Monday, February 7, 2011

Remember the good 'ol days?

Sadly, I've been unable to pull myself out of the house to go down and play any games in months.  Between laziness and certain parental duties, I've found every excuse to avoid simply going a few miles away to do something I enjoy muchly.  Why?
So I'm working on my Ultramarines right now.  I've had an Ultramarine army in some shape or fashion since 1993, and this one is my 6th.  I'm making sure that they are all appropriately done, with full iconography and squad markings where possible.  I've even gone so far as to pull out my 'Insignium Astartes' book to make sure that I have the markings placed correctly.

To me, the Ultramarines represent the best that humanity has to offer.  As I sit back and let my imagination run away, I imagine the worlds of Ultramar being safe, beautiful places.  I imagine their armies going out into the terrible galaxy and trying to give the rest of humanity what they have.  I imagine the heroic parades as the 2nd company comes home after another glorious campaign against the alien abomination. 
I also have Dark Angels, Blood Angels, a few different regiments of Imperial Guard; I even have Word Bearers, Tau, and Eldar all ready to play as well.  Each of those gets an equally in-depth imagining, complete with musings about their society and their motivations.  And then...

When I have gone to the shop and hung out for any amount of time (and I do once a month), I listen passively to the gamers conversating about the game.  When they talk, they don't talk about the beautiful stories, or amazing universe.  Oh no.  They talk about the stats; the rules.  They talk about how this army's special ability is inferior to this army's overall point cost.  They talk about how GW is only out to make a buck and their rules and prices reflect just that.  They talk and talk and talk, all while I just sit back and listen. 

So, to get away from that, I jump online.  And I read blog after blog about people complaining about how this army does this thing better, or how every army should have some specific kind of toy that another army does have, or how the stat comparison between this character and that one isn't fair according to the points.  I read on and on, hoping that I might see some light.

But I don't.  I don't hear the gamers ever talk about the coolness of the game.  I don't read about how gamers actually appreciate GW for what they do, alot of it quite well.  I don't get to 'wax poetic' with anyone anymore about something I love.  Why?
Back in the glory days of Games Workshop, it was all about the story.  The models and books were expensive back then too, it just doesn't feel like it today.  I remember. I couldn't afford this stuff when I was a teenager with a job.  And that was a long time ago.  The rules and gameplay were overly complicated and not realistic at all.  I remember.  It took me months to learn 2nd edition.  Although not hard, it was a set of conditional  rules.  Especially if you played Space Marines.  The paints and hobby supplies were few and poopy.  I still hear people saying that they miss the old 'pop-tops'.  I used them, alot.  They sucked ass.  Anyone heard of the new foundation paints?  Yeah.  Victory.

Back in the glory days of Games Workshop, it was all about the story.  Remember how Gazkhull demolished Armageddon?  Or how Calgar freed Ichar IV?  Or how the Iyanden were nearly wiped out?  The books and magazines used to be full of awesome stories and background.  Great pictures.  Wait, no they weren't!  Sketchy McSketcherson John Blanche was the only artist, and the stories were always three paragraphs long.  And the magazine?  Yeah, MORE advertisements back then.  And sometimes for stuff that wasn't even GW!

Let me be the Chaplain of the hobby here:  What's so good about rules?  What's so good about points?  What's so good about the old days?  I got into this hobby because the models are fun to paint and the storyline is really cool and the game is actually alot of fun, once you get past the whole 'my army is better than your army' mission.  I got into this hobby for fun.
Does this mean I hate tournaments?  Nope.  In fact, the only times I play are tournaments.  I don't have to hear people complain the whole time- they're too busy trying to win.  Does this mean I think GW is the niftiest, keeniest company that ever existed?  Nope.  I have a special version of antipathy towards them.  But that's a story not to be told here.  I do actually like the game, the product, and what the company gives me as a tool.  I enjoy this hobby.  And I enjoy enjoying this hobby.

Do what I do:  Set your army up.  Stare at it.  Imagine them talking to one another.  Imagine the last campaign they were on and what they must've seen.  Imagine how your little toy soldiers saw it in their imaginations.  It's fun.  Remember how you felt in the good 'ol days?


  1. We are cut from the same hobby cloth, brother.

  2. Well said. I've only recently (a year ago) entered the hobby, so I don't know about the good ol' days. What I do know is that I was introduced into it by a fan of the setting. So what were my first armies? Sisters of Battle (because nuns with guns are awesome) and Grey Knights which, while atrociously priced for their outdated rules, have the coolest models and therefore must be fielded because who doesn't like a Marine that is so fearless that even Daemons don't faze them.

    I'm looking forward to the new codex because it will have cool new fluff and I can paint up a Stormraven as my Grand Master's strike ship: Corvus Malleus.

  3. When it comes right down to it Bossman, I think the best way I heard it described was "Wow, this is a really cool game - I hope they make it into a miniatures game someday" That was a buddy of mine talking about Dark Heresy / Deathwatch, blatantly pointing out damn close the same thing you are.. The saddest part, was when I found myself kind of agreeing with him.. :/

  4. Testify Brother Jay!

    I ALWAYS imagine how my Marines (not guys, green plastic army-men are "guys") function and interact. Every Tactical Squad has not only a Sgt.,Specialist and Heavy Weapon Marine but a Squad Leader (with Iron Halo badge), Communications Brother (BTW - I love how the new starter set Marines included that little touch) and a loader for the squad support weapon. Never mind that these have no in game effect. It just adds to the character of the army.

    With my new 5th Company Blood Angels force people have questioned me why I would field a Tactical Squad and don't include more Assault Marines. "Because I have three 5 x Marine squads and two Landspeeders already," I replied. "So?" they say. "5th Company is a Battle Company. They only have 20 Assault Marines in the whole company," I informed them. I swear it was like I was speaking to them in Mooninite. I then proceeded to mop the floor with them using my well balanced AND "fluffy" army. (An army like that can win if you have a plan, play well and focus on the mission. You don't actually need the latest net-list to win all the time.)

    I'm as competitive as the next guy, but why participate in this hobby if you're not going to take part in the rich background of the 40k universe? If these WAAC players want a game where the character of the pieces don't matter and there is perfect game balance and strategy there is this game that's been around for's called Chess!

  5. excellent post, for me it is about the fun, and the background is an incredible source of it. to the day I still purchase all the books only because of it.

  6. Agreed, sir.

    This great hobby of ours has its flaws, but they are eclipsed, dwarfed even, but those things which make it awesome.

    I'm sick and tired of these beardy old hobbyists complaining that his army hasn't been good since 3rd edition, and condescending, virginity-locked rules lawyers just bitching about something I love. And I do love it, contrary to popular belief.

    Everyone is attracted to our hobby, I think, because of the background. How many of us were sucked in by the thought of hulking green monsters facing off against genetically engineered human killing machines?! That didn't exist elsewhere to my knowledge. I remember thinking, "Damn, this is an AWESOME story." and building my first army, piece by horribly-painted piece.

    Somewhere along the lines, I think that "Wow!!!" factor becomes corrupted by the douche bags of our hobby. I'm glad there are like-mined folks still abound that understand that its all about having a good time with cool toys in good company.

  7. Just got back to my Chaos troops after eight years of absence, good or not, cempetitive o not, it will take a lot to get me away from my old Alpha Legionnaires! :D

    We are legion!

  8. I have played this game for over 27 years. [yep I am that old]. I got into it because of the richness of the universe and the ability to exercise my imagination. When the rules started comming out that enriched the feel of the universe and served as a immersion enhancer I was ecstatic. When the rules came out that utterly destroyed the way the background is written my brain did a 180 degree convulsion and I am still experiencing the migraine.

    So whilst I can and do wax lyrical with the best of them about the magnificence of the 40K universe, I do complain most voiciferously when rules are changed that destroy the hard work of the background writers.

    I am specifically refering to the way in which the Necrons, the souless implacable killing robots evaporate at the drop of a hat to a single commissar with a power fist.

    Whilst I am sure that the Guard player world over have suitable twinges of warm fuzziness at their single characters infinite heroism, having paper mache robots simply is not what the background describes.

    A certain expectation was set in 4th edition, and with a whimsical stroke of the pen [thus proving once again that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword], the laws and indeed very nature of the universe changed, making a mockery not only of an entire segment of the background writing, but the time, effort and love invested by a multitude of gamers in favourite army.

    So I say to GW, be very very careful when making sweeping universal changes to your rules because you undermine and destroy your universe background along with the faith that long time gamers have for the lifestyle. [for many of us gaming is NOT merely a hobby].

  9. Once again Captain, you have done a great job in making me think about the hobby itself.

    Recently I have been fighting a loseing battle with gathering the motivation to sit down and really put my armies together, or even work on small parts of them.

    Though much to the same vein as this post I found myself thinking recently about a Mortals of Chaos.. ( Because I firmly believe that the Warhammer world is in the 40k universe.. just not found yet. ).. So instead of doing what I normally do which is buy models and hap-hazardly put crap together. I have been enjoying day dreaming about WHY this warband is coming together. How it would be possible for them to build up their forces. What forces would gather?

    I never look at premade army lists, so this time is no different. I'm trying to get my mind set into the story, into the background and to really see what my exalted champion plans to do. ( Other then reap the souls of the men of the empire, and the beards of dwarves )

    Posts like this one help me refocus on what i ENJOY about this game. I get very jadded when I start to build an army and see that its going to cost me $35 for 12 core choice models.

    I'm glad that you still have that drive in your hobby Brotha Jay.

  10. I got into the hobby in 1996 for the background and am still in it for it. I'll go months without a game or even painting a model, just reading background books (BL, Codexes, Imperial Armour) and discussing it on forums dedicated solely to background.

    Might I suggest (hesitantly) Warseer's 40k Background Forum. For Space Marines, B&C's dedicated background forum is awesome too. They even come up with their own stuff too, which is often amazing. (Badab War and Dornian Heresy Alternate history)

    We're in the same boat, you and I, all is not lost.

  11. Hi there Jay,

    I'm Larry from HERO's Gaming Blog. It is a competitive gaming blog that has everything to do with building good lists, minimizing on fluff and capitalizing on your book's strengths. It is not a WAAC site, but it's definitely considered power gaming by most standards. Please keep reading, there's a point to this.

    I started the hobby back when I was 15. The first model I bought was a Grey Knight Terminator blister and I was taught how to paint it by a hobby manager, much like you. I fell in love with the fluff, the universe and the models that GW produced.

    Through the years, I've changed. I used to not field an army unless it was completely painted. Now I rarely field anything painted because I just want to focus on the core of the game. I must admit, I've always been a competitive person; in sports, in games, in life. I sold my beloved Grey Knight army for Eldar eventually because I was tired of footslogging my army into Nidzilla gunlines. The competitive player in me desperately wanted to win, but the person in me that let go an entire, fully painted army of Grey Knights for a taste of victory will never forgive me. I regret this decision till this day.

    I've been a competitive player ever since the days of Eldar. Now I have Space Marines, Death Guard, Space Wolves, Blood Angels and Dark Eldar. Lately, I've been shying away all the competitive games and been playing lists that you usually never see: The unconventional, the non-net lists, the uncompetitive, the fluffy. I've been having a lot of fun.. more fun than I've had in years of competitive play.

    Now with Grey Knights around the corner, I can't help but look back at how this all began. Through the hundreds of man hours dedicated to building, playing and teaching others how to win, somewhere in there I forgot how it all started.

    Your post brings some sadness to me, but it's a sadness I'm happy to admit.

  12. There are times when I feel a little bitter myself - I got into this hobby because I love painting models, and miniatures, and someone gave me a raft of tyranids to try building. That has since blossomed into Tyranids, Space Marines, Necrons, Tau, Chaos, and WHFB Goblins. For a couple of years there I had pretty much stopped engaging in the hobby entirely - minimal posts online, few visits to the store, very little hobby work at home. Now, I've been getting back into it (amazing what a new edition will do for you) and I've reached that plateau - the beardy one where I'm repurposing my forces to better reflect me and my interests, instead of being tabletop functional.

    Vehicles are getting weathering, purity seals are getting little details and units are getting names. I'm freehanding banners and spending 3 days painting a Stormraven. I'm going to start doing waterslide transfers, and planning a major, 2000 point 10th-company expansion to my marine army.
    My tyranids have been resprayed and are being redone, and the necrons are also getting a new color scheme.

    Most importantly, I'm enjoying the hobby again - more than just reading awesome stories about the history of my armies, I want to write stories about them, draw art and make comics about them.

    I think that when we play these games, we get so focused on winning, so in need of crushing our opponents that we lose the forest through the trees. I think it's part of our natural progression as gamers, hobbyists. I'd love to see more people reach that plateau themselves.

  13. Talking about personal fluff in stores is for most people awkward. Talking about stats is more grounded. That doesn't mean that these people doesn't care about the fluff. They could be just talking about it more in private or so, prefering the usual trashtalk in stores. Its simple as that, nothing really bad about it I think.