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"Has FoW Dropped Metal Models?" Topic

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World War Two on the Land

1,733 hits since 8 Jul 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Achtung Minen08 Jul 2019 7:28 a.m. PST

Battlefront started rolling out their line of plastic minis in 2012. It has grown very gradually over that time, but just recently (it might have started late last year), their old metal infantry and resin vehicles have been very suddenly (and without any announcement) dropping off their website. I logged on to a few days ago to find almost all of my favourite models completely vanished.

Now reasonable people can debate metal vs plastic, or new sculpts vs old sculpts, but regardless of how one personally feels, one has to admit that there are those out their that loved the old models. I was one of them. I really detest plastic minis because 1) they feel flimsy and do not have the same tactile sense as metal and 2) because they are all 100% computer designed. I loved the golden era Evan Allen sculpts… you got a real sense of his style and artistry and they all felt like they were done by hand. It breathed real life into them. On the contrary, I can spot a CAD design instantly because it is so uniform and sterile. But this is not to say your preference for plastic isn't valid… it is just to say some of us preferred the metal.

A quick comparison (using Internet Archive) shows the degree to which models have been lost.

Finland has lost 59% of its items (37 individual entries)
Germany has lost 56% of its items (272 individual entries)
Hungary has lost 67% of its items (36 individual entries)
Romania has lost 60% of its items (34 individual entries)
United Kingdom has lost 51% of its items (132 individual entries)
USSR has lost 42% of its items (81 individual entries)

And many other nations besides. If you count all nations, the Flames of War offerings have hemorrhaged a total of 635 unique items, or over a third of their line from a few years ago. If you count just the metal models, there were 1657 metal sets in 2016 and 812 today. That's a loss of 769 metal sets, or about half their metal models. The loss of metal models is greater than the overall loss because metal sets have been replaced by plastic sets. And this is not counting, of course, the 187 metal and resin sets in their Great War, Arab-Israeli War and Vietnam lines which have simply gone poof.

In any other circumstance, this would be interpreted as a business going under. Here however it must instead be interpreted as a company that is radically changing its approach to the historical wargaming hobby and community. Between 2016 and today, the offerings of plastic models have jumped from 32 in 2016 to 135 today. Those are plastic kits that have REPLACED metal models, the vast majority of which came from "major" nations of WW2. And the minor powers? They just lose models for good.

So how is this a radical departure from the kind of service Battlefront once offered? Whether you care about metal models or not (and some of us really, really do), the fact is that the switch to plastic is a cost-cutting measure. Less time is spend designing the models (you don't need to sculpt a couple dozen faces for every single platoon pack if you can design a single face with a computer once and just "copy/paste" to every infantry model you ever make). It also saves on material: metal is getting more expensive and plastic is as cheap as ever. But the upfront cost of new plastic moulds is enormous, which means we have to ask, are we ever going to see those odd sculpts, those lesser known field guns, the troops for minor powers ever again? Probably not. What about the less popular eras, like Early War? I doubt it. Battlefront used to be an excellent source for some of the nations, equipment and theaters that didn't get any love from other companies. Now, practically overnight, that well has dried up.

Does anyone else mourn the passing of the last "golden era" FoW minis in metal?

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2019 8:49 a.m. PST

Yes. I also think it's funny that BF has re-invented the days of Airfix figures and ROCO minitanks (1960s – 70s).

Thank goodness I have enough older figures to keep me painting for the rest of my life.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Jul 2019 9:21 a.m. PST

Well, since I already have more WW2 than I can really use, I have no dog in this fight.

Achtung Minen08 Jul 2019 9:21 a.m. PST

I've bought tons and tons of FOW, but there is still stuff I was looking to get. I really loved so many of their designs (and I know, some people hated them… that's fine, we can all have different preferences). I just don't understand why they can't raise the price on metal (or sell them "made to order") and just up the price to whatever they need to price it at. I am willing to pay more if that's what it takes. Simply trashing your moulds seems like a bizarre business decision.

Iztvan08 Jul 2019 10:38 a.m. PST

I guess a lot of those products where not being bought in enough numbers.

Still – it is worth noting that all those nations are the ones not in the current Flames of War release schedule. I.e. a lot of them may not be permanently gone, just awaiting new releases.

Battlefront have probably been through a rough time, I guess sales have not been spectacular, but it looks like they are catching up. The recent plastic releases are truly great in my opinion, but I'm a plastic lover when it comes to vehicles, so I'm biased.

Redblack08 Jul 2019 12:01 p.m. PST

FOW has gone the way of Games Workshop where they serve customers not fans. Simplifying inventory and production is now the business model.Plastic models are easier to produce given that molds can last longer and you do not have to worry about the cost or availability of metal.Duplicate metal models are not cost effective to keep or make.

Like other " entertainment" producers FOW can grow by either expanding the number of new customers or maximize the spending of existing buyers. Therefore you need to constantly produce new or revised editions of current rules to force players to keep current. To make sure that the users buy them you add in special rules supported by Unit card, specifically issued for current theater books ((enemy at the banner,etc)and unit cards for various nationalities, of course, in early Middle and Late war versions. While the unit cards are not essential as they duplicate the info in books they do simplify and speed up play. Command cards are very different and are aimed at the gamers who want the "special rules" they provide to their owners.If you choose not to buy them you will probably be at a competitive disadvantage

If you opt to ignore all this and continue to play your current rules you will lose the gamers that switch or ability to play new gamers.

I don't know whether to praise the company for its "wisdom" and in providing a lot of useful items and rules or to cry that I have to now spend more money trying to keep up with other games when I was perfectly happy with my old set up.

A lot of it is probably because I am old and hate change. How do the rest of you feel ??

Achtung Minen08 Jul 2019 12:13 p.m. PST

I mean, I have never played Flames of War rules and do not intend to. I use their stuff for IABSM and similar games. I couldn't give a fig whether they are coming out with new rules or books. But I have, from the early 2000's till my most recent purchase a few months ago, continually given them enough money to pay the entire year's salary for an employee there. Am I an outlier? I wanted their models regardless of "new editions" or whatever. I can't be the only one…

Redblack08 Jul 2019 12:18 p.m. PST

Unfortunately AM you are not in their target market as they care little about your past purchases but how much you will buy in the future "Wanted" is now passe – want and buy now are the key words.

BTW if you have to buy plastic then I find that Plastic Soldier Models are ok but I know they do have the multiplicity of models that FOW has.

Ned Ludd08 Jul 2019 1:33 p.m. PST

Why not use the forged in battle range? small though it is there are some really nice sculpts there. I must admit I am not a fan of plastic figures they just seem to lack personality some how.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Jul 2019 1:37 p.m. PST

@Ned Ludd: You answered your own question. FiB don't make much.

Our local game store has cut their FoW shelf space (and that inclides Team Yankee etc.) by 50% or more. Second hand FoW can be had for a song. I've been picking up painted units for less than unpainted. There are FB groups where gamers list shed loads of unpainted stuff they want to sell cheap.

Are the plastics any cheaper than the old models?

Bash On08 Jul 2019 2:33 p.m. PST

I noticed yesterday that my local store already has one of the newest FOW releases, Hit the Beach, on clearance.

Folks like me are not the current target for sales. I already have enough for a couple lifetimes and really haven't bought any new models since V4 came out. I buy some of the new books but not ALL of them like I used to.

Like the new V4 rules but dislike missing units and the new micro-transaction model of new books, unit cards, command cards, and repurchasing online list builders.

Henry Martini08 Jul 2019 7:28 p.m. PST

From a commercial perpective, once you've committed to hard plastics you have to recoup your major investment in moulds. Rubber moulds for metal figures wear out relatively quickly with the sort of high production volumes Battlefront maintains, and have to be regularly replaced at a cost to keep the metal models in production. That's a drain on your budget, absorbing money that could be going into expanding the plastics your company has now decided to convert production to. It makes simple financial sense to not renew the metals moulds as they wear out.

Nick Bowler08 Jul 2019 9:24 p.m. PST

Note that battlefront did announce their range reduction, and gave people time to fill out armies etc. However, if you missed the announcement, you are now going to be hunting on ebay.

Wargamer Blue09 Jul 2019 3:42 a.m. PST

You can get everything by direct order. Just fire in an email.

Achtung Minen09 Jul 2019 4:35 a.m. PST

Wargamer, does that include the items that are no longer in the online store (like German motorcycle schützen)?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2019 9:05 a.m. PST

I never buy a rulebook which also requires me to buy army and/or theater books to play the game, and once I've settled on a basing or organization, rules may be amended, but armies will not be rebased or rebuilt.

The whole "franchise game" world divides into companies which keep doing this to us and companies which folded and left us with unsupported rules and armies which can't be completed. If we keep falling for such companies, it is our own fault.

Col Piron09 Jul 2019 9:32 a.m. PST

I noticed yesterday that my local store already has one of the newest FOW releases, Hit the Beach, on clearance.

It was only £35.00 GBP/$50 US to start with !

MarkAMorin Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2019 8:00 a.m. PST

I buy FoW tanks when I find them – especially the older resin/metal stuff. The plastic stiff is ok, but I need to add weight in the chassis (ball bearings or bb's) just to give the plastic stuff heft. I have not played FoW, but I do use their models for What a Tanker as I really like them. Noble Knight games has some of the models that are hard to find, like Dingoes. If you want metal, Old Glory stuff is all metal – though I really liked the BF stuff better.

Lee49418 Jul 2019 3:18 p.m. PST

For all the reasons mentioned above people have flocked away from FoW in droves. Some Cons cant even get enough gamers to hold tournaments anymore. My thousands of dollars of FoW stuff was collecting dust next to my thousands of dollars of GW WHF stuff. Really p×÷=/$#d me off so I wrote my own rules so I could still play with my minis. When your business model is built around treating your long time loyal customers this way that's really really sad.


TSD10103 Aug 2019 9:26 p.m. PST

Feels like Battlefront has gone full "Tournament mode" and dropped most historical pretext. I did order some stuff from the Late War sale back in February knowing some of it would probably not be back, and got a rather nasty Hetzer barrel in my box. Still waiting on a replacement barrel 5 months on and several emails later. I have a feeling I'll never see it and they hope I give up and craft a new one myself.

All the big sellers will be plastic from now on. Lower volume items will continue to be produced in metal and resin, like Panzer IIs. I am betting they'll drop early war entirely in the future since mid and late war are their big sellers.

Battlefront brought this on themselves. Trying to reinvent the wheel the second they were finished all books for version 3, immediately invalidating them with V4 as an excuse to sell you the same material and lists all over again with a different point system. I can't blame people for dropping it in droves and unlike Games Workshop they forget they have nowhere close to a monopoly on WW2.

VonBlucher03 Aug 2019 10:27 p.m. PST

I won't be surprised if at least a 1,000 ex FOW player have moved on to the Battlegroup Rules in the last 18 months. One reason is no need to rebase your figures but some of them do.
I was lucky enough to pickup quite a few box sets at Adepticon this year as they were going for $25.00 USD each and if bought 4 you got to pick a 5th one for free. Picked up the following box sets SS Late war company, Britsh Para's Company, American Para Company, Fallschirmjager Company, and Panzer MkIV J's.

Wayniac06 Aug 2019 12:33 p.m. PST

Having come from Warhammer, I enjoy plastic models a lot, so I can't say I mind this. However I agree there's something about metal models and I'm looking at other 15mm figures for variety.

I've only just discovered FoW though and was looking at Battlegroup as well (I liked that Battlegroup was 1/72 allowing all the various plastics) but the group I found is enjoying v4.i don't know what happened between v3 and v4 to give an opinion towards any sort of "Exodus"

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