Out of nowhere, Atomic Mass Games (AMG) announced a new skirmish-level Star Wars miniatures game yesterday, but what will that mean for Legion?
Let’s start with some basic background. Star Wars: Shatterpoint was the first original novel set in the Clone Wars era. It features Mace Windu as the main character and now stands primarily as a reflection of the “end of innocence” the United States suffered in the early 2000’s. Windu’s descent into a jungle planet where his padawan has apparently gone rogue answers a question that many of us wanted to ask but could not find the words: what would it look like if an author watched half of Apocalypse Now, then fell asleep, then wrote a Star Wars book about it? The novel’s title refers to a fairly wacky force power Windu demonstrates that I would basically describe as half the Fifth Edition spell “shatter” and half that Feng Shui stand that the gross old dude used in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean, aside from the part about the talking dragon-
I’ve been informed by my superiors that I’m once again on thin ice and they seemingly deleted most of my review of the 2003 novel, so I guess I’ll talk about this new minis game instead.
What is Shatterpoint? (the actual answer)
Shatterpoint is a new smaller-scale battles game that immediately calls to mind Atomic Mass’ marquee game Marvel: Crisis Protocol. A trailer was released earlier today that shows off the very nice-looking miniatures, which are as follows (best I can tell):
- some 501st dude
- some 212th dude
- pairs of chubby-boy cartoon B2 units
- Magna-guard (two poses)
- Jango Fett
- Luminara Unduli
- Barriss Offee
- Clone Commandos (two poses and GOD DANG IT PUT THIS IN LEGION PLZ)
- Asajj Ventress
- triplets of B1’s
- Gar Saxon
- Rook Kast
- generic super commando mando
- some Nite Owl
- A lot of tactical rocks
- during the stream, other characters such as Mace Windu (bahaha, named after his novel and not even in the Core Set!), Padme, and Cad Bane were hinted at
Atomic Mass also had a short twitch stream today to introduce the game. It’s clearly Clone Wars-centered and unlike the miniatures in Legion these are stylized to generally look like the cartoon characters rather than a plastic version of the real deal. The hosts mentioned the fact that the game will feature use of terrain in a particular way and that elevation will be significant (which, I should note, would be a departure from Crisis Protocol where elevation is basically just area terrain). The starter set will be released in June of next year but we can expect articles starting January and a demo streamed from Adepticon. This is the end of the facts, but this is the internet damn it, you came here for opinions!
The bases look to be exactly the same size as Crisis Protocol, time will tell if the “feel” of the game is similar as well.
Legion is an immensely popular game. Though true data is hard to come by, owner interviews have suggested that it’s in the top 5 of miniatures games fairly consistently and the online fanbase seems to grow every day (including our Patreon by the way, IS THIS ENOUGH FOR YOU JAY?!). This fact means a couple things. First, it means that there are a lot of fans, and math being math at least a certain percentage of those fans are going to be somewhat prone to anything ranging from mild concern to actual anger upon hearing news that there is going to be a new minis game in town that covers A LOT of the same ground as their favorite game, which they have spent hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars on and poured dozens of hours into painting. I’ll be candid, the initial emotion I had myself was more like…annoyance.
I primarily play Republic and share a collection with my brother who plays CIS. Take a look at the list of 24 minis above, each of which have their own sculpt, their own unit card, their own interactions with each other. Many of these characters (most glaringly Jango) are long overdue for a Legion release but have not even been hinted at by the developers. Republic and CIS continue to miss key features enjoyed by the Civil War factions such as a third corps, a creature trooper, more than two operatives, and an emplacement (none of which, again, have been hinted at being under development) and while the Civil War factions are getting their 7th/8th operatives the stuff many of us have been hoping for is being made for a different game.
The way I’d describe my feelings above would be “mildly defensible pettiness.” While I think it’s extremely likely that the release schedule of Legion was affected by the buildup for this new game, I am not foolish enough to think that this was made without at least some degree of scaling-up their own staff in order to accommodate it. Part of me would certainly appreciate some candid discussion from the creative heads at Atomic Mass on this point, but I certainly don’t expect it nor should I. Making games is a business at the end of the day, I certainly don’t think businesses “owe” customers anything when it comes to explanations of their various strategies in making products. Finally, even though it was kind of a throw-away line during the stream, the Atomic Mass leads mentioned that this was a product “two and a half to three years in the making.” This would put the genesis of this product before Atomic Mass acquired the Star Wars minis license, Marvel: Crisis Protocol itself launched almost exactly three years ago. For all we know, the early success of MCP may have motivated the approval of this, a very similar game, which was likely already in the pipeline by the time the company knew they were going to get Legion.
A Case for Optimism
Optimism is not very valuable in my day job and I’m not one to pass it around with nothing but feelings to back it. However, going back to the popularity of Legion, the second thing that means is one that I find reassuring: Asmodee (the owner of Atomic Mass) isn’t going to be interested in halting development on what is potentially tied with MCP as their most popular product. One thing Legion has going for it that X-wing and Armada do not is a small but growing list of releases of actual miniatures that were designed and built by Atomic Mass from the ground up (rather than crossing the finish line with Fantasy Flight products like the other two). If one were to buy into the (in my opinion) conspiracy theories that Shatterpoint is Atomic Mass’ way to “kill Legion and just make Star Wars MCP” then I’d be curious how they’d explain the work that clearly went into the design of Rebel Boba or Dark Troopers and so on. If they wanted Legion to die, investments like that would have been silly indeed.
It’s naturally also important to point out that AMG’s social media folks (God bless them, seriously, if I ever run into one of you at a con I’ll buy you a coffee for dealing with us rabble) were hard at work very quickly to reassure Legion fans that development is still active on their twitter page. I personally think this would have been a good damage-control message during the stream, but eh what can you do? I am still, I suppose, a little concerned that Shatterpoint development will slow Legion’s. It’s worth noting however that even though we often see the same creative leads floating around for the various Star Wars minis games we can only assume that each one at least has one person that is fully dedicated to each active line, we know this is the case for X-Wing and I have a strong suspicion it’s the case for Legion as well (though I think the community would appreciate a bit more clarity on this point). Remember: Fantasy Flight at one point had four minis games under active development at once (though Imperial Assault was on the way out when Legion came around) so we know there’s a precedent for a company being able to handle it.
Get to the (shatter)point!
I absolutely don’t think Legion fans should go down the rabbit hole of worrying that this thing spells doom, for all the reasons I got into above. For all I know I may try the thing out and enjoy it more (doubtful, because I <3 Legion), or maybe I’ll watch the demo stream and realize it’s not for me. What matters is that Legion (and obviously, The Fifth Trooper) is here and here to stay, so I hope that the community can quickly absorb this news, file it away mentally, and start transitioning to more sensible things like theorizing about upcoming points changes or digging in to their piles of shame as the Winter weather sets in.
As always, if you want to shatter my points then feel free to submit your complaints/accusations…to https://twitter.com/swstabcast, and remember that if you want to know more about the real Shatterpoint…you know who to call.