Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wargaming: Age of Change

Ok, it is time to talk about the elephant in the room.

Let me tell you a story.  It is about a miniature company, a fantasy wargame, and the people who played that game.

This company once just made miniatures, but then built up a game around these miniatures.  No one would dispute the fact that the miniatures kept getting better and better, though some did start to question it a little bit when they started putting out huge 'miniatures', with corresponding huge price tags.  Were these really worth it?   Not all the players thought so.

The fantasy wargames latest version was called, by some, the best version of the game.  There was both a casual gaming community, as well as a growing tournament scene for competitive players.  However the company had put out updates that not everyone liked, and some said broke the game.

The company had a fairly extensive background for their game, and there were even role playing games based in this world.  They produced a magazine that featured painting articles, battle reports and background stories for their world.  I have never been one to read much licensed fiction, but I did read a novel set in their world featuring a character that they had a model and rules for.

I actually enjoyed this game quite a bit.  I was introduced to it by a friend / coworker (he left the company, then I left as well, and years later we are now both working for the same company (a different one) again - life is funny that way).  I had multiple armies for this game, and enjoyed converting and painting the miniatures.  I had even won some small local awards with my miniatures.  You have probably seen pictures of these on my web site puggimer.net.

The miniature company was starting to fee pressure from other companies, and seeing some players switching to other games.  So they decided that they needed to change.

The fantasy wargame was not their only product.  They also produced a science fiction wargame that was growing in popularity.  So they decided to put out a new fantasy wargame, with a slight name change - the title of this blog post is intended to make you think of the new name, which was based on their previous fantasy wargame.

Where are my metal miniatures the players asked?  The company said metal was too expensive to produce, all future miniatures would be plastic.

The rules for this new game were nothing like the previous fantasy game.  Don't worry, the company said, you can use all your old miniatures with this new game.

But you have changed the miniatures to use round bases instead of our traditional square bases the fans cried out.  Again the company responded that you need not worry, you can use your old miniatures.

Once more the fans of the old wargame cried out their anguish - but these rules are too drastic.  We will still play the old version and ignore your new version, even though the company no longer supported the old wargame, nor did they continue to make miniatures for it, only making the new miniatures for the new game.  Ah, the company replied, but this new fantasy wargame will appeal to all new players, in larger numbers than even our existing player base.  So it doesn't matter if you like the old version, this is the way of the future.

In a year from now, no one will be still be talking about playing the old version versus the new version.

This new strategy unfortunately, did not prove to be successful for this miniature company.  The alienated their existing player base, and the new fantasy wargame did not sell like they expected.  It was true that in a year no one was talking about which version they would be playing, because the company filed for bankruptcy, and both versions of the game died.

2007 was not a good year for the fans of Rackham miniatures and their Confrontation game.  What, did you think I was talking about some other company, and some other game?  I still vividly remember the meeting at Gencon to discuss the future of Confrontation.  They would no longer support the old game, but were going to produce Confrontation: Age of Ragnarok, and this would appeal to new gamers that would more than make up for any of the current players who didn't want to play it.  They decided that the future was the pre-painted plastic miniatures instead of the metal ones they had been producing.

I still have all my old Confrontation miniatures - Wolfen, Ophidians and a large number of elementals.  Occasionally I see posts on Facebook about people still playing the old game, and getting together to run a tournament at Gencon based on the old version - though I'm not sure if that ever actually happened.  Recently Cool Mini or Not  acquired the licensing for Confrontation and put out a test version, however the testers so disliked it that they pulled it back to redo, and currently have no planned release date for any new version of this game.

But of course no one today really cares about Rackham and Confrontation, they care about GW and Warhammer fantasy.  Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is being released on July 11th, and the rules have already leaked out for it.  It is not a new version of the existing Warhammer Fantasy Battles, it is a whole new game.  It is round bases, but you can use square bases because the bases don't matter.  All the rules for existing miniatures will be free.

I personally decided to not to support GW last year, as much for their business practices as any other reason, and as part of that I no longer play their games (and I haven't had a game of warhammer since November last year (wow, I sound like I'm at an AA meeting)).

I've read the new rules that have leaked out.  I've seen pictures of the new miniatures that come in the boxed set.  They do not appeal to me.  Much like Rackham changing Confrontation to be more like their game AT-43, I feel that GW is changing Warhammer to be more like 40K, or even warmachine / hordes.

They say that history repeats itself, and if you don't learn from history then you are doomed to repeat it.  I guess time will tell if this is a good or bad move for GW.  While a part of me would like to completely ignore them, at this point I'll just watch from the sidelines.

One last thing - full disclosure.  I am a Pathfinder for Mantic games, who makes a fantasy mass combat wargame (Kings of War), which directly competes with Warhammer Fantasy Battles.  It is ranked up units of troops fighting in medieval style warfare.  I feel it is much superior to WFB, and hope that people who still want to play a fantasy mass combat game will give it a try (and yes, you can use your GW miniatures with it).

3 comments:

  1. Well done sir, you have me going there.

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  2. Excellent overview of the situation.
    Mantic's Kings of War rules (though currently awaiting the second edition) are free on their website.
    (Yes , you knew that, but other readers might not).

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  3. I have gotten into mantic KoW as well. Love it btw.. :)

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