Posts Tagged thoughts

What Sort of Year Will It Be?

A number of my Warmonger comrades have posted gaming related new year’s resolutions:

The Good Ship Resolute.

New Years Resolutions.

New Year.

New Years Resolutions

I have only a few gaming resolutions, after all, my ambitions will have to be realistic given that I have a wife and baby to look after. But there are a few things I would like to do:

1) Keep Painting. Thanks to some generous Birthday and Christmas presents I now have two fleets each for firestorm armada and dystopian wars, the majority of which are still unpainted. Not to mention a sizeable chunk of my Brazen Angels force for 40k. I’ve actually decided to not buy any more shiny things until I’ve reduced my backlog of unpainted things.

2) play some games. My only game of 2011 was an aborted game of firestorm armada with my brother. It was fun, but not really enough. Once I have my armies/fleets organised and the baby is a bit older I hope to start visiting the local games club. I’m also quite interested in Caito’s planned Shell Case Alliance Beatdown event. A chance to meet some of my fellow warmongers and play a few games.

3) learn the rules. If I’m going to be playing games I need to get a firmer grip on my rules. Primarily this will be for Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars which I’m still rather a novice at. I’ll also have to factor in the rule updates for DW that Spartan released just before Xmas.

4) blog when I can. I have to be realistic about my time and the demands in it. I want to be able to blog now and then, but only when I have something to say. But I’ll not be blogging for the sake of it. If I’m honest though I know what my priorities are and if I can’t keep up the blog then I’ll have to call a break.

I also want to catch up on my reading this year. I still have unread books from last Christmas so I have some catching up to do. I also want to actually play the computer games I got for Xmas at some point.

Some of this might be a tall order. I’ll just have to do my best and see what I can achieve.

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2011 and all that

I hope everyone has had a fantastic Christmas and that lots of people found shiny toys under the tree.

Well, what a year it’s been.

It’s certainly been an eventful one for me. This was the year I passed my driving test, got married and became a father. I went through the upheaval of a major reorganisation at work but came out the end of it with my job intact and a pay increase. So, it’s been quite a year.

It’s been equally active on the hobby front. At the start of the year I was collecting a Space Marine army for Warhammer 40,000. The army was the Brazen Angels, a chapter of my own devising, using the Blood Angels rules. I was also tempted by the shiny new Grey Knight codex.

During the spring though I became disillusioned with Games Workshop and the high cost of the hobby. About the same time I was introduced to Spartan Games by @docbungle and got into the fantastic games Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars.

I rounded out my Space Marine collection but since then I’ve been collecting shiny spaceships and cool steam punk warships. The toys from Spartan are fantastic and a joy to collect and paint.

I also investigated Warmachine by Privateer Press. After flicking through the rules and enjoying a intro game I concluded that although it’s a solid rule set with an interesting setting it just doesn’t grab me the way other games do, I might keep my eyes open for news of PP’s upcoming sci-fi game as that might be more my thing.

I have been tempted and intrigued to varying degrees by other games such as Dust Tactics and MERCS. But for now I’m content sticking with DW and FA.

The other big hobby development has been starting this blog, which has been great fun and a good opportunity to get a few things off my chest. I’ve made over 100 posts and had over 3000 hits since I started the blog in the late summer and I’m pretty pleased with those numbers. I’ve exchanged ideas with other gamers, promoted Caito’s Shell Case Alliance and generally had a good time.

Going forward, I’m planning on carrying on with all my hobby related pursuits but these will now have to be balanced with my responsibilities as husband and father. Money will be tight for the next year or so as I have to pay for nappies and other paraphernalia. Fortunately I now have a huge backlog of toys to finish painting. Time will be the other factor as I will have to feed the little one, read her stories and so on. Working from my priorities, to help allow myself the time to paint my toys as well as do all the stuff I’ve got to do day to day I’ll be scaling back on the blog for a while. This will free up a bit of time but also reduce the stress and pressure of trying to keep up and think of things to post. So in future I’ll concentrate on posting when I have something to say, rather than for the sake of it.

Blogging is fun, but you have to make time for all the things you enjoy and prioritise what’s most important to you and also make sure they never become a chore.

In the meantime I recommend you check out The Shell Case and Miniature Musings of a Bear for all that’s hot in the world of hobby blogging, especially all the latest Spartan Games news.

Have a happy new year and look out for my posts when you see them.

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Infinite Variety

The rumours about the upcoming Chaos Legions Codex for Warhammer 40,000 has got me thinking. As I observed in my previous post, the challenge with this codex will be to incorporate sufficient options into a single list to allow the different characteristics and distinct troop types of the nine original Traitor Legions to be fielded while still allowing a balanced and flexible list.

It remains to be see if this is an achievable goal, but I am currently hoping that the GW Studio can do it without having to resort too much to variant lists.

I have a deep dislike of variant lists, either within a Codex – such as those in the 3.5 edition Chaos Codex – or added in supplementary material – such as those included in the the ‘Index Astartes’ articles that GW published in White Dwarf about ten years ago. I have several objections to the use of variant lists. The first is simply that they are often not as well play-tested as the parent list as as such often not as well balanced – often resulting in overpowered builds.

More importantly though, I think variant lists are too often based on a fairly narrow interpretation of a sub-faction’s background and character. Often picking up on one characteristics and exaggerating it or being based on popular stereotypes about a certain faction. This has the effect of further reinforcing those stereotypes. The most obvious example is the ‘all bikes, all the time’ interpretation of the White Scars Space Marine Chapter. Until the 5th edition codex provided a timely reminded that the White Scars are in fact a Codex Chapter, comprising largely of Battle Companies they were widely regarded in the popular imagination as being an all-bike force and White Scar players who fielded bike-light forces were regarded as not following the fluff, when really they were showing respect for the full extent of the fluff beyond the lazy stereotype that had been encouraged. Similarly, the issue of whether it is ‘fluffy’ to include units other than Wraith Guard and Wraith Lords in an Iyanden Craftworld depends very much on how strongly the ‘only construct troops’ stereotype has been inculcated with you and your local gaming group.

The flip side of this is that parent lists are often inappropriately restricted in order to allow the variant lists to have some justification and identity. It is only since the 5th edition Codex for example that Space Marine Chapters other than the White Scars ever got to really use their bike companies. Similarly, in the previous Chaos Codex, only the Iron Warriors had access to the Vindicator, despite that having been a design in use since the Great Crusade.

I don’t want to be dismissive of the important distinctions of history, tradition and character that exist between different Chaos Legions, Ork Clans, Eldar Craftworld and Space Marine Chapters. But I think that quite often the question needs to be asked whether these differences translate into differences that are meaningful on the tabletop and genuinely demand a separate list, and whether appropriate rules can be allocated that reflect the background. For example, which the Imperial Fists have a long and illustrious history and a distinct character, but I’m not convinced that anything in that translates into anything that should set them apart on the tabletop from the Ultramarines, and I don’t think that giving them the ‘Tank Hunters’ rule appropriately reflects their tradition of expert siege craft.

So my position is basically that variant army lists should be avoided. If a sub-army is genuinely different enough it should be developed into a full Codex. Otherwise it should be reflected in the core army list.

Of course, at the moment the only variant armies that currently have their own Codexes are Space Marine Chapters. I know this is a controversial fact in some quarters. I understand the frustration of non-Imperial players that so much attention is lavished on the Space Marines, though it is a common aspect of all science fiction and fantasy literature that the human faction(s) are much more fully explored than the aliens – though that might be because the humans are more usually the protagonists.

To be fair, the Space Marines do lend themselves to breaking down into multiple Codexes, as in contrast to other factions at large in the grim darkness of the far future a Space Marine Chapter represents a relatively small, distinct, insular and rigidly organised force. In contrast, even the Imperial Guard represents a much more heterogeneous and diverse organisation and an army could even be a fusion of the remnants of several defunct regiments from several different worlds. Similarly an Eldar Craftworld probably commands significantly greater resources than a single Space Marine Chapter, but warhosts are probably assembled and organised in in much more ad hoc manner than the Astartes. So it is possible to create codex lists which define the resources of a specific Space Marine Chapter in a way that isn’t really possible for other forces as there is much more room for variation and exceptions in other factions.

The GW design studio have done a fairly good job in recent years in developing what makes ‘non-Codex’ chapters distinct and making sure that the army lists are genuinely different enough to make each Codex just about worth the extra £20 you have to shell out. The challenge of the next year or so will be to see if GW can develop a new Dark Angel Codex that is the equal of the recent Space Wolf and Blood Angel Codexes.

I know that some people have expressed the view that individual Chapters should not have their own Codexes and should be folded back into a single book. This seems like a backward step to me and I think this overlooks both the extent of the work done to differentiate the non-Codex Chapters, and exactly how long some of the varient rules have existed – many of them actually date back to First Edition.

I understand the frustration of players with armies other than Space Marines. There is, strictly speaking, nothing to stop GW developing – for example – specific Eldar Craftworld Codexes, but this would require quite a lot of distinctive background to be developed from whole cloth (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The difficulty will not be identifying what – again for example – a Biel Tan army should have, but why other Craftworlds can’t have the same things, and what Biel Tan cannot have to balance out their advantages. From a more practical point of view, it might also be logistically more difficult to supply the models for an alternative Eldar army as it would require more than a new set of specialised accessories to add to existing models.

Ork Clans could be approached in a similar way, though there is the additional complication that an Ork Waaaaagh tends to be made up of a mixture of Clans, which takes us back to a single list that can be used to represent either a single clan force or a mixture. The question ultimately would be if – for example – a Bad Moonz only army would have access to units that Bad Moonz would not deploy when fighting alongside other Clans.

This is a tricky question that impacts on how GW develop their range of armies and army Codex books. At present I think they are proceeding on about the right course, sticking to a single Codex except where a sub-army is well developed enough to justify an whole separate Codex. I will be interested to see how GW handle things in the upcoming Chaos Legions book, and whether they will convince me that there is a third way between these approaches.

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Pray I Don’t Alter it Any Further

I learn through the internet that George Lucas has made further changes to the Star Wars saga as part of their recent release on Blu-Ray.

This doesn’t really affect me as I don’t have a Blu-Ray player, but I have noticed quite a lot of fan rage.

The case of George’s unending tinkering with Star Wares interests me, and reminds me of the old saying that ‘”art is never finished, only abandoned”. Supposedly Leonardo da Vinci kept the Mona Lisa until the day that he died, insisting that it was never quite finished.

Of course there are many, many examples of Director’s Cuts of films, even films that are well regarded overall such as Blade Runner. So there’s nothing unusual about films being changed, though the frequency with which George is tinkering with his saga is unusual. I imagine that the main reason for the difference is the unusual amount of intellectual control George has kept over the Star Wars films.

Cynics might assume that Lucas is motivated by money. But I think that ignores the fact that Lucas is already fantastically wealthy and has enormous clout in the film industry through Industrial Light and Magic, Skywalker Sound and THX (not to mention his contribution to the early days of Pixar).

I can understand some people feel annoyed about changes that are clearly intended to encourage us towards rethought interpretations of characters. This harks back to the old conflict between authorial intention versus audience interpretation. George wants us to see Darth Vader as a tragic figure, but many of us prefer to see him as a stone cold evil badass mofo, and let’s not even start on the ‘Han shot first’ debate. Also its odd to think that the films that made such an impact back in the late seventies and early eighties might not have really reflected what George had in mind, and that what he was trying to do was something that many people think is less compelling.

I’m not really sure where I stand on this issue. I must admit that most of the things I really like about Star Wars owe more to the Expanded Universe (seriously guys, check out Allston and Stackpole’s X-Wing series!) than the films. Also, I find it hard to sympathise with a lot of the ‘They Changed It, Now it Sucks’ crowd. Like the people who complain that the prequels contradict the original trilogy when whet they really mean is that they contradict their personal theories based on statements in the original trilogy. I think overall, it’s his film so he can do what he wants, but I just hope that one day he is able to walk away reasonably satisfied rather than spending his twilight years picking away at his work, unable to rest until his work reaches some unobtainable state of perfection.

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And it was an Epic reposte!

@CaitoGalenus has posted a response to my recent post about Epic. He makes some good points, as well as rightly pointing out how much the old cardboard building that came with the game used to pop apart. aito’s post is here: And it was Epic!.

Caito is fulsome in his praise for Epic Armageddon, the modern incarnation of the game, as have been a couple of my Twitter #warmonger colleagues. I must admit I don’t know a huge amount about this version, beyond the fact that it was developed using ideas from the successful Battlefleet Gothic spaceship wargame.

At the time Epic Armageddon came out I was at University and as such had no money. Later, when I could potentially have gotten into the game it had already faded into the living undeath that is the Specialist Games range. There seems to be a feeling online that the current version is a very good set of 6mm rules.

These days sadly Epic is just as expensive (if not more so) as other GW games, but with the added sting that there is no real support for the game. I suspect that if I did start buying Epic stuff after a while I would feel resentful, like I was helping to subsidise the other games, but not the one I was buying toys for. I’m not sure I could really get into a game where there is a finite amount of stuff with little or no chance of anything new being added. I know Epic has a vibrant player community that works tirelessly to produce fan-lists and new campaigns and scenarios, but I’m not sure it can 100% replace the support that GW isn’t giving. Not least because there will probably never be any new models (expect the few that Forge World occasionally grace us with). Even the existing range is a bit mixed with the splendid 3rd edition era Warlord Titan awkwardly sharing ‘shelf space’ with the equally good but very different 1st edition era Reaver Titan.

And it’s the lack of new models that underlines that way Epic has been cast to the wayside. Since the last version of epic arrived on the scene, dozens of new units have appeared on the battlefields of 40k that have no counterpart in Epic. 40k has forged ahead with its Storm Ravens, Dreadknights and Mawlocs and Epic has simply been left behind.


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“Beer and Pretzels”

I often hear the term ‘Beer and Pretzels’ used to describe games. It’s generally used to describe games that are simple to set up and play in groups, but it is also sometimes used in a more derogatory way, as a way of suggesting that a game is too simple and unchallenging and so not worth bothering with. I remember in particular the phrase being used a lot last year in relation to the newly released eighth edition of Warhammer and the perceived simplifying of the game. The feeling seemed to be that the game had been ‘reduced’ to the level of a beer and pretzels game and that people shouldn’t play it as a result.

I don’t like this attitude, and it’s made me suspicious of the phrase when I see it used. Fundamentally, I think most of us see gaming is a social activity and I for one dislike any implication that it’s somehow wrong to see it as such, or for that matter to share a drink or a snack with your friend(s) over the course of play.

But more importantly I don’t like it that some people seem to think that playing a game you can play easily and enjoy with people is somehow a lesser activity, as if we should be aspiring to play games which require so much concentration and thought that conversation is impossible and only a fool would try and spare the brainpower necessary to lift a chocolate hob nob to their mouth.

We all like a challenge, but the challenge of a game should be in playing it rather than the complexity of the rules. And I don’t agree when anyone suggests that complex or obscure rules are somehow better or more grown up or that playing complex games rather than something ‘dumbed down’ is the sign of a gamer who is somehow keeping it real.

I’ve seen some forums where it seems to be seen as okay to sneer at people who prefer things a bit more streamlined. Much as we love our gaming, we largely all have jobs, partners, families, even other hobbies and non-gaming friends and it’s surely not unreasonable to want our games to run straightforwardly and smoothly so we can have time for the other things in our lives.

Of course, sometimes ‘beer and pretzels’ is just a harmless phrase, but sometimes it’s uttered with an attitude that seems to run completely against what should be the spirit of the hobby, which should surely be about having a good time with other people and not judging them. It’s an exclusionary attitude that’s as bad for the gaming community as those people who just want to win at any cost, people who lack sportsmanship, people who lack a sense of personal hygiene and anyone who judges you simply for buying army with the the latest codex.

I love gaming, but let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s not exactly rocket science is it? And I don’t think it does anyone any credit to unduly pretend it’s some rarified intellectual pursuit. Generally people who do sneer at others come across like they’re just looking for ways to pass themselves off as smarter or more grown up than they really are or feel they have to justify their hobby to other people by making exaggerated references to how ‘clever’ it is.

Rules do get rewritten and they often get simplified or streamlined but I don’t think this is necessarily ‘dumbing- down’. Yes the modern games are simpler but they have also evolved to a point where you can play a game in an afternoon with armies much larger than you could practically field in the old days. Admittedly this also allows GW to sell you many, many more toys but that’s a separate issue. All games need new players to survive and grow but in some quarters making games accessible is bemoaned as dumbing down or selling out. Like gaming hipsters they claim they preferred something before the masses got involved.

I wonder if the reason people with these attitudes have latched on to the beer and pretzels image is because it appeals to their snobbery. The implication being that people who like games that don’t meet their standards can be written off as fat, drunken, low born oafs. Somehow you can’t imagine people complaining about ‘tea and crumpet’ games, ‘cheese and wine’ games or even ‘brandy and cigars’ games.

There is a whole spectrum of games out there to suit all tastes and situations, and in an ideal world we would respect the tastes of our fellow gamers. I don’t think anyone benefits if we let attitudes of snobbery and pretension lead to some gamers judging others as less than they are and sneering at how they like to have fun. In the end, these are all just games, and we should never take them too seriously. Gaming is for bringing people together, not giving them something else to exclude each other over.

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