Cry Havoc, And Let Slip the Dice of War! (III)

Yesterday I wrote about the time Nate, the Wargaming Novice, had to put into his Ogre Army. He’s spent nearly $400 and a month and change on this hobby and he hasn’t even picked up the dice yet. I said his Resolve – that third “cost” I’ve mentioned before, hasn’t been tested, but that’s not accurate. Indeed, a gamer’s resolve does not outright implode (unless that person has mental issues, but let’s assume Nate is stable), but it can be chipped away. Let’s look at Nate’s experience thus far:

  • Wow, that was a lot of money I just spent. (chip)
  • Man, there’s a lot of rules to read up on. (chip)
  • This isn’t going to be a very big army. (chip)
  • Gonna take some time to get this all together. (chip)
  • Godammit! I glued my fingers together again! (chip & tear)
  • Ow, that knife is sharp. (chip & slice)
  • Crap, those arms fell off. (chip)
  • How the hell am I going to paint those eyes? (chip)
  • Whoops! Slopped the wrong color of paint in that spot. (chip & splat)
  • Dang, these are tough spots to reach with this brush. (chip)
  • How am I supposed to get these eyes? (chip)
  • Okay, done… but they don’t look anything like the pictures on the box… (chip)
  • Now I gotta find a time and place to play (chip)

That last one can be discouraging. It’s one thing to see what a professional painter can do with about seven layers of paint, highlighting and shading, but when you paint your first figure and realize that you’re not anywhere near that level…

The only thing you can do in this case is not be afraid to suck, or at the least to make mistakes. Sure, Nate’s work isn’t top notch, but he put forth the best effort he could. It doesn’t have to a pinnacle of artistic perfection – it just has to look good on a table. Nate may not know this, but ninety percent of the time people are going to see his Ogres at about two to four feet away. If they look passable there, he’ll be fine.

Still, there’s a lot of chips and cracks in his resolve so far. Nate still needs to get to a table to play his first game. Fortunately, the shop where he bought his stuff has a Facebook page, and he finds there’s a tournament coming up, and it has bracket for 1,000 point armies. So he signs up, packs his figures as best as he can for the Big Day. Now he’s eager to test the mettle of his army, and he walks into the store psyched for battle…

… only to have his ass handed to him in the first round by a 10-year old kid with half painted unbalanced army designed for power gaming and bought for him by his parents. And the kid never says a word or smiles. He just plays the game like a machine.

Believe it or not, that actually happened to me at Warhammer 40K tournament. The people running the meet decided not to enforce the rules needed to make it an official Games Workshop tourney, which lead to unpainted armies and power imbalances. The only thing that mattered was the win-loss record, and that was no fun. That 10-year old kid pounded me so bad with his Space Marines that after the first turn it was mathematically impossible for me to win the fight.

I dropped out of wargaming after that, and it hasn’t been until a couple months ago that I started getting back into it doing some Pulp-Era skirmishes with my friend and professional miniatures painter Evil Bob.

Don’t get me wrong, tournaments are fine, but what Nate needs to do is get some “friendly” matches under his belt first and introduce himself to the wargaming community. The hobby store might have such event on their gaming schedule, there might be a local convention featuring such games, or even groups on the internet that he can connect with.

A sense of communal camaraderie is very important for Nate – it’s the most important thing that’ll keep him in the hobby. He’s paid the money, he’s spent the time, and now his resolve is being tested. As miniature wargamers, we can advise Nate on how to make the most of his time and money, but we can help greatly with his resolve. A word of encouragement, a handshake before or after the game, taking a relaxed attitude – all of these things will encourage Nate to further invest in this hobby, even if he gets trounced on occasion.

Hell, my Bretonnian army was getting mauled left and right, but I was playing with good friends, and having a laugh or two made the losses more than bearable.

Miniatures based wargaming, both historical and non, face tremendous competition from the world of digital and online gaming. This hobby has a daunting price tag to it, in more than one way, and the best way to attract new gamers is to show that we’re having a lot of fun with it, and not make it out to be “serious business.”



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