Friday, July 30, 2010

No Pants Friday: Hobby Lists

It's Friday and you've probably already checked out this weeks FNIF and felt that familiar, cold rage creep up your spine as you've no doubt realized that RAW does indeed support getting cover from units with 4 foot gaps between models.  Right about now, you're ready for something nice and fun.  Unfortunately, you have to look at this first:

Interestingly enough, morale actually seems to be improving if you measure it by page views.

NOW its time to feel good about the world again - Its No Pants Friday again!

This week I'm going to talk about some actual play testing and the relative merits of hobby lists.  Maybe even in that order.

Yesterday, for reasons I'm still not completely clear on, I asked for advice on a retardiculous hobby list that had popped into my brain.  What ended up looking like me seeking validation for crappy unit choices was supposed to be an attempt at making sure the list was merely crappy as opposed to utter shite.  Overall, it was an endevour of limited usefulness to say the least.  The hobby list is a tough beast to critique - the guy posting it is usually more interested in including all his kewl toys rather than anything approaching building for victory. Sometimes you even get people who really do think their hobby list is the tactically speaking and then the situation is even worse.  Lucky for you, I was not under an illusions that I was on the fast track to success.

Even with my situation and my genuine thirst for constructive criticism, about half the list wasn't going to change no matter what advice I was given.  The thing I learned from the experience was this:  why bother with seeking tactics advice for a hobby list?  By which I mean:  if all you want to do is paint up some specific masterpieces that kinda, sorta make up an army, why bother asking for list advice when you're unlikely to change any part of it?  Even if the people who know what you're aiming at are on the same page as you, they can't really give you list advice that matters. The army's actual success will depend on sweet conversion and rad paint jobs, not games.  That's a problem.

I hit my good buddy Dethtron up for his thoughts and he ran into the same brick wall - what the hell does he have to say that would have a point?  Then we decided to hit vassal for a quick game.

His current Tyranid pod experiment against version 2.6 of my Chaos list.  For reference purposes, here's a rough sketch of what I was running:

3 Terminators with a whole bunch of upgrades
A land Raider with Daemonic Possesion
3 Plague marine squads with meltas and rhinos
1 Dakka Pred
2 Defilers
2 Dreadnoughts with multimeltas

We ended up with Capture and Control with Dawn of War deployment.  The battle report is irrelevant and I ended up losing 1-0 on turn 5.  Though, I made a pretty good accounting of myself I feel (given my self handicap) and I had loads of fun.


That fun is not sustainable. 

And that makes the list not worth the money and time invested in creating it.

Let me explain.

I went into the game knowing that I would likely get my ass handed to me.  I was running a close combat heavy list against an army that was waaaaaaay better at it than I was.  I was also running an 800+ (closer to 900.. yeah) point rock that might of well had a target painted on it.  Oh... I was also light on troops. Mostly, this was an experiment to see exactly how badly I'd lose.

At best the list would be a noob hammer, at worst it would be unplayable.  Likely it was just crappy.  The game I played went better than I think could be expected, but only because of some serious blunders on Dethtron's part and some of the worst luck with synapse creatures and their ability to enter the game.  Not a good sign.

On the other hand, there was a definite psychological freedom in going into a game I expected to lose.  A lot less pressure, for one.  It's also nice to not have to worry about casualties and the dreadnought who torched his friend.  It was just nice to push some models around and see what was going to happen.  Basically, i was just goofing off as hard as I could.

Then, about half way through, it hit me - while I was having fun THIS game, what about the next one or even the 25th one?  Would this army still be fun to lose with game after game (because that's what would assuredly happen)?  I decided that it wouldn't be.  Also, that guard would eat it alive worse than the Tyranids were.  Then another question arose - was this army even fun to play against?  Even if it was this time, would it still be easy win after easy win?

So that's what I mean by sustainable fun.  I'd spend hundreds (at least 5) of dollars getting this army ready and then the only thing it have going for itself is the "oohs and ahhhs" whenever a new person saw it for the first time.  No real challenge to beat, no real shot at winning.  Then it would start languishing on the shelf more and more until you only would see it in Apocalypse games. Lame.  great way to spend time and money, huh?

As much as I love to blow people's minds with conversions and paintjobs, I'd rather win at least some games and provide a challenge for the kinds of people I like to game with.

I think I'm done with the concept of hobby lists.  If I want to make something rad and useless, I'll just go ahead and do it and then not worry about surrounding it with more crap in an attempt to make an army.


  1. I think Vassal has been a gift to the theory-inclined gamer who doesn't want to waste time and money on every single flash-in-the-pan project they think up, to be honest. The journey you've gone on here is pretty similar to the one I go on every time I want to do a WFB army I don't own, and it's had the same ending.

    Some projects can't be gone into with any kind of invisible rules making your games harder/less fun than the proper rules are already making them, and it's just sad that a lot of hobby projects are of exactly that nature.

    None of which is making me stop wanting to play Orks, but still...


    And that, dear friends, is why we should NEVER criticise ProxyHammer.

  3. Oh, typos... if only I had the energy to fix you all...

  4. Well said overall. I love to paint and model, but the game matters too. A list that I know I can't ever win with is a poor investment of time and money.

    I've lovingly painted enough useless IG units (cough... Ogryns) in my day that I'm much more picky now about how I spend my time.

    My Sang Guard list works for me because while it's not A+ competitive, it's good enough that I'll probably win most of my casual games with it.