My view of GW’s Special(ist) News

Since the announcement by Games Workshop that some of the old Specialist Games are being brought back and re-vamped, I can’t walk down the street without somebody asking me what I think about it all. That’s a slight exaggeration. Well a massive exaggeration. Nobody has asked me. But as is the way of the world these days, I’m going to tell you how I feel about it all anyway.

If you didn’t see it, here’s the announcement.

W's Specialist Design Studio announcement

So, let’s start with a little background. I stopped playing Blood Bowl when it was still 3rd Edition, or at least I was still playing 3rd edition rules, and I came back to the game when Living Rule Book 6 was already well established. I missed out the whole period of rules changes, some of which I believe hurt the game and a lot of which were initiated by Games Workshop. Just as I was getting back into the gaming hobby and Blood Bowl in particular the Specialist Games were discontinued and left to rot.

Well, rot isn’t the right word is it? Rather than die, Blood Bowl has flourished with tournaments nearly every weekend, a recent World Cup of over 900 coaches and miniatures manufacturers developing new teams every few months. Personally I think that this has been supported by crowd-funding, social media, podcasts and what is inherently a fantastic game. I have been less involved in the other games in the Specialist range but know most of them from my childhood and know that they have their own communities keeping them alive but probably not to the level of Blood Bowl.

I’m only talking about the Table Top gaming world here too. Games Workshop’s decision in the last couple of years to licence their old games has kept them alive and seen new players introduced to the various worlds. Although personally I think that Cyanide have dropped the ball (massively) with the recent release of Blood Bowl 2, games such as Warhammer Quest and even Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition have been enjoyable.

So, where does that leave me in terms of the announcement and what I think it means for the games that I enjoy the most. Well firstly I think that this is brilliant business from Games Workshop. Some would argue that they should never have stopped making these games in the first place, but we’re not privy to their sales figures and financial models. Since Specialist Games was closed there has been an explosion of similar titles trying to get crowd funding. Games Workshop know this and they know that in a lot of cases they own the original and best versions of these games. Keeping all of these games systems alive as standalone games with full ranges does not come cheap and however much we think everybody loves these games and however great they are when you add up the costs of designing, manufacturing, distributing and marketing you need to sell an awful lot of little bits of plastic to make a profit. I can see why non-core games had to go and why smaller manufactuers feel that that can take on one of these games with the help of crowd-funding. GW like any business are in this for the money. We all get passionate about what they should and shouldn’t do and how they should and shouldn’t treat “communities”, but at the end of the day it is all about profit; as it should be.

Just look at Warhammer Fantasy, an old game that most people playing miniatures games have seen at some point and that had a strong community of tournament players. Every one of those players would have said that it was a strong community and a fun game. But how many people outside of that group were actually buying models and books? Not enough. Yes, I know everyone would say that GW charged too much and that that is the only reason sales were low. Again, we didn’t have all of the financials but we do know that sales were a fraction of 40K. GW were not afraid to literally blow up the world and start again with Age of Sigmar. It is still too early to tell whether or not that was the right decision, but I get the feeling from the remaining podcasts and websites that for every loud mouthed rage quitter there are probably ten or more people finding the game and getting into it for the first time. In the long run I think it is probably a win for GW and for fantasy gaming.

Which brings me back to Blood Bowl and Specialist Games. Blood Bowl was never dead. It actually got stronger without the support of GW. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need support. The payer base of Blood Bowl is middle-aged and most of the next generation are the children of main player base. Blood Bowl can’t survive just by breeding it’s own next group of players. It needs new life to get it through the next ten years and more. I think that a new boxed game and the marketing that would come with it would give it the push it needs. New players, younger players, are what the game needs, what all of these games need. It is amazing what seeing Blood Bowl on the shelves in store or on the GW site would do. I get the feeling that we’ll see a new box with a pitch, two possibly four teams, dice and rules for about £80. I say four teams as that would sit with the number of miniatures that come in some of their other box sets. I would really like the new minis to be new plastic sculpts. The current GW plastic range are fantastic and some of the last Blood Bowl miniatures produced were not their finest work.

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room – Rules. What version would get released? Who would have been involved in preparing them? Blood Bowl 2 changes some of the player attributes and costs and doesn’t implement some rules and skills in the way that they are in Table Top. BB2 at it’s core is LRB6 which is the standard set of current rules and Cyanide say that they’ve been given permission from GW to make these changes and that they will make others based on their game data and the community. There’s very little evidence of this though. The last set of rules that were hosted on the GW site were the Competition Rules (LRB6) and I don’t see why there would be a massive change from this. The main problem that I see with the Blood Bowl rules is that when they were created at a time before online play when coaches couldn’t physically play as many games as you can online. They were designed for friendly matches, tournaments or leagues played on the table top and the online matchmaking environment means that they can be abused. The fundamentals are sound though. I can see that they may make a few tweaks that were being reviewed by the last BB Rules Committee (BBRC) but nothing major. Maybe I am naive to think this. I think that there is less reason to blow up Blood Bowl rules than there was to blow up Warhammer Fantasy. Warhammer is a core product, Blood Bowl never will be. I’m not too worried about what they will do to the rules and I am not afraid of minor changes being made.

What about the new models then? Well I hope that we get new sculpts. I would imagine that we’d get a core set of Orcs, Humans, an Elf and maybe Chaos. I don’t think that we’d get new sculpts for all of the current 24 races, 26 if you include Khorne and the Bretonnians. My thinking here is that it would be cost prohibitive to develop a full range. If GW do make new models then we already pay 50 to 100 Euros for a full team and I wouldn’t moan about GW’s prices if they fell in this range. If things go well, who knows. I just don’t see this as the full rebirth of Blood Bowl. The game is well supported by third party miniature manufacturers and their lines of Fantasy Football miniatures. I’m sure that any new players finding the game for the first time will be guided to these suppliers by their local community.

And what about this community, what about tournaments and clubs? I don’t see GW bringing Blood Bowl back as having any impact on this at all. Certainly not a negative one. If they want to run a Blood Bowl at Warhammer World then fair enough the rules can say “GW miniatures only” but they can’t mandate that in gaming clubs. If this new box brings a couple of new players to local leagues and clubs, then how is that not a good thing? I want as many people as possible to find and enjoy Blood Bowl.

I do have a couple of questions. Would the races be renamed to fit in with the new Age of Sigmar style? So Elves become Aelfs, Lizardmen become Seraphon etc. This is for IP protection and understandable. If so it is not a big deal. If the background of Blood Bowl changes to fit that then I’d be more upset as I love the wacky, comic nature of the Blood Bowl world. Would all of the races survive? Would the Khorne and Brets be included? Would the rules be free as they were at the end of Specialist Games?

I know that I’ve spoken about Blood Bowl here, but I am just as excited to see Necromunda and Epic mentioned in the announcement. I used to play Epic when it was Space Marine and again I didn’t know it when the rules went a bit haywire. There was a time when I played it more than Blood Bowl. These games all have their little communities and suppliers. I don’t see these going away. I just think the games will be given a new lease of life. Yes, there may be a period of discussion or confusion but the benefit of having a good community around a non-core game is that they’re able to shape it to what they want. It is much harder for 40K players to play anything other than the latest and greatest version of the rules as published by GW.

The classic GW games fit perfectly with their view that their games are there merely as a framework to sell their fantastic miniatures. The games are designed to play amongst friends and likeminded people where the end result is less important than the stories that you get to tell at the end. They are not tournament games, never have been and never will be.

I’m excited about the announcement. I’m not going to get carried away. I just hope that these classic games get treated with the respect that they deserve. I know already that I will buy a new boxed set of Blood Bowl. I will probably also buy a Necromunda box…and an Epic box.

I’d be interested to know what you think about this announcement. Am I looking at this with rose tinted glasses? Is my glass half-full? Let me know 🙂

Completed – Blood Bowl Underworld Team

Ok, so this is a massive cheat! I recently completed my Goblin team but for a long time have had an urge to play Underworld a bit more. I nearly played them in my league last year and nearly took them to the NAFC. My Goblin team is mainly made up of GW 2nd Edition models and I’ve been collecting Skaven from the same period so the logical thing to do was to paint up the 6 Skaven that are needed to create an Underworld team. So I finished stripping these models and have painted them in the same colour scheme as my Goblins. I may well end up painting the rest of the 2nd Edition Skaven that I have in the same scheme further down the line.

Blitzers

Throwers

Linerats

Completed – Blood Bowl Necro/Undead Team

For a while now I have had some GW 3rd edition Undead miniatures primed and ready to paint. I’ve also picked up a few other undead miniatures with the intention of making a combined team. For as long as I’ve had these models ready to go though I have also had a nagging feeling that they’d be too difficult for me to paint and that’s why they’ve not been painted before now. Having just finished my Goblin team and being pleased with the results, I plucked up the courage and put brush to model.

The Dhar City Blue Devils

Ghouls

I need 4 Ghouls in total. I thought that I had 4 but when I came to paint them I realised that I only had two. It’s then that I had a brain wave! I had 2nd Edition Orc Catchers that are a very similar pose to the 3rd Edition Ghouls and they also have enough skin showing to make them look very similar, so I decided to use them rather than pay £10 a model on eBay.

Wights

One of the first teams that I played against when I returned to Blood Bowl was an Undead team using these miniatures. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with them ever since. I remember not knowing what a Wight was and constantly forgot which model was which on the board. I do like how these have turned out.

Werewolves

Two different minis here. The first is the metal Wilhem Cheney model from the GW 2nd Edition Undead (same range as Frank ‘n’ Stein). The second is from Impact! Miniatures and came as part of my Valkyrie team. I think he fits this team really well and it is nice to have some variation.

Flesh Golems

These are the 2nd Edition Undead player Frank ‘n’ Stein. I’ve always liked these miniatures and having two is a perfect look for this team.

Mummies

These are straight from main 3rd Edition set. I like these models more than I thought I would. They are less cartoony than I usually prefer but they fit the team very well.

Skeletons

Personally, I think of Blood Bowl Skeletons as very lightly armoured and with more bone showing. I know that this is because the 2nd Edition books used Warhammer models to represent early Undead teams. To my me these particular models are too well covered and are quite big when compared to the Mummies; maybe the Mummies are too small though.

Zombies

I had a few zombies from the 3rd Edition set and again didn’t want to break the bank by picking up extras online. I opted instead to use an old 2nd edition Human Lineman, a Dark Elf Kicker and a Beastman. The nice thing about this approach is that I can add more races to the list should I need them. I’ve got plenty of spare models.

Colour Scheme

Purple – Naggaroth Night, Nuln Oil Wash, Xereus Purple, Xereus Purple with White Scar

Light blue – Caledor Sky, Nuln Oil Wash, Teclis Blue, Lothern Blue

Dark Blue – Kantor Blue, Nuln Oil Wash, Kantor Blue with White Scar

Ghoul Flesh – Fenrisian Grey, Nuln Oil Wash, Fenrisian Grey, Fenrisian Grey with White Scar

Zombie Flesh – Something related to Skinks? I’ll remember when look at the pot.

Bases – Warboss Green, Dry Brush Mott Green, Dawnstone, White Scar.

Apologies for the quality of the pictures. Camera battery and laptop issues! Grr!

Thoughts on Blood Bowl 2…by someone that has never played it!

The recent release of Cyanide’s Blood Bowl 2 has seen some glowing reviews from games sites. Most of the reviews tend to go along the lines of “I used to play Blood Bowl as a kid….it is a mix of American Football and the Warhammer Fantasy world…BB2 perfectly recreates the game…blah blah blah.”. Yes, the have a leg up on me given that they’ve played the game (I hope) but quite frankly I’m very sceptical about them all. They seem very far fetched. I saw one review that went from “note-perfect” to listing a whole load of problems with the game and then still giving it “8/10 Great”.

Let’s start with what I would want in an ideal world. I want a version of Blood Bowl on my tablet/PC/Mac/console that perfectly recreates the current Blood Bowl rules (CRP), that lets me play solo games/campaigns against a good computer AI or against selected coaches that I want to play online. Online play should then extend to allow me to organise leagues and tournaments with coaches regardless of the platform they are using.

League play is an absolute must for 99% of the world, I know. I don’t really play Blood Bowl online. I’ve played some FUMBBL and I have Blood Bowl:Chaos Edition. I don’t really like playing against random people online and would much rather be part of a league with people I know or at least a league that I could build up some camaraderie with a group. Even then being part of a league is hard as I find arranging matches a pain. Tabletop is my real passion. I’ve got Cyanide’s tablet version of Blood Bowl which is probably the one that I’ve played the most. I like single player games versus a computer. Computer games of my childhood were Player 1 Vs Computer or Player 1 Vs Player 2. I’ve never really got into playing games online, so that’s just me. Maybe?

All of the talk before the release of the Beta version of the game was about rule changes and the interface. My initial reaction based on the videos released was that the design of the interface wasn’t for me. It was too much of a console game in the way actions were performed, the animations and the cut-scenes. The changes to player stats – Human Catchers becoming AV8 – and the Bretonnian roster spawned many lengthy threads on the TalkFantasyFootball forum. The inclusion of player ageing and modified Bank/Petty Cash rules were another hot topic and still are shortly after the release of the game. I’m disappointed that there isn’t a switch in the game that lets you play with the ‘real’ rules but in all honesty that is not stopping me from buying the game and neither is the interface. I watched several of the streams from people in the Beta and post-launch and the interface, although not perfect is something that I could adapt too. We’re used to websites and software changing and quickly adapt. The in game rules chatter seems to be getting quieter and focus is on the problems with the out of game experience.

I’m disappointed that the Alpha testers don’t seem to have been listened too. I can’t believe that this game was given to people pre-Beta and they didn’t feed back some of the issues that you see today. There are some glaring game play issues and wort of all some of the basics of the rules are just not implemented. I can forgive some skills not being implemented, but to implement skills incorrectly is unforgivable. They are very simple to test against and there should be no problems of that sort in the released version of the game. ESPECIALLY when you’ve got BB:CE to compare against. In that regards I see this as a backwards step.

The number of concessions and opponents disconnecting that is being reported is unforgivable. I’m only taking this from my Twitter feed and from the BB2 forums so is in no way scientific but if I’d found 90 minutes to settle down to play a game and some anonymous coach started a game and then got fed up and disconnected or quit it would really annoy me. It would be even more annoying given that my match would likely have been found through ‘spinning’ via the matchmaking process which seems a complete mess. The changes that they’ve made have been poorly conceived or poorly implemented. Either way it is making for some very uneven matchups. There’s no lobby feature so you can’t chat and find people looking to find games. Until this is lot is fixed I won’t be buying the game.

I’m also upset that the computer AI seems to be WORSE than the one in BB:CE. There was lots of talk from Cyanide early on about how they are redeveloping the AI so that it can be race specific (no more caging Wood Elves!). The AI is a big part of the game for me and early reports again are that the computer refuses to score in some situations and I’ve seen streams where a Gutter Runner gets the ball, runs back to its own endzone and then stays there as an opponent makes his way towards him over 3 turns to eventually knock him over. Stupid stuff. Until this is fixed I won’t be buying the game .

I don’t want to see different rulesets to develop between “old” players and BB2 players. I’m happy for things to change but not arbitrarily. If Cyanide want to change rules of the game that they have licensed then fair enough, but they should publish a proper rule book. There online help system doesn’t match what happens in the game. It just becomes very confusing especially when there are some many bugs you don’t know what’s going on. I would like any changes to be done with the advice and inclusion of the Blood Bowl community if possible. I think the old guard should be encouraged to help and support the game, rather than being left out in the cold.

Given that this game was several months late and that it has launched with so many errors and missing features I do really worry for it. They will need to make significant money as part of the licence agreement and it would seem that they’ve spent quite a lot on development, animators and marketing this time around. These things all add up. I for one will be interested to see when they make the next set of teams available to buy and how much they will be. I’m guessing cash flow would be an issue.

I don’t want to come across as grumpy and anti-new things (I am but that is beside the point). I would love to see more people playing Blood Bowl. I would love to be able to convert some of the computer game players to tabletop players. I really want this game to succeed and I want it to be good.

I think the game is confused. It wants to be a computer game and open to new games and popular like Madden, but it’s background is a tabletop dice game from the 80s. If they made Madden with Ogres and Halfings, I would buy it. If they made a perfect version of Blood Bowl tabletop, I would buy it. If they smash the two games together and miss the point, I won’t buy it.

In general, I don’t like this modern way of developing and releasing games which means that the developer releases unfinished or bug filled games and then patches them and patches them (hopefully) until people can broadly put up with it. It’s lazy and isn’t fair to the players. In this case rather than grow the community, I think it has the potential to expose players to the beautiful game and then put them off. By not explaining the rules or the mechanics very well, making matchups extremely unfair and making game play buggy or non-intuitive it isn’t giving new players a chance.

If they fix things and it improves then I will happily part with my cash, but for now it is not for me. I’m also not telling you not to buy it or pointing and laughing if you have got it already. If you’ve got it I hope you enjoy it and can convince me to get it and support it. Grumble over 😉

Have you got it? What do you think? Step forwards or a step backwards?

Completed – Blood Bowl Chaos Dwarf Team

I posted details of two very recently completed teams yesterday and when I was scrolling back through the list of completed teams I realised that I hadn’t shared any details of my Chaos Dwarf team. So here I go…

I’ve always admired Chaos Dwarves, and by “admired” I mean hated facing them. I picked up the Black Rock Dwarves from Impact! a while ago and painted them earlier in the year. I can’t remember when exactly but it was around the time that I was painting a few Warhammer High Elves and I do remember posting a few pictures on Twitter. I digress. The Dwarf blockers themselves are probably the nicest of the all the miniatures that I’ve had from Impact!. Unlike almost all of the others they actually have three dimensions and some clear detail and definition of area. Most of the Trollcast figures are very flat and one-dimensional, the hobgoblins that come in this set being a prime example of that.

I took inspiration from – or copied – the fantastic teams done by James Wappel. I love his style and the customisations that he does. I can’t possibly hope to get to his standard, but I like to bold and bright style of his Blood Bowl teams. I’m a fan of the crazy, cartoonish Blood Bowl world rather than dark, gritty and realistic.

I can’t remember the exact technique that I used but I think adding white to the base coat colour was the basic technique for the highlighting. I want to add a minotaur to the team but I am not a fan of the one that I got with the team. I like the idea of the old Zy-Nox model with this lot. That would meaning getting hold of another one though since he’s already earmarked for my future Chaos Pact All-Stars team.

I really like this team and I think it is this team that helped cement my painting style and technique and what I want my Blood Bowl teams to look like.

Chaos-Dwarf-Team

Completed – Blood Bowl Goblin Team

I have never really been a fan of stunty teams in Blood Bowl. There I said it. I don’t have anything against those that play them, I’m not against them being in the game. I am not in any way gamey or ultra competitive either, so it’s not about win percentage. It’s just that I didn’t really see any positives in them – not the fun, not the mass casualties on both sides of the ball, 3 die blocks everywhere. Crazy I know! Anyway, that was until I painted my Goblins!

Most of these were from my original collection of 2nd Edition miniatures and I filled in the gaps with a couple of purchases online. They’ve all been stripped and painted several times in their life time and the detail and definition on these little models was never brilliant in the first place. As I approached painting them then I must say that I was a little nervous and wasn’t really expecting a good result. I wanted to keep them quite bright and cartoony and wanted them to feel fun and crazy. I was helped by the sculpts just oozing wackiness with wide grins and sharp features.  This team also features two of my all time favorite miniatures – the troll with both his arms down by his side and the loony with the chainsaw raised above his head.

I picked some bright basecoats in the hope that I would be able to keep the brightness in the final version. The goblins are mainly Moot Green with a couple of stars done with Warboss Green. The trolls are Calador Sky, Teclis Blue and the star player Ripper is Kabalite Green. The orange colour on the uniforms is Jokaero Orange and the other armour colour is Calador Sky. The various metals and leathers are Mournfang Brown and Leadbelcher. I was conscious not to end up with a team that looked like they were all wearing exactly the same uniform. I like the thought that the kit man leaves a pile of shoulder pads, loin clothes and then the players all bundle in to pick out what they want. I did the same thing with my Chaos Dwarf team and I really like how they turned out. I wasn’t that happy with the quality of my base coating. I found them too small and fiddly after only having painted four miniatures before this after several months of no painting. I decided that an all over wash of Nuln Oil would help to cover my base coating sins and would bring all of the colours together. It worked really well and when I came back to them after it had dried I had a renewed energy and they already seemed more fun. I then reapplied the base coat, leaving some of the darker shadows still showing and then mixed in white with the base coat colours to highlight up two or three times. It’s very basic and not true-to-life highlighting. I tend to pick out some edges and sections that I think need highlighting.

I’ve got another bomber and the star player pogoer to paint still as I only got these after I started the rest of the team. I’ll get these done over the next few weeks.

I’m really happy with how they turned out and I am really excited about playing them. I may even play them in the next league season!

 

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Completed – Blood Bowl Khemri Team

The Autumn/Winter is when I make the most progress on my painting and with my hobby stuff in general. This year is already promising to be very productive since I have already completed painting two Blood Bowl teams. Ultimately I want to have painted one team for each of the 24 Blood Bowl races, so getting these done so early in the year is a fantastic achievement.

Khemri are one of those teams that I want to play in a NAF tournament one day, but have very little connection to. I’m not even sure Khemri existed as a dedicated race when I stopped playing Blood Bowl as a student. Anyway, knowing that I was only intending to play up to six games with the team, I plumped for the Pharaohs team from Impact! during the Kickstarter. The models themselves are not very good and from the moment that I unpackaged them, I was down on them as a team. I’ve experienced this with the other Trollcast teams that I’ve purchased but they – the Chaos Dwarves and the Norse – turned out ok. Yes, they are very cheap and you get what you pay for, but I’m not sure I’ll be buying them again. In fact I know I’ll not be buying them again. They are too light, they are a pain to clean up, they break too easily and they lack clarity and detail. They serve as a good entry to the market for beginners, but given that I really enjoy the collecting and painting part of Blood Bowl as much as I do playing, I think spending more money will still be worth it.

Anyway, I got them based up and primed which is more than I can say for the other two teams that I got..more on that another time. They were very much an interim project to be done after my Goblins (more on them later too) and before my next ‘major’ project. I wasn’t happy when I was painting them and just wanted to get them done. The process was very simple. I picked a basic red for the armour and clothing and then base colours for each of the positionals. I applied the base coats and then did an all over wash of Agrax Earthshade. The Tomb Guardian are Ushabti Bone, Blitz-Ras are Calgar Blue, Throw-Ras are Sotek Green, Star Players are Warboss Green and the Linemen are Dawnstone. The all over wash helps to fill in the gaps and ties all of the base coat colours together. It is a very simple an yet very effective technique. It feels like cheating but the end result is what counts! Once the wash had tried I was able to reapply the basecoat colour as a highlight and then pick out some gold details using Retributor Armour. I then painted the already sanded bases with Zandri Dust and then applied a dry brush of Ushabti Bone. The figures themselves are so light that they are too light to play with on the table top so as before I have glued a metal washer to the bottom of the base for weight and stability.

It’s a very quick job and took only a few hours of actual painting time over a couple of days. Yes, they’re basic, but they’ll do the job. They’ve actually turned out better than I thought they would but considering the other miniatures that are on my shelves at the moment, they’re not very good. I’ve not got any tournaments in the diary yet, but I think I will play this lot sooner rather than later; you never know, I may actually enjoy playing them!

Shifting Sands Scorpions