You gotta roll with it
As previously illustrated, Aileen is a cardboard sniffer. There is no element of unboxing a new game that she loves more than the smell of it. If my own board game fetish were to be thus labelled, I’d be a dice fondler. As soon a new box is opened I’m rummaging around the cardboard and the plastic looking for dice, like some kind of hipster hobo, for whom dumpster diving for food is too ‘last year’. I can’t wait to get them into my hands and feel the weight, the quality; hoping for a good heft, and a satisfying roll. There is of course, an extra thrill of pleasure in custom dice. Unique faces, fascinating symbols, strange new purposes and uses.
I often spend time here proselytising about the wonderful social nature of board games. But their other great appeal is their tactile nature. Picking up a piece and moving it around. Holding a hand of cards. Amassing counters and tokens. Placing a lovingly crafted wooden meeple to claim a territory or declare an action. That wonderful ‘thunk’ as a good hand of dice hits the table rolling. The artwork, the atmosphere it creates. It’s all so tangible, helping you to connect with the game. To turn a box of cardboard and plastic and a dull book of rules into an experience that really engages you.
My slide back into the pit of miniatures gaming has been slow, but not completely surprising. The signs were there. Technically, in fact, I am already there, and have been for some time. X-Wing probably accounts for a good 50% of our gaming time so far in 2016. And as much as I was fond of telling myself otherwise, it is a miniatures game. The squad sizes are tiny, and you don’t have to paint a thing. There isn’t even any terrain or giant gaming boards to worry about. All this helped in the lie, as I bought ship after ship after ship. ‘It’s just because I like Star Wars!’ I would tell myself. But I can no longer lie to myself. Well, not about this, anyway.
But a man has to have principles, even if they are principles that are picked up on the retreat from previously held ones. So, for now, I hold firm to one last line: no more blind booster packs. Even if I helplessly expand existing games with more units, expansions, rules, figures, paints, cards, I can still hold on to one thing: I will know up front what I am buying, and I know that it is useful to me. My purchases won’t be blind, and my collection will be finite.
That’s a principle, right?
They’re called Warhammer stores now, which is new. No longer Games Workshop, as it was in my day. Or indeed, until very recently. Orks were my poison, back in the day. Legions of bloodthirsty boyz, red-striped bikes, gretchin swarming over everything, and oodles of colourful, inventive, backfiring artillery. These days, X-Wing is the furthest into miniatures territory I’m willing to tread. Small, pre-painted forces make for a game that doesn’t take an excess of time or money to get to the gaming table. And as much as I like the idea of large scale battles and turn-based strategy, I’m very happy to stick with X-Wing.
Speaking of which, the big news this week was Fantasy Flight Games announcing yet another incredible looking Star Wars board game. And, as ever, it was completely out of the blue, without even a ripple in the force to foreshadow its arrival. The game bills itself as an ‘epic conflict’, and epic it does seem to be, with 150 miniatures and a board taking in thirty-two systems from the Star Wars galaxy. Without a designer credit or much in the way of gameplay details, it’s obviously hard to tell exactly how good (or not) it’s going to be. On the other hand, you can control a Death Star, and if you wish, actually destroy planets with it. So I’m sold, one way or another. Perhaps mercifully though, the game is not out before Christmas, which means Aileen will be getting a Christmas present and not just an apology for the fact that I’ve blown all my money on a giant Star Wars game. It also means that Pandemic Legacy is still holding the top spot for our Christmas-present-game. Thanks for the feedback on that, everyone who commented a few weeks back.
The favourite game
If anyone is wondering whether or not this week’s comic was named after the 1963 Leonard Cohen novel of the same name: don’t be crazy. Of course it is. Like any right-thinking individual, I love ol’ laughing Lenny. Like-minded literary readers will know that the novel has nothing to do with the noble pursuit of tossing dice, hefting counters and shuffling cards, but I’m still going to use it to segue into that very topic.
It’s been a while since I read The Favourite Game, and it’s also been awhile since I have played Space Hulk (smooth, right?). Aileen has never played Space Hulk, but she loves it just the same, for exactly the reasons detailed in the comic. Any situation that puts myself and Ger in any kind of conflict or even mild opposition is guaranteed, for her, to yield entertaining results.
Star Wars: Armada
A Star Wars ship combat game on the scale of Armada probably appeals more to me than X-Wing. The more salient concern, however, is all the X-Wings on our gaming shelf, unmarked by combat. Rarely ever flown at all, in fact. Turns out the downside of a collectible or a miniatures game is less the expense, and more the time required to play it over and again with all the additions and expansions. With so many incredible games being released all the time, it’s harder and harder to get replay value out of the games we already own. Of course, this is a problem entirely of our own making. And it’s a lack of restraint that is the main ingredient of that problem. There are just so many good games out there. We haven’t even gotten around to buying Imperial Assault yet, and our Risk: Legacy campaign is currently experiencing a ceasefire. Not a truce, or even negotiations. It’s just looking like we might be embedded for a while longer than first anticipated. Bloody great game, though.
Star Wars Descent
We had a lot of fun doing our last ‘Star Wars Descent’ comic, and figured a new year was a good enough excuse to return to our anachronically-challenged characters, and see how they were getting on in their dungeon.
We haven’t yet made the plunge and purchased Imperial Assault (the Star Wars themed dungeon crawler at the heart of this week’s comic), but there is no doubt that we will. I have talked about this game before, and if you’re not inclined to follow that link, I can sum up how I feel about it in one simple sentence:
I am very excited.
The characterisation of Terminators as the meathead jocks of the 40K Universe is one that just … works for me. I had a lot of fun writing this, imagining them as though they were teenage boys talking about car mods. Once the idea settled in, it was quite easy to imagine Imperial troops at their barracks, all keeping their heads down, hoping that the lumbering, ‘roided out Marine walking across the parade ground wouldn’t catch their eye and bend their ear about how much he can bench, and what his Ork kill count was in his last battle. The idea of Terminators as dude ‘bros is, I think, that we will re-visit when the opportunity arises.
If you too don’t know what you are doing in the dungeon, read the help text here.
Dungeon crawling games aren’t my cup of tea (Early Grey, +1 to pomposity). In the same manner that MMORPGs like WoW give me a kind of existential dread, so the endless slog of fight the monster, loot the room, on to the next level holds no appeal for me. Zombicide is the closest I’ve come to enjoying a game like this, as it essentially bolts a zombie theme onto a simple dungeon crawler. But it lacks ‘proper’ campaign and for reasons we have gone into before, I have been turned off it.
Imperial Assault, announced at Gen Con, is a Star Wars theme bolted onto Descent.
This week’s comic is about the X-Wing Miniatures game. In particular it refers to the Swarm army list for the game. More on that below, as I’d love to talk a little about the game itself first…
I do my best to avoid miniatures games. Games Workshop was my introduction to gaming, and growing up I loved the science fiction universe, the character of the armies, and the real challenge the game brought to the table. What I didn’t love was the expense (or the painting, if I’m honest). Spending more than €50 on a base game and then needing to spend 3-4 times that to then field a reasonable army was then, and still is, too much for me.
On a more serious note
I hate that guy at the counter of the comic shop who rolls his eyes when someone comes up with a copy of the Walking Dead volume 1. That guy who only thought it was cool when no-one had heard of it, and has no time for newcomers, dilettantes, and people just dipping their toes into the hobby. The guy who is arrogant, condescending to new customers, and generally just ignorant. I have nothing but contempt for the shop owner who allows his staff to chase away new business; to actively discourage people from taking up the hobby. I love comics as much as I do board games, and I want everyone to play games and read comics. I want to share my hobbies, to open their worlds up to everyone who is interested.