Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Tale of 2 Hobbies- a long talk sure to make me less popular.

  Hello again folks, been pretty busy and there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Still making odds and ends, like this for the guys over at Rust Forge-

  I been slowly sliding in to a more manufacturing role and less a retailer, but I still am planning big as always. I added a 120mm base to the store. It was requested and was too big for the press. Had to add a precision 2x4 block to hold it closed.
  I know my friend Chris is laughing, but it worked.

 The sci-fi girls were ruined and so I had to remake the first half of the mold. When you run a lot of programs it is easy to over look a small mistake. I powered the cnc bit straight down through the cavity and ruined one of the gun arms. Oh well, be more observant. Back on track and designing the next one.  :)  No promises but I would like to be done soon. 

  What brings me on to my soapbox today is the culmination of some talks had recently with people and a few forums where people were talking about price increases over at the big monster, GW. It is somewhat counter intuitive for me to think that the company with the lowest cost per unit to make has the highest price per unit. If I were GW I would use my massive ability to produce products to lower prices and wipe out all the little guys. ( see Walmart)   However, they have chosen to raise prices and thereby enable little guys to exist. Quite nice of them, one has to admit.

  What follows I have stated a few times, so apologies if this post seems a re-post.

  It seems that the cost is justified by the abilities of the model in the game. It ignores the fact that those abilities are the result of my own imagination, not value added by the company.  I can choose to pretend the models are whatever I want and have whatever abilities I can think of. Which brings me to the comparison of my 2 main hobbies at the moment- slot cars and wargaming.

  I started collecting High Elves in 1988, and have a gazillion. The painted ones shown in the battle report  are a sample of what I still have to paint. I could see myself buying every high elf made till death overtakes me in some far distant era. (hopefully)  I even have an entire army of West Wind high elves as well.   Why?  Because someday a stranger will approach me and challenge me to a 12,000 point battle with the requirement that all models be painted.  And I must be ready to look that stranger in the eye and say,  " Sure, grab your dice."

  So that makes me a prime candidate for this new product from GW-

Ok, I hope those maniacs do not sue me for using an image- all rights reserved, blah blah, they thought of everything, blah blah, they invented human conflict, blah blah, etc. 

  So why have I not purchased said item?  Because it costs more than this-

  Now the elves can shoot bows and stuff, but I sort of have to do all the work. The manufacturer made a nice model and all, but it is the players that bring it to life with assembly and painting. And then use the rules to play a game. I make that blob of plastic an army and bring it to life. And I really enjoy that.

  What can that stupid car do?  Well, it is ready to go right out of the box. It has electric motor, rubber tires, metal axles. Lots of parts to make for a manufacturer. It also has working headlights and tail lights. Which I can turn off and on from my controller. And the brake lights come on when I release the throttle to slow down and go out after I stop or go back on the throttle.  It comes in a nice display case with extra parts right along with it. And it has a computer in it.

  Yes a computer. With that computer it is programmed to an individual controller with the push of a button to allow 8 cars to operate on a single lane with out interference. Neat?  There are numerous crossing points that allow you to pass and block other drivers. My track is 2, 3 and 4 lanes wide in places.
   Also, the computer reverses the motor polarity when the throttle is released and uses the electric motor to provide resistance and therefore brakes. And I can adjust the amount of braking. In 15 different increments to give me the amount of stopping I want.

  I can also adjust the amount of power, if one car seems "bogus". A click of a button and instant balance. No more waiting 10 years for a codex.  15 different increments too.

  And it also has a variable fuel capacity. What? Yes that's right, it keeps track of how much electricity I have been using and subtracts it from the fuel reserves of the car.  But what do you have to do, gas it up?   Yes, there is a section of track where you have to pull over and using your controller add fuel.

Ok, but what happens then. Well, the computer adjusts the power and braking of the car based on the weight of the fuel it is carrying. The car runs best when it is almost out of gas and is a little sluggish filled up.

 Sounds strange so far, but what else?

  With a click the car can be set to drive by itself, in case I got no one to race against. I can put 7 cars on the track and race against all of them if I want. This sucks because they keep wrecking in to each other, but it can be done.

 The track has a USB connector that attaches to a PC. It manages all the cars and drivers and keeps a record of each lap ran, fastest, etc. It also can provide random events, like brake failure. This requires unscheduled pit stops. If your car loses brakes, the computer announces this over the speakers and will reduce your braking to nothing. I won a race against my daughters last night by refusing to stop and running the last few laps with no brakes.
   Yes, I said it announces. It comes with a full spectrum of sounds to fill your ears with updates on who is winning, laps to go etc. Of course I edited this. 

  OK, I love me some high elves and wargaming. But I can not figure out how a couple of those sprues cost more than that 289 Cobra. The features on the car are all tangible items of value improvement.  The elves got a decent initiative and good leadership. I know they have always strikes first, or at least they used to. And they have a BS of 4 or maybe 5.   Been a while since I could afford a new codex. All of these are intangibles added inside my own head by reading the rules. It is hard to understand how the actual engineering put in to that beautiful car equals the value of a rule. A rule does not make a model more expensive to produce. This fact is where I get sideways and have that head exploding moment.

    It has been a while since my finite disposable hobby income has been allocated to wargaming instead of race cars. I could not resist the Reaper kickstarter and really looking forward to some old fashioned dungeon mosh pits. Since then, nothing really for gaming but a couple new cars.

  And that is my take on the whole endless argument on the Internet about the cost of GW products.

 One final point.  Wargaming is a niche market. But slot cars are a much smaller niche.  I went to a slot car show in Maryland and it filled 2 smallish rooms in a hotel and was open from 10-2 on Sunday. I went to Cold Wars and it filled an entire convention center and lasted all weekend.

  To summarize- I ain't buying no more high elves at these prices.  So when that stranger does come looking for me, I will have to forfeit that battle.

  Till then, going to keep painting and rolling dice as well as rubbing fenders on the track. Both are really great hobbies and a ton of fun. It is a good time to have such wonderful pastimes, and we are very lucky.

  This post will vanish if I get a letter from one of the companies whose products are depicted. If that happens, which company do you think it will be? I know Carrera is an extraordinarily nice company to deal with.  GW calls me a "bearded git".  (Actual quote a store owner told me from a GW sales seminar. It was used to explain the type of customer to get out of your store ASAP. )

   I got some more widgets to do and the other half of the mold to do. Still the progress keeps grinding forward and good things are happening. Have a great week and keep your fingers crossed I do not screw up again. And buy some widgets from rust forge- he never calls me a git.

EDIT- The price listed is not entirely accurate. It is possible to easily find the car shown at $42-48 online and my local shop sells the car for that price too. My local game store sells the minis at full retail.  However, if you compare full retail to full retail the minis are a few bucks cheaper. $54-50. Not sure if that makes a difference, but wanted to give the most accurate numbers. To be honest I rarely pay full retail for anything anymore but was comparing the prices at my local shops.

 So the elves are less expensive by a slim margin. Still a valid comparison of a German hobby company and a UK based one both competing for my disposable recreational income.