Sunday, February 8, 2015

"How to do Oldhammer"

Approximately an age ago, Collin Murray of The Leadpile posted this excellent challenge (and created this forum thread to go along with it) wherein participants assemble and share pictures of a small Warhammer warband, creating fluff and whatnot, in order to demonstrate how easy and accessible Oldhammer is. Warbands were to be composed (with plenty of leeway for creative nterpretation) of 20 figures in 2 or so units, plus a character.

I threw my hat in the ring at the time (I know, it's taken me ages to actually get on with it) not only because it was a fun excuse to put a dent in the lead molehill and to actually start sociallizing with these oldhammerers whose work I constantly admire, but also because of what Mr. Murray wrote:

"Let's face it, the whole reason that most of were drawn to this loose collection of like minded individuals is that we weren't happy with the way our games of Warhammer or 40k were being led. We were fed up of the constant rules changes, unimpressed by the latest in figure making technology and bored of a pointless face off between two increasingly large 'armies' of figures who may or may not have had any particular reason to dislike the other. We longed for the kind of games that we thought we remembered from our youths, games that we may have not actually played and armies that we only half remembered owning. We longed for the days when we scoured through the pages of magazines and ached for the miniatures we saw knowing that our paltry pocket money would never allow us to buy a fraction of he figures we longed for."

As I read this, I felt the words graze past the core of why I love miniature wargaming, as well as the reason I consider myself to be part of the Oldhammer movement—if only at the fringes—in spite of the fact that I don't seriously collect old Citadel Lead and I don't ever really play 1st, 2nd, or 3rd ed. Warhammer or Rogue Trader. Becuase as Mr. Murray points out, it's not really about the rules themselves, nor about the figures.

Because these games aren't even really games, not in the traditional sense. And they're certainly not competitions, really—we've all seen what happens when a game gets too focussed on tournament-style playability. Instead, these games are mutual explorations into worlds of narrative possibility, partly determined by the fall of the dice, but mostly created by—no, between is more accurate—you and your fellow player. While it is breath-takingly nerdy, it is also a very sophisticated, very open, and remarkably vulnerable form of social interaction, which, to me, makes it beautiful.

What Oldhammer really takes from the classic GW rulesets and miniature ranges is the broad, whole-hearted acceptance of this form of community story telling. You can actually feel it coming off the page when flipping through Rogue Trader; the people who made this game love playing in this world. And they want to make it easy, acceptable, and fun for you to love it too. Sure, it can be zany at times—and why not? These games are, as I said, aiming to achieve a vast multiplicity of possible collaborative experiences, rather than trying to narrow that experience down to the binary result of victory and defeat. I want all of my games to be as ambitious. And I'm lucky enough to play with a group of guys who agree with me.

That's why I'm taking part in this challenge even though I'm far more likely to use these figures to play Of Gods and Mortals or Open Combat than WFB2E. Because it's about way more than rare figures or arcane rulesets or only using original Citadel paints—though if you like those things, that's totally cool too. (In fact, that's kind of the point.) As far as I'm concerned, this is about stories and a community that loves them. All the rest is just how you like it dressed.

So now that you're all full of waffle, here're the first WIP shots of my warband, which I finally got based up along with all 101 figures of my lead molehill. Because the challenge stipulates that figures should either be incredibly cheap or easily attainable from a current manufacturer, I have decided to use a selection of EM-4 minis (who currently produce a lot of old Grenadier sculpts) as this satisfies both requirements. In keeping with what I see as the spirit of the challenge, rather than select figures based on one theme, I just went with those that I thought looked cool.

Here's the first unit of 10 infantry—sort of a mixed band of ruffians, knaves, and villainry cherry-picked from the orc, barbarians, and human ranges.

Here's the second squad. This is a unit of irregular missile troops, lead by that hard-bitten looking merc in the middle. A bit of everything here as well. Since I mostly play skirmish games, the last thing I wanted was to have to paint up a bunch of identical archers. This was a nice comprimise, and I have to say I'm really excited to paint up that halfling!

And here's the boss of them all, one of EM-4's splendid giant orcs. This guy is a real fistfull of lead, and with tons of character to boot. I thought about using the barbarian mounted on a tiger instead, but how could I? That is the stance of command.

And here's a shot of the group, minus the final unit of 5...

...which habitual readers will recognize as part of my Dire Men warband. These were long ear-marked for this project, but got finished first over the summer so they could take part in this, rather oldhammery, SoBH campaign with my club.

The fluff will follow as I progress with getting the warband painted up. In the meantime, let me know what you think. Feel free to stuff the comments box full of waffle, because if you made it this far, frankly, you've earned it.


  1. That's an exciting project, and great sculpts you picked for it. I shall pay EM-4 a visit sometime. Nice rumination on miniature wargaming, spoken from my heart also.

    1. Thanks TLATD! EM-4 is definitely worth a look. It can be tricky to tell what's what because not all of the paintjobs on the website are particularly flattering, but it's hard to go wrong with the grenadier figures.

      EM-4 also sells their stuff through Forlorn Hope Games and sometimes their stock doesn't match up so if something is out of supply at one, you can always check the other.

  2. Looking great, I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with these!

  3. I think you've hit the nail on the head vis a vis Oldhammer. To me it's all about recapturing the fun and possibility that gaming had in my youth. I really need to take a look at EM-4, those are some boss sculpts.

    1. They really are. And painting them's a gas!