Saturday, 29 June 2013

A Flight of Fantasy

I've been back in my hometown in South East Kent for this week, relaxing and visiting family and old friends. I didn't bring Hobby Supplies or models with me as I knew that, a) I wouldn't have much time, and b) I would doubtless forget an important colour or run out of glue or something.

Myself and four friends enjoy a game of Relic

This means that my Hobby fix this week has been a little bit different.

I've been a fan of Games Workshop IP (Intellectual Property, the background and worlds of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000) for nigh on 18 years now, joining the Hobby back in the days when Battlefleet Gothic was new, and fresh on the shelves. Gorkamorka was still a thing, Blood Bowl , though old, was around and talked about. I remember the Mordheim and Inquisitor releases.

Some people are sad/annoyed that these so-called 'Specialist' games aren't 'supported' anymore - and I really need to write a blog about that at some point, mental note - and that some have ceased to exist, mainly the old board games that GW produced mainly during the 80s. Some of these have seen some time in the GW spotlight (like Space Hulk being revamped back in '09) but others have become the stuff of legend: Warhammer Quest; Space Crusade; Talisman and the like.

My copy of Talisman. This box is older than I am...

As a huge fan of the GW IP, these are systems I've always wanted to explore further. Even Talisman, though not set in the Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000 universe, still intrigues me no end - it has its own unique world. Beyond that, I'm curious about the game design itself, just to see how it works.

All is not lost, however. Enter 'Fantasy Flight Games' (FFG), a company specialising in board games and boxed card games (the kind where the entire thing is in a box, not a TCG like Magic: the Gathering or Pokémon). Back in 2008, FFG acquired the rights to produce card games and board games based on the GW IP, of Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, and several other of the licenses, and over the years we've been spoilt rotten by them!

This is what's given me my Hobby Fix this week. On Tuesday night, I wandered down to Deal Wargames Society, an old haunt of mine, a weekly wargames club. When I was younger, I used to play 40k, MtG, Warhammer, even computer games like Advance Wars down there against my friends every week. I'm pleased to say the club is still going strong. I watched several games of Firestorm Armada, a big game of WWII (though I couldn't tell you the system), several games of MtG, and Warwick had brought Relic with him.

For those unaware, Relic is a board game made by FFG, based on Talisman, but set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. What a game!

The four of us selected our players semi-randomly (draw two options, pick your favourite) and ended up with a Commissar, a Sanctioned Psyker, a Rogue Trader, and I took the Canoness. The game involves you moving around various different battle fronts (where you'll have to fight against various threats from Chaos, Orks, Tyranids and Eldar) trying to complete missions to claim powerful Relics and to level up your character, increasing their statistics and capabilities; all with the express intent of being powerful enough to walk through the Warp itself to reach the middle and activate whatever Scenario is in use this particular match.

Ours was the Lost Flagship of St. Antias; and that essentially meant that when a player reached the middle, it became a brutal game of Last Man standing.

Our Rogue Trader very quickly corrupted himself out of the game, and rather than respawn, let another friend pick a character and move into the game. So a Callidus assassin joined our ranks.

My character was the Canoness - A Leader of the Sisters of Battle

I won't bore you too much with details, but as an idea of the game, there was one point where I handed in three completed missions for a Relic, and took a new mission to complete. The Relic, fittingly, was the Hammer of some saint, and the new mission card told me I had to make a Pilgrimmage! Quite fitting considering these were random draws!

There was also a particularly amusing moment where the Callidus Assassin took on an Avatar of Khaine and had to draw two more threat cards, only for the Avatar to be joined by an Autarch, some Ymgarl Genestealers, a Warp Beast that summoned about three more threats, and still managed to take it all down solo, on sheer dint of rolling an incredible string of critical hits (called Explosions) and finishing off with a roll value (just the numbers on the dice) of 62...

Needless to say, the Callidus looked set to win this one, and duly sprinted through the warp to our target, activating the Player VS Player aspect of this particular game. My Canoness gave chase through the warp but sadly was cut down on some nameless daemon world. Then the Commissar was torn apart by the Calidus' new found powers aboard the ship. The game ended, however, when the Calidus tried to target the Sanctioned Psyker, who redirected the attack killing the Calidus and ending up as last man standing!

All in all, from box open to box close, the game took about three hours. I will certainly be grabbing a copy myself so that I can while away the evenings with my mates, and the busts used as playing pieces are beautifully sculpted, and just dying to be painted. I'll pop some pictures up here when it's done!

Myself, Dan and Warwick playing BBTM; I was the Skaven... naturally!

Then on Wednesday I spent most of the day with the same group of friends, playing video games throughout the day, then in the evening busting open a copy of Blood Bowl Team Manager, a card game also made by FFG. Based on Blood Bowl, the game of over-the-top-violent Fantasy Football set in an alternate version of the Warhammer World, the Team Manager game steps back from the pitch, not worrying on the full details of the game, but only the highlights.

Each 'Game Turn' is a week, with the managers each describing the highlights of the games played that week. In game terms, the managers assign their players to various different matches, where the players can sprint, pass, tackle and cheat their way to victory (I'll point out that of all the four player skills, all are optional, except cheating, which is mandatory!) and gain various different spoils from games, ranging from Star Players, to team upgrades (my Skaven team ended up selling warp stone souvenirs and with bloodthirsty fans who cheered louder every time a player was injured) and extra Fan Rating. At the end of five weeks, and the eponymous Blood Bowl tournament itself, the player with the highest Fan Rating is considered victorious.

A brief look at the gameplay.

In our game, we had the Reikland Reavers, the orcs of the Gouged Eye, and I took up management of the Skavenblight Scramblers (of course!). As the evening went on, we found some truly hilarious moments. In our second week, the ball was cursed, meaning that whenever players tried to pass the ball we'd have to roll to see where the ball really ended up. In one particular game, an Orc thrower grabbed the ball, only to thrust it into the arms of my Skaven Gutter Runner who, in my turn in utter confusion, simply handed the ball right back to that Orc!

There was a truly fantastic moment when one of the Gouged Eye's trolls tried to tackle one of the Reikland Reavers players, only for the troll to trip over his own feet, hand the ball to the enemy team and hand them the game on a silver platter. Or the hilarity of imagining what became of the referee who had the balls to send Morg'n'Throg off the pitch in the final round of the Blood Bowl! Safe to say they needed a new ref in the morning!

The latest and current version of Talisman

Simply put, whilst these games will never replace the joy of the main Games Workshop Hobby for me, they do provide an enjoyable aside to it. In fairness, it was considerably easier for me to bring Talisman and BBTM with me from Epsom to Deal, than it would have been to bring a full Warhammer army, gaming table and scenery. That said, I am having withdrawal symptoms from not having painted anything this week, and I'm itching to get back onto the battlefields next week, so keep an eye out for some battle reports and new models!

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