I'm about to buy the new Kings of War - Vanguard rule set. It's on special half price about $20 for the next few days however before I bought it for use by my sons gaming group I thought I would have a quick look through and just make sure that it's a sort of game that I would like to play. As I began to read through the individual units with their classes, statistics and abilities, moves, attacks and "armour class" it began to remind me of the 1980s in the 1980s there was this little product called Dungeons and Dragons
I was given my first copy of Dungeons and Dragons by my mother who has I have mentioned in a previous podcast thought that it might suit me because Dungeons and Dragons was apparently appropriate for "boys that walk to the beat of a different Drum". Yes I'm still not sure what that really means however from the moment that I open the red box and looked at the bazaar dice and began to try to work out how to actually play this game I was hooked.
So that was 5 years or so of my life that went by in a heartbeat. Along with ending school, getting my first job, going on many real adventures and expeditions, I also spend many, many nights staying up late with friends going on grand imaginary adventures gaming magical items and learning to work together and sometimes even how to work with the monsters rather than "just spooning them over" as I was reminder of the other day.
As I thought back to Dungeons and Dragons and the great times we had and the near impossible puzzles that we solved I began to compare this to the new version of Kings of War Vanguard I begin to wonder why it was that I was buying another game to really do just a cut down version of the existing game that I have, that I have purchased (and repurchased(and repurchased)) but I don't actually have any time to play. I began to ponder on ways The Dungeons & Dragons could be cut down somewhat from the all-encompassing monumental game that it can be to something more manageable that would be akin to the Kings of War type product and it occurred to me that this would be very easy just make it RPG light or RPG 'none at all'. (continued...)
Now I'm a computer guy and in my job I use lots of different software packages I often see cheap products that will do photo editing or video editing or do any manner of other things that I need to do on a daily basis however where possible and where budgets allow I always buy the full on professional product even though I only will be using a small part of that product to achieve the results that I need to achieve. This has held me in good Stead for many years as it has allowed me an entry into a new product or technology that I wouldn't otherwise have had experience with more often than not I will get the opportunity later to reuse and build on. Buying a full commercial product gives me something that has "legs" meaning that it will certainly suffice for my basic needs but as my needs grow and my expertise grows I don't find that I run out of whatever it is that makes that product good and have to go and repurchase and relearn another product from scratch. When I apply this though mentally to gaming I think I would rather play D&D at a reduced level than another product and be found left wanting if I decide to push on into greater depth of gaming.
This brings me to another consideration and that is the sticky question of motivation. What motivates someone to do something commercially vs. what's "best".
For example your local gaming store may run "ABC game" tournaments and provide space for you to play, which is really generous! Let's say you invest huge amount of time to drum up interest in that game and try to build a small community, you will eventually realise that of course the business owners motivation is to build his business which may or may not include endless sessions of ABC game just because that's my preferred option. Obviously if there are other games that are more popular he will drop ABC like a hot potato and move on to XYZ or something else Because at the end of the day he likes to eat and he wants clothes to wear and he wants to feed his family, so good on him for that. However my motivation is different, my motivation is to build a ABC gaming community in my local area so in some ways we have synergy but in some we are in competition with each other.
Now mantic games of course are in business, they are in business to make money otherwise they can't buy shoes for their children and have a roof over their heads so what is their motivation for bringing out Kings of War Vanguard? Is it because this is the best game that money can buy and nothing else can compare no absolutely not. Their business plan would presumably involves some cross crediting from existing customers because as we all know in business existing customers are the best source of "new" business. They already know you, they already trust you and you don't have to spend vast sums of money in procuring new customers if you can get the existing ones to buy more of your products.
So again what is my motivation well funnily enough my motivation is not to inflate the coffers of Mantic games even though I think they make a great game in Kings of War and it certainly is my go-to game for mass Fantasy battle. It's easy to learn hard to master and the models are pretty good too but for me automatically assuming that a skirmish sized fantasy game but they produce is the best thing possible just does not add up.
This then brings in the question of what is a "the best game" that's a thought for another day, however in episode 4 of the Valhalla games podcast I discuss with my brother about how my miniature gaming display board was "better than his". It was meant to be a joke, it may have fell a little bit flat but my point was mine was "better" in that it was a lot more detailed but I didn't get mine finished in time so I was unable to take it to the tournament. Where as his simple solution which was perfect for the job and looked really great was able to be completed in a limited amount of time and take along to display on the day so in the end what is better? In this case obviously his was, in that it was feasible and allowed enjoyment on the day.
I'm still conflicted but I am off now to buy a new set of rules now so I'll talk to you soon and in the meantime I'll [mainly] be dreaming of D&D :-)