Friday, March 21, 2014

A New Priority for My Miniatures Hobby

So in my last post I mused about ditching WWII skirmish gaming for WWI skirmish gaming. I laid out a wide variety of compelling reasons as to why this was a good idea, from personal interest in the period to the aesthetic appeal of the figures. And I left off the post promising that I'd think about it, but, in reality, thinking that I'd already made up my mind.

Here I am, a couple weeks later, however, and I've decided not to go through with the switch. But I'm glad it came up, that I posted about it, even talked it over with a couple friends. Because that whole process ultimately led me towards a moment of clarity regarding my approach to minis gaming.

See, here's the thing: over the last decade-plus, I've moved around a few times, and I've moved out of the orbits of the folks I used to play miniatures games with. We still keep in touch - quite a bit, in fact - but it's been years since we were all in the same town and able to get together for games. So I've gotten in the habit of building two armies simultaneously whenever I get into a new game or genre. I've got Undead and Amazons for fantasy gaming, British and Germans for WWII skirmish, Space Orks and Titan Legions for Epic 40K - I've even got two little factions for Ronin samurai skirmish games.

The thinking here was that, if I met someone who was interested in minis gaming, I'd have a "loaner" army for them to use and see if they liked the experience. The problem with this approach has been three-fold:

  • First off, this scenario rarely happens. In the same time period, I've been able to introduce a rather significant number of people to RPG gaming, but hardly any of them expressed any interest in minis gaming. Most people have heard of D&D; far fewer have heard of Warhammer. Of those who had, they perceived it to have a much, much higher buy-in cost in terms of time and money than RPGs. (And they're right, frankly.) The presence of a "loaner" army was not enough to sway them to even give the games a try.
  • Secondly, it makes building a miniatures collection a lot tougher, buying two factions at once. Inevitably, it slows the process way down and prevents me from picking up some of the cool stuff that I might otherwise have gotten right away. It dilutes the collection, in the end.
  • Thirdly, and most importantly, when I'm collecting only for myself and without any outside feedback, it tends to create a rabbit-hole effect where I find myself collecting increasingly obscure periods or sub-genres. This had happened to me before with WWII, where I eventually ended up building Romanian and Soviet armies based on the fighting around Odessa in 1941. What the hell? I mean, it's a fascinating and little-known part of the war, but how the heck was that supposed to act as an embassy to the hobby? Clearly, I was starting to go down the rabbit-hole again with this WWI skirmish idea.
So I've made a resolution. From now on, I'm only going to collect single factions initially. Furthermore, I'm going to make an effort to target games that are actually being played in my community, and play those games with (gasp!) other people. (It helps that, currently, those "other people" happen to be people I know and like.)

For example, I've decided to stick with WWII because Bolt Action is a really popular set of rules right now. Sure, there are other rules systems out there, but I've taken a look at BA in the past, and it seems perfectly suited for my current goals. (Plus there's a points-based army building element to it, and I like points-based army building and I don't care who knows it!) But I'm going to sell off half my collection (the Germans) and focus on my Brits; I'll probably be selling off most or all of the Brits, too, actually, so that I can get a fresh start on the collection, but I'm still going to model them on Normandy-period forces.

Hmmm, maybe I could split the cost on this with a couple local players and they could take the Americans and Germans, and I'll keep the rulebook and terrain?
I'd already inadvertently started this process last month when I picked up a single faction for Malifaux. One of the above-mentioned "other people" heard me talking about wanting to get into the game during a wargames-focused episode of a podcast I contribute to, and she called my bluff. So now I have a single faction for that game and a potential opponent. My plan's already in motion!

I'll also be using some of the proceeds from my WWII sales to finally get into Warmachine/Hordes. I found a faction I really like, and it's quite popular in my neck of the woods, with active groups in my town and neighboring communities - one of the more popular WarmaHordes video blogs even "broadcasts" from Albuquerque, about an hour south of where I'm living.

I'm also giving serious thought to starting up a bi-monthly wargames club via a local tabletop gaming Meetup group I admin. This would be a great way to grow the hobby in my town and meet some new opponents. My "single-faction" approach kind of forces me to this, which is a good thing. No more sitting on esoteric collections of miniatures that just gather dust and never get played! The only trick will be finding a good space to host the meetings. Hmm, George R. R. Martin lives in my city, and he's a big miniatures wargaming guy - maybe he'll let us use his basement?

(For the record, I will be keeping my double-faction collections for Ronin and Epic 40K; the former takes up hardly any space on my shelves, and the latter is just pure nostalgia for me. Plus, it never hurts to have a couple loaner armies. . .)

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