LET ME LOVE YOU, LEVIATHANS!
Ok, tabletop gaming talk time. I’ve been a table top gamer for SLIGHTLY less time than I’ve been a vidya gamer. My first minis were the famous “30 Space Marines for 30 dollars” box back when GW wasn’t in the running for “Most idiotic evil corporate empire on earth” and I’ve played ever since. Battletech, Every GW game out there, Johnny Reb, Age of Reason, Command Decision, X-wing, Warmahordes. You name it I’ve probably looked it over.
Leviathans very quickly earned a special part in my heart. This is an incredibly fun, not tortuously complex, immensely characterful game. Seriously, who doesn’t love Pre-Dreadnought flying battleships blasting each other to bits over Victorean Europe? It’s a great game and if you can find a copy I strongly suggest forking over for the (overpriced, and more on that soon) box. The miniatures are fascinating, and you will be fondling them gleefully, the rules are fun and the fluff is entertaining as hell especially if you are familiar with early 20th century naval personages.
But there’s a fly in the ointment.
That’s not true.
There’s some ointment on the wasps nest.
Leviathans has been mismanaged, unlucky, and royally screwed over since the beginning. Their kickstarter ran well, but since then. Woof. I’m not entirely conversant with the chain of events but whatever research they did on their suppliers apparently missed the fact that Don Corleone was less crooked, and Chicago less corrupt. Catalyst (which runs a shoestring organization to begin with) faced numerous… well… shakedowns in getting their product released, and ended up selling either for a loss or for a bare profit on the $100 dollar box set that staggered onto the market nearly a year late. They released three box sets, the core one, and two fleet box sets that never saw the shelves here for about 50 a piece. They contained the same miniatures as the big box, with variant ships. Some e-pubs followed and lots and lots of promises.
And that’s it.
The new factions? Not ready yet. More miniatures? Not even close. Now there’s just no way to even GIVE them more money to continue development short of waiting for another kickstarter. That will basically get us back to where we were 2 years ago when the product first launched. If it succeeds.
Recently the extremely clever and devoted developer of the game, one Randall Bills, posted a statement basically admitting that they had lost all control of the miniatures (renders, molds, everything) and that their initial production model had been a failure for many reasons (not the least of which being malfeasance by the mini producer) and everything but the rules needed to be done from the ground up.
It looks more and more like Randall needs a boss. Someone with more business experience to provide oversight, rigor, and experience to prevent the kind of catastrophes that have plagued this program since the first kickstarter.
The tone of this last message reminds me of Bruce Graw of Agents of Gaming. Bruce created a game called Babylon 5 Wars, based on the TV series, and it was a rather similar game to Leviathans in the way the game flowed. The game even had some pretty considerable success, which is amazing when I think on how incredibly difficult to assemble many of the miniatures were. It fell apart towards the end when the license for the game wasn’t continued despite Bruce’s considerable efforts and investment and the company disappeared like a soap bubble.
Both companies were exposed to point failure, that is one single bad player in the scheme could ruin them. Bruce didn’t have much control over it, his whole concept required a partner to play along, but Randall didn’t have to use that company, and he could have given himself surety that protected him from getting screwed over like he did. Especially after it happened once.
Both companies had major supply issues as well. B5W minis would show up with molding flaws that were simply ridiculous, enormous bubbles, or concavities, detail so worn away that ships looked like metal bricks, B5W was not immune to issues with their producers, and Bruce had to spend a lot of time cat-wrangling.
B5W suffered an ignominious demise because of these problems. Leviathans seems to be heading that way. I want it to succeed, I want to see the Germans, Italians, Russians, Austrian, American, and Japanese fleets sail the skies. I want more miniatures, I want the amazing mapboard to have neighbors, and I want expanded rules. I don’t want Leviathans to be a footnote, but unless they get some supervision I fear that Bills will be the next Graw.