Thursday, October 14, 2010

The End is Nigh...

For a long while now I've been working my Brazen Claw army--specifically, the Brazen Claw 2nd Company. It's been a long road filled with distractions due to other projects, as well as burnout painting so much red and blue quartered paint schemes.

Recently I've been trying to inject some self-discipline into myself and not buy any new miniatures for a while. Then I saw my Brazen Claws sitting on the shelf. The company is almost done, mainly just the above miniatures left to go. Painting the whole company seemed like almost an insurmountable task in the beginning. But now, I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Finishing the company before I buy any more miniatures seems to be a reachable goal. Also, as it's going to take me a while (at least a few weeks) to find the time to finish these guys anyway, it'll also help my wallet a bit too.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thoughts on the State of Gaming, Part 3

I think GW has a workable business model with The Lord of the Rings line, provided they marketed it right.  The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game is a perfectly workable skirmish game--easy enough for a new player to get into with a relative minimum of effort.  Once they become a veteran and want to play games with huge armies, then they can "graduate" into playing War of the Ring, and purchase the additional loads of miniatures.  If The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game was marketed as the "entry-level" game, it might attract new players.  As it is now, it seems to be presented as a sub-game to War of the Ring.

It seems to me that there are three levels of games that could be tapped in a logical progression for each genre.  
  1. A fast paced "board" game.  This could consist of interlocking board pieces like Space Hulk or Warhammer Quest, and a few miniatures that act as game pieces.  The game should have simple enough rules to appeal to players who are not gamers (the genre itself should keep the veterans interested).  The game should be something that you could play with your children or disinterested SO.  An example is the Settlers of Catan, which is arguably has some fantasy elements and yet is popular outside of traditional gaming circles.
  2. An intermediate level "skirmish" wargame.  This should contain more miniatures than the previous level, while not being huge battles, either.
  3. A wargame.  This is the level of the current games of Warhammer, Warhammer 40k, and War of the Ring.

The key to a marketing strategy like this is to ensure that the games should be as compatible as with each other as possible, at least in terms of the miniatures.  That ensures that a new player will "add on" to his army as he progresses up the chain, rather than feel like he has to "start over" each time.  

For each of the three main lines that GW has, I can envision the following tiers:

    Tier One: Warhammer Quest.  A handful of characters doing a dungeon crawl to accomplish a quest.  
    Tier Two:  Mordheim, or something similar.  Basically warbands fighting each other for whatever reason.
    Tier Three:  Warhammer itself.

Warhammer 40k:
    Tier One:  A Warhammer Quest analogue, perhaps a Rogue Trader or Inquisitorial Retinue on a mission on board a space hulk to accomplish a quest, like retrieve an artifact and then escape.
    Tier Two:  A skirmish game, perhaps more like Necromunda, the original Rogue Trader version of the game, or something along the lines of the Kill Team rules from 6th edition 40k.  A disadvantage of Necromunda itself was that you couldn’t use the miniatures in Warhammer 40k, and, as far as I know, the vice versa.  Suffice it to say, it should a be a squad level game where each player has maybe a dozen miniatures.
    Tier Three:  Warhammer 40k.

The Lord of the Rings
    Tier One:  A game called something like “Escape from Moria”, where the Fellowship (or a small band of other heros), has to escape the mines of Moria before they are captured or killed by its evil denizens.  This is a different concept from the boxed set The Mines of Moria, which is the starter set to The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game.  Rather, this game would have the interlocking game pieces like Warhammer Quest or Space Hulk, which creates Moria as the players explore it, searching for an exit.  
    Tier Two:  The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, albeit marketed at the skirmish level like it was originally envisioned.
    Tier Three:  War of the Ring.  

Having a tiered structure like this I think would attract more gamers.  As it is, many new players jump in and get hooked for life, while others start to get involved, build an army, get frustrated at the escalating costs or codex creep or whatever, and then and sell everything on ebay and leave permanently.  Those that are lost are going to tell others about their experiences, and potentially drive others away.  However, with more gaming options available, someone who gets frustrated might instead take a break from the Tier Three game and slide back down to Tier Two or One, and still have fun.  Even if their never go back up to Tier Three, they’re still playing games within the company, and even if they spend way less money than they used to, less is better than none at all.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thoughts on the State of Gaming, Part 2

Another point of the Specialist Game Rant the I mentioned in Part 1 is that the purpose of the "side games" was to draw in new blood with the side games, in the hopes of hooking them into playing the more expensive flagship games.  What GW supposedly found was that the veteran players were being pulled away by the specialist games rather than new players being hooked into the hobby by them.

On the other hand, I know several people who are gamers but not miniatures gamers, who stay away from GW stuff simply because they don't want to invest the time and money required to buy and paint an army (this is also a primary reason I don't play MMORPGs).  In such a situation, a smaller game like Battlefleet Gothic would be much more palatable to them, as spending less than $100 can get you a decent fleet that won't even take very long to paint--even though many of the miniatures are still expensive metal. 

But it's a maxim of the business industry that it costs ten times more to attract a new customer than to keep a current one.  Every veteran of Warhammer or Warhammer 40k is going to get burned out eventually, and want to play something else, if only for a while.  If the specialist games exist, the veteran will likely go to those.  Even if the veteran never comes back--they're still playing within the company.  If the specialist games aren't available, then the veteran might just leave the company and play another company's game, like Warmachine.  And then they might like that game better...and never come back.

I find myself in that position right now--after not playing Warhammer 40k for a while, I'm looking at Warhammer a little bit, but it'll be a long time before I can build up a workable army, so my motivation is low.  In such a situation, I'd be interested in checking out some of the other games, for example Warhammer Quest, Man O'War, Mordheim, Necromunda, who knows?  But none of them are readily available

The main one that is right now, Battlefleet Gothic, is great, and in fact that's the last game I played.  Many of the people who have read my battle reports have said that they've enjoyed that I've incorporated Battlefleet Gothic games into my 40k mini-campaigns.  With GW support of other games, I could potentially do the same thing with them... (for example, a Mordheim or Man O’ War game incorporated with Warhammer.  How can that not be cool?).  GW would do well to have more cross over campaigns and battle reports.  The intermingling of fans of both games can only serve to increase the popularity of both.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thoughts on the State of Gaming, Part 1

It's been almost three months since I bought anything GW-related. The reasons are many--but boil down to distractions and discipline, pretty much in that order. As can happen with many hobbies, it's become a situation where I want to get back into it, and even feel a little guilty about not being more into it, but I'm not motivated enough to dive in it yet. Possibly this is related to the fact that I haven't even played a game since early June.

My White Dwarf subscription is nearing expiration, and for a while I was seriously considering not renewing (eventually I think I'll crack).  The battle reports in White Dwarf were the original reason I got into doing up my own battle reports, and were by far the most interesting articles to me. Nowadays, even though their battle reports are little more than showcases for their army of the month, I still find them interesting reads, if only to read about the new armies and what has changed.  Sure, I can probably get more news and battle reports than I know what to do with on the internet, but there's still something about having the magazine in hand that is appealing (much in the same way that holding an actual miniature can in ways be more appealing than just looking at a video game character).

Despite the fact that I haven’t played the games all that much recently, nor have a I painted very diligently recently, I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about it, both the games and the hobby.  What I like about it, what I don’t like, and what I think is missing.  The benefit of being out of the loop is...perspective.

I found an interesting link while surfing recently: It's some generic rants about the state of GW games and the company's marketing practices, and even though they are 5-6 years old, much of it still rings true.

One of the rants in particular talks about the demise of the Specialist Games, which I think is a real tragedy. The short of the story is this: Back in the old days GW had its two flagship games, Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000, but also released rules and miniatures for many other games. These other games, while popular with dedicated fanbases, didn't attract quite the same audience as the two main ones. As such, GW has essentially discontinued the specialist games in favor of their "primary" games.

This seems antithetical to the original purpose of Games Workshop. I don't purport to know what GW's original "mission statement" was, if it even had one, but a company that has a name like "Games Workshop" seems to have an implied purpose. Namely, creating games. Creating two games and then sticking with them (albeit with new editions) doesn't fit that title very well. Back in the 90s when there were a dozen games running around, many with their own dedicated miniatures lines, with new games being developed all the time...that when was Games Workshop actually lived up to its name. Even though I'm not interested in playing all of the games available then, I still wish some of them were still around.

One of the major problems I think is maintaining the multiple miniatures lines. With the move to mostly plastic miniatures, I would think that separate miniatures lines would be easier to maintain. I think the market still exists for Epic 40k and Battlefleet Gothic, and probably a smaller market exists on the fantasy side (Warmaster and Man O'War (the latter despite being discontinued)).  The online communities that remain for these games are a testament to this.

The example set by Gorkamorka was a bad move in my opinion.  while the miniatures themselves were cool and usable in 40k, why the switch to different bases? The only reason I can think of to do it is to provide some distance from 40k and emphasize the game’s differences.  But why would you want to do that?  Perhaps the fear was that people would think the game was essentially the same as 40k, and so there was no reason to get it.  But it’s well known that many players buy the various boxed games because they just want the miniatures.  By having a different basing style, it’s an immediate turn off.

The current method of revitalizing The Lord of the Rings line by making The War of the Ring game is a better approach. Yes, The War of the Ring uses additional bases, but you don't have to re-base the existing models you have--you just plop them into the new, large bases. 

Space Hulk is an anomaly--which makes me think it was an experiment to test the waters.  From the beginning GW said it was a one-shot deal-- (although this has generated no end of skepticism by the cynical, who assumed that it was just a marketing ploy, and that it would remain in production indefinitely).  As a one-shot, the fact that most of the miniatures can’t be used in 40k without modification to their bases isn’t as much of a problem.  But still...I’m hoping that Space Hulk was just a “one shot” in that it they won’t support it beyond the initial release, and not that it was the only “old school” game that they ever intend to re-release.