Thoughts on Specialist Games revival

The rumours are spreading and growing wild, so far only one thing was confirmed - Games Workshop is re-founding a studio for the Specialist Games.

Is this a reason to get exited? Yes and no. Why both answers? It depends on what you are looking for.

First of all, Games Workshop understands themselves as a company that produces miniatures, not rules. So rules are just a marketing tool, to get people to buy those miniatures. They don't care about balancing, and if adding some super strong rules helps to make you buy some miniature, they are going to add that rules. Even putting some monetary extra pricing on top, if that virtual rule (that they may nulify at any given moment) is especially use- or powerful. That is not intended as bashing, that is just a fact from the view of an economist. Beside that, the authors of those epic sidegames like Mordheim, Necromunda and so on, left the ship and are working for other companies, like Rick Priestley, Andy Chambers or Alessio Cavatore. So don't expect the big hit like in the 90s / early 00s.

Why would Games Workshop re-open this? The primary motivation is turnover / retinue, as they are a company. That is not a bad thing, as every company needs to make profits. It is just a question, how do you earn these. Do you produce a grade a game or are you milking an IP until the last drop. Let's take Blood Bowl for example. Games Workshop dropped the support a long time ago, the community is self-organising and third party companies are making good money with crowdfunded teams. There are dozends of companies in southern europe, offering a team for 100 bucks and people on marketing plattforms, ebay and facebook groups asking for ridicolous prices for "rare" teams, that were produced and available in numbers that other companies are dreaming of for their main product ranges. So if people are willing to pay good money for single miniatures and teams, why shouldn't take GW take their cut? There is actually no reason why not. But expect Games Workshop prices and a Specialist Games Bonus on top.
Currently we have characters for 25 Bucks each (from plastic, only a single sprue), Ogre-sized miniatures for 35-40 Euros and squads of 10 miniatures for 49 Euros. So, if and when for example Blood Bowl comes, we can expect teams to be 60-80 Euros, with 30+ Euros for Starplayers. Yes, those are going to be most likely good quality, digitally sculpted (plastic?) kits. But do they have the charme of miniatures like the great Necromunda range sculpted by the Perrys?

And then, let's not forget. Those are side games. They were side games and skirmishes, they have a foreseeable lifespan. A Skirmish like Blood Bowl or Necromunda has a certain amount of Teams / Gangs, you get your starters, couple of extra blisters and boxes with specialists, star players etc. and that's it. That is enough for a couple of month of releases, but that's it. There is the point, when they will come to an end or get a re-boot (or most likely are going to be replaced with the next Specialist Games revival).

Take a look at those petty attemps, like Execution Force or Betrayal of Calth. A repack of single miniatures as a "board game" (compare that to those from Cool Mini or Not, or others...) for 100 Bucks and more. There is no heart behind this, no passion. It's just lacking so much, and that is quite sad. Because i like the grim dark future as well as the old Warhammer. But just lost me. I enjoy the world of Necromunda, i am still madly in love with Blood Bowl and i was waiting for so long (after all, to long) for Horus Heresy to be released in plastic. I am in this hobby for more than 20 years, i have seen a lot of games and companies come and go, or change. I've seen Games Workshop in different stages, they had their chances and i am not expecting much from that Specialist Games reboot, beside a few pretty miniatures for ridiculous prices, that i can't even justify to myself in a good mood. My last "negative shock", is just a few weeks past. I saw Nathanial Garro, and i liked the character in the Black Library novells a lot, so i thought, yeah, that would be something nice for my collection. But 45 GBP, that is 62 Euro for a single 30mm scale miniature. You can buy starter sets with a two-digit number of miniatures for that money, including rules, dice etc. Even if you look at is as a special single miniature, you get 54mm scale superfine sculpts twice the size for the same amount of money. That is just sad, insane and again just sad.

So, why give them a second (or third, fourth ...) chance, when they didn't care about us the first time / times before? We were told lies about white metal, we were told lies about finecast, about plastic that would make everything cheaper and so on. Why jump the band waggon on a revived nostalgia, if you could go with the real deal or give your heart to somebody new, who is more likely to appreciate it. Instead of re-heating and spending to much money on some halfhearted attemp, be risky, be courageous and be part of something new. There are many games and ranges out there, that have the potential to be the nostalgia or old school of the coming future. Or why even stay in the past, when there is such a bright future. With lots of new ideas, more plastic kits than ever and so much easier to get to know new players via the internet. Give those guys a chance, just take a look at the interesting alternatives and additions like Gates of Antares, Frostgrave or SAGA.

Posted by Dennis B.

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  1. Two points I have to disagree with;

    Betrayal at Calth is a great set, I cant comment on the game, but as all the models are fully useable in 40k AND 30k I don’t see that as very important. Taken just as a miniatures release, it’s a very good deal, and a brilliant tribute to the very first plastic 40k minis, hardly lacking “soul” from that point of view.

    The longevity of Necromunda doesn’t have to be as limited as the original release, as you describe. The star of that game is the setting, ongoing releases should focus on characterful scenarios for gangs to engage in, & scenery for them to fight over. Maybe the occasional character model usable as a hired gun or objective NPC.

  2. I also disagree on the “sideshow” note. Epic was a sideshow from 1997 onwards. Before that it was not only not a sideshow but one of the core games.

    Why should I support them? I probably won’t – I’ll milk the miniatures for Epic, if anything good comes, and NOT play the rules, but rather stick to Epic Armageddon, which is still the best ruleset they produced so far.

  3. No critic about the models, but just throwing a few cardboard tiles in there, doesn’t make an armybox a boardgame.

    And the longevity of a rule set, especially those with campaign settings, has nothing to do with the product line itself. At some point you sold the customer everything he needs, and you are not continuing with your sales, so the product gets less interesting for the manufacturer – not directly for the customer.

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