We interviewed one of the NEOs involved with Coalescence. He's also one of the masterminds behind the REALMS AT WAR which is running a second huge narrative event later this year, October 27-29, in Cambridge, U.K. And they still have a few spaces remaining! RAW17
How did you become a NEO?
I played Warhammer 40k in my early teens but followed the usual trend by dropping out of the hobby around the age of 16 to play more sports and video games. Almost 20 years later, I wasn't playing as much sport as I had previously and I decided that I wanted to start a new hobby. I have always been a big fan of the sci-fi and fantasy genres so I thought I would have a go at Warhammer Fantasy Battle (WFB). That was around four and a half years ago and is one of the best decisions of my life!
I was really lucky to meet a group of similarly aged local WFB players who called themselves EATBATS (East Anglian Tabletop Battle And Tournament Squad!) and after they took me to my first tournament, my interest in the hobby soared even more! I really enjoy playing with people I haven't played before so I find tournaments or events are so much fun.
A short time before the release of Age of Sigmar (AoS), a narrative event called The Mingvitationals was held in Bristol by Ming Lee and a few of the EATBATS crew, including myself, managed to get places. It was my first experience at a narrative event and to date, it is still the most enjoyable weekend of hobbying I have ever had! Non-standard armies everywhere (do you remember the netlisting??), custom made scenarios with hidden secondary objectives and a mix of singles and doubles games! Awesome fun.
When Age of Sigmar dropped, the majority of EATBATS jumped straight in and we immediately fell in love with it! The freedom to customise your army opened up so many possibilities to everyone. For me, this simple change meant that it really felt as though my army was now truly my own and I started to work up a background for it including stories for each of the characters and units.
Another of the EATBATS crew, Mark 'Mitzy' Mitzman, had been in contact with Ming about putting on an AoS narrative event and in late spring in 2016, I joined with Ming, Mitzy and Steve Foote to become EATMingsFoote. Between us we created the Realms at War 'Legends' event (RAW16) which was held in Cambridge in November 2016.
RAW16 was the first narrative event in the UK and our 40 attendees brought their armies plus an Aspirant who, over the course of the weekend, gained new attributes, equipment and skills to eventually become a Legend. All of the players created custom built minis for both their Aspirant and their Legend which was amazing! We also encouraged lots of customisation of armies, display boards and a background for each army.
As part of our player pack, we had collated all of the background stories the players had submitted for their armies and bound them into a booklet which we designed as an ancient manuscript. - this was one of my favourite parts of the event, but I suspect that most people would talk about the RAW16 terrain. There is too much to describe but its safe to say that these were some of the most themed tables ever in the UK scene. If you'd like to have a look at the tables, please visit http://www.tga.community/forums/topic/6718-realms-at-war-legends-raw16/
It was definitely after RAW16 that I felt I could be called a Narrative Event Organiser (NEO). It was an awesome experience and even though I didn't get to play in the event, seeing all the attendees having such a fantastic time was incredible. We were really pleased with how the event went and we are currently planning RAW17 which is suffixed 'Leviathans'. Something big is coming soon!!
After RAW16, EATMingsFoote and the Hobbyhammer team were invited by Games Workshop (GW) to spend a weekend at Warhammer World and discuss our hopes and visions for narrative gaming in AoS. It was another incredible experience and I can definitely say that the future of narrative gaming is safe in GW's hands!
Can you tell us about your local group?
While there are a couple of wargaming clubs in the local area, most of the EATSBATS have young families or other commitments which means that there is no guarantee of us getting to a regular club night. However, we are all lucky enough to have properties which are big enough to get a gaming table set up in, be it on the kitchen table or in a dedicated room, so we game round each others houses.
During our games we often take photos and post them to our whatsapp group so everyone can get involved and enjoy the action. We also have irregular 'big' game nights where we put whatever we want on the table, roll dice and drink some beers (yes, we are all over eighteen!). These games are usually very lax on rules and high on laughs - usually for failed charges or whiffed attacks but the biggest guffaws are when one player decides to attack one of their teams mate! It's kind of like a game of Triumph and Treachery but with very little triumph and a lot of treachery!!
We also occasionally skype whilst we are painting which is a great way of socialising plus you are getting your army or terrain finished at the same time!
I do really enjoy building terrain so when I'm not painting or playing with my army, I'll be making some scenery whether it's for my table at home or for RAW. I find that mixing up the hobby is a great way of keeping interest high. There is nothing worse than having to paint twenty minis all from the same unit in one go!
Being in the UK, there are a lot of events going on throughout the year and generally they're within a four hour drive. I can get to some awesome events in Norwich or Colchester in a little over an hour though plus central London is only an hour and half away!
When we go to local events, we tend to go to those put on by small independent stores although I do enjoy SCGT each year (yes, I also enjoyed matched play events too!). I'm really looking forward to Hobbyhammer's narrative event in February next year and need to start thinking about what army I'm going to take - will we see some aelves soon???
Why is narrative gaming important to you?
I've always been a fan of creative writing so seeing people produce background stories for their armies is the part of narrative play which I enjoy the most. It really brings an army to life to me and gives them a purpose for doing what they do. The ultimate aim is for a player to control the army to follow it's theme and make decisions based on what it 'would' do rather than what it 'should' do. What do I mean by this? Well, an easy example is a Bloodbound army would charge at an enemy to appease Khorne's desire for blood and skulls even if the alternative option of staying put to hold an objective would gain Victory Points.
For me, when a player users their army in this manner, that's when narrative play comes into its element. My good friend Mitzy always likes to describe his games as 'directing a film' so he will play his army to make the most cinematic moments possible. This can create utterly incredible scenes as unlikely things seem to happen more often than not!!
Another fantastic thing about RAW16 was seeing all of the effort that all of the attendees had put into their armies. Not only did each army have custom made Aspirants and Legends, but most players built and painted completely new armies just for the event often involving rarely seen units or using a single theme - Paul Buckler brought an all flying Order army which was based on clouds!! It looked superb!
Hopefully, RAW16 inspired people (and not only those who attended) to try their hand at customising minis, creating back story for their armies, building some interesting terrain for their games or simply naming their General!
What tips do you have to share with other NEOs?
My top tip for new NEOs would be 'keep it simple'. Narrative play doesn't need to be complex; indeed if it is too complex, the game will suffer. A couple of custom rules can completely change how a game plays.
In my opinion, the ultimate aim of narrative play is to change the mind set of the players from 'win-at-all-cost' to 'what would be most fun?'! Encouraging people to make those backstories for their armies also generates a stronger psychological bond between the player and their army and I think that when that happens, more narrative style decisions will be made during the game.
It's also important to remember that not every player is going to enjoy narrative play. I feel that I'm really lucky because I very much enjoy all three styles of AoS play (narrative, open and matched) but I know that's not the same for everyone. The hobby has room for all different types of play so if there is a style that's not for you, that's fine! Play the game you enjoy and encourage others to play the game that they enjoy - there is no competition between the styles!
I really hope that more people will try narrative play and if they try it, I think most would like it. I'll leave you with a quote from my friend Steve which I think truly sums up the narrative style succinctly and should be fully embraced in every narrative game - 'it's not how you win the game but how you lose the game'.
Thanks, Jimbo! You can see more of the games he plays on Twitter @jimbo9jimbo
And check out RAW17 and get your ticket before they're all gone!