Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Breaking the Established Norms, Your Take!

TJ here to talk about how we build and paint our armies to either fit the established background of our games or how we break with those traditions and why. For myself, I have always ridden the fence on the subject because I am an avid fan of the Black Library and to date have read all of the Horus Heresy novels and several omnibuses from the current millennia. When I start a project the background is always right there in my face and I am always tempted to satisfy that itch of making a conversion and paintjob that satisfies that background, however, sometimes I feel like I am painting myself into a corner in more ways than one.

First is the simple fact that I like so many different factions from the fluff that I would hate to lock myself I to just one. When I was a new player, I loved black legion and built a black legion army, but the more I built, the more I yearned for more unique legions and thus the Iron Warriors became an army that I have built and painted. Then when the new daemons and the allies rules came about I wanted to make Word Bearers. Add to that all the plague marines and other cult troops I have made to accord with their own paint schemes over the years and you have a skittles army waiting to happen.

I look at it now and I just really never wanted to be locked down. Iron warriors wouldn't likely ride horses like these. Word Bearers would look as brutally efficient as my iron warriors, ect. Add to this the fact that GW is now associating hard and fast rules to your fluff based paint schemes (Marine book), which can be glazed over but it feels cheap to do so to some gamers.

When it came to my armies, I let the allies chart set me free a little and it created something that has grown into its own thing for me, something that will likely effect my hobby for years to come and that was the breaking of established norms, cutting ties with the background to a degree I. Order to make something unique.  It all started with my necrons and the desire to ally my chaos with them.

Which led to me making some epic Chaos conversions and paint schemes that tied back ...

This led to some interesting daemons ...

And once you get into it, you start to get a feel for art over background. For me I would never sacrifice the new look I have achieved for the fluff, though I know some players I face would rather see the old fluffy identifiable stuff they have have become accostomed to if for no other reason than to have that visualization of the fluff come to life, which is what the tabletop game was meant to represent. I totally understand it and I love all the same stuff. I remember seeing the Gates of Terra display at Adepticon one year and I practically rode my nerd boner like a racing snail back to my room to make Heresy models (before FW did so).

With that said, the change to prefer looks over background is a change that has only occured to me recently. Maybe it is the paintjob, maybe it isn't I don't know. I still love to see armies that represent the background, but I also love to see amazing paint schemes.

With that said, I would love to hear what you guys think. Are you a hard line background guy, a paint scheme lover, something in between ... or are you one of the heathens who doesn't mind Hello Kitty or Star Wars? No matter what, I want to hear what you think!


  1. With all my armies I have created my own clan/chapter/warband/what-have-you because I enjoy that freedom it gives you in all regards. The only thing holding you back with a DIY army is yourself; no established fluff to take into account, no need to adhere to a mapped out paint scheme. I also love being able to create my own fluff. Sometimes the hobby element inspires the fluff and other times it's vice-verse.

    For me, nothing says full immersion like doing a DIY army.

  2. I've fallen into all three camps over time. My first army was a bunch of white and black marines that may have ridden jetbikes and had an extra tall dreadnought on skinny legs led by a guy black armored using a magic light sword or a super old force lighting wielding librarian.

    After I decided the Star wars theme didn't fit into the 40k universe, I always used to always do my own chapters/craftworlds. This worked nicely as I got to basically pick and choose my rules but lead to some confusion as well. They also had no place in the established 40k universe other than being allowed to exist.

    For the last few years I've been trending to build more established armies. My little allied Eldar corsair Void Dragon fleet, Mantis Warriors and Space Wolves all fit this mold. The only one that doesn't are my feral orks, but do feral orks really have clear groupings? The Mantis Warriors and Space Wolves were projects I really enjoyed because they were started to help me focus on improving an aspect of my army (conversions for the wolves and weathering for the warriors). By not having to worry about what the underlying scheme would be (too much) I was freed up to focus on what I wanted to focus on. I think it also makes the focused techniques stand out more because people have an idea of what they normally see (this could also be a function of those both being marine armies as well)

  3. A very interesting post, TJ! The easy answer, in my opinion, would be that it's your money and your hobby time, so it's obvious that you get to choose freely to what degree you feel bound by the background or to ignore it altogether.

    That said, I don't think this even has to be a binary choice in the first place: All avenues are equally viable (and can indeed be travelled at the same time): Creating your own approach and background can be just as satisfying as making sure your army fits into the established canon and vice versa. And, of course, there are the "just for fun" projects like Star Wars themed armies that would have a hard time fitting into the established lore (although I myself have found a pretty convincing, if only half-serious justification for a Boba Fett expy in one of my Inquisitor warbands).

    What it ultimately boils down to for me is that the existing background should always be used to add texture to your force, but never to take away from it: So if the background says that some armies don't use this or that, or if you dislike a certain detail of the lore, that just means that you'll have to think harder about what to do about it or work around it. In my opinion, the Black Legion army you described at the start of your post would really have been the perfect medium for all your CSM needs: There could have been all kinds of cool stories to explain why a squad of Word Bearers or Iron Warriors would have allied themselves with the BL. Want to use Bolter wielding CSM in your World Eaters army? Why not build some fallen Space Wolves for that? Want some Possessed for your Alpha Legion, even though it doesn't fit the established background? Why not model them as fallen loyalists, cunningly used as vessels for possession by the AL to create a squad that will thoroughly demoralise loyalist forces?

    In my opinion, the background should never prevent you from doing cool stuff, but always inspire you to come up with great material. Sure, there are limitations. But working around them or averting them can be half the fun!

    P.S. That being said, your Necron-Daemons are the shitz, of course ;)

  4. I only know the fluff from my skimming the codices/MRB and hearing it from fellow players. I just like converting models that I can use in the game. Which is why I think I gravitated toward CSM. Lots of potential for interesting builds there, if not consistent winning. The fluff seems cool and all, but I enjoy building things mostly and gaming occasionally.

  5. Good post - it's always interesting to see how other people's take on the hobby has changed over time.

    For a long time I was most interested in creating my own chapter/tribe/craftworld, etc. and it's only in recent years that I've become more interested in recreating 'real' armies. (Particularly, but not exclusively because of the Horus Heresy.) I think that's the attraction of historical wargaming - in creating something that is judged by how well it fits in with the setting.

    I think it's also the case that 40K is explicitly designed to give hobbyists maximum flexibility. Space Wolves look right painted in anything from dark grey, to light grey, to blue grey. Ultramarines can be bright blue, dark (almost black) navy, etc. And that's not to mention all the offshoot chapters which basically exist purely to give games the excuse to use a variety of colour schemes.

    Having said that I'm now more of a 'historical' hobbyist, I certainly put the looks of the army before fluff anywhere I feel they clash. Both in paint schemes (my librarians wear chapter/legion colours, not blue) and in terms of what I include in my army (there are no bikes in my White Scars contingent because I just can't manage the suspension of disbelief necessary to imagine soldiers driving motorbikes into battle). I ignore chunks of official setting written by black library authors I consider to be terrible writers, etc.

    And I would always encourage other hobbyists to go for what they think looks cool rather than what 'the norm' says is correct.