Written by Gene R.
Spencer is a common name among the Austin Age of Sigmar community here in Austin. He is well known as someone who is always happy to discuss the game, hobby styles, or just be a good friend if you need to complain about some bad rolls. I managed to find some time between all his painting and yelling “charge me, you coward” at fellow players, so we took some time to discuss his background and various Warhammer adventures.
Me: Hey Spencer, thanks for sitting down with me today. I suppose the best place to start would be asking how you started in Warhammer. What was your first memory of war gaming?
S: Growing up, my dad has always been into tabletop wargames. He started back in the 70’s playing historical wargames. When I started growing up, he got more into it, which was cool. So I was able to grow up with that around me. He had armies of all kinds and played with his friends pretty much every week and I would just kind of hang out.
So from when I was 2 or 3, even if I wasn’t playing or hobbying I was “in the fold” so to speak. As I got older he started asking me to help out during the games and it was a really natural progression for me to get into it. One of my earliest memories was us playing a multiplayer 40k game. I was partnered with one of my dad’s friends and I recall just deciding to shoot him, which gained me the nickname “Spencer the Traitor”.
Me: That’s pretty funny! I assume your dad’s friends still call you that? It can be pretty hard to keep up with our parents as we get older and other things like work and life start competing – are you still able to play with your dad regularly?
S: Yeah definitely! My parents live up in the Dallas area, so it’s not always easy to get up there, but when I go to hang out we usually end up playing a game of warhammer or something similar to kind of go back in time. The last time I was up there over the holidays, I got my dad into the latest AoS set, Cities of Sigmar. He has models from all sorts of odds and ends, so it was a way for him to field a lot of his stuff in a way that made sense. He really enjoyed being able to play his models in this, as he would say “fantasy shit” game.
Me: It sounds like your dad was a huge influence, but to bring this back to you a bit – I know you’ve played Seraphon as your primary army since I’ve known you, but my very first AoS game was against your Gloomspite Gitz spider riders. What other armies have you collected or how have your tastes shifted over the years?
S: Growing up, since my Dad was playing the “historical” factions of warhammer, he was playing the dogs of war. It was cool, but it wasn’t interesting to me. So to help me get into it, we started collecting Lizardmen when I was about 6. So that faction has always been with me from the very beginning.
As I got older… you sort of fall out of stuff over time. But I had a lot of orcs and goblins from when I was younger, which was actually what got me back into it in college after a few years when I was looking for something to hobby. But really, it’s almost always been those two. It really helps that my dad is a bit of a hoarder, so the collection has just grown and continued to speak to me. It just made sense that I could sort of pick up where I left off.
Me: I’m just curious, what really drew you to factions like lizardmen and orcs and goblins? Was it the rules, the lore, the looks of the models?
S: So as a kid, it definitely wasn’t the rules or lore! I was eight or nine and was like, “Fuckin…orcs! Goblins!” It was just really cool to me. It just fit that wacky ridiculous style that I really enjoyed. That has stayed the same, thankfully, but as we’ve come into AoS as a whole, it’s just expanded my interest in the armies.
I always really liked the cold blooded rule for Lizardmen, and loved the Meso-American aesthetic of them. Since they were reptilian, you could really paint them anything and it’s going to be fine. And yes, there is how the “box art” portrays them, but you aren’t restricted in how you paint them the way some other games force you.
40k for example, if you paint your dark angels blue you’re going to get a weird look. Yeah you can write it off and cite lore, but at some point it’s going to look inferior. So having the freedom of painting them any color I want is just great.
Me: Speaking of painting, with all the covid stuff a lot of us are dedicating more time to hobbying.What have you been working on? Have you been devoting a lot of time to a particular project?
S: I think the biggest thing during this has been that I’ve had time to dedicate to painting. While I’ve always enjoyed sitting down and painting and getting models done, it’s always been with an end in mind. It wasn’t so much about the journey or joy of painting – that was an ancillary benefit, but it was never specifically for it.
So with all this I’ve been able to sit down, slow down, and actually be considerate of the hobby aspect. Rather than “oh I need to get this done for this game or tournament or what have you”, I can really practice and try out different techniques.
One of the things I’ve been really working on is really pushing contrast on my models. I’ve been trying to practice stuff like glazing so I can really bring out brighter colors and shading. It’s been going a long way.
So I look at some of the stuff I’ve painted before – they’re fine, I’ve never been disappointed with the models (except for a few of them). But the stuff I’ve been able to do because of deliberate practice and deliberate time has been very beneficial.
Me: So you’ve had some great successes with all of this. Do you have any major tips or recommendations to give some of us newer folks in regards to the hobby aspect?
S: I think the biggest thing is really thinking about what you’re aiming toward. It doesn’t have to be this big existentialist thing or anything, but you should have some kind of goal in mind when you start.
So for me, I really want to paint what I consider display-level stuff. I know I’m not there and that’s a journey that’s not going to end, but I really want to push myself to that level. So if your goal is to get 100 goblins to a display level, that’s great! You can do things like nonmetallic metal and it’ll look amazing, but it’s probably going to take you an extremely long time to accomplish that. Not having that expectation going in is, from personal experience, really frustrating.
It’s really about setting your hobby expectations to what you’re really wanting. My biggest recommendation is to pick your hobby level and practice at that level. If your goal is three colors and a base, don’t spend time practicing advanced things like [non metallic metals].
Me: So really just having realistic goals for what you’re trying to do?
S: I’d take it a step further and say setting honest goals for yourself. If I was able to paint 40 hours a week as a day job, I’m going to be able to set honest goals to get a certain number of models done to a certain level that just wouldn’t be possible otherwise. You just need to figure out where that is.
A big part of having those honest goals is that when you’re done with something, you can be happy with it. I’ve seen a lot of people that just get consistently frustrated from their painting progress. And 9 times out of 10, its unmet expectations. It’s not that they aren’t capable, they just have different expectations than what they can reach. I think a lot of that can be curbed by figuring out “what level do I really want to paint at? Do I really want to paint a grot for 10 hours, or is table-ready enough for rank and file?”. Or do you just want to get it on the table and that’s enough? Either way is fine, as long as your expectation is honest.
Me: I’ve got one last painting question and I think it’s pretty topical. I saw that skink starpriest and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It looks incredible and I know everyone is ridiculously impressed. Has it been judged yet?
Haha, thank you! It hasn’t been judged completely, but they’ve picked their top choices. But I won’t know what the actual cut is. I don’t mean to sound cliche here, but I’m just honored to be chosen.
The really cool thing is that this competition was time boxed – we only had a week. Some models you see take months and years of being perfected, but we had a week. That said, it was less a competition against other people and more “Can I paint this at a higher level than I’ve ever done by giving it a solid week”.
Editor’s Update: Since the time of this interview, Spencer was announced as the winner of this competition.
Me: You’ve always been one of the most welcoming faces in our community and I know that our first game was such a positive introduction that I wanted to keep coming back. And I’m not alone in that. What do you think is the secret to making new players feel so welcome, while still tabling their army?
S: Well I’m glad to know the brags are working, because I’m actually a horrible person. I think the biggest draw for me is really the people or community. I really enjoy spending time and making friends with people.
One of the things that gets touted is that our hobby and similar hobbies are seen as very competitive, which we are, that’s fine. But they can be seen as very hostile, unwelcoming, and sort of insular because of it. So I’m very much an extrovert, I talk to everyone, I’m loud, and I enjoy it. I’m also just happy to talk about painting and games with like minded people.
So throughout my “career”, I’ve been able to use my “extrovert abilities” to drive my professional life and it spilled over to my hobby stuff. I think it’s really about what connection I can find, or what’s the common ground here? Especially with new players, we’re both really eager to play. That’s a really simple and easy place to get to. I think finding that is the first step toward having a good game.
I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t really had any bad games, because we’re both just there to enjoy the game. Are there more competitive players? Sure! I play [last year’s Masters Winner] a lot and he’s a wonderful player, he’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I think if you ask him, or anyone else – having a fun and enjoyable game is winning. The objective stuff and actual game part of it is secondary.
I honestly have more fun having my models killed than killing other player’s models. I’m playing this game to have fun and use all the rules I can to accomplish that. I’m not really gunning to win, I’m gunning to give my opponent a fun game.
Me: This kind of feeds into or gives some context for your catch phrase or battlecry, “Charge me you coward”.
S: Haha it’s not ever… I’m not going to withhold information. I’m going to remind you of things regarding your charge, but then I’m happily going to goad you into that charge. Because you know what? It’s fun to watch models die and take wounds. It’s less about who wins or loses and more about how we get there.
Me: I think that’s a really great sentiment that everyone in our little community would agree with. And Honestly I can’t think of a better way to end an interview. Do you have any last call outs or something you’d like the community to know about you?
S: So this is less something the community should know about me, and more something the community should be proud of for themselves. The AoS scene in Austin and everyone else I’ve played against outside of Austin have been the most welcoming community I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve been in other tabletop and card games in the past and it’s always been about winning.
I think there’s something to be said about our event organizers to make events that are fun and hard fought – and the community to where we want to play and have fun. But at the end of the day we’re pushing around minis that we’ve spent a ton of time painting and that’s the biggest part for me. I love saying “Here’s my cool thing I painted, show me your cool thing”, then we’re going to throw them together to see what happens. The fact we can do that and laugh and enjoy ourselves [more] than we can in any other hobby I’ve been in says a lot about the people. I’m very fortunate to have this community, because I don’t think I could thrive the way I do without the people here.
Another big thank you to Spencer for taking time out of his day to chat with me – this was definitely one of the more fun interviews I’ve had the pleasure to do. Spencer is almost always up for a game on TableTop Simulator and you can reach out to him on the Austin Weirdnobz discord server, or regularly find him at any of the hobby stores around Austin.