Saturday, 13 February 2016

Dark Elf or Demon Samurai?

I've just 'finished' work on this guy, who has been on my table, half painted, for about 6 months. I'm guessing he's a Dark Elf, although for my short term purposes I've painted him up as a sort of Demon Samurai, hence the shield.

Now he's painted though and with my recently acquired copy of Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness, I can see him as a Dark Elf champion of Khorne in a future RoC warband! He's only level 5 at the moment I reckon. I'll have to think of a name for him.

He feels Oldhammer (i.e. circa 1979-92) to me, but the only marking on the tab was cDE in a rough oval without a date, which I sadly forgot to take a picture of earlier in the process.

He would be my first ever Dark Elf, and I know nothing about the range. Can anyone help ID him?

(please ignore horrible basing, I'm re-using a second hand base)

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

How I learned to stop hating GW and love Oldhammer…

"No fighting in the war room!"

How I learned to stop hating GW and love Oldhammer…

…or why playing Warhammer 40,000 is a lot like making love to a beautiful woman.

"You see Paul, selecting an Ork Warboss is a lot like making love to beautiful woman. First you have to count their teef, then you have to have a good feel of their squig, being careful not to let it bite you..."

It is certainly true that I have developed a very negative opinion of Games Workshop over the past 20 years, and many of us have a wealth of argument and evidence to back up why we not only fell out of love with GW but came to loathe them so. For me it was about the pursuit of profit at the expense of the community which got them to the giddy heights they once, and arguably still occupy. I felt like they owed us more than that, for the loyalty we had shown and the money we had continued to pour into the franchise long after its ‘golden age’, much like I felt so let down by StarWars episodes 1-3 (it still hurts damn it). The aggressive way in which they have gone after independent companies who are seen to be impinging on their IP is a very emotive and controversial subject, and regardless of the legalities (which are extremely complicated) was, for me at least, more evidence as to why I did not want to give GW my money any more. It became an ethical issue, but one that merely gave voice to a deep sense of dissatisfaction I’d felt for a long time.

Although I have continued (with various peaks and troughs) to collect Citadel miniatures second hand increasingly looking to the models of the Oldhammer (1987-1992) and early-Middlehammer (?) (1993-98) periods, I stopped buying ‘new’ games workshop models about 18 years ago, just prior to the release of WH40K 3rd Edition. I didn’t need to wait for GW to break my favourite game officially for me to know that something had changed and the magic just wasn’t there anymore. I can’t point to any particular event or release that turned me off official GW, though the changes they made to WH40K 3rd Edition certainly meant I was never going to go back, it was more a slow realisation that the models were not as characterful, the new material for my group's favourite version of the game had dried up, and our group had been infected by power gaming that started with ridiculous Space Wolf and Tyranid builds and became the only way to play against some people in the group. It just wasn’t that much fun anymore, and I was getting way more satisfaction out of running my long standing D&D campaign, so that is where I put my efforts. I never stopped playing WH40K completely, but it was no longer the focus of my gaming.

Looking back, part of the issue was that I only ever played WH40K with a relatively small group of friends, and we were not really interested in meeting new people to play. There were lots of people in our wider group of friends who knew the game and collected the models, so there was a decent 'community' for banter, but only a few who lived close enough for us to actually play against each other, a group of about 6 or 7 of us at most. Armies not being easy to transport on the back of a push bike meant that I adopted the approach of collecting multiple armies so that I could host games without the need for people to bring their own models, and I tried to get as many of the COdexes as I could, even if I wasn't planning on collecting that army, particularly trying to get those that no one else in the group had so we had as many options as possible when it came to playing. And we played a fair bit!

Indeed, the main driver for our group was the playing of the game, not necessarily the collecting of models, something I think we actually got spot on, despite getting so much else wrong! In fact games with completely painted forces were definitely the exception not the rule. It was more likely we’d be using stand ins from our existing collections to act as the brand new elite troop choices from the latest Codex, or worse proxy models that were not even Warhammer related – I particularly remember a set of Tetley Tea men made from rubberised plastic making regular appearances as Eldar Wraithguard, as they were about the right amount taller than a regular model to help work out line of sight. 

"See this fire? That's your list. This is what my list does to your list! Bwahahahahahaha!"
I fucking hate Space Wolves.
So, when one of us got carried away with exploiting the loopholes contained within the Space Wolf Codex (a force made almost entirely of Terminator armoured Wolfguard, all carrying heavy weapons anyone?) it started to affect the whole group in an army list building arms race. I would unfortunately have to say that there was one person in particular who was the main culprit, and another who seemed to willingly follow suit while protesting that he had no choice as long as X was playing Y, but nearly everyone ended up going down that route. 

Except me that is. I would still draw up lists that were based around a particular theme, deliberately underpowered lists that made more use of basic troops and armaments, or deliberately small but powerful retinues of special characters but only using those special characters once in a blue moon – NOT EVERY BLOODY TIME WE PLAYED! 

Predictably I lost. A lot. All of the time in fact. I think I have only won about 3 games of WH40K ever. That is about a 3% win ratio. But that has never worried me too much, I don’t mind loosing if everyone has enjoyed the game (good job too wit ha 3% win ratio! - I think it is the GM in me), but there were just too many times when it just didn’t seem fun anymore.

The other tendency that had sprung up was for us to play as big a battle as possible, with no turn limit, no missions, or strategy cards etc. –  it was just an apocalyptic battle where the objective was to wipe out your opponents forces and be the last one standing, and so lists were developed with that objective in mind. Once in a while these games could be really good, but I found them boring, or at least not worth the time they took, when compared to games played to turn limits with missions and victory points. I started to insist on playing turn limited games, preferably with missions though normally we just went for standard VP rules, getting people to agree to use limited troop and equipment types to fit the scenario, or writing up both sets of forces and then dicing to see who took control of which force to ensure fairness, or playing really small ‘skirmish’ type games that were probably not even have been ‘legal’ forces in terms of how you were supposed to build an army list. 

But the weird thing was I was getting lots of my ex-opponents to agree to this, but when they played each other they seemed to revert back to the worst aspects of power gaming. When I would speak to them about this they would often say something like “Oh, I’d be up for that don’t get me wrong, but you’ll never get X to agree!” "That’s funny," I’d say "because X was here last week and we played a game like this and he really enjoyed it but said you’d never go for it."

I started to hear about two of our group playing really great sounding home brew scenarios as well as some of the missions from Codex Tyranids, but when a third member of the group was involved it always went power gamey – yet he was the person that I had just developed a very narrative driven three tiered campaign where we had played linked games of (original rules) Epic, (2E) WH40K, and a version of Necromunda to simulate small street skirmishes (which remains one of my favourite Warhammer 40K experiences of all time and something that I intend both to revsit with him in the coming year and cover in this blog). So what was happening here? Why were we not all able to play the same type of games regardless of pairing of opponents? I think largely, it came down to two things:

1) Trust issues. Our WH40K games often involved springing hideous surprises on your opponent having spent weeks plotting how best to exploit a loop hole in the rules for maximum power gameyness. It was hard for them to trust that the other was not going to revert to previous patterns of behaviour. 

2) At least two of them really do like the ultimate power build style of play. For them part of the ‘fun’ was demonstrating their mastery of the rules and of army builds, and if they could wipe out your army pretty much within the first turn while their own forces remained invulnerable behind whatever defensive rules abuse the were using at the time, then that was all fair game. When they played each other it was their chance to indulge that desire. No problem there, they were both (by this time) consenting adults.  The issue was that they were still unable to talk sensibly about what type of game they wanted with each other. They had picked up on the fact that others in the group were not really enjoying the games anymore, so were happy to play the more narrative driven scenarios with us, and seemed to feel that they had to denounce the other type of game, and the other type of gamer whilst doing so. But that was not the truth, at least not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They (not so) secretly LIKED the other type of game, and now seemed to be feeling guilty about it, possibly because we'd had to make such a point of not wanting to play the other type of game anymore that they'd now been shamed into publicly denouncing it. And that is no good either.

Think of it like an intimate relationship with a sexual partner. If you are not mature, confident and secure enough with your partner to have a conversation with them about what you need in terms of foreplay (aka - mutually agreed parameters for army list building), and what you do and don’t like, then you are going to continue having your balls squeezed just at the wrong moment, and are never going to get that vinegar stroke you are secretly keen on. You need to be able to tell your partner exactly where to stick it. And how hard. Similarly, if you can’t say to your opponent that what you need out of your gaming time is to have a relatively quick game with a strong narrative, balanced forces (or even unbalanced forces but with a good narrative reason why they are unbalanced), and the possibility of this leading to something more *ahem* long term, you know, like a cheeky little campaign on the side, then you are likely going to continue to have very unsatisfactory sex... I mean gaming sessions!

There needs to be recognition that there is more than one way to play the game and that there is nothing wrong with any of them per se. Like I said, I can enjoy the occasional 10,000 pt per side apocalypse from time to time, and I can appreciate a slogging match between two uber-mensch heroes who can barely be seen beneath their overpowered equipment if that is what my opponent really wants, but you need to be clear with your opponent as to which type of game you are going to have. The problem is when both parties have different expectations and end up trying to play different ‘versions’ of the same game at the same time.
And that is not the fault of GW. 

As so many other Oldhammerer’s have already said elsewhere, we all need to accept our responsibility for playing the type of game that we want to play, and not being beholden to a particular rules set or playing style just because that is the status quo we are seeing in GW shops, or tournaments, or most distressingly of all, amongst our own gaming groups.
Nothing new or revolutionary here in terms of Oldhammer or Middlehammer philosophy, I've read versions of this on a number of other blogs. I just wanted to set out my own position on this and to chart the chequered history of my own gaming group as it struggled to come to terms with life…. I mean gaming!

It is worth noting that this all took place all within the realms of 2nd Edition WH40K, and despite all the issues noted below we still never felt the answer was to loose all the rich background and variety that came with 2nd Edition. Were we wrong?