Friday, August 4, 2017

KOW - Opportunity Knocked

New Zealand has always had a relatively small Fantast tournament scene. At its height I’d guess that there were probably no more than 200 active (2 or more tournaments per year) participants. This was probably around the time of late 7th/early 8th Ed Warhammer Fantasy….so 2008-11. In the later years of 8th, participation was dropping and I suspect the numbers had halved from their peak.

At that time I was running 4-5 events a year and getting 16-30 people at each. I also ran the NZ Team Champs where we had 64 people competing.

With the schism of the Warhammer World post-End Times, the community fragmented. Effectively it fell into five separate camps – in Fantasy there were those that played Age of Sigmar, those playing 9th Age and the Kings of War players. There were also people who went to other games and finally those that seemed to stop playing.

In Wellington I switched my focus to KOW and started to organise events. The first of these attracted 24 players. It never got better. For the last year the local tournaments have failed to attract more than 8-10 players, two being players “new” to the scene. The nadir has been reached this weekend where Call to Arms – previously a flagship Fantasy event – has only 6 KOW entrants.

At the same time T9A has also struggled to gain traction. Events, largely based in Auckland – a city of 1.5 million – are struggling to get more than 12-16 people. At the same time there appears to be a thriving AoS tournament scene, this week’s CTA attracting 38 people. In the battle for the Fantasy genre here in New Zealand, round bases and a skirmish ruleset has quite clearly won.

From my point of view it has been a very frustrating two years. My background is in historical gaming so I like ranks and flanks. I also really enjoy the KOW rules which are very clean and which get regular support from the Rules Committee.

Unfortunately it is time to admit defeat in terms of KOW being the basis of a viable local Fantasy tournament scene. The number of participants can’t really support standalone events – rental cost, trophies etc. However more than that, having the same 6-8 people at every event gets old very quickly and leads to stagnation.

While we can try and grow the number of players I feel as though it has been an uphill battle. In this I think Mantic has been at fault. Little has been done since Uncharted Empires to grow the source material that would attract more players. Now 21 months after that book we get the next piece of material with the campaign book. However for a lot of smaller communities – basically anywhere outside the UK/US – it is too little, too late.

There was a wonderful opportunity presented by the launch of AoS. In the first twelve months if Mantic had pushed the source material – which a lot of people needed to engage with the game – and backed this up with more releases then I think KOW might have flourished here. The fact that it survives in the UK and thrives in the US is probably enough for Mantic. However I’d be surprised whether there is any area outside those two (perhaps Brisbane) where the game is thriving.

I understand it. Attention has been directed to the Kickstarter programme and especially “The Walking Dead” and it has probably kept the lights on. However the global opportunity that was KOW has probably now gone. Now with the 40k steamroller now rebooted I suspect that any forays into sci-fi are wasted effort.

Their main competitor has now completely changed their interaction model and as a result companies like Mantic will be starved of air.

As a result locally I can never see KOW getting a foothold. And that’s a shame as the game and the RC support deserved it.


  1. Complete agreement Pete. And the source material has so much potential too.

    Tbh I really enjoy Ninth Age and the direction it has taken - even if it likely to struggle much as KoW does in regards to numbers here.

    Being that "ranks n flanks" are also what floats my boat... I will continue to enjoy KoW and T9A wherever/whenever possible.

  2. This is a bit of a depressing post... So what are you going to focus your efforts on now?

    1. Still keen to play KOW but not going to worry re tournaments.

      And I'm looking to play narrative 40k.

  3. Not to mention the new book, though fantastic in content, has more spelling and grammar errors than a grade 9s diary, I do feel like I come to the defense of Mantic far too often than I should.
    Also, it was due for release in June for a summer campaign.
    Now that "summer" campaign begins August 21st...

  4. Was just wondering how many Pathfinders there were in NZ? I think people underestimate just how small the business is, and therefore how limited resources will be. Pathfinders, and their links with FLGSs, are pretty important in driving growth in the game.

    1. What is a Pathfinder? in WW2 they marked where the bombs were. KOW was a game that got no retailer support I ever saw and little support from Mantic.
      That coupled with fugly models from Mantic made it hard to get inspired about the game. In my case the lack of anything remotely resembling an intersting looking Elf model and no development of Dark Elf models made it immpossible to get inspired about the game.

  5. What sad news. :(

    As you say KoW has been doing reasonably well in the UK and much of the US. Numbers have been improving generally this year with the UK Clash of Kings currently at 79 tickets sold with over 2 months left to go, it’s looking to quite possibly be the biggest KoW GT ever. (Of which currently Lonewolf this year holds the record)


  6. Sad news, indeed.

    Strangely it seems, like we here in Finland on the other side of the world (although somewhat comparably to NZ) are currently experiencing a bit of the opposite. We had 3-4 one-dayers with 8 people over the past year, which led to a good 15 people for the biggest event yet last week. We're currently very much pushing the "have fun and enjoy the tactics" aspect of the game in our events, which seems to work and get interest also from people initially playing AoS and other games.

    Sure, there isn't enough momentum to push a cutthroat tournament scene, but in the end, I'm not sure we need one. My personal ethos is also: buy Mantic, make their figures look nice, and hopefully that'll translate into other people doing the same, which should help the company grow and get the opportunity to generate that IP and model quality they'll need in the long run.


  7. I think KOW is not as popular in NZ because a lot of people find it too samey and boring and a lot of the models are lackluster. I, and plenty others, have tried it and found it underwhelming.

    With regards to the 9th Age, the more you say it is dying and no good the more people believe the hype. I have no doubt that if you pushed it in Wellington you would get back up to 20+ people showing up for tournaments as it is a good ruleset. In Auckland for Guardcon I think we have 24+ already signed up and it is late September.

    I understand if you have taken a stance against the 9th Age, however it would be appreciated if you do not cry wolf about it dying as it will harm local players perceptions about the game due to the popularity and influence of your blog. It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy which will harm our tournament scene. To be frank, it leaves me a bit salty that you are so openly negative against the game when you have never played it.


    1. I have seen plenty of videos from Americans having fun with the 9th age. I have not seen any similar content from the New Zealand community leaders.

      If you want 9th age to be popular create accessible content either blogs or videos showing people having fun with their 9th age hobby.

      That then provides a counterpoint to any negative opinions offered by Pete's Blog.

    2. I love you Pete, you care so much about table-top wargaming and that's a fine quality. Personally I gave KoW a punt, bought the books, played a dozen games and I found it underwhelming - unfortunately.

      Would be keen on giving 9th Age a whirl, and seriously considering new 40k (I hear that the FAQ's have been fairly responsive to make the game balanced from a tournament perspective).

      Anyway I hope you are well.

    3. Wow McCrae where did that come from. I've never taken a stance on T9A exactly because I've never played it. Same with AoS.

      On the weekend I saw 30 people playing AoS and they seemed to be having a good time. However the skirmish nature is not something that interests me. I have gone out of my way not to disparage the game because I've never played it. With the local AoS crowd I have good relations and when they ask if I'd run a Masters for them I was more than happy.

      With T9A I'm exactly the same. Never played a full game. It should interest me but there are no local players here. No one has taken any leadership in pushing it in this neck of the woods.....I'm not sure why you think that that would be my responsibility.

      You say you've got 24 players at Guardcon. That's great. Really happy because I want rank and flank to succeed. However I think the construct of an ETC led Community written ruleset has longevity issues. YMMV.

      Sorry you're salty but that's more your problem than mine IMO.

    4. Hi Rory, Yeah mate real good. Just start work again after 12 months off. Went to CTA on the weekend and played the new 40k. Had a lot of fun with rules that are really stripped of unnecessary complication.

      Great to play in a world with such a well developed back story.

    5. In 2016 T9A was the game I wanted to play. However finding games in the Wellington region was difficult. The rules changed rapidly that year - in particular 1.3 was a radical reboot just when 1.0 - 1.2 was being settled. We attempted to host an event but only ended up with less than 4 players interested so it was canned. You could say that is only one example but with the apparent lack of interest it didn't pan out. I managed to get about 1/2 dozen games across the year.

      2017 has seen my focus on other games, but I have been keeping tabs on T9A. One issue for me at the moment is the new army backgrounds being kept secret - but making major changes on the rules. For example, wanting to play VC (BotD) but not being able to use evocation magic on vampires just kills the army.

    6. @ John,
      I fully agree and understand what you mean. Due to this, over the past month I have finally taken to stand to running a 9th Age Youtube channel, and another leading tournament player in the community is working on getting his own just off the ground, but kickstarting it with content from this years ETC!!! It will be fantastic!

      I know excatly what you mean by the multiple crazy amount of rules changes in a such a small space in time! It has been hard for many to keep up with, however for the past 6months we had the rules frozen as they worked on updates, just to keep things at a pace. This iniative is something that has never been committed to on this large of a scale, and takes a huge mechanical working of people from across the world. However, its the players who playtest it, and its the feedback from the community that drives the work to fix and amend the rules. While its in its infancy, this is sadly the case. I hope you find your way to the table soon!

      Firstly, as a former member of the T9A Team, I would like to point out that yes, the ETC crew is behind a huge proportion of this, however, if you look at the entirety of the team as a whole, they do not make up the majority. With so many working parts, the team is made up of a global community of committed individuals.
      And you are right, it is not your responsibility to drive a game in your region should you chose not to. But I encourage you both as a leader in the NZ 9th Age community, but also, as a humble dice thrower, beer drinking, shite talking gamer, give it a go. See what happens. It is the rank and file you and I both love. Find a couple of like minded players and see what happens. You might be surprised. And when the dust settles, what have you got to lose? (Except the odd dice or two). Would love to see you enjoy fantasy in both a social and competitive level again.
      I do make note though, McCrae's mention of the growth and lack of stagnicity in the 9th Age tournament scene is correct, with more and more players joining the ranks continually in a growth that I have not seen in my time on the wargaming scene.

  8. Oh and by the way. You won't find many people who don't think Mantic models are generally shite - but 90% of people don't use them so that is a bit of a facile argument.

    Again if you think the rules are shallow and boring I'll happily disagree with you. Just because it is less reliant on list building, combos and power creep doesn't make a game boring IMNSHO. It means you rely on tactics to engineer the win. Again your experience may have been different.

  9. I tried getting into 9th age at one point, but as I began looking into it I spent time on their forums and it seemed like a big negative mess. That said, I think it was literally right when they made a big and possibly unpopular rules change. Anyway, it soured me on it.

    KoW is awesome - fast playing, streamlined but without sacrificing strategy and tactics. It flared up here (Alberta Canada) but then faded again. Asking around, it seemed like the lack of new rules and factions made the meta feel too static and uninteresting. Maybe the rules could also use a bit more flavour as well. Either way, it's dormant here now.

  10. That's a shame. I just had my first game this weekend (after quitting Fantasy when 8th landed) and was hoping there'd be a more active tournament scene to get amongst.

  11. The ninth age actively tried to address the issue of "broken" unbalanced armies and since this was what 90% of tournament players were using under 8th edition it is not surprising that it had such a detrimental effect on the number of players

  12. We will tried to made a tournament here in Spain, with a blooming scene for KoW (literally, day after day newcomers arrive to the forum) but for some reason, we ended only 6.
    I think several people expected for more fluff, background, units and armies (my twilight kin are getting a lot of dust in the shelves, and with the new suplement getting too late, a lot of people jumped off the boat. Imho, Edge of Abbys must have been something free to download from their web, just to make the people play new games and push the meta a bit more, but if you have to buy the book just to take a look...