Monday, March 30, 2009

GW vs. Privateer Press

The following was my response to a discussion held on "The D6 Generation" Podcast discussion the move of Warmachine to its new rules set, Warmachine Mk. II. Specifically, the guys were looking how this move was being viewed by the community at large, and how it impacted their GW vs. PP discussion in episode 1A. This is especially relevant as many former GW players have jumped ship to Privateer Press's Warmachine and compatitble Hordes "steam punk" minitures games.

my response follows:

I found your discussion on GW vs. Privateer Mk. 2 to be fairly interesting. I am a huge GW fan, who loves the universe and Fantasy battle game. I do feel upset however by many of GW's policys and practices in past years (I've been playing since '97). I don't play PP games other than M-Poc mainly b/c I don't live by any gamers right now, and when I do get a rare occasion to play, all my friends play GW games. So while I am intrigued by Warmachine/Hordes, its an outlay of costs and time that makes no sense for me currently. I spend enough time and money on WHFB and Necromunda for the 10 games I get to play a year, that I don't need to try to do it with a whole different gaming system. That being said, I do love to buy books and read rules, as well as look at cool new minitures, so I do own Prime:Remix and I recently bought a couple No Quarter Mags while on vacation in NYC. Interestingly enough, this was in response to me picking up the new White Dwarf to buy, and seeing that it was $9. I am so disgusted by how this magazine's content has been gutted and the price has continued to rise in the last 12 years, I couldn't stomache another dollar increase. I remember the glory days of Fat Bloke, Tale of 4 gamers, inserts, and when resigning a subscription got you a box set of minitures. Now I pay twice as much for a quarter of the content and perks. Thats not just inflation at work... but i digress. Or do I? I do see how PP runs things, the content the including in NQ (thats why I got it), how responsive they are to the community, and how they put out new content all the time. Its refreshing. In fact, I feel the White Dwarf issue is a microcosim for GW in general the last 12 years. I guess to me, when I first started it felt like GW was my buddy, the local butcher or pharmacist I'd go to that would ask about my family as he filled me order. Now, GW feels like Wal-mart. Granted, some of that is probably nostalgia, but I do think that people who assert GW has become this faceless corperation who does what they want, and has an attitude that consumers can take it or leave it have a vaild point. I also believe they have realized this, and working to correct it, just not very quickly. Having said all this, I probably seem to be a disenfranchised GW fan, ripe to be swept up in the PP frenzy, but I am not. Certainly some of it is the investment I've already made in GW, some of it is because my friends whom I play with (when I can) are barely even aware PP exists, and some of it is just how sweet and diverse the GW universe and model range is, but its more than that. Here are 3 main things I think you missed in your discussion, and they are reasons I think some of flak GW gets is unwarrented.

1 - Privateer Press is still a new company. This leads us to a couple issues.

First, they still have a great and dynamic figurehead in Matt Wilson. Mr. Wilson is the driving force behind his company, and its his ideas and commitment to them that have created and driven this company. He is still around, he is still the driving force. Not only does this mean that his creative genius is in full flight, but he also gives the PP fans a leader, a rock star if you will. Whose in charge at PP? Matt Wilson. If you love somethign about PP, thank Matt Wilson. If you are pissed about something, blame Matt Wilson. How about GW? I consider myself fairly informed in GW affiars, but I don't have the slightest inkling whose in charge there. Every army book seems to be done by somebody else. Warhammer and 40K are related and yet overseen by different people. I have no idea who makes decisions for the company policy as a whole. If I love something, who do I thank? If I hate it, who should be the object of my ire? It makes a difference. Jervis Johnson, Andy Chambers, and Rick Priestly are gone... its been 25 years.

Second, being new, Privateer still has a lot of great ideas, and you are seeing those in action. I'm not talking about just game ideas, but I'm talking about ideas on how to use the internet, how to market, how to fix problems. How to sell and do right by retailers in an E-bay/Internet discount world. GW started up over 25 years ago. They have to adapt to the internet and the evolving gamer and radically shift paradigms espeically at the corperate level. PP had to understand both of those and utilize them just to start up. They were born into the current enviroment, thats an advantage.

Third, there is no greater zealot than a convert. PP does benefit from a huge fanboy base. I have nothing against fanboys, I'm probably a GW one, but many of the people singing PP's praises are people who felt burned by GW and switched. There is nothing wrong with that, nor is it unusual, but if you've left one company for another, I think you going to be quick to find faults with the old and doggidly support the new. This can go both ways, but I think PP fans are probably a little too optomistic with their game, and bitter about GW's.

2 - 40k sucks. one of my gripes with this whole debate is a lot of people, and you guys espeically seem to focus on 40k. Now, I understand that. I know that Russ was a huge 40k guy, and this love affair bore the store and the DakkaDakka site, and so its only natural that you discuss what you know. I also know that the "steam punk" aspect of Warmachine gives it some basing in science fiction, but I think this is a mistake. Its a mistake to compare warmachine/hordes to 40k only b/c 40k sucks. It does. I've played both WHFB and 40K, and its not even close. Don't get me wrong, 40k's imagery, fluff, and models are so amazing, its almost worth it. I mean, I love science fiction a lot more than fantasy, but the game itself is terrible. The problem is scale the table isn't big enough for the range of weapons or speed of the models. Either the game needs to be brought down to a skirmish game, or it needs a size reduction, which is why Epic is so awesome. Warmachine works well b/c it plays at a size that 40k should be around. I think if you compare PP games to fantasy, GW comes out a lot better. Fantasy didn't need a complete rewrite (like I agree 40k does), its a great game. Is there some balance issues, yes, but overall its a highly competative game that will see a more skilled player win 19 out of 20 times. I think its easier to extoll the virutes of GW when you look at that game system, that plays beatifully in a the 2000-3000 point range on a 4x6 table, then comparing 40k which is not a good game. I want it to be. I would love it to be, it just isn't.

3 - Size matters i felt like you guys sort of touched on this, but then passed over it. Size is a huge, huge factor in this debate. GW is massive. Its a monsterous corperation that has a lot more people employed worldwide than PP. It produces 3 major miniture games that all independant of each other, and while using similar D6 mechanics and charts, are not interchangable at all. PP produces 2, though I'd call it more like 1 since while they use different mechanics (focus vs fury) they are interchangalbe and not unlike play an Undead army vs. a dwarf army. Within each game, GW has double the factions or even 3 times as many if you consider warmachine and hordes to be totally seperate entities. When PP does a release for everyone, they only have to release for 4 factions (maybe 5 if you count mercs). Compare this to GW, GW has to release for 12-14 armies. Not only is this a huge difference in terms of number of model and rules needed for a joint release, but also consider this. PP has four factions, so they only need to keep 4 distinct flavors to their armies. This isn't tough. GW has 13 distinct armies. It becomes much harder to keep these 13 armies feeling different in terms of fluff and rules. No one wants to buy the Tomb Kings Army book repackaged as the Vampire Counts book. There has to be distinction. This Distinction is easier to achieve when you produce all the units for one army in a book together. But it leads to long intervals between new armies. This lapse in "real time" leads to people departing and changing jobs, and so codexs and army books are being written by new people all the time it seems. This creates a lack in vision and clarity, as well as consistant language. I do blame GW for this to some extent, but its hard. Additionally, I know some people are upset their special army no longer exists or is supported. it sucks, and at times it has seemed dubious by GW, but again, this is an issue of size. As Russ has smartly pointed out various times, stores don't have the SKU room to carry more and more armies, especially for 3 systems. The Size of GW makes them much more inflexible and slow to change. Its not an excuse for all their transgressions (Slayer armies, no online store listings, White Dwarf Pricing, horrible retail support) but it does make things tough on them. The assertion that GW could easily switch to a card based system where all cards were released for 13 WHFB armies and 12-14 40K armies is unfair and honestly, in my opinion silly. I'd like to see them create decks of cards, but to try to do this 2 or 3 years out for a new army just woudn't work. I suffered for years with terrible dark elves through most of 6th edition and part of 7th, but its the price I am willing to pay to have an army level game with the diversity of options that WHFB has. I would love for GW to operate more like PP, but I wouldn't want it at the price of being reduced to 4 or 5 playable armies.


Blair said...

Wow, a long intelligent discussion. I hope they take in some of your points.

I think I'll download the next D6 podcast to see if you get mentioned :).

Nitz said...

Thanks for the nice comments Blair. I am going to type up how I do my skin, its surprisingly easy, and I will send it out to the e-mail group.