Hey guys Cavalier here, co-host of Splintermind the Dark Eldar podcast and commission painter for Frontline Gaming. Sharing how I pursue narrative play regardless of opponent and format whether it be casual or competitive play.
So many times I hear about the friction between the narrative and competitive communities and I just walk away simultaneously confused and intrigued. Confused because of my more individualistic attitude in regards to narrative play and intrigued because I’m always fascinated by people’s motivations.
For me the definition of being a narrative 40k player is very simple. A narrative player builds a collection to evoke an existing force in the lore, or creaters a background for their army and adheres to that army’s style when you play your army in games. For me that’s the beginning and the end of it. I’m engaging the narrative just by making a list that reflects the style of my army, and executing that style in games.
Coming from a tabletop RPG background, where I played the same character for 15 years, in a massive sprawling story that lived and died with investment and availability of a large group of friends, one of the appeals of Warhammer is that I that I can play a complete stranger and still pursue the narrative goals of my army: i.e. creating a list that reflects the background and executing that play-style to success on the tabletop. I’ve always found that extremely liberating as I dont need anyone’s investment into the background of my army, or my goals as a player to get the narrative experience. Writing a good list that reflects my armies background and executing that play-style to success or failure will determine if the narrative of that game concludes with a good or bad ending for my army.
If you are a player that its interested in pursuing a narrative theme to your army, my number one bit of advice is to recognize the format (book missions, ITC, whatever) and compete level of your local group and respond accordingly. Build to theme but make an army and overall collection that can carry that theme to success. So for myself, I’d love to run a lead from the front Archon and a Shrine of 3×10 units of Incubi every game but given the armies I play against and the skill of my opponents thats a choice that will ultimately lead to frustration, disappointment and a lot wasted time, energy and money. So tempering that desire when I run my Drukhari I always include a unit of Incubi and a tooled up Archon every single game and it becomes a game-within-a-game to make that unit combination work.
I think its important to remember that if you are a narrative player pursuing a theme and whatever unit selection restrictions that come along with that theme are restrictions you place on yourself, and that expecting other players to abide by your personal code of army construction (at least outside of campaign play) is a very imposing mentality to have. Theme and narrative are very subjective things. Even amongst the most dogged fluff bunnies playing the same faction -like two Saim-Hann Eldar players- one will say you can only take Jetbikes and Grav-Tanks, while the other might think their 3×6 Wind Riders and more traditional choices surrounding them is mission accomplished in regards to theme.
My advice is to side-step the argument from the outset, by simply recognizing how your group likes to play, build to theme but make an army and overall collection that can carry that theme to success. That has been my philosophy for many years and in that way I dont really need anything from my opponent in terms of involvement to evoke a narrative. Its sort of just a “constant on” approach. So for me whether at home painting and converting away to visually represent the army, or in a game trying to execute that army’s playstyle, I’m always engaging in the narrative of my army.
If you are interested in Aeldari discussion check out our podcast: Splintermind for exclusive Drukharii and all things Aeldari news and discussion. If you are interested in following my painting exploits check me out on Instagram! Thanks for reading and stay tuned!
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