A guest article by Sean Ireland.
Warhammer 40,000 is a game most wargamers have played at some point in their gaming lives. The fact that armored super soldiers is a staple in most science fiction properties shows how much Games Workshop has influenced generations of fans. While some have flirted with the game, I’m square in the camp of an addict. I have played the game for many years and plan on playing for many more. Warhammer 40,000 is a game I hope I will be playing when I am retired, like some people play golf.
I’ve realized in the last few months that my devotion to all things Games Workshop has rendered my brain a bit….mushy, to be blunt. I picked up Warmachine earlier this year after the wait for sixth edition (and Games Workshop’s untenable decision to not communicate anything to their customers) was becoming frustrating. A few friends and I who played 40k decided to give Privateer Press a shot. I had a tough time picking the game up as the game felt too “different” than 40k to me. Models shot at models, not unit on unit. You could kill your opponents Caster (HQ) and the game was over, regardless of the mission objectives or turn. The flow of the game just didn’t make sense to me. I realized the problem was that I had “Monosystemitus”.
Monosystemitus is when you become so attached to a single system that stepping outside of your comfort zone becomes an almost monumental task. It took me much longer than it should have to understand the basic concepts Warmachine. I discovered that in my compulsion to stick to 40k my ability to branch out into other systems had been ruined. After a while I did get the hang of Warmachine and I’ve been enjoying it as much as Warhammer. I’ve also run into a few other benefits.
The most obvious advantage is that playing within different systems trains you to think differently. Certain games encourage play in a specific way and your tactics can become inbred. When you play in different systems it opens up new ways to win that might not have occurred to you if you hadn’t been exposed to them in another system. A good example of this is how when you play in a small gaming group and move to a larger one you can find yourself ill prepared for the different strategies you will see. Playing with one system can give you this same handicap.
I find that when I play other games it helps me realize that no game is perfect. When I was solely focused on Warhammer 40k I tended to get irritated with all of the small tweaks I felt the game needed to run better. As soon as I started to try other systems I saw that a lot of game design is trade off. There is always room for improvement in rule sets though branching out to other games really helped me understand that every system has it strengths.
One of the biggest challenges in gaming has always been the breadth of available products. Because miniatures games are not cheap to produce there are not that many of them on the market. This has created a market that is dominated by Games Workshop and a few other companies that scramble to grab whatever market share they can. This isn’t good for gamers as new ideas are never allowed to ripen and often die on the vine. Games Workshop is in a lot of ways like a large ship, does a lot of the heavy lifting but it’s hard to turn. Any large corporation is run by meetings and teams. The more hands on the wheel equals the less likely the ship is going to turn in any new directions. For a long time I liked getting on the same ship as everyone else but there comes a point when you want to jump off and try something new. Not only is picking up a new game going to expose you to some possibly innovative mechanics you are helping show the big dog he isn’t the only one out there. We all know competition is a beneficial thing to have in any market.
I found myself getting a bit of burnout earlier this year. I thought I was burned out on war gaming though the reality was I was burned out on Warhammer 40k. Until I picked up Warmachine I was sure that I was burnt out on war gaming. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, if you are feeling burnt out on the hobby it may be just the game. Don’t give up other aspects of the hobby, such as painting and social interactions that you may appreciate because you are sick of a system.
I can’t say for sure if my experiences with giving other games a shot will help you out though you won’t know until you try. Give it a shot, I promise it’s not as rough to try something new as you think it will be. It may feel a bit strange to step outside your comfort zone, but the benefits are very much worth the effort. It doesn’t have to be a new miniatures game. Try out a board game, a card game, or even a strategy game on your computer. No matter what you try, step away from whatever system you focus on for a while and I am sure you will find it was worth the effort.
Sean Ireland has been utterly addicted to playing with toy soldiers for the last 15 years. He maintains a hobby blog at armyundecided.blogspot.com and can be reached on twitter @spireland.