The big talk this week has all centered around Gencon--namely, the bevy of FFG announcements made during the course of the convention. Gamers from Perth, Australia to sunny LA have been weighing in their opinions in the form of lavish praise or scalding rants, just depending on who you ask. So, seeing as Fantasy Flight is a company that is near and dear to the hearts of most of our readership, this week in Next of Ken, we'll be talking about all the latest FFG announcements and releases.
Descent 2nd Edition: This is the one that is creating the more polarizing responses. Basically, 1st edition Descent is receiving an overhaul and being released in a simplified form as Descent: 2nd Edition. Less stuff, simpler rules, and a campaign system included right in the box.
There has been considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth as some Descent fans are outraged by the news. They feel their old product is being obsoleted (even though FFG is releasing an upgrade kit that will let them use all of their old stuff with the new system.)
Fact is, games come and go. Descent was released originally in 2005, when plastic was plentiful, labor was cheap, and a coffin box that full of goodies could retail for only $79.95. I don't think that they could have released 1st edition without the price hitting at *least* $100.
Also, let's face some real facts here...there is a metric ton of 1st edition stuff out there; five expansions and a camapign book. Two of those expansions provide campaigns that take ~80 hours to play through a single one. It is highly, highly unlikely that there are that many people that have fully explored everything that first edition has to offer. Your stuff isn't obsolete; that's sort of ridiculous. Your Descent will still function, just as it is, for as long as you own it. I understand the desire to get new stuff for your favorite game, but I know there are a lot of people who have shrinkwrapped expansions on their shelves and are still bitching they can't get more. That's sort of become systemic of the boardgame collecting hobby, it seems.
Plus, you've got a lot of flailing of arms and the rulebook hasn't even been released yet! You've got folks going off in a spiral of maybes and what-ifs and literally working themselves into a frothing mess.
You just have to keep it in perspective. Descent 1st edition is done. It's over. They had a great run. If you hate second edition, guess what? You're all done collecting Descent. Isn't that freaking awesome? If you're still compelled to collect through griping and clenched teeth, well...that's sort of on you, not them, isn't it?
Fantasy Flight in the end is keeping the Descent line in print albeit in a new form, with reportedly faster-paced gameplay and a cool streamlined quest system. They're creating a kit to let you use all your old stuff with the new. Enterprising gamers will no doubt cook up fan-created supplements that will let you use the new stuff with the old. More plastic, more tiles, more quests, and what appears to be a nice campaign mode. Me? I say bring it on. I've got first edition and one of the expansions. If I like the new version? I'm all over it. If not? I still play my old one. It's literally that simple.
Star Wars: The news about Fantasy Flight and the Star Wars license came to light just before Gencon, but they had demos
for X-Wing and Star Wars LCG, proving that both were pretty far along long before gamers knew about the switch from Hasbro to FFG.
I know that I'm not alone in that when I heard the news about FFG and Star Wars, my mind immediately turned to the killer line-up of boardgames that could come of such a marriage. The license has been laying dormant and rarely receives a good board game--it has been years since The Queen's Gambit and Epic Duels. However, if you look at the fine print, FFG only has the rights to minis, RPGs, and card games. That is kind of a bummer. Everyone is waiting on the next great Star Wars boardgame; looks like the wait's going to continue for awhile. Personally, the RPG stuff does jack shit for me, but the minis and card games do have promise.
Anyway, it is great that *someone* is going to do something with the Star Wars license. What should be a license for Hasbro to print money has just been this dormant thing, with the only thing of note being the Star Wars Miniatures game that had a good run but came to an end last year.
The Star Wars LCG isn't one I'm super-hot on playing as it looks a LOT like Lord of the Rings LCG. Lord of the Rings was special in that it was a cooperative LCG; the fact that Star Wars will be too just sort of makes them both less unique, less special. The art is killer though, and I am a huge sucker for Star Wars, so I have no doubt I'm giving it a try. It's not an inspiring choice for their first Star Wars release, though.
X-Wing I am a certainly more keen to try right away. I never got into Wings of War really--it looked cool, but I'm not a big WWII buff at all. The minis were off-the-charts cool looking, and I liked the sound of the card-based movement...but I just never took the plunge.
Now, they've ported the system to X-Wing, and now, I'm in. Dogfights between TIE Fighters and X-Wings, with cool pre-painted minis, and a simultaneous flight system that has you trying to outthink your opponent? It sounds good....damned good. Now, I'm just waiting to see how much the base set will set you back, and how many ships you get. A single TIE versus an X-Wing isn't a fair fight, so I'm hoping for maybe a squadron of TIEs to take on an intrepid X-Wing pilot.
With this system, they really will have a license to print money. Think of all the named ships...the Falcon, Vader's TIE, Slave I...then you get into the obscure stuff that hardcore fans will eat up, like the Mist Hunter, the Outrider, Punishing One, Hound's Tooth....yes, please!
Rex: Last Days of An Empire: Finally! The Dune re-theme sees the light of day. It had been a loooong time since
anyone had heard a peep about this one. Rex is a prequel to Twilight Imperium set 3,000 years in the past, using the Dune engine as multiple factions wrestle for control of the galaxy.
As someone who has never had the pleasure of playing Dune, I'm excited to see this new version come out. I know the retheme bugs a lot of people; I get that. But it isn't FFG's fault that the game has been rethemed; do you think that they preferred *not* to use the license of one of the biggest sci-fi franchises of all time? (And hey, psssttt...ask the creators, they'll tell you the original game was *already* rethemed...into Dune. Mind-blowing, eh?)
I've searched on ebay off and on and found I can't get a copy of Dune in the shape I'd care about having it in, for a reasonable price. A game this good deserves an updated production with great bits, and it looks like that's exactly what we'll be getting.
I know that FFG would rather have the Dune license, even if they might spin it to say, "Hey! The Twilight Imperium universe is awesome!" And besides...how difficult is it, really, to retheme this? There's a ruling royal faction that controls the resources. A trading federation. An evil, power-hungry faction. A faction with mystical powers. A band of oppressed, scrappy rebels. Yeah, they'll never pull that off.
I'm just giving some folks some guff there...yeah, I'd rather it be Dune, but I'll take what I can get. If FFG could have gotten the Dune license but decided to retheme, I could understand the disappointment. As it is, it's Rex, or nothin'. I'll take Rex.
And plastic ships! Lots and lots of plastic ships. Woo-hoo!
Yeah, I'm easily swayed. I am such a bits whore.
Wiz-War: Here's one that's not really generating much controversy--at long last, Tom Jolly's seminal classic Wiz-War will FINALLY be back in print! And with great production values to boot!
I'm a big fan of the craziness that is Wiz-War. I love the versus-style deathmatch gameplay, I love the crazy powers and situations that come up in every game, I love how the cards are sometimes so crazy broken that you have no choice but to laugh and roll with it. It's the kind of game stories are created from; from the time you blasted another wizard completely crispy, to the time you ended up surrounded by walls, to the time some ridiculous power put the switcheroo on all your plans.
What I've always hated was the production quality. I think mine's sixth edition, and the "cards" are thin business-card stock cards. I have them awkwardly sleeved in larger CCG sleeves with another regular-sized card backing them. I also replaced the little cardboard wizard tokens with appropriately colored Mage Knight figurines.
Am I upset that my old collector's item is going to plunge in value? of course not. I'll put it on the shelf as an heirloom or curiousity from gaming history. And I'll gladly play the new version anytime. I know that there's some concern that they'll muck this up the way they did with the addition of combat in Dungeonquest, but I have a feeling that after the feedback they got from that, we're going to see Wiz-War mostly unfiltered. In fact, I hope they don't even try to balance it too much; let the craziness reign, man!
Wiz-War is a classic that has influenced so many of the games we play today (hint, hint about a future Ameritrash Hall of Fame induction), and it deserves a chance to be sampled by everyone, with production quality equal to its stature. Seeing this coming out is great, great news.
Game of Thrones 2nd Edition: The news for this also broke before Gencon, but it appears that instead of an as-is reprint of A Game of Thrones, we'll be seeing a second edition that incorporates some of the elements from the two expansions, along with new artwork for the board and cards, and new plastic bits (don't get too excited though plastic fans; these are shaped just like the wooden ones from before. So if you want a Jaime Lannister mini, you still gotta go with Battles of Westeros.)
I know a lot of people were curious as to how FFG let this game be unavailable while the HBO series was so hot, and it turns out that this is why--they're cooking us up a new edition.
What do I think about this one? Hey, this is a reprint of one of my favorite games of all time. Like several of these other games, it deserves to be in print and available for anyone who wants it.
The fact that they're incorporating expansion elements into the base game is pure value for new owners--ports are just something you should always use, and there are a lot of cool new rules in the expansions that will liven up gameplay for sure.
I dig that you'll be able to play this without a board overlay, the only clumsy bit from using the 6-player Clash of Kings.
Am I bummed out about a new edition? Not at all. In fact, my only regret is not picking up a copy of A Storm of Swords while it was available, as I really want the four-player option. Will I buy the new edition? I may or may not need it considering I have the base game and Clash of Kings already, but if they do roll out a new expansion allowing four players, I'll gladly go for second edition.
I know this is different than Descent 2nd edition, but even if they had done some wild remake, my old version still plays just fine. At any rate, this is good news for fans, although you do wish they'd had them in stores while the show was airing and the fever pitch was high.
FFG has so much coming out in fact, that I'm going to hit the rest of these as quickies, as I don't know as much about them:
Gears of War: Read the rules, looks awesome. Gorgeous minis. May be a replacement Doom, co-op style. Popular license with a lot of crossover appeal--it will be interesting to see if it catches on with video gamers as well.
Elder Sign: Dice game by Lanius and Wilson. Roll dice to accomplish feats, fail and bad stuff happens. Set in the Cthulhu mythos. Both designers rarely disappoint; I do want to try before buy on this one, though, as I'm swimming in dice games right now.
Rune Age: This one's available now--deckbuilding in the Runebound universe. I may be close to deckbuilt out in this type of format; A Few Acres of Snow has demonstrated that deckbuilding can be a part of a larger, cohesive whole. Rune Age looks cool but also looks imitative rather than innovative.
Blood Bowl Team Manager: The Card Game: Not a deckbuilder as originally thought, just something with a little bit of drafting during gameplay. I've read it described as similar to The World Cup Game; that has me intrigued as that is a GREAT game. I'm not a Blood Bowler, so the game is going to have to be good, as the theme alone isn't going to carry it for me. I do love sports game though, so I'll be checking this one out.
So let's sum it all up--FFG has Star Wars, is reprinting Descent and Game of Thrones in new forms, and will be bringing back ReDune (Rex) and Wiz-War. Plus a whackload of other games that are a mix of licensed properties as well as those set without their own universes.
I'll be honest, outside of a few offerings here and there over the past couple of years, I haven't been all that excited by FFG's lineup. And I think you saw a waning in popular interest in some of their stuff. Now? They've gotten this entire portion of the hobby talking, buzzing, debating, and hashing out all of their announcements. They have the ear of hardcore gamers, and I personally haven't been this excited for an FFG lineup since late 2008 (wow, has it been that long?!?) They've always been one of my favorite game companies, and it's refreshing to see them coming out swinging.
These are almost all winners for me, and I'm looking forward to the holidays even more now.
That's going to do it for this "very special edition" of Next of Ken (now with 100% fewer creepy gym teachers!). As always, comments and feedback are always welcome and encouraged. 'Till then, I'll see ya in seven.
Ken is a member of the Fortress: Ameritrash staff. When he's not knee deep in playing games for review, he's most likely opening the boxes and getting high off of the plastic vapours.