The conventional thinking in miniature wargaming for that past decade or more has been that licensed products and games are doomed to fail, and you needed to release your own Intellectual Property to be successful. There's a lot of really successful challenges to that idea coming on the market now.
Way, way back before the dawn of time, in a period us old fogies like to call "the Eighties and Ninties," a lot of companies got into the miniature wargaming business using Licensed Properties- recognizable names that were owned by another company. Warzone, Star Wars, Judge Dredd, Paranoia, and Star Fleet Battles being among them. One by one, all of these projects failed for one reason or another, and with the except of one company who switched to their own IP products around that time, none of those companies remained on the market.
Gamers are a superstitious lot. We have lucky shirts, lucky dice, sometimes even lucky tables. The general consensus among gamers (and then by extension, gaming companies) was that you couldn't put a product on the market that you didn't own lock, stock, and barrel- the margins on the models were too small, the royalties were too high, and they were simply not financially solvent.
Now, while that might have been true, there's a lot of companies willing to challenge that old chestnut. There's a lot of reasons why the environment may have changed. First of all, companies are looking for any means to increase their merchandising aspects of their properties and are willing to lease out the IP for smaller amounts and still consider it "viable." Second, the advent of mass market plastic and resin models allows a far greater margin than the old lead metal models could have ever entertained. Third, fans have a much greater way to collect and discuss their preferred universes now- the Internet. If someone gains the rights to an IP, they can now immediately reach their target audience, while twenty years ago they needed to wait for word of mouth and gaming magazines to editorialize about it, which could take months to generate interest- and not many companies could hold their breath that long.
So, which rogue elements are challenging the status quo?
Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game, by Fantasy Flight Games
Perhaps the biggest example on the market right now is Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game, by Fantasy Flight Games. I know in the local area this game has become immensely popular, even though "ship combat games" generally haven't done as well as the ground pounders. This game has a few really well thought out advantages as an introduction into the wargaming hobby- easy to understand rules, prepainted high quality figures, and a very well known franchise. FFG is just launching their second series of figures for this one, and there's enough material in the franchise that they can keep releasing more figures for quite some time.
Batman Miniature Game, by Knight Games
Okay, I heard about this one first from Hendybadger of at Tales of a Tabletop Skirmisher. I've put off buying into it... barely... mostly because I've been selling kidneys (mostly other people's) to pay for my Kickstarter habit as it is. But mark my words, as soon as I get ahead of the curve, this one.. is.. mine. Knight Games has done a really good job of capturing the IP with this one: the models are incredibly good looking, and they offer a few different ranges of the characters... just in case you prefer one Bat over another. The rules are available for free download on their website as well... so go take a look. And mind your kidneys.
Judge Dredd Miniatures Game
What's old is new again- a classic adage often applied to miniature wargaming. Mongoose Publishing has partnered with 2000AD to bring about the Second Coming of Dredd. Everything you remember from the classic is back- huge bikes, huge shoulder pads, and chins that make Jay Leno jealous. With over 100 individual sculpts in the line, a lot of those old favorites are around- so even if you don't want to download the free copy of the rules from their website (and really, why wouldn't you?) these models are great collectibles to paint up. While we're at it, we should also mention that Mongoose has Star Trek covered as well- A Call to Arms: Starfleet is yet another one of their games in production right now... go check these guys out!
Warzone: Resurrection, by Prodos
Warzone. One of my favorite old games gets a 21st century revamp, with incredibly gorgeous models and a complete redux to the rules. I don't have time to tell you all the joys of this game and this company, mostly because I already have here. The Kickstarter for this one is finished (one of the many reasons I'm broke!), and we're impatiently awaiting the product release. I assure you, you'll be hearing a lot about this game- it already has a dedicated Podcast and everything! Oh, the entire line is available at a pre-release discount at this webstore, so go get them.
Stargate SG-1, by Cold War Games
Cold War Games has the rights to Stargate. It's a bit hard to get a hold of these at the moment due to their website being under construction, but their ebay store still has the lights on. No word yet on if there's a full game coming or just a miniatures line... but as soon as I hear anything, I'll be sure to let you all know. In the meantime, if you pick these up, make sure to tell them you heard it here first!
As we told you in our 100th post, Gale Force Nine put out a curious little blurb when discussing their new Firefly Board Game product:
"It will be the first in a series of tabletop hobby boardgames and miniatures games from GF9 set in the Firefly Universe."
Now, I don't know exactly what that's going to mean, and I'm not entirely sure GF9 does either. To me, it smacks of a corporate tease: if you buy this one in enough quantity, we'll do more with the license. All in all, that's not a bad marketing model, and I can tell you that I think every damned member of LXG is buying at least one copy of the board game, 'cause by my pretty floral bonnet I'd go crazy for a Unification War game.
The Second Class Elitist