Scent of a Gamer

From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.

Warhammer: fixing the unfixable

selfdestructRumour mills for Games Workshop tend to be fairly quiet, since that company has long ago decided the best way to sell its products is to say nothing of them before their release. This strategy has worked well for no company ever and its success for Games Workshop can be seen in that company’s performance over the past few years.

Recently things have gone rather loud since this post on BoLS. I’ll let the article do most of the talking, this is more a reaction piece. The ninth edition of the game is coming, and with it comes the culmination of the current ‘end times’ books and models. Some armies are going, others are merging. The basic setting of the game is being discarded and replaced with a setting where any army versus any army is a plausible game rather than something confusing.

The what

First, I’m not especially surprised. The whole ‘end times’ series looked like the result of working backwards from an end point rather than genuine story telling. If armies are going, then why not destroy all the lands, create unthinkable alliances, and kill off special characters.

Similar things have happened in the past, albeit generally on a lower scale. The appearance of the Ogre Kingdoms. The disappearance of the Chaos Dwarfs. I have a friend who still speaks of his gnome pikemen with a smile (2nd edition, folks!). Many things have left the world of Warhammer before.

The army merging is a return to fourth edition for Chaos and Undead. If you are playing one of these armies and want to know what they will look like in the future, pick up their 1994 books and be informed.

Warhammer’s mix of high fantasy and history seems to have run its course, and that course led to a dead end. Time to press the reset button.

The why

For all intents, Warhammer is a dead game. The financial costs of starting the game have long passed the point of sanity. The game itself is best described as a confused, desultory mess, with a ‘rock, paper, scissors’ approach to army balance.

The game has considerable bloat, having blown out to 15 different armies, none of which fight together.

Sure, you can retroactively change unit and points costs, layer in additional restrictions over what the army books have, and even run allied forces for your own purposes: these are all true. However when the best you can say of a game is that when you ignore and replace the rules you may have some fun, it isn’t much of a game.

In years past none of this mattered. Warhammer was without competition. If liked liked fantasy and you liked miniatures, Warhammer was it. In recent years this has ceased to be true and Warhammer has never looked less healthy.

Make no mistake: the saying ‘if it ain’t broke; don’t fix it’ still applies here. Warhammer is broken, and these changes are their attempts to fix it.

The models and armies that are leaving are leaving because they aren’t selling. The company believes there is a core to salvage, but it would appear that many of the current lines will simply stop being produced.

These changes are the company’s answers to the questions of ‘why isn’t this game selling?’ and ‘what could we do to help it sell more?’

The who

One point to remember about Games Workshop is that it’s driven by sales and product creation, not design. The ‘end times’ series and the next edition changes are the designers’ responses to changes presented to them. “Here is the new range; make this work.”

It is not the designers who pressed this button. They were informed the button had been pressed. The designers’ challenge is to create a game with the new range as presented to them, and the new release schedule and resources they are informed of. We’ll see how they do, but I don’t envy them their task.

Whatever they do, it needs to walk a very fine line between keeping as many existing players and possible, and also attracting new players into the game. Ninth edition could be Wahammer’s last chance.

The when

2016 looks like the date for all this, or possibly September or October 2015.



One comment on “Warhammer: fixing the unfixable

  1. Pingback: Can Warhammer be saved? Should Warhammer be saved? | Scent of a Gamer

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This entry was posted on January 11, 2015 by in Industry, Miniatures and tagged , , , , , .
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