Monday, May 1, 2017

A rose by any other name

This is actually one of the more difficult posts I've written, and (that I can recall) the first that I've completely deleted and then started over again with.  I try to not be controversial here, but it sometimes happens.

well, I try at least
I like to think of myself as pretty easy going, and have very few triggers that set me off on a rant.  I don't like going off on a rant.  You wouldn't like me when I'm going off on a rant.
you have been warned!
I understand that, to some people, my opinions make me an elitist asshole, and I'm fine by that. This isn't about class or money.  I acknowledge my privilege and will assert that miniature gaming is a LUXURY ITEM, and as such, is not available to everyone.  Just like I don't drive a Porsche because I can't afford it, not everyone can play miniature games due to the cost.  Playing games is a privilege, it is not a right.  But enough political correct bullshit, it is ranting time.

Unfortunately, once again there are some people who insist on spoiling things for everyone else. Have you ever been somewhere (a school is a great example) that may have what appears to be a very stupid, specific rule that appears to not be needed due to common sense?  It isn't because common sense is so uncommon, it is because someone did something that resulted in this stupid rule.

In my write up on my ass kicking at the US Masters back in February, I mentioned that there were two armies there that broke the common sense idea of "counts as" in the Kings of War rulebook. There have also been discussions about paper cutouts for units as well as using kids toys.  There has been enough uproar that the UK Clash of Kings packet for 2017 now has a new section in it, because these people have ruined it for everyone.

Let me make something very clear here.  I am ONLY talking about tournaments.  I am not talking at all about casual play at home or even at a store or other venue.  Nor am I talking about play testing before you build our models - whether it be for an entirely new army (such as when our group play tested the NightStalker and Neritican armies) or just a unit.  This is about showing up at an event that you and others have paid for, and often also had to travel, which may or may not include lodging. Once you decide to play at that level, well there are just some common courtesies you need to follow (including bringing everything you need to play, like dice and a measuring device, copies of your army list, etc).  A major component of that is bringing your army, composed of miniatures.

Kings of War is, after all, a miniature game.

The UK Clash of Kings packet starts to define miniatures on page 4:
You must also use war-gaming miniatures and models that don’t look out of place in your army and clearly represent the unit including the equipment that unit is armed with. Each unit must be instantly recognizable to your opponent as to what it represents.
It then goes on for another entire page giving examples - check it out for yourself here. (I copied this to my server - because at some point Mantic may take it down and I hate when I go back to check a post and the links are broken).

I would like to attempt to define myself what is a miniature (and what is not).  Ronnie Renton once said that miniatures need to be manufactured for wargaming - which is fine except it excludes a huge number of valid miniatures - take a look at nearly every miniature that Reaper makes - they are all valid miniatures but almost none of them are made for 'wargaming' - they are intended instead for role playing.

And don't give me the argument that is just semantics.  I hate when people say that, because it shows they don't know what they are talking about.  Semantics is, to me, the very core of most arguments - it is agreeing on the very definition and meaning - "the meaning or relationship of meanings of a sign or set of signs; especially :  connotative meaning".   Yes we are talking about semantics - we are talking about the meaning of the word miniatures.

First off - paper cutouts ARE NOT miniatures.  Miniatures must be three dimensional.  Paper cutouts are effectively two dimensional (and if you try to argue that the thickness of the paper is the third dimension then you are being pedantic and need to go take a time out while the adults talk).  I won't say that there are some very nice looking paper cutouts. One Monk Miniatures has some great paper cutouts (some even downloadable for free).  These would work really well when you want to try out a new army (or unit) before you buy it.  But they ARE NOT miniatures.

Nice, but not miniatures
I want to note here that I'm not against paper models - but that requires quite a bit more work than printing and cutting out pictures.  I'm not saying your models cannot be paper - there are actually some pretty cool paper models out there that would easily fit on a tabletop - but they require a lot more work than simple printing, cutting and gluing on a base.
I found this paper Skyrim dragon on pinterest
So three dimensional models.  Most children's toys as they come out of the box are NOT MINIATURES, even when glued to appropriate bases  There are two examples that have brought up quite a bit of discussion on Facebook in the past couple of months.

The first is a My Little Pony army
My Little Pony toys ARE NOT MINIATURES
One of the posters talks about using this to teach his daughter the game.  Not a problem, but leave them home with you seven year old daughter.

The even bigger issue is with the Minion army that someone wanted to bring to the UK Clash of Kings last year.
Minion toys ARE NOT MINIATURES
One of the big issues with these armies is being able to identify the units.  Just gluing toys to bases doesn't do it.  The minion army was a proxy for an orc army - it had ax, morax, greatax, trolls, gore riders and a variety of heroes.  The trolls were minions - definitely not height 2 big monsters.  The gore riders were minions - not height 2 cavalry at all.  Each of the units was a different type model of the toy (so you could possibly tell the difference between the ax and morax and greatax).

I don't want anyone to think that the toy aisle of the local department store is completely off limits. Some of the things there are fantastic - just about anything by McFarlane Dragons  would look fantastic on a tabletop.  But those are high quality models - the minions and mlp figures are not.  But more specifically, they are lazy.  They are the equivalent of using green army men for a historical game.

I do want to differentiate the ideas though.  The Despicable We army at the WFB Team tournament at Adepticon a few years ago was beautiful.  The difference was he did not buy a bunch of cheap kids toys - he sculpted and then cast every single minion model in the army, and scratch built all the war machines.  I even voted for it as favorite army.  However, it was difficult to play against, as like the examples above, you couldn't tell which unit was which (or even which army (Skaven or Chaos Dwarfs) a unit belonged to.  Which brings us up to the examples from the Masters.

To explain my issues here, I need to describe the difference between "proxy" and "counts as".  A proxy is where you use one model to represent another without changing the original model.  So using a werewolf as a drakon rider is a proxy (and he used it bit because the drakon riders he had ordered (this was a few years ago when they were still available) had not yet arrived).

"Counts as" is where, generally for thematic reasons, you are using one model, usually with modifications, to represent one or more other models.  This is done either for models that are not currently available, or for thematic reasons.  However "counts as" models should still be clear as to what the model/unit is.

So some examples where the player said they were doing "counts as", but instead just did proxies.
This is being played as an elf army
Those are ogres, not elves.  They were being proxied as forest shamblers.  The balrog was being proxied as a dragon.  The vargheists were being proxied as drakons (I think, or more dragons).  And the chaos warriors were elf characters.

Now if you wanted to try out this list at home - fine.  But not at the masters - which is one of the top championships in the US.  People have to earn their slot to play, and come from all over the country.

Now the models were very well painted - but in no way could they "count as" something else.  Had some conversion been done (I like the idea of a unit of ogres holding trees, with green paint on them - pretending to be trees - that would be an awesome unit of ogres that "counts as" forest shamblers) then it would have been different.  But just basing them and calling them forest shamblers - no.  When I look at this army, absolutely NOTHING says it is an elf army, and there is nothing to support it as one either.  In a discussion with the owner, he said that he picks the models he likes, then picks the army list he wants to play and doesn't care if they fit or not.

I look at army creation two ways - you either pick models you like and play their list, or you pick a list you like and play with their models.  You DO NOT get to pick any model and play it with any list.

This is the base of a beautiful looking Ogre army, but is not elves.
This was supposed to be a Forces of Nature army
Another army.  After originally mentioning it, the owner said there was a theme.  The EVIL cultists were summoning EVIL demons to fight for nature.   There are many things so wrong with this proxy army.

First - the three hordes of penitents (I first thought they were Chaos Marauders) were played as Salamaders.  At no point do those have any relation to Salamanders.  No conversion was done to count them as, they are pure proxies.  They are also not summoning anything - they are all facing straight ahead marching into battle.

The big demons in back were supposed to be beasts of nature.  The dragon maybe, but the bloodthirster and abyssal fiend are not beasts at all.  Beasts of nature is a 'catch-all' monster for any big gribbly monster - but demons aren't.

The three single bases of spirit hosts were Winged Unicorns.  I have absolutely no idea how you are supposed to see winged unicorns out of these.

He said twice in his explanation that these were evil - yet by it's definition Forces of Nature are neutral, being neither good nor evil.

I don't see any effort put into this other than basing everything the same.  It just looks like he is reusing his old army as this - and tomorrow may use it as a different list.

Now some people might say I'm a hypocrite because of some of the armies I have fielded.  A specific example was from my Grateful Undead
Counts as Dire Wolves
Counts as Dire Wolves
These are not proxies, as they are not one existing model being used as another - in fact they are completely original sculpts (I do wish I could have found appropriately sized bears because my sculpting skills are so crappy).  They are on cavalry bases, and would not be mistaken for any other unit in my army.  If I played them as blood knights or wight cavalry then there might be an issue - but as dire wolves I do not see any.  And if I were to convert this army fully to Kings of War, they would be Werewolves (though they would have to be rebased from the 125x50 unit to 120x40 to be legal).

It might also be brought up how I used Mars Attacks! models for my Night Stalker army in the Adepticon team tournament.  First there are no night stalker models, and I carefully made sure that the models I used matched the units.  For example, I had a troop and regiment of martian grunts - these were used as spectres.  My choice there is because the martians all have guns and so should be shooting - and spectres are the only shooting unit.  Had I wanted to optimize the list I would NOT have taken these as a regiment - Reapers or Dopplegangers would have been stronger - but neither of these units has a shooting attack and again - guns!
Converted Dread Fiend
converted Fiends
Counts as Spectres because  guns
a few more
Counts as Void Lurker because it flies
Big Stompy Robot counts as big stompy Shadow Hulk
The giant bugs (spiders and ants) were used as Fiends.  I added riders to them because fiends are large cavalry - they were already large and now obviously cavalry.  When I thought of using Sidney Rose on Henry it made sense to be a Dread Fiend - again replacing the rider with a martian . I don't think the Dread Fiend ever earned his points back, but the model was cool.  The flying saucer was the only monster that could fly, and the Big Stompy Robot was a big stompy monster.

Looking at the army, you might not think Night Stalkers initially, but then you would have a hard time knowing which list it would be at first.  Once you know the list, then the units pretty much fall into place.

At one point I considered running the martians as goblins - but ended up rejecting that idea mainly because there are goblin models already.  (grunts -> spitters, BSR -> giant, big bugs -> trolls).  The mapping didn't go well, and this was a better idea.  And then I wrote up a backstory that actually tied the Martians into Rick's dreams and the walking dead (the other half the army was all Walking Dead miniatures as Undead).

The entire army had an unspoken underlying theme beyond the fluff I had written up.  The previous year my son and I had taken my Drunk Dwarfs (complete with fresh, cold home brewed beer on tap as part of the display) with nature allies (the forest shamblers were covered with hops, the water elementals were painted up as two different type of beer, the greater earth elemental was a Malifaux Nightmare Whiskey Golem (made out of kegs)) but we weren't eligible to win best theme because I don't think we had a single Mantic model.  So the underlying theme was to use 100% Mantic models, but none from the KoW line.

I think that, ultimately, a large part of being able to use one model to "count as" another in a tournament boils down to effort.  Just putting an existing model down to use as something else (i.e. a proxy) just doesn't cut it.  Take some time to convert and theme it and it is more than welcome.

Because it is all fun and games . . .

2 comments:

  1. Agree with the text. Not a question of money or elitism, its only a question about "you want to play the game, then effort for the game".

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  2. I like to allow cheap(er) options to be more welcoming, but by that I mean alternatives and stretching the number of models on a base, not an excuse for laziness.

    I have a "scratch built" army that I put some effort into: https://www.mantic.club/forum/kings-of-war/kow-armies/night-stalkers/288290-building-an-arm
    I would not have a problem playing against it, but I would not take it to a big tournament and am a little embarrassed to take it to the club, it was great fun to build though.

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