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Tuesday 23 October 2012

Wonderful Stories.

For those of us of a certain age and diposition the current continuing trend towards eye candy above all is at best lightweight at worst mind numbing. Rows of minor Z list celebrities with enhanced silicon knockers parade before us with the glassy eyed stare of the truly vacant (and that's just the blokes) . We are told that a picture is worth a thousand words and so it might be if your vocabulary is that of a ten year old - and a retarded 10 year old at that. No I'm afraid there are times when I'm reminded of the old fella who upon seeing TV for the first time opined that he preferred radio as the pictures were better. In Wargaming terms- we are supposed to OOH and Ah over the magazine eye candy and because we bask in its magnificence entirly miss the fact that the intellectual content is nil or less. These pictures are meant to inspire us. Gawdamighty!! Mind you at least the pictures are usually respectable. I have before me the book "The Wargame" edited by Peter Young published in 1972. It contains chapters by Young Grant, Featherstone , Chandler etc - all the Wargaming Luminaries of the day on famous battles Austerlitz, Gettysburg Agincourt- 10 battles in all and -with a few exceptions- the photographs of the wargames are horrible- even by the standards of the time they are at best average. The written narratives are fine enough- tasters for those interested but inexperienced if you like and on that level the book succeeds. Its succeeds with the stories it tells rather than the mediocre pictures it shows. The writing is far better than the eye candy. Wheras now the reverse is often the case which is a shame. While I am far from averse to a bit of eye candy whether it be in the wargames arena or otherwise it should never dominate, surely the story is the thing, every picture might indeed tell a story but the caption is always worth reading- or at least should be. Are we no longer capable of using our imaginations to conjure the pictures we need?. Or do modern publishers think we must be patronised or are too thick for long words.... The pictures should add to the story not BE the story.


  1. You raise an interesting point. To what extent should the pictures carry the story - insofar there is a story - and to what extent should words supplement/complement pictures in narration.

    This isn't so easy. Probably a leaf has to be taken from writers and illustrators of the better quality picture books: words should tell the part of the story the pictures don't tell; pictures show the bits of the story the pictures can not convey. That isn't easy to get right.

    There are some guidelines, though. Words are the way to indicate conversations, thought processes, plans. They also impart a sense of time - both as setting, its passing, and sequence of events. They also best provide contexts and backgrounds to the story.

    Picture show what is going on, and are great for showing simultaneity - things happening at once - that has to be related in words sequentially (unless you are Alan Garner writing 'Red Shift', and that didn't really work). However certain things pictures are great for in Picture books I don't think work quite the same on the wargames table... atmosphere/mood; weather; emotional impact upon characters...

    There is another aspect to illustrating a narrative that is possibly underused for the most part: maps.

    1. Ion- all to the point and where WI especially falls down as the pictures are merely there to illustrate the product. Also I missed out a point I later considered pertinant- to wargames publications anyway. Style. artists and photographers have different styles this comes across in their work be they Picasso or Bailey. To an extent this used to be true of wargames photos- or at least the subjects of said photos. You could tell a Gilder unit from a Harrison one or a Grant from a Featherstone now again especially in the W1/Black Powder types it all looks just the same- Same painting style ,same bland look of the"designer minifigs" (Not to critsise Minifigs but rather the complete lack of movement and style in so much of todays samey stuff). I get "figure fascist blindenedd" if I look at that kind of stuff for more than 10 minutes.

    2. Big Andy -
      I can't help but grin. You are sounding very jaded, and in need of some kind of pick-me-up. I don't know what that might be. It's just possible that what you have said here is the reason why I'm often attracted to the more extempore approaches to wargaming. There's one blogspot I follow that features an opened-out cardboard carton for a playing surface, hills are unadorned shapes cut from other cartons; functional and simple but sturdy and rather nicely made bridges and buildings. Trees are very symbolic - look like stumps - for the convenience of moving figures around. I really do find this sort of thing refreshing, and at least as much a pleasure to look at and read as the really sophisticated display-quality stuff.

  2. Oh well said, sir!

    I recently obtained the 300 page issue of Wargames Illustrated and was immediately reminded as to why I'd given up buying it years ago.... few articles that really captured the imagination, but the majority were re-hashed Wikipedia pages accompanied by huge numbers of pictures of miniatures - nice to look at but after a while quite numbing.... I quite like candy floss, but not if it was my main dietary intake!

  3. Evening Andy,
    I agree with just about everything in your post,although I do like the Wargame as a book. The terrain created by Peter Gilder in the book,was always inspirational,and what I hoped to attain to when I grew up,which may be soon.
    The Illustrated is a case in point regarding the shape of wargaming at the current time.If you have the money,or own the company and can afford it,you can commission a lot of eye candy,however I get a bit tired of seeing figures with the knuckles painted on the hands etc,whats that about.
    The text is purely secondary and normally contains some regurgitated writing from Wikipedia or such like.
    Personally I like real wargamers,who write about their latest project,with some half decent painted figures,but a text full of enthusiasm.Also you can't beat a good controversial letter,or article with observations about the elite in the hobby.
    Go on I dare you.
    Anyway,well done.

    1. Steve and Robbie I saw the 300 pager- looked and was bored to tears. Even if you have the brass to chuck at it does it all HAVE to be so bland and samey- with extra knuckles-. The desire of the self-styled "elites" to impose their view of the hobby on the rest of us is annoying to say the least- especially when commercial gain is the ulterior motive.
      Now don't get me wrong I'm in the biz too and need commercial gain as much as the next bloke- probably more BUT to impose my view is not what its about. I'd rather celebrate the differences. One of the many reasons I started this blog was to do just that. My view of the hobby as a whole is pretty diverse 10mm 15mm 25/6/7/8 9 30mm 40mm even 54mm and lots of different periods and rulesystems. You can never cover them all- wouldn't want to as many bore me witless but that does not make them less worthwhile merely different. My worry on one level is that the pretty Baa lambs whose diet is candy floss will slowly infect the rest of us with their lightweight vacuousness.
      As for an article - well lets just say its far from impossible.....
      Remember chaps
      The Resitance Lives On.