Friday 30 July 2021

Where is the new Duncan Macfarlane?


I think any wargamer who was active in the late 1970's and early 1980's can remember just how difficult wargaming as a hobby was due to a lack of information, a dearth of knowledge re their respective interests and basically how the hobby was struggling to build on its earlier successes following the release of several classic books by the likes of Charles Grant, Donald Featherstone, Charles Wesencraft and others. To be honest wargaming was stuck big style and effectively going nowhere.Yes we had several shows, yes we had magazines from the Society of Ancients, the Pike and Shot Society and Lone Warrior that promoted the hobby but their audience was a very small number who most likely subscribed to all three societies.Then out of the blue along came Miniatures Wargames the magazine that probably did more for the hobby than many other earlier attempts to advance wargaming from a niche hobby hiding in the shadows into a wider audience of would be generals. 

I was reading this months Wargames Illustrated that rightly had several pages dedicated to the late and wonderful Duncan Macfarlane. The article contained a very telling quote from Bryan Ansell who stated that 'Duncan was the man who saved wargaming.' And to be very honest he was. Simply because he produced a magazine that not only inspired wargamers by its wonderful content and images but also spread the word regarding our hobby to a much wider public as the magazine grew in popularity. Who could not be inspired by the photographs of the Peter Gilder collection and dream of owning such armies on such beautiful terrain. Yes to many it was unobtainable but I would argue a lot of wargamers took up the challenge and started producing equally beautiful units and battles that captured the imagination of many. Whenever I received my copy I would paw feverishly over each photograph trying to understand how the figures had been painted and how I could replicate them. I can honestly say my painting did improve and at one stage I thought I was the dogs bollocks until I attended wargames shows across the country which quickly made me realise there were better painters and clearly more prolific ones. I wasnt despondent I just understood I could never match the likes of Gilder, Allen, Robinson, Smith and so many others. I tried but never broke through.

But Miniature Wargames was the moment that wargaming was acknowledged as more than a niche hobby for retired generals, students and history lecturers and was in fact a fun thing to do especially if one could find an opponent.

And now? Having thought long, too long probably, regarding Covid and its effect on our hobby I believe there is a real need to have another Duncan moment.I dont think the hobby is in decline, I just think after this is all over we will be a leaner hobby with far fewer younger wargamers ready to take up the challenge to move the hobby into a bright and busy future. Instead it will be a hobby of gamers heavily influenced by their Games Workshop ethos of ever changing rule books, new super units and small oh so small so called battles.  

 After reading [looking at the pages] of all three wargames magazines its very obvious that they cater for a different audience than the one Duncan had to deal with. Gone are the history buffs desperate for additional information regarding their armies. Gone are the wargaming megalomaniacs with many hundreds if not thousands of figures in their armies and gone are the wargamers who spend hours over each figure, turning them into a work of beauty. Im not talking about the professional painters that exhibit in the current magazines, Im talking about the many hundreds who were determined to create copies of Gilderesque units by the score.

 In their place is the product placement articles [if one can call them that] of two pages of little information backed up by the inevitable professionally painted figure from the latest release from Warlord, Perry, North Star et all.

 What we have are gamers who for whatever reason use several dozen figures, usually on a 4x4 table or slightly bigger based around company or smaller level games, and nothing wrong with this if you feel thats what you want, but wargaming surely was about refighting the battles in history, re enacting the heroism, the blunders and what if's of a campaign. Basically wargaming. I appreciate I am showing my age by this observation but using a few figures on a small table is like eating a few crisps while dreaming of a big juicy steak.

 I appreciate that people of a certain age rarely read a magazine and inevitably resort to the internet for everything but the hobby needs a new stimulus to kick start our hobby as we lurch towards near normality whether in a printed format or by a decently produced social media product, but most importantly based around the ethos of wargaming for would be generals not sergeants. 

This week I secured my second victory in succession. I say this not in a crowing way but with a sense of mystification. How can me, a wargamer renowned for throwing crap dice with boring regularity actually win two battles in a row?
Perhaps its because both wins were using the most excellent Sword and Spear rules, but I doubt it given my previous abject record using these rules. Its certainly not because of superior generalship. But two wins? Being a Sunderland follower I fully expect this will result in immediate relegation to the outer limits of wargaming over the next few weeks as fate bites me in the skinny backside.

Monday 12 July 2021

Visions of the Four Riders.


Lying awake last night recovering from the inevitable trauma of another penalty f@@k up I got thinking about wargaming post freedom??? day on the 18th July. I suppose it was a subconscious attempt to blot out my disappointment.  Anyway;

Will everything revert to how things were pre lockdown?

Will wargames shows initiate limited numbers to allay any fears from the clientele?

Or will things slowly return to normality?

With freedom day beckoning we again have division, rage and anger amongst the ill informed, deluded and downright dangerous. When is it ever safe to say 'go about ones business?' 

For some, perhaps never.

For others who deny the very existence of Covid it cant come soon enough, but of course they will still contend it was all part of a world conspiracy instigated by Bill Gates, the Jews, the Illuminati or whichever bollocks they believe in. 

Me? I would like to think I walk a middle way and recognise that we will have to live with Covid, just like we live with numerous other deadly illnesses and diseases. It will probably mean a yearly vaccination which is fine with me if it means some sort of acceptable normality. It will possibly mean a record of the said vaccination's on my passport which is again fine by me if it means I can have the option to travel again in the future. I refuse however to hide away when science has provided us with the means to live fairly freely. I refuse to run when someone wants to hug me [ all offers welcomed] and I certainly wont be dictated to by some social harridan who claims Im being irresponsible by not wearing a mask in the park.

But what has this to do with wargaming? I truly worry about my hobby. If I am able to attend a show this year I will be surprised. I hope, but somehow know its going to be a very slim chance of happening. Wargames clubs? Well not being a member of any said club I still think there will be additional issues especially if they contain a mix of Covid deniers and Covid zealots who demand various protections be set in place. Of course that wont be just wargames clubs, but  I do predict some issues re safety etc.

So the best of luck to all wargames show organisers and wargames clubs but I ask that common-sense be used at all times, if only in an attempt to introduce some normality in our hobby.

 Oh and well done Italy, my second favourite national team. 


In the latest edition of Miniature Wargames the editor, John Treadway wrote an interesting editorial titled 'sheep.' I mention it simply because he echoes my views re wargames shows and in particular the willingness for organisers to cancel shows instead of actually considering the risks and whether they can be managed instead of simply cancelling everything to the detriment of our hobby. Somehow I feel slightly vindicated regarding the risk averse attitude of certain section of the wargaming firmament.

Thursday 8 July 2021

What now?

I have pretty large ECW armies but no Scots. They played a big part in the civil wars. One can always rely on the Scots to add to England's pain, God bless them. I really wanted to use old Scots figures but its very rare that they come up for sale on E Bay and when they do they are in such small quantities that its no use to me. So I bit the proverbial bullet and went modern?
John advised me to look at the Perry range, and yet again he was correct. I didn't want to use such well sculpted figures but they are just too nice not to paint. My intention is to paint enough to represent the Scots contingent at Marston Moor. They fought well at the battle and who doesn't love a big battle to command. 
I used to own a lot of Military Modelling magazines when wargames magazines didnt exist. The MM ran a brilliant series of battles of the Civil wars written by Start Asquith, unfortunately like a lot of things, I gave the magazines away many years ago. Of course I realised I wanted the series to base some ECW battles around and had to find the issues on E Bay. Talk about regretting my own generosity, but I now have the series again and will be using Asquith's article as the basis of Marston Moor.
So only a few more Jocks to buy and paint, but its probably best not to think too much about that. So 'Scots awa' as they say over the wall.


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