So You Still Think You’re JUST a Model Company, Do You?

Reecius here from Frontline Gaming to say I think it’s time to reassess the status quo.

So we all know the stance GW typically takes on their philosophy as a company: they are a miniatures company, not a game company. Odd stance to take for a company called Games Workshop, but semantics aside, I believe that the time has come to readjust this perspective.

So who am I and why should anyone care about my opinion? Most of you know me as a blogger here and on Faeit as well as our home turf over at Frontline Gaming. We also own a brick and mortar game store, run events around the Western USA such as the recent Las Vegas Open, have a full line paint and terrain studio, and follow the industry closely. We also manufacture our own product line, our very popular Gaming Mats with plans to expand into a wider range of products!

So what, you may be saying? That wasn’t bragging at all, just an attempt to show that we are industry professionals, not just laymen with an opinion. That said, we don’t claim to be the last word in the miniatures game nor are we anywhere near the level of GW. Say what you will about their decisions, they have been leading the industry for 30+ years. Any critiques we offer here are done so humbly and as retailers that sell their product as well as life-long lovers of what they make.

So, that aside, why do I say it may be time to rethink the old adage that GW is a miniatures company and not a game company? Because the marketplace has been changing. The recent study shown here, which is a collection of industry sales estimates and opinions of professionals, show a dramatic change from times past when GW would dominate. Now I know folks will disagree with this based on anecdotal experience and what they observe in their own stores, etc. The fact is though that while GW is still the 600lb Gorilla in the corner of the room, they are no longer the only show in town. Now while this one study doesn’t prove anything definitively, it is one more piece of a larger puzzle.

GW does make beautiful models. I love them. We all do. However, that is no longer enough. As I have said many times, the trifecta of a great miniatures game is compelling fluff to keep a gamer interested in the setting, beautiful miniatures to evoke a desire to collect and paint them, and elegant rules to create a fun, balanced environment in which to use the models and play out the fluff. GW nails two of those three categories. Amazing miniatures, one of the best SciFi settings I have ever encountered in 40K, but the rules are really where they fall short. Fantasy has a cool setting but, it is a bit blase and a pretty blatant mash-up of Moorcock and Lord of the Rings. 40K definitely started as a similar animal but really has evolved into its own, very cool and unique beast.

If we look at the games that are gaining market share on GW, they often do not have as good of miniatures or fluff. For example, one of the most common things I hear form Warmahordes converts that were former GW players (and that is a growing demographic right now. As I type this our shop is full of Warmahordes players that were former, dedicated 40K players) is that they may not like the minis as much with Warmahordes, or the fluff, but they appreciate a game with a tight rule set that supports their community and cares about game balance.

Another example is Infinity which is growing rapidly in popularity here. Infinity has stellar models, no doubt, but they do not have the amazing multi-part plastic kits GW has. They do have some very compelling fluff, too, and a rule set that while not perfect, does make strides to create a balanced gaming environment. They make the effort to balance their game. That matters a lot with the customer base.

As a counter-point to this, let’s look at Fantasy. Warhammer Fantasy is an incredibly long-lived, respected name in the miniatures industry. Fantasy has absolutely stunning minis. Seriously, the recent Fantasy releases are just stellar with huge, compelling kits that can be built multiple ways, gorgeous infantry, monstrous cavalry, etc. Whenever we paint a Fantasy army in our studio I am always blown away by the kits. However, Fantasy has been steadily losing market share. If the beauty of the models really was the deciding factor when making purchasing decisions, then Fantasy should be doing very strong. However, that is not the case. I know the reason I quit playing Fantasy in 7th ed was when the unholy trinity of Daemons/Dark Elves/Vamps hit the scene, the game went so absurdly out of balance that I had no desire to play the game anymore as it felt like a futile use of my time.

That is just my personal experience with Fantasy and I am sure others will disagree. However, I also know a lot of folks share that sentiment and left the game around the same time. When 8th dropped are really dramatically changed the game, encouraging huge units and uber-destructive magic, we saw a lot more vets leave the game. Again, anecdotal evidence which some folks will disagree with, but the point here being that even the gorgeous models were not enough to earn my and many other gamers’ dollars as a consumer. A Fantasy army can be pretty expensive to collect and takes a lot of time and dedication to finish as they can have very high model counts. Why would I make that investment, even if I really did love the models, when the game was not fun to play? Particularly when it felt like the company really didn’t care at all about fixing the problems with balance. Again, I am sure that not every employee at GW feels that way, and that many of them really do care bout the balance of their game, but it certainly isn’t communicated to us as consumers that that is the case.

Unless you were truly just a collector of miniatures, the choice to put your hobby dollars into a game that you perceived to be more enjoyable is an easy one. And this is why, in my opinion, we see the younger games growing so quickly while the pedigreed Fantasy is experiencing a downturn in popularity.

So how much of the market really are just collectors? I know I am a gamer first, but that is just me. I do not pretend to think that everyone feels the way I do. I don’t have any market research to make a definitive statement one way or the other, but my impressions as an individual that is REALLY involved with communicating with the community, is that most hobbyists are somewhere in the middle between the hardcore gamer and hardcore collector/painter. Most hobbyists in this industry love collecting and painting the miniatures, exploring the fluff and playing the game. While we all may favor one of the aspects above another, there is typically not an enormous disparity in balance between those three categories. It is the outlier that only focuses on a single aspect of the hobby to the exclusion of all other aspects.

So in my mind, it seems odd that a company would choose to market themselves as a miniatures company when to my knowledge, their customer base buys the models to play the game. Of course, my perception on that topic could be wrong, perhaps there really are four collectors that do not interact with the community much–if at all–for every one gamer that buys the models to collect, paint and game with. However, our experience as game store owners, event organizers, and bloggers has been quite the contrary. We have found for every one customer that buys models only to paint and collect, there are at least four that buy them to play the game. Again, that is not definitive evidence, but ever other retailer/hobbyist/etc. that I have spoken with on the subject says the same thing.

So again, why would you as a company seem to disregard such an important part of your product? As retailers, I can say that models with “good” rules sell many, many times more than models that are aesthetically pleasing but not perceived to be powerful or good on the table. A perfect example of this is the Wraithknight for Eldar and the Crimson Hunter/Hemlock Wraithfighter. The Wraithknight sells like hot cakes as it is both a beautiful model and very good on the table. The Crimson Hunter is also a beautiful model, but it is not perceived to be as good, and we sell far fewer of them. The Hemlock has rules that don’t really function as they were probably intended to (can’t use it’s special power the turn it comes into the game) and as such, I have never actually seen one used in a game. I could rattle off a dozen other examples such as this but in my opinion it is quite simple: rules drive sales. If the consumer has a limited amount of money to spend on models, and time to paint them, they will tend to purchase the item that gives them the most perceived value.

Why GW presents themselves as a company that makes miniatures first, is something I can only speculate at. They are professionals and have a very successful company. Perhaps it is to avoid having to invest money into “fixing” rules for a product that is already on the market when that money could be spent paying the development team to make new products that generate revenue? It certainly feels that that is the case now with the deluge of products we have been getting from GW and dearth of FAQs to fix the often comical errors that have been coming with their products lately. The Inquisition Codex having the wrong title on release? Wow. The Legion of the Damned Codex auto-losing every single game you use them on release with no explanation? Wow. Rampant grammar errors and misspellings in $50, hard back books from the industry leader? Again, wow.

I can accept a Codex such as that for the Imperial Knights, that has really a single model in it, but I cannot accept a Codex like this that you literally have to make rules up as an end user to actually play the army. The rules presented as they are, don’t give you the tools you need to actually use the dang model in a game. That is not the level of professionalism I would expect from a company as large and established as GW. It honestly is ridiculous that these huge, glaring mistakes make it through to production and while pumping out the product at a breakneck rate does boost short term sales, it degrades the prestige of the brand and it drives customers away who become fed up with the premium price but not the premium product (again, in terms of rules) that they expect. Simply making the statement that you are not a rules company does not compensate for these types of mistakes.

In my eyes both the issues and solutions are fairly clear. Of course I do not have the scope of knowledge that a C level employee at GW does, but as a consumer and retailer I see my customers going to other games for the same reason over and over: the Rules. 10+ year 40K veterans are picking up Warmahordes, Malifaux, X-Wing, Infinity, Drop Zone Commander, etc. and not looking back. They almost always state the same reason: 40K as a game is no longer enjoyable to them because there is either too many rules coming out too fast, a gross imbalance in the rules between factions, or a lack of clarity in the rules making it hard to play the game outside of a small group with house rules.

Fantasy sales have REALLY slowed down. That is not to say it is all doom and gloom by any means. 6th edition 40K has the potential to be the coolest and most fun edition ever, in my opinion, but more time and energy needs to be put into the design and maintenance of the game aspect of the product to retain the customers we do have and to draw new customers in. Otherwise, I think we will continue to see a dilution of the customer base to those games that may not have the same level of quality in their models or depth of setting (although that gap is being closed every day) but have much clearer, tighter rules that are constantly updated and fine tuned in the attempt to create the most fair and balanced GAME that they can.

In my eyes GW can easily reassert themselves as the bull in the china shop by focusing more energy and resources into strengthening the one weakness in their product line as I see it: the rules. By making a rule set that is worded consistently and clearly, examples of what they mean with the rules, PLAY TESTING to avoid obvious rules inconsistencies, over-powered combos or oversights, and a constant effort to correct imbalance through FAQs and listening to community feedback, all of their customers will benefit. And we WANT them to succeed not only because we sell their product, but because we love the games and settings as consumers and gamers.

That creates a game that is more fun to play with more viable units (which means more of the product line selling strongly) and it will earn them a boatload of goodwill with the community. I think that this effort to maintain and perfect the structure that largely drives the sales of their models (the game itself) is a wise use of time and resources that will help long term fiscal health and to maintain their advantage over their competitors. They have the amazing fluff, the beautiful models, the infrastructure, the brand, and stellar customer service. They just need to make sure young companies that are studying their weaknesses and hungry to gobble up market share don’t come along with a better mousetrap and eat their lunch.

What do you all think about GW’s rules? Is that the silver bullet?


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

82 Responses to “So You Still Think You’re JUST a Model Company, Do You?”

  1. Avatar
    Fagerlund March 20, 2014 1:02 am #

    Well written! I totally agree. While pretty much all of the inconsistency in the rules can be understood what they’re meant to be. .. it’s very difficult to argue against what is actually written. I feel like these rules are meant to be played with friends, where everyone are cool with each other and whatever asshat-trickery is all in good nature… but if there were well written rules it’d actually be possible to have the kind of community that people are trying to have, with the organized events etc.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 20, 2014 9:05 am #

      Exactly. They don’t lose anything by writing better rules, they only gain. That is the thing that blows me mind is that while yes, the game is clearly meant to be a for fun game, that doesn’t mean you can write sloppy rules.

      • Avatar
        Fagerlund March 20, 2014 11:55 am #

        What blows my mind is how they let stuff like this get released in the first place… I mean, is it really so hard to let someone else read what you’ve written before you send it to the printers? I get it that sometimes you get blind to stuff you’ve written yourself, it was so obvious inside your head… but surely there must be at least one other guy who has a decent grasp of the rules sitting around at the office who has an spare hour or so?

        And well, I guess the dream scenario would be some kind of beta-testing… just release a beta of the rules online – all of us who’ll use them will GLADLY correct them… FOR FREE. Then it could be sent to be printed, and most of the ambiguous rules would be sorted out at least…

        • Avatar
          Smellofwetdog March 20, 2014 3:08 pm #

          That’s a pretty good idea right there, not only would that build a better rapport with the community that buys and uses their products it would ensure 1) we the end users get good rules and 2) GW gets a complimentary play test AND feedback from people who buy their product. This would be much preferable to curling up in a ball and hiding from the community like they seem to be doing now.

          I could see where a large company might dismiss this out of hand by thinking some people would game the system to beef up or nerf rules for certain factions or weapons. To that response I say, yes you would need to participate cradle to grave in the playtesting process to prevent this BUT the community expects you to already do that…

          Keeping rules secret until they’re released (and doing kinda badly at that too) and then sticking your fingers in your ears has kind of been pissing people off lately, just in case you hadn’t noticed there GW…

        • Reecius
          Reecius March 21, 2014 3:16 pm #

          My thoughts exactly. I used to be a professional editor. I miss stuff all the time in my own writing, but I will clean someone else’s writing up very well. I’d be happy to edit GW’s stuff if only because I can’t wait to read it, myself! I am sure I am one of hundreds like this.

  2. Avatar
    Lemenhead March 20, 2014 2:06 am #

    I DO think that better rules writing is the magic bullet. I DON’T think that GW is gonna be the one to do it. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We have been waiting for that one unit, supplement, datasheet, or codex from GW that would fix what they willingly broke. It’s not gonna happen. If anything, the recent flood of content shows that they have very little interest in slowing down and fixing anything. To be clear, I love GW minis and fluff. I am sitting a desk surrounded by thousands of dollars of their products…What irritates me most about the situation isnt just that they claim to be ONLY a models company, its that while theyre milking us for $35 dataslates, they go to such lengths to portray themselves as a bunch of regular gamers. Whee, look at us, we are just sitting around hobbying and playing games just like you guys. Heck, they even claim that a few of their staff are tournament gamers. If thats true, how is it possible that those guys dont bitch like crazy about how broken the game is? I have yet to meet a group of gamers (of any game) that isnt super-vocal about any perceived weakness in a rules set. Anyway…

    To circle back, GW isnt the one to fix the problem they created. Lets continue to use their awesome minis and fluff to play the game we want to play. I really like that you guys are playtesting the asymetrical missions. This is the direction I think the community needs to take. Take control of your own game cause GW isnt going to do it for you.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 20, 2014 10:37 am #

      Yeah, you said it. We continue to see the reigns of control handed over to us as players which is cool, really, but it takes time for people to accept that.

  3. Avatar
    Lujke March 20, 2014 2:22 am #

    The inability of Games Workshop to communicate with its player base I feel is one of the biggest failures. Even to have some designers notes or commentary with model and rules releases would go a long way help sort out some of the inconsistancies in rules and help gamers understand what the designers are trying to do if they don’t quite get there.

    Now for Legion of the Damned, I can’t stand this whining about them auto losing as you are never meant to have a whole army of LotD. This is not how they appear in the fluff and the rules have been intentionally made to have them play like the fluff. As a primary they are a larger force that appear just in time to save a smaller force that is about to be overwhelmed by a larger enemy and wiped out. And as a allied detachment they are to represent them appearing to in small numbers to swing the tide of battle towards the forces of the imperium. I don’t know but this is quite obvious to me and maybe some need the little explanation from GW to see this.

    • Avatar
      EvilLairChandler March 20, 2014 9:17 am #

      Spot on assessment of LotD! I tell people this all the time when they bitch about the supplement. Playing them as a primary detachment you can see on the table how it plays out like the fluff. A small force of space marines being overwhelmed by the enemy on the first turn. Then BOOM LotD appear everywhere to intervene and possibly save the day. That’s how they are supposed to work. The supplement reflects the fluff.

      That said, there are a lot of inconsistencies and just plain errors in the supplement, but overall, LotD was not ever intended to be used solely by iteself, despite the fact they termed it a “Codex.”

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 20, 2014 9:26 am #

      The lack of communication is so frustrating, I agree.

      However, as for the LotD, I agree on the fluff, but don’t you think it would have been wise to explain HOW the army was meant to be played so that someone buying it doesn’t feel let down? If they want the army to appear in the middle of the game and never be played as an army unto themselves, that is fine, but you should SAY that in the book! haha, that is not too much to ask at all, in fact, it is ridiculous that it wasn’t there in the first place.

      • Avatar
        Lujke March 20, 2014 5:01 pm #

        Yeah Reecius, this all comes back to what I was saying about GW needing to communicate with its clients (the gamers). the above example to me seems quite obvious but it appears it isn’t to a lot of people and GW needs to fix this.

        I also feel that this is being exacerbated by the ever increasing rise in GW nerd rage. I think people are getting so consumed by the rage and disappoint that they are seeing the finer points of the newer releases. I’m not trying to suggest that there are no issues but I feel a lot of people need to calm down a little, take a step back and just take it a step at a time here. We are playing a game of little toy soldiers after all and maybe the current scene of disarray and confusion can help to put us all on a level playing field and bring us all together as a playing community.

        BTW great work Reecius, in the community, I generally feel that you try to keep positive and look at the broader scene and are one of the more moderate voices out there. Keep up the good work it is appreciated by me here in the ‘land down under’ mate. I agree with most of your sentiments about 90% of the time and I feel this is a healthy amount.

        • Avatar
          Smellofwetdog March 21, 2014 8:37 am #

          Just on this specific example: given what we know about LotD of course they would need some way to accompany or ally to another force, however GW labelled it a “Codex” and when you say codex in GW speak since at least the 90s when I started up that’s meant an army.

          LotD could’ve been a supplement or dataslate before GW decided everything needed supplements and dataslates and would’ve been a well received way to get a cool force on the table with your main army. But that’s not what GW did, they released a “codex” with vague and ambiguous rules and even stated it could be played as a primary detachment.

          Of course we can figure out how to play this as a community, but ultimately this is a hobby and people participate because they find it enjoyable on some level. If you have to spend more time deciphering the rules intended versus written and whatnot than you might spend figuring out policies at work you might get frustrated. I think people get angry because 1) it’s the internet and everyone’s angry (lol) and 2) people care about this and can probably remember when GW did this stuff better.

          You’re absolutely right btw that hyperbole on the internet is way overblown and people probably need to bring it down a notch or three. I’m writing this in my calm internet voice right now as part of an excellent discussion I’m enjoying btw 😀

        • Reecius
          Reecius March 21, 2014 3:17 pm #

          Good point, you did mention communication which is totally true. It frustrates me that these things come out.

          And thanks for the kind words! Much appreciated.

  4. Avatar
    Charlie March 20, 2014 3:04 am #

    I’ve literally been into the 40K hobby for 25 years now and have played every edition of 40K.

    I’ve not seen anyone leave the GW hobby due to the miniatures. I have seen folks leave due to costs, but this is not a new trend as GW has always charged a premium for their product so I basically discount pricing as a reason for a mass exodus.

    I have, however, seen a large number of players leave the game THIS edition. I nearly did when I first began playing it. I felt like I was a playtester despite the fact that I bought a completed product. The rules are simply a mess. These days, I generally can’t get a pick up game in as nobody plays. I have to drive an hour away to another city to get a game in which means weekends only. And having a family limits how many Saturdays I can commit. For whatever reason, GW massively dropped the ball with this ruleset and it is a HUGE reason folks are not playing the game. If they don’t play the game, they don’t buy the minis to go with the game (there are a few exceptions but not enough to keep sales steady).

    I’m really unsure how GW can fix this at this point. I’m optimistic that the rumored 6.5/7th edition to hit this summer will be a great set of rules. However, I’ve got a feeling that release will simply be 6th edition with rewrites for their ERRATA/FAQs, updated Building rules and Superheavy rules (which we already own). Essentially, a new rulebook that will fix very little.

    I’m really at a crossroads with the hobby. I’ve build several armies over the decades, but now I’m down to my main army: Eldar (over 10,000 points painted) and a 1500 point Farsight Enclave army. I wanted to build an Imperial Knight army (the models are absolutely awesome), but the basic rules of how to play a SINGLE model are ambiguous/incomplete. I don’t know how barrage/vector strikes works against the IK and I don’t know how far it is supposed to move in terrain. VERY BASIC RULES that should have been addressed right from it’s release. As a result, I simply did not buy a single model. I don’t know how GW decides who their target audience is, but they lost a $400 + purchase do to incomplete rules writing.

    I do hope GW fixes the problem, which is atrocious gameplay writing. I enjoy the hobby immensely. However, I cannot follow them blindly if they continue down this path. I will simply be left with no recourse but to vote with my wallet. I have already toned down my purchases from GW, but I will have to stop all purchases until I see a better product.

    • Avatar
      Novastar March 20, 2014 6:37 am #

      As far as Vector strikes go you wouldn’t get the ion shield save, because vector strikes are done in the movement phase and the shield specifically says it’s activated in the enemy shooting phase, hope that helps even if just a tiny bit, as far as moving through terrain, I think GW meant for super heavy walker to get slowed down to the D6 move as a way to help balance them, the barrage is a bit trickier but in a lot of the times just hit the side armour that is closer to the center of the blast marker and if it’s a direct hit in the middle dice off.

      • Avatar
        Eldarain March 20, 2014 10:29 am #

        Shields are up at the beginning of the game and last until the next players shooting phase where you either keep the same facing or pick a new one.

        ” When an Imperial Knight is deployed, and subsequently at the start of each of the opposing side’s Shooting phases before any attacks are carried out, the Imperial Knight player must declare which facing each Imperial Knight’s Ion Shield is covering”…

        “The Knight has a 4+ invulnerable save against all hits on that facing until the start of your opponent’s next shooting phase.”

        • Avatar
          Charlie March 20, 2014 12:54 pm #

          The shield would absolutely be up in most cases when a Vector Strike occurs.

          Assume you get first turn and start on the table, the Imperial Knight’s shield is up. Then, in your opponent’s shooting phase you declare what facing the shield is up and this facing lasts until your opponent’s next shooting phase.

          Your turn 2 starts and your shield is still up (as it stays up until your opponent’s shooting phase). Then, your opponent starts his turn 2 movement, he vector strikes and your shield is up, but how does the shield interact? All hits are considered hits on its side armor; does this mean regardless of which side gets hit? The rulebook does not state what side armor to hit. Do we just assume anything that auto hits side armor gets the 4+ inv save as there is no distinction for side armor (IE: Left or Right side?)

          Same for barrage. I think it would be logical that the final position would dictate where the blast originates from. But, what if the blast hits the dead center of the the IK? What facing is that?

          The same goes for Move Through Cover. Sure, we can say that this thing is massively slowed down by terrain, if reading by RAW. However, it makes little sense and GW could have EASILY put in a small blurb such as (yes, this means the model can only move a max of 6″ while moving through terrain).

          I am pretty easy going and generally default to where I get the least advantageous interpretation, but these things are pretty basic. And it’s been a succession of these kind of ‘what the ?’ moments I’ve had all through 6th edition. Add in the very high priced rulebooks/codexes/datasheets/etc… and I feel cheated.

          • Avatar
            Novastar March 20, 2014 1:18 pm

            I guess untill a FAQ just have to dice off or agree beforehand with an opponent, tournaments will have thier own ruling, as for the ” tiny blurb to describe the rule” they could have just as easily put in any other wording for moving through terrain, but they didn’t so that is why in this case raw/rai are they same, GW gave it move through cover to at least help mitigate a crappy roll, all because we think it was an error or over looked by GW doesn’t make it so

      • Avatar
        Chaosmaster March 20, 2014 10:35 am #

        When an Imperial Knight is —> “deployed and subsequently at the start of each of the opposing side’s shooting phases” <—before any attacks are carried out, the Imperial Knight player must declare which facing each Imperial Knight's ion shield is covering.

        When deployed…. So at the end of your deployment you can choose as well, or when it enters from outflanking.

  5. Avatar
    Bassface7 March 20, 2014 4:13 am #

    One word to encompass every semi serious 40k players feelings: Frustrated.

  6. Avatar
    Aldaris March 20, 2014 4:19 am #

    I fully agree with the article, and I’ve been preaching the same thing for quite some time now (albeit from a “just a consumer and part of the community” perspective). There is an obvious demand for properly balanced and playtested rules, but, for some reason, GW refuse to acknowledge any kind of demand and just supply what the hell they feel like. Which would be a viable (if still somewhat dickish) approach if they were in an environment were they had the monopoly, but they don’t. Resting on laurels rarely does the laurels any good.

    What is almost more infuriating though is the total lack of communication regarding those issues. This refrain has been coming from the community loud and clear for a long time, but it just seems to go into a void. No acknowledgement, no response, no reaction on any meaningful level. I just don’t get it. I love both Fantasy and 40K, I own multiple armies, and I’ve collected and played for a long time. And it is just painful to watch how the company that makes those beautiful models and games just screwing up hilariously, time and time again, when the solution is so painfully obvious. I just hope they see the writing on the wall at some point and do something about it. At the moment, they’re still top dog. Now they only need to take steps to ensure they actually STAY top dog, because the days when there wasn’t any meaningful competition are definitely over. Time to wake up and smell the coffee, GW! gogogogo!

  7. Avatar
    cavalier March 20, 2014 4:21 am #

    Man its really hard to figure out why GW has barricaded themselves behind a wall of silence. In age where entertainment companies are breaking down their customers doors for fan-interaction and input, GW has run screaming in the opposite direction and I can’t fathom why…

    The problem has to be upper management, and it stems from the fact that GW has never had to advertise and hence the their is no PR department to chime in on their business strategies.

    Bottom line is its patently obvious that the business heads at GW have no idea what drives the customer base, and hence they are heading further and further from a modern approach to customer relations and hence diminished sales and a diminishing customer base.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:19 pm #

      It feels like they’re getting a tiny bit better with outreach, such as with the digital team, but yeah, they really could use a healthy dose of outreach.

  8. Avatar
    Moridan March 20, 2014 5:00 am #

    Not a dedicated follower of the 40K “scene”, but does GW follow any of these blogs? Do they honestly know that their rules are in such a poor state, and they just dont care?

    Would picketing GW HQ with signs to fix their rules help?

    • Avatar
      Aldaris March 20, 2014 5:13 am #

      We have no idea if they read any of this stuff. Their legal department certainly scours the net for any IP infractions, but I don’t think they read any actual content that amounts to feedback.

      As for picketing GW headquarters – go ahead. I personally like the game, but if I ever do anything like that, it won’t be for a game. 😉

  9. Avatar
    Xzandrate March 20, 2014 5:10 am #

    I completely agree with the points brought up. They are missing the boat on a lot of things by being “just a miniature” company. Yes, they have great models, but they are not using the best promotional tool to sell them, a good game system. I think Wyrd and Malifaux are the best people to look at for this, they started with some great models and then built a unique and fun game to push those models.

    On a semi-related note, where is the merch? Why are there not more of the dog tags, shirts, posters, printed cases, etc? They end up getting this amazing art to support their models and stories, but it is never translated to anything else.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:20 pm #

      I always wondered the same thing about shirts, posters, etc? That is a gold mine going untapped.

  10. Avatar
    RyanL March 20, 2014 5:35 am #

    Whilst I do agree that there’s a problem, I do have sympathy with GW. It’s easy to say that the rules need to be fixed, it’s another thing to actually do it.

    We can easily identify a handful of rules that have issues and propose ways to fix them but to address an entire system is a mammoth task.

    How do you balance all the armies whilst:

    – maintaining a specific identity for each of them
    – keep it fun
    – maintain the fluff of the armies
    – ensure that games themselves run smoothly on both a casual and competitive level
    – account for different board sizes, terrain, layout
    – keep it simple enough that a pre-teen can play but complex enough for the adult audience
    – maintain balance within missions

    And all of that is before you take into account the practicalities of a business, i.e. they can’t release everything together, there will have to be a Codex roll-out over a period of time. Plus, they need to have a regular release schedule to keep the current players interested.

    Think of the pages and pages of discussion on 2+ rerollable saves, that’s just one problem and I haven’t seen a proposal that actually works yet!

    • Avatar
      Aldaris March 20, 2014 6:05 am #

      Strangely enough, other companies do it just fine. Yes, it isn’t easy. But is it impossible? Certainly not. Look at M:TG for a prime example. They’ve had soooo, so many releases since the early 90’s, and all that stuff can and will interact. Broken combos do slip through. BUT! They actually monitor what works and what doesn’t and then errata it. Resulting in continuing balance that has been maintained for almost 25 years. And this is done in an arguably vastly more complex system concerning rules interactions.

      “But its kinda hard!” is a bad excuse, because rules are an integral part of the game GW is selling. If the actual game was a free to download PDF someone slapped together on a whim no one would be complaining. They’re selling tons of rules, for a lot of money though. And if a company wants to profit from something, they’d better make sure their product is up to scratch.

      • Avatar
        RyanL March 20, 2014 6:49 am #

        Don’t get me wrong, I agree that it can be done. Just that I’m sympathetic.

        Imagine the poor guys at GW. Most of them are probably just like us – who would want to be “that guy” who nerfed your colleague’s/friend’s/wife’s army? Let alone the community fall-out – they’d have to go into witness protection and change their name! (i.e. “The Design Team” :-P)

        Card games aren’t a good comparison though, I’d say. They’re very “mechanical” in how they play and don’t have the infinite variety of movement, terrain, line of sight etc. I’ve never played M:TG though, so I won’t comment extensively on this!

        Fundamentally, though I think the GW systems are “ok” – you move your figures, you roll some dice and someone wins. Perhaps a tidy up of the rules and a little bit of finesse would be enough?

        • Avatar
          Lemenhead March 20, 2014 7:23 am #

          I agree with you in that it likely is VERY complex to make a rules set that addresses all the concerns you highlighted. But don’t all those variables actually argue for a less (and not more) complicated rules set?

          • Avatar
            RyanL March 20, 2014 7:43 am

            It’s a balance between complexity and variety.

            Take Relentless and Slow and Purposeful, they both have a primary purpose that lets you move and shoot heavy weapons but the secondary rules give quite a difference between units.

            The same goes for Fearless and ATSKNF, they /could/ be combined but you’d lose flavour.

            All Space Marine chapters could use the same units, the same rules and just have a different colour scheme. This would upset a lot of people though (and reduce sales no doubt).

            I do think there could be some streamlining though in the core rules. The first thing I’d do is make movement more efficient – remove random move distances for cover and running. E.g. Difficult terrain -3″ move. Run +3″ move. Then combine them into one phase, so I don’t have to move all my models then go back and start again in the shooting phase when I want to run!

  11. Avatar
    davepak March 20, 2014 5:55 am #

    Totally agree.

    Here is some simple math for GW:

    As a collector I might buy one termagant, or firewarror, wave serpent or crone.


    As a gamer…. I have 90 termagants, 60 firewarriors, 4 wave serpents etc.

    Don’t get me wrong, a cool model with barely passable rules will sell some (FW sells a lot of these) but a cool model with amazing rules sells a lot more.
    (compare tau sunshark bomber sales to hell drakes…..notice a pattern).

    thanks for the post. Also, one important point in all your comments.

    Regardless if the other companies really do care about their customers/rules, there is a perception they do. Likewise, there is a perception GW does not.

    And when voting with dollars, perception is reality.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:21 pm #

      You said it. A gamer buys lots of the good things because his motivation is to do well in the game. A collector may get 1 of them to paint and display.

      Then there are the hoarders that get 9 Land Raiders, lol!

  12. Avatar
    Gargh March 20, 2014 7:16 am #

    Weirdly, I think the Skyblight Swarm actually suggests that they can care about the rules in extreme cases. Tyranid release was widely panned as both underpowered and unfun, and they followed it up with a hilariously powerful formation. It could be a coincidence (I’m not sure how far in advance the Dataslates are finished), but it’s certainly plausible that the Nid dix was actually bad enough to have a noticeable impact on sales, and they responded to that.

    So I guess I’m saying (a) despite the rhetoric, they might actually know that rules have some effect on sales, and (b) be careful what you wish for. A GW that realises that powerful units sell might be a dangerous thing indeed…

    • Avatar
      Eldarain March 20, 2014 1:14 pm #

      While this is quite possibly true and It would be a sign that perhaps the scare the poor financial reports gave them will have a positive affect, I am unfortunately leaning towards the far more cynical explanation.

      With the recently hyperspeed release of new “Codexes” Dataslates and Formations they are seeking to enter into the DLC market with the very rules which are already incredibly expensive for how much rules content they provide.

      It will be very telling how much of the powerful Imperial Guard (Sorry Astra whatever) and Orks rules are in the main book and how many are offered as Slates/Formations etc.

      We’ve already gotten wind of a Stormtrooper (Sorry Tempestus whatever) focused Hardcover…

  13. Avatar
    Kazi March 20, 2014 7:23 am #

    They could literally hire one employee and fix a lot of issues. Here is the job description:
    Games Workshop Quality Control Employee

    1. Spell check codices and make rules less ambiguous. The Dark Angels codex and other codices had sloppy errors in them. These could have been easily fixed with proper editing with almost no effort. This requires a high school level reading comprehension and the ability to use Microsoft Word or another word processing system that has spell check. Alternatively this requires the ability to read a printed codex and circle bad things with a red pen. This requires a 6 hour review of each codex before release.

    2. Basic mathammer. This requires the use of a spreadsheet or a website such as For each unit in a codex run some basic numbers such as the resilience of the unit and the damage output of the unit against various units. This will be compared against the relative cost of the unit. The game does not need to be perfectly mathematically balanced, but extremely unbalanced outliers such as wave serpents should be brought in line. A wave serpent should not be more resilient than a land raider and do way more damage for its cost etc. Let us say there is a simple threshold of resilience per point and damage per point that things should not cross. The goal here is to eliminate things that are way overcosted or undercosted. This requires high school level algebra and a 40 hour review of each codex before release.

    3. Basic play testing. This requires that the person know how to play the game. They should build 5 army lists encompassing each unit in the codex with each codex and play against at least 5 other army lists in at least 5 games (instead of the zero play testing they do now). To make it simple the opposing army lists can be the same each time: MSU MEQ, horde army (Tryanids or Orks), flyer heavy army, monstrous creatures heavy army, etc. These games should have the same points values on each side unlike the bullshit they fart out in the White Dwarf battle reports. Also the missions should be from the actual rule book and not some bullshit they shit out of their ass to forge a narrative. This will at least reveal any glaring rules changes that shows certain units are completely unplayable such as Pyrovores. Play testing should focus on the new rules of the codex and see if they are too muddled or incomprehensible to play. Requires maybe 80 hours of play testing before each codex release. Requires a 12 year old brain that can understand the rules.

    4. FAQs. This person will receive emails forwarded from customer service about customer crying about the rules. This person will only respond if there is an overwhelming trend in some direction. This person will then have to play test the issue and see if this is a real problem. If it is they can write something up in a quarterly FAQ per codex. Requires the ability to read emails and play the game. Also requires the ability to type up an FAQ that has the correct army name at the bottom of the document.

    • High school diploma
    • Basic reading and writing skills
    • Basic algebra skills
    • Knows how to play the game
    • 40 hours a week, $16/hour (or whatever a living wage is for the area) no benefits minimum age of 16

    Sadly GW is too cheap to even do this with all their millions. So I do not buy the bullshit excuse that it costs too much to do this. The goal isn’t even to make great rules, just rules that are somewhat clear and not blatantly in-your-face horrible.

    • Avatar
      Novastar March 20, 2014 9:21 am #

      GW does play test the armies, what they do not do is break the game like we competitive players do, they do not have the same mind set we do when playing, they test it to see if it’s generally fun, they don’t spam helldrakes or wave serpents because it wouldn’t be fun for the opponent, they try and to instill a very British feel to thier game( and they have every right to) and rules reflect a more relaxed narrator driven game, you have games like warmachine where the goal is to bonk the other guy on the head. Warhammer is never going to be a hallmark of tight rules it just won’t, they expect the players to be civil to each other ( in list design).

      • Avatar
        Gordon March 20, 2014 6:12 pm #

        They do a very, very minimal amount of playtesting, and regardless of how much they do, it’s pretty blatantly obvious that it’s not enough. Nor is the excuse that it’s a casual game so it doesn’t need tight rules anything more than just that, an excuse.

      • Avatar
        Fulcrum March 20, 2014 8:49 pm #

        From the mouth a a former designer & employee of GW: they don’t playtest in any real sense of the word. It is frowned upon by corporate management & seen as a waste of time & $.

  14. Avatar
    N.I.B. March 20, 2014 7:25 am #

    Excellent article. Some years ago (2006), when Gav Thorpe (game designer of WFB and several army books) was still in the company he occasionally engaged in conversations on The Warhammer Forum.

    I searched his posts, found some related to the topic:

    “Two things to bear I mind:

    1. The actual ‘parent’ company of GW and Citadel miniatures when they combined was Citadel – Citadel took over GW. GW were games retailers, not designers. Citadel, under Bryan Ansell, created Warhammer to sell the range of the fantasy miniatures they were producing. Ever since, it has been the job of GW/Citadel to create ranges of fantasy and sci-fi miniatures and produce games that allow people to use their collections. It isn’t a big change in philosophy, it isn’t a conspiracy to squeeze more money out of people, it’s really the way the business was grown and developed.

    2. The games are, of course, highly successful in their own right these days and bring in their fair share of the cash. However, if someone wanted to make games for games’ sake the designers would be better off with CCGs, RPGs and boardgames – they are much simpler to write and support than 20+ miniatures ranges! ”


    “This is a miniatures wargame, and the appearance of miniatures drives a lot of the rules. For example, why was there such a fuss about Executioners having heavy armour? Because the models look well armoured!

    This does not mean that a miniatures designer sits in a darkened room somewhere and just sculpts whatever he likes and then we just write rules for it (well, not for at least 7 or 8 years…). The consultation between games dev and miniatures design is an important part of the process and one that works very well these days. ”


    “it’s very hard to understand GW’s policies until you understand that underlying dynamic. It doesn’t mean the games aren’t valued, or important, because they are. All it means is that in matters of strategy, the requirements of the miniatures range (where the lion’s share of the investment is) is a driving factor. There usually isn’t any conflict between the two sides of the hobby (minis/ game).”


    “Many players will pick miniatures because of their rules, but not all of them. How else would you explain the fact that, even before the update, the Dark Elves infantry box was one of our best selling regiment sets?

    Of course models with good rules (however one judges that) sell better than those that perhaps are overcosted or underpowered. We strive towards the ideal of every entry being a viable choice, and we get it right more often than not – which is why when we come back to an army book we’ll be looking to redress the one’s that don’t fit rather than change the ones that do just for the sake of it. ”


    “Actually, I think several people have picked up on my point here, even on such a ‘gamer’s’ forum. If everyone here were just a ‘pure’ gamer, enjoying nothing but the tactical challenge and friendly competition, then they wouldn’t be playing Warhammer. Many have cited the fact that although they don’t enjoy painting, they do enjoy playing with a painted army, or just seeing a painted army. There’s an aesthetic to miniatures wargaming that isn’t replicated by any other type of game. While we would all love to play a fantastic game over an awesome battlefield with gorgeously painted armies, for most of us these are things we can merely aspire to. Even the tinboy playing over books and a few pebbles has an image in his head of what that game _could_ be one day, perhaps. As hard as it might be for some here to picture, there are many people that play games the world over that don’t feel the same way we do about miniatures wargames. They don’t have the ‘toy soldier’ gene, so to speak.

    That is why we say that miniatures come first – not in any way that purposefully breaks game play, but by recognising the appeal of a tabletop wargame stems initially from the visual aspect, then the game, and then, for many, the hobby that surrounds it. Most of us, upon seeing a game in progress, will look at the models first, and by this I mean look at the paint job, whether there’s any converting, and so on. Only then do we take a step back and look at the state of the game, who’s winning, positioned well, etc.

    These are generalisations, and thus there may be posters here that see things differently, or to a lesser extent. However, Games Workshop recognises that the appreciation and love of a good toy soldier is a pretty consistent feature of our customers, while the understanding of the subtle mechanics and tactical nuances of a game are sometimes not… This is a thing to be celebrated and enjoyed!



    • Avatar
      Fulcrum March 20, 2014 8:54 pm #

      You’re cherry picking quotes from a (at the time) GW employee without any evidence to back up what Gav’s saying. It is mostly opinion, not fact, & more likely those opinions have changed since they were written.

      • Avatar
        N.I.B. March 21, 2014 6:40 am #

        Of course I am cherry picking. The whole point was to try and find quotes that could share some light on GW’s view on the issues adressed in the article. From a rules designer almost 8 years ago. I’m not sure if we’re much wiser from it.
        What’s different since then is that nowadays. GW has real, serious, competition. Meaning, I agree with Reece that it’s no longer enough to have the best miniatures and really good customer service. GW must step up the rules side. And preferably also step down from the ivory tower. GW are much more isolated from the outside world today than back in 2006 when guys like Gav Thorpe and Paul Sawyer actually participated in discussions on TWF (british Warhammer forum). Their facebook page is not the same thing.

        Fat Bloke, if you by any chance read this – I’m sorry for what I said back then (‘The sad state of White Dwarf’ thread). I know I hurt your feelings. I was an idiot. Your era was the golden age of WD.

  15. Avatar
    Ben March 20, 2014 7:26 am #

    I think you have some great points. I am playing a lot less 40K mainly because of all of the allies/force org weirdness and not feeling able to keep up with all of the changes. Its got me unsure about how to grow my armies, and that’s led me to play other games. I’ve been playing more X-Wing and actually quite a bit more Warhammer Fantasy. The rules are lot more stable and while there are a few unbalanced builds, it is generally very fun for everyone.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:22 pm #

      I am glad you are enjoying some of their miniatures games! We have tried to get Fantasy to stick multiple times and it just isn’t sticking.

  16. Avatar
    BeeCee March 20, 2014 8:37 am #

    Great article. I have always kind of assumed GW took the “we are a mini company” stance because that kind of lets them off the hook for game balance. “Can’t figure out how to balance the game, that’s fine, just tell the players it’s not our responsibility”

    That being said, look at successful video games with esports elements. Games like WoW, with monthly updates and patches, still struggle to completely balance the game and it becomes and ebb and flow of “the new hotness” when it comes to pvp elements.

    I for one would be more forgiving of GW if they seemed to care about game balance or even have some form of direct communication with the player base/community. I know i don’t expect a perfect game but i would love to feel like I wasn’t being scoffed at because I enjoy attending a tourney and i don’t want ALL of my games to be forging a narrative over cold ones and pretsels and not care about winning.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:23 pm #

      Exactly. Just TRY to solve issues and TRY to achieve balance. That matters for a lot. Listen to the customers, that helps a TON.

  17. Avatar
    Cruzcontrol39 March 20, 2014 8:44 am #

    Yeah I remember that article by Gav and don’t buy it for a second. I think it’s a money thing. You make a really tight set of rules it’s gonna be harder to come up with new editions of the game. I think they just don’t want to put effort into it and want to rely on brand name and models they sell…

  18. Avatar
    Aidan March 20, 2014 9:29 am #

    The more I read about Privateer, the more I come to like them. All the things GW seems to be doing wrong, Privateer seems to be making a point of doing right and aggressively so. I swore I’d never throw down on Cogs and Steam, but I’m giving it a go, hoping for a few less Collectors Editions and tighter rules out of GW in the future. I’m not holding my breath…

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:24 pm #

      They have their issues too, bu in general they seem to show their desire to create a great game and care about there customers more than GW appears to, even if that isn’t the case.

  19. Avatar
    Barf March 20, 2014 11:43 am #

    Good article.

    One point that I think it is missed on the reasons by people buy stuff is price. Model quality, rules and fluff are all important, but people also make a large portion of their decision on price. If GW games were 50% cheaper, I don’t think people would feel as bad about continuing to collect models and play games if the situation were as it is now. If the rule book was $40 instead of $75 and the each codex was $25 instead of $50, people wouldn’t more frequent edition changes or buying another army. As it is, if an army becomes under powered, people choose to get out or buy a new game, rather than drop a gran on another army.

    I would guess that even if GW did fix their rules, the faster than inflation price increases and new model treadmill will push people out of the game AND prevent new players. Even if people don’t bail immediately, there is attrition overtime for real world reasons. Lack of new players eventually catches up to anyone and the game dies.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:24 pm #

      True, and you would think that they would sell more stuff, too. But, who knows. They have to sell enough models to pay for the molds.

  20. Avatar
    Snotling Swarm March 20, 2014 1:12 pm #

    Good article. In my opinion ease of access is just as important as a balanced rule set. I really wish GW would put more effort into both.

    For example, starting a new army for Fantasy or 40k is a really daunting task. However, making a Warmachine or Malifaux force doesn’t seem all that bad. I think that is also a big reason why those games are growing, in addition to their rules.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:25 pm #

      Yeah, it is WAY easier to sell a new customer on Warmahordes or Infinity than GW games at the moment as the investment is so much lower.

  21. Avatar
    mercutioh March 20, 2014 1:25 pm #

    I’ll admit to being a bit of a Pollyanna when it comes to 6th ed. I LOVE the stories! I’m not a serious GT player by any stretch of the imagination but I can see the game becoming stagnant and unbalanced for those who are.

    For the rest of us, The garage players and FLG hang out guys. 40k has been really fun. These things are what we asked for! Quick releases COnstant army updates and little model releases for all the ranges(other than orks 🙁 )

    It’s definitely hard to keep up with and there are some GLARING publication errors. But it’s a sea change in their business model. I expect over time it will even out.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:26 pm #

      I hope it does even out, but honestly, there is no excuse for some of these errors, they are totally unprofessional.

  22. Avatar
    flomofo March 20, 2014 2:02 pm #

    Need FLG and other retailers or respected players/organizations to come up with generally accepted tourney rules that can be printed out and stuffed into your rule book or respective codex.

    I trust them more at this point.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:26 pm #

      Thank you, sir! And if things continue down this path, we may have to do just that.

  23. Avatar
    flomofo March 20, 2014 2:06 pm #

    To clarify, these would be rules that might be considered tourney rules, but they would be RULES.

    So they would make for a fair game with more viable units from each codex, so there is no house rules, local shop rules, east coast rules, drunk naked rules (beer hammer is the exception here) etc.

    They are just rules to the game, just like any table top/board game anyone else puts out.

  24. Avatar
    Novastar March 20, 2014 2:19 pm #

    Infantry from the elites should be able to score in emperors will and relic missions, I know if I need a super vital point secured I’ll send terminators over scouts lol

  25. Avatar
    Hush March 20, 2014 2:45 pm #

    Good article and I totally agree with it. My view is GW doesn’t care about their games long term value and pushing up the value short term to try and sell up.

  26. Avatar
    questionable reality March 20, 2014 3:14 pm #

    I agree with the rules in need of improvement but I think they have a problem of bad advice (consultants) or uninformed decision making. My reaction:

    1. Price – they tried to move to premium pricing while not creating enough value to support it, e.g., broken rules, weakening IP/fluff. Why pay more and more for something with the same or decreasing vale?
    2. Product – the rules need fixing. The artistry is good though molding in resin (finecast) is still a questionable quality. 3D printing and other companies are making some pretty good if not better looking stuff lately.
    3. Place – Their channel strategy is really stupid. By killing off retailer internet sales, they decreased their sales volume. Having a crappy central GW website doesn’t make me want to buy anything. Going to my FLGS or community websites do.
    4. Promotion – I think most FLGS understand the value of discounting/sales and adding value to drive sales. GW doesn’t get it. If I wanted to look at a game, I want relatively independent advice. I don’t go to a specific car dealer asking about what car I should get, they’ll only push their own brand of cars. People who go to GW stores go there with the intent to buy GW stuff already. Cannibalizing volume for margin doesn’t make sense with increasing competition and less and less market share.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:28 pm #

      Yeah, I agree. Selling inventory to retailers gives them a good margin on plastic kits, especially, as we do all the work of selling, paying rent, etc. They just need a distribution point from which to ship stuff to us with minimal staff.

  27. Avatar
    TinBane March 20, 2014 3:32 pm #

    I think this article is a really candid, and well thought out editorial.

    One of the big things that any retail company needs to do, is add perceived value. There are a lot of companies producing alternative models. And sales of those models is based on them having some use in 40k rules. For instance, how third party mycetic spores do you think got sold post-codex? They are now pretty much a terrain piece.

    The idea that 40k has never been balanced, and therefore balance has no value, is utter crap. Having good balance (it’s qualitative, not binary) internally in the lists, means there’s more alternative builds and fluffy/balanced lists will have a chance to do well too. Having better external balance means a more heterogenous tournament environment, not one or two variants topping the tournament.

    At the moment, 40k balance, in both these cases is pretty shocking. I played a friendly match with a mate, and he used a “soft” eldar list (1 wave serpent, 1 farseer, council on foot, no allies) and I used CSM, and we were both dismayed (and I think he was a little embarrassed) when my chaos list was out-shot and bounced from the assaults as well. I’m happy Eldar are a good list, but frankly we are deciding to just apply a points multiplier to weaker codexes so we can have close games.

    Compare that to Dropzone Commander, which I’ve got into in a big way. Not to rag on 40k, but regardless of which race you choose, you nearly always have a close game assuming the dice don’t stack it massively one way, or there’s a huge imbalance of skill. GW should be taking the lead from their competitors. It’s okay to change points values in an FAQ. If you change the core game, and make skimmers into flyers, go AND CHANGE THE POINTS. It’s not such an issue now, but at launch is was pretty much crippling.

    Balance need not be an expensive proposition. Get someone in who understands game design better, give them the resources they need, and change core aspects of the game to build the meta you want. Which is the meta which is going to deliver fun to your playerbase, by allow close contests. There will always be bad builds, but when you have a codex of 30 units, and only 5 of them EVER see competitive play, you know something is wrong.

    Back in 3rd ed, GW did something gutsy (well, I think AC did). They released the “trial assault rules” in WD, and allowed everyone to play it and give feedback. They took stock of what people did and didn’t like, and they allowed people a chance to make lists specifically designed to exploit those rules. When the next edition came out, they were remarkably better than the initial offering. And the thing is, the initial offering was tested in-house. By opening it up, they let it be tested in the forge of WAAC, before it was committed to the rulebook.

    6.5 or 7th ed could do with something like that! Assault as we know it is a pretty thankless proposition in 6th. Release experimental balance changes, and see how the competitive Eldar and Tau players cope. Make use of resources like Frontline, who will make videos for you and give feedback. Hell, just send Reece and some of the competitive players drafts of your rule changes. Induct them into the testing crew.

    • Avatar
      Novastar March 20, 2014 10:07 pm #

      I remember raft white dwarf, those assault rules were radical and a nice shake up off things

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:30 pm #

      Well said. Embrace technology and the internet and change rules that suck. Easy, peasy.

  28. Avatar
    Justandy March 20, 2014 4:36 pm #

    Yes, Yes Yes brilliant article Reecius, more accurate than you give yourself credit for. You are spot on and I have to agree with all you have said.

    I’m in the UK and play mostly 40k at 2 clubs in the Midlands, one has over 50 members. We have the same trend happening here, hardcore tournament 40kers moving over to Warmachine; more people Infinity and X-wing. Just before reading your article I was thinking about getting into Warmachine, its created quite buzz in one of the clubs and disatisfaction with GW product is the driver.

    GW have effectively removed the barriers to entry, more revenue for the smaller companies may give them chance to develop and close the gaps with GW.

    Interesting times ahead.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:31 pm #

      Yeah, you said it. I just hope GW realizes that there is a problem and that they need to rethink their system before they fall too far behind and have to make big changes.

  29. Avatar
    Ming March 20, 2014 6:10 pm #

    As for me personally I’m having a hard time keeping up with all the new products and rules. I laugh at the concept that rules are not GW’s gig. I think they are this year putting out product at a furious pace of product development. The big thing I remember as a multi-decade player of the 40k universe how complex the rules and options got followed by the middle years where everything was oversimplified. Now everything is going back to the age of uber complex variety and it is wild out there. It makes for interesting times to say the least! Will I leave for another sci fi game system? Never!

  30. Avatar
    DexKivuli March 20, 2014 6:13 pm #

    Excellent write up. I agree 100 per cent. And as a further anecdote, I’d support your statement:
    “We have found for every one customer that buys models only to paint and collect, there are at least four that buy them to play the game.”

    In our group 4 (almost 5) players (who collect models to make lists). I know one person who is a pure collector-painter. 4:1. And we players are buying far more models than the painter.

    Although I don’t play the game anymore, an excellent example of a great rule set is Magic the Gathering. The comprehensive rules are online, precise and free. They resolve everything with a water-tight set of rules.

    40k just pales in comparison. Personally, I enjoy rules – knowing them and applying them. I’m the ‘rules guy’ in our group. But even the rules in 40k that ‘work’ are far from intuitive.

    As ‘the guy who knows the rules’ I’ve felt inclined NOT TO BUY certain models because they would either (a) require detialed rules explanations to my group or (b) potentially catch other people off guard when something happened.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:33 pm #

      Yeah, that holds true here, too.

  31. Avatar
    Hotsauceman1 March 20, 2014 6:19 pm #

    I am a mixture of both, I collect ALOT of models I love but for armies I dont play(Like Scourges, I love those)

  32. Avatar
    iNcontroL March 21, 2014 12:10 am #

    Amen Reece.. amen.

  33. Avatar
    Erik Robertsson March 21, 2014 3:57 am #

    Really good post!

    I am one of the now former 40k players. I been away for a month from the game and tried it again a week ago. I have forgotten all the small rules that you need to know otherwise it just bothers you. I have been playing, and loving, dropzone commander (still not getting enough love here, Reece) and it felt awkward to play a game system where each model has special rule that I need to know or else I miss something. Playing dropzone I have gotten used to actually look at the models and then understand what they’ll do. Playing 40k I have no understanding of a model’s capabilities by looking at them anymore.

    So my problem is too many special rules. GW has moved far away from when a dedicated close combat unit became dedicated close combat unit because they had +1Ws or two close combat weapons! My favorite is the Grey knights. Take 10 Paladins ina unit. Vary thje weapons. Then calculate how many different pages you need to refer to (and books) to know everything about them?

    I feel 85% of the special rules could be ditched without much spectacle to the game. When I played 3:rd I had awesome and memorable moments. Now stupid things happens because I missed a reference in my opponents army book to the special rule that has an exception if the sky is cloudy.

    Also, 7000 swedish crowns for my nid army. 1500sek for a dropzone commander army (with terrain) with the same amount of enjoyable gaming time. In a balanced system. Where I understand what models do by looking at them. Where the company behind take great pains to make it as good as possible. I think many warmahorde players feels the same.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 21, 2014 3:36 pm #

      Yeah, Dropzone is good fun and feels very balanced! We are slowly getting into it. Right now we are focusing on Warmahordes as it is the most popular with our customers, but we will get into DzC, too. I really like the game a lot and so does Frankie. He and I are each going to buy an army and blog about learning to play it.

  34. Avatar
    RyanL March 21, 2014 6:55 am #

    Reading the discussion made me think… if GW really want to stand by their “We’re a model company.” claim, perhaps they need to work to their strengths and start releasing models for other rules systems (or purely for their aesthetic appeal).

    It would be highly hypocritical, of course, but if you can’t beat them, join them – and all that!

    I don’t play any other systems (or even have a local store that sells them), so perhaps someone who knows more could indicate how common GW models are in these other systems? Is this a market that has potential?

  35. Avatar
    Egge March 21, 2014 7:46 am #

    Really good post!

    I was a hardcore tournament 40k player. Quit when I started to play Dropzone commander (that game is not getting enough love here, Reece) but a while ago I tried 40k again.

    Holy crap there are many rules in 40k. We spent more time looking through all the exceptions to stupid things and trying to remember what had generated what random stuff instead of looking at the battlefield! When playing other wargames you generally get the idea of what something do when looking at a unit. In 40k – not so much. A slow lumbering tank might be really really fast. Something that looks like a normal marine might have many special rules that you know nothing about. I long for the days when a CC unit was determined by the fact that it had either +1 WS or two close combat weapons. But now all units have special rules. Even guardsmen!

    Also, My nid army costs about 7000 swedish crowns (divide with 6,4for USD or 8,9 for €) and an DZC army comes in about 2000 sek. With all the terrain you’ll need… That is the same gaming time (which is my main part) on a cool battlefield. You spend your time on the battlefield and not explaining what different units do as the opponent can see what they do instead.

    For me, 40k needs a reboot. I can’t keep my gaming group alive with 40k. The threshold for entering the game is amazingly high.

  36. Avatar
    Cameron March 24, 2014 8:55 am #

    Yes, hit the nail on the head.

    I stopped playing 40k and picked up Dropzone Commander not just because the rules were bad. I kept the faith for a long time that the designers knew what they were doing and the game would be balanced in the long run.

    What finally made me switch was the overwhelming message of “WE DON’T CARE” that started coming from GW. When GW insists it’s a model company (and not a game company), that tells me as a consumer that they don’t care about the rules. Since I do care about balanced rules, I would be a fool to stick around.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 24, 2014 11:04 am #

      You are not the only vet we have lost this past year. LOTS of stalwart members of the community have left. The community is still really strong, but it has been a bit of a downtime.

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