To misquote Hamlet, is this the picture that springs to mind when you think of the average wargamer?
It would seem not if you are familiar with the hollow, charmless gaming experiences Warlord Paul describes in his excellent Mission Statement.. In fact, and you could probably do to have seen the video Paul has posted up on the Taxonomy of Warhammer Gamers, it would seem that many are far from being infinite in faculties and admirable in action. Quite the opposite in fact in you find yourself at the far end of the "Need to prove to the world you are a winner" spectrum!
In brief, Once Bitten - the author of the video - breaks down wargaming into the following categories and discusses which would be important to a range of gaming styles. Check out Laughing Ferret's analysis.
Now before I go on I must admit I will have to stick to describing my own habits as the last time I gamed regularly and came into contact with gamers who have a different agenda to me was back when I was 13/14/15. Back then we had a little Warhammer Club our teacher let us run after school in our classroom. I will try not to make too many assumptions about other people's motivations - Oldhammerers or otherwise.
Back to the early 90's and our little Warhammer club. Desks pushed together for a table, books for hills - enduring image isn't it. Those were some good times when we clubbed together to get a copy of Rogue Trader, split boxes of Space Wombles and pitted our badly painted hordes of plastic minis against each other. We also chipped in and bought a copy of Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd ed. and my Ruglud's Armoured Orcs would often face off against Dwarves and other Orc tribes.
We weren't really aware of the idea of narrative gaming but we had fun. Interestingly though we did experience the arms race effect that is often bemoaned these days with ever more powerful Army lists coming out to enable ever more awesome troop types to be sold because the old stuff is now obsolete. It happened with RT - the appearance of Terminators with Cyclone Missile racks meant the quick demise of my Imperial Guard Regiment so next time I equipped a couple of squads of Forlorn Hopers with Haywire grenades to put the Termies power armour out of action. When my opponent wised up to that one he equipped all his squads with virus bombs and my Guard were annihilated with biological weapons.
|Watch out lads - I think they've got WMD...|
The next week I'd equip my forces with respirators and the 41st millennium equivalent of NBC suits (not modelled on the minis!) and pack a few more melta bombs as their lasguns had little chance of penetrating Terminator armour. This was all quite good fun and came with healthy doses of banter and good humour and we certainly didn't think too deeply about how the lack of a narrative thread meant that each of these "stand 'em and knock 'em down" type games were really only a slightly more sophisticated version of how I used to play with my old green plastic army men.
However, when WFB 4th ed. came out two things changed in our Fantasy games. Flyers and artillery. Oh and Chaos Dwarves with daft hats and big blunderbusses!
Suddenly the good old boys from Ruglud's mob were getting creamed each week by Empire volley guns, the aforesaid Chaos Dwarf blunderbusses, High Elves on Dragons and so on. I wasn't too keen on this so I bought a rock lobber. And three Doom Divers! Things were good again.
|Its all a bit OTT isn't it? Masters of the Universe anyone!?|
Then there was a White Dwarf article about using your flyers to take out artillery - now it was a case of whoever went first usually won because there flying monster killed the enemy artillery and could either charge the enemy infantry formations in the rear or fly back to safety while the artillery pounded them from afar.
|That's more like it - still got a big monster but it doesn't seem quite so overblown...|
|Armed to tha' teef and still outgunned!|
Anyhow, as I say, my 15 year old self didn't think too deeply about these things at the time other than - man, I'm bored of playing the same game over and over.
Introduce girls, beer, going down the pub, university, job, real life, marriage, kids and fast forward to the present day. Having got back into the hobby in a major way, what I want from it has changed massively. I originally set the blog up to post pictures of the Dr Who minis I was painting at the time - the only forum I could find back then that was concerned with the old Invasion Earht game was a very quiet place. So was my blog for quite some time!
Then I came across the boxes of my old Orcs and fell in love with Warhammer again. Ebay soon became a source for the miniatures of the 80's that I held so dear - I was none too impressed perusing GW's site and seeing all the changes. I decided my Orcs needed an opponent so Wood Elves were added to the shopping list, although I had no clear idea of who I was going to play against.
It was more about the showcasing and painting of the miniatures back then, and this is still a large part of what I enjoy about wargaming. Getting nice comments about paint jobs is great, and thanks for all your kind words over the years, but I really enjoy trying to develop my skills, try new techniques and generally improve my level of painting. This is true in terms of scenery building too and I find this leads into the other big category for me - immersion.
The big reason for striving for a good paint job on my figs and having a nicely laid out table full of good looking scenery is so that when I do play, or more often take photographs for the blog, it is easier to immerse yourself in that world and the experience is richer and more rewarding for it. We all know how unsatisfying it is or would be to play with unpainted miniatures and no scenery.
Immersion in terms of narrative and back story is also an important factor to me.
There's a big reason why I've been so drawn to the old scenario packs like Orc's Drift and the Magnificent Sven - I don't particularly want to go back to the rather empty, one off, no reason for it, stand 'em up and knock 'em down type games that I used to play and that I gather can end up being played a lot at Clubs if players' wants aren't communicated well enough. For me its all about story these days - being the victor is always fun, but I do like seizing the moral victory or achieving some small objective as part of a last stand which could have greater consequences for the rest of the campaign or scenario.
The social side of gaming is something I'd really like to develop more. Solo gaming can be fun and its a good way of getting to know the rules better but nothing beats a live opponent. So far I've had a very pleasurable couple of games of Blood Bowl with Warlord Paul, discovered my old mate Ollie was also a closet Warhammer fan and played a few games of 40K and Blood Bowl with him, met up with various other Oldhammerers (Padre and Hetz) at Vapnartak and found myself chatting with more folk each time I take myself off to a wargames show. I'm keen to continue widening my circle of wargaming friends and as soon as work/time/kids/etc permit I'll off to one of York Wargames Society's game nights having had a warm reception on their forum. It seems as though there's some interest in a bit of Oldhammer Fantasy Battle too so I'm all set to get evangelising on that topic!
Now for the competitive and strategy side. By Once Bitten's definitions I don't really fit in here. My idea of strategy is not spending hours finding the optimum list with which to beat my opponent. What I would find stimulating would be working out a way to use the limited (by scenario or miniature collection) troops I had at hand to achieve my objective within a narrative game, or how best to husband my reserves over a series of games to ensure I had a chance of being the victor in the final showdown. Tournament gaming doesn't really appeal to me and I don't really feel the need to prove anything to the world either!
Warlord Paul asked in his original post how Oldhammer fits in with all this and modern gaming in general. Unfortunately, the immersive category is dismissed in the video as I suppose it doesn't fit in with much of the modern Warhammer gaming that goes on? I think I'd be pretty safe in assuming that most of us Oldhammerers would sit towards the immersive end of the spectrum. As we're all from different gaming backgrounds I'm sure we all bring other aspects of gaming with us too - for me that would be the painting and modelling with a side order of strategy as well as the immersive nature of narrative gaming and a burgeoning enthusiasm for the social aspect of it all.
What about the wider gaming world? Various members have received positive receptions from their Wargaming clubs for the Oldhammer games they've laid on - Warlord Paul and Orlygg in particular. As I mentioned earlier I've had an interested party mention the Dolgan Raiders scenario and I'd love to run Orc's Drift in its entirety on one of the clubs longer Saturday meets.
I think Paul's idea of a social contract is the essence of enjoying wargaming. It may seem like stating the obvious but ensuring both parties know what the other wants from the game is the way for the whole experience to be a positive one. I'll finish with a little look at an article I found in WD221 entitled Spirit of the Game. Playing styles are discussed and in particular "beardy" gaming is frowned upon. Whether that takes the form of beardy army lists designed to win with no attention paid to the character of background of the army, or Beardy play, which includes rule bending, picky rules questions and generally carrying on in an unsporting fashion.
Rick Priestley's definition, according to the article, is,
Someone who is more interested in playing the rules than the game.
A lot of the article is gobbledigook to me - mentioning combinations of certain characters and certain magic items that have become well worn ways to victory - Book of Ashur, Crown of Command, Black Amulet, etc - obviously stuff that came after 4th ed. or stuff I've just forgotten. Mind you I do remember the Crown of Command being good at stopping Goblins running away...
Going back to the social contract bit though, there is one voice of dissent in the form of Graham Davey, who writes,
I learnt to play with a group of gamers who always picked their armies specifically to win their next game.
it was part of the challenge to try and get the drop on your opponent by coming up with an army he wasn't expecting and that would work well against the troops you thought he would have. This wasn't sneaky - it was fun! And yes, we liked to win, but nobody got upset if they lost.
What heresy is this you may wonder - power gaming in its ugliest form?! Graham however goes on to say,
Of course this only works because everyone in the group knew what to expect. To be considered a fair player the important thing is to find out what your opponent expects from the game, and make an effort not to disappoint him.
So there you go - I hope not to be disappointed down at the Oldhammer weekend this August!