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Friday, July 13, 2012

On Non-Battlefront Models in Battlefront Tournaments.

Edit: As of July 16th, 2012, Battlefront have ammended their decision.  The rule as it stands now is that at least HALF of your army must be made up of Battlefront Models.

As most of you know by now, Battlefront has come out with a statement expressly forbidding non-Battlefront miniatures in "official" events.  This came as a total shock to me, as it's a 180 degree reversal from their stance held for the last decade and reinforced fairly recently on their forum.

Before I proceed to give my thoughts, I'd like to lay a few ground rules.  As you know, I much prefer reasoned, fair discussion.  I feel that vitriol is out of order when discussing wargaming. We're gentlemen with a toy soldiers hobby dammit.  As we discuss this, please keep that in mind.  You know our #1 rule on our forum.  

I, like many players around the world, strongly disagree with this new policy.  Many players have many thousands of dollars invested in this hobby and should feel absolutely justified in being upset.

So before I argue why I think this is a bad decision, let's try to understand the reasoning.  The stated intent is to recoup the costs of events run by Battlefront.  Having had a direct role in a recent Battlefront event I can say these events are well run, and continue to improve. 

I don't think it's a huge stretch to assume there are, of course, other motives at work here.  Recouping some lost revenues as the competition has increased dramatically in the last years.  Though this is speculation, I'd say there's pretty strong evidence of it.

Of course none of us truly know what kind of analysis was done before this, but I feel confident that the folks up top at Battlefront are competent.  And that means they expected this push-back, crunched the numbers, and decided it was best for their business.  As much as we may disagree with it, we aren't running the 2nd largest miniatures company in the world.

One can also hope that those folks primarily driven by economic concerns have not been forgotten.  We know from our interview with JP that plastic is on the way.  BF may price these starter sets competitively and at least make owning official product a bit more attainable for the price conscious.

But having been a frequent attendee at Battlefront Nationals events, this is what I find puzzling.  #1- the amount of tournament players in the US is fairly small.  #2- the amount of tournament players who use non-BF models is also small.  They are certainly the exception and not the rule.  So this ruling directly affects a small percentage of players overall.  But what percentage of players feel burned by this?  From the outside looking in this seems like a huge PR mistake that had little risk analysis.  I can only assume BF figure this will gain them more than it will cost them or else why make the decision?  This does not seem to be the case from down in the trenches.

And that's what makes this decision so alien to me.  The fallout is understandably severe.  People who aren't even affected by this rule have e-mailed me saying they are strongly considering selling off their collections!  I know of at least one awesome annual event that has come to an end as a result of this.  People feel betrayed.  It's been the official line out of Battlefront for years that other manufacturers models are allowed.  How many new players on a tight budget were sold on the "all miniatures allowed" idea, bought some plastic tanks, and then later bought some Battlefront product they would have otherwise not even considered?

I am personally affected by this.  When Blitzkrieg came out I bought heavily into Early War.  I pushed it hard in the WWPD group when interest was fairly low.  I even cracked Dirty Jon's defenses recently!  The guy is finally putting together some early war Panzers!  But because I was an early adopter it was weeks (months in some cases) before a lot of the stuff was available.  I bought Battlefront when I could, but also sourced from other manufacturers- rightly under the impressions it'd be a non-issue.  Most of my French and German armor is non-Battlefront.  This means I will no longer be able to play in an EW tournament with what I consider a competitive force.  I could sell them and repaint them, but I won't.  Similarly, a small but important percentage of my soviets are non-Battlefront.  I will not even consider replacing these until Battlefront can come close to matching the value of their competitors.

What can we do as a community?  The most important thing anyone can do is to make their opinion heard by the right people.  I don't mean go angrily rant on their forum.  Angry forum rants are received the way they're posted- without much consideration.  Tell your LGS.  Vote with your dollar.  Write reasoned, polite, and articulate e-mails.

Please don't take out your frustration on Battlefront employees at events.  I'm sure a majority of them were not involved in this decision.  They at least understand your frustrations.  I don't envy Joe Krone, Jordan, and the rest of the crew at the upcoming Historicon.  Please don't take out your anger on them!

Moving forward, WWPD will continue to bring you Flames of War related content on a daily basis.  We still love the game even if we are confused by some of the actions by Battlefront.  I will continue buying the miniatures I want (from whatever manufacturer fits the bill) and playing Flames of War regularly.  I will continue to play in "indie" events and tournaments, but my participation in official events will be necessarily situational.

Please feel free to discuss this on our forum, but note that we do not allow vitriol.  Discuss like gentlemen or don't discuss at all.

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