Friday, January 23, 2015

Playing Monopoly

(Monopoly is a Parker Brother game. Image from worldofmonopoly.com)


As gamers we’ve all busted out that board before, scrambled to get the token we want before anyone else grabbed it, and even had arguments whether there should be a pot of cash associated with Free Parking (there shouldn’t, you damn heretics), but we’re not here to chat about the game that is the epitome of Ameri-trash gaming and the Objectivists' ideal of the American Economy. We’re gonna talk about the Evil Empire. Big Brother. The game company we all love to hate: Games Workshop.
And we’re going to consider it from a strictly economic point of view. 

Caveat: I am not an economist. I like economic theory. There are folks who get paid relatively well to be economists and they can probably explore and expound on the points I’m touching on here in much greater detail. The goal of this article is to provide a soup├žon of information and have fun doing it. 

So, from a microeconomics point of view, GW’s business model (at least until very recently) was almost a perfectly pure monopoly. Consider the characteristics of a monopoly:
  • One seller of a good without a close substitute
  • High barriers to entry
  • Significant market power
Taking a look at these individually reveals just how close to a monopoly GW’s business model is.

One Seller of a Good without a Close Substitute
This is the one that skews the curve a bit. While they distribute through game stores, via their own retail spaces, and though their own web store, products for Games Workshop games are only produced by GW itself which meets the criteria for a monopoly. 

There are close substitutes (alternate models from Mantic, MaxMini, Kromlech, etc.) and other games you can play (Malifaux, Warmachine, Flames of War, etc.), which is why back in the day GW had the thou shalt have no other models in your 40k army than GW models commandment in place at tournaments and in their stores. Why would you even give another company a chance to steal your customers? You wouldn’t. It’s just not good business.

And I believe we’ve all seen GW make the argument that there is no close substitute for the GW Hobby Experience™. Again, this is a way to protect their share of the market and reinforce the message that the best GW fans only play with GW products.

High Barriers to Entry
This doesn’t refer to the prices we have to pay to pick up a new set of space marines, it refers to the challenge a new company has if they wanted to start production at the same scale as GW. Over the past decade we’ve seen upstart companies (Privateer Press, Wyrd, Battlefront, and others) begin to cut into GW’s market share, but they’ve done it by starting small and slowly building their business.
Again, there is a bit of a technicality in that someone with sufficiently deep pockets could swoop in and set up a competing company, but the investment would be pretty large and probably privately financed as getting shareholders to invest would be difficult (but not impossible).

Significant Market Power
This is where GW really looks like a monopoly. The only way to buy their product on the internet is via their web store (caveat: and eBay where they have no control at all, but eBay is kinda the wild west of retail anyway).
As a brick and mortar independent retailer there are really only two ways to carry GW product:

  • Through a rather egregious GW trade agreement that limits what you can actually stock.
  • Purchase GW product through a distributor at less of a discount.

God forbid if, as one of their trade accounts, you don’t play ball the way that they want you to, you’ll be cut off tout de suite.

GW also sets and controls the market price on products by releasing a limited amount of product (special releases, limited editions, etc.) ensuring that the customer must deal directly with them for certain product. The only organizations that fit the standards of a monopoly better than Games Workshop are OPEC and De Beers, and GW should only wish that the aftermarket for its product was as drastic as the resale value of diamonds (which typically drop in value by 50% the second you step out of the store and are usually only reach a resale value of 35% at best).  (Marketplace, 2013)
“The next time you look at a diamond, consider this. Nearly every American marriage begins with a diamond because a bunch of rich white men in the 1940s convinced everyone that its size determines your self worth. (sic) They created this convention - that unless a man purchases (an intrinsically useless) diamond, his life is a failure - while sitting in a room, racking their brains on how to sell diamonds that no one wanted.” (Dhar, 2013)

Sound like anyone we know?

So What Can We Do?
As the consumer, there’s not a lot we can do with regard to GW’s business practices that we’re not already doing: voting with our feet and our dollar. Some hobbyist and gamers find that other games like Warmachine, Hordes, or Malifaux scratches the wargaming itch just fine. Others cut back on their purchases, or seek out substitute miniatures for their GW armies. 

Other game companies are also cutting into the pie that is wargames spending as well. Many wargamers have started playing games like X-Wing and Attack Wing, and while some wargaming purists don’t consider X-Wing or Attack Wing a miniature wargame, I would challenge you to find a group playing either that isn’t interacting in the same manner as a deep game of Warhammer or 40k.
Additionally, you can keep playing GW games and making your weekly purchases knowing that you contribute in some small way to their business model. 

In the end, the best action you can take is to follow the basic assumption of all economic principles: being an informed and intelligent consumer.  

References:

Dhar, R. (19 Mar, 2013). Diamonds are bullshit. priceonomics.com. [Web page]. Retrieved from http://blog.priceonomics.com/post/45768546804/diamonds-are-bullshit.

Marketplace. (22 Feb, 2013). Diamonds are not a jewel of investment. [Web page]. Retrieved from http://www.marketplace.org/topics/business/diamonds-are-not-jewel-investment.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

So It's Been A While...

And by a while, I mean exactly 2 years to the date. Gah! So let's take a look at some stuff I've been working on. Mostly Malifaux.

Here are some pics from Adepticon 2014. I played in the Malifaux Masters tournament with an Arcanist crew. I didn't place, but it was fun to play with a variety of folks from around the U.S.!



This Fall, I started working on a special character for Malifaux called The Carver. Here are a couple of WIP shots:



It's been a fun character piece to paint, which is one of the things I really like about Malifaux.

And here are some of the most recent things I've been working on, Von Schill's Freikorps. Essentially the biggest, baddest mercenary force in Malifaux.



Above is Hannah's mechanized suit. I did a little bit of converting with the pipes and tubing off the central body and the boiler. Below is Hannah temporarily tacked into place to get an idea of positioning. 

Yeah, she's the librarian. Seriously.

Here is the Steam Trunk. It's notoriously fiddly to get assembled, particularly the top of the trunk and the tracks on both sides. Instead of posing mine with the lid barely open, I wanted to show off all the detail inside of it, and since the Freikorps are a mercenary force, I figured they'd know all about bad guys on the lam.




 Finally, we've got the man himself, Von Schill. At this point, I've done some basic work on the fatigues, and I need to get his armor and weapons, leather, flesh and hair finalized.



This isn't by far anywhere close to ALL the stuff I've been working on, but I wanted to at least take a small step toward getting back in the habit of posting fun gaming stuff. As usual, comments, questions, and critiques are welcome!

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Crusade of Fire, Week 3 - Hunting the Wolves


The howling frozen winds of Alfrost swept away the smell of decay and rot. Eres Imunditious stood on the frozen ridge overlooking the valley below.

In the half light, the armor of the Imperial whelps blended into the blue-gray ice. If his eyes were the ones he had been born with, he would probably never have seen the mewling fools that called themselves the Sons of Russ.

ah Leman Russ…

Imunditious thought back to the foolish Grand Crusade. He remembered when the Death Guard and the Space Wolf legions shattered the last defenses of the Vitigian Theocracy. The implacable advance of the Death Guard supported by the wild charges of the Wolves destroyed even the illusion of escape for the defenders. Mortarion and his Curatrix smashed open the nave of the Theocracy's Ecclastellum, and the Theocrat was run down and slain by Leman Russ as Vitigia was bloodily brought back into the Imperial fold.

He remembered how later that night Russ caroused through the bivouac, creating a moving victory party that swept up all it encountered. He remembered how Russ sang and drank, and how he laughed with scorn at the dirgesongs of Barbarus. How he told everyone that living on Fenris was the true measure of an Imperial man, and how his drunken revelry swung from belligerent drinking contests to open weeping when he heard some puerile skald sing a tale of the wolf homeworld.

Imunditious felt the frozen skin on his lips crack as he smiled. Ten millennia and the memory of a drunken, weeping Leman Russ still brought a smile to his face. He turned and gestured to the sorcerer, Ulceratio Taint.

“Bring them through from the warpkage. Let us hunt wolves this night…”

For this battle, the Space Wolves were defending their starport on the planet of Alfrost. We agreed on 1500 point forces, and the special rules for the campaign meant that any dangerous terrain tests caused a wound on a roll of a 1 or a 2, and no weapons could "get hot". We didn't have an iceworld board to play on, so storywise my Death Guard is attacking the Space Wolves near the equatorial tundra.

The mission rolled was "Purge the Alien" and the deployment rolled was a Vanguard Strike. The primary objective for this mission means that you get a Victory Point for each unit destroyed. Since Joseph brought 11 units (including the transports) and I only six (with my Lord and Terminators in reserves), I would start the battle outnumbered two to one.

The Wolves won the roll for first turn, and set up with a free Skyshield platform. Joseph was running a Runepriest, three Long Fang squads (all with missle launchers, ooph!) two Grey Hunter squads (with meltas), three Dreadnoughts (assault cannons and missle pods), a Landspeeder Typhoon, and five Razorback transports for all the marines (two with twin-linked assault cannons and three with las-plas combo). It looked like this:

The dreads are parked up under the skyshield and two squads of Long Fangs are deployed in the building.

The fact that the Wolves had 19 missile launchers aimed my way from the get go didn't bode well for my chances.

I was running a chaos sorcerer (mastery level 3) attached to a six man Plaguemarine squad, a seven man Plaguemarine squad (with plasmaguns), a Helbrute (with a twin-linked lascannon), a seven man unit of Havocs (yay four autocannons), and a lascannon heavy Predator. My force was set up on the opposite corner of the board and looked like this:

If you're thinking "There's not a lot there." You'd be right.

You can see the sorcerer's squad on the ground floor, and the Havocs on the upper levels.

Nurgle was obviously smiling on me (or maybe it was just gas), but I won the roll to seize the initiative and took the first turn. My initial plan was to get across the table as fast as possible with my two Plaguemarine squads and fire up the las/plas Razorbacks. I figured if I could get across fast enough, I might be able to roll up the flank, assault the Long Fangs in the building, and keep it between me and the Runepriest, Dreadnoughts, and Grey Hunters.

In my initial salvo, my Helbrute and Predator was able to kill two of the Razorbacks, but my Plaguemarine squads were trapped out in the open and it was time for retaliation.

Hot lascannon and missle vengence from the Space Wolves
I had moved the sorcerer's squad out in front of the building during my first turn, but the Space Wolves were having none of that. Three squads of Long Fangs fired 15 krak missles into the squad killing four of Nurgle's finest, and forcing me to pull them back into the cover of the building during the next turn.

Even though the sorcerer was pretty much out of the game, having a psychic mastery level of three did mean that I was able to sit in cover and shut down almost all of the Runepriest's psychic attacks during the game.

Dreadnoughts on the march!
During the next few turns the Space Wolves tried repeatedly to destroy the Chaos Predator that racked up an impressive number of kills (two Razorbacks, two Dreadnoughts and a couple of Long Fangs). Additionally, the Havocs took minimal casualties and eliminated the Typhoon and a Dreadnought.

And on Turn Three, this happened:

Hooray for Deep Striking with no deviation! 

Admittedly, I couldn't charge, and neither my bolters nor my Reaper Autocannon did any damage to the Long Fangs on the Skyshield, but I did set myself up for a charge in Turn Four. I also set myself up for several missile launcher shots to the face (which killed one of my Lightning Claw termies) and a Jaws of the World Wolf psychic power (which slipped past my boosted Deny the Witch roll, killed the other Lightning Claw Termie, but bounced off the Invul saves of my Lord and the rest.)

In my next turn, my Lord charged the Runepriest and killed him right in his wolfy face, and the rest of my terminators put the beatdown on the Long Fangs who broke and fled to the ground, hoofing it to the closest table edge. Staying close enough over the next few turns, my Lord and retinue kept the remainder of the broken squad fleeing even though the Razorbacks with Assault Cannons and the other Long Fang squad did their best to kill them.

In the end, I had only lost my Helbrute and Predator (pretty much the game MVP for killing so much and soaking up so much fire). The Wolves lost three Dreadnoughts, three Razorbacks, a Typhoon, a Long Fangs squad, and the Runepriest. The spaceport of Alfrost now belonged to Nurgle.

The icy wind suddenly dropped to nothing. What had been a howling gale now whimpered across the battlefield. 

Those damned Long Fangs grabbed the Runepriest before Imunditious could take him prisoner. Rolling over the edge of the Skyshield, the whelps executed a brilliant tactical withdrawal into the coming dark. Just like cowardly dogs...

Again, Imunditious smiled. It mattered not. The warpsmith had assured the warlord that the Space Wolf Razorbacks could be recovered and pressed into use as transports for the Praesidio Mors, and some of the pups that survived were already wan and feverish. Their gaunt cheeks and bright eyes told the tale of Nurgle's touch ravaging their superhuman physiques. If they were worthy enough, perhaps they would find some way to serve the Pestilence Lord's designs in the Corvus sector. 

If not? Well, the nurglings must be kept fed. 

Crusade of Fire cover image property of games workshop. Used without permission.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

crusade of fire, week 2 – the relic


ulceratio taint, sorcerer and pox-master, looked up from the rapidly decomposing entrails pulled from the cooling body of the fire warrior. 

“the foul divinations guide us true, eres imunditious. there is a cache of powerful tau weapons hidden on corvus majoris. if we move quickly, we can deny the childling fools an advantage.”

the air within the confines of the warpkage was smoky, hot, and foul. the cloying aroma of sweet incense did nothing to mask the stench of burning blood, ruptured entrails, and foetid rot. time was broken here. ancient screams, new shrieks of raw pain, and despondant whimpers intertwined to create a symphony of anguish and despair. eres imunditious, lord of the sevenfold path, lifted his gaze from the bloodied symbols and twisted intestines to look at the sorcerer. 

“your castings are fortuitous, ulceratio. manipul leprosius and i will advance in the van. 

you will take manipul cholerus and provide support. manipul bubonicus and manipul bonewrack will provide protection on the flanks. tell the warpsmiths to awaken brother pandemicus and brother phage. they will lend their madness and armor to our endeavor. 

we deploy within the hour to secure this cache of weapons, and if we cannot, we will corrupt it thoroughly.” 

ulceratio nodded curtly, “as you command, my lord.” with a gesture, the sorcerer tore the very walls of reality asunder. the image of a shallow valley shimmered through the screaming portal to corvus majoris. “we can depart the warpkage here, lord imunditious. my portal will put us within striking distance of the tau cache.”

"very good, ulceratio. let us teach these foolish children what the greater good means to our lord and master, grandfather nurgle.”


crusade of fire cover image property of games workshop. used without permission.

crusade of fire


so some friends and i have decided to try out the new games workshop 40k campaign ruleset: crusade of fire.

since i have a brand new army for 40k (yay death guard!), i figured i would have some fun getting a some games in, really work to learn the new 6e rules, and hopefully do a bit better than usual (losing game after game).

the first week of the campaign has already taken place and even though i had a challenge against our tau player, neither he nor i were able to get our game in. my coverage of the campaign will pick up in week two.

stay tuned!

crusade of fire image property of games workshop. used without permission.

Monday, December 31, 2012

now that was an awesome gaming x-mas!

i'm a pretty lucky guy because the sadie knows me so well. for x-mas she got me a bunch of stuff, but my favs were these:


needless-to-say, i'm eager for some new year's gaming!

best wishes to you and yours in the new year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

what do we want? a cure for adhd!

when do we want it? oh my god, x-wing starfighters!

it's xxx-mas and like all kids, i get all kinds of excited about new toys and fun stuff to do with the toys i already have.

recently, i've been super excited about ffg's x-wing. so i've decided to make a play mat that's portable to take along with my little mens.

would you believe they're fighting on hoth? no? didn't think so.

the rules suggest a 3'x3' playing area (though you can go with a larger play area for larger point games). i want to keep it basic, so i've decided to stick with a 3'x3' size.

to make your own, you'll need the following:
  • 1 yard of 36" wide cotton duck canvas (3'x3') available at most art supply shops 
  • black gesso (the smallest bottle will be more than enough)
  • skull white or menoth white paint
  • a paint roller and a large bristle brush (games workshop's tank brush works great for this)
  • a drop cloth
  • rubber/nitrile exam gloves
  • paper towels and warm, soapy water (for clean up and in case of spills)
day 1
  1. put down a drop cloth unless you're cool with getting black gesso all over the floor.
  2. lay your canvas out flat on the drop cloth
  3. use the roller to apply the gesso to the canvas and let it dry overnight
i sense the dark side...

definitely use a drop cloth unless you want a rough square outline on your floor.

day 2
  1. you're going to be using the bristles of the large brush to flick paint onto the mat's surface, so put on the rubber gloves unless you're cool with having white paint all over your hands.
  2. load up the brush with paint, then wipe across a paper towel to get all of the thick excess off of it. 
  3. from a height of about a foot from the surface, hold the brush parallel to the mat, and pull your finger across the bristles of the brush allowing it to throw off small points of paint. you may want to try this on a piece of cardboard first so that you know the right amount of paint to have on the brush and how the pattern will appear on the mat.
  4. let the white dry and you're done!
i think the results speak for themselves:

here you can see me trying out the delivery of paint via flick.
despite my best efforts i did have some big drops splat down near one corner.
i carefully blotted them up, then covered them with a couple of coats of gesso.
luke, wedge, and dutch versus vader and elements of black squadron!

as always, comments are welcome!