Fun VS powerplay in wargames

   There’s one argument which is always present between wargamers – what is more important in wargaming – hobby or sport? We consider chess a real sport, and basic principles of wargames are almost the same. This argument is extremely relevant for Russian wargamers and Warhammer 40k. Today we’ll discuss the way to solve it.

   It would be silly to deny the fact that any wargame with collectible minifigures is supposed to be a kind of hobby. However, there’s a large group of players who deny this part. They value pure gameplay. And like in any other sport – you have some restriction if you want to win. Sportsman doesn’t have time to collect an army squad by squad, meticulously painting every bullet. Many of them just buy somebody else’s armies or give their own models to paint studios. Such approach doesn’t include affection to models, giving them names and learning their history. Your models are your sports equipment. And the main feature of any sports equipment is its functions. The only value is model’s playability.

   Such approach has its own pros and cons. One the one hand – you really develop your strategic thinking. You are not distracted by stories and you are focused on the gameplay. You know all your and opponent’s rules by heart and know how to use them. This can be called professionalism.

   On the other hand, such player risks to lose a decent part of the game. People who create background for wargames earn their money for a reason. There’s much attention paid on the history of different worlds, races and conflicts. Sure, everyone knows background at a basic level. But not everyone can feel that this particular character is now taking revenge to his arch enemy. You need some time to get into the story to realize it. Sure, it doesn’t change much in reality. But the gaming experience is different.

   Besides. There’s really sad tendency to treat your own army with awful negligence. If it’s only a bunch of stats and numbers for you- so should you care about how it looks? So, there are a lot of competitive armies painted in two colors above the black primer. Or armies from differently painted models from different sets. Or even armies, molded from clay and corks. Good thing is that at modern tournaments they tend to ban such armies. It’s totally right. No matter how you treat your miniatures – it’s an example of disrespect to your opponent, who might have been spent some nights awake, painting his miniatures. 

   However, hobby approach also has different sides. For example – if you take painting seriously, your army will grow veeery slowly. If you don’t let yourself play with unpainted models, you will miss a lot of events while painting your dream army. And when you finally do, you may realize that the rules edition has changed and half of your army needs to be redone.

   Speaking about playability. The good thing about hobby approach is that you are not limited by only powerful models. You are interested in the whole army. A sportsman takes only units which play best, that’s why half of the others are ignored.  From the other hand – why should you play if you don’t have a chance to win? And why should you reduce your chances?

   This brings us to the main question here, between funplayers and sportsmen – what’s the most important part of the game? A sportsman will say the victory. A funplayer will say the process. And both of them are right. Chess don’t include such question, since there’s no background behind the figures. They don’t have their universe and personal traits. If you ignore this part of the game, you make your Warhammer Infinity or Malifaux just a brightly painted chess with some random elements. 

   So, this argument is pointless from the beginning. There’s a typical psychological distinction in its basis. Some people like the process, some – the result. And you can do nothing about it. The question is – how these two groups can live together in one wargame and enjoy it. If you come to a game with an army, collected according to your vision of the background and face the opponent with 36 similar models, which were taken only because they are the best, none of you will enjoy such game.

   The main point is to assume that the other group of players has the same rights to exist as you do. There will be always sportsmen and funplayers. However, there are still a lot of people, who hate the others think that their approach is the only one which needs to exists. If you think about the others, you can decide what you expect of the game before you come there. So, there will be different events for different approach. This opens a completely new dimension in any wargame – the balance problem is solved, since on fun level there’s a nice balance everywhere, and on sports level weak armies don’t play at all. There’s no hatred – you just don’t play with those whose approach differs from yours. And then nothing will spoil your gaming experience. Such kind of tolerance.