Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The 40K Conondrum

     Sometimes I think the video gamers  – a genre to which I do not like the label gamer applied, as I consider gaming to be: roleplaying, roleplaying, roleplaying, miniature combat games, board games, and a few select CCGs – have it right.  Most of their products can be played alone, and online play reduces the need to actually meet other people who want to play the game that interests them.  They can discuss their game in forums without ever having to hear another person's voice.
     These people need not find others who share their interest to justify the expense.
     And this is where I think GW comes in.  People play GW games..  Lots pf people, at least among the non-historical miniature war gamers.  It isn't because they have the best story.  It isn't because they have the best rules (they don't, in any of their games).  It isn't because they have the best looking minis on the market – though many do look good.  It is because other people play GW games.  With other people playing, it means that a prospective miniature war gamer knows there is a rather good chance of finding playmates.
     So what if GW products are overpriced?   The value of a game comes from the enjoyment of actually playing it – well, this is some of the enjoyment – and it doesn't matter if one can play War Machine or BattleTech more cheaply if there is no one with whom to play.  Besides, GW always offers up box sets to lure new players in whenever there is a new edition released.
     But a big part of putting together a miniature army is, well, putting it together.  There are pieces to be glued, and for the ambitious, vehicles to be constructed.  Then there is the painting.  For the supremely gifted, you may end up with something like these.
(GW) Warhammer 40K Baneblade Heavy Tank

(GW) Warhammer 40K Shadowsword Heavy Tank
See?  These look awesome.  I'd love to roll a handful of these around at my opponents in a game (and I don't even know if they are legal in the current rules set).  But these things cost about $80 each.  And most games aren't slotted for lots of heavy armor fights.  Still, if I wanted to field six Shadowswords, I'm looking at close to $500 spent before I get to putting them together and painting them.  The above pictures are professional jobs, and that would a lot more.
     So what do I do for a cheap 40K fix?  Well, for starters I don't play Warhmmer 40K.  I use the units from the game that others have converted for an old PC game called Civilization III.  Civ III remains a favorite of mine, and not just because it has provided over 5,000 hours of fun game play.  There have been a myriad – and there remain a few – of designers who create custom units for players to add to their games as they see fit.  Or the player could wait for scenarios to get finished, but the never happens.  And there, in an example of what has been available for free since 2004, I can get these.
CIV III Baneblade created by Muffins
CIV III Shadowsword created by Muffins
They move – at least in the game – and actually look like they can fight.  Sure, I have to assign sound files to them (and give them combat and production values in the game), but they look good.  Want to move ahead a couple of years?  These were available from 2007.
CIV III Vulture Gunship (created by aaglo) still shot
CIV III Vulture Gunship (created by aaglo) as it looks in-game.
CIV III Valkyrie Dropship (created by aaglo) still shot
CIV III Valkyrie Dropship (created by aaglo) as it looks in-game.
Cool, right?  You don't get to see a lot of air power in your typical 40K game.  But I could go and spend around $60 and get one Valkyrie model.  It comes in a box that looks exactly like this.
So, I can get unlimited dropships – I use them as helicopters – for free (with the catch being that all will be the same color per Civilization or Army that gets them) or I can buy them  and paint them and try to find a way to get them into a game that I know people actually play, but rarely with units such as this.
      But foot units are not neglected.  Heck, I can get nearly everything a Space Marine could want (and most of the units are wholly color specific to their assigned Civilization).  All the armor, too.  I can get super specific units like the Witch Hunters of Adeptus Soroitas Heavy Bolter Retributor.
Here she is, created by LizardmenRule! in 2010.
I can get the Sister Repentia (which I use for an entirely different unit concept).
Sister Repentia, also created by LizardmenRule! in 2010.
     I can get all kinds of Orks, too.  Not much in the way of Eldar save three hovertanks.  The BFG ships have been converted to look like naval going vessels, which I think is a plus.
The attack and death sequences of Muffins BFG Imperial Battleship, from 2005.
     So what to do?  It is more sociable to actually play with others.  But is also much more expensive.  And the rules keep changing.  I know that part of the GW experience is supposed to be this desire to treat the armies as though they figures had an intrinsic value in and of themselves.  I don't feel that way.  I like, very much so in fact, that others have gone through the pains to let me get any kind of 40K (and many Fantasy) units I want and be able to put them on the field and make them fight.
     It just isn't actual 40K.  Which is the conundrum.

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