By James M.
Since the release of WHFB 8th Edition in Australia almost 12 months ago, competitive war gaming in Australia has undergone drastic change. One year ago, no-one would have predicted a such a change would occur in such a short time. From premiere tournaments selling out in a matter of hours to struggling to obtain 20% of last years numbers, it has been a depressing and demotivating time for many gamers and consequently hobbyists Down Under, but hope is on the horizon and is sailing in aboard S.S Privateer Press.
But let me give you a brief background about myself. My name is James M. and I'm a 4th year Honours Music and Commerce Student at the Australian National University. Having dabbled in Warhammer Fantasy as a young teenager (Empire and High Elves) I gave the game up for most of school. It was only when grabbing for cash as a university student and pulling my old high elves out that my love for the hobby was rekindled. I went to sell them at a local gaming night, but instead found myself pouring through the Wood Elf and Lizardmen book for hours and eventually spending 2009 and the first half of 2010 painting up my Lizardmen and hitting the tournament scene, making the chance to Dark Elves and Daemons for the latter half and Attending the Australian Masters in late 2010.
However, lets backtrack for a moment. In July 2010, I attended “Convic” In Melbourne. A 100 Player tournament not only did it prove to be a fantastic bonding weekend for all the local players, but was by far my most successful weekend of gaming in the tournament year. At heart, I'm a competitive gamer, so you can imagine the glee I felt inside as on table 3, the last roll of the game versus an intimidating Australian ETC player came up a 6 to pop the final wound off the Greater Deamon of Khorne and secure me a 15-5 win and an overall 3rd/100 placing. Little did I know with such great success and a weekend full of epic stories, only a severe contrast was to come.
Being the final 7th edition tournament, 8th edition hit full swing and the first premiere tournament of 8th edition in August of 2010 hit, “The Pilgrimage” In Sydney’s West Attracted a solid 80 people. Once again, the games were fierce, dice were rolled and there was much war gaming chatter... but something was missing... “Mother of all Battles” and “Orktoberfest” came round and we saw a 50% drop in numbers.. what was happening to a previously unstoppable force?!
“I Love Warhammer” I thought... this can't be happening.. my friends, the game I love, all slowly disintegrating right before me. I thought for days, weeks and months until I realised... 8th edition was a shot duck for competitive gamers. When 8th edition first came out, I was buzzing with excitement! “They've done it! They've fixed the game, balanced the books, its amazing!” but after playing a few games, and by a few I mean almost a hundred, the buzz was still missing. The spells aren't that bad, the strategy still exists.. so what is it?
The game is unrewarding.
I found myself apologising to players after games... “I'm sorry about that dice roll”. You shouldn't have to say that after one in ten games, let alone one in three. The Australian Masters tipped it for me, after playing an almost perfect game three times, one crazy dice roll tipped the game on its head.
And that’s fine for casual gaming! But for competitive gaming, its a big nono. Games Workshop has always said they have never intended for their games to be so competitive... but there is no reason they cannot be casual AND competitive I felt let down by a company I had supported and loved for so long.
Consequently, Australia has seen an exodus of people switching. Of the previous top 25, approximately 20 of them have made the switch to Privateer Press's Warmachine/Hordes. Whilst a bit late for the bandwagon, I jumped onboard with Trollbloods in December 2010 and have never looked back since. The Background is fantastic, the fluff is phenomenal and the gameplay is one of, if not the most competitive games I’ve ever played on the tabletop! Luck has very little to do with execution of tactics and you actually feel great after coming off a 'brink of destruction' win or loss! The rush of timed turns and such fluid gameplay mechanics is an exhilaration I’d never felt before when my Daemons munched through the side of an unaware opponent.
With the recent price increases and restrictions on independent stockists selling and distributing to Australasia coupled with the moronic lack of awareness of exchange rates, I have not looked back to Games Workshop since jumping ship and these recent announcements confirms my beliefs even more so.
So where does this leave us? Don't get me wrong, I wish the Warhammer Fantasy 8th edition community in Australia nothing but success, but the glory days are over. No-longer will tournaments sell out in record time and go from strength to strength attracting numbers in the hundreds. For competitive play, you cannot look past Warmachine and Hordes and I hope we grow to attract the scene we once had!
See you in the Iron Kingdoms and For Kith and Kriel!
James M. a.k.a. Crono