2008 CMG Trends...or, Two Trends and one Anti-Trend
Brett Seymour
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Ohio
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With a number of new CMG's making a big splash at GenCon this year, I've been reflecting for the past couple of months on the direction CMG's have been taking. Please join me in my first GeekList as I explore two trends and one anti-trend...hybridization, diversity of scale, and the dichotomy of fixed vs. blind boosters...
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1. Board Game: HeroClix [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1764] [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Brett Seymour
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The first trend is something I call hybridization...the mixing of collectible miniature game pieces with non-miniature collectible elements.

To illustrate this trend, let's begin with HeroClix. 'Clix started out close to a pure minis game. If you knew the rules, all you needed was your figs...all of the game play information was right there on the base. Borrowing a concept from Mage Knight (the first true CMG, also by WK) they began over time to add additional card based elements to the game. Players know these as battlefield conditions, feats, bystander tokens, etc. Even though the cards don't look quite like collectible game cards, they are often rare and collectible in their own right, making for a quasi CCG component within the larger context of collecting and playing the minis game. An important distinction however is that while these cards often make a big impact on tournament level teams, they are not required to play. 'Clix wouldn’t be the last game to feature this dichotomy...
 
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2. Board Game: Pokémon Trading Figure Game [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:10927]
Brett Seymour
United States
Ohio
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When the Pokemon franchise tackled the CCG realm, they too added a CCG like component...each standard booster of two figures would also contain one trainer card, with a number of trainer cards standard in the starters as well. Of note, the minis themselves hearken back to the original 'Clix concept...all of the gameplay information for the figures themselves is right on the base of the figure. Additionally, the trainer cards are not necessary to the game, and it's possible to ignore them altogether, especially at a beginner’s level. One of this year's new games is taking that concept in a different direction though...
 
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3. Board Game: World of Warcraft Miniatures Game [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:2649]
Brett Seymour
United States
Ohio
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The new World of Warcraft CMG coming out next month has a fairly significant TCG component as well. Each character comes with its own stat card (a standard across many CMGs) and two "action bar" cards. The trick is, the action bar cards are somewhat interchangeable, meaning you might need to track down certain cards to make the best squad, depending on your choice of minis. So much like with Pokemon and 'Clix, the WoW Minis player is likely trying to track down specific cards in addition to specific minis. Furthermore, these action bar cards and an integral part of the game, they aren't really presented as optional in play.

WoW Minis also look to have another more unique hybrid aspect...the collectible game board. Each of the Deluxe sets will have one of three such boards randomly included...making WoW minis a hybrid collectible minis/card game/board game...and even in that...it is not really alone...
 
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4. Board Game: Tannhäuser [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1638]
Brett Seymour
United States
Ohio
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Tannhauser is a more pure hybrid between board games and miniatures games. (The argument of whether expandable = collectible I will save for the end of the GeekList, please bear with me.) Each mini's game card can be customized with various equipment and aspect markers, but in the end, it's the game board that really stands out with this game. Utilizing a unique "pathfinder" system for determining line of sight, the board his highly integrated into gameplay. Future expansions of the game will also include new game boards as well.

And so...hybridization continues, and looks to be picking up steam with WoW minis in particular. On to the next trend...
 
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5. Board Game: Star Wars Miniatures [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:1469] [Average Rating:6.87 Unranked]
Brett Seymour
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Ohio
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The "Big 3" CMGs heading into this year included HeroClix, shown above, as well as this game based on an obscure sci-fi property named Star Wars. These two games both share something in common with a third game...
 
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6. Board Game: Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2343]
Brett Seymour
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...the Dungeons & Dragons minis, and that commonality is in scale. The scale is not exact amongst the three lines, but it is close, and it is close enough in my book to create a standard of sorts. But is this standard destined to be the VHS or Betamax of scales? Let's look at three new games this year that illustrate the next trend...
 
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7. Board Game: Monsterpocalypse [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:1386] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
Brett Seymour
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Ohio
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The division of scale. Monsterpocalypse here had a very good reason to go out on it's own in terms of scale...the subject matter lends itself to outsized figures, closer in size to action figures than traditional minis. The scale here has been quoted at around 1:860...a far cry from the 1:43 'ish scale of the "Big 3" games. But Monster'lypse here wasn't the only game to go off the reservation this year...
 
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8. Board Game: World of Warcraft Miniatures Game [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:2649]
Brett Seymour
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Ohio
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The aforementioned WoW minis also took scale into their own hands this year, making minis generally somewhere in the realm of 1 1/2 to 2 times the size of their fantasy, sci-fi, and comic book hero brethren. However, even at this scale, there is plenty of room for cross over in regards to the little extras like terrain and maps. A third new game this year took this a step further though...
 
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9. Board Game: Mutant Chronicles Collectible Miniatures Game [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:5413]
Brett Seymour
United States
Ohio
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The Mutant Chronicles CMG has an even larger scale for its figures...with humanoid figures in the 2 - 3" range. Three new games, three vastly different scales. Is this the future of minis, or just and aberration this year? I have a feeling that question will be answered in part by how well these new games do in the market.

Mutant Chronicles is not just the jumping off point for our exploration of issues of scale, it is also our jumping on point for my "anti-trend"...

Blind Boosters versus Fixed Sets

If you haven't followed it...here's a little back story. Mutant Chronicles was going to be a game released in the "standard format"...fixed starters along side blind boosters. At the 11th hour, Fantasy Flight decided to switch the format to army packs...the setup as released now has everything fixed...there is a fixed starter and five different fixed boosters. Which to me is very interesting, as it's a question I've had to tackle quite specifically in the past as well. It's likely too soon to tell whether this will affect sales of the game or not, so in the meanwhile, let's explore some of the other packaging variations...
 
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10. Board Game: Heroscape Expansion Set: Utgar's Rage [Average Rating:7.73 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.73 Unranked]
Brett Seymour
United States
Ohio
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Every HeroScape product to date has been fixed, whether it be starter, terrain pack, booster/army builder, or what have you. The upside? You can pick your army and buy only what you want. The downside? Lots and lots of "Agents" left on the shelves at some locations.
 
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11. Board Game: Pokémon Trading Figure Game [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:10927]
Brett Seymour
United States
Ohio
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Now Pokemon went a different route...pictured here is the standard starter. Now, imagine if you will the boosters...they are half fixed (with a set number of figures rotating through the left side, clear packed) and half blind (with the figures on the left packed in blue plastic.) This was an interesting hybrid approach (there's that word again), but it hurt a little that there are few "generics" in Pokemon...there are no army builders to populate the fixed side, and so you end up being forced to collect multiple doubles in an attempt to collect them all.
 
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12. Board Game: Monsterpocalypse [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:1386] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
Brett Seymour
United States
Ohio
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Monsterpocalypse on the other hand decided on full blind (though sorted) boosters. The company seems to have put a lot of thought into it...recognizing that certain factions will always sell better (regardless of balanced gameplay and popularity) and the factor of SKU's and shelf space...blind boosters are equal in the eyes of the retailer. We'll find out starting Monday if this pays off for them or not.

Unlike scale, where many new games have gone their own way, there seems to be a real struggle about the industry to find the right formula for fixed versus blind. WoW Minis are going with fixed starters and sorted blind boosters. HeroClix goes with blind boosters and the occasional fixed theme set (like Legion of Super Heroes), a formula also found in Star Wars and D&D minis. Tannhauser and other games are fixed and expandable...where smaller elements are released in lieu of full expansions between major releases. And all of this leads me to my conclusion, which is a question all it's own...
 
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13. Board Game: AT-43 Initiation Set: Operation Damocles [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:2400]
Brett Seymour
United States
Ohio
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What is a CMG anymore? Much like trading card games have had their various titles, collectible card games (CCG), customizable card games (also CCG), trading card game (TCG), so to have minis failed to coalesce around a single term. Pokemon uses the term Trading Figure Game (TFG?). Mutant Chronicles goes with Collectible Miniature Game (CMG). Warcraft goes with the simple "miniatures game." Is CMG even the correct catch all term?

What really makes all of these games part of the same category anyway? Is it only blind boosters? That would mean mutant chronicles doesn't count. Is it a question of where you can buy it? Is it the complexity of the rules? AT-43 is rather complex, but is packaged and sold not much differently from say Heroscape. Is it the license? Or is it the fact that all of these games are ready to play out of the box? I'll leave that for the comments.

Thanks for taking the time to read my first GeekList. Now go play some minis!
 
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