A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The end of Wizkids

I'm sure most folks have already heard, but Wizkids' owner Topps has decided to pull the plug on the company that kickstarted the prepainted miniatures genre into what we know it as today.

Here are some thoughts on their games, mostly focusing on Heroclix as it was their biggest success. I am assuming some basic understanding of their core game system here, if not their website should still have the rules PDFs to download for more info. (I may also go back and add more to this post later. But its past my bedtime. Its been a while since I updated and time got the best of me!)

I'm an ex Heroclix player and even when I still played I knew Topps taking them over was a bad thing.

But that's not what really did the game in for me and why I quit it. It may be the reason others did as well.

The Clix game engine has pretty much been flawed from the get go, at least for me as a general minis game player.

The death spiral, colored icons to cross reference on a chart, having to pick up the model to move the base, the clix base making it a pain in the ass to even figure out what your models do for army building, the Magic like combo system, the activation system making weenie armies pretty hard to pull off, the vast majority of local play being tournament only, increased prices, and of course blind buy in general.

I originally bought Heroclix just for minis to use in RPGs. Ive got the old TSR Marvel RPG, the Mayfair DC game, and a couple generic systems. I mostly just bought cheap commons online of favorite characters and rarely bothered with boosters. My gamegroup had its usual falling out time and the comic shop was starting to carry and run the game with weekly tournaments.

Well anyone who has listened to me talk about hobby gaming (Been playing them actively since 1988) knows I think tournaments can take the fun out of everything up to and including an orgy.)

But that's what everyone played so I had to buck up or go elsewhere. I won quite a few tournies, though never actually enjoying myself to any real level. Theme teams were generally pointless, and certain combos were near broken, and for the most part your builds all but required certain powers to stand a chance over other model powers. It never actually felt like I was playing a superhero wargame. It was more an abstract math game with superhero figures on the top that never really acted like they should. For whatever dumb reason I started brick buying and all that too. But I was never really happy with the game. Not the way Warhammer 40K did, where even when dealing with complete tools I still loved the game.

Eventually I slowed down to just buying for the sealed games and after 2 of those dropped out entirely. I haven't bought a booster since a couple at Connecticon 07 when I was spending a little silly and hoping to get the Young Avengers figures.

Heroclix seems to be the only Clix engine game that had any legs. Halo was a non starter, Mechwarrior was doomed from the Battletech fanbase's nerd rage regardless of the game's actual qualities, Mage Knight was killed by an incompatible revision, and Horrorclix was doomed because people wanted iconic movie horror figures instead of generic horror, made even worse with expansions that weren't even good generic horror stuff.

For the non Clix games Pirates was a great concept with a god awful game system, and their Star Wars game is good light fun, but it hardly requires the cardstock models at all. I mostly buy it for cheap ships to use for Silent Death, which has been reduced since the ground models are in and I only need starfighters.

Of course the biggest problem is the blind buy deal. I am not a gambler. I do not like gambling. I like knowing what I pay for and getting a fair price. In a game like Heroclix where you really only need 1 of a miniature (Unlike the FAR better Star Wars Miniatures where outside of the rares and super rares you can never really have too many of most of the commons and uncommons. Of course the Rs and SRs have insanely high prices and I have so many minis from that line that in most new sets I really only want the Rs and SRs meaning I don't buy that game anymore either...) it can be really annoying, especially when the figures you want are packed 1 in every 4 boosters or something.

Blind buy is starting to die off in minis gaming. The new Mutant Chronicles game decided not to go blind, and D&D minis are going visible buy since WoTC realizes few people actually play the attached wargame anyhow. (And changing the rule system didn't help matters either.) Rackham's AT 43 and Confrontation both have gorgeous prepainted models, a fun game system, and are non blind buy for prepaints. WoTC's Heroscape and Marvelscape are non blind buy, have overall better paint apps than Wizkids, and are generally cheaper and far more fun to play games with.

This isn't even getting into build and paint miniatures games. I can get 48 Roman soldiers for 30 dollars MSRP for really high grade plastics, or even cheaper ones with still better than Wizkids sculpts. In the long run, even an expensive beast of a game like Warhammer 40K is cheaper. For the cost of 2 bricks you can have a decently sized army and rulesbooks if you like the 2 starter box armies.

I feel sorry for those of you who really enjoyed Heroclix, but Wizkids made more mistakes than successes, and never really had a compelling game system for many people.

It did lead the way though. They really were the first company to get prepainted miniatures wargames out on the market, and for that they have my thanks as a card carrying hater of painting models.

(Note: This post was edited to remove something I probably shouldn't have posted because the person in question is apparently E stalking my blog posts looking for me saying things even though I don't use anyone's real name anyhow. Though to be honest I never meant to post the comment for public consumption anyhow. Its what I get writing from the hip at 6 in the morning when I should be in bed. But I don't feel too bad given some of the things this person has said to me in front of other people in the past. However it was uncalled for and is thus stricken for the moment. )

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