Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Is the Imperium a Metaphor for Games Workshop? The riposte!

It's a well known symbol, and one that stands for stability above all else

Well a little over a month ago I poured out some thoughts that I had bottled up in my brain, and maybe a few emotions I'd stored up in my heart. I poured them into this article here, and I hoped it would spark a bit of debate amongst bloggers and hobbyists alike. Not nerd rage or the normal play ground arguments we're used to seeing on an awful lot of message boards out there, where insults and ignorance win the day. No, I had hoped I'd get responses from like minded gamers, who care about our hobby, and yes care about Games Workshop. I wanted people to stop and think about things properly, rather than just leap into the pro or anti camps as so often happens with any attempts to discuss Games Workshop. In my first article I really did wear my heart on my sleeve, I was honest about how I felt. I wanted others to respond in a similarly passionate way and convince me of some of the counter arguments.

It didn't happen quite like that, or at all. In some respects the article was a success. I know from the responses I've had to the article and also private emails I've received that the article itself did get many people thinking about Games Workshop properly, rather than just blindly falling into the pro or anti camps we so often get. It was a success on the old hits counter too, if you can measure success in such ways. What I didn't expect though, if I'm honest was that the over whelming amount of responses I got to the article were people agreeing with me in the main or totally. My attempt to create a bit of passionate discussion, or debate without resorting to name calling, mud slinging and nerd rage failed. To be honest it spectacularly failed and as such I view the article as a bit of a personal failiure. Hell in the end I'd have taken a bit of nerd rage if it had sparked a bit of debate. So I've been pondering that article for a little while now.

Yeah so they're cannon fodder, but they're devoted cannon fodder!

You see, I deliberately chose the Imperium as a metaphor because I thought it was such a vast concept with the 40k background that it could in fact be twisted quite easily to whatever purpose you wished, when describing Games Workshop. I still believe the broad brush strokes I made in that article, when viewed from certain angles or perspectives ring true today, but I was deliberately one-sided in my commentary because that's normally the way you spark debate, even if I do more readily associated with those views I passionately expressed. It's certainly true of academia and other fields I have worked in, but not it seems wargaming. Perhaps the article was too long, perhaps people thought it so badly written that it neither deserved or indeed needed a well written riposte! Or maybe the contrary is true, perhaps people thought what I had written was so comprehensive and potentially intimidating that no one dared take it on...

But, given this is the Internet we're talking about here, where anonymity and 'robust' opinions come together to from a whirling vortex of controversy, I very much doubt it was the later option. I'm sure if the mood had taken some, there would have been plenty of people willing to shoot holes in the original. So what am I left with? Do I leave the subject alone? Allowing it to sit there as a single piece, an article in glorious isolation? I mean it's proved very popular and has gotten some rave reviews from some, so for many that would be reward enough. Not for me though, I don't like presenting lop sided arguments mainly because they are weak and invariably fall short of exposing the full truth. they serve their purpose normally by tweasing out varying strands of the truth from others, creating a discussion, discourse or lively debate, but beyond that they serve little useful purpose. They're supposed to be a catalyst for further enhancing our knowledge and understanding. I like to think of myself as a well rounded individual who can take a balanced view of things and as such I need to write my own riposte. Yes, it'll be long but I've tried to ensure it's not as long.

Playing Devils Advocate

So is the Imperium of Man a useful metaphor for the state of play with Games Workshop? Does it serve as a useful reference point for discussion? Yes and no. If I wanted to make any point at all about Games Workshop, be it positive or negative the background is so vast and diverse I could find some aspect of it and twist it to my means and ends. Ironically those exact same reasons also make it a splendid tool for use as a metaphor, as Games Workshop itself is a vast and varied topic with many facets to it. The reality is, the fact Games Workshop have developed such a vast and colourful background for their games is an undeniable strength as a company, and it shows their breadth and depth. It enables us as hobbyists and fans to engage deeper with the 40k universe than any other game universe. And as such I will also be using it as a metaphor in this riposte to my original article, to extol the virtues of Games Workshop. To lever in other examples from within the background to show how strong Games Workshop is and how as the Imperium of Man they will endure, grow stronger and ultimately triumph over their Xenos and Chaotic enemies.

So on the table they're a little broken, but they are cool!

The Imperium of Man endures not because it is stubborn, but because if it did not do so it would die. It's strength does not come from some single omnipotent leader as many would have you believe, it comes from it's multitude of citizens at all levels. Various facets of 'Government' uniting over a common cause, true the focal point in the fluff might be the Emperor, but he represents an ideal rather than an actual physical entity. Games Workshop is no different, in many respects it shares this strength of endurance with its fictional creation. Their two main games have endured for a very long time indeed. Warhammer Fanatsy Battle was first released in 1983, it's nearly 30 years old now, how many other wargames can say that? Warhammer 40,000 started life 4 short years later in 1987, as Rogue Trader, it too is a venerable old statesmen of the wargaming establishment. They have stuck true to their roots and design principles throughout this time, maintaining a consistency of existence and steadily building on it to create this vast universe that many others have struggled to compete with, and failed to match with their own products. They've ultimately failed to grasp this, and have caused their own demise. Games Workshop and their games endure like the Imperium of man because they know it's right to do so, and to give up now would mean all the previous struggles had been in vain.

This strength of purpose and religious zeal to the cause might be unpalatable to some, both in terms of the Imperium and Games Workshop. But so what? Empires aren't maintained by allowing deviance and new ideas in, they weaken the whole and once the questioning starts the unity disappears. That way lies oblivion and destruction and ultimately the demise of a way of doing things. Their way of doing things, as to change is to become something different. Games Workshop has maintained a common language of it's game systems for a very long time, much like Imperial Gothic, it enables hobbyists far and wide to communicate effectively over time and space. Should a long lost colony (a gamer) come back into contact with the Imperium after being lost to it for many years, then they will still have that same common language to communicate with. The Imperium will still be their for them and accept them back into the fold, they can start again from where they last left off. This is a strength to the hobby and Games Workshop in particular. No other game systems can claim this or even come close, and that's because where others have changed they've endured.

The Imperium might be an uncompromising place, but there is safety in numbers

We can all choose to leave the Imperium and fall under the sway of Xenos or Chaos, to play Warmachine, Flames of War, Malifaux or Infinity. We can go out and try new things, new heresies, but the Imperium of Man will still be there when we eventually return. Stoically it will have preserved its essence, and it will welcome lost sheep back into it's fold easily and effortlessly, with open arms and like we had never gone away. How many people do you know who left the hobby in their early 20's to get married, have kids, buy a house? Only for them to return years later and ask if Space Marines still exist? Of course they fricking exist, this is the Imperium of Man!!! Their methods and business model will still be familiar, warm and comforting. They might even still be able to use miniatures stored away in their attic. There will still be a local shop waiting to help them back on their way, the empire is still standing. The hobby needs this empire to endure, because without it our hobby loses its reference point.

Space Marines bravely holding back the tide
The Emperors Great Crusade might have crushed and quashed many smaller human civilisations under its inextricable advance, and Games Workshop may have done the same as it expanded. But, the hobby needed uniting if it was ever going to thrive and become the multi-million pound business it is today. Games Workshop have paved the way for others to thrive, without Games Workshop there'd be no Chaos, No Mantic Games, Privateer Press or many others. Without them providing an empire and a horde of 'citizens' for other to assault and colonise, those other companies wouldn't be able to thrive. Many of them are like the Orks, simply rampaging through the Imperium re-purposing the tools and equipment they find to their own ends. Very few are inventing much new, Game Workshops investment in their IP and technology such as plastics has shown the way for others. This trickle down will impact on other companies and games, but without Games Workshop many of these other companies wouldn't be in the position to reap those benefits. Those who call for the demise of the Imperium call for their own demise.

Much may have changed since this picture, but its undeniably 40k

Their are companies out there who have no official link to Games Workshop, rogue traders if you will, who's very existence depends on the spin off sales from the vast empire Games Workshop have built themselves. Resin bases from companies like Dragon Forge Designs, Micro Art Studios, Antenocitis Workshop and many others beside exist from the trade Games Workshop games provide. Conversion kits for 40k from people like Puppet Wars and many others allow them to survive financially, and withut this they would not exist for other games systems. They provide variance and richness to the Games Workshop hobby, but this also trickles out into the wider hobby too. It's a symbiotic relationship, the Games Workshop provides the customers for the hobby, just like the Imperium provides the resources for other races to live off of.

Tell me this isn't bad ass! Who's side are you on?
Think about it, would Horus have been able to lead his heresy had not the Emperor and he united the galaxy in the first place? Would Warmachine and Hordes exist? Would Mantic be able to have done what they have done without Games Workshop showing them the way? They provide a bench mark, the galaxy standard if you will. They are the barometer others pitch themselves against to find their 'niche' within the marketplace. We're cheaper than them! We're offering more tactical games! Our miniatures are more finely detailed than theirs are! Games Workshop provides an enemy to rail against. Without that standard, bench mark or universal understand of wargaming that they provide the hobby, how would any of us truly be able to judge the value of others products. Without Games Workshop introducing us all to this hobby we so love where would we be? You can speculate on the unknown of that question, but truly the hobby world we all operate in has been so totally shaped by them that it is impossible to know for sure. The time before them seems like the myth and legend in their background fluff, much of it romaticised and viewed through rose coloured optics I feel.

The Imperium has many facets, it's not just Space Marines

So yes the Interent might be Chaos, the analogy certainly fits, but like the Imprium of Man Games Workshop uses the Warp as little as possible and only when it needs to. It refuses to bend to its will, changing it's ways to suit whatever fad might be popular as others do. Or flip flopping from one bandwagon to the next, can we really blame them for not embracing Chaos? When all it seems to throw at them is spite and vitriol. Look around the Internet, see the 'seething animosity' the 'rage unbound' and ask yourself, is that where you want your hobby to be? Do you want the hobby to descend so lowly to that base level of discourse and communication? Or do you feel more comforted and happier sticking with the dependable rock that is Games Workshop? Sure they make mistakes and not everything is perfect, but it is more cordial and civilised than the brutal world of Chaos that exists beyond its realm. Sure some of us will thrive in the warp and love the new temptations that exist, falling totally to Chaos. But that's not for everyone, and Games Workshop are right to maintain the hobby as they see it for the majority.

Without them their would be a void of utter Chaos. The dark long night, people and hobby disjointed, sporadic communities rising and falling as quickly as a blinking of an eye. While some of us might toil under the yoke of unfair taxes (Australia and New Zealand), and suffer the burdens greater than others, it is for the good of the Imperium and the hobby. That might be an unpalatable truth, but Games Workshop has shown the best way, the only plausible way so far to grow the hobby is to maintain a local presence. Imperial outposts in far flung corners of the galaxy to ensure compliance, to recruit fresh meat to the Imperial Guard, maybe even the odd Space Marine too. That doesn't come cheaply, and if we want a healthy hobby surely we should all pay for that? Without Games Workshop what would our hobby look like? Who would indoctrinate the fresh blood to keep the hobby thriving? Who would keep the hobby growing and sustainable for all? Us, the gamers? Many of us can't keep our clubs going without help from Games Workshop, true that help also stifles at times, but with good intent. It must do, because despite this apparent mistreatment many remain loyal. Maybe blindly so, but like the Imperial citizens they have faith in something bigger than them, something greater.

Even I with my cynical and critical gaze must admire the passion and loyalty they still inspire in so many. I might always have been an outsider of sorts, the traitor within at other times, but I have seen the strength they provide. I have had bad service off of them, felt mistreated and frustrated at times, but as a company they're there doing their best. I mentioned a manager last time who exemplified the sort of good service you normally get in Games Workshops, Brett. But there are others who continue to surprise me, even though they know I'm not what you might call a devout Games Workshop hobbyist they all know this and respect it, but people like Richard at Solihull, Adam at Walsall and Stephen at Wolverhapton do their jobs with diligence and dignity. They've all tried getting me back into the fold, they've succeeded at different times too, with their friendly and professional attitudes and good customer service. Their enthusiasm is at times infectious and it is unfair therefore to tar the soldiers of the Imperium with the poor service of one. It's people like these who make the hobby what it is, hobbyists in the truest sense.

Beset on all sides they still bravely fight on!
The hobby world Games Workshop have created is as disparate as those hobbyists and we all want to make it. It's as vibrant as it is because of the shear numbers of gamers that currently play their games and have played their games. We've all added to the hobby as we've gone on, enriching it for others that come after, sure it's still Games Workshops IP, but it's our games! What other game systems have tournaments the size of those provided by Games Workshops systems? What other systems have Golden Daemon? What other systems have thousands upon on thousands of blogs dedicated to them? What other game system has as many Gaming clubs dedicated to their products? Provides as many cool looking miniatures? Maybe the system or plan is broken to an extent for some of us, but surely the Imperium must have some good aspects to it for it to have grown so big, for it to endure. For it to be able to support the fabulous products provided by ancilliary companies like Forge World and the Black Library. Then there are the third parties that thrive off of the Games Workshop too, with computer games from THQ and the RPGs and board games provided by Fantasy Flight Games. Maybe the Imperium of Man will ultimately falter and fail, like all empires do, because nothing man ever puts his hand to is built to last, because time erodes and changes all. But the day that it does fall will be a sad day for our hobby as a whole, and me.


So there it is, the counter argument as presented by myself. I accept it's not as long as my previous effort, that's not to do with me being deliberately biased to one side of the argument (although I probably am), I accept that much of what I have presented here is me playing pure devils advocate. No, it is more to do with the fact that the one single biggest gripe people had with the previous article was that it was too long. A criticism I have a degree of sympathy with. As such I tried to make my salient points briefly and as succinctly as possible this time around. hopefully it wasn't as long winded for some of you, and if you've read both in their entirety then I owe you my gratitude. I'm sure some of you will be wandering however, what my real position on all of this actually is. The truth lies somewhere between the two articles, but I'm not going to pretend, or lie to you and say that it sits comfortably in the middle because it does not.

Warhammer 40,000 has even influenced Lady GaGa!!!

While what I have written here within this second article is also part of 'my truth' on Games Workshop, and I believe in most of the points I have made, I invariably lean far more heavily towards the opinions I passionately expressed in the first article. Perhaps it is because I see the strengths I've illuminated in this riposte article, that the faults and weaknesses I identified as being inherent in the first article cause me such anguish and turmoil as a wargamer. Obviously both articles are just my opinion, they're not fact, very little in life is fact and we would all do well to remember that. What you all need to do therefore is come to our own opinions and conclusions, rather than blindly accepting the opinions of others as our own. Who knows why I feel the way I do about Games Workshop, perhaps somebody else can explain it to me. Peace out!


  1. I stay in Games Workshop because of the fluff of the Old World and the Imperium. Pretty much. As long as Dark Elves remain sadistic 'Lawful Evil' types who are technically not Chaos Elves because they're too arrogant to bow to Chaos, I'll be collecting Dark Elves. As long as 40k remains utterly cool, I'll be there.
    But that doesn't mean I'm married to Games Workshop and their products. If I see tastier Infinity models, I'm gonna paint them, and if I see superior fleet gaming and Steampunkness in Dystopian Wars, I'll take my Blazing Sun armada out for a cruise. And if HoMachine wants to give me magically-powered Soviet deathbots and some angry elves to boot - so be it. But I can't honestly say I'll ever write GW off until they stop being what they are or I stop enjoying wargaming.

  2. @GoldenKaos, I think my good man we agree. Strangely it seems we have very similar tastes in armies:

    Dark Eldar = check
    EotBS = check
    Angry Elves = check

    what you collecting for Infinity?

  3. Japanese Sectorial Army - Yu Jing.

    Incidentally, I've only got *some* Khador for HoMachine, though the Angry Elves are high on my 'want' list. Privateer Press has not seen that much of my moolah yet.

  4. @GoldenKaos, funny. My original force I was going to use when getting back into Warmachine was Khador. However, the Angry Elves came out and my mate now collects Khador. My first Infinity force was also Yu Jing JSA sectorial. Great minds and all that... well or we're both just really unoriginal!!! lol.

  5. Perhaps. I go with my gut when choosing armies rather than actually thinking much about it. Fluff feeling, as it were.

  6. "Perhaps it is because I see the strengths I've illuminated in this riposte article, that the faults and weaknesses I identified as being inherent in the first article cause me such anguish and turmoil as a wargamer."

    This. And that's also going to be your problem with getting good discussion going, as it's a similar feeling among the other veteran players I've talked to on the subject. I've played GW games since WHFB II (25 years or so), and the latest versions of FB and 40k simply leave me cold.

    (And now I've got an urge to paint some of my spare Khador jacks in Yu Jing ninja greens instead of the blancmange pink I painted the first few in (worn Soviet-esque winter whitewash over Khador red looks more than a bit pink).)

  7. 'they will endure, grow stronger and ultimately triumph over their Xenos and Chaotic enemies.'
    ...pure Imperial propaganda.

    I find it amusing that you wrote maybe the most memorable single post in all of blogdom this year, and you're not happy that people didn't take umbrage with it's contents.
    In fact, I'd say it was so in tune with the mood of it's audience that comments were basically a moot point, and mostly kudos was in order.
    If you were looking to 'piss people off,' you're gonna hafta try being less eloquent, buddeh.

    You make some good points here- GW is, in fact, the 'point of entry' for many hobbyists. Yes, they did 'set the stage' for many companies to enact their own little shows upon.
    Alternately, games like HoMachine, Malifaux, Flames of War and Infinity couldn't be successful with the whole 'we're NOT GW' approach unless there was some serious resentment building.
    Empires start rotting from within, and it's been GW's Imperious tendencies that have seen their frontiers assailed, their borders pushed back a bit.
    Since their counter attacks seem to be things like...Dreadfleet, can't expect a lot of gamers to leap to their defense.
    It's just not worth defending, and kinda hard to do.

    I almost thought GW did something clever, with the new Battleforce boxes, until I saw the Space Marine box includes a Land Raider Redeemer and a Land Speeder Storm with a squad of scouts.
    Nobody wants a Land Speeder Storm. Nobody.
    Sigh, GW....just sigh.
    The box is just a Christmas throwaway, intended for parents to buy for the kids.
    It'll probably hang around forever, though, not selling nearly as well as the same box with a regular Land Speeder and a Land Raider Crusader.
    I mean, seriously- how friggin' HARD IS THIS?
    Why bundle the fail models? WHY? WHY WHY WHY?
    *angry facepalm*

    The other box set (Dark Eldar) is...actually pretty good. So how did GW manage to mess up with their poster boys?
    I have a theory....
    The Emperor has no clothes.

  8. I'll be really honest here in the risk of making myself unpopular (on the Internets, oh no!):

    I didn't reply to the original post because I've become fed up of the anti-GW echo chamber. I've discussed the whole thing to death in person and simply cannot be bothered on the internet: I like GW, most of the 'bitter vet' crowd don't, end of. I'm not going to convince anyone to give the games another shot and it's not my business to.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm still evangelical about my game but I talk to the new blood about it instead of the vet crowd. But I'll also talk to them about Warmahordes, Infinity, FSA, blah, blah, blah if they show interest in skirmish games/fleet games/whatever. They come to me wanting a sci-fi army game, you bet your sweet booty I'll be raving about 40k until my teeth fall out.

    This isn't to say there isn't good discussion to be had (a certain Mr. Tapper has entertained me along these very lines), I just don't think you'll find it on the internet.

  9. @Ant Holloway, I'd have agreed with you a few months ago, but you're wrong. I've actually had plenty of really sound solid discussion with plenty of people on this blog and others. It's been civil, and high brow most of the time as well. Perhaps it's because we have control of our blogs and it's kind of like going round somebodies house and taking a dump on their sofa if you're a douche about it. I had over 350 emails from people in response to the original, and some of them were from individuals 'within the industry' and a good solid 95% of them were in total agreement with the article, which was a shock to me because I wasn't in total agreement with it myself!!! I think saying it's the veteran crew as well is a bit misleading, when does somebody become a vet? That's a bullshit statemment too I'm afraid, is 1 year in the hobby a vet? because I had emails off of 14 and 15 year old kids who had just started out and were fed up with the hobby and the amount of time and money it took. Are they vets? Nope, generalisations don't really help in this sort of discussion either way. I still hope 6th gives me a reason to finish off my Ultramarines!!! lol.

  10. "95% of them were in total agreement with the article".

    That's what I meant, there's not really much point lending another voice to the 5% when you're that outnumbered. You are correct that blog discussion tends to be better than the dreaded forum discussion, but I'd still rather have these kinds of discussions in person (if nothing else, it removes the ambiguity of written language).

    In regards the "bitter veteran" archetype, I really don't need to spell this out, do I? Everyone knows at least one of them for something (I myself am one when it comes to World of Warcraft). Simply someone who has done the activity, has stopped (or drastically reduced their participation) for whatever reason and is now hell-bent on ensuring that others still playing are fully aware of their distaste (much to the chagrin of those still enjoying the activity). I wasn't tarring everyone who had played the game for X amount of time with the same brush, I was referring to a particular archetype of hobbyist (that's in no way restricted to wargamers).

    If new players get into this game and are surprised at the effort it takes (both in time investment and in financial investment) then they really should have picked a different game. Model for model the prices are pretty much average (less in a lot of cases) but it's an army-scale game, not a skirmish-level game. If no one explained that to them it's not the game's fault or the company's fault, it's either their fault for not researching it or the fault of whoever misled them into thinking it was a cheap and easy hobby (I don't think I've ever heard anyone accuse 40k of being cheap - two minutes in a GW store rob you off this delusion rather quickly).

    Gah, now I'm discussing it on the internet. I guess that loses me my point anyway!

  11. @Ant Holloway, yeah I agree with the ambiguity thing. Sad thing is that means I'm ony ever going to talk within a relatively small circle of friends who have the same limited experiences as I have in the main. Via the blog I've made contact with peeps all over the world and I've found it personally fascinating to see that although there are similarities in what we all love and dislike, the reasons can be really different.

    I think GW and the stores kinda are to blame though in some cases. I stood in Coventry store about 7 months ago now and heard the manager tell a parent and a kid of about 9 that 40k was totally for him and kids his age and all he'd need was the Black reach box set some paint and glue and he'd be away and that's all he'd need. Now technically he was telling the truth, the reality is something very different. Why did this manager act in what I'd personally deem an underhanded way? Because the company will have given him a core game target to reach... bah. Whatever, look I never actually had an issue with GW or 40k in particular until it slowly started becoming the only game in town so to speak and the other things I played became less accessible. Is that GW's fault? No. But it did lead to over exposure of limited game systems that were never going to keep me happy in my hobby. I think GW need these other newer companies as much as they need GW. It's about time some of them started picking up some of the slack on recruitment and broader hobby promotion as well!

  12. Bad managers are bad. It's been a long time since I've had a bad experience with a GW store manager, but they are out there. He is right in one way, I used to play 500 (inflation-adjusted) point games ALL the time as a kid, but he also knows he's misleading that kid in regards to playing "standard" games. He's just a dick (and don't get me started on the GW staff who DON'T EVEN PLAY THE ------- GAMES).

    I really, REALLY agree with your final point there. I love my "alternate games", but by the Emprah I wish I didn't have to use the label "alternate" to communicate what I mean.

    I wouldn't go so far as some ("ALL THESE PARASITES FEEDING OFF THE PLAYERS GW CREATE!") but if Privateer Press, Corvus Belli, Spartan, etc want to have greater exposure they need to actually DO something more than hoping to gain players that have been cultivated into the hobby by Games Workshop. Privateer deserve some credit here, but being English I don't see a lot of their efforts in this area.

    There IS no Necromunda any more, so Infinity does the job. There's no Battlefleet Gothic, so FSA does the job. There are obvious niches that have been identified, but these companies need to push out of those niches and their little corners if they want the share of the pie they arguably deserve. We all know there are gamers out there who love these games, so why not hook 'em while they're fresh rather than relying on them burning out on GW first.

  13. @Fiendil, I think pink Warjacks sound ace, image the indignity of being crushed into the ground with somebodies pink Warjack. Surely it'd just add to the humiliation!!! lol. I honestly didn't know what the reaction was going to be, I knew how I felt and how my friends felt. What I didn't know was that an awful lot of people out there felt the same. Genuinely.

    @SinSynn, well that's me. If you ever get to meet me then you'll know I'm never really truly happy with my own work. No matter what it is. I set out to spark a bit of debate and perhaps get some responses that made me think. On that score it failed totally and utterly. Most would be happy with it, but not I, as it was totally biased, and I'm not that sort of guy generally speaking. Passionate yes, but biased no. Hopefully I've readressed a little bit of the balance here with this article, but I'm still more than happy with what I said in the original.

    @Ant, yep agreed bad managers are bad manager, but I have heard the 'it's cheap line' from far too many staff members and the 'it's all you need' line too. Why? because of core game target sales and the drive for like for like growth that still gets pushed. When they should be looking for profitability as opposed to growth. Yes the staff that don't play the games annoy me. In B'ham a fair few months back now I had to step in and correct a staff member over 40k rules and what he was advising a kid to spend his pocket money on. The kid came in wanting one thing and the staff member was telling him he was wrong. The kid was spot on, Thunder hammer a storm shield is the way to go!!! lol. The staff member clearly didn't play the game when I pushed him on it he admitted as much. In terms of other companies trying to get out there, Corvus Belli are doing a bit in mainland europe, and pushing the youtube vids. I had an email from a chap in Melbourne Australia asking about Infinity and I started from teh standpoint that he obviously knew 40k and GW. His response 'sorry mate what's 40k?' There are new methods to reaching n00bs it seems. lol.

  14. "without Games Workshop there'd be no Chaos, No Mantic Games"

    With regards "chaos" as a "bad guys" concept, I thought that was Moorcock? And GW just ran with it. (It's been a lot of years since I read the books, so I may be mis-remembering.)

    I can't argue with "without GW there'd be no Mantic" at all though, seeing as most, if not all, of their people are ex-GW staff...

    Ant Holloway: "Privateer deserve some credit here, but being English I don't see a lot of their efforts in this area."

    I don't know how widespread they are in the UK, but there's a Press Ganger that's a regular at Maelstrom. He runs small tournaments and demos on a regular basis.

  15. @Fiendil - the problem with that is that people need to be actually inside Maelstrom Games to notice him. Games Workshop is a fairly well-known street presence (considering its niche market) and recruits passers that way. Privateer (etc) need to embrace places like Forbidden Planet, where people who would be friendly to their kinds of games already go to get that same street presence. I see heroclix and board games in these chains, there should be some PP stuff too!

  16. @frontline gamer

    Great read, I guess GW isnt the rock in NZ like it is in the UK. There are only 4 or so stores in the whole country and I would think most people get their GW product through local stores. Even in Wellington I know of 3 places other than GW that sell GW product and other gaming gear. The clubs movement is pretty strong as well. I don't know if GW has that reassarance vibe for most NZ players, and its always been perceived as a foreign company.

    Thanks for the tip of the hat in your post to the Australia/New Zealand issue. For those who are interested on that particular chestnut I made a post here about it.

  17. Well, this goes back to a point Frontline made a while ago, about divorcing the retail chain from the design studio. If Games Workshop stores began selling and hosting games that were not Games Workshop... what would happen? I've only been in the hobby for roughly a over year or so 'proper' (I was collecting and painting before, but no gaming or interaction with gamers), and I've only been in a GW store once to pick up some much needed paints, and so I've heard of tales when GW was your friendly 'we sell everything' store (which they used to push out competition, so on and so forth, yadda yadda yadda), but could that work now? Forget whether it's likely or not (probably not), would it work? Because over the time I was in Uni, a GW opened in my home(ish) town. Now if I could play Dystopian Wars of Infinity there, I'd be over the frickin' moon. I'm almost on the verge of taking some Druchii over there for a game (shyness beating me down again), but part of the problem is that you'll only get those two (three?lol) games. Which aren't exactly what would whet my appetite at the moment.

  18. I felt like adding some on. What I'm saying is, if they were prepared to sell/play alternative games, fresh games that I hadn't played before (haven't played a single gunshot of Infinity or HoMachine, models for both which I have-ish), I'd be more prepared to go over there and *possibly* buy their shit. Fantasy, my main game, is fun enough, but it involves lugging about large cases, and it's only one bleedin' game. It won't take long for me to tire of playing GW games (which are essentially the same rules modified slightly for different games), and sinking my teeth into something new and shiny and heretical... yeah that would be nice.

  19. Ant - I get you. My local Forbidden Planet did have Flames of War because the manager was into it, but that kinda stalled and died, possibly cos there was nowhere to demo in the store. I've also seen both GW and FoW in Hobbycraft, but again, I think only the GW stuff got any traction and lasted, probably because everyone knows about GW.

    Frontline - It's a bad photo (thanks to the brightness of the green surface), but, Khador jacks (and some infantry) with winter whitewash camo:

  20. (On the photo, the poster and the croquet set are the objective markers, btw.)

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Apologies, I deleted my previous comment because I was in a funny mood when I wrote it :P

    This article is just as detailed and convincing as your last one, but now I want to know what you really think!

    I tend to think that the influence of GW and the depth of their background can easily be overstated. I mean, think back to Rogue Trader, it's hardly the most imaginative background. I mean it's not bad, but it's no better than the first edition of HoMachine or something like Dark Age or Malifaux. And the modern fluff is just the old stuff expanded. GW just has a lot of history.

    People (particularly older players) have their judgment of GW's background impaired by familiarity and a few good Black Library books. The fluff's not better than anyone else's, the games are definitely not better, to me they look like they're on the way out.

  23. @Fiendil, The Chaos reference was in response to the metaphor of the Imperium and also the previous article. Almost like saying these message boards and blog networks almost certainly wouldn't exist unless GW had given most of us something to talk about in the first place. Also there are more and more press gangers every year here in the UK, but we don't really have the LGS network to make it work like it does in the USA. We need a slightly different approach in the UK. Oh yeah and I quite like your Jacks and Khador force. Good job mate.

    @Ant, I've had the comic book store discussion a number of times over the years, again like you with Tapper most of the time. Trouble is I wonder how many of their patrons remain oblivious of wargaming and therefore how fruitful such unions would be. Its got to be worth a go I guess, I'd just be inclined to try other methods first. Road shows at super markets and shopping malls have proved highly successful in the past in the US, perhaps that's a way forward. Local school days is another method.

    @GoldenKaos, I personally like the convenience of my local GW, I just don't have a reason to go into them and spend what hobby money I have. If they sold Warmachine, Infinity and Spartan Games products I would. However this would require far more thought than them just simply stocking other peoples products. It's require a significant change in structure and aims of the organisation. It'd require rethinking their retail network entirely as well. Could they get it to work? Yes I believe they could.

    @James S, I didn't think your first comment was 'funny' or off in any way. But your call.

    As to what I really think, I cover it in my conclusion. I lean more towards the previous article, a good 80% of me sits in that camp I'd say. With 10% undecided and 10% with this article. I like the convenience of the GW shops as I say above. I think they do currently provide a valuable service for the community as a whole. Bringing in new gamers, tech trickle down etc. However, they didn't need to stamp out independents like they did in the 80's and 90's. They didn't need to stifle the scene beyond their games and ultimately I think them doing so has done more harm to themselves than it did to anyone else. The fact that they remain constant does have the bonuses I've outlined above, but for me it makes them stagnant, stale and boring. They haven't done enough in my mind to force their games and product forward and they remain trapped in a past that no longer exists.

  24. @James
    Well, I certainly can't say I am not influenced by Black Library. I was on the verge of going for a Dark Elf army - I read Malus Darkblade, I now have 2k+ of them. I read Path of the Warrior, got me some Eldar. Gotrek and Felix are some of the best fantasy books out there IMHO.
    Likewise, I can't say I know much about other games's fluff. All I know about HoMachine is that Khador = Soviet Russian robots, Cygnar = robots, Menoth = religious robots, Kryx = undead robots (that doesn't even make sense) and that the Hordes side has Angry Elves, Angry Pigs, and something that sounds a lot like Khorne. My knowledge of Infinity is slightly better, but mostly limited to Yu-Jing, because they're cooler. My Dystopian wars fluff is... well they barely have any fluff yet, it's steampunk WW2 with Antarctica pitching in as well.
    I would argue that GW fluff IS better, games not so much, but the main point here is the staying power. GW has more or less become for wargaming what D&D is for role-playing. The standard. The Old World is formulaic and honestly quite cheesy, but if you like fantasy, there's sure to be a race there you can like. 40K is just... 40K, man! Fantasy ... IN SPAAAAACE!!! I can honestly say that there isn't a single 40k army that for fluff reasons I wouldn't want to collect and play. Honestly, not one.
    Sure, maybe I'm a GW-fluff convert-fanboy, but to me, WHFB and WH40K have both created Universes that taken your basic shiny sci-fi archetypes and added just the right amount of dark grit to them. And I don't think they're going anywhere for a little while.

  25. Oh my. Randomly reading Plarzoid's blog, I realised he'd done pink Khador a little more deliberately ( ). And why? The breast cancer awareness project...

    GoldenKaos: HoMachine is about the infantry, as well as the robots.
    - Cygnar are (comparatively) high tech, with lots of lightning and knights, and bits of US and British influence. In blue.
    - Cryx have soul-fuelled robots, and lots of undead infantry.
    - The angry elves, Retribution of Scyrah, are a Warmachine faction, with iRobots and lots of sleek armour.

    Khador and Menoth are pretty much that - Soviets, and religious fruitcakes, respectively. There's also minor dwarven/ogre and pirate factions under the Mercenaries banner.

    Hordes factions are:
    - Skorne (sadomasochistic elfs(-ish) with tortured elephantine titans and cyclopses) out to conquer and enslave.
    - Circle Orboros (blood-sacrifice-tastic druids with giant wolfmen, giant goatmen and walking rocks), out to destroy civilisation.
    - Legion of Everblight (dragon spawn/landsharks and corrupted elves), out to eat everyone in their path.
    - Trollbloods (5 different sizes of angry troll), just trying to survive.
    - minor factions in the Blindwater Congregation (gatormen and swamp monsters) and the Farrow (boarmen and giant cyborg boarmen).

  26. @goldenKaos

    Its pretty hard to say "This fluff is better" when you clearly haven't read the warmachine/hordes stuff. Saying Cygnar is "blue robots" is like saying the Ultramarines are "blue dudes". It's like you looked at the box art and decided based on that.

    I think the 40k world is cooler than Warmachine, but its stagnant. Nothing really changes. They are still telling the same stories they did 10 years ago.

    Just look at some of the codexes, in order to include some new characters they don't make a new story, they retcon them into the old stories.

    (Did anyone else cringe when reading about the Swarmlord special character and how all of a sudden he was a key part of the battle of MacCrage?)

    The coolest fluff for 40k is the Horus Heresy, and that happens 10,000 years before the setting of the game.

  27. @GoldenKaos - GW flagship games definitely have staying power, but I think that's more to do with the fact that they're the originals of their type, and real competition has only just started to emerge.

    I can't really argue with you about the fluff. There are only a few factions in 40k and a couple in Fantasy that interest me at all. You may think it's better and I may not, it's an aesthetic choice so who am I to tell you you're wrong hey? I can say why I don't think it's anything special though. I'm not just being contrary!

    To me, when I really look at GW's background and imagine I'm seeing it for the first time (which is REALLY hard for me to do by the way), I just don't see anything that amazing.

    I think the coolest thing about 40k fluff is the immortal dying Emperor and the totalitarian regime that rules in his name, and the coolest thing about the old world is the Germanic, late medieval feel they went with for the Empire back when everyone else was doing Tolkienian fantasy. The rest of it is pretty ho-hum to me, honestly, and some of it seems downright silly now that it's not the 80s anymore. I mean Space Wolves? That name is ridiculous. It was obviously thrown out as part of a quick brainstorm, and now it's sacred canon.

    Taken at face value, none of it seems much better than other company's stuff to me. Just more detailed because it's older.

    If it was better than everyone else's, that would mean that the people who designed the GW fluff back in the day just happened to be fluff geniuses, when in fact they were just games designers like the people who now write for PP, Corvus Belli, Wyrd and the rest.

    You're right though about being able to find something for everyone in the GW background, and about the similarity to D&D. Rick Priestley and Gary Gygax both assembled their backgrounds from a variety of sources that were popular at the time, and cleverly made sure there was enough room in there for people to play however they wanted.

    Things aren't like that anymore though. The fluff has taken on a weight of it's own and now it's serious business.

  28. @GoldenKaos, better is just such a subjective phrase. :P As James says, I can't argue with the fact that there is a hell of a lot more of it. Seriously there's a whole host of stuff for WFB and 40k that other games can't compete with for shear quantity. I happen to quite like the backstory to the Iron Kingdoms and I happen to think it's a more unique setting than the Old World. It's also got a lot of depth to it that will actually allow PP to grow their world still further. It also isn't static like the Old World or 40k as it's history changes with every release. I also happen to really like the back story to Infinity, yeah in borrows heavily off of various anime and sci-fi stapples, but oddly because of that it feels really fresh to me because of how stale 40k has become. Plus I love the sources they've ripped on.It'll be interesting to see if PP, CB and Wyrd go down the novel route or maybe even comic book root.

    @Fiendil, yep that's actually a pretty good summation of the HoMachine factions backgrounds. I still prefer your pink Khador by the way :P Still that's a very good cause.

    @Vomkrieg, I agree that personally the coolest stuff in the 40k fluff is actually the the 30k Horus Heresy stuff. It's still backdrop to the entire universe though.

    @James S, as is becoming pretty common, I find myself pretty much in total agreement with you. I don't think originally the 'fluff' for WFB or indeed 'Rogue Trader' was anything other than pure filler designed to amuse and provide only basic motivations for our games. They were 'serious' as it were, RT in particular was as far away from being serious as you could get! lol. It's all grown and been added too. I have to say, that although it's not the most important part of any game system I play, I do still enjoy having the stories to read. Normally I'd prefer to read a seriously good novel, than a Black Library novel. But, if I want something a bit trashy then the Black Library often provides that 'fix' for me, and it enhances my enjoyment of the 'game world'. I'd love to see some Infinity novels or maybe even Manga.

  29. "I had over 350 emails from people in response to the original, and some of them were from individuals 'within the industry'..."

    Ye gods man, I could be more jealous of you right now, but I'd have to start quoting Othello. How do you do it? More to the point... what am I doing wrong?

  30. @Von, honestly I don't know. I speak from my heart first and foremost I guess because I love the hobby so much, but I try to be thoughtful and rational about it. I guess that strikes a chord with many people out there. I remember waking up two days after the original article went live and logged into my email account to see the inbox at 100+ emails and I thought 'oh fuck what have I done'.

    I really didn't expect too many people to read it, but as it continues to be read and surpasses even my wildest predictions for 'hits' I wander whether I'll ever write anything else that matches it for popularity or impact I guess. The fact that the first day while reading through those emails I was wading through compliment after compliment and many thanking me for verbalising how they felt I have to be honest I was gobsmacked.

    I'm proud of the article even if some have insulted me in the shadows or suc places like BoLS, Dakka Dakka and Warseer. The fact that they read it is a victory of sorts. In short I don't think you're doing anything wrong!!! lol. I read and watch your stuff and really enjoy it all, so you've got at least one fan Von!!! lol. I

    know I've got a fair few evangelists too amongst my readers who very kindly post links up everywhere they can to my blog spreading the word as it were and I'm very thankful for to them for that. I'm constantly floored that so many seem to view my blog as something worthwhile, and feel it's good enough to promote for me. Thank you really doesn't seem to express how grateful I am to those individuals (you know who you are) who do this either. But, thanks!!! :)

  31. That meant to read *of such places like BoLS...* but as I read it back I quite like how 'or suc places' reads!!! lol ;)

  32. "I read and watch your stuff and really enjoy it all, so you've got at least one fan Von!!!"

    Make that two ;)

  33. OK this is some interesting stuff. I don't feel justified in commenting towards everybody who's participated in this debate, because I haven't read the whole thing carefully enough... however I did used to work for Games Workshop, which makes me wonder how many of you I know in person! (It's possible.)

    First, @Frontline Gamer, thanks for all of this, it does make a refreshing change to see some balanced and well-thought-out arguments in this long running and otherwise quite tiresome debate. Lean to one side or the other to your heart's content, the fact that you've managed to say all that without openly claiming 'GW SUCKS!' in any of it is far more conducive to something I want to read, rather than having to perpetually defend my own hobby!

    I've been doing the GW hobby on and off now for the last 13 years and it was definitely working for them that got me back in to it, because I was able to explore a wider variety of gaming styles rather than getting beaten all the time by my brother. However the so-called fluff has remained an integral part of my imagination for all that time.

    During my tenure for the company (2008-2010) and for quite a while afterwards, what was never a pretty sight was the "bitter veteran" archetype who would come in and try and get me to shut up by saying things like "I've been doing this longer than you've been alive," as though I'm not going to find that the slightest bit condescending. When I could get something different out of them, they would quite often talk up Hordes, Flames of War and all the rest of it at the expense of GW. More recently, I've seen people getting in to these and other games who have only been in to the hobby for a couple of years at most.

    Now, I've never played any of those games (most of my other games are from FantasyFlight or Roleplaying games) although I'm sure they're very good. I think what it shows is something that I'm pretty sure echoes what Frontline Gamer has been saying - When Games Workshop recruit a new hobbyist, they'll have them for maybe 1-3 years before they realise that what they enjoy out of the hobby - be it the games, the painting, the fiction, or whatever - they can get elsewhere, probably better quality depending on where they look and almost certainly for less money. That is why their marketing strategy relies on recruiting new hobbyists; it's not practicable or even necessarily possible to hang on to veterans. And by the way, by no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself a veteran, even after 13 years.

    At the end of the day, GW is what it is: A nice big open door into a far larger and very competitive hobby. Hell, if kids find something to do with themselves other than play video games, if adults find something to do other than drink, and if people who really do struggle in social circles find a group of friends amongst hobbyists - and I've seen this happen, because if nothing else they've got the hobby as common ground so everybody I know from GW gets on reasonably well - who cares how they got there, or what game they play?

  34. @Matt486, yep that's sort of where I am with it as well. I value what GW do for the hobby as a whole, although obviously I think at times they make stupid and crass decisions that not only harm themselves but also the broader hobby. It's always good to get well thought out comments from enthusiastic hobbyists no matter what they're enthusiastic about. If you worked in GW in the West Mids there is a chance that I do indeed know you.

  35. Aye, perhaps 'best' is pushing it for GW. I see no Soviet Russian state with elite snipers/ massive robots in 40K (even though you could argue the Imperium is originally a critical parody of the U.S.S.R. - considering when GW began and all).

    But, I just read Gav Thorpe's Path of the Seer, and now I kinda want to paint a Farseer. Black Library and GW seem to promote each other in some weird symbiotic relationship... I simply wish BL would stop with their ridiculous overpriced limited edition hardcover novella b*llshit. Sure, there's only been a few, but they seem to have been selling for some daft reason...

    It's possibly because they've been around for longer, their fluff has more weight to it. Plus it has influenced a lot of other things, like Warcraft & Starcraft and so on. If Warmachine brings out novels (specially Khador ones) I'd be interested. Combining two hobbies - like wargaming and reading or wargaming and videogaming is a very potent combination - which GW have used to great effect, so I'm glad that PP have also begun developing a videogame.

  36. Matt, you've got me wondering as well - I didn't live in the West Midlands for those three years but I did pass through occasionally and I was definitely tuned into Bitterness FM until quite recently.

  37. You made a very good point with regard to the unchanging reference point that GW has formed. I used to play Void from i-Kore and I liked it. However, after leaving the hobby for a few years, I came back to find that not only had both the company and the game been renamed, but the game had been significantly changed. The same factions (sort of) but very different artwork, faction themes, and unit types. I could just about form a legal army with my old models, but honestly the game just doesn't appeal to me anymore. (Related: I have a number of Void models in their original blisters to sell if anyone's in the market.)

    I have rather mixed opinions of GW in general, but to summarise: love the background material and artwork, liked (and still like) most things that weren't core games, and not too fond of the core games at all anymore.

    Interestingly enough we had an awesome manager called Matt once (a shop in Leicestershire, not sure if I want to give exact locations), but that was a loooong time ago, so I don't think it can have been you.

  38. Ado guys,

    To clear up the matter, I'm Matt Dooner who worked in the Dudley Store. Very occasionally I worked in Walsall as well. I mention my second name so that I'm not confused with the other Mat who worked in the same store who I think now works the Birmingham store.

  39. @Matt486, then yes I do know you in passing. I'm Jody, and I'm sure Brett at the B'ham store would be able to point me out to you. You'll also know the cursed very well, he's Chris Tapper.

  40. I know it's silly to comment on posts this old, but I just discovered your blog (love it!) and this series of posts. And you know what, I will speak out in defense of GW. To a point.

    I've been a fan since 1997, when I got into 40k through Gorkamorka. For me, a box set that let you play a complete game was a perfect way to enter the hobby, and I'm surprised that my experience appears to be unusual. Anyway, I'd say the dark days started in the early 2000s. It was all Space Marines, all the time. GW started restricting discount retailers. Weak or dull codices were left alone for years. Independent game shops were being treated poorly by GW. Specialist Games were killed off before they were even done. I thought it was a pretty boring time.

    With the Ork and Craftworld Eldar releases, GW seemed to recover some of its magic. It acknowledged old timers' existence by bringing back Space Hulk. The new miniatures were consistently fantastic. It wasn't perfect - just as Tyranid players, and the WHFB 7th to 8th transition was very rough - but the company seemed less grimdark than it had been. It was even possible to believe GW's claim that Apocalypse was based on old hobbyists' demands for a way to use their entire collections, rather than a cynical way to get people to buy more and more.

    I do feel like the good times started to unravel about a year ago. Finecast shouldn't have been a surprise, given how tin prices were going crazy and forcing other manufacturers to bump up their prices to match or even exceed GW's. But we all got it in our heads that switching to resin would allow GW to hold the line on prices. When they didn't, we felt taken advantage of. That might have been unreasonable of us, I don't know. But in the 40k world, we then got two overpowered Space Marine codices and stagnation in xenos codex power. The result: all Space Marines, all the time. Again. Meanwhile GW has become even more opaque due to its information embargo, has shafted the southern hemisphere, and now they've gone nuts with their pricing. I try to be forgiving of price increases, but anything going up 15% or more makes me feel like I'm being taken for a fool.

    So the last year has been pretty bad. But it came after four or five good years. Maybe it's a hiccup, and not a trend.

    1. I don't have a thing against people posting on old posts. If you've got something to say I welcome it Carlos, no matter how old the post, I want to hear it. :)

      I probably have a different view to you Carlos because I've been gaming for longer, so I guess I've had far longer to become jaded!!! :P

      I still think that the rot started many, many years ago. If anything the recent years before the Finecast years could be see as the abhoration. Although, I think they too were pretty grim if you were a GW gamer. Always good to hear what other gamers think, so thanks for your comment.