If You’re Still Alive, My Regrets are Few
Looking back rationally, the money I’ve spent on WFRP seems hugely excessive. I mean, who dumps upwards of $200 on a game just to have enough material to run a couple of sessions? Crazy people, that’s who. I could have had a dozen indie games for the same price to demo, or a two-years-of-bi-weekly-sessions’ worth of modules.
And yet I regularly look at more supplement packs for the game online or at the local game store with a greedy eye.
If FFG has captured nothing else from the original Games Workshop oeuvre (and they have actually captured a lot of other stuff), it’s the ability to create product that preys on the wallets of geeks with extra disposable income and has them coming back for more. In a climate where digital distribution and rampant piracy have caused us to think deeply about the actual cash value of a book, Warhammer is a genre based more on stuff. While much of the rest of the industry is about creating an enjoyable read that you, every once and a while, have to pick up to reference at the table, WFRP is a pile of high-production-value plastic and cardboard that will constantly be moving through your hands and around the table as the game goes on. Kinesthetic appeal is a powerful motivator.
But in a lot of ways, for me, this appeal goes too far. While the draw of getting tangible goods is a siren’s song for my hand-to-credit-card reflex, the consequence is a blow to my limited-time-to-game reality. It literally took me over half an hour to set up my table with all the components in the right spot so that they’d be accessible during play. Sure, with experience that setup time would drop, but never to the same level as most other games: pass out character sheets, pull out dice and notes, make sure rulebooks are in easy reach, and go. As much as greed compels me to buy more WFRP, sloth reminds me how much of a chore it all is.
I suspect there’s a happier middle ground that some other game could hit: a combination of of high-quality components and ease-of-deployment that would create a very successful product that could charge a premium price. And it’s certainly a balance that some of the bigger companies might need to hit to continue to pay salaries. The rise of small teams and small print-runs sold online seems to have largely disrupted the bigger companies and forced them upmarket or out of the industry entirely. You no longer need a large business to produce a high-quality RPG book, but you might still need one to produce what’s effectively a board game/RPG hybrid. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see some more attempts over the next few years.
On it’s own merits, WFRP is a pretty fun game. It seems to do a reasonable job of achieving the style of play it wants, and takes a few risks in design (some successful, some not). My players all really enjoy it. But, at the end of the day, they don’t necessarily enjoy it more than games that are significantly cheaper and faster to set up. So if you’ve got a couple hundred dollars to spend and like Warhammer Fantasy, it’s certainly worth a look. But you’ll probably find your gaming dollar goes further elsewhere.