Monday, January 4, 2016

Embracing Change

"We fear change"
-Garth Algar
Today I am going to talk about something quintessential to the hobby. Change. And not just the Lord of Change (while awesome) but adapting to an ever changing environment.

I have been prompted by three things to write this article
1- The release of AoS and the death of WHFB. Additionally, listening to the last Episode of the Independent Characters podcast and some of the Long War webcasts/podcasts.

2- The recent release of Blood Bowl 2 and the concept of the NAF vs Cyanide, Additionally, listening to the AMAZING Podcast Pitch Invasion.

3- An escalation league that ran in my area and discussions with some players there, as well as my prep for Adepticon and own personal thoughts on the game of Warhammer 40k.

So first of all, the most important thing to any and all changes to keep in mind is that

That is some deep, thought provoking, Confucius level stuff right there, am I right?

So let me address each of my "provocations" in turn. And please bear with me, as this may be kinda James Joyce/Stream of Consciousness at times. As well, this may start off a little AoS centric, but trust me, it will be about 40k.
So the largest change in Warhammer EVER happened last summer. The Old World disappeared, seemingly forever, and it was replaced with Age of Sigmar. Now I am not going to pass judgement on the game here, as that is not the intention of this post. Needless to say it has stirred a lot of controversy and mixed emotions amongst the community, both love and hate. One person has even gone so far as to set their army on fire and share this to you tube for all the world to see. The thing is you must remember

Yes, I am sure for many people, there has been, and truly should be, a period of mourning.  If you don't know about it, there are 5 stages of loss
1- Denial
2- Anger
3- Bargaining
4- Depression
5- Acceptance
So the first stage I feel was mostly felt between the end of End Times and the release of AoS. Then the second stage came. And if the BoLS/Facebook comments are anything to go by, seems to be where A LOT of people are stuck. It is all right to be angry, but staying angry leads to no where. No one will want to play with you, you will stop having fun, and eventually be ignored and alone. It is how you handle moving past this anger into the next three stages that really matters. Now a ton of people however seem next to be stuck in the bargaining and depression stages.
"If only we had bought more Fantasy"
"I wish we had kept playing it in our stores"
"If only the rules had been better, we would have played more"
"I don't know what I am going to play now"
"I guess I'll just give up on wargaming"
If you haven't heard at least one of these, then you obviously don't go on the internet much...
As for bargaining and depression, I don't think you could really do the former in this case, but there sure are a lot of people STILL lamenting the loss of the Old World IRT the latter.
But the important thing is the last stage. Acceptance. This is where you have complete control and can dictate your reaction. For one, everyone must accept that GW has stopped supporting WHFB, however that does not mean it is dead. NO ONE has killed your game, you still have the models and still have the rules. Now it is for you to decide what to do next. You could
1- Continue to try and support your game of choice, WHFB. You can pick any edition you want and try and push the community towards continually running it. The models are still available after all.
2- You can play Age of Sigmar! The game may not be for you so you can either default back to 1 or
3- Try and use your models in a new game like Kings of War, or even 9th Age, the amazing community developed updated version of 8th Edition!
4- Realize that it was fun, but sometimes good things must come to an end. Sell your models and books and do something else. If you really need a massed combat game, may I suggest historical wargames? Your models will ALWAYS be valid, never change power to nerfs and buffs, and are adaptable for ANY RULE SET YOU CHOOSE!
And I am sure there are many more options, but those are some generalities. The point is that to complete the cycle of loss you need to move on.
Sometimes though, it isn't that you have lost what you love, but that what you love is just changing. And that leads me to some discussion on Blood Bowl. Blood Bowl has been abandoned by Games Workshop for some time now. It was last left with the "Living Rule Book 6" (which it is anything but Living) also know now as the "Competitive Rules Pack", a much more apt name IMO. Now this was the standard for a while, there were 24 teams and that was that. Then along came things like FUMBBL, the NTBB, and Blood Bowl the video game by Cyanide (which has the official license) and all of these made some changes. Most notably they each added a team to the game, Apes, Brettonians and Khorne Daemons respectively.
However there are a lot of players who think the game is in perfect stasis and that anything and everything anyone from the outside does will ruin it. For others it is that these teams don't feel right, should be done a different way, or just aren't needed in the meta. THERE ARE ALOT OF PEOPLE LIKE THIS. Particularly in the Facebook communities it seems. Essentially a group of people who don't want their cheese moved.
Now it is OKAY to hold these belief. It is NOT okay to tell other people they are wrong and cannot play with these rules or with new things if they choose too. Remember
See how this can start applying to any game?
These changes are going to happen and there are going to be people that embrace them with arms wide open. Either join them or continue doing your own thing. But don't oppose them!
EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN RIGHT TO HAVE FUN. Your right to play the game is not more important than theirs. Did your team change? Did the fundamental game change? Do they have a rule that specifically says "YOUR OPPONENT LOSES!" No? Then they are not ruining your fun. This is important to keep in mind by both sides of the equation though and someone shouldn't FORCE you to play against it if you don't want to, but a reasonable discussion should occur to ensure everyone has fun. However as the game changes and adapts, so to will the community as a whole. So you have the choice to grow with it or remain isolated. You may be able to remain isolated and play which ever version you want, which is your right, and no one is stopping you. But you must accept the fact that it is possible the main stream may move on and if you wish to rejoin it, you much embrace what has changed. This is especially true if it brings new players into the fold IMO.
To me this is where the NAF, the current player ran BB community, gets it wrong. They historically have not endorsed or allowed the 3 optional teams at tournaments or on their online team/league trackers. To me this is a mistake, as they are a community, not the keepers of the rules. They should be enabling the community out there that wants to use these rules to use them. They need to accept the fact that change has happened and they are not the ones that dictate the change or how the community should react to it. This is something that may be changing though, and if it is, that is good.
Furthermore, when BB2 dropped and there were rules changed from the original game, with no explanation to the community as to why, people FREAKED. However...
1- This a video game, not your BB on table top.
2- You don't have to buy it to play BB. BB1 still works.. and the tabletop version
3- We are not the license holders, and as such do not have control over what cyanide does, nor do they owe us an explanation. In kind, you can reply with how you spend your money or choose not to.
That last one is particularly important, as is perfectly demonstrates how you can control your reaction towards it.

Now this all leads me to 40k. 40k has come A VERY LONG WAY since 3rd edition when I started playing. I can't even imagine what it is like for all the RT era guys out there.
But I am going to mostly focus on 7th edition, and the changes in the design philosophies of late.
Namely formations, LoW and "Decurion" style detachments, as well as the fact that half way through 7th Edition they turned the speakers up to 11 on all of those things and left early 7th ed codicies in more of a 6.5 limbo.
Now I could rant and rave how these things are breaking the game. That is what my discussions with players at my local store essentially were IRT their escalation league. They had a ban list against ALL of them and LoW. Now I would understand doing this in a tournament. There are various rules, from ensuring everyone has a fair shot to simplifying the rules/tournament design to just playing what you like. You are the TO it is your right. But an escalation league and open store gaming is different. LoW for instance. I have a Typhon. Why? Because I LOVE THE MODEL. I forgot to mention a few of the guys also hate Flyers (which have been around for a while now...) and I also have a Fire Raptor, once more because I LOVE THE MODEL.

So essentially these guys are dictating what toys I can play with and what fun I can have in what is supposed to be an environment to grow the hobby. As well, they are refusing to change, essentially stuck in the denial stage over the loss of not 6th edition, but 5th edition. What they are failing to realize is...
So instead of dictating how fun is to be had, and who can have fun, they should realize the game has changed and grow with it. If they want to still play "Old School" they can by having a reasonable discussion with the other party "Hey, we can use the LoW and Flyers this week, but next time do you think we can play a Classic Game. Old school FoC, no flyers". "Why of course man, sounds fun." This comes off alot better than "Nana nana boo-boo. No Souper Heavies for you!"
This leads me to my initial struggle with Formations myself and my current plight as a Blood Angel player. I at first rejected them. Yes, I went against what this article is talking about. But then I realized that I have no control over it. SO I began accepting them. Do I use them? No, but I will never ever EVER begrudge someone else doing so. I also suffer from a lack of decent ones, as BA was released before GW decided to ELECTRIFY 7th ed. with Decurions and Free Tank Gladius SF and super awesome formations like the Skyhammer Annihilation Force

Now do I think they are the best for the game? I will maintain a no on that still. I hope they eventually go the way of the dodo. I think personally they stiffle creativity in list building and make people more obsessed with gimmicks than gameplay. Even I have written a couple of lists with this gimmick mentality in mind (the Gladius SF using Vale was my discovery).

BUT I accept that these are part of the game right now and that to participate in the hobby, I need to be willing to at least face them. After all, my opponent using them finds them fun. It is not my place to tell them they are wrong.