Friday, 2 November 2012

Futuristic Fantasy

The Battlelines are drawn...

I just got this blog set up with a few decent entries all planned out ready for future posting, a nice ordered sequence. One of you guys comes along and says something that motivates me so much that I had to write a response immediately.

Damn you all.

At about 14:30 today, this popped up on my Twitter Feed:
I hear this a hell of a lot, and every time I hear it, I feel the pain. I can sympathise. As I mentioned in a previous post, there was a period when I had great difficulty finding opponents to play at Warhammer - or rather, I had great difficulty finding ones I wanted to play against. Also, as a Games Workshop Hobby Centre Manager, I get to see those percentages of balance in my local community - or at least an approximate idea of it.

Most of the time, it seems that Warhammer plays second stage to its younger brother Warhammer 40,000. After all, most Hobby Centres have loads of kids sitting around painting and playing with Space Marines, right? For 40k, we have the 'Horus Heresy' book series, the 'Dawn of War' and 'Space Marine' computer games, we even have a movie. But what does Warhammer get?

The Minotaurs, led by Krogath the Unyielding, smash into the Temple Guard...

It's easy to subscribe to the belief that "GW only cares about Space Marines" (an absurd sentence that I have seen countless times online, and heard almost as many times elsewhere) and that "There's no money in Warhammer.". As an aside, does anyone else find it utterly ludicrous that so many people seem to think they can see inside the brains of Games Workshop?

Anyways, once again, I digress. The point I'm making is, if we didn't think Warhammer was worth supporting, we wouldn't support it. If there was no money in Warhammer, then again, we wouldn't support it. No business would. No business would half-heatedly support a product that wasn't making money, they'd just cut it off and cut their losses. Warhammer is a popular game, and, I'd argue, every bit as poplar as 40k (in fact, many of the rules now in 40k originally started out in Warhammer or even War of the Ring - like random charge distance, hatred, etc - bits that proved popular); so why the obvious discrepancies?

The Gorgon stalks towards the Stegadon.

40k is not Science-Fiction, it's Futuristic Fantasy. Science-Fiction has limits, Futuristic Fantasy doesn't. Beyond this, Warhammer deals with a mystical world of magic, monsters and titanic clashes across epic battlefields. 40k does this too, but with guns, tanks, explosions, and a whole galaxy to explore. This, coupled with the prominence in youth culture of games like 'Halo', 'Gears of War' and even 'Call of Duty' (despite my personal opinions on young kids playing here games), and with franchises like 'Star Wars' absolutely everywhere, 40k is safer. Kids tend to stick with what they know, and they know tanks, aliens and guns.

This doesn't mean they don't like Fantasy, far from it, it just means that 40k is more familiar. Remember your first time in a GW? If you had no idea what the hobby was, it may have been quite daunting. It tends to be human nature to find familiarity in anything new as a way of finding comfort, so most of them trend towards 40k.

The trap is set...

Warhammer also has a reputation as being the 'harder' game, which again is absurd when you consider the length of the rules in both games. In fact, in certain ways, Warhammer could be considered as easier, it follows very regimented (no pun intended) rules that, certainly in my experience of running the Beginners Academy within my store, have actually been easier for the kids to pick up. Yes, really.

So why don't people play Warhammer? They do, but Warhammer players seem not to be so vocal, so prominent in the hobby community. In the Hobby Centres I've worked in, fewer people come in to play or paint Warhammer, and perhaps this perceived imbalance causes a spiral.

All I can say with certainty is that Warhammer players are out there and in numbers as high as those 40k hobbyists. In fact, many of the supposed '40k' hobbyists, I'm sure you'll find, are Warhammer hobbyists too: they just tend to be more vocal about 40k as its the trend de jour. More people seem to do 40k, so more people seem to do 40k

And the net closes!

The easiest way to break the cycle, is to just do your hobby and talk about it. Tell people about your Warhammer hobby, share it with them and encourage others. Eventually, those reclusive Warhammer projects start coming out of the woodwork. People you didn't know did it are showing you their latest unit of High Elves. 40k gamers are showing you pictures of the Vampire Counts army they've had sitting in the loft or under their bed.

Why not even cause a stir yourself? I recently turned up at a gaming club with a friend, where his Vampire Counts and my Beastmen clashed across the tabletop amidst a sea of 40k. Two weeks later, and most of the tables were Warhammer. People had dug out their armies or started new ones simply because they'd seen us having fun, they'd witnessed that Warhammer wasn't this trundling juggernaut of rules, and they wanted to be a part of it.

Try it. You'll be surprised.

1 comment:

  1. I find it amusing that lots of people think that there is a lack of Warhammer players as my experience seems to be the opposite. At my club more people play Warhammer than any other game systems (although we have a healthy number of specialist games players too). I guess it just depends on the local gaming scene. However, I will say that it is easier to get into a game that everyone else plays so perhaps these trends within local gaming circles end up perpetuating themselves. After all, you don't want to join a gaming group and be the only person to play a particular game.

    It will be interesting to see if this trend for sci-fi gaming continues when The Hobbit hits the cinemas. I'm not a betting man but I would put money on a fantasy renaissance over the next three years :)