Monday, 20 July 2020

Spoilt by choice?

I started in this hobby back in about 1992. Well, I might have been idly collecting and longing for models for some time before that, but realistically the timing is about correct for when we first got our hands on the rules for Warhammer. Thus began our downward spiral into the murky depravity that was Games Workshop products, getting into 40K, Epic, Blood Bowl, etc... So many games, so little time.

Warhammer was not the only fantasy battle game on the market back then (the main alternative being Grenadier's Fantasy Warriors), but it had a clear advantage in terms of presentation and marketing thanks to White Dwarf, and the beautiful photos and battle reports contained therein. Naturally we were attracted to the bright and shiny objects (it was GW's Red Period, don't forget - everything was bright and shiny and red). Thus was our loyalty to a particular game setting won.


Once we had chosen a game, it was logical (probably even assumed) that we would use the correct models for that game. Again, it's not like Citadel and Marauder were the only miniatures on the shelves. Our local stockists had models from Grenadier, Ral Partha, RAFM, Mithril and Inquisition (perhaps even others, but those are the ones I remember). We even had models from some of those manufacturers, largely purchased before we were pulled into Warhammer. Some of them even saw duty to fill in for things where we lacked the "proper" GW models. But realistically, once we were committed to the game and our hearts were set on owning armies like the ones in White Dwarf, those were the models we wanted to be playing with.
So bright. So beautiful...

There is a sort of beautiful simplicity to limiting yourself to models from a single manufacturer. You know the models are likely to be visually compatible (and in the case of our young and impressionable selves, visually compatible with what we saw in White Dwarf and our army books). You know that you will have models that appropriately represent the units in your army (with the occasional glaring omission where they never made specific models). And let's face it, you don't have to make as many decisions about which models to buy. You might have to decide whether you want a regiment of elf archers, but you don't have to choose which elf archers you want to purchase...

For many years, this simple approach of using purely GW models for our GW games made perfect sense. I don't think we ever really even questioned it much. They were probably the most expensive models on the market, but they were the right fit, and they were unquestionably what we wanted (honestly, I think the nice consistent plastic bases was a bit of a factor. Much tidier than everything having an irregular moulded metal one. But that's not really the point here). 

Over time armies were re-released, and new model ranges came with them. Generally speaking the new models were prettier than the ones they replaced (although there were a few exceptions). Often we would be goaded into buying the shiny new stuff, although it was generally with the intent to use them alongside what we already had, rather than just shelving the old stuff. We were not completely brainwashed! Not addicted. We could stop whenever we wanted...

It was probably only in the later years of 8th edition that my gaze really started to wander in terms of model options. And if that is the case, it can probably be almost entirely blamed upon the cost of Citadel models and GW's business practices to try to ensure we paid close to top dollar for them. For all things, the official models were still my obvious choice. But when cheaper (like, a lot cheaper) options started to arise, often with a compatible aesthetic and even the right base sizes (I'm certain this was coincidence. For sure. No doubt!), you couldn't help but look around at the alternatives.

At the same time, I had stopped looking at White Dwarf (and for a while there it stopped being anything like what it had always been). I no longer dreamed of having armies like the ones in the magazines, because there was not so much to compare them to. Things were changing and GW were losing their grip on me, even as I kept playing their games inside their fantasy world.

And then, at the end, they blew all that up too. The game, the setting (and much of the community too). I still struggle to think about it. Well over 20 years with a relatively singular focus in terms of game and game setting, and then they were all destroyed and replaced by what I could only see as a mockery of what it had been.

Before you point it out, I know that I still have all the rules and models and everything that I need to play Warhammer just as I did before. And I do still play games of Warhammer, though not with the regularity that I once did, and without the broader community engagement (tournaments etc) that it enjoyed when it was a supported game. Things will never quite be the same.*

Anyway, at this point I find myself playing both Kings of War and Warhammer. Either way, I am largely using models that are no longer available for purchase from stores. Age of Sigmar is slowly but surely phasing out all of the models that belonged within its old setting. In their place come things that I find barely recognisable, with names that make no sense to me. Often they are enormous. The prices certainly are. 

GW have essentially left me behind. But that has not stopped me from wanting new models. I am still painting and still playing. And despite having far too much stuff, I don't yet have too much of absolutely everything. Not quite. So the question then becomes, where do I look to source the new toys? The ones I absolutely don't need, but am going to get anyway? 

It was not that many years ago that I really had no non-GW models in any of my armies. But the recent trends have resulted in me starting to look further afield for more affordable options that still fitted with my chosen aesthetic. I've picked up all sorts of things (but mainly Dwarfs) from MOM Miniaturas, various goodies from Norba, some trolls from the Russian Alternative, some Halflings from Warlord, and quite a few things from Mantic. I've also backed a Halfling Kickstarter from Westfalia, and now, of all things, I have a 3D resin printer at my disposal. Is this confusing? Well I'm getting confused, and I'm the one that bought it all without even trying to diversify!

The true level of hodgepodge is best illustrated by my Troll situation. As I posted previously, I have just printed some to keep my GW River Trolls happy. I also have a set of files for Stone Trolls, who should play nicely enough with my old metal GW Stone Trolls, and their big cousins the new StoneRockTroggothDoosiwotzits. Then I also have 6 of the Russian Alternative Trolls, and a few of the MOM ones... Oh yeah, and 4 of the old Skull Pass Troll (probably a Stone Troll, but totally different in style from the older and newer versions)...

I won't bother sharing pictures of the various GW Trolls, but here are some of the ones you might not have seen:

Duncan Shadow River Trolls, of which I have already printed 12
Duncan Shadow printable Stone Trolls
Regular Trolls from MOM Miniaturas

Russian Alternative Trolls, who are technically devoted to Chaos. But who is counting? 

Now Trolls are a bit of a mess anyway. I don't think anyone would bat an eyelid at there being a couple of different types in the same unit, especially if they were painted relatively coherently. But this is a lot of different types. Who knows how this will all look when I'm done!

Where am I going with all this? I think in some ways the main point is that I really don't know where I'm going anymore! When I was operating within the bounds of GW tunnel vision, the world was simpler (and more expensive, probably. Man, 3D printing is bonkers). But yes. There were fewer decisions to make. Now that those confines have effectively been taken away from me (rather than me having made a real effort to break them myself), there is an awful lot to look at. It also calls into question conversions - how necessary are they now, given the number of options on the market? What about when you factor in being able to edit 3D models and print them yourself? The mind boggles a little.

What do you think? Is this brave new world exciting, or is it all a bit too much?

*For those inclined to immediately pop up and say "what about Warhammer: The Old World", I view all these rumours with more than a hint of skepticism. People who assume that whatever arrives will even vaguely resemble older editions of Warhammer might be kidding themselves. And I've been badly burned now. My trust is not so easily won...


12 comments:

  1. That picture at the top remind me of how great the red period was. I painted up Grom last year in a more realistic style but I’m starting to regret that now. The hobby is growing with more games and minis than ever before that can only be a good thing.

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    1. Yeah, I did the same thing with my Grom and some other stuff from the same period. It's a struggle between properly tying the models in with the rest of my force and achieving the old traditional red period vibe. I'm not sure I made the wrong choice with a brown chariot instead of a red one, but my heartstrings are tugged by those old photos.

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  2. Fantastic post mate, hope all is well.
    The last couple of years I've started revisiting old gw games and I'm loving them to bits. Eagerly awaiting lockdown to finish so I can get back to playing some more 6th ed fantasy :).

    You're totally right about the amount of choices we have these days, it's almost limitless. Whilst it's awesome to have the original models for an army, sometimes the price gouging of those old models makes obtaining them unachievable. I'm currently painting a slaanesh daemonic legion with raging heroes and creature caster models, I wasn't going to ruin/re-base my kow abyss army.

    I'm also enjoying flicking through my old white dwarf collection, (4th-7th edition fantasy to give you a bit of a time period), so many cool articles and the mag feels like much less of a catalogue.

    For me I think I've found my path, old school gw games, fantasy, blood bowl, epic, warmaster, bfg, 2nd Ed 40k, mordheim and man o war. I know nothing in those games will change and I'm just happy to play and have fun. Who says a game needs to be supported in order to enjoy it?

    Stay safe, stay well.

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    1. I had heard rumours that you had gone all retro.

      I do really love the old white dwarf magazines, mainly from the "Herohammer" 4th/5th era. So much nostalgia.

      My main problem with going back to older editions is it always highlights to me things that I felt they did better in later versions. It's a struggle. I find I miss the vibe, without necessarily missing the details.

      And yeah, buying the original old models nowadays can be so satisfying. And so financially devastating...

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    2. I most certainly have gone full retro and have zero regrets.

      I'm guessing you are referring to 8th edition when you say you feel that's when they did things better? For me thats the edition where I felt the least attached to WHFB as a game. I felt it changed/tinkered with some of the core elements of the game that I really enjoyed, like the am I within charge range, guess ranges for cannons rather than 10 from the back take it off etc.

      The guys I gamed with in Ballarat gave up 8th after a couple of months and moved onto other games. It wasn't until I moved to Melbourne that I started playing it again.

      Looking at it now, I don't miss the 8th ed vibe, if anything I just miss the community. Was so sad to see it all split in a million different directions.

      If you are keen to crack out some warhammer or any other old GW game sometime let me know, I'm part of a small little facebook group that is playing 5th-8th edition, 6th is the hype at the moment but there are few souls playing 8th ed if thats your jam.

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    3. Honestly I remember each edition ultimately feeling like an improvement on the previous one, for whatever reasons. No doubt there were individual things about the new editions that bothered me, but on the whole they felt like a step forward. 8th edition was very polarising. I didn't end up missing the estimations etc, given most players were pretty accurate anyway. I did miss proper terrain and line of sight rules. But the thing 8th added that no previous edition had is the feeling that the units of troops actually get to fight and are dangerous in their own right, rather than fashion accessories for characters. Even in 6th, a unit of 20 guys might get 5 attacks, or none if they didn't charge - they'd end up doing less than a pretty basic hero, and likely swing after him...

      A few people are talking about playing some games (or even a campaign) of 6th edition. No doubt it will happen at some point. When we are allowed outside again, anyway.

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  3. Great post Hoods, and it's been good to hear from you again recently. The troll horde looked good, way to physically convert those 3D minis to add variety, you don't see people cross skills like that much.

    On the topic at hand, I get that feeling of raw possibility from the greater minis market, and I guess in my case it tends to get me too wrapped up in scheming up armies I can make out of X line or using Y + Z sculpts, right up to the point that I buy a bunch of minis that, while I know I have the skills and plan to tackle painting 80 of, I really don't need to nor do I have the hobby space for, and hopefully empty the cart and walk away. Quarantine hasn't really made me more productive - gaming less makes me less productive, as I don't do a lot of hobbying in a vacuum - but it has really pushed me to focus on some OLD backlog projects. Tons of rebasing mostly, and updating for new editions, etc.

    And then late last night I ordered my 3D printer :| I've been trying to hold off until late 2020, so I could clear some backlog and paint 1-2 of the armies I've bought for KOW but never got around to, but with COVID continuing to rage through America, I figure it's time to learn a new skill before I put it into practice. Also I want to make a 40k 9E army, and despite owning all the models for a brand new Chaos Space Marine army, man do I lack motivation to clean all those mold lines and drag myself through all that again. Especially when there's an AMAZING world of 3D sculpts being born on Patreon and elsewhere, so much more interesting to me than most of what's being cast. That's my real impetus to get into 3D printing - the cost per model is neat, but really it's access to sculpts that I love and can't really get otherwise (and no more mold lines!)

    Speaking of looking away from GW, while I had started doing it in 8E, it really was the nuking of the Old World that separated most of my tethers. Once Warhammer was gone, I became more and more and more aware of how big the mini market was, and around that time Kickstarter really took hold, making even more cool lines reality. I feel really blessed to have found KOW and a welcoming outlet to live the Counts As life I had started in GW's shadow. And while I do want to make an all Mantic army, out of respect for the company, getting my own printer makes that less and less likely, except as a hobby project in itself. I mean, the newest Night Stalker stuff really is great ...

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    1. I really feel you with the all-Mantic army thing. I deliberately got myself a good number of actual Mantic Basileans, and then I keep seeing these great printable models where I'm like, "that would be perfect for Basileans"...

      Hobbying in a vacuum is definitely difficult. I can see some people churning through stuff (I'm assuming it's largely people who are finding themselves with more time due to being unable to work etc). I'm not one of them. I also assume some people are avoiding the vacuum by interacting online. If you're sharing what you're doing and feeding off other people's projects, that can probably serve as a different type of motivation.

      Cheers!

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  4. In response to your footnote, I too am suspicious regarding Warhammer Old World but I am intrigued at the possibility it will focus on factions that GW previously ignored or disregarded, like Kislev.

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    1. Yes, it will be interesting to see. There might be something shiny in there, even if the actual game is not what people are hoping for.

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  5. Agree with all of the above but have transitioned 100% to the 9th Age. Community is small but having a balanced game is what the old world should be but as you say it won’t be

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