Sunday, 5 April 2015

Into the unknown - what this year holds for GW releases

Hi folks. This post is yet another one of rampant speculation based on what we have heard rumour-wise in the last few months. It's a somewhat unique situation in that all of the codexes have now been updated to 6th/7th format within the space of two and a half years. Not only that but there's also been an edition change, several campaign supplements and also codex supplements and even new mini-race codexes. What then does that mean for the rest of the year and beyond? First, let's step back and take a look at GW as a whole. 

The Hobbit finally concluded end of last year and with no new material to release I wouldn't be at all surprised if it goes to direct only and becomes effectively what the old specialist games were. Speak of the devil, all the specialist games have either disappeared or found popularity as video games or fantasy flight spin-offs, save for space hulk of course which even saw a second wave release with some tweaks. Dreadfleet sadly taught GW a lesson - all the marketing, fancy models and good gameplay in the world won't necessarily shift a product if there isn't demand in the first place. Whereas Space Hulk already had a following and was cross-compatible with 40k, Dreadfleet died the death. I hope this hasn't put them off trying to release other independent games as, let's face it, classic games re-envisioned (Epic, Gothic, Necromunda, Blood Bowl, Man O War) would likely do very well to differing degrees. We shall see.

Now on to the more mainstream GW products: Fantasy and Horus Heresy. Fantasy seems to be at a similar stage to 40k in terms of updates and model ranges (well, except Bretonnians) but GW decided to do something rather brave and introduce the end times to fill an otherwise disparate release void. Awesome, large models and story progression seem to have breathed new life into Fantasy. Still, from what I've read it still sells nowhere near as well as 40k and rumourmongers are claiming it is likely to have its shelf space reduced and maybe even re-envisioned as a skirmish game.

Horus Heresy on the other hand seems to be doing very well for itself. From what I've read product demand is high and armies such as the Mechanicum are doing particularly well sales wise. The release rate of books and characters is about right and we're probably about halfway there now in terms of legion-specific models with plenty more scope for expansion. This leads us nicely  back to what the future may hold for 40k.

Rumours have suggested recently that 30k may become plastic and mainstream, which would IMO be a great move. It would allow 40K players access to cross-compatible models and encourage interest in 30K as well as 40k. Forgeworld would return to its roots providing specialist models (such as legion specific parts and rulebooks) allowing it to focus more on other projects, such as Imperial Armour releases.

While this would be a good complimentary system for 40k, what are we expecting from 40k itself? After an unprecedented schedule of both codex and model releases, we are as I say in uncharted waters as to where we head next. There's no edition update on the horizon (although that's what we all thought when 7th came along) and who knows when the first 6th to 7th codex updates will come along? Some rumours pointed to a Dark Angels Vs Chaos release over the Summer in the same format as the Stormclaw/Deathstorm releases. The box would likely be similar in contents to Dark Vengeance from the Dark Angels perspective, but in terms of the actual codex releases flanking it there's conversely a lot of (Chaos) and little (Dark Angels) potential. I say that as IMO Dark Angels need no models and a simple FAQ to adjust some points costs would make several of their issues defunct. Chaos, however, need a lot of attention both in terms of models and in terms of expanding the rule sets for legion/cult marines instead of being codex: renegades.

And what about these new mini-army codexes we've seen over the past year. Knights broke the mold on that front and, although somewhat redundant, the Tempestus book (now back in softback - yet another change of direction) certainly made making Inquisition armies a lot more fun. Then there are the digital codexes and dataslates; Inquisiton, Legion of the Damned, Assassins to name but a few. I much prefer paper codexes and really wish they'd release all the WD and smaller digital material in compendium format to make life easier. As for Sisters and Inquisition, I wouldn't be at all surprised if updated rules, codex and models are due in the next 18 months. For now thought we've been treated to not just a Harlequin codex, but also a long-anticipated 40k AdMech book in the form of Codex Skitarii as well as the first proper chaos God book in the form of Khorne Daemonkin.

There are of course some issues with the codex formats in that the 6th edition books lack some key features. No datasheets/formations/detachments/missions, the lack of lords of war and datacards etc. It's a shame that GW doesn't simply release some WD issues with formations, detachments and missions plus release datacards and an FAQ to rejig which slots DTs and Lords of War fall into. Might happen but doubt it. Another issue with the model range is that some models still in use (looking at you Ragnar) are two decades old and in desperate need of an update.

In conclusion, whereas this time last year we knew pretty much what there was to come in terms of books needing a hardback update, the way forward is now clouded. While in one sense GW have brought about a sense of uniformity to the game, by adding in codex supplements, digital-only dataslates and codexes, mini-army codexes, WD dataslates and campaign supplements, the game is more all over the place than ever before. This makes it even harder to predict whether or not GW will stick to an established pattern or once again go off on a tangent as far as releases are concerned. Will we only get model updates for armies with campaign supplements from now on? Will codexes be updated from 6th edition any time soon? How many new mini-army codexes are due? Will Sisters and Admech finally get the love they (and we) so badly need? With WD release schedules we literally are venturing into the unknown on an almost weekly basis now. The next codex may only be a week away for all we know, but with such uncertainty comes speculation and excitement (and a bruised wallet) like never before. Kudos to GW, they certainly know how to push our buttons.

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