Skirmish Based Games - Are They the Future?
Apologies for the belated posting but school is beating me like all kinds of red headed step children.
Luckily, in my time away from the precious keyboard, I got to experiment with some things in the Wargaming world, specifically skirmish games. If you don't know what a skirmish game is, think fast paced and low model count games as opposed to two armies slugging it out. A very popular example is Warmachine/Hordes.
I actually got into some WarmaHordes over the week and I have to say I quite enjoyed it. After the games were over,I was actually curious as to why I had such a good time. Was it just playing something new that felt familiar? Not exactly.
For me personally, it was the speed. I've dabbled in a few skirmish games (Malifaux, Killzone) and the pace is always so refreshing. It's a simple fact that as you add more models, the game slows down. It takes time to move units, shoot with a lot of guns, roll a pile of attacks. When you slow the game down, a few things typically happen.
1. Time is a Crutch
Usually this is a positive, more time means you can better plan your moves. But as anyone who has played Speed Chess can tell you, accelerated pace is a whole new beast. Large amounts of time to think is always a ready crutch, but you never know what you're capable over until the pressure is on and the game is changing rapidly.
2. Total Time Invested Decreases
Bottom line, a 2000 point game of 40k is a 2.5-3.5 hour investment. This makes it difficult to get more than 1-2 games in for your average player which can be a little disheartening for those weeks when you miss your hobby day. However skirmish games are more forgiving, clocking in at an hour tops, usually less.
3. Rules Light
While army centric games have to have rules to cover a large variety of wonky situations, skirmish games are more often built for....well speed. Time bogged down in the rulebook is time not rolling dice or crushing face and when is that ever time well spent? Simple umbrella solutions to things like cover and movement avoid a lot of the common problems arising from armies clashing.
To go off the rails a bit, I'm very impressed by the way Privateer Press handles some of the big issues in wargaming. Their LoS is a great mix of 4th and 5th Edition 40k, not punishing/rewarding "creative" modelling by using static heights based on the agreed upon terrain types and model base size. I would be very surprised is GW did not hijack this system, True LoS is to exploitable to work, 5th Edition has documented that well.
Also the small army size enables them to use a Tournament structure second to none. You may bring two lists of one Faction, you know what Faction your opponent is using but not his specific army before choosing what list you want to use. I know I'm a bit late to the party but this is easily the best format I've seen for competitive events. No longer do you have to take that generic, take on all comers list, you can just take two specialized lists! It also makes for some fun mind games before list selection.
To get back on topic, I can see a window opening more and more for skirmish games. As model prices continue to go up, it's hard to coax new players into buying a whole army, typically a $400+ investment for the lower point spectrum. Smaller model counts means smaller investment and less time on the painting/assembling grind. It's easier for a novice to pick up and learn without suffering grueling, multi-hour defeats just to gain some experience.
I'm not saying army games do not have a place, I love 40k and Fantasy personally. But GW is not in a good place right now, in many peoples eyes and I can see the willingness to jump ship. I know I'll at least be giving it a try.