If you ask someone who is passionate about Warhammer why they do it, there are a lot of answers. Some are short. Some are very detailed. Most, I’ve found, revolve around a couple of ideas.
Hello, my name is Phillip. I’m a regular at the Mana Pool, and the tournament organizer for the monthly Warhammer Kill Team tournaments hosted there. I am an educator, an artist, and I collect Warhammer miniatures.
Why, you might be asking, would I want to spend so much money and time on what amounts to Toy Soldiers? Well, I’m passionate about Warhammer, and if you’re reading this, then I’ve been given a platform to tell you why. Let’s begin.
The detailed answer
1. You feel like a god(dess) The first time I laid eyes on a box of termagants, a weird bug-like creature with pointy teeth and too many legs, I was 10 years old and I was in love with them. I demanded them for my birthday. I was so excited when I actually got them that I tried to use kitchen scissors and a glue stick to put them together; this was due to the fact they came attached to a “sprue,” a plastic frame on which the parts are molded. That, predictably, did not work since glue sticks suck.
I had a lot to learn.
The good news is I did, in fact, learn. As a 10 year old, I found out I had to use super glue. I taught myself how to use aerosol paints (spray paint) to start painting my new toys. I practiced using a paint brush and how to use acrylic paints.
After all that effort, I had finished 1 of 16 miniatures. It was a lot of work. Still, I was so proud of myself that I kept going, and going, and going! Weeks later, I had a little army ready to go. The initial box, which cost my poor mother $45, had seen me spend approximately 25-30 hours of my free time building the kit inside. Those models would then later be used for hours in the games I would play afterwards with my friends.
There is so much to do with Warhammer as a hobby, and all of them require skills that are easy to build on and instill pride in your own work. It’s addictive, as far as feelings go, and you feel like a shiny, golden god(dess).
2. Warhammer is spicy. Warhammer is incredibly creative. How you assemble your miniatures, and especially how you paint them, marks your collection as uniquely yours. Where two players might collect the same army, the models collected, assembled, and painted are likely to be so different as to easily mark whose army belongs to whom. Your zombie space marines might be painted like they are on the box, a pestilential plague of greens, yellows and browns, where others might paint them an icy blue with black, frostbitten skin. Both are valid, both are cool, and both are just 1 in a million different ways to express your creativity.
But what about the game?
The game of warhammer is definitely a big draw for some people, myself included. I’ve heard it described as Starcraft but with miniatures, where generals test their tactical skill in a fun game with their toy soldiers. I’ve also spoken to folks who play purely narrative style games, where it’s all about the stories of their favoured models conducting campaigns across an infinitely grim galaxy, or an infinite fantasy charnel house.
There is no one right way to play. That, to me, is a huge deal.
Unlike certain other games where there is a prescribed way to play (and that’s absolutely fine!), Warhammer begs the hobbyist to indulge in a variety of different games. You can go to increasingly popular tournaments to compete, play with close friends at home on a dining room table, or anything else around and in between. It’s a smorgasbord of different experiences, and your models can be used in all of it. The same Dwarves I’ve painted for skirmish games will be useful in vast campaigns as the collection builds. The battlesuits and drones I’ve painted are at home both in a tournament setting as well as an expansive campaign to retake a planet from vile space bugs. Variety, they say, is the spice of life, and that makes Warhammer a particularly spicy hobby.
3. The friends you make along the way. Look, it’s no secret that people drift apart. Over time, you get interested in things your friends aren’t as keen on, or you move away only to come back years later. That’s my story. On coming back home after 2 years abroad teaching, I was particularly starved. My friends were playing different games, or at different places with their lives, and I was not as interested in the same stuff.
A year and a half ago, a buddy of mine got me back in the Warhammer hobby. He got me interested in a league happening soon for a skirmish game system for Warhammer that was relatively new, and I took the opportunity.
Predictably I got extremely excited and built a small squad of warriors, relearned how to paint and assemble them, and made them ready for the gaming table. The problem was that my buddy was busy a lot of the time: between work and life, his schedule was packed. He couldn’t be my only opponent.
I took responsibility for my lack of gaming partners and got looking.
It was incredibly surprising to me, at first, how social Warhammer was as a hobby. You sit at home and make toys, right? Sure, but you seek advice on how to get better, and you do. You then give advice to help others. The game itself has a social contract, where if people don’t like playing against you, they won’t. There is a vested interest in not being a garbage person.
18 months later, I am frequently out seeing friends and bonding over this hobby. Most times we game, but sometimes we paint. We talk. We hang out. I have had wonderful experiences playing with these folks. You learn how to not just play against folks, but play with them, making it a fun experience for all players involved.
I’ve made great friends with this hobby, with people I would not have met otherwise. I cannot express enough how grateful I am for that.
Conclusion? Warhammer is a pretty crazy hobby. You have to want to cut, glue, and scrape together models. Then, if you want to play the game, you have to be ready to learn the rules, find a willing opponent, and then play the game a few times. Warhammer isn’t something you pick up on a lark and have a one off with some pals, it’s a commitment; a commitment of time; a commitment of patience; a commitment to learn.
Despite all this, it is super worth it. There’s a huge sense of accomplishment for finishing even one model, and seeing a whole collection arrayed on a table? I can’t describe how cool it is.
The short answer The models are cool, okay?!