Is Hobby Creativity on the Wane?

Of late, I can’t help but think creativity in the hobby is at a bit of a low ebb.  I’m not detracting from the amazing painting and techniques I see used on Facebook or Twitter (which are frankly spectacular), but I see fewer and fewer physical changes to models that surprise me.  At best, I see kit bashes, not scratch built pieces or crafted conversions.  The only exception tends to be for diorama or display pieces, not for the tabletop.

Pondering why, I think there are several reasons.  The most positive, of course, is simply that these days the sheer range of models on the market is so broad that there isn’t the need to create things yourself as there was in the 80s or 90s.

While I don’t mean to bash GW, as I understand their business model and it seems to work for them as a company, their policies do impact this a bit at the moment.  They only release rules for models that exist now (due to some copyright entanglements), which means you don’t need to scratch build or convert for them.  Their store and event policy specifies all GW parts – technically even scratch built pieces wouldn’t pass muster, so you can’t go beyond kit bashes with only GW parts.  And the current pace of releases means more involved conversion projects get obsoleted by newer models – I was considering a Deathwatch squad with custom conversions and team members, and a rumoured deathwatch box put me off – I thought I’d just wait and see the new models.  Great for GW sales, not so great for unique pieces!

I’ve seen some weird and wacky conversions for Malifaux, but generally there is a high level of tournament play with the Faux crowd, and that does mean the core of the models are Wyrd standard.  The same definitely holds true for Guildball, and even more so for the prepainted Armada and X-Wing crowd.

I think this is one of the big reason that Frostgrave is hitting so many buttons for so many people.  There are no “official” models.  There’s a strong fluff and theme around it, but the characters are blank slates, letting you convert them however you like, and it means that boards and warbands for this are just all kinds of wacky fun models.  Its definitely the system I’m seeing the most creative modelling for, except perhaps Of Gods and Mortals, which is similarly unfettered.

9 Replies to “Is Hobby Creativity on the Wane?”

  1. I’ve thought on this a little bit myself recently, though less from the models perspective and more from the terrain making side of things. There will always be a group of people out there who are willing and able to put their own creative touch on their projects, but as you’ve said, the ranges available these days are infinitely vaster than what we had 20 years ago. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that. So maybe we’re losing a percentage of gamers who would, in other circumstances, probably be pretty nifty with a ball of green stuff and a sculpting tool. Or be able to churn out pretty awesome looking terrain.

    They’re losing the opportunity to learn how to do these things by simply not having the need to.

    On the flip side, this means it’s easier to stand out from the crowd when you do something unique yourself 🙂

    1. Terrain is a bit of an odd one, in that I see more massive custom boards than ever before, but individual terrain pieces are generally just bought. I know I see lots of odd shaped bits with boxes and food packaging and keep thinking “oh, that’d make a perfect xyz” … but then just chucking it out for lack of time or inclination. Particularly true with Easter coming up – the plastic inlay around the eggs looks great for Tau scenery 🙂

      We’re so lucky with terrain these days though – from custom MDF stuff, cheap and brilliant stuff from places like Amera and the full monty GW or Gale 9 pieces, there’s never been more choice! Though I’m still happy to chuck some books on the floor and games around them if it comes down to it 🙂

  2. I think there’s a bit more with the GW side of things. Another factor, I think, is the extreme rate of releases. Back when the 40K core rules only changed once every 5-6 years, and you got a new codex every 5-6 years, you had a TON of time to invest in your army. With codices falling out of the sky, and the relatively quick change from 5th to 6th to 7th, idle time is a thing of the past. Spending months converting, or building, one unit when you have so many other ones to get to now, is hard to justify. I think the break-neck pace of releases is slowly starting to dwindle down, and with that we may see a resurgence of the more creative work.

    1. Hey Thor! I touched on that a little – I know I didn’t bother converting up any Deathwatch when I heard a load of dedicated models were due out, but you make a great point. Its not just that new models are coming out so you don’t need to make your own, its simply that you don’t have time! I’m an eclectic collector with a fair few armies, and I’ve just felt totally overwhelmed with 40K releases. Skirmish games have felt a lot more appealing!

  3. I partially agree! That GW only release rules for models they produce isn’t quite correct – Rough Riders for instance. However, the range of their models do inhibit scratchbuilding, as necessity is the mother of invention. We’ve becomed spoiled and lazy, though it’s fantastic for me, who has very little talent for scratchbuilding!

    What you mention with more tournament-oriented games having less conversions makes sense – it’s a different demographic within the wargaming community. Frostgrave reminds me of Mordheim in its infancy! The feel of Warhammer has also changed – it’s no longer as goofy and camp, so that might be a slight detractor.

    While the Deathwatch kit may make people just take the Deathwatch SMs (which, imho, look bland and dated as opposed to the fantastic ‘Nids), I can’t wait to see the new scratchbuild/converted limousines!

    However, I’m not sure there actually are less scratchbuilt miniatures/vehicles, net. The wargaming community is much bigger than it was, and though scratchbuilding may be less common per capita, the increase in the community and the increase in skilled scratchbuilders, I think compensates 🙂

    1. A very quick search of GW and FW turned up these bad boys without much effort – https://www.forgeworld.co.uk/en-GB/Death-Korps-of-Krieg-Death-Rider-Squadron – GW are very careful after the Chapterhouse copyright case.

      I certainly see far less conversions, and though most of the ones I do see are magnificent, I feel that if people aren’t learning to do that like the old hands did, I’m not sure it will compensate in the longer term. I hope I’m wrong though, and there is every chance this is just a phase in the hobby too!

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