Wednesday, September 9, 2015

New Zealand Fantasy Gaming

It is fair to say that the New Zealand Fantasy gaming community is in a state of flux...or more probably stasis.

Warhammer Fantasy Battles has been the go-to game for the past two decades and now it has reached the end of its Company-supported life. GW have gone out of their way to draw a line under the game.

Their replacement, Age of Sigmar is polarising. In their quest to lower the logistics for entry GW have moved from the ranked units on square bases to free form round bases. Anecdotal evidence is that the pickup from existing NZ Warhammer Fantasy players has been low. For instance I am not aware of any locals who have bought either the starter box, any of the Stormcast releases or the new fluff books. I'm sure there have been some sales but I get the feeling this is to new players - which let's face it is the target market - and to 40k players. I suspect GW were hoping there would be more pickup from existing players.

There is also an opportune release of Mantic's Kings of War rules. Written by ex-GW staffers this has managed to force its way into the frame as the only company supported mass ranked alternative. There is growing interest in this rule set - Kapiti Club are having an event later in the year and I know a few Auckland tournament players are giving it a try. The aesthetic and quality of the accompanying models is not for everyone though.

And then there are the community driven rulesets. Foremost of these is 9th Age and Furion's Rebalanced & Reworked. Both of these are due to deliver a play test beta in the next week so they can be considered along with AoS and KoW for next year's ETC. Both need to overcome the disadvantage of no company support to establish themselves and have some longevity. People point to the community run Bloodbowl as the model for this path.

So where does that leave New Zealand?

Well from the tournament scene point of view - in a pickle! We have a very small catchment. Typically any given year there are around 50 active tournament players with perhaps the same number playing 1-2 events. Therefore there is no much capacity for fragmentation.

And that's what I think the community is likely to experience. I am not optimistic that the community will unite under any one banner and as a result tournaments will become smaller and more marginal (both financially and playability wise). I hope I'm wrong but similar declines were experienced in Ancients with the demise of DBMM. You get local pockets of players but no accepted "national" tournament game system.

That's depressing. But unfortunately it is symptomatic of the size of the NZ game. Over time I suspect people will drift to other tournament games that have greater numbers - Flames, 40k, Warmachine and possibly X-Wing (with the movie franchise boost).

Overseas the community rulesets are likely to find more traction due to the size of the player base. I think it is highly likely ETC will choose one of these. Therefore locals who want to continue ETC involvement will be at a disadvantage. It does however give them an incentive to promote and organise around a ruleset - they will have little success if they wait for someone else to do things.

So as always the solution is in the players' hands. Suffice to say the landscape in a year is going to look decidedly different from what it did a year ago.



  1. Australia is in pretty similar shape, really. We might have more players, but they're separated by a lot of distance.

    At this point I think the tournament community's best hope is that the ETC picks something and it gives people some sort of focus. It's the closest you are going to get to a single decision helping dictate the direction on an international level. If that doesn't work, I think the scene is doomed to disintegrate.

    1. What's the pickup in Vic been like for AoS Greg?

      I know Haig McLisky is organizing a 9th Age event in Brisbane at Orktoberfest

    2. It's not doing particularly well. There are pockets of people who seem dead keen for it, and others are shunning it. Axemaster was changed at the last minute from AoS to 8th ed in order to avoid having to cancel it. I don't know if the lack of support for an AoS event is a timing thing, though - it might just have been too soon. Rumble in the Bronx may give a better indication when it happens.

  2. The 9th age that was released today looks like a pretty good ruleset. I am very keen to give it a go.

  3. I think possibly one person in Tauranga has bought AoS. Ont heplus size, we have 16 people attending our annual 8th Ed Fantasy tournament this weekend, which is consistent with past numbers. Whether it is loyal support or a last hurrah will remain to be seen.

  4. Whatever the WFB community at large does whether it's stick with 8th or take up '9th edtion' I will follow suit so I can keep on playing.

    The real problem that I see for any long-term future of Warhammer Fantasy is that the miniature range to make WFB armies is in the process of becoming obsolete and models will either be discontinued or replaced with the new sci fi AoS aesthetic.