Tuesday, 7 June 2011

What is a Wargamer part III

Following on from Robbies remarks on the Independent Wargames Group blog- good blog that- I find myself sort of agreeing but then after a little though perhaps not so much. Its a delicate balance after all these days subtle debate is not in fashion its more a sort of "tis tisn't" style so beloved of the over simplistic media., In reality its NEVER that black and white- whatever the subject. Now personally I've always enjoyed the cut and thrust of adult intellectual debate which used to be a part of this hobby but alas is now pretty rare.
Now the assertion - very common now- that we are merely playing with toy soldiers is one of those statements that would bear looking at merely as a point of interest you understand. Now call me old fashioned but its only true on one level. On another it denigrates and infantalises what we do - especially as regards the "other stuff" already alluded to in earlier parts of this series. If you view yourself as thick go ahead ,fine I don't and have always considered our hobby to be for those of at least average intelligence or better but in the last 10-15 years I've seen a massive dumbing down of the mainstream as our little hobby descends from Wargaming to " its gaming innit" . Now don't misunderstand I don't CARE well not much - but I do regret and the acquiescence of many of us in this dumbing down is negligent in some ways-the simplification for the mythical "yoof" market - how bloody patronising I'd trell you to shove it were I a "yoof".
You are not thick just cos you are under 330 you know - we often now see Orwell like simple =good, complex =bad - not always true as if it ever was. I've become of the opinion that perhaps just possibly "the playing with toy soldier chaps" - in this context are rather more the defensive as regards the hobby - after all if you trivialise it and infantalise it, it must be harmless and you'll attract less opprobrium from the unknowing . Now that doesn't mean that we all have to be furrowed brow intellctuals all the time but we don't have to be dumbed down cretins either.


  1. If one includes the word "merely" I am forced to agree that it under sells as a whole, the best of the hobby is a delicate blend. It seems to me that its really the chaps who get uncomfortable at the word game and the idea that people might actually be pitting wits against their opponent and wanting to win and prefer to cover themselves with " just recreating history folks, you wouldn't understand so move along" that are over defensive and uncomfortable. After all, the "game" has been in "wargame" lonbg before "history" poked its nose in.

    As for simple vs complex, I think I prefer effective to ineffective. If I can't finish a game and get a believable macro result in the time available, then I don't care how "correct", detailed
    or complex it is at the micro level, it won't work for me,

    As for dumbing down, that smacks of rose tinted glass looking at the glory years of one's youth. When I started gaming in the 70's there were some guys keen on history and on translating it into models and table top battles and willing to dig and research. They were about 10% well, maybe 25% on a good day, of the total gaming crowd I met. Most of the rest had a casual interest in history in a hollywood kind of way and enjoyed playing games. I'm not sure that's changed much, there just more of all kinds now.

  2. Ross you are right about the "more of all kinds " part which is as it should be. My point really is that the mainstream has dumbed down - at least in the UK. My experience is very different from yours. When I started it was mostly about "getting it right" whatever that actually meant and the game was simply the tip of the iceberg. Now it seems that the game is the iceberg and the rest not more than the odd floater- again I'm talking about the mainstream here. The Dumbing down didn't really get going until the 90s when I was long past youth and is a recnt largely marketing led thing.Not that I'm against simple rules- assuming they are ,as you say, effective- which I suspect would mena different things to each of us. For me it not simply about results its also a matter of (put simply) does this rule enable that unit to act morre like its historical prototype if not why is it in the bllody book !! .
    Also for me the "other stuff" - painting modelling scenery contruction research uniforms etc is a part of the "whole experience" so if I wanted a label - and I don't- perhaps I'm a "Holistic Historical Wargame - Gawd 'elp us !!!

  3. I think labels actually confuse such things. Yes effective for me has 2 sides, one is. "is it practical" the other is, "Does it encourage a wargame general to handle his army in reasonable, historical way". I've seen too many rules aimed at tried to reproduce some low level tactic which encourage very a historical army handling at a higher level. If its one or the other, I'll take the high level , of course the ideal is something that gets both right.

  4. With regard to level as ever it depends. High level games- by which I mean divisional and above don't really get me. They are too impersonal. I have no real interest in being Napoleon - short dead dude-or Fred the Average- I might have to read Voltaire again !
    Aldo it depends on what you mean by "level" most of my games are "battalion level" by which I mean that the battalion or squadron is most often the smallest indepedent unit on the table. That is certainly true of my 18th century stuff and my ECW collection.
    My 40mm ACW might be defined as "company level" since the rules allow for independent action by companies.
    In general my interests lie with the troops rather than the staff after all once we are "on table" most of the staff work should have been done.
    So a set of "campaign rules" - how to get the lads on the table- will be very different from "battle"- what the lads DO on the table. Both can be simple- especially basic campaign rules- I've yet to see a better basic set than Charles Grants. Of course moving up several levels you may want to include feeding the troops , local politics etc etc but that would be up to youand bear materially on what you are trying to achieve.