Well, with Christmas out of the way, its time to look back at the last year, before we start looking seriously at hobby plans for 2017! I’ll start with my thoughts on the hobby in general!
Well, the big change in 2016 has to be the sudden change in GW’s approach to community engagement. Bringing back old models periodically, classic games like blood bowl, opening up multiple routes on social media, a genuine sense of humour in things like dealing with leaks and the regimental-standard.com – its been fantastic. They aren’t perfect, by any means, by they’ve massively changed their approach from almost actively antagonising wargamers to reaching out, and engaging us again. With the release of points in the General Handbook, popularity of Age of Sigmar has soared, giving them a credible fantasy alternative again. I’ve personally been a little disappointed with AoS, both as I find the ruleset a little clumsy with the loss of any speed variable in combat (and I like fast Aelves!), and the lack of any Aelves for about 2 years, to be followed up by essentially just releasing the old starter set. I’d been very excited by the Mistweaver from Silver Tower and the aesthetic there, so it feels a bit of a cop out. I still want new pointy ears!
Guildball has continued to expand, though we’ll have to see how it does now a 800 pound gorilla like Blood Bowl is back on the scene. I’m struggling to keep up with the rule changes every season, but as I’m not actively playing, it may just seem harder than it is. I don’t find the same issue with Malifaux, though, and I haven’t really been actively engaged in that either. The horde of gremlin options on the market is particularly fantastic 🙂
Big names have continued to sneak into the war-games market, with Star Wars doing particularly well with Imperial Assault, X-Wing and Armada. Star Trek and Halo have pretty credible entries too, and Aliens vs Predator is a really solid game, together with the The Walking Dead in the zombie sphere. Its an interesting time, where major franchises are competing with entrenched systems – I’m worried it’ll hammer smaller systems and model makers particularly hard.
I think one of the trends I’ve seen is a distinct breakdown into 3 types of model buyer. You tend to see collectors, who either play rarely or just play for fun with fluffy games using some of their more obscure models and have enormous collections. You see players, who are increasingly moving to skirmish games with much lower model counts. And tournament gamers, who play the larger systems but with much more focussed armies than ever before.
Its unusual – in the past, I knew 40k gamers with loads of models and different armies, and I’d see them field a different one almost every game. Now? Even if they collect them, they just have one actual force they play with. Its too much time and effort for them to keep up with the rules otherwise. Games like Rogue Stars, Open Combat, Frostgrave, Malifaux, Imperial Assault and Kill Team are massively more popular than ever before. It’ll be interesting to see if this changes up with a rumoured 8th edition this year.
I keep hearing the good thing about AoS is the low cost of entry compared to WFB, but all the games I see people playing and talking about are exactly the same sort of size as WFB ever was – I just hear a lot of current or former 40k players loving the models, collecting and painting them too, which didn’t use to be the case. Even if I’m not a big fan of the system, I’m glad to see it do well, as I think the market needs a range of different fantasy games. I hope we don’t see model creep stopping people getting excited for it in the same way we did with WFB, but I think the really well priced “start collecting” sets will help there.
With moving over 150 miles to a new home, all my local stores and clubs are different, so its really thrown my normal gaming options out in the latter half of 2016. Hopefully I’ll find plenty of options to get my game on in 2017!