an eccentric Briton writes about things

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

10 responses

  1. I’m glad of the update. I can’t easily keep up with your posts here and at HoP, and I probably only spot a fraction of the comments while I’m flitting about, but I like to know what you’re thinking. As for the D&D vortex, I’m glad we’ve had, and still do have, the chance to be flung about by it, but I’m sure similar is true for many people, that they emerge – or not – knowing better what the thing is and what it is they want.

    Saturday 29th December, 2012 at 9:42 PM

    • Von

      I’m glad you’re interested! All this blog has ever been about is me thinking out loud (proverbially speaking), but it pleases me that people like to follow this stuff.

      I regret nothing about trying to take an interest in D&D – it’s raised a pulse in some less-than-active areas of my brain – but the outcome has been reaffirmative rather than revolutionary. The caterpillar has emerged as a better, shinier caterpillar, as it were.

      Wednesday 2nd January, 2013 at 10:07 PM

  2. James S

    I think I want to co-opt some of your resolutions. Not buying anything until I’ve painted what I have is always a good one.

    Resisting the influence of the blogosphere is hard. Really hard. Especially when it feels like you’re part of an exciting and creative grass-roots movement discovering new ways to think about things (or um, old ways, if we’re talking about the OSR). I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty easy-going and flexibly minded person in real life, which means I can become easily influenced by others. Many people do their best creative work when surrounded by other creatives, hence artist communes etc. I do my best work when isolated from others, doing my own thing, and it took me a really long time to work that out and to learn to engage with communities (online and in real life) without being overwhelmed by them.

    From what I’ve read of your stuff over the years it looks like you also have a tendency to get carried away and wander too far from yourself when the conversation really gets interesting!

    I would also like to award you some sort of prize for using the word “picaresque,” but there doesn’t seem to be anything suitable within arm’s reach…

    Saturday 29th December, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    • Von

      I don’t know how long it’ll last, that first resolution, but not really having any spare money for the first three months is probably going to help.

      You, err, might be right about my tendency to wander off down tangents. The trick, I think, is to find interesting conversations about things I’m actually, well, capable of and interested in doing…

      Wednesday 2nd January, 2013 at 10:11 PM

  3. I’ve just started playing Warmachine if you’re up for a game at DarkSphere sometime?

    Monday 31st December, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    • Von

      Sure thing! The casual nights on Mondays are a wee bit awkward for me during term time ’cause of the ruddy commute, but I’d be up for a game in the college holidays.

      Wednesday 2nd January, 2013 at 9:36 PM

  4. Kitsune

    Very interesting round up of yr year and resolutions Mr V, I particularly agree with revelations 1, 6 & 7. As much as I enjoy a big game throw down now and then, when it becomes a regular thing its just too much for me. That ties into lugging the giant army around as well.

    Resolution #1 is something I’m looking at as well, although in a less hardline way – anything new that comes into the house is getting painted this year. Can’t paint the stuff I already have as that’d mean an attempt at those tyranids I have sitting there idling away!

    Thursday 3rd January, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    • Von

      I do like a big throwdown – what I don’t like is when the amount of stuff required for a ‘normal’ game creeps up and up and up due to various factors (point value creep, peer expectations, or big models making it into play more often) to the point where it’s as much effort as a big throwdown would be.

      As far as #1 goes, I figure I might as well be hardline since I can’t really buy anything until Easter anyway. If I had a whole army lying around untouched I might be slightly more lenient.

      Thursday 3rd January, 2013 at 9:23 AM

      • Kitsune

        “what I don’t like is when the amount of stuff required for a ‘normal’ game creeps up and up and up due to various factors (point value creep, peer expectations, or big models making it into play more often) to the point where it’s as much effort as a big throwdown would be”

        Spot on! It may be considered “cinematic” by some, but its just a hassle in the end. In my mighty two games of 6th edition, both have been a 1200 and thats been more than enough to get a decent army but not the kitchen sink.

        Same with the whole “2400 for fantasy standard” thing – 1600 to 2000 is more than enough to get a bit of something, but not everything.

        Thursday 3rd January, 2013 at 10:49 AM

        • Von

          What I’ve found with WFB is that the extremes of the game tend to be curbed somewhat by keeping the size down. At 1500 points you don’t tend to see so many UBERDOOMWIZARDS or armies with four big stonking T8 monstrosities wandering around; granted it’s still possible to fit five cannons into your Empire army or take the Lichemaster in your Vampire Counts but it feels like you’re giving up more to get them.

          The thing about the huge games with ‘undreds of doodz on either side is that, err, we have this thing called ’10mm scale’ or even ’6mm scale’ which is superb for generating big ‘cinematic’ battles without putting one’s back out getting all the stuff to and from the table. If I wanted to dump two hundred infantry on the board I’d be playing Warmaster (which is actually something I want to be doing more of in the future, it’s a very underrated game in my opinion) and carrying my army in a shoebox.

          Thursday 3rd January, 2013 at 4:52 PM

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