Thursday, January 8, 2015

Continuing the Real "End Times" Story Arc - Factions & Thoughts

Following on from yesterday's post about the supposed changes to Warhammer, the dam has burst and all manner of commentators are publishing "information" across the net.

Included in this was a discussion of supposed new factions within the Warhammer World:

1) Chaos : Demons + Beasts + Mortals
2) Elves
3) Empire
4) Undead
5) Orcs and Goblins
6) Skavens 

Lizards are gone in space.
Dwarves survivors join the empire with the ogres.

1) Chaos core : Warriors of chaos/chariot/Hounds
Demons figs will be kept as they are usable in 40k
Bye bye marauders, ungors, centigors, razorgor etc

2) Elves core : spearmen/archers/cavalry on horse
No more xbows
the 3 elves will blend in one faction
dark elves monsters are gone : cold ones, hydra

3) Empire core: Hallberds/Handgun/Canon
Some dwarves survivors and ogres are included
Imperial and bretonnian knights are merged

4) Undead core : Skeletons/Ghouls/Spirit host
bye bye bone giant, scorpion sphinx, chariots and everything too much egyptian

5) Orcs and goblins core : Goblins/Orcs/Black orcs
no real change for them

6) Skaven core : Clanrats/Plague rats/Rat ogres
no real change for them too

There are a lot of things here that fill me with trepidation. The first is the supposed removal of races. I've never been a Dwarf-friend but I hope that they do not invalidate a whole race like is being suggested - effectively reducing them to Special/Rare choice in an Empire army. Similarly returning all Elves to effectively High Elves seems a slap in the face to those who have supported the company by purchasing Dark Elves and Wood Elves over the previous decades.

If this came to pass what would it mean?

Well quite a lot of things.

It would mean that the GW beancounters have run numbers and determined that there is more profit in alienating a large section of their current WHFB customer base as a result of future sales. The anecdotes are that there is not sufficient money in the current practice of 4-5 year race refreshes as we currently have now. People don't buy whole new armies, instead they use existing models and in some cases upgrade. GW would be betting on a full refresh attracting sufficient new players (and keeping a proportion of existing players) to be financially more attractive. I don't know. it seems a big roll of the dice.

When you talk to current WHFB players, the most commonly heard refrain is that 8th Edition is the best version yet of the game. Looking at the existing Warhammer Army books, the game is seen as the most balanced it has been. All but three races have got the 8th Ed treatment and of those three Skaven and Brets are still very usable and Beastmen would be with the addition of Chaos Marks.

What has been missing is FAQ support by the company for almost 2 years. However the things that need clarifying are minimal and generally could be sorted in an afternoon.

So where does that leave things? Well I can see that if the changes talked about were implemented then GW could leave a considerable rump behind. Certainly I think the WHFB community would become fragmented as most (?) / some (?) players adopted the new 9th Ed while other gaming groups continued to play 8th Ed. Over time a few of things would likely happen to those playing 8th. Firstly, you'd see the rise of a Direwolf type body which would quickly sort out existing FAQ problems. This would be great for the game and those playing it. Secondly, the tournament scene would fragment leaving smaller and less commercially viable events. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, the 8th variant would eventually wither and die primarily due to the lack of new blood coming into the player pool. How long this process would take is debatable. I've seen similar fragmentation in Ancient Historicals since 2003 and this has led to a dozen years of stagnation and dwindling overall numbers.

There have been instances in the past where companies have introduced new systems so unpopular that they caused a radical rethink by the owner. The most oft quoted of these is D&D 4.0 which apparently proved so unpopular it was eventually overhauled to something that replicated its preceding iteration (I may be off the mark here I've never played the game). And GW has shown itself to react to falling sales - evidence being the 18 month overhaul of W40k 6th to 7th as people deserted the system.

The difference in this situation is that WHFB is not the cash cow that Space Marines are and so the imperative is not as critical.

One thing that will indicate whether GW is serious about wanting to keep existing WHFB players concerns basing. Nothing turns people off a new system as much as having to rebase figures. There has been talk of moving to round bases with the move to 9th. That would signal to me a scorched earth policy by GW - effectively forcing people to choose to embrace the new system or not. Personally I'd see that as a major negative move by the company.



  1. Well I for one am very happy I picked Kings of War as my massed fantasy battle game seeing this :)


  2. I'm as nervous about these rumours as anyone, but I'm happy to wait and see how it pans out. Harry chimed in on Warseer to support Darnok's original post, so while the details might change, the overall direction seems valid, and the Old World is doomed.

    Harry's point is that this is all in the name of making WHFB more profitable. Fair enough, it takes up almost the same resource as 40K, but seems to provide a fraction of the return. Something was going to change, and what looks like essentially a system reboot is the strategy.

    Whether this works for them is not that important to me; they've proven they don't have any loyalty to me their customer, so I have no loyalty to them as a company. My decision to persevere with Warhammer will depend on;

    1. How many of my current models are useable in the new edition, even as proxies
    2. How many other models I need to buy to remain competitive
    3. How good the ruleset is. As Nick Hoen said, if it's crap, why not just migrate to another game, especially if large parts of my collection are unuseable.
    4. Whether I have to rebase my models, and if so, how difficult it will be to use temporary bases for Warhammer. I intend to keep my Dwarves and Elves on 20mm squares so I can use them in Kings of War, so I'm not going to replace them permanently.

    If the rules are good enough (this is GW, they're unlikely to be great....), and my collection is valid on current bases, then I'll play on. If the rules are crap, my collection is largely obsolete and/or I have to rebase, then I'm glad I bought into that Kings of War kickstarter before Xmas.

    I hear it's nice in Mantica in the middle of the year. Mantic might make sub-standard models, but at least they make a fairly good and tight ruleset where spearelves and other rank and file infantry are actually useful.

  3. I feel like I could almost live with changes outlined here:

  4. Great article. Putting on my devils advocate hat I could foresee a few things that their new approach solves for them.

    Problem: New players and 40k players wanting to start WFB find it daunting-they see the large amount of rank and file models needed to play and paint as a barrier to starting. The army sizes used in WFB have increased over the years and the rules reflect this too. (Lets all be honest, painting an army is an epic effort)

    Solution: Drop the model count to make it easier for new players to start. "These guys might love swords and magic, but are not so attached to rank and file" Gives new players also get the ability to buy lots of big new kits.

    Problem: Not selling enough big kits. After a big kit is created, not enough are purchased-many people agree the center piece models are cool but with the 8th rule set only one army book purchases them. e.g If 10 people play 10 different armies in warhammer only one of them is going to be buying a sky cutter kit (if that).

    Solution: Increase access to cross big kit purchases. Storm of Magic started this, with scrolls of binding and End times contiuned it. New players who love big models can buy em and use them however they like. For example if want buy a treeman and hydra now can and use them. Think of Imperial knights in 40k a poster child

    Problem: As warhammer has expanded the shear selection of units is massive using up a lot of in shop shelf space and not being that versitlie (like a kit of tacitical marines for example). When kits are refreshed not everyone refreshes their collection. For example when the new dark elf core were released old players probably already have them, so profits might take a hit.

    Solution: Increase the versitlity of kits e.g multi kits. Cut down the amount of kits and increase access to popular kits.

    Problem: While changing the game old players may be alienated.

    Solution: Make the change gradual. Increase the the ablity of these players to acsses extra models e.g summoned units in storm of magic, End times and scrolls of binding. Adjust the narrative while continuing sales. Gradually phase out old kits and give players better choices from other army books could stimulate sales. e.g How many tournaments will I go to before I feel tempted to run a unit of warlocks in my high elf army? For every elf player who already owns only one elf army, will have to increase his army by approx 2/3rds to be up to date with the new elf force. 1/3 high elves, 1/3 Dark elves, 1/3 wood elves
    It very neatly stimulates growth while cutting down the range with very little investment.

    We all have a lot of love invested in this game, I don't mean finically. Hold tight brothers. I'm still in denial about Utlhuan.


  5. Well, I have been in love with the 8th Ed since as an ONG player my army has become competitive and plain fun to play. I will have to join those who are pensive -- I do not have that many models painted (only 200 or so) so the re-basing won't hurt quite as much, but I need to see the rules preserve the improvement in the game balance achieved by the 8th ed. I liked the WH world as well as it provided a rich background to the games. I hope they design tiers into the game -- from skirmish to epic-sized battles to account for variety of tastes.

  6. There are some serious nuclear discussions going out on internet land. Some people are putting together a company to buy up all the armies from the rage quitters so they can sell them back to them in 6 months.

    What does seem to be emerging from the hysteria.
    9th edition will not be a major rewrite of the rules so expect more like an 8.25 than the change that was 40k second to third edition.
    All existing army lists and models will be usable under 9th edition.
    So for the tournament players there won't be much impact.

    For the lovers of the background it looks like GW might go to a multiverse type game. Many roleplaying games offer their players multiple different rules to play in. It's possible to play D&D in a low magic setting like game of thrones to a high magic setting like Elric of Melnibone. These realms could contain their own rules and be supported by miniatures for multiple races / factions. This sounds great it means I could get some new units 2-3 times a year for my preferred army rather than have to buy a whole new army at once then get no releases for 5+ years. When was the last Skaven release Pete.

    GW already does this kind of thing in 40K with things like shield of Baal (necrons allied with blood angels against tyranids) and has a series of WHFB battlefields supplements (chaos wastes, subterranean etc) so it's not a big stretch to see them doing this.

    Round bases could be used for a warband scale game to ease customer entry into the game, they do this with LOTR and then stick the same models into unit bases to play a mass combat game. So again there is a precedent.
    It has already been stated that you don't have to rebase your models if you still want to rank them up but you might want some on round bases.

    So not much doom an gloom really.

    1. "So for the tournament players there won't be much impact".

      If 9th edition is basically "8.25" or what have you then I imagine the pure ruleset changes will have little effect on tournament play and may prove to be the most positive aspect of the upheaval (assuming they are tightened up/improved).

      However, if some of the more bizarre rumours prove to be true (races combined into groupings, periodic but limited release/time available models with rules in the box and not in a book) I struggle to see how tournaments attempting to sell themselves as a serious and competitive format can hope to sustain and/or flourish. Surely the ever-present elephant in the room is "comp"? Pete-lite would be the most fluid and in-flux system ever invented, but never quite conclusively finished. It would quite possibly change from one tournament to another!

      The rumours do however lend themselves nicely to a "Karak Eight-Peaks" type narrative event (though probably not Karak Eight-Peaks per se).

      I will be most amused if those who lived on the Kool Aid suddenly refused to partake, sealing themselves in the time-locked glory days of 8th edition. There would be a certain irony to this given the previous rage-quit exodus and vitriol that came from both sides, and the views held by 8th edition purists on the ETC committees "edition 7.5" shenanigans.

      Still, there are certainly some very big *ifs* hanging over these rumours.

    2. Pretty much my point Dave. The size of the hobby (especially in NZ) doesn't really support fragmentation.

      As for the game I think its the most balanced its been and I'm hopeful that we get a v8.25 rather than a massive mechanism reset. I think it is great that the fluff has progressed but I hope that existing armies are not invalidated (though the grumbling from Dwarfen players would give me initial LOLs I think it would be awful if they "disappear").

      I really like some of the ET mechanisms - especially the concepts behind the Khaine magic system which removes certainty from being able to 6 dice spells - and hope we see them progressed in the 9th Ed rules.

      NZ has existed well with very lite comp for the past 4 years and I think nothing I've seen in the ET books is insurmountable - given a full set of books. There's always been restrictions around SCs and I can see TOs continuing those.

      Personally I think that after 4 years the ETs have been a breath of fresh air - mainly fluff - and I hope that the new edition builds on the good bits of 8th (85-90%) and adds some new bits in.

    3. I hear that Gav Thorpe has written the new Skaven rules...