Ramblings on the state of tabletop wargames

As a tabletop wargamer, there has never been a better time to avoid Games Workshop.

Here is my personal list of superior game companies who make awesome games. None of these are publicly traded companies, which is probably why they can stick to their own ethics pretty closely.

  1. Black Site Studios – Hametsu, Demonship, Mobile Arms, and a lot other games I haven’t played yet.
  2. Planet Smasher Games is Mike Hutchinson. He wrote Gaslands among other games.
  3. Metal King Studio is Sean Sutter who designs, illustrates and sculpts for Relicblade.
  4. Nordic Weasel Games is Ivan Soreson. Brilliant writer of 5 Parsecs, 5 Leagues among other games
  5. Joseph A. McCullough is the writer of Frostgrave, Stargrave, Ghost Archipelago and The Silver Bayonet!
  6. Snarling Badger Studios is two brilliant hobby youtubers who also write really good games.
  7. Corvus Belli makes Infinity. Infinity Code One is a simplified rule system which hits the sweet spot for me.
  8. One Page Rules are amazing at what they do. A free and truly balanced rule system that works across multiple miniature ranges! All with an amazing army list builder.
  9. Exalted Funeral makes a wide variety of niche games. The Mork Borg rpg has a tabletop version called Forbidden Psalm; which is quick but also very thematic and very imaginative.
  10. Battle Systems is known for their excellent cardboard terrain. However, they should be better known for their fantastic game called Core Space. It IS a tabletop game but appears, on the surface, as a boardgame. Really though, it’s not and it is very very good.

Will Games Workshop always suck at tabletop wargames?

Let’s say, by mad happenstance, James Workshop stumbled on the unicorn perfect tabletop wargame ruleset. One that is clearly written yet terse and tactical, intuitive yet revolutionary, asymmetric yet perfectly balanced.

Also, in this impossibly hypothetical scenario, it was released to the public in print and digital, with rules summaries, print at home cards and tokens, form-fillable tracking sheets and other supportive assets. Just to stretch it a bit, let’s also say it was priced at the median to affordable range.

GW releases a perfect product and, I ask sincerely, what’s not to like? By definition I said it’s essentially perfect. Why wouldn’t I pick up and play this fictional game of fictional tactical combat?

I would not invest any time or effort into this game.

Why? It would spoil before I had a chance to even paint everything for it. 

After release, two things could happen to this game:
1) It would not be profitable enough (by GW standards) and production would cease. If I wanted to get my friend into it, they would have to pay scalper prices on ebay (If the game was any good this would likely not happen).

2) After the successful launch, Game Workshop would start releasing addons made up of specific miniatures and expansion rulesets that not would be required for the main game but would new features. After dozens of these, they would update the book/box. It would be twice as big, twice as expensive. Not all the rules would work together well. It would be obvious the new version was copy pasted from the old version with all the new stuff tacked on top. None of the original helper assets would get updated. Prices would go up, chaos would rein. Then, I would be back looking for another game that is actually good this time.

Back to square one, minus hundreds of dollars.

This is why I don’t play Necromunda even though I have a lot of miniatures for it. I own Kill Team 2014 even though I have never played it or ever will.

I also own Blackstone Fortress by Games Workshop. I really like the models. All the expansions are out of print and cost a fortune on ebay. The gameplay seems meh and has poor reviews but I am still planning on playing it by myself solo; someday.

I am not the only one that agrees that the GW churn can ruin a perfectly decent game.
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