Saturday, May 24, 2014

40K 7th - The Stuff

Alright, I jumped on this one on Day 1 - I hope it sticks around awhile.

The books (yes books!) come in a nice heavy slipcase. It feels heavier than the one my D&D 4E books came in if that's a point of reference for you. It looks good. We're still putting Dark Angels on the cover but we're getting away from that ugly yellow-green tone of 6th edition's cover.

See? Books! We have the rule book, the history book, and the pretty miniatures porn book.

We also have cards! These are not included in the slipcase. I sprung for the whole set of stuff.

The objective cards look to add a whole new element to the game. I'm still reading the rules but the cards allow for instant scoring of victory points each turn if the objectives on them are met. This is going to make things a lot more dynamic than before. The box is really nice too. It's very heavy cardboard.

The psychic cards also come in a nice heavy box and this set is all 50 powers from the main book. Yes they changed from the prior edition. No your codex-specific powers are not included, but the handy reference chart of who-gets-what is there.

The books are really nice - these are by far the prettiest 40K rule books yet. The covers are textured and the images are glossy on the otherwise flat background - again this reminds me of the 4E D&D books in presentation.  That one is the "miniature porn" book.

Lots and lots of pictures of the miniatures for every army.

Look, a centerfold - NOW do you see why I am calling it that?!

This one is the setting book.

It makes me think of the Time-Life history books, or some coffee table history books now.

There are articles about different armies, units, specific campaigns - all of the "fluff". Interestingly I don't think there are any pictures of miniatures in here - all of the illustrations are paintings or maps. I like it.

Finally, the rule book. Naturally they put my least favorite illustration (of the three) on the cover of the one we will use the most.

Even it goes full-color all the way through.

So there it is - if you're interested, there it is - a look at all of the "parts". I have to admit, I am ... impressed, and that's not something I expected to say when I heard a new edition was coming out this quickly. Now I am still reading the rules, so that's not an endorsement of the mechanics, but as far as the physical presentation, the bar has been raised. It finally feels like the premium product it's priced as, and I approve. If I'm going to pay that much for it then it should look and feel like something decent and it does.

I will say that other than the rules you probably do want the mission cards but the psychic cards are completely a convenience item, a handy reference and reminder as to what you have in play during a game. The mission cards are also a useful-in-play item but the way they can change during a game makes it even more important to have them out there on the table close at hand so you can deal with them as they come up. I'm pretty sure there's a table for them in the rulebook but I think being able to draw and discard them will come in handy.

Editorial: Oh, there is a $400 super-gilded-I-have-too-much-money-even-for-a-warhammer-player edition that comes in a really nice box with all of this including the cards and a 4th book with some extra fluff or pictures or something. I passed. People should be able to spend their money on whatever they want but honestly, this is already an expensive hobby. Get the regular edition and spend $300 on expanding your army, or buy a whole new one (eBay!), or get 3 more copies of the rules and give them to friends who can't easily afford to pick them up! There are so many better ways to spend that kind of $$$, even on more 40K stuff, than this.

More on the actual rules next week!

Friday, May 23, 2014

40K Friday: A Personal Look Back at Past Editions

On the literal eve of a new edition, I thought I would meander back through some of the older editions since I was there when they came out too. It's funny how I can tie each one to a certain period of my life.

Rogue Trader came out in 1987. Leading up to it was a series of ads in Dragon that had a look unlike anything else at the time:

Now I already had Warhammer Fantasy, and played it some using the counters from Battlesystem, so I knew what Warhammer was and who Citadel/Games Workshop was, but the biggest sci-fi game at the time was the newly exploding Battletech. This looked completely different, and the background was the complete opposite of genre-defining things like Star Trek and Star Wars. Orks! In space! With guns! Power armor! Plus it was a full-on miniatures game, not an RPG or a boardgame that happened to use miniatures - there was no hexmap in sight!

This hit me, and a lot of other people, in exactly the right spot. I was interested but it was a few months before I got into it so it was 1988 before my Eldar took the field for the first time, followed closely by some space marines. By late 1988 it was showing up at most local cons

Another big win: having a job (a high school/college job) I found the miniatures were not terribly expensive. We used to get around 5 metal guys in a blister for $5.99, or a box of 30+ plastic guys for around $20. Dreadnoughts were metal and about ten bucks. It was sort of like magic is now - I could afford to buy a couple of packs when I got paid, or wait and get a big box. The game also took fewer miniatures then than it does now. A squad or two, a dreadnought, a couple of characters, maybe a support gun or a speeder or a bike, and you had plenty.

There were constant updates in White Dwarf adding things like Terminators, Chaplains, Ogryn, Rough Riders, and Harlequins. After a couple of years those started to get complied into supplements.

Over the next few years most of the foundations of the game were laid - Eldar and their Aspect Warriors, the Chaos gods, the Ork clans, squats, the different marine chapters, and the components of the imperial guard. I was running Eldar and marines all through this, including a Harlequin army. Yes, it was once possible to have an "army" of about 20 figures, and they were pretty nasty. This was my college game and I have a lot of fond memories of it.

This stuff started to get a little clunky with all of the different books (some of them pretty bulky) and so in 1993 we got the Second Edition with the first big box o' stuff. It was time for an update and consolidation but we lost some of the more random elements of the game. I don't remember anyone in our group not liking it. In fact I remember a lot of new people joining in, including friends who had passed on the prior edition, maybe because it had too many books.

This, along with Space Marine - the epic scale game in the same setting - was my post-college game. I had a real job, my own place, a couple of good FLGS that had playing areas - we played it a lot. I stayed with the Eldar, expanded my Howling Griffon marines, and added in some Orks and Chaos for good measure. Those Orks and Gretchin from this box (and with about 4 more boxes worth of boyz) still form a part of my Ork army today. My Griffs are mostly RT models, my Eldar were a mix of RT and 2nd, but the bulk of my Orks are from this era.

This was still a fun time. The first codexes came out, White Dwarf was still going strong supporting the game with new units and experimental rules, and even though it was a lot more "corporate" there was still a ton of the do-it-yourself spirit there when it came to conversions, units without official models, and terrain. Other than the occasional card building everything we played on, from ruins to forests, was home made. This was my biggest period of playing-with-strangers-at-the-game-store and we all had a lot of fun. There were some crazy situations back then and I wish we had all had camera phones so I would have some pictures to share with you.

Towards the end of the 90's the game wasn't as over-expanded as the prior edition but it was somewhat chaotic and favored big powerful heroes over rank and file and the mechanics had piled up in a way that was sort of like the second edition of D&D - even though you cleaned it up there are still a lot of underlying assumptions that mean it plays a certain way. So in 1998 we got 3rd edition.

This was a total revamp of the game. I remember getting the box and sitting down with the rules and being almost shocked - I know the people I played with had been hoping for a change but this was massive. Fortunately it came with army lists built right in to the main rulebook so we didn't have to wait for codex revamps as the old ones were just completely not compatible with these rules. As much flak as GW takes sometimes they did this one right. This is the game I was playing when I started having kids, so game time and paint time dropped precipitously during this edition.

With a sense of renewal a lot of us jumped back in. Late in 2nd edition I had started building a new marine army with a simpler paint scheme to get things done faster. For the new edition they became a major force in my games and my 3rd edition box marines are still the core of my Crimson Fist tactical squads. I never liked the Dark Eldar (introduced here) very much but my old figures are sitting in my wife's DE battalion box awaiting assembly.

As we played quite a bit early on in 3rd edition I decided to consolidate my armies. My chaos force, much of my eldar, and my budding imperial guard army were traded away for Orks. I built up a pretty nasty Ork force, though it was still mostly 2E era models, and I've been playing them ever since. I experimented with "dipping" my orks, again going for speed-to-tabletop.

White Dwarf was still good during this time putting out a lot of articles on terrain and a lot of special units and experimental rules. It was a total revamp so there was a lot to discuss. These generated an annual "rules update" that was pretty much required to keep up, on top of the new wave of codexes.

Also notable for me was that right before this edition a completely new version of Epic came out that killed the game for me, then Battlefleet Gothic came out a few years later which I really liked but could never get anyone else to get into. This meant that 40K was "the" game for a few years.

This is also the edition that was current while I was busy getting a divorce, which meant I was not doing much with it by the end. Late 3rd edition was not nearly as much fun as the beginning.

The next edition was the "lost edition" for me. I was not very active with 40K when it started, epic was gone (as far as I was concerned) BFG was not a big thing anymore, and I just was not that interested in anything GW was putting out. I played all of two or three games of this one. I never bought the boxed set, and only bought the rulebook late and on the cheap when I was thinking about getting back in. I was busy with other things.

Fifth edition was the renewal - within the first year of its release I was married and had picked up a couple of new apprentices and decided the time was right to introduce all of the boys to the game. To make up for missing 4th I bought two of these sets (for the older Apprentices) and fortunately it was a really good starter set. They swapped halves and the parts from each form the core of Blaster's Space Wolves and Red's Evil Sunz. This was their introduction to the game and piqued my interest enough to dive back in full-force, rebuilding old armies and building up new ones.

During this I dusted off the Griffons once again, reforged the Fists into a more normal marine army than the cutting-edge-of-3rd-edition they had been, acquired an entire Deathwing army in a confluence of interest and finances, added vehicles to my previously foot-slogging ork horde, and in general liked playing the game again. I was still having a lot of fun with 5th when word came that we were getting 6th ...

In the two years since it came out we've played as much or more 6th then we did 5th, which is pretty good. This time I only picked up one boxed set since it didn't really fit with the armies the Apprentices were running. They did get the big hardback rulebooks for this one though and they have been well-read. We've mostly ignored flyers and allies, the two biggest additions to this edition, but they've cropped up a few times. I put together enough mini's to field a Chaos Marine army and decided 3 loyalist marine forces weren't enough so I built up a Dark Angels force too - not the smartest move but why not have a marine army from (almost) every edition?

Red was in a local store league for a while and got to play against more than just family and learned a lot. He added a Necron army during this time while Blaster added Eldar. I think two armies is enough for them to manage so we're not in a hurry to add any more, and having them does make Christmas and birthdays a little easier to shop for in a pinch. Watching the kid open a well-painted Logan Grimnar feels pretty good - it's fun to make them lose their mind over something you know they're really going to like.

Apprentice Red will be done with high school in a little more than a week, so presumably this will be his "college edition". For Blaster it will be his main "high school" edition, and for Who it will be the first one he really digs into as he got his first starter mini's for Christmas a few months ago. I think it is a little ridiculous to be doing a new edition this quickly, but I'm going to roll with it. I'll be going to pick up a copy tomorrow so amid all of our end of year proms, banquets, concerts, and graduations I'll be reading up for the next round. It should make for a fun summer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Side Trek

Among all the new edition craziness for D&D and 40K I thought I would share something from the Star Trek Online team - uniforms through the years:

Now the last 3 are their own creation, but I'm pretty sure the rest are canon. I thought it was cool to see all of them together so I thought I would share. Rules-light or rules-heavy it's always nice to know how your character looks. I've posted the full resolution version but if you have any trouble it's on this page somewhere, along with a lot of other nifty art from the game.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Worldwound Incursion Complete!

Despite all of the hubbub right now about new editions of other games we are still playing Pathfinder here and it's still going really well. Over the weekend my players finished up Part 1 of the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path and achieved the first tier of Mythic Power. Everyone should be levels 4-6 when we start part 2 - we are still sorting out some of the XP and we had a new character join just in time for this last session.

We started in September of 2013 but there were some pretty big gaps in there. That included 13 sessions - it would have taken 12 but #12 was cut short so we ran into a 13th. Now that we are on a pretty steady schedule. I think it will take significantly less time to play through part 2. I figure (and hope) that we will be playing this campaign through at least this time next year and maybe into the summer.

It's been a lot of fun running a largely straight-up good vs. evil campaign. It's a little like a superhero campaign in that "the city's in trouble and we need to help". There are some touches of gray here and there but for the most part it is black and white - demons and cultists vs the good guys with civilians sometimes caught in the middle.

I'll be catching up on session summaries in June to help us keep track of it all.

It feels good and we're all having fun with it - congratulations to the team, one down, five to go!

Monday, May 19, 2014

D&D Release Stuff

EN World has a bunch of stuff about the next release of D&D here. It's coming from Amazon and Wizards so it looks this is the real thing.

First Impressions? Well, for the first time ever I'm going to say "I don't like those covers". I'm having a hard time nailing it down but my gut reaction is "bleah". I don;t think it's the art as much as the overall presentation. I've liked all of the others over the decades. The revised "black cover" 2E books didn't really do much for me but I didn't dislike them. Maybe these will grow on me.

Does that little red "Dungeons and Dragons" flag on the lower left imply we might see books for another game in the same format? Something, say, compatible with D&D enough to share books with it? Don't know, but I'm sure it's there for a reason.

Timing-wise it's a staggered release - PHB in August (Gen Con), MM in September, DMG in November, which seems late but OK.

Notable notes on the Starter Set:

  • The starter set is titled (on Amazon): "Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set: Fantasy Roleplaying Fundamentals" - oh lord, it sounds like homework! Core set? Basic set? None of those were good enough?
  • "Ideal for a group of 4 – 6 ..." - OK, sounds right
  • "...the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set includes a 64-page adventure book with everything the Dungeon Master needs to get started..." - OK, so far so good. I'm assuming softcover full-color like the Pathfinder starter set
  • "... a 32-page rulebook for playing characters level 1 – 5 ..." - Interesting. That's a pretty good range for a starter set
  • "... 5 pregenerated characters, each with a character sheet and supporting reference material ..." - and this may kill it if it means there are no character creation rules. I hope there are and this is just additional material to help get a game started, as creating a character is one of those "fundamental" elements of playing D&D. 
  • "... and 6 dice." - Cool, this is a good thing.
As long as it has the character creation rules for whatever classes are included then it sounds like a solid deal. The price is certainly right at $19.99 Fantasy Flight has been selling Star Wars Beginner Boxes with dice (but no creation rules, pregens only) for $29.99 for a couple of years now so I think this one will do really well due to price, being a bigger game, and general curiosity.

The Cult of the Dragon/Tiamat thing appears to be all of two adventures. They're both 96 pages, and I wonder what kind of level range they will cover? Two books doesn't scream "Adventure Path" to me. 

I assume that strip at the top will be the new banner/flag for the Realms.

 "Adventure design and development by Kobold Press." - that's interesting. I don't follow KP but I am aware of them, and as far as I know that's not a person but a group of people, so it's basically hiring another company to write adventures which you then publish as your own. That's an odd choice, an escalation of sorts, beyond even using a freelancer. I wonder if it's a one-off thing because of resource shortages while getting the new edition ready - basically not enough in-house writers to go around, or if it will be a continuing thing? It does work around some of those licensing issues if they do not go with an open license - they can target certain design teams or designers with specific projects, identify an adventure or supplement with that name, and keep it as an in-house branded product all at the same time. I guess we will see how it develops.

Apparently they are doing minis too. There an open set (including Drizzt, of course), then there is this:

Collect all 44 miniatures found in the D&D Icons of the Realms: Tyranny of Dragons boosters. Found in 4 figure blind booster packs, and inspired by the Tyranny of Dragons storyline, you'll find dragons, kobold fighters, bugbears, wraiths, mind flayers, and many more iconic D&D characters guaranteed to level up your tabletop roleplaying game experience.

Produced under license by Wizkids
Format: Booster 
Price: $19.99

 Four figures for $20? $5 each? It does look like a pretty good-sized box and it does mention dragons so maybe some of them will be larger than man-sized. That would definitely make a difference for me at least.  

Motivational Monday