It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Infinity (the rules are great) and of Warhammer 40K (the rules aren’t great). But even as Roundtree’s Games Workshop posts record profits, there are things that the company could improve that aren’t the rules. What can Games Workshop learn from Corvus Belli?
For the purposes of the post, “Games Workshop” encompasses all the various companies under the umbrella, including Forge World.
Drop the damn hero pricing Bang per buck, an Infinity miniature is much more expensive than a Games Workshop one (though you need far fewer of the former). That doesn’t hold up at all when it comes to heroes and other solo randos. Corvus Belli makes Infinity miniatures out of metal, which is the devil. However, while metal is an expensive material to make miniatures out of, the molds are quite cheap. That’s why basically every infantry dude sold singly (and not in packs) is about €12, no matter how beefy a beatstick he or she is. Games Workshop will price individual miniatures high without rhyme or reason. I guess their justification is that you’ll buy fewer of them, so they need to make them more expensive to recoup the cost: plastic might be cheap as heck, but the steel molds for it aren’t. That’s why your new Primaris Space Marine heroes are €30 a pop, when a squad of 10 Intercessors is €45 (Smoll Marine squads are between €30 and €40). Genestealer singles are €22.5 when compared to a squad of dumb cultist at €33 and so on.
On second thought, it’s a terrible argument, ignore it.
Make a real army builder
Battlescribe is the king shit of army building mountain. Fans work obsessively to maintain open-source roster-building documents for all sorts of games out there. Available free and not too hard to use, it’s the premier choice for many a game out there.
Except for Infinity, lol. Infinity Army (and Infinity Army Mobile) are developed by Corvus Belli and maintained by Corvus Belli. It meshes seamlessly with the tournament system. Any updates that happen to the rules are immediately reflected there. The 0-12 army hasn’t been physically released yet (they’re on a pre-order), many of its models are months away, and yet you can already plan an army (and even play it with CB-produced miniatures as proxies). It’s great and it’s hyperlinked with the rules wiki!
Games Workshop has recently started trying to build its own army builders… and they don’t measure up. No matter which game you look at, they are basically tools to make your roster, and nothing else. Rules, weapon stats, unit statistics? Best have a book handy. It’s about an inch above writing down an army list on a sheet of paper.
At best, they help to maintain logs of campaign advancements (when applicable) as well as preventing cheating in army building.
And let us not even talk about anything coming out of Forge World: grab a sheet of paper for Horus Heresy, thank the gods for Yaktribe if you’re playing Necromunda, and feel extremely lucky that there’s a bajillion of old Blood Bowl fans that maintained the game when GW was sitting with both (of Tom Kirby’s) thumbs up its ass.
Drop the damn wave releases
Infinity currently has 9 big factions and a 10th one made up from random models (to lure the players into buying models from a new faction to make a new army together with their old models, thus tricking them into collecting a new army). Sectorials – the sub-factions – don’t get their own models, only army lists that are both limited and cool.
Most importantly, you can expect 4-5 factions to get something new every month. Be they models for units that didn’t have any or updates for stuff that’s getting really long in the tooth, you can expect to see something new each year. You also don’t need to wait for rule updates for your faction either, since all of them usually get updated at the same time, with all the rules getting automatically and immediately uploaded to Infinity Army and the linked wiki.
I believe that Warhammer 40K has too many factions for its own good. Discounting various flavor of Space Marine, you have 9 factions for Imperium alone.
What this means that it’s impossible for all of the factions to get something nice in a year, made worse by the fact that GW is straight-up not that interested in some of the factions (hello, all the ork fans out there).
And when new models and new rules come, they come in fits and spasms, cracking out a new codex and (maybe) some models to go with it. You may have spent years waiting for a new book or new miniatures, languishing in obscurity, seeing new models outshine your stuff in every way before getting a brief burst of enthusiasm and slowly sinking back into obscurity.
But you can’t even expect this system to work well, anyways! For example, the Space Wolf range is saturated by heroes sculpted in the “neck optional” era. Inquisition hasn’t seen a new (non-named character) release in probably decades. Grey Knights might have an 8e codex, but the proportions of their termies don’t measure up at all.
This sort of episodic release also hurts the game, since the rules aren’t all developed at once. This quite often leads to the newest codex being the strongest. This has been a problem forever and it’s unlikely to be alleviated, not when you have CSM split into three factions for no real reason.
I’d say something about Forge World, but their release schedule is planned according to the Doomwheel random movement chart. But there is a rake the studio keeps stepping on: God-damn it, release the models for the rules you already have instead of giving us entirely new shit. This goes for 30K, but even more so Necromunda: FW has yet to grace us with gang-specific pets and brutes despite those rules being set down ages ago. Seriously, we don’t need any more Bounty Hunters (which are expensive and not really great to use) or Hangers-On (which, as a rule, don’t take part in battles unless things go really pear-shaped).
Stop the paper
Infinity has rulebooks. There’s five of them at this point and I have very little idea what each of them brings because I don’t need to know that. Everything I need to play the game is handled via Infinity Army, the wiki and the ITS packs (since my meta only plays ITS missions). Any Infinity fan will tell you that you buy the rulebooks because 1) you’re interested in the background and 2) you want Corvus Belli to feel better.
Meanwhile, let’s look at Games Workshop. For 40K, you have the rulebook, the yearly Chapter Approved releases and the two Vigilus books. If you want to play Space Marines, you can slap the new codex AND the freshly announced Chapter books. But wait, it gets worse!
Necromunda has, at present, four books. The rulebook is not the same that got released with the starter set – in fact, it incorporates content from the four(!) Gang War books that got released last year. Gangs of the Underhive works in a similar way, but as Codex replacement. Then you have the Book of Peril and the Book of Judgement, both released this year, and crammed with both play options and new units. Oh, and let’s not forget all the cards that get farted out for every release and quickly go out of print.
Necromunda would be nigh unplayable without the PDF compilation (unofficial) and the Yaktribe army builder/campaign manager (unofficial, untouchable).
Forge World’s handling of Age of Darkness, nonsensical and fury inducing as it is, is still better, as you only really need the red books to play (3 of them if you’re going for Marines, 2 if any other army). You will still want the black books to drink in that lore, rub one out to the colored plates and maybe daydream about running a campaign one day.
GW should drop paper as the primary route of delivering rules. Develop all of the armies at the same time. Put everything online, with point costs and unit stats, and hyperlink it to your army builder. Stop clutching the rules to your chest and holding players hostage by forcing to buy rulebooks.
It’s even more egregious when 40K would sell books even if the rules were online, as people care about the setting. We want to read about Space Marines/Guardsmen/Orks bashing Tau faces in. We want to freebase the setting and never come off that grimdark high. Use the books to sell the setting, not the miniatures, add some hobby sections or whatever, and even provide good examples of how to run those damned “narrative” or “open play games.”
For Christ’s sake, Infinity manages to sell the rulebooks on fluff, and the only people interested in the setting outside of CB are all related to Bostria.