Porky’s Wild Bore – So long; tanks for all the fishmen?
Time for some partial recall of what’s been in the blogroll recently, and maybe a look ahead.
First up, Arcade at Objective Secured presented some evocative cyborg-likes. To my purely biological eyes they look like a blend of Jobe from The Lawnmower Man and the Space Hulk androids, done up almost as if a classic Doctor Who baddie. But what exactly could they represent? Go have a read of the post…
Beyond the title and the post tag, there doesn’t seem to me to be anything in the text or minis that either is or infringes material under GW copyright or trademarks, except maybe the bases. Even the term ‘skraptarii’ is ambiguous. But I’d imagine most fans of 40K viewing that post would have no trouble seeing the potential compatibility, and with the admech especially. Some might even imagine it was official, possibly just from an earlier edition, but I’d guess many these days would expect it to be the work of third party producers, in the hands of a keen modeller and writer.
If it’s true that our minds are increasingly willing to bridge the gap to unofficial or even rival material, it may well be that GW is in a fix. But what can the company do about it?
On Warhammer Fantasy Battle especially, does Age of Sigmar solve the problem, or could it make it worse? Could it be for the third parties a once-in-a-generation chance to go beyond shake-up to a fuller remaking?
When people know and love your setting, or your ruleset, you at least have that connection to leverage. When they don’t know it because it’s too new, and don’t love it maybe because it now seems less different from others, or more generic, surely you’ve lost not only many of the older players, but also part of the hold on the newer?
If many players of WFB really could walk away, and the number of new customers might not reach the ideal level, what’s the hedge? Could it really be, as suggested here by The Warlock, that AoS is less the start of a new WFB than a lower-cost entry point for 40K, and one hoping to earn also on the potential crossover?
This week Paul Graham at Watching Paint Dry posted a comparison of the 40K helbrute and AoS khorgorath, concluding: “I don’t really see any commonality other then general size and a similar pose.”
But is that more than enough?
After all, GW might benefit by encouraging sales of AoS also to existing 40K players, perhaps as a relatively safe bet. These players might be more likely to see AoS, and willing pick up the minis for obvious conversions; suggesting conversions by similarity of pose might help. Look at the so-called ‘sigmarines’. Then again, if 40K players do have limited budgets, any such sales for AoS might just eat into those for 40K.
But with an appeal to 40K, AoS could do double duty, and be more likely to reach the minimum numbers for successful local player bases, and a toehold. And if it is intended as a gateway product – and the idea of the gateway seems to figure strong in the fiction – any new players entering with AoS might see the similarity and progress also to 40K more easily. We’ll leave talk of eggs and baskets for another day.
On to the rules then…
At Corehammer a guest post by Brinton Williams suggests that the decision to simplify the rules and remove points could be a noble move on GW’s part, to encourage players to take fuller responsibility for their behaviour. If so, GW may be taking a financial hit for our benefit – and not just for a better hobby, but for a better world as the players grow up. This may be the key aspect of the release, perhaps a worthy exchange for direct WFB support, and may be a major part of the GW legacy, with everything else paling by comparison.
Of course, there might naturally be doubts about whether this is indeed the case.
Let’s keep going. The idea of making the rules free ought to multiply the effect of any such move, regardless of the question of its nobility, and maybe help offset or compensate for departures through the ease of acquisition and lower cost of entry.
But the biggest deal technically is maybe not so much that the cores rules are free, but that the unit rules seem set to be included with the minis, meaning no need for a faction book buy-in.
So what’s now to stop any third party miniature manufacturer from putting AoS-compatible rules in their own products? If actual mechanics really can’t be protected, it may be that compatible rules need only a distinct, more neutral layout and the avoidance of quotes and protected names.
Sounds crazy, right? Well, a few months ago so did round bases for certain kinds of Citadel miniature.
At The Back 40k SandWyrm posted an AoS battle report with some thoughts, making the point that while the rules may be simple, putting together the starter set miniatures is relatively complex.
The odd thing is that a lot of third parties look able to produce simpler and even one-piece miniatures comfortably and quickly, and presumably with lower costs upfront than for plastic moulds.
Think about it.
If the arrival of AoS means that smaller producers get to start off in this brave new world on more or less the same footing as GW, but can work to their own strengths, producing short runs of quicker-start models in the AoS aesthetic – an aesthetic which they themselves could then shape – and potentially also pack these minis with AoS-compatible rules, could it be that the game is on course to be turned inside out?
Might GW keep a firm hold on the core IP, but be left looking on as other creators build the setting and system-as-actually-played around them?