Today on Bell of Lost Souls, one of Warhammer 40,000’s bigger fans, Thomas R. (a.ka. Goatboy), inadvertently illustrated just what is wrong with both 40k’s players and 40k’s makers.
Lets Take a Look:
Goatboy posted an article talking about how he was looking forward to the next 40k ‘Ard Boyz string of tournaments coming this summer and listed what characteristics he’s looking for in whatever list he hopes to take to that tournament. To me, nothing illustrates better what’s wrong with 40k and what age level (mental or physical) Games Workshop is aiming their flagship game at than by what is revealed in the points Goatboy makes. It’s a short article, and I encourage you to go read it for yourself–some of the comments are pretty spot on. But I’ll also reprint some of the article here—mostly just the bullet points though.
First off: his goal. Goatboy aims on making his army list solid enough to get past the first round and hopefully do well enough in the second round to win a free army (retail value: somewhere around 750 and 1300 dollars). I’ve always taken issue with placing huge importance on prizes as I’ve felt doing so takes away from the hobby. I could rant about the current state of the player base (and who’s to blame) for a while—indeed I have before, but I think for now, I’ll just stick with saying that having valuable prizes up for grabs at tournaments changes how and why people play the game.
Here are Goatboy’s goals for his ‘Ard Boyz army, pulled verbatim from Bell of Lost Souls:
1. My army needs to ignore some rules.
“I hate failing leadership. …So any army I take needs to ignore leadership as much as possible.”
For me, this is the biggest problem with Warhammer 40,000 right now: that everyone—players and the GW devs alike—has decided that in war, no soldiers ever retreat…well, ever. I’ve read up on enough battles to expect that a lot of random things happen in battle, and troops pulling back is one of them. For me, this is one of the great things in war gaming (miniatures or otherwise): that there will be times where, just like commanders in real situations, you don’t have 100% control over what is happening down on the ground; but it’s still up to you to pull a victory out of the situation.
Ensuring your army is predictable is great if all you care about is winning and care nothing about the hobby and the creative elements of it (indeed playing a game is one of the most creative elements of the hobby: you and your opponent are essentially co-creating a story every time you play a game!). I’ve never understood why people who insist on playing armies which ignore leadership/psychology/etc are playing 40k; they quite likely would be much MUCH happier simply playing in chess tournaments.
2. I need to have as many options to win as I can.
”I also think having your force org as maxed out as you can is another great way to cover all aspects of the mission and game.”
Being a fan of jack-of-all-trades style armies, I don’t think this sentiment is bad in itself, but it points to what is wrong with how GW is running ‘Ard Boyz these days: the points limit for armies is so high that maxing out your Force Organisation Chart is actually a real option!
I would argue that what makes a good general is the ability to make do with what you have. Rommel wasn’t one of the greats because he had more “stuff” than his enemies; it was because he accomplished more than his opponents’ did—and through guile and cunning, he did it with less. I think part of the beauty of lower-points games is that it forces players to make some really hard choices when deciding what they will bring to the battlefield.
‘Ard Boyz simply requires players take “two of everything” (not as simple as that, I know…but it’s not far off). There’s the whole issue of how 2500 points is a game size the developers never accommodated for. Also, gaming at 2500 points in size makes the games more about statistics than about actual tactical acumen when compared to what’s involved in 1500-point games.
3. I need to be able to move effectively across the board.
”We all know how transports are key to a 40k victory.”
Again, not a bad sentiment; but I think the ramifications of it suck. To me, transports being the key to victory is not only a failure on the part of the developers, but it also displays how perhaps Games Workshop has little confidence in their game, how they’re shilling all the transports on us, hoping to sell as much as possible before the jig is up and we realise we’ve been had.
First off: a failure on part of the developers? I’ll start empirically: when a GW developer writes a codex, I’d say if less than about sixty percent of the book is seen by the player base as “viable” for their army lists, that means less than sixty percent of the models in that army’s range are seen as worth purchasing, meaning the book is indeed a failure—just based on the book’s ability to sell GW’s models (Vespid, anyone?). Yes, sixty percent is an arbitrary number, but what’s the point in GW making models from a codex if the codex makes only about HALF of them “worthwhile” to buy? Tackling it not as quantitatively, is it good writing if the people reading your book like only half of what you’ve written? J.K. Rowling didn’t get to where she is now because people thought HALF her book was pretty good.
Secondly, as for GW displaying a lack of confidence in their products by making transports a necessity: by making transports such a no-brainer to take (because they do so much in comparison to non-mechanized armies), GW has effectively made it so their fans only buy half of what GW’s has to offer for that army, all because GW’s actions show a lack of confidence in their products by refusing to give people several options not just a single “no brainer” choice.
Were infantry armies just as viable as mechanised armies, I’d like to think the sheer coolness of that army’s background—and 40k’s back story in general—would be enough to sell people on multiple armies from the same codex. If foot-slogging Marines were just as good as Razorback spam (or what have you), who’s to say players wouldn’t strive to collect a Razorback-spam army and a foot slogging army—or every model GW makes for Space Marines for that matter?
Through their actions, GW has moved away from encouraging players to collect armies, favouring instead that people collect army lists—problem is: everyone’s playing the same few lists!
4. I need an army that I am familiar with.
“I need something I can easily remember its interactions turn by turn.”
In the replies section of the Bell of Lost Souls page, someone mentioned that indeed this sentiment has been a driving force behind 40k for the past couple of years: every other codex release has been a Space Marines codex since the launch of Fifth Edition. Nice and familiar.
I had hoped that the plethora of Marine releases had come about because GW was able to easily forecast what the sales of Space Marine lines will be—thus enabling them to properly plan and sock away money in anticipation of the transition from metal models to Fine Cast™ models. Sadly, if the rumours about Sixth Edition are more or less correct, that means I am wrong; and GW is looking at having 40k be even more heavily represented by Space Marines and MEQ armies…where no one runs away…and everyone gets a tank or an APC.
And all because the fans demanded it.