Mantic… almost. – The Kings of War V.2 almost-release.

Over on Dakka, this has become a bit of a joke meme when discussing many aspects of Mantic Games, and the way they manage to just slightly fuck up everything they do and touch. Yesterday or today (depending on where you live) was supposed to be the grand unveiling of the V2 (V3 actually, but Mantic’s saying otherwise) rules for Kings of War – one of Mantic Games’ flagship games. It’s their competitor to the sadly now discontinued Warhammer Fantasy Battle, and is actually an excellent ruleset, written by Alessio Calvatore and greatly improved by the tireless efforts of the “Rules Committee” who ensured that V2 would not be a clusterfuck of individual special rules, random charts and unbalanced forces if left to the original designer’s discretion.

I’d planned to spend my Saturday updating my existing lists, going over the new rules and then playing a game with Marouda, taking photos and writing up a “for reals” battle report (instead of the photo collections with commentary I’ve printed in the past) as we went along, in order to get a game in and “do my bit” to promote the new edition of the game.

So the free rules as released were lacking magic items. OK, a bit disappointing, but not entirely surprising since they did this last time with “V.1”. I thought it a bit of a poor choice given that right now is when they should be the most open in hoping to lure disaffected Warhammer Fantasy players over. One of the most common complaints about KoW I’ve seen from WHFB players who’ve read the rules is that KoW units lack the kind of individuality and personality of the WH units, and the most-read counterpoint to that I’ve read is that the Magic Items are the best way to add that flavour back in – in terms of rules representing the “cool thing” that this or that WHFB unit has – which I pretty much agree with.

After an hour or so updating my Minas Tirith/Gondor army lists (1,000, 1,500, 2,200) using the Kingdoms of Men list, I started on Marouda’s undead lists. Did the 1,000 and got up to the 1,500 and noticed that Wights were missing. A trip to a couple of forums, and I found that the army lists are truncated (the V1 lists were full, just lacking special characters). The Abyssal (Chaos Daemons) list is available only to Beasts of War Backstage subscribers, and the Twilight Kin (Dark Elves) list is still MIA unless you have access to one of the Beta lists (which, to be fair was pretty much expected). Kickstarter backers who were promised the full rules PDF today as recently as last week have now been told that they’ll get them “in a few weeks”.

It’s poor form by Mantic (once again, unfortunately). A combination of what has become habitual promising of one thing only to deliver something else, and habitual poor communication. I’ll get the full rules in a month or so anyway, so that’s not the end of the world, but it’s a terribly squandered opportunity in light of the Age of Sigmar. Mantic’s supporters (including the Rules Committee) have been talking to their Warhammering friends about full, free, great rules for some time, only to have what is in this context a very disappointing release from Mantic in terms of “taster” army lists, a BoW paywall for the Abyssals, and the full rules still a month(?) away for their KS backers.

I don’t have time to waste mucking around with a silly half-arsed rules release, so I’ll play other games in the meantime and now won’t be bothering to hype KoW or run KoW games for my friends. (I’d already sent out links to the free rules to several friends, only to send out an apologetic followup email with an explanation of all the missing content.) KoW is still a very good game, and one I’d recommend people pick up and give a try at the very least. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, and that’s cool – but today has been very disappointing as I’d hoped to be able to show, not tell – and share my enjoyment of a game using the new rules. I’ll probably play Far Cry 4 and some Zombicide instead.

A fantastic opportunity. Squandered.