“Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
- C.S. Lewis
As a quote, I guess it stands opposed to what it is I'm trying to assert, but given that I've already guessed this is your first go-to place in your argument, I thought I'd just table the thing now. I'll get back to the quote in a bit.
I called the site Warhammer For Adults because I am asserting that the nature of the games of Warhammer being played by most of the people today are limited. Stunted in their scope and ability. Unable to flourish into the well-formed fun activities they were always envisaged to be.
Underdeveloped, if you will.
Which is where the whole adults thing comes into it. It is positioned against the term 'children'.
So, I am asserting that most of the games of Warhammer played today are immature. Unrealised in their potential. Fit for consumption by children, but hardly satisfying for adults.
"Hang on," you protest. "Who's 'most people'? Bit generalised, don't you think?"
Sure, okay. It is a bit. So I'll refine - in my experience of playing Warhammer 6, 7 & 8 over the past few years at various clubs ranging all the way from Croydon to Salisbury (and various places between), I have only played immature, unsatisfying games of Warhammer. I've tried not to - I've tried to convince my various opponents that it could be different, but lack of time, lack of interest and a genuine lack of understanding appears to have confounded me at every step.
So what's my problem, then?
Perhaps you've heard these statements before:
- Don't worry about a scenario, we'll just do Pitched Battle.
- That's too much scenery. Let's take that stuff out of the middle so we can finish quickly.
- Let's not use the special scenery rules, they're just going to slow us down.
- I don't know if I'll be much of a challenge - I'm trying out a new list for the <XYZ> tournament next month.
- Oh no, don't worry - I'll take some points out of my list - I'd rather the armies were equal.
- I'm just warning you - there are some pretty rough combo's in this army!
- I hope you don't mind, but I'm using two special characters
- Normally, I'd have two of these, but I've only got one tonight because we're only allowed one for <XYZ> tournament.
That's before you get to the various discussions about rules interpretations, FAQ's, the precedents that FAQ's set for other 'similar' unit types which aren't actually discussed, the probable error that allows one or other combination to 'break' an already powerful character or unit to be all but unstoppable. The fact that your army can't cope with <XYZ> situation because your army book hasn't been written for the new rules yet.
Ringing any bells? If you're getting this on a regular basis (as I was - weekly), then, in fact, you're suffering from some underdeveloped Warhammer. The games you are playing are probably not nutritious enough to sustain you, even though you pretend they are, because you just don't know what else to do.
Besides - you've spent a lot of money on this hobby, right? For this much money, surely I can't be unhappy with the game, right? Maybe if I just stick at it, I'll eventually have fun? Or get a different army? Yeah - that's it. I'll get a different army!
So game after game after game eventually becomes the same thing - 2400 points, pitched battle, comps as per the nearest tournament on the calendar. Your list is always designed for all-comers, so your list is always generic - no extremes, just in case you can't deal with something. Okay, you flex it a little. Sometimes its 3000 points. Eventually, out of sheer desperation, someone proposes a Storm of Magic game, so out come all the monsters. But it wasn't prepared properly, so it actually ended in five turns with most people thinking "it had potential, but actually, let's just do a pitched battle next week. I mean, how realistic is it to have nine manticores on the table anyway? That'd never happen in a tournament..."
Again, this is my experience, but I'm using the words you and yours because I'd bet that its your experience too.
So back to my problems with this. It feels like there are two overriding things here:
- Every game is just a practice session for some tournament
- Your opponent is expressly delegating his responsibility for you having fun away from himself and on to the ruleset. In the same way that you delegate your responsibility for your opponent having fun down to the ruleset. That's right. I'm talking about you!
Let's talk about that second point for a bit. When the players absolve themselves of each other's responsibilities to each other, the only thing that can carry that responsibility is the ruleset.
This leads to the situation where players meditate day and night over the rules, scouring them like lawyers, hunting down precedents and common understandings that allow them to flex the rules to facilitate whatever surprise it is they have for their opponents. This happens because you can't trust the other player to help you have fun. He's not responsible for that, remember? Forums are started, where players can compare their understanding of the rules and complain about people whose understanding doesn't quite match their own.
Discussions form around specific magical items and combinations and how these might be countered. Threads are created to lament the clearly erroneous omission of some vital word or rule which renders some brilliant 'thing' useless.
Suddenly, the game designers end up carrying the ultimate responsibility for you and your opponent to have fun. They can't cover ever eventuality, and they have another directive anyway: they have to drive sales. They're not really here to carry the responsibility you have to your opponent, but they gamely accept the challenge and start 'tightening up' the rules. Warhammer 6 was well written. Warhammer 7 was very well written. Warhammer 8 employs object oriented design techniques (from software engineering) in order to create clever inheritance mechanisms in the rules, creating a near flawless set of rules.
But still, they can't get it right. They can't cover the relational and social aspects of the game for you. So no matter how hard they try (and boy do they try!), they can never actually create a system that can carry the responsibility you have for your opponents fun, because that's a relational thing. It's a social thing.
It's something you have to do with your opponent.
You contract with each other. You know - like adults.
Right, so I'll leave that hanging there and I'll start talking about the alternative.When I eventually reached the end of my tether, it came in the shape of one of the least most satisfying game of Warhammer I'd ever played. I'd tried really, really hard to inject as much character and narrative into the thing as possible, but it was completely overshadowed by the tournament preparation approach of my opponent. Try as a might to contract with him, I was unable to get him to agree to not approach the game this way. So, we practiced for his upcoming tournament (again). I went home and turned my back on Warhammer 8 and the various club practitioners of its unusual tenets.
Not because its Warhammer 8 (although I don't think much of the ruleset specifically), but rather, because it is the current version of Warhammer being used to perpetrate this immature, unsatisfying and empty style of play. The same was true of Warhammer 7 and will probably be true for Warhammer 9.
I returned to the place where my fantasy fascination was born - where the fertile mind of a young boy was opened to the endless possibilities of fantasy stories. Original fantasy stories not expressly told in order to sell products. A place where Dwarves could have spears and bows, and elves could have axes and crossbows. A place where characters were not a viable tactical delivery of pain and death, but actual representatives of the player on the field. Where the fantasy was personal and I cared. I cared about the outcome of my fights and the fate of my units and heroes.
For me, that was the 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles.
Let's be clear here: it's not a 'tight' ruleset. You will struggle to find more poorly worded commercial product produced in an english speaking country. Entire paragraphs are sometimes just... missing.
It's clunky, it's slow, it has rules that contradict each other. There are no checks and balances to see if you're taking a fair army. T7 vampire with 7 wounds, a sword that auto-hits, auto-wounds, kills if it hits once and offers no armour save, and has the ability to cast a spell that causes a S3 hit on every living thing on the table? Check.
Monsters where every single stat is a 10? Every single one? Check.
In fact, its bloody hard to imagine that anyone managed to get any games out of the system at all.
Thing is, the way the ruleset is written, there is absolutely no way one can delegate their responsibility down to the ruleset. Just not possible.
So impossible, actually, that the only way to make it work was to...
...take responsibility for your opponent's fun. You had to work with your opponent to get through a game. You had to negotiate. You had to think about the implications on the game if you did something too 'wild'.
I remember a very interesting scenario once. I remember knowing that my opponent had the means to summon a greater daemon. He knew that I had the ability to do the same. But we never actually summoned them. We ended up conducting these bizarre 'cold wars', where we always made sure we had enough mana to cast the summon - just in case, and made sure the other one knew that. That way, we kept each other's 'nuclear' threat at bay. A strange meta gaming concept, but one rich with narrative and a realistic behaviour of the characters involved. Eventually, we spoke about it. What would happen if we did summon the daemons? Perhaps we should give it a go?
And so, by consensus, we derived a scene where both wizards summoned their greater daemons and whilst the armies fought, there was a clash of the titans like no other happening right in their midst - two daemons going head to head. Epic fantasy stuff.
It happened because we contracted. We took responsibility for each other. Together, we created an environment where we both had fun. The rules were just a vehicle for interpreting the events.
I want to play games against people who are interested in both themselves and myself having fun. I want to play games where the rules are just a vehicle giving us an idea of how to roll the dice to determine a specific outcome. I want to enable other players to have their fantasy stories played out in miniature - where their heroes can wax and wane in glory. Where they can be more than just 'batteries' for other characters, or scroll caddies, or whatever demeaning term applies to most modern Warhammer characters.
In wanting this, I consider my tastes to be mature. I consider other gamers who want this same thing to be mature. And it's this maturity that I want in my games. You don't have to be over thirty to have this maturity, and you don't have to play Warhammer 3rd Edition either.
But, in my experience, it is those who have seen 3rd Edition that are the most likely to yearn for that maturity,which is why I focussed on that ruleset. Indeed, one can achieve everything I described using Warhammer 8. But good luck in finding those who want to do that with you.
So I'm hoping by now that you'll see that C.S. Lewis' quote up top doesn't actually apply to my employment of the notions of childishness and adulthood. Rather, I refer to these things as levels of maturity in the gaming experience.
Are you able to contract with your opponent and help them have fun?
Are you willing to contract with your opponent and help them have fun?
I call that a sign of maturity.
Welcome to Warhammer For Adults.