Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Age of Sigmar, Now Thats Interesting
So I will start this discussion with a bit of a disclaimer. First, I am not a WFB player. I picked up a Skull Pass box like 9 years ago and a few assorted dwarves along the way plus the two associated army books and the full rulebook on sale but have parted ways with most of those models in the last 5 or so years. So I am not really vested. I am also on the 6 Month Miniature Mountain Painting and Reduction Challenge so I am not buying any new games until about christmas time. This could be the best game ever made I would not be buying it right now, but I did want to share my thoughts as a general watcher of GW business trends.
So there are two areas to consider, The New Models/Armies/Fluff and the New Rules coming to the Warhammer World. I will start with the models and such.
GW has long shown that they can now make plastic models of very similar detail as the resin cast products of ForgeWorld. Forgeworld only still exists because its design studio clearly has more freedom to go for more specialized customer groups which matches nicely with the low mold setup costs for resin compared to plastic. The new models have great details but the look is way to Space Marine for me. Ofcourse one could say that Space Marines with the armor and such are really just knights in space so we have just come full circle. While that is possible, it is much more likely that they decided they wanted a space marine like force into this game since space marines are their big seller in 40K.
Now on the fluff side, they seem to be starting rather fresh probably with some transition from the End of Times but allowing themselves almost total freedom. Thirty Years of background can be both an asset and a curse. Disney just threw out most of the Star Wars stuff and Super Hero stuff does the same thing all the time especially for movies. This has to do with target audience. The new Fantasic Four has Reed Richards looking like he is 20 since that gets them an actor know to the targeted youth demographic. New Spiderman coming also. GW has made it clear that they are targetting young and new at the foremost so not being bound to the past, works for this. Ofcourse GW sales are really tied to the established players. We know this because they used new version releases to prop up sales. Anyone really think that 40K and all those codexes needed to be redone in such a short time. That is just milking the player base harder to hid the drop in buyers from previous years.
Now they can tell a new story and we can see how well they can do it. It will be hard for veterans to really disconnect with the past so really the new players will be the judge of how engrossing it is. Thinking back to the things that have strong attachments to me it is sometimes hard to say if they were actually good back in the day or just that I had low standards. The changes also allow them to rename all the races from generic fantasy to Trademarkable things. This is a response to other smaller companies selling miniatures for their games that could be better, cheaper, or both. This is more of a muh kind of thing. I am sure people will continue to refer to them by their old names for years to come.
Now the really big deal is the significant revamp of the rules. The old rules were not well done which can be seen by the thousands and thousands of posts in rules forums like on Warseer. They now have got the core rules down to a very small package which they are supposedly releasing for free. I have commented that currently my thousands of points of 40K stuff is sitting unused since to get back in the game would require at 135 dollar investment on rules just for one of the armies and I am past the point of putting good money after bad into that system. Hence I give no real thought to buying anything new for those guys as the barrier to reentry has gotten to high.
Now, there is nothing wrong with concise and short rules. You can make great games with limited rules and often less is better than more but the core idea of GW is to use the games to sell models. The rules are what separate different models often and those differences are why people will buy both or have many more models of one army than could be used in a game or have multiple armies. GW needs that over buying to stay in business so one is guessing that those differences will be pushed onto the "warscrolls". That is fine in concept but the issue then becomes does the game have the essential structure built such that I can take any two of these warscrolls and figure out how their special rules interact. That really has been the problem with GW core games for a long time. The problems are always at the interfaces of the different rules because no proper structure for the special rules was created. A total rewrite was needed to put that structure in and here we have such an event. Time will see if they actually did it. I would guess no since it is hard to do and they will always full back on the just work it out.
One can see the rule layering getting worse is 40K with army rules, unit rules, formation rules, data slate rules, allies rules, and warlord rules. Rules from so many different places allows for lots of unintended or unclear interactions. The open-ended-ness of the new structure can also be good or bad. An existing army can get a new unit at anytime which can keep all players engaged with the releases. It also makes it much harder to control all these rules if every week a new special rule is being adding to the game.
The biggest thing people have been talking about is the lack of reference points and how that affects army construction. Starter boxes have always been light on information about model cost in the past and just suggest people use both forces completely and build army based on information in other products for balancing forces with point costs. That could still be there, we will see in the next few months, but it also appears possible that GW has decided to try the game without such a concept. They have never been very good at assigning point costs and have long said that the games are not designed for competitive play so this is just taking that to the logical conclusion. That could be a winning idea for them in the short term as when new awesomely ruled models come out you can just add them to your army to make it that much more kick ass and have not real downside of them causing you to have to remove a supposedly equal amount of awesomeness to keep the points under a limit.
Where it causes problems though is in the pick up or stranger game which used to be a strength for GW when they had their near monoply on the table top. You used to be able to go into any GW store an get a game in short order with someone you did not know but GW with the one man small stores and their significant erosion in player base has already killed that. So it becomes a game between buddies in the basement where you will either have social peer pressure controlling what you bring or driving you to buy more and more to one up your buddies until it gets pulled back in by no one wanting to play that guy.
I do not see how to structure an organized event in this system which probably is fine with GW. That is probably short sighted since if the cost to you is minimal, supporting multiple ways for your customers to use your product and meet other users in a network affect system is good. Maybe GW found all the flak and work involved in balance to be not worth that return. The return on investment there is very hard to quatify since more than half of GW products go through trade accounts which at best just give you geographic and product distribution information and not usage or demographics.
I hear that my jaw will drop as the full scope appears so I will keep watching it more out of curiosity than anything else. Anyone out there plan on jumping back into Fantasy or giving it a try as a newbie?