Monday, 31 October 2011

GW Do Not Own Your Gaming Experience (The Quiet Rules Revolution: Part One)

This week I'm going to write a series of posts about rules. I'm going to use 8th edition Warhammer fantasy battle for most of my examples, although the general thrust of the arguments will be more-or-less applicable across various gaming systems.

I was inspired to do this by an overheard conversation in my local games store yesterday, where two guys were complaining about how evil/corporate/bastardly Games Workshop was these days, and how they didn't play either WFB or 40k anymore. This wasn't the first time I'd listened to this kind of 'argument', so let's begin by dispelling some common misconceptions.

1. GW products are overpriced - something that is demonstrably untrue if you live in UK.

2. GW are corporate bastards - true, but then this is only a problem if you want to play in their stores or tournaments, and frankly if you're an adult, why on earth would you want to do that?

3. The current design of army lists ties you into buying massive armies - an issue easily circumvented through intelligent gaming with likeminded peers. 

All these issues are interconnected, of course, but it's really the last point that interests me at the moment. I have to admit that I do like playing with the most recent edition of any given rule set most of the time. (The only notable exception being my preference for 2nd edition WFRP). I'm not one of those gamers who wishes we'd never left the 1980s and I don't stand by arguments that earlier editions are simply better because I don't think that they are. I am, however, very sympathetic with the manifesto for 'Oldhammer' that Zhu has outlined. The five core aspects of the manifesto are:

1. Have a games master - this will help build and maintain the narrative

2. Don't be shackled to army lists, be creative

3. 2000 points is not the only level to play at; much smaller works just as well

4. Don't worry about game 'balance' 

5. Never play in tournaments 

These are all approaches to gaming that I hold close to my heart - if you don't want to play like this, then I don't want to play with you! However, I don't think that we need to go back to earlier editions in order to fulfil these practices, even though they stand in stark contrast to the majority of corporate mono-culture that GW pump out. The current edition of WFB can quite straightforwardly be adapted in order to fit with this manifesto. If you find you 'need' to field hoards of 50 or 60 halberdiers then the fault lies in your approach to gaming, not within the pages of the rulebook. 

That, in short, is the main argument that I'm putting forward today. It seems so obvious, but in the face of the constant GW marketing onslaught it can admittedly be hard to remember. GW do not own your gaming experience. They offer up armies, rules, miniatures and so on, and you have the choice of how to use them. As long as the people who share your gaming experiences and leisure time agree with you then you can do whatever you like. It seems churlish (to say the least) to abandon everything GW have to offer just because you find their marketing and legal departments objectionable - I do, but I also apply a good dose of sense to the choices I make. 

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