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Dr. Z’s 40K: Don’t Forget to Love the Game

9 Minute Read
Dec 9 2014
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Next time you play a game of Warhammer don’t forget to bring the fun. As it turns out it’s actually kind of important.

Doctor Z here from Doctor Z’s Laboratory

We as players or fans of any given game often spend as much time complaining about the subject of our adoration as we do about why we love it. Weather permitting many at my local gaming club will sit outside of the store on game nights for an hour or more after it has closed. Discussing in a semi formed circle the games we just played, what models performed or didn’t perform up to par, what’s good in the new codex and so on. I can’t help but to assume that this behavior is not unique to my particular club and that this is more likely than not how things play out at game nights all around the world. We all love our game of choice for me it’s Warhammer 40k.

Over the last 10 or 15 years, really since the start of the internet age the way people approach games has become increasingly homogeneous.

“X forum says Y unit is good so I’ll put Z number of them in my force to beat you”
Sound familiar? It’s how the internet works. I’m guilty of it as much if not more than anyone reading this. I mean I’m the guy on X forum telling you to put Z number of Y units on the table. To be honest I don’t have a problem with this, if I did I wouldn’t be doing it. I actually kind of like it as it adds a degree of depth to the intellectual challenge of the game. for those of you who didn’t read it I wrote last week last about how I like to try to beat the more powerful meta lists with less powerful lists and the age of the internet makes that style of self challenge possible. My concern is that the farther into this flavorless cut and paste world of gaming we go the more of what makes the game fun in all the non intellectual ways we lose. 

Is Warhammer Losing it’s Soul?

I’ve thus decided to compose a self righteous list of the things competitive gamers (myself included) sometimes forget are the best parts of this game. Please don’t think this is me taking a short at competitive players, I love them, I am one, but sometimes it’s good to get back to basics. It helps you to appreciate what you have.

Randomness

Competitive players hate Randomness. It’s the ultimate mitigation of skill. If I’m the best player in the world (I’m not) and I’m playing against the worst the only way I’m losing that game is if random chance goes against me. That means I want my army to include as few random effects as possible, I want my army to do what I want it to do when I want it to do it. D6 charts are not reliable.

The opposing argument goes something like this “Yeah, but its fun!” In a casual game where nobody needs to win in order to justify having dropped $300 on airline tickets randomness can be awesome. When a forest turns out to be made of man eating plants that chomp down 3 Marines it may seem sad, until that same forest eats 6 of the Orks that charged them on the following turn. What about that one time the Eye of the Gods Table turns your Chaos Lord with a single wound left into a daemon prince. All of this makes for a lot of excitement as the game goes along, but only when you’re in a state of mind where winning isn’t crucial.

Unique Characters

 

Do you remember your first army, who was the general? I bet you remember. What’s more I’d be willing to bet you thought of him as a general not as an HQ choice. Maybe he was just your favorite special character but for a lot of us we did what Games Workshop does better than any other company and we customized our own, he probably had a name, and a back story, and more likely than not a poorly converted model which you had literally sacrificed your own blood to produce (razor blades are dangerous for noobs). I miss those kinds of characters, some of my friends had them too and I was secretly jealous of them and how cool the model or the rules were. I know some people who even went so far as to name all their sergeants or in one person’s case every single model in his whole army. These kinds of characters are fantastic and again add a lot to a casual game. Just naming your Shield Eternal captain on a bike “Billy” is not what I’m talking about here in order to make this worth doing you kind of need to sacrifice here and there. My local club had a “Fluff Campaign” night a few weeks ago and it seemed to me a good opportunity to pull out my Salamanders First Company list it included a 4 man Honor Guard squad with a Chapter Banner and My custom built Tu’Shan Chapter Master of the Salamanders Model equipped with Terminator Armor and 2 Thunder Hammers. That is a terrible set up from a competitive sense, but come on how bad ass is a Chapter Master with Two Thunder Hammers. On the charge with the Chapter banner in the unit that guy had 7 Master Crafted (Salamanders) attacks; I haven’t had that much fun with my HQ choice in years.  

Heroic Moments

 

It’s turn 4; I have a lone tactical marine with a missile launcher sitting on an objective in the woods. Lord Commander Dante the oldest and one of the most powerful men in the Imperium declares a charge on him Calmly our hero raises his weapon and fires his overwatch shot. It hits, it wound’s…. don’t roll a 1 on your save… don’t roll it…. IT’S A 1. DANTE BITES IT!!!!!
That actually happened in a game I played almost 3 years ago and both I and my opponent still remember it. If you ask I’d tell you that I think I won the game but to be honest I wouldn’t want to put money on it, I can however point out which of my 4 missile launcher marines it was that did the deed. And really that’s the important thing to remember.
Yes these types of moments can and do happen in competitive games but by their very nature these kinds of moments are about defying the odds and unfortunately competitive 40k is so much about the overwhelming application of force that it becomes nearly impossible to do so.  In addition the built in redundancy in many competitive lists makes it feel less exciting when my missile launcher Marine blows up 1 of 6 wave serpents by himself. The Chapter Master I mentioned above despite being a bad competitive choice single handedly won me the game I played him in. over the course of the game he killed 5 Nobs with his orbital bombardment, as well as an Ork Warboss, a Morkanaut, and a Battle Wagon in close combat. Was this lucky? Oh yeah but it was still awesome to see 2 Thunder Hammers rip through an entire army. We all have seen these types of heroic moments in our games both for and against us.
 

Friends

Yeah I know it’s a cliché so I won’t dwell on it, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If you’re not making friends playing this game it’s probably because you’re the asshole power gamer that everybody hates, or you’re the guy who complains about everything all the time. Don’t be one of those guys and you will make friends playing this game. It’s that easy how fantastic is that for a bunch of socially awkward gamers like us.

A Night/Day Away from Real Life

Life sucks, as it turns out nobody just gives you stuff because you’re awesome. What’s up with that? You’re expected to do stuff, and pay bills, and feed your children. Who came up with these rules?
Oh, well at least we have Warhammer night. Once a week I can wave a middle finger to the world and say:

“Screw you. I’m going to play with my toys”
Sometimes we take this for granted a little too much but the reality is that a lot of non gamer type folks out there don’t have this kind of release.

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Many years ago way back in my teenage years was standing in my friends living room coat on and about to head to the hobby store. On the way out my friend went up to his Grandmother and said “Hey Grandma, can I have some money to support my hobby. It keeps me off the street and from doing drugs.” The woman handed him a 20 dollar bill. In all my years this was the single most exploitive and awesome things I’ve ever seen someone do for Warhammer money. But I’m not 100% sure there’s not some truth to what he said.

Zen and the Art of Painting

 

Cute Girl not included

So it’s the middle of January and you live in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine or some other such stupid to live in during January place. It’s Sunday night, your significant other is reading his/ her book and you’ve got the oh, so sweet combo of playoff football on TV and a brand new just out of the unit of __(fill in the blank)__ to build/paint. Grab yourself some slippers a beer (or cup of cocoa) my friend because life is good.

Roll Around in the Endless Piles of Fluff

Do you have any idea how much fluff has been written about this game. I don’t think we realize just how lucky we are as 40k fans that Games Workshop puts as much love into the fluff as they do. There is so much out there for us, army books, campaign sets, Imperial Amour, Black Library, audio drama’s, THERE’S A FREAKING MOVIE NOW! I mean it’s not very good but THERE’S A FREAKING MOVIE! There are other elements of fandom out there that would collectively sell enough of their kidneys to buy one of those new Smaug models if they could get this kind of background content published. If you want to complain about the rules, knock yourself out, but while you’re at it try to enjoy the part of the hobby that Games Workshop is actually putting its energy into.

It’s Expensive

Okay I know that sounds weird but stay with me. I hate the fact that these models cost so much just as much as the next guy, I’m poor too. That being said there is something great about the fact that almost all the people you meet playing this game will have invested a staggering amount of time and or money into their armies. There is a certain level of commitment that goes along with being a Warhammer player that isn’t necessarily part of a lot of other hobbies. Most players love their armies; they have a connection to them that’s built up over not just a couple of weeks or months as might be the case with a card game but over years. The people who play this game almost without exception care about it not just as a pass time but as a part of their life. Maybe that’s why we complain so much.

Mail bag 

Once again if you’ve hated everything I’ve had to say or if you have a 40k related question or comment of any type please send it to me at [email protected] and I may just but it in my impending mailbag column.

Did I leave out the reason you love the game the most? Do you hate some or all of these things?

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