Monday, February 15, 2016

Firestorm Task Force: Theories and Conjecture

Greetings!  The team and I are in full on Adepticon prep mode.  I posted this years patch design last time.  Things are really starting to come together.  Of course I will be worrying right up until the event actually starts, but thats typical.  I am not here to talk Adepticon though.  I am here to talk about Spartans latest Firestorm Armada release, or should I say the latest Firestorm Universe release.  I of course am talking about Firestorm Taskforce.

This release kind of came out of the blue.  There had been some rumors of new ship types circulating around the forums for a couple months, but nobody really had any info.  We then got the announcement of this new game more or less.  A new way to play Firestorm Armada.  A way to play it in 30 minutes.  Lets talk about Taskforce.  I have some thoughts and theories about the game itself.

  From the description on Spartans website, you should be able to play a game of Taskforce in 30 minutes.  This tells me this is a skirmish game.  On the scale of X-Wing or the spaceship equivalent of Infinity.  Spartan Neil actually was good enough to hop on the community forum to give us a little break down.  Here is his initial post for those not on the forum. This whole blurb raises even more questions

1) The rules are fast and simple. This is an introductory set of rules to get folk to the tabletop quickly and cost effectively. Derek Sinclair describes them as a gateway product, with the ultimate goal to get folk into playing Firestorm Armada 2.0 and then into version 3.0. I don't see current FA players transitioning to Taskforce, that's not the intent. But they can easily append Taskforce to their gaming sessions to deliver short, snappy games, or lunchtime games or to help demo to folk.
2) I created the rules after I came back from Gencon 2015. While I was there I was asked a lot about simplifying entry to the Firestorm Galaxy, about how players could have a simple way of showing potential new players how cool Firestorm is. Get the models on the table, show folk how to roll dice and kill stuff and give a flavour of what comes from the full rule set, aka Firestorm Armada 2.0.
3) As my guys were looking at a new generation of models it became clear that this gave us a perfect opportunity to hand the rules out in a set of 2-player boxes that pitted the cool new modular models against each other and provided the bits and pieces needed for a quick game. Hence Taskforce. So we put dice, tokens and templates in the box. The 32-page rulebook delivers the basics for a game: fleet selection, move, shoot, roll dice, kill, explode, laugh, mock the enemy etc.
4) For current FA gamers we then made six reinforcement boxes that deliver the models to them. They already have a set of rules they play with, so they can elect to ignore Taskforce and keep rolling dice using FA 2.0. They can then just enjoy our new and exciting models. :)
5) The models are cool and I am sure players will enjoy adding them to their fleets. My guys went away and put a lot of thought into how we can improve the FA models that we create for you. Magnets and modularity were the top of the list. We don't provide the magnets, but we have factored their use into the designs and 'holes' are located in the models for folk to use or ignore. Not everyone likes magnets, so it's not like we are forcing you to use them. We're currently working on larger models using the same approach. Today I was signing off a new Terran Alliance Battleship that starts life as just that, a Battleship, but by swapping parts and adding a new piece of superstructure it turns into a bitching Battle Carrier. Gamers can magnetise the parts and have a dual function model in their armoury if they feel so inclined, or just glue together the model they want to field. Lots of choice for the customer.
6) Don't worry about the scale of the models. The whole idea is to keep choice at play here. FA and Taskforce use the same models; they'll always use the same model scale. So a single investment in models can be played anyway a gamer wants to. Your fleets, your choice. Not for Spartan to tell you what to do with your toys.
7) So why make a new set of rules? Simple answer is why not. We're fully committed to FA 2.0 and we'll be enhancing this product in version 3.0. I've commissioned a large amount of background and scene-setting writing for the 3.0 rulebook which will properly pull together all aspects of our sci-fi galaxy – taking 6+ years of info and compositing it into a core set of documents. I am informed by Spartan Alex that rule enhancements and amends are in the works courtesy of the Firestorm Focus Group, so I look forward to being briefed on those soon. Instead of trying to twist FA 2.0 into a trimmed down 32-page book that would simply confuse folk I instead took the decision to make a very simple engine that could look upwards to FA 2.0 and offer, to use Derek's word here, a gateway to the hugely exciting gaming world that is FA 2.0 and beyond.

That's it for now guys. I am going to go and take another Lemsip and wuss about my home office. I'll delve into the game more next week and show more models off in the flesh. I'll try to push the new Terran Battleship through quickly to show you all as I am loving the direction of this bad boy.
Keep well,
Spartan Neil

This whole blurb raises even more questions.  We know the rules are scaled down to 32 pages, but we are not really given any details as to how scaled back they are, or if they are completely different than the standard FSA rule set.  It is supposed to be a gateway game.  A game that brings people into the FSA universe.  Neil said he designed it post Gencon.  I had the privilege of working the Spartan Games booth this past Gencon.  There were a lot of players interested in Firestorm Armada, but they wanted a faster playing game.  This is a trend in the industry right now.  Fast playing games with rule sets that are simple, when compared to games like Infinity, Firestorm Armada and Warmachine.

I look at this trend as good and bad.  It gets more casual players into the games and introduces them into the hobby.  This means more players and a bigger community.  There is a downside in my mind though.  This waters down games and I think is a fad.  More complex games and hobbying will always be around, but when you water down a game you have to be careful.  Now what I am going to say may sound elitist, but I think it holds true.  Making a game more accessible to a broader audience waters down the community as a whole.  It can adversely effect a community and a game.  When casual players outnumber everybody else the direction games take are not often conducive to community survival.  

Now this is just my opinion.  I come form a business and sales background and there is a lot written about being selective with your customer base.  "Toxic" Customers, or those that hurt your business and community throw words and actions, are to be avoided.  Every FLGS has a few people who bring down the community.  Generally the community deals with it naturally, but sometimes they linger.  I only mention this as these toxic elements can be rather loud in voicing opinions and can steer a group towards games they normally would not play.  Communities can start up playing dead games or games that are not great for building community.  The problem with casual games is they generally do not have a lot of momentum unless they have constant releases, which can get generic and "old" after a while.  

I don't want to see Taskforce water down the community or my Game.  This is a worry many people have.  We touched on it a little bit on the Hub Systems Podcast.  I was invited back by Alex to talk Firestorm Armada and its future.  I am hopeful.  I hope this is a gateway to bring in more players.  I also like the modularity they are starting to bring into the model line. New ships are generally never a bad thing. I hope this means good things and a brighter future for FSA, Spartan and the Community as a whole.

Until next time crush the Alliance and as always

Remember Dramos!!!!!

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