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Cardboard Children: Bad News

Hello youse,

I hope you all had a good Halloween board game night last week. We had a fine game of Last Night On Earth and an amazing game of Mall of Horror, the out-of-print masterpiece from Asmodee. I won’t talk about either game right now, because I want to do a video about them at some point. What did you all play? Connect 4, I bet. Right? Yeah, that’s scary enough for you guys, I bet.

I was all ready to tell you about some lovely new games, when something terrible hap-

No, just read on. I can’t tell you just like that – brutal, like a board game Leatherface, delivering the news like a hammer and pulling my steel door shut.

Today, I want to catch up on some board game news – I like the sound of my own voice so much that I’ve been ignoring the basics. So we’ll have a little look at what’s happening in the scene this week, and gather our thoughts for the big Christmas wish list period.

ARKHAM HORROR INVESTIGATOR MINIS RELEASED!

Yeah, so you’ll remember me talking about Arkham Horror a couple of weeks ago, and warning that it’s not necessarily the case that you would like it. Well, if you’re one of those people who know it and love it, then Fantasy Flight might be able to interest you in some miniatures for the game’s investigator characters.

There’s a miniature for every investigator available so far, and you can even buy the entire set of 48 in one go, if a couple of hundred dollars isn’t too high a price for you. Unfortunately, it seems you can only buy the minis from Fantasy Flight’s online store, so shipping costs will probably be an issue for anyone in the UK. As for the quality of the minis – you can never tell how good they are until you see them in your hand, much like penises. If I ever get a hold of any, I’ll let you know. The miniatures, I mean. You can go here – http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_news.asp?eidn=1729 – to have a look at them. You’ve got a couple of hundred dollars, haven’t you? Of course you have. You’re a PC gamer. A rich kid. Course you have.

I HAVE A COPY OF DEATHWATCH

Yeah, I was sent a copy of Deathwatch to take a look at. When I get the time I’ll sit down and have a proper look at it. It’s a big RPG rulebook that lets you play as a Warhammer 40K Space Marine. See, you might be thinking that it can never work, playing as a Space Marine in a pen and paper RPG. Where’s the opportunity for roleplaying in these big “For the Emperor!” puppets? Rogue Trader and Dark Heresy, the other two W40K RPGs, are fine pieces of work. So there’s no reason to think that the same team can’t get Deathwatch right. Roleplaying an assault on a Space Hulk would be pretty sweet, no? There’s few better experience in gaming than rolling some bones to see if a Genestealer has killed you, no matter what gaming system you’re using. I’ll let you know how it looks, and how it plays, when I get the chance. But it’s out there now if you fancy throwing yourself into Warhammer 40K roleplay at the deep end.

Actually, I’ll take the opportunity here to heartily recommend Rogue Trader. Plenty of opportunity for good roleplay when you’re a crewmember on a Rogue Trader’s ship, ducking your way past the attention of the Imperium as you explore uncharted planets. It’s a brilliant system, and a brilliant core book, and it would have to be my suggested jump-on point for Warhammer 40K roleplay. Character creation is a treat, and should be experienced by everyone. And there’s rules for space battles, and for conducting mass warfare on planets. I love it, and wish I had time to play it more.

Yeah, anyway.

I’ve been easing you all in gently. Let’s get to the point.


YEAH, SO HEROSCAPE IS DEID

That’s not a typo. That’s how we say “dead” in Scotland. “Deid”. Pronounced so it rhymes with “feed”, “read”, “bead” and “heid”, which is how we say “head”.

This is a big one, and a sore one, and a main reason why we’re doing a news update this week. Heroscape is a goner. We all knew it was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier to take. Wizards of the Coast sent this out to confirm it:

“After a thorough evaluation, we have made the decision to discontinue our Heroscape line in order to focus our efforts on our core brands. While this decision means that we will no longer be developing new content for the game, existing Heroscape products will still remain available from Wizards of the Coast and sold in the hobby game channel while supplies last.

The next and final Heroscape expansion, Moltenclaw’s Invasion, will be released on November 16, 2010. This final assortment, which is playable with the Heroscape D&D Master Set, will include the best and most iconic creatures from the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons. Orcs, bugbears, dragons and frost giants will all come together to join the greatest battle of all time.”

That’s depressing, isn’t it?

You might not know much about Heroscape. But I bet you’ve all walked past it in a toy shop over the years, not suspecting that there was actually a great game inside. If you’re a regular visitor to that wonderland of a shop TK MAXX, you will probably have seen loads of Heroscape in there, going cheap, and now is your opportunity to really regret it. Go. Just sit there for a few minutes and remember the time you passed Marvel Heroscape and didn’t bother buying it because you thought it was for kids. Go. Just sit and think about it. You bought an ornamental Santa Claus and a tin of foreign biscuits instead, you fucking dolt.

Sit for a bit and think about it.

Heroscape is a miniatures battle game, with pre-painted miniatures and a batshit-mental theme that lets you send teams of Samurais and Robots and WWII Soldiers and Marvel Superheroes against each other, if you so wish. The maps you battle on are made out of huge plastic tiles, and you can construct these maps yourself by snapping the tiles together, like a physical prototype of the new Molyneux/Traveller’s Tales game “Lego Populous”. You can play it with your kids, using the basic rules, and play it with your friends using the advanced rules. Unless your name is Michael Jackson and your friends are also kids. (I’m hoping I’ll get a “Paedophile-Free Michael Jackson Line” tag for that one.) It’s a game that lets you roll about a thousand dice, and you need a hand about the size of a lobster-loving horse’s bib to roll them properly. For American readers, the size I’m talking about is about that of a small sideplate in an American restaurant.

I’m pretty pissed that Heroscape is gone. I was hoping someone at Wizards would realise how great the property is, and relaunch it in a big way, with proper promotion. The most recent releases were Dungeons and Dragons tie-ins, which made no sense to me. I would have gone with a Ben-10 tie-in, something like that, y’know, for kids. It could be argued that–

Right, fuck it. Wizards of The Coast has made a dickhead move here. It could be argued that Heroscape has the potential to be the most valuable property in tabletop gaming, with the right handling. Be in no doubt, Heroscape will be the game, in twenty years time, that the kids of today reminisce about the way we reminisce about Heroquest and Space Crusade. I’m trying to underplay the loss of Heroscape to be kind to you all, but let’s be clear – THIS IS A KICK IN THE BALLS. Heroscape is (I don’t want to say “was” yet) the game that could have been THE gateway for kids to get into the board game hobby. If you ask me, Wizards of the Coast had a responsibility to get Heroscape right for the sake of the industry. But no. No.

You want to know why this has happened? Because of Magic: The Gathering. Wizards of the Coast look at everything through that lens, through that Magic glass. Nothing made of plastic will ever be as profitable as selling a few bits of cardboard as a Booster Pack. Try explaining why 40 plastic miniatures in a box is a good idea to a room full of company shareholders. “Can’t we just sell more of that cardboard?” I love Magic, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the wasp buzzing around the sweet jar of jam that is board gaming.

It’s a big loss, so don’t let it pass without sparing a few thoughts for it today. Some Heroscape chatter in the comments would be nice too! Have you played it? What minis are your favourite? How were those foreign biscuits?

This is the part of the column where I look for some positive news to cheer us up. The happy, funny stories you see at the end of TV news broadcasts. The stories that make you smile.

There aren’t any.

Bye, Heroscape.

Ameritrashers will miss you.

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Robert Florence

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