Saturday, 26 February 2011

Frugalist, Know Thyself

It happens to us all, at some time or another.

Sometimes we realise that our project has aspects that become a chore (working on lots of models that all look the same is a HUGE barrier for me, which is why my armies don't tend to wear uniforms or spam the same unit/model type), sometimes we come up against a strange quirk of game design that means our COOL PLAN can't work out, and sometimes it just turns out we've made sub-optimal choices early on and end up stuck between trying to use pieces that we either don't enjoy or that don't work (usually both), or selling them on at a loss shortly after purchase.

This makes starting new projects hard, as it's unlikely that a small, economically-manageable starter collection will include a wide range of tactical capabilities, and equally unlikely that you'll be equipped to make wise choices straight off the bat if you're coming into something that's new to you.

At this point in most blogs, the author would start listing resources that you can use to make wise choices. I'm not going to do that - I'm driving towards something a bit beyond recommending intelligent websites here. Y'see, most advice posts/blogs/sites tend to concentrate on the tactical opportunities and costs involved in selecting a force, and take a few important aspects of the choice as read. What I want to do today is to look at the questions that I think gamers should ask themselves before they even start thinking about collections, lists and tactics.

The first question to ask yourself when selecting a new force is the hardest one to answer: why do I want this?

Image taken from

Allow me to illustrate with an example. I play Cryx in Warmachine. I like them, but the game designers made Choices when they created the faction, Choices with results including "it's not very tough" and "it needs to do tricksy things to be good". The net effect here is that whatever I do with this collection of figures, it will always operate within these limitations, which means I occasionally want a change. The fundamental nature of the faction, while certainly to my liking, occasionally frustrates other people: Cryx are tricksy and popular, and that tends to create a little tension when five or six Cryx players turn up to an event and proceed to debuff, deny and generally annoy their way through the proceedings.

I bought into Skorne as a second faction because the Skorne are very tough and tend to be more direct in their approach, hitting the enemy very hard and basically 'playing fair' in a way the Cryx simply don't. They are also very uniform, whereas my Cryx are more anarchic and colourful, and so I thought they'd provide aesthetic variety. Finally, they're a Hordes faction, and so they provide an alternative means of exploring the game's rules, which I wouldn't get if I picked up a second Warmachine faction.

Once you know why you want your new toys, you have another question to answer: why won't I want this in six months' time?

Image taken from
This is where self-knowledge comes in handy. If you know how you like to do something, you can try a spot of clairvoyance and ask yourself whether you'll be able to approach this project in a manner of your choosing.

For instance, I don't like painting the same models for any sort of extended period of time. Half a dozen of the same colour scheme and I'm bored - less, if it's at all intricate or complex.

My Cryx are fully painted primarily because I don't give a damn about making a 'uniform' army where everything looks the same, and have opted instead to paint each unit type in a different scheme, relying on bases to tie the whole lot together.

Skorne are very uniform - lacquered armour, metal trims and big shiny weapons. This is proving to be something of a deterrent; the Arcuarii have been used a lot, but I've been shying away from painting them because there's eight models there and they're not substantially different from the last models I painted, to whit the Skorne battle box. What else is on the hobby table at the moment? Warriors of Chaos - so that's more armour with trim details and big shiny weapons.

See where I've gone wrong here? I know I have a problem with painting the same thing for too long, and I've set myself up with nothing to paint but similar models across two projects. Regardless of how valid my reasons for choosing the two armies may have been, I've erected a barrier between myself and having fun.  Small wonder I've been making terrain and (re)painting Cryx instead.


arabianknight said...

As someone who's painting has stalled over the last month or so with 3 part done Cryx 'jacks on the table and a more units in wait I can't agree more. I strayed away from having a small number to get painted each time and now I'm floundering. Thankfully I've drawn up a quick non-Warmachine force and have a new RPG character to relieve me to the tedium. As Ive said before, I don't know how you large army guys manage it!

Von said...

The truth is, I don't. The Cryx are only done because I've been working on them over something like five years and steadfastly refuse to repaint anything. When it's done, it's done; it's nice to have your painting development visibly trackable across an army (and not so nice to have the strange blips in quality, such as my second Brute Thrall being an ugly son of a bitch compared to the first...)