As some of you will have read, I recently decided to stop buying products from the Games Workshop and explore other possibilities within the world of wargaming.
The catalyst for this decision was price rises but it’s too simplistic to say that it’s simply a matter of cost. There are any number of hobbies that are expensive (the amount of money my wife sends on camera equipment is just one example of this fact). The problem is how much enjoyment I was getting in return for my money.
If I had wanted to, I could have carried on purchasing GW products without breaking the bank, but realistically I would have been buying less each month as I opted not to squeeze a second box of something into my monthly budget. Mean that it would have taken me even longer to collect an army that I could take out and use. And here lies one of the real problems, it’s not just that GW products are expensive, it’s that you have to buy so many of them in order to field a legal army, let alone a decent one that uses a reasonable selection of options from the list. In contrast, f I played Warmachine, I could buy a faction battle box for about £35 and strictly speaking need never buy another model (though, let’s be honest, I still would).
And then there’s the small matter of a table to play your table-top game on.
On of the clever things Games Workshop did is try and turn themselves into a one-stop-shop for all their customer’s need from toys to paint to terrain and even the table itself. If I was being cynical, I might venture to suggest that this strategy was not just a cunning means of extracting more money, but also a way of keeping their customers unaware of other options. If GW customers had to trawl the net in search of terrain, they might discover the other games that the independent terrain companies also cater for.
Of course GW terrain is very good quality, as are all GW products, but so is Amera terrain and I can buy that for about half as much if not less. And herein lies something that has started to bother me about GW is that it’s not simply that I feel that I’m being overcharged, It’s that I feel I’m having to pay for a level of quality that I didn’t ask for, but that GW insist on providing because it pleases themselves.
For example, the Eighth Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle Rulebook is an example of sumptuous production values, full of exquisite artwork and beautifully composed photography. But it is also a very large, quite heavy hardback volume which is perhaps not entirely practical or desirable in a wargaming rulebook. The solution might be to acquire the softback mini-rulebook in the Isle of Blood box, which also requires you to purchase a number of exquisitely detailed models for two out of the fifteen armies currently available for WFB. Similarly, though the new Citadel Finecast is probably a good thing for hobbyists, it’s not as if the gaming community was universally clamouring for it or that their customer base would have deserted them if they hadn’t brought it out. The fact that the introduction of Finecast coincided with a hefty across-the-board price rise rather makes it feel like we are having to pay for an innovation that we weren’t actually that bothered about them bringing in. I realise that prices have to rise and businesses have to make a profit but I was always under the impression that profit was for reinvesting in innovations like this rather than pouring out to shareholders while you ask the customers to pay for something most of them never asked for.
Too often I feel that the ‘quality’ we pay for takes the form of a quarter of a box full of decorative options we will never use. Meanwhile some fantasy models have become so stylised and exaggerated that they have become just a little bit ridiculous and undermine the surprising almost paradoxical sense of realism Warhammer used to have. And while we all recognise they way GW pushed the envelope of miniature making technology to produce the Bane Blade, Shadow Sword and Stompa, they pushed the envelope in a way that not that many people were demanding and which allowed them to sell an expansion which served to further encourage spending lots of money on a big army. Just once I’d like to see some evidence that they were investing in making the hobby better for gamers rather than in vanity projects that lead to more stuff they can hock to us.
So this weekend, I have ordered what could be my last GW purchases ever. My Brazen Angels are the most successful hobby project I’ve undertaken in years and I want to round them up to an even 2000 points, even if I never do the 3000 point Land Raider based assault army I originally planned. So I will finish them, and I will paint them and put them upon display. Depending on how my forays into other games turn out and the amount of hobby time the imminent birth of my first child allows it’s entirely possible I might never play a game with them. But if I do, it will be on a gaming table from B&Q, decorated with Amera scenery.