Garagehammer Interview Part 2 - David Witek

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In part two of the Garagehammer interview (if you haven't already checked it out, part one can be found here), cerebros talks to the father of the Phoenix Prince himself, David Witek.

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

My wargaming background? I have only been into tabletop wargaming for about four and a half years. I've been gaming all my life. I've always been happy to play board games, card games, puzzle games and video games.

My first miniature game was Trinity from White Wolf back about 1998. I never actually got any games in but they were the first miniatures I ever painted.

Miniature wargaming sort of fell to the wayside for me at that point. Then in 2006 my wife was pushing me to find something to do other than play RPGs on Xbox. I passed a GW and saw a Lord of the Rings Moria set. I bought it to paint the models and try the game. I showed it to Christopher who told me I should really be playing Fantasy or 40K. After looking over both systems I chose fantasy and Christopher brought over all his army books (I had no idea he played this game) and I looked through them, finally settling on Dwarfs.

From there Harrison's gotten into it and between the two of us we have eight armies: Dwarfs, Wood Elves, High Elves, Ogres, Orcs & Goblins, Warriors of Chaos, Skaven and Vampire Counts.

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?

People have said that! Look at some of our early reviews on iTunes. The thing is, Christopher and I have always been able to analyze, dissect and beat any game we've faced. I don't think Warhammer is all that different. That's not to say that I have this whole game under my thumb and can't be beat, that would be a flat lie. I will say that I understand the ins and outs of this game, as does Christopher.

You can listen and say "Their opinions/play styles/whatever wouldn't work in a tournament. I'd destroy them!" and you might be right. But you can't say we don't get the game. We just happen to be a couple of guys who only had each other (and eventually Harrison) to play against, so we play what we like.

We've never been concerned with finding the perfect list, we've been concerned with playing the best game we could with the army we wanted to field. I think the fact that our listenership is slowly but steadily growing proves that we know what we are saying… well, at least Christopher does. He's the one who plays more analytically.

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?

Well, I'd like to think that our show is known for its content, but yes, we have a reputation for running long. We never planned it but I personally like longer format shows. Back about the time the Skaven book came out Podhammer was running long shows. D6G still runs shows just as long as ours.

We know there are people who think our show shouldn't be any more than two hours. I went over the shows. While there are times we go off topic and make jokes, even if we cut that the show would still be long. We just love to talk gaming.

The fact is, before the show existed, we would play games and when we weren't playing games we were discussing them. We used to play Vampire: The Masquerade, the RPG. We'd meet once or twice a week to play and then spend the rest of the week discussing what we did and what we planned on doing. It just comes natural.

Our battle reports are longer than other shows' reports, but we weren't just running through how we did and what mistakes were made. We really sit down and analyze them. Granted, this may be because our family responsibilities limit us to a game or two a week so it's all we have left.

Personally, I can't keep myself from flitting from army to army when we play and although it might keep me from turning my play style for that army into a science it also keeps them from getting stale, at least for me. I haven't been playing this for decades as some of the other players out there and I'm still fascinated by the depth of play each army can have based on your opponent, your play style and even if you play to the fluff or not.

Man, I'm starting to talk about talking about my games. I think I might need professional help. You can see how it's easy for one of our shows to go that long. We aren't in front of a mic telling you what's what. I'm just as interested in the conversation at hand as any listener. We aren't giving a lecture, we're discussing ins and outs and that will lead us on some rather long paths. Like this one.

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?

To be honest, I think the show could do with a bit more planning but then it would lose a lot of its spontaneity. We do get together and come up with topics before the show obviously. I personally like to have show notes. I don't think Christopher is really into it. He generally has an idea of what he wants to talk about once we've hammered out a topic and that's good enough for him. I found that without notes in front of me I would forget things and get all annoyed later saying "Oh man! I forgot xyz!"

So I write up notes for the show. I used to make two copies but, unless we really both need a copy, I just make one for me now. Christopher lets me keep track of the notes and be certain that we don't miss anything. He seems to have faith that my OCD will be enough to cover us both and make certain that nothing important (shout outs and tourney info for example) gets missed!

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?

My wife is the one who pushed me to do this and not sit around playing Xbox. I think I can safely say that, at least from a monetary view, she regrets ever pushing me off that couch. However, it keeps me home, or at least nearby.

We have three kids and Harrison is the oldest at 10. I think the fact that I'm not out with my old college pals drinking and going to strip clubs, but sitting in the basement listening to other podcasts and painting toy soldiers is somehow reassuring to her. She knows where I am and she knows I'm no longer getting into trouble.

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?

One of the criticisms we often got in the early episodes was that we were a Warhammer podcast and not the D6G, so we should focus on Warhammer and leave the other stuff to them. Shockingly, we discovered that people want Warhammer in their Warhammer podcasts and if you stop talking Warhammer in favor of other games, they will say something. Or worse, they just will not listen.

The problem is, Christopher and I are gamers and unlike some other podcasters who have made Warhammer pretty much their life, we still love to play other games. This might be due to the fact that we still have gamer friends who don't play Warhammer.

So, we needed to do something. Why not do another episode every so often that is non-Warhammer? It could attract new listeners from other games and it allows us to discuss what we've been doing without betraying the purpose behind the show.

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

It's been quite positive, actually. We've gotten positive feedback from people who listened to a specific episode to hear about a game they were interested in but never listened to other episodes because they don't play Warhammer. We've also gotten positive feedback from people who only want Warhammer and are glad we split them.

Possibly the coolest thing is getting notes or tweets from Wyrd Games or Privateer Press telling us we did a good job with their game and even asking when we would cover them again. I can tell you that we've never gotten that type of a response from the company our main show talks about…

The best feedback, however, is from listeners who send us email saying "I wasn't going to try that game but you made it sound like so much fun and explained it so well that now I have to give it a try!"

I've personally been told by listeners that they are blaming us when their wives complain about the time and money they are spending on the hobby, because our enthusiasm for the game has gotten them to invest in it.

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 love listening to podcasts. I always have something on in the background when I'm working or hobbying. I used to listen to books on CD a lot but when I discovered that there are podcasts for just about everything… well that was just cool.

I started with just Podhammer and D6G. Then Bad Dice and Heelanhammer started and I grabbed those as well. Once I'd exhausted those shows I branched out into HP Lovecraft, Blood Bowl and many other topics. I got a basic idea of how to play 40K (and got my interest in playing Orks) by listening to 40K podcasts.

Admittedly there aren't many podcasts out there like ours. Our early episodes were dedicated to going through the game phase by phase so that new players could listen and learn, although I'd like to think that there was something there for veteran players as well.

I currently subscribe to 33 podcasts, most of them gaming, and listen regularly to about 25 of them. If the content is good I keep listening. I think that Heelanhammer and Bad Dice are the two best Warhammer casts out there.

As far as American Warhammer 'casts go, I like many of them and listen to almost all of them. I'm not going to say which ones as I don't want to make anyone feel bad. I will say that several have come on the scene, done a dozen episodes and then disappeared without a word. That's weird. I'd be lying if I said I missed every cast that just disappeared but some of them shocked me by their disappearances. I mean, Brohammer, you were great! Where the hell did you go?

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?

Well, we don't really play in the garage. Christopher was the brainchild behind the show starting. He thought we had something to offer the Warhammer community. We were trying to come up with a name and a concept.

I kept thinking of Podhammer, Heelanhammer, but what were we? Then I figured, those two shows kept referring to tournament games and garage games. I thought, "That's us. We are Garagegamers, so let's call the show Garagehammer." Christopher liked it so we went with it. We realized we don't actually play in the garage, we play in my basement (and now that we 've found other local gamers, we play in theirs as well!) but I thought that calling the show "Basementhammer" sounded kind of like porn.

We do play at the local game store, Unique Gifts and Games, but often we are working and by the time we can get the kids settled down and out the door, it's too late to have a game there. So… we 're still in the basement.

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?

Wow, who wouldn't it be? I mean, so many of the characters are so interesting. I'd like to spend a day as almost any of them.

It's probably no surprise that I'd take Gotrek, although it would be quite fascinating to be Nagash for a while and wield unholy amounts of power. It would also be interesting to be Ludwig Schwartzhelm, Kurt Helborg, or Alith Anar. Maybe a Vampire Count like Mannfred, or Malekith, or Azhag… ok maybe not Azhag. Ooh, how about Papa Nurgle?

As far as spouses go…I don't know about those characters but I'd be more than happy to spend some time with Kat from Gotrek and Felix. I wouldn't turn away a slightly sedated witch elf (not a roofie colada or anything like that but those witch elves are a bit high strung, you know?) or a lovely, buxom, gap-toothed barmaid from Altdorf either!

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

My best experience is probably taking second place for "fluffy bunny" and third overall in Core Competency last year.

Strangest? I can't really say for certain although about a month and a half after 8th edition was released we started a six round campaign at UGG. I drew in like four of the five games I played (I had to simply concede the last one without even playing… long story). Considering how hard everyone said it would be to draw since it had to be decided by under 100 points, everyone was shocked that I kept drawing against my opponents again and again!

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.