BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

Wargaming ASKEW: Hug Me, Don’t Club Me

4 Minute Read
Jun 2 2011

I had written the greatest dissertation about the political ramifications of the disbanding of the Council of Terra and the creation of the Highlords of Terra, but in the great Blogger purge of a few weeks ago that masterpiece has been lost forever. Instead you get this trite discussion about the most fragile of our wargaming flock: The Seal Pup

The Seal Pup isn’t always the fresh meat we typically think of. A Seal Pup can be someone that has left the game and returned a few additions later. They can be a transplant to a new area– venturing out for the first time in search of a new play group. They can also be a family member that has acquiesced to the constant teaching offers on to play the game.
Seal Pups are critically important because they bring new life into any gaming group they encounter. Their newishness brings different perspective to many times stale gaming group environments. Bringing that new car smell that many of us wish we could bottle; with everything new and wonderful.
The Seal Pup is not yet jaded, which we the older wargamer sometimes feed on. The danger is the older wargamers can start to look less like benevolent angelic protectors and more like vampiric Twilight clones bent on being bad actors to the otherwise Seal Pup’s shinny disposition. The desire to mold these Seal Pups and attempts to clone can end up scaring them right out the door.
How does one scare Seal Pups away?
Well lets see if you know of anyone that fits these descriptions…
The Clickety Clacks
The biggest danger Seal Pups face is an unwelcoming environment. So if your game store has an uncanny resemblance to the plot of Mean Girls then you might have a problem. Sitting on the lunch tables staring down the new guy as he approaches is not exactly inviting. Don’t make the Seal Pup feel intimidated. I understand the feeling of not wanting to teach take the Seal Pup, but remember how awkward the he feels. He has dove head first into a game with complex rules and usually doesn’t know how best to start his journey.
The Doing it all Wrong Guy
So the Seal Pup has just bought an entire Nid force based around Pyrovores. Now before you talk to him about the phallic psychological damage a Pyrovores army poses. Or telling him an army built around Pyrovores isn’t exactly the most “competitive” army around– stop yourself! Not because you are right about the suck of such an army, but because the poor new guy just spent a metric ton of money on an army he liked because it looked cool. Usually from trial and error a Seal Pup will come around, but running up to him and telling him that his army sucks isn’t the fastest way to a Seal Pup’s heart or his continuing attendance at your local store. So please let the guy figure it out for himself usually they will discover their own play style. Just be around if he asks for advice.
The Oversharer
Like my local shops owner says, “Nothing is more insipid than having to hear customers regaling about how cool their D&D characters are” The same thing applies to wargamers. Nothing makes a Seal Pup run for the hills than having his first experience in a new store filled with memories of someone telling them just amazing their home grown Space Goat chapter is and does he want his army bag free handed on? The Seal Pup will instantly wonder if everyone in the store is as garish or is everyone else is just like this Goatman. The better thing to do is ask the Seal Pup why he decided to play, gauge his goals, and see if they mesh with yours. It also goes a long way in making an inviting environment and at the very least you can pawn him to more compatible players if he scares you.
The Big Brother
This is an offshoot of the Doing it all Wrong Guy, but more insidious. You think the Seal Pup is a poor orphan that you can mold into the perfect wargaming killing machine. Ok, maybe not that bad, but you have a certain notion on how you see the wargaming world and your intent on bring people to your way of thinking. So without care what the Seal Pup might want, you set out to molding him into whatever type of Wargamer you want him to be. This can backfire the same way as telling a teenage girl to stay away from “those guys” – it just may lead to the opposite reaction and at the same time end up losing a gaming buddy.
There is many more behaviors that have contributed to scaring away potential new players. The main point about this whole fantastical picture is about treating Seal Pups with respect and not as pawns, they are actual breathing boys and need all the help they can get to make it out alive in the cruel, cruel world known as Wargaming.

So how do you deal with new players in your area? What have you found as the best way to get new players started when they show up with a box of plastic and no idea how to use it? As always visit Blood of Kittens for the latest rumors and slightly skewed vision of the Wargaming.

  • Ten Tournament Players That Really Grind My Gears