Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Gateway Game

Moving is done and now I can't find anything, but there seem to be few casualties (with the notable exception of an old Imperator Titan -- the Mechanicus can't be pleased with me at this point). So this post will have to do for now until more work can be undertaken!

A recent article on the Bell of Lost Souls on the possible return of the Chaos Dwarves (and no, I’m not falling for “Dwarfs” as the plural -- I'm just stubborn that way) caused me to wax nostalgic with memories of big spiky hats on which I may have impaled fingers, useless formations of hobgoblins, USENET groups (and being the illustrious editor of the Chaos Dwarf FAQ section – so I had that going for me) and, more to the point of that article, what I would like to see in a new Chaos Dwarf book.

And that got me to thinking about how I had started with the little Chaos Dwarves in the first place. It was back in the mists of time, but it did not start with Warhammer at all, but rather with that other nifty gateway game, Blood Bowl (check out the rules here). Mention Blood Bowl these days and reactions will run the gamut, from ardent fans who play nothing else, to Warhammer players who occasionally dabble, all the way to 40K players who have never heard of it, and regard it with a suspicion typically held for Epic or for Battlefleet Gothic.

However one might think of it, Blood Bowl was indeed my “gateway” game for a Chaos Dwarf army. As I may have mentioned before, I am neither a skilled nor a speedy painter, so the various incarnations of Blood Bowl would often allow me to bask in the moment which, for me, was rather rare: the moment of showing up with a fully painted force! To be sure, that might only require somewhere between 12 and 16 figures, but, for me, it allowed me to actually try out several teams and styles of play. I began with the High Elves, but I already had a High Elf army, so they didn’t really hold my attention overly long. So I turned in other directions and looked at other teams. I loved my Skaven team for two reasons: one was the style of play (a high scoring passing offense and a defense . . . well, we didn’t really play defense), and the other was the fact that I could paint Skaven fur relatively well (for me), and so I thought the models turned out nicely. So nicely, in fact, that I briefly (perhaps for a few months or so) flirted with the idea of forming a Skaven army in Warhammer (there were some really cool models) until I came face to face with the fact that, while I could get some good results painting Skaven, I was going to have to paint a LOT of models to field a viable force, and I blanched at the though of painting up 50 Skavenslaves. I also realized that the army seemed to be of a certain type and played in only a certain style, and I didn’t think it was one to which I could readily adapt.

But I also had another Blood Bowl team that was fun to play. Those were my Chaos Dwarves, and they were almost completely the opposite of the Skaven. Where the Skaven could average three to five touchdowns per game, the Chaos Dwarves were lucky if they scored a pair of touchdowns . . . but they could play defense! Instead of a long passing attack, they played a different form of offense, which I gave the rather catchy title the “give-the-ball-to-the-bull-centaur-and-have-him-smash-things” offense. In retrospect, perhaps it really was not that catchy of a title after all. In any case, the Blood Bowl successes lead me to enlarge my Chaos Dwarf purchases and (unlike with the Skaven), fill them out to a more sizeable force.

In that respect Blood Bowl served the purpose for which Games Workshop had likely intended it: to introduce players to different aspects of the hobby, or to introduce new players to the hobby entirely (I already had Warhammer and WH40K). I am kind of curious if others were perhaps lead down similar paths – did some games of Space Hulk spark the interest of either a new Marine or (later) a Tyranid player? Or did someone try a different army in Epic that led them to then collect that army in 40K?