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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.............
      
     


8 comments:

  1. Wargames Illustrated, which I had a subscription to for several years in the late 80s and early 90s, just lost something by the mid-90s, and I simply stopped being interested in it. Miniature Wargames, too, seemed to lose something by the early 90s, and I simply stopped seeking it out. I haven't yet seen a copy of the magazine since Henry Hyde took the reins, so can't comment on the new version. However, I disagree with Andy's assessment that Battle Games was narrow in focus, only "old school", a rehash of what came before, or lacked interesting content. To the contrary, it was chock a block with interesting material most of the time. Heck, I even remember reading and rereading articles on eras I have no interest in. Funny how different people perceive the same thing.

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I must admit I did enjoy Battlegames a lot.I think the problem was that the magazine became identified with Old School wargaming and probably put off a lot of wargamers. I still go back to the magazine and re read the. This is sort of my barometer for how good a magazine is.
      Thanks Robbie.

      Delete
  2. Robbie,
    I think you have summed up my views on content of magazines very well, I have a fondness for miniature warfare (hair roller armies and 'screw armies).
    Wargames illustrated is most probably top of my list for discontinuance too much fluff, and like you bought out of habit.
    Duncan brought the good photo content to magazines but it was generally balanced and had reasonable content to support it. Now like the quick food culture, themed glossy articles to support the ever increasing new releases. But there are still a significant number of gamers who just get on and do there own thing.
    Quite a few lads at the club don't buy any of the mags. The do their research on the net. Find blogs they like and buy accordingly.
    On a side note Robbie you're a better detective than me if you can find the minis it may be worth a look
    All the best and see you at York?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Morning Graham,
      You can tell I'm off work and laid up with cold. I wouldnt know where to start looking for Campaign Miniatures. They just seemed to disappear without trace. It was a large range of figures and I was surprised that no one took them on.
      I'll do some digging.
      See you in York,
      Robbie.

      Delete
  3. Dammit Robbie, I find myself agreeing again. HOwever, that's never encouraged me to keep my mouth shut, so here we go . . .

    It seems as each generation of wawrgamers reaches puberty the same old themes come round again like the annual fair or Billy Smart's Circus. It's great for editors as it makes filling the pages easier and there never appears to be a shortage of willing authors to bash out the same stuff their predecessors did. Fair enough - that's one class of magazine sorted. The other class is the house magazine and we all know about those (that?). However, in fairness, WI MK III has made an effort to add thematic articles from other periods to its catalogue updates each month. It'll never attain the sheer superiority of Tradition magazine though.

    As a lad, I subscribed to Miniature Wargames from the very first issue thanks to stashed birthday money and the good old postal order system. I kept this up until the early seventies when I felt it had run its course. After that, I only bought occasional issues of a variety of magazines, WI was probably the most constant, but even that routine faded away. I only resumed buying wargames mags three years or so ago, though only when I felt interested enough in the content.

    My only regular read nowadays is WSS which is the only one that maintains my interest. Any periodical (or newspaper for that matter) has its own house style and I think WSS has the right combination of wargaming articles, reviews and opinion to suit my tastes at the moment.

    Stokes: Miniature Wargames (now with added Battlegames) is almost exactly the same as the old Battlegames. I don't think it was as much a merger as an anschluss.

    Just my two penneth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Morning Gary,
      I think a lot of wargamers hold similar views, we just tend to keep quiet about them and try to get some wargaming in.Unfortunately I 'lost' my collection of Miniatyre Warfare in my latest house move. I cant believe I was that lax, and regret losing them, just for nostalgia. I think you're definitely right about the new Miniature Wargames, nothing was transferred over from the'old' Miniature wargames, which is really a shame, I really thought Andrew Hubback did a fine job of turning the magazine around, it had a real buzz.
      Anyway each to there own I suppose.
      Thanks Robbie.

      Delete
  4. Interesting stuff
    Gary I have a full set of Tradition and still use it regularly for Uniform research I also see your point re MW but don't think it has gone all the way back to battlegames yet. Like Graham- I know plenty of chaps who buy none of the mags- and for myself I never had a sub to any of them except Mil Mod . I've never held a copy of Newsletterin my hand and have .only one or two Miniature warfare- I have more copies of Campaigns and maybe even Historical Gamer.
    Stokes my point on Batllegames was rather that many of the articles I'd seen in other guises-b Henrys Ficticious Wars thing had been in MW and some at least of the Table top teasers had been in Battle- now if you hadn't seen those mags I suppose the articles would be fresh .
    Now there was a time I also enjoyed re-reading Old Wargames mags - but not as much as formerly - I don't tend to keep the new ones either and I'm seriously thinking of binning at least some of the older ones.

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    Replies
    1. Morning Andy,
      Don't you bin any magazines until I've trawled through them!
      Or if you want, tell me which skip they are going in, and I'll do a bit skip emancipation.
      Thanks Robbie.

      Delete

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

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