Some thoughts on gaming system commitment, and some questions

For the discussion of any other tabletop games. e.g. Malifaux, Dropzone Commander, Infinity etc.
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me_in_japan
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Some thoughts on gaming system commitment, and some questions

Post by me_in_japan » Fri Sep 17, 2021 6:08 am

I initially wrote this in the Warhammer Underworlds thread, but it kind of grew into more of a general mental vomitation of my thoughts and ponderings on the subject of fidelity to a given game system. My apologies for the length and meandering nature of this, but I'd be very interested to see what people's thoughts on this are.

Here's what I wrote:




So, we've had previews of the new Underworlds box, and my initial reaction is that it looks nice. The swamp orcs seem cool, and I quite like their scraggly long arms and tendency to look a bit creepy rather than brutish comedy sidelines. The new sigmarines are actually really cool, which surprises me a lot (I dont keep up with AoS stuff so much, so I dont know if this aesthetic is commonplace or not.) But yeah - overall it seems like a nice box.

But... (and I do like a big but, I cannot lie...)

Should I even bother with this season?

It's not so much the financial cost. Assuming similar structure to S1-4, it should remain fairly affordable. It's more about the time/effort/emotional commitment. I bought the entirety of season 3 and 4, and most all of S2, and some of S1 (I got in late), but I haven't actually played with or really engaged with S4 at all. Obviously the pandemic was largely responsible for that, but even so, when Prim posted the other day about Malifaux, I felt a flicker of interest that has pretty much eluded me regarding Underworlds for some time. I bought all the warbands for S4, but haven't even cracked them out of their boxes. I could've done, but I just didn't feel inspired to do so. Worse, it felt like an obligation or duty that I was putting off. A hobby shouldn't do that, should it?

I do love the underworlds minis. There really isn't a single warband that sucks, and some of them are absolutely superb. I'm fairly happy to own the stuff I own for it, if only to paint. But if I'm just buying em to paint, then surely I should just spend my money on some Pegaso mini or summat equally "check me out, I'm an ahtist" type figure.

As a game, a big part of the appeal of Underworlds for me is deckbuilding, but I think MtG (and especially Arena) has trained me (for better or for worse) to approach that in an iterative, constant improvement kind of way. As such, one game every six months just wont cut it, especially if I have 8 factions to mentally process. With MtG, I enjoy building a deck (whether self built or netdecked) and playing/iterating it half a dozen times or more in an evening. I'll then use the same one deck for months at a time, tweaking as I go, getting to the point where I know roughly how a game will play out after maybe one or two turns in. Even though the deck I'm running at the end of that time frame wont be anything like the one I started it with, I'll know exactly what cards went in and out, and the reasons why. I want to be able to achieve this kind of familiarity with Underworlds, but the frequency of my games (and to a slightly lesser extent, the length of a game) means I cant realistically do so. As such the game has started to feel a little frustrating, inasmuch as I have a nagging feeling that I'm durdling around, not playing it "efficiently" or approaching it in such as way as to actually improve. It's not even that I want to win - I'd happily lose as long as I felt I had maximised my possibility of winning (specifically, as long as I felt I had made the optimal decisions). It's more that I'm frustrated because I can't even know if I'm playing the game in the "best" way without playing a lot more games, which I don't have time (or opponents) for. Incidentally, I have this same "efficiency" problem with computer games. I get annoyed if I'm not improving my skill, but also if I'm not being efficient when it comes to maximising rewards for my time. MtG Arena and Fortnite both reward successful play with in-game items (in the case of Arena, you get cards and in-game currency. For Fortnite it's cosmetic items (no game effect) and currency), and both reward you more for playing a bit every day rather than in one big weekendy lump. This marketing model (and I'm well aware it's a marketing device) is also present in Underworlds. Fomo, peoples. Fomo.

I don't like to be manipulated (but I really want the stufffffff :cry: )

Conversely, when Prim brought up Malifaux, I recalled how much I just enjoyed being involved in the game. A few years back I actually bought the print rulebooks purely to read the lore. I enjoyed playing the game, and the playing-card based mechanics open up all kinds of interesting interactions you just cant do with dice. And I really do want to paint my minis for that game, especially Lynch and his wierd nightmare duders. I even want to look at the Wyrd site and see what other warbands might tickle my fancy. Malifaux surely suffers from the same problem that I'd have with any game, ie - actually having opponents to play against, but at least I want to play. Underworlds feels more like...I should play because I'm already so heavily invested. You could maybe argue that a less long-term investment type of game like Stargrave might suit me better, but although Stargrave is a fine game and all, the lack of lore leaves it feeling very beer-and-pretzely. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but I kinda have a bit of an itch to actually feel invested in a game again, read up on some lore, learn tactics etc. And I have doubts about Underworlds being it.

I think, on reflection, that a big part of the issue is the rotating nature of Underworlds. With Mali, or even 40k or pretty much most any other minis game, you can stop playing for six months or a year or more, then come back and pick up where you left off. My Malifaux crews from a couple years ago are still mostly useable, the rules (and all paper-based assets) are free online, and it looks like I could get right back into it by reading a rulebook and reminding myself how it used to work, with tweaks. No money needed. While there has been some restructuring of what minis go where, and one of my warbands has been mothballed, my stuff is still useable. Heck, the mothballed warband even has rules available for it just for folks like me who have legacy minis. 40k, by comparison, would probably be a bigger effort to get into, simply because of the scale of the game. In mali I maybe lose one or two minis. In 40k, I'm pretty sure significant portions of my eldar would no longer be useable (in part this is due to GWs buy-new-stuff-its-stronk policy), but in theory I could buy a rulebook and get back into it (I guess. I may be wrong on this.) Underworlds, however, is specifically designed to render old stuff obsolete. It's baked into the rotation of seasons. Warband boxes go out of print, again, by design. That makes taking a year out a much harder decision, because if you do, then get back into it later, you'll have a hole in your collection that is really, really hard to fill after the fact. You could probably get by without the minis, but without the cards you're buggered (yes, proxying is a thing, but teh game shouldn't require you do do it.) In MtG rotation is also baked in, but because of the huge secondary resale market associated with it, it's super easy to pick up older cards if you want them (and yes I realise some really old cards are bonkers expensive, but those cards are more akin to old baseball cards or summat. They're collectibles, not playing pieces.) Moreover, there is a thriving variety of ways to play MtG that allow for older cards, so you can easily just build a deck from your collection and play. I just don't see this daeveloping with Underworlds, partly because of the mini/card combo nature of the game. There just doesn't seem to be a secondary market where you can pick up single cards (or old warbands) in any meaningful way.

So, yeah. I'm just wondering if others had any thoughts on this. Do you ever feel like you've lost touch with what you enjoy about a game? Or that a particular system has become more of a burden than a benefit? To quote every YouTuber ever, "Let me know, in the comments below..."
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Re: Some thoughts on gaming system commitment, and some questions

Post by The Other Dave » Fri Sep 17, 2021 7:14 am

I do understand where you're coming from! I certainly have a similar way to interact with computer games, where my interest in a given game drops like a rock basically the instant I've unlocked everything / hit the level cap / what have you. And it does seem like the pandemic and reduced chances to game have hit a lot of people's sustained interest in all kinds of tabletop games, for similar reasons to yours - there's just not enough interaction with the game to sustain interest, especially the kind of very sustained interest Underworlds in particular asks for. So in my case, since I do play UW semi-regularly*, it's easier to stay engaged, even if 90% of the time I just hit "build me a deck" on UnderworldsDB and basically leave it at that.

*A recent bit o' drama where our FLGS out in Ichinomiya turned out to be actually not so F has had a pretty big effect on my excitement for the game in the short term, though, if I'm going to be honest.

Same with the way I interact with 40K (and Titanicus and, most likely, Kill Team). I really like the low-stakes, let's-chuck-dice-around feel of how Crusade works, and really getting my hands dirty and figuring out a tight, killer Matched Play list holds zero interest for me. Painting some cool models, hanging around with people I like and not worrying too much about list building or optimization is, it turns out, a nice relaxing way for me to interface with a game. But if I wasn't getting games in I certainly wouldn't be nearly as interested.

That said, back to Underworlds, I'm not getting Arena Mortis at least. :lol: I will get Harrow-whatsit, because the models look cool, but the hints at yet another new rules wrinkle added on (shadowy hexes? OK...) and the uncertainty with the pictures of different card backs means I'm a bit more wary than perhaps I've been at the release of any previous season. The thought of another 8 or 10 warbands to probably never play more than once or twice each is also a little draining, although I'm sure they'll be very pretty and fun to paint. (It probably says a lot about me that the thing that excites me most about the pictures of the new set is the purple magic dice. :lol:) I'm probably getting some resonant feedback with many of the UW podcasts and YouTube channels and Twitter personages I follow being pretty open at expressing their through-ness with the whole thing after the tidal wave of releases earlier this year during hard-to-arrange-games pandemic times - I try to think for myself, but it's hard to stay positive in the face of a constant low hum of negativity, but then that's the Internet for ya.

I mean, If I'm going to be quite honest, 5 years is a very long run, relatively, for constant support for a game from GW without an edition change (or just dropping the thing), so I am starting to wonder about Underworlds' longevity and feel a bit like I'm walking carefully forward out onto an icy lake (if that analogy makes any sense), but I think I'll be along for the ride for another season at least.

(I do think it's important not to get too tied up in thinking about seasons and rotation and such, though. Championship is a nice framework for play, but Vanguard is both popular and viable, and Relic is a thing. It's not really an answer when deckbuilding is part of the draw, I know, but saying "let's play some Direchasm-season Vanguard" or what have you is an entirely reasonable way to approach the game.)
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Re: Some thoughts on gaming system commitment, and some questions

Post by Jye Nicolson » Fri Sep 17, 2021 8:50 am

me_in_japan wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 6:08 am
So, yeah. I'm just wondering if others had any thoughts on this. Do you ever feel like you've lost touch with what you enjoy about a game? Or that a particular system has become more of a burden than a benefit?
Constantly and inevitably.

Not playing and not following good games is the normal state of affairs. I am blithely ignoring Malifaux, Frostgrave, any number of historicals etc even though I'm sure they're great (and Aeronautica Imperalis, Necromunda and Bloodbowl even if we're taking my being trapped in the GW ecosystem into account. Not even going to consider Old World, much like I don't Horus Heresy). Even if I did pick one of them up, I'd be ignoring dozens more, there's more good games than any human could be across even if their job was getting people to like and subscribe.

So you know, it's on the game to get and keep your interest. You don't owe it anything, there might be many gamers out there but there's only one you and many games so they need to fight it out for you personally. And which one(s) are winning at any given time will change for a bunch of arbitrary reasons, and decidedly non-arbitary ones too (if a bunch of your friends are keen to play some Malifaux and it sounds like fun, why not give it another shot?).

Burning out is non-arbitrary. I think it's inevitable. Giving up following a game when you're burned out (whether because you can't play enough or because you've played decidedly too much) is *healthy*. We should all probably do it a bit faster than we do. Hell, giving up following and not giving up playing is an option that might help sometimes :lol: (I pretty much did this for XWing, and for that matter I'm still doing it for Granblue Fantasy). But either way you shouldn't expect to keep a constant level of engagement up indefinitely. And it's on the game to keep you engaged, and even the best game will not be able to do that reliably. You'll burn out on a game at different rates to your friends, you'll be jaded with the state of a game just as a newer player is experiencing it as a golden age etc. etc.

I'm definitely deepest into 40K right now and expect I'll continue to be for some time, but I'll burn out on it in a few years and I'll be trying to get people to play Adeptus Titanicus 2023 or Emu Wars or whatever. Hopefully I come back for 13th edition!

So I think not overthinking it and just go where your gaming whims take you is the way to go 😅 Everything you've said about Underworlds - especially not being able to play it the way you want and do the kind of learning you find fun (arguably no longer being able to learn things that feel valuable is *why* we burn out of games) is a valid reason to let it go fallow. I'd argue some of the nuances but who cares - our different opinions on the nuances probably reflect different levels of motivation to play; "Vanguard is good, actually" isn't going to and probably *shouldn't* make you keep playing if you're not feeling it.

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Re: Some thoughts on gaming system commitment, and some questions

Post by Primarch » Fri Sep 17, 2021 9:58 am

Well, I can't speak to Underworlds, but if I were into it, I'd just build a deck from what I had available and play some games with it, seasons be damned. (I'd probably also proxy any cards I wanted, but had no interest in buying the minis that come with them, but that's just me :lol: ).
The game certainly seems to have plenty of options, so you should be able to play a team/crew/warband until you feel that you've tweaked them as much as you can and then move on to another group. It's not like chess where there are only two teams and nothing you can do with them.

If your heart isn't in it right now, try something else. Build some minis, play some games, paint whatever. Your models will still be waiting for you when you get out of your slump. Heck, you could probably use them for Frostgrave or something if you wanted to. The FOMO feeling that GW tries their best to instil is not a pleasant one. I've had to pass up on a lot of stuff that I wanted to get due to financial reasons and the prospect of things that I REALLY want to buy coming up soon. (The Horus Heresy rumours meant that I didn't get Kill Team). It felt rotten at the time, but it faded little by little. Over time, older warbands may crop up on ebay if you want to pick them up (or just print out the cards as needed), and you can probably get by using older minis/cards in later seasons without too much of a handicap. I don't think anyone local will get all worked up because you aren't playing the latest season. Hell, it's not like you buy MtG just so you can play Standard and then sit on a huge pile of old cards.

Speaking from my own experiences with 40K, I didn't enjoy 6th that much, 7th had major issues and 8th left me cold. I haven't even looked at 9th. However, I have played a couple of games of 5th (with some house rules tacked on) against Kojibear earlier this year and had an absolute blast with it. Sure, I probably won't get many pick up games, but I really enjoyed it and it gave me a chance to break out my collection and roll some dice with a friend. You are beholden to absolutely no-one to play the game exactly as the designers tell you using the version they want to sell you. I'm very much in favour of bashing a set of rules into a shape I'd like them to fit and saying "Hey, let's try this!" The lack of gaming opportunities over the past 18 months or so has really slowed things down, but with jabs and shots coming along, that should hopefully change.

As for feeling like you are improving at a game or at least playing efficiently, I think that is hard to do with the limited gaming time available. It's only possible with things like Arena because you can literally get a game finished and immediately start on the next one. No terrain to set up, no models to transport. There is also little communication with your opponent which adds time to the game. I've certainly had days when I've only played one game because I spent a lot of time chatting. I think it is easy to forget the social aspect of what we do and focus too much on the game itself, especially when you aren't playing. Go to play a game and you'll quickly forget about being efficient as you catch up with people and have fun. It's definitely something to work on, but without playing games every week, I don't think it's really as important as just enjoying the game itself.
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Re: Some thoughts on gaming system commitment, and some questions

Post by jus » Fri Sep 17, 2021 10:42 am

me_in_japan wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 6:08 am
Do you ever feel like you've lost touch with what you enjoy about a game? Or that a particular system has become more of a burden than a benefit?
I think I lose touch with 40k at least 3 times every edition. Codex creep along with GW's predatory pay to win bull shit aside, sometimes it's not that fun even if you win. That being said. Hairier faced men then I have offered sagely wisdom in the above posts already, I don't think there's much more for me to add.

So, back in 5th edition 40k, I went out and bought a vindicator for my blood angels army, because I had just the right amount of points for it in my army list and I thought it would make the list more competitive. I was really loathe to do this because, one: I didn't even want one to begin with. and two: there were so many cooler things I wanted to get. But I did anyway.

Prim (bless 'im) blew it up first turn with a landraider. :lol:

Moral of the story: who care's about being competitive. If a certain game isn't doing it for you how about making your own game?

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Re: Some thoughts on gaming system commitment, and some questions

Post by Primarch » Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:22 am

jus wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 10:42 am
Moral of the story: who care's about being competitive. If a certain game isn't doing it for you how about making your own game?
Amen!
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