Thursday, 10 July 2014

And so, my rambling begins.

First off, I feel an introductory post is in order to establish myself and my incessant wittering regarding wargames and why I do what I do.

I have been playing a variety of wargames for a good 20 years now and feel impassioned by the hobby, which I see as wonderful and beneficial but slowly going to the corporation dogs. By now, you have probably guessed my interest is primarily in Games Workshop games, while I have played many others, I keep being pulled back in by their back ground, artwork and other imagery.

My gaming career started by playing 4th Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle and 2nd Edition 40k, around 1995 or so. While I have little fondness these days for 4th Edition Fantasy (herohammer ahoy), 2nd Edition 40k is stuck very firmly in my psyche. Don't get me wrong, its a terribly unbalanced game and can be horrendously abused to exclude as much fun as possible, but when played in the intended mind set, it opens a huge amount of possibilities.

When you discount the varying power builds, 2nd Edition 40k is relatively robust and very enjoyable; some of my most cherished/funniest wargaming memories come from playing this game due to its relative complexity and room for comedy. A perfect example would be my Spacemarine Captain heroically shooting an Eldar guardian off his jetbike at close range only to have the bike itself crash on him and kill my noble captain. Both my opponent and I were laughing so hard we were pretty the rest of the game is quite a blur. There doesn't seem to be room for this kind of nonsense in the modern games, which for me is a great shame. Some people complained that heroes were over powered, in a similar vein to the contemporary fantasy games. I found that a heavy weapon to the face sorted that out, something that Fantasy lacked.


The tipping point

As time has rolled on, 40k got simplified in to the horrific abomination of 3rd edition and has been patched repeatedly since, making the game progressively more and more playable. I played through it all, mostly because I found the back ground so engaging (I will get to that bit later).While the rule sets have been getting a bit better, I think the whole ethos of the game has been going down the pan. A purchasing arms race has emerged, where if you don't have X you don't stand a chance vs Y.

When fliers first emerged, I did not want to get one as I find the concept of air support being present on a  field about the size of a football pitch odd to say the least. Until my first game against an airborne opponent; a Necron army with three Doom Scythes. They turned up on my opponent's turn two and by the end of it, all I had left of a once large army was a combat squad of marines hiding between a wood and the burnt out hull of their Razorback. The rest of my army fell prey to death rays and the shooting from the rest of his army, in one turn. At this point (beginning of my turn three), I chucked in the towel as five bolters against an entire army is never going to amount to much.

Afterward we both agreed that the game had not been very fun and discussed what I could have done to avert the massacre. The only answer either of us could think of was to buy either fliers of my own or some AA guns.

So I got a AA gun fortification as a compromise. Still no fliers but at least some defense against them. This time I did better, I lasted until my opponent's turn three and even managed to shoot down one flying croissant. Further analysis found that neither of us had enjoyed the game again and that I needed to buy a Storm Raven. In true scientific fashion, we repeated the experiment using differing armies and terrain lay outs and came to the same conclusion.

For me this was the NOPE! point. I had played multiple games with an hour + of set up and just under 30 minutes of actual game play which had not even been that fun. After lengthy investigation, we had concluded that the obstacle cannot be over come by strategy and instead requires quite a bit of money. For me this is when a wargame breaks, when it no longer depends on the players skill but solely on their wallets. When I saw the same thing happening with the Titan/large walkers that came along shortly after, I knew that my interest had died completely.

So boo fucking hoo, an old man throws his teddies out of his pram and declares that he is not going to play this game any more in true nerdite fashion, right? Well, kind of yes to be honest but most importantly for me, it made me sit back and take stock of the bits I actually like and want to experience more of.

The root of my addiction

I am a strategy fan, either in physical games or video games. I love pitting my whits against someone else in a good natured and gentlemanly fashion. It helps me improve my mind, gives me something to think about while bored (this happens a lot) and builds friendships with some noble types. Wargames do this nicely and often in real life rather than through a screen too.

Art is something I have always been into. Sketching characters, banging out story boards or just generally shitscribbling is something I have previously spent a lot of time doing. These days with a house, a wife and a career, I cannot dedicate as much time as I want to it to get to a skill level I would be happy at. So for me miniature painting and scenery building is a nice compromise. Some nice person has drawn me the picture and I can get my kicks by coloring it in. There are also lots of very nice video and written tutorials which I can glance at in breaks between work in a bit of slow digestion. Thanks to the internet and the general free flowing of knowledge, my painting skills have really picked up in recent years, even when not actually painting that much. For me this is a big improvement over regular drawing which I was beginning to suffer frustration with.

Storytelling is an essential part of wargaming for me. I'm not bothered by "My hero is going to go and slap yours after I run this block in to your chaff and blast the rest with magic." Although that is a brief and honest description of what may happen, it doesn't really set my pulse racing. When I start putting names to faces and plots together in my head, I start enjoying the experience from a second angle. In my rather deluded head the above passage would read "While his henchman engage the puny human skirmishers Davoth Tyr, Captain of the Black Ark will gut your hairy savage as Kelmon the Spirittalker rains death upon you". (Or something to that affect).

It sounds sillier written down than it does in my head but pleasing my inner twelve year old is quite simple and requires just a hint of imagination. Stringing games and the characters in them together again gives me something else to think about when bored and adds to the vividness of the experience.

In short, there are more aspects to it than just the moving miniatures around on a table that I enjoy and modern 40k just wasn't encouraging the things I like, so I needed to readjust my focus and off I go looking for something that does tick all my boxes.


About a year ago I discovered that I was not the only one who longed for days gone by like true old farts and that there are people out there, still playing game they like because they like them, not because they are newest and they don't really like them. A new concept pinged in to being in my mind that I had previously discounted. I could, you know, choose which games I like to play and find people to play them with. As I said this had been previously discounted because I thought everyone still only wanted to play the newest games and keep up with the masses. Over the last year, I have been eagerly reading as many Oldhammer related blogs as possible during my spare time as well as digesting the Warhammer 3rd Edition Rulebook.

And that, dear readers is me. A once cranky old git, reinvigorated and back in love with his favorite past time that will hopefully create some readable content. Maybe. :)

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