Thursday, December 15, 2011

Very bad news for Axis & Allies and D&D fans

Lead D&D and A&A miniatures designer Rich Baker just posted that he's been let go from Wizards of the Coast!

This is, of course, awful personal news for him. Being laid off a week before Christmas sucks. Actually, speaking from experience, being laid off at any time sucks pretty bad, but the holidays is even worse.

It also throws the entire future of D&D and Axis & Allies miniatures products into doubt. WOTC has already indicated it was backing out of the painted miniature category. It appears that Pathfinder may have eaten in to D&D's market share a bit, but I'm inclined to think it's bigger than just one line's market share issues. I've suspected that the "Golden Era" of boxes full of plastic and painted collectible miniatures we have enjoyed over the last decade or so was an artifact of some temporary economic conditions (specifically the price differential between China and USA) and was coming to a close.

I'm not sure what WOTC's plans are for the D&D stuff. They were working on a new set of skirmish rules, but I don't know if that's going to see daylight now.

As far as the Axis & Allies miniatures line go, Baker said that his layoff did not mean any miniatures lines were being canceled and he seemed to offer some hope that he'd be able to work on some projects on a freelance basis. Realistically, I've thjought that the land miniatures line was all but certainly dead already and that the hoped-for Late War set was never happening. There was just too long a break since the last set and it would basically mean restarting the line. I also think Angels 20 (the new air game) is a dead duck. Whatever is already paid for in the pipeline will come out, but I doubt very much there's bee anything new started. I suppose there's a small bit of hope for a Set VII for War at Sea, but it's a slender one.

I think we can also lay to rest any thoughts of a reborn Heroscape. Among the other layoffs was the brand manager for the Avalon Hill and Axis & Allies lines, so even the future of the board games may now be in doubt. I know there was some talk about an exapnsion for Battle Cry and Larry Harris was working on a final set of rules for 1940 Global Axis & Allies. Without someone to guide these along I have my doubts. The sort of intensive attention wargames/RPGs need was never a good fit for Hasbro/WOTC anyway -- they're certainly no GMT!

Overall, a very sad day for fans of a number of popular games.

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