Friday, 18 December 2015

Lifes Rich Tapestry ....

So let's get a few things straight. 

 Someone once said "Life is a minestrone" (Actually it was 10cc- the rock band- a couple of whom went to my Grammar school - but several years ahead of me. Fallible memery says one of them was a prefect who gave me a clip round the ear and a detention for doing something nefarious- which I've forgotten but there you go. Part of the minestrone or indeed lifes rich tapestry).
 Which early digression doesn't prove much one way or the other but may point towards diversity, a nod to that famed rich tapestry and perhaps a way of life that back then was normal, now would be seen as positively primitive with anguished calls to Social Workers and threats of legal action.
 So what is my point- Life was better in the 70s?.
 Not a chance! Neither real life nor Wargaming life. In some ways it was freer certainly- Free Speech actually existed in the real world rather than being merely a concept you pay lip service to until you hear something you don't like. (Such as the calls to Ban Trump and Fury  because of their very unpalatable remarks (Doesn't Trump and Fury remind you of a bad Music Hall act of the Le Petomaine type!!). Personally I'm with Ian Hislop here- let 'em spout and then rip the piss- though he put it more carefully than that- but of course he meant present another view, argue your point. Discuss ,reason debate think, present a new argument. Something else that was actually encouraged back then- at least it was at my University. Though it has to be said that the first seeds of "Ban everything I disagree with"  was showing its ugly head by the early 80s if not before.. So paradoxically it seems that we now have many more ways of saying things - but far less to actually say. Hmm  Still trying to work that one out ....
 In our hobby as in life the idea of debate has become somewhat unfashionable. For me this is deeply unfortunate- now I'm aware that there are various forums out there but they all seem to consist of pissing contests between egos of varying sizes or collections of snide remarks by tossers who wouldn't dare say the same face to face rather than reasoned debate.
 I actually recall being ejected from one Yahoo group for NOT calling the "Lord Moderator" a Nazi- (but daring with others to discuss thing he didn't approve of- I was told "this isn't a Democracy" - "Well B******s to you" thinks I(exit Villain sneering!)
 Which once my ire had passed made me giggle rather more than somewhat. simply because of its sheer bloody arrogance.
Now here I adopt a different attitude and style- chaps can say mostly anything they want- as long as it doesn't break the law or frighten the horses!. There are comments on this blog that I disagree with and have angered me a tad(being accused of misogyny for one) but rather than delete them I of course let them stand- Free Speech is too precious for fits of pique- especially as it is becoming so unfashionable.. Of course you have to be prepared to put up with small- minded spite but Jeez! if you are in the Trenches you get shot at- Shoot back Dude/ Or as my Ethics teacher put it- Question everything!.
 Now for me that holds in our hobby as in life- think about it- Why are todays rulebooks so pretty- it is BECAUSE they have fewer actual rules in them?
 Why are identikit skirmish games so popular- when soldiers are cheaper than ever- I can think of several answers some all or none of which may be correct
 Why is the Sci-fant genre so popular perhaps 3 or 4 times as popular as "traditional wargaming"  especially when many of the games  seem to be far far more limited in scope than the open ended possibilities of the Historical genre?

Where did all the thinking go??


  1. "Where did all the thinking go??"

    A casualty of the modern frenetic lifestyle perhaps - people find they have to fit their gaming/hobby time into smaller slots so on a plate rulebooks - small number of figures to paint, hey presto game sorted !

    It takes time to think; you have to stop, get quiet, focussed on your goal and then your off …. for some time ... :)

    1. But how frenetic is modern life- or do we do this to ourselves? . For instance I played more in the 1980s ansd 90s than I do now Almost certainly painted more- though perhaps not so well. Certainly wrote more rules(even if they were awful).Back in the 80s I did re-enactment too and in the 90s went to up to 26 shows a year so it was a good bit more frantic then than now ...
      No doubt for many there are now more distractions- Steve point on an earlier post about the "toe -dipping generation" seems very appropriate.
      so are we therefore entering an "age of decadence" for the hobby?

  2. where did all the thinking go?
    Down the pan we started to treat our education system as a production line rather then an establishment of learning.
    We live in an age where everything has to be quick, simple and easy. No hard work - someone else will do that (a reason why Eastern European Immigrants have been so successful in finding work).
    The traditional wargaming hobby requires just that. Education, time and effort.
    And yes I think some rule books have fewer rules than previously. But crucially both types of rule book seem to generate just as much debate (argument) as each other. The rules may change but the player remains the same?

    1. Paul. I agree but contrarywise why is the idea of "The Rules as Holy writ" back with a vengeance- or perhaps that should be "the Rules as Holy Writ except when I'm losing then they are a load of shyte"- or am I being unfair.
      I also wonder if quantity has taken over from quality. I play not more than a dozen times a year and that is enough really - a few more wouldn't hurt but I no more want to play once a week or more than fly- that surely would dilute the quality of the experience and it would surely become tedious and repetitive. Surely the effort you put in is repaid by the "gaming experience"- sorry chaps Godawful phrase.

  3. "Where did all the thinking go??"

    Well, because of the funding mechanisms, Universities are generally more interested in the number rather than the quality of students they attract. However, they're only the product of the school system, so the malaise runs right through it. However, society survives on a diet of short clips and sound bites and Newspapers which probably couldn't compete with the Beano we read as kids. One feeds the other.

    There's also the isisue of instant gratification. Nowadays people want things on a plate with minimal effort and no delay. Are periods like Napoleonics doomed? Are figure ratios of 1:20 a thing of the past?

    Blimey, I've just rehashed what Paul said!

  4. The roolz are holy writ because they are the roolz! That is what we are told is correct, so everything else is wrong. You shall not question, query or investigate. That attitude started twenty five years (plus!) ago in education. I remember IT classes involved actual programming where you had to query what you were told because the teacher was a git and screwed with the code so he could see that you were thinking. Shortly afterwards, it became a "How to use Wordperfect 5.1" class. Seriously, and they wonder where it went wrong.
    In our umpire led games, we can jostle, barrack and hassle as we see fit, until either the umpire agrees or (more likely), tells us to piddle off and is then mean to us for our unruly behaviour. Wouldn't have it any other way.
    Then there is the attitude towards the hobby. Some, like myself, see it as a combination of historical interest, playing through a representation of historical events and the miniatures themselves. Not that this leaves out humour, sillyness or sci-fant if you like, but it's not all just about the game. Sadly, for many it is just that.
    Now, considering that, if it's all just a game, why bother letting the real world intrude. Huxley had a point, and in some ways, you can equate the low figure count skirmish sci-fant games to his soma. Just take the packaged goods, consume and enjoy. Please don't worry your little brain about anything else. Harsh, maybe, but increasingly true.
    As for "gaming experience", give me a few decent chaps, a supply of beer and beef butties, and a suitably good time shall be had. That's the gaming experience I like!

  5. I strongly suspect that today's rulebooks are so pretty because its do cheap and easy (relatively) to do them that way, even for amateurs but most rules authors aee helped with production "values" by publishers whose interest is in making a buck (pound etc). I suspect Featherstone, Lawford & Young, Morschauser etc would have loved to replace the tiny blurry b&w photos and simple line drawings with twice the number of modern digital high def full page colour photos and snappy computer graphics.

    I don't buy the argument that people have less time, rather the hobby has grown to the point where "hobby consumers" with a casual interest can "buy in" (literally) and indulge themselves with boutique games without giving up other past times, like work, video games, social networking, binge watching tv series etc. I suspect, without hard evidence, that hardcore historical gamers who make the time and effort are probably a larger percentage of the population than they used to be, but are a smaller percentage of wargamers over all.

    Debate and infirned discussion on the other hand.....though that may be partly a reflection of a combination of too highly controlled media and too easy access to social media making it harded to block the noise. Evidence suggests there were a lot of ignorant people with lots of opinions 40 years ago but you usually had to go meet them on their ground.

    1. Typing and editing skills are obviously also in decline.

    2. Ross- well put. I see your point . I'm not sure I always buy the time thing either- certainly not for myself. Hmm stuff to yhink about.

  6. I can think of several reasons skirmish games are popular that dont include the players being lazy or stupid. Before listing them, it's also worth remembering that skirmish games have a long history in the hobby; Don Featherstone's book on the subject came out in what? 1974?
    so here are some possible reasons:
    1) Space. Wargaming can take up a lot of space. My own collections and table take up a room to themselves, but not everyone has a spare room.
    2) Moving. Connected to space. Until a few years ago, my work saw me moving around a lot. Large collections of anything, be it toy soldiers, records, teapots, books... were a major pain in the ass.
    3) Aesthetics. A long time ago, I did WWII Western Desert in 6mm. Big battles in relatively small spaces. But I never liked the look of it. Now I do WWII western desert in 15mm with IABSM. Still company scale, so maybe not quite skirmish, but clearly I'm never going to have all of Tobruk represented on my table.
    4) Historical appropriateness. This is an interesting one, and possibly explains some of the popularity of skirmish scale rules for Dark Age or Medieval battles. Sure, Stamford Bridge or Towton were big battles, but small raids and "neighborly" disputes seem to have been much more common.
    5) Scenario Appropriateness. My ACW collection is 25/28mm, with regiments of around 20 figures. That means most of the scenarios I play are divisional scale actions - Saunders' Field rather than Wilderness, for example. But some historical scenarios really would be much better done as skirmishes - the last cruise of the USS Diana, for example, or even the action at Alexander's bridge on the first day of Chickamauga.
    6) Genuinely interesting game mechanics. Sure, it neednt be "only a game". But still, it is a game, and some games are just really well designed to be challenging and fun. Monopoly is fun but not challenging. Chess is challenging but not fun (to me anyway.)From the current crop of skirmish games, both SAGA and COC seem to challenging and fun, and although I dont play either, I think I can see why people do.

    Anyway, just some thoughts.

  7. This is already proving to be an interesting conversation.

    Time and space is surely a major consideration. I have on the table behind me some of my WW2 German equipment laid out as a species of stocktake, and with a possible blog posting in mind. All that stuff will never appear on the same battlefield - not even close. Why on earth, then, have I collected 16 Panthers and 21 PzIVs, 10 or so Tigers of various sub-speciaes, and upwards of 16 assault guns? And that's just the Germans (fortunate [?!] the Russians and Brits haven't got quite so far out of hand...). This is just nuts. Seriously.

    Anyway, that may be the topic for a future blog posting, as I have said.

    For some reason, I am finding the flash finish of a lot of rules publications quite frankly a turn-off. The pictures are pretty, the concepts may be interesting, and yet the whole thing I find unengaging. When reading the blogs of others, my eye is much more drawn to the impressionistic (or in the case of Sci-Fant, expressionistic) depictions of battle. These days I am being led into my own game designs - old school, more likely to be solo, and quick without losing too much sense of a battle. It is the blogs of those also engaged in developing their own games, the experimentation, testing, discarding, modifying, etc that I've been find most inspirational.

    I have never been mainstream, myself, and the few occasions I have played mainstream stuff (DBM comes to mind) I found the experience after a while becoming too stereotyped and dry, and not all that much fun (even when I was winning, and, except when playing with my Bulgars, won far more games than I lost). I am certain in my mind it wasn't the rule set itself that was the problem, but rather certain attitudes of mind that seemed to flourish under its influence.

  8. Andy,

    Perhaps one reason that sci-fi and fantasy are popular is down to culture. When I was a young boy I recall seeing Zulu and the Three Musketeers and being very impressed. Move forward several years. The same aged young boy may be seeing Aliens or Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. So that's the sort of cultural influence that effects you. The fact that you can then buy figures for those film tie ins is another point of discussion for another day.

  9. Chaps- thanks for your thoughts- much of them I tend to agree with up to a point. I follow Ross logic regarding time poverty- if its your hobby time than its up to you to use it "wisely" . When "real life intrudes its a bit different however- I've had to move the collection and the library a few times and it is a pain in the arse and may have been a pain for the donkey has I used one instead of a transit van. But other hobbies intruding are your choice though casual gamers may be a relatively new phenomenon. Hmmm.
    Size of game- Militarily speaking most of the "battles" we paly are little more than "skirmishes" or at best "actions" or "affairs" . My 40mm ACW collection could just about do Dranesville or Groveton or Big Bethel but would struggle with anything larger.
    for the ECW - with both 40mm and 25/8mm I can handle most things from a small man for man affair- in 40mm to largish actions in 28mm - Marston Moor would be beyond me- not enough Scots yet- so Ivan points regarding scenario apprioriateness are apposite- but game mechanics of themselves are less interesting - for me -than watching paint dry. Surely a game mechanic is a tool in the same way a hammer is a tool. The challenge is the other players or in our case the scenario and the umpire and the period not the mere mechanics.
    Scott's points regarding culture I agree with - certainly for those of you under 40 but you also have to take into account the over 40 workshop drones(and where is the "culture" in workshops nasty dystopia?) yet there is no denying its popularity- even if it is waning a bit.
    Equally I'm sure there are more "hardcore" historical chaps than sometimes appear- they simply get on with it and don't discuss. but they are no doubt a smaller part of the whole than they were last century.