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The Tiger Roars 

Avoiding 40K Burnout
I’ve been playing 40K since it was first published in 1987. All too often, I’ve seen people start a 40K army, play for a few years, then drop it. They say they can’t afford the figures, or that they don’t like the rules, that “the game is changing,” that “other players are too competitive,” etc., etc. I think a lot of them just get burned out. 

So, the question becomes, how do you avoid burning out?

Realize that 40K is just a game. It amazes me when I think how many arguments, in real life and online, I have witnessed or been involved with, concerning 40K. Remember the scene in Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams repeats, “It's not your fault,” to Matt Damon, until the young man has a breakthrough? Maybe we all need to say, “40K is just a game” until it actually sinks in. It’s just a game. It’s nothing more than a pastime. It’s nothing worth investing any emotional currency on. It’s not worth losing friends or making enemies over. It doesn’t matter if you win every game or lose every one, just so long as you enjoy every aspect of 40K: assembling figures, painting models, and playing. 

Make playing a special event. I only get to play a few times each year; so far this year, I’ve played only six real games (all of them against my friend Pat), plus three demo games with my daughter. Why so seldom? Because I have a lot of other things going on: a full–time job, a wife and kids, a house that needs a lot of repair work lately, and other hobbies (creative writing, maintaining my other website). 

So, when I get the opportunity to play, it’s a big deal, and I treat it as such. It’s a chance to get together with my friend, have some beers, and hang out doing something I love. 

If playing has become a chore for you, maybe you need to cut back and find other, more mundane stuff to do so that when you play again, you appreciate the time. I have a bathroom that needs painting, if anyone’s interested….

Above: As of this writing, the last game I played--Dark Eldar vs. Sisters of Battle--was in November 2007

Take a break. Go ahead and stop playing—temporarily. Put your 40K stuff away for a week, a month, two months—however long it takes until you get back the gaming urge. Go do something else, anything else, for a hobby. Try something you’ve never done before. Give yourself time to appreciate 40K again. 

Line up the troops. Sometimes I like to take out all the figures and vehicles I’ve completed and spread them out on a table. Then I stand back, take a good, long look, and marvel at what I’ve created. It’s very inspiring. 

Don’t, however, look at the heap of stuff you haven’t yet finished. That will only discourage you. Count your successes, not your failures. 

Above: My Fighting Tigers of Veda army as of 2004. Since then, it's actually gotten much larger, if you can believe it

Get inspired. Read a favorite sci-fi book or check out a favorite movie to get you back in the 40K mood (or visit your favorite 40K related website). I cannot watch the Hoth battle sequence from Empire Strikes Back without wanting to drop everything and play or paint right that second. Similarly, watching Aliens (one of my favorite movies) juices me to put my Marines in the car and head to the local gaming store ASAP to kick some putrid xeno butt.

Don’t make winning your top priority. As I alluded to, having a good time with my best friend is my top priority when I play. Oh, don’t get me wrong: I enjoy competing against him, and I firmly believe there is nothing inherently wrong with playing to win. But winning should not be your main reason for playing: in the long run, it’s just not healthy for you. 

For too many players (myself included, at one point), winning becomes an ego thing: you feel like you’re on top of the world when you win, and when you lose, you feel like dog crap. After awhile, you start to worry about losing, because losing makes you feel bad about yourself. Trying desperately to win—or rather, trying not to lose—just so you won’t feel bad about yourself afterwards is a crummy way to spend an afternoon. 

Instead of focusing on winning, focus on having fun, on getting to socialize, on painting the best you possibly can—something, anything else. Make winning your #2 priority, if you must, but don’t make it #1. Don’t put all your emotional eggs into that basket. 

Be “good enough.”  I’ve seen plenty of players (including myself) beat themselves up because they aren’t “the best” player or “the best” painter. Someone else wins the tournament, someone else gets the Golden Demon, someone else has “the best” army list, etc., etc., etc. 

Let’s be real: even if there were some objective way to measure who is “the best” at whatever category you can come up with—and there isn’t an objective way to measure painting—“the best” probably wouldn’t be you. Or me. Or anyone you know. Odds are, there is somebody out there who is “better” than you at whatever category. You can kill yourself trying to be that person, or you can be “good enough.”

That’s right: “good enough.” If you win more games than you lose, you’re “good enough.” If the paint job on your minis looks okay at arm’s length, that’s “good enough.” If your army list has more killer units (your Space Marine Commander with jump pack, lightning claws, and Iron Halo) than ineffective duds (your three Space Marine Bikers with nothing but mounted bolters) that’s “good enough.” Stop torquing yourself out trying to be perfect. 

Are these minis Golden Demon winners? No. Are they "good enough?" I think so. And that's all that matters

Take fewer trips to forums. There are hundreds of 40K forums out there, but few of them are good. A lot of them are infested with snarky jackholes who don’t like new players, don’t like your painting, don’t like your army list, and don’t like you. And, emboldened by the anonymity of the Internet, these folks will tell you so, using language that they would never use if they were sitting across a table from you rather than hiding behind a monitor. 

If you get past “the hostiles,” you will find that many forum posters like to moan and groan, piss and complain, and bitch, bitch, BITCH about almost anything. New models coming out? The complainers don’t like them, or they cost too much. New rules being released? The game is becoming broken, or GW is catering to 8-year olds, or GW is trying to soak us gamers for more money. And so on, and so on, and so on. Many of the complainers like to whine about “the good old days” of 40K, when the game was infinitely better than it is now. Folks, I was there: in comparison to what we have now, previous editions of the game sucked. Trust me.

Whole sections of forums are dedicated to the rules lawyers who split hairs, parse language, and write huge paragraphs arguing ad infinitum and ad nauseum about fiddly details in the rules. Guess what? “40K is just a game!” There are few things I can think of that are more tedious than rules arguments online. 

If you hang around negative people, you run the risk of developing negative attitudes. But even if you find a great forum with great people, you still run the risk of information overload. If you talk about or read about something too much, you get sick of it. So cut back on your visits. This is not to say that 40K forums are not good or cannot be useful. I visit a few—the Millenium Gate, the Bolter & Chainsword, the Warmonger Board—every day. But spending too much time on a forum is like watching too much TV. If you’re getting burned out, turn off the PC and step away for a while.

Ease up on “efficiency.” Too many gamers I know like to craft a monolithic, flawless, ruthlessly efficient army list that they use against all opponents. They play the same army over and over, and then they’re surprised when they become bored. Alternatively, they’ll develop this killing machine army and then something—usually a rule change—happens, and they can’t use that army as well as they used to. Or—usually because they were exploiting some rule loophole—they can’t use the army at all. 

Either way, their appetite for 40K has gone down the crapper. I have never believed that the point of 40K was to discover the most optimal way to configure an army so as to pummel every opponent. No, the point of 40K is to have fun. While efficiency is certainly a worthy goal, fun must be most important: otherwise, why bother playing? 

I’ll buy and field models just because I like them: one of my favorite units is my Assault Terminators: five dudes with lightning claws. It’s expensive, it can’t do doodley squat against armored vehicles, and it’s small, but I like it, mostly because all those claws fit in with the “tiger” theme of my army. As another example, I have two “Lictors” in my Kurindans army (Lizardmen using Tyranid rules): these guys usually don’t do more in a game than suck down bullets, but I take them anyway because they’re cool and I like the models.

A Kurindan Lurker (a Lictor) with a Newt. The best he's ever done is blow up an Exorcist

If you’re bored with the game, look to your army list. Are you doing the same old, same old in the name of “efficiency?” Why not try something that isn’t as effective, but is much more fun?

Try something new. Some players do not like to mess with success. They are not about to re-design their army lists; they are not going to go up against certain, “cheesy” armies; and they are not going to move out of their comfort zone by trying some of the stranger, more challenging mission scenarios in the back of the rulebook. Yet they are bored and burned out. If you’re hell-bent on playing nothing but Standard Missions (at Alpha level) with the same list you’ve been using for the past three years, knock yourself out, but don’t whine to me about how you don’t enjoy the game anymore. 

Build a new army. Sometimes, the solution to your ennui is obvious: start a new army. You don’t have to take out a home equity line on your house to buy some gargantuan, Apocalypse-level collection: you can limit your army to between 1000 to 2000 points. 

If you’re going to build a new army, I suggest it be very different from the one you already have. If you play shooty Space Marines, maybe you should go for a choppy Nid horde. If you play mechanized Eldar, go for all-infantry Guard. At the very least, playing a different army makes you appreciate the one you started with. I wasn’t impressed with Space Marines, power armor, and bolt guns until I started playing Dark Eldar, with their wimpy Toughness 3, their Kleenex-thin armor, and their squirtgun-like splinter rifles. 

Bored with Marines? Go ahead and start a Dark Eldar army. I dare you.

Don’t build too many armies. Some folks I know go berserk and buy too many armies. Then they either have a huge collection of unpainted miniatures, or (assuming they have the diligence to buy, build, and paint one army at a time), they have too many armies to play. Either way, they despair of ever using all this stuff, and find it easier to just quit the game. Don’t let this happen to you.

How many armies are “too many?” That’s up to you, really. I currently have five (Space Marines, Dark Eldar, Necrons, Tyranids, and Chaos Space Marines) and am considering adding another. Though that’s a lot, it doesn’t overwhelm me: almost all of the figures I own are painted (though the Space Marines need some touching up), and as I don’t anticipate quitting 40K any time soon, I’m not too stressed about not being able to play each army more than once or twice a year.

I'm not quite sure what my next 40K army will be, but it will include these cool Stone Trolls
Photo copyright 2007 by Games Workshop

Buy only what you can afford; want only what you can buy. Because the roof on my house was leaking water during heavy rainstorms, I recently had to re-shingle it, which cost several thousand dollars in materials. I’m a little stressed about how I’m going to pay for that, but I had to do it. 

Going into debt and assuming the attendant stress is one thing when you’re talking about something as important as a roof. Going into debt and assuming the attendant stress is quite another thing when you’re talking about toy soldiers. 

Expect change. The game changes all the time. Every few years, a new version of the rules comes out. Every so often, a new codex for your army is published. Every so often, new models are released, and old ones are no longer for sale (except through special order).

Change can be a real pain in the ass. If you built your army around a certain tactic (“Rhino rush”) and the rules change so that your tactic is no longer as good as it used to be, it can be a real pain in the ass. If you collected what I call a “fringe” army (something found only in a White Dwarf list from a few years ago), it can be a real pain in the ass to learn that your army’s no longer accepted at tournaments (or not even supported by Games Workshop anymore). 

But change is just a fact. You can beat your head against the wall until you’re frustrated and burned out, or you can accept it, deal with it, and keep going. When 2nd Edition came out, I dug in my heels and whined and complained about how much better Rogue Trader was and how I was never going to play the new version of the game. But I soon realized that if I wanted to keep playing, I needed to change to the new rules. So I did. And ultimately, I was much happier. When 3rd Edition replaced 2nd, I was all for it.

Yes, change can be painful. But it can also be good. Find the good, and keep playing.

…remember this: “40K is just a game.”

Posted January 2008 


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle