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London, United Kingdom
A mythical beast - a female wargamer! I got back into wargaming in the summer of 2011 after a very, very long break. My current interests are Ancients, ACW, 30YW and SciFi gaming.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Incoming News: Games Company Announcements Provoke Nerd-Rage

Now, I'm sure that many of you will have heard of one or both of yesterday's announcements by major games companies.

Battlefront have announced that from the beginning of 2013 you can only play in their "The Flames of War Hobby" tournaments if your armies are solely composed of their figures/models. They give a number of reasons for this*:

  • it costs them $250k per year to run the events that they run currently (and next year they are more than doubling the number of events they run)
  • that players must show loyalty to them by buying only their products and not the cheaper/better quality/both products of competitors
  • that "The Flames of War Hobby" players "owe" them
  • using other companies' products in their tournaments hurts their business
  • that "lots of players" have complained that opponents with non-BF figures/models is ruining their experience of "The Flames of War Hobby"**
  • that 15mm WWII wargaming is apparently their sole IP
  • that their company built the demand for 15mm WWII wargaming, nobody else, nobody gamed WWII before BF came along, 15mm didn't exist before BF came along....

* I may have exaggerated some of these! (but they are based on what their senior guys actually posted)
** it transpires that the "lots of players" was in fact just the one; that he is a senior staffer with Battlefront; the implication is that he simply didn't like losing to someone who was using non-BF products.

This announcement has, quite predictably caused a massive backlash against them on their own forum (600+ posts and still going) and many other forums (at least 3 threads on TMP). They really seem to have shot themselves in the foot with this decision and handled the announcement incredibly badly.

Now, who does this decision actually affect? Well, if it is limited to just the events that they professionally run (according to pretty much everyone they do so much more expensively and a heck of a lot worse than events organised by local clubs), then maybe 10% of the players that attend those events would need to spend a little bit to make their armies tournament-legal. As probably only 1% of FoW players attend their events, that means that they are somehow hoping that 0.1% of their customer base will make purchases that will cover their (current) $250k costs of putting the events on. however, if the FoW forum is anything to go by, it would seem that the number of players attending their events will plummet drastically. Others who don't play in tournaments have stated that they won't be buying any more BF products.

It does look as though BF have shot themselves in the foot with this and are likely to see their sales and profits drop significantly. Certainly they have lost much of the goodwill they have built up over the years and many players who were actively promoting the rules and growing the player base won't be doing so in future.

None of this affects me as I don't play Flames of War, and had no plans to do so.

Field of Glory

Slitherine also made an announcement yesterday, also provoking a predictable degree of nerd-rage. Their long-awaited V2 rules for Field of Glory: Ancient and Medieval will be released only as a computer app (versions for Windows, UNIX and Apple) which you won't be able to print anything out from! Whilst this would make it easier to provide updates to correct errata or add army lists, it does mean that players who wish to use the rules will have to:
a) already own an appropriate mobile computing device, or buy one if they want to use the rules
b) have access to power sockets (I would look up the rule, but my battery has run out....)
c) ensuring they regularly "synch" any computers they have loaded the software onto
d) check that they and their opponent are both on the same version
e) somehow read through the rules very, very, very carefully every time there is an update to see what exactly has changed
f) if tournament players, have to take expensive mobile computing device to tournaments as well as their armies, terrain, accessories etc

Oh, and they won't provide the rules as a PDF. They also don't appear to have even considered using a print-on-demand publisher.

On their site they have listed (outlines) of the changes they have made, most of which make very good sense and should help eliminate some of the "gamier" armies that people have developed for tournaments (eg the "Dominate Roman Swarm").

This one does potentially affect me as I do play FoG:AM as do most of the ancients players at CLWC. Several of them are regular tournament players who would need to upgrade to continue playing in FoG tournaments, which in turn would mean that others at the club would need to upgrade to be able to give them practice games. Alternatively, we could just stick with the V1 hard-copy rules and apply the V2 changes or swithc game systems at the club and for the tournaments they/we attend.

So what do these 2 announcements have in common:

  • same day
  • seem designed to hack off their existing player base
  • demonstrate bad business sense - the main part of their customer base are older, wealthier and more savvy about competitors' products and have the ability to vote with their feet and wallets. GW may have a captive audience (indeed, the Evil Empire of Nottingham seem to have based their business model around 95+ % of their player-base starting at age 12 and quitting at age 16; ie teenagers who are unaware of any alternatives)

I guess time will tell how these decisions work out for both companies

I didn't get any painting done yesterday as I was feeling really crap from my cold. I'm a bit better tonight, so I might get some done - will post pics tomorrow if there's anything to show you.


  1. Maybe they were hoping we'd be distracted by the recent slew of price-rise announcements that have been appearing recently?

  2. I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of them backpedals as a result of the backlash, if not both. While I don't partake in wargaming, I have to agree that what both companies did is bad and not just in the execution.

  3. I'm not sure I'd label it nerd-rage, exactly. That's usually a term reserved for outrage that is either overblown, unwarranted, or both. In these cases, I'd say a certain level of strident disagreement with the new direction is at least somewhat warranted.

    Speaking as someone who has yet to actually use his FoG Medieval German army on a table...

  4. Some pretty dire decisions there.

    FOW isn't my thing but that kind of behaviour is pretty low (also: how would they even know?). It certainly put me off ever buying their stuff, aside from the fact. An get perfectly good minis in the same scale for half the price. On in 10mm for 1/3rd!

    The Slitherine announcement is interesting. Lookin at their caalogue, I an see why they chose it, it may even play to their strengths. It is certainly not as much of a clusterfuck (excuse my French) as Battlefront's, but I'm not sure the hobby is read for this business decision. Too many Grognards, for one! And even I, a young(ish) chap who owns an iPad and is relatively tech-savvy, would prefer not to buy into digital-only rulebooks.

    I actually ordered two rulebooks this week. For both, I paid a few extra pounds for an hard copy.

    Interesting times in the hobby!

    1. Ergh, that comment is full of typos, sorry.

  5. I don' t play FoW since never liked that rules. Maybe they' re trying to follow the evil empire of Notthingam but bases are different. In our wargaming world teenagers are really a small amount...fortunately...

    ...And I don' t play FoG since prefer Impetus...

    Happy Wargaming.


  6. Well, I guess I won't be getting into FoW now. That's okay, their minis are too expensive anyway and I'm not impressed with their rules either.

  7. I actually agree with the BF thing. It's their tournament, run by them, promoted by them etc. after all, so why can't they dictate what happens in them? Don't like it? Don't go.

    It actually doesn't effect the 99% of FoW gamers who don't play in tournaments, except those who will see it as a 'stance' to take with an opponent, who gains some perceived advantage by accessing a model not made by BF.

    Likewise the Slitherine Gambit. Nobody is twisting anyone's arm to fall in line with these things. I imagine that it will presently become the norm for 'serious' gaming to have everything 'in a cloud' or whatever... while the old hands will be living under one at the same time and probably switching over to Impetus.

    I do agree with Phyllion though, I'll pay a couple more pounds for a hard copy of most things, or at least a printable PDF version. I've enough crap on my laptop as it is.

  8. It isn't uncommon for game companies to make the decision Battlefront did- both GW & Privateer Press do the same. I guess I can see it to a point- they justify the expense of running a tournament with the belief that they do so to *promote* their product. On the surface, that seems valid: why pay a lot of money to promote your product only to find out that it instead is promoting the products of your competitors?

    -But, does it promote the product? I'd suspect it doesn't really. People who go to tournaments are a small percentage of those who buy & play. They are likely already invested in the game to whatever degree they are going to get to. The amount of money made off of these people to make them replace whatever other company product they have with Battlefront is not very significant (as you point out), and even more importantly it isn't really reaching a wider audience- it isn't advertising the product, not really. It would not be difficult for Battlefront to only photo minis that they made for use on their website for instance. Tournaments are more a reward for the people who want to participate, not a promotional or advertising device. For people who just pass by and look and think 'that looks cool, I might be into that' they're going to see the Flames of War logo, not the minor differences in manufacture of certain minis in play.

    I don't think it's necessary or useful for them to make this stand, and the backlash only makes it worse.

    As for FoG, really bad move. I work from home, I have a laptop computer and so have not seen any good need to justify the cost of any kind of smart phone or tablet, it's just money I don't need to spend for something I don't need. Not everyone uses these devices or even prefer them for something like a rulebook even if they do. A possible new player coming in could be especially put off by this. Obviously they are afraid people will photocopy the book or print multiple copies. Someone serious about it could just use 'printscreen' and copy the book one page at a time as a picture file if they really wanted to.

  9. @ all - 7 comments so quickly! My word!

    @ Jason - if either of them does a rapid reverse ferret, I reckon it will be Slitherine.

    @ Joseph - maybe nerd-rage is a bit strong, but some of the posts on the FoW forum went beyond "strident disagreement"

    @ Phyllion - it would fit in neatly with Slitherine's core business to go digital-only, but could cause an outflux of the core miniatures-gaming demographic. I doubt that would be replaced by their computer-gaming customers making a switch to miniatures gaming.

    I agree it's not as big a clusterfuck as BF, and also much easier to compromise on - unlike BF, they didn't react with outright hostility (not to mention lies) to criticism on their forum.

    @ marzio - at some point I will probably get into WWII gaming, but it was never going to be FoW. I didn't like what I'd seen of the rules.

    @ Maj Diz Aster - the cost (and quality) of their models is why so many people are buying from other companies, which seems to be what has prompted this decision by BF.

    Plenty of other (better?) WWII rules out there - BKC, IABSM, Rapid Fire, Command Decision, Bolt Action....

    @ Jim - yup, their tournament, their rules, but even a few months ago they were publicly saying that they had no intention of ever doing such a thing. However it looks as though the way they've handled it (if not the decision itself) is going to "bite them on the ass".

    From what I can make out the main reasons people are using non-BF models are:
    1) lower cost and better quality models from competitors
    2) BF doesn't produce particular models that are compulsory for certain army lists (it seems to apply to quite a lot of lists....)
    3) non-availability of large sections of the BF catalogue for long periods of time

    Rather than applying this decision, perhaps a better approach would have been for BF to address those issues?

    As you say, no-one is twisting anyone's arm to participate in BF's events or to buy a digital only FoG:AM Ver2.

    1. I agree with you, it would be so much easier and favoured by 'all' of those who partake in the 'FoW Hobby', to corner the market by producing the best there is. GW got their position by doing this (and then took these same actions).

      A large proportion of people who play FoW were not (are not even) wargamers. Their route into playing came by word of mouth from friends and quite a few of them are ex-GW groupies... not so much in the UK, but elsewhere.... and 'elsewhere' is where the big money is.

      The promotion by BF is that it's 'their' hobby, a concept most of their customers are familiar with. Because they, unlike GW, entered into a world were there was already an (albeit small) existing 15mm WW2 scene, they had competitors.

      GW's competitors came along later and GW responded by making their figures bigger, so they were not compatible with anyone else's. BF can't do this, yet have tried by making their stuff '18mm'.

      Most of their players would not be aware of an alternative to BF product and tournaments are where they, and those wargamers who have gone over to the dark side, would meet.

      So you get a conversation like:

      "Wow! where did you get those PzIVs? They look so much better than my BF ones!"

      "I got them from Rabid Duck Miniatures. They're plastic (or made out of recycled chewing gum, whatever) and are half the price of BF ones!"

      By banning non-BF models from the tournaments, BF are attempting to reduce sales losses through friction to their company's product. It's cheaper than re-mastering the bad models they have.

      People who play FoW outside of competitions are not going to have the BF Police kick their door in and confiscate their non-BF armies. Most competition players are BF drones and will happily continue buying from them.

      I suspect the loss of those players who have sought alternative models and figures, and who also enter comps, will not have as much impact on sales, as if those same players were able to spout their 'vile lies' and the heresy spreads through the competition scene.

      I've thought about the FoG thing... and I actually think it may become more popular than we assume. Some older players might opt out, but when you think of carrying an i-pad etc, instead of a rulebook and several supplements, given that many players might already have them in any case, then it may work. Personally I think it's a year or two too early, but... time will tell.

  10. Of the two, while the FoG move might be a mistake, it is at least an interesting mistake; it may even be forward thinking and visionary. If tablets were $100 instead of $300+ I wouldn't even be sure it as a mistake.

    The BF silliness is just plain a mistake.

  11. Neither affects me as I don't play them anymore-but I was surprised to find out it was the Flames of War hobby.

    A couple of years ago a local shop was running a league for Warhammer. I was interested, but one of the rules (for a non GW store league) was that all the figs had to be GW. Apparently one of the mainstay gamers was annoyed that people who used proxies, even if they were completely recognizable as the troop type they were meant to be. It seems he didn't feel it was FAIR that the players hadn't spent the right amount of money for the points value. This was not a store owner or employee, just a guy who didn't like people spending less on an army than he did. Anyway, he had enough influence to get that rule put into play.

    I haven't played there since. Or anywhere else actually.

  12. I don't play either set of rules, and after these two announcements I'm quite glad I don't. Are these companies trying to piss people off, coz they are and will carry on doing so with stupid playground decisions like these, idiots!

  13. As you said it sounds like the GW disease but luckily doesn't affect me.....

  14. Don't play FoW any more, but do like Battlefront products (YES I DO!). Yes there are cheap/better products-PSC for one. Don't play in Battlefronts tournaments, nor never have, so I personally cannot see the fuss over then banning no Battlefront products. And if people are actually saying that they do not play in the tournaments but will not buy FoW products on principal then that is just down right silly. IMO Battlefront promote historical wargaming, WW2 history very well and put a lot of work into their products, its their game, their business so I kind of agree with them.

    E-rules are the way forward, as a good friend keeps telling me. I believe he may be right. Don't play FoG either, so I'm not too bothered by this news either. But I can see more and more rules/products being produced in this format. Though it may be too early to for a company to produce a product in this format only. I-pads are still expensive, well for me anyway, and I must feed the kids first!

  15. I agree with a lot of what you said, they have simply done what 'another' miniature company has done they've made there bed let them lie in it

  16. Both moves were ill thought out, that much is clear. It's how they handle it that will tell. BF seem to have shoved both feet in their mouths but still manage to get enough out to realy rile the user.

    BF will have lost a lot of their goodwill standing from the supply of free paperback 3rd edition rules to all who own 2nd edition hardbacks.

    FoG I think will be the biggest set back, if a digital version is required to play in competitions then the number of players with such devices AND willing to take them to a tourny will be lower than what they have right now. Reduced players = organisers starting to look elsewhere for rules. I am sure Impetus will be gratful for such a move.

    It may well be of course that we Brit's are such a side line and the American market is ready for one or both these moves. Time will tell but back tracking is still an option.


  17. Just going at a slight tangent, this could be where we begin to see 'Wargames Illustrated' being used as a propaganda tool to keep hitting home to the wargaming audience the decisions of Battlefront. I hope that doesn't happen. I quite like the new format magazine since Battlefront took it over, it has kept much of what was in there before but with the expected chunk about 'Flames of War'as an addition rather than a replacement for the other periods shown.

    Although I have to say that the magazine hasn't inspired me to get into 'Flames of War'. The whole demolition derby comparison seems to be starkly portrayed in all of the photos.

    I can't really comment on the FoG situation. I'm a bit of a technophobe (I bought a Smartphone three weeks ago and am still only on texting and making calls!), so I wouldn't want to have to purchase gadgetry just to upgrade to later editions. I'm not always sure that later editions are for the benefit of the players anyway...rather like the continual 'upgrading' of GW figures...it might be more for the profits. I've not played FoG. I picked up the rules, liked the cover....felt my eyes glaze as I read further...(I admit this is probably not fair as I haven't actually played them...proof of pudding being in the lead pushing etc). :-)


  18. your right Jason, I reckon we will see Wargames illustrated change shortly in a Battlefront White Dwarf.

  19. Like so many on here, the decisions don't affect me directly. However, I do believe BF success has opened the door for other mfgs to offer cheaper alternatives.

    From a customer experience/ marketing perspective the BF approach is less than perfect. And while most of us would get a tad defensive at some of the vitriol flying their way, BF should not respond with snarky comments. Better for them to be silent until they get their story straight.

    Frankly, I'm fine with their decision because it's their marketing event they can make decisions like this - they just need to approach it differently. There have been good discussions at the wwpd forums (where they rightly have the goal of making their discussions civil. Their mantra - Don't be a dick.)

    Mantic is saying a similar thing for their upcoming tourney - but they've laid out some guidelines for some of he questions being raised.

    Anyway - it's been fun watching from the sidelines.

  20. As a keen FoG player who does not own an Ipad or anything more fancy than a Blackberry, I would be disappointed if Slitherine did not change their minds.
    I met Richard Bodley Scott at Campaign in May. He told me that Slitherine will not be producing 2nd editions of the companion books containing the army lists. On that basis, I think they are missing a major marketing opportunity, since I suspect many FoG players (inc me) would be prepared to shell out for an updated FoG rule book.

  21. Think you stirred up a hornets nest with this thread...

    I'm a FOW player "sort of". I've been collecting and building armies for three years now but have only played a handful of actual games. I am not and never will be a tournament player so BF's decision won't effect me one little bit.

    At the end of the day its their tournament and their rules so they can do what they like. I suspect the vast majority of FOW players will continue to do what they have always done; buy from other manufacturers; diverge from the official army lists; and play games for fun not for points.

    1. Provoking discussion was my intent :)

      Well, it seems BF have been forced to backtrack and have announced that for 2013 "the majority" of models in armies used for their tournaments must be from them and that they will consider some form of reward for those using 100% BF armies.

      Interestingly they claim to have been surprised and shocked by the response they received, despite having been told exactly what the response would be when they canvassed some gamers about it at their tournaments in the US last year.

      They've taken a big PR hit from this episode and lost a lot of goodwill from people who organise and participate in tournaments, and even from those who don't.