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AICN TABLETOP: 40k ASSAULT ON BLACK REACH!!! MUTANT CHRONICLES!!!


Hola all. Massawyrm here. So it’s a big month around these parts - from gearing up for Fantastic Fest, to the first screenings of possible Oscar contenders to the advent of another BIG gaming month. Oh yes, folks, this one is a game changer for some of the biggest names in the business. FFG has a new game that they hope will put them on the map in the miniatures market (more on that below), while Privateer Press gears up their giant-monsters-attack-the cities game MONSTERPOCALYPSE! Games Workshop is releasing their new starter set - but more importantly their first new 5E codex detailing the much adored Space Marines along with their spearhead (including all the new October releases.) I can’t believe we’re finally going to get a real, honest to god drop pod! And over on the D&D front we get the very first meat and potatoes release for the new system - two books that include scads of new magic items and a players guide that will no doubt give us new feats, paragon paths and class abilities - setting the tone for what we can expect from these supplements. Really exciting stuff going on, so let’s get into this weeks report!
Warhammer 40k Assault on Black Reach!!!
To be quite honest, when I first heard about this I wrote it off. I knew that it would have its market, but I wasn’t it. I have 2 and a half companies of Blood Angel Space Marines - what the hell do I need with a starter set with snap together Space Marines and a few mobs of Orks? Then they sent a demo kit to my FLGS Battleforge Games and I got to thumb through it myself. That’s when my opinion change. When I took a look at the new captain in person, saw the level of detail on all the marines and saw the $60 price point, I shook my head and swore. “God damnit. Now I’ve gotta drop 60 bones on marines just because they look cool.” Because, well, they do. I’d been hearing that GW had finally come into the 21st century and found a way to integrate their CAD designs directly into the actual production process and are getting much more accurate molds that are more easily assembled as a result. And that’s Black Reach. This isn’t Macragge. The marines don’t look static and uniform - and if you field them there’s a good chance your opponent won’t even know you’re playing with snap-togethers without close inspection. Especially after painting. Everything in the set looks cool. I even found myself tempted to play Orks, until my wife gently reminded me that after playing Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines and Grey Knights, I probably wouldn’t have time to play a new army. That…and something about divorce if I got a 4th army… For beginners the set is an incredible bargain, especially since a large Black Reach secondary trading market has opened up, with folks trading one half of their box for the other. Here’s the product description: This boxed game contains a 112-page Rulebook, a 33-page Getting Started booklet, Dice, Templates, Range Rulers and almost 50 Citadel miniatures, including: a Space Marine Captain, 10 Tactical Space Marines, Five Space Marine Terminators, a Space Marine Dreadnought, an Ork Warboss, 20 Ork Boyz, five Ork Nobz and three Ork Deffkoptas. So when two players swap their opposing armies goods, they each end up with over 1000 point armies ready to hit the field - which when most games run 1500-2000, is a considerable buy in for $60. Especially when you consider that a standard box of 5 Terminators will run you $50 off the shelf to begin with… Then of course is the most important part - the reason this box got held back several months. The pocket rulebook. All the rules, none of the fluff and about 1/10th of the mass. Throw in the templates, dice (including one of the magical migrating scatter dice that will eventually find its way into your opponents dice pool, never to return), and measuring sticks which I figure are only good for slapping the hands of people who try to handle your minis mid-game and you have what amounts to GW’s biggest bargain buy. And they’re not a company known for bargain buys. Needless to say, this is on my Saturday morning shopping list along with the two baneblades I’ve had my eye on. God bless birthdays.
MUTANT CHRONICLES!!!
It’s about freaking time. I’ve had my copy of this game for four months now, itching to talk about it. I remember the day I sat down to read the rules I was talking to one of the workmen prepping my new house and uttered the phrase “Yeah, I’m really hoping Iron Man is good too.” That’s how long ago this was. But die to production decisions and scheduling, what was a May release became June which became September. And here it is. Mutant Chronicles! So how is it? Pretty darned spiffy. But not what a lot of people were expecting. The few complaints I’ve heard have all been along the same lines - they were hoping for something along the lines of the complication of 40K or AT-43. But being that Fantasy Flight Games is the US distributor of AT-43, it is clear that they had something different in mind. This is small level skirmish play (Like Dungeons and Dragons Minis) in which every figure moves and acts independently. It plays quickly on a hex map and is fairly uncomplicated. Much like many of FFG’s other games, the rulebook is intimidating at first (32 pages for a quick table top game, so you can‘t just pick it up and start playing seconds out of the box) but very simple once you’ve read through it. It utilizes FFG’s proprietary dice system similar to that of my current table top love affair DESCENT and simply uses the number of hexes between you and the target to generate the difficulty of ranged attacks.

THE UPS...

The army construction system. Simple, intuitive and easy to put together armies on the fly, the MC system is an inventive original approach to building armies. There are three elements to every army: The figures (of course), special game event cards and command tokens that allow you to activate miniatures. Every one of these elements is rated as Copper (weakest), Silver (medium) and Gold (strongest). When you set out to play, you establish how many minis you’ll be playing with. The Starter box opens with three, but gives the impression that somewhere around 10 minis will be a standard game. Then you take the set number of each element - for example 10 minis, 10 cards and 10 tokens. Likewise of these elements you are allowed to take the same number of Gold, Silver and Copper elements. You could, for all intents and purposes take 10 gold rated miniatures, making one tough army. But then you couldn’t take any gold rated events or tokens. The tokens themselves are a prize as you use them to activate your minis - copper giving one action (a move or attack), silver granting 2 and a gold granting 3. An all elite army won’t activate as often as a grunt army loaded with powerful events and command chips. Strategically it creates an interesting balancing act as you weigh the usefulness of a mini versus how often it will get to do what he does best. The other advantage to the game is the way FFG decided to market it. The starter box comes with EVERYTHING you need. Every card for every mini in the game, the dice, the maps and a starter group for the first two sides. Then, as I wrote about previously, they’ll be sold in open faced blister packs allowing you to buy exactly what you need for your specific army. Altogether it is a package that is a great gateway drug to table top sci-fi miniature wargaming. This game is IDEAL for dads introducing their younglings to the hobby or for teens looking for something cool but without the full time job necessary to support a hobby like AT-43 or 40k. And it will most likely be a great Sci-Fi alternative to those who are fans of the D&D miniatures game or Heroscape.

THE DOWNS...

All that simplicity means one thing - experienced hardcore wargamers will find likely themselves bored rather quickly. It is a tactical game and by no means ‘dumb’. But it is hex based and there aren’t any sorts of modifications or wargear alterations that keep things interesting for many in this hobby. And odds are, if there’s an exploit or two, these guys will find it quickly and break the hell out of it. So it’s not going to impress the hardcore by a long shot and I‘ve talked to a few guy who have turned their nose up at it already. The other problem is that while they’re doing a slow rollout of the armies, the cards are already present, letting you know what you’re missing. So by the time most of these minis see print, the fans will have more of a “It’s about time,” reaction than a “Holy crap! New armies,” one. My biggest problem however is the scale of the miniatures. Being something of kit bashing model hobbyist, I was a little disappointed that these are closer in size to 54mm than standard tabletop heroic 28mm. These won’t make great substitutions for other games or work as monsters or characters in tabletop RPG’s either. Not a deal breaker, but a slight downside. My final quibble is the maps. The game comes with one double-sided map with all the terrain already established. So frequent play on the maps will result in an over familiarity with the battle field. Again, not something that will bother new hobbyists as much as it will simply annoy those who build their own terrain from scratch and like every battle to be on a completely different surface.

THE RESULT...

It’s a good game. The skirmishes I’ve played have been fun but ramped up considerably once I got an infusion of booster packs. And it comes with a lot of built in flavor, what with it coming from a pre-established RPG universe. Teens and young adults will find it readily addictive, but if you’re the kind of guy who loves trying to find a great piece of wargear to squeeze into your unit with the 10 extra points you have floating, this might strike you simply as child’s play. Mutant Chronicles Starter Set is out this week with the first warbands being released very shortly.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 5, 2008, 10:04 a.m. CST

    Assault on Black Reach

    by Thenedain

    Looked like a good deal from the pics on the GW site, nice to know that it's actually as cool as it sounds. It'll be fun to put these new snap togethers next to my old 2nd edition Marine/Ork figs just to see how far GW's come as a company.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 10:05 a.m. CST

    When i grow up i want to be like you

    by Judge_Dredd

    :D

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 10:17 a.m. CST

    another very well written essay, sir

    by ArcadianDS

    As much as I am fast to throw around my haterade around here, its only fair to note when things are done well. Two for two today, sir<p> As for tabletop miniatures, I've played over 50 different systems from pre-historic man vs beasts to Vietnam squad level insurgency, and a litany of other settings. My favorite is the squad level simplicities of games like Necromunda and Mordheim (both summarily abandoned by Games Workshop). The few tabletop minature games I have HATED all have one aspect in common: hexmaps.<p> minature games with hexmaps are lazily designed and hastily constructed. It smacks of "we spent all our R&D money on miniatures, so rush out a no-brainwork-required hexmap system and make it quick!" Hexmaps are for Avalon Hill cardboard chit games like Panzer Leader and Gunslinger. They are the adolescent game design, having grown up from the infancy of Candyland and Monopoly squaremaps. A mature fully grown game system that attempts to recreate conflict and battle uses measured distances. It allows the game surface itself to become part of the three dimensional game experience. I had looked forward to this game for a very long time, but upon learning it was a Milton Bradley styled 'map with spaces' game, I walked away disinterested. As one brilliant essayist might have put it, "..with the dead eyes of a bored hooker."<p> Much like the highly touted but ultimately lifeless Axis & Allies Miniatures (who took hexmapping to an alltime low by offering folded paper maps that played like you just pulled the game out of a box of Rice Crispies), this game will NOT appeal to the true minatures gamer for this reason alone. They'll stick with WH 40k because hexmaps are lazy and cheap. In the late 1970s and early 1980's they were innovative. By today's standards, they're the slate and chalk to our scientific calculators. They're rudimentary, pedestrian, and in an oddly appropriate vernacular, "played out".<p> A long time ago, I remember some other company had come out with a squad level game to directly compete with Necromunda. A true 40k with 12 figures. For the life of me I cannot remember its name, but I always enjoyed that system.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 10:28 a.m. CST

    hexed?

    by MOTHdevil

    As a RPGer, and only an in-passing minis guy, I don't get it... What makes hexes bad? Do really-real wargamers use tape measures only?

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 10:29 a.m. CST

    MOTHdevil

    by ArcadianDS

    At risk of coming off as elitist, the answer is yes.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 10:42 a.m. CST

    How do you people get laid?

    by EvilWizardGlick

    It's like I started reading a complicated geek joke.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 10:59 a.m. CST

    London...

    by DamnMichaelBay

    I'm going to go to GW Wood Green tomorrow to buy mine, they're giving away loads of free stuff.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 11:01 a.m. CST

    EvilWizardGlick

    by ArcadianDS

    uhm - you're a 30-something work-dodging troll on Aint-it-Cool-News Dot Com.<p> How do YOU get laid?

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 11:02 a.m. CST

    It's all about 'magination, glick

    by MOTHdevil

    Bottle of lube, internet porn, and a shot of novicane for my right hand when my left gets tired.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 11:05 a.m. CST

    ArcandianDS

    by MOTHdevil

    I'm assuming because it's more "off the rails" and allows better use of modeling terrain, yes? Just wanted some clarifying in case it was a some squares vs. hexes sorta thing. My D&D group used to be big into terrain and we've gone to battlemats and dry-erase for ease of use. Makes me very sad.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 11:21 a.m. CST

    ArcadianDS: re: Necromunda

    by Thenedain

    Hey Arcadian! You might be interested to know that there's a rumor circulating around ( perhaps Mass knows something about it ) that when Fantasy Flight Games took over the license of the Dark Heresy RPG and the Talisman board game from GW, that they might have in fact got the license to bring out a new version of Necromunda, Mordhiem and some of the other second line games. Just a rumor, but it would be great if it was true. Also, if you've never tried it see if you can't find a copy of Gangs of Mega City One, the Judge Dredd miniatures game by Mongoose. It's essentially Necromunda with Judge Dredd instead of Adeptus Arbites. Good times!

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 11:25 a.m. CST

    Hexes vs. Terrain

    by Thenedain

    For me it depends on the game. Battletech and most of the old FASA properties work best with hexes in my opinion just because you have to do some pretty crazy adjustments to play on terrain. Why they couldn't have just kept 1 hex = 1 inch is beyond me. Car Wars is one of the games that plays a thousand times better off hexes. 'course, it allows you, a grown man, an excuse to mount GI Joe guns onto Matchbox cars. Which is a blast.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 11:26 a.m. CST

    its a 'free map' vs 'spaces map' issue

    by ArcadianDS

    Certainly, hexes are superior to squares for obvious reasons - which is why for a _tabletop_ wargame, a hex map is the best design that you can use. But a _miniatures_ wargame isn't a tabletop wargame. They're entirely different corners of the wargaming marketplace. Avalon Hill's use of hexmaps was a solid approach to design because their games involved hundreds of cardboard chits with numbers and letters printed on them. Their products were abstracts by their very nature - so an abstract playing surface blended well with that system. but a minautures wargame is a game that doesn't just appeal to Risk fans who seek out the thrill of winning a board game. Minature wargames appeal to people who want to recreate something - to experience a game. Winning is secondary to the experience. In some cases, it is uhm..'thirdiary' to the creation of one's units and the actual battlefield itself. Hexes for minatures just feels to many minature wargamers, like someone built a cardboard Avalon Hill style game, and decided they could make a lot of money if they wanted people to buy minatures for it to replace the cardboard chits. Days of Wonder is FAMOUS for this approach. They have built several Avalon Hill style cardboard games, and then have thrown out the chits and added a stack of blue and orange plastic soldiers - and found that they can dramatically increase the price of the product by giving it an improved 'eyeball appeal' As popular as Memoir '44 is, and its fantasy-based clone - they are not minatures games. They're Avalon Hill cardboard abstracts with an improved marketing and revenue plan.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 11:28 a.m. CST

    the Fantasy Flight Rumors are false

    by ArcadianDS

    Fantasy Flight bought the rights to every Games Workshop boardgame that does NOT INVOLVE ANY MINATURES. This means they cannot create Gothic, Man 'O War, Necromunda, or Mordheim. It would be nice if it were true, but Games Workshop continues to hold complete ownership of any and all games involving minatures.<p> They may find themselves forced to revisit that if they dont figure out a way to stop leaking money like a wounded Galleon - but for now, thats where we stand.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 11:34 a.m. CST

    Unfortunate, yet still promising

    by Thenedain

    Every boardgame that doesn't involve miniatures? Essentially anything that's not a miniatures wargame, then, as it seems that they can include miniatures judging by their version Talisman. That still leaves alot of potentially fertile ground to cover as there's a ton of fun old GW games out there. Judging by that, it also sounds like there might be an off chance of getting a revamp of Warhammer Quest, which considering how awesome FFG's Descent is could only be fantastic.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 11:45 a.m. CST

    ArcadianDS

    by MOTHdevil

    Thanks for the overview. I appreciate it.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 11:48 a.m. CST

    Fantasy Flight Rule Books

    by Urge to Kill

    I'll never forget the epic read that was the 48 page rule book to Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 12:31 p.m. CST

    2 things...

    by Darth Macchio

    First: Massa...you should pop up a geocities (gasp! maybe something less sucky) page, post pics here, or something so we can check out your armies! I've been a GW gamer off and on for years but I still enjoy painting and there's no question, even the older, less detailed, 40k figs are the most fun and challenging to paint. You sound like one of those gamers with a fully painted force...I'd love to see them!<p>Second: Have any of you guys been reading the Black Library Horus Heresy series? If not, you must and right away. Already on the 8th book by all the GW writer usuals (including Abnett, my favorite!) but it is, finally, the telling of the most profound story coming out of the GW universe and it's totally kick ass! I highly recommend picking them up...even the weaker books are great but the good ones are just excellent! Abnett is the master!!!

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 12:53 p.m. CST

    talisman is not a minatures wargame

    by ArcadianDS

    its a game that has minatures available, but its not in the same class as man 'o war, mordheim, and other actual miniatures games.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 1 p.m. CST

    Hexes and miniatures

    by malcolm_mccallum

    One risks unfounded elitism to claim that miniature gaming must be free form vs chits being on Hexes. At the end of the day, functionally, miniatures are nothing more than very pretty chit markers. That is the crux of the issue. Though there are merits in the definitive nature of hexes over the vagaries of measuring, a miniature wargamer uses miniatures because they want the diorama. They want the visuals. Part of the visuals is the ability to see distances in scale terms. If a game wants to sell itself on its miniatures and its visual coolness then surely, it is self defeating if it plays on cardboard hex maps. To be fair, the miniatures for many such games really are suitable and fittingly wretched so it is all fair.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 1:41 p.m. CST

    Horus Heresy novels

    by Thenedain

    The Horus Heresy series has been awesome. It's got a few books that were weaker than others, but altogether it's been a solid series. The Warhammer Legends series they've got going on looks to be just as promising, especially as the next book in that series will see Nagash returning to Warhammer lore. Very cool. And while Abnett's Heresy novels are freakin' awesome, I still wish he'd go back to Eisenhorn soon.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 2:55 p.m. CST

    Nothing on the SPIDER-MAN news???

    by -guyinthebackrow

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 2:57 p.m. CST

    You guys are letting Nikki Finke scoop you...

    by -guyinthebackrow

    ... on superhero news? Of course, all of the SPIDER-MAN movies did suck. Nevermind.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 3:48 p.m. CST

    thanks for the heads up -guyinthebackrow

    by IAmLegolas

    I could do without Kristen Dunst, though, they should have killed Mary Jane off in the last one, and switced over to Bryce Dallas Howard.

  • Sept. 5, 2008, 4:52 p.m. CST

    IAmLegolas...

    by -guyinthebackrow

    That last movie was so bad I wouldn've prefered they killed of Dancing Peter Parker.

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