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Guest Commentary: Da Orcboy Pays Up

The Twelve Types of (40K) Gamers – Part One  (Sixth of 11 articles)  by Ken Lacy

There’s always a lot of interest and discussion about gamers, and about what makes a ‘good’ gamer, what makes one tick. This is a topic of tremendous interest particularly if you are a member of an actual, live gaming club. Odds are, the members of the club will have very different ideas about what they consider most essential to the gamer experience.

The following is a list of a dozen different prototypes that I’ve seen over the years, and which I think cover all the gamers I’ve every met (I cover half a dozen in each of two parts). There’s a considerable overlap in all these types – in fact, I think most individual gamers are a mix of most of them, even if only a little bit in some cases – but I don’t try to rank or order them, simply because I can’t help thinking that they’re all perfectly good reasons to be involved in the hobby.

Most interesting to me, as a result, are the extremes of these behavior types. In my experience, it’s uncommon for a typical gamer to have absolutely no interest in one or several of these approaches to the hobby, and it’s just as unusual for a gamer to exhibit one or more of the hyper-extreme behaviors. Read on and see if you agree.

The Collector
Warhammer is at its root a miniatures game, and there are a double handful of companies that sculpt, mold and manufacture miniatures for gamers to use in their games. There are literally thousands of different miniatures available, some of which are available for only a limited number of years before the realities of the free market (or the conscious marketing decisions of manufacturers) lead to their being discontinued. 

Prototype: The Collector enjoys flipping through miniatures catalogs, follows the latest releases, and likes to acquire every model in a ‘set’. They tend to be attracted to armies that have a huge variety of models, particularly those with limited, rare, out-of-print, and/or large varieties of miniatures. Limited edition miniatures are of particular interest!  Where some hobbyists collect stamps or coins, the Collector collects miniatures.

This One Goes to Eleven: At the one extreme, you see gamers who don’t care at all about having the ‘proper’ miniatures for their army lists, and freely proxy miniatures, regularly re-use the same basic miniatures, or have dozens upon dozens of duplicates of certain widely available ‘basic’ miniatures (like the snap-together plastic marines that have come in every boxed set of the 40K game over the years). At the other, you have the obsessive Collector, with boxes upon boxes of miniatures piled up in the closets, and with no two of the same miniature in his full 10,000-point army list.

The Modeler
Many of the miniatures available in Warhammer are multi-piece sets, from complex pewter or pewter-and-plastic blisters, to ready-to-assemble plastic kits. Some models and miniatures require a goodly amount of skill to put together, simply to be used as designed! On top of that, with all those miniatures in the game, there’s plenty of opportunity for gamers to find ways to personalize their models through customization.

Prototype: The Modeler likes putting together miniatures, and particularly likes kits and miniatures that require assembly and come with numbers of accessories, simply because there’s a built-in means to personalizing the final result. The Modeler also appreciates conversions of standard miniatures, putting a ‘personal touch’ on even ‘stock’ pewter pieces. Modelers tend to be attracted to miniature lines with a wide variety of ‘basic’ miniatures and models that can be easily modified or personalized.

This One Goes to Eleven: Everyone knows the gamer who doesn’t worry about proper assembly of his miniatures. They are missing the ‘glue-on’ pieces – guns, treads, backpacks, etc. They may be missing heads or limbs or other essential pieces. They might even be missing the miniature entirely, and be simply a plastic base ‘proxying’ for the miniature! On the other hand, you have the obsessive Modeler who has extensively converted everysingleminiature… in his entire army.

The Painter
Although there are a few manufacturers that produce pre-painted miniatures, most miniatures are sold unpainted, with the expectation that they will be painted by the purchasers themselves. Of course, not everyone has the skill, time, or inclination to paint their own miniatures, but still want the finished product – which is why there are a variety of entrepreneurial folks who offer miniature painting services.

Prototype: The Painter likes collecting color schemes, and learning new painting techniques with which to apply those colors to miniature. For him, the most satisfying part of the hobby is the careful and beautiful paint jobs that bring miniatures of plastic and metal to vibrant life. Painters tend to be attracted to armies that contain detailed and complex miniatures that can be painted to very high standards.

This One Goes to Eleven: Not every gamer enjoys painting their miniatures, and not every gamer is particularly skilled at it, or has the best eye for aesthetics. However, there are some folks that don’t bother painting at all – or alternatively throw on paint in a manner that could be called ‘slap-dash’, except that it would be an insult to the term. You know who I’m talking about. And, of course, on the other end of the scale? Sky-earth non-metal metallics and Golden Demon winners. It’s terribly unfair, I know.

The Author
Miniature wargames often take place in very rich storyworlds – historical settings, fantastic settings, and/or futuristic settings (as in Warhammer 40K). Many games encourage gamers to think of their armies and models as living in, and creating, a unique story narrative reflective of the tabletop games that they have participated in. Campaigns are one popular way in which gamers can directly incorporate a storyline into the games they play.

Prototype: The Author has a very detailed background for every army they own, and frequently adds to and modifies that background based on the games they play. They are attracted to armies, and games, with the potential to create appealing stories, and often tend to modify the design of their armies in order to feature miniatures of particular interest. Authors are big fans of campaigns and campaign games.

This One Goes to Eleven: Some gamers care very little about backstory or even the standard names of the models or units they are using -- if you’re the guy who likes to field “ten-man armored dude squads with that Strength 9 gun”, you might be the type. On the other extreme, you run into gamers who have written literally pages and pages of detail about every character and unit in their army, who have painstakingly crafted multiple pieces of fiction about their armies, who have created and run numerous gaming campaigns, and even created an entire website devoted to their wargaming armies. (Editor’s note: That sounds vaguely familiar…)

The Fanboy
A game like Warhammer 40K comes with a whole mess of history, stories, background, and fictional detail that help to make it come alive for the gamers who play it. Given that the point of all this stuff is to make the game accessible and attractive, it should come as no surprise that many people enjoy reading about, learning about, and tracking all the detail about a game that has been put out over the years.

Prototype: Whereas the Author is a creative force, the Fanboy likes to track the ‘canon’ of official, published material about his favorite fictional universe. He is an avid reader of pulp novels, and enjoys reading through the background material in army codices (codexes) in great detail – as well as speculating about the hints and foreshadowing that frequently appear therein. He is particularly keen on putting together armies that ‘accurately reflect’ the proper composition of armies, as noted in published sources.

This One Goes to Eleven: Not everyone is all that interested in keeping absolutely ‘true’ to official storylines, but there are always a few folks to take this lack of interest to an extreme – gamers who insist that their Space Marine Commander Charlie “the Tuna” is actually the son of the infamous Ravenous Blugblatter Beast of Traal, and two years previous ate the Emperor, farted Horus the Betrayer out through his blowhole, and is secretly the lost prince that will re-unite the Ork and Eldar peoples. Or alternatively, they don’t simply ‘mix’ genres, they ignore them entirely – (“I’m not a Necron, I’m a polar bear!”). That kind of psychotic creativity is matched on the other end of the scale by gamers who take their dedication to fictional accuracy to whole new levels, tracking down the most obscure publications and references, arguing points of minutiae – one typical name for such folks is “Fluff Nazi”.

The Historian
Although less true for a fantasy (sci-fi) game like Warhammer (40K), miniature wargaming is particularly interesting for individuals who already have an interest in military history. After all, miniature wargaming not only originated as a ‘teaching tool’ for Prussian officers, modern-day games are still designed to be a simulated representation of military conflict.

Prototype: The Historian is frequently an expert of some kind with regard to military history, tactics, or organizations. He is attracted to armies that can be used as a close representation of historical armies or tactics that are particularly near and dear to his heart. In 40K, many such gamers play Imperial Guard lists, modeling their tanks and miniatures after World War Two tank companies (Russians and Germans are two popular choices). Classical Greek or Roman-themed Space Marines are also commonly seen.

This One Goes to Eleven: A few gamers are far more interested in the ‘game’ than the ‘war’ (or historical) part of a wargame. They don’t see how a study of history, and real wars, can be of much use in a game. They really care only about playing by the rules of the game -- and nothing at all about abstract notions like ‘historical accuracy’, or conversations about ‘logistics’ or ‘strategy’. On the other hand, you have gamers who religiously adhere to a set of ‘realistic’ tactics, and endlessly attempt to port them as accurately as possible into the game they play; the gamer who sticks to the letter of US Armored Cavalry TOE and tactics with his Armored Company, for example.
 



Again, I think that most typical gamers have a little of each of these types in them, even if they are most clearly described by one (or two) in particular.  I definitely have a miniature-buying addiction (Collector), am particularly fond of assembling miniatures and models (Modeler), and like having a little color on them even if I’m not the most patient painter in the world (Painter). I come up with little backstories for my armies (Author), though I’ll be the first to admit that they’re usually not terribly thorough. I’ve been a big fan of the 40K Universe for a while (Fanboy), and many of my armies and army ideas are based on some of the more obscure pieces of that universe. Finally, I’ve been a student of history, and military history, for a long time (Historian), and that interest was what brought me into the hobby.

What’s more, I doubt that my self-description is all that unusual – I figure that most gamers can see similar tendencies and trends in themselves, when it comes to describing what motivates their interest in miniature wargaming.

Next time, I’ll detail six more types of Gamer, and note which of the twelve (overall) that I think describes me best.
 
 
 

Related Pages
Posted February 2006. Used with permission.
 

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Other Pages:
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