How Do Fans Affect The Writing of Games’ Rulebooks?

As a recent convert to the almost-religion of tabletop gaming, I have been watching the recent development of the metagame (a term coined by the community to represent the community’s own dialogue regarding the rules and how the game company should have done them differently).

There is a main rulebook for the game that remains unchanged throughout an edition, which usually last for 4-6 years, and there are sixteen sub-rulebooks called codices that list the specific rules for each army. I joined at a time when there was an army that had waited for more than 11 years for its new codex (most get an update during each edition, and a wait of more than 5 or 6 years is almost unheard of), and everyone was extremely excited to see what changes the new codex would hold.

At that point, everyone was incredibly frustrated with the most recent codex (only a few months old), claiming that they were overpowered and unfair, and that they should be reduced in power to be a better match with all the other armies. Naturally, the company that makes the games heard all of this, endlessly, and as with most large companies, they didn’t care at all, because we were still buying their products, and therefore there was no reason to change.

Then the new codex rolled around, and the once-underpowered army became the most overpowered, even better than the previously released army. Half of the player-base was incensed that another unfair army had entered the scene, and the other half was just glad to watch the previously unfair army get tromped on a regular basis. Just after the new army had come out, there was a massive annual tournament, the attendance of which was dominated by players who played the two newest armies, and a player that played the newest army won first place. Shortly thereafter, so many people complained about losing the tournament (I’m not sure what they expected, it was a 1st-3rd place with 500+ people in attendance, so more than 480 people “lost”) that they canceled the tournament altogether, probably just to get people to shut up and stop whining.

This kind of hammer and eggshell game development makes very little sense for a game’s livelihood, because people will get more and more frustrated that their old stuff is never as good at the new stuff. From a publishing perspective, however, it makes sense to develop games this way, because making people want to buy the newest rulebook and associated army will make you large bursts of money each time a new book drops.

Though all in all, it seems like kind of a dick move.

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