I can still remember the excitement, the smell of the fresh ink, and the damp ruffle of the pages of White Dwarf. I know what you’re thinking. He is going to tell the story of the first time he saw a White Dwarf and discovered wargaming.
That moment was five years previous, and… well that’s too intimate for my first article on ATGN.
No, I’m talking about the spring of 1999. That September day was a mix of elation and fear, excitement and apprehension, and sweet and sour (We had just had a fill-your-plate Chinese buffet). There in front of us, in the brightly lit but cramped confines of Brisbane’s first Games Workshop, upon the wall, was White Dwarf 226. As I read the pages, little did I know things would never be the same again.
Anyone who has been a Games Workshop fan for long knows the day. In hushed tones as they read this, they’ll say “3rd ed”. It was a different time before Third Edition. We all were playing a 2nd edition of Warhammer 40,000. There was no fear of a new edition and we knew that Fantasy had already had three editions (each was greater than the last). Warzone was still in its first edition; Chronopia too. Surely there was no need to change. Was it a tidy up? A revamp? Did they fix Eldar? Would we finally see Squats return?
My Foxxie-Grav Tank does 2d6 + d8 + d4 worth of awesome to you.
We flicked through the pages of White Dwarf 226 with a sparkle in our eyes. We cooed lovingly at the multi-part Space Marines and the shiny new Landspeeder. We marveled at the Machiavellian nature of these new Eldar… Dark Eldar! Three short weeks later when one among us, who had harassed his parents sufficiently, brought a copy to a Saturday gaming soiree, the betrayal was revealed. Individual movement was gone. Over-watch… gone. Psychics were a part of shooting. Give us back our mini-game within a game, we cried. Worst of all: the greatest torment! Eldar were no longer insta-win. My tally of wins on my egotistical board of glory (or wall of shame, depending on perspective) was in jeopardy. My precious Aspect Warriors were no longer legal unit size. My glorious Grav Tanks could no longer Pop Up Attack.
Only one, so lame. I have a whole bucket.
I never really adjusted to 3rd. Sure, Space Wolves owned face continuously from 2nd to 7th, but it was never the same. I still love Warhammer 40k 2nd Edition w/ Dark Millenium more than you will ever understand, more than my wife would care to know, and so much that my children will never know how they rate against it. It was my game. My Waterloo. By the end of 5th edition 40k I no longer played the game. There was a distance between myself and 40k. Its embrace was cold and utilitarian, and filled with USR’s (ughhh). I still buy miniatures from Games Workshop. I still play 8th Ed Fantasy. But to me, 40k died the day my Sustained Fire Dice got left on the shelf.
After such a tragic tale what more is there to say. Heck! What am I trying to say?
July will see a new edition of Warhammer 40k. Privateer Press is deeply embroiled in rolling out a 3rd edition of both Warmachine and Hordes. Corvus Belli has made three editions of their brilliant scifi/fantasy/anime skirmish wargame Infinity. Gaming is a money-making industry, and like all business it needs to grow to survive. From time to time, wargames get renewed or re-written. Games Workshop fanboys go through this cycle frequently and understand it well. Newer players who are loyal to other manufacturers are not so weathered. Sometimes a tweak – other times a complete overhaul. Every now and then they become eponymous with the Dodo.
They died how they lived. Static representations of fictional characters.
Why do games die? And should they have to?
There’s a new edition of 40k around the corner. Knight Models recently dropped their crazily popular Marvel Universe Miniatures Game. Companies like Spartan Games with their incredible range of games are rationalising what sells. Like no other time in the history of wargaming, we have so much choice. So many kickstarters, start-ups, re-hashes and re-releases. We also have more chances to feel the pain of the death of a game.
Commit tiny violence minions!!!
Can a game survive without support of its creators and owners? Can it still grow and thrive? Is it still fun? Thousands of Blood Bowl enthusiasts are screaming yes at the screen right now. Net-Epic-ists (It’s a word – I just wrote it) are thumping their desks in the affirmative. Warzone players are crying tears of joy, upon piles of freshly minted brilliance from Prodos. Rackham-izers are quietly hopeful.
That’s the last Eye of Sauron you will ever see Uruk-Hai.
Games don’t die. Like the gods of old, they lay in wait. They get worshipped and loved, trotted out by hippies in backyard sheds. Bearded outcasts hunched over tables in dark cornered speciality stores whisper their names at interlopers. Their stories get told; their glories relived. The old sages who still know the lore roll the bones and consult the odds, and breath fresh life into their dusty binders. Games only die when YOU let them die. When you look at the price an army cost or the value of a book. When you turn down that friendly reminisce with an old buddy. When you…*gulp* burn your models in a fit of unbridled rage.
I know the pain. I had 1000’s upon 1000’s of points of 8th. BAM! Age of Sigmar. I had a Nomads Starter for Infinity. BAM! Operation Icestorm and a scale change. I played Uncharted Seas. The seas are charted friends. I was a Necromunderer, and a Mordhist. Dare I say it, even an Inquisitator. I bought so deep into Heldorado that I thought I had been swallowed by the gates of hell itself. Wyrd… new editions, new style and a new scale. Each time, a mix of rage and sadness. Each time, a new game to fill my empty soul. Down the line… more pain.
Destroy their wargame. They are not nerds… They have no idea how nerdy it can get.
There are always recriminations. The accountants ruined things. The original developers moved on. The companies are greedy. They just hate the veterans. This is probably all true and at the same time not at all. A great philosopher of my lifetime Rafiki once told me “It doesn’t matter, its in the past.”
Some of those games are gone. Marvel Universe Miniatures Game will be tied up with licensing agreements and various different interests. It is gone. Some are slowly building vibrant communities on their own. 2nd Ed has slowly been growing into an alternative community full of old school players loving their old models again. Previous editions of Warhammer Fantasy are referred to as Oldhammer, and have become popular enough to start driving the price of old models up in trading forums across the country. 8th edition Fantasy has so much love that three(!) community versions are vying with the original, Kings of War, Warthrone, and others, for supremacy in the regimental fantasy miniature games niche. Your old Infinity is still completely compatible and a box of cards will get you into WarmaHordes 3rd edition with no issues whatsoever.
Hmmm hmmm hmm.
Some games have returned. Games Workshop brought back Bloodbowl after years of neglect (some would even say war with the community). Necromunda has returned with a slick new set of rules and a shiny coat of paint. It is called Shadow War Armageddon now… and it’s good. Warzone got picked up and returned with a whole new range of models, and they are slick and sexy.
What I’m trying to say is, Warhammer40k 8th ed, fair enough. Age of Sigmar, cool cool cool. N3, lets roll some D20. Games don’t die. They transition. They have an afterlife. Another edition will never destroy the past. It’s written in the hearts of wargamers everywhere.
Don’t abandon joy in your life. Don’t abandon your favourite games. All of these are evidence of one thing: A thriving global community of wargamers.
In a community such as that, there’s always room for a game of Fletcher Pratt’s Naval Warfare or 2nd Ed 40k. I’m dusting off my Vortex template right now…
“I said make sure Eldrad is in the center… the center !!”