Thursday 8 October 2015

'Bright lights shazam Kapow ! '

I  can always rely on Andy of Old Glory fame to write up a post on his blog that gets me thinking. 
 Its sad that I need someone else to prompt me into writing, perhaps it's my lack of original thoughts.
   Anyway, Andy wrote about his view of the Derby Weekend show, which he praised, and also wrote of his views of some of the games etc.
 He also mentioned me in person and my critique of the show. 
   Its funny how everyone has a different take on events, but it would be a boring world if we all agreed with everything, or in some cases with nothing.
 I know John, my longtime nemesis thoroughly enjoyed the show, but then he was on a buying splurge so was well happy.
 Anyway, Andy in his post mentioned that I wanted a  'Bright lights shazam Kapow ! ' type of show.
 I think I understand what Andy is describing at least I hope I do.
 But having had all day to consider what I want at a Wargames show like Derby, and without wittering on too much whilst repeating myself ad infinitum.
 I have been wargaming for too long now not to hold a view about all aspects of the hobby that has been at times a way of life for me.
 In that time I have traveled to some God forsaken places where a Wargames Show was being staged.
 I even went to a one in Milan which I came upon by accident, honest.
 Anyway as we are now in the 21st Century I would have hoped that wargamers and the shows they attended would have developed into quite slick, well produced affairs. [This is not a dig at Derby by the way.]
 By this I mean the following;
   A clear purpose as to why a Wargames Show was being held, whether to commemorate a specific military event, to raise money for a military related charity, ie the British Legion, or to be based around a specific period in history, ie Ancients, Seven Years War, or the Anterian Invasion of the planet Plod.
Derby obviously was based around the competitions, fair enough.
 It also doesnt have to be as clear cut as that, it could purely be to sell wargaming, [that old chestnut ] to the public. But a purpose just might add some focus to what is then organised.

 Wargames Shows cannot be purely about tipping up to trawl around a badly lit hall, [ and this includes Salute ] to buy your latest goodies, that you will never find the time to paint, grab a crap overpriced sandwich, and then leave by 12.00 midday.
 If the shows have this purely as their purpose then they are in trouble.
 Wargames Shows need to leave a person enthused, questioning the whole event and frankly wanting to go home, grab a tape and throw some dice.

So getting back to the main point of this rambling bollocks, a Wargames Show needs to be more than finding a cheap venue, cramming as many traders as they can into the hall, finding a few clubs and individuals and getting them to stage a game that could just have easily been played at home in a badly lit garage.

 In defence of the World Championships, I saw that the Derby Group had taken the trouble to award cash prizes to the best games at their Show, now that should be applauded as it is a clear incentive to get a finger out and put together a game that could just snare a new wargamer or even two. But that was a one off. 

So now onto some fantasy. 
  I find it amazing that wargaming has never been able to find a way to create a central body that could just perhaps drag the hobby kicking and screaming into the digital age.
 Think about it. How does any professional military or historical museum get in touch with a group of enthusiasts in order to get them to stage a re enactment of a set battle, using miniatures.
That's right there isn't any means, instead its down to, ''Oh I know someone who plays with toy soldiers, he might be able to round up some weirdos to help''.   
Now attempting to organise wargamers would be like rounding up a load of cats, it isnt going to happen [ever] 
 Too many individuals, too many own agendas and frankly we're just an awkward bunch of middle aged men that ''just want to play a game'' and dont want to get involved. ''I wont even buy the magazines you know. Its never been the same since Duncan stopped being the editor'' mentality. 
  That's fine, to a certain extent. It probably describes me perfectly,but it still makes my piss boil at times.
 We make jokes about the expensive crap food, we complain about the toilets, the venue, the smell but do we ever do anything about it?

 However instead of a load of dire wargames shows, what if there was perhaps only 12, well organised nationwide shows each year. Each one, in a decent well lit venue, assisted by some funding from a central body, whose only input was to act as a coordinating group with the express aim of making certain that the hobby not only thrived but also gave out an image of professionalism.
 It would have no involvement in imposing specific wargames rules, scales, periods etc, it would really be there to assist in funding, advertisements, sponsorship, and a myriad of ways to make certain that each show was a success, both financially and in selling the hobby.
 It would not be about legislation or heavy handed administration, it would be about making certain of success.  
   South London Warlords I would argue are the nearest thing to a professional wargaming group. They have the cash and they have the members, but even their show is in danger of becoming a giant trade affair, with little purpose beyond spending your shekels as quickly as possible. 
  Nowhere else comes near their organisational ability. 
 But how many groups and individuals are there in say Scotland, the North East, the North etc, that's correct there are hundreds if not thousands. Would it be too much to hope that 12 regional wargames shows could be created out of all the wargamers in the United Kingdom, and each one would show the best of the hobby, at the most suitable venue, supported by  the largest and most diverse number of traders in each area. Guest speakers, discussions at each table regarding the game on show, explanations of a new set of rules, anything that could lift a wargames show into becoming an EVENT.
 So if thats Bright Lights and Kapow, bring it on.

 Here endeth the rant..................I have just realised that I have become Jeremy Corbyn!!!!

Some things have never changed............................................ My group at a show back in the very early 1980's, and I would still argue it is better than some of the games I've seen this year in 2015.


  1. Robbie- Told you I wanted to get a discussion going and aside from the bit about the "Central body"-( cos all THAT gets you is amateur politicu=ians and you can put those where the sun never shines ! ) I find myself agreeing in principle with most of wht you say. However the practicalities may be different. Doing the Donnington show costs me about a grand and a half each year or perhaps a bit less. Stand Fees. Van Hire, Hotels, Food etc for me and my 2 crew. This stuff is not cheap. Niether is venue Hire- back in the day hiring the venue for Border Reiver cost me over 2 grand and that was compared to some a tiny event. Salute costs me more than Donnington - the stand fees are for instancealmost triple for the same size stand- and Salute is a one day show. without any competitions- and yes the competitors contribute to the cost of the show by paying competiition fees- at least they do at Donnington and some others I have experience of.. My main point here is that there is nosuch thing as a cheap venue in the UK- or indeed anywhere else for that matter.
    Back when I did 26 shows a year I'd be laying out around 6-8 grand just in show fees each year and some shows have doubled in price since then.
    I now only do 9 a year all of which I choose carefully so from my perspective I don't do "the crap ones"- at least not more than once.
    Once you have a venue and some traders to pay for it what do you put in it- Define "Best of the Hobby". Your best will be subtly different from mine and possibly radically different from Trebbians or pick any other wargamer you know. Next wuill these "best" want to put the effort in? Experience says not always- you didn't have a game at Derby for instance or indeed at Gateshead. Now the reasons don't matter in this wider context as they would be repeated by groups all ove the country pertaining to the shows they didn't go to either- or perhaps the ones they went to as punters.
    As for definitions of "best" I don't really think things can improve much more. You can only throw so much money at a game and then it can lose its humanity and become merely more rich boys showing off. So for example is a game where all the figures and terrain have been bought and paid for "better" than one by a group who have collected their gear over the years and done it themselves- how do you decide?
    Also are the organisers of a show at fault if a clubs game is crap? Or if they don't turn up or if they do something different than they said they would do. I've been on the recieveing end of all of these over the years at various shows.
    Finally where do you get the £50,000- £100,000 it would take to organse Each of your 12 regional shows and more who would do it? A proffessional organise would want anther 50 grand on top perhaps more.
    Also define success. So far this year of the shows I've done I'd define all of them as a success up to each a different point.
    York, Falkirk , Salute, Donnington very successful
    Partizan 1 and Triples- pretty successful
    Gateshead and Partizan2 somewhat successful
    and no I'm not simply talking aboutb how much Brass I made .

    1. Evening Andy,
      I did stress in my post the 'fantasy' aspect of a national
      coordinating body for shows. Its pretty obvious that most wargamers are individuals with a capital 'I' If it wasnt then we would have had a standard set of rules, etc.
      Military history however is interpreted differently by almost everyone and no one can agree totally on any given aspect of the military history they are trying to represent. I'm talking here about wargamers who actually make the effort to research the period they are interested in, I havent included the 'battle in a box' gamer who wouldnt know a picklehaube from a pick your nose.
      There are too many indifferent shows full stop.
      There are too many shows where the express aim is to make some cash for the organisers, which is fair enough, if the show offers enough to the punters. Too many shows dont do that. Okay so they hire a hall, for a lot of money. There is an element of risk in that, but if the show offers nothing more than some traders, and a few indifferent games, then what is the point of the show? Perhaps a wargames show should only stay open until 1.00pm, and then close its doors, at least the organisers would be acknowledging the fact that most wargamers are gone by then. So why is that the case?
      I would argue because once you've bought whatever you wanted there is nothing to hold the public's attention.
      Okay you might hang around to talk to a few people you haven't seen for a while, but that's it.
      However if there was only a limited number of wargame events each year, representing the best, clubs and individuals can offer by way of demonstration games and displays, and filled with traders who are happy that they are not dashing around the country every weekend, worried that the show they are attending will be pants and they will make a loss surely that can only be good for the hobby.
      It'll never happen for numerous reasons, from clubs wanting to continue getting a fill up for their funds by organising a show, and by the lack of any type of central organising body. God knows me personally is the best example of going my own way so for me to suggest a central body is really a hypocrisy. However, I believe that wargames shows have to step up to the mark and basically become more polished and generate a better image for the hobby.
      The sad thing is I will still attend the damn things whenever I can.

  2. Robbie,
    Like Andy I agree with most of what you say but a central body to organise regional events just isn't going to happen, at least not by wargames. You may get a handful of the large traders - ( if there is a handful? ) to arrange one or two but they're trying to run a business never mind organise a show.
    I have to agree with Andy - no where is cheap and trying to please a lot of the people a lot of the time isn't easy.
    I guess the closes we came to what you describe was Warcon when Danny Boreham arranged the weekend of gaming, speakers, film night etc. Then as you recall when he suddenly disappeared Duncan tried to take over - lack of help etc. Etc didn't see the show continue.
    Even the event I'm arranging for the AMG members next year has resulted in me signing a contract etc. And whilst this is for a dedicated group of gamers I am tempted to follow the SYW convention in America to invite two or three period specific traders down for the day/weekend and just ask them to attend - no fee. One trader has already expressed an interest coming down for some games, limited stock and some evening trading!!!!!!!!!!!!
    From your report the Derby show wasn't one that I think I would have enjoyed but hundreds of others would. As long as you're trying to create an event to cater for the majority then i doubt very much what you want will happen. Unlike America where due to distances involved the major events they hold are pretty much what you're looking for and gamers come to spend and game.
    Here there's always another show on the horizon that may have what you want, in many ways as a 'punter' we are spoilt to be able to pick and chose where, when and why we go.
    Hence I think, as usual, there is a balance to be struck. Shows you go to for trade- shows for games and if you're lucky one that may have a bit of both. Then of course there's the option of the likes of the AMG day which the likes of you could create and present what you're looking for.

    1. Evening Graham,
      As in my reply to Andy, I know it will never happen, unless I was to win the lottery and pay for the thing myself.
      Wargaming is a unique hobby in so many ways, which explains the chaos that is the hobby. Put two wargamers together and they might agree on a set of rules, put four together and there will be a discussion, double that and there would be an argument.
      Its what is best about the hobby, but also its what makes it vulnerable in so many ways.
      Re the AMG, I think it would be great to have some traders there purely from a selfish point of view. Also if they were selling SYW stuff then, even better.
      Some of the bigger clubs who run a wargames show, are really going to have to do some thinking however to maintain the level of interest at their respective shows.
      The top and bottom is, that a show that I may have attended in the 1970's will be not be so very different from a show that I attended this year. There will be more and better trade, and certainly better painted miniatures in most of the games, but the format will have changed very little. In fact the 1970's show would probably have had a painting competition, whilst a 2015 wouldn't.

    2. Robbie- I accept that you view your idea as a fantasy but let us for instance carry the fantasy a little further-. I'm writing a post on my blog called Definitions and Dilltantes- in which I hope to carry on this discussion and see if there are actual practical things that can be done- you mention "better games"- what does this actually MEAN? Your better will be different from mine only up to a point. Grahms will be differnt again. Other chaps different again. Personally I LIKE the individuality and orderde chaos of shows as they are. Any changes can only be cosmetic. I'm not intrested in shows I don't go to- why I stopped doing them will become apparent when I publish the post.
      The point is that like me you are a veteran- been there done that . We've sall done so many shows that they do get a bit samey- what do you expect its been 40 plus years in the game there is only so much you can do ...

  3. If a show is there to attract the non-wargamer then asking for an entry fee is the wrong way to encourage converts. Taking a leaf from other hobbies - staging a free show in the middle of a shopping mall may be more productive. whilst security might be an issue for some it would be a way of showing the hobby to a wider audience without the inconvenience of having to entice them to part with any cash.


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