Friday, April 11, 2014

Myth vs GD vs SoB part 5: Setting and Miniatures

This is the fifth post in my 8-part series comparing specific elements of three big kickstarted cooperative miniatures games: Myth by Mercs/Megacon, Galaxy Defenders by Project Gremlin / Ares, and Shadows of Brimstone by Flying Frog Productions. I've played a little bit of all three, and in this post I'll talk about their settings, art styles, and miniatures.


Myth has a very clear product identity. The illustrations feel like a comic book. (Or a little “cartoony” if you must. In general it works really well for me, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone.) I like that the setting isn’t just cookie-cutter generic fantasy, and has subtle bits at world building. The NPC bosses are particularly crazy-looking and inspiring. The humanoid enemies are “grubbers” and “muckers” instead of generic goblins or orcs, which suggests flavor, but doesn’t exactly spell out what it means. It’s all hinted at, but never presented in detail. Maybe that’s because the game world is new, or maybe it’s intentionally vague to leave things open so you can decide for yourself what it all means in the same way that you are your own GM in Myth. The setting is mostly cohesive, but it does have a few oddities and anachronisms, such as very modern clerical collars on the NPC priests. Probably the least immersive part of the game is the monster lairs, which spawn creatures in a way that feels a bit like a video-game.

Galaxy Defenders really doesn’t have its own setting at all. There’s a bit of lip-service applied towards it in the book, but clearly their goal is to be a remix/mash-up. Characters, especially those from the kickstarter stretch-goals, are thinly-disguised versions of hollywood stars from all your favorite sci-fi movies at once. The event cards for weather are literally a still-frame of Rutger Hauer delivering the “tears in the rain” speech from blade-runner, and the poster for John Carpenter's The Fog, both run through photoshop filters. 

I've seen copyright law on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I am so torn by this. On one hand, it’s awesome, and I admire them for having the courage to do it. Who hasn’t wanted to play Aliens vs Predator vs MIB vs RoboCop vs Plan 9? On the other hand, it erodes suspension of disbelief just a little, and makes me a lot less interested in the unique characters and monsters that aren’t obviously lifted from a film. Everytime I place a generic “Xeno-Beta” instead of the obviously Giger-derived “Xeno-Morph”, I feel like I’m missing out on some of the fun.

Shadows of Brimstone has, for me, the most compelling setting. It’s the Old West, with supernatural elements and portals to other worlds. So, mostly it’s Deadlands. That’s okay, I like Deadlands. I’ll probably slip up and say “Ghost Rock” instead of “Darkstone” nearly every session. There are distinct differences between the settings. There’s no CSA, Hucksters, Whateleys, etc in Brimstone, but there are some very high-tech aliens and pulpy snakemen on some of the Other Worlds. Of the three games, SoB has the darkest and most realistic artwork. It also seems at this point to have the most developed and internally-consistent setting, despite being explicitly a game about dimension-hopping where in theory anything is possible.

And The Winner Is: This is totally all about your personal tastes, I can't tell you which you'll like best.

Repurposing the Miniatures

With three different cooperative dungeon-crawls releasing this year, I'm not going to find time to play all of them as often as I might like. So I find myself wondering can I mix-and-match? Can I repurpose minis from one game to the other, or use parts of these games in my RPG gaming?

As I said, I like Myth’s art style, but I could see why some wouldn’t. In fact, one of my friends complained about it when I tried to show him the game. The figures are distinctive, and somewhat intangibly “friendly” even when depicting something terribly evil. They work for Myth, but they might feel out of place if you ported them into a game that takes itself more seriously. It's not Kingdom Death, after all. There's a handful of figures in the Myth box that will work as orcs or giant scorpions in D&D, but that's it.

GD has a lot of very recognizable Hollywood-inspired minis, and as I said I have mixed emotions about that. If I were a little more into painting and collecting, I’d probably get more of a kick out of it. Seriously, having a miniature Ellen Ripley makes me wish I was more of a minis painter. I don’t know how much use I’ll find for these minis in other gaming, but they’re at least a fun novelty to show off, if that's you're thing. It occurs to me that the Aracnos monsters from GD could probably be used in Myth if you created just a single monster stat card for them (so I may have to do that).

Brimstone is a godsend for an RPG gamer such as myself. That kickstarter is loaded with minis appropriate for Deadlands and other westerns, Call of Cthulhu, pulp-era, retro-sci-fi gaming, and even a few things for the Post-Apocalypse or more traditional Medieval Fantasy. Even if the game sucked (and I’m pleased to say it doesn’t), I’d still probably be happy with the quantity and quality of minis I'm going to be getting from this. I consider it a wise investment for RPG gaming, as last time I ran Deadlands, I had to use LEGO cowboys during the fight scenes, and it was a little silly.

And The Winner Is: Of the three, Shadows of Brimstone has the most versatile selection of miniatures.

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