Monday, February 4, 2013

Warzone Returns (long post)

Praise the Cardinal (or Dark Soul—whatever your alignment might be)! Warzone is coming back! Now there hasn't been much word on their website, but if you troll a couple forums, you'll find all sorts of info being leaked. Here's what I've gathered so far:

+ All new models (no Heartbreaker/Target model will get re-used for better or for worse)
+ You can still use your old models
+ A lot of the art is staying
+ Novel(s)
+ The d20 is staying
+ The scale (both miniatures-wise (28mm), and army-wise (platoon-level)) are staying
+ The standard base-size for man-sized models is the 30mm Dark Age bases, not the 25mm Slottabases (apparently the rules will be balanced for 25mm bases, though)
+ Models will be plastic
+ Paradox (which still contains the originators of the Mutant Chronicles universe) have to approve everything before it flies
+ All the factions will be in there (Cybertronic and the Dark Legion have been the subjects of the teaser pictures)
+ New rules that capture the feel of the older games

All good news, methinks.

I should point out that this was brought to my attention by one of my competitors in the current painting challenge I'm engaged in, in a blatant attempt to throw me off my game. Well you know what? It sorta worked! Last night I was up 'till 2:00am re-basing my Capitol heavy infantry to use the new 30mm bases. Today I did the second coat (I also worked on my Chaos Warhounds, okay?!).

This brings me to a little mini-review right in the middle of all this Warzone glory: The Texture paints from Citadel Miniatures. At first I liked these things. I used them to base my Hobbit: Escape from Goblin Town set, and I thought they were actually pretty nice once they received a drybrush or two (the Dry paints from Citadel I have no complaints with). 

When I woke up this morning (who am I kidding? Afternoon) to look at the bases I so excitingly painted Armageddon Dust I noticed all the bald spots where the grit of the texture didn't hit. I wondered why this wasn't apparent on the Hobbit miniatures until I realized that the 30mm bases I used were the generic kind with smooth tops. If you look at the new Privateer Press-branded 30mm bases they have a texture sculpted on to the top much like the Citadel Slottabases. This works well with the texture paints, especially once you stick some static grass on it. Go ahead, grab a generic 25mm round base (if you have any), and see how the tops don't have any (or as much) texture sculpted onto them in comparison to a 25mm round that has the "Games Workshop" logo on the bottom. 

Anyway, I was less than impressed. I did a second coat this afternoon and once it's dry I'll see how I feel, but regardless I'm almost out of Armageddon Dust and I only painted nine bases! Now I'm actually a Games Workshop fan, and someone more cynical than I might say that this was their plan all along, to have me get hooked on the stuff then charge me $4.45cdn a squad to do bases. I actually chalk this up to GW wanting to do something neat like textured paint, and also wanting it to integrate aesthetically and retail-wise into their existing paint aesthetic. In any event, I'll stick with it for this squad, and then go back to my traditional sand method afterwards. I'll just use a finer sand.

Back to Warzone. I love this game. It was the first game I got into that broke the Games Workshop paradigm (one I like very much, but by no means is the end-all for miniatures gaming). As such, it sticks out in my mind. I have a very large collection of Warzone figures (thanks in no small part for people just giving them to me, 'cause they're so damned old and iffy), and can boast an impressive force for any of the corporations except for Mishima. Let's just say that if I were to die or go missing, whoever has the grim task of going through my possessions will know how much I love the Mutant Chronicles universe.

The game and the universe has always appealed to me, even if 50% of the miniatures did not. I always looked past the rushed, and amateurish, look of the early figures (the Brotherhood especially) to see the care and creativity of the studio behind them. In fact, one of my favorite things about Mutant Chronicles were the old Chronicles magazine. An organ like any other, it nonetheless had a fun attitude (a whimsy, if you will) about it that was infectious. Especially when the UK team took over in the late 90s, it mirrored the White Dwarf attitude when the staff were allowed to inject more of their personalities into it. Despite how people may feel about the 2nd edtition of the game, John Robertson, and John Grant, and the rest of the studio were talented and charismatic people who began to churn out great figures.

Here's a comparison:
Original Brotherhood Heavy Troopers from Heartbreaker Hobbies
Re-dos from Target Games UK studio (ca. 1999)
Target Games UK studio Captiol heavy Infantry

Heartbreaker Hobbies' Capitol heavy Infantry

So what happened? Rumors and speculation abound, but from what I figure it went like this:

Target Games (Swedish-based gaming company) bought Heartbreaker Hobbies (US-based miniatures company) à la a reverse Citadel Miniatures/Games Workshop situation. They expand by opening a UK design studio, to better create games for the titanic English-speaking gaming market, and a US branch (from what I understand this was just the old Heartbreaker Hobbies office). The UK studio is the creative branch and is in charge of all the games design and manufacturing. The US studio helps out, but is mainly there for distribution and promotion for that hemisphere. This frees up Target Games AB (Swedish original company) to do other things like launch a video game branch and—rumor has it—a candy company.

It's at this point that you'll hear from a lot of people that Warzone and Chronopia rivaled 40k and Warhammer. As much as I love the Warzone and Chronopia games, I highly doubt this was true. I imagine this is just the rose-colored vision of people who loved a game that was very successful in its own right. I have no doubt that Warzone and Chronopia were big, and I could even see that in many areas of the globe they were played more often than Warhammer and 40k, but based upon my knowledge of games companies and how they work, I doubt this. But you know what? It could be true. I'm sure only Games Workshop and Paradox Entertainment (the successor to Target Games) know for sure, as they don't release that kind of specific information. After all, the mighty TSR was brought low by a poor deal regarding their novels, and as we'll see later on, a similar fate happened to Target. Perhaps Games Workshop just had better management and better luck. Before we move on; my favorite story regarding the tensions between GW and Target has to be that when Target announced bankruptcy, GW celebrated with champagne the same way one might after getting a phone call from the governor. I don't believe this for a second, but I think the idea of the GW board of directors wiping sweat from their brows in a zero-hour situation—akin to the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis—is cute.

So, I ask again, what happened? This is mostly rumor territory, but from what I understand the branch of Target Games that was aimed at a child market (either the candy branch, or the toy branch. I hear different things from different people) failed, and because Target management invested so heavily into it, they had to do some cutbacks. This came from the miniatures branches, and just ended up cascading through the company until they failed. I believe the Swedish company went first, then the UK studio, then finally (and surreally) the US branch. Rumor has it that the US team was left to their own devices for a couple months after the rest of Target went blank. 

Imagine that. You're a colonist on another world. You receive regular communication from the home planet. You take it for granted that this is how it is. Every day you can check the news and find out what's going on back on Earth. You receive orders, you execute those orders, and you report back. Everything's normal. Then one day the communication stops. Sure there were people who could read the writing on the wall, but the idea was so strange that it seemed unlikely. At the very least, you'd be told the truth and informed as to what's going on. Hell, you might've even thought you'd be the first to go if there was anything wrong, but you weren't. One day the communication stops, and you're left out in the void. Months drag on, and you wonder if it's even worth continuing on as if things will be the same or if you should just go your own way, and break off.

Obviously, I'm attracted to the whole drama of this situation, but in reality the US team supposedly went without pay for a month or so, until the office was just shut down. Paradox Entertainment (the video game branch of Target Games) was the life raft that the owners jumped to when the ship went down. They bought up (or transferred) the licenses from Target to them, and then pushed away. Target Games is now kaputt, and Paradox Entertainment are now, for all intents and purposes, is the current Target Games. Now they exist primarily as a licence-holder, making their money off Robert E. Howard stuff (which they strangely have the licences to), and whatever they thought they could make off the disappointing Mutant Chronicles movie.

I want to re-iterate that this is all rumor I've gathered from various sources. I did my best to cut the wheat from the chaff, and do some investigation of my own, but I am by no means saying that this is the definitive narrative. I also don't mean to slander, or place blame on any one, or part, of this history. I'm sure the decisions that were made were tough ones and were given much thought, and that no one wanted to see Target collapse, or these games go away.

This post is long, huh? 

I'm excited by the news that one of my favorite games is coming back. I've been wanting this for a long time, and a part of me always hoped this would happen. I hope everything goes great and that this new Warzone will be around for as long as I'm able to build, paint, and play in it. I don't care if it can rival Games Workshop or not, I just want to feel like I can take part in the drama that is playing out amongst the corporations and the Dark Legion again. 



Jay Griffiths said...

If it makes you feel any better I distracted myself as well.

My first thought was; why am I painting Starship Troopers models instead of 50 Bahaus or Imperial plastics?

Carmin Carotenuto said...

I know! If I didn't have to finish these Chaos Warriors for a tournament, I'd just pick out 50 Capitol figures, 50 30mm bases, and go nuts!

Hailnurgle said...

First of all, Ral Partha rules. Second of all, the next time this challenge is rolled out, I want in.

Carmin Carotenuto said...

Ral Partha?! Why I always considered myself a Grendel man.

You should join next time. There's always room for one more person to destroy me in a paint contest.

Willoughby Chase said...

I used to get to talk to a few of the UK team, they were always out and about in stores. Apparently it was down to Humbrol, who they went in with, shafting them royally and withdrawing all support when it wasn't an overnight 40k success. Which left them with a big financial hole. That came direct to my ears from a staff member's mouth, but I can't speak for the veracity of the statement.

Sadly I'm just flogging off the last of my Imperial stuff ... I was determined to keep those Hurricane Walkers, but needs must and all that. Look forward to the return (which I only found out about by reading this blog)