Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Sinister Secret of Sigmar

So I have been thinking about Age of Sigmar so more.  I have seen some more reviews by people and it seems to me that the people who appear to like it are 40K players looking for a simpler change of pace from that.  It is not that 40K is really overally complex, it is more that they are just piles and piles of special rules on special rules. Sigmar is really just 40K stripped down to the bare basics and pushed onto the existing fantasy range.  Other than measuring to the models which is really makes things way more complicated if actually done, the rules are fine for having something to do with your models.  The core rules certainly do not have much replay value, though.

What about the warscrolls?  This is were all the depth of the game is as every warscroll has 2 or more special rules.  All the shields do different things, I am not sure but it also seems like banners, musicians, and unit leaders are not uniform in their effects.  The special rules are better structured than 40k and most of them link up directly to a core mechanic so giant FAQs probably will not be needed.  So this is not good or bad just one way of building a ruleset in a general sense, but it is the best way for GW to build a ruleset.

GW is and has been for a long time a Models first company.  The rules are to support the purchase of the models not to allow you to play the game.  A core game that is tactically deep with lots of options in the rules provides lots of different play experiences for a single configuration of an army.  Age of Sigmar is certainly not that.  All the differences come from fielding different models.  So for the game to have continued play value you pretty much have to constantly buy more models or it will get pretty same old same old fast.

You can see this in the new Paladins which can be made into 3 different and distinct units.  Essentially the same unit with different weapon special rules but the weapons restrict to different units.  No mixing and matching.  One weapon is awesome against monsters allowing a single model to generate like 3d6 wounds.  Another is awesome against hordes where the model can attack each opponent model within 2 inches (remember this is model to model so that long axe sticking out the side might allow you to hit 2 or 3 extra guys compared to the base).  The last one deals Mortal wounds when hitting on a 6.  Each of these are good for very different occasions but the beauty of AoS is that without lists/points and advantages for deploying fewer models and units if you own all three you only deploy the one or two that matches the opponents forces.  Clear Pay to Win advantage.  Ofcourse AoS is not about winning but having fun so no one would do this type of thing right.  It is just good to have options, but you have to pay for them just like GW wants.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lego Star Wars: Imperial Shuttle Tydirium

So this was the set from the Summer Star Wars releases that I had to get.  I am a classic trilogy ship junkie and did not yet have an Imperial Shuttle.  They had an Imperial shuttle model for a while previously but it was one of the Collector Series models thus large and expensive.  It was also supposed to be pretty fragile which is a problem for me because I think I get daily requests from the little one to play with the Star Wars Lego ships.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Favorite Lines from GW Annual Report

So as per what I used to do I skimmed through the report.  GW continues to be pretty flat in performance which is pretty good.  Sales were down and units were down even more but that is par for the course.  If you look close Retail is not profitable but all those limited editions and such have pushed the a lot of sales into the highest margin mail order channel.  Overall much less interesting than last year which read like a big F-Off from the outgoing CEO.  Here are my two favorite lines:

"In July 2015, we relaunched Warhammer Fantasy to broad acclaim ‘Warhammer: Age of Sigmar’. We are so proud of this new range of miniatures that we have commissioned an additional statue at our HQ to complement our Space Marine, which has delighted our customers and staff for the last 17 years. You have to see it to believe it, you will not be disappointed."

I have not seen anyway complaining about the miniatures other than they are just taking Space Marines back to their roots of knights in space to knights in astral realms.

"In my opinion the greatest risk is the same one that we repeat each year, namely, management. So long as we have great people we will be fine. Problems will arise if the board allows egos and private agendas to rule. I will do my utmost to ensure that this does not happen on my watch."

I think this is the truest thing that GW has written in their report in a long time.  This guy might be trying to rock the boat a little.  He is still emphasis cash return over growing the player base but he admits that there have been the problems in the upper levels.  They say they are trying to expand their price point lines but without sacrificing margin and that management is involved in monthly product brainstorm sessions.  All of that is interesting.

The main issue they still have is that they do not really try to understand the customer base.  They are right in saying that the customer base whats great looking models.  They are certainly the largest manufacturer of great looking models.  No one in the fantasy/sci fi ranges do injected plastics are at their level.  I cannot really even debate that but again the production method vs use are still misaligned.  They should not be happy seeing unit volume drops since that uncuts the margins of the whole company worse than anything else.  Each year recently were have seen sales drop while prices rise and the number of models used increases which clearly implies less customer.

They need to really invest some time into understanding their customers and how they are segmented.  Nice models only get you so far especially in a world with so many options.  It probably does not carry the new customer past assembling a few models and learning that it is a ton of work to make the models look like they do in the pictures.  The customer needs to be engrossed in the world by either the fluff or the games.  You can look at the LOTR bubble to understand this.  The models were the models but when the movies were at the top of the wider worlds interest they sold like hot cakes.  Once the movies passed so did sales because those stories are a closed narrative.  You can love LOTR but often do not need to explore the world with your own forces as what they do does not affect the world.  The story is outside your hands.

The games themselves are the way you build the story and feedback on the fluff and involvement that the players invest.  It is like a 3 legged chair of Models, Fluff, and Games that hold the interest of the customers.   The retail stores built the empire by allowing them to build a scale of production to make their beautiful plastic kits and they have been riding that empire down from having to 3 top miniature games in the world to having one of the top miniature games in the world.

GW will to continue to exist for years to come because they are focused on the bottom line which is certainly a success but I think they will to stretched to really grow their revenue significantly without bigger change ups in the future.  Every year more players stop than start and they have to keep increasing the prices to make up the difference.  When I got back into GW products and looked at 40K and WFB for the first time(played BB, Space Marine, and Dark Future in the late 80s early 90s)  in 2005-2006 the starter boxes were 40 and like 48 dollars.  The Black Reach box started at 60.  The Age of Sigmar box is 125.  That seems like a lot for a company who runs their profits off very dedicated (addicted) customer base.  Maybe you only want customers who are willing to drop 125 dollars to try a game since they clearly have more money to buy models later.  The free rules for Age of Sigmar are a good start as you can sell people battalion boxes at like 90 dollars if you add a character and it is a starter army for any faction in the game.  Give that box a special formation and away people could go.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Horus Heresy Oh My Part II

Back in March the rumor going around was that GW was releasing a Horus Heresy box game in the spring.  I talked about it here.  Pretty much all of that discussion remains true but that time has come and gone with no release.  Now we are seeing "Leaks" of a early Marks of Space Marine armor in plastics.  The interwebs is ablaze with discussion.  I looked at the models.  Honestly the are pretty bland, certainly nothing fancy or anything GW could not have done 5 years ago.  I like the classic looks myself since I cut my teeth on Space Marine back in the day (hence the above picture of the side of my Space Marine box) but do I really need more marines in 28 or 6 mm scale.  At last count I have like 10 or unassembled marines of various types in the bit box for like 4 years.  I have passed on the new Vanguard, Sternguard, Tactical, Devastator, and Assault Marine kits for 40K.  Not because the models do not look nice but because other than some minor option differences I have plenty of those models already if I decided to pick up 40K in the future again.  I did not need to spend like 220 dollars for like 30 more marines for a couple off grav weapons and a standard marine portable heavy flamer or really big sword.

Now if GW releases Horus Heresy plastics I sure it will be a huge success for them.  It might reduce pure space marine sales a little but they can just put a premium price on these new kits since all the new kits are more expensive that older kits anyway.  Remember you need a lot of marines in a Heresy Army so you will need at least 6 of these 50 dollar tactical boxes.  Oh and your assault marines and devastators will look funny with these guys so how about another 4 boxes of these new 45 dollar 5 man assault marine and 2 boxes of 55 dollars 5 man devastators and another 50 dollar tactical box to round out those.  Remember the character and command squad for another 80 dollars.  Well now you have modern battle company of Heresy marines and those come with free rhinos now (in points and not dollars).  Now another 9 of the redesigned  Mark I rhinos at 50 dollars each.  Only need like 1170 dollars and you to can have a brand new Heresy Modeled Modern Battle Company ready for the table top.  You will really need more since real Heresy companies where much bigger.  An old company is like a full chapter now.

How is it different from your other one that you already had some one asks?  Can't you see everything is styled differently.

Does it play differently?  Not really.  Actually less options unless I get some 100 dollar forge world stuff but look at those bolters.

So this is pure collector focus which is selling more expensive marines to fewer and fewer players.  More of Games workshop selling models to their target demographic of people who collect games workshop miniatures as opposed to investing time and money into finding new customers or bringing old ones back to their games.

Trust me I know collecting GW stuff.  I have like 90% of the pitch used Blood Bowl Miniatures GW has ever produced. Collecting can also be called Hoarding.  If you have some lovely painted armies on display or used regularly that is great.  If you have bunch of bare metal and plastic in the garage in bins that does not get used less so.

Onward to the 1000 dollar collectors limited edition tactical squad which has this super awesome datasheet.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

6MMRPC: Success

I used the 6MMRPC as an extra willpower boost to not buy into the third reaper bones kickstarter.  Nice deal but I really do not need more random fantasy miniatures with no purpose.  It was tough, I watched it closer than was helpful for someone trying not to pledge but I made it.  Baby steps I know.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

X-Wing: Most Wanted Expansion

So today I will look at the Scum and Villainy faction Most Wanted Expansion Pack.  This is a repaint pack like Imperial or Rebel Aces in that ships are not new but repainted versions of early releases but it is significantly different as it is using those ships for the new Underworld faction.

Monday, July 20, 2015

6MMRPC: Green Menace Orcs Assembled

Back when Mantic was running their Dungeon Saga Kickstarter I ordered a couple of their things to get an idea of what their products were like.  I have not really used them yet other than to test Dungeon Saga rules but with the shipping of the Kickstarter rewards supposedly only a few months off I thought I should at least get the figures assembled.  Cannot really game with pieces of minis.

Friday, July 17, 2015

GW Marketing Strategy

So I want to add a quick discussion of GW Marketing Strategy (or lack there of).  This is a response to a comment on my previous post about Age of Sigmar sales. I agree with the poster that GW is not doing this in the optimal way.  The sort of 2 week release window with the leaks coming about a week before the official preorders is to common to be not an allowed corporate strategy.  This limited time frame certainly does not match marketing seen in many other types of entertainment products.   Movies, videogames, and books are all promoted well before the release date.  Sometimes the marketing is so ahead of the releases that I think they have already been out a while by the time they actually appear.   This sort of surprise release strategy seems very strange but I think it is best explained by looking at a quote from last year's financial report:

Our market is a niche market made up of people who want to collect our miniatures. They tend to be male, middle-class, discerning teenagers and adults. We do no demographic research, we have no focus groups, we do not ask the market what it wants. These things are otiose in a niche.

Just the first sentence says it all.  Our Market is the people who collect our miniatures. If that is your market who is your competition?  Yourself, obviously.  The structure of the marketing is based on the concept that the customer is going to buy your products but if they know what is coming in the next few months they might not buy something available now so they can get that new stuff later.  One might think that one is the same as the other but people have a tendency to forget the money they already spent so some of those customers who already bought stuff they would not have if they knew X and Y were just around the corner still buy X and Y.  Since you kept those coming products secret longer you know made more money.

If that is really how your market is than it is a perfectly reasonable strategy.  The question is of course whether that is the best or even a good description for your market in the current environment.  I do not think it is.  That characterization is a very narrow range of people and not enough to sustain a company with the sales levels GW needs.  I do not even think that Age of Sigmar is targeted at that market but they marketed it like it was.  Disney just spent like 130,000,000 dollars to make the Ant-Man movie.  Ant-Man.  If that does not tell you that Geek is Sheek right now, nothing will.  Age of Sigmar with some fine tuning could be a great introductory game to the warhammer world.  The set is still to expensive and I hear that they are pretty complicated to get together and on the table to play.  With such simple rules one should have the box open and the models on the table in like 30 minutes, playing while the interest is high.

Since they were essential getting rid of one of their main games, it is probably hard for them to ease people into that as it probably would have tanked WFB sales for months and months once the news was released but I am not sure that is was necessary or even a good idea to discontinue WFB.   If they had not changed the scale of the models it would be pretty easy to have the new models do double duty with just some movement trays with circles inscribed.  Maybe the frontage would be a little wider but certainly not unreasonable.  But the scale change was driven by the competition with themselves issue.  Players already have tons of their minis and the secondary market is also swamped with miniatures so you need a reason for people to buy new ones.  You can honestly only make elves look so many different ways but if you make the new ones 15% bigger than the old ones those old ones will not look so good as you can put more perceived detail and will therefore look better.

Having the AoS and WFB compatiable both ways as opposed to just one way certainly seems like a better choice?  Another End of Times book (Dawn of Sigmar) and some introductory releases of these new model groups into WFB then the new game which acts as both a new basic game and a bridge to and from the existing player base.  Providing people with more ways to use your product would allow for larger pools of players of both games which should lead to more excitement in both games.

Even if they keep on the path of AoS with 32-35 mm miniatures are the future for the fantasy genre they would be better served to show more of their hand.  I know a lot of people who have already looked at the models and rules and decided that this was not for them but GW is supposed to have jaw dropping stuff coming down the pipe which just the sight of or knowledge off might move some people near the fence.  All we have now is some detailed models(with questionable design style) with a game not deep enough to convince me to part with 80 dollars let alone the 500-600 dollars a year GW needs from players to keep up revenue.

Age of Sigmar not Doing Well

I get the feeling that Age of Sigmar is not setting the world on fire in terms of sales.  I personally turned down a set at 35%+ off from a friend.  Maybe he has a sweet heart connection with someone with a trade account but normally that type of discount is not openly advertised unless someone really needs to move some boxes.  I also see that the Limited Edition Age of Sigmar book which is supposed to come out tomorrow is still not sold out.  It is only like 2000 copies for the whole world and they are not even at the point where they say less than X left.  This stuff used to sell out in a few days.  Now if this is not the raging success GW wants what lessions will they "learn".  Probably that free rules are bad.

I hear that they pushed this hard on the retailers.  This is essentially a new game where you have alienated a sizable percentage of the WFB existing players.  You can hope that maybe some 40K players come in to fill that whole but you probably need a slow burn to build up a player base so modest expectations were probably the way to go.  Retailers with a large inventory of unsold AoS boxes will have less money to stock the newer releases to support the players that did buy but I guess GW does not care to much about that since you can always go to their webstore.  Getting retailers to buy it in large initial might help their numbers in the short term as they get to book that income but not a winning idea over the long term.

The release also puts sales of existing WFB stuff in an interesting place.  Due to the scale change the game really only has 2 factions with no one else to go with it.  You can use old models if you had them, but I would be hard pressed to think it was a great idea to invest heavily in new WFB boxes as those models will seem strange rather fast as GW updates the ranges.  I could see a small purchase to mesh an existing force with the new rules but hard to visualize starting a new army.  If they focus on AoS they can get a partial update of all the forces in about a year but that is really just a few kits for each and some characters.  It certainly cannot replace the depth in the current line.  Definitely encourages a wait and see approach which is not good for GW sales. GW is playing the long game here though, if they can essentially make all the existing fantasy miniatures out of date it certain cuts down the competition from the secondary market.

If you guy by a FLGS sometime soon let me know how many copies they have on display at the moment compared to the 40K starter box.  It is all relative though.  Most game copies would kill to pull the sales AoS is doing but GW needs to book 15 Million dollars of sales a month to tread water essentially.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron RPG?

So I am wondering if anyone has taken the ship fighting rules from X-Wing and used it as a basis for RPG style game play.  I might be able to get my eldest interested in something like that since she likes Star Wars but does not really like verses game play.  Basic idea would be that she would start with a rookie pilot in a classic rebel ship and then fly some missions with me as a wingman but also controlling the opponent ships.  Earn experience for kills, mission success, survival which can be spent to increase pilot skill, learn elite skills, or expand your equipment pool (ie different ship, upgrades, droids, crew, etc).

First mission I was thinking about was trying to stop a lone Tie fighter from crossing the long way on the dinner table but it is through an asteroid field to restrict movement and fire angles a little.

I remember this as the way we played Battletech for years with the Mechwarrior rpg rules.  Probably have to add karma or some fate type mechanic to all the pc's a little extra so that they can go up against tough odds at some point and pull through.