Weekday rants and reviews of videogames, comics, movies, skateboarding, art, urban vinyl and even playground basketball.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tabletop Gaming: Part 6

Welcome back friends! Are you getting hyphy?! Lord knows what that means but I'm feeling it. Today we talk about the new hotness, the tabletop gaming system that is easy to get into and fun to play. Privateer Press is finally putting the good old USA on the map (even if some co-founders and investors are Brits). They have a very progressive series of systems, their own universe, models and paints. In a nutshell they are poised to corner the market and are already competing with the big boys. Their games, their community has the same vibe as Games Workshop was back in the day. There is an undeniable feeling that something good is going to happen with these guys because their games are so much fun.

The big game from Privateer is Warmachine. The game is built with both skirmish and larger-scale combat in mind. The makeup of the universe is what makes the system great. The game is set in a medieval world with the major difference being the existence of steam-powered robots. I dare say that this is the best mix of magic and machine ever invented. Spellcasters and sorcerers are not dainty but rather bold generals of their respective armies. To borrow a phrase from one of the co-founders, "these wizards are badasses!" They fight alongside their troops with enchanted armor, steam-driven hammers and explosives. The wizards, rather "Warcasters" control the steam robots or "Warjacks." Each Warjack has a weapon or firearm, depending on which nation made it. In addition to having giant robots wailing on each other during combat, the wizards can amplify and direct their spells through the arc-node (an antenna) of the Warjacks and hit characters clear across the board. Talk about good times!

Flip through the pages of the various models, you will not be disappointed. The kingdom of Cygnar are like the Germans, their Warjacks are the peak of engineering and design. The Protectorate of Menoth are a religious cult an independent kingdom that gets hand-me-down and piecemeal Warjacks from other kingdoms. Menoth salvages what they can and whereas every other kingdom needs a cortex in the machines in order to bring them to life, Menoth is capable of animating the Warjacks through divine will alone. The frozen kingdom of Khador is very much like the old USSR. Their Warjacks are designed for maximum impact, there is nothing graceful about their purpose. Which leads us to the main baddies of the universe, the Cryx. As you can guess, the Cryx are the antithesis of humanity, they are chaos and machine made into one. Their weapons and soldiers were once members of the other kingdoms, but as necromancers are want to do, they raise the dead and scrap together new monsters. Sooner or later the dead will overpopulate the living in Warmachine, which side would you want to be playing then?

Gamers that aren't into miniature gaming can always choose the role-playing version called Iron Kingdoms which is licensed within the very popular d20 system. Privateer has a third gaming system, the newest in their lineup. No, it is not their sci-fi answer to 40k or AT-43, rather it is a system that compliments the universe of War Machine. HORDES features compatible miniatures and rules, the difference being that this skirmish game focuses around living armies. These are the races in the world that do not have the benefit of steam technology, so they rely on magic and massive creatures. Even though the bigger Warjacks are 15 feet tall, the "Warbeasts" of the Horde would give them a run for the money. Flip through the Hordes gallery and check out the amazing models and spectacular paint jobs.

Both systems feature cards that come with the miniatures, similar to the cards used by Rackham. What I like about these new cards is that they provide small counters to keep track of hit points. Drop these cards in a plastic sleeve and you can use a dry erase marker to check off damage. It makes games move much faster and shortens the learning curve. I'm certain that the cards will eventually be sold laminated. In a recent development Privateer also announced that they would be creating a collectable card game as well. Not to mention they publish a bi-monthly magazine with hobby tips and new scenarios called No Quarter... so what do you think, should Rackham be looking over their shoulder?

Many of the best modelers and painters in recent times have been contributing to Privateer Press. Mike McVey, a Games Workshop legend, bought a partner share of the company and has been with them ever since as the miniatures director. There is a picture of a young Mike in my oldest issue of White Dwarf, I had a chance to meet him and talk about his time with GW. He could not be a nicer, more down-to-Earth person. He even says that his painting and sculpting ability is nothing really and that he pales in comparison with his wife, Aly McVey. Talk about a humble guy! Privateer Press has a lot of talent behind it and if they keep the momentum (and not alienate the hobby stores) then they can become a serious contender for best miniature gaming company. I certainly hope to see a videogame based on their IP someday (soon!).

So there you have it, two days of great systems and great companies. Next time we'll look at a system set in the future with miniatures inspired by a legendary manga artist!

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