Saturday, 2 July 2011

Are you in an abusive relationship?

Over the last 5 or so years I've slowly watched all of my fellow gaming buddies become steadily disenfranchised or disillusioned with the hobby... no sorry lets clarify, Games Workshop hobby. I watched Chris 'the cursed' Tapper go away time and time again to Warhammer Fantasy Tournaments and come back saying he had a good time, only then for him to tell me what happened. Only for him to realise he was actually only enjoying the beers on the nights out after the gaming. I've watched others grow tired of the price gouging and the annual above inflation price hike. I've watched as people realise that the tactics in 40k pretty much stop at army building. I've seen gamers grimace while reading the Dark Elves or Space Wolves army books. I've watched as the Games Workshop have systematically trashed their two core systems and pissed gamers off...

Willow Road, off of Lenton Lane Nottingham

So why am I telling you this? Well I'm telling it you because as an 'outsider' of sorts, or someone who always played games by other companies I've always felt that Games Workshop games were something I was choosing to do myself and that therefore my views of these screw ups Games Workshop keep making are quite different. You see I found them funny and tragic at the same time, I've never really had a hatred or anger that some have felt, sure I was pissed off that Matt 'minimum wage' Ward who must be paid in peanuts, so gloriously screwed up Fantasy! But to me it was the final confirmation that Games Workshop no longer wanted me as a customer. They don't want affluent, well informed geeks as customers because we're hard to please and they know they can't do it. Others though saw it as a personal slight or attack. Why? Well its partly to do with something that does annoy me about wargaming here in the UK, I say UK because I'm not sure its the same for the rest of the world... its a phrase, 'alternative wargamming'.

Mark Wells, CEO Game Workshop

Let me explain; you see whenever I mention other companies product people say 'oh you mean alternative wargamming' hell even a manager at the Maelstrom once used the phrase to describe everybody else's products to me, as did a Bagttlefront sales rep!!! That very phrase is psychologically interesting because it supposes that Games Workshop IS wargaming and that everything else is somehow either not wargaming or different, niche or some how 'less' even 'inferior'  or a copy of the original. Its obviously utter bollocks but it does show the state of mind that most hobbyists find themselves in here in the UK. Well I say the use of the phrase 'alternative wargaming' should stop right now!!! There is Games Workshop wargaming and then there is wargaming in general, there is nothing 'alternative' about me playing Infinity or Warmachine, nothing at all. Hell Warmachine is over a decade old now, its established and will no doubt soon become part of the establishment itself.

So what the hell am I rambling on about? Well I've been seen as either a herald of doom or a prophet of wisdom locally, depending on how you look at it. Because I've evangelised about Infinity, Warmachine or lately Spartan Games products. To Games Workshop zealots I'm an evil demon (notice there's no 'A' in the spelling of that word!) sent to tempt them with lies and falsehoods to turn them from virtuous gaming. Then there are those whose faith is faltering and who are no longer willing to sacrifice their hard earned cash at Games Workshops alter (the till); to them I've been a bit of a hobby saviour. I'll admit at first I was doing it for purely selfish reasons, I wanted more victi... sorry opponents to play, however slowly that has changed. Last night I realised that actually its no longer about getting 'fresh meat' into other games its now about helping people get their love of the hobby back.

I went to Warlords of Walsall gaming club, its not the biggest club, but it is well attended, by decent gamers. I went to promote Dystopian Wars, Firestorm Armada and Uncharted Seas. What I was met with is what I've been met with before, people not enjoying their hobby. People playing 40k and Fantasy and both players on both sides of the table looking glum and miserable. I asked a few whether they were enjoying their games and the question itself seemed to flumox a few. However those who did answer me in something other than a grunt said 'no'. So I asked 'so why are you playing something you don't enjoy?', this question is one I've often employed, its a similar question to one used by counselors to try and break into the mind of somebody trapped in an abusive relationship... because that's what the Games Workshop hobby has become for many. Think about it, they treat you like shit, take all your money and give you very little in return and then because you don't do anything about it, next year it escalates and they do more of the same to you, just worse, and if you complain the staff say its your fault you're doing things wrong its not them!!! If that's not an abusive relationship I don't know what is!!!

Thing is the analogy doesn't stop there, oh no. The response of these hobbyists are quite eerily reminiscent of those who are in abusive relationships as well:

  • I love the hobby (I love them)
  • There's nothing else out there (I've got no one to turn to)
  • What about all the money I've spent on my armies? (What about the kids?)
  • Other games / models aren't as good as Games Workshops (He's nice when he's not beating me)

There are other answers, but they're pretty much normally along those lines IF the person isn't enjoying the hobby. People are basically scared of buying into a game that might not be supported, or played by others. They also believe the crap that Games Workshop staff peddle about their miniatures being the best and their games being the best, the other part of the abusive relationship, mental torture and brainwashing.

So I'm here to help, but I'll only help those who clearly want help though. So what happened last night? I watched a room full of gamers get their interest in the hobby back, I watched them look at miniatures from the Infinity range and gasp as they said 'they're better than Games Workshop models' and a saw people confused by the detail on the surface of Dystopian Wars boats and utter the words 'this is resin? Its not like Finecast *pause* I like it'. I watched people who were refusing to spend money on their hobby talk about buying fleets and starter sets and discuss how they were going to do awesome colour schemes. I saw them play these games and enjoy themselves, I heard phrases like 'this is fun', 'its actually got tactics', 'they're that cheap!!!' and 'they give the rules away for free?'. Yep it gives you a warm glow when you help good gamers break the cycle of that abusive relationship. Its good to help gamers get their hobby back and its great to see them enthused and happy about toy soldiers again.

So this is my plea to fellow wargamers out there who know of wargamings wider patchwork of great games and awesome hobby options, get out there and help a fellow gamer out. Look if those panda's can help each other out so can we!!! We've all been there, we've all felt violated as we hand cash over to receive an expensive pile of crap we didn't really want. We've all sat playing games wandering why am I so bored, why is this game so lame, is there something wrong with me? Well we can help other gamers realise its not them, we can show them that there are other options out there if you're willing to break that abusive cycle. We owe it to our fellow gamer to help them get their love back for the hobby and besides, there's always a need for new opponents. Peace out!


  1. For a lot of gamers is a very good point. There's a lot of groupthink going on that saps people of their enthusiasm for the GW hobby (complaining that the world is over on a new edition rather than working out how to play to the new rules is often a great example of this). It doesn't mean they have the right attitude, but if they have at attitude then they really should take your advice on board and branch out.

    Personally I try to evangelise Warmachine amongst my gaming circle - it's a good skirmish game (though has problems at bigger battles), has a solid rules foundation and operates on a more tactical level than 40k (though I soundly reject that there are NO tactics in 40k).

    The biggest problem is lack of players when you try a new game - most any gaming club will play GW games, and if you can't manage that then you can go to any GW store and get a game. That will change with time, GW has been the biggest fish in a very small pond for a long time now. Competition is good, and will change the face of the hobby for the better in the long run.

  2. Yeah its a tongue in cheek look at the issue, which I hope comes across. However I take issue with the 'not taking the time to learn the rules'. I took the time to learn the rules for 8th and cracked it in my first 3 games and decided it wasn't enjoyable any more. Huge big units of Infantry and lack of variety on the board doesn't do it for me. I could harp on about what the games lacking now, but hey what's the point? You either know whats wrong with it or you're blissfully ignorant of it, in which case who the hell I am to try and ruin your hobby? lol. Yep competitors is an issue when you play a new game, no question but seeing 20 odd people last night decide en masse to do something different and new was really refreshing and I think Spartan Games will be getting increased business from the West Midlands.

  3. "Not taking time to learn the rules" That was an example, and not what I meant. I was referring to the groupthink aspect of it - a better example is that I will say "Oh, 8th has major issues with magic." or similar because that's what people in my circle say. But I don't play Fantasy, havn't in about six years. I have no real clue if 8th has any issues at all, I'm just suffering from groupthink rather than expressing my own opinion.

    It's perfectly possible that you can have your own actual opinion that you don't like a game, and in that case PLEASE go play something else. It's better for
    everyone if people who aren't enjoying a game aren't ruining it for those who are. As long as it doesn't start "I'm better than you because I like Space Elves but
    you like crappy normal Elves", then who cares what you play as long as you're having fun. Gaming clubs are about coming together to get shared enjoyment
    from a hobby - it really doesn't matter if the club plays one game system or two dozen.

    Just to make it clear: I wholeheartedly agree with you. There are other systems, and if you're not enjoying GW then play something else you do enjoy. Gaming of this type plays on OCD and addictive qualities that can keep you playing long after you actively hate the game itself, usually while complaining at people who are trying to have fun (the exact same thing haunts MMO style video games).

    Personally I maintain six forces across three game systems, so I won't be picking up anything anytime soon, but I still enjoy 40k despite GW.

  4. Ant no problem. I had a GW staff member tell me I probably didn't like it because it had 'evened the playing field. When I explained to them that I won all 3 games I'd played without giving away a single victory point because of mammoth infantry unit spam they went 'oh'. I then explained to them that I'd been playing WFB since I was 5 and this was the first edition I wouldn't be playing due to the changes. Its not the product for me its a kids game now and that's cool, I can understand that market decision.

  5. I have recently converted from the stagnant machine that is Gamesworkshop. I tried twice to build armies which I enjoyed and I couldn't, too many minis and all too similar. I was then about to give up on wargames all-together.

    I've now bought a Haqqislam infinity starter set and I must say I'm now hooked, not only on the excellent rules, but I'm actually enjoying painting again, I've so far spent 6 hours painting a single model, which I haven't done for months.

    So I'm saying thanks for spreading the word and I've started following your excellent blog.

  6. Nice article, and great use of the cycle of abuse. Made me smile, but it's entirely appropriate.

    It's slightly scary how many people simply fail to realise that there is more than GW out there. In fact, GW is a tiny and relatively stagnant backwater when you look at it in terms of rules and miniatures rather than market share.

    Pandas were cool too :)

  7. @Starforged, thanks and I'm glad you're enjoying the hobby again. As I've said many times I think the painting side of the hobby is jusy as important as the gaming side. Why? Well as a psychologist the painting offers something the gaming just can't in terms of 'downtime' 'self expression' and 'sense of achievement'. It also if you take your time and make an effort, brings you strangely closer to your armies and heightens the intensity of games you play and makes you care. It just gives you a 'richer' experience if you have to remove a beautifully painted Oniwaban as opposed to say a tank brushed and washed Skaven slave. GW forgot this important maxim a long, long time ago.

    @Quirkworthy Pandas are always cool!!! I think your description of the GW as a stagnant backwater in terms of rules and miniatures is actually entirely appropriate also. Many of their best miniatures and indeed rule ideas were done quite some time ago, when they actually employed passionate gamers to do all the important stuff, like your good self. There is just so much good stuff out there that people need to be informed about, I was going to cover 40k and fantasy but whats the point, GW don't want people like me any way plus their games are shyte, their miniatures (new dark eldar aside) haven't moved on or changed and Finecast is the worst substance I've ever worked with for miniatures. In short they can go forth and multiply.

  8. I've always preferred painting and the fluff and have never been that bothered about the games beyond a bit of fun that happens to use figures I have enjoyed painting. I really dont understand how people can be so closed minded about gaming. I shop around different companies and play and paint what I find fun. Sometimes its a D&D fest or GW or Warcraft. I find just stepping away to be far easier. Because I dont play as much as paint things like the Island of Blood will give me 12 months of fun painting without rushing and still allowing me to enjoy my other interests. What gets up my nose is when people leave GW to claim that some new company is the messiah and devote their entire hobby to a single company again.

  9. @Bloodwin I agree, people who focus intently on only one game system or company are just building themselves up for a similar fall. I play such a wide range of games from such a wide range of companies that I've never really fallen into that trap... and I hope that doesn't come across as smug because its not meant too. What I mean to say is that the Dark Elves army book never really annoyed me to the same degree because it was just one small part of a single game system amongst a rich tapestry of game systems that I played. However I am now leaving the GW behind me totally I think, I feel like I owe WFB one more go because of the years of gaming fun and pleasure its given me and i might pick up storm of magic to read... but I feel like I'm no longer the GW's target audience and I'm ok with it.

  10. *sob*
    It's's all true....

  11. @SinSynn lol. Does the GW hit you when no one is looking? Then do you have to tell people you walked into a door?

    I read your excellent blog on House of Paincakes and thought you sounded like so many 40k players round by me who are getting really fed up of the imbalance in the game between army books and more importantly the fact that the GW don't seem to care that they clearly favour Space Marine armies. They always have, and they always will. Perhaps you should have a look a something different?

  12. Article pretty much sums me up...pretty much why we starting playing lots of board games shortly after 8th ed...and now its stuff like WM/H, dystopain wars, and malifaux.

    There is plenty of great stuff out there.

  13. @Lord Azaghul, yeah I too have got back into board games again, God only knows how I forgot the fact that as a kid that's what I used to play an awful lot of!!! lol. But strangely your memory does warp and twist as you get older. I think you're like a lot of people though, stuck in a GW rut. I don't think its fair for people like you and me to hang around the GW all the time saying its crap and bringing those down who do still love it... BUT ever now and then I will comment because deep down I have a lot of love for the GW and what they've given me over the years in my hobby. I used to be their fiercest defender, now I'm just a frustrated and dejected observer I guess.

  14. PS you Avatar is most definitely approved by my catz!!!

    Macca says its "ver gud!"

  15. Had a nice long comment ready to go, phone got a bit derpy and that went out the window. >.> Round 2 begin. lol

    I must have either missed this article or not gotten far enough through the archives to catch it, but thanks to Blog Necromancy Day 2012 I got to enjoy this one too! I would have list myself as one of the victims of this abuse, oftentimes I've found myself giving the same reasons why I play, as do I hear these reasons from my friends when they complain as well. I remember when playing a game of 40k was a thrilling, fun filled night of heated battles and fluff discussions... Sadly those days have long since passed. My current work work schedule has given me little time to enjoy wargaming, but has given me ample time to mull over your words FLG, and what wargaming has been for me the last year and half.

    The last few games of 40k which I've been able to squeeze in have often left me with a hollow victory, or a crushing defeat that just left a bad taste in my mouth. Now Im aware that attitude does play a large part in how this plays out, however I've noticed after multiple games with various people in my gaming area, that the victory or loss can be seen about from the point that models are placed on the field. I've often felt after a game was over, why even bother rolling the dice after that initial reaction? After battle discussion I find my have been in the same boat, if they hadn't been vocalising the sentiment from round 2 onwards.

    Things got pretty miserable then with GW rumor crackdown, finecast, cost increases, you know the whole deal... until I found this little corner of the internets.

    Infinity, you mean I can act at the same time, in a terrain filled battlefield, with my opponent, and those cool minis I'd seen once or twice as proxies? Now we've got big stompy robots, freebooters, bushido, and boardgames?? Things got better and better, your wargaming intrigues further teasing my interests and curiosities, rulebooks and pdfs start showing up on my computer and at my doorstep... Suddenly the excitement in wargaming is back!

    I've been trying to evangelise these new discoveries to my fellow gamers, open their eyes as mine have been, but its proving a daunting task. These fellows of mine have all been such GW fans since wee lads as have I. Hopefully soon as I manage to build up some starting forces and the resources to play these games I can further intrigue them. My plans so far have been slowly drawing attention, perhaps a good sign to my efforts. Having been caught up in GW's diabolical plans to buy more I found myself losing sight of the hobby aspect of wargaming. Luckily with some elbow grease on ebay, I've been able to contain my out of control relationship with GW, and have shifted my view back to the complete hobby involved in wargaming by starting up some of the games you've displayed that sparked my intrigues.

    So thanks FLG for bring the fun back to wargaming with your humor, your reviews (terrain, wargames and boardgames) and sermans. I look forward to this Golden Age of Gaming, and the many good tidings it brings! (but my wallet does not. :P)

    1. Firstly, apologies to your wallet. It seems I have that 'effect' on them. I'd like to say I don't mean it... but I kinda do. I want people playing these games because I think they're great. I also think people will enjoy hobbying elsewhere more too. Why? Because these companies are actually run and staffed by enthusiasts. The guy who pulls the mini's at Corvus Belli? I bet he plays games and wouldn't send out a crappy cast to a fellow gamer. The guys who write Heavy Gear Blitz, they gamers like you and me who have been there done that and worn the T-Shirt. Simply put these companies are run by people like us for us. Games Workshop no longer is.

      Your feelings and story are the same as countless others who have read this and sent me an email to explain their predicament. If it's any consolation many have sent me emails a few weeks later saying they've got people into HoMachine, Mofaux or Infinity. Once that gaming cherry is popped as well people will go and try other things. Some people send their friends to my Blog and tell them to read certain articles. I've been told I'm persuasive and helpful. So maybe it's worth a go! Where abouts are you based? Are you in the UK?

    2. At times I wish I was UK based, but reality pits me in battle stateside, Central Pennsylvania. Sadly wargaming isnt strong in the area, there are a few gaming groups in the biggest cities around the state, but the local gaming stores are even more rare, the closest to me being 2 and a half hours away. Therefore wargaming is pretty well isolated to my close friends and people I can draw into the hobby with tales of epic adventure, battlefield heroics and the ever so rare, hotly painted toy soldier by yours truly. lol

      Also as I've recently (the last 3 years) have moved out on my own and become an independent person, I've not been able to sit down with the gang and bang out a good roleplay session or get in that intro game. Luckily though when Wobbey shows up with fancy new toys, eyes glisten and children listen to hear tales of these new wonders. Its been a refreshing break between the time I rue at my weekly money grind. lol