Blessed are the Mat Makers for they are Screwed!
Out of the all the fantastic rules reveals since the first announcement of Warhammer 40k 9th, none other has seemed to capture the imagination and drama genes of the Warhammer 40k community than the game table size changes for 2000 point games. Before we get into, please check out my latest Youtube video below recapping all the news and speculation about Warhammer 40k 9th edition from this week. By table sizes going down from 72″ x 48″ to the “minimum” strange size of 60″ x 44″, Games Workshop seems to be angling at a new market. Still, the roll out by GW of this titanic change couldn’t be any more vague and speculative.
If you have seen comments from various playtesters this change was hotly contested, but it originated with Games Workshop, repeatably stating 9th edition was designed for smaller tables sizes. The company line so far, is the change was primarily done so people could play on their dining tables. As anyone who has any furniture experience would tell you though, no standard dining table comes in 44″ width, the best you you can hope for are large square dining tables. Smaller point games though are great for dining tables, but to say the standard Warhammer 40k 2k game can be played on our average dining is pretty disingenuous. Games Workshop though also provided themselves ample cover by stating these were “minimum” table sizes.
The real I believe reason why Games Workshop has made this change is pretty clear, they want head back into the game board market. The new size is the same as taking two standard Kill Team boards and putting them together, so you and buddy each with a Kill Team set can instantly game up to the new 60″x 44″ minimum. Hard cardboard boards isn’t a new invention in the tabletop community, with Dungeons & Dragons pioneering cardboard tabletop years ago. (As a side note, making your wargame look more familiar to other tabletop gamers doesn’t hurt either) What is though completely unique to Warhammer 40k and wargming in general is the rise of mouse pad type mats. It started with just a few companies, but now we have countless making mats for Warhammer 40k, even with Games Workshop designing a terrible one a few years ago.
Games Workshop is poised to jump into this seemly profitable industry. Especially, if they expand on the hard cardboard route, with Games Workshop sheer size and production capacity, while durability of mouse pad mats is unquestioned, GW can flood the market with “official” Warhammer 40k cardboard boards of various kinds, that all can be combined into any size game. The biggest advantage Games Workshop would have though is the shipping logistics and storage capacity cardboard boards have over mouse pad mats. You can easily fold and store boards giving them a leg up on mat makers, this also makes it very easy for Games Workshop stores to display them.
The only thing holding Games Workshop back though, and the biggest hope for Mat makers is a bad price point, Games Workshop isn’t very good at pricing new products appropriately. I can see a world where Games Workshop overprices these boards to be comparable to mats, not understanding the community keen eye for value and quality. If Games Workshop though can come under $25 bucks a Kill Team board, so you only pay $50 for the standard game, then Games Workshop can start to take on the mat makers effectively. This is also where the global marketing and GW stores come in handy in creating the new standard, and any lesser profit margins they have to eat, made back as they put mat makers out of business and the inevitable later price increases. As well with the exception of Frontline Gaming many mat makers are already caught flat footed and will need to change production and offload old mats as quickly as possible. So, if Games Workshop wants to strike they will have to do it quickly, but the time is now.
Of course, just as recently as a few days ago Games Workshop tried to walk back all the hubbub concerning tables sizes, by letting players know the game can still be played on the old 6×4, while at the same time showing us images of what they expect a board and game to look like for 9th edition at the new “minimum”. Games Workshop does a good job of moving the community to their end goals slowly over time, this is just another example, while game sizes for 9th edition might have the word “minimum” right now, I bet if successful all future editions we will see 60″ x 44″ removing that word minimum from the equation.
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