I was reading this months Wargames Illustrated that rightly had several pages dedicated to the late and wonderful Duncan Macfarlane. The article contained a very telling quote from Bryan Ansell who stated that 'Duncan was the man who saved wargaming.' And to be very honest he was. Simply because he produced a magazine that not only inspired wargamers by its wonderful content and images but also spread the word regarding our hobby to a much wider public as the magazine grew in popularity. Who could not be inspired by the photographs of the Peter Gilder collection and dream of owning such armies on such beautiful terrain. Yes to many it was unobtainable but I would argue a lot of wargamers took up the challenge and started producing equally beautiful units and battles that captured the imagination of many. Whenever I received my copy I would paw feverishly over each photograph trying to understand how the figures had been painted and how I could replicate them. I can honestly say my painting did improve and at one stage I thought I was the dogs bollocks until I attended wargames shows across the country which quickly made me realise there were better painters and clearly more prolific ones. I wasnt despondent I just understood I could never match the likes of Gilder, Allen, Robinson, Smith and so many others. I tried but never broke through.
But Miniature Wargames was the moment that wargaming was acknowledged as more than a niche hobby for retired generals, students and history lecturers and was in fact a fun thing to do especially if one could find an opponent.
And now? Having thought long, too long probably, regarding Covid and its effect on our hobby I believe there is a real need to have another Duncan moment.I dont think the hobby is in decline, I just think after this is all over we will be a leaner hobby with far fewer younger wargamers ready to take up the challenge to move the hobby into a bright and busy future. Instead it will be a hobby of gamers heavily influenced by their Games Workshop ethos of ever changing rule books, new super units and small oh so small so called battles.
After reading [looking at the pages] of all three wargames magazines its very obvious that they cater for a different audience than the one Duncan had to deal with. Gone are the history buffs desperate for additional information regarding their armies. Gone are the wargaming megalomaniacs with many hundreds if not thousands of figures in their armies and gone are the wargamers who spend hours over each figure, turning them into a work of beauty. Im not talking about the professional painters that exhibit in the current magazines, Im talking about the many hundreds who were determined to create copies of Gilderesque units by the score.
In their place is the product placement articles [if one can call them that] of two pages of little information backed up by the inevitable professionally painted figure from the latest release from Warlord, Perry, North Star et all.
What we have are gamers who for whatever reason use several dozen figures, usually on a 4x4 table or slightly bigger based around company or smaller level games, and nothing wrong with this if you feel thats what you want, but wargaming surely was about refighting the battles in history, re enacting the heroism, the blunders and what if's of a campaign. Basically wargaming. I appreciate I am showing my age by this observation but using a few figures on a small table is like eating a few crisps while dreaming of a big juicy steak.
I appreciate that people of a certain age rarely read a magazine and inevitably resort to the internet for everything but the hobby needs a new stimulus to kick start our hobby as we lurch towards near normality whether in a printed format or by a decently produced social media product, but most importantly based around the ethos of wargaming for would be generals not sergeants.