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Meet the Big Boys

Meet the Big Boys

Despite the aircon within the hotel at herculean capacity, the incredible heat combined with a high volume of male flesh and minimal use of deodorant meant that the Warhammer arena quickly became a no-go area on the Sunday. By this point we were sobering so while the rest of the lads sought refreshment in the bar I, armed with a bottle of water attended the ‘Meet the Big Boys’ event.

The Big Boys term referred to a few of the movers and shakers in within the board and RP gaming industry, representing Mayfair, AEG, Steve Jackson Games and Cubicle 7.
The whole event can be found on youtube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2WmH6Qicy0), but to summarise the overall indication by the Big Boys was that there has been strong growth in the table top gaming industry (led by the rise of games such as Settlers of Catan first in Europe then crossing to the US) over the past few years.


The main difference between this and the previous rise back in the 90’s dominated as it was by young males, this time round it appears that there is a much greater diversity of gamers. This has been ascribed to gaming ‘dads’. Basically people like us (hard core gamers) have somehow managed to procreate and used our evil influence on our spouses and daughters. I specifically used the word daughter because there were many more adolescent girls with their parents at the expo than there were lads. This came up in conversation a few times and in all cases those spoken to who had adolescent sons stated that they were more into online gaming though may with some coercion join in a table-top game. Daughters however are the new lads when it comes to social gaming around a table.

The point about social gaming was picked up by the Big Boys with comments about board games played by the whole family now becoming commonplace in homes.
I even asked a quick question regarding the effect Magic the Gathering had on the industry (44.08).
Curiously enough (though probably not in hindsight) the answer was exactly opposite to what I expected and caused me to re-evaluate a grudge against Magic the Gathering I have held for many years. Back when it first came out I had been working for KJC Games for a couple of years and things were going well. In my social life we were hard-core gamers and regularly purchasing gaming products. From my perspective, it looked like Magic dealt a crippling blow to gaming as our regular group simply stopped role-playing, board-gaming and in fact pretty much everything except playing Magic the Gathering. Once enthusiasm for Magic finally waned, a couple of years later, there were far fewer gamers about.

Looking back however I now believe that there was a fair amount of rose tint to my perception of the pre-Magic period. We were buying fewer gaming products within the group. Only one or two (regular GM’s) ever seemed to splash out on modules and we still represented the average age of gamers, i.e. fewer young people were getting involved.

It was however clear within our group that when Magic hit the scene, group members that never previously purchased gaming products suddenly became owners of huge Magic decks setting them back hundreds of pounds. The sales of the Magic pumped vast amounts into the gaming industry as cited by Larry (Mayfair); enabling companies (distributors and game shops) that would otherwise folded to keep going. This was very much the point made by Mark Wooten (AEG).

They made quite a fuss about the rise of independent publishers made possible by on-demand printing. One the surface they appeared to welcome these companies not as competition but as a means of simply spreading the word. Basically gamers will have a board-game collection which will span multiple companies and as such more choice does not necessarily mean that one company will suffer. I’m not sure that I quite agreed with this but I suppose while the market is growing, there is still plenty of space for new-blood and more choice is a good thing for the consumer.



Their ongoing point however is there is a growing awareness of table-top gaming. Walmart for example have been approaching Mayfair, something unprecedented in the history of niche appeal gaming. It is looking like games beyond Monopoly are starting to become mainstream. Can we expect to games like Settlers of Catan and The One Ring RPG in Tesco any day now? Probably not, though in a few years time around Christmas? Maybe.

I walked out of the event feeling quite optimistic about the future as our style of gaming has many parallels with board games as it confirmed much of what I have suspected for some time. The question is though, how best to ride this zeitgeist?

First of all I think that the IGN is helping and I will continue with these articles. I think that more work on the missions is needed to make getting into the game less of a challenge (missions and their development featured in the recent developers meeting). It is however mostly about generating momentum, which can only be achieved by getting noticed beyond our modest group such as a good review (and not written by KJC Games) on places like RTS Guru, RPG Now and Board Game Geek amongst others and articles on gaming sites (that people actually read).




 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Meklan Unleashed on Mobile Bay

Mad Dewiek scientist Dr Kala released a number of Meklan on the busy world of Mobile Bay in the Yank system. Thousands of civilians have been killed in what is treated by DEN warlords as an amusing practical joke. Rather than take any responsibility for their affiliation’s reckless behaviour, a DEN lord rumoured to be half-meklan himself quipped he would nuke the planet whilst another merely saw it as an opportunity to test some of his greener troops in combat. Surprisingly, the KAS planetary defence force was up to the job of repelling the insidious incursion. Questions remain whether further meklan are stored elsewhere on the planet and whether anybody will challenge the Dewiek’s lack of care for the lives of innocents. Probably not, given how even the mighty IMP are now cowering from a fight with the DEN (see inside this edition).


 
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Who is behind the AFA?

Following the large scale holiday attack by the AFA against the FET the question of who is behind the attacks has been raised once again. What is clear is that the AFA is using ships that were transferred from the GTT to the IMP. The organisation and expertise of the operation also reduces the pool of potential candidates. Few can go from commanding a handful of broadswords to half a thousand warships and significant army logistics without a long stint in one of the more combative affiliations. With the DEN’s allies the HEX in close relations with the FET and no recent history of animosity between the aliens and FET, at least since the departure of former one-eye big-bun Norozov, it would be a bizarre turn of events if they were behind these attacks. Frankly, there’s no point dancing around it. The IMP are clearly behind the AFA. The question is what can anybody do about this move of significant Imperial resources to a black-flag agency?


 
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Fox Effects Fantastic Turnaround

With his feet barely under the table, Xavier Fox has managed to dramatically turn things around at the GTT. With year-on-year sales figures up by 23%, manufacturing up 42% and ship production increased by 36%, the megacorporation is running at full steam with noticeable impact on local economies across the Stellar Empire. Political analysts also note that after a period of retrenchment following the disastrous leadership of Ike Krieger, investment in defence is at a five-year high. After such bullish growth, the trick will be for Mr. Fox to recruit C-level executives fast enough to match his ambitions. It is notable in temperament, the current crop of GTT politicals do not exhibit the monomaniacal xenophobia of their predecessors and have resisted repeated provocations by the DEN to enter a pointless spar before they have re-established superiority against the foolhardy aliens.


 
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Felini flounder in Winter against superior Dewiek forces

The FEL have managed to get their asses kicked by the DEN yet again after provoking the definitely “not cute or cuddly” Dewiek in the Crossley system. The furry punching bags had bought a civilian flagged outpost in the system, without permission or under certain conditions depending on who you ask, and then had the gall to reinforce this error by positioning warships in orbit. The famously patient warlord Halvor did not buy the story these heavy hull armed ships were merely transports and sent a pack to clear the orbit. The mouthy yet green Felini fleet commander Pr'prz fancied his chances against what looked like a light complement of DEN warships and ordered his own warships to engage in the neighbouring Winter system. The result was predictably a wipe out of the FEL forces consisting of forty-seven capital warships at no loss to the DEN. Once again, a series of calamitous decision making resulted in Felini lives being wasted by a leadership barely fit to clean a litter tray. The otherwise untested Halvor can now claim some victory ale although with his penchant for picking on creatures as weak as Gracians, it’s not exactly clear how much glory this new breed of Dewiek warrior can claim against the legends of old.


 
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Dastardly Dewiek Disregard Yank Neutrality

The governor of a MRC outpost in the Yank system reports that a 400-hull DEN warship called Grey Hunter Axiom entered orbit of Spritzer and opened fire with weapons of mass destruction (WoMD) against a platform, outpost, ground party and ship. Reports indicate significant casualties to Kastorian personnel both in space and on the ground. The KAS Junta is gruffly warning, with a slightly indifferent air, that everybody better stay out of the sector of the outpost for their own health. It is unclear what measures the KAS have or will take against the DEN on this matter. Such a breach of Yank neutrality has in the past caused the Dewiek to froth at the bit against the Empire for their disregard of ‘civilised’ norms. Their current silence on this matter speaks volumes.


 
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Yenni-bodies Pirates?

A PIR outpost was miraculously discovered by an IMP freighter, of all things, in the Yanni system with several Javelin class warships in orbit. After noticing the IMP freighter and seeing the public post by Jack Jones on subspace, the PIR decided to flee and leave a combined force of IMP and FET forces to capture the outpost. A brain damaged three-year old commentator who still believed in the goodness of people and Santa Claus was quick to commend the IMP on their good work, dismissing those who thought it no more than a convenient clearing up operation signifying* completion of operations in the nearby FET claimed systems of Graydown, Canth and Onissian by IMP puppet Edward Lowe. Meanwhile, the Wolf Lord Lyceum summed up the view of many when he screamed, “What is this amateur b*llshit?” into an uncaring universe.


 
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Crowe Coups Self

The IMP Viceroy Tiberius Crowe has finally achieved something in his unremarkable tenure by relinquishing even the semblance of wearing big boy pants and instead, appointed Jack Jones as Patrol Commissioner, salty spokesperson and policy maker for the Empire. Crowe will now join CIA Director Laton in riding the special bus to work where the two of them will enjoy long pleasant afternoons sipping cups of tea. Actually, just tepid fruit-scented water as neither of them can be fully trusted with a hot kettle. Occasionally, they might be visited by equally dynamic war “veteran” Admiral Bridge to enjoy mimes presenting the latest comics from the Howl. Meanwhile, Jones is putting pressure on the FET and will soon no doubt find a pretext to deploy his vast mercenary forces against anyone else who is seen working too closely with his most hated of enemies, the HEX.


 
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Highlord Aadolf Loses Control As Dewiek Break Peace Treaty

Around one hundred DEN warships have launched an attack on a small GTT destroyer squadron of forty ships in the Daggern system. Two GTT ships were destroyed and another fifteen suffered noticeable damage. CEO Xavier Fox issued a restrained but angry statement demanding the DEN explain themselves. Highlord Aadolf’s buffoon-like response amounted to “Dewiek be Dewiek, let’s drink and forget about it.” Cold comfort for the dead crew onboard the GTT ships and their families. Especially, as seems likely at this time, the Empire will settle for some bloody money instead of retribution.


 
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The Worm Turns

The FET have reduced relations with the IMP to neutral. Sneezy boss Cu Chulainn took the bold step of putting 1 and 1 together by linking recent mercenary attacks in their systems with the IMP scouts seen loitering for some time and refusing to move. Even bolder, hints that they believe “a certain Imperial citizen” is responsible for Edward Lowe’s entire underhand operation were voiced loudly enough that the handsome but hard of hearing Tiberius Crowe had to take note. He was seen grappling in trademark fashion with his skin tight jacket, pulling it down over his partially concealed middle-aged girth, as he sat to issue a terse public statement. Exactly who this citizen may be was left unnamed and no news channel subject to Imperial laws would dare unmask the villain. Luckily dear readers, we are not subject to phony Imperial laws. It’s Jack Jones everybody. Jack Jones, butcher of Naplians and fancier of silver long johns.


 

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I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).
-Zigic