The Loaded Dice Table Talks II Page 5

Oct 30th, 2017 by Riel Richard

Joseph McGuire

The underhive setting of Necromunda acts as shared tenure to the terrain making, miniatures sculpting, and social media coverage provided by Sean, Steve, and Ash, respectively, forming an expose on how creative interpretations really aren't limited to any specific medium of the hobby. As Necromunda and its campaign basis allow gaming groups to forge and tell their own stories within the setting of the underhive and its surrounding ash wastes, the game holds significant virtue well beyond this as the creative outlet that it is for building, painting, and playing games together in such a shared social setting. With the abilities of social media to showcase these attributes and bring Necromunda into new spotlights and popular awareness among gamers, these creative interpretations become unbounded with the continual growth of the game's community, where every hobbyist possesses an opportunity to build personal renditions of what the aesthetic of the underhive would be.

However, the game's ability to showcase diverse imaginative renditions of the setting aren't actually limited to the setting, as exploring the crunch mechanics of this well thought out game system allow for works influenced by Necromunda to be transplanted into any setting. The physical rules, setting, and canonized lore of the game are also aspects that can be manipulated and explored to churn out creative interpretations, and it was with an appreciation of the frame mechanics of Necromunda that Joseph McGuire was able to make ties from the grim dark franchise to cut out his own slice of the Capital Wastelands and share tabletop gaming with an entirely new science fiction fanbase dwelling outside the Warhammer and 40K universe. Engaging in conversations here on the YakTribe forum under the handle @deathwing, and with his game receiving excellent initial walkthrough coverage and campaign battle report videos on the Guerrilla Miniature Games channel, This Is Not A Test boasts some great alternative play for anyone with an already existing collection of Necromunda appropriate miniatures.

"My start with the hobby began like many others, through Games Workshop. I walked into a gaming store in Frostburg, MD and while browsing came across the 1997 GW Catalogue. There on the cover was Chaplain Asmodai in all his grimdark glory. In my teenage mind something shifted and my world would be forever changed. I had owned some miniatures before that, but nothing that would compare to the level I was drawn in by this. I became a GW Fanboy and embraced the hobby hardcore. Of course I was part of the nascent internet generation and spent many hours on the old school websites like Portent and Matthew Sprange's Colossal 40K Website, among others. Dakkadakka came along and I joined there, [where] I've been Deathwing for going on multiple decades now probably... My local scene during those early years was at first at the local game store before it closed, but then we moved to a friend's basement. It was me, my best friend, occasionally my brother, and two brothers we hung with. We were pretty hardcore at that time with multiple armies and playing every weekend. Some of the best times of my life to be honest. But when you really geek out on something, you need to get your fix everyday. So that's why I was online a lot too. Chasing down GW rumors, checking out folk's models, and trying to find that secret tip that would raise my game (both as a painter or player). Sadly the latter never materialized".

Joseph McGuire

With the classic introduction to gaming through Warhammer 40K, Joey began collecting a few armies and eventually got into some of the skirmish offerings that GW was making in their Specialist Games department:

"not including the big two games I also have my never been painted Eschers and about 8 painted Mordheim warbands. The former were never painted due to me not being able to do the original Jess Goodwin sculpts justice. Still on the lookout for the right painter to handle those".

Years of gaming and forum membership can really define a player's eye for crunch stability within a game system's mechanics, and this has certainly been the case with YakTribe's formative discussions surrounding the Community Edition rules. A large part of the hobby comes from the tomes of rules, artwork, and photographs of painted miniatures that so many of us have lost countless hours to peering through with excitement - a careful study of the well crafted hard work that has gone into making such engaging games. And like many of us, for Joey McGuire it became an opportunity to try his own hand at finding ways to incorporate rules that let his games play out a more personalized style of their own.

"I suppose most gamers have a feeling for this, but its just a matter of refining the ability from complaining about game imbalances to seeing things from a game design perspective... My own efforts started around playing around with unit abilities and modifying existing works, something that I am way more comfortable with than completely designing something from scratch. But that is the best way to learn. So in a way I went to the GW school of game design and my tuition was a shelf full of dusty codexes!".

McGuire began becoming more conscious about what he thought should be accomplished within a game system's mechanics, and the applied critical thinking towards 40K rules has helped him find his preferred stance on the right balance and blend of crunch within a game.

"For game strength, GW has a mixed record. I hate the melee rules for 2nd edition, but these were much improved in later editions... [the iterations of the last few editions] have rules that seem fine to me, though I refuse to play them. Not because of a mechanic issue, but because of formations that allow you to bring free stuff to the table. Like there are space marine formations that give you free razorbacks. For a game design perspective, I think that's kind of crappy to do to your opponent. I have hope for 8th Edition though and GW really has seem to shake off the crappy attitude that was so pervasive during the 2000's".

While the crafted shift in mindset that has ultimately culminated in This is Not a Test has placed a proverbial Photo-Visor on how he sees game systems, the fundamental successes of TNT come from the fact that Joey McGuire is a gamer at heart and that keeps him invested in his love of playing tabletop games. With the allure of Asmodai set in place from a young age, Joey's first collected army was the Dark Angels - which shouldn't come as a surprise with a forum handle like @deathwing - and he has had a colourful gaming career with his First Legion Astartes for multiple decades now:

"one of my favourite memories was a 2nd Edition game back when the Ravenwing landspeeder was tough to beat. I was teamed up with a friend's Imperial Guard fighting a large Tyranid army. The 'nids got to a back line and some Genestealers were running through our guardsman. There was a melee upon which I opened fire with my Assault Cannon speeder and managed to kill all of the 'stealers without hitting a single guardsman, keeping in mind the results of who was hit was completely randomized. I was running that section of the board for a minute and when my buddy returned to resolve that particular melee he was surprised to find his dudes still there, but no 'stealers. He was less than pleased with my rather indiscriminate fire".

Rooted in the enjoyment of the hobby, This is Not a Test became the formidable passion project of the game that Joey always wanted to see played - one that could take the tabletop fun of the 40K universe and explore the post apocalyptic setting of science fiction in a new and imaginative way that was not really available in the industry. In his creation of World's End Publishing, Joey was able to pay homage to his hometown of Maryland, Viginia and its iconic role as the setting of the video game Fallout 3. As the monumental achievement that it is in popular science fiction, the Fallout series has a devoted fanbase and This is Not a Test acts as a great bridge between the video game and tabletop mediums of the genre to share the miniatures gaming experience with other similarly interested science fiction fans that otherwise might not have direct cause to start out on their own creative collections within the hobby.

"This is Not a Test was born of my love for all things post-apocalyptic, but especially the Fallout series. I really wanted to recreate the Fallout 3 experience on the tabletop, mind you with a lot more post-apocalyptic tropes than the video game contained, but I was ultimately unhappy with the post-apocalypse rulesets out there. I ran Mutants and Death Ray games at conventions for a little bit and it is a really good system, but I wanted more crunch in there. Other games I tried were just not the right fit for me, not that that means they are bad games, far from it. So really it was that simple. I just had the mental switch to decide to take my decades of reading and playing games to make one".

The development process was an accumulation of everything that Joey wanted to see in a game, and initially even his working title was a tongue in cheek poke at this fact:

"I pulled from many different rules and mashed things together until I was mostly happy. Before settling on a name for the game, it was originally called Kitchen Sink. I was heavily inspired by Necromunda and Mordheim for warband creations and campaigning and I loved the element of random activation from Ganesha Games, which is one of the best gaming innovations of the last decade. The rest is massaging mechanics until I was happy with the way things worked".

The end result steps away from the "I go, you go" turn based structure but maintains a great deal of influence from GW made games. While going through the beta process of launching TNT, Joey was a frequent poster on YakTribe and held engaging conversations on what many Necromunda fans would really like to see accommodated in a game that gave many honours to the classic GW skirmish title. While his interactions as @deathwing on this forum were TNT focused, Joey stated an admiration of the continued support and development work on the Community Edition of Necromunda that the discussions on YakTribe help keep up.

"I appreciate the group that maintained with keeping things alive. I mean it really shows how great a game can be when a community keeps it going long after the creators stop working on it. Games can always be played mind you, but they can die on the vine without regular support and offerings. While such games will never be huge profit earners they are a steady profit stream and as GW abandoned the specialist market, we have seen over the last decade or so smaller companies filling the vacuum... [GW] will never regain the full market share they once held. This is a good thing for gamers as its a much more diverse setting to play in".

Reaching somewhat zenith proportions of what home made fan rules can be, This is Not a Test is certainly inspirational for any homebrew rules-smith within the hobby as the game has become its own franchise under the World's End Publishing banner. With the supplements Mutant Cannibals and Kickstart the Wasteland, as well as scenario packs and official miniatures, This Is Not A Test has quickly risen to the upper echelon of post-apocalyptic tabletop gaming offerings available on the market. Much of this lends itself so well to Joey's stance that gaming should be a completely fun experience with friends and fellow gamers, matched with his laid back demeanour altogether - he is the self titled President/Head Janitor over at World's End.

"TNT is a game that highlights the best of the post-apocalyptic genre. I have included my favorite parts and omitted other tropes. As such, I highly encourage you to use what you want and discard what you don't. If you prefer a low-tech world simply ignore the rules for relics. If you don't like mutants just don't use that warband. So please make these rules your own - bend and break them as you like, as long as you (and the other players!) are having fun".

The game really has something special in the rules with characters and monsters designed around offerings from miniatures producers, and even gives direct reference to model availability from these companies. Joey stated his list of kudos for TNT was far too lengthy to list off, but had specific mention of the people from miniatures production companies being extremely helpful and easy to work with when allowing him to incorporate many of their creations fairly literally into the rules of the TNT, which lends to a sense that the game has been created with the whole industry in mind.

"Patrick Keith from Bombshell Minis, Lon Weiss from Brigade Games, and Matt and Anton from Wreck Age: those guys have been great for showing me the industry ropes and answering questions about how things should and should not work. I have also met little resistance in getting permission to use folks miniatures from small companies, at least once I explain what I am trying to do. People can be guarded with their babies. Keep in mind, that I did not bother asking GW, Privateer Press, or the bigger boys with legal departments".

In the same hue as the Guerrilla Miniature Games coverage of other cottage industry and microbrew style products, the work that Joey has put into World's End Publishing and This is Not a Test genuinely seems to have interests in developing alongside many of the other grassroots brands in the industry to strengthen the overall available hobby experience. This sort of ethos reflects Joey's numerous years spent on hobby forums, and the overall scope of the game's setting opts to expand the tabletop hobby scene to include like minded science fiction enthusiasts from other gaming backgrounds.

From touring conventions while demoing various games, gaining a sense of what part of the hobby community shared some flavours with his taste on game mechanics, to branching away from the mainstream GW game systems and examining what sort of aspects could benefit from a variant treatment, and finally to producing a publication that was not only an independent creation but also stood alongside other autarkical creations of the industry, it is hard to imagine what else Joey could have up his sleeves. However there does not seem to be any shortage of fuel in the tank for McGuire, and his list of ideas to complement the original rules set of this passion project seems long enough to last right into the post apocalyptic afterscape.

"As to the future? Lost of stuff is planned, but as one man band, it takes time. Realistically I release a supplement about every 6-8 months. Long lead times, but its the best I can do as this is a passion project that is secondary to professional and personal duties. For what is actually coming, the next book is the Wasteland Companion, which doubles the amount of skills and mutations, introduces abilities that influence the entire warband, and some new scenarios and other small, but fun, stuff. After that I get to the most requested thing, vehicles. This will change the dynamic of the game, but not the feeling. Vehicles will support the warbands, not overtake them. I also have some neat resin models that are being worked on. Just wait til you seem them. If you like retro sci-fi cars, start saving your bottle caps. Further in the horizon is the robot/technology book, a mutant book (read Gamma World), a full campaign book with territories, and probably some smaller warband supplements. I am also working on a series of supplements for those that like their wastelands weird, so aliens and the like. So I have years of stuff is the hopper".