Thursday, September 9, 2021

Guest post: “A Frank Correspondence on the Future of Armada”

Eric here in bold text. We've got a new guest post from regular contributor GiledPallaeon and it's... well, it's not optimistic. Honestly, he's unhappy. And while I normally defer to John's usually more optimistic outlook for the official blog position, I agree with GP. And given what's happened in the last two-ish weeks, so does John at this point despite his earlier optimism. GP wrote most of this on August 31st after the AMG Ministravaganza non-news hit the Armada community like a brick to the face (22 hours of programming, not a single minute for Armada to allay concerns after the early "nothing for you for a year and a half at least" announcement) but it got lost in edit-hell until today. I don't want to steal GP's thunder, so I'll let him take it from here and I'll be back briefly at the end.

Hey folks. GP here. It’s, ahh, Tuesday, August 31, 2021. It’s currently 9:20pm where I live, and my sick wife is on one side of me, and my leftover jambalaya from this weekend is on the other, as I eat while I write.

Today sure sucked, didn’t it?

I’m not going to lie to you, I was angry when I read the schedule. I still am angry. Very. Angry. But I’m also sad, and disappointed, and I don’t want to send you through what I did. I do, however, want to offer an alternative view to what John posted here a week ago (God it feels longer than that). So let’s talk.

What’s my Armada story? My Armada story is that Armada was my first miniatures game. Yup, it was my first, and in all likelihood it will always hold a special place in my heart as my favorite. Rose-tinted glasses are probably involved; I was there for all sorts of shit. AdmiralNelson, the infamous Flotilla Wars, the ascendancy of Pryce, the wait for the Super, the wait for the Clone Wars. The collapse of IRL gaming during the pandemic, even as Clone Wars arrived. I was there for all of that, and I’ve been positive and bullish about the game through all of it.

I remember when I discovered the game. I was working as a student assistant on a co-op rotation with the Georgia Tech Research Institute. I was living with my parents outside Atlanta, since it was the summer, my first summer after coming to Georgia Tech, and I was walking back to MARTA, Atlanta’s metro system. I was scrolling through Facebook (ahh 2015, when Facebook wasn’t a dystopian hellscape bending the collective will to insanity, or at least if it was we didn’t know it). I saw an ad (that’s how you know how old this is, Facebook ads were worth a damn), and it was, I think, this image.



You old hands know this picture. Way way back when the only thing out was Wave 1. I saw this, and I’ll admit I was intrigued. A spaceship game? Star Wars? No painting? (I hate painting. It always feels inadequate.) But then I searched on Google. This was the first FFG article that came up.


Wave 2. God, those were heady days. Star Destroyers, kings of the battlefield. Ackbar gunlines as far as the eye could see. Raiders and MC30s duking it out for small ship supremacy. Arguments about APT and ACM raged. My first game, played out of a core set and an extra Victory, played on the carpeted floor of my parents’ guest/spare bedroom. Games with a close friend I’m still in touch with, played in parks and on the floors of Georgia Tech dorm rooms.

I got into competitive Armada the Regionals season after the Interdictor came out. That would have been December 2016. My first tournament at Giga-Bites Cafe. I went 1-3, would have been 2-2 if I hadn’t forgotten about Montferrat. I brought my Interdictor/double Glad list because it was the first list I had ever beat my regular opponent with twice in a row. From there, the world opened up to me.

I’ve traveled this country to play this game. I’ve played a game now up on YouTube while I was in the Land Down Under. I’ve met people from all over the world, made many dear friends. I’m attending a wedding because of this game. In case it wasn’t clear, I love this game. I love this community. To the Armada community, I want to tell you: what we have is special, and don’t ever let that we have it lead you to doubt how precious it is and how much we should treasure our game, and most of all, each other. We may not all get along, hell, we definitely don’t. But this is our game, and we are each other’s people. Remember that. Tell your Armada story. Tell it loud, so the whole world knows how great this game is.

AMG. Asmodee North America. We need to fucking talk.

I could rant at you. I could rage. I could complain. I could point out I’ve spent the last year husbanding my doubts, holding out hope against hope that despite the awful circumstances that brought us to this point, things could and would get better. I’ve actively avoided airing those doubts publicly, in the name of community support. They haven’t gotten better. Why?

Let’s be clear about what’s happened here. Asmodee, you annihilated FFG. The company was in the best place it had ever been in. The miniatures division finally thought they had caught up. They had a plan going forward, ready to execute. And you, Asmodee, dropped the hammer. The FFG team was fired, on almost no notice. You handed the games to a company that, at the time, had one game on its platter. That had no one with experience with any of the three FFG miniatures games. And you gave them all to AMG, during a global pandemic, and let one FFG developer make the transition. Then you fired him too. All of the Clone Wars releases were their work, finished before the pandemic even started.

AMG. We can lay a lot of blame at Asmodee’s feet. We can have a long discussion about how the Clone Wars launch for Armada was wildly successful and apparently surprised the suits in charge of the decisions that somehow expected this game to fail. This community is resilient. It has to be, to have survived as long as it has through what it has. But here we are.


You’ve had these games for a year. All you have released for Armada is a poorly balanced “OP” format for a three day event that included two work days and gave no one any notice to try to organize games to celebrate Armada or its new custodianship in your care. You have, despite maintaining the breakneck pace of Marvel: Crisis Protocol development that has seen the release on average of a new pack every two weeks, not had the time or the manpower to learn Armada and begin new work on future expansions.

You even owned up to that, to your credit. No one was thrilled when you admitted that there was nothing currently in development for Armada. But no one was particularly surprised either, given the year’s worth of open letters, closed letters, podcast and YouTube invitations, from community leaders, from bloggers, from the old playtesting teams across the country eager to get to work creating your vision of the future of Armada. All those missives, and in large part, silence. The odd “We’ll reach out to you when we’re ready”. A year. And here we are.

I won’t lie, as a community we have something of a chip on our shoulder. We know we’re the red-headed stepchild. We always have been. We’ve survived a serious lack of attention that would have killed lesser games. If anything, it’s a testament to the fundamental strength of the Armada core systems. This game could have been dominant, a truly historic way. When my son and his friends talk about miniatures games set around spaceships, it could have been “Well it’s no Star Wars: Armada”, just like my generation’s “Well it’s no Battlefleet Gothic.” It still can be. But you need to give a shit.

You have three days of content around your games coming up with the Ministravaganza. 22 hours of scheduled content. The lion’s share of it goes to your flagship, Crisis Protocol. Nobody faults you for this. I’d be proud of my flagship game too.

Here’s the rub though. You promised to support Armada. You just told us nothing is in the pipeline for development, we know. But at least throw us a bone. You said you were planning to support the game. Paint an ISD pink. Talk to us in a short little panel about what you do and don’t like about where the game is now, and where you’re interested in taking it. I’d tell you you promised, but I’ll do you one better. You really need to.

See, here’s the thing. I said I’ve flown all over this country and played Armada. I’ve literally played it on the opposite side of the planet. I know a lot of the community organizers, the guys and gals who go out and get tournaments organized. The folks who hype regular gamenights, who teach new players, and give up their time in huge quantities to support the game. I’m one of them. We’re tired. And today broke us.

We’ve been keeping up that brave face. Pushing back against the folks that wail and gnash their teeth that the game is dead. We’ve filled in where you haven’t been to keep the community going. We’ve been relying on your promise for OP towards the end of this year, going into next year to keep our hopes up. We didn’t expect a huge showing at the Ministravaganza, but we hoped for something. A lifeline, to help us keep making the case that the game isn’t dead.

Nobody you care about is selling out of the game. We all love it too much for that. But you dropped a bomb today. And this one got through our armor. A lot of us are seriously considering how much of our time, talent, and treasure we are going to keep investing into a game and a company that clearly doesn’t care, even when the obvious business case makes itself. Under FFG, Armada during a release quarter would consistently be the third or fourth best-selling miniatures game in the world, behind only 40K, X-wing, and once it was on the scene, Legion. That’s phenomenal, but it was apparently never enough. To the community organizer point, we won’t just up and walk away, we can’t bring ourselves to that. But we’ll back up, and we’ll put less and less in. And that will slowly but surely whittle the community away, the community you need to sell your games. Because we talk, and we remember. And we will remember.

I won’t beg. I’ve asked nicely often enough, and here I am asking nicely, one more time. Please, give us something to show that the game you want to make money on will be here for us to spend our money on. Convince us that you’re a company of your word. Start doing some basic damage control, because this is rapidly approaching a catastrophic meltdown, and by then it will be far, far too late to save the game we love, and that we would love to teach you to love. Give Armada that chance, by giving us the attention not that we deserve, that you promised. Show us what you’re made of, and we can save the game together. Or this can be how Armada dies, not with thunderous applause, but with that quiet, slow death of ignominy this beautiful, wonderful game deserves so much better than.

I’m never going to sell my Armada collection. My Chimaera will be a pride of my model collection for the rest of my life. I plan to teach my son one day, and any other children I may have. Please help there still be a game to teach them, and a community to play with when that day comes.

9/9 ADDENDUM: So here we are. I’ll take the fall for the gap between when I originally wrote this and when it’s going up, I was unclear to Eric and John when this was done and ready for posting. Upside (“upside”) is that it has taken long enough that it is now the day that AMG has deigned to release their Hunting Season event rules. I will continue my blunt assessment from above, which is unchanged: what the hell is this?

AMG, this doesn’t even look like someone who plays Armada very much wrote it. Even if I account for the event clearly being designed by committee, phrases like “if its activation slider matches the initiative token” are so poorly phrased that it’s jarring to read. Just say “if unactivated” and be done with it. I need to get three hits on five black dice to do anything, and that’s if my opponent gets no blue hits to cancel my hits? A major selling point of Armada for much of the community is that it isn’t Yahtzee style dice vs dice. I understand that makes it the red-headed step child of the three ex-FFG Star Wars games since both Legion and X-wing use that system, but that doesn’t make it appealing to us.

I left off your effort last year, the “Unconventional Warfare” event, out of my complaints in the above article. It was very poorly balanced, but you also had only just then been given Armada. I was willing to let it go if you clearly made efforts to improve. I don’t see those efforts here, nearly a year later. And while we’re on the subject of learning lessons, let’s discuss the other lesson you clearly didn’t learn from last year, despite the (we thought) loud and pointed complaints. There’s a bloody pandemic on. 650,000 people here in the US are dead. Hundreds of thousands more are currently ill. Of note, while the numbers were smaller last time around, this is exactly the same situation you tried the same release schedule for last year.

What planet are you living on where working people, who can afford these games, can just drop whatever their previous plans were and make arrangements to play these games at the drop of a hat? Again, you gave less than 24 hours notice that there would be an event at all. Again, you orient the event around workdays that are difficult enough for most of your players, who have jobs and families, and all of that is before trying to game safely during another surge in a highly virulent, highly lethal pandemic. What are you thinking? To paraphrase a friend of mine, if this is your idea of “organized play”, you are in serious need of a dictionary.

You couldn’t have dug yourselves out of the hole you’ve managed to dig with just some little one-off event. But you could have put down the shovel. Instead, there’s dirt in my eye. Hopefully your “major announcement” about the “preserving the future of the Star Wars games”, which as of this writing I have not seen nor seen a scheduled time for release for, is less disastrous. I hold out hope. Why I don’t know, but I do, for now.

Eric back. There's been really no good news for our spaceships game and AMG seems intent on letting us slowly die off while they do no work on actually developing or supporting our game past "we'll reprint models and give you really terrible organized play events." I don't like coming to this conclusion - I love Armada, I've spent hundreds of hours playing Armada and writing this blog. But that's where I'm at. We'll keep the blog updated but there's really nothing new to update it about right now so I'm expecting new articles will be coming out at a slow pace. If you want to catch up with us, I'll be joining my fellow BIG members(and GP too!) playing Dropfleet Commander and I'd encourage you to give it a try as well. Maybe AMG will suddenly decide to give Armada some love and it will make a miraculous recovery but even should that ideal situation happen we've got at least until 2023.

9 comments:

  1. I cannot fathom how Asmodee thought destroying FFG was going to make the money.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The link to the Dropfleet Commander blog brings me to a generic Blogger page! ^^;

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's weird. Something went weird with the formatting. I'll fix it later on Sunday.

      Delete
    2. Should be fixed now. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. We had some weird formatting issues getting this from its original form to the article, so that's likely the culprit.

      Delete
    3. Still getting the same issue as this guy

      Delete
    4. Third time's the charm!

      ...I hope. I don't know why this particular article has given me so much hyperlink trouble at this point.

      Delete
  3. "When a friendly Free Agent’s Defense token would be returned to the supply, you may push its activation slider, if it matches the initiative token..." - Tell me you don't play Armada without telling me you don't play Armada.

    That said, I'm not sure you're being fair to the OP stuff. From what AMG has said they're not planning to do any OP until next year (due to the pandemic); they don't seem to consider the "Unconventional Warfare" and "Hunting Season" things to be normal OP. Reading what some of the M:CP have written, these are standard AMG convention-specific things, sort of "thanks for coming to this convention, here are some fun rules to play around with while here" things. They are aimed at people who have already taken time off work to come to the convention.

    They just don't make as much sense for a game like Armada (which takes a while to set up and play) or online-only conventions (where people aren't setting aside a couple of days for gaming stuff). I suspect they'll make a bit more sense when AMG are attending conventions again.

    Plus AMG seems bad at communication. Contrasting their Ministravaganza stuff with FFG's announcements about GenCon and their In Flight Reports (not to mention their websites) makes AMG look somewhat amateurish.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel AMG looks amateurish because they **are** amateurish, honestly. Their communication is bad, their rules comprehension has been poor, their website is a disaster. FFG didn't exactly treat Armada players well but compared to what we've received from AMG so far it was the good life.

      Delete