Does Mantic lose it's touch with their fans?
Let me start by saying, I am a fan of the company. I think KoW
is great, I love Vanguard, I own a Warpath Asterian starter force including the Warpath and Firefight rulebooks AND the backstory book, I own "The Walking Dead" and when the new Mantica RPG
Kickstarter launches, I will definitely back it even though
a) I dont do RPGs
b) i am pretty sure they will NOT use savage worlds rules system even though it would be PERFECT
My biggest love is definitely for Kings of War / Vanguard. I love their "Mantica" fantasy approach (not EVERYTHING is sooo grimdark) and I love what they did with the rules. Their rules are SIMPLE, clear, make for fun games and still offer much for tactics. I love that its a company that doesn't rip their customers off. They put out great products and great rules. (I started with Mantic products when their KoW
2nd edition came out)
That being SAID...
There are a few things that happened recently which made me wonder. First thing was when they took their forum down. In my caveman mind (meaning: i am over 30, which makes me a fossil as far as the internet is concerned as some might argue) that meant for me they cut a bit of their possibility to talk with their fan-base. When they did close the forums, they mentioned to keep in touch "via social media":
I think relying on "Social Media" is a fatal mistake. It is easy for WHOEVER to live inside a bubble by relying solely on "Social Media" for getting feedback and communicating. You only get a distorted sense of whats really out there. This holds true for politicians, the press, people and... companies. And in this case its the company Mantic.
The second time I wondered was when I read... Clash of Kings 2019.
When I play KoW
(and that's less often than I want), I play Vanilla KoW
without supplements. It makes it easier for all parties involved:
We just want a simple quite balanced game, and vanilla KoW
offers just that!
That also being said, I own ALL extension books because I love reading the lore, looking at the pictures and reading rules. I loved reading Destiny of Kings, I own the battlefield cards, etc.
I found the addition of of "formations" smart when they were introduced.
Now, thats when I wondered about Clash of Kings 2019.
In that book they made a complete list of all formations. Put a complete list for all the formations for all races because they wanted to have everything together, because before that it was in so-many-places. They were proud of this to have it all in one place. they were proud that the rules committee worked hard on this and that they have an actively balanced list for the heavy tournament players out there. this they told on the blog and on podcasts.
So I read the book. But I do not find ANYWHERE in that book how formations are supposed to be used? I also do not find that info on the rules on their website.
I own the Edge of the Abyss campaign book, so I KNOW how they can be used.
The heavy tournament player also knows, because I can assume he also owns all necessary books that are out there. A player following Mantic on Facebook will know too (I guess).
A player in a big town / in a country with many fellow players will also know (soon... via gossip).
But a new player? Two friends who come into the hobby? A casual player, picking up the book at their FLGS
and then at home reading through it and wondering how to use a formation?
How are they supposed to know?
No official forum to go to.
Nothing on the Mantic website.
I think Mantic expects them to use Facebook to ASK. I am not sure if that is a smart approach. And i am not sure they are aware of this "problem".
Do they live inside their UK/Facebook bubble?
I a few times stubled accross the term "Nottingham bubble" (https://johnstoysoldiers.blogspot.com/2016/10/this-writerslife.html
as example) with regards to tabletop wargaming, I will here refer to it here as "UK
bubble" as one part of a possible problem. But the location being only one part of it, the other being "social media" as [single] point for feedback. So let's assume that yes, there is a bubble:
I could not blame them if they lived in it, it's easy to fall into that trap. They talk to their hard-core tabletop fanbase just in the adjacent towns, which they see each time they make an event at the Mantic company (they advertise those very well on their blog, but who but UK
based players will really frequently go to those events?). They talk to their hard-core fanbase on Facebook who are all frequent players (i can only guess they are as i don't do social media. I might be wrong.)
But what about those casuals? The system is GREAT for newcomers or casuals, but do they "address" those players enough?
Wasn't that group one of the reasons how Mantic was able to get where they are today?
I said the system is great for newcomers and casuals, I LOVE the EASY fast streamlined rules. NO exceptions which makes it SO much faster to play and you so rarely have to look something up. The good flow was of utmost importance when they designed this. I felt the rest (fluff/balancing) had to WORK with having that good flow as the utmost priority.
Up until CoK 2019 I had the feeling that this "good flow" was the utmost priority.
Are they now abandoning this?
The "spell rule" change
Suddenly some magic spells do not hit on a 4+ anymore. So now you have to remember or you will have to look up WHICH spells are hitting on a 4+ and which are not. Was that REALLY necessary for balancing? The only way to "fix"? When I first read the KoW
rules I was like: Magic is just a shooting attack and it hits on 4+? That's it? Yuk...
It was too simple for me and I was very skeptic. I thought it did not give magic enough "credit". Then after first time playing, I realized the beauty of it.
So why suddenly more complication? I understand how this happens. If you have rules, they tend to get more complex over time. Not only STUFF is added (like new spells and items), but also exceptions to core rules, e.g.: more rules. Its somehow in human nature (not only in tabletop, for me this is an extension of the Parkinsons Law). If you have a rules committee, over the course of time they so much "KNOW" their stuff, they do not see an issue with complicating things after some point. Plus you only can tweak "so-much" in a simple system.
Die-hard fans that play a system for a long time will also not object when changes (complicating something just a bit) are discussed. They are just glad something they see "imbalanced" gets fixed.
But I am concerned this simple "spell rule change" might have been the bursting of the dam and now it gets more and more complicated and KoW
loses one of its true greatnesses: SIMPLICITY.
And with the stuff i mentioned above, i fear that Mantic also does not even see this problem or find that its an issue because of the "bubbles" i talked about.
I might be wrong with all of this, maybe they make 80% of their revenue with die-hard players in the U.K. (and then some in the U.S.) so they do not need to think about the rest. And they make money via the tournaments players. Maybe I am wrong and Facebook IS the way to reach 80% of their target audience. Maybe I am wrong and 80% of their fans DO live in big cities, all talking to each other and keeping on the pulse via their FLGS
Now, with rumors about KoW3 rules around the corner I wanted to voice my concerns. I hope they will do the right thing with it.
Now, I do have some more grief with them to how they present and handle new releases (example: the new Vanguard Goblins), but that is negligible with this and for another time.
So what's your take on this?
Am I concerned over nothing? Do I misjudge the bulk of the KoW
players? Is something like the "standard" KoW
player even existing?