How do you know what to expect when you face a new army on the table top? Very few of us will own all the current army books for WFB or 40k codexes. The basic stat lines for each troop type are included at the back of the main rulebook for WFB, but these do not include one vital piece of information: the points value. One reason this is important is because understanding relative points values is key to comprehending how different armies can be fielded. Points values, as we all know, are a closely guarded piece of company 'property' and if I was to provide even a partial list of them on this blog I would probably receive a cease and desist letter from GW's solicitors within days or weeks.
To have a comprehensive understanding of all the rules for WFB would cost you a whopping £360 at the current price of the books as listed on the GW website. This really annoys me. WFB is the main table top war game that I play and I'm denied a good working knowledge of the full range of rules. There are other ways to find out about how different armies play, through joining a large gaming group or by reading about them on the internet, but that's hardly a sufficient substitute. *Let me apply a quick undercoat to the elephant in the room... I know people can get copies of these books for free from the web... I couldn't possibly endorse that kind of behaviour here*
The alternative approach that I suggest below will never happen in reality because it is highly unlikely that GW will ever change their current business model in favour of one that would actually benefit gamers - I'll briefly outline it anyway and even put forward a business case.
The Improbable Business Model
Aspect 1: GW release a comprehensive rulebook containing all game rules plus the full lists for all armies in the game, points values etc. included. This provides the basis for all kinds of play from competitive tournaments to 'oldhammer' campaigns. The best games have, at their core, simple design concepts. Fluff is at a minimum and can be found elsewhere.
Aspect 2: A range of source books is released. These contain a wealth of background information, campaign rules and scenarios, optional rules, tables for generating unique characters and units, and so on. These would help reinstate the roleplay aspect that I think is so lacking in the structure of the GW profit-orientated approach today. Some of this could even be released for free (shock horror) on the web.
The Bottom line argument: With access to the full range of basic rules, players will get a flavour for all the different forces in the game and many will start collecting a wider range of armies. A good range of source books allows those who are so inclined to opt-in to playing in a 'deeper style', while maintaining a steady feed of new products into the range.
Given that this plan very quickly hits the brick wall of reality there's not much point in arguing the case any further. It's a pipe dream; a pure exercise in wishful thinking. So what was the point of all this? The important thing, as I see it, is to find an alternative is the disenfranchisement brought about by the likelihood that huge swathes of the rules for WFB are kept at arms length from the majority of players. In line with my other posts this week I'd say that it's important to act as if the fundamentals of this improbable business model were actually true.