Wednesday 20 March 2013

I would like to table a motion.

Recently I have read several articles in the blogosphere on the subject of gaming tables that are both intelligent, thoughtful and admirable in purpose, yet somehow I find myself unable to agree with everything being said. If I may, I will add some personal thoughts to this debate here, based on experience (instead of spamming everyone else's blogs with my twitterings).

WARNING: THIS IS NOT A RANT! Please read this to yourself in a pleasant tone of voice, possibly with some easy-listening background music.

For your relaxation. :)

I think that the kind of table you end up playing on is often a result of compromise, whether over space, time (the physicists amongst you may well argue that these are the same thing), money or skill.

The much maligned GW Realm of Battle board.

While I agree that the GW offering is a bland uninspiring affair scattered with far too many ridiculous skulls and not enough charm and character, I do not agree that it has no place in my life. I can carry it on one shoulder from place to place and it packs away neatly in the home to allow things like buggies, cat boxes and wives to occupy valuable space. It's generic mediocrity actually becomes a strength when you lose interest in that obscure Dr Who game and become obsessed with a Judge Dredd game instead. You can switch out the phone box and quarry and replace them with dinosaurs and apartment blocks very easily. And those skulls file off or cover with sand very easily by the way. I got mine for a song off eBay and have never regretted it once. My terrain making skills are pretty good and for me that is what matters and what deserves a little room in my cupboards of precious things.

As a teenager I worked for Games Workshop and was taught by a very enthusiastic manager how to make great tables using a variety of methods. With his guidance I got pretty good and those tables started to turn out looking amazing and when I left at 19 for a 'real job' I was luckily soon able to buy my own home and fill a room with gaming table goodness. Those tables were big, heavy and took up loads of space, it didn't matter at the time but it does at the moment and it will always be a consideration as my family grows. While I did my best to keep things user friendly and varied, those tables started to become a bit stale eventually, one or two (inconsiderate?) gamers that came over regularly even began to joke about it. Suffice to say that when I was taken a'travellin' by work and I rented the house out I felt neither remorse nor regret as I binned or donated those boards.

Years later I again had to donate some glorious tables/scenery to a club when I sold my pub with it's spacious upstairs accommodation and moved north to get married. The same lack of pity drove this clear out as I had become very jaded by gaming over the same old tracts of land again and again. I am about to move once more and regain a permanent gaming room but in the meantime I have had to make do with easy to store tables that offer a variety of options for use, and I have never once during this time looked at my tables (past the nice scenery) and thought "ugh, my table is a bit rubbish".

Some of those tables in the old photos I have seen held up as paragons of the war-gaming art are actually crappy bits of old polystyrene sheet with a bit of textured paint over the top. You can even see knackered edges and corners where they have been slung about in transit and stored badly. It is the scenery that brings them to life and brings salty tears to the eye. Now scenery can do this to any platform pretty much, and rivers and such don't need to be 3D to be eye-catching and impressive. If you can manage to own one or two centrepiece examples of terrain and store them well you are better off than many modern gamers.

I love this board I found online and would love to game over it. Whip the sub off and replace it with some hills, crystal forests, igloos, pine trees, et cetera and you have a boredom resistant table, despite it being a plain white ROB board from GW. The horror.

As for blaming GW for all this, they have to cater for the much maligned but nevertheless thriving tournament scene as it rakes in lots of cash and represents a not insignificant portion of their customer base. Us Oldhammerers are only now beginning to find a voice and we have certainly neglected GW as much as they neglect us! Perhaps if GW fail to build a relationship with us despite our best efforts we can we can later criticise them for that. It is a shame that the lovely (often superb examples of the art) tables I have seen in GWs up and down the country over the years have started to vanish in order to promote the boil in the bag scenery they have started to sell, but they are just exploiting gamer laziness and not causing it.

GW still make amazing tables on an annual basis.

I remember a great display board from a Games Day UK a few years back, it was a horde of the Undead swarming over an Imperial city that was complete with a port and a ship or two. 'Revenge of the Vampire' or something, it was called. As time passed even the big corporate slug that is GW ran out of storage/patience for it's old tables and this table, one of my all time favourites, was sadly destroyed along with several others. Apparently, the ordered demise of the tables was subsequently taken care of by two HQ employees (who shall remain nameless) playing 'Land of the Giants' while drunk. My point is that if even GW can't store it's show tables, how is the average club or home going to manage?

So, am I suggesting that it is wrong to aspire to own a show table at your home or club? Hell no, go for it if you can. I certainly will be as soon as we move house and I get me some serious gaming space. I will make a new table purely for aesthetic reasons with no thought to ergonomics and post it here for people to see. Along the way though, I do hope to make it clear that if you don't or can't do the same, it doesn't force you to resign as an Oldhammerer, GW is NOT to blame (we are) and that aspirations must be tempered by situations.

To sum up, and revisit the idea of that motion I wanted to table, can we please keep the table talk positive and inspirational and leave the negative bashing for youtube flame wars?

As always, I am open to re-education if you want to comment below.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. My table is a green cloth, 8' by 5'. I've had it years, mid 90s I should say, before that I had a similar but smaller green cloth. It's a blank canvas and has represented everything from Normandy bocage, to the lands of the latin league. From the jungles of Lustria to the fields of bretonia to far flung death planets. I would suggest the majority of games of warhammer in the 80s were fought over very similar tables.

    The effort of set piece tables is fine for a club for a demo game but ultimately rather boring in the end for your average home hobbyist. Modular terrain is the practical and aesthetically pleasing way forward for the gaming oldhammerer IMHO of course.

    1. Thank (insert a deity of your choice here) for your words of wisdom sir. I pray many of us game on an upturned Subbuteo pitch into our dotage.

  2. I tend to agree with you, it is not the surface that matters, but how terrain on that surface is used. Indeed, figuring out how to "fit" a table into our lives as gamers is a critical question, and flexibility here is key (I've been thinking of using smaller tables or maybe an expensive Geek Chic table, but a table that you can break down and store in sections is also a good idea). Also, Gus made a comment over on my blog article about this same subject and brought up a tremendously important point—more than anything, the rules of the game influence how one thinks about the playing surface. A version of the game that just promotes sheer numbers is going to demand wide open spaces. A version of the game that encourages gamemaster-driven narrative is going to encourage a tabletop that reflects that.

    1. Hi Evan, I love your blog mate. I could chat to you all day on this subject so sorry if I ramble on!

      Gus is very astute and what he says is correct, I can only add that the rules should never run the gamer it should always be the other way around.

      Thinking of war-games as definitely a sport or definitely not a sport is simply rejecting half of the hobby not 'getting it right'. Those who want competitive matches seek to control their games tightly (all the time with GW increasingly randomising their games to help ease newcomers into the occasional victory, thus ensnaring them) and would never waste time with anything other than a functional board set up. Those who develop awesome tables in the style of an 'Ultra-diorama' would probably never waste their time with competitive games. For those converting to Oldhammer, those who may be caught somewhere between the two extremes, articles that encourage and inspire are wonderful as long as they don't come with a 'what you have is an embarrassment' moral attached.

      I deeply mistrust the 'it has to be this way' attitude that creeps in to all our thoughts. GW can bend and break Warhammer, but they can never take our freedom! We should try to act above their level, as a community that is.

      PS. I tried to look into a Geek Chic table a couple of years back, but they didn't ship to Europe or have a distributor in the UK. If this situation has improved please do let me know, I would be thrilled.

      PPS. If you don't want to attach a follow gadget to your blog I can simply bookmark your homepage so no bother if you stick to your guns there.

  3. Hehe, yeah it seems that I would need to use Google Plus to do followers, which I'm not quite comfortable with yet (ironically I'm sort of a technophobe, particularly when it comes to social networking). Certainly I agree though, it doesn't help to project this Oldhammer scene as being overly homogenous. Gamers are coming back to the table from various interests, experiences and playstyles, which should and must be accommodated. I actually just read an older article by Andy "DrBargle" Bartlett that actually opens up a third category between competitive and narrative gamers: those who play the game as written and have a good laugh at the misfortunes of little pewter men. The article is a little boisterous and heavy-handed at times, but it felt like a breath of fresh air and something I could personally relate to very well. It's well worth a read, even if one takes issue with the presumption that there really is ultimately any real, clear boundary between these three play styles. The discussion about WFB is somewhere in the middle:

    1. Thanks for the link, though I have actually read it already thanks to a 'riposte' by 'Tales from the Maelstrom' which is also worth a look. I think my nature fell into this third category until over the years the constant gaming against ultra-competitive opponents hardened me into a tabletop terror. Now, of course, I preach the other way with the evangelist fervour of the newly converted! Though I hope to develop an empathy with all sides of the dice.

      I was told about the follow gadget which is located in the other gadgets menu (left side bar of gadgets menu), it is the mechanism of choice for blog fans apparently, everyone hates google plus.