|I loved 4th Edition Fantasy, warts and all.|
I asked myself this very question over 3 weeks ago now. I was thinking mainly about my sometimes awkward 'relationship' with Games Workshop. Here is a company that over the last 27 years, nearly 28, has given this hobbyist countless hours, weeks, months and years of gaming and hobbying pleasure. There is no doubting that without Games Workshop I wouldn't be the horribly shameless nerd, and depending on your viewpoint, totally awesome geek that I am. If it wasn't for 4th Edition Warhammer Fantasy and my High Elf army I'd almost certainly never have gotten into playing wargames as much as I have. If it wasn't for Blood Bowl I would never have made as many hobbying friends as I have. In my Sunday Sermon entitled 'The games that define us' I spoke at length about the games that have come to shape me as a hobbyist. Lets be brutally honest about it here, 6 of my 10 games were Games Workshop products, true they weren't always positive experiences, but they were Games Workshop games. Going further I would say that 70% of my wargaming past-time has indeed been dedicated to the products developed and supplied by Games Workshop, and for the most part I've enjoyed my hobby... just not those rare occasions when I lose!
A few months back now I wrote a Sunday Sermon that was sort of about somebody who had fallen out of love with Games Workshop, and in particular 40k, because familiarity had sort of breed contempt. Then this past week I purchased the first Games Workshop product I have in a fairly long time, thanks to you guys... and even though it felt like a good product, I was underwhelmed... so yes, I have asked myself the question as to whether the same thing had happened to me? Had I become overly familiar with the products produced by Games Workshop? Did this mean I was forever doomed to view their product through the eyes of a jaded cynic? Can I no longer feel the joy of seeing yet another Space Marine Chapter being released? The answer is possibly. Yep, for sure I've seen it all before with Games workshop, very little they do now surprises me... no... scratch that, nothing they do now surprises me. I am more than familiar with what they are doing, and how they do it. There has been very little over recent years that has taken me by surprise. It's all become predictable for me, so is it this predictability that Games Workshop are actually struggling with?
Look at my excitement at the announcement from Forge World about the Horus Heresy. I'm not going to lie to you at all, I squealed like a girl when I saw Angron. I've wanted to see these miniatures for a very long time, and finally we get to see them, and potentially buy them if we're all flush with cash. So on the one hand I was super excited and stoked about the prospect of playing in the 31st millennium and the prospect of finally owning 'official' primarchs... but on the other hand there was my total 'meh' reaction to the Chaos Space Marines. I didn't dislike them, I didn't like them, they just didn't register with me. They were a total non-entity, and here's the issue I guess for me and my relationship with Games Workshop... they were actually something new in a way. A new direction for Chaos Space Marines, sure in many respects the flyer, the big robots and art direction were all totally predictable given similar releases over the last two years, but it was sort of new. Even if the components themselves were predictable. Yet it is was a direction that just passed me by completely. It wasn't for me, and I didn't care one bit. It all felt familiar and wasn't registering with me at all.
However, has this familiarity bred a contempt in me for them and their product? Honestly? I don't think that it has. I just think that as I've matured and gotten older my tastes have naturally changed, and Games Workshop is no longer providing products I want. There's also the point that the things they have begun to change, and the subtle positioning differences with their two main games don't sit well with me. If anything familiarity has bred a sort of neutral apathy in me. But, I am what I'd term a hyperactive hobbyist. By that I mean I have to be seeking out something new, mixing things up. It's the reason I leap from one game to the next like someone with ADHD. I get bored. Easily. I think part of my own personal problem is that I 'get' game systems very quickly. By which, I mean I work out rapidly what they're about, so unless there's something new, or specific hooks to keep me coming back to a game for more I'll often migrate away from it for a time. It doesn't mean I don't like the game, or indeed that I won't ever play it again. It's just once I've got my patter down with a product, I become a quite formidable opponent very quickly.
|Freebooter's Fate is keeping me hooked because it's entertaining.|
Nope, I need to feel like I'm learning stuff. I need to feel like my hobby is going on a wonderful journey of discovery. I hate feeling like I 'know' a game or faction and I don't view smashing people over and over again as a worthy way of spending my hobby time. It's arguably for this reason that I find myself flitting from faction to faction, learning how they work and fiddling with things. It also explains why I feel the need to fiddle with army lists and try out new combos, and ways of playing that might be considered atypical. Or bat shit crazy! Ultimately I guess I'm a really frustrating opponent to play, and gamer to know. I'm always looking for that next 'hit', so in a way I can say that for me at least familiarity does breed a sort of contempt. It is for this reason that I think I have to be really careful when playing games not to over do it with any one product. This slightly manic side to my hobby was brought into sharp relief this weekend.
|It's so much more than Blood Bowl in space!|
'The Cursed' and me headed over to Bulwell in Nottingham to go visit Mantic during their open day. A cracking event it was too, really, really well attended. If I'm honest far better attended than I genuinely thought it would be. I saw many faces I'd seen at many other hobby events down the years. But it was looking at the games in what Mantic termed 'Jakes Room' that got me and The Cursed talking later on, while sitting at Warhammer World in Bugmans. You see, in that room was Dreadball, Dwarf Kings Hold and Project Pandora. All games I own, or will own, and in the case of Dreadball I've already played it extensively. Perhaps Jake and Ronnie won't like me mentioning Blood Bowl again in the same paragraph as their fictional sports game, but I do so with good reason. For years Games Workshop pumped out the likes of Blood Bowl, Necromuda, Mordheim, various iterations of Epic, Man o' War and Battlefleet Gothic. These were eventually grouped under the title of specialist games. New experiences, like what Mantic are looking to offer.
|I'm so glad the campaign book is coming soon.|
The fact that they existed meant that for hyperactive gamers like me there was plenty of Games Workshop product to keep me happy and bouncing to and from. The loss of the Specialist Games team and official support for these products hurt Games Workshop in more ways than perhaps they first thought they would. I was once told by a pretty famous British businessman at a seminar that he didn't care which of his products customers spent their money on... as long as it was one of his! Games Workshop did care, they operated under the belief that they could only support two / three core games (well, with LotR maybe 2.1 core games), and that we'd spend whatever ever dosh we spent on Specialist Games on Fantasy or 40k. Certainly in my case they were severely wrong. They actually drove me right into the arms of their competitors. In short they stopped being able to offer me new and fresh experiences. Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect just one hobby company to monopolise all of my time and more importantly all of my money.
|Heavy Gear is a game I'm just starting to scratch the surface of.|
But, in Nottingham yesterday I saw too sides to the hobby coin. Mantic's main games Kings of War and Warpath might not be the best wargames ever made. They might not even be the games for me, but with what Ronnie and co are getting up to it's clear they're trying to create some fresh gaming experiences to keep us all happy. Sure they'll take a swing and a miss sometimes, like everyone does, but at least they've come out swinging. It seems to me that Games Workshop have settled into their old familiar pattern a long time ago, and I think there's a bit of malaise around Lenton Lane. There was a Throne of Skulls Warhammer tournament on, and I chatted with a few people. So did they want to talk about their games of Warhammer Fantasy? Nope, they wanted to know about Dreadball. When you stop trying to offer something new, your product can become old and stale, and that's why sometimes its good for all companies to shake things up a bit, Dream Pod 9 are releasing faction specific field guides, Privateer Press have given us Level 7 and seem intent on pushing through new expansions for HoMachine every year. What have Games Workshop given us that's new? Dreadfleet. Perhaps the familiar isn't so bad after all. Peace out!