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 dollars..you'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.)
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