Sunday, 24 January 2021

Ethics? Is there a place in wargaming for such a thing?

Like so many I was bored last night and somehow ended up watching a podcast called Veteran Wargamer. The podcast is run by an American bloke called Jay Arnold and seems well put together, well it does to my Luddite eyes. The latest podcast was with a group of what were described as wargaming luminaries?? including Jasper Oorthuys, Sam Mustafa, Annie Norman and Ilan Mitchell- Smith. Obviously I have heard of Sam Mustafa and have always been impressed by his rule writing. Jasper Oorthuys is a leading light with Wargames Soldiers and Strategy, as for the other two, Im sorry but I haven't a Scoobies who they were, but then I'm probably not down with the kids as it were.
Anyway the discussion was regarding ethics in wargaming???
 Basically it revolved around the age old argument of what people game and why certain periods are avoided by certain gamers. I think we all possess a period in history that we have deliberately avoided simply because we had either been a part of the history that was to be wargamed, we had family that had taken part in the conflict or simply the memories were just too fresh for it to be trivialised by a game with toy soldiers. The discussion group touched upon the whole idea of wargaming and whether it was something that in its own right was the correct thing to hobby, especially if you subscibe to the idea that it glorifies war.
  I would like to think that anyone who knows me would realise that ethics isnt something that bothers me too much where wargaming and painting soldiers is concerned. I certainly wouldnt buy and paint up figures meant to depict genocide etc, but that wouldnt be an ethical issue, because it simply wouldnt be right on so many levels.
There were however two things that struck me about the podcast, one was that the group felt there was a need to discuss the subject at all, especially given the makeup of the wargaming population who are in the vast majority knowledgeable regarding military history and understanding of the actual horrors of war better than most laymen and therefore pretty decent people, well except where dice throwing is concerned.  The second was why do people nowadays feel the need to look too deeply at what is an innocent pastime almost desperate to find issues where none exist. 
 In this day and age of pseudo victimisation, distress at innocent mis-speaking [ is there such a word?] and people being cancelled left, right and centre the last thing wargaming needs is a group of people creating a movement stopping us playing with toy soldiers.
As for this group of luminaries I would refer them to Robbie's basic law of life which is, 
 ''if it looks like a turd and smells like a turd then it will probably be one.'' 
  Its never steered me wrong yet.*** 

                              
And now onto more upbeat things. I am still making steady progress with my Wars of the Roses small project and have completed a few more items to add to my growing band..
Like a lot of wargamers of a certain age we forget just what we have painted, well I clean forgot that I had created a few bits and bobs that are perfect for my Never Mind the Billhooks project.
Perry's Margarette of Anjou was discovered hiding in my draw of Italian Wars figures, along with a couple of other bases. They have been seconded to my army. Well except the Queen, who will have to stand around looking angry as the Yorkists hopefully batter the Lancastrians.


                                   A 'spare' Perry light gun, perfect for the ward of Kildare.

I also completed my second unit of mercenary pike which was a relief. I know they are an anachronism as Landsknechts didnt really come to the fore until the 1490's but they will do. 


Because I like Pete's Flags my final ward will belong to the Earl of Kildare which gives me a great excuse to add a further unit of Kern. I also intend to field a unit of Gallowglass and Bonnachts to fill out the ward. Clearly not historically accurate but I like the idea it could have happened. 
 Regarding history, I am currently reading the history of the Wars of the Roses by Hugh Bicheno which is a very good couple of books, except at the end of book one he totally poo poos what happened at the Battle of Towton, especially Fauconberg's famous trick with his Yorkist archers. You know the one, where he orders his longbowmen to fire one volley at the Lancastrians using the wind and the snow to antagonise the Lancastrians to recklessly fire off all their arrows in reply, famously they fell short. 
 I always loved that idea, anyway it never happened! 
  Discuss please.
 Secondly he pours coldwater on the Lancastrian army as it marched towards London allegedly full of wild Scots and Northerners intent on rape and pillage, again he believes it never happened! Having seen his evidence it does make for a good discussion. Perhaps the Veteran Wargamer could create a podcast such as that. 
*** I know it will be surprising to some but I actually attended a university where I was 'taught' ethics. I came away with the clear understanding that if the end justifies the means then its fine as long as one can handle the means and the end. 


 

23 comments:

  1. Ethics? Near Suffolk I always thought. Too much overthinking by folk of little brain? I like the new WotR additions Robbie, looking very good!

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    1. A man after m own heart David. Can you remember in the 1970's when certain European countries began to ban war toys? Im waiting for that suggestion to rear its head again.

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  2. Nice additions to your collection

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    1. Thanks Neil, it is a bit of a distraction but in the nicest way.

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  3. Annie Norman is a figures producer. She has long argued that female wargame figures have tended to be done in a sexualised way and she has produced her own range of 28’s that include things like Soviet snipers and viking or Dark Age maidens that are best described as properly proportioned and wearing normal clothes.

    I am guessing that if Annie was a guest, then the subject matter was a tie-in to her own concerns and remedies and considering that the hobby is trying to be more open to being more inclusive and especially encouraging more women gamers, then Annie may well be one of the more relevant voices in the hobby at the moment.

    As a general theme, the subject of ethics has as much merit as anything else that could be discussed and perhaps a friendly conversation that touches on how those outside the hobby view ‘us wargamers’ is at least something worthwhile knowing and as you say, we probably all have somewhere on the ethics line that we sit and can almost certainly straight away point to ‘the thing’ that we might tend to avoid .... or the crass gamer at the table that might make us cringe even! As is the case in all walks of life.

    The subject does however have the problem that it can run close to politics and strongly held political views (the Confederacy for example) and such things never particularly work well on the internet without degenerating into an unpleasant too and fro of exchanges.

    Good to see your WotR project progressing, it seems like 2020 into 2021 is the year that this period has really taken off and in a year of grim news, all of that colour is certainly quite cheering.

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    1. Thanks for your views Norm. I have bought some figures from her. Re the sexualised figures etc, I would argue its more an issue with fantasy groups who seem to believe all women are Kardishian in proportions. God knows how they would be able to take part in combat. I blame the internet. As for ethics, well I think of it as more about good taste and how a period is portrayed. Many years ago some manufacturer released some figures to re enact the Miners Strike and produced some rules called Class War or some such bollocks.This was shortly after the end of the strike. I had been party to the whole thing and couldnt see why one would want to make a game of something that had only recently caused so much suffering and several deaths. The figures didnt sell and it disappeared. So was it good taste or ethics, or were they simply crap figures?

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  4. Annie has argued for a long time that female representation in the hobby has been low and is not helped by the way that female figures and characters are portrayed. She argues that they should be more like Lagatha Lodbrok in Vikings and less Frank Franzetta in appearance. Not an unreasonable demand at any time.
    Of course the discussion doesn't end there and, as you point out, there are conflicts that are difficult to game and still too vivid in the memory. Never mind that modern conflicts drag in the civilian population in a way that has not been seen before where an occupying force is unable to see friend or foe when they look at a civilian and thus treats everyone as a hostile.
    But the debate goes further and we need to understand the motivations behind what is being asked. In the current climate we can expect to see further questions asked about our hobby and whether it promotes any political agenda, even if it is unintentional.
    In the meantime those WotR's figures look great.

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    1. Thanks Paul.
      Can you remember the arguments about a range of sexualised figures in the 1970s that appeared in Military Modelling? Wargamers were up in arms and rightly so. They quickly disappeared, probably under a bench. For me wargaming was and is about researching war in all its forms, playing with pretty toys and basically having fun. Simplistic? Probably but like all the best things, simple is best.

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  5. W.r.t. ethics: history is written by the victors, and wargaming reflects that as well. We should at least be aware of that. But I agree it should prevent us from having fun with toy soldiers ;-)

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    1. I sometimes wonder about that Phil, especially in this day and age where white is now black and vice versa. Unfortunately we have a small, very small vocal minority prepared to argue and feign distress at everything. If they were children they would be put on a naughty step and ignored, but now they are allowed to not only voice a poorly thought out opinion but destroy other peoples enjoyment. Life isnt black and white and our military history is the same. But with talk of ethics I feel someone is looking for attention and seeing things too deeply.

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  6. Open and inclusive, I have wargamed for over 50 years and never found my hobby to be closed. Dare I say that in those 50 years I have only played with white people and only 1 woman, I also do not lose sleep over it and if someone wants to play a game with me then I don't care who they are, they are welcome.

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    1. Good point George.
      I always am minded of what Trevor Phillips said when he attended a Bruce Springsteen concert in London several years ago. Funnily enough I was at the self same concert. He said, 'Not many black faces in the crowd' Now the question I had always wanted to ask him, was how many white faces attended a grime concert in Brixton? Very few I would argue. Does that make them racist? Probably not. And if anyone wants to join the hobby then crack on, playing with toy soldiers is fun, well it is for me.

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  7. As always Robbie you make some interesting points...
    I personally think that as decent human beings we should all be aware of Ethics, Openness and Inclusiveness... I of course also understand that not everyone feels as I do...
    Yes It would be nice to see more people getting involved in our hobby regardless of their Gender,Age or Ethnicity...

    But the one thing we can’t do is ‘Make’ people join in... we can only present what we do in the best way possible...

    It is worth nothing that whether we like it or not... the vast numbers of people who are taking up toy soldiers as a hobby are doing it in the worlds of Fantasy and Science Fiction... I am sure a fair number will move on to historical gaming but as I say... we can’t ‘Make’ them.

    Anyway... lovely looking toys indeed... they would certainly make me want to join in....

    All the best. Aly

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    1. That of course should be...worth noting đŸ™„

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  8. I remember the debates around wargaming the Falklands war in the mid 80's. Some considered it too early to game a recent conflict like that

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    1. I remember that discussion. We all had views, being a bit of a moral coward I struggle with the period after proper repeating rifles were invented.

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  9. Nice to see those command stands again, I remember them from your great Borgia blog but good to see them and your landsknechts and kern. The way you're playing fast and loose with history, does that mean you've moved onto screenwriting ! I prefer to be removed by a century or two from the conflicts I paint and play,having said that I've been press ganged into doing Soviets for bolt action so I'm clearly not very ethical!
    Best Iain

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    1. Thanks Iain,
      You see you lost me when you mentioned those dastardly Soviets. All the different types of tanks etc would just blow my mind.

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  10. Annie was famously banished from TMP for being an uppity chick who had the temerity to argue with Bill.

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  11. Are any of the figures from the retinue of Richard the Turd?

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    1. Typical! They are a generic Yorkist contingent and well you know.

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  12. University Undergraduate Scholarship Program 2021-22 for International students. In general, assume a Both scholarship and fellowship for students and researchers, or any individual find and interested candidates are inviting to apply for UG Scholarship. Scholarships and fellowships are instituted by a University.

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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