This was another game that went down on the old Christmas present list late last year, and good old Saint Nick obliged. I have the Fate of the Forge Fathers starter set and there is a review of that pending. But, for now lets pretend I'm looking at this with fresh eyes and a view to purchasing it. I have to accept the very real possibility that this game intrigues me for all the wrong reasons. Let me explain:
- Mantic is run by an ex-Games Workshop staff member, who I happen to think was right about their business plan.
- They're now taking Games Workshop on directly at their own game so to speak, but doing things 'Ronnies' way as opposed to 'Toms' way.
- I really hope Mantic succeed, if for no other reason than it forces a very long overdue rethink in tactics at Lenton Lane.
- Plus they're making a better job of their breakaway from Games Workshop than Ian Bailey and Gary Chalk did with the Folio Works published 'Fantasy Warlord'
I freely admit I'd take some personal glee in seeing Mantic become more successful than they currently are, because I've felt for years now this was the sort of direction Games Workshop should have been heading in. Still it's all about the games for me, and while Kings of War shows some early promise as a fantasy based battle game, I still have some grave reservation. So how does Warpath stack up? Lets find out...
|This doesn't seem fair, 1 Forge Father against that horde...|
Company: well I'm guessing all of you will have heard of Mantic Games, it's pretty hard not to have done considering how much promotion Ronnie Renton has done. They started out in 2009 I believe when Ronnie decided enough was enough at Games Workshop. There are some amusing tales that have flown around the hobby describing how he made his exit from the Lenton Lane Behemoth, but... I don't know if any of them are true! It's all part of the Ronnie legend I guess. Mantics first pitch as a company was to produce some insanely reasonably priced plastic miniatures for Fantasy settings. They weren't crappy looking either and I still really like their Undead range. They eventually released their Kings of War rules in 2010 to accompany the fantasy range of miniatures. They've also published the Dwarf Kings Hold games that I enjoy so much, and now they've set their sights on taking a slice out of the biggest hobby pie, 40k.
Website: Mantic Games Warpath
Game: Ah, but you know me, after the shininess of the new toy soldiers has warn off it's the game that keeps me hooked or turns me off. So just what is Warpath like? Well it's a mass sci-fi shooty game, and to be honest if you've seen or had experience with Kings of War there won't be huge amounts in here that will surprise you. As with Kings of War everything is based around unit profiles rather than individual model profiles. Now I've had people tell me that this is unrealistic and that it's not an accurate representation of war, you know, that it's 'abstract'. Guess what, to an extent I agree with them, but then again having Wounds or Initiative etc is quite an abstract concept. I mean What actually happens in real war? Hopefully not too many of my readership have had to find out, but what the hell does a 'Wound' on a profile represent? If its gone is that miniature dead? Too badly injured to carry on? Or just too freaked out to be combat effective after having a bullet ping off of a helmet to be any use to anyone, frozen with fear? When you think about it, there aren't any games which truly represent the massive complexities of real combat, and why should they? Surely all we are after is an 'impression' of war that is fluid and entertaining that retains a consistent approach and has a fair degree of balance and tactical depth. Beyond that does it really matter about the mechanics used to achieve that?
|That's a bit more like it, they've got a bunker now!|
So does Warpath achieve this? God only knows is the answer. The core rules are based as I say around units, and this certainly means that games 'flow' quicker and more easily than a game of 40k. I can get through what would be a comparable 2000pts 40k game in Warpath in around roughly 1 hour 30 minutes easily. That's IF both people know what they're doing, and it's worth pointing out that game will be played to a proper conclusion rather than some horrid unsatisfying tally chart stalemate. However, lets not kid ourselves that this game is anything other than a very rough first draft right now. We don't have all the force lists and some of the options within the game itself don't seem to be all that well balanced right now. Not even within army lists, let alone across them. So there's a lot of hard work still to do for Mantic and I guess the question people will be asking themselves is, 'is 40k really that bad?' Again, that's a question you'll need to answer for yourselves. Me, I'm unsold on large scale battles at the moment, and the hobby drudgery that comes along with them. I don't want that familiar hobby malaise to fall over me again. It was depressing the first time around. I guess I'll do what I've done with Kings of War and that's feed back my comments and concerns, get a few games in using proxies. If I then end up playing more than enough games I'll no doubt feel obliged to buy a full force.
Miniatures: This is where many people actually get split down the middle on Mantic Games approach. I've had people tell me that 'Mantic's miniatures might be cheap, but they're shit', unequivocally so for many people. Normally they haven't seen any in the flesh though. I'm going to be honest, I'm not mad keen on their Kings of War Elves, but they're not shit. I personally love the look of their Undead, and think their Dwarfs are fine. I like their Orcs, and in many ways I think they're arguably better than Games Workshops Orcs. However, I can understand some peoples disappointment at Mantic using their fantasy based Orc bodies in Warpath. I'm not overly fussed about it to be honest with you, but then again that's possibly because in games like this I just view all these miniatures as wound counters. Even if ironically in Warpath and Kings of War they're actually not wound counters at all. If I'm looking for a nice miniature to paint, I'm not going to be looking at identikit plastic miniatures for that particular fix anyway am I? But, there is an interesting piece of discord in Mantics business plan and game systems. They have made cheap simplistic miniatures because gamers viewed them as wound tokens to be taken off of the board in Games Workshop games. However, it Mantics own games that isn't the case, as units live or die as one entity. Meaning miniatures stay on the table for longer... sooooo... theoretically you'd want them to look nicer maybe.
But enough of that, their metal, plastic or plastic resin or whatever they are troop miniatures aren't as bad as people make out, and are actually on the whole quite detailed. Their hero miniatures are pretty damn good too if you ask me, and are actually good models in their own right. True, they're not up to the best the industry produces say like you know who *cough* Infinity *cough*. But they're not terrible and they're not that much worse than Games Worshop's miniatures. If they're worse at all. I do though have to accept and indeed understand that many people aren't overly impressed with the Forge Fathers or Marauders. I also happen to think their resin vehicles that I've got are poor. However, over Christmas Mantic gave us all a sneaky peak at the miniatures for their third faction, the Corporation, and subsequently we've been drip fed some shots of some really nice looking minis. Now don't get me wrong, I haven't held these in my hand so I'm not judging on first hand experience. But I actually really like what I've seen so far and I actually think that in many respects if the quality remains this high that it'll be Mantic best work to date. I actually really, really like what I've seen of them so far and regardless of whether or not they're any good, if I actually get into Warpath I think they'll be my faction of choice. But right now that is a very big IF.
Background: OK for me this is where Mantics products are actually quite weak. They clearly haven't placed a serious emphasis on fluff with Kings of War, and what they have done quite frankly I could do better than without breaking into a sweat. The background to Warpath isn't massively original or of a high quality either. What we do know is that the galaxy is in flames, when is it ever not in flames? The Corporation, or first human faction we've heard about are pretty much to blame. They go around operating as a quasi intergalactic Government promising much, but pretty much delivering servitude, poverty and slavery... all in the name of profit. You can think of them sort of like Avatars RDA or as I did Weyland Yutani from the Aliens universe. It is stereotypical corporate greed / capitalism gone wrong. Or if you're a shareholder I guess it's capitalism gone right! So that's one of the galaxies bad boys, the big bad boys I guess so far of the 3 races we've seen. There are supposedly 8 races in total. What's the betting one of them are genetically engineered super humans? Another to be elves in space, then we'll get evil / pirate elves in space I'm sure. That leaves us a 7th race and apparently the 8th race, which nobody was allowed to talk about, actually turned out to be steampunk rats in space called Ver-mynn.
|It's a space dwarf with guns... and not a bad miniature!|
So I think we're allowed to talk about them now, right? Well I'm safe talking about the Forge Fathers and Marauders I guess. The Forge Fathers really are Dwarfs in space. They're a small secretive race that makes the best armour, awesome fortresses and well crafted shooty weapons. They are the only race not to have succumbed to the Corporation and to trade with them on an equal footing. They probably also have beard growing contests and have beer delivered intravenously into their blood stream while wearing their battlesuits. Maybe. The Marauders have a different sort of background. They were once shock troopers for the Corporation, part goose stepping goon, part slave race I guess. But as always with such arrangements things tend to go a bit pear shaped. The Corporation trained their pets a little bit too well it seems, and the Marauders have become a bit of a rebellious problem. In short they've knicked off with a load of weapons and ships. They're causing havoc for the Corporation as well and they're none too pleased, it would seem, with their former task masters. It's nothing too original or indeed in-depth, but I guess it doesn't really have to be, does it? It just needs to be a solid enough premise and background onto which, they can build a universe and gaming world.
+ Its a big fast and easy to learn game.
+ The miniatures are dirt cheap and despite what some naysayers will tell you they're actually not bad.
+ It's still a work in progress so you'll get to feedback and influence the games future.
+ The game system is quite stripped down, and is intended to allow you to play big battles in a reasonable time-frame. On that score it is successful.
- It's actually a work in progress.
- There aren't that many factions out as of yet.
- Although the miniatures are cheap the game still requires you to buy a lot of them, and that also means painting them.
- The games not as in depth or as developed as I'd like it to be, but then it is about huge battles.
- Pre-measuring, sorry I'm really not a fan. Especially when it's combined with certainty of movement and range.
The reality is that I'm not quite as enamoured with the idea of mass battle games like I once was. It no longer fits with how, or indeed where I want my hobby to go. I've done that for roughly the past 15 years or so and in the end I didn't find it a very enjoyable all round hobby experience. I guess it's because deep down I love painting and being forced to have to paint row after row of identikit miniatures fills me with dread now, no matter how I approach it. Painting them to as high a standard as I can achieve, which is what I'd normally choose to do, scares the hell out of me. Especially when I think of the time commitment I'd have to make to such a joyless task. Yet speed painting them, and just doing the basics isn't what I like doing either and I find it a bit soul destroying. Big games take a big commitment and I guess my life isn't quite in that same 'hobby zone' right now that it used to be.
|Another one of the Corporation sculpts. They look nice.|
Maybe I'll want to start playing huge big battles again at some point, and if I do then Warpath, like it's stablemate Kings of War will almost certainly be games that I'd consider playing. But you see whereas Warhammer Fantasy Battle and I are currently not on speaking terms, I'm actually quite cordial with 40k... and I have an absolute bucket load of 40k miniatures. So one of two things will have to happen I guess for me to choose Warpath over 40k:
- 40k 6th Edition sucks the big one, and Games Workshop drop the ball 8th Edition style.
- Mantic games really, and I mean really ramp up the quality and depth of Warpath, both in terms of the miniatures range (options), the core rules and yeah, the background.
But even then, I guess the whole huge army thing might still not be for me. Don't get me wrong, if you want those big battles then actually the design decisions Alessio has taken with Warpath, like he did with Kings of War, do work. The choice to focus things at the unit, rather than individual level do speed things up considerably and make things flow much, much better. But it still needs a lot of work. there is little in way of a clear steer on what the battlefield should look like, but right now I'm saying it should be more cluttered than a 40k table. The choices between unit types and sizes are a bit 'screwy' and don't seem right if you ask me. How this will pan out as more stuff is added and more factions come on line only Mantic will know. Truth is, they've chosen to take on the biggest most established wargame franchise on it's own terns, and as such early doors they'll take a bit of an inevitable beating. It'll be how they ultimately roll with those punches that determins the games long term future. Hopefully it'll just make the game stronger. Peace out!