Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Improbable Business Model (The Quiet Rules Revolution: Part 3)

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.


  1. 4th edition WHFB came with a booklet giving basic army lists for all the races then present in the game. It was superseded by the army books, where available, which generally gave more options and sometimes changes. But it was nice to have that basic idea of what the different armies could offer.

  2. 4th edition passed me by while I was off doing other things... I keep meaning to pick up a rulebook from then off eBay. What I dream of seeing again are the kind of publications that were available during 3rd edition. The main rulebook, the armies book, siege, and the two brilliant chaos books.

  3. 6th edition had Ravening Hordes as well - pretty much the same thing as the Warhammer Armies booklet that arrived with 4th edition. 8th edition would have been when such a thing was due again, except GW managed to keep all the books current despite the paradigm shift that the new edition brought with it.

    I admit that it has been a very long time since I didn't have access to whatever army book I wanted to look at, so I have an excellent knowledge of all the armies. But I agree that if you were trying to work things in isolation, the cost of buying all the books yourself is prohibitive.

    Having said all that, if you don't have access to the book in question (either yourself or through a friend), this probably means you are not going to play against it. The only time this would really happen is at a tournament, which I gather doesn't interest you anyway. If you're never going to meet a particular army on the table, does it really matter if you don't have the rules on hand?

  4. Possibly not, but then it's difficult to tell. Two reasons why it would be useful to have access to the full rule set would be: firstly, to see if there was a different full army that I'd like to collect, and secondly, to be able to develop a range of creative, scenario driven lists from across the range. In the absence of a GM, points values are the best way to maintain 'fluffy balance' in confrontations between home brew armies.


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