Monday, 23 May 2011

Thanks for all your support

For some time there has been discussion in the online Wargaming community about the lack of support for Warhammer Ancient Battles from Games Workshop of late. This has only escalated since the sudden arrival of the Ancient rules boom, with fans of Hail Caesar and Clash of Empires keen to declare WAB dead and gone.

During the early years of WAB, it was well supported by range of supplement books that generally choose a particular era or conflict as a theme and provided background, scenarios and Army books. This proved to be an eclectic mix, with supplements chosen seemingly by whatever subject an author felt like doing. But they were much loved by the wargaming community due to their high production values and comprehensive detail. Since Forge World took over the running of Warhammer Historical. Since the much delayed release of WAB 2.0 there has been now further support. This has, understandably, lead to much grumbling.

Interestingly, there has been strong opinions expressed that the further support from Games Workshop really doesn't matter. This does not seem to be motivated by any great love of GW, but more by a belief that a rule set does not require continuous support to be viable.

I find myself personally divided. I own a copy of WAB 1st edition, but have never really played. I toyed with the rules when I first started looking into Samurai, but was put off by lack of a dedicated supplement. The long promised (and unfortunately named) Divine Wind has been endlessly delayed. This is the essence of the WAB problem, the extent to which the lack of support bothers you is dependent on whether the supplement you want has been released.

This raises the question of why we as gamers want "support"from games producers. If the rules work use them. The key is the extent to which the game is complete. We don't hear demands for further support of Warhammer: English Civil War, because rules and army lists are all in the book. Field of Glory similarly saw a complete set of army book released and then the supplements stopped with no sign of complaint. DBM is similarly complete in its four comprehensive army list supplements.

It's instructive to contrast Games Workshop's approach WAB with its approach to Warhammer Fantasy. Here we have a game that could do with a good deal less support. There has been a complete set of rules and army lists since 2nd edition twenty years ago. And apart from the addition and loss of a small number of armies, everything released since has been a re-jig of everything that came before. The latest trend is full colour hard back books.

If anything it would be nice if the company stopped producing new army books. Most players have no desire to buy a new book and reorganise their army every four or five years. Wargaming is not computing, there is no need to update rules to keep up with technological change. The only motivation for the endless cycle of re-releases is a need to sustain interest in a product that has already been completed. Interest in Warhammer waned when GW stopped new releases.

This leaves gamers and game producers in conflict. Popular and successful gamers justify a rapid run of releases, which means they run their course quickly and interest has to be artificially sustained with unasked for releases. In contrast, less popular or niche games see slow and incomplete support stretched out over a period of years.

So what does this tell us? Possibly that gamers will always want what they don't have or that the commercial interests of games companies will always conflict with their customers, but mostly that Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer Ancient Battles need to swap players.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, chess does not change but remains popular as a game.

    Certainly I have a vast amount of options with my existing WAB books, which will see me out for the rest of my life.