By September 13, 2007

SWPocketmodel.com Star Wars PocketModel staff interview

SWPocketmodel.com, the best fan-run site for the collectible mini-model tactical tabletop combat Star Wars game (my write-up is here), video recorded a neat little interview with two staff members from WizKids, the game’s manufacturer. The interview is all video, and requires a Flash player, but it’s pretty interesting whether you play the game or not. There is information about future expansions (nine planned over four or five years!!), as well as some insight as to how the game is marketed and positioned with retailers and fansites.

The WizKids staff mentions that the third ruleset will see more complex rules, gameplay, and content, which they believe will give the game more depth and variety. This seems like a good idea, especially since the inaugural set basically supports two strategies: a “swarm” deck of Trooper-icon based one- and two-star ships and a droid deck that regenerates and heals its cheapie units. Larger point-value ships such as capitals and cruisers are fun to throw in to the mix, but are not nearly as viable a solution for winning than a swarm or droid deck. Perhaps future expansions will include cards or rules changes that allow the more expensive ships to be worth including on fleet builds.

The flip-side to a rules and gameplay expansion is that things have the potential to get a lot more complicated. I had the chance to play some Magic the Gathering on my trip to Ohio after taking a ten year hiatus. I was kind of flabbergasted at all the nuance/specificity and rule changes. MtG had really become complex, with effects applying to certain set-specific units. There was even one card penalized any player who was wearing denim that day.

Star Wars PocketModel, at least how it stands today, can be explained in less than five minutes. Sure, there are some cards that are a little confusing, or require some strategy and therefore further explanation. But one of the game’s draw points is how easy it is to pick up. The Rule of Five and simple attributes allowed me to show the Captain and Ian McGregor the basics very very quickly. I am concerned that adding set-specific rules and effects will not only slow down gameplay, but also make it harder for new players to get involved in the game. I remember when Flanking and First Strike were added to MtG, and while not monumental changes it certainly made things more difficult to explain and play.

My other concern is that WizKids’ multiple expansion policy is just a typical CCG license to print money. Instead of going for quality releases, they go for quantity. Often times a publisher will put a handful of desirable/powerful cards in an otherwise lame expansion just to get people to buy booster packs. I know the Star Wars universe is a large one, and hopefully there will be enough great cards and units to print without making four copies of AT-ATs with slightly different colors and names.

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