Bearing in mind all the recent hot- air that is being expended upon "The Future of the Hobby" (and indeed is still being expended) it comes as a bit of a surprise to realise that little of said hot air has mentioned what used to be - back in ye olden tymes considered by many the most important part. The actual toy soldiers . Few if any questions have been asked about this since the late 80s/ Early 90s - there was a pretty fierce debate in the pages of the old WI as I recall involving no less a figure than Paddy Griffith amongst others suggesting that toy soldiers were largely irrelevant.
Now as it happens my version of this hobby has always been toy soldier driven- or miniatures in the correct NEWSPEAK terminology.. So my question is how important are the toy soldiers to you.
I know MY answer- without them this hobby would be even more pointless than it sometimes seems .
The little lead dudes give you something to look at during the tedium of the dice rolling- during those few seconds when you don't have your face in your pint!
Jesting apart- the modelling and collecting part of this hobby has ALWAYS been as important if not more so then the mere gaming. At their best toy/model soldiers are a minor art form and even at a lower level give a
visual impression of a battle that only recently- and then not always-
has been surpassed by computer games. This is especially true now when as general rule the "gaming" for many means another pointless and rather futile skirmish game of one sort or another where period knowledge is not only non-existant but actually denigrated in favour of "2970 WAYS to Roll a 3 sided dice " or similar twaddle.
The most recent issue of WSS had a couple of articles germain to my subject- though it may not have seemed so.
Sam Mustaphas piece on Rules writing - this told me more about the dismal knowledge of a certain breed of games players than I wished to know. Frankly I was appalled- not by Sam's article- but by the frankly dumb- assed, dick-witted ,shyte- brained questions he claimed to have been asked by "wargamers" - "Can Cavalry form square !!!" "Can you fire through a line of troops to hit a line behind them!! " . What sort of thick pillocks ask such dull witted questions?
GAMES players- i.e. those who want no knowledge of history or period but only seek to manipulate the game to their advantage . Since Sam's article pertained to his ACW "game" Longstreet you'd have thought that some knowledge of the ACW was a perquisite. but no, games players have to be reined in or they will do all sorts of silly things to win their silly games. THAT is why many rules are written in such a turgid technical fashion . You know what , I see his point. You'd think the toy soldiers would help . The LOOK of and ACW unit should give you some infromation but the gap between "Game designer dudes" and the actual toy soldiers is now so immense that I wonder if it can ever be closed.
The second article looked at the death of shows- one of the authors remedies was to ban display and demo games and make all games PP- talk about short sighted- alienate hafl of your volunteers why don't you ? Since he also wanted to invite dolls houses and assorted craft stall in as well it makes you wonder.
Losing demos at shows would inevitably drop the quality of games. I've already seen this with the awful rash of boxed games at Battleground and to a lesser extent at Derby . I'm far from anti- the craft stuff coming in - always need at least some craft items- and some traders already provide such but doing away with volunteer demos will kill the historical part of the hobby.- Bear in mind that half of last years games at Salute were Fantasy types and almost ALL of those were put on by GW wanabees each carefully narrowing the once wide spectrum of our once open -ended hobby . And all of these GAMES driven rather than toy- soldier driven.
There is an argument that says that the toy soldiers are mere counter decoration- and lots of rules follow this precept. Its not with out some merit - sometimes for certain types of game it works well but - and its a big but - the toy soldiers at least hint at the human side of what we do. Which IMHO we for get at our peril