War gaming is a lot of things to a lot of people. For some it is a way to express themselves through the building and painting of miniatures. For others, it is a way to show their competitive side as they battle out for glory on the tabletop. And for more people, it is a way of making and maintaining lasting friendships through the shared love of the worlds we get to explore as gamers.
I got into the hobby when I was around elven or twelve years old after seeing my first ever Space Marine from the game Space Crusade. Since then, I have been in awe of the grim dark future that Games Workshop have created, returning again and again to explore its unique setting. I have had my fair share of highs and lows with the hobby, but always that initial spark of intrigue has kept me coming back for more.
Back when I first got into the hobby I was all about experimenting with modelling and painting, coming up with wild and wacky projects as the mood took me. One of my first conversions (which I sadly don’t have anymore) was a Space Marine captain with the body of a Necron, the head of a wood elf, and two bolters for arms. However, I quickly outgrew these Frankenstein inspired monstrosities and moved on to arguably the most popular part of the hobby, competitive play.
Yes, for the longest time I would be all about that sweet, sweet competitive scene, trying to do my best to win events whenever they would come up. Whether it was singles action, doubles, or even team events, it was all about competition. This mostly came about because… well, that is what everyone else was wanting to play.
When I went down to my local store for a game night, everyone present was wanting to play only competitive games. If you didn’t have a 1,500 point army (the standard tournament size at the time) then you would be hard pressed to find an opponent. It wasn’t that the people at the store were not welcoming to newer players, far from it. But they weren’t really interested in playing smaller or more narrative based games. In fact, some would be (and still are) disparaging to those that didn’t want to play competitively. To them, competition was all that mattered.
This was fine when I was younger and felt like I had something to prove, but as I got older, I discovered that I didn’t have the want or need to play as much competitive 40k as I once did. I would start to feel that the hobby was moving me away from that initial joy of the setting, and into a place where the rules were more important than the story been told on the tabletop. Mostly this came down to the local players becoming too focused on the “game” part of the hobby, prioritising effective units and builds rather than the rule of cool.
Now I’m not here to disparage anyone that enjoys competitive 40k – if that is what you enjoy then more power to you. But for me the idea of only focusing on the top-tier models and armies really killed the enjoyment factor. I would see a model I really wanted to paint and play with, but I would be discouraged from getting it because “it’s not effective” or “way too over pointed”. If my favourite army became uncompetitive, I would have to either live with the fact I was going to lose a lot, or move on to the new hotness at the time.
It was about this time that I came across one of the old specialist games Games Workshop produced, a little gem that goes by the name of Inquisitor. This 54mm scale game (yes, the models were that big) was a call back to Games Workshops RPG roots, and had players controlling a small band of characters in a more narrative focused setting. Each game was more like a mini roleplaying session, complete with a GM to help move the plot along and give you context for what was going on.
I had so much fun playing this game that it quickly become one of my favourite specialist games of all time, even inspiring me to run a campaign when I worked at my local store. Playing this game also made me realise something. Competitive 40k is not the be all and end all of the hobby, and that I could (and in fact most often) have more fun playing more narratively focused games than competitive ones.
Now this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy playing a competitive game now and then, far from it. But I have long since realised that I have way more fun when I build and play an army for myself, rather than based on a need to win and compete. Nowadays I am more about putting together fun lists and forces for campaigns and game nights. This doesn’t mean I don’t like to win, I am human after all.* But I have found that you shouldn’t get lost in your pursuit of victory at the expense of the fun of the hobby. That is probably the reason I love my Grey Knights so much. Even though I rarely (if ever) win with them these days, I still have a ton of fun battling with them against my opponents.
And that, I feel, is the real crux of my article today. Yes, war gaming is a lot of things to a lot of people. But more than anything it is meant to be fun, and all that you should do in this hobby should be done in pursuit of that goal. Whether you like competitive wargaming or narrative play, we are all in this for the joy the hobby brings us. Don’t be disparaging of those who like to play in ways you don’t. In fact, you might just find that if you give them a chance, they might be able to show you a different and exciting new way to play the game you love.
Well that will about do it for today. A little bit of a different article than usual for our Games Workshop content, but I hope that you have enjoyed it all the same. If you have enjoyed todays article, please like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics. If you want to support the site directly, you can join our Patreon for as little as $1 a month. Until next time though remember, “The Emperor Protects”.
*Yes, completely human. No bionics or alien DNA here. Honest.