Chris Kluwe is the punter for the Minnesota Vikings with a penchant for pinning opponents deep in their own zone. He’s also widely known for playing World of Warcraft, and it turns out he’s a serious tabletop gamer as well. It’s relatively rare that the pro sports and gaming worlds intersect, so I thought it would be interesting to get Chris’ thoughts on gaming and sports culture, among other things — and he was kind enough to agree.
If you’ve heard Chris Kluwe’s name lately, it might be because of a minor Internet scuffle in which he called a couple of big-name players douchebags for holding up the NFL labor agreement, then wrote an amazing and hilarious takedown over at Deadspin. It could be that you’ve heard of his band, Tripping Icarus. Or, if you’re a gamer in the Minneapolis area, it might be because he’s been across the table trouncing you with his Aptimus Zaal army.
Robot Viking: You’re mostly known for playing WoW (I mean, outside of the whole professional athlete thing), but you also throw down with Privateer Press’ Hordes. Do you play any other tabletop games or RPGs?
Chris Kluwe: I used to play D&D and Shadowrun for a little bit, but could never find a solid gaming group. I got started in tabletop gaming with Warhammer Fantasy, moved on to 40K, and then discovered Warmachine and never looked back. I love how tight Privateer Press’ rules are. My Skorne army is actually my second one, I originally started with Cryx and have about 150ish points of them (almost all painted too!).
RV: What’s your Hordes horde like?
CK: Right now it’s a 50 point Aptimus Zaal list that runs pretty beast heavy. The list is Zaal, Aptimus Marketh, Bronzeback Titan, Titan Gladiator, Titan Sentry, Molik Karn, full unit of Nihilators, min unit of Paingivers, an Agonizer and Saxon Orrik. Basically the kill vector is to get a beast a lane to their caster, at which point Zaal feats and/or casts Last Stand and things die. It’s a rough matchup against shooting armies since it can be hard to keep Zaal protected, but it’s a fun list.
RV: Did you grow up playing tabletop games and miniatures games, or was that something you found later on?
CK: I grew up playing Magic and various board games, as well as D&D. I didn’t get into the miniature scene until I was almost out of college, as I spent most of my money on video games and didn’t really know anyone who played wargames. Once my brother got a job at Games Workshop as a store employee, that changed in a hurry though.
RV: The whole “jock/nerd” schism seems like a silly cliche from an 80s movie, but I’ve noticed a lot of sports sites are pretty condescending toward the whole World of Warcraft thing. Do you catch flak from other guys in the league? Is it weird bridging that divide to some extent?
CK: I don’t really catch a lot of flak (I catch some, but that’s just a given as a punter) and I’ve actually met a couple other players that are big into online games like WoW (one guy I met was into FFXI, which is a pretty amazing grindfest. I had a lot of respect that he could play that). The funny thing is that sports sites are just as big of nerds in their own way, it just happens to be about sports. WoW players can give you stats about bosses, abilities, damage mitigation, PvP counters, etc., while sports fans do the exact same thing with player stats, coaching tendencies, fantasy football schemes, blah blah blah. One thing my brother said I should do, and I’m seriously considering it, is to make a youTube video comparing a WoW player nerdraging over a raid vs. a football fan nerdraging over a loss. I think the parallels might shock some people.
RV: I’ve heard that your main character in WoW is a rogue — what made you pick rogue?
CK: The previous MMO I had played (Dark Age of Camelot) I had played a healer, and I wanted to try something different. Rogue seemed like fun and I stuck with it. Also, having experienced Ultima Online’s wonderful gankfests, I knew I wanted stealth if I was going to be playing on a PvP server.
RV: Since convention season conveniently coincides with your off-season, do you get to go to any of the big gaming conventions like Gen Con or Origins?
CK: Sadly no, they’re always right during training camp or the preseason. Last year we were actually in Indy for a preseason game during Gen Con, but all the hotels in town were booked for the con so we had to stay outside the city and I didn’t have enough free time to take a cab down and wander around.
RV: Is it tough fitting in gaming time during the season? Ever try to teach a teammate to play something like Hordes so you can play when you’re at the hotel on road trips?
CK: It’s not too hard, there’s a great local gaming group in Minneapolis (Focus and Fury) that play pretty regularly at a gaming store here (Tower Games) and they’re always up for getting together to play. I keep waiting for someone on the team to ask me to demo a game for them but no one’s stepped up to the plate yet.
RV: Thanks Chris, and good luck with the Vikings this season! The Minnesota ones, I mean.