Friday, May 19, 2017

40k Friday - Orks 8th Edition Prep

With 8th edition about a month away and the radical changes it seems to be bringing I am scrambling to get some of the armies updated/expanded/finished. I'm making this post to mark where the army is right now and what I am thinking as I work on it - partly to force myself to think through it as I put it down and partly as a historical document so a year from now I can come back and either  rejoice in my amazing foresight or wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Today - Orks!

Now I haven't played my orks in quite a while and there are a few reasons for that. I dove into the Eldar, Chaos, and Blood Angels for the past couple of years, Apprentice Red plays orks quite a bit so I try not to step on his toes, and frankly, that last codex (2014) just didn't seem to really fit how orks have played for most of the history of the game. The rules seemed like a bad fit and ork lists full of boyz became about as common as chaos marine lists full of Chaos Space Marines. Plus it was just less fun to play with changes to mob rule and deffrollas and how instead of breaking the "must have bikes" and "must have lootas" meta that had been around for years the last codex amped it up and added "must have tankbustas" to the list. There was a brief period where the very orky green tide formation was a hit but that disappeared too.

With a new edition and a complete reboot coming though, that should change! So what do I need to do? Let me run down what I already have and then talk about what I want to add or modify for 8th edition.

The core of my force is 100 Goff Slugga Boyz in 5 units of 20 orks each plus a nob for each one of those mobs. Typically these are mounted in Battlewagons. These are led by a mob of 10 Nobz and a Warboss in another Battlewagon or a Trukk depending on points and force org slots. This is the heart of the army.

Backing this up is a unit of 3 lobbas, a mob of 20-something grots, a mob of 20 Kommandos (who often end up playing as Shoota Boyz), a unit of 3 rokkit buggies, a unit of big shoota buggies, and various HQ units like painboyz and weridboyz and the like.

This is usually enough for most games. I like having a bunch of orks charging forward in armored vehicles then bailing out to assault the enemy. I can (and have) played it as a foot list too so there are some options even with just this chunk of the force.

When I first put these guys together years ago my concept was a Goff warband accompanied by some Evil Sunz / Kult of Speed types for the fun of it. The easiest way to tell which was which is the paint job - black stuff is Goff, red stuff is Kult of Speed. As I rework this for 8th I want to get back into a structure where this makes sense.


  • 100 boyz (2E starter set goff boyz)
  • 10 nobz (2E metal skarboyz)
  • 10 meganobz (RT/2E orks in power armor)
  • 5 battlewagons (4 custom conversions + 1 different custom conversion)
  • 25 grots (2E starter set gretchin)
  • 2 trukks (old Gorka-Morka style trukks upgraded in various ways)
  • 20 shoota boyz (2E metal Blood Axe boys)
  • 3 wartrakks (that same plastic kit that's been around since Gorka-Morka but with custom crew)
  • 3 lobbas (2E Pulsa-Rokkits)
  • 20 kommandos (2E Blood Axe Kommandos)
  • 10 tankbustas (2E metal Snake Bite Boyz + 2E metal Death Skull Boyz)
  • 10 lootas (2E metal Goff boyz w/old metal Deffguns and RT/2E plastic plasma cannons) 
Kult of Speed
  • Battlewagon (old Armorcast Battlewagon)
  • 20 shoota boyz (2E metal Evil Sunz boyz)
  • 6 warbuggies (RT metal buggies)
  • 2 skorchas (RT metal skorchas)
  • Mek in mega armor (2E mega armor nob)
  • Mek with shokk attack gun (RT shokk attack gun)
  • Dakkajet (current kit)
  • Bommer (current kit)

The idea is that the red force is mostly lighter faster units that can be taken when I feel the need. Plus it lets me paint something besides black for a change. Collecting orks for as long as I have also means that I have a pretty big pile of un-allocated and un-painted stuff too. At least another 60+ of the old plastic grots, a bunch of metal grots, 20 more plastic RT orks, a mob of madboyz,  a squad of boarboyz, a half-converted trukk, another 20 goff boyz - just a lot of stuff in the ork box that says "hey do something interesting with me" whenever I look in there.  Top of the list is converting some old plastic terminators into mega-nobz.

The biggest "uncommitted" unit I have is a group of ten killa kans and a pair of deff dreads. None of them are the current kit of course. I have 3 built from scratch years ago and used in many battles since, 6 RT ork dreadnoughts, and one 2E ork dreadnought. The dreads are Org Atrocitors from Demonblade which at the time were really big and beefy but they look a little small next to the current monster that is the plastic ork dread. I'm thinking about putting Goff bosspoles on all of them and just making them part of that force. They're a mish-mash of paint jobs so it's not like they look like a unified unit anyway. I need to finish these guys up for 8th for sure.

Now you would think a big pile of goff orks plus a smaller extra force would be plenty but you might also note that a lot of that stuff is pretty old. I'm kind of missing the chance to play with the current ork range. I don't really want to mix styles too much so I am thinking about adding a third element here of all new stuff and painting it as Bad Moonz. It's not like I don't know yellow! I don't have a particular plan for this group other than picking an choosing the current stuff I like the best - a battlewagon, a dread, maybe some big gunz, all alongside some of the newer style boyz. Like my Iyanden Eldar this would be a fresh start/new style units only force - the older stuff can stay with the first two groups.

Future Plans

  • Stormboyz! The one ork infantry unit I really do not have and the one I really want to add on. "Jump pack orks" is a recipe for fun in games and I do need to add some soon.
  • I do like the current ork dread and I am hoping the new rules will make it worthy of its ferocious look. Need to get one.
  • One more jet painted up in Goff colors. Mine are not and that's why they're in with team red but I would like one for the boyz in black.
  • I should probably look at Ghazgkull at some point too - Goffs and all that.
  • Gorkanaut/Morkanaut! I thought the models were great and then I saw the rules and they were terrible. With the new edition hope is renewed and a big centerpiece model is definitely something I "need". In fact I may "need" 2 or 3 of them before I am done.
  • Stompa! If we're talking about big centerpiece models, well, this is the big one for the orks. It's definitely on the list.
I definitely feel like I have enough of the regular ork units  - I am really only looking for the big centerpiece type models at this point. I'd like to spend the rest of this year finishing up the two forces I have and save the Bad Moonz expansion for next year's ork project. Even that's true to the fluff, right? As the Waagh grows more and more clans and units join in!

One obvious thing that's missing here is bikes. Everybody takes bikes in their ork army, mainly because they're one of the few units that's actually been effective for the last few editions and codexes. I don't hate them or anything but I don't think every single ork army should be centered around them so I do my part to even that out. I may add some someday but they're not even on the list right now. 

Unlike my Marine and Eldar armies I'm not feeling the need to add a bunch of character types. There are not that many named ork special characters anyway and they don't have those unusual types like the Avatar or the Sanguinor either.

Looking at 8th

When the edition comes out there are some specific things I want to try. A whole bunch of boyz on foot - does it work? How about boyz in Battlewagons? Trukk mobz? How are the psykers? How about a kan wall type list? With Apprentice Red also playing orks we should have the opportunity to try out a multitude of possible combinations and I am really looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

40k Thursday - Blood Angels 8th Edition Prep

With 8th edition about a month away and the radical changes it seems to be bringing I am scrambling to get some of the armies updated/expanded/finished. I'm making this post to mark where the army is right now and what I am thinking as I work on it - partly to force myself to think through it as I put it down and partly as a historical document so a year from now I can come back and either  rejoice in my amazing foresight or wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Today: The Blood Angels

I've been working on these guys a fair amount since the Holiday Battles and I've made some tweaks to my initial plan for them. The general plan before was to  have everything pretty much in either a drop pod or wearing a jump pack - this was going to be the high-mobility rapid strike army. It still is, only moreso.

With the change to the twin-link rule Razorbacks got a lot more attractive. Blood Angels have had the "overcharged engines" rule for a few editions now which makes them fast vehicles. I'm assuming some form of this will carry over to the new edition. Combine this with my belief that BA tactical squads sitting still or hoofing it across the board on foot is just not how they should operate. Mix in the freeing up of 3 Razorbacks from the Dark Angel shutdown and you have my new approach.

That rule change also made Baal predators quite a bit more interesting so ... I picked up two more of those over the weekend. They're covered by the "overcharged" rule too. I didn't intend to make the BA's a tank army but they are looking a little tanky these days. If I go with the twin-linked assault canon option on the Razorbacks that would let me put 12 assault cannons on the field with just this part of the force!

I may add two more drop pods too, taking those up to seven. MSU man!

So the revised force looks something like this:

  • HQ: Mephiston, another librarian, various Priests and chaplains as needed. Dante when it's time to get really mean.
  • Troops: 3 tactical squads in Razorbacks. My thinking right now is 5-man squads with a multi-melta, maybe one with a heavy bolter.  One big tac squad with maximum flamers in a drop pod. Also a pair of 5-man melee scout squads infiltrated up somewhere interesting. 
  • Elite: 20 Death Company, Lemartes, and a bunch of Dreadnoughts, two of which should be in pods. A Command squad for Mephiston, and a Sternguard squad for another drop pod. 
  • Fast Attack: 2x Grav bike squads, 3 speeders, and a bunch of assault squads
  • Heavy Support: 2x Baal Predators, 3x Devastator squads
So on the ground we would have 3 Razorbacks w/Tacs, 3 Baal Preds, a pair of Scout squads, and maybe some Devastator marines.  Maybe a Dreadnought too. Oh and 20+ Death company led by Dante and Lemartes, along with however many Assault squads I can fit in.

From the skies we would have Mephiston and the Command squad, a Sternguard squad, two Furioso dreads, and either my Maximum Melta Assult squad or a Maximum Flamer Tac squad. 

There's just a lot of fun ways to build and use this force so I am really looking forward to it. Meph and his bodyguard could go in a Razorback. The devastators could go in one too - or in a drop pod! Adding the Razorbacks makes my tac marines more interesting to play and puts more threats on the board which should make life easier for the drop pod troops.  

Future Acquisitions? Well I'm not feeling too much of a lack here but there are a couple of things on the list:
  • Finish the Terminators. I have a shooty squad and an assault squad. At some point I will want to field them.
  • Sanguinary Guard - someday! Just not right now as I have plenty to do here.
  • 10 more Death Company troops - because why not? There may be some kind of bonus for bigger unit sizes and that's only going to make them nastier.
  • "Fast Vindicators" - Again, I don't really need a tank army here but these would be cool.
  • With the new edition I am even looking at The Sanguinor! Why not see if he can do something here.

That's it for the Blood Angels! More to come later! 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

40k Wednesday - Iyanden Eldar 8th Edition Prep

With 8th edition about a month away and the radical changes it seems to be bringing I am scrambling to get some of the armies updated/expanded/finished. I'm making this post to mark where the army is right now and what I am thinking as I work on it - partly to force myself to think through it as I put it down and partly as a historical document so a year from now I can come back and either  rejoice in my amazing foresight or wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Today, let's talk Eldar.

There's not much left to add to the Wraith Force after the Year of the Eldar wrap-up. I mean, there are plenty of things I could add but I am not feeling like there are big gaps here.That said, a new edition is a new reason to look at some new options.

The core of the army is as follows:

  • Wraith Host - Wraithknight, 3x Wraithguard squads, 1 Wraithblade squad, 2x Wraithlords, Spiritseer
  • Dire Avengers - 3x ten-man squads with exarchs
  • Dark Reapers - 3x six-man squads with exarchs 
  • Vaul's Wrath 3-gun battery 

There are other pieces available but those are the things I tend to build an army around. Options:

  • Wave Serpents - I have two painted and two waiting. I'd like to mobilize my Dire Avengers so I ordered one more of the flying tanks and plan to paint the three unfinished ones to look like a squadron. I figure the other two may be hauling wraithguard or some other squad as needed. Also, wave serpents got a lot nastier with the change to twin-linked weapons. You mean my armored transport vehicle gets two bright lance shots now? Or 8 scatter laser shots? OK!
  • I have 3 squads of Reapers - why not get their Phoenix Lord? I mean, we've been promised they will be good, and with the new way characters work I suspect there will be a lot of interesting options with these guys. I found one online with a paint job I can work with and now Maugan Ra's on the way. 
  • Assuming most of my wraiths are advancing on foot, what's another unit that would complement them ... tough ... walking ... how about an Avatar? Found a metal one still in a blister and it's on the way now too. 
  • Finally, what's a fluffy character choice for an Iyanden army? Pretty much the only named Iyanden character in the codex? One so terrible I've never seen him on a tabletop in person or online ever? Why yes it's ... Prince Yriel of Iyanden! Found a nicely painted one and ordered him as well. I'm doing some bargain-hunting right now looking for character models in particular that have been terrible and adding them to my armies on the assumption that they will not be terrible with the reboot. 
I didn't totally miss adding to the backlog here - one of the goals - but one avatar and one more wave serpent is not too much work. Considering what they may add to the army I will take the risk. I'm not going to go overboard on the avatar's paint as I suspect he's due for a replacement in the next wave of eldar model updates - maybe next year? We will see. 

Top Remaining Opportunities:
  • I also have 3 units of Dire Avengers so Asurmen seems like an obvious pick-up. I'm looking, it's just tricky to find one that hasn't been mangled somehow that the owner doesn't consider a family heirloom - based on the price anyway. I'm sure one will come along.
  • Howling Banshees - I'd like to add 5 or 10 but I'm not seeing painted ones that I like at a price I also like and I'm hesitant to add another unpainted squad. 
  • Warp Spiders - I think that for me these are now on the "wait and hope there's an Eldar model update in the near future" list. I've never been a huge fan of the models even when they were new so I think I will skip them for now. 
  • Flyers - keeping an eye open. The Wraithfighter is very much an Iyanden thing so I will get one eventually. I'm just not sure it will be before the new edition drops. I'd kind of like to see the rules too. 
  • A second Wraithknight? Maybe. I'd like to finish more of the in-progress stuff here first but if I find a painted one then things might change.

Stuff already in the backlog:
  • I picked up a painted 3-man jetbike unit a while back. I just need to add the shuriken cannon to them and they should be good to go.
  • I am also working on the Wraithseer as well - finally! Forgeworld stuff is all supposed to have updated specs as well right from launch so why not?
  • War Walkers - they sit half-painted and waiting
  • Vypers - they also sit partly painted and waiting
  • Guardians - 30+ guardians and the associated weapon platforms and Warlocks. This is probably next year's Eldar project. 

Future Plans:
  • I love the concept of Shining Spears but the rules haven't matched up in a long time and I suspect the models are due for replacement here too. On that same list as the Warp Spiders. 
  • I would like to add two more Falcon tanks at some point and have a squadron of three as an option. With a 2-3 Serpent backlog though it just does not seem like the best time to make this move. 
  • Fire Prisms - probably, but not right now.

There's the thinking for the Eldar army right now. More to come!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

40K Tuesday - Crimson Fists 8th Edition Prep

With 8th edition about a month away and the radical changes it seems to be bringing I am scrambling to get some of the armies updated/expanded/finished. I'm making this post to mark where the army is right now and what I am thinking as I work on it - partly to force myself to think through it as I put it down and partly as a historical document so a year from now I can come back and either  rejoice in my amazing foresight or wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Today: The Crimson Fists

I haven't posted about these guys in a long time - looks like 3 years! I may have only fielded them one time since then too, so they've been idle a lot. That will be changing soon! Current force:

  • HQ: Chapter Master Pedro Kantor, various chaplians, librarians, and captains (usually in a Razorback)
  • Troops: 3 Tactical squads in Rhinos
  • Elites: Dreadnought
  • Fast Attack: Land Speeder
  • Heavy Support: 3x Predator tanks, Vindicator, Whirlwind
OK that's the finished stuff. 

In the backlog and adopted from the Dark Angels division shutdown:
  • 3-4 Dreadnoughts
  • 5-15 Terminators
  • 3 Land Speeder typhoons
  • 10 Sternguard marines
  • Missile Launcher Devastators, Plasma Cannon Devastators, Heavy Bolter Devastators
  • 3 Attack Bikes
  • A 5-man Assault squad
  • 2x 5-man Scout squads
  • A ten-man Tac squad
  • 3x Drop Pods
  • Land Raider Crusader

Some of these are more "done" than others and many are put-together enough to use in a battle but they are not finished yet.

Let's talk army approach here. My wish is for this to be a mechanized army where nobody walks but the dreadnoughts. The basic theory is that it's an armored column of space marines. They advance to contact, spread out, and call in drop pod support. The idea is to crush the enemy between the two elements.  The Rhinos and tanks are the core with the scouts and bikes doing recon as the speeders patrol around the column and the dreadnoughts are a walking close escort.

Structure-wise 3 full tac squads and two scout squads is 5 troop units. The new extra squad needs a ride of some kind - probably a Razorback - and presto! Six troop elements! That means I have the core for a really big force.

I already have all of this stuff, so what else did I need to pick up?

  • I grabbed more sternguard. I will have 20 altogether and I am planning for them to take two of the three drop pods. I'm not sure just yet how I will divide them up. I may have 5 of them escort Kantor in the Razorback or that might be a Command squad. Regardless that gives me 2-4 squads of them to field. 
  • I picked up multi-meltas for the attack bikes. I'm thinking about magnetizing these to have both the MM and Heavy Bolter options.
That's really it. I didn't need much to finish out the "acquisitions phase" for this army. For the future I'd like to add another Razorback or two, another Vindicator or two, and a flyer.

If you read the other post this week about the Iron Warriors you may notice some similarities.  That's not entirely by accident. I like tanks and vehicles so I tend to pick them up for whatever army. My thinking here is that the core of both forces is similar - Rhinos, Predators, grunt marines, and dreadnoughts. The IW's have that plus the "Chaos Stuff - Daemon princes, Spawn, Possessed, etc. The Fists will have Sternguard, Drop Pods, Speeders, and Scouts. So while the core is the same, the "Extra" is different for both. Hopefully I can learn about those core elements using either army. 

I am really looking forward to getting these guys back in to action. More to come!

Monday, May 15, 2017

40K Monday - Iron Warriors 8th Edition Prep

With 8th edition about a month away and the radical changes it seems to be bringing I am scrambling to get some of the armies updated/expanded/finished. I'm making this post to mark where the army is right now and what I am thinking as I work on it - partly to force myself to think through it as I put it down and partly as a historical document so a year from now I can come back and either  rejoice in my amazing foresight or wonder what the hell I was thinking.

On to the Iron Warriors! I expect this to be my main chaos army for the beginning of 8th. I do have a Death Guard force I've been building for years but I've put them on the back burner in the run-up to the launch. I want the IW's to have a lot of flexibility so I'm not locked in to playing the same force over and over. It started out as CSM's in Rhinos with the dreadnought drop team as a fun extra element. Now it's turning into a pretty sizable force. First, the concept:

The theme for this army is that of an Iron Warriors Company where the original commander has ascended to daemonhood but still wants to run his company and fight his war. He has a command staff (see below) that have responsibilities to the unit but it is still "his" company and he still runs it like a military unit for the most part. His basic approach is to pound things with the big guns from range as the troops close in and then finish the job in close assault with bolt pistols, chainswords, and flamers. Surprise deep-striking elements will ensure the transports reach their destination. 

I still need to give the prince a name. The terminators will have a named leader and will be a sub-group called the "Iron Knights". The bikers may get an identity of their own as well. Yes, this is all fluff stuff but it helps me give the army an identity beyond "the force I put together for this battle" and it helps us come up with little stories as a fight develops and rivalries emerge.

On to the army:

  • HQ
    • Daemon Prince (done)
    • Warpsmith (done)
    • Bike Hero (in progress)
    • Power armor double power fist Hero (done)
    • Dark Vengeance Chaos Lord (in progress)
I figure that's enough for now. The bike hero was originally intended to be a sorcerer on  a bike integrated with a CSM biker squad. I'll probably still go that direction but make him generic enough that he could be used as a non-psyker too. The power armor guy I've used as a lord in several battles. he has two of those pointy chaos power fists so I treated him as a fist + claw guy. Claw = open hand sweep, Fist = closed fist punch. That's how it works in my head anyway. he's done but I should really give him a cape or something to make him stand out a little more. I have no idea if that whole specialist weapon rule will show up in 8th but regardless he looks cool so I'm keeping him.

  • Troops
    • 3x ten-man Chaos Space Marine squads in Rhinos (done)
I am considering a fourth squad as three troop units is potentially a limiting factor. Right now three is the minimum for a "battalion" sized formation in the new game and to get to a "brigade" you need six! I am not taking cultists in this army so unless something new shows up it's going to be CSM's all the way. I could break some of them into smaller units to make six but right now I like the resilience of a ten man squad for my core units. I have options to give these squads either double flamer or double plasma. If they get new options I'll look at those too but their main job is to kill other infantry.

  • Elites
    • Helbrute with Plasma Cannon and Power Claw (done)
    • 3x Helbrutes with Multi-Melta's and Power Fists (done)
    • 5-man Chosen squad with Melta Guns in a Rhino (in progress)
    • Ten-man Possessed squad in a Rhino (in progress)
    • 2x five-man Chaos Terminator squads in a Land Raider (in progress) 
The brutes are all ready to go - hopefully there will be a way to drop them on people's heads in this version too. 

The chosen are pretty close to finished as of today as is their ride. 

The possessed ... well ... while they are not highly regarded in a typical CSM army today I am hoping they become something useful in the new edition. They are cool models and a cool concept that have been gathering dust for most players for 2-3 editions at least. I like to think of them as the CSM version of the Death Company - too far gone to act normally so they get locked up somewhere until the next battle when they can be unleashed on an enemy to benefit the legion - and hopefully die in the process. 

The big change here is terminators + land raider. With the news on the change to twin-linked weapons I got a whole lot more interested in the traditional "godhammer" land raider so I ordered one for the IW's. Then the question is "what to put in it"? At first I was just going to go put the possessed here but I got to looking at my old metal chaos terminators and decided the IW's needed some terminators too. One squad can ride in the Raider and one can deep strike, or both could deep strike and the possessed could still ride in it. It's good to have options.

  • Fast Attack
    • Heldrake (done)
    • Six-man Chaos Marine Bike squad (in progress)
    • Five-beast Chaos Spawn squad (done)

  Nothing new here - this has been the plan for some time now.  The Spawn are an expendible fast assault unit, the bikes will target something important and remove it, and the heldrake flames whatever needs to die. I just need to finish the bikes.

  • Heavy Support
    • Havoc squad with 4 Autocannons (done)
    • Havoc squad with 4 Missile Launchers (in progress)
    • 3x Chaos Predators (just about done!)
    • 8x Obliterators (5 done, 3 in progress)
Not too many changes here but I did bump the Predators up to a 3-tank platoon. That's one triple-lascannon predator (is that technically a quad-las now?) and two autocannon/lascannon tanks. I worked on these over the weekend and they should be finished tonight if I get a little time to wrap them up. I'm pretty happy with the way they came out and I'll show them off with the rest of the army in a week or two. 

Note on Transports: I'm painting six Rhinos for the Iron Warriors and I have plans for five. I'm not sure who will be riding in the sixth. If I do build that 4th CSM squad it will be them. I'm considering a 2nd Chosen squad so it could be them. I could split the possessed into two 5-man squads and give them both rides. Regardless, I have some flexibility here. 

Future Plans
  • Add 3 more CSM squads and transports for them to use - bump things up to maximum size! I have all of the other requirements already. Might use some MkIII/MkIV Heresy models.
  • Add 3 Vindicators - I am trying to make it my tank army so ...
  • Add a second Land Raider  - hey, if they're good why not?
  • Add a second Heldrake - all the formations show two flyer slots so why not have two?
That's where the Chaos Marine army stands for now. More to come.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Writing Games Without Playing Games

I was listening to a podcast the other day. One that I like and listen to regularly which has a recurring cast for most discussions along with a guest or two. The guests are often on to talk about a new product they have created. That was the case here and it was all fine until the crew asked the guest if he would return to run a session of the new game he was promoting. Suddenly it got all awkward and he sort of laughed and said no, because he hadn't run a game in at least ten years!

A guy ... writing an RPG and promoting it on a podcast ... who hasn't run a game in a decade?

He actually said "We get too busy writing to play" - No. That's not acceptable. Why on earth would I buy a game from someone who can't even be bothered to run it themselves?!

Apparently he's working with other people to make the game which is based on a book series he's writing which is inspired by his love of superhero tabletop RPG's - presumably from before he started writing books.

Now it's acknowledged on the show that it's a common problem with game writers and I have heard that before. "Oh we're so busy" - bullshit. I have 4 kids with all of the usual activities , a full time job that shoots significantly over the 40 hour per week standard, a wife with the same kind of work scenario, and all of the usual adult responsibilities. We still manage to find time to play boardgames, RPG's, miniatures, go to movies and concerts, watch a little TV, and enjoy a few other hobbies as well. Maybe not as much as we like  but we still somehow manage to do these things. I'm not one of those "oh I'm so busy" martyr types that love to humble brag and that's why I don't talk about it much here - I assume everyone is fairly busy. If you're going to throw it out there as this kind of excuse, well, it's B.S. as I said above.

So no, if you wanted to find time to play games, even as a busy game designer, you would find the time.

You know what I think it is? I think you've turned "game night" into "work" and so ruined one of your hobbies. You have a hard time playing for fun now because it starts to feel like work. That's a shame.

I think they should put a warning label on games like this:

"This game was a 'labor of love' by the writer. This means it soaked up all of his free time and thus was not playtested at all."

Even playing it during "work" counts - at least you were playing it and presumably someone else was too.

Writers need editors. Game Writers need editors and they also need players - players beating on their design to see if it makes sense to someone living outside the author's head! I've had some problems with Paizo these last few months but at least I hear them talking about their lunchtime games and other games where they are playing the stuff they're working on! I may have questions about how much playtesting those Pathfinder AP's get but they do get something and the people working there do seem to play Pathfinder and other games. The Savage Rifts guys were going around playing test games at cons and in private before finalizing the design. WOTC's podcasts and articles tell us what they are playing as well.

How much is enough? I don't know exactly, but for a typical adventure I'd like to see at least three different groups try them out. Not a bunch of people that all know each other either - one in New York, one in Texas, and one in California would do quite nicely. Europe, Asia, and members of the military would be great too. I would think that three would find the worst misses and loopholes and unanswered questions. For a game system I think a lot more would be needed - Pathfinder and 5E both went with the open playtest and I think it yielded incredibly strong results, both in actual mechanical results and in setting expectations. Hopefully the new Trek game is benefiting from their big playtest too.

Additionally, I'd like to see game writers and designers playing games other than their own. It's amazing how narrow a perspective can develop from only playing one game. I see it on message boards all the time and have for years. People asking a question about a new game that clearly indicates all they've ever played is a particular game, likely a specific edition of a particular game. The fun part is when they realize that not every RPG has classes and levels. Or a percentile skill system. or uses a dice pool. Or that cards may be involved in some way. That "oh" moment is a great one. It's good to know there is more than one way to do something. It's not just an RPG thing. You see it a lot in the miniatures scene too, usually when a 40K player encounters a different style of miniatures game.

To wrap up - if you write games but do not play or run games, and I know this, I am automatically less interested in your stuff than I was. Are you writing a book or are you writing a game? If you're writing a game that is meant to be played by a group of humans then you need to be playing it. Having a good idea isn't enough. Play it! Run it! Polish it! Refine it! Make it something we can actually use and not just read. Because if you can't be bothered to play it, why should I?

Friday, May 5, 2017

40K Friday: Hard Choices

With the coming of a new edition I have been taking stock of the armies I have - what's playable, what's fun, and what's painted.

  • Howling Griffons - small but completely painted and not planning to add more now.
  • Crimson Fists - lots painted, more that could be added
  • Blood Angels - some painted, lots of stuff in the works, and some things I still need to get
  • Imperial Fists - done, painted, no expansions planned.
  • Dark Angels - planned, bought, partially worked but nothing finished.
  • Imperial Guard - Still coming together. I expect this to mainly be Blaster's next army.
  • Eldar - lots finished, more in the works whenever I want to expand.
  • Dark Eldar - small force built and base coated but could be bigger.
  • Orks - quite a bit finished but it is an ork army so there's just a ton left to paint 
  • Iron Warriors - lots finished but could be bigger ...
  • Death Guard - some finished but need to complete the core units to really make them usable
  • Khorne Daemonkin - have gathered enough to make a playable force but still small and still mostly not painted.
  • Tyranids - Did I say tyranids? Why would I do that? There's nothing to see here.

That's a lot of armies. About half of them are at the point where I could field a fully painted army of a decent size. The rest are still somewhat early in that process. I feel like I should narrow the focus a bit.

Additionally 5 of them are marine armies and 2 more are chaos marine armies and that seems like it might be overkill. To me the core of the 40K universe is Marines, Orks, Eldar, and Chaos. That's where I want to spend my time.

So I am breaking up the Dark Angels.

Yes, the army I documented over the years - like 5 years ago when I picked up the new boxed set, or when I reviewed the new codex, or when I devised a paint scheme I was happy with, or here in 2014 when I spelled out my thinking behind the army I was building and when I was making progress. The one I've probably talked about the most besides the Eldar I spent last year finishing up. They're just not sparking the enthusiasm the way I had thought they would. I still like my paint scheme for them but I am not all that interested in painted 50-100 guys in it right now when I have nothing finished for them and a bunch of other armies much farther along.

I am not selling them though - I am re-purposing them.

I thought about this a lot over the last few months. I decided that it makes more sense to break them up and use the parts to make other armies even better rather than building Yet Another Power Armored Force. Instead:

  • The Iron Warriors get 2 more Predators- this gives them 3 total, Hope they're decent in 8th.
  • The Iron Warriors also get 2 more Rhinos - this takes them to 6 and should be all I will ever need for them. With 4 CSM squads, a chosen squad, and some possessed, well, now everyone has a ride.
  • The Dreadnoughts go to the Crimson Fists. Hoping they're good in 8th as well.
  • The Attack Bikes go to the Crimson Fists, which is where they were slated to go when i first bought them years ago.
  • The speeder typhoons go to the Fists.
  • The missile launcher devastator squad goes to the Fists as well.
  • The assault squad goes to the Crimson Fists.
  • The 2 sniper scout squads go to the Fists.
  • The not-molded-in Dark Angels tactical squads go to the Fists too. This will bump me up to 5 or 6 of those as well.
  • Finally the Land Raider Crusader goes to the Crimson Fists. They will put it to good use.
  • The 3 Razorbacks go to the Blood Angels.  This will give me some options besides jump packs and drop pods - especially for fielding tactical squads. 
  • The regular land speeders go to the Blood Angels as well.
  • The HQ are being split up among all of my other marine armies, at least the guys who don't have the chapter symbols molded on.
This leaves me the Dark Vengeance tac squads, the DV leaders, the DV bikes, some terminator squads, and the Deathwing Knights. They will go in a box for now until I decide if I want to convert them, sell them, or start them up again. More likely is that I will give them to one of the boys to start their own army or trade them to someone for more orks/eldar/chaos/marines.

I really wanted to get back to the heart of the game and this change lets me do that:
  • It beefs up my Crimson Fists with all of the ancillary units they should have. It'll be good to have a "normal" marine army on the table again. All I need to make them complete in my mind is some sternguard and a few drop pods.
  • It lets me focus time-wise on finishing the Blood Angels who are pushing my buttons quite a bit more than the Dark Angels have been for a while now. With the Fists "mostly done" I can work on getting the BA's to the same state and not feel like there's still one more marine army waiting on my time. Plus if BA Razorbacks keep some kind of "fast" rule then these Razorbacks will be quite a bit of fun. 
  • It pushes my Iron Warriors into the realm of serious tank army. Considering that I already have cargo for the rhinos and the speed with which I can paint them , it's a pretty nifty situation. Six rhinos, three predators, four helbrutes, and a heldrake make it the most mechanized marine army I have. I'd like to add a land raider to finish them out. And a Vindicator squadron ...

Preparations continue!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Beginning of May - Around the Tower

The brain -dump post - you have been warned!


  • Deadlands continues on it's once -a-month schedule as planned. So far so good and it's been a lot of fun.
  • M&M Time of Crisis is on hold until June as College Red is busy with the local Renaissance Faire. No worries as it opens up a weekend for experimentation with things like Runequest or DCC
  • Those other campaigns on that left column are on a when-we-get-the-chance kind of schedule so they occasionally get played then go quiet for a month or two. 
  • Pathfinder: do not miss running it right now, still enjoy playing it. 

  • Looking Back - I had another flirtation with 4E a while back. Not sure we will be playing it soon but I still really like that game.
  • Catching Up - I've been picking up more 5E books. Still think the monsters are boring compared to 4E but I'm coming around on the game itself. I don't think the published AP's are going to do it for me - I'm going to have to make my own to give it a fair shake.
  • Wandering Eye - As I fill in some of those missing items I actually do read thru them - Bard's Gate, Call of Cthulu, Spycraft - lots of interesting games that may not get played anytime soon.

  • My dive back into Steve Jackson Games sparked my interest in Car Wars and Ogre so we may give those a try
  • Hoping to play more Armada in the near future
  • Need to find time for X-Wing too

Online Inspirations
  • I got back into Star Trek Online in March after a long layoff from the game. This has spurred an interest in all things Trek and I expect that to continue. It's eaten up a fair amount of free time too and I will try to re-balance that to at least get some more mini's painted. 
  • Dawn of War III just came out last week. I'm still getting my feet wet but at the moment I like it enough to want to see what comes next. 

The Future
  • 40k 8th edition is the biggest thing coming for me personally
  • I am interested in seeing what happens with the new Star Trek RPG from Modiphius. Still not sure about the system but I do want to see what they do with it.
  • I am also quite optimistic about Starfinder. What will they change? What will the setting be like? I'll be in for the basic book at least. 
  • Freedom City 3E! I kind of need this as that's where my M&M game is set! Been looking forward to this one for years!

  • Get a Savage Rifts game going at some point, probably late this year or next
  • Give 5th Edition an extended try out
  • Introduce the Apprentices to Shadowrun
  • Introduce the Apprentices to Champions
  • Run at least a short Star Trek RPG game
Heading into May means all of those end-of-school activities will be taking up a fair amount of time too. We will get through all of that and then hopefully June settles down a bit and schedules smooth out. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

40K Optimisim: Two Months Out

It's the first day of May, and every indicator points to a mid to late June release for the next 40K. I am a little surprised at my own level of optimism for this change. It's been 19 years since we saw a total reboot of the Warhammer 40,000 system, it's the 30th anniversary of the game's release, and I am as excited as I can recall about a new edition.

Why? Probably because a reset means everyone is on the same footing. units that have been poorly regard for the last edition or three may be useful again. Armies that have had problems under the last few editions and codexes get a clean start - at the same time everyone else is getting a clean start! Lots of long-term issues that never really seemed to go away or seemed solvable under the existing rules structure should be washed away in an entirely new rules engine.

Example: I fell in love with the Ork army during my Epic days and ended up with quite a few gargants, tanks, guns, and boyz stands, a remarkable number of whom are painted. That pulled me into giving them a try in 2nd edition 40K. I kept up with them thru 3rd and into 5th but they needed help adapting to the new structure of the game after that. For these last 5 years orks have still been somewhat fun to play but so handicapped that even the legendary fun factor of the boyz was wearing down for me.

With the prospect of new rules, and a total reset of power levels and codexes, I am betting that things will be much more "even" here at the beginning of a new era. From older models like the Wartrakk to newer models like the Morkanaut I expect a renewed level of fun stuff and utility both for all units.

In fact, if I was a miniature company I would work hard to make sure that every model I have does something that no other model can do - that gives people a reason to take them! Especially within one army - internal balance is critical. "Making interesting choices" is a core concept of playing these kinds of games and a good design for the units in an army can start this process before the game ever begins. Those ork walkers are way too cool to be saddled with a bad design in the game - make them as fun and interesting to play as their looks imply.

Armies and things I am looking forward to seeing again:

  • Dreadnoughts! Please, give us a reason to field them again!Some of the units that drew us into the game!Marines, orks, eldar ...
  • Wych Elves! Let the Dark Eldar field full armies again!
  • Howling Banshees! Shining Spears! Falcons!
  • Chaos Marines! I mean, I field them but they're not a common sight anymore.
  • Terminators! What we've seen looks good so let's hope it all works out. 
  • Defilers! Too goofy to stay bad!
  • Flyers - I hope they will be better integrated into the game as to me they felt sectioned off into their own thing quite a bit of the time. Many of them you could just ignore. I'd like that to be better this time.
That's just a quick sample. 

With a fresh clean start there's no guarantee that old rules or weapons will be the same. Scatter laser jetbikes are the terrors of the tabletop now, but scatter lasers may look very different in 8th. Storm Bolters may be different. Grav will probably be different. The Lance rule may change or may not even exist - same with Rending, Power weapons, Melta, etc. In the leap from 2nd to 3rd a lot of weapons and models changed dramatically in how they were used and I expect a similar level of change here. 

There's also no guarantee that existing formations will carry over so my Wraith Host may be screwed. I'm sure there will be something similar eventually, and all of the units are a normal part of an eldar army, but the rules could change dramatically. Same thing with that Daemon Prince giving bonuses to possessed formation that I was working on after Traitor Legions. Ah well - I'm sure I will find a use for them regardless.  

So what am I doing? Well, I am looking at each of my armies and figuring out how I want to play them for 8th - as much as one can with no actual rules yet. Apparently assaulting out of transports is a thing again, and I was planning on mounting my Iron Warriors in Rhinos anyway, but how many? Will CSM's still be able to take the bolter-bolt pistol-chainsword combo? I hope so because that's how most of my guys are built. If not I might want to build a squad or two specifically to be my "assault squads".

I am also looking at some of those unloved units of the past few editions and picking some up as a future investment. Why not add some wych elves to that Dark Eldar allied force I built? How about a Deff Dread for my ork horde? Maybe the Iron Warriors need a land raider to go with all of those Rhinos.

It's a good time to be a 40K player!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Reasons to be Optimistic About 8th Edition 40K: Terminators!

I'm still thinking through the potential impacts of the new edition of Warhammer 40,000. One thing that is becoming evident is that there is a lot of 2nd edition showing in what we already know with armor save modifiers for individual weapons. If we are looking at that kind of thing then we might be looking at a serious return to top-unit status for one that's been suffering the past few editions: Space MarineTerminators.

Why? Because in 2E 40K a tactical marine had a 3+ save on a d6, and so went to a 4+ to bolter fire with it's -1 to saves. A terminator though had a 3+ on a 2d6 roll. not two individual d6's, but the traditional two six-siders added together. Yes, they were that tough. Even against the big guns they still got a save. it might be a 10+ on 2d6 but they still had one! Terminators were expensive but worth it, most marine armies that I saw hitting the tabletop included at least one squad, and it was probably their highest level of power in any edition of the game.

Now I like terminators - a lot. So I am hoping that this does happen and that they do return to being the heavy-hitters of marine forces everywhere. Not just the thunder hammer & storm shield guys you still see sometimes today, but the guns & power fists squads too. It will be a glorious edition for them if this pans out. Finally!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

40K Friday (Saturday Edition): 8th Edition Announced!

An email came through this morning:

The new Warhammer 40,000 is coming soon

This is the game you have been asking for. The Warhammer 40,000 game you know and love, but better. Get ready for the best edition of Warhammer 40,000 ever.

With a link! (it's that "new edition coming soon" part near the bottom)

The most interesting part is the New Edition FAQ!

The site seems to be having trouble loading so here's the text:

Is my army still valid?
Yes, it certainly is! You’ll still be able to use your army in the new edition of Warhammer 40,000. All current armies will be supported with new rules.

Can I still use all my models?
Yes. Every Warhammer 40,000 miniature we sell today will be usable in the new edition of Warhammer 40,000. What’s more, they’ll be supported with new rules, which will be available from the get go in handy, low-cost books.

Even Forge World models?
Yes, even all of your Warhammer 40,000 Forge World models.

Wait, did you guys blow up the universe?
Nope. This is very much still the Warhammer 40,000 setting you know and love. Now, that’s not to say we won’t see the story advance - there’s some pretty epic stuff ahead! You can certainly expect to see the story arcs that began in the recent Gathering Storm campaign books continue to unfold with plenty of exciting developments to look forward to…

How can I get the rules?
We’re going to make it easier than ever to get your hands on the rules and start playing. The core rules for the game will be free, and you’ll have several options on how you get your hands on the full rulebook. Watch this space for more.

Have you dumbed down 40K?
Not at all. We’ve made it easier for new people to enter and get to grips with the basics. At the same time, we’ve made sure you can add as much depth and complexity as you like - there’s some fantastic new gameplay elements coming. What we’ve done is reexamine every aspect of the game, and made plenty of improvements, many based on the gaming community’s feedback and suggestions. If you play today, this game is recognisably still Warhammer 40,000.

What happens to my codexes?
The rules in our current range of Warhammer 40,000 codexes aren’t compatible with the new edition of Warhammer 40,000. These books will be going off sale very soon. If you do want to pick any up, now’s the time - as all of the great hobby content and background information will be as valid as ever.

What's in the new starter box?
A new starter box? That’d be exciting! I guess we’d fill it with some awesome new miniatures…
(come on, we can’t spoil all the surprises for you!)

Are you getting rid of points?
Not at all. There will be a full points system, for use in matched play - one of three ways to play covered in the rulebook.

What do you mean “3 ways to play”?
We realise that people like to play Warhammer 40,000 in different ways. 3 broad systems are covered in the new edition: 1) Open play is the most flexible, and easiest to get started with, allowing you to use any miniatures you like. 2) Narrative play is where you can refight the iconic battles of the 41st Millennium, or create your own campaigns and sagas. 3) Matched play is designed for more balanced and competitive games, ideal for gaming clubs, leagues and
tournaments. However you want to enjoy playing Warhammer 40,000, there will be rules for that.

Why should I not just stick with current Warhammer 40,000?
This is the version of Warhammer 40,000 you've been asking for. We've listened to your feedback, and we really believe that this is the best Warhammer 40,000 has ever been.

Will the rules be updated annually (ala, the General's Handbook)?
What a great idea! We've had such a fantastic response to our community-led approach with the Warhammer Age of Sigmar rules updates that we're committed to doing the same for Warhammer 40,000. You’ll be able to submit your questions and queries on the Warhammer
40,000 Facebook page and we'll make sure we continue to evolve the game as feedback rolls in.

I haven’t played 40K in a while...
Welcome back! The new Warhammer 40,000 is easier to learn and quicker to play, but still has all the tactical, strategic and narrative depth you could want from a game set in the incredibly
rich setting of the 41st Millennium. It’s going to be easier than ever to get started, and more fun than ever to master.

Why should I trust you?
Come on! This is New Games Workshop™

Seriously though, everything we're talking about now is just an extension of all the community engagement work we've been doing over this last year and a half. We've learned a lot from you guys and gals, and we've tried really hard to make sure everything you've asked for is included. And if we've missed something? Drop us a line on the Warhammer 40,000 Facebook page and let us know. We'll make sure your requests are given proper consideration.

Where can I find out more?
We’ll be running daily articles on the run up to release on Every aspect of the new edition will be covered, from rules, to new miniatures and advancements in
the setting.

I love it. I want it. When can I have it!
Really soon. You’ll be playing the new Warhammer 40,000 this year.

We’ll let you know when we have more news on an exact release date. Stay posted. For the latest news, follow us on the Warhammer 40,000 Facebook page , or subscribe to our newsletter .

What do I do now?
Now's the time to start getting your army ready.

With the addition of 3 ways to play, there are now more ways to build your collection than ever before. Open play frees you from all constraints, so now's the time to just pick a model you've always wanted and paint it up. For you narrative players, why not start theming your collection around your favourite battle? Just like many of you, we want our armies to be fighting fit for matched play in the new edition. That's why you'll be able to read daily articles on the Warhammer Community site that will tell you all about the new rules, great units to include and tactics for every army.

OK, funniest entry; Why should I trust you - that's funny and hopefully a good sign they really are changing their approach.

Best news: Rules will be available free. I assume that may be only the most basic of rules and that there will be several levels of printed rules available too for not-free. I also assume that means we get free pdf codex entries for each unit like we did for Age of Sigmar back when it launched. If so I am on-board big time.

Worst news: Your codexes are obsolete! Even the ones we released less than a year ago! Yay!

Actually this is not as bad as it could be as a truly new edition would pretty much require that the existing codexes go away. I'm not thrilled about it, and I'll probably go ahead and finish picking up the two or three books I was planning to get just in case the new thing ain't that great, but I'll be bargain-hunting even more than I was planning to do.

So there we go, big news for a big game!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Steve Jackson Games - Part 2

Steve Jackson Games recently put out their annual report to stakeholders and I saw some things I think are problems. Yesterday I talked about the problems I see with GURPS. Today let's talk about Kickstarters. From the report:

The 2012 Ogre Kickstarter project is still not completed. We made big steps forward on all of the various commitments, but we're coming up on five years after the project closed, and we are still sinking time into the project. The good news, though, is that we're seeing real progress; several outstanding pieces of the project are finally coming to a close. Whew.

Wait, what? Five years on and they still haven't finished this thing? Damn! This is the kind of mistake that hurts a company's reputation, especially when they plan to keep doing other kickstarters! Clearly that project was beyond their capabilities to handle. I would add "at that time" but they are still struggling to get it done from what I see there. I'm glad they didn't just walk away like some other problematic Kickstarters have seen but this is still not a good situation.

Their KS profile shows 5 projects (oldest to newest):

  • Ogre
  • Car Wars Arenas
  • GURPS Dungeon Fantasy
  • Ogre Miniatures - Set One
  • Munchkin Shakespeare

(note: I did not back any of these)

From the GDF "Risks" section:

Risks and challenges

The greatest risk of all is completing the artwork, layout, and manufacturing of the game. The text for the box set is 100% complete, and artwork and layout have started, but there are always opportunities for things to go sideways during a creative project.

None of the stretch goal PDFs have been written yet, because whether we even get to do them depends on you! However, we've produced high-quality PDFs every month for years, and we feel confident in our ability to deliver on our stretch-goal promises in a timely manner.

We believe we have taken all of the steps necessary to bring the game to completion and ship on schedule. Our last Kickstarter project -- Car Wars Arenas in 2015 -- delivered on schedule, and we think this game will also ship on time. As always, we will update backers throughout the entire process and deliver as close to on time as possible.

First paragraph, fine.

Second paragraph - that was a red flag to me because the KS projects that seem to do the best are the ones where the material is written and basically what it needs is editing and art. Once you make those stretch goals that stuff becomes a commitment  just like the core stuff and stretch goals are where a lot of KS efforts hit the rocks.

Third paragraph - I think there's a fine line between "Marketing" and "Deception" when you mention that your last project went great even as you're still trying to finish the one from before that - three years before that! I don't like that at all.

Now from the report:

Ogre Miniatures Set One - This expansion to the new Ogre Sixth Edition game was another Kickstarter project last year, and we've again caused delays that have pushed the release back later than we had planned. The problems here are less disruptive to our schedule than Dungeon Fantasy's ongoing "Destroy all deadlines" crawl to the finish line, but the lateness of the project is a source of frustration and many sleepless nights. Lesson learned: Finish all CAD work and miniatures tooling before launching any more Kickstarter projects involving minis. This is risky -- what if a project fails to fund? -- but it is worth taking the risk.

Really? There's more:

Dungeon Fantasy - Our Kickstarter project to create a GURPS introductory box set has run into more troubles and derailments than we would like. A game that was meant to go to the printer before the end of 2016 is still clogging our pipeline and causing constant distractions. The project was not as far along in the process as it should have been, and miscommunication regarding the game components ballooned our costs. At the moment, barring a miracle, what would have been a profitable project is rapidly turning into a loss. This is becoming an ongoing problem for GURPS projects (see Discworld and Mars Attacks, below, under Failures).

Sheesh. I like these guys. I've bought a lot of games from them. Besides all of my Car Wars, Ogre, and GURPS stuff there are at least 7 different Munchkin games floating around the house. That said this is not a great place to be. Out of your first 4 Kickstarter projects (over a span of 4 years) three of them have had problems and you are still working to complete them! How is that smart? Why do you keep doing it? Why are you making these same mistakes? How much is this impacting your non-crowdfunded projects? And what about that "the core text is 100% complete" yet somehow "the project was not as far along in the process as it should have been". That's not good.

They keep talking about doing a Kickstarter for the new edition of Car Wars when it's ready and I would normally be an hour one backer on that but now after looking thru all of this ... I don't know if I can. I think my first question will be "are you done with the Ogre Kickstarter from 2012 yet?" and the answer will have a big impact on what I do.

I've been worried about other companies biting off more than they could chew with multiple open Kickstarters, mainly Pinnacle. They like to run several Kickstarters a year but they haven't fallen behind on any that I've been a part of or that I have heard of and they seem to have the whole thing figured out.  That said I think it is a huge risk for a small company to have multiple simultaneous unfinished Kickstarters in play. The failure of one could cascade into the others as your talent is exhausted and it could impact cash flow severely, not to mention your reputation.

Business-wise a Kickstarter is an unusual situation in that you're getting paid for the product before creating, printing, and shipping it. That helps with cash flow but it does mean you have a fixed pile of money associated with the project. If costs go up, you're eating into the margins and you have zero recourse like you would with a more traditional project - say, raising the price or just cancelling it altogether because it's not economically viable given the costs. No, once you've funded, you have committed and you have to produce it or else face the lovely scenario of refunding 100% of what people paid with only 90% of the funding - KS keeps their cut regardless of your ability to produce.

So I am worried about one of my favorite game companies. One reason they might keep doing the KS thing is that their structure has become dependent on it. I hope that's not the case but I wonder about it. That would be bad, because if they keep overloading themselves and running into delays and ongoing problems then at some point people are going to stop spending money on them and the whole thing will fail. I hope that doesn't happen. I also hope they don't start any more KS efforts until the ones they have are complete.

They do end the report on what I think is an appropriately somber note:

  A Brutal Year

We expect 2017 to be a difficult time for our team. We must complete our Kickstarter commitments; every day that the Dungeon Fantasy and Ogre projects run late is another day of stress for all of us in the office. (Fortunately, our team has the Munchkin Shakespeare project humming along wonderfully, and there's a strong chance that the project will deliver on schedule.) We will get through the year, we will complete the projects that are weighing us down, and we will do all we can to close 2017 on a high note and set everything up to make 2018 a year that makes us proud.

I hope they do, I hope 2017 is the year this sh*t stops, they clean things up, and set the company up for a solid 2018. We don't want to lose you, and we don't want to see your name tarnished! Please set things in order and lets move on.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Steve Jackson Games Stakeholder Report for 2016

I'm a little worried about SJG. The latest Report to Stakeholders covering 2016 is not all that great and has a few specific things that concern me. They're a Texas game company, they've been around a long time, and they've made a lot of things I like so I take an interest in how they are doing.

  • In the 80's they were Car Wars and Ogre
  • In the 90's they were GURPS
  • In the 2000's they've been mostly Munchkin
Lots of people have been touched by those games. 

They have always seemed to have a handle on cash flow, which is the thing that tends to kill game companies. That part still seems to be OK, largely due to Munchkin I would guess. They're selling Munchkin at Walgreen's now - Walgreen's!

Today I'll talk about the first issue I see, then tomorrow we will hit the second. 

The first thing I see that might be a problem is GURPS. From the report:

Discworld and Mars Attacks - We published two new GURPS hardcover books late last year. GURPS fans celebrated, and the books turned out well, but their disappointing performance further supported the unfortunate realization that sales are no longer strong enough to make traditional distribution work for GURPS hardcovers. Today's cluttered market, combined with our insistence on getting it right, made both books expensive experiments that tell us one thing: Do not produce more GURPS hardcovers until we have guaranteed that the sales are there. Does this mean more crowdfunding for GURPS? Maybe! But until we see the retail sales of Dungeon Fantasy, we're holding off on any more printed GURPS releases. PDFs will continue, and we'll revisit the question of "print GURPS?" later this year.

OK, I'm sure some of the rest of you can see a potential problem here. After the big Kickstarter (which we will get to in a bit) the two big "kickoff" books were Discworld and Mars Attacks?! Seriously? 

I love the Discworld books - I've been reading them for 30+ years and I own most of them but I would never try to use it as an RPG setting because it's just not going to work. It's the same reason there's not a Hitchhikers Guild to the Galaxy RPG - a huge part of it is the wit, and your players are not going to be able to do that on the fly while playing the game. As a Big Book of Stuff About Discworld I'm sure it's great but for a roleplaying game it's a niche of a niche at best and the people who wanted one got it with the third edition books.

Then there's Mars Attacks. I don't even know where to start, really. I know Mantic put out a miniatures game of it in 2015 and it looks as though it's already being discontinued.  Who do you know that's really passionate about MA? What's the fanbase? It would not surprise me if the total number of people in North America saying "I can't wait to run a Mars Attacks RPG!" is in the single digits.  What else is going on with the universe? A new movie? There was a movie 20 years ago that was not all that big a hit even then. I'm sure the license is cheap because NO ONE CARES ABOUT MARS ATTACKS! It's not something to build or reboot a game line on!

I know, I know, but it had to be said

GURPS has always had a problem in that while it inspired some system loyalty, it has no marquee setting, and settings are what keep people interested over the decades. Consider:
  • D&D has gone thru a ton of changes from the 80's to now but there's a core group of Forgotten Realms fans that stay with it and provide a big chunk of the energy around the game. They're the ones buying the novels and other product tie-ins. They're the ones recruiting new players  talking about all of those overpowered NPCs, arguing the history of fictional countries, and all of the things that come with a deep setting. Greyhawk has fans too, as do the other D&D worlds. Regardless of the rules particulars, they keep coming back.
  • Why does any edition of Runequest that ditches Glorantha struggle? Because for that game the Gloranth-philes are the biggest mass of players. That's where the energy is! 
  • What was the early core of Savage Worlds players? Deadlands players! It's probably still the biggest single setting but now they have Rifts, Lankmahr, and they're working on Flash Gordon! They have a strong mix of original IP and licensees that draw people in. 
I've talked about this before, back when the Dungeon Fantasy Kickstarter was going. It baffles me that GURPS still has no well-known setting of its own. Would you play 1920's Call of Cthulu without the Mythos elements? Well, that's GURPS. Sure, it's a great toolkit for making your own game but the core books have been out since 2004! If you want to draw new players in, get people excited, and most of all have people spend money on it then you need something people care about beyond mechanics! That would be "setting" and they just do not have one.

So no, I don't expect a big resurgence for the GURPS line, particularly when they are making decisions like this. I expect Dungeon Fantasy will hit the shelves and barley make a ripple as it sinks under, much like these other two have. The window for this to be a big deal was probably 2011-2014, while D&D was at a low ebb and people were looking for alternatives. Now, with 5E booming in popularity, Pathfinder still a strong second, and a bunch of OSR stuff taking up the rest there just isn't that much room left for something else. 

There might have been room for a sci-fi game in there too for the last few years but over the last 5 or so years we've had FFG's 40K universe games, their new Star Wars game, a new edition of Traveller, a new edition of Mutant Chronicles, Savage Worlds Last Parsec, and later this year we get Starfinder and a new Star Trek game! There's probably not a ton of room there either!

This is pretty clearly something that could happen in an RPG
"Remember that time we took out a tank with some muscle cars?"
To show I'm not just slagging them, how about some ideas of what they could do? OK:
  • GURPS Fast and Furious - You want to bring in some new people? Want to stretch the creative muscles a bit? Want to get some attention? Strike now! I think the company that's been doing a game called "Car Wars" for almost 40 years and that has a back catalog of GURPS books on thrillers, vehicles, espionage, and tech could do pretty well at something like this. Sure, it's a license but it's not one we've seen in RPG's before and they plan to make at least two more movies over the next 4 years. For a game that's "realistic" with some cinematic options this seems perfect. (If you think it's a bad RPG license then first, take a look up there at their last two licenses. Second, look at how many people have gone to see these movies in the last 5-10 years. It's a big number and getting bigger, at or beyond Star Wars and Marvel. It's also a heckuva lot more relevant than Mars Attacks.)
  • GURPS Big Superhero World - I think we all know superhero movies are big right now. There's room for another Superhero RPG if it's good. This takes two things:
    • One, put out a single-volume book combining the GURPS rules and the powers book. It can be a big book, but it really helps if you can point players to one book to play this game, not 3 or more. Champions did it and has done it again. M&M has always done it. It's time to make that change. 
    • Two, create an original setting that has some specific flavor, some likable, interesting iconic heroes and some detestable iconic villains and put out a setting book! Support the game with something beyond more rulebooks! It should look as good as Freedom City and Emerald City but with its own take on a superhero world. 
  • GURPS Munchkin - Start with GURPS Lite. Add maximum cinematic rules. Put in all of the monsters from the card game. Make it something like Dungeon Crawl Classics in tone, add a little Hackmaster, add a little Paranoia. Make it "The First RPG You Can Win". Make it playable in less than 2 hours - maybe everybody who's still alive levels up every ten minutes of real time. It's an IP you own and there's a ton of stuff to mine from it so why not explore it in RPG form?
So there's my thinking on the whole GURPS side of the problem. Tomorrow - the other stuff!