Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Deep Thought: Keeping the Hobby Fresh

We all know the feeling. It happens to the best of us. You've been playing Infinity (or other wargame of choice) for years, playing the same games against the same people. The luster has worn off the pearl, and you're starting to lose interest. The honeymoon is over, and the game has grown stale.

It's Sgt. Rock again, and I want to address something that I've had to deal with myself very recently. We've all been there with some sort of hobby; be it a favorite video game, a creative pursuit like writing or painting, or a miniatures wargame. You've been at it for a long time, and you've fallen into a rut. Your interest is starting to wander. Before you shelve those models, however, I thought I'd share my thoughts on how to refresh our particular little pastime. Delineated below are my ideas for keeping Infinity fresh and fun.

Same Game, New Faces

The most obvious solution, of course, is to play a different army. Pick up a new faction or new sectorial. If this is the route you go, try for something different to what you normally play. For example, recently, I've been frustrated and struggling with my Ariadna, particularly my CHA. So I dusted off my oh-so-rarely played PanOceania and took them to a tournament. I didn't have a stellar performance; I think I came in sixth out of eight players or something. But it was different. It was a very different feel from what I was used to, and when I went back to playing Ariadna a week later, I had suddenly learned a lot. I saw things that I was doing wrong, just from playing a different faction for a few games. Playing a different faction or sectorial can really be a refreshing eye opener. Of course, not everyone can afford to go out and dump a (insert large amount of your local currency here) on a new army. It can feel daunting, and it almost feels like a waste to have to start slow, because a single starter box is hard to play with sometimes. Which brings us to the next point...

Don't like the game? Change the rules.

Infinity is an incredibly deep and thoughtful game. Corvus Belli has done an amazing job providing constant and up-to-date official support for players in the form of the ITS. However, ITS missions are far from the only way to play Infinity. There are a number of fan-made mission systems out there, the most well known being YAMS and 20x20. Switching mission systems can add a whole new dimension, especially as they frequently change the focus of the game. ITS missions are great, but after a while, they can all start to feel the same; you run your specialist up the board, push the buttons, and keep your opponent from doing the same. Fan made mission systems frequently shift the focus to non-specialist actions, or more precise actions for specific specialists, which will not only be a new and exciting way to play, but can also improve your game by forcing you to rethink the way you play.

Another method is to simply play smaller sized games. After a while, full 300 point games can become a little dull; you start to build your list the same way every time. Playing at 150 or 200 points really changes things, and makes you rethink the way you play. It forces you to refocus on the fundamentals of the game, and models that were previously considered to be largely irrelevant filler suddenly become important. You can even go farther than just lowering the point values; there are small-format fan-made systems, like Recon (which I plan to review at a later time) which are great for changing things up a bit. They also have the advantage that if you have enough money to start buying into another faction, you can play with a starter box and a blister or two.

"C'mon, Steve, don't look so glum! We're going to actually use the Anti-Materiel rules this time!"

Lead the Charge

Do you have a game club or LGS that you play at? Is there a WarCor or other person who organizes events and leagues? If not, stepping up to be the organizer can be a fun – if challenging – way to liven up your gaming life. Step up, run a tournament or a league, or even just call everyone together and create fun new ways to play. One of the WarCors in the area I used to play in recently came up with a casual system of achievements for people to strive for in their games. No prizes, just bragging rights, but it's fun. It also has another effect, which is...

Expand the Community

One of the best ways to learn more about something is to teach it to someone who knows less about it than you do. Running escalation leagues for new players, running demo games, and just sharing your hobby with other people who might be unfamiliar can be a huge breath of fresh air. Got a friend, family member, or significant other who's always wondered what you do with those silly toy soldiers? Invite them to sit down with you at the kitchen table and roll some dice. Put up a flier in your LGS or coffee shop, or start a social media group to invite new people to come out and learn the hobby. Fresh blood benefits everyone in the community, and it feels good to be the person that reaches out and says, “Hey, you wanna play a game?”

Demo games, anyone?

Share your Knowledge

The last thing that I have found that helps with hobby burnout is something that I can thank Pride of Rodina for. Start sharing your knowledge with the community. I'm not talking about hovering around on the forums and getting into debates. Start or join some sort of content provider on the internet. A blog, a podcast, a social media community. Are you good with graphic arts? Start a webpage with a gallery of your work, or start a webcomic. It's amazing what you come up with when you just start writing or talking into a microphone. You'll discover ideas and viewpoints not just of those you work with, but things you didn't even know were rattling around in your own head. For example, writing for PoR, I'm discovering a great deal about the macro aspect of the hobby; there's so much more to this game than just painting our little tin soldiers and pushing them around the table.

So the next time you get a little bit bored with the hobby, consider these options before you put those models on the shelf. Oh, and if you do decide you need a break, do exactly that – shelf the models. Do NOT sell them just because you're feeling burned out. Eventually, the itch will return, and you'll find yourself saddled with a very expensive task in rebuilding your collection. I know how it works, I've done it before, and even if they're gathering dust in the closet, when the day comes to pull them out again, your wallet will thank you. Trust me.

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