Squatting And You: A Wargamer's Guide to Discontinued Miniatures03 Oct 2017 0
The recent demise of Spartan Games has brought to our attention the phenomenon of a game studio dying and taking its games with it. (although, as it turns out, not totally -ED) While it doesn't really matter to video games that much – even multiplayer games can sometimes survive studio death – this is problematic for tabletop games. Rackham was infamous for managing to go bankrupt twice while producing Confrontation and AT-44, games that people actually liked. But sometimes it doesn't take a company going down to kill your involvement in a game. Sometimes, a company just squats – cancels – your game all on their own.
Some history on the term “squatting:” it has nothing to do with Slavic youths and everything to do with Games Workshop. Warhammer Fantasy Battles predates Warhammer 40K, and in many senses, 40K was “WHFB in Space!” That's why you have space orcs in orks, and why eldar are just space elves. For a time, you also had squats - space dwarves. As the game developed, GW perhaps thought that there wasn't actually space for an another (sub)human faction, so they got axed. Their worlds were eaten by Tyranids and the whole faction was dumped... or “squatted,” as angry players like to call it.
Does squatting still happen in this day and age? Yes, yes it does. A hard one happened in Infinity a few years ago, when Exrah, the bug-like aliens in the Combined Army, got squatted. Presumably because people weren't interested... or because models were a hassle to make. More currently, Space Marines are a different kind of squat, - a “soft” squat.
With the release of 8th Edition this June, Primaris Marines were introduced into the setting. A result of 10,000 years of experimentation spent trying to improve God-Emperor’s own handywork, they are better than regular Marines both on and off the table. But it’s OK, since, in the fluff, regular Space Marines can be rather trivially transformed into the v.2 Marines. They are also getting all new sculpts, which are taller, more proportionate… less detailed. Unfortunately, your miniatures can't make the the same transformation, and only some of the bits (parts) – heads and pauldrons – are cross compatible.
The thing is, they are obsoleting all the Space Marines armies out there both on the tabletop and fluff. In-universe, why would you have regular Space Marines milling about if making Primaris variants is not that much harder? And on the tabletop, GW almost had to make Primaris Marines instead of boosting regular ones. If you suddenly gave Space Marines better stats, you wouldn’t get more sales, since more than half of all armies are already Space Marines. Making them tougher would make them pricier to balance it out, leading to less models on the table.
The fact that older transport vehicles can’t transport Primaris models for no reason (not even in the fluff, as those same vehicles can easily fit bulky Terminators and jump-pack models) while the sole Primaris transport can’t transport the old Marines can key you in that regular Adeptus Astartes are not long for this world. I would be extremely surprised if there would be any more plastic kits for smaller Marines released.
And while you can argue that the changes have some less sinister reasons, too – less detailed models are easier to paint and new players can have an easier time wrapping their heads around mono weapon units – the fact is that pre-8th Marines are on the way out. So your army is getting squatted, what can you do?
Many people turn to eBay to offload their goods while the going is good. Bretonnian and Tomb Lord armies, both squatted with the advent of Age of Sigmar, were sold off by people who were unwilling to switch to Kings of War or 9th Age rulesets. You can still sell your Space Marines, too. With the newest codex just having been released, there will be some time and some years before regular Marines are dropped for good. So if you want to sell them, now is the chance.
But if your miniatures are well painted, beautifully converted or just have sentimental value, keep them. Maybe you will be inspired to use them in some other, possibly setting-agnostic game. You must never forget that 40K is not the be-all, end-all ruleset, and other, better ones exist out there. And while Space Marines are more unique in appearance than say, Bretonnian knights, the Egyptian undead of the Tomb Kings or any of the AT-44 factions (except for space Buddhist gorillas), you can still imagine them as your power armored Space Monks in the setting of your making. At the very least, you can store them as stand models, forever enshrining the fun time you probably had playing them.
Same goes with other games, factions and models. If anything from Infinity gets squatted, congrats, you now have some generic models to play Starport Scum (or other games from “Blessed” Ivan Sorrensen), since most models (butts aside) look really generic (I would know, I collect PanO). Many things from Warmachine can be reused in other fantasy or steampunk games. Why not spruce up a table top RPG campaign? Who needs a demigorgon if you have a steampunk robot? The possibilities are endless!
You might even continue playing the edition of the rules that still have your models. Yes, people exist that still play older editions of 40K (they call it "Oldhammer"), partially because of nostalgia. Heck, Epic 40K (6mm mass battles system that’s better than any GW ruleset has put out since) has enough traction to have people producing bootleg 6mm versions of the new miniatures to keep it going long after its death. So where there’s a will, there’s a way – you just have to overcome the disease of the mind that is the need of constant official support.
As for being ready for a squat… no way to do that but to keep your ear to the ground and read the signs. Nerds and websites catering to them love to go over every rumor, piece of information and napkin with ketchup stains that was found in the trash can behind Fantasy Flight Games. At the very least, keep an eye on the Bell of Lost Souls, because they have no reservations about wallowing in this regurgitated hearsay. Sometimes, you will be able to piece together that something is going down. Other times, you’ll be the first one to hear about an officially sanctioned squatting, allowing you to be the first to hit eBay.
You can also keep an eye on the happenings in the fluff of the game and news of incoming new editions, since these breaks are the perfect times to squat your army for good. This doesn’t happen that often, but the opportunity (for publishers) is there. New editions are also a good way to nerf certain army lists that dominated the previous meta, though this is not something I would regard as squatting. As a nerd, I’m ready to hand out stinkeyes to powergamers, munchkins and WAACs like I was an Eldritch deity from beyond the stars. However, some people dump armies over this, which can be to your benefit.
However, trying to read the leaves for hard squats can sometimes be super hard. Sisters of Battle are the prime example of this. These space warrior nuns are an amazing (mostly) all-lady faction in 40K, a female counter part to Space Marines that makes up with faith for lack of genetic enhancement. However, they haven’t received new models in years (unless you count the sexy new Celestine), their rulesets are usually handled with even less love than orks, and the existing models are priced at such ridiculous levels that buying into a new army is almost suicidal. But Games Workshop just keeps not-squatting them, leaving people super frustrated. Just give us plastic Sisters already!
So as you see, the death of a company is not the only thing that can put you out of the game. The squatting of a faction is a process that can be painful (if you’re playing 40K), but it can also offer new opportunities, whether to sell your old models with that sweet Out Of Production mark-up, or to try newer, better games. And in the end, you can always maintain hope. It took decades for Games Workshop to return Genestealer Cults into the field, but they did it eventually. On the other hand, it didn’t take a month for Wayland Games to pick up basically everything from the parcelling out of Spartan Games, so maybe you’d have better luck with dead games.