Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Workshop of Games You Say? Poppycock.

Greetings you fantastic people!  Today is a day long overdue.  We here at the Gate have touched on this subject briefly in the past, but now feel it is time for full disclosure.  Games Workshop.  There I said it.  It has been the 400 lb. gorilla in the room for a few years now.

Many of you already know that our gaming club used to eat, drink, breathe, and bathe in GW fandom.  It's true.  Most of our members are well versed in the ancient lore of the 40K and Fantasy settings.  Also included were the Lord of the Rings, Necromunda, and Mordheim.  We even did the role-play, Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, and Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. We read all the articles published, bought the magazines, followed the games through many editions, and bought almost every model we could get our hands on.

We loved us some GW.  Man o' man, it was a glorious time.  We never had to want for battle.  We had many great campaigns and traversed the universes created by ol' GW.  They had treated us well, gave us many different options from which to choose; along with solid story lines to follow and to partake.  There was support to the gaming stores we frequented and the worldwide campaigns were epic.  Somewhere along the way though, the company lost it's soul (or sold it).

For a long time we were blinded to the diminished importance of the rules that governed these games.  We made sure to stay relevant and buy the new editions, which were increasing in price.  Along with the main rule books we had to buy new army books.  We didn't mind.  We loved the feeling of new.  Then the editions would change again before there was a complete set of books per edition.  Still we played on using the older armies books until the new one could be bought.  We still played and had some good times and all seemed well.  Surely GW would finally put out a complete set.

Sometime before the release of the sixth edition of 40K the care that went into the game seemed to disappear entirely.  I remember playing it against one of the members of the Wargate, him with his Chaos Space Marines and I with my Imperial Guard.  I had scads of guardsmen with troop transports and tanks galore.  He had three troops of space marines and three squads of heavy support called obliterators.  The obliterators weren't new to the game but the rules for them had changed just a bit.  Normally you could only carry one squad of up to three, but that rule was no more.  So, it was my entire army against his three squads of three.  Those nine obliterators destroyed everything I had while his troops of space marines hid in bunkers.

I know not everyone reading this will understand why that change in the rules matters, so I'll just say that the obliterators are extremely hard to remove from play.  Not only that, they carry all the heavy weapons.  I had what amounted to thirteen tanks and over one hundred soldiers demolished in almost every game I played against him while he would lose maybe one or two obliterators.

I tell that story to say that we here at the Wargate love balanced rules and balanced game design. It's kind of our thing.  What in points was supposed to be equal clearly didn't show through in the game play.  It became a challenge to all of us to defeat this perfectly legal by the rules army.  We only accomplished the feat a few times out of all the times that particular army was on the table and that was by the technicality of the scenario.  Never by annihilation.

Some may wonder if we are being unfair and using this one flaw in the rules to bash on GW.  That isn't the case though.  There were other game mechanic problems in 40K and Warhammer Fantasy Battles that we tried so hard to ignore.  For the most part we did.  We had faith in our old friend Games Workshop.  You would think that being the giant that they are they could get their game rules in order. It was keeping up with the increasing prices that eventually made us stop and look carefully at what GW was doing.

The realization was terrible.  The modus operandi of Games Workshop had changed.  I understand they are a business and want to make money.  I get that, I really do.  We just happen to be big sticklers when it comes to rules and fairness.  If your company is the industry giant then shouldn't your games be spot on in every way possible?  The need for money outweighed the priority of making a top quality product.  We noticed.  They no longer cared if their game worked properly.

What it basically boiled down to was the fact that the designers of these games were told to push priority towards new expensive units.  These new units ended up getting special rules to help move product from the warehouse and to hell with the fairness of the rules.  A pay to win system was developed under the guise of a new rule set.  Moneyhammer was born.

That fact alone was enough for some in our group to not want to play GW games anymore.  We were loyal customers that followed them for years because of the games they produced not just the spiffy models.  We had always looked for an excuse to buy something new from them and most of the time didn't even need an excuse.  We loved their products.  We loved them because of the games and the stories we created using them.  If they no longer cared how could we?

It became a betrayal to their own fan base.  A betrayal to us.  We chose to wait a while and see if they would come to their senses.  We waited and waited.  It became clear that the only thing changing was the story line with Warhammer Fantasy Battles.  They ended the world in the setting we played in for so long.  Yet another stab into our already bleeding backs.  Now we feel alienated from the games we used to love.

When they stopped caring about the players around countless tables across the world playing their game, they cheated themselves and us.  Never again will they have the opportunity they had.  They have become a joke.  There are those that will say, "It's just a game."  For a lot of people though it is a time of coming together and enjoyment with close friends and family where stories are told through the constant struggles in a grim universe.  It's a shame that they don't concern themselves with the community of gamers anymore.

The only concern for them now is the bottom line.  How much money can they bilk out of those still loyal to the "stories" being told?  How much can they charge for fewer and fewer models per box?  How long can they honestly keep the hype up?  How can they justify not play-testing the games they sell enough to work out the kinks?  Where does the community of gamers fit into Games Workshops future?  Only time will tell.

They took something away from us.  Something greater than the games we played.  A sense of community.  That is what was lost.  We were part of that community, but no more.  No longer do we play in their universes.  No longer do we buy their products (luckily, they got even more expensive).  No longer do we paint their models. We no longer feel welcome to Games Workshops table.  We no longer support the machinations of Games Workshop.

Yeah sure it was a tough break up for the Wargate, but it was a healthy one.  Sometimes you just have to leave an abusive partner.  Now we only invest ourselves in games that have complete rules and competent writers.  We prefer game companies that want to foster community with those that play their games.

So, here we are.  Looking to the future.  Which is actually pretty bright.  We look forward to the years to come with a sigh of relief and a much clearer focus than ever before.  More news on that coming soon.  Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed the post (or hated it) give it a Bone Up and leave a comment.  We'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Journal of Alfrederic Elmer Carlyle Bartholomew Desdemona III

A recap of all sessions including #7, recorded 05/01 to 7/10/2016.

Journal Entries

Well, I suppose it's time to start a meaningful journal of my travels.  Perhaps if I make it through all this nonsense I can use this as a warning to myself to not get into the entertainment business ever again.  Where to begin?

I suppose it all started when I met an individual by the name of Hogan Savage.  I should say the Professional Wrestler Hogan Savage.  Though not very professional, he is very entertaining. Through a series of what may ultimately be unfortunate events I deemed myself the manager of the “Wrassler,” to help him spread the word of Kord.

At least, that is my story.  Many others joined our venture and we decided to move town to town to promote the word of Kord.  If only things had gone as planned I may have been writing a success story of a lucky wizard that rode the fame of another to untold riches, though who knows?  Time will tell.

Our ill luck struck just as we were approaching the town of Greenest.  We happened upon a group of kobolds - terrible little creatures.  My allies seemed perturbed by whatever it was the little buggers were doing so they set to work fixing that mess.  I remember Hogan yelling something about Kord and kicking one of the small things so hard he killed it.  It was rather funny.

About that time, we noticed a dragon.  A blue dragon.  Quite beautiful. T hen I kind of haze out exactly what transpired next.  It was something about taking some villagers to the keep.  Though I don't understand why they wanted to go there.  The place was being attacked.

When we finally arrived at the keep things had settled down and I believe the dragon was gone as well.  At the keep, people were upset because someone had been kidnapped.  So, of course a few of the bleeding hearts in our little troupe decided we could help out the town and save whoever was missing.  Cry me a river.  Alas, we went anyway. I mean they did offer a nice sum of gold.

We followed the easily found trail of what appeared to be an army to their campsite.  Someone in our group found some cloaks that the towns attackers had been wearing so we could sneak in with a pretense of bringing a prisoner or two.  Luckily it worked - I was afraid I was going to have to abandon my new profession so soon.  The kidnapped person was soon found and we all left without too much of an incident so we traveled back to Greenest to collect our loot.

At the town we put on a show for the beleaguered residents and rested for a bit.  It was nice, but of course things always come up.  Someone then asked us to retrieve some dragon eggs from the encampment that we had just left.  Seriously, sometimes I wonder if people even think about efficiency.  It would have made much more sense to collect them when we were there the first time.

So, of course the helpful little people in our troupe, Shirley Lee and Teagan, agreed to help.  On our way there when we had bedded down for the night I got to witness something fun.  A hill giant happened upon us while we were sleeping.  By some gods good grace, our watch saw before he got too close.  That is when I saw the sign of coin...if we could successfully capture the giant, we could go town to town and have people pay us to watch Mr. Savage wrestle a real live hill giant.  Oh the possibilities.

It was truly great to witness Hogan bravely, perhaps stupidly, tell us to stay back as he charged the giant.  Everyone looked to me as if to ask, “Should we stay back?” I laugh now, I may have even laughed then when I said, “I want to see this.”  Then Hogan got hit.

It was bad, but he kept his feet.  Tough mouth-breather that he is he just kept on fighting.  He even disarmed that poor old giant.  It was a great memory.  We did kill it though.

We finally arrived at what I now know was a dragon cultist campsite and decided to try a different approach.  Talk to the guys outside and see if the dragon eggs are there.  Kuklak and Hogan decided to do the talking.  It almost went poorly, but luckily Hogan challenged two of the guards to a “Wrasslin'” match.  He took on two of them and won.  Though he didn't keep the gold.  I need to talk to him about this for future sake.

Afterwards, the guards didn't seem as on edge and Hogan found out the eggs were still in the cave.  Instead of us all going in it was decided that we would send the sneakiest amongst us into the cave after I turned them invisible.  Funnily enough it seemed Hogan could sneak the best even though you would never guess it by looking at him.  We also turned Teagans familiar invisible and sent it flying into the cave complex to map it out.  It was a bit boring waiting until all of that transpired, but Hogan returned with the eggs and I didn't lose my cash cow.  It was a delightfully successful mission.

Afterwards we headed back to Greenest only to find out that the person that wanted the eggs wasn't even there.  I really need to write a book on social etiquette when it pertains to dangerous business deals.  We found out we would need to travel all the way to Elturel just to get our money.

I was half tempted to just sell the eggs myself.  I'm sure they're worth more than what we were going to get.  Of course I couldn't do that though, people were watching.  Yet again we ventured on towards Eltruel with the eggs in tow.  That is when we started noticing boar tracks.  Big boar tracks.  I even saw the boar once, it was almost the size of a cow.

During one of the nights we were resting, a lone orc charged into our camp and began to attack.  We quickly set to work dispatching him and finally he yelled at me, “I'll get you one of these days Roland!”

I was at an utter loss - my name isn't Roland.  I don't even know a Roland.  As he was about to run away, Shirley killed him and I could ask no more questions.  He did have a magic sword on him though.  Shirley kept that.  Teagan kept the spear the orc carried as well.  It was made of silver.  I'm glad she did.

The next day in our journey, we ran across a lone individual coming from Eltruel who happened to be named Roland.  Kuklak didn't like the cut of his jib, but I didn't see any reason we should attack him.  I mean there were a lot of us and one of him.  He traveled on as did we.

That night while at camp, we were attacked again.  What is it with this group?  I mean, really?  Anyway, now the truth was known.  It was Roland.  He is or rather was a Were-Boar.  This was too much, I finally couldn't take it.

I refrain from using spells willy-nilly, but this was deemed necessary.  I was trying to sleep afterall.  My sleep is precious to me.  I need it.  I love it.  I unleashed my fury on him.  We all did.  He died pretty quick.

Afterward, I cast detect magic and found out his ring and cloak were magic.  I didn't care for the cloak though, I just wanted the ring.  It is a ring of protection.  It's wonderful.

Yesterday we rolled into town and found whoever we were looking for and got our cash for those damned eggs.  So now we sit in the town of Eltruel.  Hopefully things will go much better in the future.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Next Evolution of Our Club

Stormskull Dave has Stormskull things
to say to your Stormskull tookis.
Greetings, folks!

You might have been wondering (or not) where we've been these past weeks.  Like always, we've been hard at work putting things together for you - this time with more of an eye on the future.  Well, the battles grind on...but we're taking a moment to assess ourselves and make improvements.

All games clubs evolve.  Over time, you can find yourself doing things you never thought of just because that's the way things are going.  We've been comfortable with the format of things for a while, as a club.  Yet, the shifts have been both sudden and subtle over the last few years.  Now that the dynamics of and around our tables have changed.

We have more folks on Game Day than any of the game stores around us seem to have at any one time, and are far more involved in the gaming as an entity.  We're a private club - we don't have a storefront (but we do have an eBay) and space is limited - but everyone invited is made to feel like family.  The finance plan of the club has also changed, and the Project Assessment Committee is helping us move forward in a great many ways.  So many, in fact - we've been preparing for weeks on the back-end without many articles.  This is a cardinal sin on our part.

We'll be changing venues as planned in a few weeks, and several changes will occur.  More on these later.  Suffice it to say that for the last three or four years we've been experimenting with a few different options for going forward, and we'll be rolling out more news on this in July and August.  During that time, you may notice strange things happening with the site.  Don't be alarmed, this is just us fiddling with the web.  Things will be back to normal soon - in fact, better than normal.

More importantly, I have another announcement.

Our good buddy and coordinator Skim has stepped up to help out with content and is now co-author on this blog and moderator across the Wargate's social media.   In addition, check out his new blog, where he'll be talking about the meta of gaming.  I look forward to seeing his thoughts on the state of our hobby, industry and other facets of gamer life.

Skim is most certainly a welcome addition to the web-team, he and I have been friends for longer than I can really remember.  It's been at least twenty, and one of the first solid players back in the dimly remembered days of high school.  He's been a frequent co-conspirator over the years and is a big fan of miniature wargames.  We're sure to see a lot of cool stuff from this new level of collaboration, and I for one am very excited.

A new and improved network map will be available this week.  Original images by our art team will replace many on the site as well, so look for a total restructure of this blog and it's nature.  Thanks to everyone on the PAC, and to Skim for helping make it happen.

Now, back to work on the next phase of interdimensional war...

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Hoard of the Dragon Queen (Sessions 4, 5 & 6)

These sessions were originally recorded 05/29, 06/05, and 06/12/2016.

You're Too Fat to Wrestle Me
As told by Hogan Savage, Professional Wrestler

After the whole ordeal in the woods, we went back to the town (I don't remember what it was called) and rested a few days.  I felt much better after a crowd gathered and heard the word of Kord.  I felt the power of Kord-a-mania!

We went back out into the woods (I'm not sure why) but found some more cultists.  They weren't good at playing fair, so we tied the survivor to a tree and left him there.  I tell you what, brother...Kord was with us that night, because a scalawag of a hill giant crept up on us as we slept.  Good thing the watch saw him, and I wrestled a hill giant.  Word.

I'm not really sure what happened, but another night we were attacked by cultists.  We made them regret their decision and interrogated the survivor, but he was mad.  I don't remember what happened to him.

At some point we were told to retrieve some dragon eggs from back at the cultist camp.  So we went back, and Miss Teagan had her dragon scout the encampment.  Not really sure what happened, but got a chance to wrestle some of the guards!  It was all good though - good chaps, really.  They were kinda fat, and I gave them some calisthenics protips.  Then they told me where the army went and where the dragon eggs were.  I let them keep the gold I won from them, just to brighten their day.

Teagan had her little dragon look inside the cave, but everyone was mad at me for some reason.  She said there was a dragon lady and some other guys inside, but not that many.  I'm not sure what the problem was, but they told me it was a bad idea to go talk to her.  I waited a bit, doing jumping jacks in the camp...then they told me they were going to turn me invisible and I had to go get the dragon eggs.  I'm not sure who suggested that - it might have been me.  Well?!  I'm the guy for that kinda job!

I went inside and grabbed the eggs.  No one saw me, but I heard something move once.  Then I left with the eggs.  The others were waiting outside the cave, so I surprised one of the guys with an invisible hug!  He was surprised, but I wasn't invisible anymore.  Then, we said bye to the guards and left.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Frostgrave Campaign Rules Update

Greetings, folks!

Since our campaign began for Thaw of the Lich Lord, we've found that Frostgrave is a very tight ruleset.  Indeed, each rules question we ran across has been answered in the Errata & FAQ from Osprey Wargames.  We've been playing the game according to the rules as written in the main Rulebook, and there hasn't really been an issue we've seen to cause a problem save one.  Namely, permanent wizard death.

It wouldn't be an issue in an open or long-term campaign, but we've traditionally ran timed campaigns and tracked individual player win / loss records.  It causes an issue when your wizard dies if we're keeping track of certain information (like experience points).  If you're reset to 0 in certain respects, how can you manage to make it up before the end of the campaign?

We decided not to subject anyone else to a 0-sum after I suffered as the club guinea pig for having their wizard killed (R.I.P. Arzoz Maurz, Most Annoying Illusionist).  After casting around on the internet looking to see if anyone else had come to this conclusion, we quickly found that we were not alone.  After examining a few of the rulesets, we've decided to integrate the popular JustPlay Frostgrave Rules Changes wholesale, both Recommended and Optional.  This cleans up all the questions we had very nicely, including giving us a nice structure for the Out-of-Game turns as well.

In addition to these changes, we're adding several official Frostgrave expansions to the ol' chopping block this season:  Sellsword, Dark Alchemy and Hunt for the Golem.  Consider these expansions to be legal in any Wargate campaign where one of the scenarios is listed.  For our current game, these are all legal as of now - including the ability to include Captains in your lists.  Now you can finally make use of that section of the wizard sheet!

As for the smaller campaigns, Dark Alchemy and Hunt for the Golem, the scenarios take their place in the current order as shown on the Frostgrave campaign page.  In addition, Dark Alchemy replaces the potion rules immediately.  The campaigns can generally be undertaken by players as they wish, any limits will be denoted in the season's own campaign rules.

Lots of folks are frothing at the mouth for Frostgrave around these parts!  We'll see a large campaign update this weekend as new combatants enter the fray.  I wonder what level we'll end the season around?  Get your wizard leveled now, and we'll see you on Game Day!