Is this the Real life or it is Just Age of S….Fantasy?

Greetings true believers, this will be a departure in a bit as I’m going to be talking about a game system that was just recently released and what we can learn from it from a design perspective.  I was never a Warhammer Fantasy Player I was firmly in the pew pew laser 40k camp until I fell of love with GW business practices and found other amazing games. Most notably malifaux, now that doesn’t mean I don’t keep up on the old 2 letter network. Or have interest in additional games, as many know I have many systems I enjoy and I love looking at design choices.

So Age of Sigmar (AoS) is honestly a design route I never thought I would see GW go. Not just burning the old World and old Fanbase to the ground, but from the business decisions involved, many of which I actually agree with I know shocking. The big one, the rules are free both the base games rules and the army updates for all existing armies from the previous game.  So GW who found a way to charge you for a water cup, are giving the ability to play this game to anyone in the world who has access to an internet device completely free. As you could simply put down bottle caps or scrapes and paper and play through it, or use your existing miniature collection to play the game without GW receiving a dime. Again same GW that wanted 8 bucks for a water cup, free rules for what is a brand new game to replace fantasy.

Okay so know we have to ask the question, Why would a publicly traded company who’s very business is the production of miniatures and accessories for those miniatures and by extension rules to play with those miniatures give away and again just going by say 8th editions prices US give away to every person on the planet $600+ dollars in rules for free?  That is a business decision that I’m sure was heavily debated inside the board room and I’m sure that several had heartburn over. So we come back to why?  The reason lays in the fact that understands it has to win an audience for the first time in 25 years, the move is an acknowledgement of market pressure and the first self assessment of the company that may show some true positive change within the company in the last 15 years.  The advantages to a free ruleset are first and foremost to broaden market exposure for your product. People are more likely to try something if there is :”no cost” to them.   AoS is free to try for anyone veteran or brand new player, or and perhaps most importantly a person that owns some citadel miniatures of the fantasy variety.  That hasn’t been engaged with a GW product in years, that has openly complained about business decisions, and that has complained about rules costs. The barrier to entry for AoS simply isn’t there on the surface, GW is saying here are some rules to play with these miniatures if you like them we have plenty of more stuff for you to buy and enjoy.

Age of Sigmar is GW first wholecloth rules set since Lord of The Rings. A system they developed separate of their long standing IP and traditions within each game. Make no mistake if you suddenly removed Tanks from 40k and massed shooting it is no longer 40k, just as if you removed Giant blocked infantry formations and flanking you no longer have traditional fantasy. AoS is also the first ruleset GW has produced since major competition has existed in the marketplace for them. GW has very much woke up in a world as Microsoft where another major and several minors companies have been eating share and while still the general default option for gamers their is real choice within in the marketplace now. GW realized it could no longer continue to patch the same game, and instead had to create a new ruleset to help it better compete with “modern” game design. Age of Sigmar was the result.

So the Positives of AoS, yes I believe there are several gems in the design. Age allows someone to field what they own no restrictions. Now I already hear you screaming at the keyboards “thats not balanced” correct it isn’t balanced but no where in GW ruleset did it say x makes for a balanced game. This lack of restrictions isn’t for the long time Warhammer player, or the tournament player, this is a specific design choice that is about allowing a brand new hobbiest to play the game from their first purchase to their last purchase without having to make a choice. This is what I call a little johnny rule, its the getting started is easy anything you buy you can play rule. To really understand it you have to go back in time to the first time you discovered miniature tabletop gaming. Maybe you walked into a GW store like I did in a mall, or you had an older cousin or brother that showed you this game with all this cool stuff that they had acquired over time. And maybe you got super excited for the game and you bought some stuff and you got it built and you started painted it and you came back to find someone to play and the first thing they said to you was how many pts and you added up all your stuff and it was 614 pts of tomb kings and the other person was like the game isn’t even playable til 2000pts. So know as little johnny I’m no longer excited for this game, your telling me I have to buy almost 4x as much stuff to even play this game I was all excited for this is dumb and little johnny goes and plays something else. Or little johnny waits and keeps saving and building till he hits that 2000 pt mark only little johnny isn’t little anymore and instead of getting johnny hooked early and feeding that addiciton by giving him fun games he can play. You’ve made him wait til he gets that full army and your opening yourself up to a lost customer. AoS solves that problem, if you like something you can buy it and field it. Awesome for new players a horrific rule for power gamers but its design intent is to allow new players to grow with the game naturally and to allow for diverse model sales it is not designed as a balancing mechanic. AoS is not intended to be a tournament game out of the box, you can’t view the game as a 9th edition, AoS is an entirely new operating system that happens to use Citadel models from their old fantasy range while they build up the range of his new game.

Other positive mechanics AoS has streamlined combat for faster resolution and more consistent resolution. Gone are the 2 hit and to wound charts and the armor stacking. instead the rolls are right on the scroll what the unit needs to hit, what they need to cause a wd and if they reduce someone save. Also on the card is what the basic save is of the unit. This makes for very rapid combat resolution and for very easy rules explanation. Additionally the rules for Shooting and physical combat are the same you just read your stat line and go no real math involved. Again this lowers the barrier to entry for a new player to miniature games in general not just GW style games. Movement was also simplified along with the removal of ranks and flanks again lowering the barrier to entry for this game. Rules that lower barrier to entry typically are strong rules.  They updated all the rules for previous released models those that didn’t receive direct rules upgrades were given a rule that they counted as again all available for free.

Negatives of AoS it seems on the surface to be a 4 page quick start ruleset without calling itself that. That’s not to say  I think you’ll see rules that one would recognize as a 9th edition fantasy with flanks, and ranks and wheels. But I think AoS is a ruleset screaming for scenarios, a way to balance army construction for veteran and more competitively minded players, and perhaps most importantly a suggested game size. The very same positives are also major negatives for previous fantasy players simplicity to what was always hailed as the thinking mans game of GW I can see where players are upset by it.  The calls of how dare you 40k up my game and such I get I understand.

But I’ll leave you with this. I am a former GW player I never played fantasy, the barrier to entry were too high for me. AoS has me for the first time in 8 years wanting to give the game a go, and because of the free rules I can at no cost. I may hate it, I may love it or It may be a hmm that was nice don’t think I’ll play it again. I’ll have some more thoughts with a game or 2 under my belt.

But as far as army balance and construction, I think what you’ll see is those will come through the battalion scrolls. Essentially GW has taken the concept of theme lists and put them into the game. For those unaware a theme list is a list that contains a certain set of specific model choices, if those choices are selected than  you receive additonal rules bonuses. This is exactly what the battalions scrolls do, they give you a shopping list of models and say if your army contains all of this, you get these bonuses. To me this is the ideal way for GW to balance the game going forward. GW saying yes you can take whatever you want, but if you play exactly this set of models, you get additional synergy that taking something else doesn’t give you access to.So they incentive you into making certain list choices and purchase choices. This also limits the number of model interactions they have to monitor within the game from a balance perspective. And they can do that very simply if they come out with a tournament pack that essentially says all official Gw tournaments you select a single battalion formation as your army. Now from a balancing standpoint they just have to make sure each battalion formation is on more or less equal footing with the other formations. Its a lot less work to balance say 5 set forces for each army than the bliions of combinations that would exist outside of those predetermined lists. The side benefit to battalion only tournament design, is you can make sure every model in your range is part of at least one battalion force again forcing model sales through the design, again that is one of those shareholder benefits not exactly benefit to the player.

More to come as I delve into Orgors in the AoS

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New Year New Faction! Into the The Neverborn

So as 2014 fades into our collective memories and we prepare for the glory of new year. I have decided to take active steps to change factions in 2105 and focus solely on the Neverborn. How this will be different from other failed attempts? Well first off the Ressers are physically coming out of my bags, I won’t have them for casual play and they won’t make the trips during the con season. That spot is going solely to the Neverborn.

Why Neverborn?

In the days of 1.0 right after the launch of the game, I first came in contact with it and I was torn between a strange man in a Tale Hat and the wonderful joy of a woman holding a box looking after some young charges. I debated for weeks after getting the book about who to start with, and ultimately the look of the other masters in the resser faction won out. When Spencer and I went to adepticon and were exposed to warmachine and to malifaux at the large con his interest was peaked and we began to play malifaux locally. He went toward the neverborn and I stayed fast to the ressers. Throughout 1.5 I stayed true to the ressers but always kept an eye toward the born.

2.0 marked a dramatic change in the fortunes of both factions. The neverborn lost a step or two in there overt power level and the ressers gained a few ultimately setting the two on very equal footing. And with the launch of the plastics my bag began to fill with neverborn goodies and I have been playing them quite a bit in 2014. That said I had faction hopped a lot in 2014 with Ressers going to adepticon, and myself playing 10t and arcanists in the only local events I got to play in. But casual games playing a lot of ressers. Now over the time period since Gencon I have been playing a lot of purple. And I have decided in 2015 from a competitive standpoint I will be representing the Neverborn.

The fact they play so differently from the Ressers is really the draw for me. There is nothing quite like the minions and enforcers they have in Neverborn compared to the ressers. It allows me a totally fresh approach to the game I love and lets me evaluate problems entirely differently. It also allows to collect a part of the hobby that was tougher on the resser side as I owned the faction in its near entirety.

What Masters will you be focusing on?

Lilith, Dreamer, Pandora and Lynch are the primary focus of the year with a toe in Zoraida and another in Lucius although I feel there games are very similar. I feel with the 4 primary I have enough diversity of play-style and crew construction to keep me from being in a rut something I was approaching with Ressers. Lilith is a control master with a strong dmg spike and excellent movement shenanigans. Dreamer provides me with some summoning and support as well as playing the game having to worry about my master but also wanting him in the fight. Its the sort of puzzle I’ve been wanting to solve and have enjoyed my time on the table with him thus far. As an older brother the lure of Pandora essentially saying quite hitting yourself and her asking very interesting questions as well as doing damage over time really has put her high on my list. I also feel as she is the master of WP that attacking a stat like that in indirect ways presents very interesting problems to my opponents. Lynch is a gambler, and a great spike dmg master he has some very neat card manipulation and kinda of does the indirect support. Huggy helps complete his skill set and provides some alternative control. Zoraida is the odd ball, she attacks the problems of the game so differently and has such a different hiring pool that she presents a bit of relief should I get bored at all. Lucius presents similar differences in hiring pools, as well as offering some interesting options to the neverborn in general.

Goals for the Neverborn in 2015

I have delusions of grandeur but if you don’t dream big, its hard to achieve your goals. I plan to be at 2 major events this year, if time and finances allow it will be 3. Plan is Adepticon in March and Nova open in September. At adepticon my goal is to be top 10 finish in the Masters. If I can achieve that I will be exceedingly happy. I’d love to qualify for Nova but its a new faction for me and I’m still learning it and I’m not sure I can get to the comfort level of saying I’m going to win it. I do think I can get to the top 10% in the time I have with the practice I already have in. And at Nova I want to place in the top 10 at the national championship. Locally its a bit harder, I am the areas main henchmen and most of the events that are around I’m the person running them as such I don’t get a chance to play. There is word that a few others are stepping up in the area and this should let me compete locally again. And I’m looking to make a few other events perhaps in Indiana or Ohio should they present themselves.

From an additional goal standpoint I want to place in at least one tournament this year major or otherwise. That would match what I did last year placing 3rd in a local event with of all things Arcanists. And I want to be 100% painted by Adepticon with the faction.

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Ironsides Potential Crew requiring a bit more Testing

Arcanists Crew – 50 – Scrap

Ironsides — 7 Pool
+Frontline Leadership [2]
+Imbued Protection [2]
+Iron Determination [1]

Mouse [4]
Gunsmith [7]
Gunsmith [7]
Johan [7]
Silent One [6]
Soulstone Miner [6]
Soulstone Miner [6]

This crew is focused exclusively on taking advatage of hand picked men and exploting little fun bits like using mouse to set up the plus flips for the gun smiths while also moving them. Having Ironsides run up and force mousing to run up and because he has no melee attack not be able to hit her. Having the soulstone miners potentialy take a turn to just give a soulstone to the master in exchange for plus to attack and dmg for the rest of the game, oh and exploting johans group hug healing along with the silent one healing did I mention mouse also comes with a heal.

Upgrade Package
Front Line Leadership attack my stuff and iron sides gets adrenaline, and ironsides get really awesome with adrenaline, also the aura from that zero action is really annoying to opponents.

Iron Determination-Yes I am a fan of insurance others are not, but negating the red joker is a must on a master who’s whole stick is hit me and watch me murder you after I take the punch. The zero action heal cannot be underestimated but realize when you do this there is a cost associated namely your giving up offense for staying upright and that is often okay.

Imbuded protection-One of the major compliants with Ironsides is why is she df5 she would be awesome as df6, and well with this 2ss upgrade she becomes df6 stop crying.

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Why Do we Fall Master Bruce? Deep Thoughts on learning from Loses

In the famous words from Bruce Waynes Father Why Do we Fall so we can Learn to pick ourselves up. brucelong time butler to Bruce Wayne or Batman, who for those living under a rock or not familiar with Batman is a super hero from the DC universe. Okay that out of the way it is critial that we see the true logic in this not just for our wargaming, but for life in general. We Fall so that we can learn to pick ourselves up.

Every Fall, Failing mishap Misplay in our lives is a teaching moment if we embrace it as such. We have to learn to get back to our feet or spend the rest of our lives on our knees or down on the ground. So how do we take this concept and apply it into making ourselves better gamers?

Step 1. Acknowledge that we Fell

It starts with what is often the most obvious and yet important step recognize that we proverbially have fallen. Think about the last time you have fallen down in real life often the immediate reaction is to look around and assess the damage done if any, and to try and surmise if anyone saw you fall. Often our immediate emotion is pain, followed by embarrassment at someone seeing us fall, this can often then turn to anger. In the proverbial falling, the losing of game is your reaction to get angry, is it to mentally cope with your embarrassment by assigning blame to such fickle things as card luck, or some other such uncontrollable that you feel better about assigning the fall 2. Well if you want to get better its better to stop this now. You fell because you didn’t do what you needed to do to win and your opponent did simple as that. Now with this acknowledgement the learning to pick ourselves up can begin.

Step 2. Getting to the real reason you Fell?

Where you tripped, Did you fail to acknowledge your surroundings, Was there a critical error that you made, was there an opening you didn’t see? replay the lose in your head pay particular attention to your positioning. The Card flips are irrelevant, yes I know whats butts and joker coconuts can play some role but the game is won and lost very infrequently on singular card flips but rather on decisions made that create too much emphasis on those card flips. If you and your opponent both maneuver your primary killing forces into one another and set up an engagement with them the flowing turn, you have created a situation where the initiative flip has become the pivotal factor in what will occur, you have made the mistake of leaving it too much to the fickle will of the cards, this is something I do far 2 often and its bite me. So I could blame the luck of the cards losing that initiative or I could blame and treat my route cause of the issue, creating too much emphasis via my decision making on the initiative.

Step 3. Gaining feedback from Witnesses as to why they thought you fell
Often a fall is a result of us not seeing something and if someone else is a round often they can help better identify what happened. This is why opponents are invaluable in this process. They are witnesses to the fall, sometimes there even the one’s who have pushed you and forced you to fall. But a good Opponent will explain from there perspective what happened. And provide information critical to the learning process. Be a good opponent talk through it, as the next game you may find yourself in need of answers as well.

Step 4. Apply what you’ve learned.
Now you take what you’ve learned and avoid falling in the same way again. Did i lose focus on what my opponent was doing, did I overly focus on what I was doing? Okay this game i’m not going to make that same mistake. Okay last game I lost because I dwelled on a mistake too long and missed an opening, I’m going to focus on looking for game changing opportunities this game.

Happy Falling and even Happier Getting back UP!

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Revisiting Tournament Formats Some General Thoughts

Its one of those posts again, where I talk about tournament formats this will likely be Malifaux centric but we might meander around to other systems as we discuss the general points and bits I’m attempting to get at.

Tournament Formatting has the largest Single impact on what is considered good and bad? YES/NO/Maybe so…

Okay what do I mean by this question, lets look at a game most readers of this blog are familiar which is malifaux. Malifaux tournament format utilizes a rotation of the standard strategies and various deployment types for the game. It then leaves the creation of the scheme pool for the round to the Tournament organizer. The game values TP i.e did you win lose, draw your game, and then values the difference between your opponent and yourselves victory points totals on the day for determining who won an event and then allocating placement behind that. So in a 3rd tournament the person who won 3 victories if no other undefeated player exists wins the tournament. Then those behind first place would be placed by there differential and win totals. Number of participants determines the number of rounds played in a swiss style. Pairing are determined again by winners playing winners on similar victory points possible. and Losers facing losers again determined by victory point.

Okay that’s the format in which we find ourselves how is that determining what is considered good from a meta standpoint if it does at all?

Within this style of format the two bits I will focus on is winning the game, and attempting to win the game in such a way as to maximize the difference between my opponents and myself’s victory points. To this end masters and crew builds that have a high spike ceiling, tend to fair strongly within the format. What is a high spike ceiling, when I refer to spike I mean the ability to dmg spike or reduce dmg to a significant level. rasputina is an example of a high spike potential master, she has the ability to spike dmg i.e. very high dmg output and an ability to spike dmg reduction via the ability to up the dmg reduction through armor allocation. She has the potential to have a big differential swing, either way you are just as likely to 9-3 your opponent as you are to be 3-9. When she spikes your set up in a strong differential position however if she fails you are likely in a very poor differential position.

Which leads us to the next bit, models that can functionally deny or hinder schemes are at a premium within this tournament format meta. I.e a model with chatty is very strong as it creates a large area of the board that the opponent cannot interact and thus score points within. A model that can discard scheme markers is also equally strong as it can erase points essentially from your opponents coffers. Again our goal is to not only win but reduce our opponents Vps to as minimal as possible.

Okay now lets imagine that Malifaux utilized a format that valued VP acquisition higher than differential. I.e our objective is to win the game and earn as many VPs as possible regardless of how many the opponent scores our goal essentially is to win every game 10-9. Our focus shifts from winning and denying to winning and earning the maximum amount of points without regard to the opponent actions. Models that have denial premium are less important under this format, instead models that strong at objective achievement are far higher premium. Models like Tots, or Necropunks or siliruids become even more attractive then they are in a differential format as my goal is to maximize my points.

Our tournament today was very interesting as we utilize the standard format for gaining grounds our winner was undefeated but our 2nd and third would have switched places determined by the style of secondary objective we favored. Under our format the player who had scored wins 21vp/30 and had a differential +13 beat out the 2 win 27vp/30 who had a differential of +6. But if we had used accumulation as our secondary it would have been our 2win 27/30 +6 in second and our 21/30 and +13 in third. Our 2nd place player utilized a very interesting and heavy hitting mono build for Vonschill. Our Third place utilized 3 different Resser masters with very different list builds.

I can’t say honestly which secondary stat I prefer be it differential or accumulation and which is more representative of who actually won or faired better in the tournament. But I do think that different models are favored and selected/defended attacked more aggressively because of the format utilized. And this I believe is true of all games.

let’s go back to my roots 40k. I know I know half of you love it, half you don’t believe its a game. For me it will always hold a special place as it got me into this wonderful hobby of ours and taught me a lot about the hobby and what I want in a game. That outta of the 40k tournaments and again I’m going back a bit last time I played was middle of 5th edition about 2months after grey knights dropped. 40k tournaments are built on winning the game. The easiest way to win in 40k is to eliminate your opponent from the board. As such the game put a premium on killing power and first strike capability. The game also so heavily favored the alpha strike or the strike on turn one with as much of your force against the opponents force prior to force being applied back to whittle down the opponents ability to retaliate. So 2 style of list dominated the tournament scene a “leafblower” style list designed to just shoot the hell out of your first and second turn to reduce your threat to nothing, and a death star list, or a list that was built around an incredibly hard to remove unit with high killing power that would make contact with the enemy and start to roll it up. If your list wasn’t a blower or a death star it was unlikely you would do well in the tournament scene. Had greater scenario play been in effect and no reward, i.e. win for tabling the opponent the meta would have been different and other things would have been valued.

So what do you think intergoogle does the format define the Meta or does the meta define the format for our tournaments.

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Sometimes Less is More…changing scale to re-embrace scifi gaming or dropzone commander I love it

So this is a post about a game a friend of mine has introduced me to and for the first time in a few years I ran to buy a starter and a few extras to get started. This game is by Hawk Miniatures and its called Dropzone commander and shock awe horror its a dice game. But it is filling a niche in my miniature gaming life namely a sci-fi miniature game that was left from me stopping 40k many moons ago. Okay so why a sci-fi dice game now, well I love science fiction and I love large scale games. I am firmly a skirmish convert now, but for last bit I’ve been wanting to do a bit larger scale game but not wanting to return to the billion models and buckets of dice of 40k or fantasy. The brilliance of dropzone commander is its 10mm scale. Yes its old man scale very similar to the ancient and forbidden words of “Epic”. Going into larger battles at a smaller scale of miniatures means the battle makes more sense, I don’t wreck my back carrying a large scale army and I get a totally different experience to my preferred game.

Okay it is an objective based system that also has me super intrigued as objective based play is something I look for in games. The system has a very neat mechanical set as mobility and more importantly air mobility something that has tremendous tax on the old brain. Your thinking about your movement and positioning in brand new ways as you have to deal with not only your air mobility to your opponents air mobility. And the minis since I saw the line I have fallen in deep deep passionate mental love with the look of Shaltari on the table. Love the idea of this faction super tricky, which functions as a whole synergistic engine on the table. I have my starter ordered and am already painting up my first few units that have come in. I’ll be adding this to my irregular blogging rotation hoping to get back to writing more but life she is a fickle mistress.

Till next time, Gating out.

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