Rackham came out from under serious financial problems in 2009 and began releasing AT-43 material again this year after a long dry spell. First out was the Red Blok Army Box that finally provided the long awaited Dotch Yaga (also available separately). The Therians finally got the Storm Arachn box. Then AT-43 fans got an all new race with the release of the Cogs Army Box along with the Cogs Army Book. Most recently another new faction was introduced with the release of the ONI Army Box and ONI Army Book.
So with two new armies released what’s the problem? Well the huge break between the last run of core releases and the Red Blok Army Box was a serious blow to the system as a whole. The Red Blok Army Box was a bargain but the only new unit in it was the Dotch Yaga. It was not until the release of the Cogs that the AT-43 system finally got something really new. For us we were initially excited about the Cogs but the final designs of their Striders left us uninterested and the troop ‘swords’ are better left without comment. The same goes for the ONI; while the ONI designs are very good overall the vehicles are quite tiny and seem more like toys than scale miniatures.
Worse is the fact that while the ONI units are available in stores now good luck finding them on the AT-43 Website. They are not even mentioned on the main AT-43 page (they are in the Rackham store but still listed as unavailable). Certainly they will be added sometime soon but it brings into question Rackham’s support for AT-43 as a whole. Our local game store that used to have a full rack of AT-43 material has now relegated AT-43 to a tiny upper shelf with just a handful of boxes. Considering the support the system has seen this is not a big surprise.
We really like the AT-43 rule system and much of the design aesthetic but without consistent releases including more supporting material such as campaign books, more miniatures, more terrain, or even a tighter rulebook it is hard to see how AT-43 is going to survive in the market long term. This of course makes gamers question the value of buying into the system at all.
Of course, having said that, AT-43 is still really the only choice for a pre-painted sci-fi system but that can be as much of a disadvantage with many gamers as it is an advantage especially without widespread support in the gaming community. Another positive is that the miniatures are useful for all sorts of skirmish sci-fi gaming outside of AT-43 and this may very well be where AT-43 will end up being the most used.
The future is of course uncertain but we are fearful the sun may be setting.
Update: Rackham announced they will release yet another new army and Army Box in late 2010. The new army is the Krygs. Both the Karmans and the U.N.A. will get another new Army Box as well.