I have been part of this hobby for ages now, and it has always been good fun. Primarily I’ve been in it for the social aspect, the opportunity to meet with and have common interests with nerds from all over the galaxy has been great. The artistic modelling, painting, stories and narratives have all been a bonus, not to mention the incessant smack talk and DPZ.
I don’t think for a moment that I have a problem with the people in the hobby. I have made some awesome gaming buddies over the years. My current gaming group is amongst the best.
Without trying to sound too much like a prima donna though, I just think that gaming has got too commercial. It just seems to me that wargaming at present is just an endless cycle of imbalances, releases, further imbalances and further releases. Add in a heavy emphasis of win-at-all-costs style gaming and you’ve got a right royal banana skin. This is something that the sheriff has been keen to implement over the last few years to boost sales. I’m sure you regularly reading googlespiders are aware, but in practice it goes a little something like this:
1) Release game system
2) Release codex
3) Release slightly better codex
4) Release slightly even better codex
5) Rerelease game system to add more imbalances
But that’s not the whole story. In the background of all these cycles win-at-all-costs-gaming styles soon take precedence, whether intentionally or not. No-one likes to get trounced all of the time, so people with earlier codices or inferior army lists look to the internet and other sources to tweak their forces just to make them a bit more competitive. People then nudge their forces closer and closer to tournament standards as the cycle perpetuates. All of this obviously involves the purchase and painting of new miniatures or even new armies, so the games companies are happy to keep things cycling. Go to any games club to see the effects – hordes of new unpainted miniatures battling it out with hordes of other new unpainted miniatures in a vain effort to have a reasonably balanced game. Gaming ceases to be about fun and more about micromanaging your selections and purchases.
But what about the companies who do not adopt this approach? Much kudos to them. Remember, companies are out there to make money. Don’t forget that most games companies would like to sell as much stuff and with such incredulous mark-up as the market leaders. A case in point is Spartan Games, a niche games manufacturer. A few years ago they released ‘Uncharted Seas’, a decent but by no means perfect fantasy sea battle game. It was fun. Within what seemed like a few weeks they then went on to release and hype ‘Firestorm Armada’. Essentially the same game in space, with many improvements. Uncharted Seas almost became obsolete. Again, what seemed like a few weeks later they released ‘Dystopian Wars’ to further large amounts of hype, again a very similar style of game making their previous efforts almost like last year’s fashions. What they managed to do though was sell the Uncharted Seas fan 3 separate rule sets and probably 3 sets of models. Now there’s nothing wrong with this, and in fact I think their games are pretty good. Personally though this just makes me sigh, as none of these great games truly got the run they deserved. I know that no-one will be playing Firestorm Armada in five years time, as it is surpassed, overlooked and replaced by something newer and shinier. The great models sit there unpainted on eBay. The sad fact is that the new systems people will be playing will probably be no more fun than those they replaced. A few tweaks to suit a few tastes, but essentially games are games and not simulations. The gamers have not benefitted, only the companies that produce the stuff. See what I mean about gaming becoming too commercial? It’s unfair to single out a company like Spartan, as I reckon this could be applied to pretty much any company that needs to make a profit in the wargames market.
So what’s the future? For me, things have been quite fortunate of late. Recently at our gaming sessions we have been sticking to ‘boxed’ games. Games where force selection is severely limited or non-existent. There’s no need to buy and paint more models to counter your opponent’s latest models only to discard them in three months when something new comes along that renders your models obsolete. The games come ‘as is’, and are not going to be subject to errata or FAQs because they are so unbelievably complex or imbalanced. Games where there are no doubts over movements as tape measures are not required. Games such as Dust, Formula D, Blood Bowl and the co-operative experience of No More Room In Hell. Over the last few months I have found these types of games to be the most fun of all.
For sale: 5000 points of awesomely painted Space Marines soon to be hopelessly outclassed by the new Necron codex!