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by Robert “Tankbusta” Gutkowski
I have not been able to paint a mini or roll a die for over a year now. Rather than succumb to despair, I used this time to examine what 40K meant to me. The first step I took to deal with my withdrawal pains was examining the many aspects of the hobby. To determine what I really liked about the hobby, I asked myself two questions. The first question was “So why do I want to play 40K, anyway?”
I found the answer had four components: story, competition, modeling, and socializing.
Story. One of the first things that drew me into 40K was the rich, vast 40K universe. Mankind desperately struggles for survival against enemies without and within in a universe of almost infinite possibility, with enough flexibility to allow for new, strange, and even implausible things to occur. The non-human races are also well-developed enough to draw me to playing one race (Orks) as well. I came for the story but I stayed for the game. I prefer to play campaigns based on 40K history, such as the Salamanders purging the taint of Fabius Bile from Arden IX or Armageddon scenarios to get that “You Are There!” involvement alongside the 40K storyline. One-off games are fine, too, but I like to tie them to my army’s history. I am building a new Warboss to reflect a particularly heroic action in a previous battle.
Competition. If you are like me, you enjoy pitting your martial skills against your opponent’s, stomping his army to dust, all the while taunting him and belittling him for his poor tactical prowess and denigrating his painting skills. I don’t mind making a kid cry if that is what it takes to win: war is hell! I play Orks primarily, so every game is a challenge, and any win I pull off is sweet. More importantly, I like seeing how the composition of my army, how I used it, and which cunnin’ plans or boneheaded mistakes at key points in the battle brought about ultimate loss or victory. I have even been known to learn from my mistakes.
Modeling. I like showing off my painting and modeling skills, as do many of you. 40K gaming gives you a built-in showcase for all your hard work, and why shouldn’t you have one? After all, it was you who sacrificed your social life, personal hygiene, and quite possibly your sanity to make all 400 of your Tyranids come to life, each one’s shell a slightly different shade of red, and Synapse creatures that were painted in phosphorescent paint so they’d appear to glow with psychic energy.
Not only that, 40K presents your mad painting skills to a group of like-minded individuals who will applaud the fact that each of your Sisters of Battle has a different fishnet pattern on her stockings without thinking you the least bit odd or perverse. You want the recognition you’ve earned for painting different tribal tattoos on each of your Catachans, appreciation for the onset of myopia that comes from painting each strand of hair on an Exarch’s head with a fine brush to give it a layered look. You might have arthritis from sculpting spent bolter shells out of greenstuff, but it’s all worth it when someone notices them in the middle of a battle.
Others might think you strange, but when you bust out some beautifully painted minis on the table, you know you’re among friends. So what if you have a sallow complexion and dried paint under your nails? Dude, that Bloodthirster is way too cool!
Socializing. Most important to me is the social aspect of wargaming. A great group of gamers can make spending a sunny day indoors seem worthwhile. I drove across the vast wastes of Texas to the sweltering climes of Houston to play 40K for a weekend, and the guys I played with were some of the finest players and painters in the game. Even though I got trounced in most of the games I played, and in my defense I must say I was sleepy from the long drive and not at my best gaming form, I thoroughly enjoyed being in their company.
Good 40K gamers like only one thing more than playing 40K, and that is sitting around throwing the bull; add in a few beers, and you have a social pastime as respectable as bowling or playing poker. More social than horse racing and only slightly more expensive, playing 40K is a great way to pass the time. By the same token, memories of time wasted arguing over rules or otherwise wasting time that should have been filled with dice rolling tempers my reverie. Fortunately, I have far more good gaming memories than bad.
So, having decided that I did in fact enjoy playing, and wanted to continue, I asked the next question: “So I have a few hundred minis and more money than sense; what do I want to do with this hobby?”
The answer was again multifaceted: finish painting, learn the new rules, build my own Space Marine chapter, and keep only the minis I want to have.
First and foremost, I want to finish painting what I have: Orks. Taking a page from Patrick Eibel’s book, I will see what I have and where they fit best. I will be adding some Forgeworld bits to each army as necessary, but I hope to use what I have before I jump back into the money pit of 40K. Since I haven’t been influenced by new minis or playing, I also have a clearer focus on how I want each army to look. The ultimate test of this resolution will be when I return to the real world and readily-available minis, but I hope I can be strong.
Second, I am fortunate to be returning to the game as it is undergoing a new set of rules; I will be learning the ins and outs of these changes along with many others. Not only that, I will be catching up on a lot of codices that have been released in my absence. This will be like sending a starving man to an all-you can-eat buffet. A wise man once said, “Know your enemy,” and I have a lot of catching up to do.
Third, I will start slowly and build my next army from the ground up. Instead of buying it all at once, I want to get a solid core and work from there. This allows me the luxury of choosing my minis and adding to their glorious history as I go from skirmishes to full-scale battles. I think this will really personalize my army. I also have a lot of background for my chapter, and I can write it up as I purchase, convert, and paint the minis. I think each will influence and inspire the completion of the other.
Fourth, being away from my minis will allow me to be a bit more objective in selecting which ones to keep and which to discard. When you haven’t seen your toys for over a year, it is easier to get rid of the ones you no longer play with. Fortunately, I am a fair painter and horse trader; I should be able to sell off or barter a lot of my minis and make my hobby pay for itself, which will definitely please my spouse, and allow my kids to eat.
In short, one should not look at
forced separation from 40K as being the equivalent of exile in the desert.
In many ways, I am glad that I was not able to play or paint for a long
time. That time away allowed me to step back and renew my love for the
hobby. While I’d no more espouse the idea of walking away from 40K any
more than I’d promote self-trepanning, if you do find yourself in this
position, stay calm and make the best of it. You can even click your heels
together and say, “There’s no place like home” if you like. It won’t do
you any good, but it will give those around you something to laugh at.
See you on the battlefield!
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© copyright Robert Gutkowski, September 2004. Used with permission.
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