Saturday, 4 July 2015

A trip down memory lane.

Last week I got excited when someone told me the recently released White Dwarf had a look back over the last 30 years of Warhammer Fantasy in prelude to this week's Age of Sigmar Release. Unfortunately it was just a whole lot of pictures about End Times with a small timeline of the major events in Warhammer Fantasy's history. None the less it did get me taking a bit of a trip down memory lane and I began stretching my mind back to my earliest experiences in this unusual hobby of ours. I then got thinking about what I should write in my blog this week and the answer became simple; bore people to death with a timline of my own hobby milestones throughout my 20+ years of wargaming! So prepare to be mesmerised as I wax lyrical about how great things used to be back in my day and how this young generation don't understand how easy they've got it!

1993 - White Dwarf #158

This is where wargaming all started for me. My brother and I had always been interested in Sci Fi and Fantasy; most of the books we read were of this genre, the Lego we collected was mostly Castle and Pirate Lego, and our favourite movies and TV growing up were the likes of Robin Hood, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. We'd even gone so far as to dabble in Dungeons & Dragons and Heroquest/Space Crusade but we never knew there were actual tabletop games for Fantasy and Sci Fi. Then during a visit to our local Paper Plus in Motueka my brother picked up this odd looking magazine and or eyes were opened to a whole new world. As we flicked through the pages I recognised some of these models. We had visited a shop called 'Mindgames' in Wellington when looking for Dungeons and Dragons models and I had picked up a blister of Space Marines which were easily recognisable in the pages of this White Dwarf. So after a quick phone call to Mindgames our first wargaming miniatures were in the mail.

1993 - Skaven Beastmaster and Giant Rats

This was my first wargaming model; the Clan Moulder Beastmaster and Giant Rats. I've started and stopped trying to build a Skaven army about 3 times over the past 20 years and never actually managed to get one fully painted. None the less you could technically say Skaven was my 'first' army for wargaming. I seriously regret getting rid of this guy. I forget what I did with him or why I got rid of him but after seeing other gamer's first wargaming models with their awful inch thick paint jobs and their screaming bright colours I truly wish I had kept mine. There's just a cool kind of nostalgia about them.

1996 - Codex Chaos

Until now I had been a bit of a magpie in terms of collecting models. I would see something shiny and new come out in each White Dwarf and I would quickly forget about what I had been collecting and purchase some of the pretty new releases. You could say I was the perfect GW customer. About the time Warhammer 40,000 2nd edition had been released my brother and I had become enthralled with 40k and almost forgotten about Fantasy. I was getting sick of having to borrow my brother's models to play all the time so I decided I was going to collect solely one army until I had enough models to rival my brother's army of Orks. Then when I saw all the shiny new Chaos models to be released I knew I had found the army for me. The Black Legion became my first fully painted and playable army. I still have a few of these models hanging around somewhere and I hope that one day I will be able to paint them up and rebuild a modern version of my Black Legion army from back in the day.

The Andy Chambers Era

It's difficult to put a specific timeframe on this as it spanned a period of about 10ish years for me from when I first started wargaming till I left for University. I use the term 'Andy Chambers Era' because a lot of what I loved about Games Workshop games was influenced during the time Andy Chambers worked as a games designer for GW. Around the early 2000's the focus of the company changed somewhat and coincidentally Andy Chambers left Games Workshop about the same time citing personal reasons. I really loved this period because the focus of the games seemed to be based very much upon narrative and story building. I fondly remember White Dwarf articles about the Piscina IV campaign and rules for building your own special characters or allowing roaming beasts such as the Catachan Barking Toad to be used within your games of 40k. This was also the period in which most of my favourite GW games were released; Blood Bowl 3rd Edition, Mordheim, Necromunda, all the great publications that have now been consigned to Specialist Games. It was a time of vibrant creativity for Games Workshop, but as the saying goes; all good things must come to an end.

1999 to 2002 - Hiatus

In 1999 I moved to Dunedin to begin University. By now I had gone off wargaming for a couple of reasons. Firstly I no longer had anyone to play against. I lived in a small rural town and the number of people interested in wargaming was minimal to begin with. My brother had already left for University and my other gaming friends had either given up gaming or moved out of town so I hadn't played for about a year before moving to Dunedin. The second reason was that I had reached the dreaded late teens where things like fitting-in, drinking beer and talking to girls became extremely important. So when I moved down South I left all my gaming stuff at home and began trying to live the life of a Scarfie. The only exception to this was my first year in Dunedin where I stayed in a hall of residence and met another gamer interested in Blood Bowl. We got a small league going for a few months but after that I did pretty much nothing on the gaming front.

2002 - Dunedin Gaming League

In 2002 I moved into a flat with someone I discovered was a gamer. They were just getting into Warhammer 40,000 and it reminded me of all the models I had stashed away at my Mum's place back in Motueka. I need to point out that I was in an extremely unhappy place at this point in my life. The drinking culture of Otago student life wasn't my thing at all. Although I had yet to admit it to myself I was a geek through and through and I was much more comfortable spending Saturday nights playing computer games with friends over pizza and coke than I was drinking myself into a stupor and trying to fit in with the cool kids. The reason I mention this is because watching my new flat mate gluing and painting models reminded me how happy I was when I was wargaming and in my melancholy I began to flirt with the idea of getting back into gaming. During the next holidays I drove home to see my family and brought back all my gaming stuff. I ended up selling off a lot of it and one sale in particular led me to a local wargaming club. I had come to drop off some models to a guy who had bought them off me through Trade Me and while there he introduced me to the Dunedin Gaming League...

In all my gaming years I have never enjoyed gaming as much as I have with the DGL. The club was small by necessity (the club room could fit about three gaming tables max) and this is what created such a great culture. With such a limited number of opponents everyone within the club got to know each other very well and despite our differences we all seemed to get along through a shared love of wargaming. The club was very much focused on the 'hobby' side of gaming; that is painting, modelling and sportsmanship, so there was a really inviting and supportive gaming culture. We would always organise campaigns for Fantasy, 40k, Mordheim and Necromunda which would help develop the narrative approach to our gaming. We would even make up games for our own amusement such as Warhammer Fantasy Olympics in line with the 2004 Olympic Games. We would attend tournaments as much as our meagre student incomes would allow us and we would do surprisingly well. Seeing as we were such a hobby focused club we would usually walk away with all of the Painting and Sportsmanship prizes and given we weren't terrible players either we would even earn a placing or two from time to time. Long story short the DGL helped pull me back into the fold of wargaming during a tough time in my life and I will always hold fond memories or our Friday night club meetings eating Fish and Chips from the Flying Squid while talking smack and gaming just for the love of gaming.

2005 - Christchurch Cavaliers

After my study I struggled to find a job in Dunedin so I moved up to Christchurch to find work. Once there I caught up with a few gamers I had met on the tournament circuit and got involved in a club called the Christchurch Cavaliers. At the time it was a small club of about a dozen people and was on the brink of dying off due to no focused direction or management. Wargaming was not a priority in my life at this stage so I wasn't much concerned by this until one of the afore mentioned gamers approached me with the idea of he and I trying to breathe some life back into the club. With a bit of haggling and good salesmanship he brought me round to the idea and we set about rebuilding the Cavaliers. I really enjoyed a lot of the activities involved in the Cavaliers; we had working bees to build and paint scenery for the club, we established a number of annual tournaments that are still running today and during my tenure we organised and ran the biggest National Wargaming Convention the country had seen in a good 25+ years. Running the club taught me a whole lot more about being organised, about diplomacy and also about how you work your butt off for very little gratitude from certain club members...but that's another story. Ultimately though working yourself ragged for little or no recognition was the reason I stood down from club duties and turned back to regular, casual gaming.

Christchurch was also where I began exploring non-GW wargames. I picked up Warmachine/Hordes for a short time, some friends got me caught up in Dystopian Wars and Dystopian Legions which I still play when I am able (that being not very often) and the guy that runs the local comic shop has organised a couple of weekend long American Civil War games; one for Gettysburg and one for Antietam which have led me to dabble in historical gaming. Other games like Infinity and Pirates of the Spanish Main came and went and I still have a lot of X-Wing models that seldom see the light of day.

2011 - Blood in the Badlands

After I gave up club responsibilities wargaming had gradually gone off the boil for me over the following 2 or 3 years. I still played wargames but the amount of time I committed to painting reduced dramatically so I wasn't really exploring anything new. I think this was primarily due to the heavy focus GW had put on tournament gaming which I didn't enjoy as much as narrative gaming, but in 2011 GW released a book that reignited my interest in their games...well in Warhammer Fantasy at least anyway. Blood in the Badlands was a book dedicated entirely to narrative gaming with unbalanced scenarios, crazy terrain and random happenings that would inevitably throw a spanner in the works (scuse the pun) during your game. This is where most of my wargaming focus has been from 2012 onwards, I've had very little interest in attending tournaments and seem to be doing so more out of habit than any desire to get into tournament gaming. The only exception to this would be Blood Bowl tournaments which I've quite enjoyed over the past few years.

I'm not sure where things will go to from here as GW are taking Warhammer Fantasy in a drastically new direction which I'm not sure yet if I will get on board with. As an alternative the release of the Skitarii and Mechanicus Codices have got me excited about 40k again and I hope this leads to more painting and modelling and ultimately gaming in this area. Time will tell I suppose.

So that's my life laid bare in gaming form. I hope you found it interesting and that it's rekindled some fond gaming memories of your own. I'm going to grab a copy of the new White Dwarf this week to see what this new Warhammer Fantasy is all about and decide over the next few months if it's something I want to play or not. If it is you're bound to read about it here at some point so keep dropping in. Until then that's the end of my rantings for another post.  :)

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