Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Fall of White Dwarf and the Death of Warhammer Fantasy Battle?

My wife took my son down to the cinema for the first time today. Its not far and must have been a lovely rite of passage for him because he was so inspired by the film he watched, he asked for his Play-Doh when he got home and quickly set about building his only funny creatures out of the stuff, inspired by the film. Inspiration is a strange thing. A single moment can spark an interest that burns, periods of dormancy accepted, for the rest of a natural life. When I think back to my own childhood and the things I witnessed that got my imagination racing there are many memories of note. The massive battles I played with Star War figures with the boys on my road. You know the sort of games. Everyone congregated around a friend's house, you all took you toy collection around and WHAM! You were off. It was no doubt similar with He-Man and all the other things that I enjoyed playing with. But looking back, I find that the 'thinking' was done for me by the toy manufacturers. 

The names of the characters, their personalities and the very stories we would act out were already decided for us. That was until my sister got involved and told us all that my AT-AT was a cow and would go off and milk it. As many of us who grew up in the 1980s have come to realise, it was a golden age for toys of all shapes and sizes. But as I said, the 'thinking' was done for you in many respects. It certainly didn't encourage me to become creative, nor did it stoke my imagination to such a degree that I become totally absorbed in my thoughts. 

In hindsight, the most exciting places for me were newsagents. It seems a strange thing to state but its true! But that excitement didn't stem from the dubious activities of some of my peers... There was no cigarette or booze buying for me. Nor did I find myself slipping copies of Razzle between the pages of the Beano and taking the comic to the till in the vain hope that the nice old lady behind the counter would fail to notice Sam Fox's knockers poking out. It was the magazine covers of the fantasy and computer game publications that really got me inspired. Zzap 64, Your Sinclair, Dragon, Warlock, Interzone, Amiga Power, White Dwarf (of course) and all the other magazines that knocked about back in the day. Looking back, it was the front covers that drew me towards the magazines in the first place, which was the point after all. The covers all seemed to be paintings of one sort on another, with the odd photo montage here and there. I find that art really inspires while photographs, though interesting, don't always stir the creative juices. It was thus in my youthful self back then too.

Now where is all this rambling taking me, you may well ask? What's the droning recollections of an Oldhammerer got to do with the fall of White Dwarf and the death of Warhammer Fantasy Battle? Well, let me explain a little. Actually, before I explain anything I want to make a statement. I am sure you are all well aware that White Dwarf, as we have known it as a monthly magazine, is to be no more. It was re-launched fairly recently with a new glossy style but really failed to address the over-riding issues that the publication had. Decent, well written articles and over reliance on advertising new releases. Now we see another 'relaunch' which will see the magazine split into two publications which will effectively see the punter paying much more (if it works out favourably) hard earned cash for magazines that GW used to be able to produce with aplomb for a much smaller price. Think back to what is becoming known as the 'Silver Age' when Paul Sawyer was at the helm of the magazine and its pages were jam packed with good articles about Warhammer, 40k, LotR and Specialist games! Then Fanatic Magazine came and went. As did Paul. The 'Giant Issue' must have been the final nail in the coffin for many. We have seen magazines come and go from GW in the past, and I am sure this relaunch will follow with the inevitable cancellation of White Dwarf (and most likely Warhammer Visions too) because not enough people are buying them. Its wrong to blame the twenty-first century for this too. I don't feel that the death of this magazine has anything to do with technology, after all a quick trip to the newsagent will lead you to discovering about four or five other wargaming magazines on sale. And many of them have digital versions of themselves. Only those magazines have articles in them that are well written and of actual use to the reader. Unlike White Dwarf sadly. Which is why its sales figures have so slowly dwindled away.

And what do big companies do with unprofitable products?

They try out a few relaunches, and if they fail, they cancel them. Then the energies are focused into those products that are profitable.

Right, here goes. My statement. Personally, I feel that GW will soon cancel Warhammer Fantasy Battle entirely and will focus on 40k almost entirely. Yes you heard that right. Warhammer Fantasy Battle, the grand-daddy of them all will be phased out. The reason? Its not profitable enough. Sure, much of my conjecture is based on my limited knowledge about sales figures and popularity but its not hard to see that 40k dominates GW sales. GW have proven that they will cancel games that do not sell enough stock. They have even turned Games Day (you know, a day when you play games) into a sales exercise.  Just look at the Specialist Range! With that cut, and mostly likely WD next, what is left to go to streamline the company and increase profits for the shareholders? Warhammer Fantasy Battle itself! I had a little cruise of the internet to see if any other bloggers out there had similar opinions to mine or who had more actual evidence to support this view. This was the best I found. Have a read...

http://www.houseofpaincakes.com/2014/01/the-ballbusch-experience-death-of-titan.html

It's nice to have this blog quoted there by the Knight of Infinite Resignation...

"I started Fantasy gaming playing Priestly and Hallowell's game Reaper many years ago (the Tabletop Games publication that prefigured Warhammer), which was a skirmish game for maybe 20 to 40 figures a side. Its interesting to compare that game which was focussed on facilitating player creativity with the complex, proscriptive and expensive behemoth that WHF has become. 


You might be interested in this article: http://realmofchaos80s.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/ric... 



Knight of Infinite Resignation"



He makes a really good point there, doesn't he? 'Focusing on facilitating player creativity' as apposed to being proscriptive. But even proscription cannot be the sole reason to explain the decline of Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Modern 40k suffers from much the same form of manipulation by sales departments yet is, as far as I can tell, going from strength to strength. I think that part of this is supported by the success of third party products, such as the Dawn of War series and the shed loads of novels the Black Library pumps out monthly, though most of these are set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe rather than the Old World. Oh, and that far more possibilities are probably possible in an almost infinite universe. Still, modern Fantasy Battle has lost much of its vibrancy with zoats, elementals, Nipponese, Norse and even the controversial pygmies no longer supported or discussed. There is certainly plenty of room there for expansion and new ideas. Even Estalian, Tilean or even the forces from Araby could be produced using positive facets from each related nation's history. The excuse of 'rules' is often cited to explain why new forces are not added to the spectrum. You hear, or read, statements like, and I paraphrase,  '40k doesn't need another horde army' or 'Warhammer already has a couple of static line shooting armies' quite often if you read around the wargames community a little more widely. Well if its not about the rules but about selling miniatures, as GW tell us they are a miniature manufacturing company as apposed to a gaming one, why not produce entirely new armies and peddle them to the masses? 

I suspect that the answer to this is an economic one. It just isn't profitable to design, produce and develop background for new models when you can rehash all the old stuff much more cheaply and turn a tidy profit. Warhammer Fantasy Battle is now far more generic than it once was and many of the other developers out there copy this generic style, deliberately or not, to help turn a profit in their own respective companies. The generic feel of fantasy has spread to other media too, from books, television programmes and even computer games! Which is why, as a reader, I found the writing of Robert E Howard's Conan stories so fresh and exciting when I read them recently, even though they are much older than much of Tolkien's writing. But it was Tolkien and not Howard who's vision created the 'stamp' from which many other fantasies are struck; so orcs, elves and medieval fantasy (or late medieval at the least) has remained predominant. Personally, my own first tastes of fantasy were with the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and later Games Workshop products. But this was a different fantasy world than the one we know today. It was largely undefined but much of the Empire was described as a dark and dangerous place where the majority of people lived in ignorance of the true horrors of the world. 

Very Lovecraftian. 

Humour also made a difference in the early editions of Warhammer (and even 40k, worshiping puddings anyone?) with comedy orcs and dwarfs in the little short stories that were parts of the Citadel Miniature ad, amusing place names (Pissdorf) and characters that poke fun at national British figures and even GW employees. Playing the Enemy Within Campaign for the first time brings up that really amusing moment when the double is signed to by the follower of the Purple Hand. It can be very funny to act out, especially if you don't know the story, and if played for laughs it can turn into a rather ridiculous moment. Reading that entry in the supplement reveals that the authors really encouraged you to play for laughs, as did GW as a whole then. It seems to be that as Fantasy became more poe-faced and serious, so did the company producing the product. It became a vicious self serving spiral down into generic nonsense that feels now totally devoid of life. By 8th edition, the Warhammer World, especially the Empire, had devolved from a highly detailed, fairly believable place (which in my opinion is essential for any fantasy to work) into some hellish nightmare land were every tree and field is out to get the common man and terrible, mind blasting demonic entities casually stroll the earth with impunity. Which always let me asking the question, well how did the human societies even remain in existence then, when even the very land they live on rebels against them?

Whatever the reason, the player base for Warhammer, the beast that started it all, dwindles further, and further until the question is raised... "why not retire it?" If White Dwarf can go, they so can one of the Core games, surely? This leads to another question though, if fantasy is so unpopular, why does Warhammer Fantasy Battle thrive, nay dominate, the Oldhammer movement? Sure Rogue Trader gets a good look in, doesn't it, but have a quick glance around the blogs and social media and you'll see that fantasy stands triumphant! At the Oldhammer Weekend last year, there were at least ten games going on at one point, nearly all of which were fantasy. I think I may have some answers to this, and by this I do mean 'some' answers (perhaps theories would be a better term?) rather than 'the' answer. 

Here goes...

1) Nostalgia

Without a doubt, this has to be the most powerful draw for fantasy in Oldhammer. Its what we played as kids. Rogue Trader wasn't released for a number of years before Fantasy Battle and we all merrily lined up our models and just played away with what we had. We were excited, care-free and desperate to own a huge amount of kit that quite frankly, we could have never afforded. Anything and everything looks better through the rose tinted spectacles of nostalgia, even some of Bob Olley's sculpts!! Sorry Bob! Now as adults, often cash rich and time poor, we are eager to escape the troubles of adult life in many myriad ways, and returning to childhood pastimes and youthful pursuits is a very healthy way of relaxing and easing a troubled mind. We can relive our youths with a new bunch of comrades and do exactly the same thing as we used to do, just line up all our models on one big table and bash away! 

A couple of posts back I talked about the types of Oldhammerer I had had the pleasure of meeting. A lot of you who commented and discussed what I had said talked about the thrill of collecting. The addiction to eBay and how enjoyable collecting out of production miniatures was. I think nostalgia plays a big part in this too. I am sure that you are like me when I say that I miss the wall to wall racks of blister packs. You used to walk into the gaming shops back in the 1980s and be confronted by an enormity of lead. Even a solid hour's reflection over those blister packs and their contents would leave fresh discoveries still to be made. Different variants of models, miniatures you have never seen before and sometimes even something mind blasting in its originality, to you anyway, in the bargain box - a preslotta most likely! What is eBay today but our wall of blister packs? Our pleasurable hours cruising the internet site for models is merely a reflection of those days of youth at the blister pack wall, our heads full of dreams and our imaginations fired by the creativity on display.

Much like me in the newsagents with all those cover paintings. 

2) Artistic Style

This must come a close second to nostalgia. Fantasy battle dominates because the older models seem fresh once more, as does the art. Its not CAD. Its not following a house style, in fact, individual artistic styles prevail through the artwork, the sculpting and even the game design. Sure its crude in places, but somehow my orc villager sculpted by Trish Morrison back in 1987 seems fresher and more believable than the latest batch of orc miniatures with all their technological improvements. At the point I gave up on modern Warhammer I had this feeling that no matter how many little extra components there were on the kits I was buying, everything I built, painted or saw in magazines just felt, well, over familiar. I had, in truth, seen it all before. The archetypes had become tired and this was covered up by an never ending tide of skulls, spikes and chains. 

The older models that are so commonly used in Oldhammer games are the polar opposite to this. They are often one piece casts where the sculptor, more often or not, has breathed a little life into the greens from which it came. This is something I just have never felt from a plastic, nor resin kit. But that is just me. I know its a fair few of you followers too!

3) Player Creativity

"You can't paint them that colour!" Have you ever heard or read this statement? What about... "that unit cannot use spears?" Its seems bizarre now, but about four years ago I felt I was the only one who didn't want to blindly follow the dogma recorded in a series of increasingly priced publications. Oldhammer encourages you to be creative and play and paint your way. This opens the box for the individual to go crazy and build the armies that they want rather than what is expected of them. With a massive range of models just in the old Citadel range alone the scale of this creativity is almost unmatched by any other company, trading or not. The same can be said for the rules systems. Warhammer Fantasy Battle 1-3 was not so much a set of rules to follow, but a tool kit for you to produce your own worlds in which to game. If you don't like something, or if a particular aspect doesn't appeal to you, you, as a gamer, were expected to change it. There was no hand holding. Players were even encourage to set up games for other people, producing background, a context and the armylists all by themselves before actually running the game. Hopefully, with the addition of a nice little story for the players to contribute to.

4) Freedom

Similar in many ways to the previous section on Player Creativity. Old School gaming taps you into the freedom of the '80s. The gaming culture back then was steeped in freedom. It was too small scale for the big money men to need to start shoe-horning sales strategies in. Roleplaying, and later fantasy wargaming, best exemplified by Warhammer Fantasy Battle, was underground. It was produced for gamers, by gamers. Games Workshop and Citadel Miniatures were owned by, and run by, pioneers who loved fantasy gaming and wanted others to do so. The profits went into their pockets (and quite right too) rather than into the portfolios of disinterested investors.

To return once more to my newsagent. The type of shop that I remember doesn't really exist anymore. They were the dark, dingy independent places that have long since been replaced by Smiths, Spar or Tesco Extra. They sold magazines, food, drink, fags, computer games on tape, hardware, tools and you name it. Something struck me in Tescos this morning as I pushed my daughter in her push chair past the magazines racks. We stopped at White Dwarf and I plucked the magazine up, flicking through the pages and coming to that back spread of a Lord of Change and its foreboding message. My son will never experience buying WD from a shop like I did, like a generation of gamers before me did! After 37 years or so its all over. Even though the once might magazine has been a poorly written cynical sales device with little or no real content of real merit for some years.

I shall still miss it. 


Nicked from Mr Saturday's Mumblings! Thanks!
1977-2014



52 comments:

  1. Well said that man.
    Interestingly I was discussing this very issue with a friend yesterday and he pointed out that the weekly mag is likely to be little more than an add-on sales tool to stimulate growth in like for like sales by bumping up the average total of sales. The monthly mag may only need to exist in order to cover existing subscriptions. Yet more cynical business guff.
    The same friend also discussed with me the plans for WFB, he was distraught with the things he had heard (being a fantasy fan boy) but has since told me that things were still up in the air so there may be quite a bit of truth in your suppositions.
    Personally I remember standing in Asda while my mum did the shopping and reading dragon from cover to cover, the images filling my wee head with bafflement and ideas. It was the first place I ever heard of teenage mutant ninja turtles! I started reading WD at issue 100 and by 140 or so had given it up as I had felt it had become a cynical rag full of adds. Ho and indeed hum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that quite a few people have had a sense that Fantasy Battle hasn't got much time left. Its sad to hear of devoted players feeling worried, but nothing is ever going to stop them enjoying previous editions and models, unless they are really only interested in shiny new 'must have' releases. We will have to wait and see, though I remember mentioning on Warseer about 6 years ago that I felt WD would cancelled at some point, prophet of doom that I am, only then I was shot down by the fan boyz!

      Delete
  2. Very good points.

    I think the point that we've reached with WHFB is the end of result of decisions made as far back as WHFB v3 to focus less on the "Fun" aspect and more on the "Competitive" aspect. You can trace the start of this back to the launch of "Warhammer Armies". Prior to 'Armies you picked your models based on the ones you found interesting and calculated the points based on the look of the model and your army was formed based on your vision (usually influenced by whatever bits of fantasy you liked best)

    After 'Armies it quickly became "if it ain't in the book, you can't have it" and a lot of the creativity of putting together an army went out the window. Take "The Nightmare Legion" (one of the best sets they did) for example. Using 'Armies only its impossible to field the Legion as described on the box so all the creativity that went into giving the models character and background went out the window if your opponent doesn't agree to let you use them. This is one mistake I'm hoping doesn't infect the Oldhammer community.

    I think also the decision to make the new LOTR figures on the different scale was didn't help, as I remember in 80s it was fairly common to mix some of the LOTR figures with WHFB because in some cases the sculpts were better and more interesting. I remember the flying Naguzl to be particularly popular in this regard. Again putting profit above people is a sure way to lose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Warhammer Armies was created because players wanted more competitive rulesets for competition, or league as it was known then, gaming. Despite this Stillman and Priestley stated in their overview of Warhammer Armies that the suggestions were simply guidelines, rather than strict groups. When Warhammer was concieved battles were between groups of roleplayers who understood, at least those I knew or read about, self restraint. Powergaming was never easier in the 80s but I doubt the other players would have been very happy with the bloke who fielded a lvl 25 wizard with vortex of chaos and summon greater daemon in his spellbook. On the subject on the differing scales between WFB, it was my understanding that this was a legal stipulation with New Line Cinema when the licence was bought rather than a deliberate choice by GW.

      Delete
    2. I did not know that titbit about the LOTR figures. I'd assumed that GW had done it to avoid a one army two games problem and to increase sales.

      I totally agree with you about the culture aspect. I started WHFB in the 2nd Edition days with a small gaming/RPG club of around 15-20 people. People would collect and paint forces of around 40 figures so large army, high level matches with high level spells were pretty rare and usually all day affairs where the fun was the mayhem and carnage rather than competition (leagues were usually organized with 500-1000 pt forces). With 'Armies 100+ figure forces seemed to becoming the norm and with the opening of the GW store in the nearest city the "if it isn't in book" culture took over due to number of players who came into the game via the games in the GW store.

      Third Edition Warhammer Armies still remains one of my favorite books. My dogeared, pencil marked, first edition hardcover that my teenage self lovingly prit-sticked the errata pages into still sits on my bookshelf today. I was a less of a fan of the culture change that happened with it.

      Delete
    3. I don't remember any restrictions enforced on my play until I returned to Warhammer briefly in 1997 in what would have been late 4th and early 5th edition. I was so aghast by the changes that the store manager in the Exeter played 3rd edition rules with me a couple of times as I'd painted up loads of Brets and he'd asked me to stick my miniatures in the window. It was a great moment for me that, being able to walk past the store late on a drunken night and peer at my models through the darkened glass. It too have a very battered copy of Warhammer Armies, though mine wasn't bought until 2006! I didn't need it back in the day as we just used the point system from the third edition rulebook, if we used a point system at all.

      Delete
    4. I remember the Store Manager around that time in Exeter, I think his name was Dan? He had tonnes of old school miniatures, and would often trade assorted figures with those of us who were regulars. I got some very interesting miniatures that way - he was far too good at parting teenage me from my pitiful earnings

      Delete
    5. they had to use a different scale of size for LotR due to the licenese, it's also why there's no added extras with the plastics for customising like with 40k/WFB

      Delete
  3. For me its hard to equate the hobby I fell in love with in the late 80's to what I found when I returned barely 4 years ago. Although its a shame that White Dwarf is to finish I can't help but agree with your last sentence

    "Even though the once might magazine has been a poorly written cynical sales device with little or no real content of real merit for some years. "

    So perhaps this could turn out for the best. Who knows maybe the Visions of Warhammer might turn into a newer version of the White dwarfs we grew up with. It sounds like it will be purely about the hobby and not a glorified sales brochure as is the case now.

    As for WFB, it seems to me that GW have been trying to turn it into its more successful younger brother for a while now. Units have grown in size and it seems that every new army release comes with giant machines of destruction and fantastical flying machines/creatures. Gone are the days when you would see each member of a unit with their name on the base (what's the point when they could all die in one round of magic!). But perhaps the main reason is that kids nowadays prefer guns and tanks to swords and sandals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And yet Skyrim, a sword and snow, rather than sandals, game has been one of the biggest selling properties of recent times. Game of Thrones is watched by millions around the world. There is scope for fantasy with the kids its just not been made accessible in my opinion.

      Delete
    2. I don't think its inaccessible, its just that GW have made it so similar to 40k why bother with both. To me WFB should have moved away from the giant battles of 40k and gone down the route of small armies/war bands. I would imagine that there is large amount of kids who drop out of the hobby due to the amount of time just to get your average army painted up and this is where WFB could help. Just look at your own Khorne army I'm guessing no more than 50 models and done, but by modern standards that could be just one unit !!!

      Delete
    3. I can't see it myself. 40k may well be far more popular than WFB, but in the roleplaying / gaming hobby as a whole fantasy is far larger than sci-fi I'd think (LotR / Game of Thrones / Skyrim / World of Warcraft, etc, etc).

      The fantasy miniatures market seems fairly large and competitive from what I can see (for a niche hobby) and with their prominence as a company and the WFB rules they get to set an agenda on what sells. Without the rules they're back into the generic fantasy miniatures market, and I doubt fantasy is such a small slice of their pie they want to go without it altogether. Without their rules some of their ranges would probably die altogether (I'd imagine they'd ultimately be left with orcs, elves, dwarves and maybe undead). I know they have the LotR license but they'd far rather be selling their own IP than licensing someone else's I'm sure.

      Maybe you're a prophet - time will tell! I think on this one you're extrapolating too far though.

      It'd be interesting to see what'd happen to the hobby if your prediction did come true. It's tempting to see it as a good thing given our fond vision of GW in the 80s versus now, but actually I think the hobby as a whole would be worse off without them.

      Delete
  4. An intelligent and emotive piece. I think it's fair to say that the ruthless pursuit of profit will suck the passion out of anything (look at premiership football) and that is precisely what has happened to GW. The creativity that years ago spawned the Warhammer world and 40k universe is long gone; replaced by spreadsheets, profit margins and the dry language of the executive boardroom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bryan Ansell has said that during his time the company was a nice size, which meant you could achieve things but didn't get bogged down with corporate 'coporateness'. GW success spread the need to appeal to a wider fan base. Its just such a shame that that fan base wasn't us.

      Delete
  5. The following step could also be to make all armies space marines, you could have space marine orks, space marine tyrannids, space marines, tau and space marine eldars...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You forgot space chaos space marines and, of course, space space marines of the Ultra-Ultramarines Chapter!

      Delete
    2. AHA, Very Jood ! They actually started making spacemarines wearing a terminator suit over their space marine suit...

      Delete
  6. Sad but true. I agree both with the article (well though out as ever, thank you) and the previous comments. Nostalgia may blind us to the bits that weren't perfect in the past, but the handing over of control of GW to Business People, rather than Gamers, and the gradual loss of the spirit of adventure we loved is probably what drove most of us away in the first place.

    I'll be sad to see WD go. Issue 113 was the first I owned and I read, reread and reread it until it disintegrated (I usually read through them at the WHSmiths on the Manchester Piccadilly station on my way home from school while waiting for the train). RIP White Dwarf, although you've been as good as dead for several years now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its clearly another relaunch of a relaunch. To have good magazine content you need staff writers that can, well, actually write. Rick Priestley once pointed out to me that back in the good old days nearly everyone in the studio was highly literate and could easily produce readable prose without the need to scatterbomb paragraphs with 'cools' and 'awesomes'. He didn't say it, but many assumed he was hinting that this was no longer the case. Read the interview I did with him and judge for yourself. If one bunch of magazine staff are unable to produce quality, readable copy that appeals to a wide readership then I cannot see how the same people are going to be able to achieve it over two separate magazines! By that is just me!

      Delete
    2. This is a good point...and to my mind there just aren't enough archaeologists involved anymore....:)

      Delete
  7. Hi!

    Excellent article and points! I must admit I'm not too surprised that GW are pulling the plug on White Dwarf. The expensive rehash just didn't work.

    It really needed some actual content, be it painting articles, scenarios, proper battle reports, new units or whatever but as you mentioned, its pretty much a catalogue these days.

    Warhammer has got to the point of ridiculousness now. Its just no fun to play and the sheer number of figures required is simply put, a sales ploy. I would far prefer them to go for a more boutique approach with a revamped setting, new rules and decent figures in metal no less but I doubt its going to happen. Specialist games with the frankly fantastic rules and figures that went with it are not going to return!

    Who knows, GW may turn things around with a new edition of the rules (ie updated and fun) but I somewhat doubt it...

    All the best!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see no problem with needing loads of figures to play a big battle if the system is useful for a good skirmish too. I have painted hundreds of metal figures over the last two and a half years doing Oldhammer, more than I ever did in all the other years of GW wargaming. But these were nice, characterful single casts which were all different. The monotony of painting the identikit plastic things that stand as rank and file would have put me right off. Fifty identical clan rats? No thanks, though I doubt I'd have a problem painting 50 different metal models if each had its own feel.

      Delete
  8. WFB is here to stay. It's IP is too valuable. Computer games, books, film etc. If GW is sold then they would have done themselves a great disservice allowing WFB to lie fallow. We have seen it unfold at Hasbro with D&D. The rpg might not sell much but the IP is worth a ton. Same with WFB, it will get a reboot, as 8th edition is dead in the water. If that reboot fails it will be put on life support.

    You can bet any buyers of the GW will want both the 40k and Fantasy IP. Specialist games not so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are talking about two things here. IP and the tabletop game. You can cut the tabletop game and still have the IP for books, games and so on. Just look at the cash cow that was Skyrim. GW could have made something like that with the Warhammer IP years ago and they'd now have the leading fantasy computer title and very deep pockets. Cutting the resources of a game that just doesn't shift enough units, not to mention reassigning the sculptors or artists that work on them could result in more product to sell in 40k. Especially now they are going to be experimenting with weekly releases. As for D&D and its IP. Well what has been done with it? A rather poor film and a few new additions of the game in paper and digital form. A few flirts with small scale apps and games too I suppose. Nothing big. Its market has shifted to the OSR and just plays the older preferred editions. I suspect that any buyers of GW are far more interested in the IP than the tabletop game, but that will really depend on who any buyers actually are.

      Delete
    2. Warhammer Online was a thing wasn't it... for a while there and that was only a few years ago. I think a Warhammer style Skyrim would be great and probably make GW a ton of money. I think they still need WFB being sold to ensure the IP is attractive enough. By being actively supported its more valuable.

      Hasbro know D&D IP is valuable, more so if they ensure the rpg that started the whole thing is in print and for sale. I think GW still get this. A magazine in a digital world they can kill, WFB they can't. The reboot is due this year anyway isn't it. Maybe they will make it a smaller skirmish game and it will be a great success.

      Delete
    3. To be honest, I don't actually know much about the situation with D&D at the moment. It doesn't seem to be the behomoth I recall from the early 90s onwards. Most, though not all, RPG games on my Amiga and later PC were D&D related. Eye of the Beholder, Azure Bonds, Neverwinter Nights... and so on. There doesn't seem to be the same spread of titles these days despite the change in ownership, though it may be be not noticing them. Despite my critics, and after writing this article there seem to be many, I am not anti-GW or anti-Warhammer. I just believe in value for money. I would love to see a new edition of Warhammer that gets people creative and playing real games rather than yet another 1000 point tournament line them up and knock them down.

      Delete
  9. An excellent, excellent article. I can't but agree with the sentiments and the points raised, though I would be somewhat horrified if WHFB met it's end so ignominiously, even if many of the models I love are all out of production and have been for some years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that Warhammer will only truly end when people stop playing it. If any real change to the game is going to occur, people need to stop playing it they way they are told and embrace it for themselves. When I started this blog I imagined that I'd have five or six years to get everything collected and painted so I could enjoy the old school version of Warhammer with my son. Thankfully, the world is for of likeminded individuals and good old fashioned narrative games are being played once more. There is nothing I hate to hear more than terms like 'competitive build'.

      Delete
  10. As Space Cow said; I would love to see warhammer released as a specialist boutique game with metal minis. That would be ace. Not gonna happen though is it :-(

    ReplyDelete
  11. I would love to see Rick Priestley re-write the 3rd edition WFB rulebook in the vein of the excellent and elegant Black Powder rulebook that he made a few years ago. Humorous, very rules-light and intended more as guidelines than as a standard set in stone. Perhaps a fan effort should be made to create something similar, to be distributed freely as a pdf, so that new oldhammer players (haha) would have an easy entry into playing the game and also to support the ethos of creativity over competition? A stripped down, classic WFB?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rick Preistley are you listening?

      Kickstart this stat! You have my money.

      Delete
    2. Actually, when I spoke to Rick at The Foundry he said he'd love to do a set of rules for Fantasy one day that didn't rely on any particular set of models. So you never know, perhaps we will see some Fantasy from Warlord one day! Hope so!

      Delete
  12. One thing though, I just can't figure out why if all of this is about profit, they don't sell older references. The cost of production of those is quite limited since the design as been more than covered over the years. Selling the Jes Goodwin champions and sorcerors would do no harm to any existing model and selling some beaky marines wouldn't hurt the plastic fans either. Some references are VERY old now (warp spiders, eldar motojets,...) and are still here.
    Seeing how they abandonned Bloodbowl which still sells when you see th eprofit made on it by other companies seems crazy.
    I just don't get the big picture amongst all of this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find it strange that loads of the older sculpts are not available anymore but I guess its because no-one actually buys them when they do. Who knows?

      Delete
  13. The listing of GW is the turning point in all of this. Profit itself isn't the problem - indeed if their wasn't a profit to be made then we wouldn't have any hobby companies.

    Once GW listed their was a clear decision to focus on volume based products. As those volume based products required a larger (and younger) base it meant that niche based games and races went the way of the dodo. After all the return on investment for such niche products would be too low to justify the investment in them. Personally I think that is somewhat shortsighted as some of the niche games GW has done over the years (Blood bowl, Heroquest, Space Crusade and Mordheim come to mind) would introduce players to the wider GW range. But unless you factor that into your decision making process then you undervalue the impact these products have.

    ReplyDelete
  14. It doesn't really matter. As long as I'm alive WHFB will be alive. I have never played a game of 8th edition but I have recently played a game of WHFB using a hash of 3rd and 6th edition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have played all the editions over the years. I love 3rd though, much like car enthusiasts love beat up old bangers from 1911. They don't quite work properly, are full of problems when they do but are so much fun to play with!

      Delete
  15. A well reasoned piece. I remember years ago when WD200 came out I posted a comparison to WD100 on one of the old newsgroups. Even that far back the amount of viable content had diminished to a couple of pages an issue. It was an extended ad with a battle report showing the devastating power of the latest army.

    As for WFB, I think the key piece is also the prevalence of equivalent, if not superior ranges from other manufacturers. I recently decided to finish painting my old 4th edition Empire army, I looked in the Catalog for some figures to round out some of the units and discovered everything had evolved into a caricature of the original models. I ended up buy some Foundry Landsknecht instead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the Foundry have some lovely stuff that fits in very well with old school Citadel. I am glad that you feel my piece was well reasoned, as I have seen it being called 'diatribe' and much worse on other sites. If I had known this piece would go viral in the way it did I would have written it differently. Its clear to me, as the author, that I was posing a hypothetical question (hence the question mark in the title) and making a personal opinion. Perhaps that wasn't so clear to others who seemed to feel threatened by my opinion (which all its is) and had to pick my article apart in various ways to show how wrong I am. They failed to notice the obvious irony that they were merely using their own personal opinion to disprove me. Plonkers!

      Delete
  16. I've been away for a few weeks. I came home to WD sitting on my doormat. (Yes my wife gave me a subscription for Christmas a few years back and it just keeps coming!). However I have spent more time and more importantly, gained more pleasure catching up on all the Oldhammer blogs than that glossy over priced marketing tool. The amount of actual content is laughable. 6 pages of stockists locations, as if they couldn't put that on their website. It's so annoying.

    This realmofchaos blog has taken the place of white dwarf for me. But it could do with a few more battle reports ;)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think the major cause of Games workshop's downfall as a whole is their laughably over priced products. A great example of this is their new army book range. When I first started Warhammer (about 5 years ago) the books were about £15 which I deemed reasonable enough to warrant a purchase (I had already accepted it was an expensive hobby). Now they are double that at £30 for a 100 page book. The whole catalogue is a simliar story not to mention finecast (which I believe is a brilliant scam - plastic is cheaper than metal so lets charge them MORE for it). It has got to the point that my friends and I see them as a faceless money grabbing corporation who should be boycotted rather than supported. This isn't helped by the fact that you can get much of their stock cheaper almost ANYWHERE else. For example I recently got my friend into WFB and he has since purchased a 3000 point empire army at significantly less than half GWs price from ebay. Not to mention there are a whole host of sites that offer boxed GW products at 20-30% less than GW for those who want to create their models from scratch (so most people). So in short, don't feel sorry for GW they have without a doubt brought this all on themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Honestly, I hope that Warhammer Fantasy hits the bucket. Maybe that will be the incentive for the gaming clubs to take back the fun and creativity that once was Warhammer. As it is now, it is an endless drive for the next big thing, next big release etc.... It is no wonder that Warhammer 40k has become more popular. They are atleast expanding the gaming universe with new races, factions, Space Marine chapters, types of units etc. Fantasy has hit a wall and become generic and streamlined, and horribly balanced as a game.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Too little freedom bad, too much freedom equally bad. A plane of law is as bad as a plane of chaos.

    I think that DIY is great, but when it comes to game balance and fluff, these are things which must be guided by top game designers and fluff writers. Sorry to sound elitist, but I want well refined and polished stuff sometimes, not the work of an inexperienced craftsperson. I want some guidance on what this world is like and some great literature to read! Suggestions for scenarios, recommended colour schemes, a few special characters and such. Not everyone's abilities to create these things are equal in this regard (although everyone can get good with enough time and spirit.)

    The fact that WH Fantasy solidified into a world was good. If it is too open and chaotic it isn't anything at all, it has no shape or substance. A wargame should provide background and such, a commonality around which we can then deploy our own creativity. It is just a shame Fantasy has decayed into a corpse (or should that be 'a corporate', hehe!)

    As a final note, Oldhammer depresses me just as much. Are we so starved of quality and creativity that we need to regress to a previous state? We need new ideas and new talent, not a reversion to an age long past! It is far too conservative for my tastes, as much as I heart old skool stuff massively!

    Feel free to message me anyone, and we can talk about alternatives =)



    ReplyDelete
  20. All sorts of interesting comments there, many of which I find myself agreeing with but there is one at which I have to take grave offense:

    "even some of Bob Olley's sculpts!! "

    GW have produced some horrible figures over the years but why pick on Bob - the man responsible for probably the best skeletons they ever did, some great ogres/ogryns and not forgetting the Adeptus Mechanicus to mention just a few

    Wash your mouth out!!

    ReplyDelete
  21. It is a mere tongue in check comment, based on my changing view of Bob's work. I hated the stuff back then but the years have changed meban I have developed a fondness for his style.

    ReplyDelete
  22. It is a shame. For me 28mm models just don't suit the giant blocks of troops pushed now. I want my toys, even those destined to clear the minefields, to stand out a little, not be lost in a sea of figures. I am currently trying out god of battles and I reckon that has nailed fantasy wargaming for me.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I miss the old days of small warbands and crazy eclectic mixes of models, but I also like having thematically unified armies. I hold some small hope from what I've seen of GW's current End Times scenario thatmaybe, just maybe, we could end up with a 9th edition that brings back some of the old spirit of Warhammer

    ReplyDelete
  24. I think this prophecy just came true...

    ReplyDelete
  25. Everywhere we look is as ruined and lifeless as the last... Yet here we stay because this ruin is ours. A perpetual state of suspended animation (like Caledor's Vortex) was brought about by unavoidable corporate evolution through a modern age. There was once a time of legends. Apparently there are a lot of us hobbyists who continue to live in it!

    ReplyDelete
  26. It's awful what has happened to Wfb. I stopped playing anything GW a few years ago after even 40k became unrecognisable, I had been in denial for years, trying to cling onto the game worlds I had fell in love with in the early 2000s. I am sure some would argue it declined earlier but the earliest I knew were the Sawyer years in WD. My literacy improved considerably reading that as a teenager and all the background stuff fired my imagination and kept me hooked long after GW had turned into a corporate husk. When I heard WFB had finally died, I mourned it, but I do hope this means the sickened GW will finally die and the IPs may pass on to proper hobbyists again. Maybe Warlord or Mantic or one of those non-evil wargaming companies.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Well GW killed WFB but Mantic Games made Kings of War so either that or just keep playing the game with whatever edition of WFB you like. I prefer KoW 2nd edition and WFB 6th/7th edition

    ReplyDelete