A quick past today following the recent announcements out of privateer Press for 2013.
A new faction! – the cult of cysis is the new faction for warmachine and will come released with a battle engine and colossal as per the other factions, though apparently lacking cavalry on release. Those that read the fiction form the game are pretty happy with this, they are a dastardly evil cult that put souls of their men into machines. I was shocked at their release as a faction as they were always sold to us in the fiction as having low numbers and being more of a background thing then a major combatant, though having infernal’s as a faction would have been worse as it probably would have gone against the fiction. So the whole army is clockwork robots of various sizes, powered by the souls of men. I guess they wont give cryx corpse token when killed by will give off souls so they will be interesting from a game perspective once released. The aesthetics are ok, but are not wowing me just yet – im expecting their colossal may change my mind? I think its called the alpha omega or something along those lines.
Pp also announced a new card game that looks interesting as well as new tournament formats that whilst I will run events this year, wont have a major impact on me from a hobby perspective. The big news for me was a Warmachine Anthologies book. What this will contain is anyone’s guess but I hope it will be some kind of epic tome covering fluff, model releases and with my fingers crossed Karchev the terrible will go epic and they will put his body into a conquest …. Though perhaps my eyes are bigger then my belly but hey I may as well hope for what I am wanting!
Id also like to make mention of this particular model:
Why? Not only it is amazing but it sees the return of something ive been wanting – scenic bases for epic warcaster models. So +1 fr PP there, I hope they keep this up and give us more epics on sexy bases like this one.
On a side, the new faction is already being abbreviated as CoC … now sure if that’s really a good abbreviation but its kind of funny if you have a filthy mind like I do.
A few years ago my mate Jason and I adapted the rules from one game to suit warhammer because we wanted to have a game but did not want to pay for, and learn new complex rules, plus it means allowing some of our old models to become redundant and not being used. To cut that long story short it was a small success and we went away from it having learnt that there is a better way to play wargames and working on our own rules is fun. For me I took away something a bit more, inspiration. The following week I spent my lunch hours working on a set of rules to make the game even better as we found some things that didn’t work as well as we would have liked. I eneded up calling the rules set generica because I had successfully designed a set of rules that would work across game systems and would not only allow you to use old army lists for warhammer but would also allow for historical vs warhammer or warmachine vs warhammer… you get the idea. I had mathematical conversion rules for basic stats but otherwise core model rules could remain unchanged.
Fast forward and im now fatter, balder and have far less spare time on my hands. In the interim I have had another daughter born, got married and bought a house. I shelved the project with some ideas scrawled on some note pad paper for what I could do with them, firtst off was to release it as a book and how I didn’t get sued for IP infringement, the other was to launch my own game system with them and I planed out the basic armies, what the starter sets would look like and what add on expansion units I thought were good ideas.
Without giving away exactly what it is, I can now reveal that I have not only got two artists working on design and scupts for the project but I also have my first fully sculpted miniature here in my hot hairy hands ready to be cast. My ambition and ideas have got the better of me and im going to go forwards slowly and affordably but forward none the less and once im at a point where I have two starter sets, im going to throw it up on kickstarter and see if I can generate any excitement, interest and investment into it.
I want a small Australian wargames company that does good quality, fun miniatures with some good old fashioned business ideology. But im learning quickly, compromise and stress seem to be standing in the way of my dream from time to time and its become a small side job – but one I am enjoying. Who knows, perhaps one day I can do this for a living but for now I need to be realistic and look at getting this idea out of my system and into something that I can make, market and sell.
What I am also finding interesting is that what I think is good isn’t always what others agree with, with one of my designs ive had a mix if reactions from someone who was blown away to someone who thought it was necessary to tell me how to redesign elements of the miniature. Thankfully if the money I have spent on this is wasted and no one buys it then at least I can hold my head high and say that I gave it a honest go, because of this I have the mentality that I can do things my way and if someone does not like it then they don’t need to pay money for it…. Obviously that won’t work once the ‘business’ (being optimistic here) is up and running and I have creative people arguing over simple things like how a models helmet should look. I don’t envy the likes of Matt Wilson or Adam Poots who have to manage these kinds of personalities, though thankfully for me its not a huge stretch from what I do in my professional life now working as a health services manager at as mental health facility.
Right now the greatest challenge is the finding barrier as well as learning who can do what, what casters to use? Do I go 3d or traditional with the sculpting? Do I cast my rather large miniature I have here ready to go in resin or white metal? Can I realistically sell a miniature with a $10 cost to me to get it in my hands before I goes on to the customer? Will people pay for the stuff I have had worked on? Can I overcome the little bit of doubt I have to saying yes I know what im doing? Well for my sake and the sake of the amazing bits of work that have already been done I hope im up to the challenge and I hope it pays off! The one thing I do know is that I am enjoying the challenge!
I was in Canberra for a mates engagement party this weekend just gone and had a great time, both because we got away, saw some friends and got to visit shops we rarely get to see. Not even the fact that our 1 year old refused to sleep in Canberra could ruin what was a pretty good escape from the country for a bit over 24 hours.
On my list of places to check out was the two gaming stores in Canberra, one was in the city and the other was way out in the middle of nowhere (at least from a tourists perspective). Having visited both I was left reflecting on a theme that often comes up on the online forums such as Wargamer AU where people strongly argue against gamers buying from online retailers who on the whole (though not always) have far cheaper miniatures. Heavy discounting on miniatures is how they get your business and selling in volume is how they make their money. Ill come back to this point because its pertinent to what I have to say about the stores in Canberra and one in Penrith.
The two stores in Canberra were not quiet but I wouldn’t say they were busy, at least in selling stuff. The one in the city had a number of Magic the Gathering players there playing the game, I was unsure as to if they were paying to sue the space but if they were not then they did not seem to be spending heaps of money on cards. Similarly the other store had people in it but they did not seem to be customers, playing casual games and gossiping… on a side note I was surprised to see girls in the stores as this is a rarity in most of the stores in NSW that I have visited, admittedly they were no supermodels but it was still surprising to see, and welcome.
Both stores in the ACT were charging above US retail for their stock. I bought some miniatures (in blister form) that are going out of production as Privateer Press move to sell all the units at maximum size. My current project has been filling the gaps in my existing collection whilst I still can. This project started last year when the winter guard box set was announced, as well as a cygnar one were they looked to ditch production of the add on blister packs for existing units. In a panic I started buying everything I needed to get my units to their highest allowable size and this presented a few hurdles. One was for the Cygnar trenchers and the other major hurdle was for Menoth Exemplar errants (metal). My main options were to order from PP in America directly at great cost, though still not as high as buying old stock here in Australia. With some determination I started ringing around to see what stores had of what I was after. Defiant Gaming – my usual online retailer was as always a absolute dream to deal with and I have a few items coming from them with the release of the new hordes book next month. Beyond that I resorted to contact the brick and mortar stores as well as a few other online retailers such as games empire who were also helpful and provided a great service. The brick and mortar stores here seem to have a huge contrast in business philosophy to the online retailers and that is the core of today’s post.
Of the two stores in Canberra one had the fables trenchers in blister form for $11ea, above what I expected to pay but I stomached this as I ‘need’ them to finish my cygnar project, likewise they had one of the two blisters of pyg burrowers I was after for the same price. US retail on these is about $8 or $9 and that’s what I roughly would have paid to defiant if they had of had them in stock. Going back to Christmas, I called the Tin Soldier in Penrith who had the exemplar errants I wanted, now these are about $12 retail (or were before they were phased out) so you can imagine my disgust when after playing phone tag with them for a month and in all honesty being given the run around I was asked to pay $18+ per blister, then postage etc… By the time I got to Canberra and paid for my trenchers I was not shocked though disappointed to see them asking $150 for the colossal models that should cost around $120, and one of these stores is the new Australian distributor, though I believe that that arrangement is also almost dead due to other stores ordering directly from overseas so that they can sell the product at a more reasonable rate.
Ordering off ebay stores like the troll trader is also painless and well less then US retail + a small amount of shipping ($5, sometimes less) certainly less shipping then for the tin solder to send me those errants 200km up the road via Australia post. So I bought the errants off the ebay seller and waited … a week to get them, amazingly fast and hassle free. I spent more time haggling and trying to get the tin soldier to sell me the product then I did in waiting for it to show up form over seas. But this is not the major problem with the whole online retailer vs local gaming store debate.
Online stores are run generally by business minded people who know that customer service, price and simple things like being quick to get back to a customer result in them either having high rates of returning customers or if they do some trading via email like defiant do with me, they can up sell and ill usually cough up more money for other things. Defiant also interacts well with its customer base on Facebook, often holding discount promotions and competitions.
Regular stores are generally run or staffed by gamers, and lest face it – a large portion of wargamers, collectable card players and the ‘comic book store types’ do fit the stereotype of having poor people skills, let alone business skills. Case in point, the owner of the tin soldier was never there and when I called and he wasn’t, his staff would complain (rightly so though perhaps not to a customer) that they were in on their day off because he was off playing his x box or some such. Geeks in this hobby also have some weird idea in their head that because a store offers a gaming space that they can charge a premium for you to buy your models from them. Well that’s bad business because what tends to happen is that they go there to use the gaming space and buy form the online retailers who are a good 20%+ cheaper.
There is a myth that online retailers have no overheads and that the retail stores have massive overheads that also justifies the premium you pay to buy models form them, this too is a fallacy. I know for a fact that Defiant gaming has to rent out a rather large warehouse for their stock, furthermore they have staff, electricity bills and so on just as a retail store does… though most retail stores don’t also have to maintain warehouse items such as forklifts and Work Health Safety certifications. I would hazard a guess that the money saved by not having to pay for and maintain a gaming space with wonderful terrain (though im yet to see this be really true of a retailer that isn’t games workshop) should offset the costs incurred by the online retailers who need to sell in high volume to make the same profits (in theory).
Many of the miniatures I saw in the two gaming stores in Canberra had dust on them, that tells you that perhaps they don’t have the product turnover that you’d expect them to given that people are playing in their store and there is the chance for impulse buyers to just grab it off the shelf – a retail stores best weapon against the online retailers. Retail stores without stock are doomed to die, likewise if they can’t move the stock out of the door they are also doomed. The solution? If you cant beat them then join them. Retailers need to get smarter and find ways of discounting the stock so it sells. The reason it isn’t selling isn’t because its more expensive, its because it’s a lot more expensive then the online sellers. If those stores in Canberra were just 2% to 5% more expensive then defiant I may have dropped a few hundred $ in there, instead I got home and mentioned on defiants facebook that I was after some of the crystals that the retailers were selling for more then I expected to pay… now im spending more money then before because ill get it cheap online, they are moving more stock because they are cheaper – and they listened to the customer.
It saddens me to see these stores sit there with untapped business potential because the stores overseas make more money (larger population helps) mostly due to better business models and that means a better store and experience for the customer… and more profit for the owner. I drove home thinking that if Defiant opened a gaming space up at their warehouse then the other two stores would be in serious trouble, perhaps less so for the one that sold regular games such as chess sets and so on, but the one specialising in wargaming miniatures would really have no purpose being there. There is a decent market in Canberra as there is in Sydney – one decent store in either city would make an absolute motza… meanwhile ill keep visiting the stores in the hope that one will have products at a price I am happy to pay and continue waiting for the postman to deliver my models on a weekly basis. And whilst I open my less expensive models (with postage costs) ill keep on reading about the plight of Australian gaming stores on online forums and how people think we should be supporting bad business models instead of the good ones.
My next post should be less of a rant and more content as I get back on track following receipt of my new desktop computer that was preventing me from bogging over Christmas due to my old one sadly bidding me farewell on Christmas day.