I went to the UK Gamers Expo this year and indulged in a binge of demos for various miniature games and I can happily report that there are a number of shining stars out there that could easily take off based on theme, quality of models or elegance of rules. However, I’m also sad to report that it exposed the Achilles heel of miniature wargaming in that the rules are often impossible to teach while keeping the game fun and that the models themselves are often simply avatars for a tableau of cards with hit points, energy counters and special rules that sit on the edge of the table and challenge each player to try and remember them.
I had a think about what I would be looking for out of a new game on the market and everything I don’t like in the current offerings. Make no mistake, I play these games because I like them but its hard to sit back and claim that this hobby churns out the type of quality products that the current Golden Age of Board Games is producing.
This is the first of three articles on everything I don’t like…
About the miniatures themselves:
I want everything to stick to around 28-32mm heroic scale models so they match everything on the market today (GW is 28mm Warmachine is 30-32mm), I love the look of 52mm stuff but you can’t get scenery to match it, ask the guys who created Smog 1888, I also like the look of 15mm and 10mm models but they have the same problem with scenery and also the fact painting infantry that small fills me with dread. Picture found here)
Multi part sprue. As a kit basher the ability to swap torsos and legs around as well as extra parts fills me with an uncomfortable amount of joy. Not everyone wants a model to look exactly the same as another, different arm and head combinations take up a tiny amount of space if added to the mould correctly. In fact if you are going that far why not add things like tiny familiars to a wizards sprue, flying drones to a futuristic soldiers kit or tiny goblin creatures to a giant Orc model. I’d go so far as to say that you need to fill up as much space in the sprue as possible, just cram stuff in there as long as it doesn’t effect the quality.
Hire a decent designer. Its 2016, we use computers and 3D modelling these days so there is no reason to produce models that look like this, this or this any more. It’s unfair of me to expect every company to do this but at least publish the free stuff sculpts to your viewing public for feedback.
Hire a decent painter. Its 2016, we use things called Washes and Airbrushes so there is no reason to show your models looking like this, this or this. Again you could say I’m being harsh because as soon as you take a photo and blow it up to the size you need to stick it on a box or a website you will see some uncomfortable specks of dirt or parts you missed but I can forgive the pointless use of Photoshop here.
Get a painting guide for the figures, show people what to do with their new models with a HD video or even a narrated slideshow on Youtube. As long as it’s a decent quality you can show your audience how to paint up these figures, here is a guy going through Imperial Assault, here are the Games Workshop versions.
A kit that fits through a letterbox. Possibly not practical, the current restrictions on large letter sizes are 35.3cm x 25cm x 2.5cm. If this is possible it would be great as even though I use a separate mailing address to take deliveries of large objects a lot of people are put off of shopping online due to having to take a trip to their local post office if they are out when the mailman comes. Obviously some units are going to be too large to manage this but they can be flagged as such on the companies website.
No lipped bases. The bases used by Warmachine and Malifaux make no sense to me at all, I can only assume someone saw a standard GW produced slottabase and decided that they wanted to make something so entirely different it would make their miniatures stand out, which while a idea that sounds good on paper produces bases that you can’t pick up, and leave you manhandling the actual miniature in order to move it around. The reason they look so nice is that Games Workshop kept putting models on undersized bases for years before coming up with the 32mm size they now use for Space Marines. I’m not saying that all companies need to rename their products but if you are starting from scratch just use the old school standard.
Plastic or Resin or UniCast when it’s ready. Plastic is ideal but most companies don’t have that kind of money so I’ll settle for resin as its light it won’t scratch and its tough as long as the kit is thick enough. Lead or white metal is awful to work with and leaves horrible to find mould lines and fragments everywhere. UniCast is a very flexible system that allows you to cast models in one piece in a way that would be otherwise impossible. Jake Thornton has Ben talking about this a lot recently.
Extras in the box. Steve Jobs worked out that unboxing a product was important to ensure the users experience was as good as possible. Miniature companies ignored this for a long time and then along came Fantasy Flights’ X Wing Miniatures game with a prepainted model, cardboard tokens, equipment cards, multiple pilot cards and a manoeuvre dial squeezed in. Several years later its one of the highest grossing miniature games on the market meanwhile everyone else stuffs a plastic sprue or metal model out of the mould and into a box with an appropriate sized base. Tor Gaming’s Relics models have laser cut wooden counters, it wouldn’t be hard for someone to throw some artwork, glass gems to count damage, plastic tokens to mark shields or explosions, poker chips with decals on, transfers, the list is almost endless.
Painted pictures of the models on the boxes. This really winds me up. Now I understand that the production process these days starts with a 3d model that gets sent away to be cast and by the time it comes back there is no time to change the picture on the box but at least stick a bloody QR code on the front of the kit that links to a webpage that will hold a mobile friendly shot of the models after a professional painter has finished with it. This seems endemic in this industry, especially with Kickstarters more and more common. I constantly see 3D shots of the model or prototype pictures and have to hunt down the painted shot of the model or models on someone’s Facebook page. I’m left wondering if anyone is ever actually painting up Malifaux or Guild Ball models these days or even if the models advertised actually exist anywhere outside of a computer. And while I’m on the subject I don’t want photoshopped images of the models stuck up anywhere in the sales page. I’m looking at you Games Workshop. If a model is holding a burning sword then I want to see how well that sword looks, not a photoshopped rendered version of it to make it look better. Dreamforge Games sells itself extremely short by trying to combine both worlds by giving the 3D models a computer painted skin and putting them on a 3D background. These aren’t Revell models, you can’t just paint a picture of what you hope it will look like and hope that I will buy anyway.
Still reading? Why not move to part 2 here
FYI that header image of unpainted miniatures and unfinished terrain is from Wikipedia, well done wargamers, good job.