Hi Folks, its Michael from Doom & Darkness and in this interview, I catch up with Mr Vince Venturella from Warhammer Weekly. Vince has the world’s largest weekly Age of Sigmar talk show, countless invaluable painting guides and tutorials for the aspiring painter.
Vince’s YouTube channel has over 40,000 subscribers and I wanted to pick his brain on content creation, game design and the future of Age of Sigmar.
Origins of Warhammer Weekly
“Hi Vince, firstly thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me and congratulations on the success of your channel. To start the interview off I was wondering if you could tell us what and where your inspiration for the Warhammer Weekly show came from and if you had/have any YouTube role models that you looked to for inspiration?”
Vince Venturella: There was no real great plan, it was just something that I thought would be fun. At the time (this is almost 6 years ago now), Nick from Long Island Wargaming had done a hangout show a few times called Warhammer Weekly, but he was not doing them regularly and had all together stopped for a while. I reached out to him and asked if he minded if I ran with the show and brought some formalization to it and he was fine with the idea.
My inspiration was things like the Weekly Planet (a fantastic Podcast from Australia) in the way they broke up their segments, as well how other traditional interview segments/late night shows were run.
I wanted to make something that covered the current news, but also had a main topic and mini segments sprinkled throughout. My real goal was to make sure the show always happened, I wanted to make sure we were always there on the same day every week to bring the show to folks so they could count on a little bit of new Warhammer fun each week.
Advice to new content creators
“New content creators are popping up all the time, if you could give them any advice of “best practice” as such or some guiding principles to success what would they be?” And now on the flip side if you were to provide some generalised “things to avoid” What might they be?
Vince Venturella: Oh boy, I am probably the wrong person to answer this, I mean my own method was just keep doing things and getting them wrong and slowly make them right.
I suppose my ‘what to do’ would be to make sure you have a good sound set-up, that is something I should have done far sooner.
Try to be regular with your content, that is maybe the most important thing. YouTube (and indeed the audience) is more likely to pay attention if they know your content always shows up around the same time on a regular schedule.
My best advice is avoid the Perfect as the Enemy of the good. Some people spend lots of money and time and research everything before doing a show. Your early content will be bad, that is okay. Listen, learn, and refine and improve as you go.
Variety of content
“Now your channel has both gaming and hobby focused content, the Warhammer Weekly show largely focuses on the gaming side of Age of Sigmar, but your channel often features standalone videos on game design as well as the multitude of painting tutorials. Do you find that any singular sort of content or component of your channel has outweighed the others in building the channel’s success? If so, do you have any examples you can give to demonstrate this?”
Vince Venturella: I think the Hobby Content ultimately draws people to the channel. It is more universal, regardless of the tabletop game you play, there is hobby to be done.
My hope is that in doing that, some folks also check out Warhammer Weekly (whether they play AoS or not) and I always hope to be a good ambassador for the game.
Some videos I have done like reviewing all the Miniature brand paints, achieving smooth blends or how to glaze are the type of videos that are ever green and still help folks to discover the channel years after they were uploaded.
I think that advice is fantastic and very helpful to people looking to create their own content. The next thing I wanted to talk to you about is game design and Age of Sigmar as you have some experience in this space by both developing your own systems and consulting on some big-name games such as Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition.
Tabletop game design
“In your opinion, are there any key areas that Age of Sigmar needs to focus and improve on to make the game more enjoyable for all? If so, what are these areas, and do you have any suggestions on how they could be improved?”
Vince Venturella: I think the game is ultimately in a really good place. As someone who has been playing this game for 22 years now, it is amazing to look back and see the growth. That being said, there is always room to improve.
My best advice at this point would be that we still have some proud nails that pop up and we need to do some additional work to bring those in line or stop those from being published. We have elements that will show up in books that create negative play experiences.
My ultimate concern is never power/broken builds/balance. That is not what I am after. What I am always looking at is a simple question – “is this going to create a fun experience for the majority of the audience?” Sometimes we have had elements in recent books where the clear answer is no.
My best advice would be to have Games Workshop follow suit to other game creators and establish a formal developer position that sits in between design and QA. Their role is to run the numbers in detail and bring the outliers back in. Ultimately, that task is too complex for playtesters and isn’t something that should be done by designers who need to be free to create.
I think that would go a long way to smoothing out some of those last rough edges we don’t want (we always want a few rough edges, rough edges are how you grab onto the game).
Rules “bloat” and game design
If we look back from the beginning of the Age of Sigmar to now, we have seen the rules continue to expand and develop over time. As the game designers develop and work in new design spaces, the sheer number of rules and varying types of interactions that occur within the game continues to grow. Some people would call this rules bloat, and perhaps this is a loaded term, but my question to you is. In your opinion, is rules bloat an inevitable outcome of continuous improvement and game design, or is it something that can be avoided while still improving and adding to the game?
Vince Venturella: Rules bloat is always a risk, but it is not inevitable. D&D 5e has been going for basically 6 years and is still tight. The way they developed is wise. More content focused on running/playing games than just options for characters.
So how we would translate this is more box games, small model expansions, narrative boxes (Firestorm) or ancillary games (Warcry). Largely, we see this has been a great model.
We are entering an interesting time now with all the army books that needed to be updated complete.
Where we go from here with things like new armies don’t necessarily cause bloat, because they have a set audience (namely the players of that army).
The key is to be careful about the number of overlays you create that make more rules that become the norm and have us all lugging 6-9 books to every tourney. Endless Spells are cool, they were a good addition. If we have Endless Spells, Fantastic Vehicles, Mercenary Monsters, The Big Book of Battalions and Miracles for Hire in 3 years and those are all additional layers of things going on in the game, we are going to be in a rough spot, but I don’t expect this.
The future of Age of Sigmar: a hard reset?
Often with gaming systems, we see a continual expansion of the rules until it becomes too complicated and creates a barrier to entry that is too great for new players to overcome. traditionally we then see a hard reset and subsequently a contraction or reset of the game system often in the form of a new edition. “If you are to imagine where the Age of Sigmar is in say three years, what does it look like? is it the game we know and love today or do you see some form of hard reset in the near future?”
Vince Venturella: I don’t see a hard reset any time soon. Traditionally if you look at the history of the hard resets, they are on quite a long time frame from Games Workshop. The first reset was 9 years, the second was 9 years, and the third was 15 years, so sitting here about to hit our 5th anniversary, I would say we are still a distance away.
When I look forward in three years, I see no reason to think we would be in need of such a thing. The rules are pretty tight, and we have kept them largely simple. We can clean up something like the Activation Wars in a GHB and that is really the tricky proud nail at this point in time.
My hope would be we have several new armies, we have relaunched some books with expansion forces (think of how they have done Stormcast releases) and for the most part, things have remained fairly clean and current without the need to crush the rules back down.
I will also say that we are entering an interesting challenge we haven’t ever been in before. The freedom of the team to create new armies has meant that we are steadily increasing forces. With the release of Lumineth and Sons of Behemat, we will have something like 24 distinct armies. That is much higher than any point in the game’s history, so hitting the reset button carries a large and direct cost to GW. They would then be put on a strong treadmill to get content for the new system out very quickly and something like Indexes (Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition) or Ravening Hordes (Warhammer Fantasy Battles 6th Edition) might not be enough.
The future of Age of Sigmar: Activation Wars
“For me personally I have always said that the introduction of the always strikes first/ always strikes last rules set was a mistake. I feel like the more rules that are introduced with the new and different armies which break the core rules of the game, the further the game moves away from those very core rules that made the game so good in the first instance. In relation to the Activation Wars what do you think needs to change? Is it just the interaction between different rules in different armies or is there more to it?
Vince Venturella: So this is a tough answer.
Games like Age of Sigmar and D&D are examples of exception based design (games with simple core rules and the functional elements within the game system create ‘exceptions’ to those core rules).
When you are a designer working in exception based design, your goal is to explore design space. For example, the game has a core rule that says, when you run, you can roll a d6 and add that distance to your movement. An exception based design element might be that you can always treat a Run roll as a ‘6’ or reroll that Run roll, or gain +1, whatever the specifics, in all cases, it’s altering the base rules of the game.
So everything is always breaking the core rules of the game as you say above – that’s not special, that is just design. We see it on 99% of the warscrolls because that is how you make a special ability for the most part.
When it comes to the Activation Wars, the challenge is that we created additional phases (the Start of Combat, Combat, and End of Combat phases), which are all acting differently and interacting poorly together. Perhaps the simplest answer is to eliminate these phases all together.
The idea of something striking first is a sensible rule. In theory, and as a way to bring narrative to life, it just makes sense. We just have to be careful of the implementation.
So perhaps the easiest answer is simply that if you can Fight at the Start of Combat, then you can do so, but so can anyone else, and all abilities that trigger in such a way or activate in such a way alternate, just like everything else in the combat phase. So if you have a unit that strikes first, you get to choose that unit and fight, but if your opponent also has one, it’s their turn next as opposed to your whole fighting first army attacking and only once you have left the “Start of Combat” phase do we return to the normal phase the game expects.
In other words and to be more succinct, the error here was not in the fights first, but in creating additional phases that the base rules didn’t have the rigor to support. Use the base rules and let the units fight first in the normal back and forth sequence that is already expected in the game.
We have had some of these rules floating around since the very first warscrolls in 2015 and for the most part, they weren’t problematic. The mechanic became oppressive when these rules were combined with extremely powerful creatures (Ghoul King on Terrorgeist) or whole armies (Slaanesh).
Ed: check out the NicoLab articles on the Activation Wars for more background information (Part 1 / Part 2).
The future of Age of Sigmar: a dream faction?
Ok finally let us finish off with a little bit of fun. “if you could design, develop and introduce a new army faction into Age of Sigmar what would it be? What does it look like? what’s the idea behind them and how would they play?“
Vince Venturella: Well, if you had asked me 6 months ago, it would have been Giants, but my dreams came through there. Since you have given me all this power however, I am going to go crazy.
What I want is the army of living energy. As the Realms are full of magic and basically alive in and of themselves, I want an army of magical creatures (think of a combination of crystalline creatures and elementals from Dungeons and Dragons).
We would start with four of the realms and leave ourselves room to expand to the other four at a later time.
Some of these beings would be humanoid to suit the purpose, but some would be magic given a completely alien form, roiling liquid metal skirmishers from Chamon, lava encased infantry from Aqshy, Grave dirt elementals from Shyish, you could think of a hundred of these things.
I think it would be cool to see the Mortal Realms themselves make an appearance and be an agent in our game.
Well thank you for taking the time to do this interview Vince and I am sure many people will get much value from your insight. If anyone wants to hear more from Mr Vince Venturella then be sure to check out his YouTube channel and stay tuned to AoS Shorts in the near future for more articles and interviews from various Age of Sigmar icons.