Exploring new worlds and civilisations

No, not Star Trek. Although I have just returned from watching “Into Darkness” which was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The new worlds to which I refer are firstly those unlocked by Secret Weapon as themes in Justin McCoy’s ‘Tablescapes’ Kickstart which finished today securing a rather respectable $300K+. This is a particularly pleasing figure as far as I am concerned because I have had my eye on the Ruined Temple theme since the project began and it was the final stretch to unlock at $280K. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a great result and a project I am pleased to see succeed. Not least because I backed it, but also because it shows there is a real appetite out there in the gaming sphere for decent pre-made wargaming terrain and folks are prepared to invest in it.

So huge congratulations to Justin on Tablescape’s success.

However, as one Kickstarter finishes, another is really starting to stretch it’s legs and it is this to which I refer. This is of course Mantic’s Deadzone Kickstarter and what a beast it’s shaping up to be. A little over twelve months ago, long before Mantic launched Dreadball onto the world, I was sat scratching my head wondering what to make of Mantic as a games company. Both their Kings of War and Warpath ranges were doing nothing to engage my interest and I have to confess, I felt they were squandering an opportunity to break away from Games Workshop’s coat-tails and do something original. Up to that point they seemed happy to feed off the scraps GW had left behind producing ‘Space Dwarves’ and ‘Space Vermin’. Considering the talent and experience Mantic have at their disposal it all just seemed to lack much in the way of ambition.

What a difference a year makes.

I have never been so happy to be proven wrong. Dreadball showed they are not scared to come up with something original and pardon the pun, run with it. I have no doubt there are plenty of folks that still see Dreadball as just a sci-fi copy of Games Workshop’s Blood Bowl. That is probably because they haven’t actually played Dreadball. Deadzone, their latest Kickstarter campaign could be seen as being somewhat like Necromunda, or possibly even Sedition Wars in its conception. I think the latter is probably a fairer judgment, but only so far as some of the backstory tropes are concerned. Gaming wise, it’s probably closer to a hybrid between miniature game and board game sharing many of the dice mechanics that (in my opinion) make Dreadball such a fun and elegantly tactical game to play. There are all the usual things about Deadzone that will no doubt make it a successful Kickstarter. Plenty of easily reached stretch goals offering additional goodies. Lots of tempting add-ons to enhance the end product (more on those later). Mantic have clearly learned a lot from their previous campaigns and those of others that preceded them.

Where I am really impressed however is FINALLY Mantic are starting to stretch their creativity legs and establish their own gaming universe. Sure Warpath was supposed to be that but lets be honest here, Orx Marauders, Forge Fathers and Veer-myn may have different names, but their heritage is clear from the start. With Deadzone however I am starting to see some genuinely new and interesting designs getting added into the mix. Yes folks, Mantic are showing a bit of creative ambition and boy does it look good. The usual suspects are all there in the Marauder and Corporation factions, but the Rebels are where the action is at with all manner of weird and wonderful races.

Note: All concept art above is © Mantic Games and is reproduced here without permission.

For more details and even more concept artwork, check out Update #19 – Faction Focus: The Rebs on the Deadzone Kickstarter.

Then there is the small matter of the modular terrain, which is largely what this project is all about introducing. There is no doubt they have gone ‘all-in’ with this one; new game, new factions and miniatures, multi-themed modular plastic terrain sets, tie-ins with Army Painter, Secret Weapon and Antenocitis Workshop. No doubt custom figure cases will be revealed later. And therein I feel is the only niggling worry I have with the Deadzone campaign; it’s all a bit over the top. There is a danger that the primary core of the campaign, getting Deadzone as a game into production will be overtaken by the enormous list of Add-ons. To be fair to Mantic, it suggests they acknowledge that potentially different backers are looking for different things from this Kickstarter and they are attempting to cater for all. At the end of the day add-ons are just that and you can take them or leave them. So like I say it’s a niggle rather than an issue I have with the way they are drumming up pledges.

And drumming up pledges they are, by the shuttle load. With three weeks still to go they have already surpassed Dreadball’s backer total of over 2500 and are steaming steadily towards locking in $500,000. Based on how they have delivered Dreadball, their last project to date I doubt there will be many disappointed backers of the core game or terrain pledges. Already the fairly ubiquitous by now ‘sweet spot’ pledge level of $150 is being upgraded nicely with a decent amount of terrain and probably more minis than anyone really needs. Sedition Wars all over again? The stand out for me though is the upgraded 24″ gaming mat. Based on a similar rubberised backing to printed mouse mats this is actually a really nice looking gaming surface if you are looking at it for what it is; a skirmish style miniature game. I actually think this is a bit of great creative thinking by Mantic as they could easily have gone with a printed PVC or card surface for the upgrade. The rubberised printed fabric mat however looks an awful lot more durable and impressive.

Although technically an add-on, bundling it in with the $150 Strike Team level pledge clearly shows they know what they are doing.

So around about this time I ought to be criticising them for something, whether it’s trying to release too much at once, lure in backers with cheap ‘freebie’ tactics or bite off more than they can chew with the enormous variety of miniatures and plastic terrain frames they are seeking to fund for tooling and manufacture. The problem is I can’t, it actually looks like a sweet product when I dissect it. The core game mechanics look pretty good based on the Alpha rules released to date and my experiences with Dreadball. The terrain frames look nice and I can see these appealing to a broad range of collectors, both for this game and others. The miniatures concepts and samples to date demonstrate some nice ideas and original direction. Not all; there are some notable exceptions, the running Orx Marauder for one (*cough cough*). The upgraded gaming ‘mouse’ mat above is a nice idea and even if you go for a more conservative pledge adding it on top for $20 seems like a shrewd buy to me.

Bottom line? Deadzone Kickstarter looks pretty darned good if you ask me, and if you had asked me a year ago if I’d be viewing Mantic Games as a potential successor to the now seemingly retired GW Specialist Games range I would have laughed. Well, I’m not laughing now. The only real challenge for me is controlling my wallet and trying not to go too far over budget. Fortunately I discovered rather a lot of Necromunda/Deadzone style potential terrain in the workshop, so I really don’t need to invest in anymore. With that and Tablescapes success I’m going to call it a day on the Kickstarter ruminations for a while and get back to posting about painting. I’ll return to the whole terrain thing later when they approach the last few days of the campaign. For now, it’s back to Flames of War and adding static grass and grass tufts to the PaK40 platoon to bring the last of the Open Fire boxed set painting to a close. Next update will be all about those.

Until then, have a great week.

CW

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