Fantasy Fisticuffs #12: We Can’t Be Heroes

With competitive AoS on the rise, what happens when units are unavailable?  What is the message to the community at large? Let’s discuss.

As of my writing this, Games Workshop has just put a handful of character models up for pre-order.  These are gorgeous models, and several are absolutely top-tier units seen frequently in their respective armies.  So what is the problem? Well, these models originally hit the scene as far as a year ago, and have been entirely unavailable until this week, save for a lucky few gamers.

Each of these models, ranging from the essentially auto-include Abhorrent Arch-Regent, to the Sylvaneth Arch-Revenant, originally released as part of a two-players starter set, and if you are familiar with those boxes you will recall that each sold out, essentially immediately.  While some such as the Bonereaper character were fairly recent releases, others were gone for long enough that their absence was certainly felt. It was not uncommon to see these individual models sell for astronomic prices on Ebay, for example.

With competitive “anything”, come certain expectations, one of which being, in theory, most players ideally have access to the same tools.  Whether they choose to utilize them is one thing altogether different, but the choice was theirs. Once options begin being gated by any means it prompts a conversation.

In the Marathon Running world, just this last October, its leading body was faced with a difficult task of unraveling a competitor’s paid advantage. Nike had engineered custom sneakers for an individual who would go on to break records, in part with the help of the elaborate engineering which went into his one-of-a-kind shoes. The official response; ban the use of any product which has not been available on the market for at least four months.

This model was in every FEC list I played since his release.

To that end, I wanted to pose the question to the community, and ask how you feel about the existence of these models.  I, in fact, need to ask you, because GW’s policy has been a bit inconsistent…

In 2018 an exclusive Nighthaunt Guardian of Souls was made available at GW Store Anniversaries.  Notably, it actually came with unique rules that made it wildly different from the mass release version.  By the 2019 General’s Handbook this unit was erased, and the model is instructed to be treated as the vanilla version for gameplay purposes.

For eight months, this was a unique, named character model.

Based on that scenario, one would suspect GW wanted to avoid even the pretense of a “Pay-2-Win” scenario, so prevalent in mobile and other video-games.  But if this was their intent, what is the community to glean from powerful characters being locked into both supply-constrained, and pricey, two-player boxes?  What about players who might want several?

Inevitably this discussion wants to drift to the idea of proxies and conversions.  I am absolutely pro-hobbyist, and even formal GW events allow for conversions made predominantly of their proprietary models.  As a concept this should answer the question posed regarding such characters, and yet all it does is raise different questions.

One of the appeals of this hobby is its unique ability to be different things for different people.  Do situations like this push players into being one kind of hobbyist? Further, if these models should just be proxied or converted, by that logic, what does any model actually mean?

Another possibility, of course, is that there is not an intent to play with these models as serious, competitive tools at all, which very well creates a whole different debate on what we as players may want out of a game like Age of Sigmar, versus what its creators would like for it to be.

One of a small list of very powerful options, Sylvaneth players have long awaited this release.

I will never begrudge a company for making money from its work.  Games Workshop has created an awesome game, which has brought me countless hours of enjoyment, and they are entitled to be compensated for all of the human and other resources that go into making every bit of it.  However, these are the kinds of growing pains that emerge as a product evolves and matures. I and many others want to see excellent games like AoS further develop into high-quality, highly competitive activities, but that also means some complicated conversations will need to happen in due time.

The effort here is just to present the rather unique situation, but also acknowledge all of the splinter conversations it brings up.  If these weren’t articles with an eye towards competitive play, this would be far less sticky of an item. But what are your thoughts?  Is pay-2-win a boogeyman to be feared? Are limited-time released good or bad for games with evolving metas? It is up to you, and your groups to decide, but I would sure love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

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About Mark Gottlieb

Writer, Game Designer, and owner of Fortunate Sun Studios, I have always tried to lead a life in some way built around paying back to gaming, and the gaming community. This hobby, and everyone in it, saved my life on more than a few occasions, and now I get to put my heart into helping it thrive for everyone!

2 Responses to “Fantasy Fisticuffs #12: We Can’t Be Heroes”

  1. Ohlmann February 21, 2020 3:49 pm #

    In my personal opinion, it’s an horror story and a very problematic way to releases models. Proxies and conversions mitigate it a bit, but that kind of problem firmly can put a game in the “narrative and casual” camp depending on how utterly prevalent it is.

    • Mark Gottlieb
      Mark Gottlieb February 22, 2020 4:57 pm #

      Its something I would normally just leave to player and local group prerogative, but being a tournament guy, it is a really awkward, uncomfortable topic that could’ve been averted.

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