Saturday, November 12, 2011

They've Killed Fritz! - The Fear of Losing your Favorite Unit on Gameplay

If you're reading this blog, I'd wager the majority of you are very familiar with this scene from Wizards. In case you're not, you'd hear the "They've killed Fritz!" line echo across gaming halls and in stores over and over whenever a player lost a unit. I know my friends and I did, especially with our favorite units.

What does this have to do with miniature wargamming?

I'm glad you asked.

After typing up the AAR's I did a bit of introspection about my performance in those and other FOW games. Aside from silly and stupid mistakes, when I look back and take an honest appraisal I recall that I was less aggressive with certain units. It also just happened that these units were some of my favorite and better painted models.


Subconsciously, somewhere deep inside the cobweb-filled head of mine, am I basing decisions on my attachment to a particular model?

Well, yes...we all do it.

For example, let's say you just bought your dream car. Are you going to go Deathrace 2000 on the higway, or wait for the secluded rural road to push the pedal to 100 mph? If you're behind a gravel truck on the road, are you changing lanes and racing to get in front of it to avoid the dings and marks to the car? Yes.

It's the same for me on the tabletop.

When 40K came out in the 80's, I played Orks. Mine were painted red, not this greenskin busines. I know they are still alive out there and at a friend's place. I need to rescue them. Ahem. Anywho, my Orks were led by Johnny Ray, Erwin (after Rommel) and the legendary dreadnaught R2-Ork2. I did everything to keep them alive. They were my favorite models (also best painted). They had character. Johnny Ray and his plasma pistol; Erwin and his monacle. They had history like R2-Ork2's lascannon arm that would fall off if sneezed upon. Stupid dreadnaught arm!!

It sucked when they "died". It pains me to see my tanks erupt in flame and belch smoke and die horrible tabletop deaths. I've spoken of this before, but I like to develop a history / story for each unit / model in the army I'm playing. In a long ago issue of Wargames Illustrated, an author spoke of his 30 Years War army that he developed. He kept a spiral notebook with the uniform colors, the regimental background and then recorded how each and every unit in the army "performed" in every game he played. When he read the the notebook in preparation for his WI article, he had amassed 20+ years of "history" for that army. Very cool concept.

I've built a MW Panzerkompanie based on the 11th Panzer Division. Do I want it to perform as its historical counterpart? Yes. Will it? No. Did RJM paint it wonderfully? Yes! Am I subconsciously hindering myself by trying to recreate the history of its namesake? Maybe.

Perhaps I should create my own Panzer Division and let it write its own history on the table. There'd be no historical attachment. Let's see what units come into their own and do unique things on the wargamming battlefield. I could make a notebook and chart its progress...

Did I mention that removing a really neat painted model is a bummer.

Like this guy, a Golden Demon winner from 2007 that I randomly plucked from the Internets. How cool is he! What a bummer to have to remove him from the table, craddle him in a palm and gingerly placed back into protective foam.

Here's my favorite unit of the moment. Panzer "731". He won his first battle as commander. Sentinel painted the model up wonderfully. I'd sigh when it gets marked destroyed by colored cotton.

Here's a funny thing I noticed. My Russians I jam down the throat of my opponent. If I don't see plenty of burning Russian tanks, even in victory, I'm doing something wrong. The Russian inside me (disclaimer: no Russian blood in veins) needs a narrative of an epic struggle with plenty of burning tanks on both sides. Go figure.

I throw this out to the public. Who has a favorite model, whether it is because of a paint job or what it did on the battlefield in the past? Did that model affect your decision making during a game for fear of losing it?

1 comment:

  1. My friend, I cannot tell you how upset I get when I lose a Tiger to rotten, stinking lousy artillery strikes...
    And I love my Jagz- they're so cool.
    But having a bunch of Shermans race up and pull the old 'stabilizer' trick with flank shots (How many dice? Mien Gott!) makes me weep.

    Learning to use 'expensive' units in FoW is definitely tricky!
    There's a fine balance between 'being aggressive' and well, just wasting the unit.

    And you never, ever wanna see me when I'm playing my Tau in 40k, and Shadowsun gets it...
    My anguished cries can be heard for miles, and the heart just goes outta me.
    It's tragic...