Sunday, 15 July 2012

Anger Erupts On The Tournament Scene

Son no2 was sick this morning so I missed the bus. Caught a later bus, arrived late for the tournament, was told I couldn't play. So I had a cup of coffee, watched a couple of games, took a few pics for the club blog and got home just in time to catch the tail end of no1 son's teddy bears picnic.

I wasn't bothered in all honesty as I only signed up for the tournament so they would get the numbers up to a decent level. What I found odd was that seemingly all other gaming at the club was cancelled. Especially seeing as the event had fewer players than a similar event last year, and the club has plenty enough room to host a tournament and other gaming. I'm sure there is a good reason why all other gaming is put on hold for tournaments, and why there were fewer people attending than normal... but it's best not to ask.

Talking of tournaments, it appears that Battlefront have upset their adherents with the announcement that in future those wishing to enjoy the competitive aspects of the FoW Hobby will have to do so with Battlefront miniatures.

The reasoning behind this is pretty obvious. Once you have bought an army, it is perfectly possible to play with that army forever more and never have to give the company another penny. One way for the company to get around this is by creating new lists, or making existing lists defunct by rules changes. And tournaments make an ideal format for reinforcing this message, and generating the intended new sales.

The principle is sound, except until other figure manufacturers either start undercutting you, or the player base become aware of longstanding competitors who have always undercut you.

This could be defined as the GW approach.

And clearly the appearance of the term 'FoW Hobby' has sparked the latent anger that lies just beneath the surface of many system gamers. And this is particularly hard for many FoW players as so much of the language used is to describe the game appears deliberately to distance them from GW and to make their choice of game somehow superior. So to discover that after all their efforts to differeniate themselves form the common herd it must be a bit of shock to discover what many of us have long suspected to be the case - that Battlefront is just another GW, doing exactly what GW did at the same point in the development cycle - i.e. the initial growth of buying into the hobby is drying up and in order to promote growth and sales it is necessary to ensure that that people have fully bought into the system.

The signs have been there for a while. It is three of four years since the forums became closed, preventing casual eyes from checking on lists and points levels without buying the army books. Of course it was possible to create an account and give the marketing people your details. The company had a run in Maelstrom because the online retailer was alleged to be breaking agreed prices. And there has been a touch of phyletic size decrease going on with the pricing. This has not been on the scale that has occurred with GW, but it will be interesting to see how far the company goes down the Hershey bar route in the face of the competition form the Plastic Soldier Company and Forged in Battle.

Battlefront certainly has a big problem to solve with regard to pricing. Before their products disappeared from the shelves of my local Boyes, I lost count of the number of little old ladies how sucked through their teeth at the notion of paying £35 for a box of soldiers which they considered the equivalent of Plastic Army men that they could pay 50p a bag for in the toy aisle. It also didn't help that they were sitting alongside 1/72nd Airfix plastics which are a known quantity and likely to find their way into the basket for Little Timmy.

Obviously the market for these models is not Little Timmy, but it was noticeable that amid the shelves of GW, Bolt Action, Victrix, Perrys, and Plastic Soldier Company, it was always the price/value of Battlefront that was the cause of comment.

Now the question here is which company will follow suit?

Mantic has already said that if you want to enter their grand competition to win some of the Kickstarter cash you will need to have 50% (or a something around that figure) of the army made up of their figures. And it remains to be seen what the new Priestly/Cavatore WWII rules are like. If they are as a I suspect intended to go the tournament route - possibly with the intention of picking up disgruntled Battlefront customers and enticing them to try WWII in a different scale using Bolt Action figures (which are ideally suited to fulfilling the current demand for 28mm models). Warlord have also started going down the starter box route for both Black Powder and Hail Ceasar. And who knows maybe even Plastic Soldier Company may eventually seek to exploit their forthcoming Kursk and Normandy rules in a similar way.

And as much as this is speculation, if my crystal ball is correct, it will no doubt provoke similar levels of nerd rage. Rage that appears curiously unaware of the inescapable logic that a company can only sell the same figure once, and once you have sold each player an army (or two) the only way to sell more is to either expand into new areas, or make the existing figures obsolete.

Of course it should also not be overlooked that this announcement only affects tournament gamers, and possibly only tournament gamers in the US. If you do not fall into either of these categories you are free to play FoW with what you like.

Oh those pesky tournament gamers... ;)


The new Warlord WWII rules are up for pre-order on the Walmart website. Presumably they will not just sell the rule book, so perhaps Warlord is about to go big in the USA.

American readers will be able to do their own little old lady test.


  1. All other gaming was not put on hold. It was the case that people didn't bother to arrange other games as they thought most of their potential opponents were going to be playing in the tourney instead, and as you know yourself there was expected to be 10-12 players not the 8 there was.

    C'est la Vie...

    1. Ay, I wish I'd never bothered to sign up and we'd have done what we did for the Yorkshire Open and arrange to do something else. I shan't bother in future... who knows maybe they will fulfill their pledge and advertise outside the club if there is not enough interest... who knows? We might even get some new people.

      Still you seemed to be having fun in the game I saw, so it wasn't a complete waste of time for the club.

      Btw, did you see my thing about narrative gaming - define that how you will - it'd be nice if you joined in, as you are full of bright ideas.