Gamers Gonna Game

It’s that time of year again when the Games Workshop releases their financials and the community explodes with rumours that they’re going under, that Hasbro will buy them out, that they’re woefully out of touch and they can basically go fuck themselves.

I freely admit to being guilty of this to some degree in the past. I’m the first to admit that I gripe about the pricing model either on The Shell Case or on Of Dice & Men (I promise there’ll be another episode up soon!) with some regularity. And I stand by those comments. The models are expensive. But you know what? I still play their games and I still pay their prices so who’s the bigger mug?

Reading Twitter today I was quite shocked by some of the comments that wargamers were making. Whilst I’m sure similar comments were made 6 months ago and the 6 months before that and so on, I’ve just never noticed until now.

For a hobby that is as inclusive as ours I’m bummed out to see so many people are willing the company to fail. People that moved to Warmachine or other game systems as an act of protest or to spite the Games Workshop – as if the Games Workshop knows each and every one of us and gives a shit what we do, say or think – berate for playing Games Workshop games and celebrate every penny lost in profit as a personal victory. And before I get pelted with angry comments I have to point out that no company genuinely gives a shit what we do, say or think. Not truly. If they did the XBox One would be free and delivered on a velvet pillow by the glamour model of my choice (don’t pretend I’m the only one who made the suggestion on the forums).encourage

I play Games Workshop games. I play the games they discontinued too and whilst I really wish they hadn’t canned Battlefleet Gothic and Mordheim, I understand why they did. But as I say, my understanding, my compliance or even consent is not required. Just my acceptance because there’s sod all I can do about it. Because I’ll live a longer happier life if I do. And not because they’ll send the Black Ships for me otherwise.

But I also play other games. I love Mantic’s Dreadball. Although they’ve been in a case for a while , I really enjoy Dystopian Wars and Firestorm Armada. I love X-Wing. And Studio McVey’s Sedition Wars, and lots more games beside. Whilst I’m not a fan of the Warmachine fluff or the sculpting style I can appreciate the quality of the game. And I know I ‘bash on it’ during episodes of Of Dice & Men, but it is all in jest. I honestly don’t give a monkeys what games people play. All I care about is everyone having fun.

Games nights with The Chaps – good and dear friends all – are a bevy of game systems and that’s cool because the key ingredient is we’re having a giggle. Good games, good models, good mates and good banter. What more could you possibly want. Apart from maybe the aforementioned glamour model to serve light refreshments. But you can’t win them all.

The point is this, before arguments break out – and I’ve seen it happen – just let it go. I urge all to stop sabre rattling. To stop clamouring for a company’s demise when that company not only represents a lot of enjoyment but people’s livelihoods as well. It is callous to forget that there are folk, just like you and I, doing a job there. A select few make the decisions that impact on us and whether or not we agree with those decisions, the majority shouldn’t be punished. Yes people are entitled to and should have opinions and yes they should be discussed but let’s remember the object of the exercise is not to win at all costs, or to be nasty or snide or bitter or resentful for some imagined slight. We have zero rights. Zero say. You’re a director or a board member you have as much entitlement to piss and moan as you have to tell me what colour socks to wear.

DontBeADickYes it’s frustrating that prices go up. Yes Games Workshop have us over a barrel and yes they know it. But the reality is this: play their games or don’t. Pay their prices or don’t. Just don’t be a dick about it.

Games Workshop Social Media Blackout

Readers with good memories may remember that I did a guest post here at the Shell Case following last year’s Spots the Space Marine firestorm, in which Games Workshop unceremoniously killed its central Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Sadly, I am here (now as a staff writer) to share similar news. It seems that Forgeworld, Black Library, Digital Editions, and the Warhammer World social media accounts have all up and disappeared. Individual store’s Facebook accounts, however, remain.

First they took away their @VoxCaster account on Twitter, then their Facebook page, but now Forgeworld!? Sirs, you have gone too far. I want to ogle your very lovely plastic crack (especially Horus) and you’ve now taken away two of my three main places to see your new releases.

You must be mad.

I’m a busy woman, I rely heavily on my newsfeeds to give me all my miniature-related news (and, let’s be honest, my “real” news, too). Who’s going to feverishly check your website for updates? Very few people. Word will still spread (across social media!) about new releases, but not as fast or as far as it does when people get it directly from your social media outlets.

I simply refuse to believe that a company as large as Games Workshop, as profit-motivated, doesn’t know how stupid this is. Every company under the sun is trying to leverage social media to reach more people and make more money.

What made Games Workshop choose to disengage from what is essentially free advertising and publicity? There must be some reasoning behind it. Even if it’s as simple as a sad attempt to avoid further ire from the community.

I honestly, naively hope that this is just a temporary move while they reshuffle their website (or websites). But my doe-eyed optimism has been crushed by Games Workshop before. As this was all done without a word or hint of happening, it seems a permanent maneuver to me.

ODAM Episode 6 – The Bitterness Show

Another month and another show. This episode we’re all full of bile and bitterness and it’s all about rants.

It seems that we’re all a very grumpy bunch of wargamers. We’re probably over tired and need a nap. Or maybe rum. Anyway, hold onto your fan rage gland and get comfy for a rantapalooza of pissing and moaning about GW, Spartan, Mantic and more.

As usual expect adult language and humour from the start.

ODAM – Episode 6

ODAM Episode 5 – The Vespid’s Knees

Well we’re finally back after a bit of a pause so I could go off an become a daddy. With my progeny safely tucked up in bed I could get down with Jase, Nate, Adam (eventually) and Ashley and wax lyrical on the new Tau, mock the High Elves and all those who like High Elves and contemplate a world with the Games Workshop owned by Hasbro in Of Dice and Men episode 5…

As usual expect adult language and humour from the start.

ODAM Episode 5

ODAM Episode 4 – Kingdom Rant

It’s finally here! Episode 4 of the Of Dice and Men podcast.  This episode, I’m late to the party as my pregnant wife needed some extra loving care (not code). However, the guys and our very special guest, Ashley (@LilThunderLiz) discuss kickstarters and the rather controversial Kingdom Death…that Adam couldn’t say.

Although he did decide to jazz things up with some new…young…intro music.

Be advised, the episode has adult humour from the start.

ODAM Episode 4

 

The Future of Spartan

This Christmas I was very lucky to get a huge Terran Alliance fleet for Firestorm Armada from my folks, and some Covenant cruisers to make my fleet for Dystopian Wars even bigger. As I sat filing, trimming and gluing last night something dawned on me. I don’t understand my Spartan hobby any more. Or at least the direction in which it’s going.

That’s not to say that I don’t understand the rules – although I do (barely) – or what I need for my fleets – the big shit – but Spartan Games are churning out so much stuff at the moment I don’t know what I’m supposed to be looking at. One of my main reasons for getting a Terran fleet is to tie in with games of Firestorm Invasion. Except that no one plays it. Because nothing has come out. I’d have got into Dystopian Legions if the models were cheaper and the entire faction ranges were available but instead we have to wait for the decent stuff and even then, without a proper rule book, I wouldn’t know what to get anyway.

It’s all so frustratingly half arsed.

One of my biggest issues with the Spartan rule books, aside from the confusing lay out, was the lack of scenarios and campaign rules. It doesn’t give you anywhere to go in terms of playing games unless you fancy coming up with scenarios on your own. But without a basic scenario to work off it means gamers are going to find it harder than normal to get the balance right.

Spartan Games have started to address this gripe with campaign books that also, according to the blurb about Storm of Steel, incorporate significant rule changes. So now not only do we have to spend money on something that should have been in the rule book in the first place, but now have multiple books just to play the game at all. And I’m not entirely clear why there’s a sudden emphasis on armoured units when the land based element of Dystopian Legions is already armoured units. Plus the game was meant to be combined arms…

And there’s new fluff too!

It strikes me that Spartan Games are doing exactly what Games Workshop did all those years ago: which is publish compendium after anthology after expansion so you needed three or four books just to play the fecking game. And if someone doesn’t have all the books you’re forced to revert back to the original rules, so it’s fair.

I’m all for expanding the universes of Spartan’s IP. In fact, I really think it’s needed especially on the background front, I just don’t understand why they’re doing it with expansions – other than the commercially motivated reason – as those that don’t want or can’t afford the extra books lose out.

Throw in the scattergun approach to releases and I just don’t know where to start or, more to the point, what to do next.

Something I’ve never understood about other wargaming companies, not specifically Spartan Games – is the reluctance to follow Games Workshop’s approach to writing and structuring games and releases. There is a very good reason they’re the behemoth they are and it’s not just because they charge the most money. Rule book. Army book. Core release one faction at a time. And more than just a starter set as it doesn’t give gamers anywhere to go.

It’s an immensely frustrating position to be in as a gamer. And it’s another barrier to playing the games. Confusing core rules and then a whopping £40 for two books that improve and clarify the book you’ve already spent £20 on. And at the end of it all you still don’t have the whole picture on exactly who’s who and what’s what! It’s mental. I so desperately want to take charge of the studio and can the supplements and sort the rule books out. Re-release the lot so they make sense, the fluff is rich and coherent and campaign rules are actually included. And put an end to the random extra units and the endless supplements to use them. All the factions have their own book or the rules have the lot all crammed in at a GW comparable cost.

I do love Spartan, their games and models. This isn’t a bashing, hating, rant. I just feel like they’re going in too many directions without doing any one game to the best of their ability. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

Hawk Wargames Justifies Scenery Pricing

It seems the general outrage from the wargaming community – much 0f it coming from me – over the prices of Hawk Wargames scenery has provoked a response from them. It can be read in full here. In my opinion it’s largely bollocks.

RANT INCOMING

The general gist surrounds cutting edge technology and a modular system allowing limitless potential and superior resins etc. This is all crap. Their resin is not the best. Not even close. The technology is the same technology that Spartan and the Games Workshop uses. Spartan seem to be able punt their wares out at a reasonable price. And if the tile system was resulting in shrinkage in a ‘cheaper’ resin then it’s a flawed concept and should have been abandoned in favour of something else, not passing on the truly stellar costs on to the customer. Who were hardly demanding a modular scenery system that’s only any good for that one game. Plus, there’s nothing innovative about mounting tiles on foam board. Innovation would have been scenery sets that you can just build out of the box.

There’s also some cock and bull about the tiles being super detailed. They’re not. Don’t get me wrong they look cool, but they’re nothing to hit your hobby spot. The overall finished effect is very striking but they are nowhere near the detail or other scenery kits out there. I also have to ask the question; how important is a modular system in a game where the emphasis is on air units – so you’re only looking at the roofs – and when buildings are essentially obstacles rather than things to be interacted with?

But it boils down to total lack of commercial sense. £720 for 15 buildings make no sense. Even if all of the crap about the finest quality blah blah blah was true, anyone with a shred of business acumen would conclude it is not commercially viable to punt out scenery, the lowest priority purchase for probably 90% of gamers, at those prices, and instead look at an alternative way of doing things. It’s either naivety, arrogance or petulance.

It’s great that Hawk Wargames have such high standards but they’re forcing those standards on the customer. The majority of whom simply can’t afford it. The number of gamers I’ve spoken to who are just going to bust out old Epic scenery or just use the paper buildings compared to those that’ll actually spend the money is 20 to 1. I also have to ask; where’s the innovation in system that requires you to mount your lovely expensive scenery tiles onto foam board? True innovation would have been a system that looks good, is easy to build, and doesn’t bust the bank. Unfortunately it doesn’t do any of those things.

I really feel Hawk has blindly stumbled into the same position the Games Workshop are in now in so much as they are producing a desirable product at a ridiculous price. But whereas the Games Workshop have 30 years of canon to draw in loyal customers time and again to hide their dropping customer numbers by paying increased prices, Hawk just doesn’t. But more than that, gamers can buy proxy models to cut costs so they can continue to play Games Workshop games, short of building paper buildings Dropzone gamers don’t have the option. And for gamers looking at getting into a new system I struggle to see how they can look at Dropzone Commander as a financially viable option any more.

Especially with the stand out comedy moment of the FAQ being when they recommend just 10 buildings for a 4×4 game. So only a £460 layout.  So that’s all right. What makes it worse is that it’s bullshit. We played on a 4×4 board with 15 buildings and we were told that ideally, to play the game the way it was design we’d need at least another 10. And you know what; I’d agree with it. Interestingly as well, pretty much all the scenario diagrams have 15 buildings in them…

I think it boils down to the this. Hawk Wargames may think they can justify £720 for 15 buildings and claim they’re awesome. Maybe they are awesome and maybe £720 is good value for money, but they’ve missed the point. It never should have gotten this far. At the product development stage someone should have said ‘fucking hell, this is gonna come out a bit expensive’. It’s a classic example of being too close to a project to objectively look at it and question it’s viability. The tiles are a great idea but if it wasn’t going to work whilst making it affordable it should have been canned.

As it stands Dropzone Commander is one of the most expensive games in the market with zero justification to be beyond an alleged high quality resin. My sources in the know tell me this is balls. Yes, okay, so they may be positioning themselves as a premium product but in a recession that’s retarded. Plus it isn’t a premium product. Erratas for the rules hit the site the day of release and continue to be updated. The rule book itself is badly laid out. For all their posturing about casting quality, miscasts have been rife. And let me ask this; what happens if the tiles even slightly warp? You’ve paid out a fucking fortune for something that doesn’t line up.

I full appreciate how bilious this post is coming across, but I don’t care. I don’t feel Hawk Wargames have a solid perspective and instead of reconsidering the viability of the scenery, they have instead tried to justify the colossal expense. Because, quite simply, I can buy myself a Warhound Titan from Forge World for less money than the supposed 10 buildings (minimum) I’d need to fill a 4×4 board for Dropzone Commander.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see what they come up with next…

Of Dice & Men – Episode 2

It’s here, episode 2! Now with 200% more content!ODAM

In episode 2 of Of Dice & Men the team talk about their hobby, wargaming blogs that have caught their eye and the importance of background in the building and playing of a game, and does poor fluff mean poor army lists?

We also learn that Jason’s mental, Adam is a deviant, Nate is in a sulk and Phil goes off on a rant. Again.

Of Dice & Men Episode 2

Is the Hawk becoming a Turkey?

Resin scenery is finally available to pre-order on the Hawk Wargames website. Having seen the real deal when I was invited to Hawk HQ for playtesting I was excited for DzC gamers. Despite my misgivings about Hawk’s truly shameful pricing policy the models are ace, the game – once you’ve deciphered the rulebook – is good and the scenery did look superb.

Sadly however, all my misgivings immediately bubbled to the surface when I saw the prices. £7.50 for ten wall tiles. This may not seem that much but they’re only 36mm wide by 21mm high. Ten tiles will not make a building of note. And roof tiles and accessories are separate.

Anyone who plays Games Workshop games is no stranger to high prices but I’m starting to wonder what Hawk Wargames are up to. Army deals that start at £68 with very little of the good stuff in them and the bigger better army deals are on available on the Hawk Wargames website and they are no better on the value for money stakes. The Metropolis pack was what we used for our playtest game. More or less anyway, some of the buildings didn’t have backs to them but in terms of board space that’s what we used. It covers a 4×4 board but it doesn’t fill a 4×4 board. To play the game as it was intended you’d need a Metropolis pack and, at least, a City Pack.

On the plus side the scenery does look gorgeous when it’s painted up but £740 for enough scenery for a 4×4 board? I mean are they fucking high? As they seem to thing they have the muscle of Games Workshop let’s use them as a comparison. Specifically Forge World. Specifically the Forge World Zone Mortalis board set. It costs £350 for a 4×4 board that’s modular. And that is an absolute shit load of resin. So for less than half the money for 15 buildings for DzC you can get a fully pimped 4×4 board. From Games Workshop. The most expensive wargaming company ever.

Or are they? I’m really concerned that Hawk Wargames have lost touch with reality a little bit. They’re in a full tilt blind rush to pay off their investor and simultaneously expand the business (plus pay off all the unplanned expense of increasing production) that they seem to think that gamers will blindly pay that kind of money. Now I’ve been in wargaming long enough to know that there are some people who will happily part with £740 for scenery, and good for them, but for the vast majority of gamers scenery is an after thought and something they will but would rather not spend money on.

Personally I love a good bit of scenery. I’ve got enough 40k buildings to fill and 8×4 board and I’d happily get more. But it only costs me £70 for an Imperial Sector, which is crammed full of plastic, will fill a 4×4 board and I can build it how I like. And it’s not made of one of the most expensive resin blends going. I completely understand why Hawk Wargames felt the need to cast their models the way they did. The detail is stunning and they’re robust. But they need to be stunning and robust. Scenery just doesn’t. Again, a lovely bit of a scenery really sets off a board and there’s no denying that the photography in the DzC rulebook is stunning; however it seems crazy to cast scenery, that just sits there, out of the same stuff. I also suspect that Hawk are attempting to squeeze the same margin out of scenery as they are their models. Which, again, is mental.

The laughable thing is that because the tiles are so thin they have to be mounted on something like foam card anyway. Which makes me  think that perhaps a cheaper grade resin cast in blocks so it’s stackable may have been the smarter move. I also suspect it would have been cheaper too.

Between a shocking lack of planning leading up to launch, over priced models, over priced scenery, an iffy rulebook and a pervasive arrogant indifference since the game release I’m deeply concerned about Hawk Wargames. I can’t decide if it’s greed, over ambition or because they want to pay the bills. I have no idea but there’s already striking similarities between Hawk and Games Workshop both in attitude and pricing structure. And I’m not one to defend Games Workshop and how they do things but at least they have share holders cracking the whip and setting targets the business has to meet.

For a company that claimed to have had its roots in the community, that allegedly puts the community first they seem to be completely out of touch with what is reasonable and what is reasonable for the money. The one good thing that’s come out of this though is that it’s made me realise that GW isn’t all that bad and actually a realm of battle board for £175 isn’t comparatively bad. And I’d still have enough money to buy 2 Imperial Sectors (£140), the 40k rulebook (£45) a Codex Space Marines (£25) Mega Forces (£300) to play on it and I’d still have £55 to spend on some glue and paint.

Obviously you don’t have to spend that much. Obviously you can buy fewer buildings and obviously I’m taking the most expensive as an example. But only because I know that gamers are realistically going to need that many buildings to get the most out of the game because it was designed to be played, primarily, in dense cityscapes. With so many awesome games already in a very flooded market. With Spartan and even Games Workshop able to match the quality of design and (most of the time) casting but for a better price I don’t see where Hawk Wargames expects to go. But a tweet I saw earlier today summed it up rather well for me, which read;

‘so just seen the price of the @HawkWargames resin buildings. Think I will keep my paper buildings’

 

Kick-in-the-face-Starter

Back in June I wrote about Kickstarters and how good it is for the community because wargame development is, for most people, is prohibitively expensive. Kickstart campaigns gives those people the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the community and gain their support. It’s a very very good thing.

However of late I’ve noticed that there are more and more instances of established companies that actually have capital using kickstart campaigns to fund their latest projects. I have a problem with this because businesses are supposed to work on the following principle:

Initial investment

Research

Product Development

Product Launch

Sales

Profit

Investment settlement

Reinvestment

Repeat

Independents that don’t have that initial investment benefit from kickstarter campaigns because otherwise it would require an extraordinary long period of saving or a business loan which, especially in these times of austerity, they probably wouldn’t get.

Established companies have to make money before they develop new projects in the same way as a shop has to make money to buy more stock. It’s called economics. No money, no reinvestment. It’s not right for established companies to use kickstarter campaigns to fund projects when, seeing as they’ve already made money out of the community, they should be using capital.

There’s an argument that pledges equate to pre-orders and this is partly true however for a company to be able to fund the project and give pledges their rewards their paying an inflated cost. Let’s take a look at Mantic as an example. A company that has been kicking around for a while now. Their releasing an ever-expanding range of models for their Warpath game which suggests capital investment, yet they’re holding their hands out for community money for Kings of War and, more recently Dread Ball to the total sum of $562,845. And what do you get for your money? Well not a butt load. $80 gets you a copy of the game. Which won’t cost $80 dollars and it won’t cost $80 to produce. More over, as the retail price already has the cost price built into it you’re actually paying twice. But wait, that’s not all, you get a print of the cover art which costs pennies to produce beyond the salary of the artist, and a digital copy of the rules, which have already been written. Beats working for a living I guess.

Kickstarters for established companies boils down to this – profit. Kickstarter schemes to them are essentially a loan they never had to pay back. It’s free capital. So when the game launches and sells, any money they make goes straight into the bank. More or less anyway, I accept there are distribution costs etc but I’m willing to bet much of that is added into the cost of production.

The difficult thing is that there are lots of very cool kickstarter schemes out there, like Soda Pop’s Relic Knights, and some companies like them, such as Avatars of War, genuinely needed community money to take their development to the next level. There’s an argument that these companies are too super niche and found them in a position they couldn’t get out of but that’s the beauty of kickstarter campaigns; the community decides what’s worth funding and what’s not. And, realistically, like Membraine with their Exodus Wars game, if they hadn’t got any money they would have found the money themselves eventually.

Where crowd funding comes unstuck, however, is when a company can use their reputation and a marketing budget to promote their campaign above struggling independents. The obvious counter point is that free trade is a bitch and it’s a dog eat dog world out there. And that’s true. However, in a niche market where goodwill is as important a currency as the coin of the realm it’s a risky business to be so blatant in their profiteering. The conversation may as well go something like this:

Gaming company: Hey, fancy giving us some money to fund our new game?

Gamer: Don’t you have money of your own?

GC: Oh yes, but if you give us your money then we’ll give you a copy of that game and some other tat and you get to say you helped!

G: Hey that’s a great idea! I buy a game at an inflated price for no real reward.

GC: Yes, and when the game’s out we’ll make sure you get an inconsequential mention and then forget all about you, all the while profiting wildly from a game we had to make zero investment in ourselves.

Yes I’m a cynic but it’s also true.

I have very little hope this is going to change opinions as the fact that Reaper, one of the most established model companies in the world, raised almost $3.5 million for their BONES project. So people are clearly happy pledging. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say something as kickstarter campaigns are meant for those that can’t do it on their own, not for those looking to do things on the cheap.