From time to time I often get asked if I play any other miniature gaming systems outside of Warhammer 40,000 and what place they might have in relation to 40K.
Do I play other games besides 40K?
Yes, and they make my 40K experience better all the time!
I’ve been an avid miniatures gamer since the late 1980’s (showing my age here!) and this kind of flowed out of extension from Dungeons & Dragons and Star Frontiers back when TSR was running the show.
We had a pretty solid gaming group and over time picked up around a dozen or so miniatures to represent out characters in the game, and as you know, once you buy one miniature you can’t stop! Naturally at the gaming store, we started to explore some of the other miniature options and this lead to getting started with Eldar and falling in love with the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
Now, all these years later I still play 40K for two reasons- the gaming community that powers it, and for the love of the fluff and the models. That said there are two other systems that I also really enjoy playing when I can round up some guys when the time warrants and they are Battletech and Ogre- games, in my opinion, on par with Warhammer 40,000 in terms of fluff and miniature enjoyment.
Too much 40K can be a bad thing as it’s easy to approach burnout and stop enjoying the game- and if you are not getting the most out of each game, you are wasting your time- hobby time/free time that can be spent on other things. This is why new editions of the game are so important- to keep it fresh! This is why playing non-competitive units or random units from time to time is important- to keep it fresh! This is why alternative missions to the every usual win or loss only format is important- to keep it fresh…
Games like Space Hulk and Dreadfleet are important, and why I’ll welcome any and all “mystery boxes” since they use similar rules mechanics and fluff, and are thus easy to get 40K or fantasy gamers directly involved and playing over other non GW board games- they can also be an entry point for new players to the hobby as a way to suck them into the fluff and lore of the game.
So how can playing other miniature games make your 40K better?
While it is important to know your system and your chosen army inside and out so you don’t have to think about it, over time this can be a bad thing- it is easy to get locked into a way of thinking- a meta of sorts as to how the game works, what you should be doing, and how to approach the scenario for a game. Familiarity breeds weakness if you play to win.
Playing another system on the side can take you out of that comfort zone/auto-thinking zone as you adapt to new rules, new missions, and a new set of visuals- this takes you out of the box and lets you explore new tactics.
The drawback here is that the gaming system has to be fairly closed if you are going to be using it as a kind of wargames/40K training tool, or a tool to recharge from 40K when you are getting burnt out. This is why I’m not into Warmachines, Infinity, and other mini-games where you buy and expand your army- I blow enough cash and time on 40K.
We need a system that is both tight on the rules, and is close ended. Something I can buy, play, and enjoy (learn from) with minimal investment, say equal to a GW army box or starter set, and then expand on the cheap if I like.
For me, and if I had to throw out a recommendation (and to answer the first question in the first place)I’d go with Battletech since I have been playing it since the start just like 40K (Battletech, Citytech, Aerotech…). It has miniatures that you can paint, giant robots of doom, a rich back story of a galaxy spanning empire at war, and a set of decent and balanced rules. The 25th anniversary box set is still around for $50 or so and has everything you need to play the game without buying any additions.
Besides loving the fluff as much as 40K, it really is a refreshing and tactical break when you start commanding mech’s over space marines and land raiders, and I do have to credit some of my 40K ideas- both the good and the bad from approaching tactics from another system…