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Warhammer 40K: How to start a club

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This... is difficult.

40K is anything but a simple game, and even though the Battle for Vedros has made things simpler, it is still a complex game.

You are not going to get full games of 40K out of a new player student for at least a month. Don't even try. You'll just lose them to the quick and easy thrill of video games. You're going to need to start small and dirt simple.

Here's a quick check list of how to get new players into the game. I've aken a lot of cues from the X-Wing Miniatures box set for this, as something to gently break in new players. Remember, you'll be selling this to your Senior Management as an SEN tool, and you'll need to make it as accessible as you can.
  • Streamlined rules.
  • Fast pace of play.
  • Narrative.
  • Loads of dice rolling.
The narrative is something you have to sell yourself. You can't just be a robot about this, you need to be the one to guide imaginations as you teach them the game. Remember back to when the Games Workshop store manager tried to sell you the starter set; he used vivid imagery to get you to feel the bolter shells pinging off power armour.

This is as simple as saying things like, "The missile slams into the dreadnought, blasting apart it's armour!" or, "3 up to save your marine from death... and it ricochets off into a wall, rattling his skull but otherwise unharmed!" The classic is, "5 up feel no pain?! Oh no, he feels pain..." Be silly. It can be a bit jarring, particularly if you're a high discipline teacher, but it will pay off.

The streamlined rules is self-explanatory. Don't bother with the Psychic phase. Forget the dogfight phase. Focus on Moving, Shooting, and Assault. I tend to go to the extreme and ignore Morale as well. It's no fun for your cultists to fail at hitting anything in combat, to only be swept away by a five-man tactical squad. Just leave them in combat so you can get on with rolling more dice!

People want to roll dice. It's the only way you can release that pent up tension and excitement in a table top game. That clatter of dice and resolving situations is what gets people involved, and turns what would otherwise be a painting and modelling hobby into a nail-biting game. Do it often! Even if you don't need to. My common trick is to get people to roll to Hit and Penetrate lasguns against Rhinos or dreadnoughts. "Right, you've got 13 hits on the Razorback! Now all you need to do is get an 8 on any of these dice to deal a glancing hit!"

Of course, the caveat is to keep the pace of the game fast. 40K can get bogged down very quickly, and it's up to you to keep things going. This can short cut the inevitable rules lawyering and arguments about who can kill what. In an ideal world, all students would be good sportsmen... I have yet to see any player, whether they be adult or child be a good sportsman 100% of the time.

The golden rule, not included on the list because it's obvious, is the simplest: Keep it fun.

You're not going to get students' attention if all you're offering is a maths lesson with toy soldiers. That comes later, when they really, desperately need to know how to kill their friend's Wraithknight. Your first few sessions should always feature 40K light.

I would also leave painting for the second or third session. That's more of a slow burner, and the students will need to feel comfortable as a group before doing it. Painting in the club is actually quite social, and students will babble on about the usual (music/movies/girls/boys/WAAAGGHH/etc.), whilst painting gets done. But you won't get that until they've rolled dice at each other for a bit, and gotten over the initial nerdy shyness.

They need to be comfortable in raising their geek flag... and know that there are people in the school as weird, and into space elves as they are.


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