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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How I Got Hooked on Warhammer and Why I'm Glad Island of Blood Wasn't Out Then Part 2

To refresh your memories, in part one of this two part series, I discussed my humble beginnings in wargaming, growing up in a medium sized city with few resources to offer the novice gamer.  Without the help of my dad's model railroad experience and learning with friends, I would have been screwed. 

Fast forward to today and we'll see if things have gotten better for the community.  My hometown had at least one dedicated, still solvent game store with GW support, last I knew.  That's an improvement over what I had.  FLGSs are a great resource for novice players, giving an environment where staff and patrons can teach game systems, show you assembly, and give painting tips.  In a brief and completely unscientific survey, it looks like most moderate sized towns have some kind of game store within a reasonable distance.  That's pretty good considering the average FLGS is hell bent on running itself out of business. 

Like me, many players may have friends and family to help them get into the game.  I think I beat that topic into the fucking ground last week, so we'll walk away from it here. 

Now let's assume that you don't have product support or friends and family.  What are you to do?  Buying a starter set would look like a good place to start.  It jump starts your mini collection and should have some kind of a quick start guide, right?  Right?  Yeah, so look at Island of Blood and tell me if you can find a quick start guide.  But I have a booklet that says "Read This First" on it.  Well good luck with that, it contains approximately 0 units of useful data (which will henceforth be know as datons). 

From the hobby side we've got a paragraph or two and a couple of pictures on assembly.  Not to helpful there, but it should suffice for the simple minis in the IoB box.  Things look grimmer still for painting.  In the fine tradition of WD and some of the more recent GW supplements, there isn't actually ANY info here, but rather a thinly veiled advert for the How to Paint Citadel Miniatures book.  Thanks GW, I just spent 6 months of my allowance on a $100 box set and now I need to cough up another $30 to learn painting basics.  I've seen a lot of talk about the price of admission being too high for GW games, discouraging new players from starting up.  Shit like that isn't helping any.

How about the game play?  Well there's the rulebook, that should help us get started.  Except if you've never played anything like this before, the size and scope of the rules would be a little overwhelming.  Think back to your 12 year old self and imagine trying to learn all of the concepts of wargaming from the ground up- learning new jargon and concepts, while trying to keep it all together to get your first few games in.  Not an easy task, is it?  Wouldn't a quick start guide be useful?  Well tough shit, you don't get one.  You don't even get a basic scenario for your first game; you just have to dive right in.

GW didn't even have the courtesy to give you rules for what's in your box.  Hidden somewhere in the endless marginalia is a note telling you to go to page 154 of the rulebook for unit stats.  That's all well and good, but what does this warpfire thrower do?  Are there special rules I should no about for any units?  Well tough titty for you; none of those questions can be answered with anything provided in the set. 

Buried in the labyrinthine structure of the GW website is a series of articles on the Island of blood.  Here you can find the stats and quick start rules you need.  Why do I know this?  I stumbled on it by accident actually.  Nothing in the "Read This First" book tells you to check out a specific URL to get all you need to start playing.  Wanting to see the kind of information was available in the half dozen or so guides on line, I clicked on the unit stats guide.  Imagine my surprise when the GW US website directed me to a guide published entirely in Spanish!  Puta Madre!  It looks like all of the necessary rules and info is there, but I can't for the life of me make heads or tails of the documents, since my Spanish isn't so good.  So I'm sorry
Ingeniero Brujo Ratachitt, but it looks like I'll never know what you do- I hope you have fun on LA ISLA DE SANGRE, though.  Would it really have been that hard to print a usefull quick start guide book and put it in the box instead of the catalouge disguised as a quick start guide you've provided.  You've done it in the past, why break from a good tradition now?

To wrap this all up in a neat little bow, the IoB, while full of great minis and still a fairly good value, does not succeed in helping new players out.  Without proper support from family, friends, FLGSs, and most importantly GW, I can't honestly see how a novice player would cope with any aspect of getting started with WFB, from hobby stuff to gaming.  As far as I'm concerned GW really dropped the ball on producing a product that would make a great game system accessible to a new audience.


Alex said...

I haven't gotten the chance to mull through an IoB box, but that's really sad that the support level is so low for a new player. I thought GW was on good roll with the past few boxed games.

When I started WFB back in '98 my FLGS lacked severely in the "friendly" department and most of my friends didn't even own the core rule books (back when they only came in the boxed sets) - which made for a bitch of a time learning the games. I was lucky to have some help from dad with some hobby stuff (although neither us had any idea what "PVA" glue was back then). I'll second your "proper support" thesis.

Dave G _ Nplusplus said...

Wow, that's quite the overview.

Being someone who's played for many years I don't bother with the box sets anymore.

I'm very surprised to hear that GW would release such a poorly supported product, especially when they have a lot more competition on the gaming front. Older sets usually had some good starter information, but this sounds like they're targeting the pro who just wants new rules and cheap minis.

Maybe the intention is that the new player HAS TO spend more time at their LGS to learn how to play the game. This leads to more interaction with the hobby and more potential to buy things.

The Lord of Excess said...

I think the $100 price combined with the seriously inadequate materials for new players makes this set useless in terms of getting new people to try WHFB. For existing players a nice $100 loss leader box packed with enough stuff to give either a skaven or a high elf army a nice start (especially if one goes in with a friend and splits the minis). To me I really think GW is basically just trying to entice its existing player base into yet another army ... rather than actually growing the hobby. But I'm a grumpy west coast guy who has watched GW's support go from decent to non-existent over the past decade ... and see the hobby go from a hobby to a BoLS style e-peen fest ... more akin to collectible gaming than to the hobby I want to participate in. Anyway good review and good points!

Dethtron said...

Lord- I agree with you, it seems less like they're worried about customer acquisition and more about retention. Not a good way to go about growing the hobby or setting up future revenue. It's a shame that they really missed an opportunity to cater to new and existing customers. There was plenty of room in the box for a fucking leaflet with scenarios, stats, and quick rules- actually the emptiness of the box surprised the shit out of me when I opened it. I doubt the cost of printing such would have cut into their margins much.

Hoagy needs Coffee said...

So there isn't even a cheat sheet??

Raptor1313 said...

At least Battle for Maccrage had some starter ease-into-it ways to play. I mean, you started out learning the basics of moving and shooting with ONE GUY. HE walked 6", pulled a pistol, and shot a spore mine before it got close to him. Then it built from there...

Whereas the current stuff (even the Black Reacch set) still was 'eh'. I understand wanting to sell codices and the like, but when you tell a guy "Well, the stuff you get in the boxed set is a good start, BUT you'll want to trade with another guy, buy a rulebook, a codex, a dice cube, and then $150+ in models to play a SMALL game...

Or, y'know, the guy grabs a Warmachine starter set for $50, gets enough rules to play, enough models to form the nucleus of their army (OR play at a small points level OR a specific scenario), all you're lacking is a couple dice, a tape measurer, and a buddy.

But, that's ok, there's no competition on the hobby front, right? Right.

Archnomad said...

Totally agree. I'm happy I started way back when and had my friends to show me the ropes. As well as my FLGS.

I make a point of saying to newbies who buy the IoB to come in to the shop and ask how to play after. =/

Sad that that's necessary.

I bought 1 IoB for the slave oppertunity and for the characters though.

chaosgerbil said...

"Are there special rules I should no about for any units?"

Dethtron, turn in your grammar police badge and gun.

You make some great points, as usual Games Workshop's collective myopia makes things suck a little harder.

Hmmm, that was dangerously close to a mixed metaphor, I will stop now.