The Paddington Bear stare (part 1)

The “Frown”-rule, when confronted with a cheesy army: the right of a player to give his opponent a “Paddington Bear” stare and take the moral high ground.

For those of you not familiar with Paddington Bear, he reserves his hardest stares for people he disapproves of!

Most of the games I play have balanced armies. These usually contain nothing spectacular or, if they do, it is with the knowledge of the person I’m playing. There is, however, that odd occasion when my opponent turns up with something extraordinary. It might be an army of elite Praetorians, a wall of artillery guns, or a platoon of Tiger Tanks at a time when I’m sure we said we were playing a mid-1942 game. At this point, I have to exclaim, “Oh now come on!” These sort of extreme armies are colloquially known as “cheesy” or “beardy”.

It is in fact with a little trepidation that I write this piece. After all, didn’t I used to play that way myself?

Many years ago, I used to play second edition Warhammer 40K. I recall – with little fondness – facing a Space Wolf Terminators squad each armed with Cyclone missile launchers. Each launcher was capable of laying down a 6” template of utter destruction (1/2” per missile fired). Yes, that game didn’t last long: it was all over by turn 2! To be fair, back then I used to play in a similar manner. I remember my Orks driving madly directly at the enemy with their Skorcha flamethrower half tracks, knowing full well that if one of these vehicles were hit, there was a good chance it’d generate a devastating explosion, matching any cyclone strike on nearby enemy troops. However, something changed in the nature of my gaming and “Winning at all costs” (WAAC) no longer appealed to me.

When Warhammer Ancient Battles came out, around the turn of the millennium, I again at first was attracted to the more shiny armies such as the Normans and Macedonians. However, after very many games, I found that I enjoyed balanced games a lot more than unbalanced ones. I adopted the principle that “less is more”, moving away from the extreme and playing more balanced games (such as El Cid and Age of Arthur). When using more extreme lists, I usually make agreements with my opponent – I’ve had many a balanced and fun game of Shieldwall with my regular opponent James Oram once we’ve mutually agreed not to field some of the more exotic elements.

Recently, with In Her Majesty’s Name, there are a plethora of good lists. The obvious good list to go for is the British Army with bayonet drill, machine guns, flamethrowers and Congreve guns. So why do I find myself looking at the Brick Lane Commune?

I generally take a good mix when I’m choosing an army, as we tend to play scenarios where having a flexible army is more useful than a one-trick pony. However, I should be careful not to moralise about other people’s choices too much. After all, part of the skill of army lists is making the most of the interesting choices the lists present.

However, in my next blog I’ll throw caution to the wind and discuss a few games where the Paddington Bear stare should have been strongly applied!

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