When I posted my latest Deathwing army build the other day, it was met with mixed reviews. Naturally, it's designed for how I want to play and is used against only a handful of people. It wasn't until I came across the post Revising the Dark Angels by Warpstone Pile that talked about his problems with Deathwing where he mentioned the term "social contract" in the comments section of that particular post.
It's not something you hear very often, but it's something we all enter into when we go to play a game of 40k. My Deathwing doesn't fit within the usual social contract players make between each other and that can be a problem.
So what is this social contract?
Good question. For me, it's an unwritten agreement between you and your opponent to play 40k a certain way (usually within the accepted rules provided by GW). I would venture to say that the average social contract between two players means you are going to play your game with a legal army using the rules that GW provides in their core rulebook at a mutually agreed upon point level and you're not going to deviate from those rules (or act like a complete monkey either). It's why we can all go to our local game store and play against anyone else with an army, we're all on the same page.
But my army (as it's built now) won't allow me to enter into the standard social contract. It's not a legal army and I'm not playing within the "rules." This is perfectly fine though... I just need to find an opponent willing to agree to play with me using a modified contract so to say. It means I'm not able to just swing by my local store and find someone to play against like anyone else can do. I understand this and that's why I generally play against a few select people or as it's known to us, the Thursday Night Old Timer's League.
So what's more important, the standard contract or playing the game the way you want? If you like to play as I would guess 99 percent of players do (well within the rules) then there is no issue as your way of playing matches perfectly with the standard social contract. But what do you do when you don't want to play within the generally accepted rules?
I wonder if it takes a certain kind of player. I'm sure it does, but what is it that opens someone up to playing under a modified contract? Is it their approach to the game? How about how long they've been playing? Does it matter how old they are? Does being a parent or having a family make difference? How about how much money they have to put into the hobby? Who knows for sure.
I do know that it can be hard to step away from the rules and go your own route. It brings a whole host of additional issues and potential problems to the table that weren't there before. It can be a bit more work (list building) with your army. It means potentially less games with fewer opponents. It can mean having to explain yourself and why you're not using the standard social contract.
So why even do it in the first place then?
Strange thing is, if you asked me to play against someone with a "modified contract" a year ago, I would have probably said no thanks. But it's a different story these days for me. The game has changed for me over the past year. Is it worth it? I think so.