Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Inspiration - what gets your hobby juices flowing

Hi all, here's to another random musing, today I'm pondering on the idea of where inspiration for our hobby comes from, in all its forms. By that I mean painted, collected, written and gaming.

Ok this is probably the part of the hobby a lot of people find the most difficult, and not in terms of ability, but of inspiration, most hobbyists would rather be playing than painting in my experience, and often the thought of sitting down to paint another 20 hormagaunts is just too horrifying to contemplate. I'm lucky, as I really enjoy painting, and my skills have come a long way in the last 5 years (my wife's words, not mine!) but that's not to say I don't need inspiration sometimes.

Inspiration comes from many places, and I’m sure this won’t be an exhaustive list, but here are some things that get me going.


Stunning miniatures

I’m a sucker for a great mini, from the old style venerable dreadnought to the latest iteration of Warlord Queek, given a limitless supply of time and money my collection would be substantially bigger than it is, and full of odd single miniatures picked up over the years – I’ve got the original limited edition Emperor’s Champion, the Crimson Fists 25th Anniversary model and the Blood Angels Captain from Games Day 2012 in my collection at home and there are plenty of others I’d love to own. GW releases new models every month, and it’s a rare month when I look at the pages of White Dwarf and can’t find anything I’d like to own in there. Great miniatures demand to be painted though, what’s the use owning them if they’re just sat in a box somewhere unopened and unloved?


My biggest collection in this category however would have to be my Dark Eldar – GW have never released a range of miniatures I love this much (with the exception of the coven stuff, which I’m not so keen on) and though large portions of it still remain to be painted, I have lavished a lot of care and attention to coming up with a scheme that I like – each individual transport has its own markings, as do all the reaver jetbikes and hellions in the army.


Good colour scheme

If you find the scheme you’ve plumped for long winded or fiddly or annoying in any way, you’re highly unlikely to want to paint it onto an entire army of miniatures. Codices are great from this point of view, as they have substantial coloured sections showcasing many different colour scheme options. I find it best to take your time when choosing a colour scheme, because you’ll be painting it for a while. Don’t be afraid to revise the scheme either if you’re not happy with it at first, I have a collection of Necron models that will be getting some attention and having started on the first model, I’m not comfortable with the contrast between the main colours. As such, I’ll be toning it down before I go any further – I’m not likely to bring an army to the table if the paint scheme irritates me!


Your next game

Struggling for motivation? How about that next game you’ve got organised – set yourself a target to have another squad painted before you play again, you’ll soon find yourself willing to put in a few extra hours to get it finished if you really want to use it.


Don’t burn yourself out

Inspiration is fleeting, and there’s often a tendency to really dive into things when you decide to get something painted. Problem with that is, by spending every spare minute painting you can actually make yourself less likely to want to pick up a brush in the near future. Recently I’ve started taking some models to work, and during my lunch break the paints come out and I get half an hour done. It may not sound like much, but that’s 2.5 hours a week, and you can actually achieve quite a bit in that sort of time. Batch painting can further increase your painting efficiency here, since you have to think less about swapping brushes/paints etc. Finally, make sure the place you paint for any length of time is comfortable – if you’ve got to spend 3 hours concentrating on that tiny figure in your hands, you’re far less likely to want to do that if you know you’ll have eye strain or back ache when you’re done.




We’re all plastic crack addicts, let’s face it, and often you don’t need much inspiration to want that next model or new army. But even so, there are times when you’d rather not have to assemble yet another tactical squad to make your army more viable on the tabletop, particularly when you could be building a stormraven instead, or any one of a dozen kits more exciting than basic marines.


So how do you inspire yourself to build a new army? Well, quite frankly I’ve never had to, perhaps even more so than painting I love putting kits together, I do play with models that are unpainted and there’s a lot of my collection I would term ‘unfinished’, but I don’t have any models that aren’t assembled at least to the stage of needing a coat of paint before being completed. That being said, what inspires me to collect those models?


The Miniatures

Well as with the first point of the painting section, my first stop has always been the models themselves – they’re the only reason I collected together a Dark Eldar force, and the new range of Necron miniatures appealed to me enough for me to start a 2000 point force. As with painting, I suspect that only the hardest of hardcore gamers who view a particular codex as the only way to win would use an army for which they don’t have any interest in the models.


The Playstyle

I have a friend whose collections are all, by his own admission, focused on combat. Similarly, and probably more commonly under the current rules, there are guys at club I play regularly who avoid the stabby stabby at all costs, and take an army that is almost completely focused on killing you in the shooting phase. I tend more towards a balance of both these elements, but focusing on one particular style will certainly result in an urge to begin a new collection when an army with that playstyle is released or updated.


Something Different

I don’t mean to provide the counterpoint to my previous paragraph here, it’s more about collecting models you wouldn’t normally use in a game. Most of us have a basic list that we take every time, certain combinations of models that we just don’t like to (or can’t) do without. When I say use something different to inspire you what I mean is collect an element of your existing army you’ve never tried before – it may not look good to you on paper, but it might work brilliantly in the game. I’m currently working on the basis of a fixed 1000 point list, with various 500 point combinations that slot in or out to make a coherent whole that gives variety to my games.




By comparison to the other elements of the hobby, written participation in terms of creating your own histories, backgrounds and stories, is something that only a very small percentage of the hobbyists get involved in. It’s an area I really enjoy though, and actually takes a lot less time than you might think. It can also give depth to games that simply isn’t there otherwise – my Dark Eldar Archon Ylos Dalur already has a grudge against a (sadly unnamed) Chaos Warlord from my club due to him passing an unfeasible number of invulnerable saves in our latest game.



I think writing background for each of your characters adds a lot to the depth of the game, and also influences in-game events. An unnamed space marine captain is unlikely to accept a challenge he’ll probably lose, but if that is Captain Sakai, proud leader of the 2nd Company of the Iron Fists is he really going to push a sergeant in front of him to face a daemon prince in his stead?

Ok so next up in terms of inspiration for writing about the hobby is campaigns. GW used to run large campaigns over the summer and always had narrative elements to them published in white dwarf. I've never taken part in one, however my club are running a campaign in February, and I've been helping to organise it and write the background. Introductory narratives can be found on our club forum here, and more will be added in phase 2 and phase 3 as things progress. I'm really excited about this campaign and writing the intros has definitely contributed to that anticipation.


Finally then, I want to talk about inspiration for games, and in some ways this will link back to my post on variety in 40k.

I get a weekly dose if 40k thanks to my attendance at MAD Wargames every Thursday night (and I'm eternally grateful to my wife for looking after our daughter to let me have that time). Many games are simply arranged with any other member who wants to play 40k the next week, with nothing more to inspire them than this. I therefore want to talk about the other kind of games, those that are arranged weeks in advance, that require preparation first!

This is a scenario available for games of 40k on the iBooks store, and features 4 armies all fighting for a central objective. I've got a game coming up in a couple of weeks and am planning in using it to test out my iron fists again.


Grudge matches

There are three types of opponents in this hobby, ones you beat most of the time, ones you share victories with roughly 50/50, and those you just can’t seem to get past. In my opinion the middle class of opponent is the one where the most fun can be had from the game, you’re each pitting your wits against each other to the max and one little mistake can swing things from winning to losing. I’m fortunate that most of my regular opponents fall into this category, with only Ryan (Guard and Marines) and Toby (Daemons) proving insurmountable obstacles so far. I find myself really looking forward to each of these matches as an opportunity to nudge myself slightly ahead of the curve in terms of wins, and I’d love to play an extended run of games using the same two armies as a kind of campaign.



Which leads me nicely into my last point, what more inspiration could there be than playing a series of games that each influence the next, either in terms of bonuses or forces available. I’ve already mentioned the 40k – It’s War campaign my club is running in February but here’s the place I’d really like to expand on the detail of that.


The campaign features 8 players in 2 teams of 4 and is to be played over three phases of games, the first comprising the initial phases of a planetary assault, using the missions ‘Crusade’, ‘The Scouring’, ‘Capture the Relic’, and ‘Emperor’s Fist’ from the Space Marine altar of war mission pack. Each of these games will provide a bonus to the winner in the final phase. Crusade winner can bring back a squad or vehicle worth 150 points or less that has been destroyed, which may outflank in their own table half. The Scouring winner will be allowed to deploy D3 units as infiltrators even if they would not normally be able to do so, Capture the Relic lets the winner add or subtract 1 to their reserve rolls and Emperor’s Fist gives D3 units the Scout rule


The campaign second phase will consist of the remaining 3 missions from the rulebook and ‘An Unwavering Shield’ from the Space Marine Altar of War. Similarly to the first phase, each mission gives a bonus to the army or team that wins it, Big Guns Never Tire gives D3 orbital bombardments, Purge the Alien grants ‘and they shall know no fear’ to D3 units, The Emperor’s Will gives the ‘stubborn’ rule to any unit holding an objective and An Unwavering Shield grants its winner the right to force 1 enemy unit to deploy in reserve.


Hopefully (from an organiser’s point of view) these bonuses will be pretty evenly spread come the final round of matches, which will be two doubles games of 3000pts per side.


We’ve introduced a further tactical element to the campaign by allowing each team a captain, who will then decide which armies under his control will fight which scenarios, meaning they can save a particular army for a particular mission, or just throw the ‘best’ player or list into the mission whose bonus they want the most.