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Friday 15 November 2013

Are your Maccabean Jewish Cavalry Knights??

 Now this  surreal statement has stuck in my head ever since the question was posed to me several years ago at a show in Reading which I no longer attend - various reasons but aside from  the travelling it was mainly because the venue smelled  mostly of old jockstraps and wee wee - a somewhat stronger version of what Americans sometimes call "Locker Room lilac" . If that whiff was in the sports hall Gawd knows what the locker room actually smelt like!.
 But the reason it sticks in my head is its  historical  stupidity -well no   of course not   the institution of Knighthood wouls not exist for almost another millenia- but of course it was a statement made by a Games player who had no idea  outside his chosen rulebook  and didn't give a monkeys about  how thick he sounded.
 So once again I come around to our "Image problem" . I still maintain that much of this is our own fault.We do ourselves no favours .
 Whilst other hobbies also have image problems especially those which, like us suffer from "Geek in his bedroom" syndrome  or as I once heard it put by a lady
 "45 and still living in his mothers attic" (though this was aimed specifically at a bunch of unwashed GW freaks I do know what she meant) I think there is a problem.
 Wargamers often seem to make a fetish of having no image at all   I'd go further enjoying the "anti-image" - see my post  In Vogue-  but I would also note the regular appearence of "builders bum" at shows and the Oxfam shop dress sense of many of our bretheren- not that this last is confined to our hobby at all  but chaps, there are kids about put your arses away PL- ease-   and run a comb through the unruly locks- if you have any. .
 Model railways - a  far more intricate hobby on average than ours BUT with roughly the same entry level costs- a basic "train set" will cost about the same as a basic army  about a ton or a bit less if in smaller scales  does not always seem to have the same "baggage" as it were. after that entry its up to you how far you go of course but the model railway chaps I've met do seem to actually give a damn If such as . Pete Waterman and Rod Stewart-  those denizens of the Pop music world who   are both model railway men and feel no shame thereby - both have extolled the virtues of their hobby on primetime telvision  they why should we feel any nervousness  about our hobby?.
 Yet in our world its not like that-
 I know a couple of BBC journos who wargame but neither advertise it much and many years ago I aquired a collection of 20mm Les Higgins and Douglas some of which had belonged to a minister of the crown who allegedly got rid of the lot in case it harmed his career.
 There does still seem to be some kind of self made stigma here. despite the fact that our hobby has grown significantly.  Growth has its downside unfortunately mostly of the "dumbing down" variety which on some levels has become much worse since the "It's only a game" lobby aquired more influence- as it has since the 1990s- and increasingly today we see rules refered to as Games rather than rules for a given period so FOW is a WW2 Game Saga a Game  and so on ad nauseam. This is of course  is the GW  influence- especially as several of the major "games companies" are run or staffed by EX GW dudes. This goes a long way to "make official"   the trivialisation of  what we do- If its only a game then the History and Study and indeed research tht some of us do becomes - in some eyes pointless ,trivial and nerdy . Consquently why should we take ourselves even remotely seriously ? After all you are only rolling dice and pushing games markers about.

 Think of the areas where our hobby crosses paths with other modelling based hobbies such as Military Modelling or Railway Modelling . Yet I've heard it proposed vey ernestly that Wargamers are in no sense modellers- that may be true for the rich dudes who just throw money at the job and buy all their stuff either off the shelf or to commision but for most of us modelling -even at a basic level -is part of the hobby. Paint your troops base your troops - assemble and paint this tank or  that building - you are model making.
 I think perhaps part of the problem is that we have allowed the "it's da gamin' innit"   lobby  too much gabbin' room  with out sufficient replies, magazine editors may be afraid to upset their readership perhaps or in one case at least their owners who are of the games lobby  - I don't know- can't answer that for sure as always I merely observe and perhaps take the p***

Nevertheless I do find it somewhat perturbing that we seem to do this to ourselves
 I wonder why this is?

 I can think of several reasons some , all or none of which may be  or may not true in some, all or none of  chaps heads but that is between them and their ...ahem brains ...

1/. You are so insecure about your hobby that you  trivialise it to compensate
2/. Has our hobby become so introverted that it doesn't give a damn- it is the Geek in the bedroom???.
3/. Do you think what we do  should be trivial and infantile in order to attract a new audience which isn't capable of entetaining  more complex ideas?
4/. Are you simply a lazy git  who can't be bothered to use his brain?

Of these points 3 has a laudable aim - attracting new bretheren is never a bad idea  and introducing new chaps to what we do may be a tad difficult- but do we have to assume that they are   thick and  should we patronise them ?.  After all the kiddies seem to understand the complexities of Games Workshop  and I flamin' don't! One of the MAJOR problems I have with FOW(other than the fact that its simplistic and bears no resemblence to any WW2 action I've ever read)  is its patronising tone- other rules do this to a lesser extent- Black Powder for instance. There is now an unwritten assumption in some quarters  that your poor benighted customer is so dumb that he has  either never read a book or has to use his fingers to follow the long words. Now whilst this may be true (see point 4) and   the popularity of these sets would seem to support this- its not very nice or polite  to tell 'em so - well not too often anyhow! Not only that. gentle reader. but there are still plenty of chaps out there who have not fallen for this load of tripe- even if they use some of the offending rulesets-
 There now often seems to be a major disconnect between  the hobby as it is often seem- at shows and in some magazines-(or rather  perhaps at it is portrayed) and its historical roots  or even many of its grassroots players . Back in the  chaps Like Young Wise Grant et all knew stuff they were to a greater or lesser extent Historians even the fictional Callan was to be seen reading "The Campaigns of Napoleon" - even though he was an MI5 assassin.
If we see what we do as trivial then why shouldn't others?
 If many of our bretheren appear unwashed and/or socially awkard why would you wish to be associated with such?.
 Now to put this in context- none of the non wargamers I know have any  sense of weirdness about me selling toy soldiers for a living- or at least I've never detected such- a bit of disbelief perhaps on occaision- "you amke money out of that ? "  has been said to me more than once but also "what a fasxinating line of work to be in"
 I find it easy to explain the history and modelmaking side- less easy .to be honest. to explain the gaming bit- especially as the  peurile and sometimes nasty GW games are  often the only contact the public are aware of with miniatures  based games. To many out there both within and without out hobby there is no apparent difference between  what we do  and GW . That there should be some obvious distance is to me a no brainer. I really dislike the dystopian ethos of workshop 's games background the so called "lore"  some of it really sets my teeth on edge- especially as it is aimed at children (though its adult workshop freaks that really do my head in)
 So dudes what do we do about this- if anything?


  1. Unfortunately I think we're too late to actually do anything now; when we didn't start clamping down years ago when the DBX series of rules introduce the term psiloi for all manner of light troops and the term was quickly adopted by all and sundry then we were doomed.
    I've looked at many rule sets over the years and few bring anything new to the table (so to speak). Rapid Death (or fire if you prefer ) for example was a blatant re-write of Bish Iwazco WW2 rules of the mid 1960's and the Pike and Shotte family of rules seem to be a very similar to the Principles of War rules.
    What is more annoying to me is that gamers today don't seem to question rules as to accuracy, intent etc (which you touch on) but accept the fare they're given.
    Truly innovative rules with new mechanics are few and far between and tend to be as you mention "a Saga game" etc.
    I do take hearty though that a Bits Swap board and a local games forum I'm on tends to only have folk wanting to get rid of their GW products !

    1. Not only may there be a problem with gamers accepting rule sets without querying the historicity or verisimilitude that supposedly underlie them; but where they do query, moan about some playability aspect - historicity or verisimilitude be damned.

      I don't think it is right to blame the authors of DB* for the gamers' shorthand (I found Alexander' Companions being call ed 'Fast Knights' hard to accept). Perhaps the gamers themselves are to be blamed for [a] careless use of the 'shorthand' (jargon) where just anyone can hear them or [b] being - or appearing to be - dumb enough to believe that such shorthand/jargon has (or had) some currency in the everyday language of the military being represented by the rule set.

      A case in point is the HoTT rule set (one that I'm thinking of getting involved in). The 'troop types' are few and compass a whole deal more than the rules writers I suspect had in mind. My chosen army will comprise 'Knights', 'Riders', 'Shooters', 'Spears,' Lurkers' and 'Artillery.' Only the last might you recognise when out comes what will look like a miniature 7YW Russian army (Cuirassiers, Cossacks, Musketeers, Grenadiers, Jager, and cannon).

      What I like and find amusing is the imagination that translates, with more or less persuasiveness, what the figures are or represent into the HoTT troop types. My army has no Gods, Dragons, Heros (flying or otherwise), flyers, behemoths, blades, hordes, wizards or clerics).

      It's beer and pretzels country: I can't really 'see' my Russians of 1760 taking on a Viet Nam War American army (which includes a 4-engine bomber as a 'dragon'), spiders (that includes Spiderman as 'God'), a steam punk army (soldiers of the Queen and flying gunboats), or Baron Richtofen's Flying Circus (which I have toyed with building...).

      It's simply for laughs - but also because I am lost in admiration for the sheer imaginativeness that goes behind the building of these 'armies', and the attention given to their creation.

  2. Andy,

    A very amusing but thought-provoking post. As a railway modeller too, I can assure you that model railway shows attract their fair share of odorous, pallid geeks who count rivets rather than tunic buttons, but you are right about the seeming need to disguise the fact that we exist. I admit I've been as guilty of that as the next person, but when I have explained it, or shown someone some of my collection, they've been appreciative and even complimentary. The idea of actually gaming often fascinates people, even though they would never indulge themselves. My view is that we can be too sensitive and really don't need to hide away in corners. One of the good things about the hobby is that it can include the gamer and the collector; perhaps it's just a pity that we don't talk across the self-made divide enough.

    Do keep on making us think, Andy. It's very worthwhile.

  3. I enjoy your remarks in this topic, Andy. I do think, though, that we will simply have to live with the geek brigade, who after all, exist in any kind of ... erm ... endeavour involving the interaction among people of like mind.

    Some of my response I expressed in my reply to Zabadak. But there is another aspect that crosses my mind. A lot of what many of us do is to create new worlds for ourselves, and that I think, feeds a need for story. The stories modellers tell themselves may differ in many respects from those gamers do. As primarily a gamer, I don't regard myself as a modeller, even though modelling is what I do a fair amount of. A modeller is unlikely to depart very far from exactitude in what he/she produces. A gamer is apt to be a bit more liberal, though by how much might be determined by the gamer/modeller personality split.

    I become more than a little puzzled and perplexed by the competition gamer. I've never understood the mentality in wargames terms, but that may be because there was time I played (occasionally) in chess tournaments. I haven't played 'serious' chess in nigh 30 years (though I play a fair bit on-line on Gameknot). If the thought of playing wargames competitions interested me at all, I'd still be playing in chess tournaments instead. My interest in the up-coming HoTT thingy has other motivations altogether, and I won't be over-concerned if I lose every game. The thing is; where is the story in competitions? Are they stories that I want told to me? On the whole, I don't think so.


  4. Joe- Round here we call it rapid sh**e and yes its simply plagerism . But I do agree with your points.
    John - Its been the best part of 40 years since I did a model railway event( I was still at school) so I'm not surprised but the public face of Railway modelling just seems to be more acceptable perhaps its because most people recognize a train when they see one and model railway shops are not entirely extinct whilst "wargame shops" are now mostly GW. I also find it part of what we do to think about what we do and will continue to lob "thought grenades" over the parapet !
    Ion I do agree with the need for story and just for laughs is fine of course but as you say there should be other stuff too.
    For myself if this hobby was solely "da Gamin innit" I'd be out of it like a flash as for competition I can see the attraction - I've evn dabbled a bit in the past but like any diet it palls after a while

  5. C'mon Andy. You know perfectly well that Maccabean cavalry are armoured, superior, drilled lancer swordsmen at 12 points each and get a +1 on impact except against other lancers, elephants, scythed chariots or non-charging steady pike or spear. Tch, sometimes I think you know nothing about history at all!

    1. Doubtless that is how its put on the Dead Sea scrolls !!

  6. An interesting piece Andy. As with many things we reflect the society we have become! Whilst there are many of us who still enjoy the research, the painting, the modelling there are many who have joined the hobby and demand the 'spoon fed' approach. Rules that are quick and simple(not always a bad thing), ready made armies that require no thought and of course the huge rise in painting services for those that can afford it.
    As you rightly say ex.GW staff have brought their former employers approach to the hobby and why wouldn't they as it is successful! But it does come at a price. The hobby is large enough to cater for all and in terms of public acceptability it is the 'gaming' aspect that makes it a little more digestible, but war is war in whatever guise and we play at it.!
    Hopefully there will remain sufficient space for us gamers of the 70's and earlier to continue our hobby in our way.

    1. Graham- Its not simply an age thing- I'm sure you could name idle gamers of all ages- and yes we reflect society but its not really about laziness- well not only perhaps but about trivialisation. the mantra
      Finkin' is bad
      is postatively Orwellian and I am remined of a 1960s SF story by - I think Fred Pohl called "The Marching Morons" where the mob were fed a diet of trivial televised pap
      Simple rules may be good- most 70s sets were pretty simple But such is not always the case- IMHO the other big problem today- after trivialisation is simple samey -gamey blandness