By: Chris Whitehouse
Last year I wrote a piece on my year of gaming. It was a big year for me, I discovered the gaming community in my local area and began to get into a number of different games.
You can find that article here.
While I have had very little time to write for Skirmish Wargaming this year, I thought I would write a follow up piece. Which talks about my subsequent year of gaming; things I’ve learnt about gaming and about myself.
So, last year really stoked the fire for me. I was enthused by tabletop gaming and that passion has certainly followed me over into this year. I have definitely learnt some important lessons and I’ve played A LOT of games, both with my local community and at tournaments/competitions.
Batman Miniatures Game
My first real foray into real wargaming was with the Batman Miniatures Game. The IP did it for me. Here I could play tabletop games where Batman battles the Joker and Bane leads his crew around Gotham causing havoc. The game is thematic and fun, while being tactically challenging.
It is also rather complicated. Playing this game means investing some serious time into learning a whole book’s worth of traits and special rules. I invested heavily, I had some good success at tournaments the previous year and really wanted to carry that momentum into this year. However, one major problem stood in my way. Finding players to play with…
BMG is quite a niche game and a player base hasn’t established itself in my local area. There are a couple of guys who tried it out, but one dropped it not long after. I can’t pinpoint why there isn’t a bigger following, perhaps it’s the complexity, the quality of the models or even the company itself (which has come under some heavy criticism over the past year).
I continued to play and went to a couple of events this year. I got on well with a few of the top players in the country and so was invited to become a play tester for the game.
In practical terms what this meant was reviewing rules and character cards prior to release and giving my opinion on their balance. Also, proofreading and checking for any errors with the material. This was a fun activity to be involved in, it gave me access to pre-release rules and allowed me to give something back to the game that I enjoyed playing.
I even managed a full proof read of the Version 2 rules before they were released this year and felt quite privileged to be involved in the whole thing.
Unfortunately, ultimately, I really wasn’t playing much Batman at all. I had a handful of games locally and the only real time I got to play was if I travelled to an event.
Hence my enthusiasm waned and I began to experiment with other gaming systems again.
You may remember from my last article that X-wing had been the other major game I got into the previous year. This continued and I went to many more events. The great thing about x-wing, apart from a cracking ruleset and tournament support, is the community. There is a thriving X-wing community almost everywhere you go and so playing good, competitive games is not difficult.
Many tournaments later and I managed another couple of wins, my favourite one being at a local Q4 tournament recently, which I manged to take 1st place with my RAC and Vader list.
X-wing is one of those games I will always play. The tactical depth in the game is second to none: simple to learn and difficult to master is the mantra of any good game.
And so now on to the crux of my year.
Playing games has become my favourite past time and so I have now found myself attending the local club at least twice a week, more if possible. I’m excited by so many new games that come out and I have certainly not been able to curb my enthusiasm.
This has led to many…. many purchases…
Next up came blood bowl. I hadn’t planned on getting in to the game but one demo and I was sold! Brilliant game, that element of chess that I enjoy and a lot of the members at the club began playing too.
The game can encourage so many heroic feats or moments of complete and utter failure! I’ve had a lot of fun playing and the room can certainly get quite vocal when we have a league day running!
We set up a blood bowl league which has gone from strength to strength with 16 players competing last season. Several tournaments later and I’ve got a couple of best painted, a league title and second place in a NAF tournament. All great fun.
Then there was Test of Honour, The Marvel game (well that didn’t last long), DC Universe game, Star Wars Destiny, Frostgrave, Shadow War Armageddon, Shadespire and most recently Necromunda.
Now, even the most unobservant of you will notice that this is a lot of different gaming systems. Too many. In my enthusiasm to try all of these new and exciting games I found myself with not enough time play them all!!
This was a bit of a turning point for me, even with going to the gaming club twice a week I wasn’t able to play all of the different games I had invested in financially.
Something had to change, and unfortunately “just playing more” was not an option.
I decided that I had to thin out my collection and focus on a smaller number of games. First to go was Test of Honour. I’d fully painted the starter box and made an entire 3×3 board of scenery, but that all went in one sale. Next was the DC game and a lot of my old 40k models.
There is always an element of sadness when you put something up for sale that you have spent a long time painting. But I decided that if I wasn’t going to be using it, then I should sell it.
This quickly escalated and before I knew it I had also sold around half of my Batman collection. I wanted to keep a couple of crews for if/when I get a chance to play casually sometime.
With my collection thinned out I was left with the following games:
- Star Wars Destiny
- Blood Bowl
Apart from Necromunda, all of these games share a common theme: they are all designed to work in a competitive setting.
Destiny and x-wing have the greatest tournament scenes of anything I’ve ever tried. Official prize support, large player bases and regular events. Shadespire is Games Workshop’s attempt at doing the same thing and time will tell if it’s going to work as well.
The New Boy
My initial thoughts of Shadespire are that it’s a fun and engaging competitive game. However, it doesn’t have the depth of X-wing, nor the level of support (yet).
I’m hoping Games Workshop keep up with the demand and support it for a long time to come. I’ve got one tournament win under my belt and I’m excited, because this is a game I am able to get into from the start (having joined Destiny and X-wing late in the day).
Blood Bowl has a long running competitive scene, affiliated with the NAF who basically maintained the game when Games Workshop decided they no longer wanted to. It’s a great community and there are lots of events. But if you want to do well you have some catching up to do, most of the guys have been playing it for 10+ years!!
The only odd one out is Necromunda. I plan to play that for fun. It’s very much a nostalgia thing. It was my first real game and I couldn’t resist, time will tell if that all ends up getting sold. I hope not!
This has demonstrated to me that I like playing a certain type of game. The smaller scale, competitive games. Ones where you can sit around a 3×3 table with your mate and engage in a battle of wits.
What I really enjoy is a true battle, where you are both pushing each other to their limit and attempting to out-think the other player. I think it’s that spirit of competition that I enjoy above all else.
Learning this lesson about myself helps me to now evaluate which games I should invest in and which I should ignore. I’m at my limit right now: I don’t have time for any more games. So, should something come along it would have to usurp something else on my list. A difficult feat indeed.
Another thing I have learnt is that, really, a game is only as good as the community that accompanies it. It can be a fantastic game, BMG for example, but if no one in your local area plays, it will be very difficult to really enjoy the game.
When you have a thriving community of players who want to play a certain game, then you help to elevate each other to a higher standard.
You only have to look at X-wing communities like the Weekend Warlords to see the ‘community effect’ in action.
Had there been a thriving Batman Community locally then I’m sure I would still be playing the game regularly. It’s much more fun travelling to an event with a couple of mates and making a day of it, than it is going by yourself.
The Social Butterfly
It all comes down to the social element. If we just wanted to play games alone we’d all be sat at home on the Xbox or PC. But we wargamers enjoy the social interaction of playing games with our mates.
It started for me with playing 40k with friends at home. When their lives took them in a different direction, I sought out new people to share this hobby with. That has grown into a nice little social circle and we can share beers, as well as games now.
The game is important, but it’s certainly the gamers that make the game.
Special thanks to Nick at Incom Gaming and all of the members of Pork Chop Gaming.