Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Two kinds of Imperial Guard Players

It seems to me that there are two main kinds of Imperial Guard Players:  The Gamer and the Hobbyist

The Gamer plays games often.  He wants to win games, and enjoys the competitive aspects of the game.   He has a lot of experience tweaking his army list in order to get the most out of it.  The Gamer posts his army lists to the forums to get feedback and advice from other players.  He reads tactics articles religiously.  

The Hobbyist designs armies, not army lists.  He plays games when he can, but usually this is far less frequently than the Gamer.  The Hobbyist enjoys the game, but spends far less time playing than he does just thinking about his army.  The Hobbyist is more interested in creating an army that fits the background or "makes sense" from a real world perspective.  He's interested in fielding a force according to a real world organization, and be damned to its effectiveness on the 40k gaming scene.  This "real world perspective" can be simulating a modern force (e.g., my army is theoretically based on a US Army Combined Arms Battalion) or something historical, like a WWII formation, or the Praetorians, simulating the British during the Anglo-Zulu War (q.v. Col. Gravis' fantastic Praetorian Army).

Warhammer 40k is designed as a company-sized game (although you could almost say platoon sized for the more elite armies).  For a game of this size, the Gamer might field several armored fist squads, a Leman Russ or two, a Basilisk/Medusa, and a Vendetta.  (Or perhaps they'd field the Leafblower list.)  There's a little bit of everything, designed to handle many tactical situations. This may be tactically effective within the game, but an organizational nightmare (at least to the more bureaucratic Hobbyist).  The Hobbyist is more likely to field something like an infantry company of three platoons of three squads and a weapons section each, with an armor platoon for support.  If the Hobbyist were to consider using Vendettas or Valkyries, he would more likely consider using entire platoons of them rather than a singleton--platoons fit better into the TO&E.

The Gamer arms his Command HQ squad with an eye to getting the most damage from it.  A typical Gamer Command HQ squad might be armed with an officer with power weapon and plasma pistol, four meltaguns, plasma guns or flamers (4 of each, no mixing), riding in a Chimera.

The Hobbyist may not even consider arming his Colonel with anything more powerful than a laspistol, except maybe a ceremonial power sword.  (If he gives his Colonel a power fist, it's probably because his model has one and he wants his army to be WYSIWYG).  After all, a Colonel should be commanding his troops.  The fighting strength of a regiment is in the arms of the soldiers that make it up, not the commanding officer.  His job is to employ the fighting strength of his men, not embody it.  His squad would therefore consist of his command staff and liaisons such as a Master-Vox, Master of Ordnance, Officer of the Fleet, bodyguard(s) (aides, rather) and possibly standard bearer, depending on the army style.

The Gamer prowls the forums, reading about other gamers' battles, reading tactics and strategies, and discussing army lists.  He will also check out the blogosphere--basically anywhere he can get information on how to improve his game.  The purview of the Hobbyist is primarily just the blogosphere--he frequently has his own blog, and discusses painting, modelling, and army organization (as opposed to army lists)

When a new Codex Arrives, the Gamer asks "What new tricks do I have available now?  Which units are worth fielding and which aren't?"  The Hobbyist asks, "How can I fit the vision of my army into a legal force?"

The Gamer speaks in gamer jargon.  He talks about army "builds", refers to other armies by terms such as "Nidzilla, Smurfs, Clown Cars, Lash Armies, Daemon Bombs, and discusses tactics such as "Melta-spam".  The names of the armies builds frequently are the same as the primary tactic they use.  The Hobbyist speaks in military jargon, and he usually doesn't talk too much about other armies at all.  He refers to things like "sections", "detachments", "combined arms", "order of battle", and knows how to spell "ordnance".

After each game,  the Hobbyist considers painting on honor badges to the models in his army that performed well.  The Gamer considers how to tweak his army list to improve game performance.

The Gamer is more likely to be younger than the Hobbyist.  There are plenty of older Gamers, but many players who used to be Gamers got older, got married and started families, and suddenly had much less time to play.  When they did have free time, they might only have time to work a little bit on their armies, and suddenly found themselves morphing into Hobbyists.

All in all, there's nothing wrong with either type of player; they are both equally valid ways of being involved in the hobby.  I find myself firmly in the category of the "Hobbyist".  I consider myself lucky if I get a game in once a month, and when I do, half the time I make my army list the night before, and don't even start thinking about my strategy until game time.  Most of the rest of the time I spend painting/converting my guardmen and thinking about their regimental organization.  Would I like to play more often?  Absolutely...but that'll probably have to wait until my daughter's in college and/or I retire...or win the lottery.

I keep saying to myself that GW would be far better served if they just paid me to play their games.  I could then quit my job and do this stuff full time.


Ranger Rob said...

Well written sir. I think I'm firmly in the hobbyist camp for Guard. Basing mine of the Nappy 95th Rifles, lots of sniper rifles and veteran squads.

When I do get the "gamer" urg I break out my Eldar.

As I said before, very good read, well said!

RonSaikowski said...

Hobbyist for me... that's for sure.

suneokun said...

Not to break the bell curve ... but I'm a bit of both. I love building up the 'sections' of my guard force, and now it's complete I play 'gamer type games' with it.

That said, my 'gamer' games usually involve trying to defeat a Saim Hann Seer Council on Jetbikes with conventional weaponry and Chimeras...

I like a challenge!

Col. Hessler said...

That, sir, is a spot on analysis. Very insightful.


CommissarHarris said...

Hobbyist Definitely. When I start an army I am definitely painting towards the vision of a historical reality in my head. I like to paint and collect within the framework of a functioning 1750 pt army, but the list is a distant second to the look and feel.
A thought provoking piece

Darkweaver said...

definatly the hobbyist (although i think that an interesting thing to add might be that bloggers are more often than not fitting with the Hobbyist catagory. we like to show off our latest stuff, maybe adding a post in to say "hell yeah! we won!" here and there, but still mostly modelling and painting based)

my guard are actually Khorne aligned, and loosely based on the Blood Pact. so i run with Demons and a unit of World Eaters marines (all my squads are legal, but the army as a whole isnt...)

Old Shatter Hands said...

Loved this article. Especially the pics, that first one reminds me of the latest installment of the "Pacific."

Admiral Drax said...

True true true true true.

Good call, mate!

- D.

Cpt.Harris said...

Absolutely spot on. Being a 'Hobbyist' myself, I can completely agree with your analysis of our army builds - my Catachan platoons have several Valkyries, a la 'Apocalypse Now', with vehicles converted to look like those from the era. Conversely, the Praetorian platoon I'm currently building, has infantry squads without heavy or special weapons in them - going with the fluff about their preference for massed volleys of lasgun fire. A significantly important part of my games is that I have fun, regardless of whether I win or not.

And yes, this hobbyist role did come about after starting university, and settling down to have my son! (who will, of course, be following in his father's footsteps and joining the hobby - regardless of what his mother says. :) )

J.Morgan said...

I'd say this applies to every army and every game, not just IG. For example, DnD players are either min/maxers or roleplayers. That being said, I'm definitely a hobbyist. My new IG project is going to basically be a long series of inside jokes about my hometown.