Tuesday 31 December 2013

     Normally, it being New Years Eve, I would be on the drink as all true North Eastern heterosexual males should be at this time of year. Unfortunately I'm not, due to a touch of man bronchitis.
 Funnily enough this is how I actually started this blog several years ago, when again I couldn't go drinking because my wife had proper flu. So in some ways, from misfortune comes a benefit. Anyway enough of the burbling and onto the post.
 Displayed is a rather dashing Father Time, and time is one thing that is very precious to a wargamer.
 I don't see any point in making resolutions, but my one hope/ intention is to find more time, not just to wargame, but to actually sort out my poor time management per se.
 I am of an age where my family have grown up, so one would think that I would have more time for the hobby. Somehow 2013 didn't actually work out like that. Still I don't think I can complain too much, I have nearly finished my Renaissance Borgia army, ahead of schedule. I have moved on to painting up an equivalent French army to use up some of my metal mountain.
 My existing Seven Years War project has just kept growing and is of a decent size.
  The one big issue was the decrease in the number of actual games I fought. As John would no doubt remind me, the games I played in dropped alarmingly, so for 2014 I intend to re balance my gaming time. Not a resolution more an intention.
  I was going through my unpainted SYW figures tonight, and realised that I have a whole regiment of Stadden Grenadiers that need some love and paint, couple this to a regiment of Willie Irish troops that also need some attention then I need to find some time to complete these units.
 So that's time needed for more games, time for some painting of some lovely figures and time that I need to devote to my long suffering wife who has put up with a lot this last year. Already my time looks to be under pressure. Not forgetting that I actually hold down a full time job, I think I am already stretching things a tad. But as I said the most important thing is finding the time to do everything you want.
 As its the last day of 2013, I thought I would do my view of the world of wargaming in 2013;
 Well there seemed to be some exciting developments in the world of 28mm wargaming, with several enthusiasts putting their money where there mouth is and creating their own range of figures, ie Cran Tara and the wonderful AWI range from Alt Fritz.
  My only real concern with this worthy ideal is the fact that all the ranges seem be sculptured by the same man,  Richard Ansell, who is a very busy chap and must be under a lot of pressure.
  Still he creates very fine figures so hopefully that will continue.
 The increase in plastic figures also grew apace, especially in 15mm with the excellent Plastic Soldier and Zveda ranges. Both great for tankies the world over.
 I'm not certain that plastic will continue to grow in the 28mm scale. The reason why I have this contentious view is the need to actually take the time [ that concept again] to actually stick the buggers together and the fact that no matter how well you paint them, it seems a lot of wargamers don't hold them in the same esteem as their metal counterparts. Personally I think its a great way to build up an army fairly cheaply.
  I have a lot of 6mm armies that I have built up over a fair period of time, and I have noticed as I have attempted to rationalise my collections this year, is that they sell really well, and basically wargamers are very keen to own them. Now I am probably jumping to wild conclusions, but I think a lot of wargamers recognise that they can never own that 20 foot wargames table, and could never afford the armies of Bill Gaskin, and have accordingly opted for the smaller scales ie, 6mm, 10mm and 15mm.
 So lets see more articles, photographs of these scales in the magazines in 2014.
 On the wargames show front, my favourite show had to be York. This is definitely a show on the up, perhaps because it one of the first of the new campaigning year, or more because there seems to be a real buzz about the event, with lots of wargamers meeting up after the winter.
 My favourite product of the year was the Army Painter range of paints,especially their white which covers really well and leaves a smooth finish.
 My favourite range of figures for 2013 was the Pro Gloria landsknects, not cheap but beautiful figures to paint.
 This is starting to read like some cheap list of Oscar predictions however, my favourite wargames company of 2013 was Ian Hind of Ian Hinds figures, purely for the fact that he cut the price of his Hinchliffe ranges and has very good mail order, so well done.
 Finally after some lengthy deliberation I have been scrabbling around trying to decide what period I should embark into next. Here is a clue.......... All answers in my comments box.
    So on that note, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year, and remember life is not a dress rehearsal so grab the time while you can................

Monday 30 December 2013

What do we want from a Wargames Magazine.

Leading on from my last rant/post, Andy on Glorious Soldiers put together his own post about the state of the wargaming press at the moment, and of greater relevance, why do we buy the current magazines and what are they for.
 This set me off thinking[ Andy, I do most of my thinking in bed, not the toilet, that's the place for reading]
 Anyway I have to admit I am a sucker for the printed word. From early in my wargaming life I would buy anything that was the least bit connected to the hobby. At that time finding information was difficult to say the least. This was the 1970's one should remember.
 One of my first magazine purchases was Miniature Warfare, which I found to be a bit sparse on information and tended to be about the wargamers in the London area. I still bought it when I could afford to. Why? because I wanted to be a part and learn about the hobby.
I wasn't aware of the Waragmers Newsletter until after it had folded, which has always been a regret of mine, but that was the nature of the 1970's there was very little communication in the wargaming world, it was almost like joining the Freemasons but much more difficult.
  I managed to buy the odd copy of Battle, and I can still remember being envious of the renaissance set up of the South London Warlords and the wonderful figures painted by the late great Bill Brewer.
 Of course that went the way of the Newsletter. Not enough subscriber interest.
 By this time I was regularly buying Military Modelling/ Battle, which for a short while was a pretty good magazine, Stuart Asquith wrote some excellent pieces on the English Civil war, and Terry Wise never pulled his punches in his observations page.
 Obviously things did evolve and change, and when Duncan Macfarlane produced Miniature Wargames well as a wargamer I was in hog heaven. I sometimes think Duncan never got the plaudits he justly deserved for producing the magazine that set the standard for the future. Great photographs, some really inspiring articles, Wally Hearl, Andy Callan, and even Paddy Griffith, who at the time caused a storm.

After this success, then wargamers began to be inundated with wargames magazines. I will confess, that I bought them all. I know I have this problem, which is basically I have to collect things. Perhaps a simplistic explanation of my need to have a 'collection' I never seem to be satisfied until the collection is complete.  Sorry for rambling on a bit, but anyway back to Andy's question, what exactly do we want from a Wargames magazine and why do we buy it. Everyone is different, and everyone wants different things, otherwise life would be so boring and pointless. 
As I have stated before, I enjoy re reading all my old wargames magazines, whether it is for inspiration, or just to find an old article that I want to check on for some fact or other. The point is wanting to reread these magazines indicates to me that they are of some worth.Can this be leveled at the current magazines?
I purchased the current Wargames Illustrated, issue 315, and found that although it feels like a hefty tome, I had 'read' it in less than half an hour! Now I am not in the business of knocking wargamers, or the wargaming press, [ honest ] but I closed the mag feeling that somehow I had been hadover........
 [ North East speak for being fooled or defrauded]
 The vast majority of features [ not articles] were by or about wargame companies or current wargames products. Product placement at its finest. The only two features I actually read were about Duke Siegfried and the other was the report from Crisis. So why did I buy the damned thing? Habit, that's all I can think of, habit and the fear that I will have missed out somehow. 

The current Miniature Wargames was no better, and more worryingly seemed to be devoid of ideas in a lot of respects. The most informative article I found was about varnish, which to be fair, was of use to me. I havent got my current Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy but I do expect that it will be better than the two other magazines. It still has a freshness and relevance about it. Anyway I cant comment on the current issue, but I do enjoy the mag, even though the original Spanish one was better.

 Now it is very easy to criticise, and it seems that 21st century man is prepared to whine and carp about anything, but no one ever seems to offer a solution or even an opinion which may be of use.
 Being someone who is of an age where he recognises that he is out of kilter with modern living I am going to offer up a few suggestions about what I would like in a wargames magazine which would make me want not only to buy it, but also collect it. 

1] I personally enjoy well written articles that encourage wargamers to want to 'do' the battle or even the period. So for me a clear and concise unit list, and an explanation of how the number of units were arrived at. A good map is always a boon.  A decent list of references is also to be encouraged, a reader might want to buy the reference book.The odd photograph of the set up is also a help.

2] Before the demise of the last editor of Miniature Wargames, the product reviews were very well written and helpful. So they would be of interest, to me anyway. 

3] A 'how do' article is of use, as long as it doesnt drag into several months worth of magazine.

4] I enjoy discussion/ argument. Wargamers have opinions, maybe some have too many, but what better way to generate some energy than a writer who plays devils advocate. The editorials of Donald Featherstone were always feisty, and in the current mad age of blandness and fear of offending they would be a blessing.

5] The odd well photographed set up still has its place in a wargames magazine for me, its always nice to have something to aspire to. I do resent however where the photographs ARE the article and there seems very little reason for its existence.

6] As regards wargames rules. Fair enough if its a review, or even a playtest set against other similar rules, but does it have to be an obvious advertisement for the latest £30.00 tome.

7] Some people don't like reviews of shows, personally I do. Especially if I am looking to attend a new show. A scoring system as long as it is consistent also helps, well it helps me anyway.

8] Finally, there are many wargamers around the country who deserve a little bit of acknowledgement. The odd interview/ feature with them would be nice. I dont just mean traders, but wargamers who regularly produce a good game, paint a mean figure or just are generally helping wargaming along. One that immediately springs to mind is John Tuckey who seemed to have a large game on at most shows. I would find it interesting to see how John wargamed.
Anyway, these are just my opinions.............

Saturday 28 December 2013

Susan Boyle the next big thing in wargaming?

                                                            Susan throws a six!

I hope not to finish this year on a negative note, so I will endeavor to write another post before the New Year. However before I return to a more up beat tone,I am beginning to wonder about the latest book releases titled Mega Wargaming from Wargames Illustrated, price £30.00 and Masters in Miniatures from the Perry twins also retailing at £30.00.
 When it was decided to publish these two books, who was the audience that they were actually aiming at?
I could understand when Henry Hyde released his book Wargaming Compendium, it actually had a purpose which I think it achieved.
 I could also understand when John Ray published his book, A Military Gentleman. The book was clearly a labour of love. I was actually in the enviable position to be able to buy it, and the reason I did so was because I admire the artistry of John Ray and I personally know Dave Jarvis who painted a lot of the figures. I knew it would never help with improving  my historical knowledge but it would inspire me to hopefully paint a tad better. It was never meant to move the hobby on.
 I suppose the same could be said of the other two books, but does it really?
 Clearly Ron Ringrose is a talented chap, and has sufficient financial clout to be able to exhibit some lovely large diorama like terrain pieces in a very large wargames room, but it is hardly a typical set up,  and lets be right, the setups that he has created have been published with regularity by Wargames Illustrated ad nauseam.
 Again with the Perry twins, they are clearly very talented figure sculptors, but filling 160 pages with photographs of their ranges is hardly going to inspire many new wargamers, especially when their ranges are invariably on show in the wargaming press every month.
 So what is the justification for the release of these two books?
 Personally, and its hard not to be cynical about these releases, it has to be money, what other justification can there be.
 Will either of these two books be classed as wargaming classics in the future?
 I very much doubt it. Once purchased and looked at, the books will be filed away and left.
 Perhaps in some way similar to a record release by Susan Boyle, at the time a novelty, and then an embarrassment.
 One of the things that bothers me is the price, again the magical figure of thirty quid!
  I have just bought The Black Bands of Giovanni concerning the history of the famous black bandes in the Italian Wars. This softback book was £25.00, but it contains an awful lot of factual history, and is well researched. It is a book to return to should I want to check on some part of the make up of those units. That book is a well researched history book, Mega Wargaming and Masters in Minatures are really just pretty fluff.
 My gripe, wargamers deserve better than this.
 We all like pretty painted soldiers but please give the average wargamer some credit instead of looking to make some easy bucks.    

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
Austrian Grenzer

Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2013
Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2012

Smoggycon 2012
Smoggycon 2012

Smoogycon 2009

Smoogycon 2009
My French getting another beating