Saturday, 7 September 2013

Why I Oldhammer

Setting aside for now the question my wife occasionally raises of why I wargame at all, I thought I should note down what the Oldhammer movement means to me.

Zhu's Oldhammer Contract is a great starting point which I'm pretty sure everyone signs up to, but as with all groups of 2 or more people everyone has their own particular emphasis or preferences. There's a definite strand of archeogaming, which (while I love the old figures) seems to me to be a bit too much of the public face of Oldhammer. There are also hints of preferred rule versions, which while it's good for me as I've no idea what happens in versions later than 3rd, is kind of missing the point - there's no reason you can't play Oldhammer with the current edition (8th, apparently, thank you Google).

As seems quite common amongst Oldhammer gamers I was introduced to and played the game in my early teens, played for a while (in my case until my early 20s), became disenfranchised with Games Workshop in general and WFB in particular, and eventually left the hobby. At the time I put my loss of interest down as a reaction to GW's increasingly obvious business plan behind the game, with built-in obsolecence of the armies as new models and rules were released seeming like a bit of a kick in the teeth given the cost of collecting the army in the first place.

In hindsight though a bigger issue was losing contact with my old group of gaming friends on leaving home to go to university, and hence pretty much only playing "line them up, knock them down" battles against other players who (like me at the time) were only focussed on winning.

Prior to that, while I'm sure my friends Ed, Greg and I were just as guilty of the sort of gamesmanship and bad behaviour that the Oldhammer movement is the antithesis of (we were teenagers, after all), we did play a good mix of scenarios in amongst our more standard battles, which definitely help place the emphasis more on playing a game than playing to win. We were also strangely reasonable in our selection of armies, with none of the abuses of fine-tuning and over-powerful combinations that seem to mark how the other half lives even today. It's good that Thantsants researches this stuff so that the rest of us don't have to!

So, to summarise, while it's a bit of a bonus that I can be sure my rule set or army won't become obsolete, Oldhammer to me is a fortunate collection of like-minded gamers that I'm sure did exist 20 years ago, but were just too hard to find before the internet happened! In a way the really odd thing about last week's Bring Out Your Lead! is that there was (it seemed to me) an undercurrent of surprise about how much fun it was. Which shouldn't have been a surprise given that it was a weekend of playing games, drinking and chatting, but it's kind of damning of the wider hobby that this was the case.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Anti-heroes for wargames, part 2

25-ish years after the event I'm not sure how or why I chose to collect orcs and goblins as my preferred Warhammer army, but I do kmow that when Ravening Hordes was released they were the only army that really interested me. I'm guessing that even as a fairly conformist teenager the "good guys" were a bit humdrum and, while chaos at that stage had a firm place in the Warhammer setting it didn't have the level of prominence it does now, orcs were probably the default bad guy.

Even today while I appreciate the undead army on an asthetic level the only other army amongst the "bad guys" that appeals would be skaven. No longer being a teenager though I could see myself fielding dwarf, norse or Empire armies quite happily these days.

Other than the aesthetics there are probably two criteria for selecting any wargaming army - perceived power (or convesely lack of balance) and monetary cost. As a cash-strapped teenager the latter did start to weigh on my mind after a few years of wargaming, and I wondered whether wood elf or chaos armies would be nicely effective and much cheaper to field. By that point though I had invested financially and emotionally in the orcs and goblins so that it was a bit of a moot point.

I'm in a similar position today, in that I still have most of an orcs and goblins army (albeit that most of my old goblins I gave away, and a good chunk of the orcs are new eBay aquisitions), but would quite like to field a dwarven army instead (or as well). The financial investment in either completing the orcs and goblins, or building a dwarf army, isn't trivial, but much more significant these days as someone with a family and a job is the time investment in painting and preparing them for the table.

I'm still mostly happy with the choice I made all those years ago, but I do hope as well to be able to field a smallish dwarf army, plus the skaven side from Vengence of the Lichemaster, one day. If what I've seen of the hobby recently though is anything to go by I will then find excuses to build up yet another army...