Monday 24 March 2014

Ogre Miniatures Furore

Bonjour Matelots ;-) 

Blog Advisory:  I have a snarky sense of humour, see example above, and if you are easily offended by it then perhaps you should stop reading now.  This advisory is to flag that I am British, live in England, which is a part of Europe, and that American cultural language and social assumptions are only one of many in the World.

I'm also incredibly old, and still talk about SF shows that were made before some of you were born.  So you may find it hard to understand my metaphors; in addition my humour may offend those who are sensitive to things that trigger a strong negative affective response.  I offer no apology if it does.  With those terms and conditions, and allowing for any errors and omissions, lets start.

If you've not come here from the SJG forums, then this post may fly over your head. 

The Ogre miniature line was put back into production last year as part of SJG promise from the Ogre Kickstarter.  After Xmas a price rise was announced, and a big furore arose over how much they were going to cost now.

As a result SJG pulled the line from sale to review their marketing and costs.

This has in turn caused another furore.  In my opinion, the attempt to avoid the adverse consumer reaction only generated bad feelings amongst the rabid Ogre community, but SJG were on a hiding to nothing over this matter, because no matter what they did they were caught in a Catch 22 scenario.

The arguments around the price of the miniatures provoked these four responses:

1. Why can't the miniatures be made through contract casting to make them cheaper?

2. What about licensing them out to another firm to cast who can make them cheaper?

3. You could always start your own casting company and watch the money roll in.

4. Wouldn't it be cheaper to make them in plastic?

I'm now going to take all of the above apart.

1.  First off you have to find a contract casting firm that will take on the job, and that is easier said than done.  Secondly, said contractor will charge SJG for the casting, because they want to make a profit too. 

Therefore, it is highly unlikely, that SJG can then sell the miniatures at a price that will make them a profit that is any cheaper than the price they put them up for sale after Xmas, which caused such an outrage in the first place.

If I were at SJG I think that I think I would be saying to myself something along the lines of, "Produce a few miniatures they said, make some money they said, have some fun they said, welcome to the party pal," (in John McClane's voice from Die Hard).

2. Licensing another firm to produce Ogre miniatures requires that there be a firm who is interested in paying SJG money for the privilege of casting miniatures of a range that the other firm will never own the intellectual property rights to.

This cuts into the other firms profit margin, because the cost of the license will have to be added as a factor into the final selling price.  Much easier to cast models that one owns the IP too, and be done with it.

3.  This comment was actually made by someone associated with SJG, but I've included it here, because it makes a very salient point.

It stems from my two previous comments that even if one had a pot full of cash to start up one's own business, one would inevitably be faced with the bottom line; which is keeping one's company profitable.  Assuming that one loves the SJG Ogre range so much that you just have to get out there and do it, then what you are faced with is tying yourself down to being a small manufacturer of someone else's IP.

Wave bye, bye to your free time, and don't expect to be driving a Ferrari, or the company having its own Learjet any time soon.

4. The simple answer is no, and saying that other wargame firms produce plastics misses the fact that they may have economies of scale that SJG will never have for a line of Ogre miniatures in plastic.  And it gets worse than that, because the quality of the plastics that one could afford are probably not going to satisfy the needs of the customers who want Ogre miniatures.

For example take CGLs plastic mechs that are included in their boxed sets of BattleTech.  While CGL have included improved models of four of the mechs, the rest of the plastic miniatures are best described as adequate; where adequate means good enough for getting players into the game, but not meeting the needs of players like me who are into miniatures, and who like modifying their models.

So, I shall continue to hope that SJG do start selling the metal miniatures again, but I will not be telling them how to do that, because you know what?  They are not stupid, and know all of the above far better than some random person on the internet with an opinion.  "So been there, chewed gum, kicked ass, and if anyone asks have I paid my dues; the cheque is in the post pal," (in the voice of Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China for those too young to know).

Sunday 16 March 2014

This is Madness, This is BattleTech!

I've been thinking again about BattleTech, and what I think slows the game down.  In my not so humble opinion, I think now more than ever that the original game played better before they added so much chrome on top of the basic rules.  This in my opinion turned a fun game of giant battling robots into a bloated monstrosity with five plus volumes of rules that added nothing to the fun from playing the game.

So I've culled all the current core rulebooks but the A Time of War from my collection, and I've only kept that just in case I find myself in need of the opportunity to learn another set of rules.  I am aware of the irony involved in this decision, given that the core rule books would be ideal for all that extra added gribbly detail that RPG campaigns thrive on, except that when I GM sessions I tend to play fast and loose with tech, being much more interested in the plot and story, rather than the technical aspects of the weapons as such.

If I could go back and change the basics of the BattleTech rules I would do the following:

1.  Fix the ranges of the weapons by the simple expedient of making all the long range limits from the current stated start and extend them out to line-of-sight.  So a machine gun shoots at one, two and three plus hexes at a base to hit of four, six and eight.  Given the addition of movement modifiers this will make hitting with a machine gun a rather unlikely affair, and in my opinion will not adversely affect play balance.  Just to be clear I would apply this to all the other weapons too, and allow dice probabilities decide the outcomes, rather than imposing artificially short ranges on everything.

2.  No double heat sinks period, ever, full stop.  The one big game breaker that renders auto-cannons less than worthless is the double heat sink.  Get rid of them, end of problem.

3.  Ammo explosion rules amended to reduce the damage to be one round cooking off, and applying the this first to the armour of the section, then the internal structure, and only carrying over any excess to adjacent section after that.  Yes I like targets that go boom, but mechs are supposed to be state-of-the-art weapon platforms, so they should be at least as capable as a twentieth century Abrams MBT when it comes to containing an ammo explosion.

4.  Internal hits on mechs should take into account the volume of the mech, in that there is a lot of space inside a mech, which means harder to do damage when something gets through the armour.  So no re-rolls on empty spaces, armour allocation etc.  Battlemechs should soak up damage.

5.  Vehicles are meant to go boom, and therefore should not in my opinion be allowed to use anything to soak up critical hits.  In addition, the construction rules for vehicles should result in vehicles that are less capable than mechs, otherwise what is the point of having mechs in the first place when one can build vehicles that make more sense?  Otherwise you might as rename the game HoverTech.

6.  All weapons post 3025 should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, with in my opinion those that add rules requiring more dice rolls, or shooting modifiers etc. being eliminated.

7. While we are at it, the missile launcher rules need simplifying with less rolls of the dice to calculate number that hit and location.

What I want is a game where one pilots a battlemech with a platoon of infantry and one, or two vehicles per person that plays at BattleTech's sweet spot, which in my opinion was always at the tactical come gladiatorial level of mecha-on-mecha level of play.  YMMV on this, but you youngsters can get off my lawn is what I say.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Heavy Gear Blitz Alpha Testing

Over on Dream Pod 9's forum one can find an announcement that they are revamping Heavy Gear Blitz, which in my opinion is a good thing, because as a beginning player I found the rules overly complicated, because of the way they were written, which kept confusing me.  They are also working in partnership with Arkrite Press LLC to relaunch a new edition of the RPG too.  I have really mixed feeling about aspects of Dream Pod 9's products; on one hand the games background setting is an absolute tour de force, and should be held up as one of the finest examples of an RPG setting.  Life on Terra Nova is almost like reading a historical overview of a real world.  On the other hand the tactical rules, as presented in Blitz are written in English words, but using a strange syntax and grammar exclusive to a particular type of nerdy wargamer where cool jargon over rides simplicity, and the need for clarity.

As an author who has just had her first novel mauled by my beta readers, I can tell you all that whatever one might think, one's writing is never as clear and concise as you would lead yourself to believe.  Rule number one, edit your writing by getting fresh eyes on the subject matter who won't read what you thought you wrote, but what you actually wrote.

Excited by finding all of the above out I put in a small order for some bits & pieces from DP9s site, and have been informed that my items are on there way as I write this entry.  So in the next couple of weeks some infantry, plus detail parts will arrive, and I'm planning on making some Chain of Command style patrol markers for my mecha games.  I also blagged four old out of print Heavy Gear books off eBay; a copy of Heavy Gear 1st Edition rules: A New Era Has Just Begun, and three source books, Into the Badlands, Character Compendium 1,  and a 1st edition copy of Life on Terra Nova to replace my tatty 2nd edition book.

Anyway, coloured me excited, because I would love a really good mecha orientated game that wasn't BattleTech to play, so I'm going off to spend some of my time critiquing the Blitz alpha draft to show that I'm doing my part, and want to know more etc.

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Frequentist v Bayesian Statisticians

If you are not an XKCD reader then you are missing out on some of the wittiest and geekiest humour on the net.

Statistics is a useful tool, but terms and conditions apply, and those are that most people don't understand statistics and what they mean. This includes gamers too, as most don't seem to understand that while probabilities of a number coming up that it doesn't mean that the conclusion one should draw is to always follow the numbers.  See the Frequentist side of the cartoon for clarification.  As gamers we would in my opinion be better served if we put a Bayesian hat when calculating strategies when based on the probablitiy of any number being rolled on a D6.

Just saying, especially at Ogre players.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Have Ogre Will Travel


As you can see I now have a copy of the Ogre Designer Edition, and I have the canvas bag to transport it where needed.  So, to all my friends who are reading this, do you want to come and play a game at my place?  Conversely, I have Ogre and I will travel for the privilege of destroying your forces, crushing your command post, and hearing you lament the bad luck of your dice.

Saturday 1 March 2014

VOTOMS of Many Sizes


I've been meaning to take a picture of my 1/12th scale Scopedog for a while, but only just got around to it. 

Here it is with a 1/35th, a 1/144th, and a 1/300th versions for you to compare and contrast sizes. I was tempted to consider gaming VOTOMS in 1/35th at tactical VOTOMS-on-VOTOMS level of play. 

However, sanity prevailed, and I've planning on using my 1/144th 12mm models for platoon level actions, and the 1/300th models as mecha in Ogre as special units for a Nihon force.