Sunday, 12 June 2011

War(path) huh what is it good for...

...well I'm not really sure yet, would be the truthful answer. However unless you've been in a wargaming cave for a few weeks locked away from the world, you can't have failed to hear the news that Mantic games, the purveyors of reasonably priced miniatures are planning on expanding into futuristic sci-fi wargaming, I guess it was inevitable really. It is however a brave move for such a relatively young company and the news was officially announced on Beasts of War Turn 8 show, give the video a watch as Ronnie and Alessio give some good info on what to expect. Also if you're a newly subscribed member to the Beasts of War 'Backstage' service you can get access to the Alpha rules to Mantics Warpath. I've signed up for a few reasons:

  1. I find some of their video's entertaining
  2. They do a good job promoting the hobby in a fair and balanced way 
  3. After the great job they did on promoting Infinity I feel duty bound to support them back... I think its worth it.

But for now lets get back to Warpath and Mantic, what are they playing at? Well you see until 8th Edition I wasn't really sure there was a need for another large scale fantasy battle game on the market either, or even room for one. I could, however see a market for cheaper alternatives to Games Workshops own Citadel range of miniatures, especially as they started to continually ramp up the size of the game. However what the Games Workshop did with 8th Edition has left some people cold, me included and before people start waiving their arms in the air and reaching for their nearest flaming torch and pitch fork, I also know that the reality is the game is also liked by a fair few, and more power to you if you're one of them. However for me if I want a large scale fantasy game then their isn't anything for me, well apart from Mantic Games Kings of War. So was it planned or perfect timing on Mantics part? Only Ronnie really knows.

Now I haven't played the Kings of War rules, but after Alessio Cavatore gave me a copy at the 2011 Games Expo I have to say I have given them a quick read... and I'm quietly impressed,  its certainly peaked my interest. However how does Warpath fit in to not only Mantics product range, their business plan and indeed the marketplace? You see while their are a huge bunch of ex-Fantasy gamers who I know who are unhappy with the current state of that game, I don't really know of any 40k gamers who are currently unhappy with the rules, yeah there are plenty of people who might be whinging about Space Wolves, Dark Eldar blah, blah, blah but the rules themselves? Not really heard much of that to be honest with you although I'm not as 'up' on that scene as I am on Warhammer Fantasy.

So Mantics move into the futuristic wargaming sector could be seen as a bit of a risky or brave move for such a new, young company. 40k is a beast of a franchise and taking it on, on its own turf and possibly its terms as well is a big ask. However I suppose people said the same thing about Kings of War and Mantic are doing a great job with that, as I hear of more and more people playing it... plus they have the Italian master Alessio Cavatore himself doing the rules so it at least deserves my attention. Am I however the target audience that Mantic are looking at with Warpath? Probably not, I've been moving more towards small scale skirmish games because I prefer the intricate detail they offer and my current number one game, possibly of all time is Infinity is more the type of product I'm after right now. So Mantic will have to go some way to convince me that its something worth dropping some of my cash on, as my finances are going to be very, very tight, plus large scale future battles don't quite grab me in the same way as massed fantasy battles do. So then lets look at the competition. Now I've chosen the games I know of and know a bit about I'm sure there are others:

Lets not kid ourselves its the biggy, in more ways than one. Its probably the most popular wargame on the planet and while I don't have the actual concrete evidence to back that statement up, I think its a pretty safe bet. Why is this the case? Well for any number of reasons really, I think the fluff and the incredibly rich background plays a huge part in it, I love the 40k universe and all the background stuff. The rules are easy to grasp and its quite easy to pick up and play, pretty much anyone with a brain can give it a go. The miniature range is vast and varied and aesthetically there is likely to be something to appeal to pretty much most people on a basic visual level. However the most important one is Games Workshop are huge and dominate our hobby, now that might be because of all the other things I've mentioned, but it has become a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy in itself.

The greatest game ever made. Oh yes it is!!! Read Part 1, Part 2  and Part 3 of my reasoning into why that is the case, but just to recap the rules are tight and realistic and emulate the brutality of modern warfare or what I feel near future warfare will be like, with a few revolutionary mechanics thrown in to elevate it above the competition. The background and fluff is ace and speaks to the Manga and Anime fan in me and is a refreshing break from all the grim dark Gothic stuff. I think for the quantity and quality of the sculpts and the breadth  and depth of miniatures on offer it has the best miniature range of any game on the market right now. It is however a very different sort of game to something like 40k or what Warpath will be hoping to depict. This isn't a massed battle, its small clandestine skirmishes between better tooled up future warriors armed to their teeth with the deadliest gizmo's imaginable. The rules are detailed and require a keen mind and astute tactics to utilise to you're advantage and seal victory. Simply brilliant.

I haven't really played much of this game to be brutally honest with you, because its so new. Having only played a very brief demo game I'm no expert, but I do struggle a bit to see where it'll squeeze itself into the market place. Its a new game and perhaps a bit like Infinity its clearly very heavily influenced by Japanese Anime. It too is also a far smaller game than 40k, in fact being a hell of a lot smaller than even Infinity, concentrating on 5 v 5 size games. this is almost gang warfare, or that's what it feels like to me and might be more akin to something like Necromunda than either 40k or Infinity. The miniatures are quite cool as well and it has its own little game play quirks, but essentially its designed to be a very small scale game which plays extremely fast without the rules depth of something like Infinity but not as streamlined as 40k. It'll be interesting to see how it holds its own within the marketplace.

Again its fair to say I don't really know to much about this Dream Pod 9 game. I've only very briefly been introduced to the rules and the miniatures themselves. Its been around for some time and given my love of big mech based anime I'm not really sure why I've never really given it a blast. Now first thing to be clear about is that this isn't a normal 28mm type wargame like 40k or Infinity say. The scale is quite different, possibly more akin to Flames of War 15mm scale if you will. Its all about huge big mechs beating the living daylights out of each other and it does look immense amounts of fun! The system appears to be quite an in depth one though and its certainly more complex than say 40k is. Some people have accused it of being a Battletech clone, which from what I've seen is unfair, speaking of Battletech...

Well if I'm going to mention Heavy Gear Blitz I'd better mention the venerable grand master itself, Battletech. Yep a game I thought had kind of died years ago appears to be rising phoenix like from the flames. Its about 25 years old now and I remember well my dad having some of these cool robot miniatures and being told in no uncertain terms that I wasn't to ruin them with my cack handed attempts at painting... ooohhh illicit miniatures. As you can imagine being told I wasn't allowed them instantly made me want them more and I have very fond memories of the game itself. I'm pretty sure there was a board game first and there have subsequently been a massive amount of various spin offs from literature to role playing games... I lost touch with the whole Battletech universe in the mid to late 90's.However from what I remember of it, it was an involved and highly detailed game, not really design for a quick mass battle with rolling lots of dice.

There are countless other products as well out there ranging from the utterly obscure and quirky, things like AE-Bounty,  Eden, Dark Age and many more besides. There's also Warmachine, although not strictly a sci-fi game, its certainly a big player in the market and it could be argued occupies a similar position in the market to that of 40k. Its certainly closer in terms of scale and play to say something like 40k than it is to Warhammer Fantasy. We then have unannounced games like Sedition Wars and also rumoured games Firestorm Armada: Invasion, although what shape that game will take, even if it exists is anybodies guess really. Then there are the rumurs that Privateer Press are about to annouce a sci-fi game too. What I'm trying to say is that the sci-fi wargame scene is quite crowded. Although the large scale futuristic battle game seems to be a rare beast, with 40k being the only truly identifiable one, its an impressive franchise to overhaul and as I say Warmachines not small fry either.

So where does this leave Warpath?

Well I suppose the only truly large size, purely sci-fi shooter its going up against is actually 40k. Other companies have chosen to avoid doing the larger scale battles and beat 40k on other points. So how are Mantic going to tackle this and force themselves a wedge in the marketplace? Honestly I don't really know, a few of my friends though keep on saying Space Dwarfs... but here's the thing, I don't think you can sell a game system on what is essentially a gimmick. So the Games Workshop killed off Squats and some people want them back, but doing Dwarfs in space won't be enough, just like Abyssal Dwarfs was never going to be enough with Kings of War. However I'm pretty damn sure Ronnie Renton isn't stupid enough to think that these sorts of 'gimmicks', if indeed its fair to call them that, are enough himself and I have been quietly impressed with what I've read of the Kings of War rules so far and lets face it Alessio Cavatore isn't a bad person to have on your side when writing rules. So can they pull it off, can they muscle their way into the this overly crowded marketplace? Possibly.

Well I have my hands on the Alpha rules from the Beasts of War Backstage pass, I'm not going to go into details or even publish them here for two very good reasons:

  1. I don't have permission off of Mantic
  2. Its a Beasts of War exclusive to try and encourage gamers to support their Backstage pass and I personally want to help them become more financially sustainable as they're good for our hobby.

So what I'm going to give you is a brief overview of what I think and my first impressions, bearing in mind this is an Alpha we're talking about and so its quite far from being the finished article. Its interesting, and its easy. There is nothing in these rules that quite frankly could cause confusion or over complication, I also think its fair to say that honestly these rules are aimed at large battles and making the game flow quickly, not at accurately depicting intense fire fights. Now as I've said earlier on I'm not exactly a fan of big future massed battles because well... tanks and air support should utterly dominate in those sorts of conflict as should supporting artillery, sorry but 40k just doesn't seem, I'm not going to say realistic, but 'plausible' at a larger scale. I just can't really get past that feeling or belief that its not really a modern shooting warfare game but more a fantasy skirmish game with a visual veneer of science fiction. Also shooting should be fecking deadly and in 40k it isn't really... but in Warpath I think shooting might just be the deadly action it should be in modern or futuristic warfare game. To be sure though I'll need to play it.

I still think the suspension of disbelief will be a difficult thing for me to personally overcome in terms of large scale future war, because its just becoming less and less likely as we move on and things right now are controlled by drones and cruise missile strikes so surely its only going to get worse in the future and soldiers will be limited to covert ops, á la Infinity. So unless things are dying in droves in front of tanks and other mechanised machines of war, I'll struggle to buy into the conceit of a futuristic war game, but the game does look interesting and I'll be looking to give the rules a shot just as soon as I can convince somebody to actually play me at it, and I might do a battle report write up when I do.

I urge you guys to do the same though, because this is a rare opportunity in wargaming to actually have a chance at shaping how the games we all play work. We've seen what the closed off secretive development of Games Workshop leads to; I'm sorry poorly written rule systems that have clearly been developed in ignorant isolation without any constructive critical feedback from their customers to shape and improve their product for all (*cough* 8th ed *cough*). Privateer Press make it work for them, Wyrd Miniatures are giving it a bash and quite frankly the work and effort Corvus Belli put into engaging with the community has paid off in glorious style... with this Warpath Alpha you all have a great chance to help shape another great wargaming success story. So will Mantic pull it off? I don't know but I think its going to be fun watching them try, and maybe even helping out with some constructive criticism!!! Peace out!


  1. I find your comment about it being unrealistic kinda amusing, when you praise Infinity down to the ground and yet it suffers from "unreality" syndrome in spades.

    Its only set 175 years into the future, I'm pretty sure we will not be in Space in such a wholesale way by then.

    With Hackers and Drones in Infinity, I agree in reality they would dominate more - and yet they don't in the game.

    Lastly, anyone who has been Paintballing knows the ARO rule isn't that realistic - I've "reacted" to someones presence on the Battlefield, and rather than getting off just one shot/reaction - I've emptied my Hopper on them!

    Your reviews are usually so on the ball, I get the feeling you don't want to like Warpath from this writeup!

  2. Just not true Doc, I like the look of it as is, but I won't know for sure until I've played it. My fear is that Mantic might be spreading themselves too thin.

    As for reality in wargaming, I'm not talking about fluff but how it plays. Remotes can dominate in Infinity if placed properly, thsat why you take Hackers, TAGs are the same, ask Chris. As for ARO's there has to be a downside otherwise nobody would move forward. As I've said Infinity is as 'close' to representing modern warfare as a game system can realistically get without becoming silly in rules.

  3. Surely "Fluff" influences the "Tech" of the Game, look at 40k - with the Dark Age of Technology etc - leading to a real "mish mash" of technologies. Thats one of the things I really didn't enjoy about the 40k background, its all lost, nothing new - no innovation etc. Yet the Marines et al - keeping getting new stuff - how? As for spreading themselves thin - Ronnie really isn't, he's constantly bringing in new talent - and they have good solid backing too, I wouldn't worry. Mantic just want to "get up to speed" if you kwim?

  4. I personally think you can separate the fluff from the actually game tbh with you and as you rightly point out in the 40k universe the fluff really has very little bearing itself on the game, becaue the Imperium would just nuke any planet it suspected of heresy or gene bomb the lot!!! There actually isn't much call for Space Marines if you read the fluff, they don't make sense in the Grim Dark future!!!lol. I think fluff being unrealistic, i.e. us being in space in 175 years having colonised planets can be far fetched because we're talking about sci-fi, but I would like my games to have a some form of internal consistency... from what I've read of Warpath I think it looks pretty solid for an Alpha. Have to see more armies obviously but its not looking at all bad. If rolling lots of dice and having big armies is your thing I can certainly see how this would appeal. It will as a pure gaming system appeal to 40k gamers, of that I'm pretty certain.

  5. Thats what I miss about Skirmish games, rolling LOADS of Dice LoL! I'm waiting on my Mantic Abyssal Dwarves atm.

  6. Fair enough!!! Never really been bothered about rolling lots of dice tbh, however I do miss massed fantasy battles and I will be getting a Kings of War Orc army and be giving the game a good bash as the rules look good. Also saw the Abyssal Dwarfs recently in the flesh and I have to say they do look really, really good... as do those orcs!!!

  7. FG said: 'As I've said Infinity is as 'close' to representing modern warfare as a game system can realistically get without becoming silly in rules.'

    I beg to differ. Pretty as Infinity is, I think there are much better simulations of modern combat out there. Oddly enough, one of them is Stargrunt II (which is nominally an SF game). As the Ambush Alley games seem to be developed off a similar conceptual engine to SGII I'd suspect (though I have only read and not played them) that they were pretty good in terms of realism and simulation too - and some of them are modern games.

    I don't want to pick Infinity apart in detail as that's not my point, but I don't find it any more 'realistic' than many other games.

  8. Stargrunt II isn't a bad system but as I said without the rules getting silly and I personally think certain things in SGII can take a little too long to resolve. I also think there are some really confusing bits in the rules and I know some have had erratas published for them, BUT its still got inherent problems and weaknesses due to an attempt at replicating warfare as accurately as possible and damn the quickness and ease of play. I personally think Infinity hits the nail bang on the head for balance though with for me different types of soldier and indeed weapon loadout performing how you'd expect they would in similar environment to those found in the real world... I don't want to spend 45mins sorting out small arms resolution!!! Arrrggghhh. lol.

    Back to warpath though and I think I might have convinced someone to give it a bash with me so I'll be really interested to see how it plays. I might even do a rough and ready battle report. I'm also going to be running through the Kings of War rules because they look interesting and I'm starting to miss my massed fantasy battles.

  9. Interesting. When I played I found SGII no slower than Infinity, and certainly had no more problems with vague rules. It's horses for courses though. To each his own.

    Not played Warpath myself yet. I'm sure I can persuade someone to give me a demo at some point. Look forward to seeing what you make of it when you get it on the table.

  10. Yeah I'm really looking forward to Warpath, I don't really mind none in depth mass brawl type games per se its just the company that makes the market leading ones has left me a bit cold of late. Really not enjoying 8th and 40k just seems far too focussed around Space Marines and their equivalents to keep me interested long term. Had a read through the Warpath rules and it does look like it could be good fun, and I think any gamer needs to have a fun game in their repertoire!!! lol.

  11. "...and I think any gamer needs to have a fun game in their repertoire!"

    Oh, at least one.