Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pay to play?

We all know that GW is, like any good company, out for the money.  I've defused and de-escalated HUNDREDS of complaints about the price over the last decade-and-more, and I'm not usually upset about pricing.  I still maintain that position today.

However, I must note that I'm too poor to afford this hobby that I used to sell to people like a champ.  I'm behind on my collecting simply due to the fact that I have no money, where I used to have tons and a nice little discount to boot.  I get upset that all the models that I want are too expensive for me to purchase even after saving for weeks and weeks.  And I find myself much more sympathetic to the cries of 'boycott' than I ever was.  But I still maintain my position of support for the game (and company, by extension).

However, I've realized something that actually makes me rather sad.  You see, for many years the gaming community had two types of gamers- those that could afford to waste money on overpowered Forgeworld models, and those that could only afford what our shops left on the shelves.  But the divide was easy and the community was largely the latter.  However, GW has produced such amazing models and jacked the prices up to Forgeworld level for them.  Remember when the HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS-costed models were for Apocalypse?  Not so anymore.

Worse yet, it all began with Warhammer's 8th edition release a few years back.  Every army got very little change to their army books, but they did get massive models.  Usually, it was monsters, but those armies without monsters received huge models nonetheless (Empire comes to mind here).  Then the troop boxes were cut in half and went up in price, meaning that anyone wishing to take advantage of the 'horde' rules would have to pay for it, and anyone that didn't take advantage of it were stomped on by those monsters.  Which were purchased at high cost themselves.  It all added up to having to either a)suck it up and spend far more money than normal to get a good army up and running, or b)agree with the opponent to keep playing the 'old' way and simply ignore the concept of monster-spam and 'horde' units.

And then it spread like a virus to 40k.  It was subtle at first, with Chaos Marines just getting a Dino-bot with fire breath and a few friends to stomp around with.  Dark Angels got nothing but monster-killers (in the form of plasma-gun-wielding bikes and smitey-mace-wielding-knights).  But then the Daemons were released and brought back 'zilla in a big way, followed by the Riptide-rockin' Tau, and now the Eldar jump in with the jumping Wraithknight.  The cost of the models continued to jump up and up until the Wraithknight met the price point of the Apocalypse vehicles.  And all in time for Apocalypse to get revamped.  Hmmmm...

Add to that the new Allies rules, and it means that any army can damn near take anything they want in the game now (minus Tyranids.  Sorry, bugs!).  Which means that Orks now work with Eldar, Space Marines have Necrons as battle-buddies, and Tau seem to think that Dark Eldar aren't so bad after all.  Which has only exacerbated the problem as those big models now appear in every army across the tabletop.

And tournament season is in full swing.  Adepticon came and went, showing just how many Night Scythes can be crammed into one event hall.  Then Alamocon snuck in and showed off the Riptide tide.  And now Wargamescon just passed and showed that even the greenskins are okay with Dino-bots above them.  It seems that no competitive gamer goes anywhere without their huge models, flying creatures, and best friends in combat anymore.  So what does this mean?  Why am I pointing this out?

Well, first of all, I have to note that I'm not a fan of the Allies system.  I think that each army is unique and has specific strengths and weaknesses, and that's one of the many parts of the game that makes it fun.  Taking allies, in my opinion, is the lazy way to cover holes in an army and fail to learn new and unique tactics to overcome weaknesses.  Secondly, I like the idea of balance between armies (called 'external balance' by the wargame degree-holders out there), and some of these models have taken that away.  Riptides destroy the idea of Elite assault against the Tau, Heldrakes take away the cover benefit used so effectively against them, and Necrons simply destroy the idea of randomness introduced by dice (specifically Tesla weapons and the flyers of transporty advantage).  Finally, it's the 'spam' concept that makes everything nearly unbearable.  One of anything good is okay to handle.  Two of anything good is a pain to handle.  But three or more of the good units are ball-busters made to ruin an opponent's day.  And this takes into account that some armies simply don't have the best top-tier units compared to others, and that means the 'spam-game' significantly benefits some armies over others (of course, this has been a bit of a problem for a couple of editions now).

Now put those three together.  It's real simple what it all means- if you don't have $225 to waste on three Heldrakes and add your $600 IG army rockin' the Forgeworld anti-air units, or $255 to waste on three Riptides to fight alongside your $800 Ghost army, you aren't showing up with a competitive force in the tournament 'meta'.  As if those tournies aren't expensive enough already, it now takes a K-bill to keep up, and most of that money is spent rinse-and-repeating the same expensive kits over and over.

Let me jump out here and do the 'full disclosure' thing:  I have never appreciated Spam.  I already mentioned that I don't like the Allies system.  And I'm not seeing a whole lot of balance since the 'gray' codices toward the end of 5th edition and lately in 6th.  IG, Grey Knights, SW, and Necrons all have fantastic armies with no discernable weaknesses.  Then hope was created with Chaos Marines and Dark Angels.  But Daemons (admittedly an oustanding book), Tau, and Eldar all seemed to be the old theme of super-powered, but at least they had weaknesses (Daemons can't handle Heavy Bolters, Tau can't handle heavy tanks, and Eldar can't handle ranged weapons).  However, these new armies (just like the 'gray' armies) certainly smack the 'meta' in the face.  Which rather forces people to use more spam-tactics and seek out better combos.  So I don't necessarily think it's the fault of the gamers as much as just the evolution of the game.  Even if GW doesn't realize it.

Or do they?  I don't like the prices at this point.  But GW has pushed players to almost have to take these big models and buy the better units over and over again.  IG used to have the so-called 'parking lot' in last edition, and that resulted in tons and tons of Chimera sales.  Can't sell many more Chimeras.  Can't sell many more Troops.  So now GW releases very powerful Elite and Fast and Heavy units, and then writes the rules so that THOSE are the units that will have the greatest impact on the opponent's forces.  And since those units are limited in number (three versus six), the price goes up to match the money-spending habits of last edition.  Except nobody maxed out Chimera-squads, or Space Marine squads, or even Dire Avengers.  So the high cost of the newer not-troop units far outstrips the old days.  At least, that is, if you want to play with the 'big boys'.   Which leads to some simple math-

You gotta "Pay to Play" now.

I'm not saying that it's a requirement.  I run a game group with a very specific vision that everyone adheres to rather well.  I've met plenty of people that don't go to the 'big' tournaments and so don't build their armies that way.  But everything I see on the blogosphere and in the tournie reports and from the gamers that I DO know who play in that circle all seem to have significantly more money invested in and budgeted for this hobby than even I, with my crazy habit and extraordinary benefit, even dreamed of.

Let me finish off by saying that I'm just bitching now.  I enjoy this hobby and belong to the 'side' that cares more about the smiles and fun than the win record and trophies.  But it's an observation that struck me.  Let me know what you think, and even feel free to tell me I'm wrong (perception is NOT reality... necessarily).  Just wanted to rant a bit.

Happy Gaming!


  1. Like you I am a huge fan of Games Workshop but I also agree completely with you in that the hobby is getting way too expensive. Truthfully, the hobby has always been too pricey for me as I came from a family that just did not have the extra money to cater to such hobbies. After 15 years in the workforce, I finally had enough spare change to indulge in the hobby but even then, prices are escalating beyond normal salary increases. I haven't purchased any minis since the Chaos Space Marines release except for some Bretonnian Knights for a Game of Thrones painting project.

    Worse still, for reasons too humiliating to say (the dreaded "U" word in a country where there is no welfare support) my cash flow is far more restricted now and my hobby purchases are limited to paints and alternative inexpensive miniature models where possible, as and when some moolah comes my way. I am lucky in that I have yet to catch the gaming bug so I can seek cheaper minis that will slake my thirst for painting. There is always a silver lining in tough times and I guess it will also allow me to go through some of the stuff I collected but have yet to work on, and blog about them. =)

  2. Really like your post.

    The pay to play is something some gamers, regardless of game, have dealt with one way or another. 40k buddy of mine buys fantasy models and converts them because fantasy is cheaper than 40k. At Dark Star in March some guy had two paper Storm Talons.

    Appreciate the effort you put into this post. Entertaining read.

  3. Really good post, agree with much of what you say. I really don't like these models, not just for what they represent financially but I think almost all of them look bloody awful.

    We've been talking about playing 3rd ed 40k and 5th ed Warhammer a lot lately, much for the reasons that you mention. And on the whole were nicer rules.