Thursday, June 27, 2013

On the Importance of Fluff

I'm re-reading the Adeptus Titanicus rulebook and old Epic battle reports from White Dwarf and, in so doing, I'm being reminded of the value of "fluff" (ugh, sorry to use that term) in miniatures gaming. Lining up armies and having a bash is all well and good, but the games take on a much deeper meaning if there's some sort of background to the conflict and the forces involved. An extra dimension is added. It's why I'm not just painting up generic "Normandy" miniatures for my WWII project, but instead choosing a time and place (the fighting around Tilly-sur-Seulles during the first week after D-Day) and modeling units accordingly. Thus, it's not just "British", it's men of the 6th Durham Light Infantry; it's not just "Germans", it's panzergrenadiers of the Panzer Lehr Division. All of this adds an extra level of immersion to the game, even if the battles themselves are not based on any actual engagement.

Something that's long been missing from my fantasy wargaming (first with Fantasy Warriors and now with Armies of Arcana) has been this sense of background immersion. I was going back through old posts and noticed that in my very first FW battle report (which was also the very first post on this blog), I wrote a bit of game fiction in the style of those old White Dwarf battle reports. I'd like to get back to doing that once I start gaming and posting battle reports again in earnest, but without a clear idea of a game world that the battles are taking place in, it's tough to do that.

Part of the problem has been getting a fix on what this fantasy world might look like based on the miniatures in our collection so far. A few weeks ago I posted that, in the wake of Ray Harryhausen's death, I was coming to realize that our Undead and Amazon armies convey a pretty strong vibe of pulp fantasy. That vision has only grown stronger in the time since, growing to the point that I'm now envisioning a sort of Appendix N-style fantasy world of amazons, necromancers, cavemen, and dinosaurs, all with a healthy dose of post-apocalyptic fantasy thrown into the mix. I've got visions of making some terrain pieces of "futuristic"-style ruins, maybe a half-buried spaceship, and of tracking down some vintage fantasy miniatures armed with sci-fi blasters and such.

To illustrate the value of even a bit of fluff: as soon as I'd figured out even a background as vaguely-sketched as this, I immediately came up with an idea for a third fantasy army, a project I've been wanting to put together for some years now. I've toyed with various ideas: crusading knights, "regular" dwarves, "feral" dwarves, "Roman" gorillas, Wargods of Aegyptus, and so forth, but they all felt too much like bog standard fantasy or, at best, a thinly-veiled derivative. With my pulp fantasy idea, though, I instantly thought of a perfect third project: cavemen and prehistoric animals! I haven't decided if I'm gonna go with "early" hominids and dinosaurs (as in the style of the Frazetta painting above) or "later" hominids and Ice Age mammals (certainly, a woolly mammoth or two on the caveman side would form a suitable counterpart to my Undead Mammoth). But whatever the case, it certainly feels right. I love the idea of there being this degenerate race of savage cave dwellers as a counterpoint to the bronze-clad Amazons, and I really like the various caveman miniatures I've looked at so far. I don't know why I never thought of doing a Frazetta-esque fantasy army before, particularly in light of the Amazons and their curvy general, but it's on now!

Or rather it will be once I clear a project or two off my table--hoping to get started on this one maybe by fall or winter. In the meantime, I'm hoping to fill in some of the details of this Appendix N fantasy world that's brewing in my head.


  1. I've never understood how anyone does anything in the broader hobbyspace (dicethings and cardthings) without some backfluffery. I'm painting my 'Nids in the style of Western Tiger Salamanders to evoke the swampy world where they evolved; my Chaos Knights are debauched mutant followers of the best Chaos God; and now that I've got the Reaper Kickstarter explosion sitting in my basement all the stories are going to get told.

    From reading battle reports, it seems like the Horde/Warmachine system is best suited to evoking these sorts of in-game stories, because the sheer scope of player manipulation and objectives in campaigns beg for epic tales.

    1. "I'm painting my 'Nids in the style of Western Tiger Salamanders..."

      That sounds awesome.

      As for Hordes/Warmachine, I had the Iron Kingdoms RPG supplements when they first came out and it's such a rich setting. It might be worth looking into the miniatures game just for the background. Certainly, it seems to be the most popular game out there after 40K.

  2. We are starting our AoA campaing right now and we are creating the fluff to justify the battles. I think in this game, where you have sucj freedom, that's the most important thing to do. If you don't, it's just a power game.


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