It has been quite some time since I posted my last blog update. Although I do feel a bit sorry for this, it sometimes happens that life catches up on you. And to be honest, often it is rather pleasant when that happens. In fact, I’d argue that the small pleasures in life often come from the unexpected things or happenings.
In my case though, the thing that caught me up was not so unexpected. More precise, I got caught up by an event that my wife and me were expecting for nine months. Yes, last month I became a proud father of a beautiful, little baby boy! A boy that will hopefully share dads passion for games someday. The best thing about board and war games is playing these games together with friends or family. Being together, sharing a good time and having a nice conversation while pondering your next move or action. And what is better than sharing these great times with your children? It is something I already look forward to!
As you can probably understand, becoming a father also had its toll on my hobby time. Broken nights and changing nappies, a toddler running around the house who also demands his attention and a wife whom I also love to spent time with all take chunks out of my painting, modelling and gaming time. The precious few minutes I had during the last few weeks have therefore mostly been spent on reading the rumours and news websites dedicated to gaming.
It is on these websites that I noticed three trends going on within the war gaming community. While these trends might be going on for a long time already, they had only occurred recently to me. The first of these trends is the long tradition of Games Workshop bashing. A hobby of some vocal gamers that seems to get worse and worse. Of course, considering the fact that GW is by far the biggest player in the miniature games market, it is logical that there are a lot of people that like to complain about Games Workshop and their price policies. Less reasonable is the fact that they bash GW for crashing the Warhammer World into nothingness to (probably) create a new gaming system.
Usually I do not usually participate in these rather one sided discussions. However, I do have some feelings towards the choices that the IP owner makes to the games I know and love. In fact, I do feel a bit saddened by the fact that the beloved fantasy world that I used to dream of, play my games in, and read about is being radically overhauled. Especially as we do not know what Games Workshop is up to. Also, being a father of two children means that I have less money to spend on beautiful plastic miniatures. And while GW minis are usually of high quality and detail, I simply cannot afford to start a new army anymore.
New systems from new manufacturers
This bring me to the second trend I noticed while browsing the web. Because even though I’m not willing to invest in a new Warhammer army anymore, I do love to paint, model and play games with miniatures. For this reason I have been looking around for other miniature games that might satisfy my gaming ‘needs’. It was during these browsing sessions I noticed, for the first time, the rather stellar rise of other manufacturers and gaming systems. Sure, Warmachine/Hordes by Privateer Press is been a system that has been around for quite some time now. But it seems that during the last few years, often with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, a lot of new manufacturers and game systems have emerged.
Nottingham based Mantic games has grown from a cheap GW proxy company, to an enterprise that makes compelling games. Mantic now offers a wide range of interesting games, from the sci-fi skirmish game Deadzone and the hyper violent sci-fi sports game Dreadball, to the classic dungeon crawler Dungeon Saga (to be realeased in august or September) and, thanks to a successful Kickstarer, an increasingly solid fantasy mass battle system in the form of Kings of War second edition.
For a good sci-fi fix you can get the Star Wars games made by Fantasy Flight Games in the form of Star Wars: Armada or Star Wars: X-Wing, which both come with pre-painted miniatures and can be played straight from the box. And if you want to assemble and paint your miniatures yourself: Dropzone Commander (Hawk Wargames) and Infinity (Corvus Belli) also offer great experiences AND good looking miniatures. And while all of these games are not cheap, they require far less miniatures and the general start up costs are vastly lower. In addition, all these games have minis that are often on par with Games Workshop miniatures.
Boardgames with minis
Finally there are more and more boardgames with great looking minis. These games might offer a completely different experiences compared to Warhammer (40k), or other large or small scale miniatures games, but that does not mean that they are not fun to play. Admittingly, most boardgame minis are made out of PVC instead of hard plastic, metal or resin. Because of this, board game miniatures are often less detailed, more prone to mould lines and bend arms or weapons. But they are also a lot cheaper, still a pleasure to paint, and offer experiences you cannot have in more traditional miniature games.
I already mentioned Dungeon Saga and Deadzone, but the Dungeons and Dragons boardgames are really good as well. The Dungeons and Dragons games can even be played on your own if you long for some dungeon exploring and have no friends nearby to play them. Mars Attacks offers a great pulp version of war games. In addition it has preassembled minis that, while not as high quality as real miniature games, are not too bad either. Cool Mini or Not also publishes games these days and games like Zombicide, B-Sieged: Sons of the Abyss and Arcadia Quest all seem like fun to play and come with some good looking minis.
I claim this game as my own.
The rise of other game systems and new manufacturers finally brings me to my third last point. One that might be as foul as the tradition of Geedub bashing. This rather disturbing trend is one of gamers claiming their favourite gaming system as their own. And while it seems human to establish some sort of personal relationship with things you love, this love for the game can go a bit too far…
One example is the trashing of any and all changes that a game producer might make to their beloved gaming system. This behaviour seems totally unfair in my opinion. Yes, I love some of the games I own and would even go as far that I emerge myself in the worlds in which these games are set. But if a game developer thinks he can improve the game by altering some of the rules, I think he or she has every right to do so. If I do not agree with these alterations, I simply will not buy the ‘new’ edition, or leave the new stuff that I do not like out of the ‘improved’ version of the game. This is one of the great things of board games I think: because unlike computer games, you can adjust the game with house rules, expansions or makeshift rules. By claiming a game as your own, you negate the fact that another person created this game and has put time and effort into bringing this game to your.
The personal claim of ‘superiority’ of one’s beloved game also has another effect. Because the people who ‘claim’ a game, also seem to take great joy in trashing other games that might share similarities to the system they claim as their own. This is evident in for example Deadzone, which has been called a cheap Necromunda or Inifinty clone. And while all these games are sci-fi skirmish games, the game system, the actual setting (background story), and feel of the games varies vastly. The same goes for Dreadball which has been called a Blood Bowl clone, Dropzone Commander which is apparently an Epic 40.000 clone and Firestorm Armada (Spartan Games) which is a Battle Fleet Gothic clone.
The problem with viewing game systems as clones, rip-offs or copycats is that by doing so, you discredit the developer of these games and most likely withhold yourself from new and interesting experiences. Yes, most games that are put out these days are influenced by other products on the market. There are only so many ways to get a ‘random’ result: be it through dice, cards or the intensity of the sun. Similarly, the tropes of fantasy, sci-fi, horror and so on and so forth have all been used in other games before. It is the way these different systems interact with each other, the way that the theme (or setting, or fluff) enhances the feel of the game, and how the players interact with the game and each other that sets different apart. In other words, no game is entirely unique, but almost every games offers another experience in one way or another.
And while it’s good to emerge yourself in the wonderful worlds that game developers create for us, I also have discovered that quite a few people are going too far in this emergence. Claims can result in some shockingly bad behaviour. Let us therefore remember that being critical and expressing commentary and concerns to game developers can help these hard working people to create better games and improve existing games. But claiming, bashing and kicking around makes nothing better and can in fact hurt people.
For the game
To finish this long rant, I simply want to state that I am one happy father. A father who during the last few weeks has discovered lots of great new games, excellent new miniature manufacturers and great new gameplay opportunities. Having ordered, Kickstarted and received some nice new games recently, I look forward to playing, painting and modelling again. And hopefully, I will be able to share all these great gameplay experiences with my children. But first, I will have to start with some real children games. Experiences I’ll intent to share with you through session reports and game reviews.