Today I’m going to veer away from Arcanist specifics, and look at a topic which is rather important for the game: intro games. I’ve only really done 2 proper M2E intro games (both have been against neverborn… which doesn’t bode well), so this post is looking at my thoughts, but also canvassing for your thoughts (as people who give demos, or a person who’s recently had a demo) to try and improve my technique.
Without intro games, there are no new players. Without new players the community doesn’t expand. If the community doesn’t expand, at best it remains level, it worst it shrinks. A shrinking community = a game headed to destruction.
So it’s important for folks who know how to play to show other folks what the game is about. Let me just add here that I’m not a henchman (sadly don’t have time/resources to dedicate to it… to an extent that I’d be happy with), but I’ve been playing for a while, and I know how the game works well enough to fumble through, even if I still make mistakes here and there. I also have one resource which seems to be super rare at present. I actually own an actual rulebook… yup, the M2E rulebook, I have one. Many of you are now thinking “he’s lying, the rulebook is just a myth” but I assure you, they do exist, and they are out there… you just don’t seem to be able to buy them… anywhere… at all. This is actually a massive problem when you’re giving a demo game. You end up in the situation of
“look! here’s a great game you should play!”
“wow, that was really fun, I want to play more of this game, can I get a rulebook?!”
and then they wander off and start playing Warmachine.
Right, where was I? oh yes, giving intro games. So to my eyes, an intro needs to do a few different things:
1) It needs to be fun. If I stomp a new player in a demo, it shows nothing other than “I’m a duck” (vowel replacement for explicit content reasons).
2) It needs to show them the different aspects of the game, a bit of melee, a bit of shooting, a few shenanigans, different aims (kill stuff, grab objectives, have model X survive etc).
3) It needs to show that it’s not difficult to get into (you don’t need a £400 army before you can play at the “standard” game size)
4) It needs to show off the card mechanic, as this is really the key thing which says “there is no other game like this one” (or at least it says that to me)
5) Check out these fantastic models!
To start out, I like 30ss for an intro game. It generally means a starter box will suffice, and there’s enough room for a few models, but not too many different rules. Masters can legally be used (so don’t need to explain different SS brackets etc), and you should be able to fit in most if not all of the box. I like to allow upgrades, as that’s an interesting aspect to the game, and with so few models, it’s not too hard for me to keep track of what the various models can do (and therefore be able to remind people of them etc). This also neatly ticks point 3; it’s not expensive to get into.
Generally I play with the usual strategy + schemes, and I make sure the strategy is either squatter’s rights, reconoiter or turf war (so killing isn’t everything). I might also cherry pick schemes to be fairly easy to remember (assassinate, body guard etc). I might try to use 2 masters who interact smoothly with each other, or are thematic, but generally I don’t know that stuff too well, and only have arcanist masters to choose from for myself. Fortunately in M2E none of the masters totally break the rules, so no master is too complicated to play with (I don’t think). With that in mind, once my opponent has picked a master, I’ll usually pick a master who show’s other aspects of the game. For instance in my most recent intro game, the new player (who’s maybe 11-12 years old) had Lilith, so I chose Rasputina as a nice contrast of play style.
…OK, that’s not strictly true. I chose Raspy because I was planning to test her out against one of the usual players, and she was all I had with me… but it worked out well.
All of this ticks point 2, it’s not just about killing.
For the card mechanic, you need to make sure there’s plenty of interaction between crews. I like to play mini games in my head, by cheating in a card which is beatable, but quite good. This really starts to get people thinking about the cards in their hand as a resource. They start to realise they have some control over duels, in a totally different way to the usual “if I have more dice and need lower numbers, I’m more likely to succeed”, but if they cheat that high card now, bad things might happen later on. I find this kind of mini game is a great little way to show off the card thing.
So finally, there’s point 1 (yeah, I’m covering the first point last… and what?). The game has to be fun. Generally (unless you’re against someone who picks the game up super fast) I find it easiest to do this by handicapping myself in some way, but still playing like I normally would. In the Lilith vs Raspy example, I did 2 things to handicap myself. First, I chose squatters rights as the strategy. This meant terror tots were fantastic, whereas ice gamin were… not quite so fantastic. Second, I played another mini game. I would only kill models once my opponent killed equivalent models of mine.
Lilith smashed an ice gamin, the wendigo ate a terror tot. Lilith smashed the ice golem, the wendigo ate a paralysed doppleganger (he was using a doppelganger as he didn’t have Barbaros). Lilith smashed Raspy with a red joker to the face, Raspy paralysed Lilith and ran away.
However, this is really the key question of my post. Are these kinds of mini games a step too far? Of course you have to adapt to your opponent’s ability, but at what stage do you stop playing the game, and start playing some other game? In the end I lost 6-1, partially because I couldn’t grab squat markers before they became knee deep in terror tots (my opponent really did play well, and didn’t forget any of his objectives), partially because I pushed my handicapping too far by taking line in the sand, and partially because I didn’t want to just raspy-machinegun everything in sight.
So I guess the question is: how do you adapt your game to make a fun intro game?
Until next time.