Monday, 25 January 2016

Go with the Faux

Human beings have this urge to remember things in their past much more fondly or worse than they actually were. Think back to your favorite christmas or your friends back in secondary school. Maybe your first heartbreak or your first car crash. How much of it was as bad or as good as you recall it being? How many of us miss our school days having a laugh with our mates and the stupid stuff we did in our youths? When really, at the time we were bored out of our minds in classrooms being taught things we haven't the foggiest recollection of or reason why it was imperative that we knew them before going into the "big wide world" by ourselves. Utter nonsense.

My generation, if you can even call it a generation, it's unclear, are absolutely sold on the idea that the 90's were the best ever awesomesauce where we all had the most fun. It was a colorful time full of original ideas and haircuts, lots of haircuts. Really though, our memories of it are the 1% highlights whilst we ignore the 99% shocking terrible-ness of it. Our minds are hardwired for survival despite the very real reality that the mass-majority of us are "basically" safe. We don't have to stand guard at our loved ones beds, we don't have to fear being killed by roaming gangs of aggressive gnomes, we are "basically" safe yet our minds are still hardwired to protect us. Thus our memories of things being gleaming bastions of the good ol' days or the worst thing to ever happen. That or we were bored. These are the three options with memories and science has even found out that every time we recall an event in the past, we start making stuff up and adding or subtracting things. It's all lies! They're not even square!

That amazing segment segways into the point of this post, how I came to love and enjoy my favorite tabletop game: Malifaux. It's a long road of highs and lows and a LOT of money. Or I was busy drawing with crayons and my mind is simply replacing pictures of clouds and farm animals with the Eldar Craftworlds of the 40k universe, it's hard to know for sure.

My earliest memories of gaming was Magic the Gathering. My mother for whatever reason tried to play it, failed spectacularly and handed me and my brother a selection of cards and said, very lovingly "you work it out". What I remember is a pure and honest butchering of the rules as myself and my younger brother attempted a game we had very little meta knowledge of. At some point we both got bored and returned to our mega drives and playstations.
Skip forward and I'm on holiday to America for the first time and, being a marvel fan I find Heroclix and buy a few. Again, no one else to play games with other than my brother so once again, a full on butchering of the rules and eventual boredom. Two for two so far.
Fast Forward to my late teens and I'm on holiday in Spain. I stumbled upon english Magic the Gathering, the Kamigawa block to be specific and fell in love with the world and the mechanics. This time I got my friends involved and even hit up local shops and entered a community. It was a good couple of years, games around the dining table and friday night Magic as well as the sunday casual tournaments my local shop. 

Good times.... Good expensive times. My stint in Magic created as it does with all MTG players, drawers and drawers full of cardboard that inexplicitly cost money. Sorting out cards like an obsessive compulsive squirrel. Seven books sorted into colour, type, cost and every new booster box or theme deck I bought to grab those few rares I told myself I needed resulted in having to reset the whole system and reorder everything. I spent 5 hours at a time doing this just to keep on top of a mountain of pictured flash cards. I don't know when I broke but I said to myself, instead of storing these precious cards in boxes and books to be hidden in drawers, surely it would be better to have a game where I could display what I had and create dioramas when I wasn't playing the game. Enter Warhammer 40,000.

40K brought with it more reasons to hate money as I was starting from scratch in miniature wargaming. Paints, brushes, models, more models, no wait you can only have a small game with those models, buy more to get the full game experience and then buy more models to combat that one dude who is kicking your behind up and down the store. Dice, you need dice and circles and measuring tapes and a large carry case because you've outgrown that tupper-ware with foam in it.

Something tells me if I had saved all this money, I would be living in a flying doom fortress in the shape of my face swimming in my own currency like Scrooge McDuck and renamed the internet "Joden" by now. Hindsight 20/20... 

I started out with Tyranids. The idea of swarming the board with a never-ending wave of H.R.Gigar ripoffs really sparked excitement in me and I built up a sizable collection. The problem now was finding players. Friends that were happy to play with MTG cards back in the day balked at the idea of spending a metric crap tonne of money on a product they had to paint and construct themselves, it didn't appeal to them. So I was left with a local club that met every weekend. The problem being that this club had myself, two guys in their late 30's and about 10 pre-teens with their bored parents in the background. The trouble with children that age in wargaming is they have no gaming etiquette. If it wasn't their turn, they would walk off to another table or get bored and start playing a whole other game whilst getting constantly called back to roll dice or move troops again. That kind of thing grates on me as a player, I can't stand facing someone who doesn't want to play, it wastes both of our times. 

Sadly, had to drop the game and hobbying altogether at this point. When I was met with the realization that I spent all this money, spent all this time learning rules and checking forums and getting invested in a game only to find no one plays it; it was disheartening and puts you down in the dumps on even bothering. Every game that looked awesome or had an interesting spin to it I had to ask the question "Who will actually play this game with me?" If I couldn't name 4 people who were as invested as I was, I didn't bother. Bad times.

One day much later on, after moving house across London, I was coming back from work and I spotted a local Games Workshop that I kept on passing. An idea lit in my head and a long forgotten passion reignited in me. I had the money now, I already had all the supplies making start-up a whole lot easier and it was on the way back from work so I wasn't even wasting time and finding a player base is hella easier when you're going to the store players are routinely meeting up for games in. I restarted 40K with Eldar and started enjoying games with players around my age bracket who more importantly, wanted to play the game. It was all going great, but then 7th Edition happened.

Rules change, I get this and a business like GW is going to change things up in order to obtain a fresh customer base and influence more sales from current players. It's a business, I get it but man, 7th killed all excitement I had for the game. Having a "Magic phase" meant that instead of tactical application of spells in movement then in combat, the player with the "Magic army" spent a turn rolling dice when 95% of the time, you could just simply declare that this spell was in effect with the sheer ease of casting. Then there was the army codex changes that fundamentally changed troop rules and how they were played, on top of options being taken away being replaced with sub-par ones. It sounds juvenile to say but I liked it back in my day when the rules were good.

Yet my joy of wargaming continued, alas it was no longer being sated by Warhammer 40K. I briefly attempted Warhammer Fantasy but every game I had turned into two armies running into each other and then both players throwing dice for an hour. I came to the conclusion that I needed more from a game than the goal of a table wipe every time.

I stumbled upon Infinity and loved the idea of both players being involved in each turn and the game being set up with missions and objectives rather than a slobberknocker of "kill the dudes dood" and the fact that a starter box and maybe one blister was all you needed to play a typical game helped out as well. I played a few games and got hooked.
...Then the honeymoon ended, the fog machine breathed it's last and the mixtape got chewed up and my eyes were open.

The thing is about Infinity, it's very easy to play a game where you either stay bolt in place in order not to get one-shotted or spend the whole game navigating alleyways in order to press the use button on a console or objective. Fire fights weren't these dramatic what ifs, they were more like coin flips and if you were in a range bracket that benefited you, but not your opponent.
Having every piece in the game die to 2 or less hits kills all the fun I tried to have with it and whilst customability exists, you picked the same this-or-that loadout and every model felt the same. This guy shoots. This guy shoots but with a template. This guy is a marker (that can shoot). I can't recall a single model from infinity other than the snipers and I couldn't tell you what their names were.

I was on the right track though, smaller skirmish games were better for me than large 60 model count games and I wanted the objective game play with models I actually gave a damn about who were different from each other. This is when I found Malifaux.

Now I noticed Malifaux when I first got into Infinity but due to the lack of youtube support for it (I was following an episodic Infinity batrep at the time) I brushed it off as a steam-punk try hard. How wrong I was.
After Infinity, I managed to get in contact with an organizer for Malifaux and got a demo game with him. I hit the books as I do with all games. I learned as much of the rules as possible and went about researching what crew box I should take. My love of Ice mages lead me to Rasputina so I checked out her guide and luckily, the fellow giving me the demo had the models and set me up with the starter box to demo with. Somehow I managed to win that game (The henchman not being a player who lets newbies win just because) and got hooked. The rest is history as they say. The community is the best I've known and having an organizer who puts his own time down to make sure players new and old have games every week is amazing and I've never looked back.

Will history repeat itself where a massive rules change comes into effect and "ruins" the game, I don't know but I'm riding this wave whilst it's here and damn is it a lot of fun. Being a wargamer nowadays is much more gratifying than it ever has been and it's all thanks to a great community and a solid game. Malifaux having such a diverse range of characterful models is a testament to how it should be done in this sort of game. This blog wouldn't even be here if I felt this game wasn't worth talking about. It revived my passion and is something I feel giddy planning and getting a game with every week.

But enough talking about the past, we loom ever closer to the future and what mysteries it might bring. Get the mode of transport of your choice up to 88mph and have fun out there!

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