Saturday, 10 April 2010

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em...

Okay. Back at the beginning I was attempting to frame my Frugality slightly differently to the rest of the lads, which I've decided to stop doing. 'Spend less, game more' is a catchy motto and it does cover everything I want it to cover, albeit with a bit of extension.

See, I consider investment and Frugality a bit differently than that. Basically, in Von's world, you invest three different kinds of currency in gaming.

There's the financial investment: the money it costs to actually buy the game and the stuff you need to play the game (tape measures, dice, modelling tools and supplies like paint, club subscription fees... it adds up!). The thing with money, though, as Grandpa George (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: he's the grumpy one who doesn't get out of bed) says, is that they print more of it every day. You can't exactly afford to go throwing it away, but you can be reasonably sure you'll get more of it one day, and you can sell things to get it back.

Time, once spent, cannot be recovered. That's why I get all worried about temporal investment - because time doesn't come back. Now, I actually have more free time than I have free money, and I adhere to Bertrand Russell's aphorism that the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. That's why I make my own terrain and paint my own models and write my own RPG encounters and stories, but why I don't knock people with more money than time who choose to buy terrain kits (I still think the GW terrain is overpriced for what it is, but if you don't enjoy spending hours faffing about with foam and wire and Milliput and want to use your time for something you do enjoy, I understand).

(Aside: it's this that makes me worry about the amount of time I spend doing things like, well, blogging. I've spent a lot of time in these last few weeks on places like Yes, The Truth Hurts and looking at stuff about Dark Elves to give me ideas about what's good, what's considered too good, and what it's worth me finding a way to do on the cheap - at least, that's how it started. The time you can't account for once you've wasted it is wasted time, and after a few days of coming to at about lunchtime and realising I've been reading blog entries and forum posts all morning, I start to realise that I've lost control of my time at about the same point that I tightened control on my money. But that's not actually what I want to talk about today.)

The other kind of investment is emotional investment, and this is the part where we move away from things we can keep accounts of and into a more nebulous world of feelings and concerns.

Let's say you're getting into WFB, and your instinct is to do it Frugally: small purchases, small games, feel your way forward, learn the ropes, take it softly-softly. You have a vision of this cool army that you want to do.

Let's say that the local players play in a lot of tournaments, so they want to play tournament-sized games with the most efficient armies available. This army that you want to do isn't particularly efficient, and while you don't want to win every last game, you don't want to be chased off the board without making a dent every time - you want your defeats to be fun and bloody and brilliant.

There's a conflict of interests here, yeah? They want big games with the best stuff available, you want small games while you learn and you have your Vision for the army that means making some less-than-optimal choices, but you don't want to annoy anybody and you do want to have some fun games.

You've made an emotional investment in two things. You want to fulfil your Vision for the army but you want to get some enjoyable games in as well. It doesn't matter whether you stick to your Vision or compromise it to make a better army - one of your goals is going to go unfulfilled and your emotional investment unrewarded. Gamer angst results as you try to have your cake and eat it.

Controlling your emotional investment is about making informed choices about which games you'll play, and where, and with whom, and how, and why: knowing what your goals are and whether you can achieve them with the resources available.

It's about knowing your local gaming group, so you know whether your approach is going to fit in with theirs, or whether it's going to cause disappointment and stress as you try to reach goals that you don't share with the other people around you.

It's about being prepared to walk away from a game that you're not enjoying, try to recover what money you've spent and avoid wasting any more time on something that's not fulfilling.

It's basically about deciding how much you care about things - winning, having a unique army, doing a cheap army - and knowing that if you care too much about too many different things you're likely to be disappointed 'cause you're over-investing in the project.

I'm not as emotionally invested in Dark Elves as I was in Warriors of Chaos (that 'let's say' above is basically the story of Why I Stopped Playing Chaos) and so I don't particularly mind what kind of games I play with them, or who with, or whether I win: I'm pretty sure I can make a decent army that's not too good for casual games or too weak for tournament play, 'cause I've done my research and I've decided what I'm going to do this army for.

Although, having written all this, I kind of regret selling that Chaos army now... I just have to remember all the evenings of serious Gamer Angst as I fretted over how many Dispel dice I had and whether I'd wasted money on that £25 conversion that turned out to be rubbish in play, and whether I cared about having a Nurgle character in a Slaanesh unit just because it was a better gameplay option. No, I don't want to go back to that. Dark Elves are less stressful, because I don't care about them quite so much.


Frugal Dave said...

Nice piece matey. I'm trying to not get too involved with my Goblins, as it'd just upset me to watch them running away all the time!

Mahon said...

Great post. I just love reading such "essay-like" posts. You are right about many things, including the one about being able to take a step back, think again and withdraw from the game which is not quite what you're enjoying.

And with so many cool and tempting games around, with so many pretty miniatures it isn't all that easy.

Good luck!