21 Oct 2013

MERCS - Part One: Start Up

I was at FdB with Wolf showing him around the shop on the other side of the river. I also had a bit of a mission ahead of me. I was looking for some KemVar and another faction to start up my experience in the MERCS world of games. Instead KemVar was out. I was happy to pick up CCC and Texico, two other factions in my top 4 factions I want for MERCS.

CCC - Starter Box
So this series of posts will be about my first contact and expectations of MERCS and how I expect it to go. I'll be looking at the starter boxes I picked up before I get into the rule book and playing the game.

I'm a fan of them sneaky buggers, hence I'm primarily a Blue user in Magic the Gathering. Nothing makes me feel better then to Counter Spell or Traumatize another player. I like the Scorpion Clan in Legend of the Five Rings. Until recently where I'm trying for something new over the last year with my D&D (or Pathfinder) I was the guy who always played the Rogue.

KemVar will be mine. Until then, I've got... CCC and Texico.

CCC "Yellow Jackets" - Starter Box

CCC - Game Deck
First off the box set came with a glossy single double sided sheet of quick start rules. They are brief and more like a quick reference guide to the rules. Seems you still need the QuickStart Rules from the website or the main Rule Book.

Next came the fancy cards that are of the marked differences to MERCS and other games. These cards have all the stats you need to play with your minis and they also act the measuring device used in the game. The cards are also used as templates for heavy weapons and explosives (ala grenades). Another cards sported a full colour 2D terrain piece (barrels that can provide cover) with the last one had the target number modifiers for combat rolls and turn sequence synopsys.

As a starting player I love the ref cards to help out as I pick up the rules of the game. Yet I'm worried about using the cards to measure movement and such. I'm worried that wear and tear will affect the accuracy of the card and my minis actions after some games in rough well flocked 3D terrain.

Lucky for me FdB had some measuring cards from Outrider Hobbies that are marked and coloured for each faction so I picked up two, Texico and CCC. They are a hard 1/8" plastic that looks like that could last a while. I'm glad I picked them up as I was now able to sleeve my faction cards away in some Ultra*Pro card sleeves I had lying around. I wish MERCS would include the plastic measuring tool in the main box as I see it hard to invest long term into the game without it.

A single die for each miniature for a total of six ten-sided die were a nice touch.  The set is coloured to the CCC (yellow) and the 10 side has a MERCS symbol showing. I normally throw away into my bag-o-dice the d6 (six sided die) I get with other games but as MERCS plays with d10s I was happy to get the matching set. The extra touches really made me feel the idea of the whole package with the box. Dream Pod 9 should take note with their own starter boxes and include a dice and marker set with their starters instead of a cheap measuring tape.

Last but not least I also got six figures to assemble. MERCS uses a rounded lip base like Warmachine, Hordes and Malifaux. This is not a bad thing, but it does hit a unique issue. The games I've just mentioned are fantasy or mix fantasy style games. I like to use resin bases. They are easy to paint, make the mini pop, and add that extra level to the way the mini shows on the table. The fine folks at Basiks, Dragon Forge, Secret Weapon, and Micro Arts all make fine bases that are being sported by many of my minis. The issue is the select based on the low need of future or urban style bases that would work well with MERCS.

CCC - 7th Miniature, the Breacher
The miniatures I have had quite a lot of flash but very few mould lines. It's very odd at first when you're cleaning the mini of all the extra bits of white metal and have yet to find a single mould line. Odd but nice, they were cleaned up and ready to based right quick and I'm happy with how they are looking. The Sniper, Medic and Demolition minis are my favorite of the set of six. If this works out I'll be sure to pick up the 7th miniature, the Breacher.

The Sniper's backward baseball cap and the heavy scarf on the Demolition are nice touches that breaks up the faction and makes them unique. The Heavy pose is brilliant and the mini really stands out in the faction. The Medic is given two options for heads but otherwise the minis are pretty solid but straightforward.

MERCS has some fine folks making these minis. They are not the same level of craftsmanship as those minis of Corvis Belli but few miniatures can hold against the Infinity range of minis. I was surprised that they went the route of 28mm Heroic rather than 28mm True but I figure it has to due with the level of the sculptor's experience and the acceptance of the scale by most folks in the hobby.

I do like the fact that I have all the minis and their cards with this box set but I find it odd that the 7th figure blister does not come with the card. If I do fully get into this game I can see myself picking up MERCS 7th figure deal but it's only running for a limited time and to get the official cards printed I'd need to order from the MERCS site the 7th figure card set. This is silly but only a minor miff.

Space Marine Strike Force
image used without permission
At $65 US or Canadian dollars a set, I look at the 40k Space Marine - Strike Force at $270 in Canada and I balk at the price difference. Four full factions of Mercs with a total of twenty four miniatures (plus one extra per ISS and Texico faction). I have enough for me and four mates to go at over a 2'x3'/2'x2' playing field and play all day. Meanwhile the Space Marine box listed to the side is barely enough for a single person to play.

I understand that these are two different games. It's like comparing Football (for you Americans) and Futball (what folks in North America call Soccer). Two different games played at different scales. Yet for the new player looking for a game to get into, MERCS is looking much cheaper and less of a gamble for that person and three other blokes to jump in. Two sets of terrain mats that can be downloaded for free and printed out at the local print shop at a cheap cost and you have instant portable play space for the normal coffee table, office desk, or dinner table. This is a far lesser level of investment in our hobby then most games. For the level of time to paint, the terrain, cost of the various widgets, this could be the cheapest game to jump into.

If you are a group of new blokes here is my suggestion.

Get four wankers, buy four starters, up to four cans of Army Painter Colour Primers and split the cost of the main rulebook, a basic paint set with some brushes and of a can of Dark Quickshade. I'd say that $100 each person with supplies in the estimate. Not bad...

You can put your figs together and base them in about 15-20 mins. After getting based and allowing for time to dry with another 15-20 min it will take an average beginner painter an hour or two to do up all six miniatures. Once the paint dries you've got 10 min to dip and set to dry. That's possibly less than two hours to assemble, paint and dip your miniatures. Add in a few beers and snacks and you're laughing the time away.

As early as the next day, as long as the quickshade has dried you're playing the game with fully painted minis. Few other games allow that for four people at that cost in time and cash. Terrain with the printed maps makes picking up the game and playing it much more rewarding then some green table cloth running out of room on the too small table while you're using books and other un-interesting terrain to play on.

I'm not saying MERCS is the best thing since sliced power armour in a Howling Banshee's assault phase, but I'm saying it's worth taking a look at so far. Just by looking at the box and how the game is supported MERCS is an easy choice for a cheap first game or a low cost secondary game for those already deep into the hobby.

Next time - Texico