GW Grognard: 40K Enlightenment

Hey everyone! Adam, from TFG Radio, here to bring your consciousness to a whole new level!

Welcome back everyone! While going through some old files, I came across an old article that a teammate from one of my old clubs, Fred Whitney, wrote about the life cycle of a 40K player. I’ve tried to adjust it to reflect the more current era, this was written almost 15 years ago, so I hope you enjoy!


We have all played many games, not just 40K. Typically, we begin a new game like a child. We open up the sealed deck/basic set and, with eyes wide open, we begin learning the rules. Once we have a basic grip of the dynamics, we start to have some fun. Then, after a dozen or so great games, we expand a bit to make things interesting. At some point, unfortunately, someone goes out and buys another card/blister for the purpose of giving them an “Edge” over the other decks/armies in the group (in their mind, no doubt, to make them “competitive”). In response, many will go out to buy whatever “makes things even”. (Some people refer to this as the “arms race”.) Others will quit and find another game. Thus, I would describe all games as progressing through three basic stages of life: (1) Infancy; (2)The Golden
Age; and (3)The Fall.

For 40K, the Infancy is that period where we just bought the rulebook and, for you lucky players, a codex. It is also the time where we are buying models based upon how they look and NOT how they will perform on the battlefield (because we have no clue about how they will). It is the Infancy, I believe, that inspires those of us already playing 40K, to go buy other armies. A new army is a way to give rebirth to the game, and to remember that period when we first experienced and learned the game.

Next we come to The Golden Era. This is where we have not only learned to paint a bit, but have slopped enough paint to gather about 3,000 points worth of stuff on a table , 1,000 points that looks great but sucks in play ( for me defilers ), and another 2,000 that, when put together, is worthy of a GT. Now we really start playing. We turn to the internet, find some other players, and start trolling the regular shops. If we are lucky, we find a few good fellas (or gals) that are actually fun to play against, and who will share our enthusiasm for the game and competitive play. This, it goes without saying, is the most blissful and sacred of times for any game, and is well worth the price of a grand tournament admission ticket.

Finally, in most games, we come to The Fall. Fortunately, I have not yet suffered this fate in 40K, although I bear the scars of loss from many other games. There can be any number of reasons for a person’s fall. Money, time, issues with the game, and other reasons all play in a part on what causes a person to fall and quit the game. This is the point where you see a player’s army up on ebay, or sitting at a convention table with a sign that reads: “Painted Army For Sale. I Don’t Have Time To Play Anymore.” These poor lost souls are to be pitied (right after you offer $80 for their entire 4,000 point army – after bluffing about how you will have to strip their GT quality paint job, and how their model choices are basically unusable — It is particularly helpful to have a friend around to help with this)*.

For most games, the life cycle is about 3-6 months, if that. 40K, however, is unique. First, it is so complex that most do not begin their gaming career with it. It would be like trying to start out math with advanced algebra. But this is exactly why 40K has such a long lifespan for most gamers. The game is so complex, by the time that you realize The Fall is coming, you have already invested hundreds of dollars and hours coddling an army into a personalized expression of yourself. Moreover it is that artistic creativity that stands 40K above so many other games. Thus, many of us are simply unwilling to give it up. Although it may sound final, there are times when people do recover from The Fall and return to the fold, but usually doesn’t happen very often.

The following presents actual comments that illustrates the point through two perspectives. The commentator, who I will call “Huckleberry”, presents where most enlightened gamers will end up, refusing to take the final step into the Fall. Huckleberry describes that last place a gamer can stop before giving up the game. I call this a “Place of Enlightenment”, because it is, I believe, where good gamers will end up if they don’t quit. I know that Huckleberry enjoys the games he plays and the company he keeps.  By finding like-minded people who, like him, resisting The Fall, he keeps the game, and community, alive.

“I think that if anyone plays in any type of league/tournament, you have to expect that there will be some ‘hard’ armies. At this point in my gaming life I could care less what you bring. I’ll still play against it and have fun doing it. I play goblins/halflings in Blood Bowl for god’s sake! If I really wanted to win, I’d be playing Dark Elves. What it comes down too for me is my opponent’s conduct before, during and after the game and if I’m having fun.”


At this point in my gaming life, I will toil to keep the Golden Age alive.


That’s all for this week, I hope you enjoyed the read. Unfortunately Fred succumbed to The Fall when Age of Sigmar launched and is currently wondering the wastes of Kings of War, I believe. I hope you enjoyed the read. Let me know where you think you are at in your 40K life cycle, in the comments section. Don’t forget to visit our Facebook, Twitch, and Patreon pages to stay up to date on what we’re up to and when episodes drop!

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!


*We used to actually do this. It was surprisingly effective


About Adam

Adam, aka Latin Gandalf, has been gaming since the early eighties and has played 40K since Rogue Trader (among a number of other games). He listens to more podcasts than any healthy person should and is currently the host for TFG Radio. He also is judges for LVO and head judges other major 40K Grand Tournaments.
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Just asking questions
Just asking questions
3 years ago

I would say that for many people in 40k “The Fall” is not the end. Quite a few people are retuning to the game in my local area since 8th dropped (although I doubt most of them will stay) I personally have had 2 different breaks from GW but I keep coming back. I must be a suckered for financial punishment.

Davis Centis
Davis Centis
3 years ago

I think I’ve achieved a place of enlightenment. I’ve played this game continually since the start of 3rd edition (barely played during 5th, but that was due to circumstance, and not the game itself), and I still love playing. There are two major steps to avoiding the Fall:

#1 – Define for yourself how you have fun with the game and others, don’t let others and the game define it for you.

Seriously. If you only have fun based on how others are playing the game, then you WILL burn out. This goes not just for 40k, but life in general. You need to set your own goals for finding enjoyment and purpose. If you let others define it, you will never be happy. As you climb higher and higher, you will keep filling your circles with people whom are higher than you and define their success by that ladder. Without riches, luck, and life-destroying devotion, you will come to a point that you cannot climb higher, and that desire to reach higher without being able to will destroy you. Instead, you need to say “this is what I want, because it’s what I enjoy” and reach for that. If others say that’s not enough, or that it’s too much, you don’t have to listen to them. You take pride in your choice, and others will come around. For me, I love 40k. I love trying the different modes – from tourney games, to narrative games, campaigns, leagues, Kill Team, Apocalypse… I love seeing how games go. I love seeing how the pieces on the board move and react and change. I define my games by what I experience, not how I win.

#2 – Every now and then, take a break.

I’m just getting off a summer break right now in 40k, though you wouldn’t realize it if you could analyze my on-line presence. I talk about 40k a lot :P. But I haven’t played a game since a GT I attended at the beginning of the summer. I went hard at tourney prep for that event, and I could feel a bit of burn-out coming. So, instead, I relaxed and did other things for the summer (mostly D&D). Last week I got my first game in since May, and rather than player my 3rd-place Smash Bros list, I played Orks with zero tricks. My goal? Put as many Boyz as I could into my list as possible and send them into battle! Win? Lose? I was betting on a loss, but I defined my fun as being the act of moving all those Orks. Tried this in 7th too, and that wasn’t fun, but in 8th it was great! Roboute Gulliman got punched to death by hordes upon hordes of BOYZ! I lost (handidly), but it was all worth it to see that swarm move across the table. Great times!

3 years ago

I have been in the enlightenment stage since first edition. I have played since 1990 Rogue Trader. Enlightenment does not mean ignorance though. Every and I mean EVERY edition has had its rules issues. I have managed to navigate the waters though by meeting great people who I now call friends through the game. I can play narrative fun games, I can play apoc, and yes I can play high level tournaments. (Going to my third Warzone Atlanta, and qualified for regionals back in the Ard Boyz tourney days) The key for me is to set up games with my friends and have the discussion as to what type of game they want to play. The social contract is very real and if you and your opponent are on the same page for what type of game you want to play that evening I can almost promise you that you will have a great game experience which will go a long way towards avoiding the Fall. My 2 cents……Cant stop wont stop playing 40K
ps Adam I am a soccer ref too in Indiana. 🙂

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