It's only recently occurred to me that I might not be an archetypal Oldhammerer (if such a person exists). Someone asked about 'Oldhammerable' ranges on another forum and I gave him the standard answer, naming various minature ranges etc. but then another commenter suggested that that wasn't the point and that it should be about playing with what you have. That you should be bending the games to fit the miniatures you own rather than the other way round. That the games were originally designed to allow people to play mass games using their collection of figures (a collection that they may have just built up playing RPG's or buying figures that they liked ). As I read his reply I felt myself agreeing. Of course that's what it's about! This thought started to bump up against a couple of others until it got to the point where I felt I needed to write some stuff down.
One of these thoughts was about playing fantasy games. Now up until now I've been basing my army building on the idea that one day, when they are finished (yeah, like that's ever going to happen!), they'll be used in a glorious battle of 3rd edition Warhammer and we'll all be happy little campers and float happily off into the sunset of nostalgia, linking our arms and planning the next dramatic chapter. The problem is, 3rd ed is a bit of a clunky monster. It takes a fucking age to play. Let's be honest, most of the time it's a bunch of 40 year old blokes flicking through a 25 year old book looking for a rule they don't remember (and was probably from a different edition anyway). Don't get me wrong, it's brilliant to be playing a Fantasy Wargame on that scale and the aesthetic of 3rd ed is what brought me back but I've only actually played a single game (and a couple of skirmishes) and I can't see me confining my Fantasy Army to 3rd ed for ever. For a start, it's just not logistically possible. In just under a week I'll be turning 40. I have a job with a fair amount of responsibility. I have a lovely wife. And I have 4 kids. Time is a precious commodity. Never mind finding the time to paint all those figures. Actually finding the time to indulge in a game of 3rd Edition Warhammer is a major piece of logistical juggling and weighs heavy on the spousal favour matrix.
Secondly, someone else I was chatting to mentioned that 90% of the enjoyment of the game was the army building, the painting of figures and the preparation for the game, reaching a peak as you and your opponent stand back and admire the hundreds of figures laid out on the board ready for battle. After that the fun quotient can drop away dramatically as you slog through the rule book and measure the angle of wheeled charges. I can honestly say I see his point.
So whats the solution? Well one would be to stop worrying about sticking to the 'hammer' part of the equation and just having fun playing games. There are loads of rule set out there. Kings of war being one, that try to do the same thing that warhammer does. But why bother? When WAB died there was suddenly a host of replacement sets like Clash of Empires and War and Conquest and then Hail Caeser came along and tried to soak up all the sad ex-wabers. Thing is they are just the same game with different knickers on essentially. So why bother, stick to the original if it's what you like.
You could go back to the source and try Fantasy Warriors or Fantasy Warlord but it would still be an exercise in rule researching and book flicking probably in an effort to find out why the games weren't successful in the first place.
Second choice is to go for something new. Frostgrave looks like a great game with loads of scope for skirmish games and although they have figures produced by Northstar (more of which later) they aren't proscriptive meaning that you can use the figures that you want and if they just happen to be the classic figures form GW's golden period, so what?
And what about Otherworlds Fantasy Skirmish? We already know they make gorgeous figures in an old school style but they've teamed up with Crooked Dice, the guys behind 7TV to make a classic dungeon crawling adventure set of rules. Old school in style with gorgeous illustrations, why wouldn't I spend my shekels on it?
And if I'm still looking to throw down in a bigger battle stylee I could do a lot worse than Dragon Rampant which is the fantasy version of Lion Rampant. The game is fun, fast and scalable. I get to throw down any miniatures I like and it's written in a way that acknowledges the past of fantasy gaming and goes running around with a big happy smile on it's face.
It's no old.
It's not Warhammer.
It can't be Oldhammer.
Well who am I to decide? As long as I'm getting my game in and playing with people I have met through the 'Oldhammer movement', getting my favourite miniatures on the table, playing a narrative based game while talking shit and drinking a beer (and hopefully keeping it quiet enough to not wake the kids!) then I'm a happy camper. As long as I'm having fun playing a miniatures game then that was the best outcome of 'Oldhammer'. Nothing else really matters.
But do I have to be using old miniatures? Do I have to have earned my stripes stalking ebay at 4 in the morning. Asphyxiating myself over a sink of goo while trying to scrub off 20 year old paint jobs? Does it matter that I like the Otherworld Bugbears more than the original citadel ones and want to buy half a dozen for my Hobgoblin army? Am I not allowed to buy the gorgeous Copplestone figures form Northstar to play Frostgrave or Dragon Rampant with? God forbid I build a figure out of plastic parts!!
Cos if I play a game that is new and isn't warhammer and I don't use old citadel figures then it isn't Oldhammer and I should be pursued by an Inquisitor and declared a Heretic. Shouldn't I?
The same criteria fits for sci-fi gaming as well. I know 40K but I don't play it properly. I don't do big battles any more and I strip Rogue Trader down to it's barest essentials in order to have a fun game. Of course I could use Necromunda but I can't stand the combat system. It grinds me for some reason. But there is no sensible reason to keep myself confined to those systems just cos they are 'Oldhammer approved!' I bought Tomorrow's War a couple of years ago to try out for that very reason. Didn't like them much but at least there are options. And sometimes they are hiding in plain site. Like Pulp Alley. Loads of folk have had great success using Pulp Alley to play games themed around the Rogue Trader universe.
And there is always The Judge Dredd miniatures game, which despite the occasionally dodgy sculpt, is actually a solid little sic-fi ruleset with some decent campaign elements built in.
Osprey are pumping out rule sets at a fair old rate and Black ops is one of the latest. A nice little set for playing espionage based skirmish games.
They've also got a specifically Sci-fi set coming out in the summer.
There isn't much information yet but I do know that Northstar will be doing a range of figures for it and if they are of the same quality as the Frostgrave figures (Copplestone, Saleh etc) then there is something to get excited about. Some great sci-fi skirmish figures would be very welcome no matter what ruleset I use them in!
So what was my point again?
Oldhammer is great. I've reinvigorated my love of miniatures and wargaming. I've met a load of very cool gents from all over the world and we chat like over excited school kids all the bloody time. It's the reason this blog exists and the reason I've collected a whole load of figures that my 12 year old self would be tremendously jealous of. I've had more fun and exciting games since I delved into 'the movement' than at any time before....but 3rd Edition Warhammer and Rogue Trader are not the end of my gaming. They were the beginning. They just happened to have taken that hallowed position in my life twice. They will always be dear to me. But they are still just the beginning, I want to try stuff, play around see what fits, juggle, wriggle, try and complete a game in less time than it takes my wife's mood to sour.
So it comes down to this. If my whole attitude to gaming is characterised by the types of old school games I learned to play from 3rd Edition and Rogue Trader? If I play games and chat with people who have similar tastes to mine and who I met through Oldhammer? If I use some classic citadel miniatures mixed in with more modern ones without batting and eyelid? If I do all this without playing a Games Workshop game?
Can it still be Oldhammer?