Friday 12 July 2013

Nostalgia and controversy

This is a controversial post that has been brewing in my mind for quite some time now. It is based on a statement which I am aware will probably result in a not inconsiderable amount of controversy...

- A lot of the older Games Workshop games aren't actually that good

Imperial Beastmen died for the Emperor!
Its a crime that they are edited out of history!

Let me start by saying that I do follow Oldhammer blogs, and even more INQ 28 blogs. I know people who are starting up Rogue Trader campaigns. I am a huge fan of all of these things.

But that doesn't mean the thing we're a fan of is any good, nor would it be anything special in today's market.

To put this in context, I only ever played one game of Rogue Trader. I was ten, and visiting a kid I'd met at some after school French class my parents had encouraged me to take. He was not much older, and made no real effort to help me play, simply walking me through the massacre of those of his forces he'd lent me, twice.

Still, my enthusiasm wasn't swayed, but the Fantasy section appealed far more to me. So, when I went to secondary school and discovered kids there who played, it was Fantasy I got into first. By the time I decided to try 40K, Rogue Trader was gone and it was all plastic starter sets...

As a result, I don't have the awesome nostalgic feeling for Rogue Trader. I never owned it so didn't spend hours pouring over its every page. I did that with Warhammer Armies and Mighty Empires.

So I'm aware that my undying love for that early Warhammer Fantasy is not matched by a love of Rogue Trader. Looking over both sets of battered old rules now, I have reached the conclusion that my love of the old Fantasy game is not subjective - it's based on nostalgia.

Don't get me wrong. I love me an old and clunky rules system - I tried out INQ28 earlier this year, as some of you may remember. But I play INQ28 for the storytelling aspect, not the slick and well put together rules system.

And then I got to thinking - why am I using the Inquisitor rules? The extra rules are nice, but we could play the same thing out using Inquisimunda rules faster and with a lot less pain. Then it hit me - the rules set is not what people are signing up for - rather, they are signing up for the play experience. In some way, Inquisitor has been protected by its terrible rules - the only people playing it are those who focus primarily on story because anyone looking for a competitive game have fled screaming. Inquisitor focuses on the story and detail at the expense of slick and easy to follow rules. I suspect many Oldhammer players are similar.

That's not to say you can't have fun with these other systems, but unless you care about detail focussed systems, they are probably not for you. I do still intend to one day run an Oldhammer era Mighty Empires campaign, with all its glorious, glorious book-keeping. But that is a thing for the future.

Orlygg recently posted some thoughts on how to get started with Oldhammer. This is a really good source for anyone interested in such things - and don't get me wrong, I really want to get into such things. But it's likely I'll do so with mostly newer models, because that's already what I'm focussing on for other projects. Collecting older figures is something I can understand, but it isn't the core of my hobby - its mostly, for me, about the painting and the gaming. Oh, and the blogging.

So yes, I will probably be interested in setting up a few little scenarios, without points values, with the figures people have available, some point in the future. The question is - do I really need to use the old rules for it? I will certainly try out the old rules, out of interest, but I could just as easily use 6th Edition 40K, or 8th Edition WHFB to do so.

What the Inquisitor and Oldhammer players are keen to say is that you don't need to be lining up your figures and playing a sets points value, mission from the book battle - you can add a lot more character and narrative than that. But perhaps we can take that aspect and apply it to the games we're currently playing without learning a new rules set? That's certainly something to ponder.


  1. I consider myself quite a true Oldhammer, but what I always keep in mind is "in battle there is no law". Be it with old or new minis, rules or paintjobs, the only thing that should be kept in mind is the fun we can have with the person on the other side of the table or with the mini and the brush in our hands.
    I do collect older miniatures, some of them because they haven't been matched to my taste, some ugly to my taste for the sole reason they bring back such good memories. And if I find a new miniature I enjoy, then I don't see no reason to get away from it just because it's plastic or made by GW after 1990.
    And yes some old rules were bad, some old minis ugly and some old paintjobs ridiculous.
    As an oldhammerer, I mainly look for everything that was behind the rules and very present in the old rules and that I don't find as present in present rules, though I do like these newer rules. As an oldhammerer I'm looking for character in the minis I buy and if I find it in new stuff then so be it.
    As an oldhammerer I prefer to turn in the Realm of Chaos books rather than some more recent codexes or army books because fluffwise everything in the newer books is already written somewhere in these old tomes (and some Chaos codexes and army books have been very disapointing in recent editions).
    With all of this said, let's just have good time the way we want with whatever rules or minis, let's just be driven by our imaginatino and the will to share good time ! ^^

    1. I'm aware it's all a matter of taste and opinion. And ai wish I had the old Realm of Chaos books to turn to...

  2. I think a lot of how the Oldhammer community feels about modern versions of 40K and WHFB is not actually directed against the rules as written -- as you say, Rogue Trader is liked not for its game design but for its creativity. It's a reaction against tournaments and army lists and all the stuff that makes a game less a form of visual story and more a competitive exercise.

    Also a love for the grimy aesthetics of the 80s rather than the polished look of the current figures.

    1. The 80s aesthetics are something I can understand people liking to go back to. With regards to the tournaments and army list side of things, Games Workshop themselves are trying to strongly push against it!

  3. I played 40k in the 2nd edition and Space Marine (what became Epic). I don't really remmeber the rules so much any more, but remember having fun. I guess that is the main thing. I do recall thinking that the Inquisitor rules seemed very complicated. I am much more attracted to a narrative game using the Kill Team rules.
    I do like a lot of the old Rogue Trader models and have been collecting some of them. Not to use in a game, but just to paint and admire.

    1. Kill Team and Necromunda are two things I'm seriously looking at for the purposes of smaller skirmish games in the 40K world.

  4. Rogue Trader was where I started, after a long run of RPG's. It was a great stepping stone from RPG to table top -a fair degree of complexity, small model count and innovation by the bucket load both in terms of structure and background. That's my memory anyway. Then GW decided they were on to a good thing by using rules to sell models and the rules became less complex to allow for more models on the table. IMHO they never really got it right - Rogue trader became horribly complex, later editions weren't detailed enough. Currently I find the rules too random for anything other than fun pick-up games and this only because of the fluff. I think I agree that we look back on previous editions with rose-tinted spectacles. RT served it's purpose but was it really that good a rules system?? I suspect not and that it hasn't stood the test of time, unless you want a strictly narrative game. Just my 0.02c.

  5. Great post, mate!

    My most salient memory of teenage 2nd Edition 40K was that it was really really stupifly easy to min/max or powergame - whatever you want to call it.

    In exactly the kind of playing style I loathe and despise now, my teenage Space Wolf (of course!) army inluded (if I remember correctly) squat thuddguns, mole mortars and advisors; an inquisitor on a horse (who could legitimately be given terminator armour too; a Leman Russ; some swooping hawks and Eldar rangers; two assassins and two long fang squads each with three assault cannon and a cyclone missile launcher (1x 12" diameter blast!).

    It also took bloody hours and hours to play!

    Still, it was a great deal of fun, and Epic/Space Marine was great too. Or seemed it.

    When I go home I do still enjoy re-reading 2nd edition batreps...with minis breaking into abandoned enemy tanks to fire the guns mounted in them and suchlike...!

    1. I miss some of the flexibility of those days, but I was far more interested in the flexibility for 'cool' (read: painfully well intentioned but terrible) background.

      I'm pondering how to try and harness some of the slightly more carefree attitudes of those days with some slicker and reasonably non-painful rules. Amid all my other half finished projects...