God of Battles Designer’s Notes: What’s the Difference?

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:

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“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!”

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He makes a few points that I’d like to drag out and look at more closely:

  1. Support for games – how much is enough?
  2. What are the major differences between GoB and WFB, KOW, etc?
  3. 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 😉

Support

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.

Why?

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:

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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.

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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:

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“The key concepts that I wanted to focus on in God of Battles are:

  1. 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.
  2. Constantly evolving challenges that require interesting tactical decisions from both players throughout the game.
  3. The constant involvement of both players with minimal waiting between turns.
  4. Battlefields that are as characterful as the armies, and for them to be integral to the game instead of being an afterthought.”

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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.

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26 Responses to God of Battles Designer’s Notes: What’s the Difference?

  1. thedrellum says:

    One of the reasons that I drifted away from Warhammer (both varieties) was because of the constant retooling of the game system. I mean, it wasn’t just the rules that were revised, it was the armies, making it possible for a whole swath of figures you’d spent time and money collecting and painting to be made obsolete.

    Imagine, for example, if you’d invested heavily in Slann when they first came out. Or Squats.

    All of this is to say that I’m excited about a ruleset that is complete now and always will be.

  2. Sami Mahmoud says:

    “I think some games need expansions and others don’t.”

    Broadly I agree, but I think there’s a middle ground where some games don’t “need” them but can still be enriched by having them – usually if there’s still parts of that universe that can be explored. WHF doesn’t need another army but I’m sure many fans would enjoy expansion into Cathay or Ind, for example.

    In terms of new editions there’s a key distinction that you didn’t really address. I’m all for companies releasing a new edition that incorporates various issues, FAQs and wotnot that tidies up the system, the wording, the process and brings it all into one place (and maybe adds some new elements). That’s a whole different kettle of fish to reinventing a system and throwing out half of it.

    With the huge amount of board and miniature games out there, it’s nice to be able to buy some and think “I’ve got a great little game here, and that’s it, I never have to worry about keeping up with developments, I can get it out and play it whenever and it just ‘is’ “. But I’ll also admit to being a bit of a kid (aside from playing with toy soldiers 😉 ) seeing new developments in some of the systems I’m into over time, particularly if they relate to fluff developments if I’m particularly into the storyline.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      As I mentioned above, I do have some ideas that could be made into an expansion for GoB. They mainly revolved around continuing the story in the a background as a setting for a campaign system. However, there is no requirement for any of it nor immediate plans for it to be written. I’m also not a fan of continually moving the timeline of the background on as I find it (as a customer) hard to keep up. If we ever did this it would not happen often. We’ll have to see how it goes.

      Your comment about “tidy up” editions of a system is entirely right. II think it fits neatly under my “what the game needs” view of good expansions. It would, as you suggest, be driven by a desire for making the game better. I’m all for that.

      Would it be fun to see a Warhammer Ind expansion? I know what you mean. There is, however, another view that leaving some parts unexplored is a good thing.

      • David says:

        To resolve the narrative issues of moving on the background, perhaps a company could release several stand-alone books to represent different time periods (ie the Fields of Glory Ancients/Renaissance/Napoleonic books, or the Kings of War/Warpath core rules)?

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Having different timelines for the same game is not something that the audience generally copes well with unless there is a very clear delineation, for example Horus Heresy period 40K and normal 40K. With historical games it’s easier as people understand that Russian Front and Normandy are different even if it’s the same day.

          The crux, I think, is being able to present a clear difference to both the public and yourselves. If you are muddy about things then nobody else has much hope of understanding it. If you can present a clear difference between one version and the next then you can have both. The issue I have as a gamer is with people moving backgrounds on a few months so they can release some more figures. I don’t play any single game frequently enough to keep up with this, and so I never feel engaged.

          So I stick it on ebay.

          It would work fine if you never played anything else, but that’s a rarity these days with so many great games to choose from. In the end it’s the minor changing of a single background that I dislike. If you have Eastern Front and Normandy then they’re “fixed” backgrounds that I can learn and won’t pull the rug from below me half way through. The company that does them could also do a Desert War book, and I could then choose to play that or not as I saw fit. However, it wouldn’t invalidate my current armies and , importantly, my comfort zone of understanding.

          I’m not feeling like I’m being terribly coherent this morning. Let me know if this makes any sense 😉

        • David says:

          I understood your argument perfectly, which was far better worded than my own.

          Out of interest, how would you introduce new models for an established army into a rulebook, if you would do so at all? (Not variants of an existing unit, but new concepts).

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I generally wouldn’t. At least, not with GoB because the armies were intended to be complete as they stand.

          Having said that, I did discuss a possible single expansion with the previous Foundry management, and that would have involved a whole new army (rather than new units for existing ones). That was a major change in the background though, and would have allowed for before and after gaming as different periods. It was never well developed as many other projects were more important to them at the time, and I doubt very much if it will ever see the light of day now. I wasn’t the driver for it, and I don’t think GoB needs that sort of addition. It could work, but it’s not a requirement.

        • Ben says:

          From a company point of view, new settings or timelines for a game system are ultimately introduced to sell new minis. Horus Heresy very quickly became the setting for Adeptus Titanicus and any WW2 company which introduces a desert front setting will also introducing minis for it.

          In the specific example of GoB, that will only happen if the minis range sells well enough to make it worthwhile for Foundry to produce more minis for it.* Until and unless that happens there is always the option of doing more with the minis that already exist. Perhaps a linked set of campaign scenarios based on the elven invasion of Aren or The War Eternal.

          *So you all better go and buy them so we can have some more 😉

        • Quirkworthy says:

          That’s true to a point. Sometimes companies continue to release stuff to raise awareness and get another bite at the promo cherry. Mostly for miniatures though.

          Of course, I’ve got no such considerations, and will be writing stuff for my own games of God of Battles that I’m happy to share with you guys here. I’ve already tried out one new scenario and will post it when it works better than not at all. The first time we tried it we both ignored the objectives and just set about killing one another. Hmmm…

        • Quirkworthy says:

          And you should also go and sign up to the FaceBook GoB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/538792446160791/

          Having some very interesting and rather lively conversations on that already 🙂

        • Ben says:

          Plus if it gets another 36 members I gather the admin of the group will be sending a free blister pack to one of them. That’s free stuff, folks 🙂

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I should make that a proper post, really. Bring it to folks’ attention 🙂

        • Rolex says:

          Please do!

  3. Ben says:

    Ongoing support for a game doesn’t just have to take the form of further iterations of the rules or expansions with new army lists in them. Expanding on the world, new scenarios, campaigns and the like can be a good way of keeping a player base engaged. Chess* may not need on-going support but a look at what happened to sales of LotR minis once the films had finished shows the importance of keeping the base interested.

    *No-one can compete with chess, it gives you all the rules, all the terrain and two full-sized and fully painted armies in the starter box 😉

  4. Birdman says:

    When was the last major update for Chess?

    Well, as it just so happens, fairly soon… 😉
    LOKA on Kickstarter

  5. Pingback: Juegos de batallas alternativos a Warhammer¡Cargad! | ¡Cargad!

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