Porky’s Wild Bore – TTG phone home?

Porky here, phoning House from a kind of sample return mission, into and out of the blogrolls.

There’s a lot going on in there, and it’s been a wild few weeks for the worlds of GW especially. The End Times, rumours of Warhammer ninth edition, and that move by Mantic – all of which Chris at Corehammer discusses here. Plus release after release for 40K, maybe everything but the sinkium kitchenus.

A question: what if a game world changes so much that gamers who love it feel left behind? Oldhammer has one answer: past products get snapped up second-hand or reimagined, and people make the old new again. (On the subject, The Warlock has a possible solution for drying paints, to keep old colours going.)

But as third-party producers are showing, the fictional world might reside less in the official miniatures or a given ruleset than in the imagination.

Take a look at the Blood Bowl team John at Company of the Damned is building. Those miniatures aren’t Citadel miniatures, but they seem to capture some of the mood that Citadel did down the years.

Blood Bowl appeared in the mid-’80s, a kind of alternate reality that ran through the Warhammer world of the time. That world – the world for a generation of players – might still be there, just outside the stadium. In the same way, Space Hulk, Necromunda and Battlefleet Gothic might be portals to an older M41.

So what happens if miniatures in a Blood Bowl match leave the pitch, a bit like Eric Cantona at Selhurst Park, or maybe Andy Murray at Wimbledon? What do they find beyond the stands? What if terminators go renegade in-mission, or a hive gang heads up-spire, or stows away off-world, or a cruiser makes a detour?

What waits just off the board or the tabletop? Is it possible to play out over the edges and see?

Maybe. Here’s one simple approach to resolving it, in just four steps.

1) The player wanting one or more miniatures to leave the board or tabletop states the action being taken. 2) The other player suggests a way of using the existing game rules to resolve that action and identify what the piece of world just beyond the edge might look like. 3) The first player either agrees, and they implement the solution, or the first player suggests a compromise. 4) The second player accepts the compromise or there’s a roll off, for either the initial suggestion or the compromise. Easy.

In the case of Blood Bowl and a foray into the stands, this approach could allow the players to agree that there are, say, 1d6+6 rows of fans, with each fan occupying one square; that 1d3 thirds of the width of the stand contains home fans, with the remainder away fans; that fans have stats one point lower than their players; that there are 1d3 tunnels midway up, evenly spaced across the width; that each tunnel is 1d3+3 squares wide and 1d6+6 squares long, lined with 1d3 food stalls serving 1d6 fans each; that beyond lies a stair down to a harbour front. Go…

New actions might be needed the further out play gets, but using an approach like this they could be added to the game one at a time, building out from the game’s core resolution system. The big issue might be going beyond the theatre of the mind and actually physically representing the new landscape on the fly. In theory that means having enough terrain and miniatures to cover the eventualities.

As part of a discussion with Neverness this week, Da Masta Cheef looked at how much card terrain GW used to give us.

Back in the day then the landscape of a wider GW world could have been represented in-house as it were, and maybe at a relatively low price, especially if you were keeping up with the boxed games anyway. The various streets and districts of a town or city beyond the stadium could have been laid out with WFB buildings, including from White Dwarf, as well as Mordheim ruins and Warhammer Quest floor sections. The spaces of a given world in M41 could have used Space Hulk corridors and rooms, also from WD, and the Necromunda platforms and Gorkamorka fort, plus that series of compatible structures for the core game.

You can still do this of course, if you have them or can find them for sale, or if you’re building up a similar collection from other sources, like the Infinity starter set. There are plenty of producers offering flexible electronic sets as well, for printing to card, like Worldworks, Fat Dragon and David Graffam, and others offering material pre-cut, like LaserCutCard, mentioned this week by IDICBeer in the context of a modified blastscape.

Of course, the material can also go beyond sheets of card, as with the sculpted walls Comi Mec posted about this week at El Canto de las Espadas.

                            

I’m not sure if it’s what’s happening here, but casting elements from home-made masters could mean a lot of flexibility at a relatively low cost for the extra depth. Also, sculpting then casting a personal terrain collection still seems fairly unusual, and comparatively more innovative for it.

The walls at El Canto are going to be used for Mordheim, but also WFB and 1650: A capa & espada. And why not? After all, how different really are the worlds these games present?

This idea of a crossover terrain collection also ties in with the post at The Beat Ronin last week on a shift to using miniatures for more than one game. That could help with representing the diversity in those wider landscapes. To stick with the example of Blood Bowl, the harbour beyond the stadium might be a spawning ground for fish people, or have docks frequented by traders from lands that don’t have miniature ranges now, and maybe never did, and might not include traders anyway. After all, a lot of ranges are quite narrowly focused on battlefield activities, leaving wider panoramas only suggested.

This week airbornegrove26 posted another of those graphic battle reports at Give’em Lead, this time for Space Hulk, with the corridors and rooms representing not a hulk but a border outpost.

The comic format and the tabletop game report seem to go very well together. This may not be the first time it’s been done, but as with the possible casting of sculpted walls at El Canto the rarity makes it feel comparatively more innovative.

There’s another similarity between these two posts, a more coincidental one: if you read right through the game report you find out that the commissar responsible for the infestation looks oddly similar to the one in front of the sculpted walls at El Canto.

That’s not the fault of the bloggers of course, or even a problem. A business like GW naturally enjoys economies of scale when it sells one thing to a lot of us, so any given sculpt or kit is likely to turn up in a lot of places, giving collections a corresponding similarity in appearance. But this relative lack of variation in miniatures might be a reflection of how narrow the worlds we’re used to exploring actually are in practice, and how little of them we ever really see.

Mordheim and Space Hulk are popular games, and those corridors and rooms are flexible, and the commissar is a good sculpt. But the fact that so many of us know these products or own them, and know other people who do too, suggests we might be getting a little hemmed in by the decisions taken by the big producers, and maybe even arriving at a bit of a dead end.

To return to the metaphor of the title, borrowed from ET of course, are we phoning it in, or are we actually phoning – among the many possible worlds, with the tabletop equivalent of the ingenuity represented by the silvered umbrella, coat hangers and Texas Instruments Speak & Spell? Is it time to get on our bikes and take the the skies?

Tl;jwibu? Tir,r.

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