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Why free rules might be a bad idea


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#1
Captain Idaho

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I know, I know! Controversial!

Here me out, brothers, sisters and Neverborn.

We all like a bargain and love to get stuff for free. However, let's look at the main evidence we already have of this method of rules availability.

Age of Sigmar (AoS). Free rules. Everyone rejoiced and there wasn't a word of descent on the matter whilst the flame-wars went on with other focus.

This to me was actually a shame. Something no one suggested was an issue is actually one of the major problems with AoS. "The background is shallow" is the chorus we hear.

The depth and soul of a gaming system is the cool background that makes the great miniatures we have painstakingly assembled and painted, come to life. How much cooler is it to have Magnus the Red leading a Warband against Space Wolves and settling old grudges, rather than generic big plastic monsters firing magic at generic armoured space knights?

Well the crux of my post is thus; the free rules means players download the elements they need to play and have all the reading material they need. They don't buy background books they don't need. Given the choice between expensive books and new models and most folk go with the later. The proof is in the sales.

If people don't have these books they won't be reading the amazing background material we all love. It'll be the unknown army of blue painted plastic vs red version.

So I am of the opinion we need Codex books with rules and background to ensure the new players are as enamoured as ourselves. We don't want to be 5 years down the line and all the new players haven't a clue why Blood Angels have the Death Company, what their home planet is like or why the Dark Angels have Deathwing in different coloured armour.
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#2
Sete

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Give me a minute while i articulate a response.

#3
deathspectersgt7

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I would still rather buy the Codex the story angle and I don't play large games anymore . I think they did the free rules for those power gamers out there who care more about the win than the story.


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#4
HCMistborn

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My idea on it was you should get the rules in the box, maybe pay a little more per box. Buy a tactical squad box and you get the rules for using them in the armies they fit and what weapons they have in the armory. If you want formations, relics, chapter tactics, etc etc you have to buy the slim'd down codex. This way you can see if you dig the game playing with a CAD, then buy the 15x 40-60 dollar books you need to field the army.



#5
Captain Idaho

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It's nothing to do with being a power gamer. Insult aside, there are those of us who just wouldn't buy something we don't have to.

I enjoy playing and my friends do too. A close friend actually plays and enjoys AoS (I don't) but he doesn't bother with the pay to read background. However, he read Warhammer Armies Chaos Warriors cover to cover and enjoyed it.

#6
Triszin

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Free digital rules is a great idea to get people into the game. however keeping physical products that have lore and fluff mixed in for money is great, and paying for  the digital version is fine. 


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#7
IronDrake28

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I agree, Idaho. AoS battletomes do have extra rules like traits or relics now, so there is a reason to buy them and not just use the free rules. If 40k went down a similar path I would not mind, but it's not far off.

On the point of AoS lore being shallow, I think that might be partly sure to the fact some people are still very abrasive towards it, and it's new. It doesn't have the decades of lore that makes it feel truly epic. Yet.
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#8
Sete

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I know, I know! Controversial!

Here me out, brothers, sisters and Neverborn.

We all like a bargain and love to get stuff for free. However, let's look at the main evidence we already have of this method of rules availability.

Age of Sigmar (AoS). Free rules. Everyone rejoiced and there wasn't a word of descent on the matter whilst the flame-wars went on with other focus.

This to me was actually a shame. Something no one suggested was an issue is actually one of the major problems with AoS. "The background is shallow" is the chorus we hear.

The depth and soul of a gaming system is the cool background that makes the great miniatures we have painstakingly assembled and painted, come to life. How much cooler is it to have Magnus the Red leading a Warband against Space Wolves and settling old grudges, rather than generic big plastic monsters firing magic at generic armoured space knights?

Well the crux of my post is thus; the free rules means players download the elements they need to play and have all the reading material they need. They don't buy background books they don't need. Given the choice between expensive books and new models and most folk go with the later. The proof is in the sales.

If people don't have these books they won't be reading the amazing background material we all love. It'll be the unknown army of blue painted plastic vs red version.

So I am of the opinion we need Codex books with rules and background to ensure the new players are as enamoured as ourselves. We don't want to be 5 years down the line and all the new players haven't a clue why Blood Angels have the Death Company, what their home planet is like or why the Dark Angels have Deathwing in different coloured armour.

Well a new sistem, starting a new mythos from scratch. People didn't let it grow, like everything it needs time to do so.

Hence the huge clamour of its shallow. It WAS.
Things are getting into shape. Yes i follow it quite closely.
It left behind most of the tolkianesk inspiration, for good or bad.

Currently 40k has the background that we currently live, but it was not always like this.
It also grew and evolved.
And like we seen these last 3 months it still does. For better or worse.

And is it really more generic then the old world?

Is it really more generic than armoured dudes in space shooting space bugs?
The devil in the details.

We can have free rules on a box.
People shop with the eyes first. They like the look of a unit.
When i saw the dark angels i tought, wow they do look awesome.
Robes and stuff very monastic.
Then i read the fluff. And lost interest.
And nowdays you can access the fluff pretty easily.
You got lexicanum, and wiki. 4chan if you are into it.

You buy a box have some games and like the feel of the army, you buy the book with artwork, fluff, additional missions or formations.
We already have the green Vs red in the starter set.
They bring a small amount of info about the armies. If you want more you go look for it.(DA Vs CS)

For example, i have been eyeing some Tzangors for AoS, so i went to the store downloaded the rules and got a feel of how the army plays.

I don't need to buy the book to know how should i use this one or that one unit.

But I'm losing on fluff artwork formations relics and what not without the book.
If i want more I'll buy the book.
Simple.

And if i want to play a couple of games with a friend, he does not need the book to check the rules for a couple of units.

Edited by Sete, 16 March 2017 - 09:14 PM.

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#9
Captain Idaho

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Well, it's reassuring that people here want to continue to buy, but all the experience I've had is that people get the rules, pay for things like the General's Compendium then that's it.

#10
Sete

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Well, it's reassuring that people here want to continue to buy, but all the experience I've had is that people get the rules, pay for things like the General's Compendium then that's it.


I can only speak for myself.
I bought Stormcast, and bought the books, because i like the fluff, and i do like to see it grow into something else.

Also when you get someone to play, do your part and entice them. "Oh cool ork army! You know there is some cool fluff about the speed freaks that paint stuff red to go faster!"

It's a game, but it's also a social tool, to meet people have a few beers, or juice for you kids, and have a good time.

#11
Aspecti

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I don't mind buying stuff, I actually quite like having a physical book for reference. But things are becoming ridiculous. I need the C:SM, AoD and the new GS3 to have full access to my army, plus the core rulebook. And that's not taking into account any FW units I might want to use. I don't even know what publications I have completely missed since there are so damn many of them.

 

After 20+ years in the hobby I really don't care about the cost anymore, but it would be nice to have easy access to everything I need.


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#12
Juggernut

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Well, it's reassuring that people here want to continue to buy, but all the experience I've had is that people get the rules, pay for things like the General's Compendium then that's it.

 

I don't really see that as a bad thing. People who want to pay for the fluff will, those who don't will not. Does anyone really lose, in the big picture? I certainly wouldn't hold it against anyone if they didn't care about the fluff. I value it far less than rules, myself.


Edited by Venomlust, 16 March 2017 - 09:35 PM.

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#13
ronin_cse

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Well, it's reassuring that people here want to continue to buy, but all the experience I've had is that people get the rules, pay for things like the General's Compendium then that's it.

 

I also tend to be pretty active in the various AoS communities and have managed to get many local people playing AoS. I can't speak for the community as a whole of course but from my experience people at least tend to buy the Battletome for their main army. Keep in mind that even with the free war scrolls there are still extra rules and missions and such in the Battletomes.

 

IMO the free rules only help to get more people into the game as it is one less barrier to entry and it helps everyone stay more current on the rules since you can always check out the warscrolls when the meta shifts. I kind of think that anyone that just wants the rules and only buys/downloads those probably wouldn't bother reading the fluff in the codex/battletome anyways.

 

For what it's worth I have bought both Stormcast books so far as they are my main and I have bought the Tzeentch book just because, I plan on getting the new Dwarf one as well.

 

Edit: oh I know plenty who buy the alliance books as well and those don't even really have fluff in them, they are basically just physical reprints of the downloadable scrolls. This is a physical hobby and people tend to enjoy having physical books ;)


Edited by ronin_cse, 16 March 2017 - 09:36 PM.

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#14
NovemberIX

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Like with tacos hard and soft, the question becomes why not both?

 

A case for free rules is that it allows kits to be released on a more varied schedule. Not having to tie a kit release to a campaign or a codex update would allow GW to release a kit when it's "finished" or to add support to a flagging product line with a shorter run up. Following that tack, it could allow for more kit bash units like the Razorback Rikarius, which would be a sort of soft update that might pull more sales as well for older kits. 

 

The secondary plus is assuming GW's ability to keep the rules updated, a seemingly fair amount of hobbyist clamor for balanced rules, and a set living rules would help that.

 

There's also a  tertiary bonus. When the rules first released for the Skyhammer Annihilation Force there was much grumbling about the pay-to-win nature of the bundle, the strength of the rules notwithstanding, it was frustrating to me personally because I had multiple of those kits already, which became a moot point days later because the rules did end up being released. Which brings me to why even with free rules, GW should still produce physical copies of stuff.

 

Hard copies have the chance to be worthwhile pieces of the game worth owning on their own. Sure I've got digital codecies and rules books to use on my iPad, but I own physical copies too. I rather enjoy flipping through my 6th ed Rulebook and just reading random bits and pieces, the Crusade of Fire is helping me write out a campaign, and the Battle Missions book for scenarios (thank you again Gar!).  One day I'll own the complete Horus Heresy, and hopefully updated Badab Books.

 

So when Angels of Death released I went that day to my local GW and bought a copy. Was it for the rules? Partially. The reality is one day this game may not be played or supported anymore. The world changes, and things that seem like they'll always be around suddenly aren't. So I'm doing what I can to make sure my army can always be played. So that the history of that army can be read, and the art seen. One day my nephews will have kids, and who knows if GW will exist into those days, but with luck, my Grand Nephews will be able to play a game much like their Grunkle did by opening up one of his storage boxes and finding a massive stack of marines, a bunch of books, dice and play aids (though they'll have to hope their Graunty packed away her foul xenos, because I won't be ;) ).

 

So if once a year GW released a codex style book of all the rules released and updated for that year with a bunch of fluff and art to support it, I'd buy it, every single year, for as many years as they made it.


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#15
Damo1701

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I personally agree with Captain Idaho.

 

Some may know that I despise AoS, with the same passion that I adore 40K.  GW went completely the wrong way about doing that, there were far better ways.

 

Sure, getting rules in boxes of models (usually on instruction books) CAN be useful, just look in the N&R forum, where the Tartaros Terminators rules are already being posted.  Mainly, though, these should be kept for boxes of units that are totally new releases for the active gaming system.  Now, Angels of Death, for example, missed the ticket here, slightly.  It could have consolidated ALL the generic C:SM stuff that had been released since the codex, even chapter specific like Shadow Force Solaq, for example.  (That might be it, I didn't get any of the Damocles books).

 

AoD was, in my mind, reasonably priced for what you got.  None of the fluff was copy/paste like you get with codexes (if you are familiar with previous editions).  Add in the fact that Third Edition cut almost all the fluff out of codexes, you had just the rules, and they were all under £10 each, with sub-faction books around £4 a piece.  However, a lot of flavour was missing from third edition, much less available than there is now.

 

I guess, at the end of the day, it totally depends on your local meta, though.  Do you have players there that care more about having the most powerful lists over lists that fit the lore of the faction they are playing?

 

I do prefer physical books, though having a copy/print out of newer rules is useful, at least until such time as a publication is brought out to wrap all those printed rules together.


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#16
Sugarlessllama

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Well I kind of agree with you Mr. Idaho. I think that the game is a lot better when there is a deep lore to draw from in order to forge our own narratives via tabletop. But I don't think free rules take away from that. If we look at Age of Sigmar, it is developing a deep lore through the publication of novels and battle tomes. Sure the tomes offer additional rules, but they are not required.

 

Making them optional does two things. 1.) It makes the game more approachable for new players (yay!) and 2.) Players who couldn't care less about the lore don't have to.

 

Coming from Warmachine I know that the lore was a big part of the game for me. But with many tournament players that I spoke to, they couldn't care less about the lore. They just wanted to win tournaments.

 

So I think that AoS is striking a happy medium. New players don't have to spend money on additional things in order to play. But when they get more interested in the game they can pick them up later In order to not only learn the lore, but to gain additional play options.

 

And as for tournament players... well I honestly don't think tournament players are capable of being happy. Happiness, like enlightenment, is something for them to strive towards but never achieve. So it doesn't matter what GW does on that front.

 

In summary, I think making the books optional allows for more people to come into the hobby, and they in turn will end up buying the books anyway.


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#17
Ulfgrim Alvsbane

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I'll be honest - I enjoy games with free rules, it's what got me into games like Age of Sigmar.  But it's a gateway - I seek out the books that have more information on the factions that I like.  I've never played a game where I've been content solely with the free rules, but I prefer games where that's all that's required to play.

 

But this is a tabletop game, not a soap opera.  One need not be expected to be acquainted with the background to enjoy playing.  I'm hardly a win-at-all-costs player (I don't even do tournaments) but I honestly don't care much for the background of factions I don't play.  I've read up on Space Wolves, Dark Angels and Crimson Fists because I enjoy playing them, but I really couldn't tell you why Blood Angels have Death Company, nor do I care.  That's important to a BA player but it does nothing for my enjoyment of the game.  I absorb whatever information comes my way second hand, but I don't seek it out.

 

I also believe forging your own narrative is more important than adhering to some canonical fluff that has no bearing on play.  You're the hero of your stories, not an NPC.

 

And regardless of what anyone says, gameplay is the more important aspect. If it wasn't, then your hobby is called reading. ;)


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#18
the jeske

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I agree, Idaho. AoS battletomes do have extra rules like traits or relics now, so there is a reason to buy them and not just use the free rules. If 40k went down a similar path I would not mind, but it's not far off.

On the point of AoS lore being shallow, I think that might be partly sure to the fact some people are still very abrasive towards it, and it's new. It doesn't have the decades of lore that makes it feel truly epic. Yet.

It is shallow because out of all factions it has the only dudes with different style of game play are the sig marines, and the wood elfs to an extent. And it does not happen through tactics, but just formations other factions do not have access too. Aside for shoting being imbalanced in AoS [yes yes I know, play on a labyrinth like table and shoting is not a problem etc], this is the main problem [game wise, I don't care about the new fluff] with it. To an extent sig marines right now [maybe it will change with the new pirate dwarfs] are playing w40k while everyon else is not sure what they play[specialy death which was writen to be the summoning faction, to have summoning nerfed real hard soon afterwards].

 

Now maybe in X years with more factions added this will changed, and I hope it does not end up with sigmarines being the marines of AoS, for the games sake at least. But right now it is shallow as it possibly can be. W40k maelstrom is more deep compering to it.

 

 

 

Now if w40k in the future changes in to a system of basic rules free, but if you want to play the real thing you have to pay, am not sure much will change. People will still pirate the books/rules. Playing the basic stuff is not much fun in the best case, and in the worse case it gives someone the wrong idea about the game. And then we enter the whole real of hours of preparation to play one battle, because no one actualy plays the same game and everyone has his own set of dos and don'ts.


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#19
Claws and Effect

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I like the fluff with the rules, but it gets ridiculous when you need 4 books to play a 1750 point army.

Raven Guard Talon Strike Force: C:SM, AoD, BRB.

If I want to run a single unit of Land Speeder Tempests I also need Imperial Armour 2.
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#20
Lexington

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I'm not too worried about it. I spend a lot of my gaming time on Infinity, which has had free rules for ages. The community still seems to know the universe pretty well, despite the fact that the only reason you'd buy the rules anymore would be to get the art and background. There's varying dedication to it, sure, but that's going to be true anywhere. If people want to investigate, they will.
 
Besides, given the state of 40K's rules these days, and seeing as 8th looks to be a relatively small set of tweaks, I don't think we need to worry about a lot of people participating for the rules alone.

Edited by Brother Tyler, 20 March 2017 - 02:42 AM.

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#21
Legionaire of the VIIth

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Well, it's reassuring that people here want to continue to buy, but all the experience I've had is that people get the rules, pay for things like the General's Compendium then that's it.

 

I don't really see that as a bad thing. People who want to pay for the fluff will, those who don't will not. Does anyone really lose, in the big picture? I certainly wouldn't hold it against anyone if they didn't care about the fluff. I value it far less than rules, myself.

 

Agreed, I know a few people that have almost no investment into the fluff itself and are mostly focused on the tournament side of the game. If someone doesn't really care about fluff but loves the models or some aspect of the game, it doesn't matter if you force them to buy the rules along side the fluff because they don't really bother to read it anyway. They will pick up some of it through interaction with other players.

 

Also nothing stops them from having a small introduction to the army that give a basic understanding of who they are. Will it be an in depth analysis of them, no, but it could be enough to encourage others to buy the fluff and find out more about them.

 

Edit: I like fluff so I would buy the fluff books for the armies I play even if the rules were free.


Edited by Legionaire of the VIIth, 17 March 2017 - 03:03 AM.

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#22
Juggernut

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And I don't think anyone is TOTALLY disinterested, but if I don't need to spend $50 on rules, I'm for sure spending it on bits or new models. Saving it? Impossible!

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#23
Tyberos the Red Wake

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Am I correct in interpreting this as "GW forces the fluff on customers, even those who don't care about it, and that's a good thing"? Because I actually kind of agree, even though I support free rules and divorcing the rules from the fluff (free rules and paying for fluff, or selling separate rules only books and fluff only main books like the multi-part 7E rulebook set had), I feel it benefits the hobby as a whole to ensure players are at least forced to acknowledge the presence of the fluff, even if they just skim through it or don't even read it.

If the rulebooks had zero fluff I feel like the hobby would be severely damaged, and you'd end up with a Warmahordes-like atmosphere.

 

The best case scenario would probably be fluff and rules BOTH free but I know that will never happen because GW can simply monetize it.


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#24
Major_Gilbear

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I have several major issues with paying for rules:

 

1) Changing any rules invalidates printed books immediately.

 

2) It adds another cost to an already expensive hobby, and is a genuine barrier to new players.

 

3) It limits knowledge of the rules because most people will not have access to all the rules.

 

4) It prevents any meaningful list-building software from being released (by anyone), and list-building from fairly involved options is a pretty major aspect of many GW games.

 

5) Most of the above is addressed by regular edition changes which are really more disruptive than they are helpful. Considering the surge of interest in a new edition followed by the long drop-off towards the end of one, call it a lot of effort for a net gain of nothing.

 

 

I also completely reject that art/fluff books won't sell well if they don't contain rules. An enormous amount of the books GW sells are exactly this (novels, Apocrypha, Index Astartes, etc.), and the uptake of them is pretty high.

 

What free rules *will* do for GW is a number of things:

 

1) It gives them complete control over the rules. Anything can be updated whenever they want, and the rules become "living". It also means that things like second-hand rule books or piracy are simply removed from the equation.

 

2) It frees GW from a rigid release cycle. If a faction could do with an extra model, they can just add the rule for it to the online ruleset/army list and release the model. Currently a lot of designs never even make a release because of the way the model releases are centred around army book releases.

 

3) It keeps players invested in the game (and buying models) if they feel they are relevant and included. Playing with a heavily kludged army book two/three editions out of date or with a get-you-by list printed in a magazine is the opposite of this.

 

4) Players will still spend their money, but on models and supplies rather than than on books. Since GW make the models in-house, this nets them the greatest profit.

 

5) Hosting the rules online drives players to the GW website (and store) which is actually a great marketing tool.

 

6) It makes it "easy" for anyone to pick up some models and start to get invested in the game without needing to pony up a lot of money on something they may not like. And with free rules, players who don't like it won't feel burned (and may therefore try again in the future).

 

7) It's cheaper for GW too if they don't have to print, store, and ship all those books. It frees up logistical resources for model models too.

 

 

As for how shallow AoS is/isn't, that's really got nothing to do with the rulebooks. The setting was brand new and there wasn't 30 years of background to draw from. The novels that were released in support of AoS's launch were frankly awful, and a perfect example of why many people do ignore a lot of the fluff. That precedent is what has people so afraid of what may come in 8E when the storyline moves on.

 

If you play with or pander to people who only care about building cheesy lists and winning, then it really makes no difference if they read the fluff or not, or whether the game is fun/balanced or not - those people will still do their thing, and you will still do yours. They will likely never play narrative scenarios for example, nor perhaps read the fluff - so why pretend that they will, or that it will make a difference when it hasn't to date?

 

In the end, I really fail to see why people who like one type of gaming attitude always feel the need to impose it on everyone else. If you want to ignore the points and play a fluffy scenario, there's nothing that has ever stopped you. On the other hand, for those that want to play the game as a tournament format event, having points and army lists permits this; but you don't have to play in tournaments if you don't want to. I actually think (in my experience) that the great majority of people fall somewhere in between - and thus having free rules that are accessible, open, and balanced benefits everyone regardless of how they want to play, and that players will delve into the fluff that interests them (just as they've always done).

 

Edit: spelling...

 


Edited by Major_Gilbear, 17 March 2017 - 08:48 AM.

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Tyberos the Red Wake

Tyberos the Red Wake

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The owner (GW) has the right to impose their views (fluff and hobby over competitiveness) on the game. Customers can punish them for this by voting with their wallets. It's not the players who are forcing GW to sell rules so why blame them just because they might support GW's methods?


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"Grey-clad, they came from the outer night to aid the Imperium, and their jagged maw did swallow the stars, and their black gaze did mirror the void of oblivion."

- The Canticle of Cassandria Lev - Vol.CVI [Circa M37]





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