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State of The Hobby 2019

We’re almost a full three months into 2019, and so most states, counties, cities and, yes, the United States itself have issued a “State of the (Fill In The Blank) Address” to discuss where things stand. I thought it might be fun to do something similar for our beloved pastime, wargaming. So, here goes:

Honestly, I feel like the current state of the wargaming hobby is pretty strong, in general. 

Games Workshop last year moved from strength to strength with sometimes overwhelming rapidity. A new edition of Age of Sigmar, Kill Team, Blackstone Fortress, expansions to Shadespire and Necromunda, and so on, showed the depth and breadth of the company’s devotion to the fans. Their Community team ramped up outreach efforts more than ever; we got a Warhammer 40k podcast at the end of 2018, and an AoS podcast premiered in the summer, then went on hiatus for retooling and then also came back at the end of December. While there have been a few hiccups and issues along the way (the love/hate relationship GW fans have with the company is now legendary) – such as the Forge World pricing controversy, the Young Adult novels flap and what some considered an underwhelming #Orktober rollout this fall – it looks like 2019 is going to be a big one for the folks at GW. The long awaited release of Plastic Sisters sometime this year is likely only the tip of the iceberg.

Historical wargaming giant Warlord Games in 2018 released a new edition of their Black Powder rules set, and used the IP assets they acquired from Wargames Factory to create a new fantasy wargame, “Warlords of Erehwon” (that’s ‘Nowhere’ spelled backwards). Fantasy Flight Games announced upcoming Clone Wars expansions for their Star Wars Legion game. Wyrd Games released “The Other Side” and is gearing up for a new edition of Malifaux. And I know I’m missing likely a thousand other things.

It’s seemed to be a mixed bag for smaller wargaming companies. Some posted successful Kickstarter projects both large and small; others kept plugging along and continued their traditions of great products and service. Others sadly went out of business altogether. Despite the continuing success of GW and other “big boy” companies, it seems that a rising tide in this industry doesn’t float all boats.

On the podcast scene, some new shows started (a personal favorite, “Havoc Cast” from the inimitable The Lonely Havocs), others packed it in (Alas, “Tales of Sigmar”). And despite the usual hobby hullabaloo (certain blogs still have the power to irritate folks in the community and drive salty conversation; others in the community seem only interested in starting a ruckus) I think the online community of wargames has only grown closer together.

There are some outstanding questions as we move through 2019: Can GW keep up the massive momentum of stellar releases they established in 2018? (With the Adepticon previews last night, it sure looks like it!) With the epicenter of wargaming manufacturing centered in Great Britain, what effect will the looming Brexit have? Will the increasing trend toward skirmish games continue? Will what seems to be a thriving and growing wargaming movement keep it up?

I tend to think about hobby a lot – not just my own projects, but where things stand in general. It feels like just a few years ago, wargaming was still pretty niche. Now it’s almost all over the place – you can buy Blitz Bowl, GW’s pared-down beginner version of Blood Bowl, at big-box bookstores, for instance – and I think that’s a good thing. In my area, we’ve got a lot of wargaming/tabletop gaming stores, most of them within 10-15 minutes’ drive of my house. But I’ve also heard some worry that it’s a crowded market, maybe too crowded. 

There’s a lot to think about as our hobby strides confidently into the heart of 2019. The state of our hobby is strong. But there’s a lot that still needs to be seen.

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