Archive for the 'Other' Category

Catalyst Bids on WizKids Properties

According to an article on ICV2, Catalyst Games has made an offer to purchase a number of WizKids properties, including Pirates, HeroClix, Star Wars, Battletech and Shadowrun. Catalyst had already licensed the Battletech and Shadowrun properties for other games, and their bid includes the properties and underlying games.

This is good news, because it means that other game companies are interested in continuing the Pirates line, and so I’m hoping that Topps will announce sort of resolution soon.

Man the Buckets – Topps Shuts Down WizKids

Sad news, everyone. Yesterday, there was a post over at Topps (WizKids parent company) has decided to shut down WizKids and temporarily discontinuing the Pirates, HeroClix and Star Wars PocketModel lines. Here’s the full post:

Topps Shuts Down WizKids
Pursuing Alternatives for Viable Props

The Topps Company is announcing today that it is closing down WizKids, its core hobby gaming business, and temporarily discontinuing the WizKids product lines. Topps CEO Scott Silverstein commented, “This was an extremely difficult decision. But in light of the current economic conditions, we feel it is necessary to align our gaming initiatives more closely with Topps current sports and entertainment offerings which are already being developed within our New York office.” WizKids is based in Seattle, Washington.

In its statement announcing the closing of WizKids, Topps also indicated that it was pursuing “strategic alternatives so that viable brands and properties, including HeroClix, can continue without any noticeable disruption.”

Founded by Jordan Weisman in 2000, WizKids launched the first successful collectible miniatures game (CMG), Mage Knight, and also produced the first constructible strategy game (CSG), Pirates of the Spanish Main, in 2004. In addition to the successful comic book-based HeroClix CMGs, WizKids also released the Star Wars Pocket Model Game in 2007.

WizKids was purchased by Topps in 2003 (see “Topps Acquires WizKids”), while Topps itself was acquired by Michael Eisner’s Tornante Company and Dearborn Partners in 2007 (see “Topps Sold!”).

And then this was posted elsewhere:

As the news of the shutdown of WizKids (see “Topps Shuts Down WizKids”), one of the Big Three of hobby games, percolated through the industry, one of the first concerns was of continuing support for the games. Alliance Game Distributors, the sole distributor of WizKids products to the hobby market, issued a statement to reassure its customers. “Alliance and Diamond, meanwhile, will continue to service on-hand inventory, including the recent Arkham Asylum release for DC HeroClix,” the statement said. In addition, both companies will work with Topps to fulfill all promised Organized Play and Arkham Asylum “Buy It By The Brick” promotions.

Alliance President Daniel Hirsch commented on the news. “We are disappointed by this very unexpected news,” he said. “We have enjoyed a great relationship with WizKids, and together have brought great products and promotions to thousands of retailers in the U.S. and Canada.”

Lax Chandra, President of WizKids, spoke well of the company’s relationship with Alliance (see “WizKids Goes Exclusive”). “Through this strategic partnership, we achieved efficiencies and had many successes, including significant sales growth for HeroClix and successful new product launches like Halo,” he said. “I personally hope to work with Diamond and Alliance, who have a great team, in the future.”

ACD Distribution, at one time the largest U.S. distributor of WizKids products, declined comment on the WizKids closing.

ICv2 also contacted other game companies to get their reactions. Only Upper Deck responded in time for this article. “Upper Deck is very excited to launch our first collectible miniatures game on Tuesday, November 11,” a spokesperson said. “We believe that our World of Warcraft Miniatures Game will bring a breath of fresh air to the category, offering players unique and engaging game play and the highest quality figures yet offered in the collectible miniatures arena.”

Among the topics arousing speculation is the possible landing place for the WizKids brands. There are only three other companies in the collectible miniatures game business at this time. Wizards of the Coast, which has several collectable miniature lines, including Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, and Axis and Allies, would seem to be a logical candidate because of its experience in handling licenses, its existing relationship with Lucasfilm (which licenses WizKids to produce its Star Wars Pocket Model Game), and its Seattle-area location, which would make it convenient to absorb any WizKids staff. But WotC recently revamped its D&D Miniatures, turning them into supporting pieces for the D&D RPG (see “WotC to Stop Supporting D&D Minis Skirmish Game”) and moving away from totally random packaging, making its appetite for collectible game acquisitions questionable.

Upper Deck is entering the CMG market this month with the launch of its World of Warcraft Miniatures Game, and it’s an experienced producer of licensed products and already has licenses with Marvel and DC, which are licensors for WizKids’ HeroClix line. But Upper Deck and WizKids parent Topps had an acrimonious dispute last year surrounding Upper Deck’s interest in acquiring Topps (see “Topps Fires Back”), so its unclear whether the mutual trust necessary to complete a transaction is present.

Privateer Press recently entered the CMG market with the successful launch of its kaiju CMG Monsterpocalypse (see “Monsterpocalypse the Biggest Ever”), and its Seattle-area location is a plus. But Privateer is smaller than the other two CMG companies and it’s not a producer of licensed products.

Of course, there’s no rule that says that an acquiring company has to currently be a CMG producer, or even a collectible game producer, which opens up the possibilities considerably.

Fantasy Flight Games, which has extensive experience with licensed games and miniatures, is another possibility, although it, too, is moving away from the collectible game format (see “FFG Explains Its (Non-) Collectible Game Strategy”).

The good news is that Topps seems intent on completing a transaction quickly, and has a strong incentive to do so to preserve as much of the brand value as possible, so perhaps an announcement on the sale of the WizKids brands will be forthcoming soon.

What does this for Pirates? Right now, the news is so new, that no one really knows. It’s possible (and supported by the “temporarily” comment in the original press release) that Topps will continue the Pirates line eventually. It’s also possible that Topps could sell the line to another publisher.

Personally, I hope either option works out. But for now, I have a large number of ships, and I don’t plan to stop playing in the near future. And I plan to organize local games in the future.

Basic Tactic: Crossing the T

This week, I’m going to talk about some basic tactics that you can use in your Pirates game to help you improve your play, and hopefully win more matches. First up is a very basic tactic taken from actual naval warfare: Crossing the T.

Crossing the T involves moving your ship so that all of your cannons can shoot at your opponent, while simultaneously making it harder for him to shoot back at you (without moving). To do this, move you ship so that it is perpendicular to an imaginary line that goes through the center of your opponent’s ship. Think of your opponent’s ship as the vertical portion of a capital T, and your ship is the crossbar at the top. You can do this either to the front or rear of his ship; in fact, positioning your ship behind his ship will make it slightly harder for him to move and shoot back on his turn (assuming that you don’t sink him). You should make sure that all the cannons on your ship are within range of your opponent. If you have L range cannons, position your ship just outside of S range, in case he has a canceler on board, and to force him to move on his next turn if he wants to shoot back (if his cannons are S range). If you’ve positioned yourself right, most or all of your ship’s cannons will be in range of your opponent’s ship, while only the front 1 or 2 cannons of your opponent’s ship will be able to shoot back. The rest of his ship’s cannons will be blocked by the sails of the forward masts (unless the ship is a schooner or junk; see below). Your opponent will have to move his ship in order to shoot back, or else he will have to settle for only firing a few cannons instead of a full barrage.

Now, if your opponent’s ship is a schooner or junk, the sails will not block line-of-fire for the other cannons. So, be careful about the placement or your ship, and try to make sure that even if the farther cannons could fire, your ship is out of range of them.

For added fun, if your ship has one less-than-great cannon (especially a S-4 or S-5), put a Smokepot Specialist on your ship. After you’ve fired all of you good cannons, use the less-than-great cannon to put a fog/smoke cloud between you and your opponent’s ship (if there is room). Then, your opponent will HAVE to move around the cloud shoot at you. Or he might move into it, which is actually better for you: his ship will pop out at the beginning of your next turn, and he will be limited on the position of his ship (because of the dice roll). Many times, his ship will not be in the optimal position to fight after coming out of the fog, and you can take advantage of that.

Pirates, Ready Your…Tanks?

Ship carrying 33 Russian Tanks seized by Somali Pirates off of the Horn of Africa.

Pretty bold.

Talk Like a Pirate Day – Friday, September 19th

A squall called Hurricane Ike blew through central Ohio yesterday and knocked out our power, so I’m just going to make a quick note today: Friday is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Don’t forget!

Non-Pirates: Tee Moris Wins Parsec Award

Ok, this is only tangentially related to Pirates. Tee Morris, the author of the Morevi books and audio drama, has won the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction Audio Drama (Long Form including Independents) for his “Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword” podcast/audio drama.

Hopefully, Morevi: Remastered will be nominated next year, because I’ve been listening to it, and it’s an awesome ride. It equals or exceeds the quality of the Billibub podcast, and should be a shoe-in next year.

Kelly Bonilla, Game Designer at WizKids, is Leaving

Sad news, everyone. It’s been announced that Kelly Bonilla, Game Designer at WizKids, is leaving the company. During a recent shake-up in the company, his position was eliminated, and his last day is today (Aug 15th).

Actually, Kelly’s position was eliminated a while back, but he was asked to stay on to work on the upcoming Savage Shore release, and the release after that. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

One nice thing is that Kelly has been leaving hints and sneak peeks about some of the elements in the upcoming set, including details on 3 new Mysterious Island-style islands. I’ll post what info I can dig up in Tuesday’s post.

Awesome Pirate Cake

Now, that is one awesome cake! Continue Reading »

Two Men in Vermont Wager to Stay in Pirate Garb the Longest

Two men in Rutland, Vermont have made a bet: the one who stays in pirate costume the longest (baring showings, sleeping, and special events like funerals) gets $500 and a black powder pistol. The loser gets tasered.

No posts this week

Between getting ready for the Origins Game Fair this weekend (sorry, no Pirates events), and trying to finish up a freelance layout project for a client, I’m just not going to be able to make any posts this week.

But, don’t worry, I’ll be back next week with more Piratical goodness, including an article on why a Fort should be included in any gold-running build. See you next week!

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