Sunday, January 16, 2011

Is the Game really worth the playing?

Yesterday I played a small game against John at the local monthly Games Day in Santa Cruz. I didn't have a lot of time and we only got in a couple of rounds before I had to go. We had a good time, but not because of the game, just because we get along.
John's Deathwing annihilated me in the two turns that he had and during my turns I did not inflict a single casualty or wound or damage. Johns tactics were sound and he had the first turn and that was that.

Pondering it all over, I realize that I have not played a nice, WONDERFUL, game in a long, long time. Either they are super lopsided, with two possible scenarios: I am happy and slowly begin to feel guilty and start 'forgetting' bonus attacks that I might have as to not aggravate my opponent further; OR I feel crappy and then don't care anymore, game is over anyway.
Or the game goes so slowly that we can never get beyond a first or second turn, which takes away a lot of the possibility of a surprise turnaround. For example, yesterday on another table there was an apocalypse game going on, they spent hours on the first turn. That doesn't mean they don't have fun but it shows me something about the game is not right.

With that in mind, I just don't know how so many thousands of players make this game work for themselves. Am I the only one that feels the game is slow, has too many rules, is determined mostly by luck (like getting the first turn) and brings out the worst in people when they play.

My buddy Christian, who is a much more experienced player than I am, keeps telling me I need to play more. His reasoning is that the more you play, the more you enjoy it. But at this point that is like someone telling me the best view is from the top of Mount Everest...

Maybe I am just in love with modeling, Santa Cruz Warhammer and chatting with other people about building armies. My dream to inspire others to take modeling super seriously. That part I love deeply and I can't wait to get back to my current Space Wolf Project. I still feel a little sad about it all though, something is not right..



  1. Like many wargames, 40K is essentially unstable, like a pyramid vbalanced on its point. A small advantage rapidly swings into a big one. I very rarely play games to the finsih as it is usually clear who has won after a few turns. If you play scenarios, for fun rather than competitively, then this is all part of the challenge. It is still a mystery to me why people play a non-competitive game like 40K in competitions. Play chess instead, even then, white has a small advantage.

  2. You make some points here that I am struggling with as well. I play at most a game every two months. I love the art, the background, the modeling and the painting. The game is meh. I think John is right that if we played more with consistent army lists it would be more fun. That would avoid all of the research librarian type work needed looking up rules. I agree with John lLambshed. Scenarios are a way to bring the backstory into focus.

  3. Imagination!
    You put all that character into your models, try and put your mind into them once they're on the table... you seem to be forgetting the fun "let's pretend" part of the game where you try to think like you're "on the ground" with the troops, shells falling all around.

    Some grown-ups need a drink or two before they're loose enough to make tanky sound FX with their mouth, but
    relaxing and enjoying/believing the game/ scenario is what the great modeling is all about (in my opinion).

  4. I agree with you, and as a 12 yr veteran of 40k I don't think the "you just have to play have more to enjoy it" really holds much weight.

    I keep writing these ultra-long-winded comments only to delete them as I think they may be to "harsh" for some. So I'll just say, nope you are not alone in your views of 40k, but we/I are definitely the minority... like an island of rationality in a sea of crap! =)

  5. I play even less than you guys do.
    It helps to have an army (of which I am currently missing), but... there are some ways I've found to get the most from the game.

    1. Narrative campaigns
    When you're more interested in telling a story than winning, it can be very relaxing.

    2. Play the army you want.
    Seems obvious. But what happens if you build the list you really want to play with and then use it? Don't worry about the rules or Codex limitations.

    3. Play with like minded players.
    If you're looking for a relaxing afternoon and your opponent is looking to add a notch to his belt, you probably won't enjoy the game much. Find someone looking to get the same thing from the game and you'll enjoy it much more.

    Ron, From the Warp

  6. I was getting burnt out on 5th edition until I played my Narrative Campaign with my best friend. It really got me back into what I enjoyed about 40K.

    I no longer play for competition and refuse to play anyone who just is looking to test out their new tourney list. I play with friend who just want to have a fun game of 40K and so far it is working.

    It also helps me that I switch between games systems to keep everything fresh. I am about to get into Malifaux just to add another game to put into the rotation.

    But my advice is play to have fun and find other like-minded individuals, this has made all the difference for me and 40K.

  7. Hi Mike,
    Your game couldn't have been too bad, you got free cookies!!!
    I too have been burned out by 40K leaving me frustrated by it's slow pace and complexity. I have played much better wargames in my time. But it's the allure of the gritty, gothic background that has kept me coming back to 40K time and again.
    I agree with the other posters here that good narrative campaigns are just the thing to revitalize the interest and enjoyment in 40K!


  8. thanks for the thoughts. Here's some feedback
    1. finding like minded players doesn't fix the flaws. John and I are very mellow and really don't care too much. Still, having a unbalanced game is somehow frustrating, although it has nothing to do with your friends
    2. A narrative campaign sounds like fun. How would that work? Can I just replay a scene from a book like Ciaphas Cain holding off a bunch of orks with a few guardsmen. How do you deal with rules?
    3. Since I love modeling so much, maybe I should be more like Ron and sell/donate every finished army so I can start a new project. That sounds fresh and rejuvenating
    4. other games really help. John and I like playing Wings of War and I can play that even with my family.
    hmm, food for thought.

  9. By narrative, I mean come up with a story that would bring your two armies together (background) and then either finish the story with a game or a series of games. You can change rules, add strategems, create unique objectives, etc.
    Whatever you guys want to do really, forget the rules and think about it like a story.

    You can make deployment into whatever you want, you can give either side an advantage or disadvantage, you can specify the number of turns, you can do whatever you want.

    Once you get to that point, it becomes more like a story than a game. You get to where you change the rules to fit your story rather than making your story fit the rules.

    And don't be like me, once you have no army, it's hard to play at all then.

  10. Yes, you do need to play more.

    You need an army list you're happy with. You then play it until you're familiar with it. Then you get familiar with the missions and how your army plays against other armies.

    Once you're familiar with your army and don't have to keep checking the Codex or the rule book for how it works, you'll enjoy the game a lot more and do much better.

    Like anything else, it's practice.

  11. Mike-
    As your buddy, blog partner and the guy that you played this game against I thought I would share my thoughts.

    I have mixed emotions about that game.

    Of course it feels good to be the winner, but not if your buddy didn't enjoy the game.

    First since we are both newer players it moved really slow as we poured over rules and double checked things. I am glad I was playing with you because anyone else would have been annoyed with all the book time and wouldn't have let me make corrections when I forgot something. The only thing that will fix that is practicing and getting more familiar with the game mechanics and our armies.I can't imagine having to stop everything and make a stranger wait for me to look everything up.

    This game had a lot going for me, and very little for you.

    First, it was a rematch of a game that I took a beating. After that game I went home and thought about everything that sucked for me, and researched what I should have done against your army to have done better.

    I was ready for a rematch, and this game had the same rules Dawn of war, and annihilation.

    I got lucky in the deployment and was able to deploy first and to my best advantage, and the dice were not your friend, both with scatter and your Vandetta las. shots.

    I think you would have done better with more troops.

    I think worst of all that you really wanted to be playing with a different army(Wolfwing)and your head was just not in the Imperial Guard frame of mind.

    I'm glad we played, I really needed the practice and was happy to be learning the mechanics with my buddy, but I also think it would have been better if it played out a little less one sided.

    Before you give up on the Bishkek completely I would sit down and see if you can come up with some ideas on how to make them work better against my Deathwing, weather we play that game or not.

    Santa Cruz Warhammer

  12. All you say is true about 40k, dude. But enjoying the game sometimes depends on looking past all of its flaws.

    40k, in its current form, isn't about who's better so much as who's got a stronger list and better dice rolls. Don't make the game a 'weighty' part of life or even of your thoughts. Just enjoy the game as it unfolds.

    I play other games, WarmaHordes mainly, and that helps, too. All of the advice presented here has helped me in one way or another but for me, it's been the understanding that 40k is what it is...a loose, fun game that I play and sometimes win, sometimes lose.

    Good luck, man!

  13. Thanks guys. You are all like brothers to me now...
    you know it really isn't about losing or winning. Last time when I beat the hell out of john I felt the same thing. There is just something not right about it all. I try to look at it from a distance and try to observe myself and then think: wow, do I really want this? Anyway, nuf said. It's all good, I am not depressed or anything (spent half the day in the ocean today actually), just pondering things over. And reading Ciaphas Cain, which makes me smile every single time. I LOVE the 40K universe.

  14. Ciaphas Cain is one of the best characters in the 40k universe. You'v got IG, setup a scenario using him! I read somewhere that the author once got a chance to play a game with house rules for Cain. Make it so!

    If that does not work, I'll appreciate the hobby aspect to your posts.

  15. I play WHFB and it´s even worse! I mean the looking up rules in the book every five minutes and trying to remember all the special gear (items, spells etc) you´ve bought for your army but never use because you didn´t remember... Shawn att Blue Table Painting once said in a vid that WHFB is the game of remembering things! And of course the remedy is to play more! But I totally agree; when you don´t feel the urge to play it´s becomes a Catch 22!
    Like many gamers I´m also thrilled by the universe, the fluff and the hobby. Painting and collecting. But at the same time it´s more fun to paint a unit if you know you´re going to use it in a "real" battle! I´m at the moment trying to cure myself by focusing more on the narrative aspects of the game and I can only say that playing themed scenarios with like-minded gamers is a good way to go. Try to get stuck into a storyline and sit back while the story unfolds by itself. But it´s essential that your fellow gamers have the same ambition. One single power-gamer can destroy it all...

  16. Hi Mike,
    In addition to the really great comments above, have you tried 40K with an umpire/Gamesmaster setting the scenario or narrative and then running the game as a DM would do in D&D? It makes it a very different game as you are freed from (some or all of) the librarian/math-hammering/list-building, you have a narrative waiting for you in the game which unfurls, and the umpire/GM can add twists during the game. I appreciate it doesn't work if there's just two players, but once you have three or more, I recommend you give it a try. I got burnt out with two player competitive games a while back and tried this as a change. It made a lot of difference. Just a thought to add to the other really good comments above.

  17. I'm in the same boat - I love the fluff and the painting challenges, but the game is "meh?". My solution, start a new game system, but smaller.

    I've started collecting "Infinity" - the maodels are gorgeous, the gameplay is familiar to any 'necromunda' player and really works. Battles include 12 models a side, and much fun. Sometimes a change of pace requires a change of pace!

    Other players are maxing out on "Malifaux" (check out Sholto at incunabulum) or Hordes/Warmachine as a change of pace.

    40k is at the end of the day a very simple game, unrealistic and fairly straightforward (hence the straightforward conclusions) ... other than that, all the above holds true.

  18. It sounds to me like you wanted something specific and did not get what you wanted...which sucks!

    My own experience is I meet my buddies for 1 night a week, that night has involved me calling, texting and asking on our private forum for them to be ready, they don't have an armylist written or their models ready etc etc and it frustrates me cos I wanna just play.

    But if I take a step back and look at it all, it's still a nice thing that we meet at all, and that we all get on so well.

    Like you said a little spell in the sea (lucky get!) and a good book is all you needed!

  19. Mike, I reached the same conclusion about seven years ago and haven't rolled a dice since, yet I'm still collecting, modeling, painting and posting online now!

    I Guess it was all about the models themselves for me, art over gaming...

    al its done is improve my modeling skills as i have had more time to do that instead of getting my lovely moddels chipped with dice...

    P.S offtopic, but the earthshaker diorama was epic!


  20. thanks again everyone.
    I like the idea of a game master. Have to think on that.

    Latchford: thanks for the compliment. That diorama was really fun to make


  21. Hey everyone,

    Mike, I've been following SCWarhammer for a good while, but your thoughts here actually spurred me to account up and comment.
    Now, I've got no real basis to share my thoughts on. I've had 40k models for about 5 years that are still incomplete, and have yet to actually play a game and fully learn, despite my anxiousness to do so. Still though, one thing I've built a distaste for is the stress on list-building, and a focus on only certain units or certain lists. Personally, I have found it more fun to collect and build a force from whatever I could get and build from there. In the end I've got a somewhat ramshackle force that has units people may blink twice at, and when I get the chance, I look forward to the challenge of making it work. I also, look forward to adding other ramshackle, non-competitive units to my now 2 unfinished armies, Lol (i.e. Devestators, Pyrovores).
    I ramble on, the truth is that any game is only as fun as the people you play with, and how you play it as well. An even bigger truth though, is that its clear to everyone your love for the hobby. Just as Latchford, I admired your earthshaker diorama, as well as your Logan Grimnar (Jealous? Naw, I'm not jealous... I just hate you for your divine skills :) ). But if something has lost its flavor, try and add some spice. My suggestion, Cinnamon.

  22. As to lopsided games, that's the just reality of any sort of competition. Sometimes a game goes down the wire, other times its over by turn 3. You can look at last Saturday's two NFL playoff games for a good analogy. Its something we just have to accept playing our wargames.

  23. Mike,

    If you are looking for info on campaigns there is a whole section in the back of the 40K rulebook on narrative campaigns. I used it recently to design and play my own campaign which I showcased on my blog. I have a PDF of my campaign if you just wanted to take a look at it.

    Also you can take a look at this blog

    Another way to change up your game is to get some of the expansions like Cities of Death or the new battles book which gives you tons of battle ideas.

    I have yet to use a GM but it is something I want to try as I have heard good things about it.

    Another thing we do is if you are not sure about a rule you as players agree on how to play it at the moment and just look it up later, now if you are playing competitively this might not work, but when playing for fun this method works well.

    Anyway I just wanted to give you some info on campaigns and other ways to shake up your game!

  24. meatball: thanks for that link to Col Corbane. Yeah I will have a look at that pdf, can I download it somewhere?

    cheers all!

  25. Yeah I forgot to add the link in my last post sorry :)

  26. If you think it's complicated now then I assume you didn't play much in earlier editions. I think 40K has got A LOT simpler and the pace has improved dramatically.

    I remember when each weapon had different damage (requiring various different types of dice), save modifiers, special rules etc.

    Like others have said it's about making your battles more interesting. Playing different opponents helps too.

  27. Also try Blood Bowl and Necromunda. Me and my usual opponnent(s) alternate between 40K and these specialist games.

    I think if anything playing 40K more can be the problem because your army and your opponent's army doesn't change much between games. If you play every so often then you might have a new unit you want to try out etc.

  28. I lost interest in playing 40k quite awhile ago. I still love all the models and hobby of 40k. Began playing 6th edition Fantasy, went through 7th and liked both, but now I'm in 8th and find it very much like you say 40k currently is. Randomness, random charges really? Roll lots of dice and remove a lot of models, less strategy, crazy magic. More items and Weapons. Now I just enjoy the hanging out with friends and laugh at the crazy results. Being in love with the hobby, Good looking armies to play against offset bad rules, but for how long?

    New Warhammer Ancients is what Warhammer Fantasy should have been imo.

  29. Preemptive: Forgive the bluntness of the post, you've hit something of a pet peeve.

    You're right.

    40K sucks as a game system. The background and fluff are good, the artistic style is good (but not truly great, IMHO, the skull fetish gets old) but the game itself just plain sucks. There is little to no maneuver, and balance is so incredibly bad that it sucks the flavor of the universe right out of it. How many more games of Mechanized Guard v Mechanized Guard do you have to watch?

    And now the sacrilegious advice: DON'T play more. Give it up. There are a ton of great miniatures games out there, most of which struggle because 40K players would rather gripe about how unbalanced X is or how boring Y is or how cheesy it is or isn't to bring two tanks or two daemon princes in Z points. Warmchine/Hordes, Malifaux, Uncharted Seas/Firestorm Armada/Dystopian Wars, Infinity, HellDorado, Anima, Flames of War... All are unique games with their own flavor, and many of them can be played at a much lower price point. I love Malifaux especially for its assymetric objectives and skirmish feel.

    As someone who prefers smaller game systems, it's frustrating to watch creative concepts like Ex Illis have to shut down while 40K players continue to gripe about how bad their own game is, but never look over to the other table.

  30. I couldn't disagree more with Buhallin. Often people get pigeonholed into playing this game one particular way.

    I definately agree with the other posters that have talked about playing the game in other ways, try Imperial Armour rules, try Cities of Death, Planetstrike, unbalanced missions, Spearhead, etc.

    I have personally found that there are many ways to play this game that don't focus on who wins and who loses, but enjoying the moments in the game and the company of the person across the table from you while you look at cool models.

    Oh and for the record - we (The Independent Characters) are only about 30-40 min from you guys in Santa Cruz. I would love to pop over there and play some games with you guys in the very near future.

  31. But that's the thing, Independent - how hard should you have to work to take a bad game, and make it good? Most of the suggestions made above you get for free in other games. Variable objectives? Malifaux. Deep background? Doesn't get much better than actual history and unit research with Flames of War. Narrative campaign? Privateer set a gold standard with Escalation that I have yet to see matched anywhere.

    And if you have to do that much tweaking and adjusting to get to a decent game, you also lose the one advantage 40K truly has going for it - numbers of players. Sure, you can shift the game a bunch, but you'll be limited to the people you can take with you on that shift, rarely able to do that in a random pickup game down that the LGS. Our Malifaux playerbase is much smaller, but I can pretty much be guaranteed a good game, with the basic rules, with anyone who happens to be at the store that day.

    Can you turn 40K into a good game? Certainly. But why is it worth it?

  32. It isn't hard work to play in several different styles. In fact I think it lends itself well to the flexability of the system in general. There are a myriad of ways to play 40k.

    Most other games I have seen have only one way to play...

  33. So then what exactly do you consider as "a way to play" a game? Because I'm having a hard time coming up with anything you can do in 40K that isn't an option in just about any system out there. And if you don't think other systems can handle the differences then I suspect you really haven't look very seriously at other systems.