23 Aug 2013

Table Top - The Starter Box

So GEN Con has come and gone. Folks are flocking to a fro in order to get the newest and latest of various products that litter the trade floor. We the fans, the player... the community are right as rain. The lists for the holiday shopping are being crafted. Tournaments are being planned with all the new bells and whistles in mind. Events are coming and gearing.

Recently we had a new addition to the crew. So why do you care. Well she is one of the many who are jumping in. She's a gamer of the RPG variation has recently jumped into the Table Top scene with Hordes.

She is not alone. At the Wizards Tower, I've seen two demo matches played in the last pair of times with folks I've never seen before. The flock of new players is growing. Other shops in the area are making note that there are plenty of new people playing these games.

So why do I mention our new player... well how do you start playing?

Seriously Games Workshop was the doorway to our hobby. Yet they seem to have less and less of the attention across the hobby. In order to break in or make the same footprint in accessibility those who have games in the same area need another product. Stores have less GW stuff and more of everything else.

Well folks they are showing up, one by one, to be counted. They are a two player starter box.

Let's dive in.

Wolf joined the crew with this Starter
Privateer Press is the first (since GW) to really break into a easy to access Two Player starter. They have a great one player starter for each faction. Now that's great if you already have one or two mates getting into the game. Folks try out the rules, they look around the books. Through the pictures, the fluff or a combination they find themselves picking the faction of choice and vola 55 Canadian Dollars later they are in the game.

Add in the success of the Journyman League where players start from a starter box and grow their force bit by bit until they find themselves comfortable with the rules, their faction and are able to playe larger and more common sized games. Grown beyond those small matches that are doable with just a starter set the player is ready to continue their journey into the hobby.

The starter boxes also allowed more experience players the easy way into a new faction. I got the coin to pick up my Skorne but I waited for the new plastic starter before I jumped into the Hordes game. That was almost a full year of waiting but it's paid off. I'm really digging the Skorne and I'm having fun figuring out how to pull victory from my opponents hands... and give it to me.

PanO (Shock Army) Starter
Sexy and New
Infinity also has had some great success with their solo starters. Looking at around 35-40 Canadian maple syrup vouchers (sorry our money looks like Monopoly tender but with the Queen and old Dudes on the paper) a player can jump in a put down six minis (not bad in a game where ten minis on the table is the magic number) and get right into it.

Both of the above examples of starters give the players a good balance of minis to start with. You're not getting a specialist model who only sees action in some specialist army lists. You're getting some standard front line common joes with the odd specialist. Many of the minis in the starters are great ways foundations for your own army building. The Titan Gladiator in my Skorne starter is played in most of my matches.

Of course you need to pick up at least a main rule book and the odd token and template set. The list quickly grows and you find yourself deep into the bowels of the hobby. With the rest of us.

Yet, for my new player to the crew she wanted more.

Privateer Press last year came out with the most brilliant solution. The Two Player starter box for Warmachine. It came with a dumb ruler, a small slim version of the rules. The basic flyers and fold outs that come in each starter and two full armies. They got enough minis to play a small army. Shortly after that success they did the same for Hordes.

Lots of love in here... love and Werewolves and Dragon Tainted Elves
Yeah that's awesome.
Look at what's in there. Plenty of minis, rules... just enough for you to start playing with a mate. Perfect for anyone who's looking to jump in. Tzar got for his wedding gift the Warmachine starter that I painted and did up for him. I also threw in the template and tokens he needed for the game all put into a small carry case for the whole thing.

He's set and it wasn't very expensive. compared to the Warhammer 40k starter, after tokens, templates and the 35 dollar carry bag. It was about the same price maybe a couple of bucks two more over the 119.99 (120 common let's be honest here folks). It was his wedding, I wanted to do more but me and the wife just couldn't afford to get him and his new wife everything we wanted. Money got cut short and the rest of the gifts we were thinking got pushed aside. C'est la vie.

Or course Tzar is now floating in a two player painted and dipped with everything he needs to show up and play with his mates. He's got a great start to all.

What a nice looking box... what's inside I wonder?
Hawk wargames has sparked my interest since it came out. From the sole mind of one talented bastard (he is only a bastard because he has done something every gamer has wanted to do) Dropzone Commander looks awesome. A 10mm scale wargame aka 1:32 or Gauge 1 for the model train folks, Dropzone Commander is the taking back of Earth those who called it home and those who currently
abide there.
Now the rules look ok. The minis look great, I'm a fan of the PHR. The price is somewhat standard. Of course most of the terrain I own won't meet the scale and I'll be SOL since this is supost to be a pretty intensive game that's around the rapid deployment of troops into an operation in order to claim a foothold for your force.

That's a lot of swag in that little box! Awesome!
So this year at Gen Con they put out a Two Player Starter.

It looks awesome and it's full to the brim with stuff for each player. Full Rule book, two whole armies to play with, quick ref cards, real ruler (not plastic red sticks or paper rulers), dice, tokens. For myself who's been looking at this game since it was released this looks great minus the divorce. Since my wife will leave me if I get another game.

Oh did I forget to mention the two poster game mats and the cardboard buildings. So it comes with terrain! Yes this is possibly one of the best starter boxes in the market and many of the industry media is calling it the best deal in town.

I don't have it but I agree it looks great. Dreadball has a great starter set with tokens, rules, minis (Orcs and Humans), board and dice for a good price. It's more of a board game with minis rather then a tabletop game with a playing pitch. Here and now I say it's a great bang for your buck. They even have a cheaper starter that has a mini rulebook and a few less minis for people to jump in faster.

Common this is awesome!

These are a must for Heavy Gear
I look over at the folks at Games Workshop and wonder what's the deal. Games Workshop is just simply fucked. The starter is bare bones and you'll never play games of that size ever again once you break past the borders of the boxset.

Dream Pod 9's Heavy Gear - a great game, has been cursed with some lackluster starters or starters that could use a bit more for the same price as the above Dropzone Boxset. Unless you're playing NuCol or Southern Army, aka those with the updated rules, your box is pretty simple. You get minis you'll need and use. Your get plenty of rules but the tokens and special dice they use are so key to the game play I wonder why they are not part of the deal. At 13 dollars extra add them to the package.

Dream Pod 9 is not the only failure in this area. Every Warmachine and Hordes player will tell you the pain to get the token set for your faction. They and the Infinity players also need to pick up the damn blasted templates that get called on way to often. Including these elements tokens and template in the starters would be great.

Of course I only want the Dindrenzi Federation
but my opponents need minis for me to kill
Looking at Spartan Game is another example of failing to make that real entry level product. They have some great army deals but nothing for the two players. No token set to come along for the ride. They have so many minis and the game looks great. Now they do have the best starting products for those already in the hobby but not yet their game. For a couple of hundred bucks you can pick up every starter they made! Huge amounts of minis! No one else does this. Once I'm settled in my place and I'm happy where I am with my free time I can see myself turning to the crew to order the Dystopian Wars Club Bundles (Naval and Armoured) or the Pick any 4 Firestorm Starters.

Merc's has good a pretty good deal as well. Great looking starter with only a few mins. Quick rules, some dice. I wish they had their little measure widget in the box but otherwise it's a good deal. You and a mate each pick up a box and vola you're in the game.

CCC Yellow Jackets with the 7th mini in the faction
They even play on a smaller table size.

Our hobby has grown. We have plenty of deals out there that capture our attention. Yet for those like the new player to the crew you need to have that well built easy entry starter set that just screams for you pick up and play. Something that's not scary price wise, something that has everything you need to play without having to download and print anything.

The Two Player starter has had a great year. With Privateer Press and Hawk Wargames leading the way with some great products I hope this inspires other companies to change their entry level offerings. Infinity with a two player starter with some terrain would rock my socks off. Templates and Tokens getting added to the current starters would be awesome.

We are in a good place and we have room to improve. Hope to see you new folks at the table.