Saturday, July 18, 2015

In Defense of Sigmarin- ....Stormcast Eternals

You guys! You guys - I wanted to share something with you that I recently discovered. Make sure you are sitting down for this:

The new Stormcast Eternals are a lot like....(wait for it).....Space Marines!

 RIGHT?  Mindblowing!

For the Emperor amiright??
...oh. You already noticed? Because... the people I see pointing this out everywhere online seem so smug and self-satisfied, I just assumed it was actually really hard to pick up on it. Like maybe only super smart people could see through the intentions of Games Workshop with the launch of those new models.

I wonder if they are trying to make a new army that is broadly appealing?

It's a bit shocking really - I mean if Space Marines are their best selling line of models, and they are effectively killing WFB and launching an entirely new game....why would they take that opportunity to introduce ANOTHER strong selling line of models for that game?

Ok. I'll stop.

I'm cranky today. I think I spent too much time soaking in the relentless negativity in places like Warseer and Dakka about AoS on my iPhone. Just like this tsunami of wretched cynicism washing over me as I tried to save some shred of interest I still have in the tabletop hobby. It has really brought out the worst in parts of the community.  I look around and I'm just like "fuck this". I was literally thanking people for posting positive things. Like....actually thanking them.

So yeah. It was getting me down.

Then I remembered this quote:

Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with assholes.

So - light-bulb! - I will probably stop reading those forums for a while lol.  And try to frequent places where people are actually enjoying themselves.

ANYWAY - back to the topic at hand.

Yes, the Stormcast Eternals are like Space Marines. Sigmarines. It's a very convenient name actually.

Some think this guy is over-designed. He is. I still think he's completely badass and can't wait to paint him.

But in addition to the fact they have big shoulders and therefore are exactly like Terminators, they are similar to Space Marines in other ways:

- they are easy to assemble
- they are easy to paint
- you don't need many to make a force
- they are easy to paint a different color and "personalize" them (ie "mine are silver with black!" type of thing)
- they all look like they could kick a demon's ass
- they are more likely to appeal to the average dude than a line of guys in red long underwear. Sorry, but it's true.

Most of the negativity about these guys ends up with a line like "these only appeal to 12 year olds". Piss off. Personally, I really like them. I've always been that way though - drawn to cool things.  I like the expressionless, implacable looking helmets in particular. They make me think of this guy:

Yes he was horrible and evil but still, pretty distinctive style.

I dig the idea of the gates of Azyr opening and these guys pouring out to exact vengeance on  Chaos. Finally an army that actually looks like it could fight Chaos and maybe win.

I've mentioned this before but they also remind me a bit of the Diablo 3 aesthetic. Y'know...the PC game that has sold like 20 million copies. Could probably pick a worse look to emulate.

Anyway - snarky Jarrett doesn't come out very often. I'm usually really affable - honest. But I've just been getting so freaking fed up with the way the community has been acting lately, and questioning if the hobby overall is even worth all the money I seem hell-bent on throwing at it.

Meanwhile, I have a table coming together downstairs and my AoS starter is assembled and in various states of painted...ness. So I'll probably have photos to share at some point. I'm also buying both those new terrain kits they announced recently as they are also exceptionally cool looking.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Thoughts on Warhammer: Age of Sigmar

Hi folks,

I thought I would weigh in on one of the hot topics in the hobby today: the big reveal of Age of Sigmar and the subsequent release (free, online and in WD) of the rules and "warscrolls" which are used to compose armies.  Full disclosure: I have read the rules, and impressions, and the WD issue, and some of the warscrolls, but have not had a chance to play it yet myself.

Before that, I want to point out that often companies are acting based on more info than the public have or are aware of. I'm very familiar with that scenario as I work for EA (video games) where business decisions (public facing ones) are often driven by information the public has zero knowledge of. So GW might know something we don't, per se.

I actually think that, on the surface at least, Age of Sigmar is the right move for Warhammer Fantasy. WFB simply wasn't able to keep a critical mass of buying and playing behavior in the customer base. If it was (like 40K), we would not have seen End Times and this big reboot/recreation of the game.

WFB is actually the game I enjoyed most from GW - I have played both it and 40K many times, but I always preferred WFB. I liked the ranked units, the fantasy flavor, the terrain and the magic etc. Just appeals to me more.

But even so, I eventually stopped playing. And the reasons for that, in my opinion, kinda touch on why this reboot happened:

- games were a long slog to play. I remember games taking 3-4 hours sometimes, with a ton of complex rules to remember and lots and lots of models to move around. Didn't help that I played Skaven. It was fun, don't get me wrong, but it was such a big commitment of time and energy (including setup and take down time).

- it was expensive to flesh out armies. Other than the more elite armies like Ogres, it takes so many models to fill up an army in WFB. That is expensive both in dollars and in time spent (hobby). Technically hobby time is fun time, but it could become a drag when trying to assemble, base and paint 200 skaven.

- the magic in 8th at times was simply not fun for one side of the table. Like purple sun or 13th spell.

So eventually my friends and I stopped playing, in favor of video games or Warmachine or Xwing. All were similarly entertaining while generally demanding way less time (and often less money) to play.

We live in a time where there are SO many different forms of entertainment competing for people's time and money. Mobile games, console and PC games. Netflix, other miniature games, TONS of cool board games. I think, frankly, that WFB was a product that no longer fit the changing tastes and behaviors of consumers in terms of time and money required to get into it and to play it. Sure, plenty of people still did, but clearly not in sufficient numbers to satisfy the business objectives of GW. Thus, they changed it.

I'm actually really impressed with how they've gone about this (for the most part. more on that later). They could have simply dropped WFB like a hot potato, and brought in AoS in any particular month. Rather than do that, they went through the entire End Times series of releases - with great, interesting fluff, models and books/rules. My only quibble is End Times products had a short life cycle per se.  In any case, IMO they gave WFB the death it deserved rather than just sweeping it aside.

So here comes Age of Sigmar and plenty of the current WFB players and GW hobbyists are taking a negative view of it. But I think it is actually exactly what GW should have done:

- they removed Army Books as a barrier to selling models. Now you just need the warscrolls, which are free and/or included with the models you want to buy. This was smart because books are heavy (shipping and distribution costs), need constant updating, leave "gaps" in the range that allow for 3rd parties to step in with model alternatives, are easy to pirate, and are "required reading" often before a person can ever figure out what to buy for minis. Now: buy what you think looks cool, including new releases, without worrying about the army book being released or how the entire army balance has shifted.

- they removed a lot of other barriers to model sales as well. You can mix and match armies, factions, unit types and basically play with whatever you think is cool. No more having to paint 300 clan rats or slave rats because you love the Screaming Bell and want to play it. No more core requirements. Lower minimum unit sizes (I think...). Go to the shelf, buy the models you dig, and you can pretty much play those models. Cross-factions gives up synergies (and theme) but is still feasible.  Really I think this is a very solid move for driving sales of their plastic men.  Oh and playing smaller games feels more feasible too - yes, you could still play small games before...but how rewarding that was is debatable given all the restrictions around heroes, items, and mandatory core etc.  Now you can play with some troops, a hero leader, a cool monster (read: not set up 400 models first) - and have some fun on a table that isn't 6 feet long and 4 feet wide to boot.

- they streamlined the rules. The rules were really complex (for the average joe) and unwieldy IMO. Complex does not equal great - in fact, simpler is often better (X-wing is an example that comes to mind). Suddenly I look at the rules and think "Hm....I could actually see playing this in under 2 hours finally!". It's also much easier to learn and introduce to new people. New people who have less patience for learning complex rules than ever before. Hell, the complexity of Infinity is the reason have lots of models and terrain and still haven't played it lol.

- The new models are simply that - new models. New army, etc. I think the Stormcast Eternals (hope I got that name right) look really cool, especially the ones we are just seeing in teases and leaks like the archers. The Khorne ones I can take or leave - they feel like more of what we've seen before. But all in all, very nice new models and in particular I think the new terrain coming soon looks stellar.

But it's not all roses and sunshine IMO. And here's why I think the community is way less receptive to this than they could have been:

- I think they went too far with the removal of restrictions. They basically blew it so wide open that people have no structure to grab onto. Naturally I'm talking about having no points cost. People like to have guidance on what to take in order to have a fair and balanced game against their opponent. That's why chess has two sides that are the same pieces :)  Points allowed people to roughly gauge if they were going to show up and just start removing dead models, or have a fun and challenging game (the best kind). This was, IMO, their biggest mistake here.

- They added in all the goofy/silly rules like talking to models, dancing etc. Honestly I'm not sure that was a good idea either - yes, it can be fun, but I think most people don't want to act or feel "silly" when playing a tabletop war game. It takes the material and makes it too jokey. That might be fun for really young kids (like my son, who is 9) but most of the wargamers I see these days are in their late teens if not older. Maybe even 30's and 40's. Basically, I could see having one or two of these goofy rules in armies that they are suitable for (like Orcs) but adding so many of them threatens to turn the game into a joke - which is NOT a good idea.  For my part, I plan to only paint/play units that don't include the silliness. I'm 42....I'm not going to ride an invisible horse.  Not outside the privacy of my own bedroom at least! ;P

So there you have it. To sum up:

- The world moved on and WFB was no longer the right product for the market.
- They killed it and gave it an honorable death.
- They designed the replacement to be REALLY accessible to new players.
- They made it really easy for existing players to use the models they already have (nice touch imo).
- They released a pretty cool new army (Stormcast Eternals).


- They may have gone too far in removing structure from the game.
- They added off-putting, goofy silliness to the rule set which may be turning off the older crowd.

All this said, I'm still very interested in playing some small, balanced games with some cool models hopefully in the near future.