Beyond the rule book…

Posted: October 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

Rick Priestley’s article in this months Wargames Soldiers & Strategy (http://www.karwansaraypublishers.com/pw/wss/) has got me thinking about the subject of Umpires and running games outside the rule book.

It’s a subject that has been rolling around in my mind for sometime. With all ‘modern’ rules either coming with at least a  handful of scenarios, or having a ‘tournament’ style mission system built in, it has never been easier for the gamer to play the nicely balanced tournament game.

But is that such a good thing?

I’d expect that nearly every gamer has at some time been drawn into a debate over balance in games, normally on the internet and almost always over a very narrow part of any given rule set. I know I have, many times! These debates rage daily on forums and social media around the globe , with many people becoming entrenched in their views. Why? Do we as a gamers really expect people in different parts of the world will play the game exactly the way we do? And why should they? What drives this need for gamers to all play on the perfect level playing field?

I guess one reason is that we all live busier and busier lives, and when we set aside time to game we want to maximise that. The idea that you might not actually roll dice and move models, but stand to one side and guide other people through a game seems pretty mad to many I’m sure. I think we all fall into the easy option of the tournament game whenever we get toys out on the table, and we expect the rules writers to produce as clean a set of rules as they can. Does this limit us in our gaming? Does this cause games to become stagnant and less fun to play over time?

One of my best ever day’s playing EpicA saw me roll no dice, or move any models. I did have a say in setting up the terrain, and as I’d devised the scenario a pretty big say in how it would go. This was the first ever running of “A bridge to far” scenario I created for Epic, based on Operation Market Garden (link to the latest version – http://epic-uk.co.uk/batrep/ABridgetoofar.pdf – typos included for free!). I spent the day wandering between the three tables, watching stories being created as the forces clashed, and making decisions on the fly as problems arose. When creating the scenario I really didn’t think about balance, I expected the allies to fall short of the goal by some way. What I wanted to create was a scenario that would take players out of the normal tournament set-up and ask different questions. I’d like to think I managed to do this.

Will the unbalanced game be for everyone? No, I’m sure many players would find it odd choosing to play a game were before you roll a single dice you have a pretty good idea you might not win. Yet just think how satisfying it would be if you could beat the odds, re-write history and end the war by Christmas?

With the number of events run all over the UK for a whole raft of systems there should be room for more than a stand up tournament, yet that is what we see weekend after weekend. Maybe as TO’s and players all we want is that level playing field. Personally, I’m finding I’m going to events less and less for the games and more for the social side, to the point where I’ve dropped out to even up numbers and just helped with umpiring.

The point of this ramble? Well I’m not sure there is one. For myself I will try and get as involved as I can in the three EpicA events in 2015 that won’t be standard tournaments. They will be a mix of big games and campaign events so plenty of scope for more mad ideas!

For others, if you’ve ever thought your game is getting stale, and the company isn’t doing enough to freshen it up I have this challenge. Do it yourself! Come up with a new way to play your game. Chances are the first time you try this it won’t go as you expected, but that’s fine. Fudge things as you go and learn and improve it for the next time.

Break out from the rule book scenario, you never know where it might take your game.

Vapourware no more….

Posted: September 1, 2014 in Relic Knights

So the seemingly impossible finally  happened. The much delayed Relic Knights kickstarter (RK) finally shipped, as if by magic, literally!

For those that follow me on twitter will know that I’ve been rather scathing of both Cool Mini or Not (CMoN) and Soda Pop Miniatures (SP) over their lacking communication. It seemed that when they did break the silence it was only to insert their feet into their mouths at times, maybe it was to be expected. But after a near 18 month delay on shipping to find out EU shipping was finally real via twitter was another low spot. The final word on this is that my shipping notice email arrived almost exactly 24 hours after the box was delivered, practically early by RK standards!

So I opened the big box to check all I ordered has shipped, which it has, and that despite the external box looking a bit worse for wear all the stuff inside seems undamaged. Plus point so far, and considering the likely path this box has taken from China to my door not bad!

I’ve taken a quick look at the cerci models, and made the mistake of opening a set of Hell’s Belles for my initial closer inspection. Now the models themselves look crisp enough for the restic they are cast in, but I’ve not looked really closely for mold lines. The reason I say mistake is when I tried to make sense of all the bits something seemed to be missing. Then I vaguely remembered one of the whoopsie updates from SP saying something about these models, so off I went to the forum to investigate. Yep, my memory for once was correct. The entire production run of this squad had a mistake, all missing one torso. SP are shipping enough torsos to all pledger’s so no need to report anything just yet, and posts on the forums seen to indicate shipping has started, so I expect mine by Xmas.

One other thing that came as a slight surprise is the size of the Relic Knight models, for some reason I’d expected them to be larger than they are, but they will still look good once built I’m sure. The scale between models doesn’t seem to be totally consistent, but I’m not to worried about that myself as I’m used to it with EpicA.

The A4 rulebook is hardbound, glossy and full colour. Fitting in well with the feel of the game. I’ve read a bit of the fluff, not bad so far, and skimmed the rules and they seem pretty well laid out and quite clean. The depth in the game comes from the models abilities rather like Malifaux Mk1, however every term used on the cards is detailed towards the rear of the rule book so if someone comes up with an ability/trait you don’t have on your faction you can find it in the book and not have to ask for their card, handy.

So overall I’m impressed with the product delivered. Impressed enough to forgive an 18 month delay with little updates? Hmmm, maybe. I’ll certainly get my stuff built and get it on the table to play some trial games. The game and victory conditions look like they should make a dynamic and interesting game. Will I be running out to increase on my basic kickstarter sets? That’s a harder one to say yes to. If the games go well, and people start to want to play RK as the second or third game, I could see myself getting more bits.

And that’s the up hill struggle SP has in front of it. They need a solid community in the UK to push the game forward, one they haven’t kept communicating with so far. Add in that retail stores had stock before backers knew their packages had left China only compounds this for me.

Enough rambling, I’ll update once I’ve glued my fingers together… stuck models together and maybe got a local to try a game with me with proxies if not real models.

Britcon – The washup.

Posted: August 28, 2014 in Britcon

Well Britcon has been and gone for another year and it still remains the event I looked forward to the most each year.

I enjoy the on campus nature of Britcon, though in truth I think I’ll not book into the same student digs next year. The chance of getting a room that overlooks that pub just isn’t that tempting. Hopefully the slightly cheaper hall will be available or I may splash out and stay at the nearby ibis!! But as that was the only really negative thing I can say about the event then it was a good one.

I like the six games, the fact we get to play at four thousand points, and even the marathon nature of game four starting at 17:30 and finishing at 20:00! It really does feel like struggle when deploying but flies by as the game develops. I know some periods now allow either the Friday or Saturday evening game to be dropped but I hope the Epic community continue to embrace the six game format.

On that subject it was a little disappointing to only get eight players entered this year. I know the headline costs look bad, with a ticket running at £50 with no food and accommodation on top. But for what you get and what the organisers have to shell out I still maintain it’s good value. You even get a £5 voucher back to spend with the traders on-site as long as you spend a £10 with one of them. With two traders having second hand Epic stock this year all the vouchers from the Epic players got spent, some of them on Friday before the stalls officially opened!

And this is something that does make Britcon a bit different. 170+ gamers all playing competition games, twelve (or more I didn’t count!) traders selling a wide variety of games and accessories and people dropping in to see the show. It’s great to see people say they thought epic was dead, and say they might get their models from the loft. Even it one of them does it’s another player back in the fold.

So all in all I had a thoroughly good time at Britcon. Tough games played by real Gents as ever. Thanks to Tim and Kevin for hosting us amongst the historical gamers once again and I definitely intend to be back for more in 2015.