WAAC Hits the Presses

Wargamers All Against Cancer hit the Sheffield Live website today interviewing our very own Dave Wilkinson – aka @Docbungle. Aside from wargamers actually getting some good PR for a change (despite the journalist getting the name of the event consistently wrong) it’s so good to see everyone involved getting some well deserved recognition for their efforts, and the charity drive getting even more exposure.

I’m incredibly proud of Dave for how hard he’s worked and for how he’s tackled a very difficult and sad time. I can’t say I would act with half the strength, dignity and determination that he has and I’m lucky to call him a friend. I’m only sorry I couldn’t have been more involved – personal circumstances being what they were – but I hope, should the event repeat itself, I can help in the future.

Anyway, take a look at the video and if you’re feeling generous then bip over to Dave’s JustGiving page and donate some money. When the video was shot the total was over £3k, it’s now over £5k. Which really goes to show what a strong community we are.

 

Ichiban Painting Kickstarter – The Closing Moments

The Games & Gear / Ichiban Painting Kickstarter has less than 45 minutes to go but we thought we’d give it one last hurrah to see if they can break the £90,000 mark.

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It’s hugely satisfying to see someone from our community benefit from the passion and devotion of that community in such a positive way. Having spoken to Hugo on and off during the campaign he’s been blown away by the support and faith people have shown in him and his product. He never imagined the project would approach 3000% of the intended target.

So if you have a few spare moments – for there are only moments left – and you fancy a shiny new set of brushes then go here.

If you need some convincing, check out my review of the brushes here.

Play It Fun

Play.
It.
Fun.

Three words, and a simple message, but for me at least they mark the beginning of a journey to reconnect with the roots of why I got into this fantastic hobby of ours in the first place.

“Fine”, you might say, “but why, Rob, are you bothering to tell the rest of us this?” Fair question. Over the last few years I have been more involved in the hobby and my local gaming community than at any time of my 25 years, or so, involvement in the hobby, and over the last 3 years in particular I have noticed (and this is particularly prevalent in the 40k community) a trend towards win at all costs gaming and a discourse mono-focused on the tournament scene as the arbiter of ‘what counts’ as a game of 40k and whether a new release is good or bad. Let me be clear about something up front: I have participated in the tournament scene in many ways over the years and I enjoy tournaments for the different focus they give to my games and approach to list-building. I have never gotten to the stage where tournament participation is the be all and end all of my gaming though and that seems to be where many in the community have ended up today. Again, if you are a player who enjoys tournaments so much that it’s the focus of your hobby then all credit to you, I am not sitting here criticising anyone else’s approach to the hobby. What I am concerned about, though, is the effect that the shift in emphasis towards tournaments as a primary mode of playing games does to new players entering the hobby.

The On-Ramp to Gaming Goodness

More and more, players are coming into gaming with the tournament scene forming their first impressions of what this community of ours is and what they should expect from joining it. This is worlds apart from the situation when many of the ‘old guard’ (and depressingly I probably have to count myself amongst them) [And me. -Ed] got into wargaming for the first time. Like many, I got into the hobby via the Games Workshop on-ramp; no-one can deny that over the years they have done a fantastic job of producing a product that sells brilliantly to the teenage market and draws us into the wider wargaming community. The ramp no longer exists in the way that it once did, and I think that’s a bad thing, because Games Workshop used to deliver something that independent stores find more difficult, simply because they aren’t focused on one company’s games.

Gone are the days where you would begin your journey by playing an intro game at Games Workshop and then maybe bring a squad or vehicle to join in on a Saturday in one of their huge battles with your friends, pitting yourself against the wits of the store staff on some crazy mission dreamed up by a key-timer whilst hung-over on a Saturday morning (yup, in the dim and distant past, I was that key-timer) [And me. -Ed]. You would complement these games with games against your friends at home, on the dining table, or floor, with crap scenery (everyone remembers books under tablecloths as hills, right?) and no aim other than to use as many of your models as possible and shoot loads of stuff. The rules, whilst not unimportant, were usually second fiddle to the cultivation of enjoyment.

In Games Workshop stores certainly, the rules were often tertiary. Staff would be called upon to arbitrate in occasional disputes during the “veterans” evenings (that have long since departed) and often store managers, in lugubrious mood, would cock an eyebrow and make up something on the spot that bore little relation to either the initial dispute or the rule book. But it didn’t matter, because the game was isolated from some ‘wider world’ of “the rules” vs “the fluff” (which seems to have become the medium of the back and forth between players these days.) These were the days when Games Workshop ran huge campaigns, like the Eye of Terror, Armageddon (for 40K) and The Storm of Chaos, Albion and The Nemesis Crown (for Warhammer) and it felt like they had the resources and the desire to engage the community as a whole and not solely ‘as customer’. Of course it would be naive to think that they weren’t aiming for a financial return off the back of these events, but at least as a gamer it felt like they were trying to involve you in something bigger than your local store and the ‘usual suspects’ that inhabited it for hours over the weekends and school holidays. More importantly it set the tone of new gamers’ understanding of what it meant to be a wargamer, to have a bloody good time, laugh a lot and maybe win. It simply doesn’t work this way any longer, and the shift in emphasis that the Games Workshop are bringing with their one-man store model is making it harder for new gamers to get anything other than a tournament-centric introduction to the hobby.

Where does it all begin?

There has been an explosion of independent gaming club/store combos in the last few years and this hybrid model, which let’s face it is modelled on the Games Workshop approach to combining gaming and selling spaces, has led to a massive increase in the number of tournaments run. Shops need to bring players in and tournaments are a fantastic vehicle for doing so, unlike Games Workshop, you can’t just set up a store in every town to increase your pull. To get the players they have to offer good prizes to make the travel worth-while, and prizes breed the kind of competitive approach that leads to net-list armies and “can’t be bothered” paint-jobs.

For me, the tournament scene works best as a way of delivering that sense of something ‘bigger’ than your local players and club hobby community, which we used to get from better engagement from Games Workshop and their big campaigns. Unfortunately, community and competition don’t always make comfortable bed fellows, and it is especially difficult for new players to pick their way from those first few friendly games at their local club through their first tournament with nothing in between.

What do we need to do?

It’s definitely not all doom and gloom though, and several of the podcasts I listen to (The Independent Characters, The Overlords, Dwellers Below, Garagehammer, ODAM (of course!), and many others) are already either trying to diagnose why things are “going bad” and or discussing how to turn this situation around. In both 40K and Warhammer scenes there is a general dissatisfaction with painting standards and the approach to playing the game, but we can meet this with positivity and attempt to shape the way it ends up, unlike the Games Workshop release schedule or codex content this is something we have a say in and, in fact, control over. Games Workshop has, quite obviously, never had any interest in the tournament scene. We do have an interest in the tournament scene; it’s our main way of meeting new gamers, playing different kinds of army and learning about how others approach the hobby. It’s also become the main ‘next step’ for new gamers, which is why it’s so important that we find a way to change our approach collectively.

What is Games Workshop doing?

We also have the recent positive developments from Games Workshop itself. There are three things I would bring up in this context: White Dwarf Weekly and the shift to weekly releases, the new Community Manager role, and the Imperial Knight release.

First up, White Dwarf and the weekly release schedule. After five weeks I think this has proven to be a good move. Ff course back in the old days, releases were always done this way and White Dwarf, whilst a monthly magazine, had a different role to fulfil. The tone is right in White Dwarf Weekly, focused on the hobby and the models with a smattering of rules content. I’ve heard people complain that they’d never buy a model without getting the codex/army book first and that the weekly schedule is a mistake. I disagree completely. For one thing there is already more talk (and it is positive talk) in the community about the releases each week, not less. Secondly Games Workshop are releasing rules alongside the models and they are the right rules, that give an insight into the army as a whole without giving the whole game away; they are the ‘right’ rules to be giving away in that they generate more talk and give all stores an opportunity to be a hub for chat about the hobby again, though I still believe that until they address the problems that the one-man staffing model causes in this regard, they won’t really be able to take the maximum advantage from it.

Secondly, the new community manager role. If taken at face value this promises to give Games Workshop a chance to listen and to adjust a few things. Now, of course, you could be negative and say it’s nothing more than lip-service to make it look as though they’re listening. I see no point in adopting that perspective, it brings us nothing and only serves to potentially dampen the impact that whoever gets that role will have. This role will report to the CEO, it will have the ear of the right people to effect the right changes and that has to be a positive thing. I have my own ideas what they could do, but we’ll just have to wait and see, it will obviously be a balance between risk and reward for Games Workshop.

Thirdly, the Imperial Knight release. Why? Well, just look at the social media channels; they are on fire with positivity about this release. It’s a classic “do no wrong” release, it’s straight out of the rich tapestry of background material that Games Workshop have to draw upon. It comes with a book that itself extends and expands that background and brings it to life with a model that is spot on. Finally I love it because of what it shows the top-tier of the company – that if they let their studio deliver content that is based on what they know the community love that it will sell by the bucket-full. For me, it’s as if someone in the main studio said “Hey, how about you let us act like we work at Forge World for a month and release that?”, someone (a very smart someone) said “sure why not” and the result is the awesomeness that is currently causing all of us die-hard gamers, who were last week depressed about how crap everything was and how Games Workshop were going out of business and couldn’t get it right, to cream our collective pants.

So, slowly, I believe changes are being made that will help us rejuvenate some of the jaded inhabitants of our community and we should take these changes as positively as we can and push them further through our clubs and events.

How to Play It Fun

So, Play It Fun, what is it? It’s not complicated, there’s no mandated approach, it’s not a demand to never play in tournaments, or to do more painting or anything specific. It’s simply a call to arms for anyone who wants to recapture that initial spark that got them interested in gaming in the first place, it’s a prod to get you to look at your and your opponent’s models on the table top and yell “this is frickin’ cool!” Bring this enthusiasm to your club, to your next tournament and encourage others to do the same.

As a friend recently said to me, the moment you start pretending to yourself that you aren’t just a 6-year-old shouting “pew-pew!” with toy soldiers is the moment you may as well pack up and go home. You’ve forgotten why you’re there.

Meat for Meta

I was pointed towards a brilliant and thought-provoking article from Blood of Kittens discussing how some of the decisions the Games Workshop has made lately is changing the industry and could adversely affect them down the road…

As allusive as Games Workshop behaviour seems, they have over the ages created opportunities for fans and small business to exploit such is their magnanimity.

When GW got out the of the tournament game, fans and shops picked up the slack to create amazing events. An “underground” market for what GW leaves behind seems always inevitable.

When GW left gaps in their product lines third-party companies filled the void, creating models as stand ins. When GW decided to no longer offer bits direct, a bit cottage industry popped right up.

It goes to show just how profitable and large the GW universe is, when a small business can thrive on GW chaff.  Inevitability, GW at some point takes notice of the mice underneath their house and tries to exterminate, that was the case with the third-parties dare tread on the loose IP GW foundation. More recently, GW has decided to go after independent retailers, by not allowing stores or online retailers to sell components separately, leading to the demise of the GW bits market almost overnight.

Read more here…

I Love the Smell of Green Stuff in the Morning…

Okay so there are 2 issues with that statement 1, I have to go to work so no hobby for me in the morning and 2, green stuff doesn’t actually smell, but I like the theme I’ve got going on, although I may need some suggestions on the next article title…

The idea behind these articles is to chronicle my decent into plastic crack addiction, and to be fair I have it pretty bad as Phil, my plastic crack pusher can testify to. [He really does – Ed.]

So a quick update: my Mordheim warband is complete. Well to a point. There are still a few conversions I have designs on and they are unpainted at present, but I want to get a few more games under my belt and see how they develop before doing any more work on them. Monty’s Bastards have had their second outing, you may have seen images going up on twitter, anyway it ended pretty much the same as the previous outing. Monty only managing to limp off thanks to a tenuous alliance with Neil’s Skaven.

I am hooked on Mordheim and as previously mentioned, I do regret sneering at it for being an inferior Necromunda. I think my problem was I was never a fan of Warhammer Fantasy so tarnished Mordheim with the same brush, which when you consider I loved Warhammer Quest doesn’t really make a huge amount of sense. But I guess that’s what happens from being a snooty up hiver.

As evidence of my addiction I have a Russian Coalition fleet for Dystopian Wars which I am yet to play, but I love the models, although not 100% sure on the sputnik look-a-like air ships, and I now find myself with a Necron fleet for Battle Fleet Gothic which are currently being stripped of paint ready to be rebranded as Star Fleet ships. Seriously turn a Scythe Class harvest ship upside down and tell me it doesn’t look a hell of a lot like the Enterprise.

And I’m now looking at some Warmachine Warjacks… but not for Warmachine. [Because it sucks! – Ed.] I’ve never really been interested in it despite the models being quite cool. But I’m looking at them with the intention of converting them into Chaos Titans to use in Adeptus Titanicus II, and after reading another blog I’m feeling really inspired.

And that’s what I wanted to talk about a bit more, converting models and proxying. I have never liked having standard models, it’s one of my things. I always wanted mine to look a little different to everyone else’s models. I remember my old Chaos Champion put together from a mixture of bits including Dante’s Cloak, Yarrick’s Claw a few Storm Bolters and a hacked up Lighting Claw. Since returning to the hobby, Phil has opened my eyes to the wider wargaming world I see a whole plethora of possible proxies waiting to be converted. A little bit of green stuff some imagination and you don’t need to have a standard model. Okay so it may not be so easy to convert Space Marines but to be honest Scibor do some really nice casts and I am itching for an excuse to lay my hands on some of their Science Fiction Warriors.

In fact one of the #warmongers mentioned recently creating a Welsh Space Marine Chapter. Scibor do Celtic Science Fiction Warriors range so this may be a good place to start. And if said company would like to send me any models for mentioning them well that’s fine by me. Doing these sorts of conversions and proxies does tend to lend itself more to the skirmish style games but you can still create a nice character for your army from another games models. Freebooters do some great models some of them would work well with a sculpted cloak and could either be a Dark Elf or Wood Elf depending on which way you swing.

And if you are in to the specialist games you could do worse than look at Firestorm Armada for Battle Fleet Gothic proxies, the great thing about the range is you can buy spares and different parts so you could create pretty much anything you wanted within reason and if you had the ability and patience to do so. I still have one I’d like to create myself but for use in Firestorm Armada, for a scenario I have swimming around in my head. But I think I have enough games systems to deal with for the time being and I think I may take the plunge into Dreadball next.

What I’m saying is there’s no need to have the standard models when there’s so much available and really all it takes is a pair of clippers some glue maybe a bit of green stuff and some imagination. I know I’m inspired to create unique models, and that’s what our hobby is about; being creative whether it’s with your back story, the scenarios you create or the models and terrain you develop for yourself.

As you can tell my addiction is running rampant, my wife is happy I have a hobby but not sure she’s so happy with everything that comes along with it, namely the boxes of models littering our dining room table and the sheet of chip board and Styrofoam insulation I plan on using for the creation of a custom Mordheim board but that’s a separate article.

I would like to mention how much I appreciate The Chaps and the #warmongers community at large, as I’ve been made to feel accepted and its great having a group of like-minded people all willing to help each other out and share their thoughts and ideas.
Thank you.

Cutting Through the Static

It’s time for another guest post. This one is brought to you by Ashley, aka @LilThunderLiz who I got to know recording ODAM#4. If it ever airs *pokes Adam*. As she’s a rather clever and articulate sort – something this blog lacks most days – I asked her if she’d write a post. Ever up for a challenge, she took on the topic of the state of communication between Games Workshop and its customers. A brave topic but a good one to talk about. Oh and should you feel so inclined, spare us the fanrage, it won’t get put up.

With any business/customer dynamic, no matter the context, effective communication is a key part of creating and maintaining a good relationship. But with some of the things Games Workshop has been up to lately, I feel that we’re getting left out in the cold. 

With the announcement that GW has closed its HQ Facebook page to utilize their individual store pages for customer interaction, a frothy response ensued. That coupled with (caused by) the “Spots the Space Marine” debacle really left me scratching my head. On one hand, they look like a child sticking their fingers in their ears while simultaneously coming off as school yard bullies.

Shutting down their Facebook page really bothers me a lot more than the “Spots” issue. I liked the content of the HQ page, and I’m much less pleased with each store’s Facebook page, as it is managed by them individually and so they vary widely in content, quality, and relevance to my interests. The HQ page, at least, was consistent in quality and kept me abreast of new releases with photos and links and all those nice things. 

Historically, they’ve not been great about keeping us informed, even with simple release schedules. Now, GW’s not the only company in history to try to keep some mystery about a product *cough*Xbox*cough* but when you’re choosing between two armies, it’s handy to know if one of them is getting new models or book in the next 3-6 months. Rum ors alone are often wrong and the secrecy is not conducive to sustaining a healthy and happy hobbysphere.

As a whole, we clamour for an open and honest dialogue from GW, but when given opportunities to communicate with them, such as their FB page or Twitter account, we tend to abuse it. It’s one thing to voice your opinion and another entirely to do so rudely. When we act like a pack of rabid dogs at each announcement that makes us unhappy, is it really any wonder that they have chosen to shut down the FB page or block Twitter accounts? 

It’s not just the online interaction that lacks, but also the in-store one. I routinely avoid my local GWs unless they have something I can’t find elsewhere. Why? Partially because I’d rather support my local gaming store (and GW makes money either way), but mostly because the experience is usually lengthy and annoying. You know what I’m talking about— the hard sell. This isn’t an experience that you routinely receive at other stores. You don’t walk into a clothing store and have sales persons pressuring you to buy their fanciest jacket.

I popped into my local store to play the Hobbit when it was released. I asked for the demo, but instead I was told how great of a game it is, how nice the miniatures are, and how I definitely want to buy the Very Expensive Box Set. He went on and on before I finally had to stop him and say I’ve already sworn fealty the Emperor—I mean that I’m already a customer—and I don’t need the sales pitch. The whole experience is rather unsatisfying (I never did get that demo game) and it doesn’t make me feel more inclined to spend money there. 

It’s painfully clear that both sides need to learn how to interact with one another, because we’re getting nowhere with the way things stand currently. It’s frustrating as a consumer not having a way to have our voices heard, but it’s also frustrating for the average employee who has to deal with these irate people. It can be hard to remember, but whoever you’re communicating with (through phone, email, Twitter, etc) isn’t the Faceless-Company-Entity but just a person trying to do their job.

Neither side is to blame, but both sides need to take a step back, re-evaluate, and breathe a little. What’s good for business? What’s good for the hobby? What’s good for our blood pressure? Us screaming at them from afar about the way they treat their customer base is no way to invite positive change. Conversely, shutting down communication is an excellent way to anger and alienate your customer base. 

There needs to be a more effective system in place for us to communicate our issues and concerns in a way that makes us feel like we’re being taken seriously. But, we need to communicate our grievances in a respectful way that deserves attention. We have to remember that this is a hobby and we’re here to paint, play games, and have fun and that often gets lost in the angry rabble. We have an unusually close relationship to GW that most companies don’t need to worry about. The relationship you have with the company that made your television isn’t their top priority.

That puts a lot of pressure on GW, but that’s not an excuse to simply fold and call it a day. Shutting down communication is the quickest way to disintegrate good will. Combine that with price hikes and problems with the products (Finecast, typos in books, etc.) and you’ve got a recipe for decline. GW is without a doubt the powerhouse of the miniatures industry, but with so many well-established and up and coming companies out there, they can’t simply keep treating their customers in such a manner and expect them to stick around. 

The things GW did to foster a community in the past was fantastic, but that’s all but dead. With all this negativity, I can’t help but feel that heyday of the hobby has passed. Gone are the days where each year they sponsored several tournaments across the country (in the US) and other events like Games Day. Now the company feels like a greedy bully trying to squeeze every penny and it cares more about getting new players than maintaining their veterans. With a slight shift of their gaze back towards the community, rather than shareholders and profits, everyone would win.

What GW has that no other company can boast is a huge, diverse, and worldwide devoted fanbase. The worlds they created are evocative, the games are solid, and their miniatures are top-notch. The product is what drew us all into the hobby and it’s what keeps us here despite the problems we may have with their business model. There are so many things they do right that we can’t keep getting hung up on the things they do poorly.

Forge World Only is on Facebook

The completely awesome Forge World Only project (#FWO) now has its very own Facebook page where participants and those simply interested in the madness can share pics, tips and hobby articles.

For those that haven’t heard about Forge World Only it is the brain child of @richards2507 who thought it would be a rather good (mental) idea to collect an army consisting entirely of Forge World models. Or as many as is reasonably possible.

So keep an eye out for the below icon as chances are if a site is sporting it, they’re just as crazy as Richard.