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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Relic Knights [Comments Added]

Black Diamond Relic Knight

Greetings everyone!  It's been a while but it's Whitestar333 here to talk to you about an interesting new miniatures game coming down the pipes called Relic Knights.  Normally I'm all about talking about Warmachine/Hordes but this game has caught my eye in a big way and I figured I'd share it with you in case it strikes your interest too.  Spattered throughout this article I'll be including pictures of the Relic Knights for each of the 6 factions (except for the Noh Empire, since their Relic Knight is currently unavailable except at conventions).

What makes Relic Knights so special right now is that there has been an existing model line for well over a year without any real game rules except for what has been demo'd at conventions.  The models are really beautiful (although you can judge for yourself) but without any rules, I wasn't really interested in collecting them.  With Cool Mini or Not recently having successful Kickstarter campaigns, they've started one for Relic Knights to turn it into a full-fledged miniatures game!

For those who are unaware of how Kickstarter works, let me quickly explain.  Think of Kickstarter as a platform for investment.  Except, instead of financial dividends (like GW does as a publicly-traded company), you get products and items in exchange for your investment.  Each Kickstarter project is different in both the amounts of their goals and the rewards, which can be found on the right of each Kickstarter page.  For Relic Knights, for example, they made a handy info-graphic for those who choose the "Savior" reward level of $100.

It can sometimes get complicated...

Using Kickstarter has become quite fashionable in the miniatures gaming community because it allows smaller game companies to skip the awkward growing pains of transitioning from metal into resin or plastic over time and instead get an injection of funds to go directly towards kickstarting (see what I did there) the miniatures production so they can hit the ground running.  It's a great concept for these smaller companies which can't compete with the plastic production that GW is capable of and plastic helps keep manufacturing costs down.
Cerci Speed Circuit Relic Knight

Now here's the problem with Kickstarter: while you make your investment as soon as the Kickstarter has ended, you probably won't get the goods for your investment until the future.  I recently participated in the Sedition Wars Kickstarter, for example, and I'm not expecting to get everything until March 2013.  Relic Knights is going to be the same way, and that's because the purpose of these Kickstarters is to get everything in plastic, and that will take time before they can pump out the line.  The good news is that you get a lot for your investment.
Shattered Sword Paladins Relic Knight
"Okay, so enough about Kickstarter, why should I be interested in Relic Knights?"
A typical esper card.  The top
symbol is Law esper and the
bottom is Life esper.
I'm glad you asked!  As you can see from the pictures I've included here, Relic Knights borrows heavily from anime, manga, and Japanese video games in the style, but also in their rules.  In fact, you can download a draft of the rules and see the faction cards on their site here.  What really got me interested in the game is that there are no dice.  Period.  No rolling of dice at all.  That's not to say that there isn't luck, but the game's effects are determined by using cards.  Not exactly like Malifaux, either, but rather there's a lot more control.  Instead, you have a hand of 5 Esper cards which represent this cosmic energy that everyone is after.  In order to power the abilities that your models can use, you'll need the right kind of esper, of which there are 6 (one symbolic for each faction).  Each card has a big esper symbol and a small one, the big one representing 2 points of that type of energy and the smaller representing one type of the other energy.  Typical abilities might require 3 Law esper, and so you look through your hand of 5 cards and pull out 3 Law esper energy (either 3 secondary symbols, a primary and secondary, or even 2 primary since there's no "bleed" of esper) and then your ability goes off.  It's surprisingly simple and elegant and I like the control it offers you as a player.
Noh Empire Questing Knight (slightly different from a Relic Knight)

What I like about this approach over dice is that while Warmachine/Hordes mitigates bad dice luck a bit with the 2d6 mechanic they use, just because you roll snake-eyes doesn't reduce the probability your next roll won't also be snake-eyes.  It's the same in 40k, right?  Just because you roll badly with your dice early in the game doesn't mean they'll necessarily get better at the end.  With cards, however, if you have a bad hand of cards, you know that there is a finite probability that you will not draw a crappy hand next activation, at least until the deck gets shuffled again.  I like this kind of luck mitigation because I get really frustrated when my tactics are sound but random probability foils my attempts.
Doctrine Relic Knight

Lastly, one thing that's really great about this game is that it's an 'alternating activation' game, meaning that you activate one model and then your opponent gets to activate one of theirs.  What's neat about this approach too is that Relic Knights has a "ready queue" where you line up who's activating next.  Think of it a bit like the latest JRPGs like the latest Final Fantasy games.  What's so interesting about this, however, is that if your back is against the ropes and you find yourself out-numbered, you get to activate your models more often, meaning you still have a chance at achieving a scenario victory.  It's an elegant 'comeback' mechanic that's really great and one thing I always look for in a miniatures game (like the 'casterkill' mechanic in Warmachine/Hordes).
Star Nebula Corsairs Relic Knight

I encourage you again to check out the rules because the game is surprisingly simple to learn and understand and it seems like it could be a fun game for a little investment.  The bad news is, of course, that if you invest in the Kickstarter you'll have to wait a while before you get your awesome product.  If you can't wait, though, you can still find many of the [metal] models available at online retailers and you can take the downloaded copy of the rules and the cards and start playing right away!

Here's where you can find the rules, faction cards, and esper deck:

If you're patient and have 90 minutes available, there's even a video demo of the game that's very thorough and you can see exactly how the game works and start to see some of the rules interactions first-hand:

[Comments Added:]
I know a lot of you have commented on the ridiculousness of the female models but I want to point out a couple of things.
1) Anime draws a HUGE female following.  Any of you who've been to an anime convention will know what I'm talking about.  Chicks love anime far more than they like wargaming and there are far more females cosplaying (dressing in costume) their favorite anime characters than are men.  In my experience, women are far more accepting of the anime form than you think (they are, of course, cartoons).
2) Soda Pop Minis is well-known among their following to not take their games too seriously.  Super Dungeon Explore has been a huge hit among board game enthusiasts, miniatures gamers, and anime fans alike.  The company knowingly follows the style of anime all the way down to the way they make their female sculpts and they're almost satirical about it.  If you're still not comfortable with the sculpts of women and that's a big deal to you, I recommend looking at Warmachine/Hordes for more realistic portrayals of women.
3) There are some women out there with ridiculous proportions, as evidenced by the Soda Pop Girl hired to run demos at GenCon this year.  She was dressed up as the Rin Farrah model.  Here's the original by soda pop and the Soda Pop Girl side by side for comparisson:

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