Sunday, June 5, 2011
Making the Hobby Our Own: Specialist Games
Sadly, while playing at my monthly game-meet, a lot of players I talked to had never heard of any of the Specialist Games outside of Battle Fleet Gothic and WH40k Epic. I found this shocking! A lot of the Specialist Games have their rule sets hosted on GW's website FREE TO DOWNLOAD. To introduce you to a few of the more popular ones outside of BFG and Epic, here are a couple of my favorites:
Mordheim is set in the same universe as Warhammer Fantasy Battles. It is a "Skirmish" scale game, meaning you have only a handful of models for each player. The story goes: A big comet crashed into the town of Mordheim, and fragments of this comet possess magical properties. Naturally, this means everybody wants it. However, the city is much too dense and sprawling for traditional units to hunt for fragments of the so-called "Wyrdstone", and thus "Warbands" enter the city in small groups to try and scavenge as much of the precious material as they can find. When they run into each other in the decimated city, that's when the fighting starts!
What I like about Mordheim: Better than any other game system I have played yet outside of RPGs, Mordheim allows you to advance your warband's capabilities. Campaigns actually are worth playing! Campaigns allow you to develop your warband, in which you can form real attachments to some of your characters. My favorite character yet is the epic Norse beserker that has slaughtered dozens of a Vampire's Zombie minions! It has a simple-to-play system that GW is known for, and games can be played in around an hour, depending on the size of the warbands. You can also find tons of fan-created material, and there are several very-active communities of staunch fans!
What I don't like about Mordheim: There are some balance issues. Skaven notoriously overpowered, and there are some hiccups in the rules. However, there are a myriad of house-rulings and fan-created supplements to fix this. In fact, one ambitious team actually created a whole new version of the game known as "Coreheim," which is based on balancing the core rulebook as much as possible. Also, if you are primarily a 40k player, you have to make all-new terrain to fit the medieval theme of the game. This was a real pain for me, since a game of Mordheim requires a LOT of city scenery with a medieval theme.
Inquisitor is exactly what it sounds like: a game about 40k Inquisitors. If you have ever played Kill-team, you have played an extremely-simplified version of this game. Inquisitor is even smaller in terms of model count, as each player might have around 4 characters in a warband. It is highly detailed in its rules, nearly combining elements of the Dark Heresy RPG with Warhammer 40k the tabletop game.
What I like about Inquisitor: All units of measurement in the game are given in yards, which means you can play this game with any scale of models that you choose. Though most play with 54mm models (1/32 scale) due to the higher detail one can achieve with the miniatures, you can also play the game with your standard 40k 28mm models. In fact, I follow one particular blog (INQ28) that specializes in playing Inquisitor in this scale. Some of his conversions are spectacular. Another thing I like about this game is that it completely throws concepts of fairness and balance right out the window. There are no "points", "force organization slots", or any other such nonsense to get in the way of your character concepts. If you want to have a bad-a** space marine in your inquisitor's retinue, you can! That is, as long as the Game Master approves it. Which leads me to my next point...
What I Don't Like about Inquisitor: The game needs a minimum of 3 people to play- 1 "Game Master" and two players. Like an RPG GM, the game master acts as both a referee and a plot-enhancer, helping to tell an epic story. While I understand that this is necessary for a "narrative" wargame, it does prove to be an inconvenience at times. I also didn't like the lack of balance at first, which I found a bit confusing, but now I have come to appreciate it. Not having limitations can make for really epic games! Lastly, the rules-set is completely different from any other GW game I have played yet. That in-and-of-itself is not a bad thing, but it did take longer for me to learn because of that fact. It also makes for very slow games at times, and necessitates the use of a calculator for some of the complicated math!
All in all, I love specialist games. If you have not played any of them, I strongly encourage you to give them a try. If you play either WFB or 40k, you likely have some models you can use in one of these games. In these times of increasing prices, free is GOOD...
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