Seven Revelations and Three Resolutions
Well, that was 2012.
I was going to start this post with some trite observation about how I didn’t do too much gaming this year, but if I actually think about it, it’s not that there was less of it, it’s just that it was harder to track than “go down Workshop every Thursday night like clockwork mate”. The cards of life have been shuffled and re-dealt several times this year, to the point where I think back to January and have hazy recollections of opening a Catacomb Command Barge which I’ve just about managed to undercoat and play one game with during the last twelve months, and for some reason that’s stood as a metaphor for a year in which I have… let’s see…
- started playing ruddy Magic again, although it’s successfully stayed marginal and occasional rather than becoming a dominating force like it used to be
- actually become an active force in a WoW guild, rather than a confused non-participant as I was in the ‘Von joins raid guild’ days
- played most of the Dark Sphere Warmachine league and a couple of tournaments
- re-acquired my Vampire Counts
- painted my entire Cryx collection and promptly sold them
- run a startlingly successful long-term RPG for the first time in ages (the Dark Ages game), and run a startlingly unsuccessful set of new player experiences (the various D&D-ish excursions)
- played a few games of 40K.6 and found it to my liking
- played a few games of WFB.8 and found it not to my liking
- played a few games of LotR SBG and started Hark off on it to boot
- played several new games – Malifaux, Freebooter’s Fate and Epic 40K have all seen some table time this year, and I’ve played quite a few board games which I haven’t blogged about because I have no idea what I want to say about them. I even played some Dreadfleet!
- been on a Geek-Cation with some lovely people and run an enjoyable but ultimately uneventful one-off RPG thing
- done rather less than bugger-all in the Hobby Department, bar painting a handful of warnouns for Warmahordes, a handful of zombies and zombie merchandise, and a few commissions. In my defence, I did pretty well for the first 97 days of Project 365: I’ve just done sod-all since I arrived in London.
Now, I would be a bit rubbish if all this actually doing stuff (or, in the latter case, not doing stuff) didn’t make for a fairly revelatory year. Fortunately, I am not a bit rubbish – at least, not at self-indulgent navel-gazing – and therefore I have some Revelations to share with you, as time’s winged chariot trundles on toward the year’s end.
- I really don’t like painting on a large scale. A large, imposing new model is not displeasing to me; the handful of warjacks and warbeasts I’ve trotted out all look pretty nifty, although the standard of painting that crops up at Warmachine events still makes me feel slightly depressed. However, even painting four models to a similar standard makes me balk like a good ‘un (I’m still too ashamed of the new Beast Handlers to post them) and I cut virtually every available corner on Croe and his Cutthroats in the cause of getting ten done. Thinking about it, it might be infantry-sized models that I don’t like; the only one I’ve finished since April was the Bloodrunner Master Tormentor and I still haven’t started Magnus or any of the Merc solos despite having primed them in June. The Gremlin Taxidermist and Slop Haulers haven’t even been primed.
- I need range like soup needs croutons. A key motivator in drifting sideways from Cryx to Mercenaries was the prospect of acquiring various weapons with a RNG stat that wouldn’t embarrass a concussed badger, and I had a surprising amount of fun projecting force over greater distances than I’d normally bother with. The most frustrating thing about my Morghoul Theme Force was its lack of shooting capacity; eight Arcuarii don’t cut it in a world where Gun Mages exist. The best thing about my Necrons has been the terrifying amount of shots that even my haphazard, battleforcey army can throw out in mid-range, and the amount of fun stuff that’s been wired into that (since so many of their guns have the ‘you rolled a six, something good happens!). The Uruk-Hai embarrassed Hark with their ability to hit virtually anything and yet still show the penetrating power of small pre-packaged cheeses. My Rogue dies all the time in daily quests through which my Shaman and Warlock walk cheerfully, songs in their hearts and feathers in their hair. The Gremlins have offered the most sheer fun I’ve had in a wargame all year, while the Brotherhood were an active frustration. You get the idea. In the past I’ve let myself fixate and stick on melee builds – in 2012 I discovered that shooting at things is fun and significantly more effective.
- I’ve been increasingly turned off Warmahordes by the sheer pressure of mechanical execution, the petty micro-measuring and angle-mongering that it seems to encourage, and the soulless non-games which resulted from a perfect match of list to scenario or a bad one of list to list. I ran a demo game at the Clapham club a while back, and the expressions on faces as I played my usual game were… not expressions I want to see on faces I’m supposed to be playing a game with. I don’t want my hobby time to involve more brain-work than my job; Warmahordes was an awesome thing to play as a conspicuously-underemployed student but as a full-time teacher it’s just more fidgy-widgyness that I don’t need. I also don’t like the prevailing cut-throat take-your-lumps culture; it somehow feels like a terrible faux pas to ask someone not to use their Stormwall, whereas I wouldn’t blink asking a similar question about someone’s Baneblade.
- I may not be a bad GM, but I am quite a limited one. I cut my teeth running location-and-character-focused, rules-light long-haul World of Darkness for wildly improvisational drama geeks, and that’s still what I actually enjoy doing and do best at. I’ve tried running one-offs and they’ve been horrendously overplanned; I’ve tried running a D&D game and it’s been slow, awkward and uncompelling for the mechanics-focused player in the group. I’ve tried running for new players and the experience hasn’t, I feel, made the best case for why I do this thing that I do. Mind you, I am still pretty damn good at running in my own style – the Dark Ages game didn’t so much stall out as end on a triumphant high, and while we’re still adapting to the Skypey medium, the pattern of irregular, very long face-to-face sessions and Skypey downtime or small scenes seems to be essentially a good one.
- I’m a better player-character player than I thought. Nowhere has this been more clear than in the WoW RP. I don’t have to run things. There are people who run things and who are better at running things in this medium than I would be. I can just kick back and react and try to remember that it’s not all about me. I do think I’d be a problem player for a nervous GM (see also: Star Wars RPG), but with a strong GM who knows what they’re doing, I’ve been having the kind of fun that’s fun for other people too. I’ve run a couple of RP characters who’ve just stepped up as if fully formed, and people seem to think they’re fun to be around and that the chap behind them is actually quite good at this. So that’s good.
- I need more games that I can carry in my work bag. The main thing that’s stopped me playing much 40K or WFB or even trying to reacquaint myself with Warmahordes is the size of cases and sundry materials that I’d need to lug out to work with me, then back from work with me, then back across town from the games clubs with me. This is also the reason why I’ve been getting more into Malifaux and Magic in the second half of the year. Things may or may not improve as I tweak my travel arrangements to the point where I could be home in time to swing by and collect my stuff; that said I’m definitely not, at present, in a state where I can cycle across town with an army on my back.
- I don’t like big games. The only WFB I’ve enjoyed playing this year has been at the 1000 – 1500 point scale. Anything bigger than that and the essential change in the game’s internal dynamics means I almost need a new army to engage effectively with the game at hand. I haven’t had much hands-on with the new 40K yet, but if it plays similarly, I may be looking at capping my efforts in those games at a given size and playing my big games in smaller scale systems more suited to them. I have enjoyed Epic, which bodes well for 28mm play, and I’ve gotten on well with Freebooter’s Fate and Malifaux too.
So, where does all this Revelation leave us in terms of Resolutions?
- I will paint every model that I currently own. If I don’t want to paint it, I will sell it and buy something I do want to paint. This isn’t as harsh as it looks. Some recent downsizing has cleared away the majority of my unpainted Mercenary units and left me with five primed models and maybe three in need of a strip-and-repaint job; for the Skorne I have only one unpainted model. I think a motley collection of Minions – shooty ones – may find their way into my collection to round out that force, instead of me forcing myself to paint up hordes of fiddly, samey Skorne infantry for a game where the activation count already gives me hives. That also gives me three armies for Warmahordes, which could plug together to form one big one. For the Necrons, that means painting up a few big things, mostly vehicles, as well as the last twelve Warriors and a batch of Tomb Blades. For the Gremlins, that means three models, plus the piglets to make the Taxidermist playable. For the Vampires, that may well mean selling whatever isn’t painted. For the Lord of the Rings, that may mean flogging the Uruk-hai and buying some Dwarves to counter-point Hark’s Goblin army. I might ask Hark to paint them for me too.
- I will play league games of 40K. The Clapham club are running an escalation league over the first few months of 2013. I enjoyed the last escalation league I was involved in, at least until I fell behind in the painting and burned myself out on the game system by playing it at tournament level – but I know what I did wrong and I’m going to try not to do it again. The small scale of the league games – it’ll cap at 1500 points – means the games are unlikely to inflate outside my comfort zone, and I should still be able to fit all the stuff for them into a moderately-sized backpack to boot. That the league rewards painting 300 points of stuff per month is a nice bonus and may spur me on with resolution 1.
- I will run ‘my game’ and may the devil take the blogosphere. I’ve been sucked into discourses surrounding the D&D OSR in the last year, and – interesting though that’s been – it’s all rooted in a style of gameplay that I’m not actually very good at or particularly interested in. I have a style and I might as well roll with it and do well at it. I’m not going to tie myself to any one system – in particular, I want to give Pendragon a look in the new year, and Through The Breach looks like it may have promise – but there’s no point in trying to do picaresque sword and sorcery when your heart lies with baroque mystery and personal horror.
2013 words! See you next year.