Category Archives: Gaming Company Shenanigans
So I’m painting Napoleonics (slowly) studying IT certs, and reading a lot. I’m still following Games Workshop but I’ve been feeling increasingly unsatisfied with how they are doing things. Today they made an announcement that neatly encapsulates all my dislike and distrust of the current direction of their releases and the lore.
Marneus Calgar, reborn as a Primaris.
There’s three big problems with this release from where I sit, as a fan of classic marines, and Dark Angels / non-Ultramarines. First, it’s Marneus fucking Calgar. This is a character who, in both Lore and Crunch has been completely surpassed by the times. With Guilliman out, unless you’re playing a tiny battle, Calgar just isn’t necessary. He knows it too. Second, he’s an Ultramarine. I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent on this but the obsession GW has with ultramarines has gotten completely out of hand and NEEDS to be reined in. Rogue Trader and 1st Edition featured more of the Blood Angels than any other chapter (from GW) but the rulebook for Rogue Trader book featured Crimson Fists! 3rd edition featured Black Templar, but also had plenty for other chapters, in fact I believe most of the special characters we know and love were first released during 3rd. 4th was kind of the same as 3rd, 5th had Assault on Black Reach which was the first real deep dive into Ultramarines as the poster boys, 6th was back to Black Templar, 7th was my beautiful Dark Angels, and 8th… 8th has been ALL Ultramarines. Everyone else has gotten a codex and a Lieutenant. So yeah, Ultras get a chapter master, a Primarch, and a great chapter doctrine with amazing stratagems. Third, it’s a Primaris model directly replacing a classic marine model. So. Now we literally have Primaris marines replacing a classic marine option. This betrays a lot of long-term marine players.
Let me expand on that a bit. The reality of the business model puts a cap on how many kits any line can have. Space Marines have always probably been slightly over the limit to what they can profitably have. Space Marines have long been the poster boys of 40k. Every single edition has featured marines on the cover, there has never been a xenos cover, or even a Chaos Space Marine rulebook cover. It’s all Space Marines, all the time. Now Space Marines have 128 kits on the GW website, the largest non Imperial Marine faction is the Astra Militarum (Guard) at 67. After that it’s Orks at 60. That’s right, the largest non-Imperial faction has less than half what Space Marines have as far as kits. That’s a lot of variety, and a lot of redundancy. The niches that a lot of classic marine units fill can generally be filled by Primaris units. Outside of tanks, there’s still a lot of need for more Primaris vehicles. But that’s not enough reason to keep Marines as they are. There’s still some units that are unique, Terminators, Assault squads, and scouts stand out, and Terminators are an absolutely iconic unit for 40k. Then again, so was Calgar.
I look at the change in Calgar and I wonder if the sunset of my classic models is near. I have marines that have been in my collection nearly 30 years. When I look at increasing my investment in this hobby I wonder if it’s going to move in the same direction as other games where old models are pushed out of the meta, and eventually, possibly out of the game entirely. Will my Rogue Trader era marines eventually end up like the Brettonian Knights of Warhammer Fantasy?
8th Edition Warhammer 40k has been out for a year, and I really think this has been the best year of 40k ever. In fact I don’t think it’s particularly close. GW had a perfect storm of plans, events, and actions that created an amazing year for them. It wasn’t all roses and love but things did play out very well for them. At the same time there has been a lull recently in 40k content and I, for one, am very ready for that drought to end and have been bending a lot of thought to what they probably will do, what they could do, and what they should do.
First the bad. Mechanically 8th edition needed to cut down on re-rolls, and invuln saves. It increased them and added mortal wounds. Which it has spent a year fixing and still has some fine tuning. I think doubling down on these mechanics and adding another one to try to balance things hasn’t worked, and is unlikely to work. We will see how this plays out but I think this is still a case of “less is more” from a balance standpoint, and a speed standpoint. Spam and army variation has been a problem, it’s hardly new but it actually makes me long for the days of formations. This is as much a factor of information access. Everyone can find the good builds very quickly and there’s nothing GW can do about it.
Storywise, nothing has happened since release. The Konor campaign spun the wheels and since then there’s been a deafening silence. To give you an idea how little things have moved, the Crimson Fists destruction was retconned forward to happen right before Guilliman brought out the Primaris. So LITERALLY the first major lore event in 40k is also now one of the most recent. That is actually pretty representative of things since 8th has come out. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Line wise things were very good for certain people. If you liked the Imperium you probably got something you really liked. Primaris marines are generally good models. Death Guard have some fantastic models. None of the Aeldari races got new models, just new names. Tau, Nids, Grey Knights, Non-Death Guard CSM, Necrons, got no new models. There have been some “Wow” models but a lot of missed opportunities as well.
Finally communication has been really uneven. GW likes to try to keep the hype train running. This has resulted in some forced hype moments. Like the Blood/Dark Angels “BIG” announcement that was… a couple non special character Lieutenants. This after the previous chapters to get a codex had Primarchs. Similar hype surrounded the Eldar, with dismal results. I think GW would be better served to stick to the facts rather than creating bubbles of disappointment. If we aren’t getting anything, at least don’t lie to us about it.
Now on to the good.
Mechanically 40k is MUCH easier to play and understand than before. Both because of streamlining of the rules and a steady stream of FAQs and Errata clarifying and balancing things on the fly. This system has worked great for companies like Privateer Press and GW’s adaptation has generated great results for the company. There’s not a lot to really add to this, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot of improvement. This is a great time to play the game, it’s simpler than ever, straightforward, and fun.
The story moved. It may have stopped again, but for the first time ever, the story moved in a meaningful manner. I think a lot of people would like to see it move more, and I’m one of them, but we have to remember it has moved.
We’ve gotten a LOT of new models. More than a dozen types of Primaris Marines, including troops, characters and vehicles. The amazing Death Guard Line. Some of the most intricate and interesting models. Some new Thousand Sons models. The entire Custodes line. The new knights. There’s some really amazing models that have come out, and that doesn’t even cover all the terrain that we’ve seen.
Now GW has done a complete 180 on communication. They used to communicate only in the vaguest of terms and generally in a very high handed manner. Now they’ve completely gone the other way, they communicate through people who love the game and want to push information out to us. The rumor sites have more or less been relegated to trying to extrapolate from the pretty simple straightforward announcements GW puts out themselves, and their predictions have gotten even less accurate as time has gone by. This has also included participation by a lot of staff in social media. Gav Thorpe and ADB can be found on Facebook and Reddit, and they are engaging with fans in a way I find to be very positive, especially on the topics of decency and inclusivity. Of particular note is their response to the angry clutching of pearls concerning the Warhammer Adventures kids books. I’ll share a tweet from Gav regarding the snide comments about Slaanesh:
For those wondering how Warhammer Adventures ‘will deal with Slaanesh’ remember that Slaanesh is god of all types of excess. For any ‘kid-friendly’ version just go trick-or-treating with a hyped 4-year old.
The results of all this are pretty straightforward. More people playing 40k than ever. My FLGS has basically got 2 dedicated 40k nights (Sunday and Monday) the Warhammer store has gone from being a nearly forgotten basement dwelling mall store to a destination that nearly always has people in it, even during the week. GW has reported its highest profits ever, and has chosen to spend a good portion of that rewarding their employees, which is nice to see these days.
So here we are, GW has pumped the brakes a bit, pushed AoS for a while, and now we hope they turn their focus back to 40k. We know the next two books are going to be Space Wolves and Orks. This will leave only the Sisters Codex for next year in the “known but unreleased” category, and that is safely down the road. Which means we are mostly off the map when it comes to future releases.
I’m going to guess Orks will get some new models. We’ve seen some hints with pictures of blurry models so far, similar to the kinds we saw presaging Mortarion’s release. I doubt they’ll get anything that big, but a Prime-Ork version of Ghazghkull Thraka would be amazing. I hope we see another couple of other units as it leads into something I hope GW does in general going forward. We’ve seen less in the way of clues for the Space Wolves. I don’t think we’ll see Russ. There’s been no buildup, no hints, no hype. This close to release they would have completely changed the playbook to have a Primarch show up with so little lead time. I imagine we’ll see a Primaris Lieutenant but it seems unlikely they’ll get much more than the Dark Angels and Blood Angels got. I do think we’ll see points updates and stratagems that should put them on par or even slightly better than the other non-vanilla marines given the increased importance of melee in 40k and the generally fantastic mobility and melee ability Space Wolves have organically.
Beyond that the map is pretty blank. I think we’ll see another campaign. It has been about a year since the Konor campaign. I would love to see another and better support for it. Models similar to the ones for the recent AoS campaign would be nice, maybe a bit more tightly focused given how factions work. A nice example might be a free for all with Orks and Nids overrunning a Tomb World with Eldar attempting to meddle and Tau caught in the crossfire. Each faction gets a unit, maybe the Doom of Mal’antai for Nids, a new lord for the Crons, maybe a crazy Big Mek for the Orks, Harlequins can get a special character, and maybe a kroot character for Tau. Something that mixes things up without being a necessary centerpiece for the army, similar to AoS.
Around Christmas I’d like to see an ACTUAL big release. A Primarch would fit the bill perfectly and I really would be scratching my head if GW doesn’t have one for us this holiday season. This time the script has been flipped between the Lion and Russ. They won’t do a Russ model after the codex, they’d do it WITH the codex. Even though 5 months could separate the codex from Christmas, that’s still an awkward gap with very little filling it for 40k. I think another campaign, this one between the Imperium and Chaos would be very nice during or after the holidays. And GW really needs to have some nice big models to put under the trees/bushes. I’d love to see the Lion, Abaddon and Lorgar. Preferably as part of 3 new triumvirate boxes. The Lion, with Lion El’Johnson, Ibrahim Gaunt, and a new Cannoness for the Sisters. The Bearer of the Word with Lorgar, Erebus, and Argel Tal. Yes I realize he’s dead. Do you think the Ruinous Powers care given how many times various other heroes have been brought up? Could you imagine the fun that would come from having Tal return as a rival to Erebus? Narratively I think it’s a very fun idea. The final box has Abaddon, Kharn, and Honsou.
This is a lot more space marines in a game flooded with them, but it gives a very wide spread of characters. The Lion gives the DA a beat stick with some buffing (think super-Azrael) while Gaunt could play some fun buff/debuff games and, hell a new Cannoness to boost those acts of faith sisters get could be amazing. Lorgar would be the Chaos version of Guilliman, lots of buffs, meh in combat for his power level. Erebus makes Asmodai seem tame and sane, while Tal hands out small buffs but also has the ability to throw out serious damage when possession strikes. Kharn is Kharn, and Honsou gives the Iron Warriors some badly needed love. Abby needs an update, not just a new model, a new raison d’etre. Whether they make him a super buffstick, a super beatstick, or an endless CP battery, he needs to have something unique and distinctive, as well as some fluff explaining how all the Chaos Primarchs haven’t just gotten tired of his miserable failures yet.
Finally, GW has gotten a lot better at communication. There’s still issues. No one outside the family has any idea what the hell is going on with Forgeworld paring down its lines. Mid to Long-term plans aren’t being put out there, and all the communication is one-way. There’s no back and forth, either we communicate with them and we don’t see action (although things may change) or they communicate with us and any response we generate seems to hit a wall. However this is worlds better than the old regime, which seemed to consist of the company treating their customers and fans like an annoyance rather than a stakeholder. We are getting great videos on a regular basis helping with the hobby and gaming side. We are getting announcements (a week out) regarding upcoming releases and both a website and social media presence that seems to be much more in line with the customer service reps in GW’s mail-order service.
So here’s to a good year done, and here’s to another one. Let’s hope they continue to improve!
So I’m going to do a simple year in review for 40k. Not much structure as this is just a horrifically busy week for me. More an overview.
The Best of Times
8th Edition Release(s)
So after going through the fiasco that was the Age of Simar release, and watching as PP fucks up Warmahordes almost as bad with their 3rd Edition release, GW manages to orchestrate a very careful, organized launch, and carry that momentum clear through the end of the year, starting well before the actual release with the return of Magnus and Guilliman, and continuing through the release of 10 codexes this year, massive upgrades to Space Marine armies, and some pretty solid balancing of armies.
The New Kits
Holy shit these are great. The Primaris look very good, even if they are a bit of a pain to assemble, the Death Guard look amazing, and all of the Primarchs look simply incredible on the table.
Fate of Konor was a ton of fun. Armies on Parade was great fun. There’s plenty of chances for events from purely collecting/modeling competitions to ultra-competitive high intensity tournaments. Des Moines has had at least 1 major event every month, and that’s JUST for 40k.
On Message, On Target
Ok, look, we all know I’m a feminist, and that representation in 40k is a bit lacking. Female dominated armies are a bit lacking, and boobplate shows up a lot more than it should. In addition the features of nearly every sculpt are very “European” even for armies that supposedly aren’t. GW has been vocal about increasing diversity and cutting down on some of the more sexist elements of their models. While there has been limited opportunity for them to do it with their long pipeline from project inception to release, they’ve played a lot of the right notes, now let’s see if the players on stage match the music.
I mean, yeah buying Chapter Approved every year is going to be a bit of a drain, but MAN it’s nice to see them FAQing and Errata-ing and just maintaining things. SO nice.
The Worst of Times
(Not) Fixing the Rules
So the biggest things they needed to fix were invuln saves and re-rolls. They did not fix them. They added mortal wounds. Now there’s army comps that can spam them through psychic powers that made the problem with Alpha Strikes just incredibly worse. I think they will need to figure out what to do about the huge number of 4++ or better invuln saves (I think even special characters shouldn’t have them very often) and re-roll auras… I like how they make any character interesting but holy hell does it slow down the game. Just give a +1 to hit or wound and call it a day.
First turn is huge. Way too big. I’m hoping next year’s Chapter Approved brings us some alternating activation because the way things are it’s just ugly sometimes. You can be crippled in a turn and that before you get a chance to go.
Marines are great, what else is there?
Not. Much. Eldar got a brief re-release of old models. No real upgrades or new releases. Nids got a little love, but not much. Grey Knights got nothing. CSM other than Death Guard got nothing. Other Chaos got only stuff originally designed for AoS. I get that Space Marines sell better than anything, but they HAVE more than anything. Give Eldar or Orks that kind of love and see what happens!
Things aren’t all steak and sunshine even for the Marines. More and more, chapters with distinct and carefully developed histories are being turned into Ultramarines. This isn’t good, it isn’t interesting and it doesn’t help the narrative. Hopefully GW starts looking at the issue and either puts someone in charge of fluff development that isn’t Matt Ward.
It’s been a great year. Probably the best for 40k in a long damn time. There’s clouds on the horizon but there’s a lot of sun and a lot of clear seas too. Just a matter of navigating the waters wisely, and so far GW seems to have hit more clear water the storms.
So the new Blood Angels Codex is imminent. Recently we got a look at the “New Units” to be featured in it. Here’s the list from Warhammer Community. Inceptors, Reivers, Cataphractii and Tartaros pattern Terminators, Stormhawk Interceptors, Stormtalons Gunships, Hunters, and Stalkers. Stormraven Gunships. None of these is actually a new unit. I’m guessing they get all the other Primaris units, since they come in the FUKHUEG BOX that GW has up for pre-order (not a great savings BUT if you want to add Primaris to your existing blood angels, or start a new army there ARE some savings so go for it) but there’s 0 in the way of actually new units. All of these are units that currently exist now with the exception of the Primaris Lieutenant.
What’s more interesting, or concerning, is that these new units do not have the Black Rage. So that’s no Death Company, no tragic flaw, just a Red Thirst bonus to attacks. From the stream we got a lot of stratagems, most of which are picked up from the Space Marine codex although they did steal some speed from the Craftworld one. I worry a lot that the Blood Angels are becoming Ultramarines painted blue. Sanguinary Guard, Death Company, and the special characters are… ok. Librarian Dreadnoughts are great, Furioso Dreadnoughts are great. Death Company Dreadnoughts are apparently amazing. All the flavor comes from old units. OLD units. Like, Eldar old. Like Squats old.
I think this is one of two things. Either a missed opportunity where GW wanted to get this army out fast without bothering to add anything good so they just threw in all the old shit they hadn’t given them before, or a deliberate step to bring all the chapters closer together. This has happened before. Black Templars used to have a codex. Imperial Fists used to at least rate a supplement. Then they stopped getting new stuff and started losing stuff they had. Now they sit in the “other” section of the Space Marine Codex.
I don’t think GW wants to get rid of the Blood Angels. After all, before the obsession with Ultramarines came about THEY WERE THE POSTER CHILD FOR 40k
3rd Edition btw featured the Black Templar. 4th Edition’s Battle for Macragge actually brought the Ultras into the spotlight.
I do think GW is painting themselves into a corner. Primaris are lore poison. They are so loyal and pure they never fall to chaos. They are better at shooting, they are better in close combat, they are tougher when taking damage. Have you ever been cornered by a guy in your FLGS telling you about his homebrew chapter that are “like X chapter but better”? That’s the primaris marines. There’s no flaw. In fact they clean up flaws that already exist. I have to think going forward that something will change. Right now they are literally a bad fanfic of existing marines. Only they are GW’s bad fanfic. They are GW’s bad homebrew, and they are mucking up the Blood Angels.
Here’s the funny thing. I don’t hate Primaris unconditionally. I think it’s great that GW is advancing the story. I think it’s very interesting to have these new troops joining the chapters. I think conflicts like that between Dante and Seth in Devastation of Baal and soon whatever happens in the upcoming Dark Angels book are super interesting. But so far all the flaws, all the conflict drivers emotionally are coming from non-primaris characters. War of Secrets doesn’t come out until 2018 so any real resolution is going to take some time to get to us Dark Angels fans. On the tabletop they are very interesting. Intercessors are very good overall, but have no ability to specialize for better firepower up close or at long range, just solid, above average firepower, 2 wounds, and 2 attacks in melee. Hellblasters have less power individually than devastators, but everyone gets a big gun! 2 wounds each! And now for something completely different. Inceptors are just plain neat. I love them and already have 6. I may go up to 12! Repulsors are crazy tanks. I’m VERY MUCH disappointed by the build, it’s just sloppily executed, but they are great tanks. Ton of firepower, ton of points. Really neat and go well with the slick, lots of firepower look of primaris. There’s so much to like about them.
Fluff wise I love the idea of them being less experienced, less adept at the little things, and having some penalties to go with their strengths. The recent Alpha Legion book played on this some. They simply don’t know what they don’t know. However they haven’t shown any fundamental flaw. GW fluff operates on pretty much the classical model. Heroes have a tragic flaw. Guilliman can’t NOT build an Empire. The Lion can’t NOT be secretive and sinister. Dorn can’t NOT be defensive and stubborn. The Khan can’t NOT be inscrutable and hate centralization. Horus can’t NOT desire power. Perturabo can’t NOT be jealous. The Primaris can’t… what. What is their tragic flaw? When do they stop being the bonnie blue boys.
And next week pre-orders for the Dark Angels codex go up. I was hopeful at one point that we’d see the Lion come back in the codex. Now I’d settle for not having the codex be a glorified index with 8 pages of badly updated fluff.
Two organizations I love to hate. PETA for their overbearing moralism. GW for… basically being GW. Yes it’s self referential but at this point if you don’t know why “GW being GW” is bad… I don’t have 10,000 words to describe it.
There’s been some great responses.
Fur is murder. In a universe where star ships sail through a sea of liquid murder guided by a murder powered lighthouse
No. Seriously. The Warp is the realm of murder (and a lot of other things) and the Astronomican is powered by the souls, not just the body, and blood, but the very SOULS of psykers being consumed to power this lighthouse.
Then there’s the Daemonculaba. 1D4chan, a rather infamous hive of scum and villainy refers to this is Chaos’ “Aristocrats” joke…I’m not even going to describe it. It’s beyond horrific.
Now let’s look at our fuzzy little cuddly bears in the 41st millennium.
Most of the ones you see are Fenrisian wolves. Think of a horse. No. A draft horse. Good. Now bigger. Bigger. Bit bigger. Ok, close enough. Now add fangs, teeth, a skeleton that would make Wolverine blush, and add a dash of PURE RABID PSYCHOPATH.
So yes. That fur is murder. Angry, bitey, scratchy murder.
So why would anyone buy just a Rhino anymore. Seriously. $37 bucks. Rhino.
Here’s your other choices. Razorback, $42 bucks. For 5 dollars more you can choose a pile of extra bits that give you a lot more flexibility in the build. Basically for each Razorback you see yourself needing, you buy the kit and you can swap it for a rhino just by changing the top deck.
Then there’s the armored assault squad. For $55 you get a Rhino, a tactical squad, and I do love the current tac squad kit, for me there’s a Dark Angel upgrade sprue. Finally there’s one of the REALLY hard to find Dark Angels Squad Transfers. I’d rather get one of the really big ones, but even these are really useful. My current build needs at least 5 of them. Either way, this is a steal at less than $20 more than the Rhino on its own. Heck just the upgrade sprue is $14. The squad is $40. Another way of looking at it is, any Dark Angel player that wants a tac squad gets the transfers, the upgrade sprue, and a free Rhino. Basically there’s a lot of value in these packs. Where there isn’t a lot of value is in units on their own. Any unit you are looking for, look for it in a package these days.
Two huge items in gaming news this week. The first is that Massively is gone. This is surprising at first look but now that I’ve had time to think about it there really isn’t much to be surprised about. Basically there’s a lot of problems with Massively
- Groupon School of Journalism: Look I have a lot of respect for anyone who makes a living doing something creative. I consider writing my biggest strength on the creativity side and let’s face it, I’m ok. I can capture a phrase, I can communicate but I’m not the next Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain or even Doctrine Man!. All that being said… the writing quality at Massively was all over the place. Even article to article by the same writer you never knew if you were getting a carefully crafted piece or a hack job taken straight from the game in questions website.
- Poor Editorial Direction: Not covering news on events in game, especially when you are writing about… say… EvE Online, is like writing about fashion in the halls of Congress but not about ANYTHING else. You are missing the point even if the suits are nice. Neutering your coverage or having other writers step in who don’t know the game/community/meta to cover breaking events means you look awful, especially when the community itself can provide capable coverage (as EvE bloggers do)
- Formatting: Look at the website. It’s functional. It works. There’s a lot of whitespace. It’s painfully white, and just… dull.
- The Media Itself: For all the success Massively had, it was a written word format site in a media meta dominated by podcasts, streams, vlogs, tweets, and with more formats all the time… written articles just don’t grab the key demographics. AOL may have killed something that was successful while it was still successful but the writing for this format (including blogs like this) is on the wall.
Now I feel awful for the people that worked there. From what they’ve been posting the experience has been awful with uncertainty, rumors, and apathy rampant from their corporate masters. Now these people have to scrabble for work and I hope they find it. I’ve enjoyed the page for all the criticism I’ve leveled at it and I wish them all a swift, safe landing with bosses who understand things better and who give them the creative direction, freedom, and inspiration they will need to succeed.
Then there’s the SOE fiasco. WOW. This is… I can’t… I don’t… Ok I wouldn’t trade places with John Smedley for anything right now. I follow him on Twitter, along with about 73 thousand other people. He’s a brilliant social media, guy, but man there’s no way to spin this. I don’t think the investors will be doing much with any of the IPs outside of Planetside 2, Everquest, and… well… let’s count ourselves lucky if those come out. The company will be sold for parts and soon, and I suspect that Smed himself is actively looking for a “new challenge” to take on that doesn’t involve shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.