Thursday, 15 June 2017

How many rules do you need?

There is no doubt in my mind that the hobby is changing . Parts of it are  possibly in their death throes. In 20 years even assuming it survives it will be unrecognisable to the previous generations. (As incidentally will the by then  non-existant UK. With England a poor 3rd world rump that everyone in the rest of the world ignores unless it is as a holiday theme park for "Heritage" excursions)
Good or bad does not enter into it. A hobby  of sorts will still exist but will it be wargaming as we know  NOW it and  should we actually give a toss since most of us will be dead.
 It is however interesting and amusing to speculate upon the possible outcomes of some current trends- if indeed they are trends or merely fashion blips.
 Will the current passion for seemingly endless releases of similar "skirmish wargames"  continue? Will "serious" wargames be drowned in a sea of lightweight fluff?

 Will there still be a military book industry- 

Well yes of course in some form simply because there are plenty of people interested in Military History that would not come within a mile of a wargames table. Some days I can see their point!  The "reality gap" between the modern hobby's roots in Military History and many of today's "games" gets wider and wider. This trend is likely to continue simply because games companies want to sell you a different game next week in a prettier box that requires even less effort on your part. Also you had better get bored with it pretty quickly (you will) so they can sell you another one. In a prettier box but actually the same as the one you just bought- except for page 4 of the 8 page rulebook. This of course has 2 different stats for the  Death -Ray or Chaos Doomblade   or whatever silly name the d6 WITH SKULLZ on has in THAT box.

 Yes of course I'm being waspish and facetious- It's my job! 

Of course it may do to the other extreme- 10 hour games with 5000  figures a side and  50 lashes for each button out of place on those 10mm infantry but I think the former case is the more likely.

Will there still be a Model Soldier industry?

Now this one I am less sure about and the answer is probably - though how much of it will be historical is more open to question. The "miniatures gaming industry" is awash with so many similar sci-fant skirmish -a-likes  ranging from funny  WW2 (with or without Zombies) to  Steptoe in space- taking in sundry sub-Tolkien dwarf-fiddling along the way-all from blokes who want to be Games Workshop -2. so dystopian nastiness abounds (just like the UK in 2017 then) and same old same old in a different box is the rule. There is nothing new under the (plastic) sun.
 Doubtless there will still be private producers making the stuff that interests them but the accessible public face may well be almost entirely non- historical  or even non- war Wargames so new chaps- assuming there are any such may well have an even harder time  than now- especially if they are historically minded. But then they will probably be immersed in the latest VR world- sitting on an automated  kermode for 18 hours a day eating grasshopper and beetle burgers from a (recycled) plastic bag. Not seeing an actual human being for months on end - if ever -living a virtual life from a festering bedroom -only opening the door to accept the next pizza or burger delivery.

Will there still be Wargames shows?

Now this one is a hard call- I honestly don't know. Speaking commercially many perhaps most shows simply are not worth the effort of hiring a van. There was a time when even the smallest show was worth the advertising time. This is no longer the case. Back in the 1990s I did 26 shows a year and could have done more if I chose. This year- 2017- I will do a total of 7. I know of some companies who do none at all and are happy that way. Personally I still value customer contact both by phone and face to face at shows.. Though again I know of outfits who will not speak to the people who put bread in their mouths without the  interdiction of a computer interface or sometimes even at all.
 The drive to greater personal isolation and therefore  outside control continues-. We are entering an age of Totalitarianism by commercial pressure- usually by Insurance companies so wargamers may become even more personally isolated  because of factors outside the hobby. This will of course mean that games companies will have to produce smaller and  simpler  boxed games that Daddy can play with Tarquin or Jocasta for the odd half -hour that their attention span lasts before the next burst of social media input fries their brains .

Of course in the Orwellian nightmare that will be  Gaminland no dissension will be allowed, no departure from the 2 foot square table or the ready painted plastic spaceship or day-glo elf(unless by special  Gaming Police dispensation it is a 4 foot square table). Those caught reading Chandler or Reid or Young sent to  CORRECTICON  A convention of re-education and force read  Martin and  strapped helpless and screaming  to Lion Rampant games !!

I suspect a few larger shows will survive and even thrive- given a stable economy- which of course went out of the window last June- but given current trends they will be mostly sci-fant and games will be merely those put on by the games companies for their own advertising needs. To the "commercial=popular therefore MUST be good" type of games player this will be hog heaven but to those of you who prefer diversity and individual thought perhaps not so splendid. Those of us who like toy soldiers  in numbers more than a couple of dozen will all be dead by then.
 Of course we might all get fed up and take up something interesting like Alligator wrestling or Crochet so that we don't suffer what Zabadak called "meh"  after you have been to yet another same old same old show. Now I'm not at that point yet by a long chalk- but maybe I can just see it from here.

Am I going round the bend.

 Quite possibly with the unmitigated gold star f**k up perpetrated by the sorry bunch of self-centred  non-entities masquerading as a government that you have saddled  the country with since this time last year. The strane on the brane(quoting Molesworth) has been enuff to last a lifftime .
 Nevertheless within the hobby the short term -i.e. the next couple of years, looks OK at the moment- new stuff coming out from Blue Moon , Raven Banner and Drabant- and those are just 3 of the companies I deal with . Other miniatures companies also producing historical stuff despite the deluge of same old same old sci-fant.

Rules, Games, Games Rules

  Rules are really beginning to get up my nose. Or perhaps we have to call them "Games" now. Especially as I realise that in the last couple of years I've spent more money on the bloody things that I did in the previous 10 years.
 What did I get for my shekels. 4 Ospreys and 3 hardbacks and 1 softback
 to whit
 The Hardbacks
 Black Powder- which is pretty awful . Hard to find stuff in the book and historical bunk to book. Full of errors and gamsey rubbish.Sort of OK ish with smaller scales if you  be bothered to wade through all the tripe to find the good bits - of which there are some.

Pike and Shotte- Better but still not good-  some silly formations and troop distinctions that bear only an occasional resemblance to the actuality mar what is a not too bad rule set if you know your period. However these days the urge to "play the game" at the expense of period whilst not universal is pretty common. Sacrificing period for mere dice rolling does not inspire me.

7TV A splendid idea and probably not a bad game but the cost to get a decent set up is a bit prohibitive especially for something  where  the likelihood of  multiple games is pretty remote and EACH of those games possibly require a different set up with some different characters- at around 3-4 quid a figure. plus specialist scenery and props- find me a decent 1/50th ish scale Jag mkII or a Ford Capri or Ford Transit(this last I can get but it is not cheap) or what about a Dofge Charger orFord pickup.
 I have not given up on this but it is far harder to get it right than say an ECW army.

Now 4 Ospreys
En Garde- Not a bad set of rules for low level  skirmishes. Though perhaps a bit  fiddly. Definitely has potential for 40mm use.
 Lion Rampant/Pikemans Lament.
 The same crap in different covers. I honestly fail to see why they are even remotely popular. Childish and simplistic and especially PL- actually  run counter to the history if purports to be inspired by

Honours of War. I have not yet made up my mind about these. They are not rubbish by any means but the one size fits all unit sizes and formations are a big downer (despite the optional rules for larger or smaller units)  but very common in lots of "games" these days. It is as if the writers don't want to tax the poor players brain with anything that might resemble they way things were done in the period under consideration. Yet there is still useful stuff here especially for smaller size figure games.
 However as I now study my own (very recently aquired) copy I see more potential if I can solve the "standard unit" problem to my own satisfaction.
 Of the rules bought over the last couple of years these are probably the best.
and finally
 Cold War Commander
 This is the absolute pits- makes Lion Rampant look historical, What utter dross.  No organisation worth a damn and no way of using the rules with your own. Long winded and simplistic- which is quite hard to do. The gamiest game of them all . To be rubbish it would have to improve.

So 8  different- well 7 different- sets of rules/games. Using them I have played a total of 3 games- 2 of which were Black Powder the other beoing Honours of War in 10mm  which - with a bit of tweaking will be essayed again I think.

However in toto these 8 sets have cost  me about a ton or maybe a bit more. I'd estimate that about half of that is money down the drain. The "quality" and limitations of many more recent "games" has been at least partly responsible for a partial reversion to retro wargaming. Team Yankee seems to be not a great deal more than a posher prettier version of Charles Grants WW2 rules - with a bit of Lionel Tarr thrown in. There is nothing  in many of these sets that an averagely knowledgeable chap could not do himself so why I have spent a ton plus looking for better rules ,in retrospect , I cannot imgine.

What you must decide.

Is exactly which bits of the above are satire, parody or merely taking the p""".and which bits are interpretations of o cold hard facts and which to be candid(e) 
 are all for the best in this the best of all possible worlds.

Seriously for a moment I invite your comments- unlike at least one other blog I visited and temporarily commented on very recently I will not delete stuff I personally don't agree with - as long as it is not libellous or illegal- discussion and differing opinions are paradoxically one of the things we may be losing in the social media age. 


  1. You certainly make things sound bleak on your side of the pond.

    The historical side is still healthy over here though the non-gamy portion is perhaps not what is once was in our memories but then I seem to recall some very gamy behaviour in the age of the the serious historical game so perhaps that's the Rose tint fading.

    That said, it is the small side of the hobby I'm sure, which is fine by me. (Allows me to think of it as the Elite?) I know enough younglings following the historical wargaming path to feel at ease about at least another generation.

    Reading books is a different issue.

    1. Ross - it depend which bits you mean currently the historical side is healthy here too - but in 30 years this may not be so. History is being marginalised educationally and politically so I extrapolate to extremes for laughs but with a possibly serious point under all the giggles. and guffaws.

    2. I agree it's not particularly bleak in my gaming universe. In 30 years I shall only be 89 so will ne interesting to see how the hobby has developed. 😉

    3. Colon- of course it may all just stay the same- mind you with both of us at 89 then we may need the automatic Kermode. My favoured brand will be the Hewlett Packard "Turd-away" though you may prefer the Avery Hardol "SHYTE-GON" At 89 we may have more pressing concerns ..... Hope not though

  2. For God's sake go and have a beer... :o)

    "sci-fant skirmish -a-likes" is the key to the 'issue' (or is it?) - we are on the tail end of 30+ years of social engineering that started in the late 60's and has increasingly demonised war, warfare, military activity of all sorts, and especially the glorification of it, or Heaven forbid glory/follow the standard/chivalry... generations of left'ish teachers have done for the young... as a result "sci-fant skirmish-a-likes" thrive because they are not threatening because they are not 'real' war and therefore OK to play.. the market will grow and grow, with all aspects of it flourishing... rules/figures will need to be of that ilk or yes, you may as well go to the shows with a shopping basket on your bike handles as that will be all that you will sell... do I care? No... *my* hobby is just ok thanks... and it will disappear when I shuffle off this mortal coil... and I won't care! :o)

    1. I didn't say I CARED at best it just bore me witless. I might take issue with leftie teachers in the 60s - I was there mate and most of the buggers I had to put up with would have made Hitler blush! Especially as some had served in the war and "disapline" was in their genes..... I actually see that as a phenomenon of the late 70s - to 90s and mostly dead now at least at "street" level though the chattering classes still hold to it at parties as long as it remains fashionable.

  3. Reading this reminded me that I think I still have your copy of CWC. If I do, you are welcome to have it back, we have plenty of Andrex for now. If you find the suggestion of me returning it offensive, I shall delete my own comment! 😉
    In all seriousness though, most shows bore me senseless now. Apart from book dealers, I rarely buy anything. The trend towards pre-packaged crap (here's looking at you, Travel Battle) just makes it worse. Either one box for £50 or two figures and a plastic base for not much less...
    Nope, "my" hobby, as Steve says, is fine, and will be until I am no longer around to care. Until then, give me a few mates, a decent table, some pints and a beef buttie and I shall be fine!

    1. I should have said, all shows I look at as a punter bore me senseless. I am offended by my own lack of writing skills! DELETE! 😀

  4. Had a look at the Travel Battle reviews to see what the fuss was about. Nothing was on the telly the other night so I thought I would devise my own travel battle. I managed to fit two 10mm 1866 armies suitable for One Hour Wargames, rules, dice, basic scenery and a small mat (admittedly brown, but it was the right size) into two Really Useful Boxes. Easily cart that around in a small sports bag, but when I travel I'm normally doing things for Her Maj or with the family. I ended up with something far more flexible than TB and that can expand easily.

    So what is the point of a sh***y plastic base with odd-sized figures that you can do nothing else with? Or am I missing something?

    On the plus side, I'm taking Minime to Bovington in July for her first wargaming show. She loves history, my toy soldiers and playing Neil Thomas, so all may not be lost.

    1. Jeffers. The point of course is that TB is by G.A.P's . There is no other reason for its existence. The fact that it is plastic crap is beside the point.
      You are of course correct- there is nothing within that box that an averagely knowledgeable bloke could not do if he wished.
      I'm still not convinced as to why you would need to but there you go. That is probably because I come from the history and model soldier end of this hobby rather than the gaming end.
      In terms of the actual games I'm entirely with Andrew the tekkie.

  5. Absolutely. Make it and they will buy. What made me giggle is that some are claiming they buy it for the rules. So there are no simple rules out there? Neil Thomas? Want squares? Bob Cordery has been doing that for years. And you can get a chess set from Poundland for... £1.
    Just came back from holiday and my hobby needs were fulfilled by the book shop in Mevagissy; I can thoroughly recommend James Hollands Battle of Britain. It's made of real paper with words and stuff. Otherwise, I put my raincoat on, went out and had fun with the family.

    1. So some of them are thick enough to think we will fall for the excuse that an 8 page "rulebook" can be interesting and period relevant? Oh dearie me the loonies are now in charge of the asylum if they REALLY think we will fall for that one.

  6. Andy, I enjoyed reading your "rant" and found myself nodding in agreement (although my afternoon nap in my comfy chair was long overdue, so it could just have been time to fall asleep anyway)! I rarely buy published rules, but the few I have recently bought kept me busy trying to actually find the content relevant to the games!
    Thanks for taking the time to share your views!

    1. John Thanks for that. It is nice to know you are not the lone Heretic in the Church of G.A.P. or indeed in the Cathedral of "Game Design"
      I have to say that with rules such as Lion Rampant and Cold War Commander I sort of resent being taken for some kind of fool who can't read a long book without pictures in it. When it comes to Medivals am I not capable of reading Oman of Curry?(the game designer obviously is not) and with the Cold War Macksey or Hackett> or for the Civil war - and PL Young or Turton or Reid or Wanklyn or indeed many other blokes in all periods.
      Are these knowledgeable people to be set at naught simply because some cheap little "game" is "popular".
      I don't think so

  7. I think all that we are seeing is a popularism of 'military themed' games, I suppose like risk was all those years ago (and still selling), though with a bit more meat on, nicer figures and more of a traditional style wargame setting.

    I don't think 'big wargaming' has gone away, its just that game diversity has expanded and everyone has more opportunity now to play the kind of game that they want, which I suppose works well if the person you are playing against also likes it.

    I think your vision of the future is unnecessarily bleak. I know that for as long as I can, I will play the games I like, but I also just like to see others gaming what they like. There is definitely new blood in a new generation and while that style of gaming may be different, it does at least keep alive the ethos of gaming, rolling dice, making decisions and being with like minded friends.

    I think there is still plenty of old style gaming going on, the popularity of the recent General d'Armee by Dave Browne would appear to support that (as with his previous ACW set). I have just started out on a 15mm Napoleonic journey, I can't be the only one ... can I?

    So I think wargaming is still fairly safe, there are just many ways to do it.

  8. Honestly, I don't see what the problem is.

    All these commercialized products (plastic or not, simple rules or not ...) are the proof that wargaming has become popular. Wasn't that what all wargamer's were dreaming about back in the 60s or 70s?

    I started miniature wargaming in the late eighties, and I was happy there was something called GW. It was all I knew that existed, because it was too difficult for a youngster to delve into historicals right away. Where would I have started?
    Now there are dozens of commercial entry points in the hobby, and that's a good thing.

    Will wargaming still exist as a hobby 20 years from now? Yes of course. Commercially, it might be a different format, but there will always be the guys who research a period, write their own rules, paint their own models, because it's fun to do. As in any hobby, you have to make a distinction between tinkerers and consumers. Consumers (and consumer product) come and go, but the tinkerers will always be there.

  9. Perhaps HG Wells also complained about the state of wargaming during his old days? No more big lawns, no more big Britains toy armies, no more firing toy cannons ... ?

    1. Phil not complaints merely observations and deliberately over the top extrapolations-
      I'm happy for instance that the rise of GW was after my time as a beginner as I can't imagine actually being bothered with it in the gaming sense. Back in the 802s and 90s it was seen over here in the UK as for kids yet in the 90s when I did shows in Essen and Eindhoven it was played by adults which really took some getting used to.. Still not sure that GW IS wargaming.
      There is of course no problem for games players/consumers and on one level no problem at all really but as I said at the beginning its fun and interesting to speculate.
      I still think that the "consumer" end of the market is getting narrower but upon reflection that is probably normal as companies all leap upon perceived bandwagons.
      The downside assuming there is one- is the narrowing of knowledge in favour of dice rolling.
      As you may have gathered I'm not in this merely to roll odious cubes- or even polyhedrons about the table.

  10. Norm- As you may have gathered I was being partly satirical.Though I will never understand this "gaming" thing about rolling dice done it once done it forever dice rolling is not an intellectual pursuit !
    Nevertheless in the short to medium term you are correct though I'm not quite sure how "diverse" all these supposedly popular skirmish -a-likes are.
    I've been a user of Dave Brown's rules off and on for years from General De Brigade onwards and have drunk more than a few beers with him over the years though not recently.
    Since I sell goodly numbers of 15mm Napoleonics almost certainly not

    I wonder if part of the "problem" is simply that many magazine artilce aC just LOOK sop samey - the latest WI dropped on the mat this morning to be greeted by me with a yawn.. There may be 3 or 4 pages to read in it but all the self-satisfied stuff in there just puts me off (why would I care about what their "facebook friends" bought at Salute? )
    You see diversity I see a narrowing of approach to a more coomercial game-centric "public face" whatever happens in private- but of course it is what individuals do that counts