Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Psychosis of Warhammer (or "I shall win at all costs!") Part One



About five years ago, I was in the game room of my old local gaming store chatting with a new acquaintance. Let's call him Max. Max had just bought the High Elf battalion boxed set. He was sitting there assembling them. We were talking Warhammer. He had just made the decision to invest in a High Elf army. And I had just made the decision to assemble my Empire Army--I had just bought the 7th Edition Empire Army Book.

We both discussed building an army. Let's start small, say 1000 points since he was just beginning to play and I had played only once, years before.
Fine, we exchanged contact information. Max and I agree we'd play once he'd gotten his High Elves assembled.

Suddenly, he got an urgent look on his face. He got up from the table and went over to the Warhammer merchandise, took down two more regiments of High Elves and bought them. When he got back, I told him: "Don't overwhelm yourself. You have enough miniatures to paint as it is."

"Oh, I'll be fine," he said. "I want to get all of this done by the end of the month."

I never saw or heard from him again.

Now, what happened to him? Who knows? Maybe he left the area. Maybe school bogged him down. Maybe we'd just keep missing each other. I emailed him, no response.

Either way, Games Workshop and the store got his money. His first foray into miniature painting began with at least a hundred miniatures. I tried to warn him.

See, the Warhammer hobby isn't really the game, its painting miniatures. The game is just an excuse to push the miniatures around. Let's face, the game itself has pretty rotten mechanics when compared to other systems available--heck, Warmaster runs smoother than Warhammer.

Yet why do hundreds of thousands of young boys and men get into the Warhammer hobby each year? What is the appeal? And, perhaps even most importantly, why do they continue to participate even after all the price hikes and screwball business tactics GW heaps upon its customers?

As I mentioned in my last post, there is a large amount of psychology and marketing at work here. And, looking back, its why, after I pretty much ignored Warhammer for so long, began collecting enough miniatures for a 4000+ point army.

See, if I was going to invest in and play Warhammer, I was going to win...

2 comments:

  1. I never got into the Games Workshop stuff except some random 40K minis. But I bought and painted massive numbers of historical minis before finally selling almost all of it off. I realized too late that, as you rightly point out, miniatures gaming is really painting with the occasional game thrown in.

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  2. A lot of people don't understand how long it takes to paint miniatures to a decent standard. I sure didn't at first. I had to basically learn on my own, too.

    My problem with games like Warhammer is that they are selling the game first, instead of the painting hobby. The rule books themselves have the combat rules first and the actual painting techniques in the back. In the 7th ed, Warhammer Fantasy rulebook, in the back they actually encouraged you to collect and paint in 500 point blocks. That's not the case with the 8th ed rulebook where they encourage "hordes" for 40+ figures in a unit and in the back they feature a picture of a gigantic siege.

    This has, of course, brought in lots of money to Games Workshop, but also lots of animosity and competition on the secondary market because they churn through customers at a steady rate.

    So much for long term/life time customers.

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