Saturday, 25 February 2012

Entry-level Gaming for the Superficial

I've been quiet on here for a while. Partly, this is because Real Life keeps getting in the way, but partly, it is because my inspiration has been off doing other things.

Today, though, I've actually got something to write about.

What makes you pick up a new miniature game?

Honestly, I don't know about you, but I can tell you about me.

And it goes a little something like this:

1: The Looks
The first thing that once drew me to Games Workshop, in a shopping centre somewhere in London in 1998, was not the prospect of a game - not really - but the absolutely gorgeous little Fantasy warriors that were set up on their display table.

Sure, the notion of playing Chess Deluxe with the little blighters might well have got me salivating, but it was with a box of the minis I left the store, rather than with a rulebook. I've still got a few of those one-piece Beastmen lying about, more or less unpainted, sadly.

Old picture, old paint job, old mini. Kind of appropriate..,
And to this day, this is the bit I look at first. The first mini I got for WarmaHordes was actually purchased for use in Blood Bowl, because it was so much cooler than anything Yhetee-like GW had to offer. And when we started Malifaux, we chose the game because of the minis.

It literally went: "Those minis are really cool. Think the game's any good? Think we can get people to start it?"

Long story short, yes, yes we could. And a large part of that was the minis.

2: The Game
Is the game for the minis any good? If not, I might buy a few minis, play the game once, and then let the little pieces of metal collect dust forever. Which is exactly what happened with Secrets of the Third Reich...

Good games design can excuse a few bad minis, and good minis can excuse shaky rules. For me as a non-primarily-painter, though, the game needs to be interesting for me to stick with the minis. So once the models have caught my attention, the game is what will be working the hardest to keep me hooked.

A Google search on 'hooked' sort of throws up a lot of pictures not appropriate for this blog... This one's just a bit creepy.
Games Workshop have, sadly, failed a little here. I still love the minis they release, but the games have grown stale. Of course, the primary reason for me dropping(ish) GW is:

3: Investment
How high is the threshold to start the game/to start a new army/to adapt an army for a new edition? How many minis will I have to buy, assemble and paint? How easy/difficult are they to assemble and paint?

For a game like Malifaux, this threshold is low. The minis are gorgeous, and (mostly) a real joy to paint. Some are a bother to assemble, but when you have ten models to get done for a crew, this is okay.

WarmaHordes has a higher threshold, as there will be more models involved, which equals greater expenditure, more time spent painting, and so on. I spent roughly as much on my Cryx army as I've spent on three (more or less) separate crews for Malifaux.

With GW, obviously, the threshold has reached the point where I, quite fankly, don't understand how they can get any new players into the hobby. A 40k army might (and I say might) be possible to get for what I spent on those Cryx, presuming you like small, elite forces with few minis and no tanks. If you want one of the less compact, highly mechanized - or, Emperor forbid, both - armies, you'll be spending a lot of money. And time.

If your drug of choice is Fantasy, this only gets more pronounced. Okay, no tanks, but hey, monsters. Big blocks of infantry. My Empire army has stalled a bit, but numbers somewhere around a hundred and fifty models. And that's with a serious artillery section, more characters than is wise, and a Steam Tank.

It's the point equivalent of sixty Halberdiers. It's also got Toughness 10...

A crap game will get played a few times, if it requires few models, that are pretty. A game like 40k needs to be playable to attract players.

4: Customer Relations
This is where GW really fail. You know it, I know it, the bloggosphere knows it. Heck, I think even GW might know it.

Privateer has a forum, which offers players a place to communicate both with each other and with the company, and supplies rules help through the Infernals. They also have a well-developed way of dealing with missing pieces, update their homepage often, and so on. I've never met a Privateer employee, but I feel they've taken better care of me in the last year than Games Workshop have in the last five.

Wyrd likewise has a forum that works well. But more than anything, Wyrd gives the feeling that it's just a few dudes in a garage somewhere. Okay, not quite, but there's an informality to it that GW used to have.

GW have spent the last X years alienating their players. Their various information outlets (their homepage, White Dwarf, the stores) have gone from being a fun read (or talk, in the case of the stores) to being a mere fistful of advertisement. The sneak peeks and leaked photos that would get the player base worked up before a new release have been replaced by a stony silence, followed by a sudden and very commercialised scream the last few weeks before a release. And so on.

But this is not something that will be among the first things I look for in a new game. It is, however, part of what will determine whether I stick with the system and the company for long.

And those are just a few of my thoughts on what about a new game that seduces players.


No comments:

Post a Comment