End of an Historical Era
It’s that time of year again. The nights are growing longer and colder here in the Southern Hemisphere, meanwhile in Nottingham, Games Workshop are preparing for their annual price rise. Yeah, this isn’t exactly news. Everyone knew it was coming and, as expected, the usual places are aflame with people declaring it as the end of the gaming world, cursing Games Workshop, and declaring they’ll never buy another GW product ever again. Just like the do every year.
What has mostly gone unnoticed, however, is another announcement from Games Workshop: Warhammer Historical is no more. That’s it, all gone, tutto finito as my grandfather used to say. As far as I’ve seen, no reason has been given for the closure, and I wouldn’t expect one either. Games Workshop aren’t exactly good when it comes to communicating with the public.
On the surface, it was inevitable that this would happen. Except for a couple of special pieces, they only products produced for the line were rule books, and the only place you could purchase these books was from Games Workshop’s website. For some reason they didn’t want to sell the books in stores. I can understand that they might not want to sell the books in their own stores when they done make any models to go with them, but missing out on the sales from stores that do sell suitable models seems crazy.
We could speculate about why Warhammer Historicals closed down. Was it only a matter of time after most of the people who started it left the company? Was Games Workshop unable to see a way to monetise the game to a sufficient level? Was there too much competition from other companies? All of these are possible reasons, but it’s most likely the second that is closest to the truth. Ultimately, all this speculation is meaningless. Warhammer Historicals is gone, the IP isn’t being moved on to another company. It is, if you excuse the pun, history.
All is not lost, though. Historic wargaming existed long before Games Workshop came along (H.G. Wells was playing them 100 years ago), and it will live long past the company’s demise. What Games Workshop did was introduce it to a new generation of gamers. There was a time when historic wargamers were thought of as older men in tweed jackets arguing about the minutiae of infantry marching formations during the English Civil War, but Games Workshop has helped change that. It’s now much easier for anyone to gather some models and have some fun, whether they’re reenacting a famous battle from history, or coming up with their own story (e.g. the Viking invasion of feudal Japan). And hey, they might even learn something while doing it.
On the back of this, new companies have started up to support the hobby. As Games Workshop did before them, they have also come up with their own house rules for playing games with the miniatures they sell. The hobby has grown considerably and started to expand into the realm of plastic production. One of the companies leading this charge is Perry Miniatures, run by Alan and Michael Perry (ex-GW staff, and the founders of Warhammer Historical), which produces ranges of high quality plastic Napoleonic figures. Another of the major players in this market are Warlord Games, who produce figures for many eras from Ancient right through to World War II. They also have their own rules penned by Rick Priestly (another GW and Warhammer Historical alum), and don’t show any signs of slowing down. Stop me if you’re starting to see a pattern here.
Fans of Warhammer Historical’s Legends of the Old West skirmish game should not despair, either. While not as popular as historical wargaming, the old west is gaining some ground, buoyed by the popularity of TV shows like Hell on Wheels and games like Red Dead Redemption. In fact, I mentioned one such game recently: Blackwater Gulch. While not as developed as LotOW, Blackwater Gulch is catching up fast, and best of all it comes with its own model range that includes lawmen, outlaws, natives, and Mexican banditos. The rules are also a bit more straight forward than Games Workshop’s ‘Strength vs Toughness’ system, which leads to faster and more furious games.
While I’m on the topic of alternate games, I should also mention that Mantic Games have a Kickstarter going for Kings of War. The reason for the Kickstarter is to raise money to help speed up the release of their new few armies. To say this project has been a success is an understatement. It’s only a few days old and is already well on its way to reaching 600% of the original target. The project’s reward structure is a little confusing and limited, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the fans from getting on board. Personally, I’m tempted, but I’d like to see what their new werewolf models will look like before I put down any money for them. It’s not that I don’t trust the quality, I’d just like to see how they’re presented.
So there we have it, Warhammer Historical is no more, but the hobby is far from dead. This is just another case of Darwinism at work. Ultimately, few tears will be shed, nor will many gamers even notice.