A little while ago, Sam Black wrote an article about GenCon that focused to some extent on lessons he’d learned in other games that could be applied to Magic. This has inspired me to give some thought, from time to time, on lessons I’d picked up in various games that are portable across games generally.
Specifically, I’ve idly pondered what I might have picked up during my Mechwarrior gaming days that transitions well to Magic. I was pretty good at Mechwarrior, most of the time maintaining our highest local rating and “going infinite” in real life tournaments (something you could do back in the day by trading off extras of the premium tournament prizes in online trades for minis you needed). In no particular order, here are some lessons I picked up from Mechwarrior:

  • Research Matters – I improved significantly in Mechwarrior after I spent some time (1) reading ideas from players who were in the game when I came in, (2) looking at successful army builds, and (3) just spending time looking at unit stats. This was important in Mechwarrior in the “rote memory is helpful” manner, inasmuch as you wanted to know how each unit’s stats would progress over time. It was also helpful, however, in letting me know which options I had available, and exposing me to concepts that I wouldn’t have run into via directed search. This is, in fact, an idea I’m planning on touching in over at In Development in the future.
  • Technical Precision Matters – There’s an edge in many games in just knowing how the rules actually work. This isn’t so much a matter of rules lawyering as it is a matter of just knowing what your operating space is. This came up recently in a Magic tournament when I floated a random green mana before sacrificing a land with Knight of the Reliquary and then let that go while my opponent ran through the rest of his turn…until he wanted to go into combat, when I paused him, paid another five mana, and flashed out a Cloudthresher. He wasn’t sure I could do that — hadn’t he said he wanted to go to combat? Of course, the way the game works requires a double priority pass on an empty stack before we can shift into combat (as the judge we called confirmed). My opponent didn’t know this, and walked into something as a consequence.
  • Fast Play Matters – Mechwarrior, like Magic, was played in timed rounds. You benefit, of course, from being able to think and play the game quickly. However, this is more about making sure your opponent is playing quickly. I’ve been fortunate not to run into players who are clearly stalling, but at the same time, there are players who play as if they weren’t really aware that rounds are timed. We had one prime offender in the Mechwarrior circuit who clearly was not thinking about his upcoming turn at all during your turn. This was apparent the first time I played him, as he started each of his turns by adjusting the dials on his units (this is sort of like starting a Magic turn by making minor adjustments so that your land are all nicely parallel, then staring at your cards for a while, then finally untapping…). I adjusted to this in two ways. First, I made sure to urge him to play faster, and suggested that he take care of whatever minor adjustments he cared about on his turn. Second, I made sure to get an early, high-value kill, since I knew that I could only do so much about his play speed, and I wanted to end with a game win if he timed us out. In a Magic tournament, I’d just call a judge on him if he didn’t speed up, of course.

I’m sure there are more lessons that transferred out of Mechwarrior, just as there are more that have come out of other games I’ve played and other areas of my life. It’s a good exercise, and I’d be interested in hearing what lessons other people feel they’ve picked up in one game that transferred into another.

Jedi facing off in Seattle

Wizards of the Coast has announced that the 2008 Star Wars Miniatures championship will be held at this year’s PAX. The tournament is open to all comers, but you have, well, today to preregister for PAX before that option closes (otherwise, you’re stuck paying at the door).
You can read the announcement here. It’s 150-point Constructed format…and I’m not a competitive player, so I have no idea what the latest tech and best builds are for Star Wars Minis these days. I recommend checking out the Star Wars Minis forums and for proper format research.

With my infinite time and money…

One thing I have to watch is my tendency to assign myself more projects than I have time for. Be it at work or otherwise, there’s always more interesting stuff to do than time in which to do it.
The corollary to watching how time is spent is making sure I don’t spend money on things I won’t have the time to actually work on. That said, there are some outstanding projects I’d really like to find both time and money for.
The first miniatures game I ever played was Warhammer 40,000 – Rogue Trader, a quirky little game that spawned a vast empire of miniatures gaming and derivative IP in the form of computer games and a burgeoning online world. I’ve held onto my Rogue Trader book, as well as other jewels like Chapter Approved and the Compendium, but I sold the bulk of my miniatures, keeping just the Space Marines:
(Picture found at The Stuff of Legends, a really handy miniatures website.)
Since then, the game world has advanced and grown. The most recent edition of Warhammer 40,000, the fourth edition, features cleaned-up rules but the same rich world, with twenty years of additional material. Among the “new” additions since I last played are the “young” race of the setting, the Tau:
The Tau fascinate me, and a 40K Tau force is one of the ways I’d spend time and money, if I somehow acquired a surplus of both. However, there’s an option even cooler than a 40K Tau force. Far more than Warhammer 40K, my game of choice in the day was Space Marine, a game geared toward larger-scale battles, using smaller-scale minis. Instead of being 28mm tall, a person is 6mm tall — roughly 1:300 scale. I was first drawn to Space Marine — later rechristened “Epic” — by a friend’s copy of the very first epic game, Adeptus Titanicus. AT featured giant war machines from the world of Warhammer 40K, like this Warlord Titan:
Sometime in college, I acquired nine or so Warlord Titans in a trade (I traded away some 40K stuff I was never going to use). Fixing these up is one of those projects that requires no additional money, just time. However, if I once again had that inifnite money and time, I’d also pick up these:
Yup, those are epic-scale Tau, available (at a price) from Forge World. Sadly, as a niche product in a niche category, they’re not cheap. That squad of infantry (called “Fire Warriors,” by the way), would run me about $24, or about $1 for each 6mm-tall soldier. Ouch. That’s way more expensive than my old epic minis cost me, even adjusting for inflation.
Okay, enough of that. Now back to writing a paper.

Houseruling Star Wars Starship Battles

After some test plays of the new Star Wars Starship Battles game, I’ve decided that it’s just a little too simple for my tastes. There’s very little motivation to actually maneuver the capital ships, and the fighters, while fun, play out like a fairly routine chess game.
I’ve decided to transfer the game to a free-standing (that is, normal) minis game, with measured distances, playable on any old surface.
Modified rules and stats in the extended. Opinions welcomed from interested parties (e.g. folks on whom I’m going to inflict this).

Continue reading

Star Wars Starship minis are go

The Star Wars Starship Battles Game went on sale this week. The starter was already sold out in both local game stores I checked in on today; the game has been much anticipated in the community.
The minis themselves look really good — better than the normal minis. This isn’t surprising, as the mass production methods used for collectible minis are more forgiving to vehicles than to people.
The stats for all the ships are already up at swshoebox, and my normal eBay source is posting the minis for sale today.

Star Wars Spaceship Battle setlist and some stats

The next Star Wars minis game, Spaceship Battles, comes out at the end of November. Someone posted the setlist and some stats on the SW minis forum, so I’ve included both in the extended. One fun bit — the basic TIE Fighter comes with the ability “Infinite” — when it is destroyed, it is returned to the fighter pool and can be launched again.

Continue reading

More toys: Stars Wars Miniatures – Starship Battles

Wizards of the Coast has finally put up their information page for their upcoming Star Wars space minis game, which is due for release in late November.
Here’s the page
For the moment, this is a standalone, collectible-format game featuring a starter pack that comes with 8 randomized spacecraft as well as Executor and a big Mon Calamari ship, and boosters that each contain 7 minis.
They’ve also posted the rules here. They’re about as simple as the rules for the normal minis game, with the removal of the complications provided by cover and terrain in the normal game.
You can see a couple images of actual minis scattered around the site. At the moment, the Star Wars home page shows us an X-Wing, a TIE Interceptor and the Millennium Falcon. The product page features Slave I (in Jango rather than Boba colors, I’m told).

More Nintendo and some GW bits

Following up on m’s recent post about the Nintendo Wii, I have a question for all my DS-addicted peeps out there: Has anyone purchased, or is anyone planning on picking up, MechAssault: Phantom War for the DS? As it happens, there’s a coupon in there for the plastic minis version of said game, so if you had it, I might want to beg it off ya’.
In another subset of the minis gaming genre, Battlewagon Bits is a neat little site that sells individual components of GW multipart miniatures to aid in your customization work. After all, why buy a whole pack of Chaos Marines when all you really wanted was some Chaos Heavy Bolter plastic bits? I no longer buy any GW minis, but if I did, this site would be awesome.