Monday, 18 April 2016

A bit of nostalgia

Man O'War

Time for a little bit of nostalgia on my Monday morning.

I'm going to kick off a little bit of a review of "old" games, some of which I hope will be coming back soon via the renewal of Games Workshop's specialist games range.  The first of the games I'm going to look at is probably the least likely to come back, and that makes me quite sad.

Man O'War came about long before GW decided to release Battlefleet Gothic, but you would be forgiven for assuming it was the same game just set within the Fantasy arc of Warhammer.  You would, however, not be entirely correct in your assumption.  You see there was a lot more to Man O'War, and personally I think a lot of the reasons why BFG stuck around far more as a cult classic in comparison is because MoW had a lot more complexity, and to an extent, a lot more of a kid aesthetic to it.  The models were a lot less refined, and you marked out damage to your ship on a relatively small silhouette of each ship, will little burning markers or explosions.

The thing is though, it was tactically far more complicated.  Sailing into or with the wind made a massive difference to the way your ship could move.  Getting weapons lined up to do the most damage was a pain for some of the factions, and everything was brutal one way or another.  Throw into that the need/want to have a magic system, some of which did damage, but mostly included abilities to stall enemy ships or get yours up the board faster.  This was one hell of an overloaded game, but it carried it all so well.

I remember my first fleet, a high elf corsair fleet, being swift and deadly with ridiculous front firing bolt throwers, and more speed going with the wind than I could really handle.  Mad dashes and the ability to do 90 degree turns even with the bigger warships.  They were a lot of fun to play.  That was until I got my Bretonnian fleet and everything else went out the window.  The Bretonnians were just plan devastating.  Sailing between an enemy line normally meant there was nothing left to threaten you.  It was just so silly, and so much fun.

Sadly, I don't think this game will see a new light with the revived specialist games.  With Warhammer Fantasy battle pretty much being a dead franchise as far as GW are concerned, and with the fact that MoW never really got the cult following of games like BFG, Mordheim or Necromunda, I just don't believe MoW will be refreshed for the new era of GW specialist products.  I think that is a massive shame, I really do.  So the question is, are there games out there that can fill the gap, I'm going general fleet combat here rather than fixing it to Fantasy..

The answer is not really, not with the same jovial nature that MoW had.  The closest that did exist was Uncharted Seas, by Spartan Games, but that went the way of the Dodo as well in the last couple of years.  Spartan still have Dystopian Wars, which does get the naval side of things going, and isn't just plain Historical re-writes.  It throws in a heavy pinch of Steam Punk and Sci-Fi and I did play this extensively when I was getting back into war games a couple of years ago.  It doesn't have a huge Uk following, finding games is difficult at best.  This more or less leaves you with games like Age of Sail, if you want a naval game.  Being a Historical war gaming system you will find a lot more people that play it.  Its just one of those things that has picked up will with the WW2 wargamers (etc), and does attempt the "realistic" gaming process quite well.  Its just not MoW, and for me that is a shame.

If I could ask for GW to make 4 specialist games MoW would be on the list, alongside BFG, Mordheim and Necromunda.  I know people claim we have had MoW back when Dreadfleet was produced, but it just wasn't the same game in any way shape or form.  Man O'War showed me that wargaming wasn't just run forward, bucket of dice, with mass models.  It gave me the chance to experience what a tactical game could be like if you had far more to consider each turn.  I loved it, I wish I still had a copy.  I certainly can't afford the £150 price tags that a box set goes for these days.

In fact I think Man O'War sneaks into my top 5 war games of all time.  I'm pretty sure only one GW game beats it as well, if that.

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