Porky’s Wild Bore- No Reassemble?
Malfunctions. That’s more or less what it’s about this week. Failure.
The failure by at least some producers some of the time to make things that can work for any given one of us specifically and reliably, or that work at all without a lot of help at our end.
This kind of failure is a big part of the hobby of course, by its nature, and maybe even the heart of it. In a sense, any malfunctions are part of the program. After all, unless the casters are going to scrape off the mould lines and the artists come round our houses to convert and paint up the miniatures to fit our forces, and the designers stand at the table and talk us through or run games for us – or rewrite them – we the users have to be a kind of supervisor and troubleshooter in the larger process.
We have to pull it all together, in the final stages. Sometimes we don’t necessarily notice we’re doing it, other times we’re very aware. We often seem to accept it, possibly because the number of variables is too high to expect any different given the conditions at the industry-hobby interface.
Just this week we saw some classic examples.
Let’s start with the mean-looking Iron Hands with bionics posted by Gorman Sawyer at Twitchy Droid Painting Services. They’re from a force that could soon be subject to change, with a new codex coming out, and they use parts from what gets called a ‘third party’ producer, in this case Kromlech.
Gorman had what was titled a rant, but I’d say was more like reasonable criticism from someone clearly invested.
How often and how much should a customer have to pay for rules to play a given faction, and how often can a rules product be superseded? Should all of the modelled options be easily available from the core producer?
In both cases – rolling rules releases and WYSIWYG modelling – the players are left to do the hard work of keeping up, agreeing permissibility and even validity of sources, and ironing out potential incompatibilities.
That’s the tip of the iceberg of course.
Two more aspects were suggested by Gus at EPIC ADDICTION in a post on Tau ships for Battlefleet Gothic, specifically the way the background for a faction and its miniatures can vary or change over time – being retconned for example – and the way the miniatures are essentially static things that don’t always express their relationships.
In the first case – the potential inconsistencies – the players are again left to decide what to make of it all, whether to find a harmony, and if so how; maybe by assuming an unreliable narrator, or converting, or finding alternatives. In the second case – the limits of the miniatures – Gus resolved the issue by magnetising the ships, thereby reflecting the connection in the fiction and mitigating the dissociation between concept and realisation.
Staying with spaceships for the next example too, we had a post by Da Masta Cheef at Da Long Wayz Dezert Groop on how Wolfy being unimpressed by the standard X-Wing approach decided to create a whole new scenario for the game.
It’s simple and apparently effective. And here we see something maybe more significant for the hobby: if a piece of creation like this scenario gives the game new life for this group of players, it will be a life it might not otherwise have had. That extra work on the part of the player could then mean continued sales for the producer, where by the producer’s work alone the income might have dried up.
We can sometimes find that even where the producer clearly is going the extra mile – and in the case of Fantasy Flight and Star Wars that might be the provision of prepainted miniatures – the extra is not necessarily always going to be to a preferred form or standard.
Perhaps the most complete example of the week though is the experience of cormm at St Andrews wargaming, who not only converted up a diverse set of good-looking objective markers in the absence of anything so specific ready-made from the producer, but then saw the varnishing stage fail to produce a completely clear coat.
The response to this was admirable – as in fact it was in the case of every post mentioned – and was a response common I think to a lot of us, reflecting those complexities at the core of the hobby.
First, there was an an acknowledgement that while the producer might not make these specific markers, it does at least provide excess parts from which this can be done. Fair-minded and realistic. Second, there was a suggestion that unexpected problems like the varnishing issue might benefit us by being a challenge, and that the frost effect on the minis could actually represent frost in the game world. Wise, and shrewd, but also an evocative idea, and consistent with the essence of a hobby in which we anyway help bridge the gulf between the playing piece and imaginary entity, not least by painting.
In this sense the hobby is arguably pretty old-fashioned, a reflection of what might now be a passing status quo, supporting as it does creativity, a dexterous engagement with the physical world, and face-to-face social contact, as well as a willingness to make the best, smooth out rough edges and move forward.
The big question might be this: given the way the world is changing, can this balance be maintained? Or maybe: how can this balance be maintained?