A Miniature Odyssey

Miniature Gaming Reviews, Tutorials & Musings

Servo Skull Musings: Farewell to the Fantasy Flight/Games Workshop Alliance — February 4, 2017

Servo Skull Musings: Farewell to the Fantasy Flight/Games Workshop Alliance

This is not meant to announce or rehash old news. It is old news; months old. I have taken that time instead to reflect on that impact, and work towards completing a few collections before it is too late. I suppose it is never too late, but when Ebay prices soar, they tend to truly soar.

A few months ago Fantasy Flight Games announced on their website that as of this forthcoming February 28th, their licence agreement with Games Workshop comes to an end. This means that all products involving the Talisman, Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 licences, will for all intents and purposes cease to exist with the exception of the libraries of collectors and the profiteering of Ebay and Amazon.

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Whether this licence expiry is mutual, or by one of the parties in particular may never be disclosed. What we can safely say is that Fantasy Flight still has some potent licences including Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and A Game of Thrones in addition to a plethora of other gaming options.

We also know that GW has been aggressively pursuing changes to the way they conduct their own business brands. Ignoring the sometimes questionable video game licences, they have put out more exciting projects in the past twelve months then they have in recent years. They have launched major expansions across their core Sigmar and 40K brands along with many system-compatible yet self contained boxed sets. In addition to this, the Horus Heresy is continuing to expand in their Forge World line-up and with the Calth and Prospero sets. The Horus Heresy is invading the more accessible sides of GW.

The legend of the once scuttled Specialist Games division of GW seems to be seeing a potential resurrection. Inquisitor, Necromunda, and Battlefleet Gothic are still played albeit without GW support. Warhammer Quest made its return. Other self-contained boxes have been regularly appearing. Is there potential hope for GW to bring back the RPG components of their offerings? Is this simply GW understanding that they have potentially been cannibalizing their product development options?

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A rare photograph of the often rumoured illegal Battlefleet Gothic tournaments. It is believed that this photo was taken behind an unidentified restaurant in Saigon.

Truth be told in this humble opinion, Fantasy Flight did a fantastic job with their access to the GW properties. I say this for a simple reason. Anyone who visits either Lexicanum and the 40K Wikia has probably noticed how much of the guts of those articles is from content created by Fantasy Flight; Dark Heresy, Deathwatch, Only War and Rogue Trader. So much of the interesting fluff has come from those product lines; lines produced under licence by Fantasy Flight Games.

While GW proper has produced an increased quantity of books, supplements and releases in the past year it has also seen an increased level of quality to boot. In my time with 40K, the best produced and executed sources for 40K canon has been a tie between the Imperial Armour and Horus Heresy Books of Forge World, and the RPG source books from Fantasy Flight. The reason for the tie is simply because they approach their offering of canon from different perspectives.

The Imperial Armour and Horus Heresy Books provide all manner of history and details and battle campaigns suitable to satisfy the big picture. The Fantasy Flight options provide a less seen picture; planets, sectors, cities and cultures delved into with incredible depth and fantastic illustrations. Ever wondered what life is like on countless worlds? The RPG books have you covered.

In that sense, the end of this era is a sad time. Perhaps the torch will simply pass back to GW and this will be their evolutionary renaissance; a necessary sacrifice serving as harbinger to great things yet to come. More disappointingly though, perhaps my collection of Rogue Trader books will never be complete.

Those books were and remain incredible sources of fluff. I purchased many volumes, and have never played a RPG in my life. What they contain however, is something that any 40K fan will appreciate and enjoy regardless of their intentions to play any of the RPGs. That alone speaks volumes to their quality.

As always, questions, concerns, comments and existential dilemmas are welcome.

Regards, Mr Kalidor

Servo Skull Musings: The Gateway Hobby — February 9, 2016

Servo Skull Musings: The Gateway Hobby

I have dabbled in the world of miniatures, on and off for some twenty years. Granted there have been gaps within that period that may have consisted of years themselves, miniature collecting and the surrounding fluff was always present to some extent. The time where I paused and returned, the return brought with it a pleasant nostalgia. For, there was no other but Games Workshop and specifically their 40K brand. Simply put, if there was no 40K, there was nothing else. No alternatives, and not even a glimmer of curiosity of what else may be out their as alternative options.

The past decade has seen my interest in 40K grow by leaps and bounds. My level of obsessive collecting, painting, and planning has expanded by such means of my creation of my dedicated modelling and painting studio, my expanding to Age of Sigmar, and even by way of this blog.

With that stated in the past few months my eyes have wandered to other options. This surprised me and forced a deep reflection on what that meant, and where it was going to head.

The internet is full of those deriding the direction, cost and even quality of the wares of GW. I do not share those concerns. I recognize them as mild annoyances, sometimes even necessary evils, but I counterbalance that with my enjoyment, in addition to the depth and beauty of their dark worlds.

Enter my favorite of the GW business units, Forge World. For anyone living under a hobby rock, it can be said that if Games Workshop and their brands Warhammer 40K and Age of Sigmar are Chevrolets, Forge World is their Cadillac. The quality of their models, books and supplemental material surpasses anything on the market. Which is why I order their product in spite of the pain it represents to order something from the UK for delivery in my home country.

The problem being… it never arrived. For three years Forge World has been contacted almost daily and four three years, the same response; “research is pending”. As this continues to slowly work its way up the corporate ladder to that level that represents someone capable of making a decision, my love for my little resin and plastic toys reaches an existential crisis. I wanted models. I waited, and waited, and waited. I still want models. I waited and waited and waited. Now, I simply want a refund. I expect I will be waiting and waiting and waiting. I will not give up, but my Cadillac is quickly proving to be a lemon.

That represents the first push towards expanding my horizons onto other alternatives. At first it was minor deviations from the Games Workshop realms, yet still involving Games Workshops. I discovered the beauty and wonder of the GW licensed products being developed by Fantasy Flight Games; Warhammer 40K board games and role playing games.

While I may never get the chance to play a RPG, the books were remarkable; the depth, the art, the details that pass by the militaristic and dogmatic Imperium proper towards the everyday life of Imperials and as yet unheard of worlds. I have mountains of Rogue Trader and Dark Heresy Second Edition books and that seems to be that first addicting hit.

Soon I found myself scouring Ebay for Battlefleet Gothic ships. I was still very much a GW collector, simply having expanded to other companies producing licenced products and tracking down old out-of-print models.

Then two things occurred that simply took me into new directions that have no connection to my history with GW. The first was the discovery of a Kickstarter I found information about on Faeit 212/Natfka. That was Dropfleet Commander. While I was aware of Dropzone Commander, it held little interest to me. This space/orbital based miniature game however was different, and I found myself excited for the game, and my first exposure to Kickstarter.

Next we have the Fantasy Flight Christmas sale. This saw me pick up numerous great deals including additional Rogue Trader books, but more importantly new games. The Merchant of Venus and the Battle of Westeros Miniature games were added. For the Battle of Westeros in fact, the core game and every single expansion was purchased for the same price one would have paid for just the core set prior to the sale.

Thus, the Warhammer world had officially been invaded by Dropfleet Commander and now the Game-of-Throne game that was Battle of Westeros.

It did not end there. Knowing first hand about the depth and quality everything I had purchased fro Fantasy Flight, I made the final leap.

That leap was towards their X-Wing game. A game with pre-painted miniatures that seems to be increasing in popularity fairly steadily since its release several years ago.

So what happens next? Does Forge World magically regain my trust and faith that they can serve this particular customer? Or will other options continue to pique my interest with GW scaling back in my hobby-life.

Time shall tell, the immediate fallout will however become apparent as my GW related posts are joined by non-GW related posts.

How about you? Are you purists? Do you dabble in alternatives? As always feedback, questions, concerns and conundrums are always welcome.

Regards,

Mr. Kalidor

 

Servo Skull Musings- Relevence & The Hobby Niche — July 19, 2015

Servo Skull Musings- Relevence & The Hobby Niche

In an era where technology and its derivatives form a key aspect of our daily lives to the point where those with interests in more tactile pursuits such as collecting, modeling and partaking in the miniatures hobby, are reliant on those same, self-deprecating derivatives, a question must be asked. It is a question of relevance and place. How does the community maintain relevant? How do the developers maintain relevancy?

I do not pretend to have the answers, nor do I have any form of inside track as to the strategy of developers nor a firm grasp on the often splintered views of the communities involved. I can share concerns and observations, for me they exist as long term concerns of relevancy that affect all that are invested in some way.

Ours, has always been a niche. It shall as long as it exists remain a niche. The challenge before us is to have it remain a relevant niche and not an extinct one.

Our niche is both good and bad; a double edged blade if you will. On the positive side our niche attracts people with similar interests to come together. Of the other side, it is fairly exclusive in that if nothing offered within the niche it is of little interest and is simply disregarded.

The developers need to continue to innovate and produce new ideas, such as the Age of Sigmar. This to me represents a perfect example of a company seeking to maintain relevance and avoid stagnation. This is a good thing. They have recognized that they lost relevance, and have pivoted towards a new direction. So long as companies attempt that while generating sales revenue, they are contributing their component. On the community side I feel we have a far more difficult challenge. With the plethora of video games, social media, and all other varieties of virtual entertainment how we encourage new participants to assemble, paint and play with models?

This is an increasingly difficult task given two elements; online businesses and the reduction in the number of stores supporting all manner of niche elements including miniature war-gaming, roleplaying, board games, comics and such.

The online component makes it easier for the consumer to acquire, learn and discuss but does not promote the face-to-face interaction necessary to prolong survival. On the other side, as I recall from the 90s, it was not difficult to find a store that could supply these goods. In today’s market however, they are becoming increasingly fewer and further between.

I dread entering an actual Games Workshop store. This is ironic because I enjoy their products. With that said I consider myself an informed consumer, and find the high pressure used car sales tactics to be annoying to the point of avoiding their locations and supporting any number of Friendly Local Gaming Stores.

These FLGS stores are the heart and soul of the niche and the community that supports it.

This is by no means a ‘Come the Apocalypse’ musing, simply a concern that has been fluttering around my brain of late.

How do we firstly share our interests with the goal of encouraging those unfamiliar to join us?

How do we encourage those people to spend on that initial product investment?

How to we slowly introduce them to what these Niches have to offer that can provide an alternative to the virtual entertainment that is so prevalent.

If the niche ceases to exist, so too will the producers and the communities. If the Communities cease to exist so to do the producers and the niche. If the producers cease to exist so do the communities and the niche.

Perhaps this offers far more questions than answers. Perhaps this offers no answers at all. Perhaps however this can start having others think about the big picture, the future of relevance and the requirements that exist at all levels to ensure the prevention of stagnation and the future of this hobby for generations to come.