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.

porky1

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?

Tl;dr? HytAoS?

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  • As someone pointed out with AOS….you don’t even need the minatures. Heck people were playing AOS before it came out with 40k mini’s. Works great!

    I think as they have always been pushing, GW makes some phenomenal mini’s…and the AOS ones are no exception. There are few studios that can match that level of detail or customization. Those that can, charge just as much as GW does.

    • Da Masta Cheef

      After the initial WHFB nerd rage wore off, I was pondering playing it with some of Ninja Division’s chibi miniatures. Whereas I won’t let my WHFB collection anywhere near that abomination!

      lol

    • Porky_Poster

      It might even work better without the miniatures, to avoid a need to establish or house/club/store rule what’s up with measuring, whether it’s from any point or not, and how that might affect things like turning.

      In the current report up at The Back 40K they mention Relic Knights uses a corridor between minis the width of the bases for finding a line of sight, and with Infinity there’s the running a column up. Bases are regular and near omnipresent – why not work out from them alone?

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        I think it would work best with solid cylindrical objects, like cotton reels, given the awkwardness of measuring from miniatures rather than bases. Not sure this is really a selling point though!

        • Porky_Poster

          I’m not sure either. Maybe if the players like the ruleset enough to play it for itself, independent of a suggestion of setting. Then again, any system could be played the same way. I’ve never seen a producer offering that kind of cylinder, but there might well be interest if some did.

  • Too Long; didn’t read? Hope you tried Age of Sigmar?

    • Porky_Poster

      Oh so close, but it makes sense in itself – finally a game that might just be suitable for this imaginary Wild Bore reader. Four pages! I’ll give you the point; if someone else gets closer they can have it too.

      • Well I’ll go Have you tried Age of Sigmar ummmed and arred a bit between the two before posting

        • Porky_Poster

          All sewn up by the claw of the dragon in green. You’re good at this, and being quick off the mark is a bonus.

          I’m easing us back in gently because it’s been a while. The ‘partial recall’ thing was a Martian red herring, a fish to tie in with the Douglas Adams-themed title. I actually found out a forum ran with the straight-up title ‘So long, and thanks for all the Fishmen!’ so I modified it slightly to account for the ambiguities in what’s been left behind and what might be coming. If 40K goes the same way as WFB, and especially if the third parties get in on it, it might get well beyond fishmen in even glass tanks.

          • I picked up on the Douglas Adams bit as I am mahousive Adams fan although I think his best work was the Dirk Gently novel The long dark tea time of the Soul which I felt was his most complete story teh Hitch Hikers guide being more a collection of unconnected skits hung together and also he repeats a lot of his jokes throughout the 5 of the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy trilogy. I still think that the radio plays are the best iterations of the hhgttg.
            The AoS part of the anagram was the big give away though although I will confess to being quite bored of AoS content now and I haven’t even played it

          • Porky_Poster

            I’ve been hoping they’ll show us something new and astounding, or hint it might be coming, and it may well be in there, but I haven’t seen anything persuasive yet.

  • Cedric Ballbusch

    No using points really isn’t anything new. Though it is a bold move for GW. Despite their protests the success of their games is due to the ease of reasonably balanced pick up games.

    Whether or not 3rd parties jump on the AoS bandwagon depends on the success of the rules. Personally, I agree with Sandwyrm. They’re okayish, in a limited way, but I could write better in under an hour. So, why even bother?

    • Porky_Poster

      Whether or not there’s a future in it, and maybe by extension the money to justify other producers jumping in, presumably depends on how many other people feel the same way, and it may still be too early to say. The heated reaction may fade to show more continuity among players than expected. I can imagine the game bumbling along for a couple of years before a first big shift or edition change, the whole held together by a core group and a residual loyalty to the brand and maybe faith in the company.

      One thing I’d be interested in seeing is a kind of AoS challenge, a bit like the reimagining of Dwimmermount in the OSR, with people at blogs and forums and beyond taking those four pages and rewriting the game to make an improved or preferred form, to show how easy it is, or not, and what else was and maybe still is possible – other visions.

      • Cedric Ballbusch

        Since AoS is largely detached from the previous incarnations of WFHB it is a whole new game. For good or bad. Any emotional attachment is largely gone.

        In the world of fantasy GW is now much like the Byzantine Empire after Manzikert. Powerful, important, but no longer a central force, just another player on the field jockeying for position.

        The question GW needs to answer is ‘why AoS instead of warmachine, KoW, etc.?’ How they answer that question, and indeed if they do, will dictate how third parties react.

  • Thuloid

    No similarity between the Helbrute and khorgorath? Let’s go down the list. Faction: chaos. Size: nearly identical. Pose: same. Body type: same, down to thickness of torso and limbs. Limbs:clawed, in similar fashion. Head: has horns, again similar. Official paint scheme: almost identical. Skin/surface of mini: covered in odd, chaosy protrusions. No, clearly nothing in common.

    • Porky_Poster

      I can see both arguments, to the degree that I wonder whether a group of sculptors at GW could even have been clustered around a monitor deciding what to take in and leave out to keep it right on the fence.

      The difference might be in level of engagement, and what it does to context, that a person aware of every Citadel mini who keeps right up to date might well see it differently than someone who has a far more passing interest, and differently again than someone who’s seeing the range for the very first time. Level of awareness of miniatures, settings and aesthetics beyond GW’s presumably also has an influence. There might be a loose correlation between these things too, in that there’s only so much time in a day, a hobby and a life to encompass it all.

      • Thuloid

        The fact that nearly everyone who knows the Dark Vengeance set associated it with a Helbrute is enough for me. You can break it down to components, but it’s more of a flash thing–if I saw it out of the corner of my eye or without my glasses on, I wouldn’t be sure which I was looking at. That’s clearly intentional, same as all the other resonances between AoS and 40k figures are. I’m not sure why anyone would dispute it.

        • Porky_Poster

          In this case I can’t say, but I wonder how much of this kind of divergence of opinion is linked to what might be thought of as almost a soft tribalism, and with it maybe a fear of a potential discomfort, possibly with the mind naturally performing even an unconscious calculation as to what serves a given collective purpose best.

          After all, and staying with AoS in particular, criticism may affect interest, and if a game like AoS flops there may be a knock-on effect on a given local community, and maybe on GW, and thereby on the continuity of things. We all have investments of time and emotion, and don’t necessarily want to lose out, or get hurt.

  • nurglitch

    Sandwyrm’s point about the miniatures is baffling. How it could take an “expert modeler” an hour and a half to accomplish what he reported suggests he’s not very good at it, let alone an expert.

    • Porky_Poster

      The key line is a bit odd. Then again, we can and do work at different speeds, regardless of level of skill, and especially with distractions or conversation, or deep study of the forms. Maybe he meant that in that situation he’d expect them to have spent, say, an hour getting that far.

      • sandwyrm

        We honestly expected to (without filing or greenstuffing) be able to get both factions mostly assembled in an hour and a half. Instead, despite working constantly, we only got one figure fully assembled, and about 7 others were just feet glued to bases.

        Mostly I blame each model having 3-5 parts at least, spread across different sprues, and there being no quick and easy way to match up all the parts for a model.

    • sandwyrm

      Your statement is a bit baffling, but I’ll try and respond to it.

      Uberdark and I are both expert modelers and painters, which I can back up with nice pics of his many wonderful Ork conversions, and my own heavily modified IG army from 5th. We don’t just clip models from the sprue, we assemble them cleanly and carefully. No visible seams, no flashing, and no mould lines. Which means X-Acto work, filing, sanding, and greenstuff where needed.

      Added to that, the AoS models are detailed and finicky. It’s not clear which pieces go with what, the parts don’t snap together like DV or Space Hulk, and many of the models have small bits like chains that have to be assembled just-so. So you clip everything off the sprues and then put it all together like a multi-model jigsaw puzzle. There are instructions, but these are only marginally useful, as they don’t show part numbers or clear steps. Just exploded-views of models.

      For reference, I put ALL of my Space Hulk minis together in an afternoon. In the same amount of time I put together about half of the Dark Vengeance set. Uberdark informed me that he spent TWO FULL DAYS putting together HALF of the models in the AoS set. So someone who didn’t care about details or sloppiness could probably do the same in a day. But that’s still quite a commitment.

  • I see this as GW wanting to focus on what they do best, making beautiful miniatures. The rules are simple enough that anyone can play, and the world open enough that you can do pretty much whatever you want. Personally, I love the move. I’m gonna play my first game at lunch today (something I could NEVER say about 40k, unless I was Spanish and the game cut into my siesta).

    • Porky_Poster

      I can see that too, to streamline not just the rules, and development, but also management of stock levels and maybe materials. It could be a relief, and mean savings for GW, although there’s always the issue of whether that’s reinvested directly in the business, and the hobby.

      There’s an argument though that the rules may be too simple, and could cover more bases to head off criticism, even with a page or two more. If they lead not only to relaxed play, but friction as players have issues clarifying in more crucial moments, immediate savings could be lost over the longer term based on even new player reaction.

  • sandwyrm

    Porky, I think what you’re seeing is the first stage of the collapse of the traditional GW business model, which has ruled wargaming for 30+ years now.

    New technologies (3D printing and automated digital mold tooling), combined with new funding options (Kickstarter), are enabling anyone to design and easily distribute custom models that can be used in wargames. Not just 40K/WHFB (and now AoS), but Flames of War and every other miniatures-based game out there. So the vice is now starting to close on all of these companies.

    Having failed to embrace and co-opt this trend by becoming the iTunes of 3D printing and garage miniature publishing, GW has its lawyers busy re-naming everything in their line to be IP-unique. But this is a waste of time, because nobody buying alternative IG, Space Marine, Elf, or Ork models gives a damn if it says “Elf” on the box instead of “Aelf”, or “Planetary Guardsmen” instead of “Astra Militarum”. In fact, they’re probably MORE likely to buy the more generic-sounding models because those names are less strange and off-putting to those who have invested themselves in the older GW-verse.

    GW’s other strategy is to go all-out on increased model “quality” (as they define it), and complexity. But they’re running into another wall there. In that most gamers don’t care how detailed or clean a model is, so long as it decently represents whatever creature they want to play with. Most will gladly trade character and uniqueness for less detail and manufacturing cleanliness.

    Age of Sigmar is the natural result of these two decisions. They’re burning down the familiarity that their customers have with a well-liked fantasy universe that took 30 years to evolve, in order to re-make it into a unique defensible IP, and they’ve made beautiful overly-complex models to go with it.

    So nobody is really familiar with the new universe, and not 1 in 100 customers will ever paint those models well enough to show off all the lovely details that GW carefully crafted into them.

    And then they tack on a measly four pages of rules that really should have been more carefully considered and crafted before release. A simpler game could have been key to attracting new players, but the hobby requirements will likely put them off, as the trending strategy is to provide minimally colored/painted minis that can be played with as soon as you buy them. See X-Wing or Dust.

    The pricing is much better on AoS than it was for WHFB, but now we’re starting to see the $35-60 single infantry model characters that will be essential to winning competitive games – for a game system that has been deliberately designed to be anti-competitive.

    So what is the strategy there? GW knows that its prices are too high, and they’re increasingly hard-pressed to justify their margins compared to the Kickstarter-funded competition. But they have a dying retail are to support, and dividend payments to investors to make, so they’re trying a steeper high/low cost balance where 2-3 small models will cost as much as an entire AoS starter set.

    That’s unsustainable, but they’re caught in the vice, and they have no idea how to get out of it.

    • Porky_Poster

      Hard to disagree. That move into being a major hub for 3D printing could have been, and still could be of course, more than just an OGL with a percentage attached, but a step into a new space with massive potential. The trouble might be that it needs a major reassessment of what GW is, possibly most of all for the people within the organisation.

      For all the talk of this being a long game, it almost seems like the key directions are being made up on the hoof, maybe coloured by an unwillingness to change, or even the loss of a truer belief, and possibly by an unexpressed sense that a more relevant shift in the culture and approach is less desirable than a managed retreat. That retreat might just mean the egg baskets being reduced ever further and sidelined elements used for a more point-and-click licensing of products, for a slightly longer tail-off in revenue than might otherwise be the case.

      • sandwyrm

        Given the internal culture of GW, a move like killing off WHFB in favor of AoS is fairly radical (for them). But they still suffer from an unwillingness to attempt any real understanding of who their customer base actually is, or to face up to and address the criticisms leveled by the players whose money they’ve always taken for granted. Or to see the new technologies coming down the pike as enormous opportunities instead of threats to be litigated away.