Today I stumbled on another one of the many early reviews of Warhammer 3rd Edition, this one published at Uncle Bear Media. It seems to be a review based entirely on the pre-release advertising for the game, judging by the way it is written. This type of “review” is not unusual – I’ve stumbled upon quite a few since I inherited a copy of the game, and they seem to all follow the same pattern. Maybe it’s something about modern gamer cynicism, or maybe it was the climate of the times, or maybe it’s just that gamers are a bunch of arrogant judgmental jerks, but there seem to be quite a few things wrong with these reviews that they all hold in common. Here are a few examples of the complaints that were made about Warhammer 3 before it came out, based on reviews of the product as seen at GenCon or on the initial media:

  • The Board-game-ification of RPGs: Apparently using cards to track abilities is an example of the influence of boardgames on role-playing and this is a bad thing (to judge from the carefully-placed “groan”). I wonder if the first role-players complained about this when dice were introduced for handling conflict resolution? No, they didn’t. Getting ideas from other place is not a good or a bad thing unless the ideas are a bad thing; and they can’t be such a bad thing, since a year after writing this “groan,” Uncle Bear penned a whole post on the benefits of cards in gaming. With, of course, no reference to where or how he might have learnt over the intervening year that actually tracking abilities with cards is quite a useful idea.
  • Mischaracterizations about miniatures: Here we hear the oft-repeated complaint that the game “looks as if they’re taking queues from Wizards of the Coast and shooting for a tactical miniatures game with roleplaying elements.” I can only presume that this is based on the fact that the game has cardboard standup characters, because even though WFRP 3 is based on a world that derived from a miniature battle game, it explicitly does not rely on miniatures. Distances are calculated in 3 abstract ranges with no reference to any form of battlemat, terrain, frontage, base size, or any other form of miniature battle game -related concept. The use of standups in WFRP is purely for flavour, and you don’t need them. There isn’t even a concept of flank attacks – the game explicitly avoids any form of placement, tactical movement, or specific details of the combat space. You are engaged with an opponent, or you are not. I’d add that the reviewer is a pathfinder player and, in any case, the characterization of D&D (any edition) as “a miniature battlegame with role-playing elements” is shallow.
  • Abandonment of the original setting: I think a lot of reviewers assumed that rewriting the rules means inevitably rewriting the setting. But the game books are actually very rules light – the rules section of the books is dwarfed by the setting information. I just received the Winds of Magic supplement, and it is about 70% setting flavour, with a few pages of rules in each book. The basic book is probably about 50% setting. The setting material is laid out in a similar fashion to the previous version, with cynical, ironic or extremely nasty quotes from observers of the time, and background details on the grim and perilous world. Changing the rules doesn’t mean changing the setting.
  • Loyalty to a shit system: I don’t know about 1st Edition, but WFRP 2 is a really poor system. Rewriting this is not a bad thing, and loyalty to a system which was presented in a beautiful book and had an excellent career system but a really, really bodgy ruleset is not a good idea. WFRP 2 needed serious reworking, and the new system has imported a lot of very clever and quite useful ideas to do that. A little openness to new ideas might be a good thing in the gaming world, I think.

Which isn’t to say that WFRP 3 is perfect (see my shortly-to-be-written review of The Winds of Magic for where I think it goes wrong, and my suspicions about its bigger problems), but shooting it down on the basis of a press release and a bunch of assumptions is both a) crap and b) an example of an all-too-common problem in the role-playing world, of cynicism combined with low expectations and arrogance.