This is something I've wanted to say for a long time. I've tried writing it out a couple times in a couple different ways, but it's not something that's easy to write. After some thought, I've decided not to be too lengthy as far as things go, but if asked I'll go further in depth about details. This is obviously long as heck to begin with, so I didn't want to inflate the length any more than I had to with unnecessary details.
Warhammer 40k is an excellent game. It's tons of fun to play. I enjoy painting models. I adore the fluff. The rules, while not perfectly balanced, are still pretty darn good and create great gameplay moments allowing for many skill levels to have fun. I've spent enough money on the game to buy a cheap car. Despite all this, I can't stand to play the game anymore.
I started playing Warhammer when I was thirteen. At the time, my knowledge of tabletop gaming stopped and ended at Heroscape, of which I was an avid fan. A friend turned me on to the game, offering to sell me the Ork half of the Assault on Black Reach kit for only fifty dollars. (I didn't realize until much later that this was perhaps not the best deal, seeing as he kept the templates and rulebook.) I got my models, and next time I was at a gaming store to play in a heroscape tournament, I picked up four jars of paint and a cheap brush. I got a Codex at Half Price books for cheap, not realizing that it was only a third edition book. With a positively horrible knowledge of the rules, me and a couple friends would get together to play in one of their basements, playing five hundred or thousand point games. We argued over rules, sometimes, players got upset, there was the occasional rage-quit, but we all had fun. Eventually, though, a couple arguments led to the slow dissolving of the group. It wasn't official, we simply stopped meeting as often, and eventually quit altogether.
Not satisfied, I did a little googling and found a hobby store in the area that had weekly Warhammer 40k meets. Convincing my parents to give me a ride, I went there to try it out, and it was fantastic. I still had no idea what I was doing, but I had the fourth edition Ork codex (Which I still say is the best Codex ever produced by Games Workshop,) a copy of the rulebook, and a few more models to play with. I built my collection with ebay bids on Assault on Black Reach Ork Boyz and horrendous scratch-builds, bought paints, I even turned a tub of cornstarch into a Stompa which wasn't half bad. It was great.
I lost most of the games I played, because I was young and stupid and didn't know how to play, but that was fine. When I did win, it was all the sweeter, and as my understanding grew so did my win/loss record. I started a blog where I wrote terrible posts with advice and strategies on how to play Orks. I made up custom units. I even built a Gargant out of wood sheets and oodles of plasticard. (It looks awful too, but I still feel proud for getting it done.)
Not all was well, though. There were a handful of regulars who would show up every week, were friends with one of the employees, and I have no fond memories of them. They were all good at the game, and when I played them I would always lose, but that was okay. I lost a lot anyways, and when I lost I got better. My memories in general are fuzzy, it being five years ago, but they were rude, they exploited rules, and they were condescending when I didn't understand something.
Things came to a head in a tournament, a little less than a year after I started going, when an argument erupted over a minor rules disagreement. We agreed to roll-off on the disagreement since the issue was potentially game-changing, and I won the roll-off. After the game, then, my opponent went to a judge and told him I had cheated. The judge, the employee who was friends with the regulars, then stood by my entire next game to 'make sure I didn't try anything else,' and reminded my opponent of a couple useful things that ended up costing me the game. Worse, after the game the manager pulled me aside and warned me that if I cheated again I'd be banned. He refused to listen to me when I said that I hadn't cheated, brought up a time from months before where I had an illegal combination of gear on my Warboss (Back when I still had a tenous grasp of the rules at best) as proof that I had cheated before, and that was that. I think I went back two or three more times, but then I stopped going.
This was the first time I quit playing Warhammer, and it lasted for a little more than a year. I still enjoyed the game, but I had nowhere to play. I certailny wasn't going back to that gaming store, and I didn't know of any others in the area.
Some time later, though, I found my interest was renewed in the game. I started painting again, and armed with google, a drivers liscence, and an old but reliable car, I found another hobby store, an actual Games Workshop. There were actually closer, barely fifteen minutes from my house with bad traffic, and it was great. The manager, who I'll call Josh (not his real name,) was a really great guy. One of my old friends who I'd started playing with happened to go there, and there was a group of sort-of-regulars who ranged from bad-at-the-game-but-friendly to dastardly-competition-but-friendly. Then there was 'Tom', (also not his real name,) but I'll get to him in a minute.
These were the third and final glory days. Older, wiser, I was pretty damned good at the game. After reacclimating myself, buying the new rulebook, getting a little practice, I lost maybe one game in ten. If you walked in off the street and asked anyone who to play for a challenging game, they'd say me. I started a second army, Space Wolves. I got pretty good at painting, and some of my scratch-builds were passably good, if not Golden Daemon material. I'd sometimes go in to find nobody there, but if that happened I'd paint and chit-chat with Josh, who always had a hilarious story to tell about one thing or another. He also ran a monthly painting contest, which had no prize except to pick the subject of the next month's painting contest (Be it a 'Warlord' or a 'Heavy' or 'Troops,' since the choice had to be applicable to 40k, Fantasy, and LoTR,) and had no entry fee except buying the model you were painting for that month's contests.
Then, one day, Josh disappeared. I went in on a Saturday, he was working, I stopped in on Wednesday (They were closed on Monday and Tuesday, and I needed paints,) and someone new was working there. (I'll call him 'Steve'.) Steve was... Less great of a manager. He wasn't bad, really, but he just wasn't as cool. He followed the GW Management rules pretty closely, which I can't exactly critique (It's his job, after all,) but it made things less fun when he was so obviously giving a sales pitch after every game. He also ran a couple store events similar to the painting contests of old, but they were rather clearly more sales-oriented.
(The debacle that stands out in my mind was the failed 'Secret Santa' idea. The plan was to have a bunch of regulars pick names out of a hat and buy an item worth thirty bucks or more for whoever's name they drew. Nobody signed up except Steve himself since they could just as easily buy a thirty dollar model for themselves and get exactly what they wanted, and on the last day to sign up I asked how things were going with it. Since nobody else signed up, I did, and ended up essentially getting a 60 dollar model for thirty bucks since he got it for me with the employee discount.)
I should talk about Tom here, since I don't know where else I should mention him. He was... Interesting. He sucked at the game, and he wasn't incredibly smart, but he was also a couple years younger than me and had boundless enthusiasm. He'd always be up for a game, came up with horrendously balanced custom rules, and changed his army every six months. (Usually trading with a friend.) He never seemed to learn when something did or didn't work, even if we straight-up told him that something didn't work. The guy who taught him to play before he came to GW barely understood the rules himself and was a notorious cheater, so I don't blame him for taking a while to learn, and changing armies (and therefore strategies) so regularly probably didn't help, but it became a sort of running joke at the hobby store how bad he was.
I'll admit, I and a couple other regulars were kind of dicks behind his back. I'd humor him, give advice when he asked, I tried to help him get better at the game when I could, (I even helped him with some custom model projects he was working on and some custom rules he was trying to write.) Even so, we occasionally teased him, laughed when he was being stupid, and generally could have been a little more considerate. I wasn't the worst offender, but when someone else made a joke I'd still laugh and go along with it. This isn't actually important to the story, but I feel like I should mention it in the sake of full disclosure.
Anyways, as time went on, I started getting bored with the game because I won so often. I started a Sisters of Battle army back when their only codex was in an Out-Of-Print White Dwarf because I heard they were hard to play, and I still kept winning. In an attempt to find more challenging games, I started going to another hobby store, participating in a league which lasted a month or two, I can't recall. I won every game there, too, though one game was mainly out of luck. (This was during the dawn of Escalation, and I was playing against Necrons using a decked-out Transcendant C'Tan without using any super-heavies of my own. I only won because the mission type was the kind where Objectives could super-charge your weapons giving them Fleshbane and Armorbane, letting me mow him down with bolters, not caring about his ridiculous toughness.) It was over half an hour away and I had no problems with them, but it wasn't an improvement of GW.
So, I tried again. Another hobby store half an hour away in the opposite direction, and this one actually showed promise. I started with their league, and some pretty cool guys went there. Most of the games were still pretty easy, but there was one player (Who ran the league,) who you had to pay to play. (If you did, you also got raffle tickets for the same price as if you bought the tickets without playing him, though, so that wasn't an issue, and if you won you got MORE raffle tickets.) I played him, once, and it was a great game. His army wasn't unbalanced, but the game was challenging and pressed me to strategize in order to get a win.
Then, there was the other challenging player there, who was less great to play against (Though still not bad.) I went against him on the last day of the league, and just barely won against his Daemon army. (He was using Screamerstar, exploiting the cheese of 6th edition.) I won from a few lucky rolls letting me shred his Screamerstar while they had no invuln, and from a turn 1 where he forgot to do anything in the psychic phase. He challenged me to a non-league game the next week and I accepted, showing up against a slightly less cheesy but somewhat more overpowered Eldar army. A few annoying rules arguments aside, though, it was another good game. He won, by a couple inches, but it was very close and tense the whole time.
In retrospect, I probably should have kept going there, but the structure of the league conflicted with my erratic work schedule. (I work as an independant contracter, so the days I have off are random, and reliably showing up on a set day of the week every week was not something I could or can consistenly do.) Add to that the drive-time to get there and a several week haitus between leagues in which my enthusiasm died, and I decided not to join in the next league.
So, I was back at Games Workshop, around two years after I started going there in the first place. (Though really, I never left, I had been going to GW every couple weeks even when experimenting with other stores.) And, lo and behold, we had a new manager once again out of the blue. (We'll call him Simon, which isn't his real name.) Simon was... Interesting. He was a far better store manager than Steve had been, but he didn't actually seem particularly interested in any of the games as far as I ever saw. I never got a particularly good read on his personality, because for the most part I rarely interacted with him.
Anyways, one week I played in a bad game. I say it was a bad game because my opponent didn't do well and niether of us had much fun. I tried to stay upbeat during the game, making jokes, giving advice where I could, going so far as to play poorly to give him a chance, but short of intentionally harming my own team there wasn't anything I could have done to change the outlook of the game. I was using a powerful list I had written with the intent to play someone else, but he ended up being a no-show and my opponent was nowhere near as good at the game and I didn't have the models to run a different list, so things were unbalanced from the start. I had played him a week or two before and near the end, when he knew he had lost, he ragequit and complained about it until he left, and Simon had said he was going to talk to him about being a better sport, but after that day's game he acted almost exactly the same. I went home and posted on a forum about playing a frustrating and boring game. I mentioned no names, since I didn't want to bad-mouth anyone, only to vent.
Someone who had been there jumped on the thread, saying that I was in the wrong about the situation and calling me out by name.
When I showed up at GW, Simon stopped me at the door and told me I was banned over last weeks game.
Apparently someone at the GW office had seen the thread and he had been contacted about it, but Simon told me he never read it. Apparently the last week's game, I had come off as rude because I was still telling jokes and trying to be upbeat when my opponent was upset. Apparently everyone in the store thought this. Simon never asked for my side of the story, he even told me to stop when I tried to explain myself. He told me that the guy I had played the week before was mentally handicapped. This came as a surprise to me, since I hadn't noticed anything except his poor sportsmanship and bat strategies, both of which I'd seen plenty of before. Simon didn't believe me when I said I didn't know.
I'd been going there for nearly three years, but I was banned without a single warning, heads up, or even a chance to say anything in my defense. This was about a year ago, maybe a little less.
I have not played Warhammer 40k since, and even with all the time that's gone by I am still angry. I'm angry that I've wasted so much money on a hobby only to be told I have to leave, no questions asked. I'm angry that everyone assumed I was being willfully malicious towards someone with a handicap, and nobody considered I might be ignorant of the situation. I'm angry that it was decided I wasn't worth the five minutes it would take to explain myself I'm angry that it was assumed that, even if I was as awful as he assumed, I couldn't change if given a single chance. I'm angry that I can't think about 40k without getting pissed off and bitter. I'm angry that I wasn't even allowed to apoligize.
Most of all, though, I'm angry that I was such a jerk and nobody stopped me. I meant no harm when I played that game, but knowing what I know now, I can clearly see where things went wrong. Hindsight is 20/20, but in this case I hindsight also has X-ray vision and HD replay capabilities.
All it would have taken was one moment to tell me to take it easy. A heads up before the game that the guy I was playing had an invisible handicap. A warning to tone down my list, even if that meant playing with less points on the table than my opponent was. Everyone was glad to jump on and tell me how awful I had been after the fact, but in a room full of people who all thought I was being terrible, not one of them decided it was worth five seconds to do anything about it, not even the guy whose job it was to manage the store.
I wondered if I should post this, or something like this, pretty much since the day I was banned, but I think it's a story worth sharing. If it helps me get over what happened, great. Maybe some day I can head back to the gaming store half an hour away and play another game in exchange for a few more raffle tickets. If I'm lucky, I might stop caring about this in the slightest. I don't know if sharing this will accomplish anything, even, but I'm willing to give it a shot. If nothing else, I hope it doesn't waste anyone's time if they read it. I don't have any clever final words to say or any good summations to give, I can't even think of a specific point to leave here in hopes of making a mark or teaching a valuable lesson, I just want to share this. At the absolute minimum, I'll stop wondering if I should or shouldn't post this story somewhere, since it'll be posted.
I hope I haven't wasted your time.