Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Hobbit


Well the worst kept secret since the last worst kept Games Workshop secret is out... yes, they're doing a game based on the Hobbit. I can hear the gasped shocks at the back of the room, and yes, I know, I didn't see that one coming either. OK, so I'll turn the sarcasm down a notch or three, because actually I'm not feeling all negative Nelly about it. True I'm not over the moon, frothing at the mouth and salivating like a starving man staring at a juicy T-bone stake cooked medium-rare, with peppercorn sauce... mmm. I'll let you all into a secret though, despite my floppy Finecast Gandalf I'm actually quite a fan of the Lord of the Rings range of miniatures. Arguably the painter in me feels it was the best range of miniatures Games Workshop have done so far. There were certainly some startlingly good miniatures amongst them... as well as some duffers... yeah I'm talking about the wonky faced Legolas from the Mines of Moria boxed set. However, I did pick up a few pieces and paint them from time to time simply for fun. So the prospect of new miniatures being added to the range is at least appealing to me on some level.

LotR's wasn't as rubbish as many people made out.

The bigger shock though, I'm sure for many of you, will be that I actually quite liked the Lord of the Rings game when it first came out. No, I wasn't duped by 50% off staff discount (although it helped) and being force fed White Dwarf. Nope I actually felt the game was quite good fun when it was played as it was clearly intended, as a small narrative based skirmish game. Honestly when playing things like the Attack at Weathertop missions et al, the game was actually really entertaining. I actually enjoyed it so much I was insane enough to volunteer being the intro games guy on launch day... and you know what? I enjoyed it despite not getting a lunch break due to the never ending queue. Where I personally think the game went wrong for me was the over saturation of LotR product that they brought out, and the fact they started trying to treat the game like one of their normal wargames, with factions and army lists and... blah. Didn't work for me, and I'm not sure the universe, or indeed the 'factions' lend themselves that well to a typical wargame product. Hence I think the reason they went for a narrative game the first time round.

Obviously there are those out there who disagree with my assessment, and think the game worked well as a standard straight up wargame. Of course they're entitled to their opinion... but they're wrong. Joking, joking, of course they're not entitled to their opinion. Oh snap! Clearly I'm joking... or am I? No I think LotR's became confused as a product, and ironically the very thing that drove its sales, the release schedule of the films, also sort of trashed the game as well. the release of the second and third film in quick succession (well for a wargame anyway) meant that the game never really stabalised and found its feet, so it got a bit off track and bloated (how many Gandalfs does a miniatures line need!?!?!?). I also think that at some point Games Workshop themselves got into a bit of a mess about what they wanted the game to be. I think the game lost its early focus in favour of going down the same well worn path of Games Workshops other two core games, 40k and Fantasy. I maintain that was a mistake, and I also maintain the rather large range they developed around the three films was never likely to be sustainable after the buzz surrounding the films had died down. And so it proved to be.

£75, but I bet you'll be able to find it cheaper.
So what are my thoughts about the Hobbit? Well I'm thinking for starters I want to go and have an intro game of it. I want to see what the product and game is like for myself. I'm not as big a Tolkien fan as some are, but I actually grew up with those books. I grew up going to Sarehole Mill and I don't live too far from there now. The Hobbit films art direction though doesn't fill me with as much confidence, given some of the miniatures we've seen... some of the miniatures are a bit... meh, to me. I'm not keen on the aesthetics, which are obviously lifted straight from the films, so maybe it's just telling me early not to expect too much from the films? I'm still willing to give the game a fair hearing though. Although I'm not just going to walk into a store and buy the game. I say that now, but with new toys in front of me I might change my mind. However, after the way the first game was messed around by the film release schedule I am a little bit wary of jumping on board the Hobbit bandwagon. Lets be honest here Games Workshop aren't a company well known for learning lessons now are they?

However, they may have learned a lesson or three about how to price their movie tie-ins. As I've said, I worked at Games Workshop during the Lord of the Rings launch, and I don't think it's quite possible to explain to young whippersnappers just how huge that launch was. The game was also really quite reasonably priced for what you got in the box. Sure I still think Games Workshops core boxed games are relatively good value for money now... well compared to the rest of their product line, if not necessarily some of their competitors products. But, the Lord of the Rings boxed game was a bargain. So much so that we as staff members were limited in what we could buy, partly due to the popularity of it, but also due to the fact that it was rumoured heavily amongst staff to be a loss leader. A product that didn't make money. The razor blade principle if you will, sell the handle at a loss and gouge them on sales of the blades. Except it didn't quite work like that with Lord of the Rings.

Yeah they're nice mini's... but £45 for four minis? You what?

Those who were already in the hobby brought more stuff, but many of the new customers who came through our doors specifically to buy the game acted like they were buying a game in a box and that was it. Box purchased, glue brought, paints in bag, we're done. Many we never saw again unless it was to complain the miniatures were broken, because they weren't assembled. Only a very small number brought further Lord of the Rings related product from us. So selling a huge amount of product as a loss leader, or even a break even / small profit product wouldn't be great for cash flow. Managers also told us to concentrate on selling Lord of the Rings, and only Lord of the Rings. There are myths and legends about that being what New Line Cinema demanded, but whether that is the case I don't rightly know. Our manager though didn't seem to fussed, and actually told us to use the new influx of customers to sell Games Workshop and not just Lord of the Rings, I specifically remember him saying "sell the hobby" in staff training. One of the few times I respected his decision.

This time round though it certainly looks like Games Workshop won't be in that position. The Hobbit: Escape from Goblin Town boxed set is due to retail at £75 here in the UK. That is more than their other boxed games, but not by huge amounts. I would bet though that they have at least built in a decent profit margin into that, even if it isn't as large a margin as the rest of their range. They should turn a profit on each boxed game if they have similar levels of customers walking through their doors and treating it like a game in a box. Hell the White Council at £45 should have a tidy little profit on it too. The question that has been buzzing around the Internet though is whether these prices are too steep. Only time will tell, but I have to admit to nearly choking on my caffè macchiato when I realised the prices Aussies and Canadians were expected to pay... what's that all aboot? But, I suppose we shouldn't have expected any differently. If the product sells this time they should be in a better position to maximise profits lets just say that shall we!

I'm not sure I like the look of the Goblins, but that's more New Line Cinema's fault.

Although I was sort of reminded by the pricing of a conversation I had with a housing developer about a potential development site a few years back. He'd employed me to look into the viability of the build. He wanted to sell 1 bedroom flats for £105,000 and 2 bedroom flats for £135,000. Now, within the neighbourhood you could buy freehold 2 bedroom houses for £85,000 and 3 bedroom houses for £100,000. Yeah it wasn't a great place to live. I informed him that at those prices he wouldn't sell the flats. He told me if he sold them at any lower prices then the development wouldn't be profitable. I explained that I felt the development wasn't viable then. He then explained to me what an idiot I was, and how I didn't understand anything about anything, but especially development. They went bust about 12 months ago as the site they'd developed hadn't sold a single damn flat, half of the site remains undeveloped, much to the annoyance of the local authority. So have Games Workshop priced the Hobbit line of miniatures out of the market place in a similar way? For me personally, yeah probably, I won't be buying much, if any of it. But, I bet they still sell a fair few copies of the game and some miniatures to go along with it. Peace out!


  1. I came to the LOTR game long after the movies were released, and I honestly enjoyed playing it more than I do 40k or Fantasy.

    Will I buy stuff for The Hobbit? Not at those prices- they'll probably never get used since no one plays LOTR around here. But do I think it will be a great game? Absolutely.

    It's tearing me up to know it'll be good but that I'll never have anyone to play a game with.

    1. You don't happen to in NZ Ashley?

      I feel much the same as you. I am still so far on the fence though I may as well be a picket...

    2. Come on Ashley, that sounds far too defeatist!!! :P

      Sounds like a challenge to me, if there aren't many people playing it now then perhaps you should get your pimping hat on and go pimp the game to people. Run demo games and try and get others involved. Seriously if I'd taken that attitude of nobody plays it, I wouldn't be playing Infinity, Freebooter's Fate, Heavy Gear Blitz and many more besides. Somebody, somewhere has to be the early adopting champion.

    3. Very true. I will push for a rings tourney next year. Most fun I've ever had was in a rings tourney you really get a wide range of people playing women, older men, young boys it was great.

    4. Sorry, Minitrol, I'm in the States. I can't even convince my largely Fantasy-playing group to give 40k a try, I doubt I'd be any more successful with this. Its reputation as "bad" game doesn't help.

      I'm actually about to run my first 40k tournament in January. If it doesn't go up in flames, maybe I'll see if I can scare up some interest in a LOTR one. Can't hurt to try.

    5. Give them 10 bonus points if they play a LotR game over the weekend without bitching!

    6. I sympathize with Ashley. Our are is heavily dominated by WHFB/40K, with a good WarmaHordes presence. I prefer smaller games, but getting people into them is a chore - after pushing through that with several of Spartan's games and Henching for Malifaux only to watch the local scene die off, I just don't have the energy to be the evangelist any more.

  2. I think I've been talking about this solidly for a week but that's okay I've been enjoying this discussion!

    As I already stated in my own rambling way

    I've always enjoyed it and we play lotR from time to time but I really do feel priced out...I actually have to use mathmagician formulas to work out if this will be value for money over time...

    The game will be fine because its the same...I think in typical Geedubness it won't be improved though it will be clunkier (the only company incapable of streamlining a ruleset the take glee in bloat? Why is that?).

    SOme of th rule chancges sound fun and other seem odd but at the end of the day I hope people do play it an enjoy it. It's difficult not to underestimate the impact the previous games had on GW.

    We're talking financial, it pushed a whole new style of painting for them which bled back to the other lines we saw weathering for the first time dirty cloaks what a novel idea! Everyone does it now but at the time all models were clean and crisp. They also sculpted on a finer scale the experience with those moulds has definitely led to overall improvements in plastic casts. It was also a test ground for rules design and many quirks were incorporated into the other games.

    And for all those who it upset their Powered Armour Codex/ Race that no-one else plays book/ or the re-release of Warhammer Quest didn't appear - think of it this way it's one month of Hobbit focussed release and when was the last time anything was released in December? You normally get squat...

  3. Hmm...

    Not too fussed about GW stuff at the moment, and I'm not going to be impressed with them trying to push it on me on every occasion I venture into the store after next weekend. Right now I've got a huge backlog of models to paint, and I'm not going back to the store to paint for a good long while, which was basically the only time I got to do it. There's a long and not very interesting reason as to why this is the case...

    But it will be interesting to see what happens with this, and whether GW can be a bit more savvy about getting some of the guys who buy their game to come back into the store and develop their hobby as you suggest. It could give the entire LotR range the kick up the derriere it needs to get back on track.

  4. Lotr range introduced me and my brother to wargaming in the first place though in my country the figures used to come in newspaper shops(as well as normal boxsets) as a short magazine, small paints and few minis (12 goblins in one issue, than 1 metal figure, than another 12 plastics... you get the point). It came with scenarios and battle reports and I loved it because it was actually affordable for a kid to collect in that way.

    I feel as though with this range I will try to get hold of the plastic 'new fellowship' separately and have them as a diorama and also buy the old Moria set to get the old fellowship as well as some family activities going over x-mas.

    1. That magazine was wonderful. My mother would regularly buy it when out and about just because, and it game me a huge collection of random miniatures. Some weeks you got a good deal, others you paid through the nose for a model worth bugger all. The terrain articles were amazeballs though, and funnily enough all written by a guy who used to be a staffer in the local during my shop-kid days.

      The game itself worked perfectly if you played it exactly two ways:

      Method 1: storytime! Named characters re-enact the movie/book/whatever and generally be awesome and beat each other up. Points were hard to balance that way.

      Method 2: generic fantasy wargame. No named characters, just un-named Captains and the like. Sometimes stretching to non-movie characters like the Goblin King of Moria. It worked AMAZINGLY well as a wargame, since you could make proper formations and actually force gaps in shieldwalls with clever attack ordering.

  5. I always vaguely fancied getting the Fellowship of the Ring box from the LotR game just to paint up the figures, but I never got around to it - not playing the game meant that there were always other things to paint!

    I'd possibly be interested this time around but the prices (and the finecast models) put me right off.

    I wonder whether the Hobbit is going to be quite the cinema phenomenon that Lord of the Rings was. If not, then it's unlikely to drive the numbers of new people into their local GW to buy the associated game, so there's even less chance of it leading to significant numbers of new hobby converts. Which is a shame.

  6. The whole Lord of the Rings range never really appealed to me as a game, so it's no surprise the game formerly known as lotr hasn't got me jumping for joy either. Which is a good thing when I see these prices. It's not just the price now, but also the price in a few months.

    I do hope it succeeds in bringing in fresh blood though. But I agree with Matt that I'm not completely convinced The Hobbit will have the same success as the first trilogy.

    1. I just don't know...on the one hand it might lack the appeal to a mass demographic but it might entice more people predisposed to the genre and we might end up with more interest as a result.

      Quality gamer uptake rather than quantity? Hmmmmmmmmm.

  7. LotR is by far the most enjoyable of the GW rules... too bad they force fed the bucket of dice approach to gaming for so long that most people couldn't enjoy this set of rules. And its spinoffs like legends of the old west in their historical range (insert one minute silence for the glorious dead).

    But when I read that the starter would be about 100€... Given the 75£ RRP that sounds about right. You've got to be kidding??? 50£ for a 288 page rulebook??? Guess the licence cost them a lot...

    I'll just keep chipping away at my unpainted Mt Everest, I'm pretty sure there'z some LotR stuff in there somewhere. You've got to keep busy while waiting for the long overdue Dreadball stuff...
    (Bazingaaa, as Sheldon would say)

    1. Considering the response you had on another persons Blog to similar DreadBall wind up tactics Ludo if I were you I'd give it a rest. While I my take those sorts of joke in good humour as they're intended, I think others won't. I don't want people coming on here reading those sorts of comments and launching into foul mouthed tirades.

      As to the Hobbit stuff. Yeah it looks expensive, but at least this time they appear keen to cover their metaphorical arses by charging enough to successfully turn a profit while paying for the license fee. Whether consumers are willing to pay that much for it though remains to be seen. Not long to go know before we know how the market will take it.

  8. I'm surprised no one had commented on the terrain that comes in the Hobbit box.I like the SBG and WOTR, although neither is on my gaming horizon right now, but the Goblin Town terrain looks brilliant for all sorts of skirmish gaming. Not worth £75 , of course, but worth looking for as part if a bits sale on Ebay our at bitsbox or wherever.

  9. I was more than willing to buy the shit out of The Hobbit range, especially the Goblin Town boxed set.

    But I live in New Zealand, and NZ$200+ for that box really is a bit on the nose.

    Oh, and don't get me started on the Trolls.

    Sure, I could arrange for a friend in the UK to pick me up a copy at a reasonable price and ship it over, but if GW doesn't want to charge me a reasonable price for their product, then nuts to them.

    I contacted my local store (via Facebook) and the Oz HQ (via email) to enquire about the price differences and have had zero response (and my post on their Facebook wall was deleted). This doesn't surprise me in the least. How much will it take them to realise that something needs to be done about antipodean prices.

    I have decided to actively discourage people from purchasing this product. It really is ridiculously overpriced here, and I can't imagine too many parents would be happy to purchase Goblin Town for their kid, only for them to play it a few times then stash it away with the other board games.

    1. I'm in NZ too Andrew. You're right it's dejecting. GW used to state they are not competing with other games companies they were after the High street dollar - video games music disposable income.

      The prices here are not disposable income.

      If it carries on and we get the standard price change next year then what will we have a game actually break $300! That’s mental that's no longer competing.

  10. I know I've seen Licensing Fees bandied about as part of the reason why these are so expensive. GW also charges retailers more for the forced privilege of stocking LotR minis. I'm not sure of the exact numbers but if they get GW for 55% of MSRP, LotR minis are 60%.

    The cost of the starting box ties into your recent article about GW being necessary for the hobby. The old LotR boxes were great for attracting new players but I just can't see that happening with the current prices. IMO intro boxes should really cost about as much as a new video game.

  11. I'd been looking forward to a revitalization of the Middle Earth line for some time, and when I saw the advanced orders listing a goblin town I was beyond excited as I envisioned plastic hovels and camp tents with an orcish twist. Instead, the goblin town, while cool, is a fundamentally simplistic set of rough wooden piers. And the sets' prices? It'll be nearly $800 just to get their initial release of sets that will be out when the first film is coming out, and then followed by months of expansions you can bet will be just as expensive. I mean, 3 PLASTIC trolls for $85 in the states? Who are they kidding? So this gets a pass from me and my gaming group.

  12. Remember, they are no longer compared to video games, now to the console and bundle of games :) Hope it tanks and they are forced to do a few re-releases ala space hulk to make up the cash.