Tired of Wargaming?

This is something that has been playing on my mind now for a few months, and I worry that I might actually be completely burned out with wargaming.

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!

6 thoughts on “Tired of Wargaming?”

  1. As someone that is new to wargaming I first am saddened to see someone getting burned out on the hobby/gaming. At the same time I can admit that I have already seen many of the points you made in the 1 year I have been in the hobby. I won’t name any companies but I will say I have all but written one company off due to such a cycle and the sheer cost of trying to keep up with the cycle. I have also been turned off of my original local gaming store/club due to the win at all cost vibe that is constantly growing.

    I have been having fun with Malifaux so far and it feels my gaming needs on a much smaller budget at the time and there are a couple of other clubs in the area just getting off the ground with this one which is kind of nice.

    Only time will tell where I end up in the wargaming world but hope you continue to find games that remain fun for you bud!

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      Gaming is a great hobby, and I still hold it dear. I just think I’m turning into a bit of a grumpy old git in my advanced years!

      Sounds like you have a sound idea in finding a game you and your friends enjoy and sticking with it.

      Big battle games can be fun, just not under the guise of points based win-at-all-costs fantasy stuff for me.

      Keep Rollin’!

  2. I’ll agree with you on the Codex creep and it is ridiculous. GW seem to be the stand-out leaders on this one, although saying that the new Fantasy books are very well balanced between themselves and if they can continue this trend I think we’ll be in a good spot.

    The reason that Carabus and I have been waxing lyrical on Infinity recently is because it goes against everything you have written here. The mentality of the game is to bring whatever you want as it’s not what you bring but how you use it that defines success in the game. Against the other backdrop of WAAC lists from other companies Infinity is devoid of this, you are just as likely to win as lose as it comes down to the actions you take with your forces and not what someone else slaps down on the table.

    I was talking about more or less the same thing with Gribblin and Alan who owns Questing Knight yesterday. Mat Ward shouldn’t be allowed near anything as he can’t balance stuff to save his life.

    Malifaux is also a very fun game, haven’t played it in a while because it is only myself and nBreaker that have crews for it.

    1. I’ll hold judgment on Infinity until I see it played, the plethora of models available seem to indicate the opportunities for constantly switching up models and cheesing could be lurking under the veil of apparant superficial balance! I hope that’s not the case because it seems like something I could get into!

      1. To be fair, all the options you see are generally different weapons within the same groups of troops. There is nothing really that is available to one faction that isn’t available to another. There isn’t much of a “switching up” available as the heavier weapons are limited in how many you can bring and the expense of them. Just because you have a guy walking around with an HMG doesn’t stop him from getting taken out by a guy with a pistol. Plus the fact that you react in your opponents turn means you are never sure of what is going to happen. In balance terms it is the Starcraft of the wargaming world.

  3. It seems like the trouble we see with MMO design as opposed to “single box” offline games. “Live” games present endless twiddling opportunities for the devs, and I really do think it causes fatigue for the players. It presents an opportunity to correct imbalances and stay fresh with new content, but at the same time, a single, immutable game lets players settle and really learn the intricacies of a game and its ruleset. And then there are always house rules…

    I find I’m more of a single game enthusiast. I don’t like feature creep or mudflation in MMOs, and I think I’d really dislike codex creep.

    Thanks for bringing this up, by the way. I’m trying to wrangle a ruleset and business plan for my Zomblobs! game, which I intend to offer as a tabletop minis game before I try to make a digital version. I’m leaning strongly to a single box philosophy, leaving myself room for new units and rule errata for stuff I just screw up on, but trying hard to avoid the temptation to keep fiddling around with it. If I do expand, I want to just present new tactical opportunities, not mudflation. Say, a new unit with an improved rate of movement but weaker defense or something; I want to keep the power level on an even keel. I think it makes for a better game.

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