Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Oldhammer In The New World

Ok, so I'm starting a blog. So the big question is: Why?

The Great Beginning

To answer that I have to explain something about myself and where my hobby and gaming has taken me. I started buying miniatures when I was 9 years old. It is amazing to me how that memory is so clear to me even today. I was on a family vacation and found some money on the side of the road. Back then it was a lot of money, and my parents took most of it, but did let me have some to buy something. My brother wanted a model, so my dad took us to a hobby shop. Inside I found tons of stuff, all those little knick knacks, and even little kids toys (cap guns, swords, etc). But instead of the cruddy toys (kids today have it so good!), I was drawn to some little packages on one wall. It was a small selection but the first one I looked at had orcs in it. I remember thinking - "Those are like Lord of The Rings!" I bought them and a couple of others I thought looked interesting - including some official Lord of The Rings models. These are not them, but the packages were like these:

 I still remember having to wait until we got to the hotel before I could open the packages. So I read the back of the cards to still be able to play with them. I remember staring at the Citadel. I remember the light being interrupted by trees as we drove and thinking..."Nottinghamshire - wonder where that is?". My dad was the first to remind me of Robin Hood. ;)

Ever since that day I have been pretty much hooked on minis. I played DnD with friends, and did other geeky delights (like flipping Space Invaders on an Atari). But I always wanted more miniatures. It got worse when I decided to try to paint them like some of the pictures I'd see. I only had Testor's model paint (which were all enamels back then). Needless to say none of my early efforts were great, or even remotely more than splashes of color - I was still using the Testor's brushes that came with the paints! I remember being crushed when my mom could not tell what I had painted.

The Hobby Truly Begins...

Eventually times changed, and we got older and the models progressed. Acrylic paints came out and my painting got passable - though better than most of my friends - but nothing like the images that were now starting to appear in magazines. Warhammer had come out, and we were in the process of one of our many moves as a family, so the guys who were going to play it with me were no longer there. Then 2nd edition came out, and I was able to talk a few friends into trying it out. We had a load of fun, screwed up the rules constantly, made up a bunch of our own, told great stories, defended towns and villages and in one incredible day, I was able to sack an entire castle! In other words, to us and our imaginations, it was like any kid in a candy store that is told he can have all he wants for was incredible!

Then came third edition. I know Rick Priestley has said that they were some of the worst "rules" they ever put out, but as a package and guide for us younger folk it was like a whole other world and level of miniature gaming. We had always been happy with our tables, with everything from books to towels, to legos.We had done some small buildings, and done the castle (which was basically a box with four paper towel cardboard tubes all painted grey). We roughed it and filled in the blanks with our minds. We had seen some awesome games, and read about some, but never before had we thought you could do a full gaming room! Of course, we were a bit younger than the guys doing all of this, and impressionable! So our hobbying took on a whole new level. Of course, then we moved again. I probably would have been lost except for Space Hulk and Blood Bowl. through them I met some new guys at the new town, hosted a big game, and bam, we were off and running again.

One of my favorite all time images (even if it is not too old). Someone has the original of this at their house! (You know who you are!) I'm hoping to someday see it in person.

 The Explosion and The Collector...

 It was at this time that my collection of Citadel Metal had grown to the point that it would get me weird looks from my mother, to say nothing of my sister or the movers. (Yes we moved again). Again, gaming got me new friends to play with, and they loved that I had so many figures for the roleplaying nights...after a few epic battles I was again able to talk them into trying Warhammer, and we had a great time, on my first purpose built terrain board (where I learned first hand what happens to blue board when you spray paint it on the first try!). And while I was having fun playing with my figures, and some of the guys did buy some, I supplied almost everything that everyone used. So I did not just have one army, I had 3 then 4, plus all of the villagers, talisman, fighters, etc.That was when I realized I was a collector - not a gamer only, not just one army, and not a painter only - but a collector. If it existed or came out, I wanted it. Of course, small part time jobs and mowing lawns could only get you so much, so my large purchases were still pretty small, but compared to all of my friends, it was crazy. The rest of High school was a series of days where I went somewhere (I think they called the building school) and ignore some rambling adults and got As in everything when I was busy drawing and writing games, rules and scenarios. Then I got let out for nights of gaming, painting and role-playing with my friends - still my best friends to this day. I did play sports in there too.

Then 4th edition came out. It was, of course different than 3rd, changed the scale and everything. We'll get into that more in a later post, but the one other big thing that it did was ushered in a whole lot more gamers! As Rick has pointed out on podcasts and interviews, they basically went from a ten to fifteen million pound company to a 100 million pound company! But this huge influx of gamers was incredible. I was in college at the time, and I had just gotten a job at The Tin Soldier in Dayton, OH. More people were buying and playing, and we'd stay until 2-3 in the morning - and it got worse when 2nd edition 40k came along :)!

Then I got the great chance to go to work for Games Workshop in Baltimore! It was the dream job I had been wanting to do since I had gotten those first figures and then read about available jobs in the UK! It was great. My first day, Richard E. dropped the first stateside 5th edition preview copy on the table next to my desk. I was a kid in a candy store - even though they tortured me through the first 90 days, when I could not buy at discount. It was incredible and it was a job. Some of my good friends are still my good friends (though now we tend to keep in touch about our kids rather than the business). I'll admit I was a kid in a candy store. I still remember visiting the UK factory and getting 30 minutes to load up on metal! But I went west in 2000, still gaming, but no longer getting things at discount or finding out things months in advance.

In the Wilderness...

After leaving GW I followed my fiance across the country and was soon up to old tricks, working and gaming at a store. 6th edition arrived (I actually got my copy before I left the company). Then she broke it off and I found myself on the other side of the country, for no real reason, and not even wanting to game. So I headed back to Michigan. Ah, yes, the wilderness years. I'm in a small town - a company town. The closest game store that really carried GW was just a bit over an hour and a half away. So for a while I contented myself with just adding to my collection - this was when ebay became a friend (sometimes like a too good of a friend that sticks you with the tab and you pay it anyway ;) ).

7th edition arrived. I was stuck in a town when my savior arrived in the form of one of my High School best friends. He moved back to town, and we were both frustrated with no gaming (anyone who wonders about the need for a store to introduce people for a thriving gaming community should just ask me). Well with two of us we could not do Role-playing so I finally got him to play me (pretty much bribed/blackmailed him - everything involved should be better left unsaid), and thank god I did. He decided to play Lizardmen, and with his innate rules lawyer ability from roleplaying, and all of the things I taught him, he became a great opponent. He now wins a lot of things, and we both won Adepticon best general for our team army. And then he moved away, and I thought I was stuck in the wilderness again. Luckily enough for me, a store finally opened in the area, and I was rescued again.

The Epiphany...

And then it happened - no not 8th. I know a lot of people were upset about that. No it was for lack of a better term, the lack of passion I started to see in the hobby. This is not a knock on tons of guys who paint their armies far better than me, with much better technique, and "color management". No I started at Adepticon that year with a whole new army (one I had not reallyl played since 4th edition - Dwarfs!), and I went and did pretty well (except for painting-more later). But it hit me as I played the second round and was playing against another Dwarf player. Our armies were just too similar. They were painted completely differently (his much better!), but I actually lost track of a unit, because I thought it was his - even though our paint jobs were completely different! I mean, we both had new pretty (or pretty-ish in my case) armies. We had both taken advantage of the plastic, kitbashing and posing our figures as much as we could. But they looked the same. And except for the skill in painting and maybe the base, I noticed all of the dwarf armies had too much of a look of just the same....And it was the same for all of the Dark Elf armies, and all of the Chaos armies, and all of the Vampires or Orcs or Empire....

Once again, some of these armies were painted incredibly well, and I still enjoyed seeing them, but for me, the plastics had taken some of the soul out of the game. I remembered my first dwarfs. I remembered my friends at the time. Back then the only figures we both had in our armies were Bugmans and a slayer model. That was it. I had Imperial style dwarfs, he had Norse. So we did not have any figures that were the same. Our armies were the same race but made up of completely different things. And I looked hard at my collection, which came out in two parts....stuff from 4th edition and earlier....and everything after. I remember Tom Kirby talking about plastics at some sales conference (in London that year I think as the new factory was getting ready). Basically it came down to the history of plastics that GW had done....putting things on slotta bases, then introducing plastic arms and weapons to go on lead figs, then full done plastics single piece, and at the time basically the introduction of the plastic sets with metal command (turning it completely around form the earlier way). Of course there were vehicle kits and everything, and the metal command parts went away pretty quickly to just full plastic. Part of the reason was to give gamers an affordable way to collect units (no joke, that was his words at the time).

Of course now I was here years later, and I realized that my collecting of incredibly cool individual models had been replaced by unit collecting. Blisters were basically gone (and mainly direct only - which I hate (I like supporting the FLGS) and while it was nice to be able to buy a unit for the game, I was just basically buying playing pieces, not those incredible models of my youth. And while some incredible unique armies are out there, the sameness just keeps coming through. So my ebaying took a turn and I was only looking for old stuff (that was always the case - always looking for parts to the collection, of course), but I was no longer looking for current and old stuff - I only wanted old stuff.

Then one day, I'm trolling around and found an interview with one of the old GW hands, and discovered Orlygg's, Zhu's, Gaj's and Erny's blogs. It was great! There were others like me, who wanted to return to that incredible creative era of GW, where the game was for fun, not a competition. Where the figures were each and everyone awesome little signs of talent and creativity...and should reflect it in their paint jobs!


So I discovered oldhammer, and watched and read their blogs, I started getting out some of the older stuff, going through the storage unit and the garage, pulling out the copies of 2nd and 3rd Warhammer. Finding my still-in-shrinkwrap copies of Goblobbers, Advanced Heroquest, Blood Bowl and others. Then breaking into the boxes to start finding the old models. I finally decided I wanted to do an orc and gobbo army, and I had all of the old figures to make a pretty big one right away.

I made some comments and I post on the facebook page, but I have to admit - jealousy hit me again....all because of this...

Getting to England was not going to be happening right now - I have two kids under three and two teenagers trying to get me to buy them cars. [I mean, don't they understand how many miniatures that could buy ;) ?]. So I knew I would not be there. And I begged for photos (thanks Tony!) and info. I read and looked at all the photos, saw some old friends in the pictures, and was basically really sad I could not be there for the day. But thanks everyone for the pictures, and to all of the blogs that reported and talked about it.

Of course, then I wanted to figure out how we could have an Oldhammer day in the states. I started talking to some of the others on the lists here on this side of the pond, and we are going to try to make something happen. Of course, to make it a really cool thing (besides just three or four of us getting together) we have to get the word out. So of course, I've decided to start this blog. There are some others with blogs or sites here in the states (see the links to the right). I'm working on a cool siege game...more on that later, but basically a small town is going to get attacked.

But why does this matter to you? Well, if your story is somewhat similar to mine, you find yourself drawn more and more to the old miniatures, or you just can't handle the gaming tournament scene anymore, this might interest you. And if it does, then maybe you can comment here, join us on the facebook page or forum (on the right under Join the Community) and also fill out the opponent finder here: Skarsnik's Opponent Finder.

I'm going to be blogging about my current projects and gaming things. I'll be talking about any Oldhammer get togethers I can find out or hear about. And in general just spouting off about whatever is striking me at the moment. I'm also going to talk a little bit about my collection, including additions, or my favorites - there is even the whole bucket list and top ten list for what I want. This is all a rather long introduction - but gives some of my thoughts on why Oldhammer as a community and movement appeals so much to me.

I'll also try to include any little tidbits I can think of, though Orylgg has covered a lot or most everything in White Dwarf! Thanks! Hope you'll be joining me on our journey and even better, hope to see you at an Oldhammer Day here in the states one day soon!


  1. I've gone through a VERY similar experience with my hobby the past few years. After attending Games Day US 2011, I've not done anything with the GW hobby. Nothing. It was like the closure needed for an abusive (to my wallet) relationship.

    Having recently run into the Oldhammer community, I've had those old GW hobby feelings creeping back. No desire to visit a GW store or buy anything they produce today, but to dig out my old minis give them the attention they deserve. What you mention about the new plastics having no soul and feeling like you are collecting units instead of minis really resonates with me. I'm not even sure how they did it to us... I can't pinpoint when I started thinking I needed/wanted so many units for games I'd hardly ever bother to play.

    So, I've dug out some old stuff (1987 Nick Bibby Dragon Ogres!) and I'm going to fulfill my plan of 23 years ago and do some converting and some painting (re-painting). It pains me a bit to convert such old classic minis, but I feel it's keeping in with the style of the era. Besides, aside from us old folks the new GW hobby generation probably wouldn't know how to convert metal!

    I wish you luck with your blog, may it not fall into complete disuse like mine!

    1. Thanks! I hope you have a blast with your project! And yes, it sometimes amazes me how some of the passion for a model has gone away. But I think it was a slow change, not a specific moment. Strange to think, but I can see in hindsight some of it was starting back when I worked at GW in the late 90s/early 2000s. The passion on display in the old stuff was mutating even then. The technical aspects of what they do, even as they redid units, have gotten incredible. But the "art" was curtailed as the passion fled for marketable identity. Its not nostalgia to me, it is rediscovering that incredible creative spark that was in the studio back then. I'm still a GW fan, for what they do, but more and more I want to play in what they did.
      If your project comes off, maybe you can start blogging about it as well. I'm trying to pace myself a little. Waiting on an ink for my Hobby stuff, but don't want to burn out too quick on the blogging thing. But please keep us posted on your progress or go on Oldhammer Facebook group and share some pics! Lots of the guys would love to have a unit of those Dragon Ogres - and they would love to see them.

  2. I didn't even think to put the pictures on the Facebook group page? I did post them on the oldhammer forums in the WIP section though.

  3. Oh, cool, I'll go check them out! But yeah, try to get them up on Facebook. It pipes it in directly, and lots of people can see them quickly. I'm not the worlds best painter, but tons of the guys are really incredible. They can give you proper feedback and great suggestions.