Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Power Armoured Theories: What if GW Died?

It could happen. It's happened to other games and companies in the past. What if the worst was to happen: Games Workshop, our price-gouging overlords, suddenly ceases trading? What will the world's WHFB, 40k and Hobbit players do? In today's feature, I share some thoughts on what I would do, mainly sticking focusing on 40k.

First rule of GW club, you do NOT talk about GW club....or their prices

No matter what happens, there will still be people in the world who love 40k, WHFB and the Hobbit/LoTR (don’t laugh!). People are still playing Rogue Trader, space Hulk and Epic, so it's very likely people will want to play 40k to. But this is where it could drastically change. Without a big company dictating the style of play, we could see the game evolve, devolve and change in a matter of years, and here's why:

"My favourite edition"

In every edition of the games there are people who say, 'last edition was better'. With no more support, people might be inclined to revert back to older, preferable editions, depending on what the local groups thought of it. Those hating 6th edition’s randomness may go back to 5th or 4th, whilst veteran players may go all the way back to Rogue Trader or 2nd edition. Without a formal tournament setting (i.e. GW’s rules guiding global tournaments) there is likely to be more variation in the style of play. Whilst this may affect the ‘pick-up game’ it may benefit tighter communities of gamers


Another outcome is that the ‘fan-codex’ will evolve, and flourish into a ‘fan edition’. Whilst editions of 40k have been fun, each one needs some sort of refinement. Players and clubs might take it upon themselves to produce a refined and improved rulebook. It could happen: I’ve seen some very flavourful, fun and balanced fan-codexes, from the Horus Heresy to Chaos Space Marines, everyone’s favourite target when it comes to codex-bashing.

Sod this, I’m playing ‘x’

To a few, the rules for the game are just...wrong. They might find that they have more fun adapting another system entirely. Whilst a number will abandon the game entirely, models and all, some might want to bring new rule-sets to their games.  I have no gripes with 6th edition, but I have considered this path as an experiment. I’ve been toying with the idea of using and modifying the rules from Bolt Action by Warlord Games. The simplicity of the game and a focus on infantry, not tanks and monsters, is a drastic shift, but one which might prove a fun experiment.

What about the models?

Almost entirely made from 3rd party bits, still fits into 40k.
The elephant in the room is of course the models. With no creator, where would you get supplies from? For original kits, it will be down to the second hand market and EBay to keep it alive. Expect to pay higher prices for these now-rare items.

There is another way though: third party sellers and other models companies. Third party groups, in my opinion, would flourish in a post-GW world. There are already tons of ‘not space marines’, ‘not eldar’, and dozens of count-as guardsmen models out there, as well as other sci-fi and even historical models just waiting to be modified. It wouldn't matter if you used them, there would be no GW to tell you off. And lately, there are many models and bits which even surpass GW in terms of quality and design.
On top of that, there are hundreds of amazing sculptors, kit-bashers and scratch-builders who might take it upon themselves to supply the world with fresh models.

So there you have it; my thoughts on how to survive a less-than-likely GW-pocalypse. Remember that this is only a theory, and remember to enjoy the game how you want to. 


  1. I reckon the IP behind GW is valuable enough that it'd be sold on or picked up by another company, to be honest!

    1. More than likely. I was entertaining my over-active imagination with a "what-if?" scenario :P


  2. yeah or maybe its simply bought out by another company?

  3. As an RPGer, it does confuse me a little when people talk about how essential the game's manufacturer is to it's survival. Obviously wargames and RPGs are different, but I'm still playing games with RPG rules twenty years out of print, some of the companies no longer existing and with no electronic copy of the rules.

    GW dying wouldn't kill GWs games.... but would change them quite a bit.

    It'd definitely be less mainstream. Every British large town and city has a GW, and that means every 13 year old nerd has an easy place to go to if they want to hang out with others like them. While the prices have crept up and up, removing the pocket money blister pack from the equation, a teeanger will still be able to find out about and try Warhammer easier than D&D - and with access to the GW games tables he can play ons omethign more impressive than his dinner table with a few books for hills. Lose GW and you lose these stores, essential recruitment places.

    There's consequences for the rest of the hobby too, since GW is such a major feeder in. D&D and Warhammer are similar in that for plenty of people it's not their favourite product in the hobby - in fact many loathe it - but they almost all own it and started out playing it. Sure, there's people whose first game will be Bolt Action or Flames of War.... but we can safely say that's a minority. If you're playing wargames, it's likely you started with Warhammer of some stripe and losing GW means less people arriving.

    Third party figures would pick up the slack, and the modern net-savvy nerd won't find them hard to obtain. I also think older fans might start home casting more - not necesarilly for profit, just turning their single eBayed Noise Marine or Sister Repentia into a whole unit, or perhaps swapping them with fellow fans to keep the game going. Proxies might become more acceptable, and that might include rulings which are more proxy-friendly such as fudging true line of sighting a bit.

    What about the actual GAME? There's a case for saying we'd lose the update cycle, the codex creep and the major game changers like Dataslates - and that this would be a good thing, because we'd see changes made for game balance reasons rather than to sell more figures. On the other hand, the rules would definitely fracture between older versions, the last in-print version and various cloned or fan-made versions of the rules. The inertia of the current edition would go and you'd probably see more house rules - possibly a couple of seperate "strains" of rules would develop, as the tournament scene pulls the game one way while casual play pulls it another. One of the big draws of GW is the ubiquitousness of the rules - we'd lose that, though perhaps replace it with rules which are more fit for purpose.

    Perhaps more conceringly woudl be that new blood would find it far harder to get in, and that means the game woudl be played by an older and older fanbase - If they're amending the rules themselves it is at risk of being less newbie-friendly. the "adjusted tournament missions" sloshing around right now, for example, are way more of a wall of text than any official 6th ed missions

    Competing fandexes might see a single preferred choice win out, but more likely there'd be five seperate Chaos Space Marine codices sloshing about and you'd need a gentleman's agreement on which ones are and aren't allowed in whatever games club or tournament. That might not be terrible - you might see a push towards some sort of universal points calculator - but it would change the nature of the game culture quite a bit, moving more to old-fashioned scenario play than pick-up-and-play.

  4. Interesting view upon gw-pocalypse although it will probably take some more years for that to happen if they don't change their trade policy and insane prices.

    Kind regards