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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games on show as evidence I think I will have to revise my definition of what I believed was wargaming as it is frankly outdated or just plain wrong.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. 


 






26 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You must be a dinosaur Stokes, welcome to my world.

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  2. I thought about this issue a few months back and I came up with these two labels, when I was trying to describe myself.

    Table Top Gamer - someone who plays games that fit into the quick skirmish or zombie category.

    Wargamer - someone who refights historic battles, or games of a larger nature regarding table size and figure quantity.

    At present, for various reasons, I'd describe myself a Table Top Gamer. But in the future, and with the help of now being a member of a club/group, I hope to be able to call myself a Wargamer. To be honest, I always feel rather embarrassed when talking to those in the hobby who are older than myself, as generally they are proper wargamers, as I see it, and I don't know really what to say to them when they ask 'what do you game?"

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    1. Roy,
      There is nothing to be ashamed about. Putting together a historical army can take time, and of cousre money. But the advantage that wargamers have now is that there are some very good plastic ranges. There are also every type of historical figure you would ever desire, and dont get me started on all the wonderful books there are available, and thats before one starts looking on the internet. There has never been a better time to be a wargamer.

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  3. Robbie,
    I think your being a little simplistic in your definitions after all Don Featherstone exposed the virtues of skirmish wargaming, wrote a book on it and again touched upon smaller games in his solo wargaming.
    Some periods lend themselves to smaller scale actions - North West Frontier, French -Indian wars etc. I'm a Napoleonic wargamer and love the peninsular war but I only skirmish in the period.
    I think rather than look at the type of games being played then you have to look at the person playing.
    There are wargamers who will do their research, paint there troops and will conduct their games of whatever size to try and reflect the period.
    Then there are gamers who get attracted to a set of rules and presentation, their research consists of whatever the book contains and perhaps a quick dip into a forum. Their focus is on the game, research is secondary and within a short period of time they will move onto another gaming system, read and repeat most I have spoken to do not consider themselves as war gamers but gamers and don't forget some of these individuals paint and build large collections but it doesn't make them a wargamer !
    I guess the other issue is does it matter? Commercially I'm facing the best year yet in sales, small though they are,so someone is buying into historical figures.
    Commercial magazines have a hard time, historical wargamers are a chewy bunch rarely agreeing on much - fantasy, sci fi and the new breed of gamers who buy into a rule set are generally much easier to coral.
    As has been said before never has there been so many figure companies, terrain companies etc and the majority produce historical products and I don't think it's the over 50's keeping them in business.

    One minor point as far as I'm aware Warhammer World is open and thriving, the closed for a refurb for a couple of months and is now looking better than ever.

    As far as I'm concerned the glass is half full, large games will always be welcome at shows etc.and recent publications like 'To the Strongest' go a long way to showing that large games can be played in an evening and encourages people to build and paint armies.
    The hobby is dynamic and can accommodate wargamers, gamers and don't forget board gamers đŸ˜„
    Graham
    Graham

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    1. Morning Graham,
      You are absolutely right I am being simplistic. Like a lot of thoughts and views we have, they are usually only half formed. But I would ask you this, at Salute this year the theme was Steam Punk, whatever that is.The vast majority of the games were small dystopian? sci fi, zombie etc type of affairs. So as a casual observer what would you think wargaming was about, these games or the very few beautiful games put on by Ian Smith, Bill Gaskin and the other small band.
      Were the South London Warlords, catering for their members who clearly like these small games, and also catering for what they see as the way 'wargaming' is going or were they celebrating bthe best of wargaming in general.
      I am actually a half full glass person in a lot of respects, its part of my CB therapy, but sticking a few figures down on a table is okay for a few daft hours, but is that wargaming? No I thought not. By the way I am really pleased your hard work is paying off.

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  4. Robbie, you've got your nostalgia control cranked up to 11 and it's feeding back. I know, I'm the same. My younger daughter got me a t-shirt for Christmas which baldly states "It's Not That I'm Old Your Music Really Does Suck", as in music so in wargaming. I respond to zombies and space marines the same way I do to Hip-Hop and sampled loops. It's an age thing and I embrace it.

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    1. Personally I thought I was cranked up to 12. Its funny what you say about music after I actually had a conversation with a sixteen year old last week! I was talking about the latest and best Bruce Springsteen tour, and the child asked, who is Bruce!!!. I swear I was close to killing the bitch.

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  5. Remember the old HF (AM) radios when you were a kid? I used olive swinging through the dial at night listening to all the foreign stations. Eventually, I'd get bored and tune into Radio Luxemburg or Radio Caroline. it's all 'radio', but we only listen to what we like.

    I think war gaming Is similar. There's a whole world of wargaming styles and we tend to ignore the majority and just 'tune in' to what we like. I'll never get involved in fantasy or sci-fi gaming in a million years and board gaming leaves me stone cold, although lots of people do like them, but I don't think that makes me (or you) a dinosaur. I'm just using one chapel in a broad church.

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    1. Ah Gary,
      those were the days eh, Ive been working on a piece about my first ever pop concert for my writing class,nostalgia rules. I think what I was trying to articulate, badly I may add is that its all about education, education,education, real wargamers love real history, not some shite using half clad big chested women with over sized weapons. Yes I know it can be amusing for about five minutes, but please is that wargaming?

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  6. I think you may have glossed over some of the modern trends that have their roots back in the origins of wargaming. Don Featherstone was an advocate of skirmish gaming as Graham says. The trend for smaller "light weight" games is something that goes back to the start of the hobby. Tony Bath was an advocate for the imagination to run wild - remember his Hyborea campaigns back in the Battle magazine? Charles Grant & Brigadier Young both have imagined armies fighting in their games. So n0n-historical wargaming has been alive and active for a long time.
    Visiting shows as a demonstrator has revealed that for many wargamers the look of a big game is something they aspire to but for many it's either time to amass the collection, somewhere to play (in an era when venue costs are rising) or they have too many projects to concentrate on a single issue. cost can be a factor for some but for most of those that I spoke too (apart from the cost of the ship games) it was space and players that directed what to play and when to play.
    Trends come and go and I don't think that the current fascination with "box" games is any different. remember when 15mm first came out as a figure size and we all thought that it was the end of the 25mm figure? well it was. Only in so far as the 25mm figure was replaced with a 28mm figure which still sells in huge numbers across all the different periods.
    The hobby is what the hobby is. I may not like it but I can't change it. My wargaming will continue to be what it is no matter what the current trend is.

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    1. Paul,
      You have a thriving club,in Grimsby and you know what the majority of your members like. Your wonderful game the other weekend is a good example of what wargaming was about. So how many of your younger members craved for a command at that game?
      None. Your son was the only participant under the age of 30, the rest were old farts like me.
      So following on from that,when the majority of your members grow bored with their 'games', will they move onto fighting lovely games like Ramilles. I would very very much doubt it.

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    2. ..but as Graham C put better than me "so what if they don't?" - how does it change my hobby? It doesn't... you, I and all the other dinosaurs will continue to do our thing irrespective of the trends and fashions in the hobby as a whole...

      I have been thinking about this myself just lately (I blame the cycle to work and the rush of oxygen to the brain), based on a number of posts from our fellow bloggerati... I think the growth of popularity in fantasy based games (anything from gnomes to zombies, and including imaginations) is based on a number of things but is primarily because of the fundamental change in the way we as society look at "war" these days... when I was a kid we had comics like the Victor and Battle which featured endless WWII battle stories, we played it in the playground, we owned toy guns and whatever... now, we are on the tail end of the 60's baby boomers all going to college and becoming teachers, working for the BBC, journalists and whatever, and our attitudes to war as "entertainment" have changed.... it's easy to fight battles with orcs and gnomes as that's not real, but it's all a bit different when your armies are historical and you are basically making a game out of young men dying horribly... which is what the younger generations are now taught war is all about...

      Just a thought as to why the patterns and trends are changing....

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    3. Steve,
      Your right about the aversion to all things real. So its okay to disembowel say an Orc, but God forbid taking causalities off something that even resembles a 'real' person.In some ways its quite pathetic given how popular rip em films seem to be, but such is the product of our over emoting educational system.
      I know I have morphed into Victor Meldrew, but I noticed the 'new' Colditz game is resplendent with a black eagle, minus the, dare I say it Swastika, I suppose the company didnt want to suffer the distraught devastated complaints from some person under the age of 50.
      And again you are correct about,the fact I will still wargame how I do irrespective of what the trends are, however how will 'wargame' shows look in say five years, when they are all about these type of games. Still I suppose it wont bother me too much, perhaps I am over thinking the whole trend, sorry.

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    4. Why apologise?? It's your blog you can say what you damn well like... :o)) As to wargame shows and what they'll look like, I would suggest a polarisation - either fantasy only shows will spring up (perhaps with a token historical presence like the Model Engineering show in the 70's!) alongside historical only, or there will be far fewer big shows to cater for a shrinking market and/or more smaller/boutique/club open day shows with far fewer traders at them... at a guess I would put my money on fewer big shows but even them with an increasing fantasy element a la Salute... the dinosaurs as you call us were started in the hobby when we built our own, cast our own, wrote our own rules, and had one small show a year - we're long long way away from that......

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    5. Steve,
      Its always difficult to second guess trends, and if you get it totally wrong you always end up looking like a right tw##. However I think Salute will continue with its move towards more sci fi,/steam punk etc, and as you say, some shows going totally over to small table games.
      Now this could be a problem for our historical wargames providers, who maybe would have to club together and set up bigger trade fair shows, where the likes of us could attend. Of course, things could continue as they are.

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  7. I think there are two issues at play here.

    The first is the ever-increasing trend towards more gamers being wargamer-consumers rather than DIY-wargamer-designers. Published games do take the route towards the "everything in a box" approach, a one-stop shop where you can find rules, miniatures, scenery, even special dice. Since a small-scale game with only a handful of figures is more suited for this type of commercial approach, there is a trend towards smaller warband-type games.
    In contrast, the DIY-wargamer-designer does his own research, collects figures, finds a ruleset or writes his own, and often has a long-term goal w.r.t. his personal approach to the hobby. This by itself allows for larger, more spectacular games.

    The second issue is the theme of the game. Both wargamer-consumers as well as wargamer-designers can choose whatever theme they like, but there is no explicit link between theme and how you approach the hobby. After all, I consider the Bolt Action or Flames of War crowd as wargamer-consumers rather than DIY-wargamers, but you can also have the fantasy or scifi wargamer who go to great lengths putting together fantasy armies to depict a faithful battle from sf/f literature, including developing their own rules.

    But, in order to sell a ready-made game, you need a popular theme. This could be WW2, but more often, it will be zombies, or mechs, or spaceships or whatever. That's why there is a correlation between the consumerist approach to wargaming with sf/f themes.
    DIY-wargaming is a different approach to the hobby. It used to be the dominant approach, because the market simply didn't provide everything in a ready-made format.

    But let's not forget that historical wargaming, firmly based on historical research, is also only a form that came into existence during the 70s. Before that, the focus was not so much on the rules, but still strongly on painting and modeling figures. Take Featherstone's Wargames (1962), and there's surprisingly little attention to what we would now call "realistic rules".

    Anyway, the current style of games is a commercial trend. One someone figures out how he an market a "cool game" about the SYW, it will be made.

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    1. Phil,
      You make a lot of very good points there, and to be honest I cannot see much wrong with some father buying say a painted battle in a box to play with his kids. In fact I would probably want on for my grand children.
      But to have a whole club devoted to such games? Not for me, but then Im not the customer that these things are aimed at.
      As for the second aspect regarding zombies etc,I suppose children who lets be correct love gore and snot would find these ideas and games attractive, as opposed to some old fart [ ie me ] telling them that they can either move or fire, and definitely cant charge cavalry with infantry.
      As has already been pointed out, I must be cranked up, I suppose its the change in the weather or something.
      Anyway thanks for your reply. I will now go and read some more Charles Oman and dream of large armies.

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  8. Hi Robbie good to see you at Gateshead always a difficult Show for us because going South of the River unsettles us!!
    As for your latest Tirade I think Aliens,Zombies etc are here to stay and I'm glad Steampunk was explained to me on Sat as I thought something was missing from my life!!.Somehow I cant see our small group changing tack I think I will ask our youngest member his thoughts and as Dave is only in his 40s we might get a more Youthful outlook.See you.

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    1. Good to see you on Saturday Brian. I always thought John was the youngest member, it just shows what plastic surgery can do for him.

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  9. You've reached the same conclusion that I did a couple of years ago. It's basically an age thing; I notice wargamers are all around my own age and hardly any are under 40.
    There's nothing we can do. The other hobbies you mention are driven solely by massive commercial interests, not enthusiasts. Just accept it and keep on having fun with your mates. When we die the hobby of wargaming will die with us.

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    1. I think your internet name sums up how we feel in some respects. You are absolutely correct about it being an age thing, but what I find very sad is that if these 'younger ' players realised that the games they are playing can only lead into a dead end and boredom, whilst historical wargaming has very few boundries, with the research, painting, playing, battleground walking etc. But money talks and stupidity rules ok!

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  10. Hi Robbie, I think your being a little bit overly pessimistic I started out with fantasy and sci fi skirmish and branched into historical figures not wargaming because as a teenager I was trying to work out WRG ancients 6th edition on my own as no one else I knew was interested, needless to say that turned me right off and I happily spent some decades collecting and painting GW figures and building armies from their lists and eventually I got fed up and warlord had started doing ecw in plastic and I haven't touched a dwarf since then, honest, both my nephews started out with GW and are now primarily interested in historical wargaming, I think it's a broad church and you can move around and do what you want, I want big battles in the great Italian wars, the ECW, the war of the roses and now napoleonic and I have painted or am painting those armies but at other times I would have just been doing skirmish, they are all valid and not mutually exclusive.
    Best Iain

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  11. Robbie,good blog,and your point is well made,and,as usual, controversial-I have never,in over 45 years of wargaming,tried anything other than historical wargaming,but that is my choice,and if the trend is for Sci-Fi etc.let it happen!!
    johnc(william)

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    Enjoy your games

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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