So the big news today is that Games Workshop have announced that they are relaunching their Specialist Games department.
All read that? Good!
So for those of you with fond memories of '90s gaming will remember it was the Specialist Games department which brought us games such as Necromunda, Blood Bowl, Mordheim, GorkaMorka etc.
Many of you will also remember how GW handled these games once their lines had been released; most noticeably that the games were dropped faster than hot cakes so that the company could move onto their next 'specialist' game.
Now you must understand, it is impossible for me to talk about this subject without a degree of vitriol. I loved playing Necromunda, and when that was left behind and the company moved to GorkaMorka I moved with it and found a game that has always had extremely positive memories. Quite simply, I loved that game! It was after they dropped direct support for GorkaMorka that me and GW parted ways. They had little to nothing that interested me and for me was the beginning of the end.
It is interesting to see the number of super positive reactions that the Internet has received to this news but that initially strikes me as something to be cautious of. I have seen statements thrown around about GW 'listening' to the player base, and that these games were 'perfect' as they were with really great mechanics.
The thing is, as I am sure most of not all of you agree, there are problems with all of those statements.
In reverse order, most of these games' mechanics were far from great. They were mechanics that worked functionally, but more often than not made little sense and did not follow the narrative that we as players were telling.
The games were far from perfect. In fact it may interest you to know that when I started working on the initial pre-alpha rules for Override, I tried to read through the Necromunda ruleset again, and I have to be honest. It's poor. I thought it was good at the time because I had little to compare it to, but it could be so much better. That was something that I tried to reach with Override. As a friend of mine put it "Like Necromunda, but not shit".
Lastly about GW listening to players and fans. Come on! This is GW we're talking about! They are the abusive spouse and we are the habitual victim in this situation. Are we really going to get our hopes up that they have 'changed'? Sorry, but no. They have made some bold statements and movements with AoS and the release of free ruleset etc, but that's more like going to anger management counselling than actually changing. It's a step in the right direction, sure. But to me they have yet to prove themselves as a company worthy of my money.
Now what are we going to see with the rulesets?
This is something I am very fascinated by, and I am anticipating a lot of problems here.
A lot of these games such as Blood Bowl, Necromunda and Epic have seen continued survival despite no support from GW all thanks to fan support and their ow versions of Living Rule Books.
The way I see it GW is going to go one of two ways:
Either they deny the work of the communities and instead put out their own half-assed ruleset, or they instead incorporate the living rules and go ahead with that.
Let's look at those two choices in greater detail:
1). Denial: this should be fine! After all if everyone reads the new rule sets and says "bah this is shit! Let's stick with our own" then they can just purchase the new rules and play with their own rules, right?
Sure, and monkeys might fly outta my ass!
Let's get real here!
Look at every previous game released not only by GW but by other companies too; Warhammer, see many people playing 4th Ed? What about 40k 3rd? Malifaux 1.5? Hey how's that Warmachine Mk1 community growing?
It's a fact of wargaming that gamers flock to 'official' rulesets like a moth to a flame. You can create community projects or classic editions as much as you like, but players will gravitate towards the official ruleset enmass. Why? Because then you can go to any club anywhere in the world and find other players rather than having Sammy who only plays v14.2 and Johnny who only plays PublicBeta6.
Yes within small communities, like 2-8 people who play each other and pretty much no one else, then yes you do see these older editions thrive, but don't lie to yourselves, even if they are better, it is older by how they will be regarded.
2). Integration. So maybe GW will integrate the LRBs into their new rulesets, great right? You can play the same editions that you love only with high quality print runs and an official stamp on them. Yeah that is true, but let us not forget how GW regard their IPs. Did you spend years working with the community to create that rulebook? Think you will receive any recognition for that work? Think the tiny handful of workers that will be assigned to Specialist Games will even consider you when they go on to make sweeping changes, errata and retcons? If you think they will then I really think you are deluding yourself. Instead we will see the Great Devourer that is GW absorb those rules, put their own spin on it and claim it is 100% their own work.
Then there is the continued existence of the Living Rule Books to consider.
As it stands the official standpoint as far as we were concerned was that GW had totally dropped their Specialist Games, it wouldn't surprise me if this was the only reason the publication and distribution (even if it was only via the digital medium) of the LRBs was tolerated. There was no chance of it affecting sales of GW product, because there was no GW product.
So what will happen to those projects when all this goes out? Do you really think the same company responsible for the Spots the Space Marine debacle will just sit back and allow you to distribute copies of your LRB that is in direct competition with their 'official' rules?
Monkeys... Flying... Arse...
So yeah. Call me a cynic and a twat if you will, but that's how I currently see this.
We are standing in the midst of a Tabletop Renaissance where new games are being created on a monthly basis, and many of those exist and were created to plug the holes that GW left, what are we going to see happen now? Will little Timmy's version of NU-cromunda ever see the light of day when the 'real' thing is available in hundreds to thousands of physical and online shops?
I hope not, but I believe it may be a real possibility.
Until next time; stay safe and be excellent to each other.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley