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The Twelve Types of (40K) Gamers Ė Part Two  (Seventh of 11 articles)  by Ken Lacy

This is the second part of an article discussing what I think are the dozen core prototypes of gamers and gamer behavior. Thereís a considerable overlap in all these types Ė in fact, I think most individual gamers are a mix of most of them, even if only a little bit in some cases Ė but I donít try to rank or order them, simply because I canít help thinking that theyíre all perfectly good reasons to be involved in the hobby.

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

The Chessmaster
Warhammer 40K is frequently described as a game of chess, only with more options for the pieces, no set board, and an element of variability (visible in the dice). It is a game with a complex rule-system (even if that system is simpler than in many other wargames), as well as a game with a relatively predictable set of outcomes for even the variable actions.  Accordingly, Warhammer 40K encourages veteran players to be well-versed in the rules and the probabilities and to use that information to make good game decisions.

Prototype: The Chessmaster is very good at learning, and taking advantage of, the peculiarities and oddities of a game's rules system. They have a keen interest in keeping up with the latest rules and codices, and work to improve their working knowledge of every part of the core game. Because of this, they frequently are very good at predicting their opponents' moves, sometimes several turns in advance, and determining the optimal course of action. And to achieve the best results, they constantly work at 'tweaking' the performance of their own army lists, aiming to remove all the inefficient 'fat' and create a streamlined design that uses only the best units and equipment available.

This One Goes to Eleven: Not every player worries a great deal about knowing all the rules of the game -- after all, there are quite a few ruless out there. But there are a few who take this to an extreme, often forgetting even the basics of what their own units are capable of, and putting together haphazard army lists without any concern as its effectiveness in a game. On the other hand, you have the hard-core Chessmaster -- sometimes taking the unsavory form of obsessive rules lawyers or munchkins. At other times, however, they are self-assured players who are convinced that the only way to lose to an opponent (any opponent) would be to make a mistake with a move during a game. They can be distinguished from the Competitor (see below) by their focus: the Chessmaster hates screwing up, particularly not expecting or knowing something, more than they hate actually losing. 

The Designer
Like many popular wargames, the Warhammer 40K game is constantly evolving and changing, with new editions and updates, Chapter Approved articles and rulebooks emerging from the creative design teams that work for the company. Occasionally, this creative frenzy results in conflicts in the rules, while in other cases even prolific design teams might fail to write a series of rules to cover an unusual situation. Furthermore, Warhammer specifically encourages players to come up with 'house rules' and player-to-player agreements to cover these situations as they arise.

Prototype:  Even without the explicit encouragement of the Warhammer game, some gamers are drawn to the role of the Designer, interested in creating new and different rules, and modifying existing ones -- both to fill 'gaps' in the system, and to better match a personal vision of the game. Such gamers are particularly drawn to rules sets, and army lists, that give them official sanction to radically customize army and unit rules and options -- the Vehicle or Creature Design Rules, for example. Many Designers have also created unofficial units or characters that they frequently wish to use in games they play.

This One Goes to Eleven:   It takes a certain militantly literal attitude to not have ANY sympathy for the Designer's enthusiasm and vision. But there are some gamers out there who will only accept 'canon' rules and army lists in games they play, refusing to use anything that isn't fully, 100% tournament-legal. Forgeworld vehicles and Chapter Approved army lists?  Sorry, no dice. On the other end of the scale, of course, are the Designers who have taken their passion to its logical extreme: a completely different rules system that bears little or no resemblance to the (current) official Warhammer rules.  More than a few are hold-overs from previous editions of the game, who have refused to 'switch over', and work hard to instead to translate the rules for new models units to the older, frequently customized, systems they still use.

The Gourmand
The Warhammer system has a huge variety of different armies, army lists, and models available for players to choose among. Games Workshop puts a considerable amount of time and effort into ensuring that these different options each have their own distinctive flavor and style, giving players a vast smorgasbord of choice. It's not surprising that in a situation like this, many players find themselves drawn to more than one alternative.

Prototype:  The Gourmand is a relatively common gamer type, particularly among veterans in the hobby -- they are the gamer who plays not just one or two armies, but a handful or more. Whether from a desire for copious variety, or just to try something different from their 'first' army, some gamers find themselves putting down one army -- and designing, collecting, and playing an entirely new one. Many Gourmands play armies that are quite different from each other, and make conscious choices to try new and different armies, unit types, and play styles.

This One Goes to Eleven:  The opposite of the Gourmand is the pure specialist -- the player who has made a dedicated commitment not just to one specific army, but to a very particular design of that army. Such a gamer is unlikely to try even those units and pieces of wargear that isn't part of his existing design! The true Gourmand, on the other hand, goes through armies like most people go through shoes -- playing a new army every year (or even every few months), then selling the army and using the returns to start again from scratch with something completely different.

The Archivist
There are a large number of different outcomes to the various actions during a game, and a large number of results to a game itself. In many games of 40K, the winner of a game is determined by tracking, and comparing, the victory points each player has accumulated, which requires a modicum of record-keeping. Warhammer also has an optional system of 'experience points', which calls for even more record-keeping.

Prototype:  Given all the record-keeping that goes on in a game, it shouldn't be surprising that some gamers are drawn to that particular aspect of Warhammer. Although not a common gamer type, the Archivist is a player who likes keeping track of win/loss records, enjoys playing (and running) detailed campaign games which require record-keeping, and is particularly fond of battle-reports: both reading and writing them. And more than a few Archivists happen to be handy with a camera, and keep visual records instead of, or along with, written ones.

This One Goes to Eleven:  Mathematics and record-keeping isn't for all people, which is why accountants get paid the big bucks, you know. Still, there are more than a few people who completely lack either the talent, or the desire, to track even the victory points they've earned after a game. Conversely, the dedicated Archivist will happily keep track of even the most minute aspects of every game they play -- to the point where some will even track the actions and successes (and failures!) of each individual model on the table.

The Competitor
Because wargames are based on simulations of military conflicts, they are essentially competitive enterprises. The game is intended to provide clear results, and determine victory (and victors). As a result, wargames like Warhammer are popularly found in tournament formats, which are intended to determine through some mechanism or other who amongst a pool of players is the 'best of the best'. Even when other factors are considered, one of the primary elements that go into determining the winner of a tournament remains their ability to win clear victories in the game.

Prototype:  A Competitor likes to win, plain and simple. Even Competitors who are good sports very much prefer winning, as opposed to losing, a game. In many ways, the prototypical Competitor is similar to the Chessmaster (see above), particularly in terms of how a Competitor goes about achieving the ultimate goal of winning games. The difference can be most obvious in tournament games, where simply being good at winning games is itself not sufficient to be a consistent winner. Many Competitors who play in tournaments therefore put a lot of energy into also being competitively good painters, good modelers, and good sports.

This One Goes to Eleven:  The un-Competitor is a very rare bird in the wargaming community -- there are very few gamers who don't care at all about winning or losing; most people prefer to win more than lose. Even non-gamer painters who enter Golden Demon competitions would prefer to win. That said, un-Competitors are usually those gamers who don't play much (or at all), and prefer to focus on elements of the hobby other than competition. Sadly, the extreme Competitor is a far more common creature.  Cheaters are one unfortunate form of extreme Competitor. A more acceptable version of extreme Competitor, on the other hand, is the dedicated tournament circuit player, who combines top-level painting, modeling, army design, and gaming skill in their pursuit of tournament championships at both the national and international level.

The Socialite
At its heart, wargaming -- like virtually all human activities -- is a social activity.  Although many aspects of the hobby are individual endeavors, the core action of the wargaming hobby centers about the face-to-face interaction between players over a gaming table. Because it's a hobby, and a leisure activity, the vast majority of gamers are involved because they want to have fun -- and since most of them happen to be crrazy monkey-boys (= "normal human beings"), they're even happier when the other gamers involved have fun, too.

Prototype:  The Socialite enjoys personal interaction. They are frequently friendly, sociable, empathic folks, but even the more socially inept can be Socialites who participate in the wargaming hobby simply because they enjoy being part of a larger community of like-minded gamers. Many Socialite gamers make the mutual enjoyment of wargaming a top priority, and work hard to make sure the other gamers in the room are having fun. In fact, some will purposely go out of their way to avoid putting together armies that are considered "unfriendly" or "cheesy."

This One Goes to Eleven:  In any large enough group there are always a few asocial folk, and this may be particularly true given the overlap between the communities of "wargamers" and "geeks." There are numerous gamers who lack interpersonal skills -- and even an unfortunate, selfish few who care nothing about others. When combined with an obsessive win-at-all-costs Competitor type, this frequently results in what many consider a "bad gamer." And, of course, there's also reverse -- the compulsive Socialite.  Some folks like nothing more than simply hanging out with a bunch of gamers, even if they themselves rarely (if ever) play games, paint or model, or even buy miniatures.  Very few gamers dislike the more socially 'ept' of this variety, although there are some compulsive Socialites (snot-nosed eight-year-old geek-boy motormouths, for example) who may not be as welcome.

Remember, 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. For example, I love hanging out with my gaming friends (Socialite), and make an effort to meet and play new gamers. I hate losing games (Competitor), and have a large collection of nearly a dozen different full-sized armies (Gourmand). I'm not much for new rules or house rules, but I do like tinkering with semi-official lists and rules (Designer), and I have a long-running column at the Warmonger Club where I track my wins and losses and write up little battle-reports on a semi-regular basis (Archivist). 

In the end, however, I think that the Chessmaster type best describes me. Throughout my gaming career, I've always played with an army until it reached the point where I've made it as efficient as possible, and figured out how best to play it, and I know it can win consistently. Once it reaches that point, however, I quickly grow bored with it, place it into 'semi-retirement', and start assembling and tinkering with a new army. I'm not a big fan of losing, but more than anything I hate to lose because I screwed up. As a result, I've gone out of my way to become familiar with all the rules of 40K, and furthermore I keep up with new rules and codices and clarifications -- so I hopefully don't easily get surprised by a new unit or special rule.

In fact, if I was to describe myself in terms of the 12 gamer types I've detailed, I'd say that I was:

This One Goes to Eleven: an extreme Chessmaster
A Prototypical: Archivist, Competitor, Fanboy, Gourmand, and Socialite
With a Little Bit Of:  Everything else (Author, Collector, Designer, Historian, Modeler, and Painter)
Not everyone might register so strongly with so many different types -- I'm a pretty dedicated wargamer, after all. On the other hand, I know more than a few gamers who might "go to eleven" with two or three different types, or who strongly register as prototypical on a wider spectrum of different gamer types. And of course, what kind of gamer types you are can change over time -- I used to be much more fanatical a Collector and Modeler, and much more of a Painter, for example. And I certainly wasn't a Gourmand or Archivist during my first half-dozen years in the hobby.

In conclusion, I think that these twelve types cover all the (many) different gamers I've ever met, but I'm sure there may be a few unusual gamer types out there that I overlooked or might have missed. I'm certainly interested to hear of others that people might wish to suggest.

And finally: if you're not sure what "This one goes to eleven" means, I suggest you go out and immediately (immediately!) rent the movie This is Spinal Tap. I mean it. Go. Go right now. It's your duty as a gamer to be aware of this vital (geek-) cultural reference.

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Posted March 2006. Used with permission.


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle