So, Games Workshop have released this year’s ‘mystery box’ product. Dreadfleet.
Colour me unenthused.
Partly my apathy is due to the models, which I think form a perfect illustration of how Warhammer miniatures have become so stylised as to be almost cartoonish. The terrain pieces in particular – a selection of rocky outcrops featuring giant graven skulls – could have been lifted wholesale from an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. The Empire greatship meanwhile looks like it could snap in half under its own weight at any moment. Much to my own surprise I must may a preferred the old Man O War models, especially the Dwarf ships.
But the models are a superficial problem. I’m more vexed by GW coming out with yet another superfluous vanity project that no one really asked for and charging people £70 for it.
Two years ago, GW rereleased Space Hulk as a limited edition stand-alone box set. In that case, it made sense in that context as Space Hulk was originally designed as a single boxed game, and the rerelease incorporated all the elements from the old Genestealler and Deathwing expansions. It was essentially a complete replication of something that used to be available. Space Hulk also benefited from very good miniature designs.
In the case of Dreadfleet however, GW seem to have tried to distil Man O War – a full blown wargame – into a boardgame version. I’m not sure how old Man O War Players will feel about this and whether they might be glad that their old game has been remade in any form at all or feel put out that it has come back in this stripped down almost tokenistic form. I’m not sure how many non-Man O War players will be interested, beyond the ‘new shiny’ syndrome or the ‘OMG it’s limited edition, grab it now!’ effect.
Fundamentally though, I don’t understand why GW bothered with this. I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to play Dreadfleet so I’ll probably never know if it’s actually a good game or not – beyond the anecdotes of friends and tweeps. I’m sure that it could be a perfectly good game and worth the heft £70 price tag, but surely the effort put into making this game a good game could be better spent elsewhere?
Am I the only one who thinks GW should be putting their time into supporting their existing games? Army books continue to trickle out of the design studio and I’m sure there must be players who would rather the designers get on with those rather than faff around with side projects that no one was really asking for. This is increasingly becoming my biggest grievance against Games Workshop, that they increasingly seems to be asking us to pay them to show off and indulge themselves rather than give their gamers the stuff they actually want and need – properly written and playtested rules, timely updates to army books, and all the stuff we actually need to play the core games day to day. People who play the GW Specialist Games have long had to accept that their games will get next to no support because GW is concentrating on its core range. They might well feel annoyed that GW have taken time out to resurrect a discontinued – and as I remember, somewhat flawed – game. Instead of giving their games any love.
I don’t want to slam Dreadfleet as such, it could be a very good game, but to me it symbolises so much of what has come to repel me about Games Workshop. Doing what they what to do with no regard to what the customers might want or need. Indulging in vanity projects instead of maintaining quality in their core products and then making us pay for their fun.
P.S. Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day for tomorrow!