So, I've been away for a while then! Sorry about that- basically, I needed (for the first time in 25 years) to take a hobby break. I think (hopefully) I've figured out why- I was distracted from the hobby by the hobby companies.
Now I figure I need to explain that statement, using the infamous "hobby journey."
1) First Contact
Remember the first time you were exposed to wargaming? If you're reading this, then you are one of the people with the hobby bug (which can only be treated, not cured!) and I'll bet that at this point, you didn't let yourself get distracted by anything. You wanted all the games, all the models, and people had to tear you away from the books/models/paints. It's that initial excitement that keeps the stores rolling- the enthusiasm a new player brings to the hobby stops all the hoary old vets getting stale (however much they complain about new blood "lowering the level of gaming" around their store).
2) Gaming Padawan
This is the big spend time. For most people, it involves buying a few models from every single army they like at that moment, before settling on one in particular and becoming totally focused upon it. Here, the distractions start:
- every time you look up a rule, you are distracted from the game.
- every time you think "Their armies better, I need to collect them," you are distracted from the game
- every time you ponder unpainted models on the table, or the lack of scenery, you are distracted from the game.
Distractions, at this point, are part and parcel of the hobby- everyone needs to learn, to build up their armies, and (very important this) to build up their scenery collections. I know some 'vets' who don't like to play 'beginners.' When I've asked why, the most common answer has been along the lines of "..because I want to play a proper game.." OK, guess what- so do the beginners! If I had to take a wild stab in the dark, I'd say that what most of (us?) vets mean is "..I want to play a game where everyone knows the rules, and the armies, and there are no complaints, with painted armies on painted scenery.." In other words, they don't want to be distracted with rules queries, or the possibility of incorrectly built, unpainted models.
(Quick aside. I used to help out at an independent stockist. One day, I was playing a start-up game against a 14 year old who'd just gotten into the hobby- 1000 points Cleanse. I couldn't put my finger on why at first, but there was something wrong with the game. I checked around- he had a decent grasp of the basic 40K rules, the Space Marine Codex rules and was playing competently. The models were 3-colour-minimum, not great but painted which was a big plus in his favour. Then two things struck me: 1) his Land Raider had just fallen apart under its own weight, the Blu-Tac he'd been using to 'glue' it no longer able to support it, and 2) all of the Space Marines had their torso's glued on (with poly-cement this time) upside down. Making them look like turtles.)
3) Wild Oats gamer
This step of the hobby journey doesn't apply to all, but to most. Essentially, after a year or two gaming and having fun, you (re)discover beer/ the opposite sex/ real life and take a hobby break. I'm not going to explain any further how this can be related to being distracted from the hobby.
4) 'Hoary Old Veteran'
For those of us that return to the hobby (as Prodigal Hobbyists?) we are now boxed into Veteran status. At this point, most of the rules are known, models are painted, (or not) and various expectations are made by other gamers. This is really the point at which the distractions set in. Do you want to try that new game, and can you afford it? Look at the lovely models in that new range- how can I hide them from the wife once I've bought them? The new Army Book looks fun- better learn all the rules for them.
The last one is probably the most common distraction. When someone throws down a new army, then rules queries will always come up as someone mis-understands a specific rule, or because the rule was written badly there are multiple interpretations.
(Quick aside. I'm a Tyranid player. When the Codex was released last time round, I went fairly quickly from joy to despair. The reason- each time I played, it would involve a 20 minute conversation about the various interpretations of the Doom of Malantai and Mawloc. Despite the fact that 1) I never used the Mawloc and 2) I never tried to make units in vehicles test against Doom, and always gave models cover saves. Even having a clear position which benefited the opponent didn't stop opponents wanting to argue with me, just because I played Tyranids.)
So what's been distracting me lately? Various things.
1) I've been collecting Tyranids for a little while now. I have a sizable collection a them. When the new book was released, I spent a while reading and re-reading, making lists, experimenting with friends using representation to figure out a few mechanics. What I discovered was that in order to get an effective army for pick-up games, I would need to completely revise my collection. In particular, I always played horde, and it was clear that now I'd have to filter in some big gribblies that weren't in my collection of 15+ Carnifii
I suspect that this is going to be a trend witnessed by Xenos armies. Unfortunately, I am unwilling to re-purchase my collection of models, mainly because I am not Bill Gates.
2) Specific again, I'm afraid, to GW- I really don't like the new 40K or WHFB. The reason? They are full of distractions, as part of the rules. Take WHFB- if I walk into a wood, I need to roll a dice. Now, I'm thinking about the rules all the time I'm near it. It takes my mind outside of the game, which is a visual experience. I'm going to try to clarify this a bit:
This is specific to the game itself being played. From the point at which you start setting up the table. From here, everything should be immersing you in the game. The scenery should evoke feeling, and the set-up should make you think tactically. How are you going to use the buildings? How does the wood hinder you/ benefit you? This gets you thinking like a commander, and draws you in. Wondering about dice rolls doesn't immerse you, it distracts you.
The same is true of movement. Maneuvering a force into attack position, and either succeeding or being thwarted by your opponent is right at the core of wargames. It is absolutely key to involving you in the game. If I have to think "but I can't move too near the table edge, in case my opponent rolls a series of dice which allows his units to come on there and ruin my plan" that takes me out of the visual experience and into the rules. Worse, when units come on all over the place, the game disrupts into a purely rules-based exercise; that's not wargaming (for me at least.)
Yes, you can argue about this point, so to clarify my position:
- The rules underpin the game. They are important. They SHOULD NOT OVERSHADOW THE GAME. They should not be the most important factor- when you lose a game specifically because of a rule, it doesn't have a sense of achievement. When you win because you outplayed your opponent within the boundary of the rules it does. This is also true of Sports.
The current editions of Games Workshops big 2 games have, basically, become full of "cool ideas" each of which are rules specific. Balance is being achieved within the later Codices thanks to the overall up-gunning of each army. This leads me on to my next point...
3) I used to play Magic the Gathering. I stopped after Kamigawa. Why? They ran out of ideas, and started to increase the power and effectiveness of each set, and it started to become ridiculous with overpowered cards. New rules kept coming which affected game balance. The sweet spot was Mirrodin, which had incredible balance and led to great games.
(Quick aside- I'm just going to swap some words out of the above statement:
I used to play 40K. I stopped after 5th Ed. Why? They ran out of ideas, and started to increase the power and effectiveness of each army, and it started to become ridiculous with overpowered units and abilities. New rules kept coming which affected game balance. The sweet spot was 4th, which had incredible balance and led to great games, despite needing a revision to clean up some aspects. )
4) OK, I'll leave GW alone now. Kind of. As some of you will be aware, I follow various different companies and like to try new games, whilst always trying to avoid fads. Hence I never had Man O' War. The glut of new games and companies itself, I now find distracting in an overall sense. If I think about cost, then Mantic comes front and center- however, I'm not keen on the models so I'm reluctant to spend money on them when I can get more bang for my buck from Zvezda on historicals. On the other hand, I love the imagery behind Warmachine and Hordes. It's a pity that the only times I've tried to play these games, my opponent has simply beaten me whilst trying to teach me the rules (apparently, saying "and this feat is how I win", whilst demonstrating by winning, gives them a sense of achievement. I can only think that they can't beat other existing players, since it's happened 5 times now!) so I still don't know whether I like the game or not, but I do know that I don't like the general mindset of the players I've met. Other companies, such as HiTech, Dark Sphere, Scibor etc don't have complete ranges, and that bugs me when I look at an army (please Scibor, please complete your ranges of models so I can spend some money with you!) So thanks to a massive range of choice, I find it difficult to concentrate my attention on any 1 area- even whilst playing! (The last game of 40K I played, we spent most of the game discussing the benefits of other rulesets.)
So, that's kind of a long-winded explanation of why I haven't posted in a while, and touches on something I've been inadvertently talking about since this blog started...
Rules should be intuitive, representative of what they are trying to achieve, and where possible should draw you into the game.
I've got a busy month coming up, so when I can I'll post up any thoughts and ideas that are running around my head.
Finally, a quick thank you to all the followers who have stayed, and thanks to everyone that spurred me on to stay in the hobby, and to carry on blogging. It is much appreciated.
Comments, as always, are welcome :)