I’ve rolled this idea around for a while now. I want to chat about the fluffy 40K players and the competitive players. The idea started months ago when Von over at House of Paincakes wrote his article “‘Casual’ vs. ‘Competitive’ – The False Dichotomy Needs To Die“. I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to approach it, or exactly what I wanted to say. Then Tirelion did his article recently about fluffy players and competitive lists.
Tirelion said this in the article:
One of the phrases I dislike the most in Warhammer 40k or any game really is the phrase “I just built this list for fun.” Or its sister phrase “This is just a fluffy list.” As though the player of that list needs to find an excuse for a possible loss he might not even have experienced yet.
I have issues with this statement. Tirelion isn’t alone in his thoughts on this either. This article isn’t aimed at him directly, but those in general who agree with that sentiment.
The Social Contract of Gaming
I think we can all agree that playing a game against someone creates a social contract. In that contract are things like don’t be a douche bag, do not cheat, be civil, and be a good sport win or lose. These are unspoken rules that we expect adherence to in each game we play. If you have to tell your opponent any of those things then you’re best off finding another opponent.
Now, when a fluffy player says to someone, “I just built this list for fun,” or, “This is just a fluffy list,” what that player is doing is amending the social contract. These are things I’ve said, and probably to Tirelion for that matter (we play at the same shop). No doubt some players say this as an excuse for a weaker list, or a possible loss, but I don’t. I say this as a way to explain my expectations for the game. It’s my way of saying that I’m hoping for a more thematic game, a fun game.
What is a Fluffy List?
Generally speaking, a fluffy player will have what he/she considers a fluffy list. A fluffy list means something different to everyone. However, for the sake of this discussion, I’m referring to a list that’s often not optimized for competitive play. The list will include sub-par units because they fit a theme the player was going for. It will include terrible units just because the player likes those units. You would say that creating a themed list puts the theme before everything else. That is what more casual, and/or fluffy, player considers a fluffy list. A competitive player, as Tirelion did in his article, can create themed lists too. A difference being a really competitive player will choose the most powerful units that fit the theme. Therein lies the difference between a themed list and a fluffy list.
Often times a fluffy player will have an army theme, some fluff they’ve created for their army. The lists created will reflect the army’s back story. For example, my Chaos Space Marines are never led in battle by Daemons. I play my army as Khorne Daemonkin from time-to-time. With Khorne Daemonkin I could have my army led by a Herald of Khorne, or a Bloodthirster, yet I never do. Every single KDK list I create has the army led by a Chaos Marine, like a Chaos Lord. I have made a choice, for better or worse, based on a theme I have created.
The choices a fluffy player makes will often go into great detail with list creation. It’s not just the units chosen, but unit combinations. Using Daemons as an example. Some players won’t combine units from the gods that hate one another, IE: Khorne Bloodletters with Daemonettes of Slaanesh. Fluffy choices consider even smaller details. Is it more fluffy to have a Chaos Lord buried in a unit of 30 Cultists or a Dark Apostle? Dark Apostle of course. A Chaos Lord is more inclined to run with more elite units, where a Dark Apostle will led his rabble into the guns of the enemy to die gloriously for Chaos.
Lastly, some fluffy players will even go so far as to intentionally avoid really powerful units and weapons. The rationale for this is because they are after a fun game, a game that’s close. A fluffy player doesn’t want to obliterate their opponent. Their goal is a close fought game, a struggle like those we read about in the fluff of the game. Having a unit that can single-handedly remove entire units in a turn is the opposite of what they are after.
In the end, it comes down to why units were chosen, and not what units were chosen. It’s a state of mind.
Playing a Thematic Game
Thematic is a subjective term, so I’ll try to explain it from the view of a fluffy player. Thematic games are where you throw game strategy out of the equation, and instead, try to create epic moments that are fluffy. It doesn’t mean you don’t try to win, but that you’ll take opportunities to create fun moments.
Here’s an example. My Chaos Marines are fighting Space Marines, and I pull a card to hold an objective. That objective is behind me, and I would have to move back to get it. However, in front of me is the enemy, the opposite direction of the objective I need to hold. What would my Chaos Lord rather do: move backwards away from his most hated foe, or move forward to charge into the squad to skewer them on his power sword? If you answered the latter then you understand what a thematic choice in a game would be. A thematic/fluffy choice is about putting yourself into the mind of your army, and behaving as you would expect them to behave.
Those are the moments that fluffy players enjoy the most in games; at least I do. It’s those games where something epic happens as the result of a fluffy/thematic choice that you will always remember. What I have named my Chaos Marines characters was because of awesome gaming moments.
Psykill once charged into a squad of Warlocks with Eldrad to save one of my units. The unit wasn’t worth saving. Saving the unit had no strategic value, but Psykill charged in anyway. Psykill issued a challenge and destroyed Eldrad on the charge, in turn earning him the name Psykill.
Warforce once lead the Disciples of Twilight on a long campaign. During that campaign he used his force weapon countless times to suck the souls of Ork leaders into his weapon. Warforce earned his name during that crusade.
The thematic moments are what I remember. Not the times I tabled someone, or someone tabled me. I don’t remember what place I came in at the last tournament, but I do remember those awesomely fun thematic moments in my games that I created.
When I walk to a table and tell my opponent I have a fun list, or a fluffy list, I’m laying out my expectations for the game. A lot of times it doesn’t matter, and my opponent will do his best to defeat me as fast as possible. Sometimes though, and it’s those games we fluffy players live for, you find a like-minded opponent and have a game you’ll never forget.
Hopefully I have done a reasonable job in covering how we fluffy players see things. I certainly can’t expect that every fluffy player agrees with everything I’ve said. I think I’ve hit the high points, though I could certainly say more. What do my fellow fluffy players think?