At first glance, Warhammer 40,000 and I are not a very good match. It's a science fiction setting; I generally prefer fantasy. It has pretty high barriers to entry; (more about those in a second) and I think that accessibility is one of the most important traits a game can have. There's a strong artistic element to the hobby; I can barely draw a stick figure, much less paint one.
So how the hell did I find myself spending hundreds of dollars on little plastic Space Marines? It's kind of complicated, but it also makes a certain kind of sense.
When I was a little kid, I owned a copy of this board game called Space Hulk. I didn't really know much about it, and I think I only managed to get my brother to play me in it once or twice. I would have been about 13 at the most, and he would have been 10. A lot of the finer points of turn-based tactical boardgaming were lost on us, but we couldn't care less. We had power swords and heavy flamers and swarms of aliens at our command!
Those of you familiar with the game of course know that it's set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. I didn't realize this until this last year, when I read that Space Hulk would be re-released and a rush of childhood memories hit me like a chainfist. I had to have a copy of that game again!
I found myself in Games of Berkeley, looking for a few D&D sourcebooks to help get my new campaign started and giving my new friend Tre a quick tour of gaming stores in the area. Two other gentlemen of obvious nerd pedigree were standing nearby, talking about some game or another. After a few lines of strained dialogue, I realized that they were talking about Space Hulk. One of them uttered "You should probably buy it. There's only three copies left."
Glancing over to where they were standing, I saw a copy perched on the shelf between them. With the sudden alacrity of a fat cop going for the last doughnut, I darted into their midst and laid my mitts on the precious box. "And now there's two!" I cackled.
(On an unrelated note, it was during this trip that I received the best service on any trip to Games of Berkeley. Could it be that attending with a female friend who can clearly hold her own in RPG supplement-related discussion had some bearing on the way the staff treated me? Shocking!)
Only once I got the box home and popped the lid open to play my inaugural game did I realize that there would be assembly required. I should have known, of course, but I wasn't really prepared for it. Back to the store I went to pick up some plastic cutters, glue, a knife, some files, oh and why the hell not? I'll pick up some paints & brushes too. If I'm going to do this thing, I'm going to do it right!
I settled on some P3 paints, because I had heard good things about them during a brief stint internet-flirting with Warmachine/Hordes a couple years ago. I picked out some appropriately Space Hulk-y colors and some Reaper brushes, went back to my house, and got to work.
Roughly an hour into the assembly I knew I was in trouble. I was putting together a Blood Angels Terminator, complete with a gigantic Thunder Hammer & Storm Shield when it hit me. Not the Thunder Hammer, mind.
I was having more fun putting that little dude together than I had playing most other boardgames I'd touched in the last few months. How fucking awesome is that? It's a snap-together model, not even something that requires any posing or skill on my part, but the sheer attention to detail of the figure and the zen-like focus you get when cutting and filing all the tiny plastic bits really resonated with me. That's when I knew I was bit, and I'd probably have to start looking into playing a real tabletop wargame.
Up next: While My Wallet Softly Weeps - First Steps to 40K.
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