Sunday, 20 December 2015

My Story so far

Morning all

Today I thought I'd indulge myself with a trip down memory lane; a look back at my hobby time, how I started, what I did and why, leaving and coming back to the hobby, all the way through to what I've been doing recently and why.

It's going to be pretty reflective, a long story, and possibly narcissistic... so I apologise in advance.
I think it's important to look back and who I was and why I did certain things in order to decide how I want to move forward. And I'm selfishly dragging you all along for the ride.

Like most people, I was first introduced to tabletop gaming through Games Workshop.  A friend at school was really into it (let's call him 'S' for the sake of the story), and talked to me AT LENGTH about. I was probably 12/13 at the time and, like all pre-adolescents, far more interested in-fitting than I was about some game that my friend was routinely mocked for.
Now, fair play to S, he was a much more confident kid than I think anyone gave him credit for. Being a teenager/ pre-teen is tough, and sticking to your guns and admitting you like something in the face of adversity is an admirable quality! And thanks to his perseverance I was introduced to Warhammer 40,000.
During my early teens I dabbled a bit with GW. I can't remember how or why, by I know one of my first kits was the 3rd (I think) Edition 40k starter set - Dark Eldar vs Space Marines!

Yeah, 3rd edition! Remember these Dark Eldar models? You should! They stuck around for long enough!
Being the wonderful older brother I am I shared, encouraged, outright bullied my brother into playing this with me. He was.... less than interested. Like many people, he dabbled a bit (a little Dark Eldar, Tyrandis and Plague Marines) over the years, but never really got involved.
Even though the first models I got in this pack were Space Marines, my first army was a Chaos Force. There was something more appealing about the Chaos Marines, and so I joyfully hacked apart and converted up my new, pristine Marines to appease the Dark Gods of Chaos. 
I think it was the Juggernaut of Khorne that first attracted me to the Chaos Marines; the idea of having a maniac riding a mechanical daemon was too cool to ignore... Of course, this was 2002, so the model looked more like this...

Even now, I still love this boxy little guy...
As a child I played with a lot of Lego, and part of the appeal was the ability to build whatever I wanted. The multi-part plastic Khorne Beserker kit inspired some of my earliest conversions, and solidified my love of the hobby. I still remember kit-bashing even when I first started, trading spare parts with my friend who collected Tyranids just to use a Warrior's head for one of my corrupted Marines...
They were simple conversions, but the little things that kept me interested.

The game itself meant little to me back then, not having enough points to even play. It's funny to think about - back when I was a kid I didn't have enough money to buy a full army (1000 points was a lot back then!!) nor did many of my friends, and yet we still spent hours having fun. As time went on I've still struggled to put together a full army, and yet my immediate policy has been to bitch and complain...
Anyway! I picked up a few codex's over the year or two I played, the Dark Eldar, Necrons and Tyranids adding to my Chaos codex. It was an exciting time for a young, creative hobbyist; GW offered their Sprue order service, allowing me to convert to hearts content (I still remember getting concerned about spending £30 on a custom Daemon Prince conversion...  if only child me could see me now!), and you could pick up a new model after 1 weeks worth of a paper-round.
Time moved on, and most of my friends fell out of the hobby. I wasn't super keen on playing it down the local Games Workshop, being a lot younger than the gaming community, and so I kind of drifted out of it. Fortunately, the Dawn of War games had arrived to keep my interest in 40k strong. The narrative behind 40K, not any individual book but the overall world, is fantastically rich and, in places, very morally grey. It makes for a great setting, since the lines between good and bad are so often blurred, and it's this complexity that kept me interested.
Flash forward through the end of 3rd edition and my next dabble in 40k came at University. A few friends and I went out and bought the 4th Edition starter set, The Battle for Macragge, after spending far too much playing Dawn of War. I still had a number of my old codex's, and we had a dozen or so proxy games on my bedroom floor. University holidays landed, and I raced home to dig out my old models. I knew I'd sold most of them on ebay, and the few I thought I had kept had mysteriously "disappeared" during my mother's "he's moved out" cleaning spree...
We fight for Macragge!! I don't think I ever played this with Nid's vs Ultramarines

This marked the start of the second chapter of my hobby history, and to be honest it's a time I'm not particularly proud of. It was my second year on University, and I had too my time, too much money and an over inflated ego. I became "That Guy" down GW; I bought ALL the codexes, read all the books, and always had an answer for something... I was pretty insufferable back then (but so were all my friends, so at least we were insufferable together!)
It was during this time that I got into the novels - Deus Sanguinius and Deus Encarmine were my favourite two at the time and they inspired me to start converting a Chaos Blood Angels army; something that could be used as both a Blood Angels and Chaos force, depending on how I was inclined. The idea was short lived (mostly because I spent all my money of codexes and books, and not enough on models).
It was also around then that I got into Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Our local GW manager ran an inspired campaign based around a kind of role-play system; you build a hero and played missions either solo or with a friend to earn gold (points) which you could spend on items, or units, to flesh out your army. I got into the Dark Elves and enjoyed the modelling and gaming side of things for a little while, but quickly grew impatient with the sheer mass of models you needed to play. This was also back when the elite infantry of the Dark Elves were in metal (or finecast...) and so were pretty expensive, and not always kept in store. I dabbled in WFB for a year or so more, playing bits of Storm of Magic and the like, but never really got super into it.

Time continued to roll on and my interest in Games Workshop reached it's peak thanks to three simple words; The Horus Heresy.
This was before the Forge World range was available, back in the early days of the novels. A few friends started a "small" Campaign to play through the events of the novels. A 1000 point escalation campaign, run by TemplarsCrusade01, during which we would have to convert our own Primarch and "scratch-build" all the rules. As it turned out a lot of the early rules were pinched from other fan-sources, but Brian (TemplarsCrusade01) and Mark Rapson (formerly of Prodos Games and now WordForge) put a lot of effort into pooling the different rules sources together into a single list.
The games themselves were supposed to be super narrative, with a really high level of character; plenty of Characters from the books had rules written up, as did loads of specialist squads. They were home-brew rules, so totally broken, but it was fun. Originally there were 18 of us playing 1 Primarch each... it became 50+ players using special characters across all 18 Legions, plus the Sisters of Silence and the Custodies... It was amazing!

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of my initial army, but I have a link to the video taken for TemplarsCrusade01's channel:
The game was set before the Heresy range came out, so this was all built using 5th Edition Space Marines.
The campaign took three years to play out, and during that time my humble 1000 point army escalated into 7000+ points of Heresy-era Word Bearers. Our campaign coincided with the release of the Forge World Resin models, and so my army quickly expanded to contain a number of these models, along with plenty of Chaos and Daemonic allies.

The Legion musters for war!
The campaign totally blew me out for GW hobby - 6000 points of painted and converted models in three years was tough, and the final game (a 20 person per side apocalypse game) was enough to end 40k as a hobby for me. I will always remember the time I spent playing it favorably, but it was very much a case of me wanting to move on...
One of the other contributing factors to me moving away from 40k at this time was my involvement with the rules writing. I was a PhD student at the time, and had the luxury of "free time". I used it to format the PDF document with all the rules, along with introducing new rules and conversion opportunities. The fighter you can see in the photo below was one idea - a Space Marine piloted fighter designed to take out other aircraft... 
The fight, centre top, was converted with a Storm Raven and a Star Wars fighter toy... Probably my best conversion to date!

It was obviously a good idea... since Forge World released their own in due time...
I really enjoying writing the rules and organising everything together, almost more than the actual gaming. I had obviously impressed people too, because it wasn't long before I was doing the same again for a different games system.

As the Heresy ended, I was looking for a new project. Something different, with a much lower model count! Enter Mutant Chronicles: Warzone Resurrection.
Prodos games was founded in Leamington Spa, my home for 10 years, by a group of guys from my local gaming club. When the kickstarter was completed and the first few models started trickling down our club for games I was blown away by the rules - so much more tactical and details than 40K was, with a lot more scope for flexibility. I loved it, I invested heavily in it, and I became one of their "Crusaders" (a member of the Demo team). I went to some of the bigger UK shows with Prodos and spoke to hundreds of people about how to play the game, and why it was amazing. It was such an eye opener - I never truly appreciated how many games there were out there, or what amazing models and scenery were available, until I went to these conventions. 

Warzone was my main focus though, and I used this time to build up a sizable Brotherhood army (after three years of playing religious zealots I started playing... religious zealots... go figure!). I ran a narrative campaign down my local club (called Harbinger) which was pretty well received. It actually made it's way into one of the Warzone rule books (which was pretty sweet!)

An excerpt from the PDF of the Imperial Rules, Warzone resurrection! Immortalised in text.... yeah!

The campaign was great, but the biggest boon for me was that it helped me get a foot in the door writing for Prodos. At the time, Mark (Rapson) was still with Prodos, and the two of us along with a guy called Richard Hawkins started writing a narrative campaign for the (then) upcoming Imperial book. Whilst the campaign itself hasn't yet been released by Prodos, it was great to work on and actually led to me designing a model (ish).

The Dark Legion have a pair of models known as the Preatorian Goliath and Imp, which was inspired by a small piece of prose I wrote for the Imperial campaign. I still get a small shiver when I seen the model - to know it's something that wouldn't exist if not for my work is an amazing feeling.

Taken directly from the Prodos Games webstore... This model still gives me chills. Fully painted, he looks amazing and I'm so grateful to everyone at Prodos for turning this into a reality.

Time moved on again, and Prodos began working more heavily on Alien vs Predator. My PhD started getting more intense, and so I passed on doing any further writing Prodos.

With the hype-train for Warzone having run it's course I entered a period of transition for my Tabletop gaming. I got heavily into Infinity (by Corvus Belli), Batman (by Knight Miniatures) and Dropzone Commander (by Hawk Wargaming) to try and find something to replace both Warzone and Warhammer. I spent about 18 months drifting between these games, picking up starter sets and doing a lot of painting, but never really getting anywhere with them. A lot of this was because of changes in the meta at my local gaming club. A lot of guys got new jobs, moved house or had kids and so tabletop gaming became a lot less practical for them. Magic: The Gathering became the core game, and whilst I am a massive fan I couldn't really get as into it as everyone else. Probably because I suffer from 'Magpie' syndrome (ooo, look at the shiney, it must be good!) which isn't a great way of playing Magic!
So I drifted, I did a lot of painting, and I finished off my PhD... Things turned sour quite fast in my first job after my PhD, and I found myself leaving and relocating to Cambridge. 

Since arriving in Cambridge I've found two really good gaming clubs (set on two different days, thankfully!), as well as both a budding, and pre-existing Infinity community. Infinity is pretty much my perfect game; low model count, hyper competitive, deep and complex rules and beautiful models. I started a new army when I arrived here, the Yu Jing, and have been playing pretty consistently ever since.
Not a bad collection for someone that's been playing for 6 months!

I'm slowly getting better at the game, and with any luck I'll be looking at hitting the tournament scene in 2016. Let's see though!

Alongside all of this, over the last 12 months I've also been affiliated with Word Forge games. Having worked with Mark in the past, he knows what I'm capable of and approached me to do some of the writing and proof-reading for The Devils Run, alongside some additional projects behind the scenes. I went with them to Dragonmeet recently, met up with Marc Langworthy (of Red Scar Publishing and MODIPHIUS) and started talking about the Devils Run RPG. It's an exciting time, and I'm really grateful to both of them for letting me work with them.
Two of the models from the Devil's Run, Route 666. Word Forge's first big project, and one I'm massively excited to be a part of!

At the close of 2015 I find myself looking back over everything I've done in 15 years of gaming and think; Wow! What a great time I've had, what amazing people I've met, and what a great future I have going forward.

I look at all the games I used to play a lot more, 30K, 40K, WFB/ Age of Sigmar (as it is now), and I remember how much fun I had playing them. I also wonder why I complain about them so much now? Change is good, it keeps things fresh, and it's keeps you moving forward.

I look at the games I play now; Infinity (mostly), along with a few other snippets, and I'm super excited to start doing some more hobby on these.

And I look to the future; Christmas is just around the corner and I know I've got some new models landing. I'm picking up 3 kickstarters in 2016 (Infinity the RPG, Swords and Sorcery and Dropfleet Commander) which all look amazing. Plus I've got Devils Run coming soon too, which will be a blast, and I'll be sure to cover extensively!

I'm coming to a close now, but I guess the point of this recap is to show you my interests, and why I did what I did. Maybe that didn't come across in this piece, and it would show that I have a lot more to learn when writing this blog. Maybe it did.

Either way, expect most of the games I've mentioned above to feature on here more in the future. I want to start writing more, to start reflecting all the games I play in a positive light and to give back to a community I've taken a lot of inspiration from over the years.

Thank you to everyone that made it to the end of this post. I don't expect it to be many of you. But if you did, keep playing games and keep smiling about it!

Happy hobby everyone,