Garagehammer Interview Part 1 - Christopher Barnette

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One of the most enjoyable podcasts to listen to that has come onto the scene in the last year is Garagehammer. In the first of two interviews cerebros talks to one of the ‘casts hosts, Christopher Barnette.

Q1. First off, for people who haven't heard the show yet, give us a quick run down of your wargaming backgrounds.

I've been gaming most of my life - I'm forty now, and have been actively playing games with my family and friends for as long as I remember. Anything applies: chess, go, cards, board games - my obsession with games became more intense with the introduction of role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and wargames like Avalon Hill's Tactics II and Afrika Corps.

I painted my first miniature for Dungeons and Dragons but didn't truly start miniature wargaming until I bought Games Workshop's "Space Marine", an early incarnation of the "Epic" brand. In 1994, I started working for a local game store chain and, really, that was that. 40K, Blood Bowl, Necromunda, Warzone, Chronopia and even Napoleonics with my older brother.

Fast forward 15 years or so and, four editions later, Warhammer Fantasy and I have somehow survived the trials of time. The combination of the game itself, and the community that plays it, keeps me coming back for more.

Q2. What I like best about the show is the fact that I can relate to you as both gamers - unlike a lot of the other podcasters you're not (yet) talking about how you've won big, two day tournaments. Were you ever concerned that this might count against you, that people would hear an episode, think "these guys don't know what they're talking about" and not tune in again?

I think that we've definitely said a few things on-air that would justify folks of accusing us of not knowing what we're talking about! Luckily a podcast such as ours is a living entity and we grow as podcasters with every show.

I have faith in my ability to challenge every opponent I face and not be an easy mark but it's not hard to find superior opponents. Still, I'm not worried about folks accusing me of not knowing the game - my claim to fame is being able to understand why I won or lost and then being able to articulate it in such a way that the listener understands and can learn from my observations.

Q3. Something I think it would be fair to say the show is known for is the length of the episodes. While some podcasts may approach or exceed three hours when doing an army book or rulebook review, three plus hours is pretty much the norm for you guys. Was it a conscious decision to talk that long or did it just come naturally?

I assure you, talking comes naturally for David and I, ha! It wasn't initially the idea to make such a marathon show but it became something of a trademark for us; as we were listening to the recordings afterwards we ultimately concluded that the length of the show was a selling point more than a negative. We've certainly received our fair share of criticism regarding the length of each program, and we've taken some effort to truncate our wildest meanderings, but for the most part we just sort of let ourselves go wild.

Q4. How much planning goes into an episode? You have your regular segments such as MGR (Modelling, Gaming, Reading) but when you do something like an army book or game review do you jot down some notes in advance or just work your way through the book?

David likes to lean on show notes to keep himself organized and it can keep us focused when we are starting to stray too far off-topic. Prior to recording we'll get together to pitch main topic ideas, be that either an army review, a revisit of a phase, or a tourney. I'll usually have a solid idea of where I'd like to go with the conversation and thrive on conversations that generate themselves 'on the fly' in the middle of recording.

David's organization skills shine with creating notes that he drafts beforehand that keep us from missing key elements during the show. To answer your question, I usually don't bring notes but will have a foundation of my topic firmly in mind; David will draft notes that can often benefit both of us while recording.

Q5. What do your other halves think about you spending so much time talking about Warhammer on top of however much time you normally spend painting or playing wargames?

Ha! I plead the Fifth amendment!

Q6. As well as recently reaching the first year anniversary of the podcast you've also started a spin-off, "Garagegamer". As you have talked about other game systems in the main podcast before, what was the thinking behind doing an extra show dedicated to just one game system at a time?

This was drafted by myself and David due to a desire to play and talk about other games but not wanting to betray our listeners who came to us expecting Warhammer-centric topics. It gave us the venue to do just that.

We made Garagegamer in order to allow an exploration into other systems without excluding listeners - this way folks could listen in if they're interested. If we like a game we could always re-explore it in additional Garagegamer episodes. We intend to do just that with Warmachine/Hordes for example. As Garagegamer #1 was Warmachine, we'll do a GG #1B in the future to stay on that topic. We're practicing with Kings of War at the moment and hope to have GG #3 out soon. [editor's note:- those of you who follow Garagegamer will have noticed that episode three ]

Q7. What sort of response have you had so far from listeners who've listened to the Garagegamer episodes?

Very, very positive thus far. It's been especially exciting to receive enthusiastic feedback from Privateer Press and Wyrd Miniatures telling us how much they appreciated the shows. We've even received positive feedback from folks who don't take interest in GG, telling us how much they're grateful that we've kept Garagehammer focused upon Warhammer Fantasy.

Q8. The number of podcasts covering Warhammer seems to be increasing at the moment, both in North America with casts such as CanHammer, OhioHammer and WestCoastHammer, and in the UK with The Black Sun. Do you listen to many other podcasts or do you find that, with most shows having a very similar format, you end up listening just to those whose format is more unique or where you find the hosts' personalities most engaging?

I have a more chaotic work schedule than David does (as he's a school teacher) so that means I can't always listen in a timely fashion - however, I try to listen to every show when I can. I try to keep it focused on Warhammer-centric shows and don't really know what to make of 40K coverage as I don't know the game enough to apply the tactics.

I've been dedicated to Heelanhammer and Bad Dice for as long as I've been aware of them and think that they are the current pinnacle of Warhammer podcasting - I'd love to shake their hands. I also try to tune into Three Die Block and occasionally I'll listen to Focus and Fury as well to get a taste of other game systems.

Q9. The podcast is called "Garagehammer" but how much of your gaming is in your garages? Is your local wargaming scene predominantly based around meeting up at people's houses or do people game at local stores or clubs a lot as well?

Perhaps we should have called ourselves "BasementHammer" instead! We usually end up in someone's basement or at one of the gaming tables at Unique Gifts and Games, our local store.

Q10. If you could be any character from the Warhammer background who would it be, and who would your character's ideal spouse from the Warhammer background be?

Ask me on a different day and I'll probably say something different but for today I'll say the Green Knight from the Bretonnian lore. He was once just a man, albeit likely a noble and honorable one, but now he is something far more and terrifying to his enemies - an indomitable opponent. As for my ideal spouse, I'll take the hand of the Fey Enchantress but ask her to dress like a witch elf.

Q11. What is your best and what is your strangest wargaming experience.

Those who know me understand that my favorite game is actually a tie, or a very close win. I'd rather lose a game by a fraction of a point on the last turn than sweep my opponent on turn 3 (which is one of the reasons I limit my tourneys).

I recently played against a Dogs of War Indy GT list helmed by John Gaszak (the T.O. of the upcoming Invasion Kenosha 3). The combination of John's uplifting demeanor, the interesting challenge of his primarily ranged list against my Bretonnians, and his smart tactical choices kept us neck and neck until the last minute. And when the smoke finally cleared, we were a mere 15 (fifteen!) points apart. I rarely note the specifics of the win or loss over time but I always remember the merits of the opponent and finding an equal is a treat.

My strangest wargaming experience (that I can talk about in a publication) was more about drinking than playing. It was one of my few 6th edition games and was somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000 points per side, played on the entirety of my friend's apartment, clearing away all furniture to play on his floor.

It was enormous and went from nine in the morning to at least midnight, and it was never truly resolved - I represented the big hats, naturally, and played in tandem with three or four other players on my side (Skaven, Vampire Counts, at least), against the High Elves, Empire, Dwarves and Wood Elves. It went on for way too long and I drank too much to have any details. I have a lingering memory of ibuprofin, calling in sick the next day and the mocking laughter of Hashut, the Father of Darkness.

You can now read part two of the interview, where cerebros poses the same questions to Chris' fellow host, David Witek, here.

About the author


cerebros has been back into Warhammer since October 2008, since which time he has failed to finish painting any units in his army. It was his tactical genius that David Moyes based Manchester United's 2013-14 season on.