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Interview: a newbie starting out in 9th ed 40K

Osinell of Craftworld Iybraesil

Two years ago I used two of my friends to test the theory that RPGs could be an effective gateway drug for tabletop wargames. You can read the original interview with Becs and Drew-Deece here, but with the very scientifically rigorous sample size of 2, the answer appears to be yes. Albeit slowly, on account of an actual pandemic. Becs is painting her way through her Delaque gang as I write this. Drew not only painted up a gang to fight in our first Necromunda campaign, but also borrowed an undead army to participate in the Border Princes campaign, and has now painted enough Craftworld Eldar that we've started playing 40K every Sunday (the UK is still very full of plague right now, but she's in our house's bubble).

Words cannot express how good it's felt to put minis on terrain and throw dice, but that's by the by.

I sat down with Drew to discuss how she's found getting into wargaming, and specifically 9th edition 40K. Her answers contain some valuable insight into what helps a beginner get excited about the projects they're working on.

By way of context I should probably give Drew some sort of introduction.

Who dis?
Professionally, Drew-Deece does SCIENCE in an NHS genetics laboratory. She is a largely nocturnal creature with enough hobbies to qualify as a renaissance butterfly, everything from kickboxing to madly ambitious cake decoration. Her face is so comically expressive that she is referred to by some of us as the Incredible Human Emoji. Prior to tabletop wargames, she'd enjoyed various other forms of nerdy BS including tabletop roleplay (my fault) and video games, including strategy games ('twas a sign).

Prior to creating this Eldar army she'd painted a grand total of 12 miniatures.

Drew's Iybraesil Craftworlders so far (approx 800 points)

Now you've got the context, let's jump into the actual conversation.


Charlie: What was it that pushed you over the line of wanting to actually buy and paint some miniatures?

Drew: Heh, I think it was more of a slow decline than a particular trigger point. The very first thing I ever painted for a game was a single Deathwatch Marine. It was one day of painting, which was fun to learn, and we had several roleplay games off the back of that marine. That's a very low effort to high reward ratio! 

Then the next step was Necromunda, which was another couple of painting sessions. But it was fine, because then we had a couple of weekends of games out of 10 dudes. And this has been accompanied by progressively playing more and more roleplay and getting more and more into the world. And as I'm discovering, the more we progressed in our storyworld, we've run into different factions, we've come across the Eldar a few times. And there's something about the lore on them that's so fantastic and interesting.

Drew's first 40K unit: Howling Banshees

If you're looking for a hard trigger point for the Eldar, it would be the release of the new plastic banshees. I remember them coming out, and I remember thinking that they looked really, really cool. And currently one of the few factions in 40K that have female miniatures. I don't really want that to be a big draw, but clearly it was because I remember going "Ooh, Tiny ladies!"

Charlie: That's that's fair, not least of which because the lore of other factions involves women, but it's not represented in the miniature range in the same way.

Drew: Yeah, absolutely. We've talked before about the fact that we both feel that there should be more female Guard minis, because the Guard should have at least a higher proportion of women than they currently do, although the one they just released is quite nice.

So I like that they (the Eldar) do have a lot more women in their their mini range, and that there's a lot more options for conversion, particularly if you take in the Drukhari stuff. So yeah, that was a big a big impact to me picking them.

Charlie: Fair. So having pulled that trigger, and and thrown yourself in, what out of collecting, painting, lore and gaming have you enjoyed the most so far?

Drew: I think every single aspect has its pros and cons. I have favourite bits of each bit. So painting, getting the final touches on it and getting to design the scheme are by far my my favourites. But there's a lot of mid stage of painting way where I personally kind of want to check out and it's just urrrgh.

Charlie: You're in good company.

Drew: With the lore, some of the lore is fantastic. And it's so rich, and so deep, and there's so many years of love and effort put into it. But the downside of that is that there's so many contradictions. And there's so much of it that even if you're like, "Oh, I might just make it up for this bit..." nope! That's already been written about that in an obscure book that nobody's read since 1995.

Charlie [imagines going into a long tangent about how the sprawling, contradictory nature of 40K is both its biggest weakness but also one of its great strengths, but then says]: Yep, it's a penis.

Taliesin of Craftworld Iybraesil

OK so we've talked about the stuff that you love. What if anything was off-putting or intimidating?

Drew: I mean, the size can be intimidating.

Err... lol.

It can feel like you need a lot to play, particularly if you're used to hanging out with people who have a lot of minis. Prior to this the only other big games I played was as undead in Fantasy, which is an army that requires a lot of miniatures. And I was lucky that I had people like to borrow the miniatures off, so I could just use it to get a feel for the game. But it did make the idea of suddenly collecting and building my own army feel unattainable because I would have to invest so much time and so much effort. And when you're looking at it from zero, it feels like a lot of work.

Charlie: For sure. Particularly with Fantasy, because Fantasy has a much higher body count than 40K does. And obviously that's one area where Age of Sigmar is way more beginner friendly, because an army might just be 20-30 miniatures.

Drew: I did have people tell me before, numerous times that I shouldn't base 40K off of my experiences with Fantasy because the gameplay was very different. And the body count was very different. And everything was very different. And it wasn't until playing my first game that I appreciated that well meaning advice.

Iybraesil Rangers. Sculpts by Artel W.

Charlie: With that in mind, what advice would you give to other people looking to get into the hobby, particularly if they're feeling a bit intimidated? And what if anything, would you would you have done differently?

Drew: Obviously I can only base it on my own experience and how I deal with things. I think the main problem with myself looking at army was I was looking at it from the perspective of I need to build an army, I need to build 1000 points of a working army that will function perfectly. Which is when I hit my first snag: I painted a couple of dudes in a scheme that was absolutely hideous.

As soon as that didn't work out, I got very scared and didn't want to do it anymore. And dropped the whole thing for like six months. The so the main advice, I would say, which is getting frustratingly close to the advice I was given at the time and ignored, is to just pick a unit that you like and paint that one unit, it doesn't really matter if it's usable, because one unit by itself is very rarely usable. It's more to see if you like the process of painting, and you like the design of the minis and you like the way everything works. After that it's not too much of a stretch for your brain to go, I'll get another unit. And that's when you can, after one or two, maybe three units, you can start thinking maybe I should
consider how this is all gonna fit together

Initially, painting seems to be the biggest time consumption with this hobby. So if that's the thing that you'll be spending most of your time doing, at least initially, you might as well make sure that that's something you like doing.

Charlie: Good advice. So you've now tried Necromunda, Fantasy and 40K, how do you feel about those three systems compared to each other? Which have you enjoyed the most? I appreciate they're all very different, so it's a bit like comparing chalk and cheese.

Drew: I think they all have their ups and downs. The thing I like about Necromunda, and I think the thing it's designed to do, is how the way it's designed allows for narrative play. Better than that I think either of the other two do. Yeah. Which is what I prefer to do anyway. And with that smaller scale, it lets you play with what the character of the person might be a lot more than you can do with a whole unit of people.

But... I will say that I found Necromunda to be kind of confusing compared to the other two.

Charlie: That's legit; seasoned war gamers the world over have spent quite a lot of time simultaneously loving and being baffled by Necromunda's labyrinthine rules. So in comparison, how did you find picking up and learning the 40K rules compared to picking up and learning the Warhammer Fantasy rules?

Drew: Fantasy I found harder, particularly by myself, as in remembering the rules myself, but I'm not sure if that was because that was the first ever big, big game I played. And I was playing with a group of seasoned war gamers, who being very nice people would often offer me the rules and say, so this is what you need to do. You need to roll this many dice, which means this is going to happen, because they were trying to help me. Whereas now, with 40K, you're letting me do a lot of the calculations myself, you're letting me work things out myself and you're not offering me the answer, which means I know the rules myself now. But I'm not sure if that is a difference in the small amount of experience I've had prior to this or whether it is a simplicity on the rules' part.

Charlie: It's probably a combination of things. Ninth edition 40K I feel is actually probably as complex as Fantasy... but it might speak to the difference between a big rushed campaign weekend and now, when we're getting the time to do these little weekly sessions. There's less of a rush.

Drew: That's true. I'm getting a one to one tutorial at the minute.

Charlie: I mean, is it a tutorial? Or is it just two idiots figuring out their way through 9th ed? Because I don't know what I'm doing. It's a new edition. Now, give us the inside scoop on your emotional journey with basing.

Drew: Ahh, basing. The most controversial love of my life.

I started out despising basing with a fiery fiery passion, and I can tell you for why: because painting, particularly when you start out, takes so long, at least it did for me. It's arduous. It's emotional. There's blood, sweat, and tears, don't ask where any of them come from, and it's so frustrating to be like, I finished! Great, now you need to base it. Urrrrghh.

It was just an extra barrier to being allowed to feel smug for finishing, so I didn't like it. And I hadn't particularly felt very excited about any of the bases up until that point, I think because Necromunda kits come with special bases that you just have to dry brush so you don't really have to invest any love in it. And also, I think with the Necromunda stuff again, because I didn't want to do the base and just wanted someone to tell me how to finish it, it was just a series of tasks to do. Paint it this colour, now dry brush it, and now it's fine, off you go.

So I treated basing with a... I think you could say a contempt for quite a while.

It wasn't until I did my Eldar army where suddenly there wasn't a set pattern or set list of instructions to follow and suddenly everyone was saying "they're your bases, you can do whatever you want with them." And maybe it's maybe it's building the scheme from the bottom up and maybe it's that everything's entirely my own creation that made me love it a lot more. It was my creation, it was my decision. It was my choice to do all of those things.

I also kind of like that I'm the only person in our group that has flowers on their bases.

Charlie: You and Thomas.

Drew: Betrayal! Jeff lied to me.

Charlie: Because Jeff is not as familiar with Thomas's collection.

Drew: Wait, yeah, that does ring a bell. Luckily that isn't the main thing that I like about them. In a weird way the basing did the same thing as the final touches when I painted that first even mini, the Night Goblin. When you told us to put pink on the nose and pink on the lips; suddenly that just brought it to life, like "Oh my god it's a little dude!" The bases did the same thing in a way I wasn't expecting. Now I feel very passionately about the particular basing scheme I've got and I wouldn't be without it.

Keen observers will note that Drew has made inspired use of the Drukhari Scourges kit for her Swooping Hawks.

Charlie: Hell yeah. So what's next for you?

Drew: The current plan is to finish the Eldar things I have already bought, which include a Wraithlord and some Wraithblades. After that there are a couple of bits from Artel that I would like to buy that aren't available yet. And also there's the tease of a possible xenos Codex in January. Maybe it's Eldar maybe it's not, might as well wait way anyway. There are so many things I want to buy that aren't available yet. Once I finish this up, I'm thinking about maybe trialling Sisters and Space Marines since I already have a box of Sisters. And I bought one of the Primaris Intercessors to test the new Dark Kraken scheme [editor's note: Drew was going to do Salamanders, but when another member of our group started doing them she wanted her army to be more unique, so is doing one of the new Salamanders successor chapters.]

Charlie: Delicious. Well, that's all I could think of to ask. Have you got any things you wanted to talk about?

Drew: Actually, I suppose could turn this back on you.

Charlie: Okay, um- 

Drew: Because you have taught lots of people across many different editions. Do you think there's any particular difference in the teaching someone this edition and that has been in previous editions.

Charlie: Um. 

Drew: And or why?

Charlie: Only in the minor details. So the macro details are that if you are introducing someone to their hobby, your job is to equip them to make as many of their own decisions as possible, because that gives them emotional and creative buy-in.

If you tell people what to do, you should only do that because they asked, or because it really is necessary and expedient in order to get them to the next point where they can go back to making their own decisions. The only real difference with 9th ed 40K is that with all of these sub-faction rules, and faction rules and special rules, compared to say, fifth or third edition, it's quite a complex. There's a lot to teach; there's a lot of synergies to learn.

As a result, I think that has necessitated adding on layers of complexity bit by bit, rather than trying to do everything out of the gate all at once. You didn't really need to do that in fifth edition 40K because none of those things existed, although admittedly vehicles were a lot more complex.

Drew: Do you think the game is improved or suffers from the additional complexity?

Charlie: Both. I think it's clunkier, but more flavoursome. I personally don't feel the need for a special rule for my army to feel flavoursome; I think flavour comes from your painting and your background and the characters that you come up with.

But for a lot of other people who don't feel the same way, it gives them way more flavour and it gives them hooks to hang their ideas off. So fundamentally, if for most people it creates more flavour and has them playing in a more narrative way, then that's a net gain.


Drew's Rangers engage the Cobalt Scions in their first battle.

That's all for today. If there's other stuff you think I should have asked, drop the question in the comments and I'll pass it back. At some point I should probably combine the learning points from this and the previous post to write up a new 'how to introduce your friends to the hobby' guide. It is, after all, one of the most important and nuanced skillsets in this insanely broad passtime of ours, and while I certainly haven't mastered it, Drew's feedback has helped me identify what I should definitely do more of with the next new nerd.

And please let her know what you think of these lovely Iybraesil Aeldari. I'm a bit disgusted with how quickly she's learning. Bloody xenos, it en't natural.


  1. Man! I love those Eldar - the blue is very vibrant and the white is very clean and crisp, just the way it sould be!

    1. Aw shucks :)
      This my first big project, so that means a lot :) Thanks Xarfai!

      Are you an Eldar player yourself?

  2. Excellent article!

    Could I please request a long tangent about how the sprawling, contradictory nature of 40K is both its biggest weakness but also one of its great strengths, maybe as a standalone article?

    1. I shall certainly consider it, Mr Mystery :D

    2. Sorry, just figured out how not to be rude on here :-)

      Very interesting article for someone like me (AOS player, 40K agnostic). Might see if I can drum up some interest in a Crusade locally.

      Thanks for all your work!

    3. No problem, cheers Peter! Don't worry, I didn't think you were being rude - just mysterious :P

      I'll have a think about the post concept. Could be interesting, I just need to make sure I have something useful to say on the subject :)


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