Friday 11 October 2013

Old Hammer Rises from the Golden Throne

Greetings all;

This post is a bit different to my previous ones as it's not a 'gallery' of my recent miniatures but more of a discussion topic for people to contemplate.

Unless you have been locked in a box for the past few months then it is impossible not to have noticed the rapid rise in popularity of the Old Hammer movement amongst us old school gamers and even amongst newer converts! It seems that every day a new blog appears full of interesting posts and beautiful photographs of models all geared towards spreading the joys of Old Hammer.  This is coupled with events like Foundry (which I'm gutted I missed) appearing for like minded individuals to gather, have fun and inspire each other.

The question I want to ask is 'Why is Old Hammer becoming more popular?'

Obviously as sentient being (sort of) I have my own theories on this topic and they are as follows:

1) Disillusion: Firstly I believe that the modern GW games (which I do also collect and play) have become too dominated by 'Power Gamers'; 'Power Lists' and a 'Victory at all Costs' tournament attitude amongst the player base; this appears to be actively is encouraged by GW.  I can see why GW as a business would support this outlook amongst it's clientele as it encourages the bulk buying of tonnes of plastic every time a new and more powerful force gets released (which seems to be at a very rapid rate these days); however I can't help but feel its damaging the gaming experience and causing the aforementioned disillusion to take root amongst gamers.  Don't get me wrong tournament style play has it's place, but it shouldn't be the be all and end all of gaming...If we look at it from a different perspective then sometimes a kick about in the park is more fun than a religiously refereed premier league football (soccer) match; gaming is no different!

They seemed to have lost what made gaming fun in the first place all those years ago back in the days of Rogue Trader and Second Edition 40k; this was the notion of using our models to tell a story and experience an unique adventure. This narrative style of play was great and when zany/weird stuff happened it just made it even more enjoyable. The experience of small bands of characters battling on a forgotten Imperial outpost while native livestock ran wild (at the behest of the GM) was just so much more immersive than sweeping giant hordes of nameless drones towards an almost identical opposing force!

2) Nostalgia: This is definitely part of the appeal; let's face it; the stuff we remember from our youth always holds a certain charm that nothing else can ever live up to.  However I think there is still more to it than that; don't get me wrong I know that modern GW figures are far superior in sculpting and flexibility compared to the older ranges; but I reckon the older, metal miniatures had more charisma to them.  I paint models from all eras of 40k and I have to say I enjoy painting the older; cruder sculpts more than the newer plastic/resin that is being churned out.

3) Atmosphere: It has to be said the atmosphere amongst Old Hammer gamers tends to be a bit more relaxed and welcoming than amongst the new generation of toy soldier generals.  I read the majority of the Old Hammer blogs across the web and it seems to be almost universally a very welcoming environment for newcomers.  The majority of articles are well written, accessible and the authors are always responsive to those readers who engage with them; even when people disagree it appears to be done in a very amicable and gentlemanly way. 

This is in stark contrast to other more modern-oriented sites (no names mentioned) where people seem to go at each others throats over minor nuances in army lists that are designed to destroy their opponents at all costs! 

Maybe this ingrained attitude harks backs to the GW stores that we visited when we were growing up; I remember loving going into my local store after school or on weekends. It was always full of regulars (both staff and customers), painting, gaming and chatting. It was a wonderful atmosphere that really engendered creativity and fun; and if I fancied a new product I'd ask the staff and they'd give me their genuine opinion and maybe I would by it or maybe I wouldn't. 

Fast forward 20 years and the whole place is a completely different entity. Many of the current stores seem to be run by one overworked bloke on the verge of a nervous breakdown and forced to meet targets. For example on entering the premises this afternoon I was instantly accosted and given the hard sell about the new Dark Elves; when I explained I just wanted paints the staff member lost interest and assaulted a child and his parent who were trying to by a SM tactical squad.  By the time he'd finished with them he'd forced the reluctant father to buy a battle force and every modelling accessory under the Sun; it was like watching a mugging in action.  It's almost impossible to leave the store without feeling like you've been robbed by a gang member! I understand they are a business that needs to turn a profit, but I'd be more inclined to spend money if the staff didn't make me feel so uncomfortable and try to steal the cash directly out of my wallet.

Well it's midnight and I'm off to bed so that's about it for tonight on my views as to why Old Hammer is on the up and up, but I am sure there are wiser more informed opinions out there and I would really appreciate it if you could expand upon or challenge what I've written above!!

Oh and as an aside I've enticed my mate over tomorrow and we're going to have a bit of Rogue Trader action so I'll try and take some snaps and do a battle report once we're done!!


  1. I believe you have touched some sensible points here, and I can't but agree. Disillusion and nostalgia are both interconnected and are two different expressions of the same feeling. I guess atmosphere is just a matter of how everyone faces the game/hobby, but maybe the ones who were not taught to 'play to win win win' take this in a more relaxed, friendly way. It's nice to see the community is growing!

  2. Yeah; I agree they are both different sides of the same coin. It's such a shame to see what has happened to the mainstream hobby over the years! My mate who came over to play Rogue Trader and Epic yesterday had a chat with me about it l; and we both agreed that GW stores are just no longer the fun places they used to be. As we were moving our 6mm space marines around we discussed whether or not our local GW would let us play Epic on the game boards and I reckon that even though epic was a GW system the answer would be 'No' as they only want to showcase battles that advertise their current range of products! Very sad!!

  3. Right on the money there matey. The guy who runs my local GW is a very nice chap, but I'm sure he's got his targets to meet and rules to adhere to. There's no way you'd be allowed to play a game of Epic in store these days! It's current stuff or nothing. I only ever go in there to buy paints, which in all fairness, are great quality. Probably one of the best things GW make at the moment.
    As you say, their current minis are technically top notch. But they're eye-wateringly expensive and you just end up with ranks of identical, soulless models. Even with rank and file troops, I'd prefer a bit of variety and character to each of them.
    And finally, don't get me started on the 'win at any cost' tournament systems...grrrr! I've played the current 6th edition of 40k, and while the actual rules are pretty good, the attitude of the players who I've faced has been unreal. They are by and large nice people, but the urge to build face-smashing army lists and exploit the rules and combos available to their faction is obviously too strong. Suffice to say, those were not particularly enjoyable games.