Over the past week I've copped a bit of flak by being critical of...well...everything. I've pointed out flaws in the three game systems competing for the Fantasy gamer's attention.
However if people stepped back I think that they would see that it wasn't all negative but in fact "I'm from the Internet and I'm here to help".
Be aware this is at a macro rather than micro level. Your game may be doing really well in your group "but Timmy, the world doesn't revolve around you".
So how do I see the lay of the land? Be warned it's going to be brutal! If you don't like honesty then step away from the screen now.
Age of Sigmar
The heir apparent to WFB. If people are honest it is failing everywhere with the possible exception of Britain (but I'd question even that). Don't believe me? GW threw the sink at it post July 2015 but then had to issue a sales warning in December. It might...and this is being charitable...be selling as much as WFB was (but I doubt it) but look at what its cost. GW had to effectively suspend 40k releases to even get it a foothold.
Now after being told "No Points Good, Points Bad" , in true Orwellian style it is now "No Points Good, New Points Better". This is being dressed up as a win by the AoS community as indicative of the new more community responsive GW. However the more you scratch the upcoming release the less community involvement there appears to be. In fact the cynic in me would say all you have to do to get the UK community stamp of approval is invite them for a game and a lunch and show them a book Finance directed you to produce. This isn't SCGT comp...it's a 2000 point system that was developed post December to save a game that was "failing" financially.
The great myth "We are a model company, not a games company" has been exposed for all its flaccidity. Funny that. You need some context to sell your models. The Old World was a context, the Realmgates of Sigmar...not so much.
One of the great "benefits" of AoS, lower entry costs compared to Fantasy has by all evidence been abandoned. The price point of AoS models far exceeds anything pre-ET. Yes you might not need 40 Witch Elves but is that really relevant when 3 Monstrous Cav cost you 2.5x a box of 10.
While Europe, the USA (outside pockets of Ohio) and Rest of the World has, on anecdotal evidence, been an unmitigated disaster all is not necessarily lost. GW is still the big dog on the block. They make by far the best models and they have by far the deepest pockets (although they are a listed company with those constraints). What we do know is that they will be around in 5-10 years still making models.
Personally, I'll never play AoS because I'm not interested in a Fantasy Skirmish game as my main outlet the removal of ranks and flanks meant I was never part of the target market. GW may make it succeed out of sheer obstinacy but certainly the evidence is that they've done a fair amount of throwing baby out with the bath water.
The Ninth Age
Mea Culpa. I never thought that they would get this far. At the outset I thought committees full of European technocrats would have the whole project splinter in 6-12 months. It still might but hats off to their progress.
Effectively it is a thinly veiled reproduction of 8th Ed - which isn't a bad thing. They have assembled a cast of hundreds to recreate what was essentially the GW game with 15% ETC input. That 15% has balanced the problems that ETC gamers saw with the game and to that goal they've done a great job.
The problem is that it is effectively euro-centric. It does have exposure in the UK and USA but in both cases it is definitely behind the main game.
The elephant in the room is where does Ninth Age get new players. Already this year's ETC is going to be much smaller and you've got to think that over time the rules set will appeal to a less and less numerous core group. The term "Ever Decreasing Circles" comes to mind.
There is constant reassurance that this is not a problem. It is sufficiently "not a problem" that there has been an official blog post on why it is "not a problem" and various acolytes have been dispatched to forums to explain why it is "not a problem".
But it is an issue. And the authors know it. There is a massive reliance on local community to run with it and we all know that gamers are a fickle crew. An argument here, boredom there and people drift away.
Similarly keeping a crew of 100+ authors involved and motivated post launch will be a very interesting exercise. Real life is likely to remove people from the mix and the glamour work is now done.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that T9A will never have more active players than it does on 30 April 2016.
It is also not necessarily helped by being the ETC system. I mean this in that it is the most competitive of environments. While participants have been helping development you've got to feel that Easter eggs have been squirrelled away to give teams an advantage come Greece. I'm envisaging a pretty substantial patch post ETC.
Kings of War
I love this game as I find it best pushes my ranks and flanks button. It has enormous advantages as I see it:
- No single figure removal
- Tight ruleset with limited ambiguity
- Fast play mechanics allowing a game to be all over in less than 2 hours
- Ability to use existing armies
However it also has one of the most defensive group of players/adherents I've seen. Any implied criticism is taken immediately to heart as though you've told them their child is ugly.
Suggest potential changes and immediately the accusations come that "you are trying to make it into Warhammer". However that market is the best pool from which to convert players - perhaps listening to some of their barriers wouldn't hurt people too much. Maybe suggestions are impractical but at least entertain the conversation.
Suggest Mantic could do things better and the White Knights mobilise in force "Mantic are a small company" "they have multiple focus e.g. Kickstarters".
Sorry but that only works to a point. A tournament pack from Rules Committee has taken 4+ months and still not arrived.
Suggest Mantic have missed opportunities at a macro level and you just don't understand. Well I think it is fair to say that a UK Clash of Kings drawing 30 people is a failure, that not taking advantage of the ETC as a continued opportunity is an opportunity missed, etc. In the UK KoW is definitely in 3rd place and to ensure future growth the company needs to support the community. This isn't prize support but the running of marquee events. The same in the US. Mantic really need the USA to fully embrace KoW and I know I'd be running company CoK events in each of the Masters regions for the next two years at least.
So that's how I see it. From my own POV I'm going to continue to play KoW put will try T9A and see how it develops. AoS isn't aimed at me and I'm unlikely to ever be a convert.
Hopefully people will read his as an honest assessment and hopefully it provokes some conversation.