40K Deep Thought: Just Get Your Grimdark On


I hear and read all the time that unless you build, paint and roll dice, you aren’t really engaged in the 40K hobby.  What a load of crap.

It doesn’t matter how you do it…just engage in the 40K universe and we all benefit.  Seriously, are folks that play 40K board games not benefiting the hobby?  What about PC or console games? What about those of us immersed in the backstory…prolific customers of Black Library?  What if I build and paint, but don’t play?  Are people who have someone else build and paint their models somehow more engaged as long as they play on the table top?  I want to briefly discuss each of these avenues of engagement and see if they benefit the hobby.

Defining “The Hobby”

First, let’s define the hobby.  For the purposes of this discussion, I will define it as anyone who engages in an activity that is associated with the 40K universe.  That being done, let’s start with PC/console gamers.  So someone bought Space Marine for their console.  They have played it for several hours.  Don’t you think, even if they have never picked up a piece of plastic or resin, that they are engaged in the 40K universe?  They have seen Space Marines, Orks, Guard, e.g.  They understand some of the basic story line.  Most importantly, they have become someone, for however short a period of time, has become immersed in our world.  The same of PC games.  There are several out there and more incoming, so this will engage even more folks in a venue in which they are comfortable.  Does it matter that the console or PC game doesn’t come with figs to build and paint?  Of course not.


Grimdark Boardgames

40K board and card games have been growing in popularity over the last several years, thanks in no small part to our friends at Fantasy Flight.  Relic and Conquest come to mind right away.  These games get folks engaged who may never have picked up a plastic mini, and certainly immerse them in the darkness and grim reality of the 41st millennium.  Relic and Conquest are both played at the board game club at my high school.  Several of these young people have gone on the read 40K novels.  NONE of them engage in “the hobby.”  Despite this, they are contributing to a large group of people who have come to know and enjoy the Grimdark.



Black Library you say?  Damn right!  My friend Kevin and I, who have not played each other on the table top since last fall, can sit for hours talking about the Horus Heresy.  Our favorite Primarchs, characters, chapters.  We can discuss Eldar novels and stories of the Inquisition.  I listen to audio much more than he does, but we still enjoy how much the back story adds to our enjoyment of our version of “the hobby.”  Sure, we talk rules and model building as well, but the story itself is what occupies the bulk of our time.  If I never built another 40K model, I would still be patronizing Black Library on  a regular basis.


Pure Hobbyists

What about those of us who build and paint, but have not played on the table top in a while?  We have purchased new dexes and downloaded rules, made lists, and built models to fill those lists with actual plastic soldiers.  Are we not part of “Bringing the Hobby Back?”  Will I eventually get enough stuff built to engage in casual games again (I am in the process of selling my rather large Nid army)?  Sure, but in the meantime, I am as much a part of the hobby as anyone who rolls hundreds of dice during the course of an evening at a local FLGS.  And what do I do as I’m building and painting?  Listen to podcast and audio books.  All in baby, all in!

So here a an interesting question for those who consider those who don’t table top to not be part of “the hobby;” what about the folks out there who pay someone else to build and paint models for them, and just get right to gaming?  IMO, who puts the glue and paint on the minis have nothing to do with hobby.  I also play Infinity, and more than a couple of the folks in my local gaming group commission another member to paint their minis.  They may not “hobby,” but damn, they can play the game!  The minis look great and I have a great time, whether getting my butt kicked or not.  Building and painting is definitely a part of our community, but should not be a metric of whether or not someone is engaged.


Oh, the Players…

Finally, there are those who actually play 40K.  I think it is a good thing that folks take the time out of their busy lives to hang out with friends, consume adult beverages and throw down in battles of life and death in the 41st millennium.  Is this the heart of 40K?  Maybe 20 years ago.  But today, 40K exists in so many forms, formats and venues.  Each of these contributes to the overall success, and survival, of the Grimdark that we love.

The point is this: no matter how we engage this wonderful, make believe universe, we are all part of a larger community.  We need to celebrate any time we find out that someone is involved in 40K, no matter the shape or form.  Each gateway to the Grimdark that is added, the more ways we have to enjoy “the hobby.”

How do you engage the Grimdark?




  • D_Ork

    “Finally, there are those who actually play 40K. ”

    – makes it sound like the players are the weirdos. Ugh.

    • Commissar Molotov

      Well, we are, aren’t we?

      • euansmith

        It could be worse… we could be Social Gamers… Candy Crush anyone?

        • My old lady is all over that

        • Me

          No… The horror!

        • TumbleWeed

          Keep that touch-screen crack-cocaine away from me!
          Although I’ve noticed a trend of candy crush players being less and less social, so it’s really a contradiction in terms isn’t it?

          • euansmith

            I’m not a player, but I like the grimly vampiric nature of the game; where you need to “make friends” to leech lives off them.

          • Me

            Everything seems to be going that way. (Anti)social gaming, (un)reality TV…

        • Muninwing

          we might play in basements, but we’re not in sub-basements, computers on bales of hay, collecting bongo berries…

          • euansmith

            You watched VGHS too? Ki Swan, 1360 points, Fighter for America’s Next Top President!

    • Matthew

      Lets be honest… more than 50% of the 40k community is socially awkward, myself included.

    • DeusXenith

      Well, according to GW, you only make up 20 % of the fan base.

    • Spacefrisian

      Yes but only 20% of us are gamers.

  • Thatroubleshootah

    The hobby is table top wargaming. 40k is just one game in that hobby. The lack of understanding of this fact is a major problem for bols and gw.

    • mugginns

      I really wanted to post this. ‘The hobby’ of buying GW models is not the only thing out there.

    • Emprah

      40k can be a hobby without table top wargaming. They do have a point there, it expanded beyond its grognard roots.

      • eehaze

        Warhammer is an aesthetic that’s been licensed to a bunch of different hobbies.

    • euansmith

      I think the poster is referring to “the Hobby”; that very particular subset of gaming that GW ring fenced for themselves a decade or so back. I think it was to get away from saying, “Playing with toy soldiers” and to try to encourage a sense of elitism among followers of “the Hobby”.

      • Marky

        Exactly.. They are talking about “the hobby” not their hobby or a hobby

    • Frank O’Donnell

      Anything you do as a past time is a hobby, what’s not been understood is that the guy who plays video’s game has a very different hobby from the guy who builds, paints & play with models.

      The only thing in common here is the setting.

  • euansmith

    The Black Library Books really are the ultimate 40k product as they contain much fluff, no unbalanced rules and can be constantly expanded with the customers being happy to “upgrade” to the latest release. They are almost as good as having a popular collectable card game. If only GW could find some way of applying this model to miniature sales.

    On that front, I think GW could give their maybe moribund sales a kick in posterior by releasing a box set of True-Scale Tactical Marines; proper, full sized Marines who tower over Cadians like they should.

    They could say, “It is perfectly okay to keep playing with your weenie old Marines, we are just giving you the option to take your hobby to another level.” This would be just like when they released the plastic Marines who loured over the old metal miniatures. They could slowly ease the old plastic kits out of circulation and release everything in True-Scale… including the vehicle kits of course…

    Eventually the current range would come to be viewed as a quaint little project like the denizens of Old Hammer. You encourage everyone to renew their collection and nobble the resale market for second hand minis.

    • Crevab

      So True-Scale is just making everything bigger?

      • euansmith

        Well, eventually; once every possible Marine kit has been up-scaled; they could start on the guards and make them bigger; driving an endless cycle 😀

        True-Scale is also about getting the proportions right too

        • Crevab

          They probably consider “heroic-scale” one of their trademarks, so I doubt that’s going away :s

          • Emprah

            I doubt the shareholders would let them invest in going true-scale even if the wanted.

            Mind, true-scale space marines would sell like Star Wars. Which sells better than sex.

          • euansmith

            Malformed-Scale 😀

            GW have done me permanent damage when it comes to enjoying most other companies minis, as other brands lack the chunky-monkey feel that I have come to expect when I bust open a pox of plastic crack. I have to chose my factions carefully to avoid disappointment. I guess that is a win for GW 😉

    • Me

      And one army will cost only about half of the world’s total GDP!

      • euansmith

        But that’s not GW’s problem 😀

    • Marky

      Black library are now the only part of GW I buy things from.. Just bought 8 harbacks.

      • euansmith

        You have probably just achieved “Most Valued Customer” Status 😉

        I’m think GW should start releasing limited edition Primarch Collectable Plates

  • Another Biased Opinion

    One of the main reasons I still play 40k is due to the depth of the background and fluff, but lets not forget that it is a table top game, that it where it stemmed from and everything else is / was to support that or as a spin off.

  • benn grimm

    What an odd chip to have on your shoulder… Why do you care so much about definition? Just have fun playing with your man dolls, reading your bolter porn, play acting in your make-believe talking games or whatever it is you get a kick out of and we’ll all do the same.

    • Because its the interwebz. Thats why. If you have an opinion that nobody cares aboot this is the medium for you!

      • benn grimm

        Yeah, you have a point, its a bit like asking a horse; why the long face? or the sky why it be blue… still, better out than in eh? 😉

        • depends where ya stick it 😉

  • Malevengion

    I’ve found the Fantasy Flight RPGs to be pretty engaging and it’s actually led to me building armies for the tabletop to represent some of the friends and foes that have turned up in the games. My Tau army completely changed it’s color scheme that way.

  • TumbleWeed

    As someone who enjoys the fluff, collecting and painting miniatures, and playing the video games, while not getting into the actual table top game I’ve never really felt those discussing “The Hobby” weren’t referring to me. Don’t really know where this is coming from Mr. Bearss…

    • Stormcaller

      I think part of my thoughts here come from a reaction to the rhetoric on a podcast that has as part of the their tag line “bringing the hobby back.” It is a group of folks who are certainly influential in the community. But they focus on battle reports, beatstick list building and selling a “retro” version of tournament rules. Rarely mention of any other aspect of the hobby. I listen to enough podcasts to understand that each one has an individual format/tone. But if you are going to use the term “bringing the hobby back,” you better be discussing issues that involve the varied aspects of the “hobby,” not just your little corner of it.

      • TumbleWeed

        Interesting, I guess I just don’t find that stuff interesting so I don’t listen to that particular podcast. No offense to those guys, I just find endless discussions of rules and list building a bit dry. Then again, that seems to be most 40k podcasts… So I do see your point there.

  • gwensdad

    I know a few fanfic writers, artists, and others who make 40K stuff not related to game play but related to “the fandom” of 40K, which is a phrase apparently some people hate.