Sunday, 11 September 2011

On the differences between GW and Privateer: Rules and production

And, here we go again.

This will not be a post to bash either GW or Privateer. I like both their games. I might not agree with everything they do, but that's probably why I'm not rich.

This will be a post (possibly series) to look at some of the ways in which it becomes apparent that the two games companies do not always think alike. It will be entirely based on subjective observation, and my extrapolations.

No, I'm not just pulling it out of my... hat. At least I don't think so...

Today will be about two interconnected issues: rules and production. I'll get to how they're connected further along.

The Rules
I will not enter into an argument over which rules are better. The games are different enough that this becomes an exercise in opinion, and nothing more. It might appear that PP's rules are more carefully written, with less glaring oversights, but this might just as easily be the fact that I haven't looked at their rules as closely. I've spent years and years on GW's rulesets (shorter on some elements, obviously), and about two months on PP's.

Where I see a massive difference in philosophy is in how the rules are treated once they are out.

In a way, Privateer seem to treat their rules much like an active project, adding units and tweaking the rules as they go along. Perhaps the primary evidence is the group of people called Infernals.

For those of you not frequenting the Privateer Press forums, the Infernals are Moderator-like entities, with a standing as official rules arbiters. What exactly their position is in relation with Privateer proper is unclear, but they seem to speak with some authority.

What this means is that the rules in the rulebooks aren't always applicable in a straight out-of-the-box manner. Sometimes, an Infernal will rule in a manner that is not directly supported by the written rules. This means two things. Firstly, it makes it unlikely that there will ever be a large number of Rules Conundrum posts about WarmaHordes. The rules are simply too fluid for that. Secondly, it means there is an easily accessible channel to pose rules questions to an at least semi-official judge.

No, I couldn't find a clever picture. So sue me.

GW worked somewhat like this yars ago; they had their own forums, you could contact a form of (dubiously accurate) rules gurus, FAQ's were frequently published in White Dwarf and supplementary books. They made a decision a few years ago, however, not to update their rules too frequently. Limiting themselves to FAQ's that were few and far between, they sought to ensure that everyone was playing by the same rules.

The basic argument here makes some sense. It's better that both players play by the same rules (even if they don't make perfect sense) than for one to have one FAQ and the other another. It does however mean that rules questions have remained unanswered for long periods of time, giving rise to some anger among the player base.

Publication theory
Let's face it, Privateer and GW release things differently. Privateer released all its army books within a year (I think) of the core rulebook. GW have yet to update all its codices for 40k since third edition (we're in fifth now, if you'd missed that) which was replaced in 2004.

Just saying.

The impact this has on the rules (ah, I told you I'd get there) is based on the fact that all of Privateer's rules are created more or less together. There is less time for design policies to change, for staff to be replaced and for the so called 'codex creep'. There are also no out-of-date army books still in use. Talk to a Necron player (good luck finding one) and see what they think about spread-out releases.

That GW does things differently is (I presume) largely a business decision, although it is also obviously much more difficult to publish fifteen (WHFB) or sixteen (40k) army books at once, than the five (Hordes) or six (Warmachine) Privateer has to deal with.

From a business point of view, spreading releases over a longer period of time serves to keep the limelight on the systems, with something new in the offing every several months. Large new release waves encourage the purchase of large quantities of new models (either fullarmies, or as supplements to an existing army). In essence, the release of a 'new' army serves as a PR event.

It also means Gw can focus its resources on one or two armies at a time.

The benefit, beyond crass business, is that GW has the opportunity to improve even between editions. It is widely held that the later 5th edition Codices are among the best GW has published (ignore the Sisters of Battle White Dwarf Codex. That one is... not good, apparently). The 'codex creep' mentioned earlier is in part due to the fact that GW learn their own rules (better late than never, eh?) and write Codices that work within the basic ruleset better than those that came before.

Wall of text? Nah...

I'll stop now.

For the time being.

See you around. Toodles

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