This week’s guest article is brought to you by David from the Roll With It website.
I’m from a different era of 40k, a more innocent existence of simplicity. Hell, I didn’t even know what girls were for then and never a sip of anything alcoholic had passed between my lips. The US was thousands of miles away and Robin Hood was a local legend.. The only thing I ever had to worry about as a 13-year old was getting up for my paper round (and to be honest that was laboured and difficult enough). When I first started playing Warhammer 40k there was obviously no Internet. What little news we had trickled out from that month’s White Dwarf or occasionally one of the fanzines. When new units or rule sets were released we made our own minds up as to whether a unit was good or not based upon our own experiences with it. We learned as a group and what happened in our gaming sessions turned us into better players, and, dare I say it, better people. I’ve no doubt that the interaction was a huge part of my social development. See, we were all there for the same thing – fun. Sure there was an element of competition (I mean who has never wanted to annihilate their best mate’s new army) but there was always the feeling that we were all there for a laugh.
Things have changed over the past twenty years. The paper round is longer, beer is now a dietary supplement and I collect ex-girlfriends as a pasttime, but more importantly the 40k stage has developed into nothing short of an ugly monster. There are more models, more armies, more fluff, more players, more tournaments and more stores, but one single element has changed the hobby beyond recognition forever. That one thing is the internet. Whether the change is at a detriment or an improvement can only be determined over time, but its fair to say there has been a definite change of direction and the world has been made a smaller place.
Kids across the world seem now to be obsessed with building the strongest force they possibly can. A quick trawl around any of the major websites, Dakkadakka, Whineseer, BOLS etc and a substantial chunk of the threads will be of an identical nature: either army lists or heated discussions about rules interpretations (or combinations of both). Travel to any tournament and take a look at what players are fielding these days and there’ll be a similarly small range of armies with congruous lists. Now, I have to say I have absolutely no problem with strong builds and after all, we all play to win, but how many of these armies are used by people with little to no gaming experience.
Building your army from the ground up, learning how each unit works, and subsequently making your own mind up about where to go with your army is most of the fun, right? The choices make the game interesting. How many of those Space Marine players have looked at the Thunderfire Cannon and said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll give that a go’. No, general internet consensus is that its a poor choice and so it will likely never get tested out. Yes, the model is actually a pain in the arse to put together but its a good looking unit on the table and is a bit of a laugh. Is winning so important that the laughs have to be removed?
I often think this is because of the American influence on the community. I think that within the UK the Americans have a reputation for being an extremely competitive nation, with a desire to win at all costs. Its only matched by our view of the Aussies to be honest. We like them, but also kind of envy them at the same time, though would probably never publicly admit it. It’s a bit like fancying your mate’s wife to be honest. It’s odd because not only am I from the UK, but I’m from Nottinghamshire, the spiritual home of 40k yet I find the British have very little online 40k presence besides the odd blog and one forum I can think of off the top of my head. Quite bizarre really. Maybe it’s because UK gamers are busy playing playing their fun games behind closed doors? Or maybe they are just used to losing badly and are being quiet about it. A kind of online stiff upper lip if you will. Do all these hard-as-nails army lists originate in the US? I don’t know but I’d guess many of them do from what I’ve seen floating around. Of course that doesn’t mean US players aren’t having fun – maybe the ones playing for a laugh aren’t quite as vocal which is a shame. I know there are people who would say the only fun part is actually winning – but those are the the type of games that are normally boring affairs.
I hear terms these days that never existed before; tailoring, MEQ, GEQ, WAAC, metagame. I mean, what the hell is with that, and who actually uses that word in everyday conversation? It’s bullshit. 40k has never been, and will never be, the most balanced rules set. Analysing builds and lists over and over will only suck out what morsels of enjoyment remained. 40k has always been and always will be about more than just competition.
Suffice to say most of this has probably made me sound like a grumpy old git. Only partly true I guess (and I’ll leave you to determine which part is correct). Anyway, its lunchtime. I think I’ll go back down stairs for a cup of tea. We don’t do cake cos that’s just, well, crap really but I could be tempted by some apple pie and custard……