This article is sparked by a response to a comment Minitrol made on another GoB article. Rather than try to fit this whole ramble in the comments I thought I’d give myself a little more space, and make it easier for other people who might be interested to find it later.
So what’s it all about? Let’s start with Minitrol’s comment. It reads:
“I’ll admit I am slightly cautious about buying another Foundry release there seemed little love for Tribes of Legend – is the intent for it to be a one off or will there be more support? I really tried to drum up interest last time but it was a damp squid (tee hee).
I like the sound of the rules but forgive me for saying I am not yet seeing anything different that God of Battles offers that couldn’t be supplied via Kings of War or Hordes of the Things or even Realm FW which is free…
Don’t get me wrong I am all for rules sets that allow me to use my existing miniatures (that was my primary focus for 2012!) but could you provide a bit more info on what makes this set unique or what you feel makes it ideal. You have mentioned this was the rule set you were writing more for your self so why is that?
Thanks Jake I am a fan of nearly everything you write – hopefully some buzz does build and we get some other views as well!”
He makes a few points that I’d like to drag out and look at more closely:
- Support for games – how much is enough?
- What are the major differences between GoB and WFB, KOW, etc?
- What makes God of Battles “ideal”?
I’ll take them one at a time. Oh, and before you imagine that I’m having a go at Minitrol, this is not intended to be critical of him. He’s the messenger, and I don’t shoot them 😉
The idea that games must have a constant flow of extras in order to be worth playing is an attitude I come across increasingly and was simply not around when I was a kid. These days it seems that games must bombard the individual with a constant stream of expansions and add-ons otherwise it is somehow not worth playing.
Is this simply the result of years of brainwashing by companies that must get the customer to buy something every month? GW’s cycle of replacing its core games, army books and ranges is the best known example of this, but it is not the needs of the game that drives it, but the needs of the balance sheet.
Let’s look at a few other games. DBA is a good example of a brilliant game that has not felt the need for a slew of additions over the years. It works as is so why clutter it up with extras? It has been given new editions as the game required rather than to a set timetable for releases.
When was the last major update for Chess? Aren’t they overdue for a new Black Army Book? I mean, white has all the advantages, what with going first and all. Clearly broken… yet people still play it.
My question, I suppose, is this: if a game is complete, and the model range is all there waiting, what else do you want? What else does the game actually need? Surely you just get on and play it. Why must it be continually fiddled with? Very, very often this commercially-driven flurry of expansions will make the game itself (as a playing experience) worse rather than better. As an extreme example of this ridiculous behaviour I was told by another designer of a time they were asked by a publisher to produce an expansion for a new game. He said there was no need as the game was designed to be complete as it was, but that he’d be happy to design another game if they wanted. No thanks, said the publisher, who then cut the original game in half so that they could release part of it as an “expansion” later, releasing the first half of the game in a state that essentially didn’t work and made little sense.
Personally, I think some games need expansions and others don’t. As I’ve said before, I see my own designs as a whole. Depending on how big that whole is, they might need to be chopped into 2 or 3 parts to be viable commercial products. DreadBall is a good example of my vision of the whole game being bigger than a single boxed set, hence Season 2, Ultimate and Xtreme. Other games, like Tribes of Legend, are complete as they stand. You can always add things if you have to, but what I’m talking about here is the natural size of the piece.
Now there is a big difference between this way of expanding a game (where all the expansions are part of the overall design from the outset) and the one that GW, Privateer and others seem to be using which is that you simply go round forever, doing new editions and replacing things in sequence so that you always have something new and shiny to sell. If that works for them, then that’s cool. I just don’t think it should be seen as a requirement because when you come at things from a stance of wanting the best game rather than steady products then it isn’t all that helpful.
My thinking is that there are always more cool games to make, and that you can easily maintain a series of shiny new toys by producing new things instead of unnecessarily faffing about with the old. For Mantic I have done DKH, DKH2, DKH3, PP, DreadBall, Season 2 and more is in the pipeline. We haven’t simply revised the first thing we thought of, nor is there any need to.
So what am I saying? It’s simple: GoB will have all the support it needs. ToL was supported by Foundry producing a complete range of models for every army and game in that set (the book has 3 games in it). As far as I’m aware there was nothing outstanding – in fact they made more things for several armies than were even listed. I don’t really see what support they were failing to provide.
Now that Foundry has a new management I can’t say what they will offer in support of God of Battles. What I do know is that just as with Tribes of Legend they have made models of everything you need for all 10 armies, and if they aren’t out now then I’d expect them to be released over the coming months. Naturally, with that many armies there will be variants, vignettes and other things that can be added in due course, but these will be small in number when you compare that to the work they’ve already done.
Many months ago I discussed a possible additional book with the previous management, but have no idea whether that will still be on the cards. Even so it is far from essential. God of Battles was written to be a complete, stand-alone product and it needs no add-ons. An extra book would mainly focus on adding depth to the background in a campaign.
Of course, whatever Foundry choose to do, I will be providing support here for God of Battles in the form of continued articles and a FAQ. I’ll also be doing articles on building an army or two and if I happen to play a scenario that might be fun then, well, you get the idea.
What’s the Difference?
I can, and will, go on at length about this, but I expect you want a summary. Actually, I’ll start with the summary that Ben posted in response to Minitrol. He is comparing GoB to KOW having played both games:
Both games are mass battle fantasy games and have some overlap in which armies they allow you to use (not a bad thing IMO). Both are unit-buy systems and utilise unit leaders for measuring distances and LoS (albeit in different ways) and both have streamlined movement and magic systems in comparison with WFB. Both games can also be played in a couple of hours or less. These are the similarities.
The primary difference between them as I see it is a fundamental difference in their approach to gameplay. KoW is an abstract system that provides its players with perfect information and is the nearest thing that a mass fantasy battle system gets to chess. GoB takes a more narrative approach and uses mechanics such as scenarios, strategems, alternate unit activation, weather, and the card-activated miracles system to achieve this. I certainly don’t see how anyone could play both games and conclude that the experience was the same. That said, given the overlap between some of the army lists you can easily play both games with the same army and get two entirely different playing experiences for the price of one. In that respect both systems are a bargain and I’d urge anyone playing KoW already to pick up GoB as you’ll likely be able to dive straight in.
I’d quibble about a detail or two, but on the whole I think Ben’s pretty much on the money there. Much the same could be said for HOTT as that is also a perfect informaiton game. GoB is decidedly not.
I think I’ll leave it there for now.
A Personal View
Is God of Battles the ideal fantasy battle game? For me, yes it is. For you?
When I designed God of Battles I was given almost completely free reign to make the game I wanted. Foundry needed a fantasy game to support their ranges, and as long as they could use it to bring the ranges together and give them a home then they had no particular axe to grind about the mechanics. I wrote a brief and then a short piece about key concepts and they were sold. Part of this ended up at the start of the book, and it might help to quote some of it here. This was what I was thinking when I sat down to design it:
“The key concepts that I wanted to focus on in God of Battles are:
- A simple set of rules that is easily memorable so that, during a game, players can get on with playing and not have to look anything up.
- Constantly evolving challenges that require interesting tactical decisions from both players throughout the game.
- The constant involvement of both players with minimal waiting between turns.
- Battlefields that are as characterful as the armies, and for them to be integral to the game instead of being an afterthought.”
So that was the plan. Did I achieve that? I think I did. You need to try it out for yourself to know for sure. And I’d recommend trying it out, not just reading it. You really won’t see the excitement of the game and the challenge of the decisions on paper.
There’s lots more to why I like the game, though it all flows naturally from having the opportunity to design what I wanted. I like games to come to a natural end and not just stop because it’s turn 6, or we’ve had 90 minutes each. GoB does that. I like there to be an ebb and flow, for people to be able to outfox each other and for there to be a healthy lack of certainty – just like there is in real battle. GoB is like that. I like games that tell stories, and GoB does that too.
I suppose that one of the more telling facts is that of all the many, many projects I have pencilled in for my own self publishing efforts, a fantasy mass battle game is not one of them. I simply have no need.