Borehammer: How to lose friends and alienate people

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This photo has no relevance to the content of the article. I just really like Fudge Tunnel

Corehammer was originally intended as an outlet for our ragged band of dungeonpunks to collectively scream into the awning void of cyberspace about our mutual boner for gaming culture and the underground music that fuelled our creative endeavours. Whilst there’s no denying we’ve done well within that remit, I have to be honest that I had envisaged a broader sweep to both elements of our schtick and lately cannot help but feel we’ve come up a little short in that regard.

Whilst not wishing to besmirch the efforts of the other guys, for the most part my contribution to CH has just boiled down to me occasionally ranting on about whatever mainstream hardcore band has caught my attention interspersed with photos and discussion of contemporary Games Workshop armies. Neither of these things inspire me to write with any zeal, passion or regularity. Personally It feels like I have exhausted my muse somewhat and I feel we are in danger of becoming just another Games Workshop obsessed blog. I don’t think that is what any of us ever wanted. At this juncture then, I am forced to consider what I am getting out of all this and what I can actually offer going forward. It would appear that I have reached a crossroads of sorts…..

Somewhat serendipitously a solution to our diminishing music coverage appeared in my inbox this week. Gav Russell has stepped in to offer his assistance with the musical coverage and I couldn’t be happier. Gav has been a Corehammer ally for a while now and he was responsible for the brilliant and very popular Tight To The Nail extreme music blog for the past four years. He recently decided to wrap things up there which is a great shame, but TTTN’s loss is most definitely our gain. I am pleased to announce that he’ll be posting a monthly round up of the heavy stuff currently tickling his walnut. Welcome aboard Sir.

That still leaves the other thorn in my side, my gradually diminishing sense of purpose and direction with CH.

I am not a ‘Rules Guy’. I know some bro’s get a kick out of knowing all of the loopholes in the rules of the game and I respect dudes like Marsden and Connor who are walking/talking encyclopedias of rules, stats and knowledge. Definitely handy to have around whilst playing  but endless discussions of the hows/whys and wherefores of tabletop mathematics does not flip my switch in the slightest. Given the fact I can barely remember to make sure all my guys fire during their shooty phase there’s nothing I can offer there.

Same goes for painting really. Though my skills are gradually improving and I am learning new techniques and broadening my influences, I’m still a rank novice and in no fit position to share any wisdom I might have gleaned. I have been plowing through my Space Wolf army since the middle of last year, desperately trying to get it finished, but to what end? WH40K 7th edition came and went without effecting me too much. The new Space Wolves Codex and models seemed really uninspiring and suffer from a definite lack of character I think. The lack of models that reflect my tastes in how I want my Wolves to look has been more blessing than curse though. I have been teaching myself to convert and kitbash to get the models I want onto the tabletop and I am pleased with my progress in that department at least.

The current state of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, with it’s epic narrative progression, has peaked my interest a little. But is it enough to motivate me to paint up the Dark Elves, Dwarves and Skaven languishing in shoe boxes in the attic? Ehhhhhh. Talk of Army Lists and optimized filth combinations does nowt for me either. Unlike many of my CH compatriots I am not competitive nor do I harbor any ambitions of being a tournament player, I’m alright cheers.

Increasing cost of the mainstream GW side of the hobby is another burr in my arse. I am not naieve, nor some infantile ‘rage quitter’. I realise that GW is in the business of doing business and to maintain their position in the marketplace they need to keep a tight hold of what they’ve got and continuously keep pushing new product but I am at saturation point and I am not having fun with it.

Recently I found myself gravitating back towards Dungeons & Dragons. I have not played since I was at school 25 years ago but I just got involved with a 5th Edition Encounters campaign organised by the local comic shop in conjunction with Wizards Of the Coast worldwide Adventurers Guild. Joining the group meant stepping outside my comfort zone and sessioning with people who were strangers to me. Prior to that I had only done a little Pathfinder with other Corehammer dudes, but due to our geographical spread and conflicting schedules, running a campaign with any sort of regularity was a total ballache. Wednesday night D&D has been really good for me. Sessioning with new people has definitely been a challenge for me and I can’t say that there weren’t some initial frictions. But it’s working out great. The guys I play with are a diverse group of ages, ethnicities and backgrounds and I really look forward to Wednesday nights, the sense of immersion, unfolding narrative and the massive burrito from Tortilla that inevitably follows it

I think attending Fighting Fantasy Fest set a high watermark for me personally. It reminded me how and why I got into all this stuff in the first place and the pleasure I can derive from it. Being around all those creative people and hearing stories and ideas floating around was good for me. I left Ealing feeling inspired, my imagination boiling and my creativity thrashing around and beating at the doors of its cage. It’s been a long time since I felt so charged up. See, when I was a kid, like most introverted dorky types  I lived in my head and I was totally fine with that. My imagination was limitless and bubbled away like a cauldron full of stories and ideas. The trigger point that steered that frantic imagination towards high fantasy was this:

That strange cartoon, first encountered on a Christmas afternoon in the early 80’s probably seems very primitive to modern eyes and those who have grown up in recent years will doubtless scoff at its distinct lack of production values and clumsy animation.
But the truth is that cartoon (along with Bakshi’s animated Lord Of The Rings) opened my mind to the massive potential of mythologys in conflict.

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As a child I would re-enact the Battle Of Beruna with my Britains farm yard animals, dinosaurs and toy knights. I reasoned that other battles must have taken place prior to Beruna, border skirmishes and ambushes of scouting parties. After the White Witch was defeated and her people flee back into the wild places I figured that a guerilla war was not unlikely. I had not read any of the Chronicles Of Narnia beyond TLTWTW at that point so this was all creative play within the realm of my own imagination and it was glorious.

‘I have moved away from the hollow, charmless gaming that has become a kind of standard thanks to our own complacency and develop a gaming style that encompasses the gaming and role-play values of the 80s and early 90s…’

 

The Black Hole Blog

Recently I happened upon the Oldhammer network of blogs and a light went on for me. The quote above is taken directly from one of them, the excellent Black Hole. Oldhammer could perhaps be best described as a mindset, a guerilla approach to gaming that clicked with my own interests and the values that inspired Kev, Chris and myself to start CH in the first place. OH is basically a series of blogs run by folks who have grown weary of the constant stream of rules changes, amendments and expense that seems to follow the market leaders current production schedules and dwindling ideas. The blogs are, for the most part, excellently written, enthusiastic,knowledgable and ultimately FUNCTIONAL. Sure, the forum can be awash with nostalgia and an overwhelming appreciation for the GW of yore, but beneath all the old school bluster is an abundance of the one thing that modern fantasy gaming seems to have lost and that, my friend, is some fucking soul.

Zhu’s page in particular speaks to me on so many levels its ridiculous. Not only is it jam packed with intelligent opinions, well researched articles and cool ideas there is a clear understanding of the aesthetic, social and cultural homogeny that contributes to the psychology of a certain type of mid 30’s gamer. Go read his blog Realm Of Zhu immediately.

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Whilst trawling through the brilliant Realm Of Chaos blog recently, I came across an interview Orrlyg had conducted with Lone Wolf/early GW illustrator Gary Chalk. This paragraph in particular jumped out at me

‘ I didn’t much like the ever increasing rules either. Chaos seemed to need an enormous number of rules. Think about that for a moment… and the background was getting so detailed that there was very little room for the gamer to be inventive. I actually enjoy making up scenarios, war-engines, uniforms and so on that bolt on to the rules for my own games. I now believe that I may be alone in this and this could be one reason why Fantasy Warlord failed.’

Gazza eloquently summed up my feelings on the matter right there. The notion of mixing up mythologys and pantheons takes me back to those childhood ad hoc Narnia battles and the old What If? comics that Marvel published in the 70’s and 80’s. But now I have the resources to create a more accurate representation of how those might play out.

Along those lines Thantasant’s OH blog Somewhere the Tea’s getting Cold is documenting a project he’s embarking upon with Paul from The Black Hole, to recreate the battles from Steve Jackson’s Trolltooth Wars. Naturally as a die hard FF fan and of that book in particular, this idea has me absolutely salivating and I am hoping I get to see the campaign in action some time. Imagine if Zharadan Marr had hired Glen Cooks Black Company to protect the Cunnelwort Caravan or if the armies of the Drow encountered the children of the horned rat in the depths of the Underdark? The scenarios and possibilities are absolutely endless and that is exactly where I am headed. Sure I might only get a couple of games a year, but I am fine with that.

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Trolltooth Wars artwork by King Russ

I realise that there’s already a lot of gamers and hobbyists out there doing just this and it’s nowt new, but it feels liberating to shake of the shackles and restraints of Army Books and Codex’s and just do whatever the hell I want. Like Polonius says ‘To thine ownself be true’. Right on.

So as far as contemporary Warhammer goes, its goodnight from me. For now. Rest assured the other lads will continue with coverage of the current rules sets and miniatures. Think of this as an exercise in diversifying rather than me breaking up the band. Again. It may well be that I end up taking my Oldhammer and other oddball material elsewhere and starting up a new blog rather than using Corehammer to chronicle my journey into solitary confinement. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it’s received. Regardless, for the first time in a long time I am excited again and ultimately that is all that really matters isn’t it? And if you disagree? Fudge Tunnel have some solid advice for you.

16 thoughts on “Borehammer: How to lose friends and alienate people

  1. It’s difficult enough trying to maintain direction with a blog/hobby project on your own let alone allow other people to interact and be privy to it. Although I’ve only lurked and been involved in a tiny way, Gaz introducing me to CH made me feel for the first time that there are other like minded people out there and has led on to discovering Oldhammer and loads of other amazing blogs.

    I don’t for the slightest moment feel like the blog has become another GW blog. It stands way above the majority of dross out there with it’s wide scope of interests. Okay, it may be GW universe centric, but that’s more down to shared experience within that universe rather than any sideways influence.

    In my opinion (and from the perspective of someone who is yet to meet any of you fellas in a gaming/drinking/running around capacity) I think you’re doing a great job of presenting not only interesting GW based articles, but showcasing good music, artwork and other related radness too.

    • Mark thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts. I always appreciate feedback and I’m glad Corehammer has served as a gateway to some of the other cool blogs and sites out there. Hopefully we’ll cross paths at a CH day soon!

  2. Your writing is always worth the wait. Passion and direction that fires my hobby too.

    If you choose to chronicle your new focus on Corehammer, then I know it’d be a real treat for the rest of us. I’d love you to share because there isn’t enough of this on the web (thanks for sharing those links too).

    Sod that cut & paste army stuff – who cares? Build, paint, and play like you care about what you’re doing because surely that’s the goal.

    Thanks again for sharing. (And remember to let us know if you do move.)

    • Hi Andy, thanks for your comment and suggestions. Corehammer has a pretty broad focus so for the time being I’ll keep everything under this umbrella. Should that change I will be sure to shout up! Cheers for reading!

  3. No sideblogging, sah! If you think Corehammer’s becoming stale, sticking your cool divergent ideas somewhere else isn’t going to help amend that.

    Fair cop on the music front; I have a couple of reviews on the back burner which I really should actually write up and bung in at some stage.

    As for doing your own thing and only gaming a couple of times a year… that’s essentially where I’ve ended up, now. I keep up the token pretence of a pick-up game because it’s important to leave the house for reasons other than work, but I’d rather play a game every other month and really enjoy it than a game every week and find it a right old drudge after a while.

    At our time of life it’s not really worth keeping up with the Joneses any more; I’ve just read a discussion on takebacks at Warmachine events that’s made me throw up in my mouth at the sheer pedantry involved, the endless hair-splitting, and it’s really making me wonder why I bother.

    • Glad we are on the same page Von! Yeah I’m gonna keep on blogging here with varied subject matter, we are a many headed beast after all!

  4. Strikes me it needs a Corehammer social and a bunch of people sat around thrashing out what they can contribute and what they can offer as future growth for the blog – just throw it open, more writers, more content. Let it plough its own path as the content grows. It’s a lot to shoulder for 1 or 2 people but with a bigger core team that are trusted to add content theres no reason this couldn’t become everything you have outlined as aspirations.
    (plus it’s a good excuse for a jolly good knees up!)

    • All good points mate. I’d love to have some more writers involved in the future. I would love the blog to be updated a couple of times a week ideally. I’m trying to put together a CH social at the moment so hopefully that will come together and move things forward.

  5. I got stuck on this :
    ‘whatever mainstream hardcore band has caught my attention’
    The very thought of ‘mainstream hardcore’ makes me shiver.

    • Please forgive a poor choice of phrasing on my part. Swap ‘mainstream” for ‘formulaic’ or “meat & potatoes’ if you prefer. It amounts to the same thing and I’m bored of it.

  6. Hey man. Just discovered the blog this morning. Couldn’t be happier. To see my love of music and gaming put together is awesome. I myself am constantly looking for some soul in my gaming, so glad to find ya.

    • Welcome aboard Sir, glad you found us! Thanks for your kind words, I am always stoked when people ‘get’ the corehammer vibe. Stick around, there’s more to come!!!

  7. This is pretty much the reason I decided to update Path to Glory to a useable state (essentially, it’s Oldhammer for those of us that aren’t old enough for oldhammer). Unfortunately, my tiny attention span means that it’s currently a half-finished unplayed blogpost draft and an under coated Nurgle warband…

  8. Right on, brother. The problem is that many of us who once saw something in GW are drifting away. There are some true believers clinging on. But even they know that when the creators are phoning it in just to keep their day jobs, you cannot really be passionate about what they produce.

    What I disliked about how CH was getting is that whenever there is a post about someone’s models, it’s just more fucking Space Marines. Excuse the French. Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Raptors… sorry, I stopped giving a fuck last year. Also, Warhammer Fantasy is just dead to me. All they can do is retcon the background back to 11.58pm and make bigger models that are a pain to paint and transport. And cost more than a kidney.

    So yes, you should run free. Go after what you’re passionate about. It’s a hobby, so whenever one part of it or one company “providing” it (why the hell should a COMPANY tell us how to enjoy our FREE TIME?) does not float your boat, get off their money train and follow your heart. D&D appeals to me because it better fits what I want out of a hobby – very little “homework” to do in between meetups, unless you’re the DM of course, a real social blast that is far less to do with rules and so much more about social interaction and making it up as you go along, together, and costs almost nothing. Miniature wargaming, with its business model and its requirements on my spare time, just cannot compete.

    The music stuff is good. Keep that shit up.

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