The Miniatures War College
Advenio paratus. Egressus melior paratus.
D&D Miniatures strategy and analysis.

August 24, 2005

SWAG: Speculation, Wild Assumptions, and Guesses

As if you didn't get or see enough SWAG (Stuff We All Get) at Gen Con now you get some from me. Since I wasn't there (Solomon's choice between my wife's family reunion and spending large sums of money to play with little plastic dolls... how do you choose?!) I feel you should get some SWAG from me.

There will be a map in War Drums that has either forest/jungle areas/features or the map will have forest or jungle in the title. Why? First off the Forest Troll. For some reason I just don't see a forest glen tile coming in the next started and time is awful short for Organized Play to release the Jungle Pool tile by January (it could happen). That alone wouldn't be enough. My corroborating evidence is the background pictures of the War Drums starter and boosters have a definite deep jungle theme.

Wild Assumptions
Wouldn't a miniatures block/cycle be cool? Allegedly the November 2006 set is going to be a huge set named Juggernaut. Sounds kind of martial. Could there be a theme for the next cycle around wars and such? Will the July 2006 set be named something martial as well, like "Battle Cry" or "Battle Scars?" Don't get too excited unless the next release of the floor rules allows for "block constructed" or "single expansion" tournaments and creates Harbinger and Abberations block tournaments. And don't hold your breath until January when they rev the floor rules for War Drums.

The 2006 Epic Championships won't be at Gen Con Indy, not if WOTC knows what is good for the game. They should target Origins, Winter Fantasy, or some other convention that occurs during the early portions of the Constructed Qualifier seasons. Magic lives off of the 6 city alternating format pro tour and that it what keeps it going year round. The Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures Game can't afford 3 months of nationally tracked competitive down time without losing its steam.

Also, don't expect to see the word "Skirmish" on the cover or title page of the War Drums Rule booklet. It will soon become a trivia question like "What does the word "deckmaster" on the back of MTG cards mean?"

August 9, 2005

My thoughts on Maps

Everybody's commenting on the speculated changes that are coming to the skirmish game, so here's my two cents. Executive summary: I don't think it can happen soon enough.

What I will focus mostly on is the change that is known for sure: maps will be used instead of tiles. I think this brings D&D Miniatures closer to the core of what it should be, tiny plastic dolls attacking other tiny plastic dolls. In many of my games a battle can absolutely be won or lost by good or bad tile placement. This is unbelievably important against a ranged attack based band, I literally won a game with a TPK and no figures lost on my part with a Double HEBI/Valanear Commander band in Cave of Pain because I routed all of his hitters before they could base anything meaningful. I attribute this entirely to good tile placement. Maps won't eliminate these situations but they will get rid of the amazingly abusive setups that a skilled placement can get against a non-skilled placement.

The down side is that I don't see thins going 100% until War Drums ships. The reason being every player conceivably will need to be able to bring a map to the game. I completely expect the retail kits to start shipping maps instead of tiles and templates, much like they did with the Lost Temple play mat. But to get the game to a point where you can expect all players to have a map won't happen until you can have players go out and just buy a map they could bring to the table. It may be possible when Fane of the Drow ships, but realistically there will be backlash when they require a map and the only feasible way to guarantee one is to get a RPG product. There would be mass cries of cramming a product.

Given the chatter on the boards from official sources it seems that this is a given. Comments such as "we will have from 12-15 maps available" as a metric seems to indicate that this will not happen any sooner than march of next year. One hope I am holding out is that the floor rules update after GenCon will allow for fixed map tournaments like are possible with the Giants of Legends "Lost Temple" play mat. We may get some official word as well as to how maps and specific scenarios will be handled with the new rules and the "effective march 2006" being appended parenthetically. But if there are any substantial changes that would result from the switch to maps I would expect another floor rules update just before the constructed championship season again.

August 1, 2005

Star Wars Minis Rules Updated: There Can be Only One (Winner, That Is)

Did anyone notice today that the DCI floor rules for Star Wars Miniatures was updated today? Well, this will be an indication for what they are planning to do for D&D Miniatures.

First, they changed the standard scenario from Kill 'em All to "Standard Scenario." This scenario looks, smells, and tastes like Assault, except that there is only one scoring area: within four squares of the center of the board. I'd have to look at the star wars maps to see if that makes any maps better than others. But the major impact here is this: Assault isn't going to go away. Organized play likes it so much they are converting it to play with Star Wars.

Second, they deal with the "double win" situation. Victory is only checked at the end of a complete round. If both players meet the victory condition then the player with the most points wins. If still tied they keep playing complete rounds until a winner is determined. Very simple to state, elegant, and a piece of cake to officiate. No arguments about my flamethrower blasting an adjacent enemy and killing both, and the opponent claiming he wins the moment I resolve my effect.

Finally the biggest change, one I expect we will see in the first release of the 2006 rules. There are no ties, intentional or otherwise. What we have instead is double losses. If after all reasonable tie-breakers are exhausted we still have a tie both players lose. This also has direct impact on declared and indirect intentional draws, both players chalk up a loss. Going late into a tournoment you in effect have absolutely nothing to lose by playing, because you both have lost until one of you gives cause for either one of you to win. Another elegant and easy to officiate rule. It may not be a popular one but it eliminates a whole bunch of nasty "gaming the tournament" corner cases.

And by indirect intentional draw I mean where you both play but conspire to force a draw. "You win initiative," "ok, pass/pass," "pass/pass as well," etc. until the non-aggression rule kicks in. We both have zero with two 3 point figures on the corner of the assembly tile, so we draw.