Thursday, 10 April 2014

Nothing Left

Alright. I was hoping not to have to write something like this, not for a good long while yet (though perhaps that was where I went wrong. Hope, as they say, is the first step on the road to disappointment). I was wishing that I could continue being nice and happy and positive in this blog for at least another month or so. I certainly didn't want to have to write about this particular subject for a long long time. But.. well.. I just can't take it any more. Sometimes you just need to say some things, and get them off your chest, so that they don't keep eating you up inside. This is one of those times.

In case you haven't seen, Games Workshop has just updated their webpage. It's a new, clean look, and in my opinion it exemplifies all that was wrong with the last one. What little was left of article content, and even the daily news piece has been removed, and the entire site has been reconfigured into a giant store. The most painful thing for me though, was seeing the now gutted scenery section.

But that's not what I'm writing this ..... opinion..... rant.... venting..... cry..... thing.. about. No, no. The new website was just the flashpoint, the final straw that broke the Camel's back. The real crux of what this will be about, the real roots of why I'm so heartbroken at the moment, go back much, much deeper.

I first started feeling this way earlier last year, when Games Workshop stopped selling models for it's old Specialist Games ranges. I will probably seem like some overly sensitive little crybaby wuss for saying this, but I really was completely devastated by it. But eventually that feeling faded in time... until a couple of weeks ago, after I managed to rescue a couple of character models from Games Workshop's now sadly gutted Bretonnian range for Warhammer Fantasy. I held them in my hands, and all of a sudden all that same heartbreak came rushing back up to the surface. Then it was only amplified when, while procrastinating about writing an essay for university, I decided to take a trip down memory lane, opened up the Wayback Machine, and loaded up Forgeworld's old website from around 2005-2006ish, and looked on in horror at just how many of the models there were that I used to adore but no longer exist on the site.

See, what happened then, just like when the Specialist Games began disappearing, was that I felt one of my dreams die. I'm not sure if you have ever felt such a thing before, and in the same way, but I personally can thing of few things more agonising than having a dream die.

If you've managed to get this far, I imagine you are very likely to be very confused right now. I apologise for that, this entire post is very much a stream of consciousness typed down, and I tend to be very cryptic even at the best of times. In essence, I'm upset about the models. The ones Games Workshop used to produce.

Simply put, they're vanishing before my eyes.

These are the models I was brought up with. When I was a child (well, around 9-10ish), I used to spend long summer afternoons endlessly looking through Games Workshop's website and Forgeworld, reading through all the articles on the former and marvelling at all the wondrous models on the latter (and the former too for that matter), endlessly lost in a sea of fantastic worlds and amazing models (much to the chagrin of my parents wanting to use the phone, as this was in the days of dial-up internet).

And I came to have a dream: that some day I would own all of them*. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even for years and years, but one day I would. At some time in the distant future, that day would come.

And I was happy at the time. I envisioned a wondrous golden future of Games Workshop, filled with models, new ones standing with all the classics for all the future generations to enjoy. It didn't matter that all those fancy Forgeworld kits cost an arm and a leg, it didn't matter that I couldn't buy vast armies en masse, it didn't matter at all because I thought, nay, knew that all those models and kits would be there forever. The idea that one day any of them might not be there simply never entered my mind. But why would it? I was young, and new to the hobby. I didn't, indeed couldn't, have known about warehouse space or molds wearing out or anything like that. Such concepts were completely beyond the comprehension of my youthful self. As far as I was concerned, Games Workshop would simply keep on producing the models it had always done for the rest of eternity, and if whatever machines or devices they used to make models broke down, they would simply fix them. Thus, I reasoned, I had all the time in the world to pursue my dream of a vast collection of awesome (now old) miniatures, one that one day might even grow to rival that of Games Workshop's model gallery (I forget exactly what it's called) itself!

As the years went by, my aspirations grew and grew. By the start of last year, I had very big, ambitious, grand plans. A gigantic Tau army for Warhammer 40,000, complete with air support from Forgeworld and a few scratchbuild vehicles, fit for a titanic game of Apocalypse, perhaps even with a Manta or two (it should be noted that this particular part of the dream is still possible, and may in fact come to pass some day, with a ton of luck). An enormous Tau fleet for Battlefleet Gothic, mostly Kor'vattra ships, but with a sizeable Kor'O'vesh element as well for completeness, big enough to rival the mightiest fleets I saw on Port Maw and later Warseer. A Corsair Eldar fleet to fight alongside it, and a Chaos fleet as a deadly enemy for them to fight against. A Dark Eldar fleet (again a dangerous antagonist to oppose my Tau and Eldar). An Ork fleet. An Imperial fleet that would be caught up in this massive struggle for dominance amongst the stars. A fleet for every faction in Battlefleet Gothic, with at least one of every ship made. A Wood Elf army for Warhammer Fantasy. A Bretonnian army. A Vampire Counts one, a Dwarf one, and a Beastmen one too. At least one of every Regiment of Renown (I even had an idea to write a campaign around them). A grand ecosystem of all the different dragon models Games Workshop made. A retinue of Famous Familiars to accompany me and assist me in painting and modelling all my miniatures (and later to help breath some of that old Games Workshop magic into the newer ones). A colossal array of terrain and scenery, hills, forests (some Citadel, some home-made) of every kind, fences, farmsteads, inns, churches or chapels, at least two of all the little doodads Games Workshop was selling (Gothic Scenery, Arcane Books, Buckets, the Mordheim accessory sprue, the Fantasy Graveyard, and so on). I even just recently had an idea to combine the Gothic graveyard, one of the few older scenery kits Forgeworld still sells, and a couple of the metal Fantasy Graveyard sets Games Workshop put out to have a nice quirky spooky graveyard piece that wasn't quite as over-the-top as the Garden of Morr that's currently being sold. I would buy up an extra set of Arcane books and paint them up as modelling/painting guides and army books as a funny little meta-joke. A Warhammer Fortress to fight siege battles over when castle pieces were attacked in the big Mighty Empires campaign I dreamed of one day playing with my friends. A big collection of Warhammer 40,000 terrain as well, filled with buildings and pillboxes and gun towers and dugout emplacements jungle trees and other, stranger things. A whole galaxy full of celestial phenomena for Battlefleet Gothic (again, this is still possible). A Sisters of Battle/Witchunters army, with the Adepta Sorroritas units in it painted up in the colours of the uniform of the catholic girls' school that some of my friends went to. A Slaanesh-aligned Traitor Guard army. A Night Lords force. A Tyranid swarm painted in dark greys and blues like the Aliens in the Alien movies. A band of Spryers for Necromunda, and a force of Arbites for the same system, with their leader named Jav're (a play on Inspector Javert from Les Miserables), who would later, in my background material, go on to become an Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus. A Carnival of Chaos for Mordheim. All kinds of strange and wondrous conversions and kitbashes. And many more things that escape my immediate memory. And I would share them with the world too. I would post pictures of them in logs on Advanced Tau Tactica, and, and even Warseer sometimes. I'd start my own blog, and it would become one of the big major ones that every hobbyist and wargamer knew, and all across the internet people would gather and marvel at my amazingly-painted models. And immerse themselves in the rich expansive backstory I wrote for them. And I'd go down in tabletop hobby history as a legend. Now obviously none of this was going to happen all at once, that would just be silly since these things take time. But one day, eventually, I was going to get there. One day, my grand vision would become a reality.

But then last year the Specialist Games ranges went dark. Their models started vanishing one by one into the night. And in the few weeks it took for them to completely disappear, I saw my grand shining dream twist, burn and shatter into a million fragments. And though I did make a big panic-spend and managed to rescue a fairly large Tau fleet (and even a couple of Corsair Eldar ships), it was but a shadow of the mighty armada that I had envisioned.

It was the beginning of a newer, darker hobbyist in me. It opened my eyes to the reality of model ranges and age. Miniatures would be discontinued, things would go out of production, models and kits would not stay around forever. But I went on. I continued to try and make my shining dream come true. The end of the Specialist Games might have been a major setback, I thought, but there were still other models out there I wanted. There was still the Wood Elves and Bretonnians to collect. There was still scenery to make and purchase, and caracterful little collector's pieces to, well, collect. The Tau range was in no apparent danger of fading into the abyss. Forgeworld and all the incredible models it made was still out there. I could still come to own all those. I could still come to realise my dream. Heck, I might even be able to salvage a few Specialist Games models from auction sites while I was at it.

Indeed, I was now even more determined to see that my plans happened. If model lines could end and never become available again, I thought, then I must act to collect all these wonderful models as quickly as possible, so that I might have an example of every one of them preserved for future generations to see, so that they would never be forgotten. My experience with the aforementioned panic buy had shown me that I could make one or two massive purchases a year and not completely break the bank, and so I went out and ordered a horde of Wood Elf models, enough to complete the army of them I had imagined, and more. Indeed, as of the time of this writing, I almost have at least one of every single Wood Elf model in the entire current range, with the exception of Orion, Drycha and the mounted characters. It lifted my spirits. After all these years, it felt like I might actually finally be getting to realising my big dream. I can do this, I thought. My aspirations finally seemed within my grasp.

And then it hit me. I saw how much of the Bretonnian range had been discontinued. I went through archived pages of Forgeworld and discovered all the big models and kits I remembered, almost all of them now long-out of production. And then I even saw many of the little metal scenery doodads on Games Workshop's website were now lost forever. And all over again I saw my big, grand shining dream break apart and die.

And what really stings for me, is why it is. It's not because I never got around to getting them all, until only recently I literally couldn't (nowhere near enough funds and no credit card to bring them to the internet). It's simply because just as I was finally becoming able to get them all, time caught up with them. They were old, and discontinued to make way for new things. And so I feel like I have all this sorrow for no other reason that I existed at the wrong time.

It's a new era for Games Workshop now. One of plastic and resin, and digital sculpting. I'm sure it will make many excellent new models, which will be loved by many and go on to inspire a whole new generation of hobbyists just like those old metal models inspired me so many years ago. Forgeworld is putting out a whole new range just for the Horus Heresy. But as great as all of these things are, they are not for me. I wanted a vast magnificent collection of the models from my childhood, those characterful, wonderful metal and plastic ones from the late 90s and especially the early 2000s that captured my imagination, and still do, not these new ones. There are a fair few good ones for them I will admit, but well, it's just not the same for me. There's something missing from them. And I don't think I'll ever get to see my big shining dream fully realised now. I know there's a whole slew of auction and trade sites where many of these older models can be found, but between their very high prices and my sporadic funding, I don't think I'll be quick enough to get them in time. There's still the Gothic Graveyard from Forgeworld, and a couple of the scenic doodads on Games Workshop's website, but I fear I will be too late for them as well. Already I have missed the Warhammer Fortress set, and while it is still possible to replicate, I may never know what sort of box it came with (it may seem odd to you, but that's actually a very important thing to me. I collect the artwork on model boxes just as much as I do the models themselves. It may seem strange to you, but it's just one of my quirks I suppose). And I know all about all the new model brands that are popping up, and that too is a wonderful thing, but, well, a lot of their models just don't do it for me either. Not at the moment at least. But that is a subject for another ramble.

I suppose too that a large part of it is my age. I'm at a very strange place in that regard, as I straddle the line between two hobby generations, which puts me in the awkward place of being too young to have really fully experienced the Silver Age of Games Workshop (the early 2000s, the era of my childhood, and the one I'm nostalgic for), but at the same time old enough that I have a memory of it and too old and set in my ways to really fully appreciate the new era of Games Workshop as those younger than me may. This does tend to make me feel as though I'm trapped between two worlds a lot of the time. So I remember the older Games Workshop, but at the same time I feel like I never really got a chance to fully enjoy it. I never got to have big armies of all those models I remember. I never even got to participate in a global campaign event. And it's all starting to feel like it's been taken away from me now, lost forever..

I think that's everything. So there it is. That's my story. That's my tale of woe and heartbreak of how I came to be here, and that's most, if not all, of what I wanted to get off my chest. I don't expect anyone to respond to it, I don't even really expect anyone to read it. I've written it only to let my feelings out so they don't chew me up inside quite as much. If you have read it all the way through then thank you, it helps to have someone listen. I'm also sorry for having to drop down this big rambling opinion rant piece, as I try hard to look on the brighter side of the hobby. Maybe next time it'll be back to nice backstory pieces and pretty pictures of models. Until then though, I'm signing out. It's late where I am, and I need to get some sleep and cry for a bit. Goodnight everyone.

And Militant wept, for there were no more metal models left to collect. 

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