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Can Privateer Press Succeed where Wizkids Failed?
With every passing day, the Mechwarrior collectible miniatures game slips closer to canceled land. Despite the fact that the majority of Wizkids collectible miniature games have been canceled over the past couple of years, other companies still want to step up and enter the void. This fall, Privateer Press, makers of WARMACHINE, will enter the world of collectible miniature games with Monsterpocalypse. On an abstract mechanics level, Mechwarrior and Monsterpocalypse are not at all different. Forces are composed of a few central giant characters and lots of smaller supporting units. It's in the details that will really give the games their distinct feel. Can Privateer Press succeed where Wizkids has repeatedly failed?
Remaining True to the Game's Theme.
Both Monsterpocalypse and Mechwarrior have long standing and easily reconized themes. Mechwarrior continued the legacy of Battletech and the Mechwarrior computer games. While not officially part of any legacy, many gamers are familiar with the Kaiju theme will have an expectation on how the monsters should act.
Mechwarrior's first failure is that it seemed unable to stick to its theme. Instead of creating a fast playing version of Battletech, Wizkids seemed to give the game a more Mage Knight feel where ramming and charging proved to the best tactic. Most conflicts in Mechwarrior involved a lot more close combat then range combat action. As a result, a portion of the long standing fans of Mechwarrior simply never the gave the game a real chance. While Wizkids addressed some of these issues with later rule changes, the damage had already been done. If there is one thing you don't want to do, it is tick off your hardcore fans. They tend to be the most vocal part of your fan base.
Only recently did Privateer Press release the rules for Monsterpocalypse. At the time of this writing, I have not sat down to play a game, but from reading the rules, it would appear that Privateer Press is doing a better job at sticking to the theme. Monsters are the core of the army while small support units race around and die in droves. Monsters have an assortment of power attacks which resemble iconic moves from the movies. Though only by playing a couple of games can we determine if Monsterpocalypse truly feels like a Kaiju themed movie.
Keeping the Ratio of Useful Pieces to Crap Pieces High.
Mechwarrior sets were huge! The smallest sets had around 96 pieces in them while the largest were over 120 pieces. In addition, many of the pieces were unusable in tournament play and some were just so bad that no one would touch them with a 60 foot pole for any game. This left players with either buying lots of boosters or paying high prices on e-bay for the awesome pieces. Some pieces were so powerful that players reported every contestant in a tournament using this one piece. While some people still love the blind purchase format, other players simply got sick of buying lots of boosters to have a tournament grade army.
Based on the rule book, the first set of Monsterpocalypse has 69 figures. 12 of these figures are monsters(2 per faction). If the Hyper forms are considered separate monsters, then 24 of the figures will be monsters. This leaves 45 spots for units or about 8 units per faction. This set size is smaller then anything Mechwarrior had, but it is impossible to determine at this point of the ratio of useful pieces to crap pieces will be high enough.
Rule consistency is always a good thing. While new rules can bring exciting changes to a game, too frequent changes can frustrate players and completely destroy the balance of a game. This was another problem of Mechwarrior. Almost every set introduced a new mechanic. While sometimes these mechanics brought a fresh face to the game, almost everyone was exploited at some point to ruin game play. Rule changes often felt more like quick fixes to existing problems then well thought out solutions. Over time, the Mechwarrior rule set came very kludgey and ridiculous in some ways.
Of course it is impossible to tell what Privateer Press will do with Monsterpocalypse, but we can get a glimpse by examing the evolution of WARMACHINE. WARMACHINE has had a relatively stable rule set over the years. A few things, such as calvary and jack marshals, were added to the rules, but the changes were relatively minor compared to what Wizkids did with Mechwarrior. Hopefully, Privateer Press will take the same approach with Monsterpocalypse.
With the little information we have at the moment, it appears that Privateer Press is learning from the failures of Wizkids, but only time will tell if they decide to listen to the voices from the past.
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