Jim Owczarski, 7 March 2019
It seems like a lifetime ago — admittedly it was 1993, which for some reading this is a lifetime — that Richard Borg released “Siege of the Citadel”, his mass-market introduction to the world of the Mutant Chronicles. The latter was ever an attempt to knock Games Workshop’s Warhammer: 40,000 from its perch atop the world of ultra-violent future dystopia tabletop skirmish gaming.
Coming as it did on the heels of the mass market success of “HeroQuest”, however, “Siege of the Citadel” shipped laden with toys: a shovel-load of decently-sculpted plastic miniatures, bright plastic game components, and even a garish cardboard and plastic citadel over which the sides could fight. Players led teams of elite commandos, each team typed after one of the human nations which had taken over a planet in our solar system, against an army of demons. Gameplay was simple and moved very quickly. I fell so hard for the system, and was so disgusted by the changes being made to WH:40K, that I eventually bought three copies of the boardgame just to have the figures.
Eventually, although other mass-market games in the universe were created, the fire faded and I can vividly remember the original box being available for scandalously low prices at toy store outlets. In 2016, however, Modiphius Entertainment, which numbers among its licenses “Vampire: The Masquerade”, took a swing at re-booting the Mutant Chronicles’ tabletop flagship on Kickstarter. With over 4,300 backers and $600,000 pledged, the campaign was certainly a success. With that success came an intoxicating array of stretch goals: new miniatures, new game boards depicting new worlds, really big new miniatures, new rules, new mission cards, &c.
It all was clearly too much for the company as it hired new staff, moved to new quarters, and struggled mightily to get even the core game shipped. Eventually, a few months ago, backers at a certain level were offered the chance of splitting their shipments, paying extra for shipping, and receiving their base sets in advance. I have the impulse control of an eight-year-old in the iron grip of a pixy-stick binge, and, therefore, the box with my base set showed up just today. Care to see what’s inside? I thought you might.
My first surprise was this extra little white box packed outside the main one. Apparently one of the decks of cards in the game was printed over-sized and they reprinted them to match. Well done in the aggregate, but a bit of a pain for those who shuffled their larger cards in before noticing the extra box.
The box itself is one of the chunky, square monsters common in larger miniature-heavy games.
Inside the box there is a bit of archeological packing as vacuum-formed plastic trays provide several layers of storage. It may be a niggle, but the plastic used for the trays is thin and more flexible than I might have liked. At the top, though, is a well-made pair of booklets, one containing the rules and the other containing the first sets of the game’s missions.
The rules run to 27 pages, a lot of which is text, which was, at least for me, a surprising indication of how much more complicated these rules have become. I do not have the first edition at hand to check, but I cannot believe its rulebook was anywhere near as long.
The mission book is nicely laid out, but I am already eager to see what the other promised mission books will bring, especially the “Brotherhood” set.
The next layer down holds the bulk of the miniatures. As mentioned above, I know full well that this is not the whole set as promised, but it is striking that this is less than half of those that will be in the final edition of the game. The sculpts are smaller than I remember them and, while I think they overall did a fine job, I do not care for the color-coded bases they used to distinguish the different figures. They seem flat, basic, and, for want of a better word, unimaginative.
I must take a moment to discuss two figures in particular. The first is Max Steiner. One of my favorite characters from the mythology, there was no small measure of angst generated in the Kickstarter community by the decision not to grant him his iconic mask. Seeing the final result, I am not as agitated as some, but I must declare his figure a disappointment. I know nothing of the exigencies of 3-D modelling, but this is less than he deserves. And no, the flowing mane is not an adequate replacement. Reading through the website, I gather a modified Steiner is en route with the stretch goal “extras”. Those who buy the base game, though, get this guy.
And the Ezoghoul. One of the consummate “big bads” of the universe, this figure in the original game was an absurdity. Big, made of multiple-parts, and forever a bit wobbly, it was still an absolute delight as a toy. The new Ezoghoul is very well done, and is now in one piece, but, if I am not mistaken, has been reduced in size. Either that or the fact that he is no longer made out of white plastic has diminished him every so slightly for me.
The next layer down contains the player-record holders and marking pegs. These are a very nice upgrade from the originals, made of sturdier plastic and far more legible than I remember.
After the bases come the tiles that will be used to form the citadels and other play spaces. These, unlike the originals, are printed on both sides and are placed on very heavy cardstock. The illustrations seem top quality.
Underneath the maps comes a clever bit of packing. When I lifted off the maps and saw the below I immediately recognized what Modiphius had done.
Not only had they stored the necessary decks of cards, but they had also found a way to minimize the impact of the all-important stair piece that forms the base of the citadel.
And that takes us all the way to the bottom of the box. I am very much looking forward to making my way through the rules and having a go at the forces of darkness. The original “Siege of the Citadel” was one of my favorite non-historical tabletop games, combining as it did tactical combat and just enough alt-universe silliness. Now, for the first time in a couple of years, I have hope that its successor can do it one better.
For now, I will just join my voice to those of the Brotherhood and say: “FOR THE CARDINAL!”