Thursday, February 27, 2014

First World Miniature Problems - Gamer ADD and Collectivitis

Gamer ADD - the kitschy term used to summarize the general phenomenon of wargamers switching factions/game systems constantly, hereafter "GADD" - is a funny thing. Like most greed based desires, you can't satisfy it or make it go away by giving in to it.

If you do, what usually happens is that you buy all the models that you've had a fancy for, and use each of them once or twice. Then eventually you look around at your empire of models you use very infrequently and decide that you need to trim down; simplify your wargaming life. After a few weeks/months/years you manage to whittle your collection down to the bare essentials...which just so happens to give you a lot of room for new models, so why not branch out a little bit? Time is a flat circle, the cycle repeats, etc.

I've fallen victim to this cycle a number of times. When I worked for Games Workshop the (at the time) phenomenal discounts combined with most of my pay being disposable income combined into a firestorm of buying way, way, way too many models. I'm reasonably sure at one point I owned enough stuff to run (again, at the time) a 2,000 point army of 10 or so different armies across Warhammer: Fantasy and Warhammer: 40K. I needed shelves just to store all of the unopened boxes. Looking back on it, it was madness, but at least I was able to sell pretty much all of it over the years for a decent profit.

When I got into Warmachine, I decided to focus primarily on Khador. I bought everything I could, branching out very, very little (it took me awhile before I started picking up any Mercenary models, and I've only recently incorporated Mercenary units into my collection.) When Hordes came out I saw it as a great excuse to buy a second faction - it's a whole "new" game system, so why not jump in? I collected Legion of Everblight in the same way as Khador: everything gets purchased, no exceptions.

Again, looking back on it, that "collectivitis" is another kind of sickness; a lower impact version buying multiple factions. Instead of committing to a smaller pool of models and branching out when it made sense, I bought absolutely everything on the off chance I'd want to use it. The result ended up being that my Khador collection is massive, and while I use a good portion of it, there's definitely a chunk I wouldn't miss if it was gone. My Legion army was even worse: the pile of models was so big and full of stuff I either didn't like or wasn't interested in that when it came time to start painting that army, I decided it was ultimately better to just sell it rather than slog through dozens of models I didn't like (the actual reasons for selling my Legion collection were a little more complicated than that, but I would have been much less likely to sell it if the collection was less unwieldy and more focused on my interests in the faction.)

Remember what I said before: feeding the desire doesn't satisfy it. In addition to having collectivitis with Khador and Legion, I branched out into other factions a few times ("gamer ADD" flaring up again,) buying Cygnar, Trollbloods, and Skorne in sizable quantities. All of those armies were eventually sold or traded after minimal use, representing a waste of time and money with a very minor payout in terms of tabletop fun or hobby enjoyment.

I fell victim to this with Kickstarter as well. I bought into the Relic Knights Kickstarter, but instead of doing something reasonable like buying one, maybe two factions, I bought in for four. Four factions. For a game that, as neat as it looks and seems to play, is a game that my play group isn't going to tap into that much, and is competing for table time against plenty of other games.

Even now I'm still fighting that odd urge to branch out, to acquire more stuff. I still have my Khador collection - I'm keeping that until the models wither and crumble in my hands - and I started a slow grow Retribution of Scryah collection. I'm trying a different approach with Retribution: I'm building lists that I like, then buying the components. If a model doesn't end up in a list I like, I'm not buying it. Also: I'm painting everything before I'll let myself play it (with very few exceptions,) so my acquisition of models is slow and steady instead of gorging myself on the faction all at once like I have in the past.

So far, the experiment has been very successful. Knowing that I need to paint things before I can use them makes me very hesitant to buy more than one thing at a time, which keeps me from overloading on models and building a wall I'll never feel like chipping through. It also makes it a lot more satisfying to actually get the army on the table; I'm playing Retribution not just for the rules (in my experience, the primary motivator for GADD,) but also for the aesthetics. I really like the paint scheme I've come up with for Retribution, so I'm excited to grow the army not just to add new elements to it, but to add visual diversity and dimension to it as well.

GADD never really goes away though. It always lurks in a corner of your mind, waiting for you to become complacent so it can once again whisper sweet temptations into your ear. Khador has been in a mostly "finished" state for me for awhile - almost everything I own is painted, and there are few lists I want to run that I don't have the models for - and Retribution is slowly growing up at my own pace.

That leaves a window open; a window for another faction to sneak in.

A week or so ago I was musing about the possibility of starting up Skorne (again, though I barely played them originally.) This was the GADD talking: although Skorne has plenty of cool things going for it (some of the hardest hitting power out there and some of the best medium based infantry,) I'm not really interested in playing Skorne; more the novelty of playing Skorne. I'm sure I'd enjoy it for a little while, but inevitably I'd rotate back to Khador and Retribution, leaving Skorne sitting on the shelf at best or on the auction block at worst.

A friend of mine has started up Convergence of Cyriss (two friends have actually, but one more recently and more...zealously) and we've been talking about list ideas and different build paradigms. That of course got the gears turning (har har) and sure enough I came up with at least one Convergence list that I'd really enjoy running. It also would be pretty easy to put together and paint! What a deal!

This one is harder to resist because Convergence offers something that Khador and Retribution don't: the ability to run a crapton of warjacks, and do it well. That's something you usually have to go to Hordes for, and unfortunately for me I don't really like the design of any of the Hordes armies (or rather, I don't like any of them enough to be excited about painting them up.) I'm also not a massive fan of the design of the Convergence army, but I find it more palatable and workable than the Hordes armies (least of which because painting them up just in the default paint scheme would be hilariously quick and easy.)

PP also made this faction really easy to buy into by making it a "limited" release. Instead of buying into a new faction that will be expanded whenever a new book comes out, you've got what you have in the Forces of book, and any new releases will come at their discretion. It makes it much easier to alleviate concerns that you'll end up buying a ton of models for this new faction, because you can only really buy so much.

I still have my weak moments with Convergence (what long time Warmachine player wouldn't be interested in a faction that plays the way we thought they all would?) but I'm staying strong against buying in by reminding myself that it's fundamentally similar to Skorne: I'm only really interested in the novelty of the faction. I don't love the aesthetics, nor am I inspired to try something different when it comes time to paint them (which is what ultimately made me like my Retribution army so much.) Once the novelty of the few lists I buy wears off, it'll probably go back on the shelf or the auction block, just like Skorne would have.

The fine fellows at the "Troll Patrol" podcast pretty much nail the concept in their 6th episode: pretty much all of the Warmachine factions have grown to the point that you can play a ton of different styles of lists without having to step out of faction. Buying into a new faction because it offers some possible playstyle differences is absolutely tempting, but in the end (at least for me) it all comes down to how much I like the models and how much I'll want to paint what I buy. I got into this hobby for all aspects of it, and I really don't like buying models anymore that I know I'll never want to paint.

So while Skorne may be tempting for killer heavies and good medium based infantry, there are some list builds in Khador that can get me close to that (kinda sorta) that I'd be better off exploring instead of buying into a new faction. Convergence may have fantastic warjacks and warjack support, but Retribution has (at least in the Vyre warjacks) very interesting, flexible warjack models that are a positive delight to use after fussing with Khador's warjacks for years. Retribution even has 'casters that make running warjack heavier lists possible in the Vyros', and he's going to be a lot more fun to run once Imperatus comes out.

While all of those options invariably involve buying more models for the factions I play, it's a much more reasonable investment than buying into an entirely new faction (which seems to run around $200-300 on average for a 50 point army based on my wandering eyes.) And it has the benefit of offering me more general options in the factions I already own, instead of giving me an autonomous chunk of models that I either need to invest more into, or break out only occasionally.

To be clear: I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with owning multiple factions, or picking up a small force of another faction on the side. The Syntherion theme list I came up with is so sexy, it's going to be hard to resist that forever. But having gone down the rabbit hole of buying stuff I never really ended up using many times, I've learned that it's very important to sit down and ask yourself: "Why am I interested in this?" Sit down and try to evaluate if you're really interested in the new hobby expansion, or if you're just buying it because it's cool and "I'll probably use it eventually." At least in my experience, being able to make that distinction will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to figure out a way to configure my browser so that it crashes if I try to add Convergence models to any of the shopping carts for the online stores I frequent. Just to be safe.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Khador's New Heavy: The Grolar

PP has been kind enough to release the artwork for all of the new non-character warjacks being released in Warmachine: Vengeance. Without further ado, behold the new Khador warjack, the Grolar!

First off, some education: a "grolar" (real world term, not nerd game hijinks this time) is apparently a cross-breed between a polar bear in a grizzly bear. I'm not sure which is more terrifying - the fact that is a thing in the first place, or that there are enough of those in the world that they need a word for it.

Next, the art itself: I think it's pretty cool. For a faction based partly off of WWII-era Russia, it's slightly surprising that there aren't more hammers in Khador so it's neat to see one on a warjack. The gun on the left arm is interesting; if I hadn't heard any spoilers about it, I'd be all over the place in terms of guessing what it is. I do like that it has a gun, and a different looking gun than what Khador is used to (it's apparently designed in a similar fashion to Torch's lil-flamethrower.)

Also, I respect PP's creative license, but given how bad the current Kodiak is at dealing with enemy heavies, I'm skeptical about how this variant managed to kill that Convergence vector. I think it's just posing over the body after some IFP took it down.

When I originally sat down to write this post, I was going to discuss the current set of spoilers and what I thought about them. It's a good thing I didn't because just a little while ago the fine folks over at Bell of Lost Souls posted up spoilers for all the remaining things we don't know in the book. Unfortunately, that's just Butcher3's theme list and the rules for the Grolar (no 6th release) but at least now there are some rules to mull over!

B-b-b-breakdown (extrapolated from Kodiak chassis rules, wording based linked spoiler, weapon locations based on artwork):

SPD:  4
STR:  12
MAT: 6
RAT:  4
DEF:  10
ARM: 20

Damage: 34
PC: 9

Special Rules:
Fleet [reference: Griffon light myrmidon]

Auto Cannon (Left Arm - Gun)
RNG: 8, POW: 12, ROF: 5, Special Rules: Double Strike [reference: Morghoul1's claws]

Open Fist (Left Arm - Melee) [Note: best guess here, going off a super-generic Open Fist]
POW: 3, P+S: 15, Special Rules: Open Fist

Piston Hammer (Right Arm - Melee)
POW: 6, P+S: 18, Special Rules: Ram [reference: Wold Guardian's melee weapons]


I'm still sorting out how I feel about this new warjack.

On one hand: I was really hoping for a more generally useful gun, since Khador's warjack shooting options are kind of janky. I was also really hoping for something that slotted into the 8 PC bracket, because that's a pretty dead area in terms of Khador's warjack stable (Drago's great but I only use him with Vlad, and the Kodiak was rendered mostly obsolete when colossals came out.)

I'm also a little disappointed in how Fleet works out in terms of damage output in a turn. It's a bit of a devil's deal: you can pay 1 Focus to get that extra range, but that's one less Focus you can use on attacks or boosts.

And damn if that gun doesn't have some sad stats. Short range, mediocre POW, bad base RAT to start with. Not at all a thrilling stat line for that gun.

On the other hand: I damn sure wasn't expecting three initial attacks, which makes any kind of math adjustment that much more effective (especially if I'm off in guessing the Open Fist at P+S 15.) It's also difficult to understate just how useful guaranteed knockdown is as a rule on a melee weapon, and it combines a little bit of pushing around as a bonus. I also was only expecting P+S 17 max on the "main" weapon, so P+S 18 is great (in this modern meta it feels like the minimum required to really get work done.)

It's also hard to hate on the Auto Cannon when it seems like it's basically a bonus gun, or if you look at it like a very odd third melee weapon. ROF 5 is a very impressive potential output of attacks, so if you have any way to make those shots more accurate or hit harder, it's a gun that could do a fair amount of work - spitballing: if you could Kiss and Rust Bomb a warjack, it'd be eating 5 POW 16 shots.

And then there is the simple combo of getting the Grolar to something that relies on DEF like a warcaster or warlock, hammer it in the head, then either dump hammer hits into it (vs. warcasters and their higher ARM) or unload Auto Cannon shots into it (vs. warlocks and their pool of transfers.) With no outside help the Grolar has a 9.5" threat range on that attack run, and with any outside movement buffs it can close quite a gap.

My gut reaction: it's not the warjack I was hoping for, but I think the devs did a good job of coming up with a warjack that is unique enough that I'll consider it in some lists. If nothing else I have a spot in my case that is open since I retired the Kodiak.

As for 'caster combos and synergies, Marth provides a very good breakdown in this post on his blog. It's based on earlier spoilers, but those spoilers ended up being mostly accurate, so I think the thoughts are still very relevant.

Out of all the possible combos, I think the Vlads (with an emphasis on Vlad1,) Sorscha1, Strakov, Harkevich, and Zerkova are the most likely to like having a Grolar around. I can also see value in Butcher1 or Butcher2 (if played out of theme.) By far the biggest value is going to be using the Grolar as a Malakov target: Redline kicks the Grolar's damage up to very respectable levels, helps to offset (and enhance) the use of Fleet, the Grolar has a gun so it can afford to not commit right away, and Malakov can easily give the Grolar the 3 Focus it wants before going to work.

It'll be interesting to see what people manage to come up with when using the Grolar. It'll be proxies for the foreseeable future (no sign of it on the release list up through May,) but I can see a Grolar or two ending up in a lot of Khador collections. Quite possibly mine.

Metal Gear Revengeance: Sound and Fury

One of the best things about a console generation changeover is that new technology is always more expensive. The newest system will be the most expensive and the new games will be full retail price almost without exception. Conversely, the previous generation is mostly a way for the company in question to make whatever extra money they can, so the consoles and a number of games usually drop in price (if they haven't already.)

So any time a console generation hop comes along, it's worth looking at the previous generation for any games you always wanted to play, but never got around to. You can very often pick them up for a fraction of their original MSRP, and they aren't any less fun now that they're cheaper or on "outdated" technology. Point of fact, some games can be even more fun knowing that you purchased them on the cheap!

Two games I purchased as part of the "last generation fire sale" were Lollipop Chainsaw and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.

Lollipop Chainsaw was a fun, dumb little game. Not at all worth full retail when it came out, but absolutely worth the $20 I paid for it (and arguably alright at the $40 mark.) It told a silly story in an endearing, tongue-in-cheek way, the game knew it's gimmick well enough to keep stepping things up as you progressed, and it didn't outstay its' welcome (or kill the joke) by being too long. Not a game I'd recommend to most people (you have to really dig the humor style to get any value out of it,) nor one that I'm likely to revisit much if at all, but it was fun.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has made more of an impact on me. During my original playthrough of the game, I was consistently frustrated, so I had kind of a bad taste in my mouth as I went through it. I played the game in two separate sessions separated by a decent chunk of time, and one of the biggest downsides to that is when I came back to the game I totally forgot out you parry/block Revengeance. Not being able to block and/or only being able to do so randomly made the game quite a bit harder in some places, and it was all due to user error (and inability to double check the controls via one of the many resources I had available.)

The other issue I had was less on my end: Revengeance has a few mechanics that feature prominently in some boss fights. Most notably: parrying and the Zandatsu mode.

You can get away with not being able to block/parry well (or at all) in the first half of the game. The enemies are mostly meatbags for you to chop through, and the ability to refill your health after every kill (assuming you're on point with your Zandatsu cuts) allows you to make up for lack of any real defensive measures. Even the first boss is easy enough to just chop your way through.

Starting with the 2nd boss, you're going to have a much harder time surviving the fights if you can't block/parry well, and I'd venture to say that it'd be extremely difficult to beat the final boss of the game if you couldn't block/parry well (assuming you could even make it that far.)

I managed to get into the flow of the block/parry mechanic well enough that I could keep up with the attacks in some of the harder fights, but it was definitely a challenge. Blocking/parrying in Revengeance is trickier than your average defensive move in a character action game, and therefore it's also harder to consistently get it right. Combine that with moves that are designed to be hard to defend against, and you have some deceptively tricky fights.

The other thing that drove me nuts in a few places was what I'll call "mandatory free-form Zandatsu." Zandatsu is something you do often in Revengeance, and I think I did it the way a lot of players do: use the slash buttons to perform horizontal or vertical slices as necessary, instead of using the right joystick. It's way easier than using the joystick, and it gets you through pretty much every Zantastu situation you run into.

Then you run into one particular boss fight, and you suddenly need to use the right joystick to make relatively precise Zandatsu cuts in order to be able to win the fight. This was pretty difficult, and it took me a few tries to really get used to what I needed to do in order to finish the fight. Running into that roadblock on a boss fight was pretty frustrating.

After that, you don't run into any more situations similar to that until you hit the final boss. During that fight you end up having to do a set of sequential, free-form Zandatsu cuts, and if you fail any of them you instantly die. Its not quite as bad as it sounds (you get items that instantly revive you if you die,) but you only have a limited number of those, this sequence repeats until you complete it successfully, and you can't beat this boss without going through this sequence at least once (you may need to do it twice; I've forgotten the specifics.) Similar to the previous experience, I was very frustrated when I ran into this wall, and restarts due to death here probably added another half hour or so to my play time.

The main reason those two issues were so frustrating is because when Revengeance works, it works. The action is silky smooth and super-responsive (not at all surprising given the pedigree of it's developer, Platinum Games,) the story is pretty entertaining (standard Metal Gear fare spiced up with Platinum Games trademark crazy,) and the music is astoundingly well produced. Its a pretty short game that is none the less a rock solid action game, and it's all the more impressive when you realize that Revengeance is basically a "never game."

You can read about the nitty-gritty details of the game's development on it's Wikipedia page, but the short version of the story is that Revengeance is the game that was made out of what was almost vaporware. Platinum Games was called in to help finally get the game into a playable, fun state, and they did it using their unique brand of action game know-how. Anyone familiar with the video game industry is probably familiar with how often a near-death game ends up being released in a good state (very rarely,) so it is all the more remarkable that Platinum Games was able to produce such a solid game in such a tight time frame. Many of the negative factors in Revengeance can be tempered or overlooked entirely when viewed from that perspective (at least in my opinion.)

Going back to the music for a bit, because I feel like it's one of the greatest successes of Revengeance. Unlike a lot of other action games, Revengeance does a fantastic job of ramping the music up or down based on what's happening. During low-key sections, the music keeps the game moving but isn't too intrusive. In combat, the music is the backdrop to the chaos, adding another element of urgency and impact to everything that happens. During especially noteworthy fights (bosses, new enemy introductions) the music ratchets up yet another notch by kicking in vocals that supplement the action (but also don't supersede anything going on.)

It's all done fairly organically, and it's something that you may not even notice while you're playing the game. But of all the elements of Revengeance that stuck with me, the music made such a profound impression that I ended up buying the soundtrack. To put that into perspective, I have purchased exactly one other video game soundtrack in my life (the Final Fantasy IV Piano Collection; a soundtrack for a game that hit me right in the childhood,) so this soundtrack definitely made an impression.

What is most remarkable to me is that I don't think either component works without the other.

The music behind Revengeance is exactly the type of music I should hate: an electronica/nu-metal/dubstep blend topped off with lyrics that alternate between nonsensical and adolescent (at best.) If you had told me I'd be listening to this soundtrack on a loop, based on type of music I'd have laughed in your face. Divorced from the game experience of Revengeance the soundtrack succeeds at being very intense and high octane, but it does so in a pretty transparent way that I think would be very, very hard to relate to.

Likewise, I'm not sure Revengeance would be as remarkable as it is without the soundtrack bolstering it's greatest moments. The action is very good on its own, but like a lot of Platinum Games work the action is more of a vehicle to experience something else. In the case of Revengeance the action weaves in and out of being cinematic (in ways that are much less obnoxious than the way other games try to do it,) so without a solid (or in this case, awesome) soundtrack backing that up I think a lot of the better moments in the game wouldn't really work.

Examples in both directions:

   - I really want to recommend the Revengeance soundtrack to friends of mine that might enjoy the energy of it, but I'm 90% sure that it won't really work without having the game as a callback. The reason I get so pumped up during "Rules of Nature (Platinum Mix)" is because I have flashbacks to the fantastic Metal Gear Ray sequence in the Prologue. The only reason I don't break into laughter at the cheese of "The War Still Rages Within" is because I can relive the relief and satisfaction I felt while that song played during the end credits, with me awash in the post-victory afterglow of having completed the game. Without those associations, I think the soundtrack fails to crack "neat but mediocre."

 - After completing Revengeance, I almost immediately started up a new game on the next higher difficulty. Part of that is because that's just what you're supposed to do with a Platinum Games character action game. Part of that was because I wanted to see if the skills I'd developed in the last half of the game would result in a better play experience the second time around (so far, it certainly seems like it.) But more than anything else I really wanted to re-experience the prologue fight with Metal Gear Ray because of how well presented that fight is. I can't think of another game in my long history of playing them that made me want to replay the prologue - the section I'm usually aching to get past as fast as possible - and the soundtrack is almost totally the reason for that.

To sum up: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a very, very good character action game. It is available for pretty cheap on PS3 and 360, and Konami even ported it to PC at the start of this year, so if you want to play it you probably have a system around that can. If you're a fan of other Platinum Games action games, it's a no brainer, and if you're a general fan of action games it's a very fun way to spend 7-8 hours (or more if you're willing to try out the higher difficulties.)

While you're playing, make sure the music is turned up, and drink deep the excellent soundtrack. After you complete the game, I highly recommend picking up the soundtrack which is listed as "Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Vocal Tracks)" ( link) to maximize the experience, and let you relieve all the hypest moments from the game whenever you like.

Also: be prepared to fall in love with Jestream Sam. That character is way more awesome than he has any right to be. In any other game, he'd be the trope-ish, half-assed character that I hate, but Platinum Games has a magical way of elevating those characters and making them instant favorites.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Harkevich: Quahog Special

I've had a Harkevich list burning a hole in my mind ever since I heard about it:

Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
   * Black Ivan (9pts)
   * Demolisher (8pts)
   * Demolisher (8pts)
   * Demolisher (8pts)
   * Demolisher (8pts)
Winter Guard Field Gun Crew (Leader and 2 Grunts) (2pts)
Winter Guard Field Gun Crew (Leader and 2 Grunts) (2pts)
Winter Guard Infantry (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
   * Winter Guard Infantry Officer & Standard (2pts)
Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich (2pts)

Full tier 4 of Harkevich's theme list. I heard about this list from a friend of mine online and though it's apparently been posted up on PP's boards I haven't found the original creator of this list (though I have read people mentioning it.) So for the record: this isn't something I came up with on my own. If anyone knows who came up with this, let me know; I'd love to give them the credit.

I dismissed this list out of hand when I first heard it. Four Demolishers sounded cute, but it's a list with mediocre damage output in a world where colossals with ARM buffs roam the wilds. 

But the more I thought about this list, the more I liked it. The virtues of this particular configuration in no specific order: 
  • Even though Broadsides isn't usually the right answer, this list makes it about as good of an idea as you can. Each casting of Broadsides nets you 5 templates worth of offensive output and the templates are big enough and high enough POW that they're worth tossing out there.
  • It's a crazy ARM skew, which is exactly what I want to run with Harkevich. Other 'casters in Khador can give you speed, accuracy, or hitting power. I feel like Harkevich is the guy you turn to when you want to put a list on the table that your opponent is going to have a legit hard time chewing through. Because Harkevich doesn't have any inherent damage buffs, I feel like it's difficult to trade heavies with him (even when trying to spam Juggernauts to keep the ratio in your favor.) Outlasting and scenario shenanigans may end up being his best bet at competitive relevancy.
  • The list has remarkable scenario presence. With that many clamjacks, you can easily afford to spread out and cover all relevant scenario zones, and your opponent has a limited set of options for dealing with them (very high damage output, pushes, slams, and throws.) You have enough clamjacks that you can have some scenario redundancy, which makes it even harder for your opponent to push you out of zones once you get entrenched.
  • Against armies that have a colossal, you still have a very strong scenario game (it still takes a buffed colossal to chew through a Demolisher quicky in most cases) and you have the possibility of getting everything in place fast enough to wedge them out of the scenario zone(s). Plus, Demolishers are mobile and tough enough that you can potentially engineer angles to get to their support or the warcaster hiding behind the colossal making it possible to either dogpile the colossal down after that, or just win the game outright. Its not a match up I'd love, but I do think it's possible to play that fight out and have a fair shot.
  • The list also has flexibility in ways that it can engineer scoring CPs. Bulldoze is an obvious, free way to bump stuff out of zones, and with Harkevich your warjacks are mobile enough to make very good use of it. Everything in the list can throw, and four models can double handed throw, so you have that tool available to you for getting a heavy out of a zone. Slams are also an option, and thanks to the recent errata you don't have to open up to perform a slam, so its a win-win.
  • You also have a good spread of anti-infantry measures in the list - tons of high POW blasts (not Menoth levels, but about as good as you can get conventionally) backed up by the always-awesome WGI + UA + Joe sprays (with the added bonus of being to toss Fortune on them, to all but guarantee you connect with the sprays.)
  • Fun factor: it's a list with 5 warjacks in it, with access to (and emphasis on) power attacks, big 'ol gun shots, and mobility. It's a list you can't really find or run anywhere else in Khador, and it looked like a blast to play (har har.)
This list is absolutely not without it's weaknesses: I don't love it against anything that can punch through high ARM (Cryx or Skorne leap to mind,) I'm not sure what it would do against the "better" 'casters in the game (especially Haley2/Directrix with Domination,) and super specifically I have zero idea what you'd do against Tiberion. 

But I feel like even in those situations I'd be much more comfortable playing this list than most of the other Harkevich lists I've tried (which always feel like dancing on the razor's edge and praying my feat lets me live long enough to maybe do something in melee.) I've been more excited to try this list out than anything else I've seen with Harkevich, and it's one of the more exciting lists I've stumbled across in recent memory.

This past weekend I met up with a buddy of mine to play some Warmachine. He wanted to try out a Deneghra1 list that we kind of talked through - he's finally finished painting up his Revenant Crew Riflemen, and he wanted to put the oft-maligned zombie pirates on the table. The idea is that since the Revenant Crew are roughly equivalent to Sea Dogs (very roughly,) he could run a variant of the "Denny Pirates" list and get some work out of the Revenant Crew. Here's what he came up with:

Warwitch Deneghra (*5pts)
   * Defiler (5pts)
   * Defiler (5pts)
   * Nightmare (10pts)
   * Skarlock Thrall (2pts)
Mechanithralls (Leader and 9 Grunts) (5pts)
Mechanithralls (Leader and 9 Grunts) (5pts)
Necrosurgeon & 3 Stitch Thralls (2pts)
Necrosurgeon & 3 Stitch Thralls (2pts)
Revenant Cannon Crew (3pts)
Revenant Crew (Leader and 9 Grunts) (9pts)
   * 3 Revenant Crew Crew Riflemen (3pts)
Captain Rengrave (2pts)
Warwitch Siren (2pts)

All things considered, I don't think it's a bad list. The Revenant Crew are kind of a mess of a unit - native recursion, but it's very easy to kill them and almost too easy to stop the recursion - but in this list they bring some ranged presence and with Denny1's debuffs it actually ends up being pretty respectable. You have Denny1's feat and spell list backing it up, so you at least have a strong 'caster at the helm. And it has recursion/replenishment out the wazoo, so it has remarkable staying power for such a low ARM list.

I didn't know the specifics of what he'd be playing, but I did know he'd be playing Denny1 and that the list would have the Revenant Crew in it. Since we're talking Denny1 and Cryx, I was nervous about dropping Harkevich against it; even though it'd be a really high ARM list, Cryx can chop even ARM 25 down to size, and I have to open some of the clamjacks up at one point or another.

In the end, I resolved myself to test the four clamjack list out against anything and everything I can, to see just how good it is. So step one of that would be tossing it up against Denny1 in Cryx and seeing how it goes.

As one may expect, it ended up being one helluva grind; I think the game went 7 turns or so. The game ended when a Winter Guard spray caught Denny1 and finished her off - she was at 0 camp and Black Ivan had punched her the turn before for a good chunk of her health. It was a very close, back and forth game all the way with both of us fighting pretty ferociously for our chosen zone (we were playing Close Quarters, so we each picked a zone and tried to clear it while stalling scoring on the other one.) I was also in a pretty good position on CPs when the game ended. It would have been 4 CP - 2 CP, since I was going to Dominate my zone on that turn. 

The way CPs ended up convinced me that this list has a lot of scenario potential, but it also convinced me that there is a strong learning curve to using this list well. You're relying very heavily on your ability to score CPs - either score them faster than your opponent, or outlast them and capitalize at the end - and if you're trying to score quickly (which I was in this game) then you need to make sure every scoring situation works out in your favor. 

I had two turns that I could have dominated my zone, but I made some serious play errors and didn't score because Rengrave was just hanging out at the edge of my zone. The first time I could have scored I made the mistake of shooting Gorman with Black Ivan instead of Rengrave; it would have been tricky to hit him (he was in a forest and Black Ivan was shaking off Denny1's feat,) but I could have probably taken out Gorman with the WGI, and if I had gotten a little lucky with the shot it would have dropped Rengrave and let me score that turn. 

The second time was a focus mis-allocation: I gave Black Ivan 3 focus and sent him charging at Deneghra, but that was a waste. After charging and boosting his attack, the other focus didn't do anything (even with Fortune for a re-roll) and wasn't likely to do anything. It would have been much better to keep that focus on Harkevich and use it to boost his melee attack against Rengrave that turn. If that connects, at minimum it probably pushes him out of the zone thanks to Beat Back, and its very likely to just kill him outright.

If I would have scored on either of those turns, I could have just coasted to victory via CP, and my opponent would have had to try to stall me out, which would have been hard to do with how depleted both of our armies were (but I was still working with Demolishers and a handful of WGI, so I had volume of damage rolls on my side.)

I will very happily admit that this fight would have gone differently if my opponent wasn't so set on running the Revenant Crew and had instead brought the more traditional Bane Thralls + UA + Tartarus. That right there is the extra ARM cracking I was so worried about in the first place, and I think if models like that had been on the table my hiccups in scoring would have very likely cost me the game (due to running out of warjacks too fast.) But, I also think it's a fight I could try and play through (careful positioning, maximizing the impact of the WGI on the Bane Thralls, feat timing, etc,) and that's way, way better than any other Harkevich list I've used in the past (which typically melt in the face of Bane Thralls in general, let alone Bane Thralls + ARM debuffs.)

Overall, the game I played did a lot to convince me that this Harkevich list has a lot of potential. It has a remarkable amount of flexibility and depth to it that makes it more interesting than it is at first glance ("so much ARM 25 lol".) Its not an easy list to use and I think it'll run into it's fair share of ugly match ups, but this is the most fun I've had playing Harkevich, which also makes it the most fun I've had running Khador in awhile (since Vlad3's theme list, really.)

I'm now very, very tempted to buy 3 more Demolishers to put this list together for real (I have one painted up, one metal Devastator, and then I proxied the other two warjacks.) I'm still holding out to see the spoilers on the new Khador warjack in Vengeance in case that warjack ends up having some kind of super-sick synergy with Harkevich, but it would need to have a pretty awesome gimmick to make it worth breaking up the ARM brick that this list provides.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Harkevich: Non-Theme Game Report

I managed to meet up with a friend over the weekend and get in a game of Warmachine. Snow be damned, the dice will roll.

In keeping with my Harkevich-fever, I decided to try out a non-theme list for him, to see how it felt compared to the various theme list iterations I've tried. My list was:

Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
   * Conquest (19pts)
   * Juggernaut (7pts)
   * Juggernaut (7pts)
   * Sylys Wyshnalyrr, the Seeker (2pts)
Battle Mechaniks (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Great Bears of Gallowswood (5pts)
Greylord Outriders (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist (2pts)
Koldun Lord (2pts)

My friend was playing Nemo3:

Artificier General Nemo (*3pts)
   * Storm Chaser Adept Caitlin Finch
   * Thorn (8pts)
   * Stormwall (19pts)
Storm Tower (2pts)
Stormblade Infantry (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
   * Stormblade Infantry Officer & Standard (3pts)
   * 1 Stormblade Infantry Storm Gunner (1pts)
Trencher Infantry (Leader and 5 Grunts) (6pts)
Captain Arlan Strangewayes (2pts)
   * Sentinel (4pts)
Journeyman Warcaster (3pts)

The scenario was Incursion, played on a Cygnar industrial themed table (several pieces of LOS blocking cover, sets of vents that granted Concealment.)

Collective Turn 1:
Harkevich gets first turn. Escort goes up, everything runs forward, and the Outriders get Fortune (while they also run to the opposite flank to face off against the combination of Trencher Infantry and Stormblade Infantry.)

Nemo's turn is a similar turn of running/re-deploying. Stormwall gets Disruption Field, Thorn get Failsafe, Arcane Shield is cast on the Stormblade Infantry. Thorn starts to make his way over to the same flank as the Outriders. The Trenchers hold their ground and drop smoke, while the Stormblade Infantry move up behind them. Stormwall moves up, drops a pod, and fires off some Big Gun shots that are short.

Harkevich Turn 2:
Left flag disappears. Fortune and Escort are upkept (one for free,) Conquest gets 2 focus, one Juggernaut gets one.

Lots more moving around on Harkevich's side this turn. The Outriders continue to shuffle around towards the right flank, trying to give Thorn some space against Chain Lightning. The Juggernaut on the right side runs towards the right flag, while the Juggernaut on the left side runs to a more central position (and to give Harkevich an Escort caddy to hide behind.)

Conquest moves up and puts a Main Guns shot into the Storm Tower, getting a crit and killing both members. The Secondary Batterys shoot at the Sentinel, doing nothing. Somewhere in the shooting, the deployed Storm Pod is destroyed. 

The Great Bears, Gorman, and the Mechaniks advance behind Conquest, trying to stay outside of lightning jump range.

Nemo Turn 2:
Fail Safe is upkept for free, Disruption Field is dropped. Stormwall gets one focus (doubled to two from Finch.)

Stormwall moves up and puts two shots into Conquest doing around 16 damage with boosts. Lightning Pod drops in the way of Conquest to try and prevent a charge next turn. The Sentinel also moves up to be a roadblock.

Arlan Power Boosts Thorn, who runs up into range to arc spells at the Khador line. Trenchers move up and drop smoke clouds, creating a wall for the Stormblade Infantry and Nemo to hide behind. The Stormblades and Nemo oblige, moving up behind the smoke wall. Nemo casts Force Hammer at the Juggernaut near the right flag, knocking it out of contesting range and allowing Thorn to Reaction Drive move into base with the flag.

Just to be safe, the Journeyman Warcaster shifts Arcane Shield over to Nemo.

End of turn, Nemo scores 1 CP. (Spoiler: this will be the only CP scored all game.)

Harkevich Turn 3:
Fortune and Escort are upkept (one for free,) Conquest gets 1 focus, Juggernaut on the right flank gets 3.

The Outriders move up and spray into the Trenchers and Stormblades, killing a few models and doing a point or two of damage to Thorn in the crossfire.

Harkevich pops his feat, shoots the Storm Pod in front of Conquest, then casts Jump Start to get the right flank Juggernaut off its back. The fully loaded Juggernaut charges in against Thorn, connecting with the charge attack and his Open Fist for decent damage, but it misses the third attack (and it takes 2 points of Cortex damage for its trouble thanks to the Shock Shield.)

The Mechaniks move up and heal Conquest for 6, then Conquest charges into the Sentinel. It fires its bonus feat shot at some nearby Stormblades, but the shot misses and the scatter fails to break any ARM. Conquest connects with all three attacks (two initial, one purchased) against the Sentinel, destroying it.

The Great Bears and Gorman shuffle around to get into counter-attack range behind Conquest. The Koldun Lord moves up to try and spray a Trencher, but misses.

Nemo Turn 3:
Fail Safe is upkept for free. Stormwall gets two focus (upped to 3,) Nemo holds the rest.

Nemo pops his feat, casts Disruption Field on Stormwall, and shoots his gun at Conquest. He cranks the resulting damage roll, doing a column or so after ARM. The lightning jumps fry a couple of nearby Trenchers, unfortunately.

Everything that can piles into Conquest: Stormwall, 4 assaulting Stormblades (with 3 successfully making the charge distance,) Finch's gun, Strangeways' gun, and the Journeyman's gun. When it's all said and done, Conquest is still alive with 3 damage boxes - Left Arm and Cortex still functional.

On the right flank, Thorn bops the Juggernaut with his Shock Shield, finishing off it's Cortex system and the Disruption Spear does no damage. Some of the Stormblades that didn't charge Conquest also charged this Juggernaut, but since the unit sergeant is over by Conquest the few that charge in have a hard time doing significant damage (still a column and a half or so.)

In preparation for the retaliation, the Journeyman also moves Arcane Shield over to Stormwall when it activates later in the turn. The Trenchers Assault Charge, with two of them making it into combat. One makes it to an Outrider and leaves it alive with 1 health. The other gets to the Koldun Lord and kills him with the charge attack.

Harkevich Turn 4:
Escort and Fortune are upkept (one for free.) Conquest gets three focus, Harkevich keeps the remaining two.

The Outriders activate early in the turn and spray down as much as they can, killing a number of the Stormblades and another Trencher or two.

Harkevich activates and cycles Fortune onto Conquest - it's only got one activation left so it might as well be as good as it can be. Conquest activates and punches Stormwall a whole lot, doing almost half the grid (mitigated by Arcane Shield and one busted arm.)

Gorman sneaks around Conquest and hits Stormwall with a Blind Bomb, while the Great Bears position to charge next turn. The "fresh" Juggernaut positions to charge in next turn as well.

The Juggernaut on the right side continues to swing away, killing the remaining Stormblade in that area with its Open Fist and hitting Thorn for some more damage with its Ice Axe. The Mechaniks reposition behind the "fresh" Juggernaut.

Nemo Turn 4:
Fail Safe is upkept for free. Stormwall gets one focus (doubles from Finch,) Nemo keeps the rest.

Stormwall finishes off Conquest, then barbecues Gorman with a Lightning Pod. Strangeways repairs the Stormwall for 5 boxes.

The remaining Stormblades charge into the "fresh" Juggernaut, making it much less fresh but not taking out any systems. The Trencher in combat with the wounded Outrider manages to bayonet it off the table.

Nemo aims and zaps two Outriders with his gun - boosting to hit, getting two jumps (one of which goes onto Thorn) and boosting damage on both Outriders. Thorn shuffles over and attempts to stab one of the Outriders, but misses. The Outriders successfully fail to panic.

In an effort to gum up the Great Bears, Finch enacts Operation: Body Block (running in front of them.)

Harkevich Turn 5:
Escort is upkept for free. Juggernaut gets 3 focus, Harkevich keeps the other 3 (not like he had much choice.)

Harkevich enacts a bold counter to Operation: Body Block - Sylas gives Harkevich the Arcane Secrets bonus, then he moves up and clubs one of the Stormblades engaging the Juggernaut (moving 1" with Beat Back.) Harkevich then fires off a Razor Wind at Finch, boosting the attack roll (needing a 12 to hit, with the Arcane Secrets bonus.) The Razor Wind connects, and the Arcane Secrets nudge to damage kills her, freeing up the Great Bears.

The Outriders move over and spray into the remaining Stormblade Officer and Trencher Infantry sergeant, killing both.

Now freed up, the Great Bears and the Juggernaut charge in against the Stormwall. Unfortunately, one of the Great Bears does not make the charge. Double unfortunately, Stormwall survives the assault with one damage box remaining. In desperation, the Mechaniks enact their own version of Operation: Body Block, moving to block LoS between the Stormwall and Harkevich.

Nemo Turn 5:
With a little finagling, Nemo is able to get a Force Hammer onto one of the Mechaniks. Unfortunately, the slam distance comes up a '1', which doesn't connect with Harkevich. 

Fortunately, that still opens up a hole that allows Stormwall to gun Harkevich down through a combination of boosted Big Guns, lots of secondary gun shots, and a particularly zappy lightning pod.

Final Result: Nemo wins via Assassination!
Final CPs: Nemo 1 - Harkevich 0

Game Thoughts:
The summary kind of glosses over it, but this game was really back and forth. Lots of time spent with both of us thinking of the best thing to do each turn, and in the end it came down to positioning and a little luck, which I think is a damn fine outcome for any game of Warmachine.

I made a few key mistakes during the game, and there are a few things I may have done differently:

   1) I should have tried to get some early damage onto Stormwall. The thing about colossals is that you're unlikely to kill them in one go unless you're running a pretty specific set up (and some armies can't really manage that,) so you usually need to play the long game. 

   The turn I shot at the Storm Tower I could have used the Main Guns on Stormwall and used the Secondary Batterys to kill the Storm Tower, and the turn I charged Conquest in I should have taken the bonus shot against Stormwall. It ended up living with one damage box remaining; literally any damage earlier in the game would have made my last push successful and put me in a really good spot to close out the game.

   2) I wasn't mindful enough of the Stormblades counter charge. They have a really limited melee threat (8") and I probably could have sent Conquest in against the Sentinel while also keeping him outside of their charge range (or at least most of them; maybe one would have made it.) Granted, I don't think their charge attacks ended up doing much, but Conquest barely survived as-is, so anything I could have done to keep him safer would have helped.

   3) I was too conservative with my placement of the Great Bears when I set them up for the counter-charge. I was really worried about some random, boostable 10s coming their way (Nemo3 is great for that) and wrecking them up, so I kept them pretty far back. If I was able to get that third Great Bear into combat, I'd have very likely gotten that last damage box I needed, and that changes the whole game.

   4) I was too lax with where I put the damage I did with the Great Bears. Colossals are wonderfully designed because their systems are hard to break, so I just put the damage where ever. However, if I was more mindful of trying to focus on taking out the cortex, I may have been able to pull that off and then Stormwall can't do much on Nemo's turn. That's still less than ideal, because I'm not sure how favorably the game plays out at that point, but it certainly would have been better than getting capped.

Overall, nothing huge and glaring, but definitely some things to keep in mind for future games.

List Thoughts:
I liked the list. Its nothing too dramatic: plenty of armor and hitting power, with Outriders for anti-infantry and Great Bears for counter-punching. 

That said, I'm not sure this really plays to Harkevich's strengths. As crappy as Khador battlegroup shooting is, it really feels like he wants some shooting elements in his list to try and do some softening. It takes a lot of compensation to get Khador warjacks to the point where they're reliably taking down other heavies; Harkevich doesn't offer much of that himself and it's expensive to try and build all of that into a list. 

So I'm feeling that it's best to bring a couple of boostable guns to encourage your opponent to engage, and to soften up key components of their list as much as possible. I ended up cutting Black Ivan because his melee is kind of "meh" (with conditional greatness depending on crits,) but now I really want to get him back in because his gun and his autonomy are really nice.

Going back a step: I think a more effective approach with Harkevich is to build towards guns, or towards melee overload (i.e. as many Juggernauts as you can fit, or something like that.) In most of my lists, building towards the middle ends up feeling weaker than leaning to either side, unless you have enough points to get a lot of warjacks out there (and I never feel like I have enough points, especially out of theme.)

I'm also starting to question just how much I like Conquest with Harkevich. Don't get me wrong: it's a very solid warjack that has a lot of synergy with him. But the more I use Conquest with Harkevich, the more I feel like I'm trying to shoehorn it into a role it isn't designed for. All of the most effective lists I've had with Conquest are lists where its able to comfortably sit back and shoot for most of it, then come in and start batting clean up mid to late game. Or, in the more extreme case, when I've used Conquest in my Vlad3 list ot have a really big thing run up to the middle of the table turn 1 to really put pressure on the opponent right away. 

In all of those lists, Conquest is an important part (it can't be anything else at 19 points!) but it's not the core component of the list. With Harkevich, I feel like Conquest ends up having to carry a larger burden, and I'm not really sure it can do that very effectively due to the normal Khador warjack issues (mediocre MAT, bad RAT, reliance on ARM and damage boxes in a game with potentially very high damage output.) It would be better if Harkevich had a buff that he could really use to dial Conquest up (any kind of single target damage or ARM buff would certainly do it) so that you could more assuredly use Conquest as the backbone of your list. Maybe I just need to fit more "solution" models into the list (i.e. Eiryss2, A&H, Ragman,) but I feel like stacking those too heavily in the list makes it overly vulnerable to anti-solo tech (it's hard to find places to hide squishy models when your army is small,) and I think that weakens your possible list pairings. So I waver on if Conquest is better than 2 (almost 3) warjacks in his place, what solos Harkevich really "needs", what warjacks I should be taking, etc. It's why I seem to be stuck in a perpetual Harkevich testing loop.

Those are some of the things I want to explore with future lists, and those ideas are what I'll be kicking around in my next Harkevich post (hopefully forthcoming pretty soon.) Thanks very much for reading!

Titanfall Beta Impressions

It's good. Extremely good.

There are things about Titanfall that I haven't liked that much. The most egregious: once one team gets rolling, it can be very hard to stop them (since having a gang of Titans rolling around can be hard to break up,) so some games can snowball pretty quickly if your team isn't on top of things.

There are also some hiccup-y behaviors with how the pilots handle in terms of jumping and trying to navigate around walls. There are times that the parkour logic seems to get confused, so instead of doing a sick wall jump you end up just kind of bouncing off the wall and fall straight down. The automatic parkour logic also gets funny sometimes when you try to jump through windows - I think the logic "catches" on the window edges and tries to get you to wall jump, so instead of leaping gracefully out of a window you end up kind of sticking to the side of it for a second.

The two maps featured so far are awesomely designed, but Fracture seems like it can lead to an all out stomp-fest faster than Angel City. Because the map is so open, Titans are really dangerous and it's harder to get the drop on them. If the opposing team gets a Titan pack together on Fracture, things can go south very quickly.

However, none of that really matters to me, because the good moments of Titanfall are absolutely amazing.

For every one glitched up parkour moment, I've had a dozen where I've glided gracefully through a level, navigating it as I see fit. For every imbalanced, one sided fight I've been in, there have been plenty of moments during that fight where I felt like a bad-ass. For every hiccup with the wall jumping logic, there have been a dozen moments where it works flawlessly.

Titanfall works because it's not a game of small things. Don't get me wrong, the small things still matter, and they're handled well. What I more mean is that this isn't another iteration of one of the big franchises; a game where the reason to play are the handful of things that were tweaked from last year's version.

Titanfall is worth playing because the sense of freedom of movement is astounding, and I've played precious few games in all my years on consoles that has allowed the player to feel this empowered and in control of how they move. Titanfall is worth playing because the two combat systems - pilot and Titan - are very well integrated, flow together seamlessly during a match, and actually balance out against one another remarkably well (considering its a dude versus a gigantic robot.) Titanfall is worth playing because the Titans feel like giant robots: powerful, momentous, and imposing, but they're easy, intuitive, and fun to control.

Titanfall is worth playing because its the first genuinely new arcade-style shooter experience in a decade, and it's not just an incremental upgrade to an existing template (every other FPS has been iterating on some variant of the Modern Warfare formula since it blew up the scene.) Titanfall has an interesting setting, far removed from the "modern day give-or-take" setting that's supremely popular right now, and it's managed to do so without falling back into "space marines vs some alien menace." If I'm being honest, it's like a splicing together of the modern warfare and space marine tropes, but it's handled in a way that makes it feel fresh and interesting.

Titanfall is the first game in a very, very long time that I am genuinely excited to play (the last one being Killer Instinct, which is still holding up as a fantastic fighting game.) My time with the beta has been the most fun I've had playing a FPS in a very long time, even if 95% of the matches I've been in have been loses. Its a game that is just flat out fun to play, and that counts for a lot to me nowadays.

Since it is a FPS game, I fully expect the game to run into plenty of moments that drive me nuts, just like it did back in the Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 days. However, if Respawn Entertainment is able to stay on top of bugs and glaring balance issues (the two things that made MW2 a nightmare to play for a long time,) I think the game will do very well; it's a huge compliment that I'm comparing this game to the earlier Modern Warfare games and not the shallow, c+p Call of Duty games of late. March 11th can't come fast enough.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Malifaux: End of Wave 2, Start of Avatars Beta

This week brings two important milestones in the development of Malifaux 2nd Edition (M2E): the release of the finalized rules for the Wave 2 models, and the start of the beta for the Avatar models (as well as some new generic upgrades being added to each faction in the next week or so of this beta cycle.)

First off, how does the Wave 2 final look. Pretty damn close to how things were at the end of Wave 2 Beta, which is as it should be. The beta went through a ton of iterations, and all of the discussion throughout led to a ton of kinks being worked out of the models. I would have been very surprised to see any significant changes in the final version of the cards, and thankfully the changes that happened were mostly minor and typographical in nature.

With Wave 2 finalized and in the hands of the players, the majority of Malifaux's models are now available for use in regular (and tournament) play. This is a huge moment for a lot of players who began playing the game using Book 2/4 Masters and models from Book 2, 3, and 4; they can now get back to using the things that they used to. A lot of those models changed how they specifically work, but their general approaches to the game are pretty similar to how they were in M1.5, so players that bought a certain crew due to it's theme should still be pretty happy with their choice. Some models were dramatically changed, so I can understand there being some outcry/shock from players coming back to old favorites, but I think players that take the time and experience the M2E versions of their old models will find plenty to fall in love with all over again.

Wave 2 was an interesting one for me, because I didn't really attach myself to any of the Book 2 Masters during M1.5. Most of the Masters I used were either from Book 1 or Book 4, and all of them were taken care of during the Wave 1 Beta. So Wave 2 left me as sort of a "floater" in terms of playtesting: I had some models I really wanted to test out that fit with my favorite Masters from Wave 1, but aside from that I was willing to play pretty much anything to give feedback.

Wave 2 introduced a couple of completely new Masters to the game, and this was an opportunity to try those models out, give some feedback, and find new things to look forward to. Two of the Masters I played, Ironsides and Shenlong, ended up being favorites of mine by the end of the Wave 2 Beta, and I feel a special attachment to those models since I was able to feel like I had a stake in how the final rules turned out. I'm very excited to pick up both of those crews when they come out; the saddest part is that they probably won't be set for release for quite awhile.

Moving forward, the Avatars Beta is interesting because of how different it is from previous beta iterations. Whereas previous beta iterations had whole crews of models that needed to be playtested (and model combinations to try and break,) this iteration is pretty focused: all of the models we have access to have finalized rules, so we're just testing out what are essentially super-fancy upgrades for the Masters.

On one hand, this feels a little odd because you'll only ever be testing one thing during the course of a game. Instead of trying to evaluate an entire crew, how a model interacts with other existing models, etc, you're just looking at how the Avatar worked out. That's a much more narrow focus, and it will be interesting to try to isolate the impact of the Avatars on the game.

On the other hand, that narrowed focus means that the Avatars are getting all of the attention (give or take however many the generic upgrades end up being added.) That's kind of crucial at this juncture, because the Avatars are going to be a really tricky concept to get right.

For anyone familiar with M2E but unfamiliar with the 2nd Edition Avatar rules (probably not an insignificant portion of the player base, but I'm not sure any of my readers fall in this bucket,) a quick aside: Avatars are essentially just a really fancy upgrade. Each Master has one unique to them, and choosing it uses up one of your upgrade slots for your Master.

The Avatars each have a Premanifest side and a Manifest side - both sides have rules that your Master gains while that side of the card is in effect. Premanifest covers all the time before you actually bring the Avatar onto the table (using a set of Manifestation rules that I won't get into here.) The thought is that since you're giving up an upgrade slot, you should have some passive benefit for bringing along the Avatar, even if you never manage to successfully Manifest it. After Manifesting, you flip the card over and gain all the benefits outlined on the Manifested side of the card; typically these rules are better than what's on the front of the card, and it's what you're really aiming to get when you purchase the Avatar.

One tricky part with balancing Avatars is that they need to compare relatively favorably to the existing upgrades available to each Master (in my opinion, this comparison should focus just on the upgrades that are unique to that model, not any possible generics,) but the Premanifest side of the card should probably be "worse" than other upgrades. Since you're getting a Manifest Event and the Manifested rules along with it, if that Premanifest benefit is comparable to other upgrades, it makes the Avatar choice too easy.

Another challenge is that the Manifested rules need to be good/interesting, but they can't be too drastic a change in the model's capabilities or power level (at least in my opinion.) The reason is because if the Avatar's Manifested benefits are good enough, the "right" course of action becomes: attach Avatar, Manifest as fast as humanly possible, reap the rewards. That's not to say that Avatars can't have cool or strong Manifested rules, but I think the ideal is that these rules are conditionally strong or interesting, so that the question of "when should I try to Manifest this Avatar" becomes more interesting than "right away!"

The last big challenge I see is balancing the timing of when you can Manifest your Avatar. When you select an Avatar, you select one of the 5 Manifest cards as the criteria that you need to fulfill in order to bring your Avatar onto the table. In this early version of the rules it seems to be too easy to pick Planned Manifestation and then engineer your crew to be able to fulfill the criteria on Turn 1. Sacrificial Manifestation has a similar issue, but that at least requires sacrificing a 5 SS model and using one of your Master's AP, so it carries some cost with it (though there may need to be a stipulation added that puts it happening Turn 2+.)

The issue right now is that its very easy for most crews to get an Avatar out on Turn 1. So the trade off between the Premanifest and Manifested sides of the card are nil (aside from a possible Turn 1 activation, you can largely ignore the Premanifest side of the card if you want,) and Avatars that benefit from getting out early in the game are really easy to get good use out of. I think this issue can be resolved by tweaking the Manifest cards, but its another complication.

All that said, I'm very much looking forward to this beta cycle. Part of it is that this will be the last set of beta models we need to go through; after this everything from the old Malifaux will have shiny new M2E rules and be tabletop approved. The other reason this cycle will be fun is because we're not "missing" anything; every model I own now has rules, and 90% of those are finalized. I'll definitely be participating in this beta (with a focus on Marcus and Jakob Lynch's Avatars, and I'll hit whatever else I can get to,) and I'm very interested to see how these rules shape up over the coming weeks.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

TempleCon Warjack Rumors - Khador and Cygnar

The slow trickle of rumors continues. In the last day or so, someone started this thread on the PP main boards:

Some Templecon Rumors (Cygnar, Legion, Khador)

In it, they mention three rumors they overheard at TempleCon:

  1. Absylonia2 has Conferred Rage (ability currently on Butcher2)
  2. The new Cygnar warjack "shoots AOE lightning clouds"
  3. The new Khador warjack has Double Strike on it's gun, and ROF 5
Of those three rumors, I've read #1 in other places; supposedly it came out of the post-presentation Q&A session. It's also the one I'm most inclined to believe. Conferred Rage is a fantastic battlegroup support ability, and the only reason you don't hear more about it is because everyone just plays Butcher2 in his theme list with Doom Reaver spam (offset his random Focus mechanic with a sea of Berserk Weaponmasters.) I can totally see it being the next evolution of Absylonia - her current form is already kind of aggressive (insomuch as she has abilities that encourage you to get her personally involved,) so stepping her up to really get into the thick of things (by having it also benefit her battlegroup) would make sense.

Rumor #2 is one that I haven't heard before that thread, but it also seems plausible. Cygnar loves the lightning, and frankly I've been a little surprised that they don't have more of the "lightning clouds" that are in Circle. The Stormclad has kind of an idiosyncratic gun, so I could see a variant of it having a similarly oddball gun. I'm not sure if its going to be useful enough to break through the "Stormwall" barrier, but it's an interesting idea at least. 

Rumor #3 is a completely new take on the Kodiak variant from what I've heard before, but it makes enough sense that I could see it happening. The earliest rumors I'd read about the new warjack said that it had a machine gun and Double Strike; I think from there it evolved into the melee weapon having Double Strike and the gun having some Rapid Fire-like mechanic. However, if it's true that the gun is a machine-gun type weapon, and executes that by having ROF 5 and Double Strike (letting each focus buy 2 additional attacks,) that matches up with the earliest rumors, and gives us an interesting new take on a "volume of fire" type gun.

As with any rumors, it's really hard to get a sense of how good or bad any of this could be, because there are a lot of pieces still up in the air that can effect the final model's usability. One thing that is almost certain: we're going to be dealing with RAT 4 (yay Khador!), so this gun will run into the same accuracy issues that most Khador guns have. What is interesting is that anything that adds accuracy becomes more worthwhile with this model, because it can generate enough attacks to make it worthwhile. 

When you have a spell like Fortune, Signs and Portents, or Hand of Fate affecting a model, the more attacks you can get out of it, the more worthwhile your investment becomes. S&P and HoF also benefit you more if you can generate lots of damage rolls, so templates can be helpful as well. Conquest has been the "best" model for getting a lot of mileage out of those spells, since it can generate a fair number of ranged attacks (3-5 depending on how the Secondary Batterys work out,) and each of those have an AOE component.

With a gun that has a high ROF and the ability to reliably get the maximum number of shots out of it (i.e. you don't need to rely on rolling high on a Rapid Fire/Strafe/Auto Fire roll,) you can potentially get a lot of output out of a single model for a relatively low focus allotment (at this point say 2 for buying extra shots and 1 for upkeeping the spell.) That's still confounded by RAT 4 (yay Khador?) but I can see it being potentially interesting/fun/useful.

As with rumor #2 above, it all comes down to the other stats. If the gun is RNG 10, POW 12, this warjack is DOA unless it's costed extremely aggressively. Assuming this is a direct fire gun (which I think is a fairly safe assumption,) RAT 4 is already a big hurdle to overcome so if the gun isn't long enough range to be able to aim consistently (RNG 12-14) the scenarios where this gun will come in handy diminish pretty quickly. 

I can see this working out to be an interesting model, even with RAT 4. If the gun has a good range (I'd love RNG 14, but 12 or 13 would also be workable,) you could aim consistently enough to be able to get in decent rounds of shooting, and if the POW is decent you'll be able to pretty reliably mow down enemy infantry. And that's to say nothing of any oddball extra rules the gun may have (though if it's ROF 5 and has Double Strike, I'd wager that's as fancy as the gun is going to get,) or whatever else may be on the model. 

Maybe this warjack has some goofy rule that will make it semi-viable as a ranged option? How good is it's melee weapon? What's the total cost of this sucker? All of those things factor together into making the total package good or bad, so right now it's all conjecture based on a really thin slice of information. But at least it's interesting conjecture, and we'll know the full deal in another month or so. I'm very excited to see what all of these new warjacks bring to their respective factions, and I'm very interested in seeing if there are any surprises remaining for us in Vengeance.

Friday, February 7, 2014

TempleCon - Keynote Impressions, and General 2014 Thoughts

Well, that was a little underwhelming.

Part of that was the hype machine though. I was hoping for something big, some announcement that would be a real shocker. Instead, we get a presentation going over the upcoming Hordes book release (sweet!) and the fact that Cephalyx will be released as a Merc sub-faction, similar to what happened with Pirates of the Broken Coast in Mk. 1. Those two things are cool (especially for Cephalyx fans, who are over the moon right now,) but not so exciting for someone looking for something new (i.e. a new Hordes faction to maybe invest in.)

Still, the stuff they showed was very impressive. The designs for the new Hordes models continue to impress, and the new large models they're coming out with (two Minion Battle Engines and a Battle Engine warlock via Xerxis2) really showcase how well they're making use of digital sculpting. I also like the concepts we've seen for the new character lesser warlocks (particularly that they have specific synergy with a sub-set of beasts, possibly making some more desirable to put on the table again,) and I love the idea of lesser warbeast units. That, to me, is where Hordes really should be growing; the feral counterpart to the much more traditionally industrial Warmachine.

The new Cephalyx sub-faction looks fantastic if you like the Cephalyx aesthetic (which I do,) and it's a great addition to the game if you were looking for a small addition to your Warmachine collection (which I was not.) I'm sure they'll have some cool mechanics, and since it's a very limited release (if it's like the pirates release, we're probably looking at 3-4 heavies, 3 warlocks, and a smattering of units and solos,) it's a nice little side project both for PP and anyone looking to collect them. I'm going to pass, since I was hoping for something in Hordes, but I like that PP decided to pull the trigger and flesh out the Cephalyx.

There's also a new IKRPG book coming out that seems to be the Hordes parallel to the main IKRPG book, and a new release for Level 7, but I don't care to much about either of those games. Likewise, I only bought into the Warmachine: Tactics Kickstarter for the early access models, so I totally tuned out during that part of the keynote.

Overall, there were some cool things shown, and if those things hit the right notes with you as a player (pretty much every Hordes player, Cephalyx fans,) it's pretty exciting. I was kind of underwhelmed, but I went in with a pretty specific hope, so I'm not too surprised.

I'm now in an interesting position: since nothing was announced regarding a new Hordes faction, do I wait until they finally reveal something (someone apparently asked about it during the Q+A session and PP said there is something coming,) or do I hop back into Hordes via one of the existing factions?

The upside of holding out is that I get to wait for something completely new. New models, new theme, new rules; all of that is pretty exciting, and it's also fair to say that a new faction will probably have a more cohesive, comprehensive set of rules (look at how polished Convergence of Cyriss is compared to the older Warmachine factions.) Plus, I started in on a Retribution army, so that would give me lots of time to flesh that army out and experiment with it.

The downside to holding out is that I'm not sure anything new coming out for Hordes is really going to be all that interesting. I've had that problem with Hordes since it first came out: none of the factions really jump out at me, so I didn't really get attached to anything in terms of looks or design. I can't really say that anything they come out with as a new faction is going to grab me, especially if it's the rumored bug-creature/people of Zu (though that is a super neat idea.) So I may end up waiting and realize that the new faction isn't really anything I want to buy into.

The other tricky thing is that I'm not sure how much further I want to go with Retribution. Don't get me wrong: I really like the faction. It offers up different tactical options than Khador does, the models mostly are cool (especially if you think up your own paint scheme,) and I feel like the faction has a greater portion of good models over bad models, which makes it fun to expand on.

The issue I'm running into is that, because I like a fair portion of what's available in the faction and because it builds similarly to Khador (an emphasis on infantry, so 2+ units in every list, though I think Ret more easily fits heavies into their list than Khador does,) I feel like I'm going to end up collecting Khador 2.0. Another big collection of models that is mostly trooper models, with a cadre of warjacks that I really like but don't always get to use (I have a bizarre love of the Hydra and the Daemon, both of which are pretty wonky.)

I'd kind of like my secondary faction to be an inverse of Khador: owning a number of heavies/lights, with a few units. Painting units in Warmachine has become one of the most painful things for me - especially after painting entire Malifaux crews in the same amount of time - so I don't really relish the idea of buying a bunch of new units and having to paint them. Retribution is in a state now where all of it's 10 model units are good/useful, so I'd want to eventually get them all. That's 6 different units to buy and paint up, almost all of which have an accompanying UA. Granted, I've already painted up two of those units (MHSF and Dawnguard Sentinels,) but painting up 4 more units along with the various mini-units Retribution has kind of makes my eye twitch. They'll look damn cool painted up (I really like the paint scheme I came up with,) but just the thought of it...ugh.

Contrast that with starting up a Hordes army and focusing primarily on battlegroup models, with just a couple of units that I'd rotate throughout my lists. Much less to paint, very different approach to the game than Khador, and it'd give me an army on the opposite side of the release schedule, so I'd have something to look forward to again all year (I used to own Legion, but ended up selling them as I didn't like the stigma attached to the army, and I knew I'd never actually want to paint them.)

Out of the Hordes factions, three of them fit that bill: Legion, Skorne, and Circle. Trollbloods and Minions both run decently infantry heavy, so those are right out. I used to own Legion, and I don't dig anything in the army enough to buy back into it, so that one is off the table. And I really don't like anything in Circle, so those guys get cut too.

Which leaves me with just Skorne as an option that fits my needs. They kind of work out, because they're capable of running pretty sizable battlegroups and doing it pretty well thanks to Paingiver Beast Handlers. But at the same time, they also kind of don't work out, because half of their warlocks like to run a fair share of infantry, and that's exactly the problem I'm trying to avoid. Plus, I don't really like the look of a lot of the Skorne models (or at least, not enough to get excited about painting anything for that faction,) so I don't know how well that would work out in the end.

All things considered, I'm not really sure where I'm going to go with expanding my WM/H collection in 2014. I'm still going to keep on plugging away at Khador, but I already own pretty much everything for that, so now it's just a matter of getting the Vengeance releases (provided the one or two remaining ones don't suck,) and painting those up along with some backlogged models. I also have lots of other models either in hand or on the way (damn Kickstarter,) so I'm not exactly hurting for things to hobby with. For now, I'm going to sit tight and focus on the upcoming Khador releases. We'll see what inspires me from there.

Amazon, Double Helix, and the Future of Killer Instinct (2013)

This has been a helluva news week in my nerdsphere: new Hordes models previewed, Stryker3 spoiled, TempleCon keynote incoming (with all kinds of theories as to what will be announced,) and Amazon purchased Double Helix, the developers behind the recent re-release of Killer Instinct, for their games division.

Wait, what the hell was that last one? Is this some kind of screwed up joke?

Despite how unexpected the headlines were, it turns out they were totally legit: in an effort to build up their development stable in preparation for their forthcoming gaming console release, Amazon purchased Double Helix. Can't say anyone saw that coming.

First things first: as many others have pointed out, acquisitions like this take time, so this has probably been brewing for awhile now. We're just getting wind of it now that things are finalized, and Double Helix knows that they will be moving off of future work with Killer Instinct. There was some initial confusion as to whether or not Double Helix would be allowed to continue to work on Killer Instinct now that they're owned by Amazon, but all signs are pointing towards Double Helix's tenure with Killer Instinct ending once Season 1 is complete.

Representatives from Microsoft have stated that they've been aware of this purchase for awhile now, and they have a transition plan in place, which is at least somewhat comforting. Or rather, it's better to hear that than get the impression that Microsoft had no idea this was happening. Microsoft has also announced that they've very happy with how Killer Instinct has performed in terms of sales, and that they intend to support it for awhile. They're planning on announcing a new developer for Killer Instinct, and that developer will (presumably) be responsible for adding to the game starting with Season 2.

That's about all anyone outside of the involved companies knows right now, which is causing no small amount of consternation across the player base (myself included, though I'm keeping a positive outlook as much as possible.) Double Helix, despite many expectations, hit a home run with Killer Instinct. They delivered a very high caliber fighting game, which was surprising because: 1) their track record leading up to Killer Instinct wasn't too impressive (mostly a list of movie tie-in games,) and 2) Killer Instinct is a fondly remembered, but ultimately flawed, fighting game property. That Double Helix was able to produce a game of such high quality that is so much fun, and is at the same time so faithful to the original game, is nothing short of a miracle in my opinion (and I think many other fans feel the same way.) So of course the news that Double Helix is outta here after Season 1 is harsh. Everyone was worried that Double Helix would slip up or miss deadlines; no one was expecting them to straight up be off the project!

For what it's worth, I'm happy for the Double Helix guys. Their dedication to their craft really showed with what they pulled off with Killer Instinct, and the upcoming Strider game may add to their credentials as developers that are able to very successfully realize a concept, and refresh old ideas. Its a big sign of their success that Amazon was willing to drop the bucks to get them in their stable, and I hope Amazon gives them a lot of opportunities to flex their talent.

That said, Killer Instinct needs to keep going. As others have said (most prominently, YouTube commentator and fighting game enthusiast Maximilian,) Killer Instinct was created as a "platform." The players were given the core of the game up front: all of the mechanics are in place, and the game launched with a handful of characters that showcase what that engine can do. Moving forward, it is absolutely critical that the game is fleshed out with more content: more modes (lobbies and a story mode are supposedly part of Season 1,) continual gameplay refinements (less outright balancing, more polishing up glitches or unexpected behaviors,) and most crucially more characters. Fighting games don't necessarily need huge rosters to be successful, but you do need a sizable enough roster that: a) your player base doesn't get bored with seeing the same fighters over and over (somewhat inevitable due to "tiering", but you can mitigate that with internal balace,) and b) enough designs and archetypes are present in your game that players are very likely to find a character (hopefully two or three) that "speaks" to them. That's how you get people playing your game, and attachment to those characters is how you turn them into devoted fans. The smaller your roster, the less likely it's going to be that a player is going to get a "hit" when looking at your character select screen, and then they move on to a game that does grab them.

I think Killer Instinct is a game that can get away with a smaller roster than what is probably "average" in the current fighting game industry. It seems to be very common that a fighting game nowadays has somewhere around 30 characters, and games that have been iterating for awhile can have 40 or 50+. Due to how Killer Instinct plays (a lot of emphasis is placed on knowing specific timing for characters, and being able to recognize specific animations,) I think the ideal number of characters is somewhere in the 20s. However, the current planned roster is way below that: at the end of Season 1, the total character roster will be a whopping 8 characters. 7 of those characters are damn good, and I'm sure the final one (Fulgore) will be great, but that's still a ways to go before you hit that "sweet spot."

Killer Instinct is a fantastic game, but it feels oddly bare bones right now. Fleshing the game out more will make it a more satisfying product, and it should make it easier to market (if it's selling well now, just imagine how much better it may do when it compares more favorably to other fighting game offerings.) I feel like this is fairly obvious, and I think whatever course the game takes in the future will address this in some way or the other.

The other big concern is harder to allay. From what I can tell, Double Helix is largely responsible for this version of Killer Instinct: they built the engine (literally; they created the Hex Engine development engine the game runs on,) they came up with the mechanics, they designed the characters, they composed the music, they tuned the balance, they implemented the mechanics. They made the game what it is today.

How is a new studio going to follow up on that? Literally and figuratively. Some folks are saying that Double Helix owns the engine the game was based on, so Killer Instinct may need to be rebuilt. I'm not sure that I buy that as a concern; engines can be licensed, and if Microsoft can do that and save themselves having to rebuild the game from the ground up, I think they will do that. There's also the possibility that Microsoft's deal with Double Helix included some kind of clause that gives them an easy solution here. It's really hard to know what the answer will be here, but I also think it's one of the more incidental things. Microsoft owns the Killer Instinct IP, so they should maintain control over all of the critical assets, and anything else they need they can probably buy or rent.

The bigger concern is getting a new team in place that can faithfully follow up on the base that Double Helix delivered. Make no mistake: Killer Instinct has succeeded in large part due to it's incredibly sound mechanical base. It's a very fast, fun fighting game to play, and unlike a lot of other games (including the old KI's) it still has a lot of mechanical depth and nuance. It would have been very, very easy to deliver a game that was a polished up version of the previous games. It would have sold decently well, been favorably received by fans of the old games, and it would have failed to make any lasting impression on the fighting game landscape (just like the old games.) The team at Double Helix was able to see a step beyond and deliver a game that hits all those old Killer Instinct notes, with enough meat on the bone to make it compare favorably to the other big names in the fighting game industry.

I have full faith that Microsoft will keep Killer Instinct going. They've already sunk time and money into getting the hardest part done: the core of the game is complete, and its out in the wild. At this point, all they need to do is support it, and the game should do well for a good span of time.

However, they also can't "just support it." Whatever team they bring in has to have that same eye for detail and nuance that the Double Helix team demonstrated. They need to be able to distinguish between a cool idea and a good idea; between a good mechanic and a good fighting game mechanic. Otherwise they run the risk of bringing down the system they so carefully constructed. All it takes is one "Scorpion DLC" quality release to sour a game, which is super dangerous when you're relying on DLC characters to fill out your game. Each one released can be like pulling the trigger in Russian Roulette.

There are a fair number of people taking the negative line here, and I can't blame them. Anyone with a moderate interest in fighting games has been burned at least one good time. A character nerfed in a patch/title update, a favorite character left out, a mechanic change that ruined the way you wanted to play a game, a new character introduced that made the game miserable; so many things can happen to sour a fighting game, and as a player you feel helpless to do anything about it other than bitch. You then either keep playing or quit; not much room for anything else.

In this situation, I'm trying to be more hopeful. Killer Instinct was a game that succeeded because of the love that Double Helix put into it. I don't think anyone familiar with the game and it's development can say otherwise. Without Double Helix, the future is uncertain, and that can be very scary.

But look at the bright side (or the closest thing that passes for it): Double Helix did not own Killer Instinct. They remade it, and they absolutely did a fantastic job. But the property and (I'm assuming) the assets belong to Microsoft. Imagine how much worse the situation would be if Double Helix was just a third party that happened to make a baller launch title for the Xbox One; this buyout would absolutely mean the death of the game.

Furthermore, Double Helix has done the hardest part: getting the game up and running. In theory, by the time they hand the game off to the new dev team for Season 2, the game will be in a very stable place with the "core" features in place (8 characters, "story" mode, versus, exhibition, training modes.) The new development team can use the game turned over to them as a template, and they can follow similar methodology to Double Helix to stay successful: work closely with your players, consult knowledgeable members of the FGC to get feedback, and don't be afraid to try new, interesting things (so long as you back that up with sufficient testing and feedback to make sure you aren't breaking the game in the process.) There's no reason a new team can't give us characters and content on par or possibly even better than what Double Helix was able to give us in Season 1 (though I absolutely acknowledge that it feels like trying to bottle lightning twice, so it's scary to think that it could work out.)

Microsoft has already put a fair amount of money and effort into Killer Instinct. I don't think they're just going to let it die, and I also don't think they're going to move forward without making sure that what they're doing is best for the future of Killer Instinct. In a recent video, Maximilian said that he thinks Killer Instinct is the best launch title of all the Xbox One titles, and it's the best launch title between all of the PS4 and Xbox One games.

I happen to agree with him, and I'd go one step further: Killer Instinct is in a position where it could be one of the cornerstone games of Xbox One, akin to something like Halo. An experience that is very good, and you can only get it on Xbox One. The fighting game future isn't looking so great for the Xbox One: ArcSystem Works seems to only be interested in bringing it's games to Playstation systems (PS3 right now, probably only PS4 in the future,) and they're one of the key players in the fighting game genre. Capcom will almost certainly double-port any games that they come out with, but there's always the chance that the easier architecture and install base (PS3 was kind of the "default" fighting game platform of the last generation) may cause them to toss exclusives to the PS4.

Japanese developers in general seem to be more prone to go with the PS4 (based on my knowledge of what's coming out for each system,) so the Xbox One needs all of the interesting, exciting exclusives it can get. There is a non-zero chance that Killer Instinct will be the only "real" fighting game for the Xbox One for a long time, so it's in Microsoft's best interest to make sure that it continues to be as amazing, rewarding, and fun as possible, for as long as possible. I'd like to believe that they see this, but this is also the same company that tried to sell us a console with "always-connected" DRM and games that we couldn't loan to our friends, so they may have their heads stuck in the sand again.

Still, I don't see any reason to be anything other than hopeful. Killer Instinct is a fantastic game, and one that I enjoy playing tremendously. It was one of the main reasons I decided to buy an Xbox One over a PS4 at launch, and after playing it I stand by my choice 100%. Microsoft may fuck the football here and ruin the game with their dev choice, but if they do there isn't much I can do about it. I have to believe that they recognize how important Killer Instinct is for their system (the only two reasons to own one right now are Killer Instinct, and the forthcoming Titanfall,) and that they'll do right by it with their future decisions. Hopefully we'll be hearing more concrete details soon, and it'll put a lot of the fears out there to rest.

In the mean time, I'll keep working at not being a complete spazz after landing an opener, and continue eagerly awaiting the remaining parts of Season 1.