Warhammer Visions – what I don’t see!

Well, the change to White Dwarf has happened!  White Dwarf has become a weekly pamphlet – I don’t think 30 pages qualifies for anything else.

Warhammer Visions is the big one.  It replaces the monthly White Dwarf, and is supposed to be the inspirational magazine, with almost double the page count (although at a hefty jump in price).  It also replaces the iPad subscription if that’s what you’ve got.

Its also, unfortunately, a really badly implemented move.  Although the page count has doubled, the size of the pages has roughly halved, so if anything, you are getting less for your money.   The print quality seems significantly worse in my copy than the previous White Dwarfs, which have been gorgeously printed whether you liked the content or not.

In terms of the content … well, the phrase damp squib truly springs to mind.  It is purely images of models … from Golden Demons, a show case of tyranids, Blanchitsu, and a “battle report”.  All of the minimal labels on the images are in three languages to maximise international sales.  Now, that’s not entirely a bad thing, of course – some people will find the images inspirational.  I don’t, at this point.  Why?

Well, Blanchitsu, while once my favourite article, now just seems to be pictures of his mates’ models, rather than anything actually from John Blanche, and there’s certainly no text saying why he likes them or what is special about the art.

The “Battle Report”  is a atrocious – a few snaps aren’t a battle report.  The setup, the army lists, the full board level illustrations highlighting the armies moves – these are pretty much vital to get a feel for an actual game.  Some photos?  Well, I see that on twitter as mates play with more information than here.

There isn’t any return of Heavy Metal – it still uses paint splatter and fairly simple colour guides to illustrate a few of the themed models (tyranids in this month’s case).

The photos themselves are reasonably well taken (if viewed on the iPad edition), but a lot have been seen elsewhere.  It doesn’t feel fresh.

I didn’t think it’d be a big deal for me, but I hate the multiple language labels.  It feels like we’re losing out on actual information about the models and paint choices for basic labels that work in three languages … its a sales move, and it shows.

I feel its a real shame, because I like the core concept behind Visions.  If we had a monthly magazine focussing on the cinematic and aspirational side of the hobby, that could be good!  What would need to change to keep me subscribing?

Well, some actual artwork, and short stories, would help too!  When I visualise the various worlds, I don’t just think of the models – I want to see the universe.  I want to paint an army of Crimson Fists because of the Rogue Trader cover, not because of someone else’s models.   With a bold title like visions, I wanted to see a new view of the fantasy and 40K worlds.

I’d scrap paint splatter in the monthly, and go back to the really advanced heavy metal guides.  Could I use them all?  Probably not now – but the techniques show that with practise I can get there.  Paint splatter is for the battlefield if I lack any inspiration – heavy metal is for dreamers.

I’m not sure visions is the right field for battle reports at all, but imagine if you used a short story from the heresy with shots of the battle deployed with models?  That might get me excited to get me playing.

At the moment, I’m afraid its a damp, expensive squib, rather than a visionary firework.  The best thing GW did was deliver it on a saturday, when their lines were closed so I couldn’t cancel right away.

What’s GW doing right, and how can they improve?

You probably already know that GW posted lower profits and revenue this half year, and as a result lost 24% off their share prices.  There are lots of rumoured and confirmed changes too:

  • White Dwarf is changing significantly -going to a weekly release, and monthly Warhammer Visions is going to be more models. #confirmed
  • WFB is losing about 4 army lines #rumoured
  • GW are hiring a 2 year consultant to reinvent the customer experience #confirmed
  • Lots of stores and HQs are changing or closing #confirmed
  • Imperial Guard Catachan and Vostroyan lines are to be axed #rumoured
  • Finecast is being axed #rumoured

Before we start jumping up and down, lets look at the facts.  Last year GW released 6th Edition of their flagship product, and the year before was their 25th anniversary of the same.  This year?  Well, its business as usual.  Sales were always going to drop, especially on the back of a tight economy and increasing competition.

They are still pretty profitable, and for the first time seem to be shaking out of their complacency, changing their legal counsel after some embarrassing moves and hiring someone to improve the experience in their stores.  The strength in their value tends to have been more in solid dividends than their growth in value, so I don’t think this drop will see any major changes in who holds their stock (I think – don’t quote me on this!).

In terms of model lines, they have some difficult decisions to make.  As a company, you don’t produce goods that lose money and stay in business …. unless that actually gains you more money elsewhere.  In addition, current model sales of a line don’t necessarily reflect future sales – new rules and new models can totally invigorate an army.   Having said that, the current vogue in fantasy fiction is a fairly good indicator of the popularity of a line – and heroic knights and wood elves aren’t that popular right now.  Its gritty fantasy which suits most of the Warhammer world down to the ground.  Brettonians and Wood Elves don’t quite fit, especially with the LotR/Hobbit lines sucking away anyone interested in more heroic fantasy.

In terms of 40K, Cadians sell by the bucket load.  Catachans have a dedicated, but small fan base.  Vostroyans?  Even smaller.  I have a load of Valhallans and they’ve been largely ditched despite a very popular series of books (Ciaphas Cain) featuring them.  Only keeping Cadians, and possibly selling a few conversion kits would make sense, even if its not popular.  Its not good for people with those armies … but its possibly a very smart move for GW.

Axing Finecast is a bit of a U-turn, but actually a very good move.  Individual plastics have been very successful, while problems with Finecast models must cost them a lot – I know people who have had 3 or 4 of the same model before receiving an adequate one.  I feel they though they had resin casting resolved for a larger scale … but they discovered they hadn’t!

The main strength of GW is in their rich intellectual property, which is pretty ironic in many ways, given the way they grabbed so much from so many sources when they first created Warhammer and 40K, especially from authors like Heinlein, Moorcock, the 2000AD lines and so on.  Years of evolution have led to a solid and pretty unique mythos, and their work with the Black Library breaking into bestseller lists has improved it further.

Other areas are the sheer quality of their miniatures, particularly plastics, and the range of hobbyist options, particularly Forge World – which seems to have become the bastion of the dedicated adult hobbyist.  Their paint range is fantastic, and their people generally are some of the most enthusiastic gamers around.   In addition, their electronic line is doing fantastically well, with seriously reduced production costs.

Thats a pretty strong base to start from, so why the doom and gloom?

The single greatest problem they have is customer engagement.  I think we can summarise the major complaints here as:

  • Staff in store are too aggressive for sales, pushing new stuff, especially expensive options.
  • Prices are too high, and don’t reflect the manufacturing costs. It feels greedy, especially international costs in the USA and Australia.
  • Costs of a standard starter army are so high its very difficult to enter the hobby.
  • Lack of long term support for models and armies – models are axed to increase sales or remove competing models from other manufacturers, which is very frustrating.
  • The games system is “broken”, especially the points system.
  • White Dwarf is just a sales catalogue

I hear very few complaints about the experience of playing the games, the quality of the models (with the already discussed fine cast exception), or support from GW with any issues with the models or internet orders.

It still seems a pretty strong position – I’m curious about Dropzone Commnder, Infinity and Malifaux … but I love 40K enough that I’m not likely to drop it.  Can they improve?  Obviously.  I think the fact they are altering White Dwarf is potentially very positive!  Hiring someone to improve the Customer Experience, reporting to the CEO?  Well, thats potentially brilliant and in a position to enact some real changes to many of those gripes.  Having WD available weekly in your FLGS?  If they start reaching out to third party sellers more, instead of forcing people purely to their own stores, well, thats good too!

From my perspective, the GW world isn’t ending.  They’ve had a wakeup call, are actively working to make changes, and its a strong position.  Some of the moves might be unpopular with lines that don’t make money in the short term.

I’d like to see:

  • Cheap starter sets and gateway games.
  • A way of supporting lines that aren’t making money – reducing the lines into a “mercenaries” or combined “old world” book, supporting them through WD or electronic only formats or even (shock/horror) formally licensing “wood elves” out to someone like mantic to produce and accepting them at GW events.
  • Restructuring points to focus on unit effectiveness, not box shifting
  • Rewarding staff enthusiasm – perhaps include online sales from an area around stores towards a stores profit/loss, for example, and reward positive feedback outside of sales figures … which in turn would lead to a less aggressive focus on box shifting (probably leading to more long term sales!)
  • More working with third parties, instead of treating them like a necessary evil at best!

I think its actually a very positive time for GW – they’ve had a wakeup call, they’ve shown they’ll make changes, and they have a fantastic line.  I think they can still throw it all away if they go on with  just business as usual … but it very much feels like its down to them to throw more opportunities away rather than a desperate last stand.

More Men of Rohan

Another 8 done, must admit the colours make these very easy to, just a light overpaint with lighter shades and a controlled application of a sepia wash to the non-green parts and then a little highlighting. Only going to do another 8 (on the bench now) which will give me the Rohan Warriors for the First Battle of the Fords of Isen from the GW Two Towers book.

Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan

I like this figure, it’s simple and uncomplicated. Other than the gold and silver on the sword I only used 4 colours, Basic fleshtone, deep sky blue for the dress, pale sand for the hair and flat earth for the jerkin, belt and boots. Blue ink was used to give the dress ‘depth’ and sepia ink on the hair, jerkin and belt.

I think I’ll add this to my list of ‘Favourite’ figures.

Amon Sul (take 4)

Ok this is the 4th go at this scenario the last 3 time good has won hands down!

The terrain is the same as in the last fights so no starting pic, The rats, sorry, Hobbits deploy within 3″ of the center, that puts Frodo (the Brave) 3 steps up the stair with Sam in front of him and Merry on his left, somehow that leaves Pippin out in front 🙂

Turn One.

Hobbits

 

All of the Hobbits pick up stones and Frodo and Sam move up the stairs, Merry and Pippin move to block the foot of the stairs.

Nazgul.

All but one of the Nazgul pass their Courage test!

All Nazgul attempt to cast ‘Compel’ on Frodo, two succeed but are resisted by him.

Turn 2.

Evil wins priority.

Start Turn Two

The Nazgul again attempt to ‘Compel’ Frodo this time the 4th attempt succeeds and Frodo puts on the ring and all of the Nazgul rush into combat with Merry and Pippin.

Frodo puts on the Ring
Frodo puts on the Ring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both hobbits lose their combat but suffer no wounds only a ‘push back’, Pippin is pushed up the stair Merry, unfortunatly, has no where to go so the Nazgul’s attacks are doubled (2), both strike home and Merry crumples to the floor.

The Hobbits.

Frodo passes his Courage test and removes the ring and all 3 remaining Hobbits move up the stair and throw their stones at the Witch King without Effect. Aragron fails to arrive.

Turn 3.

Start Turn 3
Start Turn 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hobbits win Priority move further up the stair and pick up stones.

The Nazgul.

The Witch-King charges into combat with Pippin, and is driven back down the stair!

Turn 4.

Evil gain Priority.

Start Turn 4

The three Nazgul each cast ‘Black Dart’ at Pippin, the first fails, the second is saved by a Fate point and the third sends the Took tumbling fron the stairs!

The Witch-King advances up the stairs.

The H0bbits.

Back away from the Witch-King and throw their stones without effect.

Aragorn arrives!

Turn 5.

Good wins Priority.

Aragorn moves towards one of the Nazgul but fails to make contact! The Hobbits back further away.

Nazgul.

The Witch-King moves towards the Hobbits while two more Nazgul move up the stair leaving the third at the foot.

Turn 6

Start turn 6
Start turn 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil wins Priority!

Nazgul.

The a Nazgul ‘Compels’ Sam out of the way, the Witch-King ‘Compels’ Frodo to put on the Ring and charges him! The Witch King wins the combat but, as Frodo has nowhere to go takes 2 strikes instead of 1! Frodo uses all of his Fate points but still takes 1 wound!

Frodo puts on the Ring (again)
Frodo puts on the Ring (again)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good.

Aragorn stormed into the Nazgul at the foot of the stairs and dispatched it in one blow (3 actually).

Turn 7

The die roll was a tie so good get Priority.

Aragorn Moves up the stair but fails to make contact with the Nazgul, Sam tries to charge the Witch-King but fails his courage test. Frodo passes his Courage test to remove the Ring.

Nazgul.

The Witch-King charges Frodo while Sam is charged by a Nazgul leaving the third to guard the top of the stairs.

Nazgul turn 7
Nazgul turn 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam used his point of Might to win his combat and push back the Nazgul 3″ with the other Nazgul making way, Frodo on the other hand had completely run out of luck again loosing the combat and with nowhere to go took two attacks one stricking home removing his last wound – now at this point I was a little unsure if his two remaining Might points could be used to avoid the wound, by my reading not, but I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and made the roll – he still died!

So with a huge lidless eye graduly rising in the east at last evil has triumphed!

 

High Elves

The first of the figures that Rob gave me to be Re-Furbished are some High Elves, they do look somewhat better but I think that most of that has come from re-doing the bases, the rest of the time I spent on them really didn’t improve them much, they’ll probably do best as second row figures 😀