Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Comfort Zones and Stretching

     We all have things in this hobby that we're more comfortable with, techniques or game types that we're better at.  These are our comfort zones.  We get a little nervous venturing outside of them, but it can be rewarding.

     Comfort zones aren't bad, by any means.  For things that you're comfortable with and good at, you can make a lot of progress fast on the hobby side of things.  And with a little bit of planning, you can leverage your comfort zones for even better looking results.

    How so?

    If you love mixing and matching parts of various kits to make different-looking models, why not choose an army that will let you do that more easily?  Armies where most of the guys are pretty similar and have a lot of multi-piece kits can feed into this well.

     Empire, Chaos Warriors, Orks, Space Marines off all stripes and Chaos Marines can all work very well with this.  Some other armies where kits are limited and/or the look of the various units is pretty different are more limited in this regard - you're not going to get much use out of Kroot parts on either your Fire Warriors or your battlesuits in a Tau army, or be able to use leftover Saurus heads on your Skinks in a Lizarman force.  But take a Marine tactical squad, a Sanguinary Guard box and a Black Templar upgrade sprue and you can go to town.

    If you like variety and easy conversions, when you're looking at new projects consider how much the prospective armies are "unit in a box" vs. "bunch of bits in a box."  It can also be worth looking at other armies too - mix up the various Elves, add fantasy parts into a 40K army, etc.  Don't be afraid to branch out beyond GW either - there's lots of great companies making pretty compatible parts, like Pig Iron, Micro Art Studios, Chapterhouse Studios and many others.

     On the painting side, say you're like me and love things like washes and drybrushing, and hate big flat areas, multiple paint layers, blending and things like that, and have poor freehand skills.  An army with a lot of built-in depth on the figures could suit that style well, maybe something like an organic looking army with a bunch of Lizardmen Saurus or Tyranids, or something like Orks with well-defined muscles and features and with vehicles and weapons that have lots of texture instead of smooth surfaces.  On the other hand, if you're an ace with freehand, consider something like the Deathwing, with lots of smooth spaces on Terminators and Land Raiders to filigree and decorate to your heart's content.

     I'm not saying that you should choose your armies based solely on what you think will be easiest to paint.  But it is something that you may want to consider so that you don't end up with a case full of half-painted figures that you're not happy with.  Consider them as part of your planning for the long haul, not instead of it.

     When gaming, your comfort zones will help you speed up, as you get more familiar with the rules and your army.  You won't have to consult the book every time your Plague Marines take a hit to see if it negates FNP or not, you'll have the vehicle damage table memorized, and so on.

     Being familiar with a particular army or list can be comfortable too, as you get to know the ins and outs well, can react more instinctively, understand the weaknesses and synergies better, etc.  I've heard many stories about how someone made a last-minute change to an army list right before a tournament, and the whole army fell apart, or they switched to a different codex that they weren't as familiar with because it was "more powerful" but they didn't understand as well.

     While comfort zones are good, we all need to stretch them!  If you never tried something new, you never would have played a game or put brush to plastic in the first place.  After a while though you can settle into new comfort zones which you may want to try to shake up from time to time.

     In modeling, are the extent of your conversions easy bit swaps?  Do some experimenting with green stuff and sculpting, or chopping and repositioning.  Start exploring magnets, to make your special weapons guys and tanks more modular. 

     For painting, try out some techniques you've seen but haven't tried.  It may be slow going and the initial results may not be the greatest, but the more you do them the better you'll get. 

     You can find tons of great modeling and painting advice online.  Check out the sites for the various manufacturers, blogs, and most of the big forums have extensive hobby-related sections with tons of great examples and tutorials.  Poke around; you may find the next thing you want to try yourself!

     As to gaming, if you're getting bored, mix it up a little.  Swap armies with your opponent or do some proxying and see how a different army style plays.  Use some of the official supplements like Planetstrike, Spearhead, Cities of Death or Battle Missions.  Or try some of the fan-made things like alternate army lists and scenarios from Dice Like Thunder or The Rules Manufactorum.  Perhaps give some smaller games a try, like with some of the interesting Kill Team variants coming about recently from Galaxy in Flames or A Gentleman's Ones.

     So get to know your own comfort zones and take advantage of them, but don't be afraid to stretch!


  1. {^}

    Excellent article!

    I plan to do exactly that when I return from holiday.

  2. I recently left my Power Armoured 'Comfort Zone' and started a Tyranid army.
    Not getting armour saves from Bolter shots with my Troops was a bit of a culture shock. I now have had to learn the AP of weapons other than Plasma and Melta as well.
    Apparently my knowledge of 40K wasn't as encyclopaedic as I thought it was...

  3. @TKE - thanks! Look forward to seeing how you stretch!

    @GMort - Changing from elite to a more horde based army certainly is a shock, especially to an army without vehicles. On the plus side, your "comfort zone" with marines should help you know their weaknesses and how to exploit them with your bugs!

  4. Good Article.
    I really try hard not to have a comfort zone. Since returning to 40K I have tried a variety of armies and a variety of game types. Heck, I am even giving painting a "REAL" try. Rather than just slapping some paint on, I am using washes and dry brushing. I has been fun.
    It is a big hobby, embrace it.

  5. I agree 100%. With my chaos marines i used to worry about having them all look the the same, not the best paint jobs, very dull.I started to get bored with them. Then i started experimenting with diffrent techniques (blending, shading ,freehand, osl, conversions) and i realised that there is more to the hobby then just throwing some paint on and calling it done. It dosent hurt to try new things with your army. Personalise it. Have fun, enjoy it.

  6. @Mags, lil will - Glad to hear that you're both stretching! It is indeed a big hobby. I try to try something new with each big project.


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