Thursday, February 16, 2012

Podcaster Spotlight: The Independent Characters - Zachary Walter (Part One)

Today we begin our interview with Zach Walter, co-host of The Independent Characters podcast. Zach is often brought in via Skype, since he does not live in The Golden State.

It seems like from listening to the podcast you live in the middle of nowhere. Has it been tough continuing your hobby without a FLGS close to keep you going?
I do indeed live in the middle of nowhere. My friend Greg jokes that I moved to Fenris. Lots of snow, tall Nordic types abound, but (thankfully) no kraken or thunderwolves stalking me at the supermarket. The downside of living beyond the reach of the God-Emperor is, of course, that its hard to get regular games in and my skills are getting rusty from disuse. I’m pretty soon Carl or Geoff is gonna beat me one of these days.

On the upside, whereas when I lived in California I could spend too much time gaming (and not painting), so here in the outer rim colonies I have much more time to hobby. I’ve compensated somewhat also building a pretty nice game room with lots of new terrain and such so that when the few guys I do know around here come to play I’ve made it worth their drive.

Very recently a new game store opened up in Sioux Falls, which is about an hour from where I live (Fenrisian storms permitting) so there is a FRGS (Friendly REGIONAL Game Store) at least. It’s a little bit of a commute in the deep of winter but if I’m just pleased there is a more reasonable option than flying back to Carl’s house in California when I get the jones to game.

Zach's realm of battle board with added slip protection
What armies do you play, have you played? What armies are you looking at in the future?
Well, as Carl and Geoff love to poke fun about being an old timer, I’ve been playing 40k since the hoary old days of Rogue Trader. Back then most people had one army (especially poor students) and they identified themselves as “Marine” or “Ork” or “Squat” players. The thing of owning a ton of armies seems to be a newer phenomenon—a fun if expensive one at that.  I bought my first clear-plastic box of metal as an adolescent, and from 1st to 4th edition I was primarily an “Eldar player” with largely the same list of footdar that I run up into early 5th. I started adding Tau in 3rd when they were released, but I’m not a ‘gun-line’ kinda player so I kept the force small until a few years ago.

These days I rotate between my Dark Eldar, Khorne Demons, Orks, Tau, Eldar, and ‘counts as’ Blood Angels and/or marines. They’re not equally painted or complete, but I’m always working on something. I tend to enjoy small model count armies, as there is less to paint,  and I feel that we’ve been living in the MEQ Age for the last few years, what with all of the power armor codices so I’ve spent the last few years rolling 3+…

And of course, I’ve also got my Squats. I’ve got a pretty extensive collection of the stunties… which I can and have run as Greyknights, Space Wolves, Imperial Guard and Orks, depending on which models I’d like to play with and which codex best fits the original GW models lines.

In the future I’d love to flesh out my Dark Eldar from the 1000 points I’ve been working on for the team tourney at Adepticon, as well as finally picking a color scheme for my ‘nids so I can set about proving that they’re a viable army.

Can you tell us about the Grey Squats you're doing?
I’ve been hoarding the old Citadel space dwarf models since 2nd edition, though it wasn’t until they were “deleted” from the game in 3rd that I really started collecting them in earnest. I always had Epic-scale Squats and over time just fell more and more infatuated with them and their retro-ness and the “good-old” pre-corporate days of GW that I feel they embody well.

I don’t want that piece of history of the game to pass away, and the underlying foundation of 40k as basically fantasy races in space…and how can you have fantasy without little surly, fat dudes, with bushy beards and beer bellies? (Editor's note: so many players these days seem to think that 40k is GRIMDARK SCI-FI - but really it is fantasy in spaaaaaaaaace!) So, I committed to keep them alive and my bank account has consistently taken a hit for it (especially once eBay showed up!). Now, I have all of the unreleased 2nd edition squats and most of the official Iron Claw and Citadel product lines. I love the fact that when I bring the army out to play so many newer players get to see the models for the first time and old timers get a touch of nostalgia.

For the IC’s hobby progress challenge I decided I would finally paint up some of my rarer models and scratch-build 40k scale versions of some epic Squat models so that I’d have a truly unique, fun, and weird army to bring to events (I’m scratch-building a Overlord Armored Airship and a Iron Eagle Gyrocopter at present). I opted to use the Grey Knights codex because the great variety of units allows for the nearest ‘counts-as’ possibilities for using the surprisingly varied Squat model line. I’m not thrilled that many people view the codex as over-powered as that’s not why I chose it—I had used the old demonhunters codex for the Squats previously and the new codex offers even more opportunities to represent some of the more obscure models.

Have you been doing a lot of magnetizing? This editor finds it very difficult to manage all the magnets - I get extremely irritated with the parts moving and falling off etc.
Funnily enough, I was an early convert to the faith of magnets – playing Tau and Eldar in early 3rd and discovering “rare-earth” magnets was like finding a lost testament. I was living Ann Arbor, Mich. at the time and playing a lot of 40k, and I kept trying to sell the magnet thing to the players there, but it took a while for the idea to take off. More than once I heard, “shut up about those #$%&*! magnets!” Now it’s pretty standard to magnetize armies, so I feel fairly vindicated for my earlier enthusiasm. Nowadays, I don’t go overboard with them on most models, but weapon swaps or extra bits are much easier with them than without them. I think the key is to use the correct size of magnet and to not unnecessarily magnetize parts that don’t need to be swapped out. I don’t think EVERY frag grenade needs to be magnetized to each space marine…unless you’re playing Draigowing with 8 models or something.  

What other games do you play besides 40k? Do you enjoy the video games? Would you consider starting a new system? (Fantasy, Warmachine, etc)
Some of my earliest memories are of gaming. My hippy-dippy Berkeley, CA grade school introduced me to D&D in the first grade (as an actual class) and I’ve been playing games ever since. Over time I’ve tried most mediums, though as I get older, busier and more interested in hobby-ing I’ve find myself gravitating more and more towards miniature war and board game.

Among the I.C. hosts, Geoff and I seem to be more interested in wargaming in general, rather than just remaining exclusive to 40k. Carl is the GW loyalist, even though he claims the ruinous powers. I love the world of Warhammer 40,000, though the rules have always left me somewhat cold at the outdated-ness of them, so I love trying out different rule-sets. However, I always seem to return to GW’s loving, if expensive, embrace. It’s got great background, the best aesthetics, and the most players of any system, so I resigned myself years ago to the fact that while many really good wargames come and go, if you’re a miniature hobbyist, Warhammer 40k ends up being the girl next door you know you’re gonna end up married to. 

Dust Tacits does seem to have a certain appeal to it.
Recently, I’ve been playing Dust Tactics and I’m looking forward to the Dust Warfare rule-set that should be arriving intermittently (Damn you, FFG!). I’ve played Zombiesmith’s Quar games and Malifaux within the last few years, and enjoyed both of those games quite a bit. I always toy with the idea of getting back into WHFB as the models have gotten simply amazing, but I just can’t commit to painting that many damned more models.

Only within the last three of four years have I found my way into console games.  They suck up a lot of hobby time, so I try to keep them under control (press ‘X’ to make your evening disappear), but I played the heck out of Space Marine – who could pass up a game where a Tactical space marine actually kick’s ass?!? Am I right, Geoff?

What do you think GW could do to fix Tyranids?
The Tyranids need fixing?!? They’re the only army I’ve lost to in 1v1 play since 2009! Ha! But seriously, there is a three fold issue with the Tyranids which I believe has led to the perception of their weakness, though I’m on the fence as to how underpowered they actually are. They are certainly not played as much as previously so I guess that, at least, demands some fixes.

I play them, in a limited capacity (as I don’t have time to paint up so many models at the moment with other projects) and have really good success with them. I feel the new codex represents a pretty dynamic, interesting army choice in the current landscape. It is however, an army that plays very differently than the prior codex and relies upon strong generalship and synergy to win against the hardier builds out there. That might be more of an investment than most people want to make or the actual experience of playing them isn’t worth it.

I agree with what Carl and Geoff had to say on the issue, and the elite slot is a problem, in that too many of the good units vying for attention, but I also feel that one of the main reasons Tyranids are showing up less and less on the tabletop is that G.W., for whatever reason, never got the models out to keep players interested. Dark Eldar, Greyknights, Necrons are all too big of attractions to keep bug player’s attention without shiny (or slimy) new tervigons, harpies, etc. 

It also hasn’t helped that most competitive players (and the Interwebz) very quickly abandoned the Tyranid codex. Losing eternal warrior and no Inv. saves are both big issues, but the codex gained a lot in exchange. Many players tend to focus on what is lost between updates, which I think is not an ideal way to approach change. When I peruse a new book, I always look for new possibilities and I was bowled-over when that ‘dex came out at the possibilities for the bugs. If I had to say something, the lack of offensive grenades in most units that need them is a pretty big issue that I would address for a CC army that relies on initiative and numbers to win combats.

So the big three reasons, at least from my perspective, for what’s hurting the ‘Nids are: complex style of play, lack of necessary models, and under-representation in the competitive environment. Personally, when I read through the ‘nid codex, I get terrified at what a general could do with it…

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