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HobbyHammer

Why Play Narrative or Open AoS?

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This comes from a discussion a few of the NEO's (Narrative Event Organisers) have had over the past few weeks.

Really intrigued to find out why people play AoS in a narrative sense. What is it that draws you into this style of play? 

Please share your views and experiences you have had below. 

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I enjoy the freedom of open play, making up new rules which fit the developing situation and creating more of a story on the tabletop. And I think open play can lead naturally to narrative play across several linked games. When I run demo games for players completely new to tabletop miniature gaming I like to provide a hero/general, wizard or priest, and just a few units so they don't have more than 4 warscrolls to keep track of while learning the game system.

Open play reminds me of recreating epic battles from the past with asymmetric armies, each striving toward different goals on the field. But something I've been toying lately against some local opponents with a process of bidding down armies before the game--we start with plenty of models on the table, everything we want, and then take turns removing models while maintaining our objectives. The attacking player might say something like, "I will still force you to abandon your defensive position at the bridge and will do so WITHOUT this unit of Dryads." Bidding starts with the attacker and continues until both players pass and then the game begins.

And I think open play works quite well with 3+ players as alliances are formed or dissolved according to the developments on the tabletop.

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What most draws me to it is the sense that the battles have more meaning when they're connected by some sort of story.

All types of games can be fun, and I like a smashmouth competitive game as much as the next guy. But the whole narrative play thing opens up options for rivalries, heroic underdog scenarios, cinematic "against all odds" moments, and the chance to actually play out those "wouldn't it be cool if..." moments that we as gamers love to come up with.

I find those moments less often , when facing Random Vampire Lord McYOLO-Cloak #347, than when I'm playing against my friend's  Death army, where there's a shared narrative & persistent backstory that we can build on.

I like a superhero movie analogy here. To me, random matched play feels like a movie that's all origin story. Yeah, it's fun, but we're not invested in the action as much, because we haven't spent enough time with the characters to really get to know them. It's never as satisfying as the movie where you alteady know the characters, and the events taking place have more meaning as a result. 

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@HobbyHammer Can you elaborate on what you mean by narrative gaming? For me, narrative gaming is closer to D&D. In AoS, narrative seems to mean a way of setting up the game. Making a scene. A mini-film. And then both playing as standard (i.e. trying best to win). This I see as GW's intent behind narrative. The recent streams also back this up.

When AoS first started we were playing with GW's version of narrative. Taking scenarios out of the campaign books, putting models down to set the scene and then having at it. However, looking back we also fell into the immediate pitfall - there is no longer a narrative once the game starts. You're moving mini's and rolling dice. It loses that sense of...adventure, for lack of a better description. It's a sound way of setting up a game but then back to basics.

I will say it has had one lasting effect - placement of scenery. When we set up the table we now think more about placement of scenery. A small village with a shrine, protected by order, that happens to fall in the middle of a clash between death and chaos. We set up a mini village and then a forest with ruins on the far side. It looked great. The table had a narrative, even if the ensuring game didn't.

Back when I was very young, my next door neighbour had Rogue Trader. They'd play narrative then - a team of space marines arriving on a desolate planet to investigate. Ambushed by warped chaos marines. In some cases he played this out completely on his own. That feels closer to a narrative.

 

As for open play, this is a fantastic introduction to the game. As @Bostian said, everyone puts down their first buys, and off you go. The multiplayer element helps take the edge off disappointment away as your units die. Everyone's more social.

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Narrative is such a vast topic. (Hence, I think it deserves its own space on TGA). I believe it can be whatever you want it to be, whether that stops at set up, or carries on into forging stories in game. Naming your General, playing small escalating campaigns. I just thought it would be an idea to gauge people perceptions and why they love playing Narrative gaming, (in general)

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I try to keep a healthy balance between Competitive and Narrative.  Competitive gets me excited to play to my highest level, but nothing compares to hobby motivation that a narrative campaign can bring.

 

 I love building an army around a single Hero (usually heavily converted).  I like to give a name and a small backstory and add on to it as i play more and more games with them and watch the army grow. When I build for narrative I think as my general.  I look at my last game or two and see what my weakness was and build something to fill that gap.

 

 I also never play to win the game in narrative play.  I always look at the following.  "Why did my General come here with his army?" "What would further his goals in this match (Kill the enemy general, break into his deployment zone by the end, etc...)", What does he stand to lose in this fight?"  

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6 minutes ago, Odiamh said:

I try to keep a healthy balance between Competitive and Narrative.  Competitive gets me excited to play to my highest level, but nothing compares to hobby motivation that a narrative campaign can bring.

 

 I love building an army around a single Hero (usually heavily converted).  I like to give a name and a small backstory and add on to it as i play more and more games with them and watch the army grow. When I build for narrative I think as my general.  I look at my last game or two and see what my weakness was and build something to fill that gap.

 

 I also never play to win the game in narrative play.  I always look at the following.  "Why did my General come here with his army?" "What would further his goals in this match (Kill the enemy general, break into his deployment zone by the end, etc...)", What does he stand to lose in this fight?"  

This is a great way to forge narrative and something I think a lot of Narrative events will be focusing around as the year goes on. Building characters through battle is so awesome, especially when they do something they shouldn't be able to do!

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We prefer narrative. In short because my groupmates aren't a bunch of try-hards who's only sense of satisfaction in Warhammer is winning.  That may have sounded a bit inflammatory but it's in direct contrast to our local 40k scene that often creates temper tantrums at the store from losing games and bad dice rolls and it just gets so tiring. 

We like to tell a story. We usually play narrative campaigns and we build backgrounds for our characters and units. It makes it a lot more engaging and fun for us. You develop a real individual attachment to your units and your leader.

Edited by Lord Veshnakar
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Telling an interlinked story over a series of games and developing backstories for units and models is the key draw for me. It also helps me plan out an army and what to model/paint next.

Playing on visually stunning tables with a sense of narrative (like a centerpiece objective) is another, the game looks and plays so well when you're fighting on a densely populated table.

Narrative games also offer the opportunity of really cinematic moments to occur if the two players are immersed into the setting, as it becomes less about "this unit will only deal X wounds on average so wouldn't do much damage to unit Y" and more about "the reckless Devoted of Sigmar throw themselves at the Chaos worshippers despite the odds".
@Shane, it's common to have innate competitiveness, most of us do, but@Odiamh explained it best how to continue the narrative feel in-game. Sure, as a general you should try to make the right moves (it is a game after all) but sometimes a bit more immersion can help. Helps if you can get into character, but of course that ventures into role-playing and that isn't to everyone's tastes.

On the subject of role-playing, my personal champion of combining that with Narrative gaming is the one and only Steve Foote. Seriously, this man lives and breathes Narrative Play. (@HobbyHammer your recent actions at RAW as famemonger Reggio is a worthy contender [emoji12])

Deciphered from the whispers of our missing god Slaanesh

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I'm new to wargaming as of April 2016 when a GW store opened up.  I was drawn to AoS because it wasn't points based and it was play models you like, play story battleplans, etc.

I enjoy the narrative around the battleplans a lot.  One of my favorites is out of the GHB where you are attempting to stop one of your heroes from being sacrificed. I've played this two times one as the defender, and one as the attacker. Each time I've tailored my army and discussed with my opponent about theirs (Both were really great).  Each time it has come down to one die roll near the end, and has been exicting. The narrative in the game itself has been fun.  The first one my Lord Relictor finished the sacrifice just as he was being surrounded on all sides.  What an epic game.

I play narrative for great moments and stories, and because I don't want to play competitively.  For competitive I'll play something like chess, or sports.

 

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2 hours ago, Thornshield said:

Telling an interlinked story over a series of games and developing backstories for units and models is the key draw for me. It also helps me plan out an army and what to model/paint next.

This is essentially it. Helps you tie everything together, means you get a couple of games against the same opponent which adds flair and altogether creates more memorable moments. 

But I have to admit even when I do play narrative but always with points and the army restrictions. We don't mind if anybody goes a little over but if you are not experienced with both armies it's so hard to get a bit of balance. That being said, the points are the guidelines. 

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For me it's all a narrative. There's always a story going on, a tale to be told, greatness and infamy to be achieved. Even with Matched play, with the battleplans it all tells a story.   That's the true beauty of AoS. 

But narrative play in particular? There's nothing like it when your last trooper holds out long enough to secure a rear guard action in an asymmetric last stand scenario or the level of immersion (and friendly competition) in a long term map campaign.  Or indeed when that elite unit under performs and flees earning dishonour and infamy. 

I know some may say that tournament play is the end game content for  war gaming but for me good narative play is what you move on to when move beyond the confines of the rule books. 

Edited by Ollie Grimwood

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Oh narrative, I love you, let me count the ways.

1) During army construction, modeling, painting the backstory is forming in my head so that the first time the hero hits the table, he or she has already lived half a life. This also requires addressing that hero by their preferred name or title, rather than generic label. I love that feature in Scrollbuilder that let's you give the unit a title. so good.

2) Setting up a table and choosing a scenario or rolling for one, deciding the "Why" of the battle. What is my army after? what cause are we fighting for? Who are we fighting with or against? why are they opposed to each other? where are we? Collaborating with other players on setting the stage. 

3) A campaign, which is literally a series of battles to achieve an objective, whereby the same army strengthens and weakens, obtains objects of great value, and reputations from their feats. There can be mechanics (like mordheim tables), mini-games, scenario trees or a NEO/GM can decide what happens in, around, and between each battle.

4) Randomness, not letting everything on the table be controllable by the players. A time of war, or a NEO/GM who intervenes to add the unexpected twist. This lets the environment you're playing in come to life.

I lurv it long time.

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I had mh share of tournaments back in the Day. Now I get a headache every time I see the acronym 'RAW'.

Even if we have been mostly playing matched play scenarios with points as the game is still quite New for us and the scene so small around here in Finland (which also means that there wouldn't be much of tournaments to play in, if I wanted), the table is always set up to look as "real" as possible and I always build my armies with some sort of story in my head and the rules are tweaked on the go when seen fit. Fitting to a Theme and coolness factor of the model beats the rules in warscroll Nine times out of ten. This also applies to the people I play with and in every other game that I play as well.

When our armies get bit more complete, campaigns are the next step. They are always the high points of the hobby. I feel that AoS has very good tools in it's "sandbox" rules for these.

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My favorite narrative events from games I played with WFB 8th ed was using the Triumph & Treachery rules with 4-5 players. The dynamic of shifting alliances among a group of players compelled a lot of story during the gameplay without any complicated backstory or elaborate set up. ("Oh, now you want your Orc warband to ally with my Bretonnian knights? Remember what happened at that coastal village last week during the Orc raid? Do we think we can trust you now that you claim you killed the old warboss and took his position, even if you bribe us with gold? Well, maybe....") And big campaigns can contain plenty of narrative, in my opinion, when several players are involved. In fact, I think a key to creating great narrative content is including 3+ players in a game, etc.

My hesitation about using D&D and RPG type of narratives as a reference point is those game experiences can often hinge on one narrator telling the story and all the others just sitting back and making some decisions and going along for the ride. The best kind of narrative game, I think, is when ALL the players are involved in creating stories together, as a group, so each player has equal stakes and contributes in equal measure to the narrative experience.

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Speaking as an avid Mordheim player I think the biggest strength narrative offers is continuity. Any single game can tell an awesome story of course - but I find that when playing in an extended story things just take on a life of their own. I'm not sure that any moment in a one-off game could compare to, say, having your pirate captain lose a hand to a powerful vampire, replacing it with a hook hand, then - several games later - confronting that vampire and managing to take him out with that hook!

At its best, I think narrative based play draws you in and gets you invested in an ongoing story across weeks and months - you're not just telling the story of a single battle, but of what happens after the battle, and how leads to the next one, and so on. A much bigger and more engrossing experience I find, as (hopefully) like in any good story you'll be raring to see what happens next...

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Apologies for the threadomancy but I love narrative and wanted to throw my 10c in.

For me one of the best things about narrative play is that people start playing in character, which really adds to the cinematic feel of the game. There's less deploying units in a conga line to take advantage of a buffing character, or measuring to make sure your unit is exactly X inches away. That's a perfectly valid way to play but to me it goes against the cinematic style I'm looking for. To me a narrative game is when the scenario takes presidence over the ruleset when it comes to players' decision making. Instead, Khorne units make charges not because it's sensible, but because that's what that character would do.

The other thing I love is the potential for characters to gain backstory and add flavour to future games. One of the best features of a recent game was when my newly converted bloodstoker charged through a realmgate to attack the Knight Venator on the other side of the board and stop him claiming an objective. It turned out to be an epic, multi-turn duel with my Bloodstoker holding on on a single wound for several rounds of combat. It was my first game at a new club and my opponent François and I decided that there'll be an ongoing grudge between the two. The 'stoker has an eye patch and we decided that he lost the eye to the Venator's arrow. You can bet that no matter the scenario my stoker One-Eyed Jorik will be making a bee line for the Stormcast hero next time they face off.

Lastly, narrative has room for some really fun scenarios. Stick a lord of Khorne and his Gorechosen up against a whole army or have a valiant last stand of some free peoples against horrendous odds during the Age of Chaos.

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