So, I guess it’s time to tell you what I actually thought of Shatterpoint: The Game based on my demo at Adepticon.
I hope you all had fun with my little joke last week, I know I did. What’s funny is that before this post goes up a full two thirds of our Shatterpoint posts feature me pretending that all anyone cares about is the book, keen readers will remember that I started off our post-announcement article with a much shorter version of what I wrote later…the first two commenters BOTH asked for more Legends book review content and I do read the comments folks. Who knows what I’m going to write in the future? If Jay or Kyle is reading…uh, actual game-related content for sure. If they aren’t reading, then pretty much the only thing I DO know for sure…is that I’ll write something about Gremlins 2 some day.
ANYWAY, back to “content” we go…I did in fact play Shatterpoint (I promise, we’re talking about the minis game from here forward) at Adepticon 2023.
I was extremely relieved when I found out that we had a separate article that gets into the actual rules and overview of the game in an objective way so that I didn’t have to try to do the same based on just a couple rounds of gameplay. That was done excellently by guest blogger Robert Heniz and it can be found by clicking this link. I won’t simply re-hash what he says, but rather I’m going to get right to focusing on how this thing felt after a relatively short demo.
What I will say a bit more about to set the table for this, is the context in which we played the game. Shatterpoint was, without a doubt, the “featured attraction” at adepticon when it came to unreleased games. There were others to be sure, but I cannot stress enough that this game is getting pushed very hard. I am no convention economist, but when one combines the fact that AMG got their name/logo on the lanyard and that the Shatterpoint demo area was the very first thing you saw if you walked through the center doors into the main hall (which housed all the Star Wars games, MCP, and all the vendors)…well, I think it’s safe to say a pretty penny was spent.
Ultimately, I took this as a positive from the perspective of being a Star Wars gaming fan in general. Atomic Mass after all has the license for both Star Wars and Marvel, which are probably two of the four most valuable IP’s (the other two are DC comics and Pokemon) out there looking into the near future. They should be able to outspend Games Workshop when it comes to marketing, and I hope to see more evidence that these games can eat more and more at the Warhammer dominance we’ve been used to for, forever. I’ll muse a bit more on how this fits in with the other Star Wars games we already have at the end.
A Game of Names
I spent a while thinking about the different ways the current line of Star Wars miniatures games aligns with the canon, here’s my breakdown of how well a typical list lines up with the canon as a whole:
|The “Average” List in The Game||How That Compares to What You See In The Canon|
|Legion||1-2 named characters and around 30 other more generic folks||Generally close in terms of the ratio of screen time for the big movie land battles (Naboo, Geonosis, Kashyyk, Scarif, Hoth, Endor, and Crait) even if there’s usually far more generics numbers-wise. Endor and Scarif, feel especially close to what you could see in standard Legion game. This is also true of several Clone Wars episodes, esp the big planet battles like Ryloth|
|Armada||3 big ships supported by 10-12 or so fighter models||Sadly true capital ship on capital ship fights are much less common than the other two scenarios but the scale is usually much bigger. Funny enough, Scarif once again takes the cake for running the closest, you could basically make complete Armada lists that are 1:1 with that space battle if you don’t account for the obscene # of TIE Fighters.|
|X-Wing||4ish fighters on each side, usually 1-2 is a recognizable name (this has gone back and forth a bit, true “generic” fighters are rare in the current iteration of the game but let’s face it the TIE Figther pilot known as “Backstabber” may as well be generic to normal people).||A very funky one since this game was big-time into Legends material and heavily influenced by the X-Wing series of books which align pretty well with this, but as far as the films go most fighter combat is on a much much grander scale (aside from the asteroid encounter in Ep 2, which was 1v1 and therefore also not really relevant).|
Long story short? It’s very hit and miss. The problem, of course, is that it would be extremely hard to design a game that truly represented how Star Wars is experienced as a whole and it mostly boils down to the fact that when you combine all the forms in which the media is consumed Star Wars is all over the damn place in terms of scale and trying to capture those hyper-epic (think the beginning of Ep 3, or the space part of Endor) encounters would probably result in a headache of a game that would be more about spreadsheets than having fun.
Shatterpoint, however, is a bit different in this capacity. From the beginning, the developers stated that the aesthetic of choice was specifically the cartoons (though funny enough they said Saturday morning cartoons, which for Star Wars is basically “Droids” and “Ewoks,” Clone Wars used to air Friday evenings, but relax we know what they meant) and it shows. The art is somewhere between Clone Wars and a comic book, and the minis themselves are straight up Clone Wars. How do I know? It’s the B2.
Indeed, Shatterpoint features the Clone Wars B2, aka the one who spends all of leg day on the bench press. It’s not just him though, Asajj and Ahsoka are also extremely close to the cartoon and Dooku’s very large very pointy beard is another dead giveaway.
But what does this mean? Well, Clone Wars/Bad Batch and its inferior (sorry, it’s true) cousin Rebels typically feature an A story and a B story where a couple main characters are hanging out with and/or finding a couple of bad guys and each has a few grunts by their side. You obviously get your Ryloths and your Umbaras every once in a while but cartoons are cartoons after all and it’s a lot easier to squeeze a smaller story into a smaller run time. And thus, the dynamic of “two squads that feature a total of four named characters and 8-12 nobodies” runs super close to those shows.
In our demo, this was borne out fairly well. Furthermore. it was clear that the primary and secondary units were the real movers and shakers while the grunts were mostly contributing on the side. In Legion, if you leave Anakin out in the open against two fully kitted Mandalorian super commandos, he could very well just die. In Shatterpoint, however, he will very likely brush it off. Like it or not, nameless characters in the cartoons basically never accomplish anything from a fighting perspective, and Shatterpoint doesn’t seem like it will stray too far from that based on my game, where their shooting was weak and their main contribution was holding points down. In this way, the game feels on theme and in my opinions meets its self-purported goals.
“No One’s Ever Really Gone…” except when they started the turn on the objective that is
Speaking of “not-dying,” it’s just one demo but Anakin sure seemed to me like he would last forever. With 11 health and 3 “lives” he needs to feel a LOT of hurt before he really goes down for the count, plus he has an active ability that can heal him. The recently released Maul, however, has the same health with only 2 “lives” plus he kinda relies on getting hurt to do his thing. This does feel thematic, and I’m guessing that his stance cards (which are chock full of icons) plus his strong defense will keep him in the zone longer than we think.
While it’s true that a lot of characters seem like they’ll rarely truly die, what WILL happen to them all the time is getting moved around. When you look at the stance charts, a lot of them (especially the Jedi) have the “shove” symbol which is the rightward facing arrow. Not only does this move you back, the attacking character gets to move forward each time you do this. So, even if the damage is kind of on the low end per activation you will be achieving way more than damage every would by say, doing three shoves with one attack. This seemed to make the game very dynamic, by the time you and your opponent have each completed one mid-game activation the board state could look extraordinarily different. This level of hyper-mobility is not super common in Marvel Crisis Protocol, characters who are able to do similar things (who for instance can do a charge attack followed by a push or throw) are extremely valued, but in Shatterpoint pretty much anyone can do it.
Not Simply “Star Wars Crisis Protocol” but…
It sure shares a LOT of similarities with its Marvel cousin, AMG’s token/original game and what was clearly the inspiration for Shatterpoint. We don’t know a ton about how objectives will shift as the game goes on, but the one we demoed sure felt a lot like “What is MCP was all secures and there were 8 of them?”
To explain what I mean to non-MCP players, each game has two primary ways to score victory points each of which can be chosen from a an array of moderately different cards:
- Extract: Grab a McGuffin and hold onto it each round to score
- Secure: Have the most people close to a token each round to score
The above is a simplified explanation but lends to the idea that many lists in MCP will excel at scoring one while trying to “counter” the other, but the key thing to remember is that in every game there is one active “Secure” and one active “Extract” so you can’t just pretend the one you aren’t as good at doesnt exist.
Well, so far Shatterpoint is all about holding on to points, in other (MCP) words it’s “Oops All Secures.”
This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, it may even help keep the game simple for more casual players, but it sure makes me feel like the characters that have more “Push” in their stance chart and who have active abilities that move opposing characters are going to dominate, even if they don’t do all that much damage while it’s happening. Plus, the built-in rubber banding aspect of the “Struggle” and the current loser choosing objective maps for rounds 2 and 3 may well keep things a bit more equivalent as time goes on, MCP has a decent back and forth aspect as well but one early kill can really swing things there in a way that will just be less possible here.
Can Shatterpoint Break Barriers of Accessibility?
Let’s be real, Legion is freakin’ complicated. When I talk to new players I say to them with a straight face that they will finally truly understand how to play in six months, and that they should expect to continue to lose to more experienced players for another three. Those of us who are into the competitive scene don’t really mind that, as long as people are having fun while they’re going through the learning process. And, for the most part, they do! However, I do imagine that a decent number of people end up feeling intimidated and bowing out before realizing their potential.
The other undeniable thing about Legion? There are a lot of models you have to glue (I still find the halves of B1 heads on the floor from like two years ago sometimes) and paint before they’re tournament ready, MCP and Shatterpoint though? Well, I got an entire 10-person Brotherhood squad ready to go and looking pretty decent with around 8 hours of work. It’s not gonna win any painting contests but they look pretty decent. The Shatterpoint models, like MCP usually is, are good. Even though the minis aren’t THAT much taller than a Legion one, from a scale perspective it feels enormous and gives you way more leeway to add detail.
Some day I might also write something about the fact that Magneto is pretty much my favorite fictional character
When you combine these two ideas, that it is easier to play and easier to field, it lends truth to the concept that this game will be more approachable to casual players than Legion. My question is how much more. There is a law of diminishing returns here: there is a certain, fairly high barrier to entry for any minis game where the minis are not pre-painted or pre-assembled. I myself stayed away from Legion until Clone Wars came out, precisely because the painting/assembling scared me as a lifelong tabletop (HeroClix then X-Wing) and card (L5R, RIP) gamer. Plus, it’s not like the game is mega simple, I am certainly going to need to have reference cards out the first few times I play, but there ain’t gonna be a hundred keywords to memorize.
So, getting back to those diminishing returns, I think it will be hard to nab the “true” casual types but there is of course a middle ground…it will pull some from other minis games, and will certainly convince a few folks on the fence about minis to take the dive. Will that be enough to make the game succeed? Atomic Mass is certainly pulling out all the stops to make that possible, with a very aggressive release strategy (Republic, for instance, already has twice the Jedi announced in Shatterpoint than have been released or announced for Legion in the faction’s 3.5 year history) and a pitched marketing effort. I hope it succeeds because all Star Wars games potentially stand to benefit, but it won’t be a walk in the park.
Pictured: A Walk In the Park
This isn’t to say it’s all luck at all, there is a competitive scene where certain players will be at the top tables regularly. But crazy, unexpected results happen way more in MCP. A lot of characters, A LOT, have abilities that can either fall flat or blow the entire game open instantaneously. In this way, it sometimes feels like “everyone is broken so no one really is,” or to quote a memorable visit to Mayo clinic by Mr. Burns in The Simpsons, MCP has the game balance version of “Three Stooges Syndrome.”
So, Will I Play It?
Yes, I will certainly be getting the Core Set anyway, and not just because I may be the one who ends up actually reviewing it for this site.
All this factors in to my personal viewpoint on Legion vs. MCP:
- Legion: Highly rewarding, but a lot of work, and what I’m most invested in performing well in because I view it as a true test of skill. I try hard to win it.
- MCP: A very fun and very swingy popcorn game where I will still try to win but I would venture to say that I have more fun when I lose compared to Legion, partially because the games are shorter and less complex, but also because MCP can be random as hell so you kinda just have to shrug and say “what can you do?”
“Hysterical pregnancy?!” “A little bit yes!”
My early impressions of Shatterpoint is actually that the dice will be more predictable than MCP, given that crits merely make damage unavoidable instead of potentially doubling it (MCP crits are insane y’all) and that there is no hand of “Tactics” cards in Shatterpoint to add to the mischief that’s already on the board. It’s obviously too early to say for sure but I think there’s a possibility that this game will find a happy medium for me between the high strategy of Legion and the oft-inanity of MCP. I’m certainly eager to see the full rule set and array of stat cards to have a better idea of how this game is really going to shake out with multiple playthroughs, and if nothing else I can’t WAIT to pick apart the canon accuracy of these units all over again for a brand new game, and to lay down my judgments of what song goes best with that Maul/Rex/B1 list that may somehow become the new meta.
Until then, please remember to thank my bosses for all the meaningful content and consider joining our Patreon, so that they continue to ignore me and allow me to write what I really want to.
Coming this May 4: