Friday, January 18, 2013

The Psychosis of Warhammer (Part 3)

(or "I Shall Win at All Costs!)

"One way or another when you get into this hobby, you're going to make an investment. Its gonna cost something. So its either going to cost you time or its going to cost you money.... There are tons of games that require less of a model count, where twenty guys that's an army. And they're fantastic, but I gotta tell ya, I can't let go of Warhammer Fantasy. There is a pageantry to it. There is...ah! there is just something about all of these great figures on the board and they just look so striking when their done!"
--Sean, from Blue Table Painting, at approx 12:50 in the video above.

Yes, watched that video just last night, seeking answers as to why my Empire Army keeps losing. Apparently, I just don't have enough of the right kind of miniatures. I need a horde of halberdiers. Yeah! That's it! With all the pageantry that comes with it!

One definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over again and expecting a different result.

Perhaps I wouldn't be so annoyed with Warhammer had I won more games. Yet I repeated a cycle over and over again: play Warhammer and lose, buy and paint more miniatures, reorganize army, play Warhammer and lose, buy and paint more miniatures, reorganize army... and so on.

And a long the way, I encountered some peeves that Games Workshop did with its marketing and distribution that really annoyed me. I must not be the only one given that Blue Table Painting's business is to assemble and paint Warhammer Armies for its customers. Putting up with Games Workshop is a love/hate relationship. I love the miniatures, but hate their business practices.

For example, take a look at this picture. It's the picture on the back of the current Empire battalion boxed set. Previous editions had something similar. Do you see what's a bit misleading?

At first glance it looks like you're getting 3 whole regiments and a great cannon. In a way you are. It is marketed this way and I quote straight from GW website: "It is the perfect way for a newly enlisted general to start an army." It costs $105. I know, on a previous post, I said "Their only in it for the money" is no excuse, but let's put things in perspective here. Have you spotted what's misleading (aside from the fact that you need lots more miniatures for a standard 2000 point army?) I guess its a bit unfair if you haven't played before. Look at the knights, four figures to a rank. The rules require five figures. If you don't have five ranks, your unit suffers significant penalties.

That's one of my nit picky little peeves. Yes, I know the box says eight knights. My problem is that you have to buy another set of eight knights to get a regiment of ten. Sure you could field fifteen, but then you have a figure left over, and that's expensive in the game points-wise. Worse, cavalry in 8th edition aren't as effective as they were in previous edition because everything is going to 30+ figure hordes. Which leads to another one of my peeves...

The miniatures have become a pain in the ass to assemble. This whole demand for customization has led to multi-part figures for even rank-and-file troops. Like these Empire State Troops: 

You can make spearmen, halberdiers, or swordsmen and a command group. Fine. Now look at the spears and the halberds. Oh yeah, you have to glue the tops of each to their respective poles. It is a pain. If you want to make swordsmen, you have to glue the tiny shield arm to the figure's shoulder before gluing the shield to the arm.

On top this, you absolutely have to make sure you assemble them properly on their little 20mm bases or otherwise they WILL NOT fit together as a regiment. I have a regiment of halberdiers, half painted, that won't fit together because two halberdiers have their weapons at an odd angle. Each box of 10 state troops cost $24.75. To get a remotely effective unit, a horde, in the 8th edition rules. You need at least 30 troops, that's $74.25 + tax.

The current line of handgunners/crossbowmen are worse. The right arm holding the gun is separate from the left arm. Both arms are separate from the body. You have to line them up to glue them together properly.  Oh, but wait, sometimes the head won't fit on properly because there isn't enough space.

How did I assemble and painted the handgunners on the right without tossing away the whole lot? I

don't know. Maybe that's where the psychosis comes into play. It tells me I'm going to win the next battle now that I have 10 more handgunners that cause strength 4 armor piercing hits and they also have sniper that can pluck off enemy heroes who can't benefit from the "Look Out Sir" rule.
Yeah! That's it! And look at the pageantry!

There's a lot more to the Warhammer Hobby that annoys me, such as how the paints dry up fast in those little flimsy plastic bottles. Or the annual price hikes. Or Citadel Failcast which lacks quality control and warps in the sun. Or that Games Workshop doesn't announce a release schedule (surprise! you're army is now outdated!)

You don't experience this kind of crap with other games and companies that produce miniatures. It does take time to assemble, paint, and base up an army. Yet I find that time enjoyable. I like putting the details on my Hundred Years' War figures and the miniatures I paint for D&D.

I've played even Warhammer Fantasy Role Play and Dark Heresy. Those RPGs were fun. But the Warhammer hobby is a chore. Even the so-called game can be a chore to play: Roll to hit. Roll to Wound. Roll to Save. Did you know that the average troop type in that game only has a 25% to hit a damage any thing? And that's before armor saves and special abilities that mess with the dice. Missile using troops are almost useless--aw you moved that's a -1, aw its at long range that another -1, you need sixes to hit. But if you move them into close range then they often get charged.

One last gripe:
I've never experienced the "pageantry" that Sean in the video mentions. I've seen it in pictures. Blue Table Painting  puts out some fantastic armies you can see in videos. When I've played, and have watched other people play, usually the each army is half-painted. The models that received a paint job often are painted to a minimum standard. They've always, and this is just in my experience, never looked as great as the stuff put out by the 'Eavy Metal team or those that win miniature contests.

Oh, but maybe I should fork over $2000 to $4000 to Blue Table Painting so I can experience that pageantry without having to put up with all of the nit picky stuff that come with assembling and painting up a Warhammer army. Think on that. People are paying $2000 to $4000 per army to circumvent what the hobby is: assembling and painting miniatures. I don't have to let the money do the talking, just Sean in that video.

Is this somehow "wrong?" That's for you to decide. So what if Blue Table Painting is making money off Warhammer players? For me, its further evidence that players are lured by the game itself and not the hobby. They want to short circuit the process of assembling and painting miniatures and just get to the game. Instant gratification and all that.

I hate to admit all of this things, because then it means my earlier logic and conclusions toward the Warhammer were wrong, so very wrong. And I've invested hundreds of dollars into a game and hobby that I've come to despise. That's a tough cookie to swallow. It hurts the ego. I haven't won at all costs.

For awhile I've known that if I were to quit Warhammer, at least 90% of my Empire Army would have to go. I mean, I really like some of the miniatures I've painted up. But I know that if I just sell them piecemeal or only half, then I'd be tempted to buy more under the delusion that I'd get them all painted and have a chance at winning a game. Yet by then, if history tells anything, Games Workshop would crank out another edition and I'd have to constantly tweek my army.

Warhammer isn't a game. Its a form of psychosis.

My eyes are open.


  1. I have never been more frightened of a hobby in my life. You've done a tremendous service for the community. Thank you for telling your story. Hopefully, others will listen before it's too late.

  2. Great points.

    The "ideal" Warhammer is so much better than the "actual" Warhammer--yet the "ideal" is powerful enough to overshadow the "actual" for many of us.

  3. that's what makes virtual tabletops so good


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