Lord of the Rings- Games Workshop- The future of our hobby?
In the despatches section of the forum there is a recent message from a teacher who for years has been trying to introduce new blood into our hobby
but without great success. The release of the films depicting the battles and action from lord of the rings has changed that. Interest and imagination of youngsters has been set aflame by the movie, and these young people have abandoned their game consoles rushed out to buy the models produced by Games Workshop and begum painting like mad things, in order to get their fantasy armies and adventurers on to the tabletop.
Historical gaming, in my opinion, cannot compete with the range and infinite variety presented by the fantasy market, nor with the draw on young minds (and some not so young) of the very concept of fantasy gaming. Unlike Napoleonics, or ancients, your armies and the way in which you use them are limited only by your imagination, and allow you to develop your own legends communities, and legends, the same elements in fact as some of the best selling computer games such as the Sim City, Civilization, and Age of Empires series.
Games Workshop, have cashed in on this market, and in a big way. In this time of stock market crashes,and low investment returns, their share value is steadily increasing proving a good investment for the canny shareholder (link to Guardian Unlimited). So despite the whining and miserable comments of some about Games Workshop, their method of operating, their admittedly price goods, and the "threat" they pose to the hobby of the traditional wargamer, I would argue that Games Workshop have proved that theirs is the way of the future, and what they have highlighted is that the hobby has for too long kept itself restrained by the self imposed barriers of low profits, low turn over in sales, muliplicities of scale, and lack of innovation. It is interesting for me to note that when a company such as Foundry follow the Games workshop road in pricing and packaging they also become the target of similar criticisms, usually from the same sources, and yet the models are amazingly popular.
I remember years and years ago when I was still using Airfix conversions for my gaming, that the talk was of someone finding a way of producing high quality plastic figures in a more rigid material that the flexible Airfix plastic, and that who ever did this would clean up. Well Games Workshop have done this. I recently received for review a couple of boxes of The Two Towers battle game figures. They represent the Riders of Rohan and the Uruk Hai, half orcs of Saruman's army. The models themselves are moulded from a high density plastic in a light grey colour. The figures are attached to a variety of sprues and have to be carefully removed using a modelling knife. The figures themselves need to be glued together, with arms having been cast separately holding weapons, this enables a range of poses to be adopted adding to the variety of the unit.
The horses are also cast in two sections and need to be glued together and fixed to their base before undercoating. The Riders of Rohan set contains enough parts to construct 6 cavalry for £12. The Uruk Hai set enough for 20 models also for £12.
The figures themselves are highly detailed, and by any standard are exceptionally crafted and fine models. In fact if there is to be any criticism from my part it is that they are too delicate looking in some cases for my liking, simply not chunky enough. But that is a matter solely of personal taste. Although it might be argued that the cavalry figures are too expensive at £2 per model, the same cannot be said about the foot at 0.60p per figure. The colourful packaging is enhanced by full colour photographs of the models, painted to the highest standards used in a gaming situation.
Also available is the The Two Towers boxed strategy game, for your £40: -
"you'll uncover a 160-page full-color rulebook detailing the characters, events, and sieges that are all part of the motion picture. Also included are 12 plastic Riders of Rohan (Spearmen, Bowmen, and Swordsmen on horseback), 20 Fighting Uruk-Hai (Pikemen and Swordsmen), plastic ruins to battle amongst, and dice... everything you'll need to continue your ongoing struggle in Middle-Earth"
Now £40 may seem a lot of money, and I am sure that some will say that is a rip off. But consider more closely what you get. The equivalent of £36 in figures, dice, rule and small terrain feature worth another couple of pounds, and the rule book (separate review under preparation) which would retail by itself for at least £12. On that basis alone the price for this starter set is reasonable. If we then compare in with the price of other leisure activities
such as £39.99 for a PC game, of £30 for a ticket to a football match, or £15 for a Scrabble game, then £40 is a remarkably reasonable price for something that may start a life long hobby.
Whatever the old foggies of wargaming may say (and I include myself in that number), the Young Turks are responding to The Games workshop lead with gusto. My son is 8 and is an expert on the armies of Middle Earth, and is building his own armies. My nephew is 12, and he already has his armies in place and growing. The two other boys in My extended family aged 11 and 14, are committed Warhammer gamers, but, and this is important, are now starting to play historical games using Dark Ages type armies and medieval forces.
Although they are aware of the models available from other manufacturers they prefer the Games Workshop ranges, which indicates a high degree of customer loyalty as well as the power of modern marketing. And now, in a way that indicates the perceived market potential of the Fantasy figure market De Agostini Publishing in partnership with games Workshop have released the Lord of the Rings Battlegaming Magazine. The first issue sold out immediately and saw hordes of kids , some tearfully, begging harassed newsagents to obtain extra copies of the £1.99 magazine complete with its free goblins of Moria, paints , dice and brush, a loss leader perhaps, but a superb bargain. The second issue sold out at My local newsagents shops within an hour of receipt, so the demand would seem to be out there! You have to ask yourself, honestly, even with the same excellent marketing ploy, whether there would be anything like the demand for a historical gaming magazine.
Games Workshop are showing the way forward for the hobby, they are shaking the wargaming tree, and cultivating a whole new generation of potential wargamers and model collectors. The question is whether the rest of the hobby will prove mature and resilient enough to adapt to this situation and welcome these youngsters to the traditional side of the hobby.
Please remember to mention Wargames Forum when contacting traders!
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