Sunday, 4 August 2013

Maxing your Oldhammer

So how do you go about getting the best out of Oldhammer? Is it just about being rosey-eyed about WFB 3rd ed. or drooling over the latest amazing ebay bargain someone got on a Leaping Slomm Twoface? Are we backing ourselves down a rather narrow passageway in celebrating all things Citadel and 80's? Heaven forbid, are we becoming as prescriptive as the current GW scene?

An unattainable goal for many aspiring Oldhammerers?
I don't necessarily presume to speak for others as we all have our own personal take on what Oldhammer means to us. However, there are certain trends I'll refer to and I apologise in advance for the sweeping statements I will no doubt end up making!

Let me address those questions in two ways. Firstly, our (well definitely mine!) apparent 3rd ed. and 3rd ed. era miniatures fetish. Don't get me wrong - I love all that stuff, as is somewhat obvious by much of the content of this blog. However, this is just the vehicle I (and many others) have chosen for my personal Oldhammer Odyssey because this was the stuff I always wanted to own as a kid. Unfortunately though, as a movement, it seems that concentrating so much on the collecting and painting of old Citadel lead that the perception of Oldhammer is becoming a little skewed. Just look at the difference in the number of posts in the WIP and Showroom boards to the Battle Reports board on the Oldhammer forum, as well as the content of many of our Oldhammer blogs.

This of course (the preponderence painting and collecting) is partly down to not having the time and in many cases, being geographically remote from each other to play many games. Of course there is the need to polish up our old collections models and get our various ebay binges painted up and ready for the table top too. However, Oldhammer is a way of getting the most out of playing the early editions of Warhammer. Its life blood must surely be in the act of playing and sharing the enjoyment of these games with an opponent and hopefully the GM running them.

A rare and wonderful thing - Oldhammer battle report from Nico's blog Realms of Chaos.
Yes that is Chaos V. Slann!
That's not to say that posts about painting and modelling old lead are a bad thing in themselves - the Oldhammer forum would be a dull place without seeing the wonderful work folk put on there and we know the motivational effect of receiving praise for and positive criticism of our efforts with the paint brush. Its more the case that its the relative absence of battle reports and discussions on approaches to game play that is the problem.

I've been doing a little research to see how the other half lives. If you know what Cheese Lists, Death Stars and Leadership Bombs are you'll know what I'm on about...

Now I'm not here to ridicule, criticise or badmouth others' interpretation of wargaming - most of this stuff is pretty unintelligible to me and I've never experienced it first hand myself. If that's how some folk like to roll then fair enough but its obviously not my cup of tea. I suppose the nearest I've been (or want to be) to suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of Skaven slave spam dual hell pits or a DE dual Hydra unkillable lord is playing games like Wolfenstein 3D online and literally not being able to stay alive for more than a few seconds unless I'd got lost in some remote and unimportant corner of the map - not fun!

Why venture into such apparently arid territory for Oldhammer? Well it seems there is a great deal of energy invested in these communities in working out the best ways to win, max out your army list and counter killer combinations in your opponent's army - all based on the regular playing and desire to win the game.

So I thought why not flip this on its head. 

Bear with me - I'm not proposing we begin endless debates on the best army lists to be mined out of the Warhammer Armies book - such a thing would be anathema to the Oldhammer concept that there are no Army lists, or rather that you shouldn't feel constrained in building a scenario or organising a game by the limitations enforced by such lists.

Nor am I suggesting that tactics for winning against various armies become a hot topic for debate.

And you thought your Space Marines were AWESUM!

Instead we need to talk more about "winning" at Oldhammer and by that I mean how do we go about organising, playing and making the experience enjoyable, fun and fulfilling for all concerned. 

Ideally we'd have lots of games that have been played and could be up for discussion in terms of what worked and what didn't. However, as we know, time and distance are a little against us for that. 

As a lot of us haven't played regularly or GM'ed a game for a long time and it seems to be a bit of a worry for some with the Oldhammer Weekend approaching, might I suggest we see more topics along the lines of tips for GM'ing. Ask the question - how do I set up/tweak a scenario idea to provide both players with a suspenseful and exciting experience? What makes a good scenario? Share ideas on cooperative play that might also have conflicting objectives to spice it up a little. Begin discussions on how to map hidden movement or use wandering monsters and third party forces. I know various folk have dabbled in this already, I just think we need moar! I would imagine the upcoming Oldhammer event will change this in terms of the amount of games that will be played over the weekend and I look forward to reading about people's experiences as players and GM's.

Oops - wrong one!
I recently reread Dr Bargle's excellent article on the Pathetic Aesthetic in Old School Gaming. This kind of intelligent and self-deprecating debate is great too. Personally I love it as an intellectual exercise but the argument is a strong one and the pathetic aesthetic is essentially key to getting the right flavour for Oldhammer gaming - for this see especially what he says about the Magnificent Sven and Lichemaster scenarios. Further exploration of the ways these ideas could be put to practical use as a GM would be another valuable avenue of discussion.

In fact all that talk of RPG's has got me thinking and I've long been enamoured of the idea of including elements of them on the tabletop. There is some excellent material at Oldhammer as RPG for gaming in this way - either going down the line of playing 1st ed. as an RPG or adding meat to tabletop characters in the form of random characteristics generation, character progression and injury charts. I rather like the idea of taking some lowly character and playing a series of scenarios that widen in scope as he/she advances, until they either meet an untimely demise or retire with their ill-gotten gains.

Influences from other sources is another valuable topic - personally, having finally tracked down copies of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy books, Dungeoneer and Blacksand,  I'd love to translate them to the table top somehow - possibly using 1st or 2nd ed. rules and stats.

Fighting the Trolltooth Wars would be another good one - either from the two evil and warring Wizard's point of view, or from some lowly Captain in there armies, be that Hill Goblin Chieftain or Rhinoman Officer.

Think of all the fun you could have putting together and converting the miniatures for Zharradan Marr and Balthus Dire's Chaotic forces together from umpteen different manufacturers!

I'll wrap up my long and rambling post by doing my bit for Oldhammer style meta-gaming - here are a few scenarios I posted some time ago on the Oldhammer Forum. I can't remember whether or not I ever put them on the blog so either way here they are again. For the sake of giving some form to the possible forces that could be used I used the Warhammer Armies book for the various troop types - feel free to use whatever is in your collections though!

Here's a more basic scenario from when we were thinking about putting together a retroclone WFB

Enjoy and do share your thoughts on the matter - perhaps we could even have a set of rules that has its tongue stuck firmly in its cheek on how to be a good Oldhammerer like this send up of WAAC players!


  1. Shouldn't we be fighting the common enemy?

    Games Workshopes eunt domus.

    P.S. Trolltooth Wars; I'm so in on that it's not funny.

    1. What's this Games Workshopes they go the house? You want a bit of imperative and ablative in there me Laddo!

      Are you talking about the common enemy from your Newhammer perspective or referring to my non violent protest? ;)

      I've got a folder of pics somewhere of various minis that would be conversion fodder for Zharradan Marr's chaotics.

      Need to get Lustria under my belt first but Trolltooth could well be the next big project and it's be great to have you on board!

    2. The People's Front of Oldhammer and the Newhammer Popular Front should struggle together!

      Take your time over Lustria but when you're ready pick Marr or Dire and I will collect the opposite.

    3. The Newhammer Popular Front - Splitters!! ;)

      If you're going to work with the People's Front of Oldhammer you have hate GW - a lot.

      OK, sorry done paraphrasing Monty Python, although I could go on all day...

      Hmm, Marr of Dire - I might need that long to decide!

      Hordes of Hill Goblins, Eyeless archers and the terrible Sorqs or Rhinomen Phalanxes driving Soulless Ones before them, supported by Lizardmen and Black Elves?

    4. Both sides have so much character and appeal! Why aren't we all doing this?!

    5. Trolltooth Wars armies are mental, giant spider things, ghosts, rhinomen. Lots of Fear, Stupidity and Animosity going on.

      Also Fields of Battle from Warlock 12 as an alternative ruleset...

    6. You know you're just making it sound more attractive, right?

      Know anywhere I can get hold of a PDF copy of issue 12?

  2. I like the idea of reframing the notion of 'winning' in the way you suggest and making it part of Oldhammer gaming. That's something I'm really invested in. Also it would be great to hear more stories about people's Oldhammer gaming on the tabletop - it would dispel the misplaced perception that Oldhammer begins and ends with figure fetishisation.

    1. I thought that might be right up your street - much as I don't like the idea of non competitive school sport (One of my roles at school is Sports Co-ordinator) because kids need to learn how to be a good winner and loser, as well as having the opportunity to invest themselves emotionally in a game because they want to win, I really feel that it has a part in Old School Gaming.

      Besides there is often something even the losing side can take from the aftermath of a battle - the BEF at Dunkirk or the Romans after Pyrhrhus' "victory" over them at Asculum.

      Hopefully there'll be plenty of tales from the battlefield after the Oldhammer event!

    2. OK side step from the main topic of your post to look at, kids having to learn to win and lose. How do you cope with the kids that never get to be good or bad winners and those that never get to see if they can lose with dignity?

      Perhaps the tournament scene was born on the playing fields of Eton?

    3. Sorry all - been away in the Lake District with no internet all last week. Now connected through my Dad's phone so we'll see how long that lasts!

      Erny - Mostly through the way I teach PE (and hopefully how the rest of the school will soon be teaching it) with an emphasis on building core skills for invasion games/net/wall games or whatever it is they're doing that term. This leads to the kids being put in groups (mixed ability) to put together a game using their own rules which they can adapt how they see fit to make it harder/easier for one or both sides. That way all kids should get a taste of winning and losing as well as experiencing the benefits of tinkering with the rules to make the whole thing a pleasurable experience.

      We'll also be holding a lot more intra-school competitions for the whole of KS2, including fun stuff like Kurling and Goal Ball that really level the playing field and enable pretty much any team to win/lose whether or not the really sporty kids are in them or not.

      I think you might be right about the kind of inflexible attitude towards rules and winning that was part of playing up and playing the game - that's not what I'm after though!

    4. Next you'll be telling me there is something difficult to this teaching lark.

      Actually given what a raw deal you all get scrap the thin humor, I know it's not a walk in the park.

    5. Ah - back in the land of the connected again!

      Oh aye - hardest game in the world! ;)

      Actually - no humour intended there Erny! That is actually what I'm working towards for this academic year. Its a subject that I've become more and more interested in the longer I've been in the role.

      Personally I'm not that keen on those teachers who seem to have the smell of burning martyr hanging about them and hope I didn't come across that way - it is a tricky job but there's a lot of fun to be had as long as you can put up with successive meddling from each new education minister and various other obstructions that get in the way of the core business of being a teacher - teaching kids stuff!

      All slightly ironic as I was terrible at sport as a kid and don't really follow any teams or sports particularly on the telly.

  3. Another good post. Thanks for the scenarios I think that is something that eludes me right now. The way I did it in the past was to start a Mighty Empires campaign to give the reasons for the battles to happen. I follow the Gourd.

    1. Pleasure - hope they'll be of some use!

      I've got a copy of Mighty Empires and wrote a post a while back on following the (possible!)rising fortunes of some of my characters with it, as battles got increasingly bigger in scale.

      Mind you I quite like the idea of zooming in to some small corner of one of these grand battlefields and fighting it out in 28mm as you say.

      No we must gather shoes!

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  5. Interesting stuff indeed. I think one of the ways this could be done would be to advertise for a scenario maker. That is, let's pretend I have a game lined up with Andre. We advertise (BLOOD forum, I suppose) for a GM to create the army lists and scenarios based on the lists of figures Andre and myself have - the GM then reveals the scenario and lists and we have to play it. The GM won't be there actively GM'ing, but he will have set the game up.

    This introduces a more people into your game and creates an impartial 'army list writer' who has no vested interest in whether a force wins or loses. And, as we know, once you're relieved of the burden of winning at all costs, suddenly, narrative, characters and the human drive for survival take over - i think enough to change ones play style. In truth, this would work for any edition of Warhammer (or probably any game, actually), but seems especially obvious for 3rd ed.

    Maybe Andre and I will do that the next time we get together...


    1. That's a bloody good idea Gaj you cunning fox.

    2. Seconded - especially as the scenario writing side of things is what I really enjoy.

      It's been fun setting up the online game I'm gm'ing for Mouse and Private W. Especially as I can add in a 3rd party, create all kinds of nasty and beneficial surprises for both parties and have them going for all sorts of objectives that might be mutually beneficial or entirely at odds with each other!

  6. I've actually been looking at ideas for Fighting Fantasy miniatures, in the hope of running a Citadel of Chaos themed participation skirmish scenario using the Fighting Fantasy rules at next years Bring Out Your Lead (if there is one) or other similar event.

    I have to say, it's proving difficult to find things like Rhinomen, Dogapes and so on for Balthus Dire's side.

    Was considering some sort of Bring A Miniature thing for it.

    1. That sounds like brilliant fun! Did you envisage folk claiming various monsters, converting them and populating the citadel for you, or turning up with a hero to fight them?

      Rhinomen have proved the trickiest I must admit - especially in the sort of quantities I'd need for a phalanx.

      I think a post on the subject is definitely in order...

    2. I was thinking more of the various skirmishes outside the citadel between the Vale and it's allies and the forces of Balthus Dire. People would bring a model, converted or otherwise, and it would get statted up on the spot, assigned a side and an objective. I would probably have a small supply of models for people without figures and as strange encounters and things.

      If you're looking at doing a larger battle for the trolltooth wars etc, can I recommend 15mm? There's a much larger selection of stuff available, including rhinomen. Although conversion work is easier in 25mm admittedly. And don't forget the Field of Battle rules from Warlock 12!