Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Small Gaming: How I Fell In Love With GW Again

If there's one post title that's guaranteed to generate some comments, it's along the lines of 'Why I Hate GW', or 'Why I'm Boycotting GW'.  (Hypocrisy Alert:  I myself have tried this a few times in the past)  But I've had a bit of a rethink, and thought I'd share the secret of how you too can get back to the good old days.  It's called Small Gaming.

What is Small Gaming?

Small Gaming is skirmish games like Necromunda or Mordheim, or bigger games played with 'small rules' - such as Kill Team or Patrol Clash for Warhammer 40K.  It also has undertones of 'classic' GW, so old models, rules and mindsets - although there's nothing to stop you using newer models in it.

How did it start?

Necromunda - thanks to Kieran's breathtaking terrain skills we had a fantastic weekend that showed me happiness is in three dimensions.  A few gantries, steps, levels and tight-knit alleyways changes your game.
The Battle of Tallax Slums.  How we merged Necromunda fun with our 40K armies.  Pressed for time and space, me
and Kieran had to make do with a 500pt game on a dining room table, and the concentration of terrain and levels made it feel much more like a Necromunda game.  My favourite game ever.
Our homemade Trench Raiders game helped me realise that small games let you focus in on your men, rather than just shunting huge blocks of infantry across the board.
Our recent Mordheim day showed that small games are more cinematic.  You've got time to make rules up - "let's say on a 4+, he doesn't fall off the building but is left hanging off the edge!"
How is it better to 'Big Gaming'?

Small Gaming has - in my opinion - many advantages over Big Gaming:
  • Smaller Armies - quicker to paint, easier to transport, cheaper to build, and you can do three or four armies.  My Palladian Guard (although I love them) are over 3,000pts and this took about four years to collect.  My new Death Korps army, on the other hand, is 500pts and took a few weeks to collect.
  • More Terrain - Small Games are usually played on a 4x4 board.  This allows you to concentrate terrain down until it's literally in base-to-base contact.  Rather than a board dotted with odd buildings, you have a real city to fight over.
  • Tactically Challenging - you have to think more.  Fewer units means your choices matter.  Loosing a squad in a reckless charge suddenly becomes a huge tactical setback, rather than a dice-rolling, figure-removing exercise.  You start to notice your men more - you need to focus more attention on each individual unit or model.
  • Quick and Easy - as opposed to Big Game turns which take hours to resolve, the game becomes a fast back-and-forth action with a few handfuls of dice to roll each turn.  Less models to transport means quicker setup and play times.
What about the epic scale of larger Apocalypse games?

There's nothing quite like an Apocalypse-sized game.  I've played one, and it was dashed good fun - but I couldn't do it every day.  I think I enjoyed it more for the social aspect of it rather than its epic scale.  It's summed up in the model photos you get in rulebooks nowadays.  They're so wide-angle, to fit in so much of the board, that you can't see individual models any more - unless they're super-titans or Forgeworld monstrosities.

So how has this made you "love GW again"?

I resolved recently to be a bit more relaxed about life, and not to get so angry about everything.  I used to hate what GW had become - I won't go over all the old cliched arguments again, you know what it is nowadays - so I decided instead to play the game I wanted to play.  I bought a Third Edition rulebook, stopped buying White Dwarf, stopped reading or writing ragequit posts, and just chilled.

I've fallen back into how I used to game, and rediscovered why I love GW in the first place.  Cool settings, amazing models, great games.  People are perfectly entitled to their soapbox, that's what blogs are for.  Ragequitters are expressing their opinion in just the same way that I'm expressing mine here.  

If GW frustrates you, remember it's voluntary.  No-one is going to stop you cherry-picking what you like about the game.  Sounds obvious, but it took a few Small Games for me to realise what I liked.  So, if you hate GW (as a dark core of me still does), then make it your own.  Perhaps try some Small Gaming.

Discuss.

19 comments:

  1. Really great, went through this recently. The Imperial Guard are sitting pretty at damn near 10,000 points after my friend sold me his lot at an extreme discount. They've never all been deployed, and never will probably in a single game. That fine with me, each company, platoon and sgt has a name and list of deeds that he's earned in 500 pt. skirmishes. Its there that you can develop the story a lot more fluidly, a gantry and a small building become much more important when A Company is fighting to take it. rather than. the entire 2nd Rifles Brigade. It was always my problem with 40k, that most people only wanted to play me at 2500-3000 range. Necromunda is my baby, and its great fun to couple that with BFG, and mid range 40k battles to have a linked campaign. sorry for the text-wall. Just a really nice relevant topic you got here.

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    1. Thanks ImpCommander, not at all, nice to hear your thoughts. The whole story & fluff generation is a massive aspect of it for us, especially Guard players, since it's quite 'cinematic' and easy to associate it with the narrative power of films and books.

      I think it's good to have the option of larger games, and as I say I've played a few and generally thoroughly enjoyed them. As you say the difficulty is in finding like-minded people!

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  2. YES!

    yesyeyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes.

    yes.

    I absolutely LOVE combat patrol (or similar versions thereof).

    Now. Next question: is there anyone in the arse-end of nowhere in the South West who fancies a small game?!

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    1. Maybe we can convert some opponents for you ... yes, combat patrol is brilliant, and an aspect which has totally died out of 'modern' 40K.

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  3. By the way: on NO ACCOUNT is anyone to EVER let Zzzzzz read this post.

    Nope.

    The universe would collapse in on itself.

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    1. Oh dear, I may have been a bit late...

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  4. I love this post. I think what a lot of us forget is that it isn't up to GW to keep us passionate about your hobby. We should know what we enjoy and we should do that.

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    1. Exactly so, my dear Colonel. I find it hard to understand how people can get so angry over a voluntary hobby!

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  5. I have a treat in store for you. But you'll have to wait for it.....

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    1. Oooh, you tease. Is it the collapse of the universe?

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  6. yay! this is why me and one of my other friends are digging out our 40k miniatures again, in our case we are off to play 2nd ed again at 500 point skirmishes.
    That said I am enjoying the current version of fantasy and the escalation league we have slowly going on with our larger group has helped organise getting things painted.
    keep on with the happies of the small skirmish games =)

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    1. Thanks Jessica - I think that's the key, shutting yourself off from the new stuff is as bad as ignoring the good old days I suppose. Escalation leagues are also a good middle ground that should satisfy everybody. Good luck with it!

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  7. I think this is a very positive outlook on an otherwise grim(y) and dank era of the GW hobby.

    Bravo to you sir for taking this stance and going with it on full cylinders.

    I just wish my own gaming group would find it in them to attempt to tackle the hobby side as well as the already very established rpg aspect and help me to get stuck in to these old smaller games too.

    For that, I think I am altogether jealous of you and Keiran and Drax (And maybe Zzzzzz too. Maybe.).

    *I think my son needs to mature a little faster so that he can find the patience required to join me in this hobby. So I blame him in the end.

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    1. Thanks Dai, yes a lot of this is depedent on like-minded gamers so I'm lucky in having the chums who agree with me on this.

      Spare a thought for any future children of mine who are likely to be encouraged/bullied into wargaming.

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  8. For balance, I will say that 6th edition 40K also works excellently with small games - both 500 point combat patrols and 200 point kill teams. Both have been pretty popular at my local store. I am an unapologetic fan of the new stuff. I love that more and more options come out to allow you to do cool scenarios or odd combinations.

    Yes, with folk you know, you can just say "actually, can we do this thing that's ignoring or changing the rules?" - but with pick up games in stores and clubs, that can be harder to do. The flexibility helps out a lot with that.

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    1. Hmm, this might be colouring my idealistic view of the subject - I don't really get out to clubs very often, we have a fairly tight-knit and like-minded group that makes this easy. Sounds like you have a fairly permissive group too. As with everything there's a happy medium, if each 'side' gives ground then everyone can have a nice happy game.

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    2. If you want to do anything off the wall and 'outside the rules', I'm pretty sure the members of my group would be up for it if you asked in advance - but its much easier to do things on a day or so's notice. I have a few friends I game with now and again, including some I met at the local store - but most of my gaming is store gaming, and is with folks I don't know all that well.

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  9. Gah I think this must be my fourth attempt to comment, and hopefully it will stick. And outstanding post, absolutely love and agree completely. Obviously. 40k is designed to be a skirmish game and as cool as big units and big stompy things are, the mechanics of the game haven't changed at all to accommodate them. But as well as working better in the technical sense, I genuinely think they're more fun and you've hit the nail on the head there - the game we played was my favourite of all time because it actually felt like a battle, the decisions we made mattered and we weren't just chucking models around. Anyhoo, excellent post as ever - one of my favourites

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    1. I think that's the best thing about 40K that's been lost - between 0 - 3,000pts, it works very well as a ruleset but over that it burgeons out into something daft. And you picked up on my favourite part of the game; the tactical decision making, which fades out after 2,000pts.

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