You gotta hand it to Games Workshop

There. I said it. They’re on a roll lately! Will we be lining up outside the stores once again? There have been a number of pretty cool things happening over the last few months, and it seems to have the haters scrambling a little.

Without getting into too much detail, here are some highlights: the new format for Warhammer Fest seems to have been a hit, their bold new brand testing for storefronts raised eyebrows, Fantasy Battles is buzzing again with the End Times, campaigns look like they’re here to stay in 40K, and splash releases opened the doors wide to new possibilities.

One might have cause to wonder, briefly, what’s in the water over at Games Workshop HQ?

What are they doing right?

For starters, even though there’s a lot of talk about how they don’t do market research (taken out of context, IMO), they seem to be giving the community things they’ve wanted for a long time. We wanted more releases, faster, and we got them. We wanted a more meaningful event that wasn’t just a bunch of gaming tables, sales booths, and Golden Demon, and we got it. We wanted some attention for the Fantasy brand that many of us remember fondly but struggle to play, and we got it. And okay, nobody was asking for the Warhammer shop signs, but it DOES show they’re paying attention and trying new things which we ALL asked for.

EDIT: The day after I write this post, Games Workshop adds FREE-to-download rules for the new Tyranid big bugs to the Black Library page. FREE. RULES. What is going on here?

What’s the catch?

Of course, we also asked for a halt to the ever-increasing prices. Many of us asked for better, more balanced rules and, arguably, we may or may not be getting that with a new rulebook released so soon after the last one, and a series of oft-derided codexes that seem to be adding a better sense of balance at the expense of flavor and variety. I guess we should be careful what we ask for after all.

I don’t think competitive gamers will ever be totally cool with everything that GW does. For better or worse, they’re just not the target market right now. Other systems cater to them better, and that seems to be fine with most people. There seems to be an effort to make the books a little better, but I get the sense that it’s too little, too late. Some of the rest of us beer-and-pretzels gamers seem to be a bit put out by the loss of some unique fun and flavor, but fair and balanced rules are better for everyone in the long run and it doesn’t matter all that much to me since I so rarely game.

I am, personally, very much a casual gamer. Most of the changes in the hobby overall really excite me. On top of that, I think the interactive iBooks are really cool, as well as all the games and apps that have come out. They might not all be my cup of tee, but the schoolboy in me still gets all giddy when I see Space Wolf selected as an Apple Editor’s Choice app in iTunes. It just feels like this hobby is coming into its own and making smart choices.

What’s got me so excited?

Now, let me touch briefly on a couple things that I think are super exciting. First, the Tyranid release. I don’t play nids. Well, I haven’t for a very long time anyway. What’s I like, though, is this release (which looks like a 3 week window at this point) has more models in it than the Dark Eldar release did, and that one came with a codex. This splash-release, with no new book at all, includes a new big bug combo kit that can make two different types of units, a new combo kit that either makes one big drop pod bug or a smaller pod and a floating mine, and also a combo kit that makes 3 Zoanthropes or Venomthropes, and includes options for a special upgrade called the Neurothrope. And it’s not just quantity. What’s in this release is newsworthy for other reasons.

The first two big bugs were lackluster, and certainly not game changers. At that point I thought it was just a little housekeeping since they had these kits designed already and wanted to get them out the door. Then, the drop pod was announced. The Tryannocyte replaces a unit that was removed from the nids codex previously, and has set the community on fire with excitement. New army lists are now possible, new styles of play, and all the sudden people are saying they have a competitive army again.

It’s cool that people are excited about the Tyranids, but I’m excited about what this means for other armies.

All the units that had been removed from various codexes now look like they could be back. In fact, there’s already a rumor that Asdrubeal Vect could be a splash release sooner rather than later. Who knows what other armies could get? The next campaign book may have anything from new Astra Militarum tanks or fliers to an entire Sisters of Battle army reboot, on top of the rumored Necron and Blood Angels books.

TL;DR — to summarize

Basically, anything goes right now. Games workshop has been surprising a lot of people with big new releases, and now the future looks bright. Nobody is ruling out the wildest ideas, because we saw what just happened in Fantasy. Amazing models, major story-line changes, etc. A little of that excitement in 40K might just get people back on board. Let’s be honest, we all really WANT Games Workshop to thrive and continue providing us with more and better toys. Right?

What’s got you excited? Do you see a bright future or are you still jumping ship and letting your Citadel models collect dust while you have fun with Infinity or something else?

Comment below!