Tag Archives: Games Workshop

Do GW games expect too much of the player?

A small Empire patrol ready for a minor skirmish.

I bet that headline is something you don’t read every day, but I don’t mean “too much” intellectually or tactically or whatever.  This is just something I’ve been thinking about recently.  The GW flagship games are expecting more and more from the hobbyist in terms of commitment.  As discussed in this article about scale, they attempt to mash together a skirmish-game level of detail with squad-level game scale.  Historically this is because they started as skirmish games, but some bright spark noticed that skirmish games inherently limit how many models you need to buy.

Nowadays the “standard” game of a GW game is going to involve several hours, probably close to or more than a hundred models on each side (give or take; depending on the factions being fielded) and all of these models are supposed to be assembled from multi-part kits and painted.  This is all fine I suppose.  It’s traditionally how it’s been done in toy soldier wargaming.  But is the modern gamer really capable of committing this much energy to one game?  I definitely don’t think so, based on my experience.  Now that gaming has stopped being a sporadic activity and become a way of life for many, the number and sorts of games available have exploded.  You can either try and keep up, or stop calling yourself a gamer, because you can be damn sure there’ll be plenty of people out there ready to tell you that you lack the gamer cred to even have an opinion unless gaming takes up a significant amount of your time.

But are companies like GW expecting too much from us?  I can see at least two ways of looking at this.

Yes, they are operating on an old-fashioned model from before the “gamer revolution”.  Modern gamers (most of whom, statistically, are adults) just don’t have the time to commit the amount of energy these games demand without exluding other games they want to play.  There are many other games with an equal, though different measure of depth and player satisfaction that don’t expect anything like the creative energy and sheer monetary cost.  Video games for example, as Fulgrim discusses here on Tears of Istvaan.  GW and companies like them need to adapt or die.

No.  Games Workshop games and other mixed-scale miniature games are for kids.  The company is assuming you are obsessive, play only their game, and have plenty of free time because you are a kid: You aren’t out drinking, or working overtime, or at a party, or playing another game because it’s better suited to pick up and play and you only have an hour.  The company only seems to be expecting too much because you’ve made the mistake of thinking that you, as an adult, can successfully balance the demands of their game with the rest of your life.  It’s not meant to be like that.  You’re meant to play Warhammer as a gateway to adult games.  That’s their niche, and the ridiculous scale and cost in time and money is the signal that sensible grown-ups shouldn’t be playing.

I don’t think it’s that easy to tell which (if either) of these is the right answer to the question.  I’m leaning towards no, I have to say.

Codex: Sisters of Battle 2011

So, I finally got my hands on the second part of the Sisters of Battle White Dwarf codex.  I’ve been holding back from joining in the online discussion until I saw the points values and have all the info, and I have to say, I like it.

I realize that the response online from players has been mostly negative – at least from what I’ve seen – so let me share a few thoughts about why I’m glad GW did this.  I admit it’s partly because I’m a glass half-full kind of guy (and partly because I enjoy flouting received opinion), but that’s not the whole story. Continue reading

Gaming Thoughts: Scale in Wargames

Or, why being good at 40k doesn’t make you a good general.

This really interesting post over at Gaming All Areas got me thinking.  What is it that we want our wargames to do exactly?  What do we think they do?  When it comes to Games Workshop’s (and to a lesser extent Privateer Press’s) big fantasy and sci-fi games, I think I have an answer to the second question.  And I think these games don’t actually do what we think they do.

Right.  Assuming that made sense to any of you so far, I’ll explain a bit further.  In general, we want games to be enjoyable, and we want them to measure some ability we have so that the winner is not just randomly determined.

Many of us I think assume that a table-top wargame is meant to be, in some sense, a simulation of being a commander on a battlefield.  Different games do this in different ways.  Before I get to the main point I’d like to divide wargames up into three broad categories and quickly describe what skill sets they test.  These aren’t officially recognized industry categories or anything – they’re just my categories.

Strategy games:  These are games like Risk or the Avalon Hill games.  They deal with the movement and placing of whole armies and resource/territory management.  They test our ability to plan to the big picture.  Terrain is unlikely to play much of a role, if at all.

Squad-level games:  These include many historical games like DBA and DBM, and also some sci-fi games like Games Workshop’s Epic.  They test our ability to command a battlefield full of troops, maneuvering and placing units to support each other and attain objectives.  They are more detailed in describing the troops and terrain than strategy games, but they don’t often get down to the individual soldier’s level.

Skirmish games:  These games do get down to the individual soldiers, sometimes even to the point of keeping track of every grenade and clip of ammo.  I include games like Mordheim, Necromunda and Infinity in this category.  These sorts of games place us in the position of a squad leader.  Terrain will most likely be integral to these games, and troops have a wide variety of movement and maneuvre options available to them.

Obviously these games all have things in common.  They’re all wargames after all.  But the three types test our abilities in different ways.  For the purposes of this article I’ll ignore Strategy games and talk about the other two.  You also might notice that 40k and (to a lesser extent) Warmachine don’t fit neatly into either of the two latter categories.  This will be important later. Continue reading

Kill Team and temporary loss of signal

Yesterday I finally had time to check out Kill Team on the Xbox 360.  I played it with my girlfriend’s ten year old brother, and we had a great time smashing orks and trying out all the different space marines.  I was impressed by some of the little things, like the orkified space marine statue that showed the kill krooza was a looted imperial vessel, and the way the meltagun actually seemed like superheated air and did a lot more damage at short range.  I really enjoy short, cheap games like this with a lot of replay value, like Super Meat Boy.  There should be more of them.

I also had to keep myself from laughing because the kid I was playing with kept saying “I need health . . . badly!”  He’s ten, he’s never played or even heard of Gauntlet, so it was pretty funny.

Playing this game and seeing the build-up to Space Marine has got me thinking that GW could do a lot worse than license their intellectual property to as many other high quality media companies (like THQ and Fantasy Flight) as they can.  I really believe that the Warhammer 40,000 universe has the potential to be a science fiction milieu as recognizable as Star Trek or even Star Wars, but GW’s continued emphasis on their miniatures and tabletop game is a bad idea.  Let it go, GW.  It’s not 1990 any more.  You can still make the minis and sell the original game, but it’s a niche product and always will be.  Buckets of extra money and new creative blood with fresh perspectives can only help the original hobby, but if they keep treating games like Dawn of War, the upcoming Space Marine and the prophesied 40k MMO as essentially giant advertisements for their tabletop hobby then they’re fooling themselves and just wasting so much potential.

The second thing I wanted to mention is that I’m taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks.  I know there are a few of you out there who regularly check up on me and my ramblings – thanks heaps for that by the way! – so I thought I should let you all know I may be a bit quiet for a while, but I’ll be back soon. Continue reading

Counts-as Ideas

It can be really fun to think of counts-as armies and units for 40k.  There are so many great gems in the long-running background of the game that are crying out for imaginative modelling.  When I was younger I used to enjoy the wholesale invention of units and rules, but nowadays I prefer to work within the framework of the existing rules for a few reasons.

Firstly, it gives you more freedom to use your awesome counts-as force competitively or against someone you’ve never met without having to worry about balance or accusations of cheating.  Secondly, I find it hard to know when to stop modifying a system – at what point does it stop being Warhammer 40k and start being My Totally Awesome 40k-Derivative Sci-fi Wargame?  Counts-as solves all those problems, plus I find it fun to try to fit old or untreated ideas into the existing material.

So without further ado, here are a few counts-as ideas I’ve had.  Some are more original than others, and some are for units rather than armies.  I should probably add that they are all themed, not counts-as for the purposes of competitive play.  So there’s no Space Wolves as Ultramarines or anything like that.

Feel free to use any of these ideas or add your own, I know I’ll never get around to making any of them (probably): Continue reading

Sisters of Battle mini-codex

So this is probably old news to most of you, but GW has announced that there will be a Sisters of Battle mini-codex printed across two up-coming issues of White Dwarf. Since the Witch Hunters are one of my 40k armies, I have some thoughts on this.

Continue reading

Australia vs. Games Workshop update: 6th of June 2011

I have some more news from the front.  Many of you may have seen this already, and if so I apologize – breaking news is not my main aim here at Warp Signal, but I will post news that affects me and my gaming community directly when it comes up.

Today I bring you a document posted by James Sutherland, spokesman of the Australian GW price petition.  He just had a meeting last week with the heads of Games Workshop Australia.  James seems like a wise and careful guy, and I’m glad he’s representing us.  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for all his work so far.

On a personal note, I haven’t bought any Games Workshop products since before the embargo, and I’ve let them know I plan to boycott for at least a month or two.  I’ve also been eyeing off some Malifaux gangs (crews? mobs? whatever).

As always, join the petition if you’re on facebook and you feel like it.  I’m not going to reach through the screen and slap you into it – although that would be a neat trick – but numbers are key and progress (rather unbelievably) seems to be being made.

Anyway, here is James’s after action report from the meeting with the mini bigwigs: Continue reading

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