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Thursday, 14 February 2013

An open letter to Games Workshop

For me, Warhammer 40000 and Warhammer Fantasy Battles is a hobby that I enjoy, I look forward to the new releases. I actively promote the hobby to younger players and their parents as an excellent social activity. I supervise a gaming group for players under sixteen at my local independent retailer. I happily promote the models that Games Workshop produce with particular focus on the boxed set like Island of Blood and dark Vengeance. I see the two products as excellent value for money and the perfect way for players, both young and old, to get a foothold in the hobby. I have watched the models progress in quality from the very early plastic models to the superbly detailed models that are available. I seriously think that the level of quality and detail in a plastic model is astounding, I agree with the Games Workshop claim that they produce some of the finest models in the world.

Think of it this way, a thirteen year old child has so many options of what to do with free time, with video games become more and more immersive and the attraction of sporting activities. Games workshop produces a hobby that promotes several areas of childhood development. From the need for patience and concentration used whilst building and painting the models. They improve their literacy skills through the need to read the rulebooks. Children also develop important social skill as a result of interacting with other players. Over the years I have watched kids grow from brash young lads into respectable young men because they have played Warhammer at our local outlet.

As a hobbyist/player I have seen the best and worse of the hobby, sadly the current situation is the latter. Consider that the dark Vengeance box retails at less than £62; however the total value of the models if you were to buy the separate equivalent is almost four times that. There in lies the first problem, price! Games Workshop have admitted that the cost of producing miniatures has dropped, Finecast is cheaper and cleaner to make that the old metal models. As a result Games Workshop have reflected the reduction in cost by increasing the cost of a model in its Finecast equivalent by at least 50% unfortunately the quality of Finecast isn’t as great as Games Workshop claim. When Finecast was announced it was described as being comparable to the moon landing. To be honest I think most of the hobbyists I know see Finecast as the gaming equivalent of Marmite, personally I don’t like it, it’s too fragile and flimsy and there are still casting issues a year on from Finecasts release. With metal models at least any miscast models could be melted down and recast, with resin that option has been removed which goes to explain the price increase. The same can’t be said about plastic, miscast seem to be rare and if the is a problem with the casting that slips the GWs QC net and ends up in the hands of a hobbyist it can easily be fixed or thrown in a bits box for a later project. The quality and versatility of plastic also seems to have warranted a rather large price increase. I don’t have an insight as to how Games Workshop works out its prices but I do know that over the last few years a box of ten Space Marines, for example, would have cost the end user £18.00, as of February 2013 the same set is £23.00. There is also the larger models, a Land Raider, 2007 £35, 2013 £45. A Codex has increased from £18.00 on average to a rather wallet rupturing £30. Whilst other companies are lowering prices as a method to encourage its customers to spend with them, Games Workshops approach seems to be that of increase the end user cost because they will pay the amount for such quality, sadly this does not seem to be the case. I often see people in my local store (not a dedicated GW outlet) discussing the current prices and they are becoming more disheartened with the fact that in order to continue with the hobby they must either reduce the amount of models they buy or go elsewhere. As a manufacturer GW must be aware that more alternatives are starting to loom on the horizon. Those manufacturers are fast becoming serious rivals to Games Workshop, producing models of equal, if not a better, standard. The rules for the rival companies are also producing a less complicated rule set. Since the release of 6th edition playing a game has become a chore, before 6th we merely chose an army, selected a point limit, chose a game type and played. Now it’s almost at the stage where the set up takes an hour before the game itself starts. First choose an army, then roll a dice to see if the armies will actually face each other, if they agree to fight select a points limit, decide how many of your points will be spent on the main army, allies, fortifications and socks. Roll to see if your Warlord (the model that represents you leading the army to victory/defeat depending on how the dice roll) will have a trait that is actually of any use. Then roll to see what mission will be played, roll for deployment, roll for first turn, roll to seize initiative. Then there are hull points, for me that is one of the most pointless additions to the game! Most vehicles have 3 hull points, a hull point is lost through either a glancing hit or a penetrating hit, as soon as a vehicle loses all the hull points it’s wrecked. So at the start of the game you opponent fires everything that can glance or penetrate vehicles glances it to death and the points you put into the vehicle have gone before you get a turn. The designers claim that Hull Points were introduced so that vehicles had more chance of doing something in a game, sorry but it hasn’t worked. First turn a Predator takes three hits, two glancing and one penetrating. The glancing hit take away to hull points, the penetrating takes off the final hull point and the tank crew is stunned, not that there’s any point in rolling for the penetrating damage as by taking off three hull points the vehicle is lost anyway, the tank crew isn’t so much stunned, they’re more shocked at how ineffective the tanks armour has become. Here’s how I feel the Hull Points addition should be used: A predator has three Hull points, it takes a penetrating hit and the resulting damage takes off a hull point, the tank the takes a glancing hit, the controlling player then makes a save roll at the vehicles original hull point value, if the roll is failed a hull point is lost, if the roll is a pass then no hull point is removed. Only glancing hits can be save in this way, penetrating hits remove a hull point regardless of the penetrating hit result.

With regard to the introduction of flyers is clearly another endeavour to produce more unnecessary models that are excessively priced. A Storm Talon probably uses the same amount of plastic as a Rhino or a Drop pod and yet it costs £5 more than the latter model.

Games Workshop, if it is possible to produce box sets like Dark Vengeance, Isle of Blood and Escape from Goblin Town at such fantastic value for money then you must realise that this value can be carried through the rest of the range. I firmly believe that by August 2013 a box of ten models will cost a minimum of £25.

Games Workshop I ask you this, do your customers, you know the guys that hand over their hard earned cash for your products mean anything to you? Are you actually interest in what the hobbyist thinks? GW claims that they want to restore the shop based retail of the company and yet the stores have reduced opening hours and most of the stores only cater for the new player, any older players wanting a game are made to feel unwelcome. I suspect that this approach is also a marketing ploy along the lines of the fact that because the “veteran” player probably has almost all of the models he/she wants or needs so we won’t entertain them. Gone are the days when even dropping in for a small purchase and being welcomed as a valued customer are long gone, the guys that operate the GW outlets are trained in such a way to move on the person making a small purchase of just one or two models. Instead they focus on the new players who they can almost cajole into making excessive purchases. The last time I was witness to a GW hard sell I almost felt embarrassed not only for the chap making the sale but as a person who is passionate about the product. The sales pitch was more or less “buy Dark Vengeance, you’ll need dice, and a tape measure, and some paints, and brushes, and the codex for both armies, and these models to bolster your forces, don’t forget the glue, oh did you know there’s a Dark Vengeance novel? You’ll need that so that you have a fuller understanding of the story behind the game.” It was painful to watch and it was also clear that the guy making the sale was very uncomfortable with what he was doing.

I used to have a £50 monthly GW budget, five years ago that would get me a tank and a squad to go with it. In 2013 I’m lucky if my £50 per month gaming budget will buy a squad and the glue.

Games Workshop is making it harder for the Independent retailer to stock the product with ridiculous terms and conditions and restrictions on what an independent can stock. I would think that a standard box of five plastic models, Catachan Command Squad, would be easily available through my independent retailer but it is in fact a direct only product that I can order online or spend £6 travelling to my nearest GW outlet to be treated poorly or have them try to persuade me to make other purchases of stuff I don’t need or want.

Not only is Games Workshop forcing its customers to look elsewhere for the models, paints and tools but by limiting the availability of product to the independent retailers the company is doing very little to prevent the decline of the high street. How long will it be until the only option GW offers the consumer is “Buy from us either online or from a GW branded outlet only. Even with the outlandish rules, regulations and restrictions that GW place on the independent trader it is becoming harder to play at the GW stores. A while ago some fool posted a video in which it was claimed that GW ban the use of models that have not been put together with GW branded glue and painted with Citadel Paints, as crazy at it sounded three years ago I suspect that that particular day is looming ever closer when GW becomes interested in only selling the product and not promoting the games through taster days and mini tournaments and competitions.

So there it is, I’m a disgruntled hobbyist and gamer who is unhappy with the decisions being made by the Games Workshop Powers that be, the ones who see profit over customer relations, table top gaming is a niche market and GW claim to be the best in that niche. Well GW you fall short in that claim and the sales I see at my local store reflect that, with high prices, ridiculously high prices, people are buying less, if people are buying less they are spending less, do you see how that works? With people spending less that results in less hard cash falling into the GW coffers. Even with the rising prices the fact that the models are bringing in higher revenue doesn’t mean that more product is shifting.

Despite what I have written above I still enjoy the hobby, but not as much, I am buying less and I am looking at cheaper alternatives. Due to the over complicated rule set I enjoy the games less and I would rather paint than play. By switching to only painting I can be a little more choosy about the model I buy which means that there could be several months, if not more, before my disposable cash works its way into the bank of Games Workshop. I would like to think that there will be a time when GW returns to the halcyon days of yore when it actually cared what the customer thought and rewarded them with the odd treat like a free model on the front of White Dwarf or a rule set for a mini-game, Who remembers Arena of Blood, the Dark Eldar skirmish game that came with WD 229? Instead we get posters of all the models available for the main three ranges, badly designed posters at that, in order to see the full range you had to have two posters, which meant buying a second copy of White Dwarf. Another brilliant marketing tactic to sell more copies of what is rapidly becoming a very dull catalogue; in fact the Argos catalogue is probably more interesting.

So after a long absence from writing my return is nothing short of a whine about how unhappy I am with the current situation of the fictional worlds I spend my spare time in. But this goes beyond that, what this is meant to be is a message that will make GW sit up and take notice that if the devoted customers like myself are looking for alternatives then the they newer players will soon see that the way ahead is with another manufacturer and another set of rules.

Games Workshop, you are failing your customers and as a result you are slowly but surely ruining your own investment in a business that was started over 25 years ago by people who enjoyed sharing the world of hobby gaming and RPGs with like-minded people, it has now become nothing more than a means to an end, and that end is probably a sports car.

Monday, 13 August 2012

An explanation for the lack of posts

Yes it’s been a long time since I posted anything here, the reason for this is because the monster that is Games Workshop took it upon themselves to release a whole new batch of Necron models, they did the same at the end of March. Between December and February I had been busy painting Dreadfleet, and then we started the fortnightly gaming evening. Then last week I started painting the Necron models. You can follow the progress of Project Necron here: http://kalonsplog.blogspot.co.uk/. So far I have painted one Ghost Ark and one Doomsday Ark. Waiting to be painted is two Catacomb Command Barge / Annihilation Barges, two Triarch Stalkers, some plastic Wraiths, A couple of Tomb Spyders, some Tomb Blades, 3 boxes of Lychguard / Triarch Praetorians, 3 boxes of Immortals / Deathmarks, 5 Flayed Ones plus various Overlords and Cryptecs and a replacement Finecast Shard of the Nightbringer. Once all those are complete I will move on to a secret project for my Necron army that has been inspired by a post I saw on one of the 40k forums. So pop over to Project Necron and take a look, and if you do, please leave a comment.

Ta muchly Smile

Friday, 25 May 2012

The best laid plans…

We had the second of the fortnightly gamingsmiffy3 evening last night, another successful evening and we had a spectator along, two if we include Skeletal Sid.

Earlier in the week I was asked if I could take Dreadfleet down for the chaps to have a game. I said that I would and then it occurred to me that it wasn’t fully painted, there were a couple of islands, some shipwreck markers and a few other pieces that needed finishing, to be more accurate they needed to be started. So over the last two weeks I have spent Monday to Thursday evening with brush in hand and surrounded by paint pots, jars of water and reams of kitchen towel whilst franticly painting in order to complete the last of the Dreadfleet models, and what a journey it’s been. I started the first model back in December, in the three weeks leading up to Christmas I had painted eight of the ships. I had a break during the Christmas holiday and in January I carried on with the project, by April I had finished the ships and had made headway into the islands and shipwrecks.

Towards the end of April everything came to a halt as the kitchen table would be needed for other purposes. May arrived, bringing with it the wettest drought I’ve seen in a while so I took the opportunity to paint some assault marines that have been sitting around for the last eighteen months. Ten of the little blighters were painted and they had their first foray into battle last Saturday when they tore there way through a Blood Angel Tac Squad. Then it was into the final stretch of the Dreadfleet set, I had hoped to have it finished in time for the Thursday game session but some very uncooperative plumbing and an hour travelling to and from B&Q meant that I had all but five components of the entire set painted. I plan to spend one evening finishing them and I can sit back and relax.

On Thursday morning I gathered Dreadfleet and my Space Marine army, now the sole inhabitants of the army case, the Necrons have been temporarily consigned to the smaller figure case until they are completed and then an army case will be bought for that set. After work I headed to the shop where I showed sue the fruits of my labour, I’m pleased to say that she was impressed with the work I’d done. The usual suspect trickled in, each taking a look at the Dreadfleet models, I must admit that it does make the effort worth while when other people see your work and make comments like “WOW!” and “Oh that’s nice!” So with Dreadfleet getting the approval of some chaps that are much better painters than me I feel that the last six months of squinting, cursing and very late nights have all been worth the effort.

I will hopefully have the last few components finished very soon and then it’s straight on the next project, The Necrons. After finishing the Assault Marines, (Smiffy beware!) and with the completion of Dreadfleet imminent I am now looking forward to painting the Necrons, there will be a few firsts involved in the new project. It will be my first experience of painting the new* Finecast resin models and for the first time I have painted Character models rather than just standard HQ models. This means that I shall be following the original colour scheme and painting the Finecast models as they appear in the codex.

Once the Necrons are complete I think I will finally get around to painting Space Hulk and then the Skaven from the Isle of Blood set. I will also, Hopefully get on with the Tau whilst working on other projects.

I’m really pleased that the fortnightly gaming evening seems to be working, it means that I get to game a bit more often and this is restoring my enthusiasm for the game and the hobby in general. The last session was a brilliant evening and although I didn’t play, by choice, I enjoyed the company and the pure lunacy that arises when we’re playing with our toy soldiers, long may it continue.

Before I close this entry I have a little snippet of advice for those who have never used an airbrush and are planning on getting one at some point, get a dust mask! not for health and safety reasons, purely to prevent the look of complete horror when you blow your nose and what ends up in the tissue looks like you’ve had a major artery burst in your head, not a pretty sight and I still don’t get why we feel compelled to examine the contents of the tissue after clearing your nostrils.

The airbrush is a brilliant addition to my kit and it will halve the time it takes to paint the larger models.

Right that’s me done for now, I think I’ve waffled on enough and I’m sure you have better things to do than faffing around on the internet, maybe you should fix that leak thats been dripping for the last five months!

Ta ta