went over an hour. That's important as it makes it much easier to get a game in when you don't have to devote an entire evening or a whole day to playing it.
  • It's pre-painted! It's well-painted! That means it doesn't add to the backlog for all of those other games I play! This doesn't mean I won't ever paint one of these ships - it just means I don't have to. I now have a pair of Firesprays so at least one of them will be getting some custom colors.
So I'm pretty happy to be opening up the hangar again. I hate having whole sets of painted mini's sitting around gathering dust for years so it feels good to shake that off. I'll post more once we have a game or three under our belts. 

Yeah, something like that ...

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Matrix Resurrections


Yeah, there will be spoilers ...

I mentioned in an earlier post that I liked this one. I should probably clarify further to "I didn't hate it as much as some people seem to online" but I do agree with much of the criticism. Then single most applicable word I can apply here is "unnecessary" as in no one was really asking for this movie to be made. 

The original 1999 Matrix movie is great, was incredibly impactful in its time, still holds up today, and is a great, self-contained story. If someone was only going to watch one this would be the one.

The first two sequels, Reloaded and Revolutions, are good movies in a lot of ways and they do expand the universe and we do see much more of the story of freeing humanity from the machines but most opinions feel I have read feel like they do not quite achieve the same level of greatness as the original. I'm in this camp as there are a ton of cool moments in them but I sometimes feel like we see too much ... by telling the rest of the story it limits what one might envision as "the rest of the story". I don't think they're bad but I think you can stop with the original and not be missing a lot of crucial information. 

The original is the story of Neo becoming The One - that's the trip we are taking. When you talk about a sequel you have to figure out what story we are telling. Is it a big picture on the war against the machines? Is it still about Neo using his new powers? Is it about Neo and Trinity? Is it about the scrappy band of rebel characters led by Neo and they're actions in the war? Is it really about the awakening and transformation of Agent Smith? There are elements of all of these in the sequels and that may be one of the things that weakens them.

For Resurrections it's still a good question. Time has passed, some kind of reset button has been pressed and Neo is roughly 20 years older and looks about like he would if he had kept on going on his original pre-red pill character's career. Trinity shows up on the fringes of his life and there is clearly some kind of connection but their lives have been configured to keep them apart - and yes, it is quickly evident that they are in the Matrix. 

One weird part is that scenes from the original Matrix are playing in the background regularly and at one point the entire opening sequence is re-done with different actors and even some different characters showing up. We end up going through the journey of "awakening" Neo all over again as well which to me is truly pointless. Then he decides to go get Trinity too so we go through the process one more time in the film. 

A mistake that is made during all of this is that the backstory that is presented as far as what has gone on since Revolutions, a civil war between machines, some of which allied with the humans, sounds like a more interesting story than what we are watching. You could have made that a sequel with resurrecting these particular characters and continued the story of the world without needing to continue those characters - but that's not the direction they went. 

And no, it doesn't retcon the events of the sequels so yes, Neo and Trinity did die. The new Architect type character decided to bring them back to life and talks about how it was difficult ... but he did it to fix some of the disruptions to the world and created a new Matrix. This is all pretty loosely defined so don't ask too many questions. 

There is a lot of self-referential, meta, inside baseball type stuff, especially early on but I thought it was fine, if not quite as clever as the writers maybe thought they were. I didn't think it damaged the movie.

My best effort at finding the point of this movie is as a take on aging. Those movies are hitting the 20+ year mark now and if you look at it through this lens some of it makes more sense. There is one line that drove this home for me:

I took it as a parallel for life in some ways: Something you thought was fixed or resolved years ago turns out not to be and ends up turning your current OK-ish life upside down. Can you measure up to those glory years or will you fail trying? What if getting your old team back together isn't enough? Then there's all the "ex" stuff and moving on, then not moving on, "who you're really supposed to be with" ... the whole Neo/Trinity thing is probably worth more examination. 

That's my best take on it.

As far as why we needed to see again the red pill sequence, the unplugging, the rescue, the training sequence complete with Morpheus and a dojo ... I don't know. I don't think we did but that's where they went. 

Overall there's no awesome moment in the film like the lobby fight or the helicopter escape, or "dodge this" or any of that. Nothing like the car chase in Reloaded, or the mech defense in Revolutions. The fights themselves are ... slow. They do not approach the fast, crisp, amazing fight choreography of the earlier movies and that was a shame. 

So I come back to "unnecessary" as my ultimate feeling on this one. Sure, it's fun to step back into the Matrix. It's cool to see some of those characters again - even if many of them have changed actors. It's just that a lot of it feels like a loop back through the first movie. It's revisited but not really enhanced or improved. There is more story for Neo and Trinity but I never felt like it was a better story and so I'm not sure why we did all that work to get ... nowhere really.