Thursday, 30 December 2004

Foundry antics

[The Miniatures Page]( [announced]( the imminent release of the [Foundry]( Medieval Warfare rules the other day.

For those of you that are not versed in the wily ways of wargame rules, Medieval Warfare is a ruleset produced by Terry L. Gore, of [Saga](, who among other things produce the excellent Saga magazine on medieval and dark age (or early medieval) history. Apart from Medieval Warfare, there is also Ancient Warfare, Renaissance Warfare, Victorian Warfare and a few other Warfares that have not been released yet (I even think I have a copy of Ancient Warfare in my rules bookshelf somewhere - I'll have to check). For the last couple of years (at least), the Foundry has apparently had plans to publish a version of these rules, polished up with (Foundry) miniature photos, painting and modelling guides, and generally the kind of 'fluff' one also gets in publications like [WAB]( (not that there is anything wrong with that).

It seems that now, after only a few years of urging by Mr. Gore, Foundry is finally gearing up to a release of the rules. And that brings me to my point (_what, already?_). A couple of years ago, it seemed that Foundry was on the way of redefining its involvement in the hobby, orienting themselves more along the line of a business rather than a hobby venture, following in the footsteps of the ten pound gorilla of the miniatures hobby, [Games Workshop]( Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, they messed it up quite a bit, loosing some of their major sculptors (the Perries, Mark Copplestone) and quite a lot of their karma with the general wargames public.

Even though their figures remain some of the best in the hobby (although with a lot less of a lead, if any, than five years ago), some of their decisions with regards to pricing and packaging of their figures, the long transitional period where it seemed that there was a different pricing structure every other day and their perceived attempt to turn Wargames Illustrated into Foundry Illustrated has set quite a lot of bad blood among the hard core of historical wargamers, to the point that until a year or so ago, almost every miniature related mailing list or forum had its regularly recurring 'Foundry bashing' thread.

The last year or two, however, has seen the Foundry returning to a more stable state. Gone are the days of regular releases of entirely new gimmick period figures (Judge Dredd, War Orcs etc) that were clearly aimed at trying to build a 'Foundry Hobby' much in the style of the 'Games Workshop hobby'. Instead, we see the rerelease of old historical ranges that had been unavailable for years (a move correcting what was probably the most questionable decision they made during their wild period) and a general refocus on their core clientèle of historical wargamers.

However, I think that their move into ruleset publishing (no matter how long delayed) indicates that they have still not given up the dream of building a 'Foundry hobby', especially if you consider the fact that they now also provide paints, brushes and generally most of the items you need to build an army.

On the one hand, I think this is a good thing: for the various hobby shops out there, historical wargaming has always been a losing venture, especially in the current days of internet shopping. There simply was no way of stocking even remotely sufficient amounts of the myriad of figure lines of even a single manufacturer to please historically inclined customers, and that's not even speaking of the incredible plethora of historical manufacturers that are supplying our side of the hobby (or habit ? :) ). When a single manufacturer starts bundling things together, it also paves the way for fringe stuff like rules starter kits and army kits including paints and brushes, which are things that I think _will_ be profitable to sell for hobby shops, and consequently will be sold and might even bring more innocent young ones into the fold of historical wargaming (insert maniacal laughter here).

On the other hand, there is the (possibly misguided) gag reflex most historical wargamers have when one thinks of the Foundry mutating into a historical Games Workshop (or even more sinister, being acquired by GW and becoming GW Historical).

I think interesting times are ahead of us. Any ideas?


  1. I must say that when I started to write the above entry, I had the typical GW bashing and 'gnashing of teeth at the betrayal of the hobby' tone in mind. However, when writing it, it dawned on me that this particular move - getting all of the required components within the same manufacturer's catalog - actually makes a lot of sense, and is the way to the future, as Phil quite correctly states in his comment.
    In my opinion, many gamers still see the hobby as a garage and cottage type endeavour, and that is the reason why the mentality of GW, although it is fully the norm in the business world and GW probably is a lot more customer friendly than some other corporations out there, is often seen as the antithesis of 'good' hobby gaming.
    But I think Phil is right in his analysis of what it takes to become a successful hobby shop in our neck of the woods, and what the hobby as a whole needs to grow further (whether or not this is necessary remains, of course, debatable). Phil, if you won the lottery, would you start a wargames shop? I think I would :)

  2. Ok, let's make a deal: if either one of us wins the lottery, we'll start a shop together. And we'll hire Rudi Geudens as a senior advisor to the board of directors, which comes with a well-funded salary package and plenty of stock options.
    Anyway, I want to say that I have nothing against the old cycle of researching a period, searching for good figures, designing your own rules, painting the figures, and then playing a game. I love doing this myself! But, wargamers have to realize that this is not the formula of success, and will keep a wargaming a small niche hobby. This approach of the hobby is not 'sellable'.
    Ergo, if you want to make miniature wargaming succesful, look at why fantasy wargaming is so succesful (the lesser known fantasy miniature wargaming companies are probably bigger than the largest historical companies). If the wargaming community doesn't want to follow that model, that's a perfectly valid option, but then wargaming will have it difficult to grow or even to stay alive.

  3. Phil,
    As good Belgians, can we agree on my salary off-line, please?

  4. I mentioned on this thread before that GW is publishing a box for Battle of the 5 Armies, everything included.
    Here's a sneak preview:
    Of course, we probably can expect expansions soon ;-)