This is a follow up to the recent Mini Monday: What is Wrong with this Picture? I shared the post on the Facebook Oldhammer Community. Lots of discussion. Lots of anecdotes.
There’s a story about a gentleman who, as a kid, played wargames on the beach with his friend. They’d build sand castles, then poked holes in the sand to represent troops.
Others used cardboard cut outs to play Warhammer. One said that these were his “best years” in the hobby.
Another shared how the folks at a Games Workshop store to him he couldn’t play until all his miniatures were painted. And yet another wrote how he went to a convention to play Warhammer, but they wouldn’t let him use his homemade catapult and Ral Partha miniatures.
It’s miniature snobbery at its finest.
It’s been around for a long time. And this reminded me of an article, written by Robert Bigelow in Dragon Magazine #179 from way back in March, 1992: “Do You Have to Play with Official Miniatures?”
Bigelow said, “No.”
He’d just attended the WINTER FANTASY convention that January. A young man bought a miniature weapons platfrom from his booth to use in a Warhammer 40,000 game. The young man later returned and asked for a refund. The Warhammer 40,000 league had banned non-Citadel, non-Games Workshop figures.
I later ran into the person running the game, and he admitted that, for his group, the rule on “official” figures fulfilled two goals: 1) it weeded out anyone who couldn’t afford to play “official”; and 2) It put him in special favor with a certain shop that incorporated this type of campaign to build specific customer groups and sales. He explained that it was in his best interest to keep his campaigns going and stop other campaigns that didn’t benefit him.
As any Warhammer veteran can tell you, this is pretty much Games Workshop’s standard operating procedure.
Bigelow also wrote:
Set-ups like that are no more than snob games. Every person that you discourage because they can’t keep up with other gamers’ budgets (and, hence, purchases) [is a, sic] potential loss to the gaming world….
What would happen to people who practice this type of discouragement if no one else in their area could afford to keep up with them? Would their “official” armies be worth anything if they couldn’t find anyone to play “official” games?
It’s been 25 years, so I think we can answer these questions in hindsight.
I’m sure some of those who discouraged others from the hobby by promoting “official” miniatures had their collections collect dust. And they were probably upset out that.
Most, however, found other players. Though, I admit, the ones who lived in areas with larger populations had an easier time of it.
About ten years ago, somebody asked me: “Why is Games Workshop still in business if they treat their customer base this way? Why can’t they just let people use whatever miniatures they want?”
I opened up an issue of White Dwarf and showed him “The Retailer List.” Hundreds of retailers exist in the United States alone sell Games Workshop merchandise. If you live near even modest population you can get your Warhammer fix with fellow gamers.
Other miniature companies: not so much.
Another reason is “snob appeal.”
For every player who buys his Warhammer figures, books, and paints used or at a discount, there’s plenty who’ll think nothing about paying full price, just because they can. It makes them feel good about themselves.
With Games Workshop’s prices alone it should be clear: this is a luxury hobby.
While I disgree (perhaps even despise) some of GW’s businesses practices, they’ve set the standard and they’re target.
Telling “no” to somebody who might not, or choose not, to afford the hobby might hurt. Yet now that person knows where they stand.
And therefore they make their own, better informed choice, to continue or not.
It still hurts, thought, to experience that kind of ostracism and can (and has) caused long-term bitterness toward, and within, the hobby.
(Of course, if you buy “official” miniatures even if really can’t afford them they’ll take your money anyway…)