söndag 12 juli 2015

So long and thanks for all the fish - being a rant of epic length.

(Disclaimer: Some of the pictures on this page is (c) Games Workshop and is used without permission for discussion purposes only. No challenge of copyright is intended.)

I guess it hasn't escaped anybody that Games Workshop are doing a new version of Warhammer. Like Microsoft they have dropped the numbering system (except that Microsoft is counting again, just not correctly) and gone for a brand name instead. Sort of like Ikea.

Funny cause it's true.
But instead of Warhammer Bönkfjordnurpur it's called Warhammer Age of Sigmar and is a big change from the previous version. (If you haven't heard about it, go check it out, the link is above.) Now it has divided the internet gaming community in two halfs, each about as rabid as the other. It's hard to say which group is the largest though, and I don't doubt that GW will sell tons of boxes and call AoS a success.

The new Logo.
First, I understand why GW is doing this. I'm not opposed to change, I'm just opposed to stupidness. And change for change's sake. I think GW are grasping after straws. They need to reinvent themselves. The Hobbit license has failed so miserably that GW didn't even put out a boxed game for the third movie and hardly any models. Most of GW's sales are related to either the hobby in general (paints, etc) or Warhammer 40k. So something needed to be done with Warhammer Fantasy.

Let me summarize what it's all about, as far as I can understand it. Chaos has won, and the old world is shattered into separate realms, each with it's own magical characteristics. In these realms, naturally,everyone just keeps fighting. Over what nobody knows (at least not me). Sigmar has returned -- "Who?" I hear you ask. The founder of the Empire who united the tribes of man against the orcs and rescued the Dwarves, only to disappear with his magical hammer for about 2500 years and then return at the apocalypse. So, sort of Jesus, but wielding a big honking magical hammer.

A God with a hammer, where did I hear that one before?
I think it's a silly name. For those who don't know the background of the game the name Sigmar says nothing, it could just as well be called Warhammer Bönkfjordnurpur. Actually I would buy that game. I suppose it should evoke some sort of emotion in the players, but I don't really believe that. Advancing the game world is all fine and all, but they went well over the top, and quite frankly, the new setting is just plain daft. The internet coined the term "Bubblehammer" about half a year ago when the rumours started to fly around. A curious note is that we do not know who wrote the rules, since no author is listed. I don't know if nobody wants to have their name associated with the rules or if GW doesn't want anyone of their current writers to become known and prolific like Rick Priestley.

Rick Priestley. One of the original authors of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, no longer works at Games Workshop.
Secondly, they have remade the rules. Our game group felt that the eight edition was kind of good, it promoted the use of big blocks of troops as opposed to lots of overpowered heroes which had plagued earlier editions. But I get it. It's not exciting enough, and somehow people weren't buying enough new models. So GW introduced the End of Times, a series of campaign books for playing out the apocalypse, accompanied by new army lists allowing you to take more heroes and new gigantic hero models, like Nagash.

He costs 65 pounds. Luckily you only needed one in 8th edition. In Age of Sigmar you can field as many as you like.
I don't know what was wrong with the old rules, maybe GW felt that 30 years of old mechanics dragged them down, I honestly can't understand it. The new rules is sort of more skirmishy, but at the same time there are no rules for building an army and no recommendations on how many figures you should use. It's sort of "turn up at a mate's house with all your favourite models and play a game against all his models" -- and I'm not making this up -- you deploy whatever figures you want until you are satisfied. Army strength is only calculated by the number of models. I kid you not.

Some have argued that the lack of a points system puts the gamer in position to play the game the way he wants to. Yes it does. it also opens the game up to abuse. The response to that is of course "do not play with knobheads" -- but you are new to the game you don't know who are knobheads at your club or at your LFGS. Worse, maybe all your friends are competetive knobheads, but with rules on army selection there at least is something resembling game balance. With no framework for comparing relative force strength, then even those that would like a fair and balanced game have no way of achieving it unless they write their own points system for Age of Sigmar.

Well, with the new world and rules in place, GW can release new figures, calling them new names so they can copyright them. If you recall the Space Marine debacle some time ago, it made GW realise they just can't trademark names made up of regular words. So Imperial Guard (which happens to be the name of the Emperor's guards in both Star Wars and in napoleonics) became "Astra Militarum". Now dwarves will be "Duardin" and elves "Aelfs" for example, so they can be trademarked. And just to be sure we all buy the new figures Games Workshop has changed the scale. The new figures are all very much larger than before, mounted on round 40mm bases or larger.

The contents of the boxed set. Lots of shineyness, for sure. Each figure is now on a 40mm base though.

I get it. I really do. We are all 30+ (some of us 40+) with steady incomes but limited space, enough internet savvy to google up alternative figures, and a figure collection older than the average Warhammer customer. We are not buying new figures en masse unless we really like them and quite frankly there are a lot of good fantasy figures out there, most of them cheaper than Games Workshop's. But here's the thing. I don't think Warhammer is failing because the game is broken. Or because the old fluff is boring. I think it was failing because GW released stupid ass ugly models for the game. And they are doing it again.

Old 4th edition dwarfs, painted by Victoria Lamb. Beautiful.
8th edition dwarfs, painted by the GW studio. What the Drokk is going on?
Someone probably will argue that the new dwarfs above are an elite unit and therefore have more armour than ordinary dwarves, carrying flame throwers and not hand guns so can't be compared with handgunners in brightly coloured clothes. Fair enough, but I'm showing you them because they were the new unit introduced with the recent army book, the one thing I could have spent money on to add to my already vast Dwarf army. And they are ugly as hell. Ridiculous. Painted in a simple and dull metal scheme, there is nothing about them that says "buy me". All they did was to make me trawl eBay after old Dwarf flame cannon crews, thinking I'd rather pay through the nose for old figures than buy the new ones. Oh, and they made me go out and NOT buy the new army book at all.

The new Sigmar... er... marines? Oh, "Stormcast eternals".
The new models look like a cross between a knight and a Space Marine. Taking a closer look at the armour there are no clasps or fasteners or fany kind, except for a strap holding the gimp mask in place. In fact, a lot of 40k players want them to build "true scale marines". Maybe GW wants to make sort of a Fantasy 40k. The chaos models look ok though, and again, a lot of 40k players are looking to augment their Chaos marines with some new Chosen models. Technically, the sculpts are excellent, it's the design that is flawed. And yes, they are larger, those bases are 40mm in diameter.

I found this while googling for other images. I think it speaks for itself.
Games Workshop has done one thing right though. They have released the rules online, for free, along with army lists -- sorry, War Scrolls -- for all the old armies, enabling you to try out the game for yourself. I guess they realised that all the old players wouldn't just fork out a lot of cash again without knowing anything about the rules. So if you are curious even after my tirade, go check it out yourself. The rules are only four pages long, it won't take you long to read. Back? Good, now go to Mantic Games and download the Kings of War rules, also free, also with army lists, but with a point system.

Kings of War has angry dwarves riding even more angry badgers. What's not to like?
I do not know what our gaming group will be playing in the future. We are all heavily invested in the Old World, but sentimentally and money-wise, having huge collections of Fantasy figures. Nobody seems to like Age of Sigmar in the group and Kings of War might take the place as our Mass Fantasy Combat game as the rules appear solid and tactical enough. We might go on playing Warhammer 8th edition, but the game was actually a bit clunky and battles could drag out for a while. Playing Dwarves I did not like the overpowered magic of the game either. Still, it's Warhammer... and Kings of War isn't. Other games we are thinking of trying is Open Combat or Lion/Dragon Rampant, both which seem to be good games set at a slightly lower level -- skirmish or large skirmish respectively.

And here is my conclusion: I applaud GW for being brave enough to try something new. But with so many rules out there, the only thing that kept me playing Warhammer and buying GW figures were the setting. Now that the Old World is out and the new rules look iffy, there is nothing keeping me.

So long Warhammer, and thanks for all the fish. 

19 kommentarer:

  1. I agree, the GW boat has been slowly sinking. Lord of the Rings sold like crazy when it was at the box office, after that it slowly petered away, GW knew it was a limited time thing. I call it the age of Shitmar as it is just that a very bad attempt to bring 40k players into fantasy for 40Fantasy. The models look nice, but no longer realistic and they look like they are very plainly copying what Privateer Press is doing in their success. Sad really that they canned the Fanatic line which is what they should have rebranded when the economy took a dump, push more towards Skirmish gaming with Mordheim and Necromunda, then tool the models to cross into 40k and Fantasy for more profit options. I think GW is going to be hurt further with this rebrand attempt and they will scramble to bring back Fantasy, think of it like when they changed from Coke to New Coke, then swapped back once they saw the mistake.

    1. Yeah, I have heard the comparison to New Coke from other people too.
      Maybe GW doesn't care about us old gamers, as Tuomas Pirinen wrote on his Facebook page: "This game will lure some curious gamers in, some of them will like it, and a portion of them will afford and like the free-form collecting aspects".

      So maybe that's it. They are trying to lure new suckers into the game. Us old grognards are far too critical to please.

  2. My mass fantasy combat game of choice is Warmaster, and it is still set in the Old World. It will never get a new stupid kiddy edition because GW has let it go.... into the hands of its fans! Epic Armageddon is another game that has thrived since GW abandoned it. It may not be big, but it is better than ever with a multitude of fan created armylists and great minitures made by small manufacturers. Perhaps Age of Sickmar is an opportunity for the fans of WHFB to take ownership over the game system and let it live on in a long and healthy retirement.

    1. Wise words. I love Warmaster too. But I also love to paint 28mm figures, would be nice to have a game for them.

      (P.S. We ought to play some Warmaster again, soon!)

  3. I don't like the fact that many of the figures in a unit look identical, diversity used to be the advantage of the Fantasy gamer, now the likes of SAGA have stolen the march and Flames of War has stolen the younger GW customer. A decline and slow death is likely for GW unless they wake up


    1. Yeah, I think this is the death throes for Warhammer Fantasy at least. Maybe 40k will survive.

  4. I'm not too thrilled about the Age of Sigmar either. FB definately needed something new to make it popular again, but Age of Shitmar (as styx excellently named it :D ) doesn't seem the way to go. The main issue was the high model count and AoS does remedy that, but this bring everything cool you've got mentality really just turns it into a little kids playtime thing where you could just throw stones at the minis to see who wins. And some of the warscrolls are plainly just made up as jokes. Getting bonuses for having a longer beard than your opponent might be a good idea as a gag house rule sometimes, but seriously who thought putting that in the official rules would be a good idea...

    But the rules can be remedied with player made rulings etc. (like ETC rules previously). However the biggest issue I have is with the models. The Chaos ones are actually pretty good, but then those Sigmarite guys are really quite unimaginative and boring. In a way the sculpting level has gone down for years already, but these really mark a new low point at least for me. Technically they are excellent sculpts, but they just lack the character that GW sculpts used to have. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but I really did prefer the slightly chunkier and more believable sculpts that they did before. Now there's always some random things flying in the wind, some magical swirls everywhere etc. It's OK for some special characters, but seriously seeing that with nearly every footslogger is just plain bad.

    1. Yeah, I don't like the rules either. But that mentality of fixing the rules by the players is hurting the community, because you can't just pick up a game with a stranger; you have to first agree which (if any) of a large set of house rules you are going to use, to make the game playable.

    2. Sorry, meant to say I don't like the figures either.

    3. Yeah naturally the idea of players fixing rules is problematic. Definately would be better if somebody made proper balanced rules in the first place, but apparently that costs money and as GW has stated they are in the business of making collectible miniatures not games :) Luckily here in Finland pretty much everyone playes the European Team Championship comp rules so everyone having the same house rules is easy. But then again I prefer to stick to historical games nowadays, less competitive, better structured and much more fun :)

  5. I couldn't agree more. Although GW games were my wargaming starter drug they lost me years...

    1. I think a lot of us started out with Warhammer... so it's like a long friendship suddenly going down the toilet.

  6. Well put Leif. I think you hit quite a lot of nails on the head here.

  7. Yar. All of that. I love the angry badgers and the VL painted dwarves.

    1. Yes. And the thing with the handgunners Victoria painted is not the paint job itself, but that the sculpts are full of character for the painter to use.

  8. I haven't played WHFB since 5th edition but was interested to start again when the 8th edition was released. Bought the starter set to start a Skaven army, read the rules, thought about the 100+ miniatures I'd still need to buy and paint and quickly abandoned the project... I strongly suspect that I haven't been the only one coming to the same conclusion after looking at the entry cost!

    GW already had a good large scale WHFB game in Warmaster and I wish I had bought more of the miniatures than the 3 blisters of HE when they were around...
    -Why did the Specialist Games have to die, mommy?
    -Because in the grim and dark future there are only games that are marketed to 12-16 year old boys with really short attention span...

    The WHFB needed fixing (IMO) and for me a new skirmish type of game isn't a bad option. Painting hundreds of 28mm scale miniatures for a normal game isn't really what I want to do so I welcome the change. What I don't welcome is the way the change has been done.

    GW has itself to blame for the downfall of the Fantasy. For years it made the world blander, edition after edition, so that it changed from a dark, twisted and also humouristic setting to become a somewhat generic and uninteresting good guys vs. bad guys place (again IMO). For example, in the 3rd edition, Ulthuan was presented as the kingdoms of the High and Sea Elves. They were arrogant and haughty people and in the case of High Elves quite hedonistic. Wars between the kingdoms and royal families weren't unheard of so they really weren't that noble race. Even then the Phoenix King ruled from Lothern but it was more of an ceremonial title than an actual rule over all elves. Then the 4th edition High Elf armybook came and the Sea Elves were integrated into High Elves. The history of the kingdoms was rich and the teenager fantasy enthusiast-me was really excited. But as the lore got somewhat deeper the High Elves as a faction became a bit duller and more predictable. Now they were the go-to good guys, lacking really the reasons to go to war with Empire, Bretonnia or Dwarfs not to speak about going against other elves (dark elves excluded). The world slowly stagnated and the new races (which were actually old races re-invented...) that were introduced didn't really bring anything new to the setting (once again IMO! ).

    So the GW did the only logical thing, they destroyed the Old World, brought some parts of the world back but with different names ( because putting an A before the word "elf" is really original...) and added the Emperor and Space Marines to the mix = success! Well, we'll see but somehow I doubt it. The Old World was/is an institution and as it still is presented in licensed products from other companies it isn't disappearing anywhere soon. As a matter a fact, the next Total War series game is Total War: WHFB and what I've seen it's very much happening in the Old World. I can already imagine the situation where a new customer who has played Total War: WHFB comes to a GW store and ask about Empire or Dwarf miniatures. He/she is then told that those factions no longer exist as the world was destroyed but there are now holy sky warriors and mystical Duardin fighting savage Orruks in the magical dimension worlds. Will that customer A) walk away or B) get really excited and purchase the product that has pretty much nothing to do with the stuff he/she was looking for and expecting to find? I know what I would do...

    But still, I'll give the rules a chance as at least they are free and my friend has come up with an idea of combining the old Realm of Chaos generation charts with AoS for some Chaos Warband skirmishes - I remain skeptical but who knows...

    In the meanwhile, I slowly continue my 15mm scale Warhammer Fantasy with modified Dux Britanniarum rules project - we all honour the Old World in our own way :D

    1. Well put Ville. My beloved Dwarfs have seen a similar decline in playability and diversity. (Why can't dwarfs have spears anymore? Excellent to use in tunnels and great against cavalry, but nooo.... That's special elf technology.)

    2. Maybe Ulthuan sent them a cease and desist letter for a patent infringement of their fabled spear technology ;)
      But yeah, all those small things build up to a larger wtf factor and when combined with the later, not so great, "In the bloody battle of the Bloodskull where blood flowed and many skulls were taken by the Skull Champions of the Blood God" style of writing, it just didn't feel Warhammer-y enough anymore.

      And you're also very right in that we actually aren't GW's target group anymore. The Old World isn't coming back for what's it worth to GW and people who cling to it's memory are more of a burden to the company. In their mind, now it's time for something completely different - I just don't think it's different enough to be a game breaker. Maybe I'm wrong and a whole new generation of Age of Sigmarites is born but with the amount of great (and cheaper) skirmish and larger scale fantasy games (not to talk about computer & console games) in the market it isn't going to be easy.


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