Epic ACW Is A Marketing Project, Not A New Wargame Scale

In the last week of 2020 Warlord Games announced their new project: Epic ACW. Some European wargamers were happy, others disappointed – why this weird 13,5mm scale? I think it’s marketing. Warlord is trying to enter the American market with a boxed set that is relatively cheaper, more complete but not necessarily more compatible. Find a new market share with a new game with toy soldiers. It’s not their only attempt to win the west.

Epic ACW

First: the miniatures. Here they are.

They are 13.5mm feet-to-eyes, or 15mm feet-to-crown-of-head. The former is a bit shorter than the currently popular 15mm feet-to-eyes. Figures are moulded shoulder to shoulder 10 per base. Hard plastic. Good sculpts.

Wargames Illustrated compared them to Kallistra 12mm.

Some wargamers make a big issue of a few mm difference but I doubt if it would make a real difference. Deep Fried Happy Mice once compared tiny Freikorps with other 15mm-manufacturers.

On close inspection the 14mm-Freikorps figures are visibly smaller. Thus I would never combine small Freikorps or Kallistra or similar small Warlord with heroic AB, Donnington or big Old Glory. In particular not in one unit.

But on a grand table at arm’s length, would you really spot the difference, even if you mount the Warlord miniatures on slightly thicker bases? I suppose not. Stop whining.

The incompatibility is IMHO more associated with the width of the frames and the shoulder connection. Players are more or less forced to use 60mm bases. And because of the connection you can’t easily cut a frame in two half sections, apparently. While bases for DBx and variants for 15mm are 40mm, Johnny Reb & Regimental Fire & Fury 20mm.

The relative price however is a bargain. 111 euro for a starter box with 2400 figures (infantry, commanders & artillery, no cavalry) and some scenery is dirt cheap. For comparison, a Pendraken ACW 10mm army pack will cost 40 euro for about 120 infantry. A simple Italeri box with 50 soft plastic ACW soldiers cost 10 euro, for 110 euro I could buy 1050 soft plastic soldiers. A 3D-printed 6mm Union battle pack from Polish manufacturer GM Boardgames is 126 euro: a higher price for half the figures half the size.

Is this Warlord Epic ACW game for the eurowargamer? Maybe. If you’re a eurowargamer who has no 15mm ACW, are bored with Napoleonics and want something completely different that is still familiar in some way, then this bargain 13,5mm plastic starter set might be your next project.

But is this starter box mainly for the eurowargamer?

I don’t think so. According to the Great Wargaming Surveys, the average ACW fan is an American who plays at home or at a convention or a local game shop. This is a cheap big battle starter box for the 30-something American miniature gamer who is slowly losing interest in fantasy / SF and want to explore historical gaming. I see more attempts from Warlord to enter the American market and found a 2019 John Stallard interview about ‘our new US deal’.

“The company has agreed a partnership with New Jersey-based entertainment group Mythicos Studios. The deal will include, among other things, the launch of co-branded retail stores – named Warlord Mythicos Studios – with the first branch set for New York this October (…) Myticos Studios boss Martinez added: “Our studios are not just places to shop, these are places where gamers will find the very best gaming conditions possible and all of the products and services any gamer (newbie or expert) will ever need to ensure he or she gets as much out of their hobby as possible.” The new venues will be designed to support the full array of games within the sector, which includes board games, collectible card games, role-playing and table top. It is hoped the outlets will expand in the coming years so there is a firm foothold in the US.”

And the No Dice No Glory Blog reported about a ZOOM talk from the Warlord staff at the digital conventions Cyber Wars.

Bolt Action players can look for new campaign books for D-Day and the Pacific to be released in the next 6 months. With those campaign books, new plastic kits are being developed for both the European and Pacific Theaters (…)

In addition, Russell spoke of plans to organize a tournament scene this fall (at least in North America), depending on Covid conditions.(…)

As for Blood Red Skies, work is going into expanding the game more into the Pacific Theater of the war (…) For science-fiction fans, both Judge Dredd and Gates of Antares are continuing to grow.

Warlord recently published naval wargame Victory At Sea, with the Battle for the Pacific starter set that “focuses primarily on actions in the seas of the Far East – the Imperial Japanese Navy and the mighty US Navy clashing for control of the islands, resources and seas of the Pacific Theatre. The Victory at Sea rules manual presented in this starter game contains all you need to know to begin playing with the fleets included.”

And Warlords of Erewhon was rebranded Mythic Americas:

“The new Mythic Americas version of Warlords of Erehwon still keeps at its heart a singular objective in mind – to allow for fast-paced and exciting miniature battles upon a standard-sized table between rival forces known as Warbands.”

You see? Warlord is ‘Americanizing’ their UK/European wargames range because via a store chain they enter the American market. D-Day, Pacific, Judge Dredd, Bolt Action Korea, ACW, Mythic Americas… Stallard is a good marketeer. Warlord-Mythicos is the US version of a Warhammer frontstore.

In that regard, full compatibility of the ACW range with existing UK metal manufacturers is unimportant for the USA customer. A slight incompatibility might be even advantageous – it’s a unique selling point for your own store chain.

On a different level it’s interesting to see how hard plastic is slowly entering the non-GW and historical miniature market. First Battlefront moved to 15mm plastic Flames of War. Then the Plastic Soldier Company followed with 15mm WW2. Then Dropzone/Dropfleet came with hard plastic 10mm SF. Then Victrix with 12mm WW2. Then PSC again, they bought Xyston and Corvus Belli and made UltraCast plastic recasts from the original metal lines. Now Warlord, that bought the Forgotten & Glorious ACW range and recast them as 13,5 plastic. Polish manufacturer GM Boardgames has started 3D-printing 6mm.

Tin soldiers never die. They just fade away – and are replaced by hard plastic.

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