[Confessions of an English Zombie Fancier] Misery Drives A Pick-Up

I’ve come to an unfortunate realisation, as I return to the grind of the league after my two weeks away.

I don’t actually enjoy pick-up games.

I enjoy getting out of the house and having a nice walk up to Dark Sphere and back, I enjoy talking to some people who I don’t either live or work with, but I don’t… actually enjoy the experience that I’m allegedly going out to have.

This realisation has been brought to me at the business end of Alyx’s Khador army, who you may remember from previous humiliating and painful experiences. I won’t lie – as soon as I remembered who he was and what he was playing, my brain just decided to take a hike. It’s possible that I could have beaten him, but I just… didn’t feel like trying.

What you see here is an army with three things that I ideally need Asphyxious’ feat to kill; the Winter Guard Death Star, the Konquest, and the Butcher himself. One thing skews to high DEF, one to high ARM, and there’s a lot of insane damage output there, especially with the Widowmakers covering the Conquest’s side.

I spread out in a nice long line instead of remembering that refused flanks are a thing, I put support solos where they could be seen, and I fed low-output models into the teeth of the Winterguard who really need big AOEs or multiple Sprays or something to be dealt with. Not only that but I left Asphyxious cowering in the woods flinging out spells willy-nilly instead of picking a target and focusing it down. Deployed like a nub, played like a nub, lost like a nub.

Why do I keep doing this after eight years in the game and eighteen on the tabletops? It’s not just Warmachine that I do this in; I’ve had the exact same “oh, you should have just refused a flank you nar-nar” revelation over and over again down the years. Am I stupid? I don’t think so. Am I lazy? Possibly.

Sometimes I can’t be bothered to play. That’s the honest truth. Even if I’d deployed properly, it would have been an uphill struggle; I’m frightened of Colossals (having seen them absorb a whole 25 point army’s damage output and point-click-delete entire Retribution battlegroups in two turns) and I don’t yet have a grasp on what they do. I do have a grasp on the Death Star, but unless I’m running a caster with Crippling Grasp my general approach is simply to stay the hell out of its way or try to blitz it off with something like Asphyxious’ feat and hope.

On top of that, the scenario was one of those “there are two objectives and they have stats and rules, there are two zones and they have rules, you can get points for doing this and that in one zone or the other” jobs – something abstract and crunchy. On top of that, it’s Warmachine, and here’s the honest truth; I love Warmachine in small games, 15 to 25 points or so. I don’t like Warmachine at 35 points, but I’m willing to stretch there as a compromise. I hate Warmachine at 50 points. There’s too much stuff, too many actors, too many rules to keep track of and execute with the clinical accuracy that the game demands.

Even the games that I win are hard work – playing Warmachine was seriously the most intellectually challenging thing I did this Monday, and I spent Monday doing things like applying for benefits and filling out forms and talking to doctors about why the little white pills aren’t stopping me going bibbledy any more. The words ‘game’ and ‘hard work’ make me raise an eyebrow. Even the allegedly ‘beer and pretzels’ variety seem to come with a lot of things that you have to remember – or, well, you don’t have to, but nobody likes going “oh, wait, that shouldn’t have happened like that”, do they? At best, those incidents are tolerated, accepted as par for the course – at worst, they rankle because it’s entirely possible to lose a model or a character or a game over forgetting how X or Y works.

It’s worse with RPGs, in which I really don’t think I need an elaborate system of rules at all. I’m playing make-believe. I need something to resolve the “bang you’re dead” “huh uh you missed” argument, a simple justice mechanic, and maybe something to generate stories if we’re all feeling a bit brain-tired, and honestly, the rest is merely ironmongery as far as I’m concerned.

I’m feeling a bit burned out. Funny how leagues always do that to me. What I want is a nice campaign with a couple of regular opponents and an ongoing storyline and no lucky dip “what flavour of optimised death shall I be facing this week?” factor. I wonder if anyone wants to play in one of those?

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