Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Ugly Truth About 40K

The other evening I had an interesting chat with Patrick over at the 11th Company. It's always nice to talk to someone outside of your local metagame; people just look at things differently. We talked about a lot of things, but mostly commiserated on the sad state of our 4th edition codices. This got me thinking...

I'm an odd duck. I've been playing 40K since the "golden days" of 3rd edition. Currently I own three different armies, all of them mired - like flies in amber - in the sticky mud of 4th edition. My beloved Eldar are by far the largest component; at the time of my last audit I had over 9000 points of models. They remain my primary army even though I've shelved them for the time being.

Second in line would by my old Tau army. When I finally gave up the ghost on them (right around the time the 4th edition Eldar codex came out), I had around 3000 points. Unfortunately those points are mostly tied up in infantry; the collection is short on tanks and I think I may have 8 battlesuits.We'll have to see how they fare in 6th edition as well.

Next comes the Dark Angels. I started the Dark Angels as an experiment to see how cheaply you could start up an army. At the time, Ebay was flooded with 5-man terminator squads from the Assault on Black Reach set, so Deathwing was the obvious choice. That collection has now expanded to about 5000 points and includes standard marines and Ravenwing.

I'm an avid gamer. I've been running RPGs for about 24 years and playing them for over 30 (hard to believe it's been that long). This background also gives me a very different point of view on functions of balance in 40K.

Getting to the Point
So, what's the point? I'm not a super-competitive player who exploits weaknesses in the game to further my hyper-tuned army's agenda.  Contemplate this as I continue...

Here I put forth my take on the internet hate that seems to plague our beloved hobby.

1. Fifth Edition is the best edition. Yup. It is. I started playing in 3rd edition, where (IIRC) a squad of black templars or blood angels could scoot up 12 inches, disembark 2 more, assault 6 inches and -after handily wiping out your vanguard - perform a sweeping advance into close combat with the next nearest unit. I'm sure it was lots of fun if you were playing one of these armies, but I wasn't.

Then 4th edition came around, with its focus on "flat" lists. It was a moderate improvement, and more shooty, but kind of flavorless.

2. I like True Line of Sight. Surprisingly I hear a fair amount of complaining about true line of sight. I think those people have forgotten the grim old days of 3rd and 4th edition. As I see it, TLoS is not the issue when both players have at least one eyeball each. The issue, particularly at tournaments, is not being an A-hole about cover. Be fair and be consistent. It's a game, not divorce court. I could go on at length about this, but the people I'm talking about know who they are.

3. Games Workshop is doing things right - mostly. It's true. Say what you will about their Intellectual Property policies, their marketing strategy (price increases, discount lockouts and 'not-leaking' product leaks) and their perceived business model, GW has been very successful in the cutthroat world of the gaming industry. Bad companies (or even really good companies) with bad fiscal policies just don't survive long enough - financially - to build the kind of customer following that Games Workshop has done, much less maintain a successful and profitable business that keeps shareholders happy. You can't argue with that bottom line. When compared to their peers, they are stellar!

You can disagree with these statements, but you're wrong. Why, you ask?

My reasoning follows the same kind of harsh logic as the dreaded WAAC player. Look at the bottom line. Games Workshop is a profitable, publicly traded company. Financially they are doing quite well, even in this lousy economy, due in no small part to their business strategy. Remember, this is a company that sells models and has to continue to sell models to show growth, which in turn keeps the shareholders happy.

Consider the alternative; Wizards of the Coast. Wizards bought out TSR for the rights to Dungeons and Dragons. The end result was 3rd edition D&D, the most robust, balanced and scalable edition of the rules yet. Then Wizards was purchased by Hasbro, and it's been downhill ever since. Currently in its 4th edition, Dungeons and Dragons has been failing in a financial sense and the company now struggles to realign the product for yet another edition.

WotC is lucky; they have many other products to shore up their losses. Games Workshop really only has Warhammer Fantasy and 40K; if the value of those brands were to diminish, we could very shortly find ourselves holding the LAST edition of Warhammer, or find our beloved brand in the hands of a larger company like Hasbro, subject to the whims of an ignorant or more ruthless corporate entity.

Think about it; does GW love their brand?

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