Spend five minutes in discussing our treasured game with fellow players, and you’ll hear all the advantages some armies have over others, which units are overpowered, and at least three unit combinations that absolutely punish players on the other side of the board. You’ll also probably hear the words “competitive” and “tourney worthy”.
Funny, those words never seem to appear in Black Library books and codex entries.
Somewhere along the way, the rich lore of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 gets shoved in the background to make room for players’ battle plans and their constant pursuit of tabletop superiority. Where one may have been drawn to buy their first box of Eldar Guardians because of their slick armor and saddening fall from grace, now they only pick up kits that counter another player’s flyer.
It’s kind of sad to see a game steeped in well-written narratives become little more than a self-painted first-person shooter. After all, the stories of the northern tribes vying for the favor of their dark gods have probably inspired more players to collect a Warriors of Chaos army than a hot shot bragging about how many wins he’s garnered with his models. So why take the story out of the game?
Playing a themed list, or “fluffy list”, is a great way to live the same kind of stories hobbyists devour in paperback form. Instead of looking at which units are strong and weak, fluffy lists follow what the player actually likes, and just as importantly, what their general would take to the field of battle. With just a small change of perspective, army building becomes a joy instead of a calculation, and all sorts of doors open for collecting, converting, painting, and playing.
|Look at all this great stuff! Where did you find it?!|
Not too many Chaos Lords take Warp Talons in their games, or Mutilators, for that matter. Shame, since these models are probably some of the coolest of the range. So toss out competitive out the window. What does it matter if they’re less-than-game changers if your warlord is an Iron Warrior striving to meld man and machine? Now all of Games Workshop’s amazingly sculpted models are at your disposal, ready to make war to further their goals. And they’ll look awesome in the process.
Tip: It’s usually best to start theming your fluffy army by thinking about your general and his background. Maybe the Empire general is from a land renowned for its expertly-trained swordsman and a history of glorifying Sigmar in all things. Sounds like a great reason to pick up some Greatswords and Flagellants.
|While battling in the arenas, Maximus always carried a small bag with figurines of his slain family. A small thing became a huge part of his personal narrative|
Tip: There is no wrong way to infuse character into your force. The great thing about this hobby is you can make it your own, so if you can think it up, it’s valid.
Tip: If you’re not that great working with modeling putty, consider asking friends and fellow gamers about bits that might serve your plans. If your dragon-hunting Tau need lizard cloaks to represent their kill, a Dark Elf corsair cape could be easier than creating one from scratch.
|Like a game of chess, playing a fluffy army isn’t a simple matter. It takes careful thought and a cool head|
Tip: Deciding which course of action your general would take is a good way to structure your battle plan. A general that loves close assaults can ensure no opposing forces takes a board objective by timing an overwhelming charge. Don’t let your opponent’s army distract you from what your guys do best.
Audiences rarely go to movies to brag about seeing it before their friends, and people rarely read books to boast about how many books they’ve read. Refocusing your hobby endeavors on the story behind the models can infuse the game with newfound life, bringing back all those feeling of excitement that drew you to the game to begin with. Now go forth and write your own story.
Clinton Brad McKay has been rolling dice since first opening up HeroQuest as a boy. He started Warhammer 40,000 in 1998, collecting numerous armies and reading dozens of books. Currently he plays/collects Black Templars and Alpha Legion Chaos Marines, with a Disciples of Caliban ally force waiting in the wings. You can read about his projects and other incoherent rants at his hobby blog, www.nerdstodolist.wordpress.com.