Thursday, July 28, 2011

Alternative Rules

So what to do if you're like me and own multiple Warhammer Fantasy Armies, but have fallen so out of love with Games Workshop's handling of the game's product and rules, that you can barely bring yourself to put your models on the table? The first knee jerk response is sell your stuff and move on to other game systems or genres..and I am doing so, (see my DoC For Sale)with my ventures into Warmachine and huge push with Historicals. However with the fantasy bug still quite alive and 5000 points of Empire on the shelf, all hope is not lost as I've spent some time reading other rules set and am quite pleased with what I find.

Most notable and not by any stretch below the radar is Mantic's Kings of War. Mantic cropped up a couple years back as an alternative miniature company making cheaper fantasy figures. They've been at Adepticon the last two years giving away gobs of promo sprues of their undead line and have rapidly expanded from elves, to undead, to dwarfs, to Abyssal dwarfs, to now Orcs, with rumors humans, goblins and something else not far away. With host of products they've quickly gone from an alternative miniature company to an alternative game company. Now I'd be lying if I said there was a great fervor about the figures, initial word on the elves were they were too slight scale wise to mix in with GW product and werent particularly attractive, the undead fair much better, and I like the promo figures I have..and every collected a bunch of freebie sprues from the guys that werent wanted for my various fiddlings. There are no shortage of manufacturers making Dwarfs and I didn't see or get the need there, the Chaos Dwarf knock offs were a great idea and look great too. Whats apparent to me now with Mantic, that was not early on is that they intended to compete directly with Games Workshop. Not as an alternative miniature supplier for GW but as a direct alternative altogether, hence the need for all the lines of figures.

Poaching pissed off former GW gamers doesn't immediately seem like the best business model, but I have to admit Mantics figures are a whole more attractive when, they cost half of what GW does, and their rules and army lists are free. What I wanted to talk about today isnt some GW vs Mantic debate, as there isnt really one. In real world dollar for dollar market share Mantic isnt even the stain on GW's radar screen compared to the growing blip Privateer Press is. I want to talk about rules, because I've spent some time reading Kings of War free rules and I have to say I like them, alot.

Its not lost on me, that they are written by Alessio Cavatore, who used to work for GW and wrote WFB 7th edition which for me, is my "game"..(remember many of us don't think its 7th ed rules that are "broke" it was the stupid army books by Matt Ward and Gav Thorpe that drove the car off the road).What we have with the Kings of War rules is a WFB 7th ed lite, without many of unnecessary abstractions written into the game to give specialty figures something to do, and without many of the those fiddly movement rules that drove us bonkers. The game is very basic, with smart use of unit stats, and maybe a dozen special rules. Combat revolves losses stacking up against a units "nerve" and making a break test against that nerve..a much better mechanic which similar in some ways to "Hail Caesar", it certainly isnt fighting every combat to the last man as WFB 8th edition is.

"Magic" the fun sucking black hole of 8th edition is relegated to minimal role taking place in the shooting phase as generic ranged attacks, breath weapons, or extra movement. For me -this is what I want from a magic phase, the flavor of magic, that adds to the theme and setting of the game, and does not shove it down your throat and out your rear end right along with your grand ideas of battlefield strategy and tactics.The simple place magic occupies in Kings of A-OK by me. Artillery is handled as basic mass shooting attacks basic on type, there are no artillery dice or wonky distance mechanics.

Characters are treated as individual units and operate as such and as far as I read cannot join units..they're independent operators leading your army..not deathstar creating unit additions, that overpower the game.

The one thing I take pause with is just like WFB it is a ful-on bucket of dice game...horde units are throwing 20 dice as an attack value, and I like the fact other games I am playing a moving away from that. Still that is the top end of the dice its really a half a bucket in comparision, because I had games in WFB 8th where my free company fully engaged was throwing 42 combat that's the proverbial bucket.

Overall I find the game system very interesting and am looking forward to putting the Empire on the field and giving it go...Human army lists are not released yet..I could easily make my own based whats published but I would just assume wait it out. Mantic supports use of other manufactures figures either with or without there own and their rules, being free are taking alot of user feedback into consideration. I find these types of policies very gamer friendly and worthy of your support.

So check out Mantics free KoW rules and give them a spin, I can already see a deeper tactical game due to sole fact there is ton less "random crap" (as I like to say) going on in the game (dice aside, there no "wheel of fortune" to spin either!). You never know, you may just like the game and realize what you are actually missing.

We over here at Xcom wargamers (short for "excommunicated"- as we were from our local GW shop in 2009, with my own nod to the greatest PC strategy game of all time.) all have Warhammer Fantasy armies so the KoW rules have come up before, with our current fondness of Hail Caesar there's talk of a hybrid rule set, (HC rules and profiles with KoW special "fantasy" rules) but before we go there I'd like to give the KoW core rules a try for sure I think they pretty damn good on their own.

There you go, the former figureheads of Games Workshop, who are no longer with company are now writing rules that I really like, for other companies. It should go without saying, (but I'll say it anyway) that we wargamers are all still in GW's shadow, its just how much of that shadow is blocking the sun in your little world that you have to reconcile..that is until Brian Nelson and Dave Andrews start working for either Mantic or Warlord..then will be looking at a full eclipse.


The Lord of Excess said...

I agree and I'd take what your saying into the realm of 40K. For me I've fallen out of love with GW (after a 15 year love affair) over the past few years. One singluar bone I have to pick is a nearly 100 dollar rulebook ... yes you can get the rules cheaper if you buy a 100 dollar boxed set. Don't bother telling me oh you can go on Ebay and get one cheaper. Is that fresh faced noob going to know that walking into the game shop? no. He is likely to decide not to get into miniature games and instead opt to just stay home and play video games. GW used to be a wonderful gateway into miniature gaming for the masses. Their prices, their lack of quality product support (at least out here in the western US) and their seemingly endless catering to the store troll, net list o' the minute crowd has turned nearly everyone I used to game with away from GW. I 100% agree about mantic and now privateer press is getting in on the sci-fi action this coming year. I dearly love the GW range, the universe (both WHFB and 40K) and will likely hold on to most of my armies (though I've sold 4 and probably will sell a few more) but our gaming group is looking to other systems now for miniature gaming as well.

ZeroTwentythree said...

"Back in the day..." when I first started playing fantasy games, we all had fantasy armies. We used them for various game systems.

The idea of having armies dedicated to only a single game system has always been an uncomfortable concept for me.

That is probably why I have steered clear of many of the newer "alternative" games, as many seem to have tried to make themselves as unique as possible. Although I have played none of these in quite a few years, part of the appeal of older games like Fantasy Rules, Hordes of the Things and Chaos Wars was their generic fantasy appeal. I believe Fantasy Warriors was also like that, though I never got a chance to play and I'm unsure where my rules are.

I've got to admit that as I am now reading a borrowed copy of Hail Caesar, I am contemplating whether it would be worth coming up with some fantasy house rules. The funny thing I realized in hindsight, is that HC has its roots in a fantasy game, Warmaster.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up. I have two large WHFB armies sitting in my cabinet waiting for action. I felt that the game started going downhill towards the end of 7th ed, and the 8th...jesus, don't even get me started on that rancid piece of cr..product. That pretty much put me off WHFB after 15 or so years of faithful gaming. Will look into KoW as a replacement, since the idea of getting rid of my beloved orcs and humans isn't very appealing.

AoM said...

Try out Wargods of Aegyptus/Olympus for your Fantasy armies. You might need to do a little creative thinking for how to fit things into the races, but the rules are top notch.

For sci-fi, keep an eye out for Combat: Alien Suns. It scales really well from 10-12 models per side up to huge games that would be in the neighborhood of 2500 points for 40K. This one is coming soon. Defiance Games will have miniatures for this one, but that's mainly to fit the fluff. The system is pretty open as far as making your own lists and running with your own miniatures.

Chicago Terrain Factory said...

John - sounds like we need to pencil night for KoW into the gaming calender. We just need to get HC nailed down before confusing ourselves with a new rule set.

And going back to play 7th WFB is not such a bad idea - although it did make my head hurt a little to "undo" the 8th ed rules.

Thomas said...

I for one like the new 8th edition rules for Warhammer Fantasy. It isn't as character heavy, the core units now play a important roll where as before people would bring in just enough to satisfy the core requirements. It's cool to see a huge block of troops, the hordes.

Scottswargaming said...

I have to agree with a lot of what you say, and found the links you have made interesting. I too have an old WFB dwarf army (probably about 4k points worth at its time) lying dormant in hibernation from late 80's.
You know its amazing how much negative sentiment is out there on the blogs from people of 'our age group' for GW. You've got to wonder, do they know, and do they care(?), just how many players they have haemorraged!?

Lord Azaghul said...

good write up, I've been looking at KoW off and on for about a year now...really need to convince a few friends to give a shot with me.

Milo said...

We played a few games of KoW with our existing warhammer armies and they proved very balanced and enjoyable. It's a very streamline system. The only problem is it is a bit bland after a while, this is where the GW fantasy is better. Also the newer books (TK and Orcs) as well as the fact that they have been releasing rules fixes and codex updates via White Dwarf now is really starting a new chapter in GW's marketing tactic.


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