Nothing can stay the same forever. Eventually, things have to change. Games are no different, although nowadays the changes are as minor as they are high-profile. Take Scrabble. A few years ago the world was in an uproar over the fact that “Scrabble will allow proper nouns”. What wasn’t included in the outrage was the fact that it applied only to a specific variant of Scrabble. Meanwhile, Hasbro had been mucking around with games for years: Risk, Clue, and Monopoly had all received minor revamps, often for the better (the so-called “Black Ops” rules for Risk make the game much, much faster and more enjoyable). It’s not even anything new: the copy of The Game of Life that my parents first bought in the late 80′s was nothing like the version that was in stores just a year or so later, and even the current version bears little resemblance.
The games we play today will not be the same games we play tomorrow. Few modern games have the sheer staying power to remain unchanging and unchallenged for more than about a decade, and those wind up mostly being card games. Uno is still the same game that it was twenty-five years ago, and poker has enough established variants to stay more or less evergreen. But if you contrast that to something like Magic: The Gathering– which is defined by its ever-evolving ruleset and constantly-shifting balance– you can see that change is inevitable.
Still, changing the game is good. It prompts innovation and forces people to use new strategies– often as quickly as they can devise them. There’s no thrill quite like being able to turn the tables on an opponent who’s stuck in the “old ways” of thinking about the game. Likewise, a game that changes itself can often find new players, or bring lapsed ones back into the fold. My hiatus from Magic has served to help me sharpen my focus and figure out just exactly what I want out of the game; I have a newfound respect for Standard-format, seeing it less as a money treadmill and more as a way to keep the game fresh and competitive. Likewise, Pez has come back to Magic with the intent of resuming his previous M.O.– conquering foes with combinations so out there that they can barely be predicted; he just has new cards and new ways to accomplish this.
It’s not really fair to say that gaming is a stagnant activity, because quite frankly it never sits still long enough to stagnate.
Part of why I’m looking forward to showing off the Wintermourne 516th is because of the end of the latest chapter in the Warhammer 40,000 timeline. The game’s sixth edition rules are expected to be released in the middle of summer (probably on or after Games Day, July 28th), and because of it there’s a lot of upheaval expected in the game. (Warhammer Fantasy got its eighth edition rules in late 2010, prompting me to start looking at the Bretonnians– which is its own blog post for a later time, such as whenever Games Workshop gets around to issuing a new army book for them.) But one thing is known for sure: everything is going to change, and it may not be for the better for every army– or even the game itself.
This uncertainty is compounded with the veil of secrecy that’s surrounded Games Workshop in the last few months. Most of the speculation is that the rumormongering was put to an abrupt halt with the upcoming release of the tie-in game for The Hobbit, while others say that it’s a protectionst move based on the jump to the resin Finecast miniatures enacted last year (which prompted a lot of grumbling). In any event, whereas this time last year there was a clear schedule, there is not one now, and it’s starting to alienate some players who have been waiting for updates to their armies. (I’ve railed on that topic before, so no need to get into it again now.)
The thing is, this is very much an unprecedented move for Games Workshop and 40K in general. If the most reliable and recurring batch of rumors is to be believed, Sixth Edition will be a revolutionary change for how the game is played, as opposed to the evolutionary changes that have been the norm in the past. When Fifth Edition was released in 2008, the changes from Fourth were very minor: you still basically knew how to play, but some rules were simplified and the basic structure remained the same. Sixth Edition seems to offer a radical change to how almost everything in the game works; even the very composition of armies is on the chopping block. GW is taking the tactic that nothing is sacred, apparently.
And that’s perfectly fine with me. To be frank, even discounting the fact that I’m playing “outdated” armies (Orks and Tau both use 4th Edition codexes, while the Imperial Guard were one of the first 5th Edition books), 40K as it stands now is horribly broken. In some ways I’m looking to how Fantasy evolved, eliminating the “you can’t touch me” aspect that bugs me most about 40K; in Fifth Edition, a Guardsman with a lasgun cannot possibly scratch a Dark Eldar Talos Pain Engine, and will have a damnable time even getting the chance to score a wound against lesser foes; the advantage of having a hailstorm of fire is effectively negated if it’s impossible to damage a target with it. I think there should be a chance for a lucky shot to get through now and again, with the countervaling defense being armour saves and invulnerable saves. The rumors are that in Sixth, there will be that chance for all armies (and not just my poor mooks with their flashlights and t-shirts).
In about six weeks, I’ll be attending a small tournament at Legions called the “Farewell To Fifth”. It’s a three-round Warhammer 40,000 tournament, and will be the reintroduction of the Wintermourne 516th Garrison of the Imperial Guard. I say “reintroduction” because it’ll be the first event the army takes part in whilst fully painted. Snake Eyes Gaming– a club I’m seriously considering joining, as soon as I start playing more often– has always put on some great events, and I expect this one to be no different.
In some ways, what’s been going on with my 40K habits has been at least in part their fault. I mean that, of course, in the best way possible, but it’s still the truth. The guys at Snake Eyes introduced me to the game back at the end of 2009 with the beginner’s tournament, then kept me going throughout 2010 with the Defense of Nekar Quintus Planetstrike campaign (which, sadly, I had to bow out of early due to the move). But what was really fascinating about all of it was that throughout every event and casual game I played with them, I never felt like I wasn’t good enough to be playing against them. The Snake Eyes crew has encouraged me to learn more and work harder towards increasing the enjoyment I get out of 40K, and with any luck that’s only going to get better.
The painting project is an excellent example of this. I finished up my Tau collection around the end of 2011, and was able to deploy a fully-painted battleforce box (plus a couple extras) without having to worry about it not looking good enough. The Snake Eyes guys gave me some gentle criticism in the hopes of improving my work, and for that I was greatly appreciative. But the biggest thing that it got me to do was believe that I could actually do up the massive amounts of Imperial Guard that I’d put together, primed, and then felt overwhelmed by. So, at the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal, and now I’m about to hit it– much earlier than I anticipated.
I’m actually a little surprised that I haven’t had a post tagged for Warhammer 40,000 in over a year. I’ve been tinkering with it here and there during 2011, and I played a handful of matches, but unfortunately I also slacked off greatly on my original plan of being able to play more often. See, I love to play the game. It’s the preparatory work that I really don’t much care for, and by preparatory I mean “painting”.
I am not terribly artistically gifted. I have a general sense for what colors look best together, and in terms of technical ability I can paint my miniatures up to be serviceable, if not gorgeous. I’m not looking to win the Golden Demon here, but at the same time I certainly would like to make it easier for me to see where I am on the board versus just having the bare gray plastic. I have no problem putting in the time, as I find building the models to be a lot of fun. I just realize that I can’t really paint on the level of the other players.
That’s part of it, but not entirely. Games Workshop hasn’t exactly been doing its players any huge favors lately, either, especially by clamping down on the rumor mill for when new products and codexes will be released. I have been waiting for about a year and a half now for the new Tau Empire codex to be announced, let alone released, and the continued and oppressive silence had made wanting to work on my Tau army a chore with no reward in sight– the old codex just doesn’t stack up very well against the more recently-updated threats like the Necrons or any random flavor of Space Marines, which discourages me from wanting to play them. And let’s not even get into how ridiculously overpowered Chaos Space Marines are; at Legions they’re the most commonly encountered army simply because they have any number of ways to rip apart everyone else.
I also still have a couple thousand points of Imperial Guard to paint up, and I’ve been sitting on an equal amount of unassembled Orks, on the theory that “well, once I get done painting the Guard, I can turn my attention back to the Orks.” Don’t get me wrong– I got into 40K primarily so that I could play the game. But there’s a lot more satisfaction for me in playing an army that I’ve fully painted up, even if it’s not perfect. I set forth a rule that I’m not going to buy more than I can paint, and that was at the beginning of 2011. I have bought incredibly little since then and have painted even less.
This past weekend, though, I finished up the last of the Tau (almost– I still haven’t put together drones, mostly because I don’t know how many I want to put together) and made some serious baseline progress on some of my Guardsmen. I’m also dedicating a couple of hours each weekend– likely Saturday morning– solely to painting, in addition to doing some painting when the mood strikes me during the week. I did a little one evening this week, too, just to wrap up what I wanted to do Sunday (when I fell asleep instead), and already I’m feeling more confident and far more motivated than I had before.
The first goal I want to set, really, is to have a 1000-point list for each of my factions painted and ready to play, to help me get over being stuck in a rut playing the same army over and over again. I have plans for that, and am slowly but surely grinding my way through to the next phase of readiness for it even though it’s likely to take a bit longer than I had initially anticipated. Still, this past week has shown that I can make progress on that, and that eventually, the rewards will be worth the trouble, particularly once Sixth Edition comes out later this year. As that release gets closer, I’ll talk more about it.
I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that, unless I spend more or less every non-working waking moment from here to the end of the year gaming, I won’t come anywhere near my stated goal of fifty game clears this year. In all honesty this has been a bad year in terms of gaming for me; not nearly as bad as last year, but then again I had sort of an excuse. This year I even made an effort to give myself extra gaming time, via the bus plan, and it still fell apart. So, don’t think for a moment that I hid a game clear notice or three from you over the course of September. I didn’t. Honest.
I’m also fairly confident that my plan to double-up my Gamerscore for the third year running is doomed to failure. Over five months I’ve only gained 900 points or so, meaning that in order to hit the double-up goal I need another 8500 in three months. Again, I’m not that broken up about it.
What have I been doing while I prepare to move? Well, reading a lot more RPG manuals. Even if I never get to play any of them, I’m still fascinated by the lore and the stories presented, and I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to start up a D&D campaign. I’d tried doing so once before, and while it started out well, I didn’t have the time or focus needed to both compose and playtest a whole campaign before the session. This time I’ll likely be using pre-made modules and letting the role-playing tell the story, rather than the locations.
I’ve also come across a couple of board games that interested me, namely Lords of Vegas and Founding Fathers. Vegas seems a little complex, but a lot of fun, while Founding Fathers was borne of seeing a couple others play it and my own interest in politics after the whole West Wing thing. Incan Gold was also reprinted recently, so I grabbed that, as well– it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and it’s fast, too.
I’d packed away my consoles and games for them a long time ago; only the Wii and the 360 stayed active until last week. They’re both in storage right now, and so I only have the handhelds and the PC available should I desire video games. I’ve been tinkering with Team Fortress 2 off and on here the past few days, and Left 4 Dead 2 is downloading as we speak, but I’m also very happy with how Final Fantasy XIV has turned out. Not just that it runs well on my computer, which it does, but that it’s a great game in its own right. I’m sure other, older games have allowed crafting as a “main” career path through the game’s story, but I’m not sure how many of them basically made it so easy to actually raise your crafting skills without grinding zillions of monsters to buy expensive crafting materials. The levequest system basically provides you with materials and recipes needed, and you can repeat them as needed. More to the point, you actually get experience for doing so– not just skill points, but real honest-to-god XP. So it’s a great way to try something different without completely stalling advancement.
Oh, and the death penalty is no longer as draconian as it was in FF11; no experience loss or level-downs here. The end result is basically that exploration is encouraged, and mistakes are forgiven, instead of paranoia being rewarded and misfortune being punished. Come the change of the year I think I’ll be getting a PC to set up as a dedicated gaming box, instead of dual-booting Mahoro or the Stellvia.
Finally, just as an interesting aside, I may have a rather alarming personal project lined up for 2011: I might wind up strictly limiting the video game purchases, new and Reclamatory, to one or two a month for the year. Don’t hold me to it yet, and I’ll be laying out some very specific exceptions to this rule (chief among them Mega Man Legends 3 if you believe it’ll be out in ’11), but I think it’s worth taking a break on the collection front for a year and putting the resources towards a greater good. (Which reminds me that the rule would also limit me to a single miniature item per week, and a single battleforce box or other big-ticket box each month; paints and other consumable supplies wouldn’t count.) Again, just a thought.
Ciao, folks. Tomorrow’s entry may be late, just so you’re aware.
I was supposed to take part in a pretty interesting Guard vs. Orks mission tonight after work.
None of the Orks players showed up.
Kinda frustrated now.
Late post, and for that I apologize. However this weekend is going to be full of words deferred as I work to finish up the next chapter of Frangible Time and document the rather humiliating defeats I just suffered tonight at the tables of war. Once the campaign is over I’ll collect the stories and see about putting them up as a coherent tale for you folks.
Ciao, boys and girls.
So I’m off to bed early, in the midst of a rainstorm that is already lulling me to sleep. I saw that Games Workshop released condensed, rules-only versions of two codexes I’d been thinking about picking up– okay, specifically the Witch Hunters codex– but I already play two Imperial armies, and Chaos Space Marines don’t catch my attention all that well. I figure by the time I get around to starting the fourth faction, the Tau will have got their updated book; they already have an all-plastic path available so it’s just a matter of the rules update. We shall see.
The less said about the past three days, the better. I was indisposed most of Friday, and Saturday was spent dealing with the small matter of getting my car inspected and registered for the year (something which I always assume is going to be expensive, and always underestimate how expensive it’s going to be).
Today I spent getting some housework done and getting about half of the Imperial Guard sprues I have left to assemble primed up. I’m going a bit lighter on this initial primer, because the first batch of figures I did for the Guard were over-coated and look a little chunky. Still, with the drying line I made, I can have a lot more sprues painted each session than before, when I was just laying them down on another piece of cardboard.
Tomorrow, I return to something approaching a normal schedule, and that means peace. For now.
I spent last night discovering that I was almost out of white spray paint for priming the Imperial Guard army. That said, however, I also found that the IG infantry sprues are easier to pre-prime before assembly than the Space Marines were; I’m going to guess that the same will hold for the Orks once I get around to putting those together.
Tonight is a night for Rock Band.