A few entries ago I talked about my personal views on the Age of Sigmar game by Games Workshop. In certain Facebook groups the link I shared got some feedback. And as I expected these were divided between positive and negative reactions. But I also noted there was an underlying discussion about the old Warhamer Fantasy game. Is it still playable now that the manufacturer has stopped producing products for this game system? The opinions vary again. So I started to think about this; is a game still playable and thus enjoyable when it is out of production?
Let’s take look at what is going on with games that are still being produced. What benefits do you, as a player, get from the fact that the product(line) is still supported by it’s maker? First up, I think, would be rules updates. These can be actual updates of rules, errata lists or FAQ-pages on the website. All these updates are made as improvements on the existing rules and should give you more fun playing the game. The next benefit you can get is the continued production of models for the game. New or improved models are made to keep you interested in the game. And we all love new models right? The more popular game systems are sometimes supported by magazines. These give you articles with ideas for scenario’s, rules updates, alternative rules et. And let’s not forget the biggest benefit of them all; a thriving game system attracts more players, which gives you more possible opponents to play. This can take form in an increase of players at clubs, more people to be found closer to home or perhaps frequently held tournaments. An active ‘community’ for a particular game is a thing of inspiration.
So, will al this end when a game is out of production? I for one, think not.
It is an obvious fact that the manufacturer stops making rules updates and models. But this does not mean the game is dead. If a game system was a good and balanced system to play, perhaps updates are not really necessary. In this case you could just do with a few house rules here and there.
New models might be found from other companies who produce similar types of miniatures. An orc is an orc right? I know different styles of orc can be found, but if you need orcs there are a lot of companies who make them. If you can find one with models that you like and they make them in the required scale there is no problem when the original manufacturer stops producing models for the game. And nowadays there are so many producers to be found online who will all ship globally. The choice is endless.
Then there is the lack of support from magazines. No more new articles of scenario’s and such. This can be a drawback. I know lots of players who are not capable of thinking of new playable scenarios. And when you have played al the published ones I can see why a game could become less interesting. If the game system was very popular there probably is a vast back catalogue of articles to be found. In the case of Warhammer Fantasy there are so many old White Dwarf Magazines filled with new ideas to keep you playing for a long time. You can often buy these second hand for instance. When you are able to write your own scenarios you are even better off. The game club I attend has a lot of enthusiastic members who are exceptionally good at writing scenarios. So game systems that are no longer supported are still being played there.
But there is no denying the fact that a game that is out of print attracts less new players and existing players can loose interest. Which gives you less people to play with. This is a big drawback and it can only be overcome by the players themselves. If there are enough people who still like to play the game and are willing to invest time to come up with new scenarios and interesting things to do with the game system then these people will find each other. The internet is a big plus in this. Lots of games are still supported by groups of people who start Facebook groups or even dedicated websites. There are lots of groups for Necromunda and Gorkamorka to be found on Facebook. There are also websites such as Yaktribe where people contribute new rules, ideas and scenarios. These communities keep the game going. Some will even go further and create new rulebooks for their favourite game(s). Warhammer 9th age is completely fan-made for instance. But when the game lacks the fan support I think it is bound to become a thing of the past for the majority of players.
A personal example for a still enjoyable out of print game would be Legends of the High Seas. This is a pirate game from Warhammer Historical and has only the one rulebook ever made before it got dropped. There was no line of miniatures to begin with from Games Workshop so any 28 mm pirate models you can find will do nicely. And there are plenty to be found (Black Scorpion Miniatures for instance). We started playing this game at the club a year or so ago because we wanted to enjoy a pirate game with boats and cannons and all. Legends of the High Seas covers rules for all this and one of us still had a copy of the book somewhere. It did not take long for the rest of us to find a rulebook second hand and we make up our own scenarios, boats and scenery. Some customized house rules were needed because we play with more than two people at a time, but that was it. The game is out of print, but do we have less fun because of that? Not at all. Do we find drawbacks from the fact that it is no longer supported by the manufacturer? Not by a long shot. Can we still enjoy feedback from other players? Yes we can. There are several Facebook groups for this game and one of them even has the author of the original rules as member who is very happy to give feedback if needed.
Another example would be Necromunda (I know, another GW product, but then again, they have made some cool games in the past). The game might be dropped by Games Workshop but there is an enormous community of players to be found in Facebook groups and websites dedicated to the game. The original rules are easy to find here, but you can also find new scenarios, suggested house rules or rules for new factions, tips on where to find proxy miniatures or on converting your own gangs, etc. There is nothing to stop you from playing the game once you can find opponents to play against.
So in the end I think out of production games can still thrive, but it must be the players themselves who will have to keep it alive and kickin’. The internet makes this simpler these days because distances are not an obstacle when sharing information. But you will also need players in your vicinity to actually play the game. Once you have found these there are still endless hours of enjoyment ahead.
Any comments on other games that are out of print but still very enjoyable to play?