Friday, 25 February 2011

The Evil Empire Is Just Dead To Me Now

I had something of an epiphany this week in that I realised that I have absolutely zero left in the tank marked up “Games Workshop Enthusiasm” and accordingly the activities of the company are now as meaningless to me as those of, say, Tampax, the manufacturers of cancer sticks, ITV and the department of WOTC that puts out that Essentials board game thing with the Dragonforged Rageblood Razorfinger Tankbrawler with 50hp at first level or whatever it is where the rules go out of date as soon as they are published and you need to keep paying to download stuff to patch your books. In other words if it vanished tomorrow I really wouldn't care (*).

Now, I've never reached rock bottom with the Workshop, not even in the bleak mid 90s when the figures were generally utter shit, I couldn't afford the cheapest thing in the shops and locally the GW scene was akin to a wasteland (The Wasteland around Marienburg if you like) whereby the mere suggestion of 40K or WFB at Stourbridge was enough to get you blackballed and your club membership revoked. I was always waiting for the time when it was practical to build myself 40k and WFB armies because deep down, I always wanted to be able to play the games. Whenever I liked. In the future perhaps when I had the cash and somehow my painting had become more efficient so that I could actually finish regiments let alone whole armies.

But now, in February 2011, this is real “I've had enough of you and the kids and I'm leaving you to live in a bedsit” stuff.

“Ah”, you nod sagely, “it's the high cost and price gouging that's got to him”.

And you'd be wrong.

If GW stuff was half the price, I wouldn't buy twice as much. I'd probably buy more than I was doing but certainly I wouldn't buy double and help them make up the shortfall. The reasoning behind this is really quite simple – I never buy faster than I can paint (I don't use unpainted figures for gaming) and while my painting is getting faster ever year, there is a time limit on fast I can get stuff from sprue to tabletop and that slows expenditure down to the point where I was perhaps spending £20 on raw materials that would occupy 6-8 weeks of paint table time. Since I don't regard that as expensive, I'm in the happy situation whereby I can buy quicker than I can paint so I'm (well, I was) happy at that point.

While I feel spiritually unclean for even having the mere thought, let alone voicing it, it suggests that GW pricing is actually correct and at the right level (for me at least). So there's no jilted fanboyism going on here at least.

So what caused it?

Well, they bought out a book.

Admittedly this isn't a book that violently abuses myself and family, murders my pets and shits on the softtop of my car but it is an annoyance, and the last straw I.e. the one that breaks the dromedary's spinal column. It's another Orcs and Goblin army book. It's hardback, it's £22. It's probably a very nice book, in fact on the evidence of the last Warhammer rulebook it's probably figure-pornographic enough to induce a fatal attack of “The Gush” ( © Chris Morris). (NSFW – but then neither am I and I go to work like most days).

But I've got the older one and I've used it twice and indeed I've got the older rulebook and used that twice as well. It's the whole upgrade path thing really pissing me off. To carry on gaming without losing the greater GW community I have to upgrade. And I hate being told to upgrade by big companies. It really gets my goat.

When is the next upgrade happening? When will the next thing that functions perfectly well but has to be retired from service because the great financial Gods of the Nottingham Spreadsheet have decided that cost benefit analysis requires me to do so in order to keep up with everybody else?

Bollocks to them. It's not the money, it's the principle.


I think at the ripe old of six-and-thirty I've outgrown the whole GW image thing.

I'm bored of Grimdark. Actually that's not quite true. What I'm bored of is GWs modern Grimdark. In the past, Warhammer was grim (WFRP particularly) but there was a vein of black humour and craziness running through it which lightened the mood and pointed out that you really shouldn't be taking things too seriously.

There's just none of this in modern GW lore. Why this should be I don't know. Either a bunch of people came to work in the GW fluff department who just didn't get it or hidden levels and irony is just a no-no because, I don't know, perhaps a focus group thought it might confuse a core demographic or something. But I find modern GW fluff vaguely depressing and unattractive. It's not something I explore enjoying and increasingly I don't wish to explore.

Here's a good example. I have the figure skirmish game Song of Blades and Heroes (it's a clunky title, but it's an Italian game and perhaps the title works better in Italian) which is clearly a lightweight Mordheim-a-like for playing a campaign of 3-4 games within an evening. I've never played it but have started to collect 80s Chaos figures for a Chaos Warband (thus mixing two of my favourite GW skirmish concepts in one – Mordheim and WFB Chaos Warbands).

Comparing these 80s figures with the modern stuff makes something very obvious leap out. Old Citadel Chaos Warriors were clearly an excuse for the sculptors to kick loose and design baroque armour completely uninhibited by historic reality (or indeed borrow from across the whole sphere or historic arms and armour from many geographically and chronologically diverse cultures). Modern Citadel Chaos Warrior is all KILLKILKILLKILLFUCKSOULSHITTERRIPSPLEENGOREMULTILATEIAMGODOFGURO and frankly it's fucking juvenile.

I can just picture the GW shop clone having had his daily regulation MDMA injection straight into his rectum let loose with the fullfuckingon sales rant at the confused parent of a 11 year old autistic boy.

“Yeah and these are the Chaos Warriors of Khorne they are like the coolest models ever and they are like the ultimate in psychotic warriors and they just slaughter everything and their hero has an axe called Bastard Rapist of the Innocent and they bath in cauldrons of gore and nothing stands in their way because they cut hack hack hack through everyone in their path and their god worships slaughter and forces them to cut their own head off if there isn't enough slaughter and he uses the powdered bones of concentration camp victims as underarm deodorant and...”

I just don't want any part in it. Is Coop getting soft in his dotage? I don't think so.

In a way it's like Frankie Boyle. When he was on Mock The Week he was hilarious because he kept a vein of humour which took the edge off his shock value and his carefully judged “right side of the edge of unacceptable” was skilfully done. On Tramadol Nights, a show in which he works on his own and is given full rein to do whatever he likes there is no vein of humour to his unpleasantness, the whole comedy is just shit and not funny.

Most of the older GW lore caught the imagination and created a mental image of a world I wanted to explore. I look at modern stuff and it just seems shit. In fact even the common phrase “fluff” seems to sum it up – it's disposable and unimportant, not in a “here's our World but you probably just want to create your own background” way but disposable and unimportant in that it's just shit and lazy shit at that that does a quick cut and paste job on historical military campaigns and hopes that piss-poor standard of history in British schools these days means that none of the kids will notice that you just ripped off Stalingrad and Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan and could barely be bothered to file the serial numbers off whilst you were doing it.

So the worlds bore me, the upgrade path of forced obselence pisses me off and while I could give up and play on my own with 3rd edition Warhammer, I'd rather play games than be a gaming billy-no-mates.

So yeah, much like the morning you start a new job and realise that your old job was through a door you won't return through I just couldn't give a flying fuck about the Nottingham crew at all. I can't even summon the enthusiasm to dislike them. It's completely gone and I know I won't be back.

Curiously February 2011 marks the first month since April 1984 when the magazine moved up to newsagent distribution that White Dwarf hasn't been available from WHSmiths. I find this strangely appropriate somehow.

(*) Not entirely true – if they vanished there would be no Devlan Mud wash and no 'ardcoat gloss varnish and my painting would be absolutely fucked.


  1. Yep, sod the upgrades. WD not being in WH Smith
    anymore won't bother me one bit but I suppose it is the end of an era. Totally spot on about modern GW grimdark and Tramadol Nights.

  2. Rumour has it that the hardback army books are the last army books. No more after this, just updates in White Dwarf and online.

    I haven't played since the boxed goblins and high elves edition, so it's of no interest to me, but that's the rumour.

  3. Kelvin, I wish that were true, but £22 every few years seems like a good, if bastardy, business plan. And I actually really quite like 8e (except for the mess that is 'true line of sight').

    Coop, as I understand it there are quite a few people still playing 3e. I'm planning to start playing Mordheim - all the books are free to download from the GW website - or at least, they were - and you can have a completed warband for £20-odd quid and a couple of weeks' worth of painting.

  4. I never really bought into the whole GW thing anyway. I tried Space Marine, but ditched it when I realised that it was too hard to buy armies in any practical cost-effective way because if the way the figures were packaged. That, and the way the new rules didn't integrate with the old ones. Epic 40K never did it for me as a replacement set. I just took the basic WH40K fluff, and used it to convert all of my Epic armies for use with 'Hordes of the Things' (rules unmodified), and have been much happier. Ebay provides any new figures I need. or non-GW sources.

    However I am impressed with what I see of the various 40K role-playing games that are out there. Not played them, but I've followed a number of campaigns on, and there's some interesting stuff there. A role-playing game requires a deeper setting than a miniatures game, and they provide it. It doesn't matter that it's dark grimdark; it works. And, in fact, the people running the games seem capable of injecting their own humour over the top of what's provided.

  5. never stopped playing 3rd ed, though I did play quite abit of 4th and 6th. SoBH is a great little game, lots of fun and chaos warbands are perfect for it. how about you post some pictures of your growing warband?

    Who needs modern GW? Not me.

  6. Modern Citadel Chaos Warrior is all KILLKILKILLKILLFUCKSOULSHITTERRIPSPLEENGOREMULTILATEIAMGODOFGURO and frankly it's fucking juvenile.

    Agreed. It's robbed the game's universe of what depth it had (and it had quite a bit when the likes of Ian Watson and Kim 'who's this Yeovil bloke then?' Newman were writing it), and the worse thing is, it's dull!

    My late Nineties Chaos Warriors have their faults, but at least they're doing something interesting, not just shuffling forward with their arms by their sides, desperately trying to stay within their bases because they're so huge and loomy and scary and, well, GRIMDARK.

    As far as irony goes, it's a dying art. I teach the new generation of wargamers and frankly most of them have trouble with the idea that something could be said and something else meant. Weirdly, they get sarcasm just fine. It's the shades in between that are the issue.

  7. Oh, and by the way, you're right about Devlan Mud. It goes on almost everything I paint. I also prefer my paint in pots, rather than dripper bottles, so I'm a GW man there too.

  8. I've never played WFB or 40k, and yet this post is supremely goddamn funny to me. Hats off, sir.

  9. Well, I borrowed a Chaos Daemons army off of my brother recently. Ugly models, dull codex. 40K used to push buttons with me, but even down to corporate little details like referring to "The Warhammer 40000 Hobby", there's something wrong with this edition's vibe. Yet I can open Necromunda to a random page and become inspired. So you're not alone.

  10. They stopped doing Devlan mud too...

  11. nail on the head, here, sir. fine job

  12. it got bad in 2nd edition....the terrible new damonettes with cartoonish claws and tank tops.

  13. contd: I still love the 1st edition realms of chaos books,ere we go and whfrp...hated when 2nd edition nerfed it all. I quit after 3rd started looming around as i saw the pattern of forced upgrades. Long live 1st edition.