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Thursday, 14 December 2017

Warcradle releases the Ice Maiden - Goddam the b*stards!

A little while ago, an email popped into my inbox...

I was a bit surprised, but popped onto Facebook and the Dystopian Wars group was already alight with...wait...anger?

Two things seemed to have triggered people - the price tag of £75 for the model, and a £40 (or $40) shipping charge. Some also questioned the "reworking" of the model and how this was also bad, but that was a much smaller reaction than the first two points.

Now given the vagaries around exchange rates etc, and the fact I'm used to seeing high shipping charges with transatlantic shipping, $40 for transporting a foot of resin across the globe seemed high, but not something to quit a game over. People also seem to be confusion the release from Warcradle and the shipping from the retailer Wayland Games. Shipping is one of those things you either accept or don't, depending on your desire for the produuct, and there is NO standard for how it's handled either within or without the gaming industry.

It then shortly transpired that the shipping calculator was incorrect, and the charge should have been £5 instead...problem (if ever there was one) solved. There's a phrase in the UK - it's a "Storm in a Teacup"...especially valid in this case, I feel.

Then there's the question of price. Spartan had put an add-on cost of £45 for the Kickstarter-exclusive model, £75 for a retail release sounds eminently in-line with what I'd expect. After all, despite the way many of us treat it, Kickstarter is NOT A STORE. You back projects with the promise of getting some rewards for that, and you get big discounts from retail prices, offset by the risk that these projects don't happen, and you don't get anything. Let us not forget that many people did NOT get their promised models from Spartan....but that isn't Warcradle's fault! It's literally got nothing to do with them, Kickstarter fulfilment is purely the responsibility of the project creator, so Warcradle releasing the Ice Maiden is not them rubbing anything in people's faces - it's them giving you a chance to own something you otherwise never would.

So an extra £30 for a general release 230mm resin ship seems...about right. 

Just to put it into context - this will get you a couple of Predators from GW, which aren't directly comparable, but you get the idea. Someone also commented that it would buy the boxed game of Necromunda too, but that's a whole different genre (being one of many "game in a box with minis" type releases from GW), never mind about game. DW is a miniatures game, and within that resin space we all know prices are higher. For instance, this guy is £75.99

So comparison with niche resin models I think is ok, comparison to board games by big manufacturers really is a bit sus. I mean, how much does Monopoly cost these days? I don't know, because it's irrelevant to this topic. Let's move on.

Now I mentioned Warcradle have remodelled the ship too...interesting. Again, there were some "I don't like the new version" type comments, but let's look at them side by side, shall we (well, top and bottom, to be completely accurate!)? I'm not seeing ground-breaking changes in the Warcradle (top picture) version. They've changed the doors and the front...erm...yeah. Now I'm not a personal fan of this ship to start with, but from what I can see Warcradle have made some minor changes to allow you to have the doors open or closed...which is cool, right? It also makes sense, because let's face it, going anywhere with a prow like that is going to SOAK those forward weapons!

Maybe the changes are elsewhere?

Well, the engine seems to have been lowered into the water, but again, not seeing groundbreaking alterations. I think I like the remodelled version better, but it's a 52 vs 48 Brexit-type thing...too close to call for me.

Now I'm not trying to be a Warcradle fanboy here - after all I've yet to see them produce a finished product for these franchises yet - but once again the evidence I'm seeing is that they seem to be doing the right things. Fans called for the Ice Maiden, they've got it...not only that, but Warcradle haven't just done the obvious "make a load of castings of this as an easy, cheap route", but have invested time and effort here to make a model that's more flexible than the Spartan original. If this is a path that Warcradle are going to follow for all of the Dystopian Age and for Firestorm, then I'm in!

I don't know whether the displeasure at this (from what I see is a positive move) is just because WC are tinkering with SGs old stuff, or it's just some weird emotional attachment thing, but I'm failing to understand the hate. Some people's emotional attachment to Spartan is a bit like a rose-coloured glasses look back into an old girlfriend you broke up with years before but she was beautiful, lovely ect, and nothing your current (smart, attractive, loving) current gf does seems to be as good. 

Then you meet her at a university reunion party and realise that you left her because she was an obnoxious cheating cow who was stealing your money out of your wallet. Come on guys, wake up and smell the coffee. We have things good, Christmas is just around the corner and these games (which we had all feared were gone for good) have a new lease of life. Stop being the grinch!!!

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Warcradle introduce the Dystopian Age

Well, it's perhaps slightly coincidental that I manage to post on the blog only just to find out there's another reason for me to write moments later! Here's why;

Yes, Warcradle are "rebooting" the DW universe and integrating their existing WWX universe into it.

Now, there's been a mixed reaction to this, but for the life of me I can't really see why. I mean, two steampunkesque universes sold by the same company, who would have thought they'd merge them? For me, it makes perfect sense - it's exactly what I'd have done in the same situation. Now you have a scalable set of games (1:1200 fleet, 10mm  army and 32mm skirmish) all under the same roof. They have reasonable explanations of the differences apparent in WWX to the other SG-origin franchises. It seems to make good sense.

The other point to me is that Warcradle are doing two things here that Spartan were never good at;

1) They are world building on a grand scale.

For those who didn't know Neil at SG, DW was his baby, and it was his ideas, background (though often written by freelancers) and alterations - he talked them through sometimes, but essentially it was not a discussion, and there was never any grand over-arching strategy to the world, it was more what models could be made, so what games were needed and how did that fit it. To me it seems Warcradle are approaching it from the other direction, and building out the universe with an integrated team (always better) and fitting the games to that universe. This is what I think is the best way of creating seamless integrated games, and allowing a smooth flow and choice for players.

2) They are engaging the community and communicating effectively.

Warcradle have released a 20-odd minute long video explaining what they're doing, why they're doing it, explaining that they're not invalidating people's old armies for AC with scale change, promised clear PDFs and they're hosting a QnA session in a week's time. Oh, and they showed concept sketches and new models too. What more can people ask for??

Now I get it, right - some people are attached to the background as it is, and feel there are substantial differences, but Warcradle has made definite business decisions here in a planned way, and they're handling it as well as I've seen any company do this kind of thing. I'm not sure how they could have done this better other than preserve the settings in aspic, which helps no-one.

I think it's way too soon for anyone to cry "the sky is falling". From a business perspective, this seems an obvious move. It creates an integrated universe which could result in cross-pollination between two sets of steampunk games players. It's a "no-brainer". They're being open about it and up-front before they roll the changes out, and people are shooting it down before anything is released...come on guys, even I'm not THAT cynical!

Maybe it will be a clusterfuck, but give it a chance. Now some will think I'm being hypocritical here - "you wouldn't have cut SG that slack" I hear you cry...well, no, I wouldn't, but that's because SG retconned their own thin material several times and had a track record of messing stuff like this up. Here we have a new company rolling out something after a track record of pretty sensible and creative changes. Not everyone might like 100% of it, but maybe - just maybe - the changes will be positive and work well. If I were a DW player, I'd be quite excited.

Now I mentioned they showed some concept art, and here it is, this one of a really interesting ship with a whale launcher!;

And here are three versions of the whale construct;

They also showed some renders (in spin-around 3D) of three battleships for the Crown, Union and Celestials...

Not only that, but they showed us physical models - the first of the Union Battleship shown above;

This is a beast of a ship, but it retains many elements true to the original Spartan theme of the FSA. The last models shown were from Armoured Clash, and incorporated both DW and WWX elements;

Honestly, if Warcradle handle the Firestorm universe with half as much integrity and openness, it's looking to be a bright future for Armada and Planetfall in 2018. Let's see what next Friday brings!

Take a look at the video for a full explanation - it's well worth watching.

Note all images are taken from the video, and remain copyright of the original material.

Still here....

Hi everyone....

So some of you may have thought I'd disappeared, but in fact I've just been incredibly busy, with my free time taken up with working on my house, taking my D&D group through Rise of Tiamat and playing my Gnome Wizard Dafriut on Roll20 (Curse of Strahd). Thishasn't left a lot of time for anything else - including this blog and The Hub Systems. Rest asured, we haven't gone, we're just dealing with a lot of stuff!

On our house (which was built sometime around 1740), we decided to replace the grotty carpet on the stairs from the ground floor, at the same time as putting solid oak flooring through from the Kitchen, dining room and hall. When we lifted the carpet, we found the sriars were split, rotten and held together in some places by hardboard! I called a carpenter to replace the bad treads, but he said that stairs like this (its a 180 degree spiral stair) were made on site - they'd all need to be replaced...

This started a month-long saga when led to Oscar and I putting in a set of pre-made stairs (with the help of my neighbour), replastering walls, constructing short a massive job when we envisaged getting someone in to lay a carpet...that was Autumn gone!

In Rise of Tiamat, our group had a "rage quit" - one of the players felt he could no longer play with the group due to "differences in play style". That's fine, but I've not seen behaviour from the group I find problematic except from this player...still I respected his wishes, but then he wanted to dictate how he left the campaign, right in the middle of one of the, no. The party now has to carry on without the almost 70,000 experience that his character represents, which is the main problem I have with a player leaving late in the campaign - if he'd left earlier then the players would be almost an entire level higher.

Still, the group feels more harmonious now, and they still have one more episode to boost them up before they face the final confrontation at the well of Dragons...let's see how they fare!

As for me, I wanted to play as well as DM, so I joined a group on Roll20 playing Curse of Strahd. We've already had 4 PC deaths, making the adventure definitely perilous and there's a palpable sense of menace, which is great. My Wizard is now 4th level, School of Divination and Lucky, giving me a lot of dice control. I thought about going for illusion, but the big kickers don't set in for that school until much higher level, and I figured I may not last that long! So far it's been a blast.

GW seem to be keeping themselves together, releasing Necromunda, more codices and models, and not too many things that look horrible - though there are a few (of course!). They seem to be increasingly interactive, which has to be a good thing, though the problem with 40k as an IGO-UGO system remains - maybe alternate activation was just too much of a mental shift for them, which is a shame since the main issue I see with the game is almost wholly down to this simple and very 20th century mechanic.

Anyway, now December is here we will endeavour to bring you a bit more both on the blog and The Hub Systems, so you can enjoy your festive feasts whilst digesting hobby-related stuff. See you soon,

Alex & Oscar

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Wayland picks up Spartan Games via Warcradle Studios

As will be common knowledge now, the Spartan Games IPs have been picked up in their entirety by Wayland Games via their Warcradle moniker.

This is a Very Good Thing.

Why? Aren't Wayland a horrible online store who give big discounts and fail to fulfil delivery promises? Haven't they ruined WWX?

Well, no, I don't think either of those things is true. Wayland are, of course, a pretty big online supplier in Europe, but the feedback you get on what they're like is mixed and tends to be anecdotal. Have people had some horrible experiences with them? Yes, I'm sure that's true. Is this reflective of the wider company? I doubt it.

Wayland offer big cuts off RRPs for a lot of games, and they may not have stock of 100% of what orders they take - this is normal retail practice and as with anything, "your mileage may vary". I placed an order with Wayland a week or so ago and it was fulfilled very promptly with no issue - it was just for paints, and I'm sure they've dozens of them in stock. If it was a pre-order for "the next big exciting thing in gaming", and my order was beyond their initial stocking order fulfilment, I may have had a longer wait. I'm not going to judge them on the past experiences of others on the internet.

But what about WWX?

Well, what about it? Before Wayland got hold of the game it was a pretty out-there experience, with no visible presence in the UK to speak of. Since they've had it, I've seen booths at two shows this year, which is 100% of the shows I've attended - not a bad hit rate so far. If they do the same with Firestorm, that's great news for expanding the fanbase.

Even better, I listened to episode 219 of The D6 Generation today whilst driving to and from an appointment for work. Stuart Mackaness, general Manager at Wayland/Warcradle, was the third chair, and he seems to be a very balanced and reasonable guy. Even better, he certainly seems to know how to run a game both commercially and mechanically. His rationale behind some of the (self-admittedly brutal) changes in WWX was sound, and made decisively - it was a definitive direction and deliberate change. That's great news if its applied to the Spartan franchises.

So I'm hopeful for the future of our beloved Spartan Games IPs - even if the future does not involve myself, TheoryMachine and departs from prior direction somewhat, I think now at least we can have hope that changes are being made for rational and commercial reasons, rather than on the whim of a single person. That makes a HUGE difference, and I'm looking forward to what happens next.

Bring it on!!!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Just for the record...

OK all, get the popcorn out, this should be fun for you all....I don't like airing dirty laundry in public, but when someone specifically attacks you on a blog, then...well, it's time to wither ignore it passively, or get out the virtual howitzers. I've never been very passive (you'd never have guessed, eh?) so I think people deserve both sides of the story - here's my counter to Josh Linde's continued personal crusade against the "satan in human form" that I seemingly am. I will be using portions of Mr Linde's blog to demonstrate ad respond to here, and I quote verbatim - I don't do cut and paste shenanigans.

"Alex Mann and his gang of supporters have been basically clogging the forums and groups with hate filled vitriol in the guise of trying to better the community.  Yes Spartan had a ton of problems and yes they could have been run way better.  We all know that, its not news.  So why beat a dead horse."

I'm sorry, but "clogging the forums and groups" is rather an overstatement, especially since I've not been posting on Spartan's forum for quite some time, nor have "my followers" (wow, I sound like some kind of cult-leader...I'm almost flattered!)

Now, have I been a prominent voice in calling out Spartan's errant ways for the past year? Hell yes - and rightly so, as it turns out. Saying the company could be run better is like saying Trump could be a better president. So should Americans be quiet about Trump then? Should Trump's response to Charlottesville not be publicly called out? Josh's stance would seem to support that - "shut up and keep quiet" is the mantra. We know it, so don't say anything....hmmm, not sure that's going to change much though, is it?

So have I been vocal? Yes. Too much? Maybe - I can be a dog with a bone, especially when I'm right. I'll come back to being right later on....for now, back to Josh...

"Its because of vanity.  Alex is a narcissist who cannot reconcile with the fact he was replaced."

Errr, let me correct you here Josh, because I'm big on facts and data. I resigned, I wasn't replaced. I saw what was coming, didn't like the shape of it and stepped out before it happened. I have an entire email chain with Neil over several weeks on this.

As to whether I'm a narcissist? Maybe - I don't believe so, however, and my career progression and 360s haven't come up with that either. I'm thorough, driven and know what I'm talking about, otherwise I don't talk about it, but I don't believe I'm a narcissist.

"He and the former focus group members overstepped their bounds and scope.  When this was corrected they threw tantrums like a bunch of petulant children."

Oh dear, Josh is not great with his facts, is he? We overstepped no bounds at all, because I was theoretically given free-reign on Firestorm - and again I've definitive proof on this. Of course it never was free-reign because I was a volunteer and had to get Neil to actuate everything the FFG how exactly could they overstep these non-existent bounds?

"Alex says I stabbed him in the back and I am clueless and several other things."

Ah, at last, we have some facts.

So Josh Linde was an FFG member, though ask any one of them as to his input and productivity and they'll tell you the same thing - he did little. Mainly he made single-meta points and then sulked when they weren't taken up (because we had a global group of players with many different metas, and produced what worked across the board, not just in Lansing.

What Josh DID do, however, was talk to Neil at GenCon. He misrepresented some of what the FFG were saying to Neil in order to get himself a leg-up into Neil's favour...I'd call that stabbing a group in the back pretty solidly. Now how could he do this? Well, a lot of what the FFG did was mulled over on Skype, both in calls and on chat (calls are difficult when you have a 12-14h time difference between some of the participants!). As you might imagine from spirited types, we had a lot of discussion - which I generally encourage. Chewing the fat and disagreeing is where creative ideas can come from sometimes, other times its just needed to blow off steam. Nothing we discussed was ever things I wouldn't have said to Neil's face.

But see, that's the thing with the written word and the spoken - you miss nuance, allowing others to misrepresent it. Everyone in the FFG knew what SGs failings were, and wanted them addressed because they all knew that without that, SG would never succeed long term. The FFG members were all passionate about Firestorm, and none of them sought a job or recompense from SG, unlike Mr Linde.

Oh, and he did this all at the same time as being a guest on my podcast too - classy, not in the least bit snakelike or betraying....nooo.

"What he does not tell you is that several of his cronies and he himself harassed me and attacked me personally on the forums and on the Facebook groups and went so far as to send me threatening messages on FB messenger.  I blocked them. They blocked me."  

Wow - perhaps Josh is a Trump supporter, because this is really familiar - the truth being represented backwards as reality. Now I'll admit it, I said some pretty unpleasant things to Captain Snake, sorry, Mr Linde on response to him and his friends being pretty vile to me, after which I blocked him. It was a two-way exchange. But hey, I don't expect you to blindly believe me, so here's our entire Messenger discussion, from when I was asking after him and then when he says he likes the new Relthoza ships we did, to when I asked him not to post on my Threads, which I felt was entirely justified as I explained...
 Now did I cover myself in glory here? No, I'm happy to admit that, but this is a two-way exchange, not some Rotweiller mauling a puppy. Yes, I was pissed at Josh for selling Neil a line on the FFG that ended up hurting the development of the game in a MAJOR way, but it's not like I have some hate campaign against him, I just think he's untrustworthy.

"This allowed them to basically say anything they wanted unchallenged.  I am glad community members started to fight back against all the negative talk. I did not stab you in the back Alex I talked to Neil about my concerns."

Eh? OK, so no-one challenged me and my imaginary army? No, that's not true. Yes, people probably got tired of me saying the same things about Spartan, but SPARTAN DIDN'T CHANGE! If they had started treating people right, I'd have said so!

I also have a real issue with "I talked to Neil about my concerns". Yeah, you stabbed the FFG in the back. You didn't come to me, you didn't raise your concerns to us as a group, you went straight to Mr Boss man at GenCon and whispered in his ear, when no-one was around to put context or an alternative viewpoint, or correct your interpretations.

"He shared them when I showed him the rules you had never shown him." 

Uh-oh - bullshit alert everyone! Here's the synopsis I sent to Neil on the FFG v3 developments:

Aside from that, NEIL HAD ACCESS TO EVERY SINGLE FFG COMMUNITY THREAD. So where are we plotting or taking Firestorm off down some country lane? Ah - Skype, you say. Well yeah, we bitched and moaned on Skype in the way everyone does about the stupid things their boss or employer does, but it was all stuff that either needed saying to blow off steam, or was a concern for the future of the game.

"For better or worse, in this case worse, it was his game and his company.  He calls the shots, you don't. "

And THAT worked out just GREAT for everyone, didn't it now? Remember how I said I was going to come back to being right? Let me share with you another email I sent to Neil back in Autumn of 2016. 

Now forgive me if I'm wrong, but I think I spell it out for Neil pretty plainly in the above, and once more, I (and the FFG) were always speaking as "the critical friend" - someone who is close enough to you to tell you you're doing something monstrously stupid before you do it, however painful that might be. These are points I made to Neil on several occasions, and note the date - this is almost a year ago.

"I knew what my place was and what I was getting into. Unlike Alex I am an adult."

Hahahahahahaha...too funny. Well, glad you knew what your place was Josh. How did the position of telling Neil his shit didn't stink go for you? Was it adult enough for you. Sorry, but toilet humour always works when you're a child like me.

"So congratulations FFG assholes you got your way.  Happy?  People lost their jobs and a company we loved is now gone.  It is of their own doing, but relishing in their defeat makes you all the worst kind of people."

No Josh, you are the same sort of fool that said the Emperor was wearing fine clothes, when he was in fact being made a fool of himself. Standing by and jockying for personal gain and not understanding the ramifications of saying "hey dude, everything is good" makes you culpable in Spartan's demise far more than me.

If we' in the FFG had "got our way", Neil would have devolved FA development, Taskforce would have been a proper cut-down intro-version of the main game and released as part of the new v3 (as v2.5), which would have been out in Summer this year with a new Sorylian vs Relthoza (plus Pathogen) 2-player set. It would also have included Firestorm Inferno (a way to play much larger fleets), giving us all a fully scalable SF game set in the universe we love. It would also have been accompanied by a new set of commanders and new background books fleshing out the technology and worlds of the FA Galaxy.

So if you're going to throw pitiful rocks, please do so whilst not standing on a glass floor, you dope!

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Demise of Spartan Games

Well, today is the day....I came back from the beach and opened my laptop to look at emails, to see a tide of messages and tags on Facebook. I read the news, and posted a couple of responses, replied to PMs and such, then went to cook dinner.

Why the nonchalance? No fan-fares? Well, of course not. The demise of a gaming company is never a happy event, even when it is so blatantly obvious in coming as this.

Who is to Blame??

Alex, the Spartan-Slayer?

No, of course not. I'm actually very sad that Spartan has come to this - especially when it was definitely avoidable. I could point the finger at individuals who were instrumental, but that would be as childish and stupid as those who have already gone onto social media and essentially said this was my fault (which I could potentially use as evidence of cyber-bullying, were I so inclined - I'm not, of course, I blocked their puerile blither long ago).

Of course blaming me is also ridiculous. One person (or even a group of determined people) writing a blog cannot bring down a company - even one as badly organised and run as Spartan. People would not read this blog (or at least not more than once) if there wasn't truth in what I said. All I do is hold a candle to what companies do - if they weren't doing stupid stuff (or people didn't agree that it was stupid), my writing would gain no traction.

It's easy to understand why people jump to these conclusions - a lack of facts and/or understanding is common, and I'm very vocal (deliberately so), so in the tin box of social media (which amplifies such wittering), it seems like I'm making the difference. I'll let you into a secret - I'm not. Retailers and distributors do not make their business decisions based on some random guys internet scribbling. If you really believe that this did not have more to do with Spartan's business model and approach to the market than any fan-based discussions (positive or negative), then you should never consider starting a business yourself - seriously.

I've used the analogy on Facebook, but I'll reiterate it here for the hard of understanding. The guy standing by the snake-oil salesman's pitch saying "that looks like snake oil" is NOT the bad guy, Spartan were selling The Emperor's New Clothes - here's a Wiki if you don't know the story...(what are you, kids?!?)

Now, in case you still don't understand, the bad guy in this story is NOT the one who first says "but the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes". It's the one's trying to sell you something that doesn't exist - a false promise. There's another phrase that's appropriate here - "Don't shoot the messenger".

So What Happened?

Well, only Spartan know the exact reasons, but it's a pretty easy trail to follow if you want to. Essentially, Spartan tried to do too much too fast, started too many things without building up support for them before moving onto the next thing - that doesn't win permanent customers. In essence it's like doing the same with a tunnel - dig too far without adding supports and sooner or later the whole thing caves in. Burning their bridges with rules writers and contributors along the way also doesn't help your cause, nor does over-promising and under-delivering to your customers.

This makes the "personality" of your company seem a little unhinged, and less trustworthy, meaning people think more before parting with their cash. Take Prodos, for example - that name likely fills you with some unease, or "nice minis but I'd not buy from them" feeling, because they've developed a similar sort of reputation with their AVP game and other projects (like the White Dragon Kickstarter project Shattered Void, where Prodos were supposed to be making the master minis for them).

But aside from that, Spartan did not build an appealing global distribution model - it was often hard for customers to get product from anywhere but Spartan, and Spartan did a lot of "order from us" exclusives which sidelined distribution - this approach, together with its haphazard releases and ADHD personality made it a pretty unappealing partner. This effectively self-limited Spartan's reach to us customers. Whilst customer service when you were dealing with Spartan as an individual was often great (probably because you were dealing with one person, Lizzie, at the company), this wasn't the overall experience.

Customer experience is a HUGE thing in most big global companies - at my company it forms part of the metrics and KPIs of most leadership and a lot of the coal-face customer-facing people too. It's reviewed in leadership meetings, it's pored over and analysed, and action plans put in place to prevent decline, and to drive positives. This is because most companies understand that customer experience is a massive part of customer retention and it goes beyond just how customers find dealing with those at your company directly, but all the dealings with your company - whether that's delivery (which is most likely through a 3rd party you have little or no control over) or stocking (does my local store have your product?). If their delivery is late, or the shop doesn't have your stock, saying "it's not our fault" no longer cuts it in modern retail.

Fundamentally, Spartan failed to really grasp what a wargamer in 2017 wants to be happy. They had a window of opportunity back in 2010-2016 that they only partially exploited, and instead of shoring up and building on a few internal franchises, they kept creating new projects - splitting resources, baffling retailer and customer understanding / support, and ultimately killing their business. No one but Spartan's leadership is responsible for that.

So What Now?

Spartan is going - sad but maybe not without a silver lining. As you'll all undoubtedly know, I've been very critical of SGs (entirely unnecessary) "new direction" for Firestorm. I hope their v3 stuff does NOT make it out of Evercreech, and instead the franchise is picked up by someone who really understands wargames, miniatures, community support and business. I hope they re-engage the community and get Firestorm back to where it belongs - as a great and fun game up there with X-Wing, 40k and the like.

Of course, I'm still going ahead with Fanstorm, that hasn't changed. Whilst on holiday I've actually put a lot more work into my mammoth Firestorm valuation spreadsheet (which has been several years in the making). It's shaping up really nicely because I want to use it to re-cost the ships in the Firestorm universe to more accurately reflect their game value - which of course means you have to have a way of properly assessing their value in an unbiased and scientific way....turns out that's a LOT harder than you first imagine, especially with all the options in Firestorm v2.

As I think I've mentioned before, this Excel document assesses every ship and squadron's survivability against every other ships weaponry, and vice-versa, to give both offensive and defensive values based on statistical probabilities (at every range band, with every Hardpoint and Option, direct and indirect, accounting for MARs, damage etc). Funnily enough, the great majority of ships in FA are very closely pointed to their actual potential, with only a few types and individuals being obviously outside the norms and needing significant adjustment (battle stations - we're looking at you!).

Anyway, don't be glum about Spartan's demise - the people who used to work there are the ones who deserve more, as do all of you paying customers out there. At least they pulled the plug before the Kickstarter funded, as there would have been a lot of people losing money if that had been the case. Look at it this way - Spartan had produced very little for Firestorm over the past year, so what have you lost? OK, if you're a Halo GC player you've probably lost out more, or are a DW Kickstarter funder who still hasn't received their pledge, but if you're a Firestorm or Planetfall player, you're not in any real different position than you were yesterday, only the future is now a little clearer. I'll continue playing Firestorm and continue working with TheoryMachine to produce Fanstorm to keep all your models relevant and the game as vibrant as it ever was.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The joys of holidays....

I know I've not been posting lately and that the latest episode of The Hub Systems is waaaaay overdue, but such is the joy of holidays. Oscar has a job working in a local bar during some of the holidays, he's been to Boardmasters festival and now we're in Brittany, France, chilling out by the coast (in a house literally about 100 yards from the beach).

Of course, I took some hobby stuff with me, so I've been painting Runewars riders, an Efreet and a couple of random D&D characters/NPCs to boot. I enjoy painting on holiday, because it's not considered to be wasting time during the day at the weekend (when I could be doing other thing like laying flooring or painting doors etc!), and it doesn't have to be constrained to the normal after-working hours in the week. It has an unhurried feeling about it that ironically makes it much more productive than if it were done under pressure.

Anyway, just wanted to let everyone know I've not disappeared, and am still keeping an eye on that Kickstarter (you know which one!). Especially important as when I'm back from holiday I'm straight off to Madrid for work, followed by Stockholm the following week....hopefully I'll manage to get some posts and maybe an Episode recorded soon....

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Firestorm Armada 2-Player boxed set - What should we have got?

Someone (Daniel Jones) asked on Facebook what ships people think we should have got for the core race expansions, so I thought I would share my own opinion (together with stats) of what TheoryMachine think we should have had as a 2-Player boxed set. Now the obvious bit is - it has to be the two Core Races that haven't yet had a boxed set, right? The Sorylians and the Relthoza. Now, with Spartan's ability to create more complex, multi-part models, it should be possible to create a boxed set that actually give you Large and Medium models that can be built in one of two different ways. This would both extend flexibility and appeal to players, and give people a reason to either buy multiple boxed sets, or to buy the boxed set and still buy the separate models on individual release.

So given that, what do the Sorylians need?

The Sorylians - Tier 1

Well, first off, another Battleship would be a good start. From how the Falx fares in battle, the Sorylians would undoubtedly have been working to cover some of its shortcomings. Now, the Falx isn't a bad ship, it just isn't an equal counter to other Large ships (it's no dueller) - so enter the Cuirass:

The Cuirass class battleship is one of a new breed of designs that Sorylian Engineers started working on at the beginning of the Seccession Wars, based on predictions of how the conflict would escalate. These designs have been developed by the Sorylians over the past decades and are now finally ready to start field trials in the Outer Spheres – the standard method of deployment the Collective uses when producing new starships.

The Cuirass bears many similarities to the Falx and Swordbreaker that preceded it, but with several enhancements and design shifts. Firstly, the Cuirass has a much greater offensive bent that the Falx – it is built as a ship ready to duel with other battleships in open space one-to-one, and take them down. To further this point, the ship has an extensive number of defensive enhancements, notably a reinforced, strengthened fore, and shrouded scatter weapons - making the ship extremely tough on the approach into battle. Shield generators may also be fitted with Terran-derived sectoring technology, something unknown on Sorylian ships of the past, but garnered out of close cooperation with their Kurak allies.

Let's have a look at some stats:

Sector shielding gives the Cuirass a possible 7/12 DR/CR profile from the frontal arc with 2 Shields on it’s approach into battle, making it one of the best protected battleships in the Firestorm Galaxy. It retains the ability to use its Kinetic and Torpedo weapons even with this profile, so it is not a passive approach, meaning that when it arrives in optimum firing position it is likely to be doing so at full or close to full HP, making it a very potent early-game ship the enemy cannot afford to ignore, especially if also accompanied by Flechettes to further enhance its firepower. This would also make it ideal to pair with a reserved Falx entering by foldspace for a heavy-hitting one-two punch in the early or mid-point of the game.

Another more unique innovation on this second generation battleship is the ability to deploy Seeker-Class Drones. These do not form part of the Cuirass’ squadron, nor even have their own activation, but instead work as a force multiplier for the Sorylian Collective. These are developments of the Sorylians long-established wormhole network, re-imagined with Terran expertise of fold-space beacons from their Satellite Charter, to act as specific beacons for Sorylian ships – free from the Ba’kash infiltration and piracy that their wormhole network has been plagued by. Deployed by Hidden Setup or by the Cuirass, these drones allow pinpoint foldspace entry by Sorylian ships within their area of effect – making that 1-2 double Battleship setup even more deadly.

The Cuirass is no slouch either – with a native 8” move, it has the legs to get into that optimum firing position quickly, and at the cost of some manoeuvrability it can even become faster than many cruisers. With AP, movement and Assault Blitz upgrades, the Cuirass becomes a very credible boarding threat in addition to its native direct AD potential, especially paired with a Katar Assault Cruiser.

With a fast, hard-hitting battleship, what other class could a multi-part model make that would fit with Sorylian lore, and fill a role in their fleets? Well, the Sorylians are not SRS heavy, but they do board well - how about an Assault Cruiser? Let's take a look at the Serapis:

Utilising the same basic hull arrangement of the Cuirass, the Serapis dispenses with shrouded weapons for overall hull strengthening and the provision of extensive launch bays for its assault shuttles to carry the vast numbers of its boarding marines to the enemy. This results in a reduced broadside capability, and so Sorylian Engineers have focussed on providing a hard-hitting fore mounted scatter array to soften targets up on approach before launching their coup de grace hand-to-hand. The Serapis also retains some of the innovation and options that the Cuirass introduces, such as a reinforced fore and sector shielding:

Accompanied by a Katar Assault cruiser, the boarding potential of the Serapis becomes overwhelming - something the Sorylians have found necessary when combatting their martial galactic neighbours, the Relthoza. It is also possible to take a pair of Pauldron Escort Cruiser to further expand and add flexibility to its SRS complement.

Tier 2

We heard mention above of the Pauldron Escort Cruiser above, so let's start there. The Sorylians are not natural fliers, and they tend to field SRS principally in dedicated carrier vessels. The Grand Council have recognised that the tactics of other races, especially the Relthoza (who are capable of fielding large quantities of SRS at any engagement level) have exposed a potential weakness in the Collecxtive's Sphere defences, below where fleet carriers such as the Xiphos are deployed.

As such, the Pauldron has been devloped using the same manufacturing lines as produce the Skyhammer and Falcata Cruisers, adapting the hull to provide flexible launch bays for an array of different SRS. This enables SRS cover for smaller task forces, and boosts the abilities of larger vessels such as the Serapis - the latter is not configured for bomber operations, but coupled with 2 Pauldrons, it can field both bombers and assault shuttles, or provide interceptor cover etc. With typical Sorylian practicality, the Pauldron also retains offensive armaments to ensure it remains viable even on losing its complement of on-board craft.

The Sorylians have a pretty effective Tier 2 selection, with extremely effective Cruisers and Gunships - what more could they have that would be a viable selection? Well one area the Sorylians do lack is in the area of mines - they simply do not use them. Rather than give them a ship that did the same as other races, they would deal with this by countering this threat. As such, we have the Flagellant:

This is a tough cruiser, built on the same lines as the Kopis, shielded as standard and with the capability to increase that shield strength. It needs to be a tough ship too, since it's assigned duty is minesweeping, using the new Minsweeper MAR:

Once again, a single-purpose ship in this class is something Sorylian Engineers would wish to avoid, just minesweeping is not going to satisfy most Sorylian Commander's thirst for combat. As such, the Flagellant retains a decent - if short ranged - set of scatter weaponry, and coupled with its toughness it is often seen plunging ahead into enemy lines ahead of the rest of the fleet, weathering the fire of the enemy to unleash short-ranged hell into their foes. This type of assault often disrupts the carefully made plans of their opponents, allowing the Sorylians rapidly-closing fleet elements to mop up the scattered remnants. Flagellants have thus rapidly gained a reputation as line-breakers, and it is seen as one of the most honourable positions to hold in the Collective's Sphere Defence fleets.

As the Tier 3 would be a resin rework of an existing ship, no need to talk about that here, so let's move on.

The Relthoza - Tier 1

The Relthoza spiders were my first entry point into the FSA universe, so I'm used to them and I've never had a problem with how they play in terms of seeing them as "difficult". I've never really had too much of a problem with the Brood Battleship, it's a solid ship. The Relthoza have a good selection of options, and I love the feel of the faction. That being said, the Relthoza have some obvious gaps in their repertoire given their fluff - they're an SRS and boarding-heavy fleet, so why they don't have a Battlecarrier and Assault carrier seems odd - these are both obvious development directions for them. So let's have a look at some rationale:

The Relthoza Incursions into Sorylian territory have time and again been repulsed by the sphere defences the Sorylians have entrenched around their territory. Although the recent conflict in the Storm Zone has drained Sorylian forces and allowed the Relthoza to make gains, these are relatively minor and have not allowed for the large scale footholds the Twenty had hoped for. Without this bridgehead into Sorylian territory, the reformer fleets cannot operate with sufficient impunity to start thoroughly terraforming worlds - which is what the end-game is for the Relthoza: More inhabitable worlds to colonize.

This has led the Relthoza to technological solutions – the introduction of the new nanospatial lance weapon system in the Virulence gunship has proved successful and has been expanded to new ship types. Advanced shunt matrices and new cloaking systems are also being deployed, together with expanded suites of support ship types to disrupt the highly structured Sorylian defences. The Sorylians, like the Relthoza, are excellent martial opponents, so the need for more means of delivering more warriors into the field is highly desirable, hence the development of the Atrax:

The Atrax is a ship designed to prize other vessels through martial combat. Commonly fielding assault shuttles and packed with warriors, these ships are relatively cheap and fast to construct, relying on stealth and cloaks to get to their prey and seize them. Alternatively they can be outfitted with the next generation of Shunt drives, enabling them to leap forward and deliver a crippling blow where the enemy would never suspect it. As with much emergent Relthozan technology, it is meant to be highly disruptive to any enemies plans. It does pay for this rather single-purposed mentality somewhat - it can be vulnerable to short-ranged torpedo weapons, and should it's cloak be damaged its hull is not meant for front-line combat confrontations with similarly-sized vessels. The Twenty deem this a price worth paying for its potential rewards - after all, fresh young warriors are an easily replaced resource.

Now making a multi-piece model representing two ships here is easy, since all you need for an Assault Carrier is a bit more armour and some more weapons - the launch bays and general configuration can be much the same. Here we have the Dysdera:

The Dysdera employs the same nanospatial lance technology that was first implemented on the Virulence Gunship, in an up-armoured version of the same hull as the Atrax. The Broadsides are extensively expanded, and the aft weapons systems removed to accommodate the power generation requirements of the fore lances. This results in a slightly more delicate internal structure, simply because of the fine balance required for the new technology. It also reduces the range of any installed battle shunt drive generator - the power requirements for more would simply be impractical to accommodate without a major hull redesign and expansion.

Tier 2

Now Relthoza mediums are also an interesting design space, and there is plenty of scope here. One of the things the Relthoza lack is a stand-off destroyer (the Venom is very much an ambush predator), and surprisingly for a race which is quite torpedo-heavy, they have no dedicated Torpedo Cruiser. So, here they are:

The Bolas is a stand-off torpedo cruiser designed to provide long-range support to advancing fleets. It remains in the rear of the engagement, cloaked and often running silent to avoid detection as it unleashes nanotech-laced death from the depths of space. Should it be engaged, it has a moderate short-ranged broadside array to defend itself, and can either be rigged with non-detection systems or an advanced Shunt matrix to help it get out of trouble quickly should it be flanked. It's weapon systems make it a deadly late-game opponent, but even from the opening salvoes this is not a squadron that can be ignored, meaning the enemy needs to divert valuable resources to deal with them as the main Relthozan force closes.

Next we have the Cryptos Destroyer, one of the most daring and advanced ships Relthozan technology has produced to date. Employing an experimental advanced cloaking field, the Cryptos is almost impossible to target when cloaked, and chooses when to engage its prey using the same nanospatial lance system used in the Dysdera. Such is the power drain from this new cloak, however, that it cannot use weaponry whilst it is engaged (and even if it could, to do so would reveal it's location to targeting sensors).

It has, however, an advanced shunt matrix to allow itself to reposition whilst cloaked, meaning the enemy can never predict where the ship will suddenly appear, it's alien weaponry tearing ships apart from inside before fading away into blackness. It also maintains a standard broadside weaponry to protect itself from flanking attacks should its cloak or shunt matrix be damaged, though most Cryptos crews pray that these are never to be used, as it is not a ship designed for an honest, even fight.

Once again, Tier 3s would be reworked all-resin Nidus frigates, giving us a nice up-to-date offering for the Relthoza, with plenty of new dirty tricks up their sleeves.


Most Spartan 2-player sets come with extras, like the Valhalla station and the Overseers gate and probe. What I'd have loved to see from Spartan here would be an add-ons pack of Pathogen pieces for the included ships, to replace some of the ships parts. What do I mean? Take the Aquan Cruiser from the Taskforce Reinforcement boxes - you have a top and a bottom, plus another add-on for the Carrier version. In a similar manner with the construction of the ships in this set, you could have a pathogen bottom that would fit the Aquan top, giving you yet another iteration of the ships. This would have been super-cool and added more reasons to buy multiple boxed sets, and also another play element to the game - an AI deck.

This has been done elsewhere (like Deadzone) - you include a set of cards that allow you to play against an AI-Pathogen fleet. This way it doesn't even matter if you don't have someone to play the game against, you can still buy and play the set - how cool would that be?

I think a set like this would have far greater appeal than the Saurian/Pathogen set that SG have proposed with their Kickstarter - what do you think?

Monday, 14 August 2017

Firestorm Armada Core Race Expansion Sets

So now we have the blog Spartan should have put up before they started their Kickstarter, we can see some details of the planned Core Race Expansions, and it doesn't make for pretty reading for me. Why? Read on (Spoiler - contains jaded opinions about Spartan Games' current behaviour - do not ingest if sensitive to honest but scathing opinion).

Core Race Expansions - A Good Thing, right?

Well, possibly....

Expansions should be added for a reason, other than "the company needs to sell more models". Ultimately, this goes down to why a company exists, it's heart and soul. For me, a gaming company needs to be about gaming - it needs to have that at its core...if it doesn't, it comes through in everything they do, and what they do doesn't ring true. Of course companies exist to make money to continue doing what they do, but that shouldn't be an end point - it should be a means to it's end (which is growing its games). 

Take GW as a case in point. They used to be a games company - founded by gamers who didn't want to grow up. It was successful- enormously so, and grew to behemoth proportions. Still, in the late 90's-early noughties, it was still a games company - lots of hobby tips (for free) on its website, GW stores were places people went to congregate, paint and play. People inside and out were passionate about games.

Then it started being run by executives.

Sometimes, this can be a good thing - execs bring focus and timelines, spreadsheets and analysis that can really help companies improve, cut out waste, do more god stuff. Sometimes they end up controlling things and the bottom line becomes the important thing, and the rest is a mantle upon which it rests. Prices go up, free stuff starts being removed and replaced with chargeable extras, things are pushed out because they're low volume sellers, and the execs start directing company direction. People leave because "it just isn't the company it used to be". These things are picked up by the community, because things start to feel different in the game.

This behaviour really hurt GW for the past decade. Now they've a new CEO who seems to understand that the "Games" in GW means something to its customers, and is getting back towards the company it used to be. Hell, they even released a pack of skulls, which if isn't taking the piss out of themselves (in a profitable way" then I don't know what is. Not to say they still aren't having some crazy pricing decisions (that Primaris Captain and Librarian, for example), but it's early days.

So I'll come back to this point at the end of the blog when I've run through the Tiers and factions;

Tier 3 - Destroyers

"Wait a minute Alex, you said Tier 3, but you're talking about Destroyers..."

Yes, I know. Most factions get "Light Destroyers" (I'll come back to naming conventions later too), a couple get Torpedo Destroyers. So this is one of those "Oh god I hate them" general faction-wide releases that makes no background sense whatsoever. That's the first thing. The main issue I have with this release, however, is that where do these fit in the design space of Firestorm?

What do I mean by this?

Well, as a designer (and I did this for Firestorm for a long time, so I do know what I'm talking about here) there should be a reason for the ship you're designing. That's number one. So you have a role the ship should fit, and then you look at what already exists, and stat the ship according to its role and what has gone before. In general, it should fit with the existing theme of the fleet, with maybe a few differences based on its new role (otherwise why would the race design it?). Stats should be in-line with existing ships and the role, unless it's some ground-breaking new technology. So, in the FSA world, a Destroyer is generally a hard-hitting, but often difficult to spot/hit type of ship (more like a wet-navy submarine). Firepower wise they hit above their weight, especially at longer engagement ranges (with exceptions for those "Ambush" type iterations like the Venom).

Now the Firestorm design space is fairly "tight". DR ranges from 3 to 7, CR from 4 to 13. The lower end of the spectrum is more crowded, because the difference between 3/4 in game is not much and you can't really go above that for a small (as Cruisers start at DR4). So that means a "Light" Tier 3 Destroyer could be "Light" just by the virtue of having a Small hull, rather than difference in weapons, so you have a (for example) 3/5 hull with standard Destroyer weapons.

The problem then is why would you not take these awesome new Smalls over standard Frigates? That kind of Firepower is pretty good on a small ship. Well, you could price them higher, but now you're encroaching into standard destroyer territory - it's only 150 points for a pair of Venoms, whilst its usually around 100 points for a bunch of Frigates. Do you see what I mean by a crowded design space now?

This is why the FFG worked so well at designing ships, because we had twenty-odd players of the game each with a different meta putting in their opinion in the design stage, so we didn't end up with glaring oddities that ended up massively OP or vastly useless. What you really want is a ship design that half of the players think is OK, one-quarter think are OP and one-quarter think is useless. You've usually got it right then.

What should NOT happen is someone decides "you know what, all races need a new small, what should it be - I know, destroyers!" and then this is implemented. That fundamentally breaches Rule Number One - the ship should be derived from a need (perceived or real), not an arbitrary assignment. It's a bit like some god-like entity suddenly saying to all the nations of the world "and you must have Battleships in your navies". We don't need them - they're obsolete, and obsolete for a reason. Shoe-horning them in would be moronic.

Tier 2 - Medical & Repair Ships

Hmmmm. My gut feeling on this is....why? From a fluff point of view, this is madness - you don't repair ships or send in ambulances in the midst of a pitched battle. We already have SRS to cover these functions in v2, what do these add except for sucking out more points and making you buy more resin? If the repair function effectively acts as an add-on Self Repair MAR, then I foresee a lot of issues - it will tend to drag the game out, rather than make it smoother and faster.

This goes back to rationale as I mentioned above for the Tier 3s - what is the reason for introducing a ship type? Did anyone call for any of these ships in their games before (and by that I mean the function rather  than the name)? In other words, is there a gap to be filled? For me, the answer is no.

Tier 2 - The Terran Heavy Gunship

Wait, the Terrans - one of the CP-heaviest factions and one of the fleets most likely to see use of Medical Shuttles - does NOT get Medical ships? Nope, they get a Heavy Gunship. Not a gunship, which of course they don't have, but a Heavy Gunship.

Now a gunship for the Terrans is not a terrible idea, but its also not a great one. Sorting out the role of the Heavy Cruiser (which is essentially a gunship in all but name) would have achieved the same thing, but of course wouldn't have required you to buy more models.

Tier 1

Now here we start to see some apparent variety, so I'll go through them individually:

The Aquan Repair Battleship

Now there's an oxymoron for you - repair battleship. It's like a War Domain cleric....does it fire sticky glue that covers impact blasts? Does it have multiple cranes that attach to other ships and fix them? What? You think I'm being silly? Well it's because it's a fucking STUPID idea, thats why.

The associated fluff basically says its a Battleship which carries Repair Shuttles - or in other words, an Aquan Battleship. All this really indicates is that the normal battleship is restricted in the SRS it can carry (if any) and that this is a Battleship with limited usage. I'll come back to my stock question here - Why? If you're having to create new ship types because of changes you're making to the mechanics, then please, stop.

The Dindrenzi Battle Carrier

So here's a ship type that you can actually see the race developing. The Dindrenzi actually have a decent carrier option, but you can definitely imagine them creating a Battle Carrier, so this is actually one that seems quite rational.

The Sorylian Fleet Carrier

OK, so the fluff makes no sense whatsoever here - "The Sorylians do not make much use of SRS, but when they do it is normally ‘heavy’ in nature." - in fact I'm not sure that's even a proper sentence. Still, the idea of a Fleet carrier for the Sorylians is...meh. They already have a fleet carrier in the Morning Star/Xiphos - again a decent carrier. Surely the Sorylians would be best supported (both in game and in fluff) with an Assault Carrier? Or how about another Battleship to use, since their existing Battleship and Dreadnought are much maligned? No, we get another carrier. :-(

The Terran Battle Carrier

Well I suppose this one was inevitable, despite never being intended as a production model, when you show a render/artwork people are inevitably going to say "Ooh, shiny, when can I buy it?". That's not necessarily a good rationale to base a ship class on, and so we have the Terran battle Carrier, despite the Terrans having one of the two best Fleet Carriers in the game (the other going to the RSN Argus), and good battleships.

So why is a Battle Carrier a bad idea for Terrans? Well, it's either going to have sub-par weapons, in which case if you want SRS the carrier is probably a better idea, or it's going to compete with the battleships (why have a plain battleship when you can have a battleship+?). It also adds a third ship to the Battleship space for the Terrans, when they could really do with choices elsewhere. So whilst not a terrible decision, it is a ship in a crowded spot in a tight design space for the Terrans. It's not very interesting, and it's not very Terran.

The Relthoza Heavy Battleship

So a ship between the Brood and the Apex? Hmmm...I mean, it's possible, but as for the Sorylians, why not an Assault Carrier or Battle Carrier for the Relthoza? Ships that fit with their background and fluff? Why call it a Heavy Battleship? Is the Terran Tyrant a Heavy battleship? Did people have issues distinguishing the Apollo and the Tyrant? No, so what's the point? It's the Why? question again.

The Directorate Fleet Carrier

Oh dear. Not only do the Directorate nor care about their vat-buddies that they're prepared to spend vast amounts of capital to make specific ships that will help them out in the midst of battle, but they're so intent on SRS operations all of a sudden that they make a Fleet carrier, which sounds like a Battle Carrier if you believe the short fluff. It's quoted to be as tough as a Dreadnought, armed to the teeth with beams and cyberweapons (which are due to be bland AOE weapons in v3), and carry loads of bombers and stuff. 

The problem is once again that the Directorate already have a pretty bitching Battleship that does a lot of this in the Anarchist, and they also have the Overseer - a carrier that never needs to decloak. I've seen double-Overseer lists run by Directorate players, and they can be pretty savage. So this ship promises to do all of the Anarchist and Overseer jobs in one, which makes it either too powerful, overcosted or one of the two sides at least partially redundant.

The main issue I have with it though, is it just seems unimaginative. Maybe it'll be ok, but I already have big issues with how the Directorate flavour is being massively diluted with v3 rules. Why would I add another shade of grey to those already available?

Naming Conventions

OK, so this is a personal bugbear. and I know it doesn't bother some people at all, but I hate these arbitrary namings of "Heavy" and "Light". It smacks of a small child trying to win a war of words;

"I've got a gunship"
"Yeah? well I've got a HEAVY gunship"
"That's nothing, I got a Battleship"
"So? I got a HEAVY battleship"

And so on. It smacks of Trump's lack of vocabulary ("It's gonna be really, really great - really"), a lack (once again) of IMAGINATION. Why does that matter? Well, this is meant to be an immersive universe. Why would all factions suddenly create "Light Destroyers"? What's the rationale behind calling a Battleship "Heavy"? The answer to this is - there is no reason - and that (for me) makes the whole announcement sound hollow, a clanging tin bell. I don't think "Cool, a Heavy Battleship", because I'm not 6. I want some meat to my sci-fi, even in a game with plastic spaceships. I may behave like a 12 year old when I'm playing games, but I don't expect to be treated as one mentally.

Verdict - Hit or Miss?

Once again, I don't need to tell you my verdict on this. It only adds to the Kickstarter cash grab feel that SG is developing lately. These announcements in the right environment with the right thought process and rationale behind them would be exciting, and investment and expansion to the universe. What they do instead is highlight the poor planning and lack of creativity that seems to be beleaguering the FA universe (and maybe the whole of SGs portfolio) at the moment.

If I were a potential Kickstarter backer reading this blog, it would not sway me to part with money. Most Kickstarters offering this as part of the campaign or as stretch goals will actually show you what they're doing or planning - here you just have to hope. Even if you think all of these are fantastic ideas, you have no idea what the stats are or what the ships look like - you have to take it on faith. Unfortunately (or rather, Fortunately, for me), I'm an evidence-based guy, and without a shred of it ,being asked to rely on Spartan's word (which is increasingly worth nothing, if it ever were) is purely ludicrous.

I mentioned earlier I'd come back to the point of a company's heart and soul. It seems Spartan is increasingly a model company, rather than a games company. The other pieces - it's rules, it's fluff, it's community support (such as it is) - seem to be "stuck on", after-thoughts  to sell more models, rather than being part of it's DNA. They laughably tout the Kickstarter as being "what you told us you wanted" but they should KNOW what people want, they should be able to sense it intuitively. If they were really customer-focussed gamers at heart, they would (or should, at least). That's a change no-one can force on SG, and it's the reason I've not bought into their products for some time now - why I have a Halo Ground Command box which is still unopened in my gaming room. It's the same reason I got out of 40k and decried GW for what they did to themselves, because no-one wants to feel like a bred-for-its-milk cash cow.