In my previous article I addressed an email from a listener who, having looked back at my previously stated ‘favourite games’, wondered how Gaming Dilution Theory (as expounded on numerous occasions by Dave Luff on the podcast) had affected them.
In looking back over the list he compiled, it quickly became obvious that games that were still firm favourites had struggled to see table time in the past 12 months – longer in some cases – even when my regular gaming time has actually increased. There are, I think, several reasons behind this, but one of the major factors is the change in nature of our gaming group.
For several years, Dave and I met up and played on our own, which meant that we primarily played miniature wargames and very few boardgames. More recently, we have been joined by two of my other friends, which means that our gaming group of four now primarily play boardgames. I don’t necessarily see this as a problem per se, but rather the changing nature of my gaming experience. I enjoy both boardgames and wargames, so after several years of concentrating on the miniatures side of the hobby, it’s gratifying to be playing boardgames again on a regular basis.
I am still playing miniatures games, but now my most regular opponent is my son (who is back living at home). His interests and tastes are somewhat different to Mr Luff, so with him I tend to play a lot more sci-fi and fantasy, plus games featuring samurai. So expect to see games such as X-Wing, Runewars, Planetfall, Test of Honour and Ninja All-Stars appear regularly in my gaming history over the coming months.
One of the other factors I have found when playing miniatures games is my painting speed, or lack thereof. I am one of those gamers who hates playing with unpainted miniatures, and yet my collection is dominated by plastic, metal and resin which are currently bereft of any colour whatsoever – so my desire to experience a battle where the might of Rome meets hordes of mounted Parthians is somewhat tempered by the fact that both armies are still currently sat in various blisters and zip-lock bags in a box in my spare room. The only chance I have of fighting this sort of battle in the near future is with armies of stickered wood on the Commands & Colors board, which immediately flags one of the appeals of that particular game: scratches the itch of battles in the Ancient period without all that pesky painting!
The honest truth is when I look at my collection of games and miniatures, I don’t actually need to buy anything else – I have more than enough to keep me going for several years to come. Even if my painting output increased dramatically, I have enough projects sat awaiting my attention that I never need buy another miniature – well, maybe just the odd one or two, just to round out particular armies, you understand.
When discussing the need for new armies with a miniatures manufacturer (who shall remain nameless) Dave Luff expressed the opinion that he wasn’t looking to purchase a new army, as he currently had yet to finish the one currently on his painting table, and that he then had two other projects queued up, waiting to go. The response was simple:
“Dave, I’m glad most of my other customers aren’t like you, otherwise I would be out of business”
The harsh reality of the situation is pretty obvious – the industry that supports our hobby is reliant on us, their customer base, to keep buying their products and services. Miniature manufacturers need customers to buy new armies, and providers of painting services need those people who have just bought the army not to have enough time to paint it themselves, so providing them with custom in turn. If we all suddenly decided that we no longer needed that extra unit or new army, that we weren’t going to start that new period, or that we owned enough area control/worker placement/trading/exploration themed boardgames, many of the companies that we currently take for granted would quickly cease to exist. We saw some evidence of that last week when no less than three companies closed their doors on the same day.
Some argue that we are witnessing the signs of a saturated market, and that it is inevitable that we will see more companies close as each fight to survive in an increasingly crowded marketplace. According to BoardGameGeek, there were 4994 new games and expansions released in 2016 – and that’s just the ones that were registered on their website database, which probably doesn’t take into account the myriad of small miniature manufacturers. These releases range from brand new large boardgames such as Star Wars: Rebellion or Scythe, expansions such as the Soviet Starter Set for Konflikt ’47, to individual models such as a new ship for X-Wing. Whilst the gaming market is expanding, I’m not sure whether the current growth in customers matches the output, so companies are reliant on existing gamers buying the ‘new and shiny’. (Although some companies circumvent this, artificially generating their own demand from their customer base by regularly reinventing their games with new editions – cynical, moi?)
It’s an interesting conundrum that we face. As you may have guessed, I am a huge fan of new stuff – I’ve seen at least three games in the last week or so that I would happily sink my hobby funds into. At the same time, I am very conscious of the number of good games in my collection which do not see the light of day. Maybe Sean of “On Sean’s Table” has the solution?
There is no doubt that the ‘new and shiny’ seems to drive the hobby. Whether this is sustainable in the future is another question.