Wednesday, May 19, 2010

OK ... if not 40K then what? Unexplored Horizons (Rant from yesterday continued ...)

You know I like many GW fans out there rant and rave occasionally about things I don't like about GW, yet I'll be the first to defend them when I think something is too extreme in terms of criticism. GW has provided me with some wonderful gaming over the years and as much as I dog on them ... I sincerely love the Warhammer and Warhammer 40K universes. I would be deeply saddened if the company ever went away as we know it. I love an independently run GW. It would break my heart to have Hasbro buy them or something like that and of course I'd be in absolute death in the family mode if they just went out of business. So I threaten to stop playing, etc. and I doubt that would happen in the near future anyway ... but ... that said I find myself more and more wanting to find some backup mini games. If said backups provide a better gaming experience for me closer to what I really used to love about GW ... I think the GW stuff would become my back burner game of choice.

I've tried AT-43 and Confrontation and I personally didn't like either system, I found the rules to be counter intuitive (maybe I've just been playing 40K too long) and hard to get into. I liked some of the models and factions but didn't care for others and I'm not a fan of pre-painted stuff. Why you ask? Well to me with GW in my home gaming groups we've always refered to it as a "barrier of entry" type game. I mean lets face it guys ... ok sure there are some cool people playing some of the collectible "low barrier of entry" games ... but at least in my personal experience they are pretty rare. Mostly you get very young players, jerks and store trolls ... people I honestly don't tend to game with if I can avoid it. Don't get me wrong I love to see younger players doing any type of non-video game based gaming (nothing against video games I just see them as the enemy of tabletop games ... yes I myself play lots of video games ... just saying) and if one of the adults who games in my home gaming group has spawn and they feel like bringing em along for gaming ... as long as its not disruptive ... fine by me. Over the years I've had several friends who have had teenage kids who actually fully participated in gaming with the home game group/gaming club and it was fine ... they fit in and become just one of the gaming crew. 

Anyway why are those types of less desirable gamers more likely to pick up pre-painted stuff? Well I know I'm stating the obvious but they don't have to do any work ... the just pay money ... crack open a box and bada bing they are playing. See that is one of my issues with GW these days ... so many painting services, etc. have started to make inroads into turning GW into a AT-43 fest ... where people just buy pre-painted blue table armies and show up at tourneys (the few that still have paint scores that is) and get free points. Most of those types of players are in the "jerk" or "store troll" catagory to me. They are playing the game purely for competitive reasons, they don't care about the hobby side of the game, the modeling, converting or painting ... they just want to show up at a tourney and kick people in the privates and thump their chests. That is the epitome of lameness ... winning at 40K is like winning at checkers ... tic-tac-toe or winning at flipping quarters. To me the only reason to do mini gaming is for a cool social experience, I have just as much fun with a close loss or a tie as I do with a smashing victory ... to be honest alot more fun usually. So why would anyone want to just dominate? Issues of inadequacy spring to mind ... 

Seriously to the ultra competitive players I say if you want to be competitive do something cool that is worthy of thumping your chest about. Go pick up golf, learn to shoot competitively, get into running or archery or start showing dogs or something, play video games competitively. I have yet to find any type of  tabletop game other than chess (or various card games) that is really designed to be purely competitive, mini gaming is fundamentally a gentleman's agreement between the players. You each agree to not cheat, to be honorable about rules calls, etc. and you are just moving minis and rolling dice ... having a shared interesting experience. The randomness of the dice, the scenarios, terrain placement ... it never makes for a truly balanced game. If a tourney orgainzer is really good they can sort of get it close for you but you'll never have a really level playing field. That is why I just laugh when I see people lamenting "balance" ... to a certain extent balance has never and can never really exist. See that is the cool thing about mini wargames ... your in essence experiencing just a little snippet of what real commanders would on a real battlefield.

If your a wargamer and you haven't I highly recommend reading Sun Tzu ... nearly 2500 years ago he figured out principles of battlefield engagement which still apply today. I mean as a commander if you can you want to avoid an even fight  ... you want to do anything you can to gain as much advantage as you can. When I say that I'm not condoning the cheese head overly competitive powergamers out there ... I'm talking about why unbalanced games are actually more realistic and more rewarding potentially. Realistically if one commander has advantage one would not ... if your playing a game where your the one with the disadvantage ... well figure out how to get yourself out alive.Winning a game where you have a disadvantage is really cool ... something to give you a sense of accomplishment about. Obviously playing a game where you have no chance of winning is not fun and that isn't what I'm talking about. Somehow the essence of what makes wargaming so fun has been largely lost with 40K ... at least over a large portion of the US competitive scene. Like I was saying when I first got involved with 40K there was enough of it there to hold my interest. Now its again in my experience ... devolving into MTG in pewter and plastic. In home games though we still very much enjoy the true fun of war gaming. But that is in private home and club gaming ... its really nearly impossible to get that in public GW gaming anymore. 

So the question remains ... if not GW ... then what? I've been watching Spartan Games for awhile Uncharted Seas and Firestorm look cool.  I've really been searching for some solid 28 MM historical options that give a solid  medium to large scale skirmish war gaming experience. I'm seeing more and more stuff pop up out there actually one source is GW Historicals ... ironically ... I've never understood that segment of the company. They are sort of off by themselves ... an apparent red headed stepchild of GW. Anyway some of their rulesets look really cool. 

I'm not a fan of Privateer Press stuff ... I adore the Iron Kingdoms universe ... I love most of the models in their range ... but having played that game for two years (Cryx, Khador, Cygnar and Hordes) its even more MTG in pewter (and now plastic too) than GW stuff is. Looking at the focus of PP with their Monsterpocalypse collectible crack ... I can see that they really aren't too concerned about that. In the original Warmachine rulebook they made the "play like you've got a pair" statement ... like "hey we love powergamers" ... ok ... thanks for being honest guys I can't fault you for that at any point. They designed their game to be a complex chess game. All strategy and combos and little in the way of tactics. Absolutely awesome if that's what your looking for ... I am not though.

So for me sticking with 40K and slowly dabbling with other stuff is probably what I'll do until I finally settle in on historicals. I suppose I'm following the progression that most European mini gamers undergo ... its just sort of odd out here in the Western US. Historicals groups are cloistered out here and tend to be groups of guys who were my age in the 70s and 80s. In fact I have yet to find any historicals groups in Northern Utah (which surprised me). 

Anyone out there feel free to share suggestions on viable GW 40K/WHFB alternatives. By this I mean that rules are no more complex than those rulesets, they don't have massive imbalance issues like FOW and there is at least some depth to the games (i.e. multiple factions, etc.). For me like I said I really don't like the AT-43 or Privateer Press rulesets (either Warmachine or Hordes) so that's part of "viable" for me as well.


Gyro said...

Tons of options out there, I can vouch for every single one of these games, and honestly, have found them to be immensely more enjoyable.

Sci-Fi Rules:
5150, Future War Commander

Fear and Faith, Flying Lead, Gutshot!, Strange Aeons

Song of Blades and Heroes, Hordes of the Things

The Lord of Excess said...

Awesome thanks man! I shall be checking them out soon! I actually have tried Gutshot! its a decent ruleset ... I have the GW Old West rules as well. But to me they are both equally good. I had a friend he used to really have good things to say about HotT. I will check these out though thanks again sir!

sonsoftaurus said...

I play with GW rules because they're a common reference point, not because of any special quality. I'd be happy to play with GW and other figures using another system.

The main thing is finding a tight group of like-minded players. Once you have that, you can house-rule changes, switch and modify systems, etc. to your heart's content. But if most of your playing tends to be with pretty loose acquaintances then that's a lot harder to do.

The Lord of Excess said...

Yes indeed Sons of Taurus ... I know exactly what your talking about ... back in Vegas we had a really awesome 30 person gaming club that played mostly 40K amongst ourselves. It was a large enough group that we could do tournies, etc. of our own and always had enough to pull it off. Here in Utah ... I have about 8 players so far mostly in the lose acquaintance status ... we are having fun in our little group but putting on our own big stuff isn't really a possibility. We are trying but I don't know if I'll ever get this group to the level that I experienced in Vegas. I agree though 100% with your point.

Gyro said...

Yeah, I should point out I play with a very tight-knit group and am not a public player. Given that, the common reference point in a shared ruleset isn't that great of a need.

A lot of the games I mentioned just simply wouldn't work at the FLGS wihtout a lot of work, but they could be a good way to breaking the ice now and forming a tighter gaming group down the road with who you are gaming with?

We still kick around 40k now and again, but really, there's so many good games out there to take a look at it's a shame to be tied to just one.

Le snot à barbe said...

For WH40K : As said, 5150 from Two Hours Wargames is an absolute blast ! But be prepared to lose a good deal of control on your minis actions. Like in real life... I also play Ambush Alley using Imperial Guard and Necromunda miniatures.

For WFB : You can have a try with Wargods of Aegyptus and use GW miniatures as proxies

For historical : great idea but which period do you prefer ?

Hope it helps and welcome to the wonderful world of playing outside GW's outdated rules !

Gyro said...

I didn't see the part about historicals. Piquet's Field of Battle gets a lot of positive press, I'd look in that direction, and it handles multiple time periods to boot.

The Lord of Excess said...

Awesome suggestions guys ... I will check the systems out ... actually Wargods is one I own the rulebook for. About three or four years ago a friend and I attempted to get other people into it to no avail. Their range is cool ... but their release schedule drove me away. But using GW minis with their rules might not be a bad idea at all!

As for period I've always been drawn to Roman stuff and also WWI/WWII have their appeal. ACW and AWI are both interesting but probably a bit too ambitious to start ... maybe in a few years. Pith hat Brits would be awesome ... some Rudyard Kipling style games of times that never really did exist would be cool. Is there a system out there like that? Where you can do stuff in India, Africa, central Asia ... sort of skirmish level stuff with pulpy scenarios?

Le snot à barbe said...

As I don't play Antique I can't suggest a ruleset. Just stay away from Warhammer Ancient Battles, same awful Igougo stuff...
WWII : For skirmish scale, you can have a go with Nuts ! from THW, quite immersive. For larger scales Blietzkrieg Commander sounds good.
I don't play ACW or AWI either... but Black Powder seems very playable.
Colonial/Pulp : Colonial Adventures from THW, The Sword And The Flame... For Pulp, having tried .45 Adventures and Where Heroes Dare !, I'm now going for Savage Worlds skirmish rule Showdown, which is Free downloadable, BTW. As Combat Reaction 3.0 from THW if you want to try !