I think we can all agree that 2020 has not been the best year for anything – other than perhaps supermarket home delivery divisions.
Unsuprisingly Games Workshop has also had a pretty rough time, closing it’s factory , closing all its retail stores and having its key staff work from home.
However, they have persevered , changed their release schedule and have even managed to release an entire new edition of their flagship system – Warhammer 40,000. As part of this release Games Workshop promised a new way to manage your armies and to access your rules – The warhammer 40k app .
Superficially the app is free to download, giving you access to the core rules . When the app launched it offered nothing for free but access to a pdf of the core rules. In order to access any of the rules for your army you had to subscribe via android ( the ios version followed about a week later) for £3.99 . This gained you access to ALL of the 8th edition rules from the codices . Searching them and using them on release was however a challenge.
Two promised features were a long requested one , when you purchased a hard copy of the codex – you get access to a digital version of it aswell as an army builder .
In order to access the rules of the new codex in your app, you need to enter a unique code at the back of the book This will then unlock the relevant rules in your app and then cause the free 8th edition codex to drop off ( we assume this will happen anyway once the codices are in the wild.
Now, what is potentially an issue here , is there is currently no way to buy a full digital codex, and it would seem there are no plans to
This is not good news for those that do not like carrying or buying large books.
Indeed there are has been a £5 bump in the price of the hard back codex , which we assume is to cover the digital rules in the app.
So Digital rules are now the sole preserve of the 40k app, no itunes purchases, this has the added bonus of Games Workshop avoiding the 30% Apple tax, however it does mean that they are completley dependant on the app. The app that has only just started working again today Oct 3 on ios. Historically , the 40k app has lagged behind the android release by some days , which again causes some concern when digitally this is the only way to get them.
One thing that gatekeeping the rules digitally does , perhaps, is strike a blow against pirates , no official digital copies, means no way of pirates to get access to them and no way for people to download them . The arguement of ease of access for most people defeats the need for piracy .
Whilst the 40k app might be the new kid on the block , The Age of Sigmar app has been around for sometime , is fully featured , has an army builder section and all the of the rules for each unit . You can buy a full digital copy of battletomes , which if you do unlocks batallion rules in the azyr army builder . On paper it’s a great app, the army builder section costs .99p a month . All good – sadly it doesn’t work , is no longer regularly updated .
Games Workshop announced that when the General’s Handbook 2020 was released there would be a delay to this paid for app being updated as all resources were being directed to the creation of the 40k app an app that still is threadbare , has no army builder and is reguarly full of faults.
As of today the Lumineth Realm Lord’s faction doesn’t work properly, the Seraphon faction doesn’t work , it took months for the Khadaron Overlords to be updated to work . The problems usually lie with battline if, units . Warsrcoll builder (free) has no such issue , and one has to wonder if the platform that the app is built on simply cannot handle the complexities of the output of the AOS rules team.
Why are Games Workshop having these problems ? Well Covid 19 is certainly a key factor – teams are spreadout, people are working from home , and despite the technology available, it is no replacement for actually working together on a product.
We aren’t privy to the inner workings of Games Workshop so anything we write here is simply speculation. Certainly Games Workshop isn’t strapped for cash.
It has no debt and is worth more than Marks and Spencers, so could it not throw money at the problem? Perhaps GW doesn’t see there is a problem but the feeling within some of the Games Workshop community is that there is no real will to fix issues, despite platitudes to the contrary.
The Age of Sigmar app really is difficult to understand why some of its key components don’t work – Battleline ifs are are a key component and frankly its embrassing that the free warscrollbuilder has no place for this . Perpaps the Age of Sigmar app is in it’s last vestiges before a new version 3? It would make sense to this writer that both game systems worked with the same basic app infrastructure .
Despite the outcry about digital codices going away , do we need them ? The competetive gamer that doesn’t want to carry books to tournaments , doesn’t need a book full of lore, neither do they need an app full of lore, easy to access rules are key in these situations – perhaps this is the future GW should be working for ?
There is no doubt that this is a new market and these are baby steps.
In our opinion The balance of book of digital rules is a good one , it deals to some extent with digital piracy, which is much more prevelant than someone taking the time to scan a book .
To conclude, 2020 has been a challenging year and Games Workshop has navigated it with aplomb. However entering a new market with digital subscriptions, leaves it very little room to manouver when it is taking a subscription fee and providing at times a substandard product. We watch with interest as the launch of the new hybrid codices approach , and hope that the army builder is not too far behind
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