Outrider Who?

What the hell's an Outrider, and why should I care what one has to say?

The answer to the first question's objective, and therefore easy; the answer to the second's wholly subjective, personal, and ultimately up to you, the reader. I'll tell you what you can expect me to say in these Despatches, though. That should make it easier for you to decide whether you care enough to come back.

The hub around which this all revolves is the Games Workshop hobby. Probably you know something about that, especially if you've reached Despatches through http://www.AdeptusNorthTexas.com, the far-more-important part of this web-connection—and a site dedicated to said hobby, particularly as it relates to the North Texas region. If you found your way here through some other portal, please check Adeptus out: it is designed to be the site for the GW community in this area, with links to all current product stockists, descriptions of as many upcoming events as we get information about, and product updates as soon as they are official. It is not a 'rumour' site; everything which appears on Adeptus is fully vetted first. So it is a bit less salacious than some other hobby sites out there...but hopefully makes up for that in reliability. It will also link you directly to Games Workshop's own vast and extensive website, if you are unfamiliar with the hobby generally. If much of what follows sounds incomprehensible, go there to start.

I am a 'hobby volunteer.' It is important that it be understood that means I am not a Games Workshop employee, nor an insider in any way. I don't have backdoor connections to Studio designers; I am not privy to secrets—either corporate or Intellectual Property—any faster than such information becomes public knowledge. I am not, in other words, in any way 'significant' within the hobby subculture, save in the same way every hobbyist is significant: as a consumer of said hobby.

A 'hobby volunteer' is someone who organizes events for Games Workshop's various game systems—primarily Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000, these days, though the occasional opportunity to do something with a Specialist game like Epic, Mordheim, Battlefleet Gothic, Necromunda, Space Hulk or Warhammer Quest is always something I look forward to. I run tournaments, host multi-player mega-battles, moderate campaigns, do school presentations and introductory painting/army constructing/game playing sessions; I can be a judge or an instructor, by turns, but what I most enjoy is facilitating the storytelling behind games. From my perspective, the best aspect of this multi-faceted hobby is the way miniatures wargames can play out a story on the tabletop—a story in which the players are direct participants. My approach is, if you want perfect balance you must choose abstraction over narrative; the game you are seeking is called chess...and this isn't it. Though I enjoy competitive tournaments (and judge plenty of them) and find introducing the hobby to new participants very rewarding (and do it as often as I can), enhancing the simulation is what I emphasize. You will find that emphasis evident as these Despatches unfold.

GW used to have a formal organization of such 'hobby volunteers'...and they were called Outriders (to return to our initial column premise). I was one of them; making that cut wasn't easy, and I was proud of earning the label...and when Games Workshop decided the organization had outlived its usefulness and disbanded the Outriders, I didn't let go of it easily. In fact, I didn't change much of anything at all: due primarily to a great relationship with a local retailer and an enthusiastic interest in participanting in such organized events by my oldest son, which of course required my continuing to run them else no such would exist, I kept Outridering along, all through that vacuum. Nowadays, Games Workshop has begun putting their new 'hobby volunteer' organization together again, under a different badge entirely (which you can find more out about on their website if you are interested, and which I am sure is a topic I will eventually return to in greater depth here in a future Despatch)...but I've been the nominal 'Last Outrider Standing' for so long, I'm not changing. I'm old and hardheaded that way.

So that's what the hell an Outrider is in this context. In Warhammer Fantasy Battle's current edition, it is also a kind of advance-scouting light cavalry, out on the tip of the spear, armed with enough interesting equipment to make an impact but not core to the forwarding of things, and not likely to last if not quick on its feet. There's a worthwhile analogy there for any 'hobby volunteer' who gets notions of self-importance. In Warhammer 40,000, there isn't an equivalent Outrider—so I've written one. See the related link for his completely unofficial and grossly overpriced (but great fun) rules. The Outrider in 40K has intentionally been written to be a model almost any Imperial army could add, with the option of customizing his appearance to match one's own livery; this was done because 1) I absolutely love the 'Master of the Ravenwing on Jetbike' model but loathe the Dark Angels, and wanted to co-opt that model for Chapters other than the Unforgiven (including mine) without challenging the original statistically or in game-impact terms; and 2) I harbour a hope that enough hobbyists who read and (hopefully) come to enjoy Despatches will be motivated to paint an Outrider using that gorgeous model for their own armies, and send images in to create an entire gallery of the mysterious, nigh-mythical do-gooder (a Fantasy Battle Outrider gallery would be equally cool).

As to what you are likely to find in Despatches that might so motivate you—obviously, an interest in (or at least familiarity with) the games and/or the universes of Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000 will place you and I on common starting ground. Despatches will cover all aspects of the hobby, from formal product reviews to 'states of the game' observations to recommendations about other media based on the WHFB and 40K universes (including comics, novels and the roleplaying games Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Dark Heresy). But Despatches has taken a bit of time coming together because I felt strongly that it needed to be distinct from Adeptus North Texas...and part of that was because I intend to write also on topics peripheral to the hobby, at best. Those may include film reviews, especially if there's a GW slant there somewhere; reviews of competing product; original hobby content like the Outrider rules, developed for local community consumption but with potential wider application. Background fiction plays a big role in 'advancing the story' in local campaigns; some particularly choice bits of it—whether written by me or by local hobbyists, might fit here, on occasion. And I can virtually guarantee the Despatches won't be very far advanced before some anniversary of historical significance rolls around, and I feel compelled to go on about it. My intention is to stay generally on point—but I think any hobby which first describes itself as 'miniatures wargaming' has an inherent connection to war...and war, as they say, is history.

So there will be 'plastic and pewter model pushing' Despatches...and there will be Despatches about the Berlin Air Lift, Britain after the retreat of Rome, and (inevitably; you have been warned) the Alamo. It will fall entirely to you, subjectively, personally and individually, whether you care enough to want to read them. Any of them, some of them, all of them.

I promise I will care about every one of them I write.

Christopher Allen,
The Outrider
June 2008