When John torched his Warhammer Fantasy army on camera, he wasn’t expecting anybody to notice, or even care. But spurred on by an incredibly divided reaction to Games Workshop’s controversial rebooting of their universe, John’s video of melting dark elves and screaming death metal has been passed around hundreds of thousands of times.
We knew that a man willing to give his tiny plastic elves a proper Viking send-off (pre-faced by an extremely expletive rant) was a man with some strong opinions. Needless to say, we sent John an email immediately.
John’s video below. Skip to 8:00 if you don’t want to hear an extremely vitriolic rant with a lot of swear words.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
John: I’m 29. In terms of education and employment I have a Master’s degree in Religious Studies and I’m adequately employed. At the time of writing this, I live in Louisiana, which is as miserable as you might imagine. My hobbies include music, movies, books, exercising, and, of course, wargaming.
How long have you been collecting and playing Warhammer? And what got you into the hobby in the first place?
John: About 16 or 17 years, I think. I started playing 40K in 3rd edition. Chaos Marines were my first army. I remember watching a game at my LGS and thinking it looked very cool, very intricate. It was a nice change of pace from video games, card games, and Chess, which were my main hobbies at the time. Like most new Chaos players, I built a Khornate list. After playing 40k for a while I eventually picked up a Vampire Counts Fantasy army, from there it was Chaos Warriors, all flavors of Elves, Daemons, and so on. I have a bit of gamer ADD, so I shift armies quite frequently.
Did you believe the rumours about Age of Sigmar when they started circulating? Did you really think GW would do something like this?
John: GW has implemented some terrible business plans over the years, but even I never believed they would do something so patently insane. I absolutely did not believe the rumors. With the exception of one person, my club was convinced that the rumors for AoS were the fevered fabrications of gamer hysteria. We were absolutely convinced that Warhammer 9th would roll out on schedule and without fail as had the previous editions.
Do you believe, now, that GW are actually going to balance the game for competitive play? Or is that still just talk?
John: Without completely revising the system, I don’t see how this is possible. The system would need to be rebuilt from the ground up. I’ve yet to read about a homebrew system that adequately patches the game for competitive play. Given GW’s track record for design and “playtesting” I seriously doubt their capability to even recognize a functional system.
You compared continuing on with 8th edition to ‘eating glass’. Do you actually hate 8th Edition WFB, or is it just that everything is tainted forever now by association?
John: I don’t hate 8th edition WFB. In fact, I rather enjoyed it (although not as much as previous editions)! The problem lies in the fact that I have no desire to play a game without support. Without some sort of official support, each community will begin to develop its own house rules and further fragment the system. We already had Swedish, ETC, “American Swedish’ and so on. Further fragmentation will only continue to degrade a system already on its last legs. To me, a game without some kind of overarching agreement on how it should be played is not significantly different from playing with G.I. Joe’s or Army Men. You may as well make up the rules as you go along. Who’s to stop you?
As for the comparison to eating glass, the rant was intended to be hyperbolic. When I watched Lord T’s rant #9 I found myself upset that he failed to use enough profanity. What’s a good rant without an expletive ridden tirade? I decided I could do better. With this goal in mind, I laid out my problems with GW and the system and then clothed it in puerile vituperations. I expected it to be taken with a grain of salt. I was fairly amazed at how literally people took the rant portion.
You’ve outlined the flaws in almost every facet of the game. Is there ANY way, in your opinion, that Age of Sigmar can be fixed?
John: The introduction of points would make it playable, although not palatable. To make it a good game would require a complete revision of the system. So much so that it would cease to be the same game. Even with a complete rules revision, it would then simply be another skirmish game in a sea of skirmish games.
How much money did you spend on your Dark Elves?
John: Around 600 USD. The vast majority of the army was acquired second hand or through trades. From my point of view the only real expense was the time spent assembling and painting the models. I didn’t have any second thoughts. I wasn’t going to play WFB ever again and I wanted to send off my Dark Elves in grand style. I kept my characters (Lydia, Lily, Tessa, Idyir, etc.) and burned the rest. My other fantasy armies I sold off.
Nearly two months later: any regrets?
John: I was interested in the feedback from the internet in general and the Warhammer community in particular. I was amazed at how personally people took it. The responses seemed split between laudatory and vitriolic with not much in between. Quite a few people accused me of being childish and seemed to think it was a sort of temper tantrum. But I didn’t view it that way. I wasn’t angry (though I can see how people might come to that conclusion from listening to the rant). The burning was a funeral for my Dark Elves and a celebration of the end of something great.
Out of the critics, the most vocal group were those who felt that the burning was wasteful and unprofitable and therefore stupid. I could have used the money for so many other things! And that’s true. I could have. But the happiness I gained from burning the army was greater than the happiness I would have gained from the money. I profited, but not in material terms. Burning the army, in terms of loss of capital, is not significantly different from setting off fireworks. And a casual perusal of the internet will uncover a dearth of people bitterly complaining about the waste of money inherent in setting off fireworks, if indeed there are any to be found at all.
Spinning off from the critics of waste were those who felt I was acting in an inordinately selfish manner. They opine I could have given the army away or sold it and donated the money to charity. These I accuse of hypocrisy. Any purchase for oneself is selfishness. The retention of material goods is selfish. By extension, this means all people who own armies (even if you did acquire it for free) are acting selfishly. Anyone who sells an army and doesn’t donate the money acts selfishly. So, unless these commentators are homeless ascetics who spend all their waking hours helping others, they are hypocrites. Their hypocrisy does not, however, negate the accuracy of their accusation; the burning was selfish. I have no problem admitting that, but I’ve never claimed anything to the contrary either.
There were a fair few who thought we were attention seeking– trying to make a quick buck off of a shock video. I’d like to dispel that illusion. We never expected this video to be viewed outside the few thousand subscribers on Lord T’s channel. Beyond that, the music I chose was copyrighted, so there was never any possibility of financial gain. Per YouTube’s terms, all the money has gone to the artists: Leviathan (who needs it) and Nine Inch Nails (who almost certainly does not).
And then there were the occasional lunatics and internet tough guys who messaged us with death threats or hoped that we would develop lung cancer from the fumes in some sort of karmic retribution. Sadly, I must report I wore a respirator and my expiration from fume inhalation seems a remote possibility.
So, no. No regrets then or now. It was fun in the moment. and it generated an unexpectedly wide social response! It was a lot of fun to produce the video and a lot of fun to read the comments, both positive and negative.
Any predictions for the future of Age of Sigmar or GW in general?
John: I think Age of Sigmar will join the rubbish bin of gaming history alongside Battlefleet Gothic, Dreadfleet, Inquisitor, and other GW failures. I believe GW’s star is waning. With the imminence of the internet and the concomitant access to other games, GW has lost their virtual monopoly. With too many credible alternatives, people have no reason to subject themselves to a predatory marketing scheme. GW may not crash and burn– they may pull out of this dive– but they will cease to be the monolith they have been up to this point.
What are you playing now, and how is it better than Age of Sigmar (or indeed 8th edition)?
John: Warmachine has once again become my mainstay. I started playing Warmachine around the release of the third expansion, “Apotheosis,” in MK. I. Currently I’m running Cygnar, Khador, and Skorne, though I’ve owned every faction in the game — with the notable exception of Trollbloods — at some point or another. In its current incarnation, Warmachine is a game designed from the ground up with competitive play in mind. Privateer Press spends a great deal of time and money in playtesting and development as well as heavily investing in the community and listening to what it has to say. This has led to a very balanced global meta. Or as balanced as one can reasonably expect.
I also play Infinity and Malifaux, both very well thought out games with strong support from their parent companies, though they lack the emphasis on competitive play found in Warmachine.
Compared to these companies, GW simply does not stack up. There is a woeful imbalance, and GW is far in the negative.
Thanks to John for taking the time to talk to us, and for setting your army on fire in the first place.
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