Warning: The following paragraphs are a rant over the state of the Sentinel Tactics game. If you don’t like negativity, then I would suggest that you not read any further.
I’ve spent the last few years checking the forums, looking for updates on the state of Sentinel Tactics. Most of those searches ended with no new information being available and the few times that updates were shared, the news was universally disappointing.
To be clear, I expect delays of 3-6 months when dealing with board game releases. I’m not at all surprised by delays of 12-18 months. I consider those situations to be within normal practices for the board gaming industry. But we are no longer within anything approaching an understandable grace period when it comes to the Sentinel Tactics expansion(s). We are nearly 3.5 years past the initial announcement and there isn’t even the barest indication the game is close to being finished with playtesting/development, much less ready to go to the printer. For frame of reference, the construction on the Empire State Building (the one-time tallest building in the world) took only around 13 months to complete, and in nearly triple that timeframe GtG has been unable to decide exactly which numbers they want to (maybe) someday print onto pieces of cardboard.
To make matters worse, these extreme delays have made it unlikely that I’ll even be able to get much use out of the game if and when it ships. Multiplayer games (both video and board) are by their very nature driven by the community around them. If you don’t have enough friends interested in playing, then you’re not going to be playing the game, regardless of its quality. Try to imagine how well the SotM card game would have been received if there was a 4-5 year gap between the launch of the base game and rook city. People would have blown through all the content in the base game, moved on to other activities, and would be far less likely to return to “that old game”. Oh, I’m sure some people would still return for the new content, but you have to admit the number of players and the general
enthusiasm would be greatly diminished. Games like these are harmed by long gaps between new content, and that harm is compounded when the developer announces (in so many words) that the game is broken and they are having to go back to the drawing board.
Unfortunately, this lack of progress isn’t limited to the ill-fated expansions. The original Kickstarter campaign promises have yet to be fulfilled because we still do not have the written scenarios to go with the poster maps. The explanation we’ve received is that the game mechanics are being rebuilt via the future expansions and that these promised scenarios are being held back to incorporate the fruit of these labors. Assuming all of that to be truthful, there are two possible situations as I see it:
1) The work on these scenarios was complete or very nearly complete in late 2015, in which case the KS backers could (should!) be provided with the promised download of these scenarios (even in a rough draft version) at minimal cost, with the option for GtG to replace them with improved versions in the future. Having even unpolished or temporary scenarios would be of value to the backers, because the maps themselves are virtually useless without them. None of
the maps have any differences in elevation, leading to severe balance issues among characters with and without mobility if you were to use the maps for skirmishes (on top of the fact that they are too asymmetrical for that purpose). Without any scenarios and being impractical for skirmishes, these map posters amount to small and expensive tablecloths.
2) The work on these scenarios was not very far along prior to their being abandoned. This would mean that the maps themselves were developed, printed and released to backers with little thought put into the scenarios they would be used for, which calls into serious question the quality we could expect from such scenarios should they ever be completed. It also undermines the notion that GtG was making a good faith effort to honor the goals of the original KS as these
scenarios were expected long before the issues that led to scrapping Battle for Broken City came up.
No matter which situation is true, the fact is that of all the projects I've Kickstarted, I can count only Oblivaeon and Flame of Freedom among those who are well past due and still haven't been totally fulfilled. Considering that the hold-up on Sentinel Tactics amounts to the lack of a text file on the internet, I find this particularly damning. There's no excuse for not having resolved this.
And finally, the way all of this mess has been handled just feels…dishonest. As we were nearing the original promised date for Battle for Broken City, GtG was heavily invested in cultivating a competitive tournament scene for Sentinel Tactics. By their own admission, this was a business move that proved costly when it failed to yield positive results. The impression I got from their statements was that the company was in at least some measure of financial trouble as they struggled with how they could fix a broken game they had invested so much into. Over a year went by before they announced that they were cancelling the original expansion in lieu of the new Prime War project. One which (surprise, surprise) they had already spent enough time on to develop not only a concept but also art assets and enough material to make it presentable for new pre-orders. This means that they spent a non-trivial amount of time holding on to pre-order money with absolutely no intention of proceeding with the original project. It gives the impression that they were hiding the information on the game’s status to avoid having to pay out refunds after a financial setback and were scrambling to put a new product together to keep people on board. But hey, at least they were kind enough to automatically re-invest all that pre-order money into Prime War unless you specifically contacted them to do otherwise.
Since that initial 180 degree turning point, there have been zero additional details revealed about Prime War.
-No additional details on the characters (or even a list on who is included).
-No discussion of the considered system changes that are causing all of these delays.
-Not even any previews of art or components, which should (theoretically) be less impacted by the changes in the playtesting process.
The only feedback that has been received is the tired mantra of “We ARE working on it” and “We can’t share anything at this time”. After this long a period of time, I don’t think it’s remotely unreasonable to expect to see some evidence, however small, that progress has been made. Almost every kickstarter game I’ve backed has included semi-regular updates showing off preliminary art, components or rules as the development has progressed. The only reason to assume that GtG is incapable of doing this for Prime War is that they have no progress to show or that they are embarassed about the progress that has been made. Given the specific history of the Sentinel Tactics development effort, I’m afraid that there is very little reason to continue giving GtG the benefit of the doubt regarding where the game lies in the hierarchy of the company’s priorities.
The really tragic part of this whole affair is that it has managed to turn me into a non-fan. I used to list Sentinel Tactics among my top 5 favorite board games before all of this happened. Checking on the forums for status gradually became less about excitement for the game and more about frustration over the money I’d invested. Eventually I reached the point I’m at today, where I don’t even want the game anymore. Even if GtG announced that Prime War was shipping tomorrow, I would still have a hard time seeing myself taking time away from other board games to play Sentinel Tactics. I’ve even grown apathetic about playing the Oblivaeon KS that will supposedly be shipping “soon”.
For all of these reasons, I am requesting that my pre-order be refunded. GtG, please let me know whom at your offices I can contact to get this process started. I will also be sending a complaint through Kickstarter over the map scenarios that remain unfulfilled from the original campaign and the fact that GtG doesn’t have even the vaguest timeline for when such a fulfillment may occur (more than 3 years after the estimated kickstarter delivery date). I would encourage anyone else who feels similarly to do the same.
I wish the best to those of you who still love the game and want to hang on to it, but for my part I’ve reached the point that further involvement is just not fun anymore.