Friday, July 13, 2012

Aww Battlefront... Why'd You Go And Do That?

by Sandwyrm

Given that I'm always comparing Battlefront to GW, and crowing about the lower price of playing their game, I would be remiss if I didn't comment on something Battlefront just did that I don't care for at all. Particularly as it will reduce what I saw as a healthy competition between manufacturers of Flames-compatable miniatures.

Now historically (so I'm told), Battlefront didn't have any sort of policy about who's WWII miniatures you brought to their events. The only thing the local vets I've talked with have told me is that if you win Best General or Best Painted at an official event with an army containing non-BF miniatures, you'll be given credit for the win, but no pictures of your army will be published by BF in any of their publications.

Fair enough. I can understand and accept that. It's their party.

But that enlightened policy, I'm sure, predated the rise of The Plastic Soldier Company and it's rapidly expanding catalog of REALLY low-cost releases. If I mail-order a box of 5 Panthers from PSC in England, it costs the same as 3 BF Panthers. If I buy them retail from my local store, it's only a little more than the cost of 2 BF tanks. At that price, who cares if BF's models are all unique sculpts with exacting detail? I can buy a bottle of liquid greenstuff to add my own Zimmerment to PSC's models and be quite happy with the result (I've even tested it).

So, while BF has been making great strides in improving it's resin quality (to justify it's higher prices), I'm sure PSC is cleaning their clock whenever they have a model available to substitute for a BF one. I wonder if their current policy of toleration is reaching it's limits because there's fewer winning armies that they can take photos of to promote their events and the game in general.

Who knows.

But Battlefront, instead of moving more lines to plastic to compete with PSC on price (which they should be able to do with their volumes), has decided to only allow BF models at their official BF-run events for the next tournament season.

Here's the relevant blurb, minus the list of official events:
The final change we are making is that from the new season all the events we run with will be only allowing Battlefront miniatures to be used. This is bound to cause some debate, so let me be clear as to why we have chosen to go down this path. Joe, Gareth and our events cost a great deal of money to run: a little over a quarter of a million American dollars this year alone. And, although it seems childish to draw a line in the sand and say, “If you want to play at our events and support the FOW hobby, you should not be bringing other people’s models along,” it is absolutely that simple. Our business is a business and we want Flames Of War to grow; we intend to give it the best support we can, but this support has a cost.
Ok, so they've made a business decision to do this. I can even understand it. But here's the problem:

I like PSC's models!

They're not just cheaper, but (I believe) that they are of higher overall quality as well. I say this because I prefer to buy and work with plastic when I'm modeling stuff. I have a number of BF tanks and vehicles of various sorts and most of them have casting issues due to them being resin.

Yes, they're more 'detailed' than PSC stuff, with many unique bits on each sculpt. But many of my tanks, particularly my PzII's, are subtly (and not so subtly) warped and twisted in odd ways. While the plastic PSC tanks have nice, clean lines. The difference annoys me.

With PSC, I also don't have to deal with lead gun barrels and side-skirts that bend in transport and then break off or never quite get straight again when I try to bend them back; as happened to one of my AA half-tracks just last week. the only fix for that is going to be replacing the barrel with some brass rod and green-stuffing the flaring at the end. Not fun.

So Battlefront, I'm at an impasse. Overall I like your company. I really like your game. Contrary to my expectations, I even like your tournament system (mostly). But you're making me choose between buying what I consider to be an inferior product, or not attending any BF-run national events such as the ones at Adepticon.

Not cool!

If you remember, I broke down the cost of my 1625 Mid-War list not too long ago. Here's a recap:
26.00 - 1 Box of PSC Panzer IV's (5 tanks)
26.00 - 1 Box of PSC Panzer III's (5 tanks)
23.00 - 1 Blister of BF Shützen Platoon (9 stands of Infantry, you need 4 for this list)
12.50 - 1 Blister of BF Motorcycles (4) with Sidecars (I used Kübels, but these are cheaper and work identically.)
26.00 - 1 Box - BF DAK Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Platoon
25.00 - 2 Blisters of BF Armored Sd/Kfz 10/5 (2cm) AA Half Track
Total: $138.50

And here's what it would be if you only buy Battlefront models:
50.00 - 4 BF Panzer IV G's
62.50 - 5 BF Panzer III N's
23.00 - 1 Blister of BF Shützen Platoon (9 stands of Infantry, you need 4 for this list)
12.50 - 1 Blister of BF Motorcycles (4) with Sidecars (I used Kübels, but these are cheaper and work identically.)
26.00 - 1 Box - BF DAK Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Platoon
25.00 - 2 Blisters of BF Armored Sd/Kfz 10/5 (2cm) AA Half Track
Total: $199.00

So that same list (if you aspire to playing in future national events and not just local tournaments) will now cost you an additional $60.00. To change over my list by replacing my PSC Panzers with BF ones, it will cost me $112.50 (and the time to paint them). I'll have to decide if playing in the nationals is worth it. Right now, I'm not sure it is. At least for my current Mid-War collection that's already been bought and painted.

So rejoice, GW fans, in one very real strength of 40K. Since GW has given up on running it's own events, they can't dictate whose models you can bring to the big national tournaments anymore. It took time to come together, but I really do think that GW's ambivalence about running events did result in a superior tournament scene once the competitive community decided to step up and make it work properly. Maybe this policy change will enable an independent tournament scene to take root in the Flames community. We'll see, I guess. :)

 BTW: CaulynDarr deserves credit for posting on this first. He's got an interesting thesis to consider too.

Edit: Here's a forum post someone saved an image of from last year. This is where the ruined expectations come from. John Paul is ex-GW and one of the founders of BF.

UPDATE: The policy has been revised to a >50% ratio of BF to Non-BF minis. Here's the statement:
"In all the years we have been in business we have had an open and honest policy about listening to our gamers and genuinely taking their views on board to the extent of sometimes changing our plans. We apologise for the confusion and angst our announcement has caused as it was never our intention. We did not see this change as a big problem as we were simply formalising something we already thought was existing practise, albeit informally.

In the interests of compromise and fairness to everybody’s opinion we will change the word “all” to “majority” (meaning over half) in the tournament rules for the 2013 season. Although we were not clear enough about this last week we did not consider die cast planes, scratch built models or objectives (assuming they are the right size), terrain or models we do not currently make to be covered by this. As is always the case, if you are unsure simply get in touch with your tournament organiser and clarify the situation but we are going to revert to the best option in all cases, common sense.

The new season rules take effect from the masters in December this year and only apply to the officially run Battlefront tournaments listed on our site. Independent tournaments are free to choose their own system, as they always have been.

One of the feedback ideas that did come back from our weekend conversations that we really liked was to also further reward people who came along with 100% Battlefront armies. This is an idea that we will definitely work on for the future.
We are committed to supporting and growing the Flames Of War hobby and want to invest more in the future, in events, the website and programs like the Rangers all of which we are happy to spend money on to provide this to you for free.
We want to thank our moderators for doing such a sterling job this weekend especially given they had no warning at all. We appreciate all the civil comments whether for or against. We feel that our compromise shows that we believed all views have merit. We hope this once again proves that we do listen.
~ Pete, John & John-Paul."
Good for them!


  1. I've been reading this on the WWPD forums all day, and mulling over what I want to say about it.

    I'm disappointed.

    It looks like a lot of community is against this change from BF.

    It means in part I won't collect that early War army I was thinking of, since BF doesn't carry all the models I would need anymore.

    There's a lot of down to this. I wish they would have boosted tourney admission to cover their 'costs', rather than demand only their models.

  2. So then does this mean that as BF gets bigger they have to change their business model more like someone else to maintain their success???????? Hmmmm......

    1. Well, I don't think that they HAVE to. But the same incentives are there to do so. Privateer is proof of that.

      Of course, of the 3, GW is the only one that's publicly held. It's a rare company that can hold on to their ideals after that happens.

  3. I can see a bit of system shock coming from a change like this, but I can't honestly say that I don't feel it makes sense. If I were a company putting out not only a game (plenty of work enough), but running tournaments and providing prize support (not sure on the support provided, but again, running a tournament is a league of its own), I would want some return on the investment.

    Shoot, I'd want it if I wasn't a company. I don't even see it as, like they say, a childish "to play with us..." scenario. It's simple business sense.

    True, costs of tournaments could be increased, but how much would they have to increase to compare to the dollars earned in model sales? To make X equal Y, you *may* be looking at a number that no one would be willing to pay.

    Of course, the points on model quality and availability are spot on. Availability, I would hope, will be increasing, otherwise they're basically negating unit choices by not having said models out. Quality... well, that's its own beast entirely. I'm not a huge fan of resin myself. I panic-bought 2 more Hive Guard so I could get them in metal (and a tad cheaper) when GW made the switch.

    Is BF requiring a 100% "our stuff" guide? Or are they going the "50%+" route? If kitbashing is allowed, then that's at least a way to mitigate some of the worse sculpts.

  4. The stated policy would seem to indicate 100% BF or else.

    I think what's also biting them in the arse is that for 10+ years now they've explicitly told everyone that you can bring anyone's models to a tournament. It was a selling point that they pushed as a core ideal of theirs. Supposedly, they even reaffirmed this policy just a month or so ago. So they're getting hit with the "LIAR!!!" stick now for going back on their word.

  5. I don't play the game (yet), but if I had to put money down on a probable outcome, I'd say a drastic drop in participation in 'their' events. That should cause an increase in the 'not their' events, I would think. Dunno - all supposition.

  6. This is actually an opportunity! Other parties can now start running non-sanctioned events allowing any models, and have an edge over BF events. Start now, and grow your event, and you could be the next Adepticon.

    1. That's the silver lining in the cloud.

      Independent events could do for Flames what they've done for 40K. Get rid of the soft scores and degree-of-win stuff that are holdovers from the founder's time at GW and really push the format forward. BF's current system is better than GW's old one (because the core rules are tighter and better balanced), but it's still not ideal.

  7. Kind of disappointing for me... On one hand as it happens I have a fully BF army with my Paratroopers, but this really does make any thought of picking up a bunch of armor far less appealing...

    But then, not a lot of folks playing locally at the Gopher yet... And while going the GW/PP route on their tournaments is probably the right business decision, not having ever played in one I can't say whether it would be worth it to have a sanctioned vs. unsanctioned tournament... I can't really see it working in the CU area at least... :-) Too many of us rebels I guess...

  8. Vote with your feet... In their own words, "it really is as that". Everyone understands that BF is a business, but they are a business with competition, and you, as a consumer are not tied to them. They should earn and win your support - not demand it through restrictions.

    1. I agree.

      In the end, this change won't affect my purchasing decisions very much, except to postpone for a bit my purchases of a book and some models that I was pretty excited about in favor of assembling and painting the models that I already have first.

      The bad (and also good) part of this, is that this decision removes the 'end game' from my competitive plans and will force me to look to independent events instead.


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