[WFB] Warhammer For Adults: the New Testament

When I was a lad, playing at Wild Beasts under the table, I didn’t have the luxuries of time and choice that I have now. None of us guttersnipes did. We ran our regular pocket-money-and-birthday-present lists into each other, because that was all we had the capacity to do. It was rare enough at first for anyone to even bother with points and an army list. I was happy if we had, at least on paper, a fair fight, and so week after week I sent my Chaos Warriors trudging up the field into hails of bows, bolts and bloody High Magic spells, or lurching after Skinks who merrily hovered within eight inches but without ninety degrees for the entire duration. Because that was the only way I could play at all: constrained by the figures.

Later, in those heady glory years of playing sixth edition with my first serious disposable income, the chief constraints were not the figures, but the available space and time. Games were played in GW branches or clubs above pubs, on four foot by four boards with, generally, a queue to use them. There was no time to write up a list on the night – we’d hold things up – and so the games were pick up affairs at modest scale. 1500 points standard, with the occasional top heavy 2000 pointer so we could use Vampire Lords and Dragons and such without crowding the board. But we could get a Border Patrol in, and when we were building new armies or pressed for time, we did. And if there was a Mordheim league or similar on, we’d play that for a month instead. And I played, week after week, because that was the only way I could play at all.

Later still, as a starving graduate student, when the King of Editions had collapsed into “if only Pitched Battles are played, then only Pitched Battles shall be provided!” and my army was showing its age, I tried building another with the limited means available. I had 1000 points of Chaos Warriors, again. The local store played exclusively 2000 point Pitched Battles in preparation for the tourney scene. If I wanted to play at all, I had to borrow half an army and play with some jank I hadn’t made my own and learned and honed through the slow process of scaling up from Skirmish band to Border Patrol to 1000 to 1500 in scenarios that were built for mismatches to baby’s first 2000 point game – and my opposition would be loaded for bear, as the saying has it.

And if that was the only way to play, I wasn’t interested, so my WFB career began its slow decline into second hand armies, a morass of trading and swapping and desperately searching for the game I had loved in the game it had become.

Now, I am an adult. I play my irregular games in modern, spacious gaming centres, on twenty-four or even thirty-two square feet of sleek neoprene, with a CHAIR. Each! Maybe even a side space for rulebooks, templates, casualties and the midgame pint. Such, such are the joys. And these games are scheduled weeks in advance with other adults. They are anticipated, pondered over, thirsted after, and gleefully reported on. These games are a big deal. They should be more than the constantly, carelessly shovelled takeaways of the pick up game. They are more of a fine dining experience; a nice treat.

And this is what makes me think. Dangerous, I know. It reminds me of the admonishments of Brother Ranz, of yesteryear, that a wargame is not escapism: it is played in the real world with and against your chosen opponent. With… and against. With… and against. With… And it’s that With that matters.

When one is an Adult, you see, playing Warhammer for (and against, and with) other Adults, one takes responsibility for fun, rather than expecting the game system to guarantee it.

Back in the day, when we all stuffed our face with the unsatisfactory kebab-stuff of the pickup game twice a night three nights a week, we could afford to write off the duff ones. But now, when every game is arranged with care and anticipated for weeks if not months, we can – nay, must – curate those games to ensure that they are worth the faff.

We may wish for an unequal contest. There are scenarios for that, which curate the experience and frame it. That is well and good. What is neither well nor good is the complete stomping that comes out of the blue, when both participants have prepared for their own different sense of a game – and prepared separately.

Which means that my outdated sense of the Ultimate Spirit of Warhammer, derived from Stillmania and authentic Middlehammer as it may be, is still wrong. It is born from a gaming culture and game circumstances of yesteryear, when we all did this all the time.

Here and now, walking the one list into every game is leaving too much unplanned and unprepared for. It is on me, and you, and all of us, to play With each other and properly curate our battles, so that when we come to play Against each other we actually have a good time.

Here, for reference and record, is my own sense of the Ultimate Spirit of Warhammer (Revised Standard Version).

  • The perfect game is arranged a month or two in advance. A scenario is chosen and unless teaching and learning are the goals, it is not a Pitched Battle. Army lists are constructed through a discussion; what do we want out of this game and how can we be sure we get it?
  • On the day, the big game is teased and trailed with some warm-ups. A Skirmish or two, perhaps a Border Patrol before lunch. The afternoon is the Big Game, a stout 2000-3000 point affair ideally. Play proceeds at a gentlemanly pace without any “gotcha” moments or playing for the draw because it’s a bad match up.
  • It’s all over by teatime, and the outcome and the pitch for the next game can be discussed over your choice of hearty meal and adult beverage. Paid for by the winner, to ease the sting of defeat.

I haven’t quite pulled it off yet. But I live in hope.

9 thoughts on “[WFB] Warhammer For Adults: the New Testament

  1. A very good article. I am one who normally subscribed to the all round list even if I know who I’m facing. I’m able to temper this by having half a dozen different armies so opponents often don’t know what I’m bringing. Also a lot of my games are part of the club comp so lists are locked in and there is normally some form of restrictions on lists which help. That said, I’ve been properly trounced in a few random games due to them tailoring lists. With games few and far between due to work/parent/life I’m definitely going to start discussing things in advance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, man! And thanks for taking it in good fooling even though I’m putting that club style of play on blast a bit here. I will say that I played like you – all round with the local club and having a stable of different armies – back in the glory days of 2004-2008, and it was perfectly adequate at the time. It’s only now, in the twilight before the autumn of my years or some such, that games are fewer and harder to come by and I can’t just write off the occasional duff one any more. Sounds like you’re in the same place, more or less.

      I think club comp is a reasonable place to start. My only worry would be realising that I had a dud list and I was stuck with it for the duration, which has tended to be my story with league play in the past…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep the duff list is the downside, especially as you rarely get time to have a practice game. Luckily the restrictions have helped prevent too many stupid combos which helps


      2. I’ve been having a look at your post on the club comp. Not sure I understand all of it but I like the bits I do, especially giving the poor Tomb Kings a bit of a break. I know 6e took the sting out of it by letting them take their “crumble checks” on the General’s Leadership, so you’d have a clump of stuff around your King or Prince that kept going, but I can’t remember if 8e was so kind.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. TK suffered a bit in 8th from the power creep syndrome, as it was the the first (or one of the first) released (in the same way Bret’s and Beastmen did as they didn’t get new books). To be honest I’m not sure if they can test on the generals leadership but I’d be shocked if they couldn’t (as long as he is within range).

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I may go mad and actually check the book. All I remember off the top of my head is Sakhmet’s Incantation of the Skullstorm being a waste of the most metal spell name Warhammer ever had…

        Liked by 1 person

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