19 July 2012

Fanticide – a guest re-cap of the previewed information

This is a guest entry by fellow blog follower Luka, I found the article to be of such interest and good quality that I happily accepted it.

Hello, fellow fans of Anatoli's Game Room! My name is Luka and I've been following this blog for quite a while now, for its eclectic collection of covered game titles, in-depth articles on varied subjects of the hobby and quite simply because it's an amazing source of inspiration. I've had an idea for an article and Anatoli kindly let me run with it, so I hope my little piece will live up to the high standards we've come to get used to on this blog, and that you'll find it to your liking.

I welcome all comments and criticism bellow, or via cell72004 (at) yahoo.com. I will, however, kindly ask you not to hold Anatoli accountable for anything I may say. He's a nice Chap and deserves better.

I already play two systems, where game is tied to the manufacturer's miniature range. I find the background "fluff" of both immersive, miniatures evocative enough and I like the game systems and mechanics of both. But every now and then I see a miniature or get an idea for an army, that makes me wish for more creative liberty. When Anatoli, describing Brink of Battle skirmish rules, coined the term "toolbox for imagination", I knew I wanted for my next system to be exactly such a "toolbox". I will not even try to sum up the extensive coverage of BoB seen on this blog, but I hope to add some insight into an upcoming game, that seems like it could be added to this category when it comes out. While Fanticide has been originally stated as a June release, let's at least look at what has been previewed so far.

First mention of Fanticide in the industry news pages piqued my interest with its name, the preview of cover artwork and promise of "... flying monkeys, twisted fairy tales, hand grenades and skin eating creeps ...". It was also described as a "different" game of fantasy skirmishing for a "mature gamer", thanks to "depictions of hard violence and lots of off color jokes".

An unhealthy smile drew across my face and I devoured all the previews that followed. The mention of Rick Priestley, Alessio Cavatore, and Andy Chambers, all influential former GW authors, joined under a new venture called Alien Dungeon sounded interesting, and although my experience with the hobby, and in particular GW games, is too limited for me to hold any preferences or aversions to this particular cast of authors, the pedigree certainly meant the project was no joking matter.

Consequent previews revealed the game was going to see roughly 30 figures a side, organized in squads and some commentators were quick to observe that it all looked a bit like "Warhammer by other means" and a game "unbound by the corporate restrictions", which, judging by the lineup of authors, may well be the case. Especially if we view it through a back-to-basics prism of early Warhammer editions, from which the GW's games have deviated quite a bit by the time the three authors left the company. They are, after all, marketing Fanticide as a game they've designed so that they'd enjoy it themselves. The so far previewed info on the game gave me a mental image of these game industry veterans, cherry-picking mechanics and ideas they like and mixing them together into something new and bold. Below are some examples of info that I've found particularly interesting;

Relative simplicity
The game is stated to be easy to learn, but hard to master, rewarding intelligent play. While that might sound a bit like a marketing pitch, I'm all for getting stuck-in fast and getting crushed for stupid mistakes rather than bad luck with dice.

Card based alternative unit activation
Personally I like to have some choice of which unit to activate when, we'll see how this works out in practice. What I find a little ironic though, is that while GW sticks to the IGOUGO as one of its fundamental mechanics, a few of its "founding fathers" seem to have moved on to try new options.

According to authors chosen for its greater interval of possible results. Opposed combat rolls will probably add a bit more tension for the reactive player and engage him even when on the receiving end.

Turn events
Optional random stuff that happens each turn and can influence both players. So far one event has been previewed; Unicorn, the most vicious known land predator in Nowhere comes to the table at a random edge and attacks the nearest model. I always knew unicorns were evil.

Interactive terrain
Blood Trees, Hole Beasts in the ground, carnivorous fungi and all sorts of other homicidal real estate, that is also purchasable as part of the player's warband. My personal favorite, judging only by its name, has to be the Shrieker Crystals.

Warband structure
Miniatures are given a basic unit type, depending on their role, such as Shootists, Slashers (i.e. footmen with swords), Crushers (shock troops) and Peeves (swarms). You can also have one Monster, one Legend character optionally joined by a squad of retainers and up to two Masters, that help lead your so called Homicide Squads. The force structure rules give an impression that Fanticide is going for a bit of a retro vibe, and while it may sound limiting in terms of warband types one can field, it remains to be seen how much flexibility the game will permit.

While none of these are new by any means, I like the idea of taking what seems to work elsewhere and putting it together in a new company-level fantasy game, the genre that (unlike its smaller, skirmish cousin) seems to have become somewhat stale as of late.

Like the mechanics, the background fluff also aims to depart from the established standards for fantasy tabletop warfare. Fanticide rulebook will include background and stats for four factions;
Liberi, the nomadic centaurs with a strong tribal/American Indian theme.  Fae, the malevolent sylvan spirits like Sprytes, Tree Haunts and Satyrs. Creeps, the one-eyed cave dwelling freaks with gaping mouths full of teeth and an unnerving appetite for skins.

And finally, from Kingdom of Odd, perhaps my favorite, fez-wearing monkeys with bio-engineered bat wings searching the Nowhere for artifacts on account of their mysterious hidden masters.
While these non-standard factions may not be to everyone's taste, I think they might help the game generate some buzz and let the background establish itself as something more than just another standard collection of (oversimplified) fantasy cliches. The official selection of units from the book is going to be fully supported by Eureka Miniatures and whole warbands of miniatures have already been previewed.

The game's real strength though, will most likely derive from the included rules for creating custom warbands. The company has made it clear right from the start, that they wanted the players to be able to use whatever minis they already own. The official page has space reserved for future warband ideas and suggestions and there are already some interesting unofficial warbands in the gallery, like a fantasy Chinese Han army with animated jade statues and an Oni and a Lost Roman Legion.

The book, written by Rick Priestley, Alessio Cavatore, Andy Chambers and Ernest Baker is planned to come out by the end of summer as a hardback-bound full colour 128-pages, together with a set of 68 cards (only one deck needed and that's including blank cards for one's own units and events) at a retail of 55$ (subject to change as of the time of writing). The company emphasized there will be no "codex" books and, unless player base explicitly wanted them, no expansions.
In the first half of this article, I've mentioned the impression, that Fanticide might be a modernized, streamlined spiritual successor to the early editions of Warhammer. Granted this view has been based on limited information such as the pedigree of authors and what little has been shown of the warband structure rules. With a little luck though, the game might turn out to be much more than that; a lean and edgy system for company-sized engagements with a taste for offbeat humor and (these days almost retro) appreciation of creativity.

Full release of the book will show if we're right, but until then; does that sound like your kind of toolbox for imagination?

1 comment:

  1. Really looking forward to this game. Really impressed by the unit activation and game play I saw at Historicon.


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