Saturday 24 September 2016

All the Glitters etc............

Leading on from my last post regarding the plethora of 'new' wargames rules being released that seem to contain few new ideas, and in fact plagarise existing rule books. Wargames Illustrated have released the results of a poll they conducted? for which they received 1040 replies, which isn't a bad number really. The poll was regards which rules were played by the said wargamers.
 Now bearing in mind that this poll was conducted in the early part of 2016, it doesnt include the new rule releases of the last few months but it does on the face of it show the wide range of rules that seem the most popular at the current time.
 The first thing that I found interesting from my point of view is the fact that I only use Blackpowder and very very occasionally Hail Cesar, the rest I dont use at all, so clearly I am pleased to say I dont seem to be mainstream. Ah, I feel almost saintlike, with the virtue of not being on message.
  World War Two appears to be very popular amongst the pollsters, followed by skirmish level games in all their guises. Neither of which I play.
 So bearing in mind I actually use, Pike and Shotte, a derivative of Black Powder, Honours of War for my Seven Years War games, Blucher for my Napoleonic games, and Baroque for my 1690 games, and supposing I am a fairly typical wargamer, there is an awful lot of wargames rules that havent even been mentioned.
 How confusing must that be to any person thinking about starting wargaming?
 I sometimes wonder how we can justify having so many rule sets to choose from, especially as most use very similar mechanisms in how they play.
 I was tempted to list the various rules that I know of from my taking up the hobby in the early 1970's, but I think that would be too nerdy, even for the likes of me.
 So what conclusions can one draw from such a poll?
 Well the main conclusion I can see is that wargamers have totally bought into the shiny new toy syndrome, irrespective of how good their existing rules are, wargamers are still daft enough to shell out cash for 'new' rule books.
 Where once it would be a new range of figures by a new manufacturer, this has now moved onto new rule books that in the main dont really add anything to the hobby.
 Now and again, albeit very rarely, someone will release something that could be classed as worthy, but from what I can see most new rulebooks are just eye candy and fluff.
 But you pays your money and takes your choice..............

Friday 23 September 2016

Rule Books, 'housands of them.'

 Well another Confederate regiment reaches completion, this time I opted for the 33rd Virginia, although apart from the flag and the odd dark blue uniform, the figures could represent any rebel unit I suppose.
 I have got myself into a productive place again and I must admit that there is a lot of enjoyment from painting figures that aren't too regimented. I am not up to the frequency of production that is happening in the wargame rule writing world, but still I am getting things done.
 Regarding the latest spate of rule books being released at what is now a weekly rate I am a tad confused. Not all of these books can be producing new ways to play wargames, and certainly in my opinion most seem to be more about revamping earlier rule systems that are still pretty good to play without shelling out more cash on them.
 I dont mind a bit of figure eye candy in a rule book, in fact that is one of the reasons I will actually pick them up so that I can admire the figures, but is there a demand for so many £30+ hardback books, I dont think so.
  In the early 1980's, we used to produce and sell a set of Napoleonic 6mm rules written by John, for the princely sum of one pound, that could probably make the transition to a hard back production with 28mm images attached, so if there is any would be company out there looking for some rules to transcribe into a mighty tome, please drop me a line, [ but dont tell John, so I can keep the advance]
   I hardly think producing a large hardbacked book, with maybe 20 pages of rules, padded out with a potted history of the said period, and then some images that usually dont help explain the mechanisms can be called good value.
I find it amusing that some companies, having realised that all historical periods have been done to death by rules have now started releasing £30+ rule sets for what if, and near future periods, again with the compulsory eye candy, of their latest ranges etc. Would it not be better just to fess up and call some of these new rule books catalogues of miniatures and leave it at that.
Personally, I think Osprey have got it about right, although I will push myself to buying the odd Blackpowder add on now and again, remember 'all that glitters is not gold.'
 So with that bit of sage like advice I will leave you.

Thursday 15 September 2016

Going Full Circle.

  Eons ago when I was a young wargamer I started collecting my first 'proper' wargames army. Naturally it was a French 25mm Napoleonic army. In those far off days decent information was in very short supply and like a lot of wargamers back then I relied on Blandford books which invariably contained beautiful images of random but colourful regiments. Naturally I painted these units, blithely ignoring the historical orders of battle.
   It wasnt that I didnt want a realistic army containing regiments which fought at specific battles, just the information was in very short supply. I loved the uniforms of the Irish Legion and the 7th 'Africa'  Neopolitan line regiment, so they were included in my army, Corsican Light Infantry, got them, Romana's Spanish Division, yep painted them to.
   It didnt bother me that these were seriously second rate units in reality, they were pretty and were in the Blandford's.
  Eventually as more information became available I replaced these units and finally changed scales, to replace them with accurate regiments, brigades and divisions. Accuracy was paramount. I would research every corps of my growing armies and make certain that it contained the correctly painted regiments.    
  For years I chased this 'wargamers Holy Grail' as if the accuracy was the most important thing in my hobby.  However as in most things in life, you go full circle and with my latest small project I have returned to collecting and painting historical units that bear absolutely no relation to the brigades they actually fought with. I just want  an eclectic mix of the exotic, famous and quirky. Hence the Tiger Zouaves.  Colourful, short lived and probably not that effective, but what the hell.
  I am now painting up Coppens Zouaves to complete my first brigade of the project. Probably not too historical, but they are great to paint. The Tigers are a mix of metal and plastic Perry figures.

             The initial brigade, minus the unpainted cavalry movement trays [ for Neil ]

Saturday 10 September 2016

A Few More Rebels.

 Well my dabbling in the American Civil War continues with the completion of a second regiment, and two additional regiments partly completed. I have found because the period is something that I have never really been interested in I have thoroughly enjoyed the painting experience. The next two regiments are Louisiana Zouves, that have been interesting to paint.
 I cant actually decide if I should progress the project into a major one simply because Colin already has large armies. However I am keen to paint up some rebel cavalry and the odd artillery battery. I suppose the best thing to do is just see where the project takes me. Still a nice way to spend the odd painting period.The figures are a mix of Perry and Foundry, both are fine ranges.

Monday 5 September 2016

Border Reivers 2016.

 It was the Border Reivers show at Gateshead Tyne and Wear at the weekend, so taking my life in my hands I crossed the border from God's Country into the darklands of Geordiedom.I survived, and for a change I came back with more money than I took to a wargames show!
 I have always like this show and its earlier version, probably because if was local and its good to see a lot of people I dont normally bump into. Like a lot of shows nowadays the number of games seemed less than other years, but I may be wrong on this. Considering the weather, numbers seemed pretty good, so I hope that the many traders did alright in their efforts.
I do like a big Napoleonic game, and there was a nice looking Blackpowder game on show, which was crying out for me. Wisely the group wouldnt let me throw my dice.
 The Westerhope Bandits were in strength at the show, putting on a Viking game, showing off their usual ingenuity, running a barter stall next to me, and generally making a nuisance of themselves [except Brian, who is a voice of sanity in a maelstrom of cheek]
 Any would be wargamer, struggling to put large numbers of figures on the table, should check out the most excellent Warrior ranges of 25mm metal figures. Westehope, must have shares in the company, or they have gone back to burglary again. They are cheap, really cheap, nicely sculptered, and just good figures.

 I thought John [ Coutts] was still on a curfew, but unfortunately he just keeps turning up like a bad penny. Here he is not sharing his dinner with his compatriots. Lovely Viking game though.
                      A nice interpretation of Cannae, which is a difficult battle to re fight.
 A skirmish game, that I thought showed a lot of hard work, as the large ship was scratch built, and was very effective. So why did I bring money back from a show? i hired a table for a couple of hours in an effort to offload some wargames stuff, I did alright, although large wargames armies are a hard thing to sell at shows. Still the arrangements are far better than a Bring and Buy system. So a good day all round really.

Sunday 4 September 2016

A View from a Dinosaur.

With the news regarding the demise of Henry Hyde as Editor of the Miniature Wargames magazine, it got me thinking about trends within the hobby.
 So before I light this blue touch paper, can I say that the post is written with the best of intent.

 Anyway, I may be totally wrong [ as I have said many times before] but if as Henry says the magazine owners are going to add 16 additional pages of fantasy and science fiction to the MW, then is this part of a clear trend, and where does that leave historical wargamers in the future.

Leading on from this, and the belief that the majority of wargame club members seem to be focusing on skirmish type games, steam punk, Saga, Bolt Action etc then I can see a definite change to what is viewed as wargaming per se.

 Using what is happening at wargames shows as regards the actual games on show as evidence I think I will have to revise my definition of what I believed was wargaming as it is frankly outdated or just plain wrong.

My original understanding of 'what is wargaming?'

 Wargaming when I started, in the very early 1970's was based around the ideas of Donald Featherstone and Charles Grant and then by Terry Wise, George Gush, Charlie Wesencraft et al.
The common denominator was that the 'games' were based around actual historical military events, historical characters, actual battles and well, reality. 
In the sense that the events being portrayed were a wargamers attempts to refight some battle and trying to change the historical outcome, for example that old chestnut refighting he Battle ofWaterloo. [ which I have fought several times as the French, and always won ]

 I know all about the arguments that have been played out about wargaming, that it can never be realistic and I fully accept this, but for whatever reason wargamers still research the battles and attempt to re fight the events, with correctly painted troops and in the main using the tactics that were used in whatever battle or campaign they are fighting. 
That seemed to be the whole point of wargaming, and God knows how many times I have defended this position with people who sneered at 'playing with toy soldiers'. 
  Now older and wiser one realises that a wargamer can never achieve the conditions faced by the commanders as they refight a specific battle, due to so many things. But, does that mean that we give up historical wargaming? Of course not because there is too much pleasure to be obtained from research, correct painting of units, and re fighting battles from history, and that is one of the main points of Wargaming.Well it is for me, and I believe quite a few 'old uns.'
 However this is clearly becoming a minority aspect of what I knew as wargaming, and as wargamers of my age, shift their mortal coil this view will become as rare as hobby horse shit.

So what am I trying to say?

 Well several things really, because Wargaming is not;.............

 Wargaming as I knew it, is not placing twenty figures on a two by two piece of cloth and then throwing the odd dice, because that to me is just a game pure and simple, like Monopoly. If that disrespects exponents of such games then I am sorry.

 Wargaming is not buying the latest set of rules, picking from the list provided by the author and then simply throwing the odd dice. Again that is just a game, and one might as well use Lego characters as badly painted historical characters.[at least they're nicely coloured ]

Wargaming is not creating some Dystopian World [ just what does dystopia actually mean by the way, although I do know what dyspepsia is, so it must be something similar ]  placing the odd piece of unpainted mdf building on a table and then spending an hour throwing dice to see who is dead.

 Which leads nicely on to the Undead, because wargaming is definitely not about Zombies of any creed, sexual persuasion etc, and if this floats your boat, then head down to your local pub where they run a ' board games ' night for people looking to 'socially interact with likeminded persons, because that seems to me where you should spend some time.

 Do any of these 'wargamers' not realise just how limiting these 'games' actually are, and frankly just how boring they becomes after the umpteenth game of chasing some zombie around a piece of green baize. There is no future in any of these 'wargame' because eventually the would be 'wargamers' will move on, and probably not into another dystopian game.

And my point is?.............

 Firstly if I was one of the many people who makes and sells historical wargames figures in the hope they will shift in large quantities then I would be very worried, because the trend is for small amounts of figures, and definitely not regiments of carefully researched units. Perhaps the new owners of Games Workshop were correct, when they did away with Warhammer World.

 Secondly if you are a person who has spent the last few years painstakingly researching a specific battle or campaign with the hope of writing a book etc, I would seriously ask the following question, who is going to buy your book? Not the 'wargamer' who likes pushing around his Nazi zombies that's for certain.

Thirdly, wargames club committees should seriously look at what their members are actually playing, and dare I suggest that they consider 'helping' the members who play one of the games I have described, and if they play these every week, can I suggest that they are somehow 'encouraged' to try a proper wargame, with historically researched units on a large table. 
  Its all well and good having loads of members, but if the vast majority of the members are ' playing' skirmish, board games etc, calling yourselves a Wargame Club could be stretching things a bit, and yes I know about the arguments about new blood, but that is only a good thing if some of these members make the crossover in historical wargaming [ ie real wargaming ]

 Fourthly, if the owners of Miniature Wargames decide to fill their magazine [ as is their right ] with copious pages of fantasy, sci fi etc, then can I humbly suggest that they change the name of the magazine please, because otherwise you are contravening the Trades Description Act.
Finally, if anyone reading this post is planning to put on a game at some wargames event, then can I also suggest that they pull out all the stops and create some wonderful historical spectacle containing hundreds of carefully researched figures portraying some historical battle, just so us dinosaurs can show the rest, exactly what they are missing by playing a wargame. 


Friday 2 September 2016

Miniature Wargames, new editor to be appointed.

So I can now officially announce that the rumours I heard about a week or so ago is correct and Henry Hyde will stand down as Editor of Miniature Wargames/Battlegames.

This is the official announcement;

I have received numerous queries relating to the magazine in recent days and since many of these issues relate to matters over which I have no control, such as the digital edition and the new 16pp fantasy & sci-fi section announced in an ad in Tabletop Gaming today, it seems best to let you know about developments as they relate to me.
Issue 402 will be my final issue of MWBG. The publishers want to try some new ideas to take the magazine forward, as is of course their right, so I have decided that it would be best if someone with a fresh perspective shouldered that responsibility, and my resignation, which was accepted last week, takes effect once this issue goes to press.
Warners are in the process of appointing my successor who will take over from issue 403. No appointment has yet been made as far as I am aware, but of course I am sure that whoever takes over will do a great job.
I shall be saying my formal farewells in my final Briefing of issue 402 which goes to press at the end of next week, and of course you'll also read my final Forward Observer, World Wide Wargaming and the last instalment of the Wars of the Faltenian Succession. Lots to do!
Therefore, I would be grateful if you would allow me to complete my task as best I can over the next ten days or so, in order that this issue is up to the same standard as all the previous ones. Whilst I shall do my best to keep track of online comments, I must concentrate on doing a professional job right to the end, and the fact is that there will be many questions to which I simply cannot provide answers, and it is the team at Warners to whom queries should be addressed (contact details are all on page 3 of the magazine). I shall therefore refrain from commenting until my task is complete.
In addition, I must ask you to stop sending me submissions – until a successor is appointed, I can only pass them on to Warners for the next Editor to assess. Moreover, those of you who have already sent me submissions must let me know whether, for any reason, you do not wish your article(s) to be passed on to Warners. I shall assume that, unless I hear from you, you are happy for your article(s) to remain in the content armoury for the magazine going forward and the new editor will be in touch in due course.
It has been a pleasure and an honour to have steered the merger of Battlegames with Miniature Wargames, and I cannot express how grateful I am for all the support I have received over my ten years in wargame magazine production from all of you, but it is time for me to leave my baby behind and move on to pastures new, and of course you all know where to find me online.
I am sure that the team at Warners will keep you apprised of future developments and I wish them, and the magazine, every success for the future.

I must admit that I have suspected for a while that things were changing at the longest running wargames magazine, especially after it was announced that Henry was losing some of his responsibilities. There isn't much point second guessing what will happen to the MW, but I think the joint title of Battlegames will be quietly dropped, and as Henry has alluded to there will be a large increase in the amount of Fantasy/ sci fi/ Steam Punk etc. 
 No doubt at the expense of 'historical features'.
 Again and this is supposition, I think the publishers sense there is a gap in the market since the demise of White Dwarf, which they perhaps consider they can cater for, will it work? frankly I dont think so, but I've often been wrong before.

 What is certain is that I will be reading the next couple of issues with interest to judge if there is any point buying the magazine, considering I have next to no interest in Fantasy/sci fi etc. 

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