AICN TABLETOP: 40k ASSAULT ON BLACK REACH!!! MUTANT CHRONICLES!!!
Published at: Sept. 5, 2008, 9:56 a.m. CST by merrick
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.
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 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.
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.
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.