Sunday, 28 February 2016

..overcoming Faction Purity in the cold light of day.

I'd start with an apology of sorts, for my absolute lack of updates on Imperishable Dominion for the past few months, but for the simple fact that I doubt any of our readership missed me. I'm nowhere near pretentious enough to consider otherwise. Nonetheless, there it is. For those of you new to the blog, an introduction. My name is Sherwin, and I play Skorne; nope, that's Convergence; wait, that should be Minions. Or Convergence.

Maybe both.

 Time now for a boring personal history lesson, and then a guy taking himself waaay too seriously

I've played Skorne since the inception of Mk.II, back just after the field tests, and they were the first Hordes faction to receive a 'Forces of..' release. Back then, our local area didn't have a Warmachine scene at all, beyond a couple of older gamers whom had tried starting up at some point and given up due to lack of both store and gamer support.

My first Warlock was Tyrant Xerxis, for whom I dutifully made the obligatory Tier 2 Fist list after a handful of psuedo-battlebox games (to this day I've only ever used the actual Skorne battlebox for a game around three times); after that as our scene began to flourish, I continued to play with the Skorne. I am without doubt in the camp of those fiercely dedicated players that champions a single faction above all others, and comes to identify with them in the local meta. 

I enjoyed moderate success at a local level with the Skorne, and even some success at a national one (although of course, no titles), placing fairly respectably with them. But I found that whenever I would try my hand at an alternative faction, I'd reach about four games in at most before simply shaking my head, putting the models back in the case, and reaching for the Master Race once again. Any other faction just couldn't sway me from my first Warmachine love. 

 This guy changed it all

But then finally I became mechanized. Around six months after their release, a friend was selling off his Convergence of Cyriss models, which I duly came into possession of. I thought that they'd be an interesting painting project and then I'd sell them on eBay. What actually happened was that I fell in love with the first model I painted, a Cipher. Something about the aesthetic just appealed I guess. That afternoon, I vowed that I would use the models I had for games, and that I wouldn't touch the Skorne for a whole year, thus avoiding the typical circumstance of returning back to my beloved Titans after a handful of games. 

Playing Convergence was a massive eye opener, and something which I can absolutely attest to being the moment that my game stepped up to the next level, whether it be list construction, strategy, understanding of the core mechanics, or of tournament play. I couldn't say whether that was down to the faction or not - certainly there was initially a frontier feel to them back then, with only three Warcasters, no Corollary, Enigma Foundry, second heavy jack chassis, or battle engine. Perhaps that restriction focused me, perhaps not.

I returned to Skorne after Smogcon 2015, as promised. And, as you'd expect had a great time during the honeymoon period. I came to dominate the local meta with Xerxis2 paired with Zaal1. But for all that I was enjoying my games, I found the same unease that had begun to creep in during the latter part of my first run with the Skorne. Everything was the same. Very little had changed. Granted, the Aradus provided something a little different, but not a dynamic alteration. The faction felt stale. 

Enter the Minions. I'd owned a growing horde of both pacts for years, as allies for the Skorne, and then as painting projects, and always sworn that I would try them for a decent run. They became my new Convergence, starting so far with Thornfall.

And, for those of you still reading, here's the point of the article, the discussion.

Having a new faction to test expands your gaming horizons, and keeps the game fresh. Learning the synergy of a new faction or how the interactions between new models and abilities work is the best way to force you out of old habits, and keep you evolving. Playing Convergence certainly taught me that very quickly, as have the Farrow. But the flipside is that initially at least, you have to reset the learning curve. And for some, that's the killer.

I love the Thornfall Alliance models. Each of them has so much character, and is so thoroughly engaging to paint, even down to the lowliest grunt. They are, without doubt one of the best examples of how Privateer Press have taken a fantasy trope, mixed it around a little and made it their own. But every game is a struggle; they're deliberately balanced as being difficult. Players using Minions don't expect or even hope to win events. That some do is tribute to their ability of course, and once the new Light Warbeasts arrive, things will change. But by taking a Minion army, you are significantly putting yourself at disadvantage to the other players.

For the moment therefore, I've been forced to ask myself the question of how much I want to win. That sounds absurd to write, but I believe that its a question at the heart of all of us, the elephant in the room that few of us like to address directly. In a meta which looks down on 'powergaming' or those too invested in their games are decried as tryhards, at what point do you look at yourself and admit that you are using the best options available to you, because crucial to your enjoyment is victory?

For me at least, its a tough one to realise. I've always championed love for the game itself, and the models over the rules; I've never once fielded a list based upon what I read online or saw that did well somewhere else. I even stopped using the Fist after I came to the conclusion that it was fast becoming so commonplace once the Incindiarii were released. But losing with Minions has taught me that luxury is simply not one that I have with my new faction. 

Our in house artists impression of how the war for my faction purity was lost

And that's why I have at last overcome my faction purity, and broken free of what feels like the last hurdle in that step up which began with playing Convergence. I am a Convergence player, and a Minion player. Because, for better or worse, I am too emotionally invested in my games to not be it seems, to have one faction for events and when I want to win, and one for when I just want to play random games - or, until they get a release that brings them up to a standard which makes me feel more confident of success.

I'll just have to live with that I guess.

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