Grimdank

Please note, this post is a work in progress.

Games exist on a continuum. From technical, abstract games such as Go or Chess, to story driven, character focused games such as D&D, or Genesys, every game strikes a balance between abstraction and story. A game such as Go has (realistically) no intrinsic story driving the mechanics. Yes, there are ideas of “control” or “territory” - but these are abstract gameplay concepts, and do not represent a story or overarching narrative that the game provides. By contrast, in a game such Genesys, the concept of “territory” or “control” would serve a specific story element, supported by other gameplay concepts that just serve to support the story. I would argue that were one extend the continuum further, one would discover automota beyond the abstract end, and collaborative improvisation beyond the story end. In one case one reaches a realm with rules, and no meaning, and the other, a realm with meaning but not rules.

I find that the most consistently fun games exist somewhere towards the ends of the continuum (but not exclusively towards the end). A game of Go provides a wonderfully intellectual experience, unhampered by any concrete concept of story or idea. Pure challenge. By contrast, Genesys provides a creative roleplaying experience, where rules help guide and direct the concrete story. Pure creativity.

That said, however, games that exist towards the centre of the coninuum can still provide enough of both sides to be incredible fun - with the joy being that (in the moment) you get to pick the kind of fun. With Go, it is difficult to add in your own story - the structure of the game is antithetical to narrative, and makes it almost impossible to fit a single game into a larger fictional story. With Genesys, it is difficult to add more rules - they would only serve to hamper and dilute the storytelling experience, and bog down fluid narrative with “rules lawyering”, and continual checks and rejections of ideas.

A good example of a game that occupies this goldilocks zone of rules and creativity is Warhammer 40,000, and the various derivative and related games such as Kill-Team, Necromunda and others1. 40k (as the game is sometimes also known) is a “strategy battle game”, played with minatures built and painted (usually) by the player. The rules are designed to provide a (somewhat) competitive and balanced gaming experience, while the minatures (officially, only supplied by the company Games Workshop and its subsiduaries, but unofficially, from a wide variety of sources) are designed to be (somewhat) customisable and tweakable.

There are thriving 40k competitive scenes, and competitions, supplying the “rules” based fun for players that want it, but I personally love the creative side of the game. In my view, one of the most fun bits of any wargaming hobby is fleshing out the story and background of “your dudes”2 - explaining why your minatures are modelled and painted as they are, and giving context, backstory and narritave to any game played with them.

In that vein, the rest of this post is a crystallisation of my ideas and backstory for my latest project: a small “Kill-team” of chaos space marines and associated chaos cultists, built to play with colleagues (eventually…)


The Marines Melodious, and the cult of Harmony

The Marines Melodious3


  1. Note - I haven’t played all of these games, but as I understand it they aim to provide a similar level of balance, and occupy similar niches to 40,000 - with some tweaks in either direction.

  2. Your Dudes, 1d4chan - Note, 1d4chan can be a little bit NSFW at times.

  3. Whose name is definitely not a ripoff on these guys…

Posted on March 22, 2019
Last modified: Mar 22, 2019
Tags: Grimdank, Fluff, 40k, Warhammer, Warhammer 40000, Music, Creativity