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How Bad Teachers Scare Away New Players

By Caleb Dillon | January 20th, 2013 | Categories: Editorial, Warhammer 40k, WMG

17 years.

That’s how long I’ve been playing 40k.  17 years.  In the past 17 years I’ve lost my virginity, been to college, waited on probably 1000 tables in my service to the restaurant industry, worked for about a dozen different companies,owned 6 cars (mostly junkers), lived in about 6-7 apartments, dated maybe 10 different girls, married one of them, and bought 2 homes. 

But through it all, I’ve played 40k.   I got into it in high school and was hooked from the get go.  I’m not sure what makes me a ‘wargamer’.  I have the same passion for this I see others display towards football or baseball, or that my wife displays for reality TV.  It’s just something in my blood.  I can’t help it, I can’t fight it, and I don’t really want to.

But I’m reminded just how long I have been playing when I show up a my FLGS and 90% of the players that show up for league night are still in college, or even high school.  Most of them, like you might figure, are attracted to the hobby for the same reason young athletic types are attracted to playing sports . . . they are naturally good at it and can test their mettle vs. an opponent on ‘even’ ground.  Geeks, just as much as athletes, thrive on competition.  They are hungry for the W. 

But I realized last night I was one of the oldest players in the room . . and I am 32.  That is a weird feeling. 

Like most of us that do anything for 17 years, we go through phases.  Our interest in the hobby ebbs and flows.  For my four years of college, I only played during breaks and over the summer.  My college was just too intense for much wargaming, and there were no game stores (at the time) in my college town of Winston-Salem.

In the mid 90’s 40k was in it’s 2nd edition.  I played all though 2nd and 3rd (which was a huge change).  By the end of college, I had mostly become a casual gamer, getting in a pick up game once in a while, but that was about it.  Then I took a break for a while.  By the time I was ready to get back into it hardcore, I realized I didn’t know anybody that played anymore, other than my friends back home, that were hours away.  So I went to my FLGS and tried to scrounge up a game.

After a few weeks of no luck, I decided to post a flyer.  “Local player looking to get back into 40k seeks same for a refresher game in 3rd edition”.  Or something like that.   I did the little tab thing with my phone number/email on it, like I was a babysitter looking for work.  The next week I went back to the store to see if any tabs had been removed.

I was surprised to see a Warhammer Fantasy game in progress.  Not the same as 40k, but close enough!  I had hit paydirt!  So I hung around for a few minutes and watched two players go at it.  Both were older players, late 30’s to early/mid 40’s.  Clearly the 40 year old was a veteran and the 30ish year old was fairly new to the hobby.  The 40 year old was blasting through rules almost as quickly as he was blasting through his opponents infantry.  At the time I didn’t understand what being a ‘bad teach’ was.  It was brutal to behold.  Like a train wreck, I couldn’t look away.

During a short pause, while the thirty-something player took a break to get a soda or something, the veteran milled around the table, waiting to continue his thrashing.  This was my moment!  The time to introduce myself!

Before I could say a word, however, he had wandered over to the board.  He saw my note, the note about needing a mentor for the new edition!  He looked at it, shook his head and laughed.  “What an idiot!  Doesn’t he know it’s 4th edition now!”

I was dumbstruck.  I mean, this short, balding, fat jackass was right, on the one hand.  It was indeed 4th edition.  I needed to learn 4th, not be refreshed on 3rd.  But on the other hand, I felt like he had missed the forest for the trees.  Here was a chance to increase the gaming community by +1, to gain a new player, to make a new friend, etc.  Here was a chance to blast through stereotypes of gamers being anti-social or jerks who just like to win.

Devastated (as much as you can be when ridiculed by a short, fat, 40’s balding wargamer) as I was, I decided to simply leave, and didn’t even bother to introduce myself.

Now the story has a happy ending.  I did get back into gaming and now consider myself pretty well versed in the newest edition.  But at the time, when I needed help most, I was let down . . by a veteran.

Last night, at my FLGS store I got in a small 400 point game as part of a new ‘combat patrol’ league.  I was approached by, wouldn’t you know it . . a player that had been a serious player in 5th edition but hadn’t played much in 6th, and needed a ‘tune up’ game.  “Wanna play?”  He asked me.

Now, kiddies, what do you think I did:

A.  Laughed in the players face.
B.  “What, are you stupid!  It’s 7th edition!”
C.  Offered to teach him the ropes of 6th. 
D.  None of the above

 If you answered C, give yourself a gold star!  This was a chance to teach someone about the game!

What’s even better is after the game my opponent and I talked shop and I think I may have met a new future client!  He certainly had interest in what I was doing.  I was sure to speak loud, so others at nearby tables could hear me too.  Hopefully a few others are interested in doing business with us in the future as well.

As veterans, we have the privilege of being able to inundate new players to our favorite hobby.  We are in a unique position to show how fulfilling a long term hobby can be, and how some love affairs, like the one I have with wargaming, last a lifetime. 

So be careful when you make a casual joke at someones expense in the company of strangers.  The person you piss off may have been a great player to get to join up. . .  or they might shoot you when you leave the game store.

After all, some veterans really are veterans.

For those just tuning in, my name is Caleb and I am the owner of White Metal Games, a miniature conversion and painting service in Raleigh NC.

Caleb

About the Author: Caleb Dillon

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