Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Open Letter to Mantic Games

Dear Mantic,

I was an early adopter of your business model, and once upon a time - not that long ago really - it seemed like you might be a brave attempt to bring a real alternative to the Fantasy Games market.  Your initial releases of fantasy figures were not to everybody's tastes, granted, but at least you were prepared to put your money where your mouth was and let the customer decide.  With prices so reasonable they made the obvious competition squirm and economy-hit customers sigh in relief it was no surprise to see you keep afloat, thrive even.

You even released a snappy little set of rules - for free no less!  Massed fantasy battle without all the silly special rules that could handle the hundreds of figures hardened gamers tended to accumulate without taking a whole weekend to play.  It was all looking so rosy.

Then it seemed to go awry.

I think you've got either lazy, greedy or a bit of both.  Your next fantasy ranges were a mix of metal and plastic components, a real step back even if it does allow you to expand your ranges faster and make use of already produced parts.  The resinated plastic figures are acceptable, but not really my bag thanks, but certainly preferable.  The rules were still free, but a reasonably priced '2nd edition' appeared  and we were all encouraged to get hold of it.

Somewhere around here, with one game barely finished, you decided to launch into another genre.  I guess we weren't surprised that it was a Sci-fi wargame, but I think we were really disappointed to see that it was stylistically a copy of your major competition so closely.  Warpath hmm?  If what you wanted to do was simply take your first set of rules, make the minimum changes to them in order to make something that resembles a game with guns and vehicles, and then take your fantasy ranges and do the same thing not only did you succeed, but you also ripped off your obvious competitor.  Point for point.

Disappointing.  I mean Space orcs?  It doesn't matter how you dress it up, we know what they really are, it was lazy when they did it and it's twice as lazy for you to copy them.

Which brings me on to your third and final warning; this:

Fantasy American Football?  REALLY?  I can't help feeling it's been done before.

And I've not even mentioned the dungeonquesting and spacewreck clones.  You know what I mean, lazy, lazy, lazy.

We all know there is a dominant force in the fantasy game market; and it is evident that you are developing a business model that is emulating theirs; some might call elements of that into question anyway, but is it so necessary to copy their actual games equally slavishly?

At one point it did look like you would bring something long overdue and wanted to the fantasy genre, but you've proved to have no original ideas - companies like Spartan Games and others have stole a march on you by taking chances instead of cloning everybody else.

What is left is some simple rules, some reasonable figures, and a sense of a massive missed opportunity.

Please, try harder.


  1. Bit harsh. There are few genres when you think about it - fantasy, scifi, steampunk, fantasy football and historical, so whatever they do you could accuse them of copying. There's very little that's really "new" in the mini world, what goes around comes around.

  2. Sadly, I think you are spot on with your critique of Mantic's releases to date. The lack of imagination is staggering.


  3. HH: The argument is not that there are limited genres, and there aren't anyway, it's that Mantic's sole business plan seems to be to produce knock-offs of GW product. OK so the fantasy game is deriviative, but they could have took inspiration from Conan, Elric, Gary Gygax's games films like Labyrinth, etc. I'm not saying any are better or less deriviative in their way, but at least it'd be showing some imagination.

    And as for their sci-fi game, well please; it has Dwarves, Orcs and Skaven in it. Why not three original races instead? Hell even GW managed to come up with Tau, and Tyranids are at least ripping off Giger not fantasy races. What was to stop Mantic coming up with something genuinely original, even when they were doing new toolings like their space rats? Nothing but laziness.

    And on genre's well, Hordes and Warmachine mix it up, Malifaux is hgely varied, Spartan is about to released a Victorian Steampunk skirmish game and there are many many others out there. Sorry but Mantic are not trying to be original and their losing my support as a result.

  4. I think you've hit the nail on the head.
    The problem is that Mantic isn't really a company - it's Ronnie's personal campaign to prove GW were wrong to get rid of him.
    If you view their actions in that light it all makes a perverse kind of sense.

  5. Mantic have shot themselves in the foot but tying themselves so closely to GW.

  6. As a capitalist I can only assume the market will decide the rights and wrongs of this argument,which Ive no interest in as Fantasy Sci fi isnt my bag

    On another point not a good idea to bring politics into a wargames blog see last entry about Daily Mail readers

    NOT a Guardian Reader!

  7. I saw a posting on YouTube titled, "GenCon 2012 Mantic DredBall" and I thought, "you've got to be kidding me." I thought maybe it was a joke.

  8. OK, the concepts may be old, but all I can say is that the games are good. Dreadball especially is a slick, fast paced game, which takes less than an hour to play. It is very strategic and addictive. When I played it, it made me want to play it again straight away. I played 4 games in a row, lost them all and I still wanted to play more! I think you should try it first, honestly.

  9. Anon: Having seen some of the offensive responses (to my liberal - neoanarchist - ways anyhow) written by some of the respondents to the last of those 20 Questions on some other blogs, I think 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone'!

    Unless you are also going around advising them it is unwise to be whinging about 'immigrants and dole scroungers' on their blogs I would suggest you are best keeping your politics out of other peoples blogs.

  10. I agree with you wholeheartedly. The problem here is they have missed a trick. I personally feel Dreadball more closely resembles another brilliant concept from the 90s, Speedball. If they dropped the silly orc(k)s and had teams of humans with varying personalities and traits they could have begun to build a bit of credibility.

  11. Well said! I own lots and lots of mantic miniatures and am very happy with them as a (somewhat) cheap alternative to other ranges.But even here I think prices on some of the new ones are getting to high!
    Still I even went and bought the mantics rip off og gw's original aliens rip off, and thought vermyn?? really?? but now!? dread ball!! are you frigging kidding!
    My beef isn't that they copy other companies games, but that the games they do produce reminds me so much of the crap "light" games that Gw used to do some years back "anybody up for a game of "kerrunch"?? no?... spacefleet anyone??.. come on mantic... we know that you are a small company and so on... but stop giving us these sub standard games... give us some good solid games, and support them, or stick to making miniatures!!

  12. AKI
    politics of any kind should be kept well clear of hobby sites as to me it distracts from our hobby and allows the whole spectrum of opinion too be let loose. It adds nothing to the enjoyment of our hobby no matter what your opinions are left or right

  13. I don't think you know what you're talking about, in all honesty.

    Kings of War was in playtesting for years... the '2nd edition' you mentioned was the 2nd version of the beta rules. The full version was released a few months ago.

    Warpath is also still in beta testing. If you bothered to research you'd find the second version of Warpath is pretty much totally different than the first version. Not my personal cup of tea, but a lot of people are having fun with the beta v2 rules.

    Dreadball is a sci fi sports game based on ice hockey. From any number of sources you could have found out about how the game plays (nothing like Blood Bowl). Instead you saw a picture and filled in the blanks. Lazy.

  14. To the latest comment, and before we get involved - I'm not looking for a flamewar on this but everyone is entitled to their opinion; hence why I've published both agreements and disagreements.

    I am NOT disparaging the rules of Kings of War at all. Personally I like and play them, and in as far as they represent mass combat rules for a generic fantasy world I feel they have advantages over many other rules.

    I am not particularly enamoured of the basic tenet of Warhammer 40K, of fantasy races in space, but with 25 years of background writing I suppose it has managed to build something it's fans enjoy, I also don't think converting the fantasy rules to a scifi setting worked. Mantic electing to do the same with it's rules is misguided - in my view - AS IS going down the route of another 'fantasy races in space' game.

    As for Dreadball. which sport it represents is academic, what the game is, is an American Sport with fantasy races, which is both a lazy rehash of what GW did with Bloodbowl (though I'll accede, with a different sport) AND a lazy stylistic rehash of the approach it's took with Warpath.

    Mantic are like M Knight Shamalyan, when the Sixth Sense came out people were amazed and couldn't wait to see what he'd do next. But when every following film, whilst different, followed the same stylistic tropes and always ended with a twist. People lost interest. His strengths were swamped by his weaknesses and he went from 'visionary director' to director for hire.

    In terms of this analogy, what I'm contending is Mantic are suffering from the same problem. Their strengths are being swamped by an adherence to a business model based on copying GW formats on a budget.

    You may not disagree, but personally I hope Mantic is hearing this and at least giving it due consideration...


  16. You can keep making your point, I need to keep restating mine because you are not apparently taking the point on board. The Elephant in the room is the fact that what Mantic Produces now looks so like cheap versions of GW product from 10,15,20 years ago that they are now a turn-off to those of use who were never that keen on GW's general games ideology anyway.

    A sports game with orcs and goblins and dwarfs in it. That is what Dreadball is, so is Bloodbowl. The designer can explain in detail why it's not Bloodbowl, but his design remit is constrained by Mantic's lazy, risk averse even, insistence on using classic fantasy races in what they claim is a scifi game. That is my bugbear with this.

    A dozen companies could produce games like this certainly, and I wouldn't buy any of them as they're not my cup of tea. But for Mantic is see this approach as damaging to their fledgling image. There are already lots of gamers out their whose good will they have lost by sticking so closely to a GW model. Those they have in their camp will stay there come what may, but convincing the others is becoming harder with every game that simply knocks off other people's concepts, on a budget.

  17. Perhaps I just don't see as much as the "GW ripoff!!!1!" since I don't pay attention to Warpath.

    Stylistically, of course one can draw connections from, say, Twilight Kin to Dark Elves. But having been gaming long enough to remember when GW was using Elric and Melnibonean figures rebranded and repackaged as Dark Elves, I just don't care. It's all fantasy. And, honestly, certain things appeal to me.

    For instance, I love Mantic's undead. GW's look like hamfisted meatball heads in comparison to Mantic's elegantly sculpted Revenants. Which really annoys me, as I have a giant Tomb Kings army which I love but now every time I look at my hundreds of skeletons I make a sad face at their melonskulls.

    The biggest irony of the whole Mantic situation has finally hit maximum nonsense with Dreadball. For the past week, I've seen people dividing into two camps - those against Dreadball - such as yourself, calling it "Fantasy American Fotoball? Really?...Lazy, lazy, lazy." And the other camp, who are supporting it.

    Strangely, it seems like most of the people who play Blood Bowl... are... supporting it.

    I've been playing BB for 15 years. One of my favorite games of all time, with my virtually undefeated Skaven team that can score 8 points in a game. But GW dropped support.. what, 7, 8 years ago. They just don't care. They have no intention of supporting it, and the living rules have become such a mess it's nearly impossible to get new players into it. Even if some of the rumors are true and GW releases a 25th anniversary BB box set - it would be a one-off game like the Space Hulk re-release, or horribly different (like Dreadfleet to Man o War). Blood Bowl is _dead_, no matter how much we love to think it's still alive.

    Dreadball has the promise to be everything Blood Bowl does not have anymore: constant and active support from the company that makes it, virtually guaranteeing new players, new updates, new models.

    So why all the negativity from that first camp? Does it matter to you if you don't even play BB or have no interested in DB? If the active BB community is behind it, how is it a missed opportunity? It looks like a great opportunity to capture a market that's been abandonded yet is still chock full of players clamoring for SOMETHING. And after reading about the rules, it looks like there's a great deal to be happy about in Dreadball.

  18. Interesting. I can see where you are coming from and yes, it is hard not to say they aren't simply producing an alternative to all the GW games in the same idioms. But then again, there are already good sci fi skirmish games out there. From hard science to fantasy that are different to GW. Hitting one of those doesn't make much business sense and if this is his campaign to show how GW could do things better I hope it a) works for him and b) GW copy him :)

    I am in on the Dreadball game. I see it as a variation of speedball not bloodbowl, but the comparison is obvious. The pudding will be in the game play as it were. Speedball deserves an easy pick up and play style, blood bowl is a little too complex to easily appeal to non fanatics.

    Saying that - where could they go commercially that justifies all that plastic? Thought on alternatives?

  19. To start with, where did they go wrong with KoW?

    With the so-called third edition, the rules themselves together with some scaled down army lists are still available for free. And when you decide to take the plunge and buy the rulebook, I'm sure you'll find after a few games you'll only need it for the army lists.
    When I play KoW I always make fun of the few WHFB players left at the club as they frantically leaf through that unwieldy big rulebook and their army book. That's before they even started setting up...

    Hybrid kits: what's the problem with that? If they didn't do that you'd most likely be bitching that it took too long to finish all the troops for a certain army. Which will lead to less people buying that army.
    So you have to use a different glue... once painted you'll only notice when picking them up.

    Warpath: so the figures are interchangeable with 40K... This means that I'll be able to play with my 40K figures again, having lost all intrest in 40K (or FB for that matter) with the endless codex creep, figures being tossed out in one edition and then reappearing two editions later, at higher cost for fewer models.

    Dwarf King Hold: a great fun game, that didn't start with Mantic. So Mantic copying GW???
    It was the game designer who came to mantic with the game and asked if he could use their figures... And it seems to be a hit. So blame Jake, I guess...

    Project Pandora: I admit, pretty much DKH in Spaaaaace, but hey, why not? And it launched the veermyns.

    Dreadball: Another one from Jake, so it looks to be another winner. So, it uses figures and dice on a gaming board with a ball, it must be a BB clone/light...
    With completely different rules, mechanics and gameplay it looks interesting. I might very well join the kickstarter.

    Personally I abandoned GW years ago. And then came Mantic and they got me interested in mass fantasy gaming again. Thanks to Alessio's concise but excellent rule set I can play and have fun at the same time without having to forsake playing other games because the rules take too much time to learn and master.

  20. I said my piece on this subject a year ago and very little has changed.

    I see no reason why Mantic or any other company is required to be completely original or why we, as gamers, are required to care.

    If Mantic produces some decent models or games at a decent price I'll buy. If Games Workshop want to sue for copyright infringement, that's there business.