Category Archives: Hordes

Conventions in Gaming – The Female of the Species

This was always going to be something that came up, however, we may not be discussing what you think we are. I could also start by saying that all three authors here at 6 Inch Move are involved with members of the opposite sex, two of us being married for a number of years. My intent here today is not to discuss the abject look of horror that crosses most ladies faces if they have to step foot in their local Games Workshop while every face stares at them in confusion as to what this figure is that has invaded their sacrosanct domain. No, more about the way in which the female form is represented through various mediums in game terms. We’re going to touch on stereotypes for sure, it would be difficult not to considering the genre and the male bias that our hobby most definitely caters for.

As you are more than likely aware if you check out any of the plethora of Fantasy movies that came out during the 80s (to be honest, probably the only good things to come out of the 80s were a lot of sci-fi/fantasy movies) women are portrayed in one of only a couple of ways. These include; being draped over some (no doubt well paying) gent, a girl who has no idea of the outside world and is therefore completely dependant on the hero (normally she’ll end up naked at some point too) and the warrior women that can kick anybody’s butt and normally does it while half naked and without getting so much as a scratch on her. OK, I’ll admit that Conan doesn’t wear much but if you read Howard’s work it fits the background, although in most of the stories the chicks are the second type listed and they pretty much are all naked half the time.

You may notice a theme developing here, this is no doubt down to the fact that products in the Fantasy realm are normally aimed at the male half of the population and are also created in the majority by those men. Now, I’m not dumb enough to postulate that these characters fulfill the whims and lusts of the creators who have a lack of experience in dealing with the female half… I don’t think that’s it at all, even though we can all picture a stereotypical gamer locked in his parents basement fantasising about conquests with amazingly hot women. We’ve all been teenagers after all. Yet, being in my third decade upon God’s Earth I obviously have different sensibilities than when I was younger and still, even though I know a large portion of gamers exists these days that are not in their teens, many have even left the confines of parental subterranean domiciles, we find that a large proportion of models showing females are less protected than might otherwise be reasonably expected. Whether this is a mere continuation of something that has existed since gaming first crept from the fiery chasm whence it came or a deliberate design philosophy is not something I am in a position to declare, but in Fantasy in particular, this theme occurs again and again. I know of a great many companies that make astoundingly detailed models and yet when you get down to representations of women, well, they must spend a lot of the time a little on the chilly side. My wife tends to be cold when we set our central heating to “African Summer” so I can only imagine what these poor model ladies go through if their physiology matches that of my wife and other ladies I know.

In Sci-fi things get a little better. The Sisters of Battle for 40k are equipped in the same kind of armour that protects perennial GW favourites the Space Marines, but even here we have a unit of silk shrouded lunatic chainsaw-wielders in the form of the Sisters Repentia. Filling a stereotypical need? Maybe, the models are good but the rules suck so you don’t often see them. Privateer Presses Iron Kingdoms universe with its Steampunk theme also means that we get women who wear a little more, however, as anyone who plays Cryx knows, that doesn’t hold true for all factions. Most of the Cryxian Warcasters are a little less armoured than other factions and we even have a triumvirate of teenagers with side-boob capacity the envy of women twice their age.

Is it purely down to male flights of fancy that all these female figures are defined by a pretty standard set of guidelines. They are invariably thing with large chests, many of these bosoms on display as part of the model, sometimes even fully exposed rather than just a prodigious cleavage. Is there a need for it? I don’t think so, I am sure that sales of female figures would not dramatically decrease if we suddenly saw a reduction in the output of such things. Do we want to see fat chicks modelled? Well, probably not, we play in a stylised environment that is heavily male dominated. Male figures with wang all over the place would not be nearly as endearing to the female audience as busty beauties are to men. We use these games as an escape from our humdrum every day lives and therefore having scantily clad babes all over the place caters to the most base of male instincts. It’s amusing that a hobby that has matured over the years still sticks with those themes that may have piqued the interests of those of us who still play during those formative teenage years. Things probably haven’t changed to entice a new generation of players. It amuses me though that we can still stick to these things that inevitably draw criticism from other quarters regarding the portrayal of these characters. Now, it may be that women in the universes we play in are happy with their lot but if we want to encourage ladies to engage in our hobby and not feel objectified as soon as they step into a store perhaps we need to change how they are portrayed upon the tabletop?


Conventions in Gaming – Dice

From my history page it’s clear that I have grown up with Games Workshop, therefore this post will present a pretty clear bias to that fact, historical gaming isn’t my forte and I’m sure old man Servitob can chime in with some extra points once I’m done.

Classic board games and pretty much every tabletop war game I’ve seen all use dice. Varying quantities of dice to be exact. You can get by with a mere 6d6 if you’re playing Privateer Press games whereas in 40k you can easily end up rolling over a hundred. I remember reading a copy of White Dwarf where the author of an article describing the new War of the Ring game was using the fact that you got to roll an ill-fated Southampton built cast iron behemoth load of dice to decide combats. One of the things that can help you pick out closet gamers is the fact that, more than likely, there are various boxes of dice scattered around their house and the odd errant wanderer lodged under a TV cabinet of sofa.

So, why are dice used? Normally this is to add in an element of chance that exists in the real world, just because you line up a perfect head shot doesn’t take into account that at the last minute a random gust may take the bullet off target, or the mark may find some extra cover to protect themselves. Dice naturally represent the vagaries and random elements that can and do take place in normal real life activities (not really just talking about actual combat here, I have much more experience with the virtual kind and am thankful to not have had to experience it in real life). Yet some games let you roll way more than others, some people also seem to be unlucky at certain kinds of rolls. Personally I struggle with Instability tests with my Chaos Daemons and Power Klaw attacks from my Ork Nobs. Servitob has a reputation for unerring accuracy with a blast template too. While obviously the dice do not favour one person over another, we see patterns in the fate we receive. But surely, there can be other mechanics that we can use other than dice? I like dice and sometimes there is something sadistically satisfying as getting a full mob of Orks into combat and then rolling enough dice to reconstruct the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in 3d, however, is this the best way to do things or just an accepted part of our hobby?

We’ve already talked about how different games require different numbers of dice, I’m pretty certain that if there was a game where you just compared the stats of one thing to anotherĀ  Top Trumps style, it’d be a pretty crummy and boring game (just like Top Trumps). This is why I’m so interested currently with Malifaux, it forgoes the use of dice and instead uses a pack of 54 cards, being a money making venture of course you can buy official faction themed Malifaux decks, but there are rules in the main book that cover using a normal deck of cards, you just need to have two Jokers in there as well. With cards you need a slightly different mechanic than with dice, but just as dice can be re-rolled due to certain rules, in Malifaux you get rules that allow you to add additional cards to a total as well as having a hand of cards that allow you to “Cheat Fate” by swapping the card you drew with one you possess in your Hand. With dice you’re completely at the whim of chance as to whether your re-roll is higher than the previous, but with the mechanic in Malifaux if you really need to cast that spell or win that combat, if you have the cards in your hand then you’re in a much better place to predict the outcome of the action.

I don’t know whether you can call it lazy game design that leads a lot of our games to rely on dice, after all, dice have been in use as games in their own right for millenia and now we use them to add that randomness to our games. Is being able to control things using cards better than the pure random chance of a dice roll? Well, that’ll be down to personal preference and I’m not leaning either way, it’s just nice that someone has come up with another way to play and I believe it to be a nice change of pace from the staple that I’ve seen over the past almost 20 years of war gaming.

As long as whatever system is developed is non-intrusive and doesn’t detract from the ebb and flow of a game I’m all for trying out something new. I’ve played dice games and I’d played card games. I’ve even played card games that have used dice, but I do think that while it’s easy to fall back on using dice as Malifaux demonstrates, using something a little “out of the box” can add an extra dimension to a game that makes it stand out against the ever increasing crowd.