Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Rewind a few years- we're taking the way back machine all the way to 1992! Lauby had already introduced me to Battletech, the year prior, and most of my friends were becoming pretty well versed in the game. Even if we were lacking the the strategy department, we had a pretty good grasp on the rules system. I had also been playing, and if memory serves, was about to stop playing Magic (which I would, much like Warhammer, resume some 14 years later, pissed that I had sold my shit). So, to some extent when I picked up my first copy of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle 4th edition, I was pretty comfortable with wargamming rules. Reading the rules leaflet in full, since GW didn't provide any type of quick start guide, wasn't really a problem for me, as I was already comfortable with the basic concepts, jargon, and abstractions necessary for gaming. This is good because I was buying my stuff from a hobby shop that didn't have a clue what these games were. They knew a lot about model planes and trains, but only seemed to carry the games because there was a small market for them. These were not people who could help me learn to play.
On the hobby side of things, I'd been building model planes and tanks with my dad for quite a while, him being a model railroad enthusiast for 30+ years at that point, with 2 basement sized layouts of N-scale and Lionel trains. For me, the transition to assembling wargames minis was pretty easy. When I got the 4th edition goblins and High Elves home, I new how to trim them, assemble them, and prime them. They didn't give me any real problems, other than repeatedly impaling my knuckles on goblin spear points while moving units around. My dad was even a great resource for terrain building (something a lot of advanced players still suck dick at). Having been featured in N-scale and Model Railroad magazine several times for his layouts, he was always a good source of information for scratch building terrain. Granted, I've had to unlearn some techniques that work for railroad, but not for gaming (such as using plaster of Paris over Styrofoam for hills), but I at least had a resource for the basics. At that time very few people had use of the Internet and there would have been very little, if any, information available to help me out. White Dwarf would publish the occasional article and a few years later GW would publish a terrain building book that I still reference today. Other than that, getting expensive modeling books were the only recourse for the hobby enthusiast.
Painting those models was another thing entirely for me. Here, I had little help. My dad's techniques barely applied to minis, WD's articles were useless, and my best friend Lauby could paint me under the table, but couldn't fully articulate what he was doing differently. I would later come to understand that shading and highlighting were missing from my life- along with a truckload of other techniques both basic and advanced. Again without the help of the Internet and with no books of note published on the subject, I was fucked. Years later, I feel like I'm finally becoming a competent painter, but only after painful hours of practice and more reading on the subject than I'm comfortable admitting.
That covers the subject of how I got my start in Warhammer in fairly exhaustive detail. I have always counted myself lucky that I had a number of good resources back then to help me out, from friends to family, because god knows stores and GW weren't doing us any favors. I can't even imagine how awful it must have been for other people, not in my situation, to start out. If you've never put together a model, assembly of miniatures would be a pain in the ass. Without friends and family to help you out, there were almost no resources available to teach you painting, modeling, terrain making, or even how to get started with the rules. It was dark days for the gamer back then.
Next time I'll discuss how things have changed mostly for the better, but GW still seems to hold their customers in contempt. Stay tuned for part 2, where I will unleash a very difficult to explain animosity that I have towards the IoB boxed set.
Until then, how did you guys get into the hobby? Did you have a mentor? Are you all way younger than me?