Monday 15 April 2013

So Many Armies, So Little Time...

Greetings once again fellow wargamers. If it's a bit crowded in here, it's because my various armies have a conference on.

This time I would like to talk briefly about the fix that I and I'm sure many others find themselves in, either due to the length of time they have been collecting, or because they are compulsive buyers. I am talking about owning lots of different armies, and how this affects our hobby experience compared to gamers who play just one or two armies. I don't mean lots of models, because some people have truly huge armies, which comes with its own issues. I mean owning lots of different armies using different army books and codices.

I have been collecting Games Workshop models for just over twenty years, and in that time I have accumulated eleven different armies: six for Warhammer 40,000 and five for Warhammer Fantasy, not to mention stuff for specialist and other games like Battlefleet Gothic, Blood Bowl, Necromunda, Inquisitor and not forgetting Man O' War.

Now having this many different armies (rather than multiple armies that use the same book, like three different Chapters of Vanilla space marines for example), many of which are quite sizeable, has had a number of effects. First, as you would expect, it means having lots of models, which requires copious quantities of storage space and vessels to store the models in.

It also means that, as I did a lot of my collecting in my teens, I have lots of unpainted models. I don't really see this as a drawback, because thankfully it means that now I am really getting back into army painting, my standard of painting is much better than it was when I started collecting. That's not to say I don't have shares in dot 4 hydraulic brake oil. I have had my painting apocalypses in the past just like anyone else. It's also a good thing collecting so many different armies because it's rare for people who have so many different models to paint to get bored of them. Oh look, I have another space marine to paint to add to the company I already painted. Whoopee...

Another impact is the maintenance cost of having so many different armies, and by maintenance I mean the cost of picking up the latest Army Book or Codex as they are released. This was less of an issue when they were knocking them out at around twelve quid each, but now they are going for thirty of Her Majesty's finest pounds, it's a lot more expensive. If it turns out that my armies all have a book come out in a very short period, that's quite an investment just to be able to play using the latest rules, which I guess is par for the course having fingers in lots of pies, and I do like to pick up the occasional new toy here and there (Mortis Engine, ye shall rise soon, I promise) but still...

An advantage is that if I only played one army, I'd be having to rush out and get the new book as soon as it came out to be able to play using the latest rules, but as it is I won't be picking up the new Warriors of Chaos book till Fathers Day, because I have four other Fantasy armies I can play till then. Plus, having half the Army and Codex books available is great if you like fluff, because you end up with a much bigger picture of the background as a whole than if you just had one Codex and the rulebook.

The greatest effect having this many armies is the one it has on my gaming. I like to play all of my armies, rather than focus on just one or two, because they each give me something different and exciting, and I hate the thought of all that hobby goodness being left on a shelf or in a box and not being used. I would never sell one of my armies for 40K or Fantasy, because each has a huge monetary and emotional investment in them. I have had most of my models longer than I have had my wife, and most are older than my youngest brother, plus, they remind me of some of the greatest times and best friends of my childhood.

The impact that switching armies so frequently has is two fold. First, it keeps my regular gaming opponents guessing about what army I'll be playing next, but more importantly, it affects how conversant I can be with any single army. Given I get about two games a month in, if each one is with a different army, and we regularly have new editions of game rules, army rules for my armies and army rules for my opponents armies to contend with, this results in little opportunity to really get used to playing a single army under stable conditions for an extended period of time. 

I have plenty of general experience playing Fantasy and 40K, and know the game rules well, but always find myself learning something new about using my armies from people who stick to the same army week in week out. In my head, this puts something of a cap on how good I can get as a player, because it's easier to get better sticking with one army and getting to know every little detail and trick inside out than picking it up every now and again.

I guess at the end of the day I have a couple choices. I could give up some of my armies, either shelving them (as if), or more sensibly, sell them off (never!) in order to better concentrate on one or two armies and play them until I can beat any player and any army, or, I can continue to play eleven different armies, winning less, but getting to take part in a far wider spectrum of gaming possibilities.
To be honest, I have got quite attached to my armies and their associated fluff, my named characters and the general history of their victories and defeats. I couldn't send them out into void now even if I wanted to...

So, next time you see the grizzled old veteran at the club or store that always seems to bring a different army to play, but rarely walks away victorious, just remember that the more armies you play, the more opportunities you have to immerse yourself in the hobby. Why play 40K or Fantasy one or two different ways when you could be playing a dozen different ways?

Once again, thanks for reading.


  1. On the other hand, I have just got rid of my old tau, and night lords to give me some extra funds to make progress on my blood angels. I know what you mean about selling them though, I'd thought about selling my raven guard but I just couldn't.

    I think one of the biggest bonuses to playing loads of different armies is not being taken by surprise, if you've read the codex, you'll know exactly what the units you're facing can do.