Joke Armies – an Editorial

Ponies and Smurfs and Gundams! Oh my! Sometimes someone posts a joke army they’ve built and painted on the internet and the internet lashes out against it, sometimes quite vociferously. I have a problem with the strong objections to these armies, with caveats.

Please note that, throughout this article, I will refer to armies which break the 4th wall and are incongruous to the 40k fluff as “joke armies”.  Of course, I do realize many hobbyists who choose to build their armies in this way do not mean them as a joke and take it very seriously, but I need some kind of general term for the article.

Shannon’s Smurf Drop Pod Army

Hobbyist Reasoning

The hobbyists who choose this kind of path for their army express four-ish common reasons for doing so, sometimes citing two or three of them simultaneously.

Cost: Cost can be a big driver towards building this kind of army. A lot of the time, it’s quite a bit cheaper to use toys to stand in for 40k models.  An actual cost savings isn’t necessarily true in all cases, though.  Also, the effort involved in making a joke army to a certain standard more than makes up for the actual cost savings.

Expression:  Folks also enjoy highlighting their fandom and sharing it with others. This is a form of expression and hobbyists love to express themselves through their armies. Most of the time, this simply means choosing a specific army and paint scheme. I choose Orks because I love the brutal whimsy of this race and it lets me kind of thumb my nose at 40k Grimdark a little bit without stepping on any toes. Others will take it to the next level and build an actual joke army.

Chris Tesorio’s “My Little Bre-Pony-A” Army

Networking:  Building a joke army also allows hobbyists to meet like-minded people in the 40k community and build relationships which is really part of what 40k is about.

Trolling:  Another reason people do this sometimes is to troll the community. While that may seem like a nefarious motivation, I am a strong proponent of satire, everything from Stephen Colbert to A Mighty Wind. Satire has a great way of giving us an understanding of concepts that are hard for us to envision on our own, or from just exposing ourselves to the raw facts.  In this case, the satirical use of My Little Pony or the Smurfs, particularly in a competitive setting, exposes how seriously people take this hobby and how important it is to sometimes step back and realize that it truly is just a game and to just enjoy ourselves.

DPBellathrom’s MLP White Scars Army

Community Reactions

There are a wide variety of reactions to this kind of army in the community along a wide spectrum of responses.  Some are healthy and some are not.

Awesome:  Some folks enjoy seeing this kind of army at the table and accept it no matter the situation. This is a delightfully open-minded response and goes beyond even my own acceptance.

Cool, but please keep it out of my narrative:  I, personally, fall in this camp.  I would ask a player of this kind of army to either stay out of, or bring a different army to a narrative game or campaign that I was running.  Otherwise, for straight-up competitive games or random games, the joke army is more than welcome.

Not my cup of tea, thanks, so I’ll play with someone else:  Many folks have very little of their time to devote to Warhammer and they would prefer not to play against a joke army with this limited time. They want all of their games to have a somewhat narrative bent which absorbs them in the atmosphere of the game universe. This is another totally reasonable response and is likely to be (and should be) respected by the joke hobbyist.

Not at my tournament:  Every tournament organizer has a right to set whatever guidelines they see fit to impose at their events. Having said that, if joke armies are not allowed while, at the same time, other, more “masculine” or “grown-up” counts-as armies (like the Matrix, Terminator, Judge Dredd, etc) are allowed, then that creates an unfair double standard in this editorialist’s opinion.

WYSIWYG or GTFO:  In conjunction with other reactions, most players prefer that the army succeed at being modeled with the proper equipment. This is a completely understandable request and most joke army hobbyists actually go out of their way to be courteous and keep their models to a WYSIWYG standard that even narrative hobbyists sometimes struggle with.

Infantile Manboy Bullshit: This is the tough one.

Ian “Pinkamena” Taylor’s MLP-Themed MLP Army

Staggeringly Harsh Negativity

In Warhammer, there are so many different walks of life which people rise from.  Some of us are straight up nerds from the IT or service professions who fit many of the geek stereotype. Others are military or ex-military. Some are folks who enjoy pure competition and possess a wolfpack-like bravado which is sometimes off-putting to others, yet celebrates the camaraderie and fun of the community itself. Of course, to actually pigeon individuals into these groups would be folly; every person has a unique background.

For this reason, sometimes players are ignorant of the things other hobbyists are interested in and they misunderstand things like why a grown man would want a My Little Pony army or why a woman would build a Smurfs army. Fortunately, ignorance isn’t an accusation or a derogatory term; it is an opportunity to learn.

Some people are just tired of being tolerant. It is exhausting to them. They are tired of spending their days walking on egg-shells and not being themselves around others in order to avoid one unfortunate social interaction or another, particularly at work. When they sign onto the internet, sometimes its too easy to let that guard down and truly give an assessment of one’s feelings towards someone without bothering to try to understand who they are, nor to step back and remember that their story is probably very different from someone else’s.

Of course, one of the important things about being an adult is learning to get along with others and to deal with people who are different from you. One might argue that it is the height of childishness to diminish others for their differences.

Well, it’s a story as old as the internet and it’s likely not to change anytime soon.

K.R.E.A.M… GMM Studios’ clown-faced Orks army.

Tolerance is a Two-Way Street

If you encounter a joke army, try to remember that this is a person who shares your love for the hobby, but they might simply do so in a different way or from a different perspective. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt and you might find yourself having a great game. There are some folks out there who revel in conflict and want to showcase their joke army for the purpose of causing a stir. Do not assume this is their motive right off the bat. Assuming someone is a rabble-rouser simply because the rabble has been roused is a mistake. If the hobbyist is pleased with a positive response from you and others, then it’s clear they’re there for the love of the thing and not purely to troll.

If you have a joke army it is important to remember that some people just cannot be swayed. Don’t be insulted if someone politely declines a game or says your army just isn’t their cup of tea. There’s nothing wrong with this. If someone doesn’t seem to understand your fandom or your reasons for making your joke army and they want to make you feel bad about it, then try to teach them as politely as possible. Sometimes, though, people just can’t be taught, usually not because they’re actually stupid, but because their upbringing and/or experiences have made them resistant to learning about the differences in others.

You can’t waste your life on these people. I know. I’ve tried. And still do, much to my chagrin. Don’t debase yourself to their level; just let it be. Having said that, if someone implies that you are a pedo because you like My Little Pony, you have my permission (not that you need it) to tell them to go out into traffic and play hide-and-go fuck themselves.

About adam Fasoldt

Loopy (Adam) has only been playing 40k since 2010, but is an active member of the community. He is a host of the Masters of the Forge podcast and also a moderator of the Independent Characters forums. He also belongs to gaming clubs at Grimfoe Games in East Greenbush, NY and Dirty Goblin Games in Queensbury, NY.

32 Responses to “Joke Armies – an Editorial”

  1. Pascal Roggen February 16, 2015 5:07 am #

    oh man, I’d sooo love to play vs some joke armies:), die die filthy xenos!!!

  2. Reecius February 16, 2015 9:08 am #

    Very good article, Adam, I enjoyed it.

  3. Hotsauceman1 February 16, 2015 9:32 am #

    I love how people just end up having on things just because it doesn’t fit their view, since when has 4th been like politics?
    Alo, I love the painting on the ponies. They actually look good.f

  4. fluger February 16, 2015 9:45 am #

    I admit that I have a hard time dealing with true joke armies. As much as I lean competitive, a LOT of why I play 40k instead of say Warmachine is because I LIKE the atmosphere and fluff. Having someone totally take the piss out of the game like that is just kinda off-putting. Not that I wouldn’t play a game, just I don’t like it.

    • Hotsauceman1 February 16, 2015 9:56 am #

      At least they put more thought into them then buying it all at once then barely painting the three colored minimum

      • fluger February 16, 2015 1:40 pm #

        I guess? Honestly, I’m such a shitty painter that most of the armies I’ve owned for over 7 years are barely beyond 3-level minimum.

    • adam Fasoldt February 16, 2015 10:03 am #

      And that is the grown-up and healthy side of the line drawn between having a reasoned, personal opinion which is respectable and fair, and being mean-spirited and closed-minded which is not. Cheers!

      • fluger February 16, 2015 1:39 pm #

        I also can’t imagine taking all the time and effort to put that army together.

        Now, that I’ve said all that, there are a few kinda jokey armies that I absolutely love. Like where there are subtle cues to what the homage is. Like, for instance, there’s a local legend in the Pac NW in the Fantasy scene that had a Monty Python Holy Grail themed Bretonnian army. You can see what he’s going for on a bunch of the models, but at a glance it just looks like a regular Bretonnian army.

        Also, a single or a handful of joke models I’m ok with as well. Like there’s a guy up here that has a Grey Knight army that converted his Dreadknight to look like Ripley in Aliens. Or our own MrMoreTanks who has a Judge Dredd model as his commissar. Those I’m much more than OK with, but entire joke armies just make me shudder. Again, I would never decline to play a game against someone who has one, but I feel like they wasted their skill/effort.

  5. Nova star February 16, 2015 10:01 am #

    Making your entire army out smurfs or ponies etc and expecting to play in a tournament is disrespectful and a slap in the face to all the other attendees, and that “Bretonnia” army above even has a printed out codex, I would only play that person if it meant a loss to me any other way but I would strongly protest

  6. War Corgi February 16, 2015 10:17 am #

    Very nice article. I’ll chime in and say that I would decline to play such armies, either at the store for a casual game or in a tournament. Ironic since my home brew space marine chapter is based on my corgis, but I like to think that it is well done and in keeping with the feel of the universe. Would love to see more articles like this!

  7. CaptainA February 16, 2015 10:46 am #

    Nice Article!

    As this is a hobby first and foremost, I don’t really care what people do with it. I may think it is silly or dumb, but I’d play against it no prob. I think it is funny how GW pushes conversions and creating your own story but many gamers get stuck on the story as is and are unrelenting about it.

  8. iNcontroL February 16, 2015 11:13 am #

    The only problem I personally would have is if I couldn’t tell apart their models or if something “represented” a 40k character/model but looked nothing like it and it had an impact in the game. That would be modeling for an advantage as far as I am concerned.. but if my opponent was really cool about making it clear and is forgiving of mistakes like that I’d have zero issue with it. I play this game in part because I think the lore is the absolute best and I really enjoy the models/beauty of the game but I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the competition and thrill derived from that.

    • Loopy February 16, 2015 11:34 am #

      Agreed. It really should be very clear what wargear your models have and which units they are meant to represent, whether a joke army or not.

  9. Sean Ireland February 16, 2015 12:06 pm #

    I usually fall into the “Not my cup of tea, thanks, so I’ll play with someone else” and because of that I feel these type of builds are detrimental to events. A one off model to laugh about can be great, though I feel an entire army of something with the intention of being funny can take something away from an event. Because during an event I don’t have a choice to say “no”, I won’t play that, it means I’m forced to play against an army that I’m not crazy about.

    That being said I play this game solely to look at cool soldiers on the table battling it out. From my perspective, having my thousand year old chaos marines face off against an army of cartoon horses…feels…..wrong.

    • argentius February 16, 2015 1:03 pm #

      I would whole-heartedly agree with your assessment. I wouldn’t know which unit is which, especially the smurf and brony armies. Casual is fine, competitive not so much. In addition the “cost argument” is defeated if these same people who can’t afford to buy the models are some how “affording” to go attend grand tournaments in other states.

  10. Hotsauceman1 February 16, 2015 12:59 pm #

    Now see, one of these days I’m going to make an insane Clownot posse or armie

    • Hotsauceman1 February 16, 2015 1:05 pm #

      Or an ork army riding ponies

  11. AbusePuppy February 16, 2015 1:32 pm #

    People who get angry about how other people choose to use their plastic spaceman toys need to chill out.

  12. benn grimm February 16, 2015 2:27 pm #

    Great article, would happily play any of these ‘joke’ armies at a tourney or otherwise, originality, creativity and a lighthearted attitude should be encouraged as much as possible in this hobby. Cheers for putting forward a good positive view and showcasing some fun armies, its nice to know even in the grimdark of the 40k community folks still have a sense of humour.)

  13. Jack Shrapnel February 16, 2015 4:28 pm #

    I almost fell of my chair when I opened my Frontline Gaming feed and saw my smurfs…lol, thanks for featuring them. For the record I just need to point out that it is WYSIWYG, and I think bare minimum requirements for anyone making a satirical army is that everything is easily identifiable for what it is, as the conversions are normally distracting enough.

    I never really knew that in making such an army though that I’d encounter the amount of anger that I have whenever it has been featured on various blogs. I mean some people get it for what it was. It was a fun conversion project, and I have many “serious” armies that I can get all competitive with of course. Sometimes you just need a laugh and have fun.

    Anytime I’ve thought to bring the smurfs anywhere outside my local club I always ask permission of the organizers (and local group if they have a forum) because I want to be respectful of their club and do not want to offend anyone. (And yes, people told me that somehow I offended them by making my little plastic toy soldiers as smurfs.)

    Really enjoyed the article and the balanced perspective.

    • adam Fasoldt February 16, 2015 7:14 pm #

      Awesome! I apologize if they were credited incorrectly. Would you like me to change the credit in the caption to a different name?

      • Jack Shrapnel February 17, 2015 6:05 am #

        No Adam, you actually credited me properly, my real name is Shannon, however I go by a different “screen name” on forums and such online ….because people assume given my name I’m a….

  14. Chris February 16, 2015 6:32 pm #

    For Tournament players or “gamers” I could see playing joke armies. I wouldnt want to play against them for the same reason i dont play warmahordes. If I cant feel a narrative in the grimdark build over 20+ years of fluff its just an over-complicated game of chess.

  15. Philip February 17, 2015 6:23 am #

    I like these kind of armies because of the creativity and self expression, giving you the joy of making something that’s uniquely yours instead of something pretty much given to you by the codex.

    I do my best to keep most of my armies loyal to the theme though. For that reason I often play irregular forces (Ork hunters for 40k, Partisans for WW2) to allow me a range of customization without breaking immersion.

    I do have a pony army for Heroclix though 😀

  16. Mark February 17, 2015 12:59 pm #

    If I pay the fees to play in a tournament and show up with my Hello Kitty Blood Angels (and Hello Kitty Knight), I deserve to play as much as the next guy.

    I spent a lot of money building that army after all.

    Heck, my more serious Tau army is still Macross themed (complete with UN Spacey Logos and a Veritech Riptide).

    • Ciaran February 19, 2015 8:01 am #

      You bring up cost, but a Riptide sized Gundam is about a fifth the price. Theme or not its a lot cheaper to use non gw models like that.

  17. Kwodd February 19, 2015 8:10 pm #

    Pretty Marines!

  18. grossguts February 24, 2015 7:23 pm #

    I have had so much hate for my big gay war boss. I think he’s fabulous.

  19. bginer February 26, 2015 1:32 pm #

    I’ll keep my opinion on the subject to myself, but I do want to applaud Adam on the article. Very well written and presented.

    Way better than that hack Robbins…


    • Reecius February 26, 2015 1:44 pm #

      Hey, lol!

      • bginer February 27, 2015 4:09 am #

        Love you man!

Leave a Reply