The Iron Kingdoms need you! – A Kickstarter Round-up

NOTE: This is finally finished. I’ve added post project updates to the WARMACHINE: Tactics and Tesladyne project write-ups, and have added write-ups for The Agents and Primeval Thule.

Hey guys,

So I know I said I’d try to get this up on Monday last week, but unfortunately life has a tendency to get in the way. Not going into details, as it’s nothing major, just lots of little things. Anyway, I’m in Sydney for a training course at the moment and had a little while to work on this tonight.

Anyway, it’s time for the Kickstarter round-up that I promised when I did my update about Satellite Reign on Sunday the 28th of July. So, we’ll be talking about a few different projects here, some of which still have a significant amount of time remaining, others that are in their last ten days or so. I haven’t pledged to all of these yet. Some of them I may end up pledging for, others I may not. It all depends on funds and other commitments. However, with the exception of one (which has already finished), they’re all projects I feel deserve some attention and hopefully some significant support. We’ll get to the exception later though.

So, let’s get stuck into it. Welcome to The Grassy Gnoll’s second instalment of the Kickstarter Round-up!

WARMACHINE: Tactics

The Butcher of Khardov surveys the battlefield

The Butcher of Khardov surveys the battlefield

UPDATE: The project finished with the Retribution of Scyrah stretch goal having been reached. The last update said that the PayPal pledge option was going to be left open for a little while (I think at this stage there’s still a couple of days left) and the total will be added to the stretch goals, so we could still unlock another goal. Just have to wait and see.

So, WARMACHINE. The only table top minis game I’ve ever played semi-seriously. Though if you want to be technical, I actually play HORDES, the sister game that is compatible with WARMACHINE, due to the differences in rules not affecting the interaction between armies. If anyone’s wondering, my faction is the Circle Orboros, and my favoured Warlock is Kaya the Moonhunter, the Epic version of Kaya the Wildborne. My tactics revolve almost entirely around agile movement/teleportation shenanigans, with a focus on getting Kaya and her Warbeasts into position for an assassination run. Sadly my strategy needs some work as, despite some occasionally awesome victories, more often than not my assassination fails and I get dropped in the next round…

The Cygnar army's latest novice Warcaster

The Cygnar army’s latest novice Warcaster

Anyway, we’re not here to talk about the table top version of the game. No, we’re here to talk about WARMACHINE: Tactics, the Kickstarter project helping launch the first WARMACHINE video game. If anyone reading this has played Valkyria Chronicles, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect. The game is a turn based tactical strategy game (which makes sense, given the nature of the minis game). Now the reason I mention Valkyria Chronicles rather than Final Fantasy Tactics or one of the other games in this genre is that, like Valkyria Chronicles, WARMACHINE: Tactics looks like it’s going to let you move your units freely around the field during their turn, rather than forcing you onto a grid.

UPDATE: I’ve just had word from one of the guys working on the project, it appears that the game does in fact use a grid rather than free movement.. The main reason for this is that it makes things simpler given the disparity in size between various units. This isn’t really a problem for me, since some of my favourite games ever are grid-based turn-based strategy games. But, in the interest of full disclosure I felt I should mention it.

Anyone who's played Valkyria Chronicles should see what I mean about the similarities in gameplay

Anyone who has played Valkyria Chronicles should see what I mean about the similarities in gameplay

For those of you who aren’t familiar with WARMACHINE, it is, as I mentioned above, a table top miniatures war-game, published by Privateer Press. Think Warhammer, except steampunk and more skirmish based (although from what I’ve heard, larger battles are becoming more popular, and units like the Battle Engines and Colossals are closing that gap even more). Each army has a Warcaster, a powerful mage who can use their power (represented by Focus) to cast spells, boost their own abilities in combat, and control powerful machines of steam and magic known as Warjacks. HORDES, the sister game, is the same basic idea, except that instead of Warcasters you have Warlocks, who use Fury instead of Focus, in order to force mighty beasts to do their bidding. The games are very similar, WARMACHINE just has more a steampunk feel and has the resource management based Focus mechanic, while HORDES is pure brutal fantasy, and focuses on risk management with the Fury mechanic.

Just your usual Sunday afternoon stroll. What? You mean you DON'T always go out walking with giant mechanical fighting machines powered by steam and magic? What are you, a freak?

Just your usual Sunday afternoon stroll. What? You DON’T always go out walking with giant fighting machines powered by steam and magic? What are you, a freak?

WARMACHINE actually started as a setting for D&D 3.5, called Iron Kingdoms. I really enjoyed the magic item system they developed for it, and am adapting some of it for my Project Helleborus homebrew game for Pathfinder. More recently, Privateer Press released their own Iron Kingdoms RPG system, which I own but haven’t had a chance to playtest yet. That said, it looks like a well thought out, robust system, and I can’t wait to give it a go. I’m certainly keen to see more support for it including, hopefully, rules for playing as some of the HORDES factions apart from the Trollkin (I want to play as members of the Circle Orboros, be they Warlocks or just one of the foot soldiers).

Frankly, I’m excited about this game. I love tactical strategy games, I love WARMACHINE/HORDES (and I’m hoping that if this is successful enough, we’ll see a HORDES expansion or full game at some point), and I love Kickstarter, even if my wallet hates it). While this game isn’t expected to be out until August next year, I’m already keen for it. Ideally I’d like to see it hit $1,509,000 by the time the funding period ends, as that means we get the Retribution of Scyrah as a playable faction. Now I’m sure that they’d be released eventually anyway, but the sooner the better.

So, please go and check out the project page here. If you’re not keen on signing up through Kickstarter, I believe you can also pledge through PayPal, which will still count towards stretch goals. The project currently has 3 days to go on it, so there’s still time to smash some goals.

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Atomic Robo Needs You! Tesladyne Recruitment Drive!

UPDATE: Well, the project finished and smashed through not only the $100,000 goal of extra pages, but a few last minute stretch goals for random things like Tesladyne rulers and coasters. So all in all, a good result.

Where do you even start when talking about Atomic Robo… well, personally I start by asking why the hell I even need to explain what it is to you?! Why have you not been reading this already? Seriously. Sit down. Shut up. And. Read. It. Even if you don’t read comics normally (I’m looking in your direction, Jimbles).

In all seriousness though, Atomic Robo is a comic about an atomic powered robot called, oddly enough, Atomic Robo. He was created by Nikola Tesla, and is the founder and CEO of Tesladyne, a company specialising in Action Science. During his time, Robo has fought Lovecraftian horrors, Nazi science experiments, rouge A.I.s, creatures from the “Vampire Dimension”, a talking dinosaur who claims to travel in time, and all kinds of other crazy stuff. He also has a running feud with Stephen Hawking, and is quite chummy with Carl Sagan. In fact, one of my favourite lines from the whole series belongs to Mr Sagan. Here it is, with absolutely no context provided, yet no less funny for that.

“When you return to your unobservable but empirically determined dimension of origin, tell them Carl Sagan sent you!”

Hell, let’s have another line from Mr Sagan, just ’cause we can.

“I require a stiff drink. Several of them, in fact. Enough to paralyze a cow…”

Now, obviously Robo (his full name is actually Atomic Robo Tesla) can’t handle all this Action Science business on his own, which is where the Action Scientists of Tesladyne come into it. Along with Jenkins (the man so dangerous that many suspect Robo may in fact be HIS sidekick), Robo and the Action Scientists kick the arse off of anything threatening the world. This brings us to the point of the Kickstarter project. Action Science is a dangerous business, and with the exception of Robo and Jenkins, Action Scientists are dropping like flies. Tesladyne needs more, and they need them fast. So, they’re kickstarting for funds to get the Official Tesladyne Action Scientists Field Guide published. This book is the essential guide to all things action science, and covers topics such as:

  • How To Deal with Errant Dinosaurs
  • So You’ve Got An Evil Twin
  • Coping With Alternate Realities
  • Lightning Gun Maintenance
  • Huge Explosions: The Deadly Killer

All in all, it should be a fantastic read, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. As a bonus, if the project exceeds $100,000 in the next 3 days, they’ll be expanding the book to 64 pages (I believe it’s currently planned at 48 total). They’ve already broken some awesome stretch goals, including all physical books now being signed, bonus posters, sketches from Scott Wegener (or you can have Brian Clevinger, the writer, draw you a 1st grade student’s version of a dinosaur… this one actually has me tempted), and actual scientists writing for the book. Additional fun fact for any webcomic fans who happen to be reading this, but Brian is the guy who wrote 8-Bit Theater, the long running and utterly hilarious Final Fantasy based sprite comic that followed the misadventures of the “Warriors of Light” as they selfishly rampaged their way across the world. Just because I can, here’s one of my favourite lines from Black Mage.

“Why, it would take some kind of insane megalomaniacal fiend to take pleasure in wielding the tapestry of creation to focus pure energy into reality through nothing more than my own will, the rush of electricity through my being, the power, my God, the power! IT’S THE ONLY TIME I FEEL ALIIIIIIVE!… Oh yeah. She wants me.”

Anyway, to wrap this one up. Go check out the project here, and check out Brian’s website, Nuklearpower.com while you’re at it. You can find the entirety of the 8-Bit Theater archives there. Finally, just because Nikola Tesla deserves some love, please check out The Oatmeal’s comic about him, found here.

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Satellite Reign

Alrighty. So, as mentioned above, I have already spoken about Satellite Reign, in a previous update (The Satellite Reign starts now…), but I wanted to do a bit of an updated post now that we’re a week and a bit along from the end of the campaign. As I may have mentioned previously, the guys behind this project, 5 Lives Studios, have left their PayPal donations open from their website. The official site is SatelliteReign.com, and you can find the PayPal donations here. Any pledges through PayPal are going to continue to be added to the total for the purposes of unlocking stretch goals, so we can still unlock some awesome extras for the game. Currently they’re sitting at just under $740,000 USD, which puts us around $15,000 away from unlocking the next goal, which includes getting Russell Zimmerman onboard as a writer, two new enemy factions, and two new city districts for the game. My excitement for this game is only growing, and I’m eagerly awaiting any further details from the team as it develops.

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The Agents – A Double-Edged Card Game

Not the kind of people you want to meet in a dark alleyway...

Not the kind of people you want to meet in a dark alleyway…

I’m a big fan of card games in general. I’ve been playing Magic: The Gathering since I was in primary school, and while I don’t play official events very often anymore, I do still enjoy the odd casual game. I’ve also been really enjoying deck building games (including Ascension and Penny Arcade’s offerings, Gamers vs. Evil and Rumble in R’lyeh), and the Blood Bowl Team Manager card game. So I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting games to try out.

That brings me to The Agents, a spy/espionage themed card game developed by Saar Shai, with art by Danny Morrison. After catching my eye with Mr Morrison’s fantastic artwork, my interest was kept by the rather interesting “double-edged” mechanic that Mr Shai has come up with for the game. As I understand it, the goal of the game is to complete missions using your agents, while preventing your opponents from doing the same. To do this, you need to use agents, each of which has a command ability and a point value. The trick is that you only get one of these. If you take the points, you give use of the command to an opponent. If you take use the command, then you have to hand the points over to another player.  I think it’s a really novel idea, and it should make for some interesting strategy and interaction within the game, particularly if you have more than the minimum of two players (the game supports up to five). If you’re interesting in taking a proper look at the mechanics, you can find a preview video by Crits Happen on the project page. It’s well worth a watch.

I’m a sucker for pulp style espionage stories, so The Agents is scratching that itch for me. Additionally, Danny Morrison’s artwork has a beautiful comic book style look to it which reminds me of 100 Bullets, a comic published by Vertigo that has some similar themes, with agents of a shadowy organisation that has disavowed them having to go rogue in order to survive. I love the art so much that I’m seriously considering pitching in an extra $20 to get the art book.

Seriously, loving that artwork. I'm seriously going to have to look into what else Danny Morrison has worked on...

Seriously, loving that artwork. I’m seriously going to have to look into what else Danny Morrison has worked on…

The project has been smashing straight through stretch goals so far. At this stage there’s been a large number of additional stuff unlocked, including expansion packs, bonus cards, and all kinds of other fun stuff. The current goal is set at $200,000, and will unlock a bonus booster pack of cards for all backers getting the game. After that they’re looking for $222,000 to upgrade the cards to plastic stock, making them far more durable. Given that the game has made it to over $185,000 so far (original goal was $6000), this seems like it could well be within reach. So far I’m funding in at The Bureau, which gets you the base game, four expansions, some Kickstarter exclusive cards, and access to all the stretch goals. That said, I’m considering upping the pledge though to get the storage box, a t-shirt, a “spoofspansion” pack, and the art book. All depends on how much ready cash I have available just before the project ends, but man, that extra stuff is calling me… At this point, it’s also worth mentioning that this is not a game like Magic: The Gathering, where you need to keep buying new cards all the time. The game is stand alone, and everyone uses the same set to play.

A final note on this project. In one of the recent updates on the project page, Saar mentioned that he had proposed to his partner, and she said yes. In true gamer form, the proposal was presented using The Agents cards, and it looked pretty damn awesome (I highly recommend going and checking out the updates on the project page). So, in light of that, I’d like to offer a sincere congratulations to Saar and his fiancée, and wish them all the best for their life together. I figure as engagement presents go, the vast success of this project has been a pretty good one from the gamer community to the happy couple.

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Now, while there’s plenty more projects I could be talking about, I actually want to get this thing finished at some point, and I think two weeks is more than enough delay. So I’m going to jump straight to the finale here, the project which I mentioned I actually had some issues with in the introduction.

Primeval Thule

Primeval Thule is a pulp Swords & Sorcery style setting for Pathfinder, D&D 4E and 13th Age. Think Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian meeting H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. As would come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, I was instantly intrigued and excited about the setting. I immediately pledged in, and started eagerly awaiting more information. However, as I kept looking, my enthusiasm for the project started to wane. Not so much because of the content itself, but because the team running it weren’t really inspiring confidence in me. I had a few major issues with how the campaign was being run. To give an idea of what sort of things were putting me off, let’s take a look at the following points.

  • They wanted $40 just for the PDF of the book. Now while I know that most publishers can’t afford to sell their PDFs for as low a cost as Paizo Publishing sell their Pathfinder core books (you can get most of them for $10 in PDF), $40 is exorbitant. They tried to alleviate this concern by deciding that everyone would get the PDFs for all three systems, rather than just the one they initially chose. That’s great in theory, but the reason I chose Pathfinder as my system was that I play it, not D&D 4E and not 13th Age. Those extra books are worth nothing to me.
  • An add-on that was offered was $50 for a signed poster. Unfortunately they couldn’t show even a rough draft of the artwork for it. International shipping was also another $15 on top of the $50. I’m not a big fan of shelling out that much for something I haven’t seen at all.
  • The creators mentioned that they have a long history of working with RPG products, but didn’t mention any of what they had actually worked on. I’m sure they did work on a lot of rule books and the like, but they’re not household names, so they really need to advertise what they’ve done if they’re going to try and use that to drum up support.
  • When concerns about pricing were raised on the Paizo messageboards, the creators responded with comments about how the bonus adventures and so on they had announced would make up for the value. This shows a vital misunderstanding of the point of Kickstarter. Your reward levels should be enticing on their own, not require stretch goals to be reached just to make people think “I guess that’s worth paying for, IF we get to that point”.

I think the real killer for me was their later response to continued discussion about pricing. They compared their project to Cthulhu Wars, a hugely successful boardgame project that I funded to the tune of nearly $600. Their reasoning was that they had set a goal that would allow them to make the project they wanted to from the start, while saying that Sandy Peterson, the man behind Cthulhu Wars, had set a goal to make a minimal game that he could improve on if enough funding occurred. Now, completely ignoring the fact that they missed the point with that (we weren’t talking about the funding goal, we were talking about the value of the pledge levels), the major issue I had with this statement was that they were trying to compare themselves to Cthulhu Wars when that project was so much better managed and thought out. Right from the start, Sandy Peterson told us exactly what he’d been involved in (for those of you wondering, the answer is a ridiculous amount of RPGs, video games and all kinds of other nerdy stuff, including being the driving force behind the original Call of Cthulhu pen & paper RPG). So straight up, we knew he had experience, and the know-how to pull this off. His “minimal” product if the funding goal was met without stretch goals was still a fully developed board game with multiple factions and miniatures at a surprisingly reasonable price. The fact that the project just got bigger as more and more stretch goals were knocked down is nothing more than a testimony to the trust that people put in Sandy and his work (again, this comes back to him showing us his experience). As I mentioned before, the goals were reasonably priced (my $600 will get me pretty much every single expansion and model in this game, which would retail for something like $900 not including shipping). Additionally, with Cthulhu Wars, we were given incredibly frequent updates showing us mock-ups of minis as well as actual finished product. The rules were made available so we could look them over, and multiple reviews of the game from demo versions were made available. There were even follow up reviews made after rules revisions had occurred due to the previous playtests and reviews, showing that the team were more than willing to listen to the thoughts of their backers on.

Due to what I mentioned above, I withdrew my pledge from Primeval Thule. The project did make it to its funding goal at the last minute (it seemed to get a massive boost in the last day, finishing at around $75,000, with the initial goal being $60,000). I certainly don’t begrudge them their success, but I hope the fact that they nearly didn’t get funded makes them take stock of what they could of handled better, and hopefully leads them to take on board some of the (constructive) criticisms offered to them by myself and other commenters. Something as simple as offering the PDF at a lower price could have helped bring in far more backers. Once you’ve got people interested, it’s then easier to sell them further add-ons and higher pledge levels.

Either way, I just wanted to comment on the project and show that the deciding factor of whether or not I support something may not be the content. It can be a project I love the idea of, but if I don’t feel enough trust in the creators of the project, I won’t fund it. It’s as simple as that. It’s a philosophy that has served me well so far with Kickstarter, out of all the projects I’ve funded, only one has turned out to be disappointing (I won’t say which one, but suffice to say that if I see another project from that creator, it won’t be getting my support and I’ll be vocally advising people to not back it).

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Right, that’s it for this edition of the Kickstarter Round-up. My apologies for it taking so long to finish. Depending on if there’s any interesting new projects in the next few weeks, I’ll try to do another one again soon.

Next update from me will be about the Reign of Winter Pathfinder game that Professor Jimbles is running, which I’m playing in. Not sure when it’ll be up, hopefully by the end of the week though.

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Due to the extended time spent writing this update, I can’t really list everything I was listening to. That said, highlights included Ultraviolet, the latest album from Sludge/Stoner metal band Kylesa; Asymmetry, the new Karnivool album; and three of the four albums by Evans Blue, namely The Melody and Energetic Nature of Volume, The Pursuit Begins When This Portrayal of Life Ends, and Graveyard of Empires. I tend to ignore their third album, the self titled one, as I found it fairly generic. The other three albums have some of my favourite songs on them though, particularly Cold (But I’m Still Here). You can see the official video here.

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