Monday, 12 September 2016

The FFG/GW breakup – a buyer’s guide

I case you haven’t heard, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) and Games Workshop (GW) have “concluded their business relationship”, which means that, as of February 28th next year, FFG will no longer sell any of their RPG’s or board and card games set in the Warhammer and 40k universe . Announcement and a list of games this will affect here.

There’s no word about which side initiated the breakup, but my money’s on GW. Several of FFG’s games are quite new or in mid-lifecycle (especially Warhammer 40.000: Conquest, which is having a whole tournament season cancelled because of this) – games they must have put a lot of resources into and which they can no longer capitalize on.

This is a sad affair for at least two reasons:

One: Many of these games are very good, and it’s doubtful of they can or will be re-implemented in some form. This is certainly true of those games which combine the GW setting with original rules from FFG – akin to what happened to Heroquest and the Dune board game.

Two: In hindsight it’s fairly apparent that FFG must have known for some time that this was a possible outcome, and they have been holding off on creating additional content for some of these games. It’s certainly understandable (they’d essentially be throwing money in the trash), but it’s still a d*mn shame, as some of these games could have benefitted greatly from one or two expansions.

So, if you are at all interested in this, you must be wondering: “do I rush out and buy these games right now?”

It’s a fair question. As you read this, stock must be dwindling and prices rising. If you wait too long, you may not be able to get your hands on a copy (some of them are already very difficult and/or expensive to get hold of), but unless you have a couple of thousand pounds you don’t know what to do with, you won’t be able to buy everything.

Fortunately, I’ve played most of these games, so I thought I’d give a brief rundown of which ones I think you should pick up first.

Keep in mind that I have no insider knowledge whatsoever, so when speculate that something probably won’t be re-implemented and/or get more expensive, it’s just my assumption. Also, because I don’t’ want to repeat this every time, when I say that you “absolutely must buy” something, what I really mean is: “Absolutely buy this, unless you can’t stand the theme and/or type of game”.

With further ado and in alphabetical order:

Black Crusade (and the rest of the 40k RPG line, Dark Heresy, Deathwatch, Only War and Rogue Trader):
We’re off to a bad start, as these are some of the games I haven’t actually played. They are (loosely) based on the rules from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) 2nd Edition, and I’ve heard both good and bad things about them.

I did buy the Deathwatch book some years ago, but the rules seemed overly detailed, so I never played it.

In general, it seems to me that books remain more readily available, and closer to their original price, on the secondary market than games, so I don’t think you need to be in quite as much of a rush here.

If you are interested, FFG has some free introductory modules, including abbreviated rules, available for download that I absolutely think you should get your hands on. Look under “Support” on each game’s page. The Deathwatch one seems like especially great fun (it’s what made me buy the full rules in the first place).

Verdict: If you really want to GM these games, I guess you’d better get them now, but otherwise I’d wait. Unless you have a strong preference for some of the other themes, I’d go with Rogue Trader, which seems like the most versatile setting.

I own and really like this game, but it does take a surprisingly long time (and lengthy rules-explanation) for something that, at first glance, seems like a rather “light” game.

It’s a fun premise, and the game-play is unlike anything else out there, but it’s probably not going to be a fondly remembered classic.

Verdict: Get it if you see it on sale.

Now we’re talking. This is already a classic, and it’s the game that put Eric Lang on many people’s minds as a designer to be aware of. It’s a finely balanced, beautifully made and generally fun game.

The only minus (if it actually is a minus) is that it’s a game that you get better at over time. Expect cries of “Khorne of sooooo OP” the first couple of games, followed by varying cries of “Tzeentch/Slaanesh/Nurgle is sooooo OP” depending on who’s doing better at the time.

It has a single expansion that, while not absolutely necessary, adds some options to the base game and allows for five players. It’s also out of print and very expensive.

The game has been out for a while, so there are a fair few copies floating around, but since it’s so reliant on the GW background and based on original FFG rules, I don’t see how anyone can remake it without losing a lot of the charm.

Verdict: Buy it! Can you get hold of the expansion? Buy every single copy you can find and sell them for mad $$$’s (in fact, you should write me, so I can buy one from you).

A reprint of an old GW game. Quite simple and not all that good. Also, GW could probably just reprint it at some point.

Verdict: Skip it.

This is a real loss. Sort of a spiritual successor to the long out of print Starcraft board game, this is a deep, long and very thematic strategy game. It’s been (deservedly) well-reviewed, and was a shoo-in for a bunch of expansions. That would have been great, but it’s still a fine game as it is.

It's only been out for about a year and many people (myself included) probably held off on buying it because of the high price-tag, so expect stocks to run low quite quickly.

If I was a betting man, I’d say that FFG will probably re-implement it using their Twilight Imperium setting, but that’s fairly bland (if you ask me), so it won’t be as good.

Verdict: Buy it right now – unless you can’t stand the thought of a five hour long game (which is a fair position).

Aw man! This game has been out of print for a decade and only came back into print last year, and now it’s going out of print again. The humanity.

Before its re-release, Fury of Dracula was famously pricy on the secondary market, so it’s a fair bet that it’ll happen again. On the other hand, it’s one of the games where GW might also own the rights to the rules, so it’s possible they’ll make their own version. I just don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon, and I’m not sure it’ll be as good at the FFG edition.

Verdict: Buy it.

FFG’s version of Talisman set in the 40k universe. It’s quite fun – honest. They’ve managed to remove or improved a lot of the really annoying things about Talisman, while still maintaining the laid-back “just having a laugh with my mates” feel.

Pro: It’s like a better version of Talisman in a more interesting setting.
Con: It’s still basically Talisman in space.

There are two expansions available, though I haven’t played either.

Verdict: It the thought appeals to you, sure, why not get it. I’d probably wait for a sale or put it on my Christmas wish list instead. Maybe read a couple of in-depth reviews first if you are unsure.

A brutally unforgiving game of getting murdered by aliens in space. If you hate the thought of losing you should stay well clear, but otherwise it’s a nice filler on a game night.

Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game does a lot of the same things better, but maybe you like this theme (and it’s slightly shorter). Also, this game feels more complete out of the box.

There are four expansions to this game, but they seem to be out of print.

Verdict: Buy it if you see it lying around, but I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

I don’t like Talisman (you may have guessed from my remarks on Relic). I know it has a following, but I honestly believe that people mostly like it because it gives them an excuse to spend a couple of hours with their mates and not because of any positive qualities in the game itself.

Also, it’s one of the games GW could potentially reprint, so it’s not likely to become a “lost treasure” like some of the others.

Verdict: Do you love Talisman? Well, you probably already own a copy, but otherwise this is the time to buy. Otherwise skip it (or go look at Relic instead).

A really underappreciated game if you ask me. FFG tried to make it a part of their tournament scene, but it never took off, so they put it on the back-burner. 

It’s still very good, even if it really could have benefitted from another two expansions to round out the different factions – which will never happen now.

One of the saddest casualties of this whole affair (though it might have been abandoned in any case).

Verdict: I think you should buy it. Just be aware that you need two copies of everything to get the most out of it. Might get expensive.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP 3rd Edition)
This one is a bit tougher. I have a lot of respect for what FFG tried to do with WFRP 3rd Ed, but ultimately I think they failed. I’ve actually been meaning to write something about the subject and it seems like I’d better do it soon: before it becomes totally irrelevant.

It’s actually one of the few cases where I’m fairly pleased FFG is losing the license. I love WFRP and FFG obviously weren’t going to do any more with the property any time soon. At least now there’s a chance someone else will pick up the torch (unless, god forbid, they change the setting to Age of Sigmar’s).

Verdict: Maybe pick it up, if you really like the idea and it’s on sale and you don’t already own one of the previous editions.

Actually, some of the scenarios are quite excellent, so if you plan on running WFRP (using any ruleset) you should at least pick up Omens of War, The Witches Song and the new edition of The Enemy Within, which (IMO) are the best.

I haven’t played it but I’ve heard reasonably good things. On the other hand, you’d have to invest a lot of money to really get into it, and it’s probably not that good.

Verdict:  I wouldn’t bother.

This one hurts me on a personal level. The game is sort of an evolution and mix of FFG’s Lord of the Rings and Space Hulk card games. It’s an excellent little game, but it could have been even better with a few expansions to give it some variety. I’ve written about it here.

Verdict: Get it, along with the two mini-expansions. Just be prepared to be saddened that there’s never going to be any more.

I never got into this, and now I’m glad that I didn’t. It must be a real sucker-punch to see a game that’s only just reaching maturity get cancelled in this way.

For what it’s worth, it’s supposed to be quite good, but, as with Warhammer Invasion, it would be very expensive to get the most out of, as you probably have to buy multiple copies of everything.

Verdict: Unless you’re just swimming in money, I’d skip it. If you are swimming in money, you could probably do worse than this game.

So, that’s my personal epitaph to a very fine line of games. Long live their memory.


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