Today I’m setting my Three Things sights on a Collectible Miniatures Game (CMG), that of Mechwarrior: Dark Age (and its second phase, Age of Destruction). CMGs are similar to CCGs (collectible card games) where game pieces are purchased in ‘blind’ booster packs. Because the contents are unknown, part of the challenge for the player is in learning to use what’s inside to maximum effect on the table top. Of course, a secondary benefit is the horsetrading that goes on as players seek to acquire their favorite factions, pieces, or other criteria in order to field a table army that best suits their play style.
Oh, quick sidebar: if you’ve not checked out Games’ Most Wanted, please do. I and my coauthor appreciate the sales and spreading of the word. (Online reviews don’t hurt, either!)
One of the great things that attracted me to this game was its inherent speed of play. Everything critical that was needed was included on the individual game piece’s dial, which you clicked as it took damage, reducing (or in some cases, increasing) its effectiveness. The MWDA game was built as a fast game; typical engagements between two players took an hour or less when using the average 300-500 force build limit. At its simplest form, the game only required your units, 3D6, and a measuring tape for range and movement.
For comparison, a similarly fielded BattleTech game would take 4-6 hours to complete. While I love BattleTech, the appeal of a faster, simpler ‘Mecha combat game was hard to ignore. I got my ‘giant combat robot’ fix in quick and had time for other afternoon activities.
The prepainted sculpts of MWDA pieces has had a lot of detractors, mainly those who were used to building/using metal miniatures. For players such as myself where metal modeling is a major investment in time and money – and as such, not as easily maintained or accomplished, the decision by WizKids to use prepainted figures was a treat. For the cost of a booster pack, you got
three (four; I keep lumping both infantry units as “one”) decent-looking plastic miniatures ready to go. Plus, they did not require the more extensive care and handling some metal miniature pieces need after their completion. Out-of-the-box games transformed a table surface into a visually appealing landscape of destruction.
I’m not saying all of the sculpts or paintjobs were perfection. But for the price of the box, the quality was better than average. I and others have repainted some of these pieces, or touched them up in spots, but that’s more to assuage our visual OCD. To a young gamer? These figures were akin to breaking open an action figure bought at the store and ready to play.
Competitive play for MWDA was also a major draw. Through WizKids’ sanctioned play, players could participate in monthly storyline campaigns where individual game results would build towards the greater plotline. Worlds within the MWDA universe could rise or fall based on the collective wins and losses of a faction. Players who registered through the company’s game website declared their faction of choice and contributed to its successes and failures.
Stores and organizers could also run unrestricted events. While these did not impact the overall storyline, it did provide opportunities for localized campaigns.
Speed, visual look, and competitive play are three aspects of MWDA that appealed to me when the game was in its heyday. WizKids did have its failings, to be sure. But those failures did not detract from my enjoyment of Mechwarrior as a whole. I only need to look to my game closet and the few standard armies I still maintain to know of my appreciation for MWDA.