TGN Feature – It’s the End of the Old World as We Know It

By Enrico Nardini
In Age of Sigmar
Jan 20th, 2015
25 Comments
5139 Views

TGN Associate Editor Enrico Nardini speculates on the rumors of dynamic change in the world of Warhammer Fantasy Battles.

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Yep. It’s a cliched title. Sue me. If there is one thing Games Workshop (GW) fans have been conditioned to accept (much like victims of Stockholm Syndrome), it’s receiving news of upcoming releases via leaks and rumors. It’s so pervasive now that , as a conspiratorially minded individual, I often wonder if this pattern of rumor, leaked photos, and eventual confirmation isn’t a calculated marketing ploy to generate buzz. Sure, sites posting rumors and leaked images shut down on occasion, victims of GW’s legal team. But, couldn’t that be done to keep up appearances. Karl Franz doth protest too much, methinks.

Ok. I got that off my chest, and my tinfoil hat can go with it. Some rumors have been posted regarding plans for a completely new Warhammer Fantasy world that will replace (assuming the reliability of the rumors) the one we all know and love (or hate, or feel completely ambiguous towards). This will coincide with the climatic events of the current Warhammer story The End Times.

Hey! Leave me out of this! I'm trying to ascend here!

Hey! Leave me out of this! I’m trying to ascend here!

What Change?

The current rumors dictate that this change will be radical. Pouring over the lists of rumors from typically reliable sources, you will see a number dramatic shifts in the current Warhammer paradigm. If these do indeed come to pass, the new Warhammer will look very different from the game we are currently playing.

Here are just a few of the speculations:

  • Reduction to 6 core army lists
  • Army books reduced to a small section on core units and fluff
  • Army books supplemented by a more vigorous release schedule
  • Destruction of the current Warhammer world and timeline
  • Armies that are less generic fantasy and more unique to GW
  • Rules that scale from skirmish to full scale war
  • Circle bases (presumably to facilitate skirmish play)

 

When I look at a list of rumors (and it’s important to understand that these are just rumors), the first thing I do is see if they pass the logic test. Are these ideas logical, and are they consistent with any of the company’s current behaviors?

Most of these pass that test. The first three End Times books have already combined 2-3 separate armies each. Games Workshop’s release schedule has been more robust and fast paced. This strategy was even mentioned in their recent half-year report. It is the End Times, right? That is certainly a hint at destruction. Though we must admit that most GW world changing events end up changing very little. Games Workshop has also displayed a desire to have more strict control of their intellectual property (IP). You will note the shift from Codex: Imperial Guard to the less generic Codex: Astra Militarum, for example.

Plus, why do you need circle bases to skirmish? I play plenty of skirmish games with square based models.

 

Some seem more questionable to me. Though I would love a Warhammer skirmish game, GW has, as a rule, continued to up the required model count of their games rather than lower it. The Tolkien games are an exception, but I believe they are not long for this world (in spite of recent leaked new release pictures). A switch to circle bases also feels a bit counter-intuitive. For one thing, square bases are one of the things that draw a distinction between the two core Workshop IPs. For another, unlike the recent 32mm circle base kerfluffle, this might indeed require players to rebase their entire armies. I know GW has never seemed overly sensitive to the concerns of their fanbase (snicker), but the idea of invalidating massive collections of miniatures in one fell swoop seems a bit much. It’s something that, to GW’s credit, they haven’t done very often. (And no, I’m not counting an older model getting crappy rules in my calculations.) Plus, why do you need circle bases to skirmish? I play plenty of skirmish games with square based models. I’d go so far as to say it’s preferable in games that use facing.

Glottkin unified the hordes of Chaos!

Glottkin unified the hordes of Chaos!

Why Change?

So if (and we are still at if) this is all going to go down, why? Well, there has been a pervasive rumor that Warhammer is just not profitable enough. For example, I have often heard that the sales of Space Marine models alone outpaces the entire range of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Sales are not broken down that way in GW’s press announcements, and nothing showed up after my exhaustive research (aka. I Googled it). But if it is true, it would go a long way to explaining some of these decisions.

The Warhammer 40,000 universe is unique to GW. You can make a strong argument that aspects of it are derivative, but GW has done a fine job honing their science fiction universe, making it something uniquely theirs. Warhammer Fantasy’s existence predates 40K, but with a few notable exceptions, has a more generic fantasy feel. Orcs, goblins, dwarves, elves, and the undead all function in ways you would expect, following the fantasy tropes and archetypes established by Howard, Tolkien, Lieber, Moorcock, and other classic fantasy writers.

Games Workshop may be hoping that a dramatic shift can cause lightening to strike twice in the form of a second more marketable and unique IP. If they can establish a more exclusive fantasy world for Warhammer, it could serve them in numerous ways. If the new Warhammer world is well designed and interesting, it could attract more players. If the new IP becomes sufficiently popular, they will generate more passive income from licensing. If the miniatures are unique enough, players will be less inclined (or able) to substitute models from other lines.

Radically changing your game is a delicate matter.

 

This last point should not be understated. There are a number of companies who are able to poach sales off GW by offering high quality, alternative figures at a great price. This is a relatively new occurrences. They’re weren’t too many alternate Space Marines around when I got into 40K with Rogue Trader. Now you can’t swing a chainsword without hitting one. A new Warhammer could mean that any miniature companies making surrogate figures as a part of their business model will have to spend time playing catch up.

That’s a Lot of Ifs

It is indeed! Radically changing your game is a delicate matter. Wizards of the Coast demonstrated this when 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons sundered their fanbase. If GW wants to succeed they must tread lightly and not allow the hubris of being one of the “big dogs” of gaming to influence their decision making process. The 4E debacle proved that, in the current market, brand alone won’t carry the day.

Conversely, we don’t know how well Warhammer Fantasy Battles has been selling world wide. If sales are poor, GW has to do something. Making Warhammer a more accessible game with a more unique IP could be a great shot in the arm for the old warhorse. But, I still can’t shake the feeling that this new strategy is missing something that would make the game more consumer friendly and drive sales… a new pricing strategy, perhaps?

About "" Has 20 Posts

TGN's Ambassador of Awesome is here! Enrico Nardini is Tabletop Gaming News' Associate Editor, preaching the gospel of awesome to gamers everywhere.
  • Round bases means economies of scale : 40k, Hobbit, Fantasy would have the same bases, simplifying production, logistics and cuting costs. That’s why Rackham switched to round bases for their Confrontation latest game system so that they could produce them along with their AT43 bases. I know It’s not a very good example^^ but financialy It’s a sound decision for a company to rationalise Its production.
    Regarding skirmish format things are more dubious but GW desesperatly need an entry product to attract fresh blood and this even might attract nostalgic former clients.

    • TleilaxuScytale

      Yes this is exactly the situation i am in-after taking a very long time off from tabletop games, I became interested again, but was just too overwhelmed by all the models/rules/paints/supplements,etc. Luckily I had a ton of old Citadel minis, that, while 15+ yrs old, were still usable in most cases, just very ragtag. But these were mostly 40k. When I saw the rumors for 9th, I thought this would be a great opportunity to get in “on the ground floor”. Obviously, it is all speculation at this point, but some of the sources have been pretty spot on, as far as I can tell, about some previous information (is this a GW leak or is it a retailer w/ prior info). Plus it appears that no armies are being absolutely deleted, so it has made me buy the End Times books. I just don’t want to miss the train on these books tbh. I want my copy if these books blow up when and if 9th becomes very popular again. Worse case scenario, they are good reads, and I only need to get ET;Khaine for the set…..damn you eBay!

    • On the bases- I got to see a picture recently- purported to be a leak- that showed several Skaven warmachines on the large oval bases 40k has been using.

      So, the bases (easily the least credible part of the rumor) becomes more likely. It may only be for large models that don’t rank up, though.

  • newsguy

    Just how big a game could you get on the board with round bases?

  • KelRiever

    There is nothing they can do to save their game for me. Who cares about what they say when there is nothing that can be believed? Every, I said EVERY, change they have made under Kirby, that dolt, has been a change for the worse for the future of the game,

    So speculate away. It doesn’t matter because if GW ever resurrects itself, it’ll be a rear view mirror event, not a predicted event.

  • darkendlight

    A nice round up of the rumors that are out there. I really have not been following the whole End of World story line but it will be interesting to see how all this shakes out.

  • Sejanus

    GW lost my interest and my dollars sometime ago.
    Warlord Games are my drug of choice these days and will be for a very, very long time.

    The mistakes GW makes include trying to dumb their rules down, up the cost of models far beyond realistic, constant changing of rulesets, unbalanced army lists in spite of a points system that SHOULD do the job.

    Every few years they come out and say …oh this will be cool, or better or make ______ more interesting. Yet it never does.
    All that happens is players get ravaged at the cash register.

    They are getting tired of it and sales continue to reflect this. Games like Bolt Action, Infinity, Warmachine and others have shown players there are great games you can play and still have a life, have money and not have to relearn increasingly dumbed down or foolish new rules every three or four years.

    GW by its nature now cannot and will not ever get it in time. That ship has sailed.

  • Dead Kennedy

    I am going to watch and wait and maintain a buy-nothing policy. The alternative model point is interesting: there’s now a lot of companies creating mass battle troops. There has always been Reaper or a host of fantasy model companies for characters, but now you can afford to buy a lot of resin/plastic/restic troopers at fractions of the cost.

    If anything I think that Warhammer (newhammer?) will just look steampunkier. That’s what’s been fairly hip for a few years. Imagine the average Imperial rifleman with a rotary/repeater rifle, halberds having flaming braziers… and all the armies will have more obviously imperial/xenos artifacts in their army lists as magic weapons, etc. They will turn it into a skirmish 40k, really. That’s just my crystal ball prediction.

    • 4tonmantis

      So what you’re saying.. is that it will basically be Warmahordes?

  • I haven’t played much since 6th for all the reasons all the other whiners like me haven’t played much since 6th 🙂 I was briefly excited by the new Wood Elf book but lost interest again quickly. At this point, I think a massive shakeup could be interesting. I’ll be watching closely.

  • blkdymnd

    If they pull it away from a bunch of pushing movement trays around, I might actually look at it. Changes actually seem positive for once.

    • 4tonmantis

      I have mixed feelings on that.. The regimented combat thing is neat.. It adds a certain historical feel to the game. On the other hand it also creates awkward situations that boil down to each player’s perception of the situation.. which can lead to debates and arguments etc. not to mention those wonderful tactics like clipping. I haven’t played fantasy in a while but last I saw you slid the trays up to match if you clipped.

      Whatever the case, I have fantasy miniatures, I enjoy fantasy gaming, but I will very likely not be returning to WH for my fantasy gaming.

    • KelRiever

      I am of the opposite mindset. Moving 10-30 miniatures for one unit on circular basis like 40k has always been mega stupid to me. A skirmish game, fine, where position of individual models matters. A fantasy wargame of large scale? No!

      Given I doubt the idea is to reduce the number of models you need to play, if it is individual, circular based models, how’s moving that skaven army going to be now?

      Besides all that, flanking, the way ranked up units looked. That’s one of the reasons I loved WHFB. It doesn’t matter though. There are literally more people playing old WHFB and 40k in my area than anyone playing the new editions.

      Says a lot, I think. And certainly points to the lack of value GW has provided for what they think are justified prices.

      • 4tonmantis

        Oh I agree with you on moving all of the bases.. I played IG in 40k and I have something like 10k of Orks that I haven’t played since.. uh.. maybe the beginning of 5th edition??? I remember being at a tournament and being accused of stalling the game because I actually moved my IG.. that was something like 115 models with the vehicles and stuff.

  • Veshniltin

    With a great game like God of Battles out there, where one box of GW figs is a unit, not 1/5th of a unit, I can afford to pick and choose what figs I want to buy, paint, and play with from any vendor. I admit I still love many of the old and new GW models and buy a box here or there, but I gave up their game a long time ago. Although Blood Bowl did sneak on to the table this weekend…

    • 4tonmantis

      I’ll look that up.

      I would be lying if I said I was done with GW.. I still find their old (dead) Specialist games to be entertaining. I have my gaming table set up for Mordheim right now actually.

      My kids picked up Arcane Legions a while back and have enjoyed that and I have Warmaster stuff as well.. I had been considering Wargods of Aegyptus/Olympus or Dwarf Wars for rules.. or maybe Kings of War, though I admittedly am dubious after having tried and loathing Deadzone.

    • Enrico Nardini

      I really want to try God of Battles. I’m a huge fan of all things Wargames Foundry (especially their books).

  • surprize

    What seems a logical fallacy to me is that War hammer is so unpopular and unprofitable that they are canning the races, rules and models. Making a brand new fantasy game, but calling it after the unprofitable game they are canning. Why? If no one buys actual War hammer, why will they buy a different game with the same name, purely FOR its name?

  • I agree with your point that it’s reflective of a move to have a more definable IP. I’m glad I play Skaven, as they’re one of the clearer and stronger IP unique cases. Boo too the poor dwarfs tho, as all they have going for them is GW’s dwarfs > dwarves name. I’ll have to drop them, even tho one dwarf is the match of two ratmen, OR FIFTY ELVES!

    • 4tonmantis

      But see.. to me this is the problem.. They’re letting the concept of IP define them… and I guess when your whole business model is built on milking someone else’s IP you really only have so much.. but the real problem they have, is that they are making business decisions based on this notion that they are wrapped up in and they can’t see what it is that they should be doing.

      They are the bully that came into the sandbox.. yelled at, made fun of, and beat up all of the kids in the sandbox and now they don’t know why they can’t find a playmate.

  • As I said : round bases = economies of scale PLUS the opportunity to sell moving trays (overpriced deluxe textured trays specifically designed for your special size GW round bases). It’s a plot!^^

  • Moving a bunch of round bases in 40K may be a pain in the ass but 40k is stil their best selling line ;o)

  • mward1984

    Honestly the fact of the matter is that GW are killing the game off. They know how to do it from when they accidentially killed Epic off all those years ago with 3rd Edition.

    They know, from previous demonstratable experience that if they divorce a game substantially enough from it’s previous iterations that the old playerbase will leave it in numbers sufficent to allow them to cull the game. So, out go half the races, out go square bases, out goes the fluff.

    Furthermore there have been some rumblings behind the scenes of how even a lot of the in-house rulemakers at GW are deeply unhappy with these changes. Unahppy because of how different the game is? Or because they know the truth of the matter being that GW is simply trying to kill a beloved founding franchise and have a way to point the finger at us the consumer as the culprit.

    But what are they turning WHFB into? A low model count fantasy skirmish game? With a small number of factions? If that’s ringing any bells that’s because the game I am describing is called Mordheim. It failed to sell well enough for GW then, and with Warmachine in a MUCH stronger position now than it was then it’s going to do even worse.

    They could hardly be more obvious about this. 9th edition is going to be the last edition.

    So, what now for people who actually own Fantasy armies? Most likely I think we will follow Epic’s direction, with things like NetEpic, where the community writes the rules and armybooks. Forums will be set up where members furtively trade resin cast models of long out of print models. Square bases will have to be cast in 3d printers, or otherwise hoarded as the increasingly rare and precious resource that they are and homecrafted Movement Trays will become cottage industries.

    The thing that’s the most annoying, the thing that really grinds my gears about this whole debacle is that 8th edition was LITERALLY one new editionsworth of tweaks away from being really, genuinely great. Oh sure the Elves and basic Magic Lores needed an immiediate balancing due to Matt Ward, but outside of those guys, WHFB was probably the closest to balanced we’d had in literally decades.

  • Enrico Nardini

    Love the discussion! Lots of interesting opinions!

  • Nico Kopf

    If all these rumors turn out to be false … someone is going to have one heck of a laugh 🙂
    If they turn out to be true, 8th will keep me playing for years still.