Warhammer Players: The Boogey Man of Gamers
Let me start by stating that I am a gamer. By that I mean, I am willing to play any game out there. Any game. Even mobile games. I have been pleasantly surprised at how much fun mobile games have become. But that is a discussion for another time. Here I want to talk about physical games; board games, card games, role playing games. Also, miniature wargaming.
Miniature wargaming can be considered a sub-genre of the board game family. But as with all families, miniature wargaming seems to be the black sheep of the family. Wargamers, as they are also called, are looked at differently than board gamers, card gamers and role players. It could be that people don’t understand it. Where as with most board games and card games, the whole game comes in one box. They might come out with expansions but still the base game is very much self-contained.
You would think role-players would be more understanding of wargamers since role-players can buy additional miniature figures for their games. And you can’t buy one box that contains every figure, well you could but it would run you a few hundred dollars. But the key difference is the word “can” at the beginning of this paragraph. Role-players can buy more miniatures where wargamers must buy more miniatures.
There is a definite stigma on wargamers. Yet there is no bigger stigma than the Warhammer gamer. On several different occasions I have heard people say “Don’t go over there. Those are the Warhammer people. You don’t want to be around them.” When I tell people I have an interest in Warhammer, I am met with confusion, “Warhammer? Really? But you’re such a nice guy.” The common thought is Warhammer players are nasty trolls meeting under bridges playing with their dirty miniatures. And I fell for it.
Then one day, while looking for Battletech miniatures, I found myself in a miniature game shop. They had a large selection of Warhammer models and miniatures but nothing for Battletech. I must admit, I hesitated for a bit but I decided to take a look at some of the Warhammer models. I mean really take a look at them. The attention to detail was amazing. I will admit, I was a bit jealous. Why can’t D&D or Pathfinder miniatures be this good? Then I realized it wasn’t the quality of the miniatures, well not completely. It was the attention to detail in the painting of the miniatures.
Then a few guys walked in looking to buy Warhammer stuff. I was curious to see how they would react to seeing me looking at the Warhammer models. They didn’t. Nothing was said, nothing was done. I was completely ignored. After they chatted with the person at the counter they went into a back room. I was curious to see what they were doing. They were setting up to play a game. Their set up looked like something I could understand. I asked them questions and they answered politely.
That is when it struck me. Warhammer players are not weird, strange people. They are just regular gamers playing their according to the rules just like anyone else. Then I realized I had the same revelation when I found out about Shadowrun players, D&D players, and Magic the Gathering players. We all just want to have fun playing the games we love. But there had to be more. I wanted to talk to actual Warhammer players and ask them to help me debunk the myths and stereotypes of Warhammer players.
After looking around a few of the game shops I found a group of guys in a store called Texas Toy Soldiers, located in Carrollton Texas, were we could talk about Warhammer. I asked if they could answer some questions about Warhammer and being a Warhammer player. These are their responses.
The first thing I asked was what they thought of the idea that Warhammer players are anti-social. Some might think that is a harsh statement yet when you ask gamers about Warhammer player it’s always with a smirk followed by a look and a laugh, and Warhammer player understand this. They aren’t offended but they don’t like it either.
I asked them where this stigma came from. Most agreed that a few people wanted to ask about Warhammer but they felt shy about it. “They don’t want to interrupt the game.” Which is considerate. You don’t want to interrupt someone that is deep in thought during a game. But is that really a reason? Magic the Gathering is a very intense, thought provoking game. Yet, no one backs away and not ask questions. They ask the people around them about Magic the Gathering. Why not ask the people that are not playing questions?
Another thing the Warhammer players said made sense. Since people don’t feel like asking questions, they feel like they can’t ask questions. After all, it is easier to say “They wouldn’t let me ask questions.” Then to say “I felt shy” or “I didn’t have time to ask questions.” That sounds like something people would do, even if they don’t admit to doing it. The subconscious can play tricks on us that we aren’t aware of.
The next thing I brought up was cost. Anyone that has done research about the models that are used in Warhammer find out that they are not cheap. One model can cost up to 150$. The players even admitted, Warhammer can be a very pricey game. I asked how do you get around that, how do you convince someone to buy the models to play Warhammer? Their answer, you don’t. If money really is an issue, you really are better off playing a different game system.
Something else they mentioned was to use a smaller army. Warhammer does not require that both sides have huge armies. You could just have a small army and play games with the smaller armies. Also Warhammer 40k is the more expensive version, with Warhammer 30K being the most expensive version and Warhammer fantasy being the cheapest of the three.
We then talked about the idea that “If you don’t plan on painting the minis, don’t buy the minis.” They told me that some people are like that but others don’t mind. Especially if you have over 300 models in your army, it would be understood if you don’t paint all you models. On the other hand, people that play Warhammer 30K paint their models. Then they have to pay twice as much for their models also.
So the 150$ 40K model now cost 300$. Why? The way I understood it is that 30K is the advanced tier of Warhammer. Most people that play 30K have been playing Warhammer for a long time and are looking to improve their skills all around. So the models will be more expensive because they are more detailed and will then be painted to a higher level of degree of difficulty.
An interesting thing that I noticed was that the number of Warhammer players doesn’t grow and shrink as much as other games. When I asked about this, the common answer was investment. While it does cost more to play Warhammer, there seems to be a sense that players play longer because they spent so much. It’s quite common for players of Magic the Gathering to buy a box or two of booster packs then sell off the really good cards and possibly make their money back, if not more.
I thought it would be interesting to find out how they got started in Warhammer. One started with the video games of Warhammer then discovering that there was a tabletop version. Another started by building regular models then found out there was a game where you could build the models, then use those models in a game. Still another bought a few of the models because they were discounted. He is a fan of science fiction, he liked the models, they were cheap, and so he bought them. So like other things there are different ways and reasons to start playing Warhammer.
The next question was what keeps them in Warhammer. They said “the people” and it seemed was rather obvious. No matter how great the system, or how detailed the story or miniatures are. If the people playing the game aren’t great, you won’t be playing for long. Another thing was customization. Dungeons and Dragons and Battletech use miniatures for their games, but the miniatures do not reflect what you character or mech actually look like. With Warhammer, you can configure your model to look like what is written on your paperwork.
Another reasons was storyline. While Warhammer can be play competitively it can also be played narratively. The narrative game play is usually the more casual play. And for those that have read and know the stories, narrative game play could be more exciting. Since now you are playing the characters from the story you just read.
Investment was brought up again as for why they continue playing. Some people pay for the models but also to have them painted. With so much invested, you want to get your monies worth. So they continue to play.
A while ago Games Workshop was a different company. They were interested in making as much money as possible without listening to the fans much. But that has changed. The players I talked to said there is a renaissance going on where Games Workshop is starting to listen to the fan base once more and they have become active on their social media once again. They claim it’s all in thanks to Kevin Rountree, current CEO of Games Workshop.
As I mentioned before, there are different types of Warhammer so I thought I would ask them if they would play them. They told me that the ruleset for each version of Warhammer is different and you would use different models. So someone that plays fantasy Warhammer will probably not play Warhammer 40K. Not because they don’t like it but because playing one version is very time consuming as well as financially consuming.
Something else that occurred to me as to why Warhammer players are so misunderstood could be that there isn’t much cross playing. Meaning that some people that play Magic the Gathering might also play Dungeons and Dragons. Yet, for the most part, Warhammer players only play Warhammer. Not because they don’t like the other games but because, as it was stated before, Warhammer is very time and financially consuming.
When I asked them about the digital versions of Warhammer, there was mixed reviews. They loved Warhammer Total War. They also enjoyed the Dawn of War series but not Dawn of War III. It seemed that Dawn of War III was such a disappointment, they would rather not talk about it. As for the mobile games, they liked the games at the beginning but later on it became too much of a hassle to play, with them having micro transactions.
With everything that we had talked about I wanted to them to tell me what to expect from playing Warhammer the first few times. A few words of advice you might say. In one word: patience. They wanted me, and anyone that is just starting, to know that you will lose your first few games. This is normal. For one, you don’t understand the rule system nor the strategy and tactics of the game. You don’t understand how each unit works with each other. Even if you were given all of the pieces for one army, you wouldn’t know what to do with them. That could be another thing that drives people off. They suggest not to worry about it. Just start small.
One thing that drew me towards Warhammer was the lore. Warhammer 40K take place in our future, just forty thousand years later. Unlike Star Trek, where everything is happy, cheerier and humankind has become a benevolent species. Warhammer goes the opposite direction. Humanity has become a way of life for the universe. Anything not human is evil. As they say in their universe, it’s xenos. You could call Warhammer the anti-Star Trek. So I was under the assumption that most people that play Warhammer knew about the lore. I was wrong. Some people play only knowing the amount of lore for the game they are playing. The narrative game.
On the other hand, someone told me a story where they saw someone reading a Warhammer book on a bus. They talked about the books for a bit then he asked them about the game. “What game?” they asked. Apparently, they never knew there was a game associated with the books. So there are people that have come into the Warhammer universe from both sides, playing the game first and reading the books first.
Finally, I asked what they would want non-Warhammer player to know about Warhammer players. They agreed that if someone has a question, please ask as they would love to tell you what Warhammer is about and how to play it. They did warn not to ask during a tournament. Which makes sense for any game. When people are playing for a championship, they don’t want to be bothered with small questions.