Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thoughts on Tannhauser

As I described in my last post on the game, Tannhauser is a squad-based game that uses a unique 'pathfinding' system (as shown here)
that allows for easy determination of line-of-sight, movement and combat. And the little colorful circles that the pathfinding system uses are just neat.

I think I can accurately describe this as a 'dead' game, since after a fall release the Tannhauser line has no new products in development. So what lead this interesting game to this conclusion?

Tannhauser was the creation of a French gaming company, Take On You, back in 2007. Distribution was handled in the US by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), but they did not actually write the rules for the product. Like most FFG releases, this was hyped, and it was assumed by many people on (BGG) (another site I am a member of) that this was going to be another awesome game, as FFG has a pretty good track record for their games.

Tannhauser... bombed. Badly. It sold well, but the rulebook... was awful (and I speak from experience). Maybe it reflected the game, but the rules were scattered across pages, making it hard to determine basic things like using weapons and defensive abilities. And the hardcore players on BGG panned the game, because it was an awful rule set and there really wasn't a way to change the rules without a complete overhaul. Add the fact that the Union faction was quite overpowering (their special guns could kill in one roll without being able to do anything about), and the game seemed to wither quickly over here.

The releases from Take On You were the base game (Tannhauser), Operation Novgorod which introduced a third faction, the Matriarchy, and single figure packs Wolf (mercenary), Yula (Reich), Sergei (Union) and Gorgei (mercenary-Matriarchy). And that was it.

Then, in 2009, FFG bought the rights to Tannhauser, and there was much rejoicing. However, the material FFG would use was shipped over from France (Take On You's location) and  FFG had to take a year to translate it from French and create a new rule book. The rule book could be had for $10 in print, or $5 as a PDF (and it's still available this way). Now, some felt that they shouldn't have to make another purchase to make the game playable, but I disagree. FFG took the time to redo the rules, and it's a small price to pay for that.

Now, since 2010, FFg has released a whole slew of materials, from single and double-figure packs to maps and even some novels set in the Tannhauser universe. So why the stoppage of new material? I think it's mostly because of how bad the initial impression was; so many people were turned off by it that they really don't want to invest more time and money into a 'bad' game, even if the rules changed.

The other reason has to do with pricing. The original game costs $70 for a double-sided board and 10 figures. Single figure packs retail for $12-$14, big figures like Asteros (minotaur) and the Frankenstahl (big flesh golem) for $20, and double-figure packs for $20. the map packs cost $30... it all adds up. It's hard to invest that much into a game, unless you do it over time, but by stalling purchases FFG sees it as 'Oh, people aren't buying, there must not be many players.'

But while this is the end (for now perhaps) of FFG making stuff for the game, there is a wealth of material online by others, and I will be posting customs I've made for this game.

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