Monday, November 23, 2009

The problem with Ard Boyz'

I've talked myself down from rant status to just general commentary, no need to hide the kids here. I hope those of you that love Warhammer as hobby as I do seriously consider what I say here. After being witness to the Warhammer Fantasy Battles Ard Boyz finals this Saturday I found myself driving home pretty depressed. I have always had a distaste for the event in general because of the lack of painting requirement and ridiculous prize support provided by GW for such a non traditional event. (strike 1). The regional semi final here in the Mid West was also so plagued by such stunning inappropriate behavior and mismanagement by the proprietor of the hosting store, that it's clear that leaving such high reward events to independents stores with out direct oversight of GW is just the beginings of a long ugly trainwreck. (Strike 2). Finally when actually I got around to witnessing what was really going on the tables at Ard Boyz, I about threw up. (Strike 3).

Ard Boyz is an antithetical-hobby event meaning, it exists as a gateway marketing tool for Games Workshop one that exists outside of its own core principles. Those core principles being this is a hobby for painting and building toy soldiers and we (GW) also make rules so you can play with them. GW has spent plenty of time and effort writing The fiction behind the two games systems and as a result the company has a 25 year legacy on its own fiction that's become equally as iconic as Dungeons and Dragons. Games Workshop has always stated it wrote the rules for its Armies to be in line with fiction and they are n0t designed for competitive play. Grand Tournaments were 1st and foremost Hobby events. celebrating the hobby as equally as those whose army could win the most games. Times change as the fan base grows and the perception of the hobby changes and it needs to compete with other rival systems. over time competitive play has become another staple of hobby, however for me as a veteran hobbyist "Ard Boyz" crosses the line.

Ard Boyz takes none of the above into consideration. Of the 54 of 71 qualifiers who showed up Saturday, maybe 5 percent were fully/mostly painted on top that many of the models I saw where not even fully modeled, many half built or hastily slapped together. Many of the armies I saw looked they pulled directly off the junk shelves of the bunker storage room and just thrown on the table. Every list I saw, while fitting into the allowed Army Organization chart was an abortion of what each Army books fiction intends it to be. Ridiculous OTT armies of such extent, that if you play at 2250 competitively as I do the jump to this format with only 750 more points will make you laugh hysterically, until you realize its dead serious because and it dawns on you that "Ard boyz" is all about one thing. Money.

Ard Boys isnt Warhammer, lets call it "Cash Hammer", but drop the "C" and the "H" and add a second "S" when appropriate. The "win at all costs" mentality of a certain cross section of players is certainly the initial lure of wanting to participate in such "Smash face" events, but in the end it's huge prize giveaways, this year at the Semi-Final level (last year in the finals as well) that are the biggest draw. Of the 71 Qualifiers 23 got top semi- final spots meaning GW gave away at least 23 , 3000 point armies, and I know for a fact (due independent store shenanigans GW gave away more than that.) We are talking well over $10,000 of retail product as prizes. The money or product involved here is so big and yet asks the player who want to participate to go ahead a forget those core principles of the hobby- Take the painting , the modeling, the fiction behind the Army books and flush it down the toilet in favor of min/maxing the rules with a bunch of plastic widgets on the table.

From what I saw on Saturday, there was no point in even putting armies on the table..the whole thing is merely a dice contest just like one you could have in any low level Vegas Hotel or even just in the alley behind the store throwing dice against the wall for cash. Getting into the headbutting that occurs on the Sportsmanship level when you take a bunch of aggro competitives and ask them to play for money is a whole other conversation, Let just say there are always issues and Sportsmanship, while demanded at this event, still takes a back seat to reality of the situation. Once again not exactly in the spirit of "The Hobby."

Having just played in the same room with almost the same amount of players the previous weekend for Core Competency 2009, was a stunning, maddening contrast. It was the complete opposite of Ard Boyz. A complete celebration of the hobby on every level in the spirit of the old Grand Tournament, with $1000 of prizes paid for strictly from the entry fees of the players and donations. The thing is Core Comp promotes the very core principles that GW spent years instilling in its hobbyists, While Ard Boyz focuses its attention not on the very hobbyists GW has spent years developing but instead on seeking out former players of competitive "Magic: The Gathering". Ard Boyz is not aimed at the GW hobbyist but at people whose general interest in the game seems to be nothing other than the thrill of dice rolling for prizes. The paradox between these two events is overwhelming.

It's pretty clear I think Ard Boyz is extremely bad for this hobby, not only due to its absolute disregard of the hobby's core principles, but because of the change of direction it shows from Games Workshop. Promoting cash driven events that have no basis on the hobby in the end is bad for business. Its the kind of crap Hasbro has done to several of its satellite brands, smashing communities against the rocks by offering large cash prizes at conventions for various games in order to attract more fans, but all they do is attract the uber-competitive and burn the system out. The game itself doesn't matter is just gaming for're better of on the Poker machine at the local bar, at least your not pissing all over years of someone hard developed

As Games Workshop diversifies, licensing there IP for other forms of entertainment. The slippery slope becomes inevitable and with such we the players need to stand fast for what we want from the company. Right now GW seems to think the we, the players, the fans, want these Ard Boyz type events. When the bottom dropped during GW's 2008 last two quarters, A ton of cost cutting measure got put into action particularly when it comes to community events. Somehow, someone, somewhere decided a wild west style/ Indy tournament circuit was a good cut cost cutting idea. If you think this is a big steaming load like I do, and want a return to "old school" company run events that support the Hobby-then you need to say so. Vocally support the Indy "GT" style events and talk your friends out of attending things like Ard Boyz and general "smash face" circuit events, hell, publicly boycott them. The bar can only go so low and right now Ard Boyz is the muddy bottom, but if this like this continues the next step is pre painted (clix-style) space marines and vehicles playing for uber cash prizes at Gen Con, That's the door Ard Boyz really opens.

(disclaimer here, I am not informed on the contrast between the 40K and WFB versions of Ard Boyz' perhaps because for the points differences overall and more thorough balance of the 40k Army books, 40K Ard Boyz...may be just another Gladiator..even if so, take a stand on the weight of GW's prize support against the lack of hobby requirements for these events.)


Tim Kulinski said...

Dude, I agree with you 100% on this blog post man. The Ard Boy scene is a joke and a terriable way to run an event!

I second Johns call to support the Indie GT's out there that still care about what the hobby is all about, collecting, painting, reading and playing with toy soldiers!

Daryl said...

Is this the spot where I emphatically agree with you?

Powerposey said...

I too agree 100% with you. It is an abomination of everything that is good in the hobby.

The sad thing is that here in NC, stores think this is how you should run events. Their arguement is people won't play if you have to paint figs and use "soft" scores. What is even sadder is that now the models aren't even assembled.

I won't even get into the stores that had one person show up to play in it, and getting a free pass into the later rounds.

Felix said...

'Ard Boyz events are only short term solutions to long term customer retention. The way GW keeps customers long term is by having them paint and build armies, whereas 'Ard Boyz is more like powerleveling newbs in MMORPGS.

That being said, I do not believe that 'Ard Boyz itself is the destruction of the hobby or the antithesis of the hobby. It's another aspect of the hobby as well as another marketing tool of the hobby. I don't think it's a sustainable avenue for GW to take, however.

In the end the problem is when GW supports one aspect of the hobby over another. I do believe having both the GW GTs and the 'Ard Boyz can be made to work in their favor. Though I don't believe that GW's rules necessarily make for a tight and competitive rules set to warrant a 'Ard Boyz tournament, you have to admit that collection and acquisition have become a part of the hobby.

Anyway, I know my middle of the road idea is anti-thetical to your blog, John. At least you know I wouldn't touch Ard boyz with a ten foot pole...mostly because I'm too busy playing other games ;)

oni said...

I dislike tournaments in general let alone my disdain for Ard Boyz.

Tournaments can be fun or they can be competitive. It seems as though most of them have moved to the competitive state which is unfortunate. Ard Boyz is over the top competitive because of the large prizes.

I support your cause to move tournament play in the direction of hobby, not cut throat competition.

John@Plastic Legions said...

Felix, collection and acquisition have nothing to do with Ard Boyz.
The models are just a tool used to gain reward..I would not be surprised if many of the 3000 point armies won in the semi just end up on Ebay for the cash. You'd maybe have a point if we were talking pre painted figures and not "to be" assembled models. But as I saw a ton uncompleted models on the tables..the questions what are they collecting and acquiring plastic sprues?

Anonymous said...

I must admit that I only about 80% agree with the blog. Points I agree with:

1) GW should give this level of support to Indie GT's, and reduce the level of support for Ard Boyz
2) A painting requirement is needed.
3)Some sort of sportsmanship score is needed to keep the garbage out.

My main point of disagreement is that if you run a tournament and announce 'There is no comp, bring the badest thing you can think of', then all is fair. Everyone going knows what they are getting into and may even enjoy that sort of game.

There are so many tournaments out there, that having a variety will keep the hobby running. Let some tournys be heavy in soft scores, some light, and some in between.

There are two sides of the hobby (A & B players as you put it) ;). I don't think either group should be able to tell the other that their hobby is wrong. Although GW shouldn't support one more than the other either, and I think that is the big problem with Ard Boyz.

John@Plastic Legions said...


I have no problem with variety of events, and I wouldnt tell "A players" their idea of hobby is wrong
(I wrote 10000 words on how to make it work together, if you recall)
the problem is "Ard Boyz" isnt about the hobby. If "Ard Boyz" had a 3 color, WYSIWYG requirement, bad vote/sports scores...Then I would had zero problem with it, even the ridiculous prize support..

Anonymous said...

Sounds like we are on the same page then. :)

AoM said...

Anyone notice that 'Ard Boyz came out a few months after Privateer Press had their first hardcore event at Gen Con? Except GW did things completely ass backwards. PP regular tournaments require fully assembled models, but not painting. Hardcore requires full painted armies (that at the time were larger than the average tournament game), with timed 7 minute turns (chess clocks and everything).

GW seems to have just seen the part about larger forces and super competitive players.

'Ard Boys just fuels the WaAC mentality that really can't work with the 40K ruleset (which is just too full of holes). I can't speak for WHFB 'Ard Boyz.

John@Plastic Legions said...

I'd still have a tough time getting past the silly lists, and OTT competitiveness of the thing, but hobby requirements alone would tone that down slightly. A fantasy gladiator, ala this years Adepticon
is about my personal threshold.

There is a real bone to pick when you think about how Alex worked his ass off for Core Comp, for no support other that using the Bunkers Space, (which he was 100% cool with and grateful for) but contrast that with the prize giveaways that went in hand with the debacle in Madison at the Ard Boyz semi's..I think you see the problem from a Games Workshop input standpoint.

John@Plastic Legions said...

That above post is @ Oden.

@AoM- Yeah I am interested in the hearing 40K side of things, because things that drive Fantasy players (like me) nuts are par for the course in competitive 40K and I really just dont know..which is why I added that bit at the end of the post.

ZeroTwentythree said...

I played in the first two rounds of Ard Boys last year and generally had fun.

However, one of my 6 games also involved some of the only instances of outright cheating I've ever seen in any tournament. We also got to see one guy throw a game vs. a friend so that he could advance to the finals, because if the "thrower" won, neither would advance.

Generally, though, I had a good time. Most of the players around me were still out to have fun, took what were probably only middle-weight lists, etc.

As others have said, if they're announcing it as a WAAC, no comp no painting event, then it's all out in the open.

I opted to pass this year. The local store decided not to participate, and I heard too many bad stories (like yours) from outside of our area.

But that's just it. I know what it is, I'm not attending. I don't think it hurts my hobby. I just think of those type of events as someone else's hobby. (The agressive, WAAC power gamey people you mention.) They can have their events, I can have mine.

I do strongly agree that it would be nice to see GW support the more well rounded hobby events, though, as that will benefit their player base in the long run. At least from my point of view.

Felix said...

I'd argue that assembly is the minimum, not paint. This isn't a tournament for the hobbyist, but for someone who'd rather play a crazy list over all other considerations.

Randroid said...

I'm with you on most of this. At the bare minimum I think armies competing in at least the Ard Boyz finals should be fully painted and WYSIWIG.

You can't have soft scores/sportsmanship in a tournament like this so that will have to be left out.

As someone who competed this year in the first round and placed second (wasn't able to go on to round 2 due to a family emergency) I have to say it was pretty fun. I liked the hard lists and higher point value. I had fun getting in 3 really close, and fun, games and taking second place.

Reading the battle reports from an Austin local who took third in the Finals I can see that I would NOT have enjoyed making it that far. None of the games/lists/opponents sounded like something I would want to be a part of.

Conspyre said...

It is interesting to me that the Gladiator doesn't get this much hate, as to my eyes, it is even less 40K than the 'Ard Boyz tourneys are- two planes, a Reaver, and a minimum Guardsmen compliment are hardly an army, and that sort of build is the reason I will likely never even consider playing in the Gladiator. 'Ard Boyz, on the other hand, while it seems many players are showing up with armies that would not look out of place at a Warmachine tournament (sorry Felix), at least the forces are still theoretically game-legal. Potentially broken, yes, but there does need to be some place for that kind of army composition to go. It sounds like Core Comp was a lovely event, but again, not one I'm terribly interested in, since I want to play in events that let me use my WHOLE army book, not just the parts that someone else isn't scared of. Granted, not a whole lot of that going on with my Dwarfs, but mismanaged or not, there needs to also be somewhere for a player that does want to use everything at their disposal to win. I think there is a line there between winning at all costs on the tabletop, and throwing games to make sure someone advances, which I think is the fault of there being too many qualifiers for 'Ard Boyz. That part is tricky, however, as they have a narrow line to walk between being accessible to all players, and being too widespread to police. I'd love to play in more 40K events, but without owning a car, and being the most competitively-minded (if not the best player) of my 40K-playing friends, it is difficult to get out there.

ZeroTwentythree said...

I should also add that when I said "no paint, no comp" I meant scoring.

I was disappointed that there was no minimum paint or assembly requirement.

No one took "no comp score" to mean that you didn't have to follow normal normal composition restrictions. How did "no paint score" become "show up with a pile of half assembled bits?"

J-P said...

The biggest threat to our hobby is to have GW go out of business. If the Munchkins keep GW afloat through this style of play, then we all win. We just have to make a strong case that our style of play is also a cornerstone of their business, and that we have enough numbers to still cater to us as well.

But I don't see this changing the face of the hobby. The MMO "Pwn YoO uBaR LeET" Munchkin is notorious for being fickle and getting bored with any game very quickly. Once they find out that no one else wants to play with them outside of 'Ard Boyz events, they'll fall away in pretty short order.

GW, being so calculating and penny pinching, will likely not base its business on such a mercurial segment of the market.

ZeroTwentythree said...

Depends how you define "hobby."

If you're talking the "wargaming hobby," there are plenty of games out there, many of which are (IMHO) better than WFB.

In fact, GW's disappearance could potentially cause players to seek out replacements better than WFB.

If you are talking about "The Games Workshop Hobby" then all is lost.


ahschmidt said...

Ultimately there is a place for an intense tournament like 'ard boyz (retarded name and all), but I do agree with you about the lack of balance with the hobbyist side of things. There is no gain to not having strict painting, and basing standards. It takes nothing away from those who want to see how they do in Warhammers "hard mode" to meet some kind of standard in painting and such. Folks should be allowed to compete in a filth-fest if they want, but not at the expense of the community as a whole.

Personally, while I would like to do some tournaments some time, one like this has as much value to me as playing rochambau with some over-amped spaz, smashing each other in the balls with our miniature cases... HURRR!! Something like Core Competency just seem like far more fun.

Jwolf said...

@ Conspyre - As the guy who won the Gladiator with that silly army, I agree that comparing Gladiator to a real game of 40K is absurd. That said, I have also played in the Gladiator with nothing other than normal Guardsmen and had a great time. Yes, I had no chance of winning, but playing and meeting people from all around the country was really fun for me. I don't understand the mentality that says "I can't win, so there is no poit in playing" that so many Gladiator-haters have. I'll give you a hint - most of the time you aren't going to win in tournaments with hundreds of participants. I have found that going to tournaments is fun, no matter if I have a realistic shot at winning or not. In fact, I'm going to one on Saturday, where I fully expect that one of the big guns in WFB (Jordan Braun, David Bowman, etc.) will beat the snot out of me. So what? Playing is so much more important than winning. So be all righteous about how terrible whatever tournament or event is and how you'd never play in it, but you're the one missing out, not the people who do play.

Response to John and the post: As far as the 40K side of Ard Boyz, I ran the regional here in Texas. There was a small amount of douchebaggery, but mostly people playing hard to win and playing nice with others. And most of the armies were painted as well.

In general, I'd rather play with armies designed for fun than anything like Ard Boyz, but as an annual thing, Ard Boyz does infuse a certain amount of energy into our local shop, so it is a good thing.

As far as support for IGTs, GW is certainly throwing a huge amount of support into IGTs for 2010, easily ten times what Ard Boyz gets across all systems. The support GW gave for us at BoLSCon for our first event was fantastic and made a huge difference in our ability to provide generous prizes at all levels. As an IGT organizer, I am very grateful for the support GW is giving and impressed with Ed's revamp and vision of the tournament circuit.

John@Plastic Legions said...


In defense of Bill (Conspyre) He's talking about the fact that every year at the Acon Gladiator (at least since 06) there always some drama about a "gimmick" rules abuse that gets people riled up, whether it be Titans, Flyers, moving under flyers, whatever, I've lost count, The WAAC mentality of Gladiator undercuts the argument for overall camaraderie because the goodwill of the event is subjective to the person in question. Meaning your experience will be wildly different than a guy like him. The problem with the Gladiator is despite the lot of honest brokers that do attend is it just always so slightly tainted by the few that cross the line what ever issues of that year gets raised..(starting with 100 FAQ doesnt help) Regardless, Gladiators such as Adepticons, have "the Hobby" as a backbone in spades, so no one going to say its not a legitimate and important event, I encourage these events for the like-minded because they support the hobby, Ard' Boyz does not, it's as I've said.

As for the IGT circuit, 10 times the prize support of Ard boyz across both systems is like 200K???
that seems above and beyond what I've anywhere in the last three years, The problem for me again lies in the critical Fuck up, (sorry there is no better word) that the Indy GT rules signed off on allowing unpainted models at events. I challenge you guys,to do like many individual events have done on their own and restore strong hobby requirements to all your BoLScon events. Hobby requirements are the absolute key to cutting down on the "douchebaggery" and the "gaming for dollars" garbage that things like Ard Boyz digs up.. If you spend two month building and even 3 color painting an army, you just have alot more invested in being at an event, then the guy that slaps his stuff together the weekend before and is out prize hunting.

I've got some serious issues with the current GW circuit myself with that kind of prize support floating around, for unproven events with soft hobby requirements, while great events here get ignored, last years Northwest Conquest is a good example it was a circuit event and drew 20 people, while we've got three events here in the midwest, Core Comp, Midwest Rampage and the Northstar all drawing in the 50's with full paint/ sports/ and Comp scores getting flat out ignored. That's our issue to sort out with GW it has alot to due with Adepticon being so huge I realize that.

I look forward to seeing you at Adepticon where we can hash out our different takes on the hobby over some beers, I'm leaving both friday and saturday night post events wide open.

ZeroTwentythree said...

@ Jwolf: I get what you mean about winning not being the primary motivation for playing in a tournament. I think that's why I was OK with last year's 'Ard Boyz, aside from the outright cheating I mentioned above.

I decided from the outset that I wasn't going to have the hardcore-competitive attitude required anyway, so I started calling it 'Orde Boyz and field the largest army I could (all painted, too) and just have fun. And I did.

Jwolf said...

@ Zerotwentythree - Goatboy was having the same problem recently, and I prescribed the "play to have fun, ignore winning" medicine to him, with similarly positive results. I recently took a Necron army to a 40K Heavy (hard armies, which Necrons are emphatically not) local tournament, and had an absolute blast. Oddly, no, I did not win. :)

@ John - Look forward to seeing you at Adepticon. I think it's all 40K for me this time around; had to judge the Team Tournament last time, so we're playing this year - having trouble deciding between trying to place and trying to be absurd, or going for the gold and doing both.

Thanks for clearing up the Gladiator thing.

I'm discussing the Hobby aspects issue at BoLSCon with others now. I'm extremely happy with having strong prizes for Painting and Battle, and having them largely separate. I am leaning towards overall requiring a certain painting score, but I do want to continue with a very Battle-centric approach. WFB will have limits, probably similar to Alamo's (no Lord Specials, no Daemon Specials at all, no Hero specials over 250). I'll be inviting a lot of discussion about these (and other) issues in January and February, and I'll be sure to come back here and crosslink about it.

Jeff said...

Hey John,

I am new to your blog and as a fellow Empire player, I really enjoy your insight (and painting and modeling).

As a grad student, I'll be honest and tell you that I don't really go out that often to compete in tournaments (I live about an hour away from Kansas City), rather, most of my games have and will be played with my friends and classmates--it has been that way for the last 12 years of my Warhammer career (if we could call it that?) 'Ard Boyz, and to be honest, MOST GW sponsored tournaments are antithetical to the hobby itself.

Forget the painting, modeling, army composition, etc. for just a minute--the core idea of gaming, IMO, is to be fun. For me, as for many of you all, the hobby is a nice catharsis from stress, etc. I don't want that ruined by some jerk interested in, as you say, making money off of a back-alley craps game.

Furthermore, the competitive element springs up, usually with great sportsmanship, in circles of friends (except the one time my friend's Star Dragon and HE Prince got swallowed in T2 on an IF Pit of Shades and he punched a wall).

Am I saying that 'old-school' gamers should move underground? Well, more or less. IMO, GW is really only interested in making money. They have canned some of the best games (Necromunda, Mordheim) and I know they still sell that stuff but it isn't the same. My guess is that by 10ed., the game will have transformed into something entirely different and probably not worth playing.

Anyways, I like your blog. Take it easy.

John@Plastic Legions said...

@ jeff

Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment.
Your points are well taken my friend.
Our club operates in such an environment already..we rotate in and out up to 15 players over the last couple years..we dont need to police things like comp and sports because even with being competitive everyone values the experience as much as winning. Everyone takes "the hobby" seriously even if they dont have time to hobby that much. So its not about winning and losing as much as it is about experience of sharing the love of toy soldiers with the like minded and having a good time doing so.

I'm one of the few that sticks his foot in mainstream GW gaming circles, and I'm sure as things get dumbed down eventually I'll move on to other games..or just still be playing 7th ed somewhere with a few diehards while kids in the stores are doing the 10th ed WFB skirmish/card game or whatever


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