When I first got into Warhammer Fantasy in the mid-90's I played most of my games against a customer at my gaming store named Christian. He'd come flying into the store, usually declaring something obscene about wife-swapping, and then he'd get down to the business of talking about his Chaos Dwarfs. Astrogoth (or whatever his name was) was constantly pushing towards Zufbar (sp) but had to march through my Undead to get there. Maps were drawn, scenarios were created on the spot, and the story line advanced.
Eventually I made the switch to 40K and started collecting the Angels of Absolution. At the time I changed systems he started collecting his first 40K love - the brand new Sisters of Battle. I started a campaign in the store revolving around a planet called Biletrus III and considering more games were played by Christian and I, the rest of the campaign players were just playing in a league more or less, while we were advancing a narrative. That narrative carried on long after the campaign died out. Commander Caligulas, Chaplain Vitus, Captain Belial, Techmarine Aries, and Genetor Evodius (I was using some Adeptus Mechanicus allies from the 2nd Edition Black Codex at the time) were all names that were thrown around. Both sides claimed we had rightful claim to the Emperor's Blessing and that the other had gone heretic, and the Ministorum held world of Biletrus III resisted our reclaimation of crucial STC technologies. A lot of the games we played even used the desert combat rules out of Citadel Journal, which I thought were great fun. Those were memorable days.
Time passed and narratives advanced. We both went on to work for Games Workshop and eventually Christian switched to Black Templars and I switched to my Redemptors of Golinar fanatical zealot IG army. We were still insisting the other side had gone rogue, but despite having armies from the Imperium we could always come up with a reason for fighting, a cool scenario, and a cool looking battlefield that looked like it made sense based upon the scenarios and narratives we came up with.
I've had some other great narrative games with other former co-workers and friends, but nothing has really compared to those games with Chris. We just clicked on what we wanted out of the hobby and out of gaming - the fusion of fantastic models, beautiful terrain, unique scenarios, and a developing story to tie it all together.
When I got to Chicago I joined an expansive group of fledgling and veteran gamers with divergent interests and armies. We've tried several campaigns. We've tried unique scenario generators. More than anything we've played a lot of tournament style games. I quickly found that whenever I was in a campaign I liked picking on my buddy Chad because he liked writing narrative style battle reports afterward that gave everything a little more depth, kind of like those early days with Christian.
As of late I've been really yearning for those days. My last two games were a giant 9000 point Apocalypse game and a nail-biter of a game against the Orks that was straight out of the book, tournament style. Both were fun games but there was no rivalry and no depth. I didn't even refer to any of my characters by their names - it all felt very detached.
On Citizen Nick Hobby Center there is a couple of posts where Scott is talking about the nature of campaigns and how we might alter the Alpheca campaign that we were playing in that he had developed all sorts of background and rules for. I read through it all and my answer was "mechanics be damned, let's strip it down to just the narrative." The more I think about it the more I miss those early days and yearn for narrative play. Tournaments and leagues are fun but I just feel like something is missing - that I need to get back to my roots. Mechanics be damned my friends. Let's strip it down and concentrate on giving our games and armies depth.