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June 24, 2013

40K Deep Thought: What is a "Legal" GW Unit?

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It all started with such a simple question: "What I don't understand is whether these supplements are all 'legal' for tournaments, official events and the like..."

Ok, that was the short version. We were having a conversation of upcoming supplemental codices and a reader asked:

What I don't understand is whether these supplements are all 'legal' for tournaments, official events and the like, or are they just for casual pick up games. Could someone clarify for me, please?

And that got the ball rolling.  People scratched their heads, and eventually after all these years of slow, glacial movement by Games Workshop and their player community, it hit us.


It has taken years, and slowly but surely GW has been tip-toeing away from organized play but at long last we've reached a tipping point. The last narrow land bridge between the continents is no more.

Now go back several years...  

There has always been a strong independent circuit of events around the world.  But they existed for years alongside formal GW events centered, or at least partially around the PLAYING of their games.  The most recent (some would say notorious) was good ole 'Ard Boyz.  And what an event that was - no paint required, large armies, and a general vibe of bring the meanest stuff you can.  In was within the Ard Boys incubator that lists such as the Leafblower were born.

But the existence of GW events was always there as a guideline for the IGTs.  Most would tend to go along, or at least head in the same general direction as the GW events - after all it was their game.  folks were happy to follow their lead - which acted somewhat as an equalizer across events.

GW's promotional folks would often hand down prize support to events along with a set of guidelines, including use of GW miniatures and others.  So even indirectly, Nottingham influenced the scene.

Now fast forward to today

GW holds little to no formal tournaments. Their prize support and promotional arm is gone.  The Independent GTs are truly independent.  The few remaining GW Gamesdays are all hobby centric, and focused on selling you Forgeworld and BL books, along with some subtle teases of what you can buy on the shelves next week. For whatever reason, the actual playing of their games' isn't something GW emphasizes any longer at their events. Its the collecting, painting and displaying your minis they are embracing.  Here and there over the last few months you hear the phrase "collector's hobby" popping into GW language.

What's "legal" is now up the community. Basically the TOs of the biggest events have the largest most influential votes on what's considered "legal" or not.  While the biggest events all talk to each other to at least keep tabs on what's going on, each event has it's own voice and 'flavor of the game" for you to play.  Regionalism is back in a big way in Warhammer 40,000. Like Forgeworld? - Find an event that allows it.  Double FOC your thing? - There's an event for that too. Like the Heresy? - Step this way...

I reached a fork in the road...

This philosophy now places GW in a diametrically opposing position to Privateer Press.  Privateer maintains a tight control on exactly what is in their game, sets annual formal rules for competitive play and works hand in hand with the TOs of the big events to ensure competitive play consistency around the globe.  They have a strong set of exhaustively-tested and trained judges who attend the biggest events, and a growing cadre of PressGangers out there supporting and evangelizing at any place you go.  At major 40k IGT events you might see differing rules calls from event to event, or even judge to judge for some sticky issues (remember last year's Njal vs Flyers kerfuffle?).

Games Workshop has little to no presence at the very events that most concentrate their fans, aside from the occasional booth for Forgeworld and Black Library - ever happy to sell you their latest goods.

Interesting paths these two organizations have chosen...  One company continues to scale back events while the other is burdened with geometric growth beyond their expectations.

There are business lessons to be learned  here, as the market is playing out before our eyes.

What do you think is going on?

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