Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Tea-Drinker and The Titan: A Journeyman's Tale

Good day, lovely readers!  You may notice that there was quite a gap between the last two reviews, but hopefully the breakdown of The Resistance will signal a return to normality.  Recently I've received my Kickstarter copy of Tessen, and have had my first games of Spartacus, Last Night on Earth, and Ticket to Ride, so there's plenty on the review plate!  But over the last 12 weeks I've been immersed back into the long-neglected tabletop miniatures side of the hobby, and that's kept me distracted from everything else in the world!
Now back when Games & Tea started it was always going to be a board/card game blog - I mentioned it back when the blog began, and I've mentioned it a couple of times since.  This is not something that's going to change.  This article is not a sign that Games & Tea will soon be filled with release updates and so forth, but in the same way as my Diary of a Roleplay Beginner series was an intro to that element of the hobby, I thought the last 12 weeks were a nice into to the tabletop side of things.  So without further babbling, here's my excuse for a lack of board game reviews...
I was a tabletop hobbyist for years before drifting happily over to the board game niche, but entirely focused myself on Warhammer 40,000.  Back in September of 2013 I started collecting models from the Khador faction of Privateer Press' Warmachine tabletop game - I knew nothing of the game, but really liked the models.  Unfortunately I have an addictive personality, so once I started buying there was no stopping me, and within a couple of short months I'd accrued roughly £600 worth of toys for a system about which I was completely clueless.  I'm also an incredibly slow and unmotivated painter, so once everything was built it pretty much sat there on my painting table gathering dust.  And so my Warmachine journey seemed to be over.
Then at the beginning of January my FLGS Titan Games announced the beginning of a Warmachine/Hordes Journeyman League.  I'd not heard of these before, but the Journeyman Leagues are an inspired idea from Privateer Press.  They're designed to introduce people to the hobby slowly over a period of several weeks, introducing them to the rules, the best ways to use their models in combat, and encouraging players to get their models painted.  All of this appealed to me, so I signed up and threw myself in!
A Journeyman League takes place over the course of 6 rounds, typically with each round taking place over a single week - Titan stretched their league out across 12 weeks, with 2 weeks per round to allow more time to get games played and models painted.  When starting a new faction in Warmachine/Hordes it's best to start with a battlebox, which contains a very basic beginners force, and it's with one of these battleboxes that each player begins the league.  This is a great way to introduce new players to the hobby, as they only have to focus on how their three or four models work as they get to grips with the rules.  After round 1, players expand their armies to a set number of points, but have to keep their battlebox, so they gradually learn more and more about how their army works, until the final round where they can field a decent-sized force of any models they wish.
Points are scored for each game played, with bonus points being scored for victories, and hobby points are scored for each model painted, based on the size of the model/number of models in the unit etc, and at the end of the league players are awarded prizes for the most game points, the most painting points, and the player with the most points combined is declared the overall winner!
As I said, I always used to play Warhammer 40,000, but even after 5 years of playing I still didn't know the rules, making games long and tedious affairs.  My lack of rules knowledge also meant that I was a thoroughly ineffective player, and throughout my entire gaming history I never won a single game.  This knocked my hobby confidence, and I was thoroughly convinced that I was a bad tabletop gamer, so when I went into the Journeyman I was expecting to rack up defeat after defeat.
It turned out that being drip-fed the rules to Warmachine was the best way to be introduced to the system.  At the beginning of Round 1 I was having to check the rulebook every few minutes (fortunately my first opponent was in the same boat, so we were happy to bear with eachother!), by the end of Round 2 I had a solid understanding of the rules, and by Round 6 the rulebook was largely unnecessary and on occasion I even found myself correcting the rules knowledge of more experienced players!  And because of the fact that I understood the working of the rules I was able to focus more on how my army worked together, and ended up with one of the most solid gaming records in the entire league, which was a big confidence boost!
But the greatest boon for me was in the painting department.  As well as having an  addictive personality I'm also a highly competitive person - I'm not a poor winner/loser, but generally if I have a chance of winning something I'll go for it with everything I have!  At the beginning of the league I looked across my table full of Khador and totalled up their value in painting points, and realised that if I painted them all within the following 12 weeks then I'd be almost unassailable!  Now as I said, I'm a slow painter, and there were more models on my table than I'd painted in the previous 5 years (no word of exaggeration), but still I put my life on hold and started painting.  I dedicated almost every free waking moment of my life to this cause, often painting until 3am, getting up at 8am for work, carrying on painting when I got home at 6pm, and painting until 3am again.  And of course, as the weeks went on I realised which units would work well with my growing army, and continued to buy more as the league continued, only adding further to my painting pile!  There were a few times when I felt like I was going to break down, but I just focused on the points, got my head down and carried on.  As a result, not only did I paint more models than I had done in years, but for the first time in my tabletop hobby history I had a fully painted army.  Not only that, but my hobby skills truly developed, and I now even build dioramas which I never would have dared attempt in the past, and am now planning a custom-built army based on the BioShock videogame series!
So here's the fruits of my 12 week labour in Round-by-Round update photographs, and with them the reason for the lack of Games & Tea reviews!
End of Round 1
End of Round 2
End of Round 3
End of Round 4

End of Round 5
Although I put up a good fight, I didn't manage to score the most gaming points (finishing second on that front by a mere 1 point!), but this gargantuan effort did secure me the victory for most painting points, as well as the overall winner!  You may wonder why there's no 'End of Round 6' photo, but packing up all of my Khador for the weekly trip to Titan became such a chore as they increased in number, that after playing my Round 6 games I decided to let them all enjoy their rest!
So this was my Journeyman tale, and hopefully it will inspire anyone looking to enter the Warmachine/Hordes hobby!  At the beginning of the league I didn't know the rules in the slightest, and had almost no painted miniatures, but with the help of my FLGS and the other participants I emerged at the other end as a keen hobby veteran, and if I can do it then so can anyone!
I hope you've enjoyed this little hobby ramble.  Now that this is over Games & Tea should be resuming normal service, and I'm personally really looking forward to cranking out reviews again in the coming weeks...

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