Feedback from the Survey – Part II
By Spartan Neil
Hi all and welcome to the second of my blogs to dig deeper into the survey results you so graciously assisted us in collecting. This time around I want to follow up the question we asked you: EXACTLY what does support mean to you?
If we quickly recap on the top answers you came back with:
1) Release of new models 2) Scenarios and Battle Reports 3) Release of new Rules 4) Campaign Blogs 5) Painting Guides 6) Organised play materials
Before you read on, my apologies for the length of this blog – there is lots to talk about. I will also focus on Spartan Games IP, saving Halo for its own blog. Let’s go through your survey list one by one:
1) Release of new models
As a manufacturing company, it is fair to say we love making new models and, you could say, we get overexcited by the idea of making them! Over the years, each game has experienced different levels of growth and the release of models. It is probably a good idea to discuss each game separately in terms of new models.
Dystopian Wars has been around for a while now [launched in 2010] and over the years its model count grew and grew and yes, let’s say it again, GREW. It is the largest model count we have ever created for a game and, to be honest, we reached a stage where we became concerned by releasing new models.
We’ve always followed a ‘never leave a good model behind policy’ which broadly means we always try to keep it alive in a game. Some models do, as you have seen over the years, reach a point of not being manufactured any more, but we look to continue supporting its role in the game statistically. The concept of making you replace models because we ‘tell you to’ is very alien to us – so we don’t!
What this means is that we ended up with a lot of models. The good news is that DW has plenty of design space open to it, but we want to fill it. When it comes to selling the game, some years ago we moved to productise the game in boxes, to assist retailers in stocking the game. This strategy went well for several years, but we now feel that certainly for DW, we need to granularise the way we sell models.
We alluded to changes in how we sell DW models some months ago, and we are most pleased that we embarked on this new thinking, especially given your survey results. Your call for new models for DW will allow us to further populate the design space, to go back to older models and update them with new sculpts. But don’t worry, we’ll never tell you that you can’t use a model because it is 6 years old!
Stay tuned for more details on how we plan to expand the Dystopian World and how this will lead to many new models. Now that we know you want more models, our foot has been taken off the brake!
Over the years Firestorm Armada has seen several aesthetic improvements as our fleets matured and enhanced. With six core races, alliance races and marauder factions we have lots of models on offer, albeit not as many as DW!
As with DW, we have always looked to support all models created, and this is key for us. The FA game space has plenty of room for expansion and we have been evaluating the best way to do this for a while now. At the end of 2015 we started looking at how best to expand the Firestorm Galaxy, and at GenCon 2016 in August this year, a series of highly productive meetings with Vanguards and others ratified several ideas, invoking several exciting projects to kick off.
At the heart of our plans is a new narrative framework for the Firestorm Galaxy. You have seen just the first part of this with the Amber System Campaign. Think of Amber as a kick-off point, a way to ignite discussion on a location that is not the Storm Zone. Whilst exciting Amber is only part of the overall narrative and much more will become clear over time, with 2017 set to become the most exciting year for the Firestorm Galaxy.
The FA narrative does, however, need us to go back to the baseline narrative of the game and improve it for you all. We lost our way with the Firestorm and Planetfall narratives. They needed to be fully connected and they weren’t, and we’re sorry to you all for any confusion this generated.
So, what does this narrative have to do with your new models? Simple answer – plenty. Our new narrative framework will fuel new models and new factions as we roll out our cool expansion of the Firestorm Galaxy for you. The core races will bolster their fleets as they look to break the stalemate of war, alliance nations will greatly enhance their presence and the Marauders, well we have many exciting ideas that will greatly improve their role in the game.
Firestorm Planetfall grew rapidly in its model count as the game developed in its first year. Our Core six races now have a full set of Helixes, giving a cool list of models, and we made our first six Alliances Helixes available.
The good news is that there is huge scope for expansion and we need to hammer this home. As many of you know, we have been working on version 2.0 of the Planetfall rules and many of our expansion plans are linked to this new rulebook, but there are things we can do before then that bring new models to you.
One of our first tasks is to give you more flexibility in your Helixes. If we take a Core Helix as an example, we state that it must have a Large Armoured Vehicle in it – but wouldn’t it be cool if we gave you more choices of Large. Same goes for some of the other vehicle sizes in the game. This will build a meta build into the helix structure we feel players should warm to.
There is lots of scope for game development open to us by taking this approach and we have embarked on the process of defining what these new vehicles will be.
The larger model of expansion for Planetfall will come in the shape of new helixes for Alliance race/faction. Right now, you have a sampler of what those races have to offer in battle, but what about if you want to play a Core Force composed of mostly RSN, with the Dindenzi acting as their support. In my mind, I can see a tabletop force using RSN tanks and robots at its core (yes, I do love the Arch Angel model) and its bulk of infantry being supplied by the Dindrenzi. Facing this could be a Hawker core supported by Terran Alliance ground pounders!
Picking on RSN and Hawker in my example there could well be prompted by the fact that the first two Alliances to be fleshed out to operate as a Core Force are these two factions. We’re very excited by this Alliance Faction expansion during 2017.
Dystopian Foot Soldiers
Dystopian Legions is a game that has, to be candid, suffered due to mistakes on our part that failed to assist the game to fight its corner in a busy 28mm scale gaming space. Yet despite this, Legions has grown and most certainly has a loyal following of players, and Spartan Giles and his beta testers have done a great job of settling the game down. But much more work needs to be done by us as we move into 2017 to improve this game for its fans and for new fans to come.
As you know, we are turning Legions into a Mail Order product sold directly by Spartan Games. The first change you will see is a realignment of pricing and a restructure of how some products are sold.
Version 2.0 of the Legions rules are a stable and tested game and we would actively encourage people to download the Core Rulebook from our site. The statistics are there for many of the Core nations, although we must catch up with assisting nations like the Republique of France and Covenant of Antarctica to expand more quickly – and we need to bring the Russian Coalition to the gaming table.
Legions is a Platoon-level game, its identity problem resolved. It can bring sections of infantry together with characters and armoured support and delivers a fun, and, at times, most violent game. We do, however, believe that some work still needs to be done to smooth out the rules and I feel that a version of the rules that promotes gameplay more aligned to Characters and a small band of soldiers has its place in the Legions game space, maybe even embracing a hint of RPG.
2) Scenarios and Battle Reports
To date our delivery of these types of articles to you has been hit and miss and we certainly need to lift our game for you. To this end, I am looking to put together a virtual team of a contributors who feel they could work alongside Spartan Games to generate content. This will encompass all games and anyone interested should email me putting Scenarios & Battle Reports in the email description please. If you have examples of your creativity, please feel free to attach them. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
3) Release of New Rules
I am going to split this into two: new rulebooks and new rule extensions.
Let’s tackle rulebooks first. We have what can be best described as a ‘hit list’ of ideas for Dystopian Wars 3.0, but aside from planning it, this book is not an ‘in progress’ project. Version 2,0 is a great book and the most settled version of the Dystopian Wars rules to date, meaning that we are not rushing to ask you to replace this ruleset. Over the last 12 months the massive list of model statistics has been looked over and refined for the 2.0 rules. We still have work to do here, but in the most part we are most happy with where the game balance is at.
We are very keen to move ahead with a DW 3.0 book for you, but it would be wrong to say this book is just around the corner. However, following our survey this is a project that has kicked off its development effort and we would hope to detail more to you later. But right now, Dystopian Wars 3.0 is best categorised as in the Planning Phase.
That said, we are about to reprint our Dystopian Wars rulebook so a version 2.5 book that fixes known errors and improves the look of the book (such as excessive use of bold removed) along with making any adjustments based on the last two years of feedback will be coming your way.
Our fast play Dystopian: Fleet Action rules now has a solid set of statistics to support the rulebook and we are currently in the process of checking this book over prior to making it available as a free PDF download.
Firestorm Armada 3.0 is a project that is more advanced in its thinking. At GenCon this year several excellent meetings took place talking about FA 3.0, and over the weeks since GenCon we have consolidated our thinking about what the goal of this book will be. It is worth pointing out that FA 2.0 is a great set of rules with a solid set of statistics, and whilst we don’t simply want to foist rulebooks on people for the sake of a new book, we believe FA 3.0 will serve us well in 2017 and beyond.
Planetfall 2.0 is a project that is advanced and one that will come early in 2017. Our true 10mm scale massed ground combat game has made great inroads since its release, establishing itself both on gameplay and the quality of its models. Version 2.0 builds upon this and will be an exciting release.
The second part of rules is the idea of creating addendums to the core engine that we roll out to you, sometimes alternatives to doing things. Handled correctly these give us a good test bed for trying out new ideas with our community, collating your feedback and potentially adding those rules to a new edition of the core ruleset down the line. We have made add-on rules available for Legions, and at times in previous campaign books we dabbled in new rule extensions.
These are something we should make more available to you and I have marked this down for the Beta Group Leads to talk about for our different game systems. I also want to ponder the best way to deliver these to you, and how best to collect feedback. The natural way is to use our beta testers as these guys will be the route to delivering the rules to you anyway – we would have created the rules with their input/commentary. There is a lot of mileage to generating addendum rules for you all.
4) Campaign Blogs
As you have seen already we kicked of campaign blogs for FA and DW before or survey was conducted, but what has been firmly established by the survey that what we have done so far is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to keep generating the campaigns, detail them in more depth for you and marry them up to Scenarios and Battle Reports.
We are now viewing campaigns for our games as delivering at two levels. At the top level, we have strategic campaigns that Spartan Games creates to guide the game, the campaigns that will directly define core faction upgrades, even define the new factions that enter the game. We have already started on these, the first game seeing this being FA, but this community has only seen 1 of several campaigns started. Below this we will have the more tactical campaigns, almost mini campaigns that sit inside the top-level campaigns and these are the ones we dynamically push to you via blogs to promote game play and increase interactivity with you.
Much more to come on this subject.
5) Painting Guides
This is something we have struggled with over the years as our painting resource has always been used to paint models for packaging and photoshoots. There are a lot of hugely talented painters out there they use both brush and airbrush techniques. We believe that we should focus on Painting Reference materials, instead of trying to tutor people on how to use a brush. Showing what colours we recommend (our paint partner is Vallejo) and where to apply them makes more sense, and using this format we should also ensure we detail named fleets or fleets of renown.
We’ve kicked off having some samples digitally created and when they are ready we will share for discussion.
6) Organised Play Materials
We took from the survey that this is people are looking for materials to assist them in organising events where our games are played, and that they can take the shape of Tournaments and more generalised play, such as a 2-3 scenario mini-campaign that can see players getting together at their club or local gaming store. Again, not something we have done well at generating and is something that can be fixed for you by implementing much of the above.
At a more structured Tournament end of the spectrum, we have recently kicked off a process of looking again at how we work with people to plan and implement organised play. For Firestorm Armada, we are now working very closely with the organisers of the Adepticon Firestorm Tournaments to rationalise organised play. A new FA Tournament Guide has been created and the Scenarios recommended for it will be based on those selected by the FA Adepticon Team for their event in early 2017.
We plan to make graphics available of these Scenarios that can, should an organiser wish, be downloaded and sent to a gaming mat manufacturer. We are still considering how best to make this happen, but we are confident that if an organiser emails such a manufacturer asking for a mat to be printed using their own artwork they are unlikely to say no!
We will use the new FA Tournament Guide to drive a new DW Tournament Guide, and this could well be an extension we make to the Halo Tournament Guide. More to come on this subject.
OK, so if you got this far – well done. This was a long blog and I appreciate you staying with. The long and the short of it is that Spartan needs to very much look beyond just making great models and rules for you. We need to create a community wide pool of information that assists in playing our games and growing the Firestorm Galaxy and Dystopian World. I’ve gone through some ideas above, but it is clear that this is going to be a rolling project of enhancement for you all. We have greatly appreciated the wonderful and deep feedback you have given us through the survey, and we will endeavour to continue this practice, to best ensure we support the settings and games of ours that you love.
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