Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Oldhammer Experience.

I got 'The Well of Madness' edited and posted yesterday, it took me most of the evening to plough through all of the photos (around 100) and make sense of the hastily scrawled notes but hopefully it was worth it. I actually enjoy interpreting dice rolls and turning it into a narrative, it's the storyteller in me, so in that sense it is personally gratifying at least!

Although we played some Rogue Trader recently and even a game of WHFB3, this game was the first time we played a traditional, as intended, game of third edition for a very long time and I thought it might be worth reflecting on.

It was hard work! The rules have a complexity that subsequent editions have tried hard to eliminate, not necessarily to dumb Warhammer down, but certainly they take a less is more approach. As GM I had to keep the game free-flowing and to achieve this I had to improvise on several occasions. The multiple combat with the Minotaurs and Blackshields beating on the 2nd Militia is a good example, did Fingers, being a lone character, cause a panic test when he charged the rear of the engaged Blackshields? Do all units take individual rout tests after losing a combat? Do you still get a free hack if you are stuck, engaged by unbroken enemy? Fortunately it looks like my judgement calls (yes, yes and yes, I'm a positive guy!) were all ok but the conclusion I came to is that it is more important for a GM to be decisive than correct. We instantly moved along and the frenetic pace was maintained in our game, just as well because afterwards it took me ten minutes to clarify those three points. Though I was unable to throw in any freaky-deaky stuff like rogue dragons, pain-maddened trolls or transmutating Chaos rain because my grey matter was subsumed in the effort of keeping the pace of the battle as exciting as possible, I did feel like I acquitted myself reasonably well as a GM.

Have a GM! Yes indeed, I can't emphasise this enough. While getting two Oldhammerers together in the same room is a challenge and one that may tempt you not to bother trying to get three, it enhances the experience so much that I would say it is folly not to have a GM as often as you can arrange it. A GM should be able to eliminate the need to stop and check rules, even out those problem games which feature an invincible 'deathstar' unit, balance out games of unequal points, guide the narrative with a few plot interventions, make unusual, complicated games possible and generally keep a steady hand on the tiller. The GM, while not a rule as such, is the big difference that third has compared to subsequent editions, and the main reason it trumps those editions.

Really, you only need one Oldhammerer! I am the committed Oldhammer devotee, not my two chums. They go along with me because they like to get together socially and game but really anything will do for them. This is great because although I have to keep it fresh (I can't just roll out a generic WHFB3 game every week) it allows me to explore the whole spectrum of the hobby, and I have a lot of spectrum lying around in leadpiles, and in the future we hope to get in games of Rogue Trooper, Block Mania, Imperial Commander and 2nd edition 40k amongst several others. If you can lay your hands on two chums that are too laid back to turn you down flat, get them playing a game with you as GM. It is surprisingly easy to Oldhammer with only one 'cultist' and two 'norms'.

Role-play, it's quite good fun isn't it?! The role-play potential of both Rogue Trader and WHFB3 is something special, it turns a good game into a great game from my point of view. I have loved getting back into the GM hot-seat and coming up with ideas, so much so that I may consider casting about for a suitable RPG and some willing protagonists soon. It requires effort that many of us can barely fit in when the temptation is there to just get in a quick game but if you can, my goodness, what a difference it makes. In truth, the role-play side of older GW games is almost ephemeral, if you look too hard for it in the rules it disappears, but if you want to add it in you find you can very easily. After all, it's essentially just some talking and a bit of imagination, just fit it in before and after the battle like the flavour text WD always used to use in their battle reports. Pause for a little banter and role-play in-game too if it enhances the experience for everyone.

Break the rules! In both games of WHFB3 we played recently, I deliberately changed rules to suit me. I allowed Lazarus Longshanks to cast cure light wounds into combat at a distance of 2" for example, and I only paid a scant regard to Warhammer Armies when mustering the forces for the Well of Madness. It made things easier and it made things interesting. Double win. Warhammer rules really were made to be broken, the simple and easy to understand style of the bedrock mechanics enables one to break a rule down and reconstitute it almost without effort, this is another job for the GM of course and another reason why I implore you to have one.

There is much more to talk about but I will not dissect my experience too much further. I will add a few more musings after I have played the online battle I have planned for Friday, it will be the first time I am GMed by someone else and I will have a new opponent so it should be a useful experience as well as great fun!

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. I look forward to seeing you on the field of battle tomorrow!

    Some great points there. I found GMing the Orc's Drift campaign a similar experience and that was playing with mostly complete newcomers to wargaming. Also we used 2nd ed. which I found fairly easy to flick through to confirm the odd rule here or there. A lot of the time though, like you say, I ended up bending rules, making judgements and so on to keep the game moving along and the players' interest.

    If in doubt make it up and as long as its in keeping with the narrative and characters' motivations everyone should be happy enough with the way things pan out on the table.

  2. Me too, we have a lot more troops than I expected, it should be fantastic.

    Thank you! I love a good game narrative now and so, I believe, do those who game with me. Those long-forgotten GM skills are coming in handy at last.

    Never owned 2nd unfortunately, I was still on Lego. :(

  3. Thantsants quite possibly have many fewer troops than he expected...

    Anyway GMing, the fine art.. Yes there are some skills to it but the main part is to love stories. Somewhere back in time an ancient ancestor of yours WP is telling the locals a tall tale to while away the darkest winter night. Its in the blood or not.