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Friday 29 May 2015

Durham Open Day June 13th

Still a couple of weeks to go but we'll be there putting on a game as usual. This year -as I've already mentioned it will be a Seven Years War affair- though the scenario is losly based upon the Battle of Blenhiem  over  fifty  year earlier..Here are some pics of previous games we did at the Durham show ...

Here is a shot of one of our ACW gamesin 40mm

This shot may be from a completely different 40mm ACW game we did at Durham.

 I'm trying to think of the various games we did at the various events. I seem to remember 2 different 40mm ACW games. A 10mm Seven Years War. A 1/600th Russo Japanese War Naval game.   A refight of Fontenoy- which was featured in a Miniature Wargames write up on the Durham Show A modern- "Not the Iraq war at all" and last year was an ECW game.
 So I'll go through my files and add pics of the various games as I find them - assuming I still have them 

Here is a pic of Jims 10mm Seven Years War.

Saturday 23 May 2015

The Good Stuff.

 Oh Dearie Dearie me ......

My earlier post "Love Hate Relationship " sparked off a few other chaps views- which of course was the point and overall those that I saw  were all thoughtfull and thought provoking- though it has to be said the short TMP thread was - as usual with many of  that organ's posters  less than inspiring.

The initial posts get the point- ie discussion  but the rest- well why post in the first place if you can't be bothered or in the case of the aptly named Supercillious Maximus why post if you are simply a self satisfied   sort of fellow ..... or similar .....maybe he's a merchant banker - they are usually pretty self- satisfied ....  but then I could be wrong ...  
 Nevertheless sometimes even the twaddle gets you thinking, the crack about "people he doesn't know vey welland being bitter - what a lot of arse !  - Hmm well Its about reading the words. I don't KNOW Jane Austen or William Shakespear- they being dead but I can read their writings. but then you do wonder with some TMP ers if they actually read actual books with actual pages in .... or if some of them have ever  cracked a smile or had a laugh that wasn't based upon shadenfreude or heavy sarcasm ....


It did start the thought juices flowing. If, for instance there are things you dislike about the hobby there are obviosly things you like . Now when I wrote Love Hate Relationship  I deliberately avoided the particlar- hence no history and no references to particular periods since I was speaking of the hobby in general rather than my personal likes or dislikes- after all I don't have to deal with the dislikes personally I can simply ignore them.  Equally for everything I disliked there was an equal and opposite like- a bit like Newtons third Law .... well sort of !  as did those other chaps who joined the conversation  but the overall feeling I get from TMP- in this case was not the usual small minded narrowness but rather Apathy rules - if it could be bothered.....


 Lets have a think about the Good Stuff in our hobby- again trying to avoid the particular- at least to begin with as the particlar will change for each different person - or at least I hope it would- not so sure of that as I used to be though, at least not so far as the mainstream is concerned- how did that dude on TMP put it " Why ask Why  Just do it .... How narrow and small . That statement was probably the most depressing in that - mercifully short- thread.  .

 So moving swiftly on  asking why IS part of the Good Stuff  why does this period work this way? Why are these rules complete crap but THESE  are not? or even Why does this period interest me and thos one bores the arse off me?
 For instance I simply can't get interested in the Western Front in WW1. I've read about it have several books upon it  but ultimately the futility of it wears me down- it  carries with it too much baggage. Now I have gamed the 1914 campaign- when there was still hope  I suppose- "Home Before the leaves Fall", "It'll all be over by Christmas" . Those poor chaps couldn't know - the way we do, how wrong they were

WW1 Brirish 13 pdr of the RHA in action in 1914. 20mm figs by various makers .
One of the main resons I do this is to discover the human stories behind the models- this is something that wasn't as  important  in the 70s when I was far more of a "mere gamer" than I am now. but that is part of the Good Stuff too . Rather than merely throwing dice at the behest of a games designer I do want to know why..
 But as well as the Why there is the How. How did these troops fight? How do these rules cater for that method? Again sorting this out is part of the Good Stuff-even if -  it means trashing a set of rules gamey  chaps think the sun shines out of ! .   Now as it happens- assuming we are  doing a Game at Druham on June 13th  I'll be testing some new ideas on the How- in this case trying out some adaptions to Warfare in the Age of Reason to reflect the points regarding Doctrine brought up on Blackmores fine book "Destructive and Formidable". The idea being to closer reflect the differeing Tactical doctrines of the various 18th century armies I have so the scenario will be based loosely on the battle of Blenhiem- but thrust forward 50 years or so to the SYW. Amendments will be largely concerned with fire and movement and  firing ranges but also with morale  in certain situations. I'll post the amendments once I've finished writing them - they are deliberately untested. I want to use them "clean" to see what the players think.
 Lets face is discussing this kind of stuff with the like minded is one of the Best Bits of the Good Stuff.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

What do you want from a Wargames show !

 Now there is a question. When I think of all the shows I've attended over the decades  as both punter and trader then  I realise that they really have not changed much at all . There have been some excellent shows of all sizes- from Salute and Derby at the large end to Durham at the little end- with all sorts of others in between. There have bee some true Turkeys as well. I recsall one in Washington(T&W) where the trade out numbered the punters all day and one in the Midlands that I attended for about 10 years or so - and never did the organisers  make themselves known to me. I've been in Sports Halls that smalled of Jockstraps and wee-wee Snazzy museums peopled by security men of small brain.  First or second floor Venues with lifts or without lifts. Places where the organisers couldn't help you enough - and places where the organisers couldn't- or wouldn't help at all  Shows that try to move with the times and shows that still think its 1975.

A Period of Agonising...again and again .

Now the last few months- or possibly years has seen a good deal of agonising about "The Future of the Hobby" and "The Future of Shows"  but in all this hot air few or none have actually said what they DO want  rather than the legions of what THEY  don't want. Part of the problem is the simple fact that "Wargaming" is not one hobby but  several and paradoxically both  fragmenting and narrowing at the same time. Those of you who perceive yourselves as "Old Men with Tape measures" want something different from the  GW Geeks or the  Boutique games freaks. Now of course some of you fit into some, all or none of those categories some, all or none of the time. That is of course assuming that you go to shows at all. And after all of this there are those who try to tell us this is one homogeneous hobby - what planet are THEY on pray tell?
 So  I think its time we accepted that "The Future of the Hobby" means different things to different people- assuming you give a damn in the first place and don't simply want to continue enjoying your chosen bit of the overarching catch all they call "wargaming " in your own way, without reference to the various agony aunties  ....

Do we actually care?

Now there is an inherent dichotomy here- at least for me. There are two distinct levels that I operate upon  in which shows exist  but they may - if this isn't a bit zen - exist differently .
 On the level of the Trader and small Businessman my wants from a show are actually pretty simple.
 Punters who spend cash at my stall .!  
That one is the biggie - there is no getting around it  Without chaps willing to spend their hard -earned at my stall there is no point in me being there. No point in me and my crew getting up at  twenty-past ,God its early!  to sit in a transit van for several hours before shifting a tonne of metal into a  venue  standing about for 6 hours or so  then shifting- hopefully considerably less- metal back into the van for the trip home.
 Now there are subsidiary reasons for being there once you have that above. Talking to the chaps who spend their cash is pretty important- meeting some of the chaps you only know as addresses on an email  or a voice on a phone line .Now I'm aware that some outfits don't want to talk to their customers  but that's not my style at all . Come to my shop and if you need help or advice with or about your purchases you'll get it if I can help .
Other stuff is incidental really-  food and drink is useful- especially if it is actually edible !
 Easy access is good. Of the shows I currently do the worst access is Newark and possibly Battleground the best Salute and Donnington. The Newark access made worse by the venue owners giving the show organisers a hard time.
I have not mentioned Trade Stand fees for me these range from the rather modest fees charged by the smaller shows to the pretty expensive at the larger end of the spectrum- If I've paid up and been to the show more than once or twice then it was and is worth it. I am aware- unlike some Trade-Whiners I've heard that show owners cannot guarantee that punters will spend money at my shop ! That bit is my problem! 
 What I do expect from show owners is a bit of advertising- and not simply on obscure  Internet fora that nobody visits .
Now without the Trade I'm not sure there is a show- after all we pay for most of it. The door money in many- if not all- cases represents the organisers working profit

.....However speaking as a punter ...

My wants as a Punter are a bit different. If I'm running a game I want reasonable access and set up time- in the same way traders do. I 'd like decent food and drink in the same way Traders do- but I've a little more freedom as a Punter so I can step outside the show and find a decent pub  for a pie and a pint - or local equivalent if available.
 I'd like a decent mix of Trade stands to satisfy my wants- unless I'm mean (or skint) and won't buy anything (mind you if I'm skint I shouldn't be at the show anyway perhaps ??)
Games of course will depend upon what I'm into this week. If I'm historically minded and into one or more given periods then I'd like to see something from then- maybe played or displayed in a new way or an unfamiliar style-this of course can work for the Sci-Fi and Fantasy chaps too . If I'm merely a games player  with no interest in anything other than the dice rolling then I perhaps don't care what anything looks like as long as its easy to play and possibly free- after all as a games player I'm possibly not prepared to put any effort in myself so why should I expect that from other.... or perhaps I'm a games hypocrite who wants every one else to put in the effort  so I can get something for nothing (that last bit doesn't count if you are only 10 as you probably don't know any better yet ! )
The sort of game I like to see. A shot of the TWATS Fontenoy a like at Durham a few years back.There are still good numbers  of chaps who can do this sort of stuff. See the Pics on Robbie Roddiss' blog

Somewhere to sit and have a pint with your mates is also nice- but not always possible.
 Free parking is also nice- I don't mind that as a trader either but don't always get it- probably do however more often than not so its a minor point for me.
 Lighting- again  a minor point- not all shows are like the Stygian gloom of Newark- I take extra lights for my stand and may even take a headlamp for digging stuff out of the stock  bins !!!   Most other shows don't require such drastic measures.
 Such flummery as "girlie -friendly" dolls house purveyors we can leave at Dolls house shows- do they have "wargamer -friendly" parts to their shows? I have no objection to craft and modelmaking materials on sale though.

Basically  the main problem with Wargames shows  is ... well Wargamers really - or some of them at least- they want to narrow it all down to the dice rolling. Fortunately there are still plenty of chaps who have a broader view.


Monday 11 May 2015

More loves and Hates

 Well not really  more sort of likes and dislikes really- I'm past the premeir leagues of L/H now and merely into the uppper dicvisions of mild irritation .... .
Again in no order

 Games Bores ......

Man these Dudes can give me a pain- but I don't encounter them that often - and I can usually walk away so they are never going to be in the real "Hates" column. But I suspect that they are becoming more common as "the gamin' innit" takes over from the more free form hobby many of us prefer.
 I don't bloody care if you rolled a 19 on a 17 sided dice.
 I don't bloody care if you can recite every amendment to  WUNDARULES v6.9(£29.99) in your sleep- go away and re-arrange your sock drawer- it will be more entertaining and intellectually stimulating.

I suppose this really comes from my basic antipathy to  rules gobbeldegook- though I totally accept Sam Mustaphas argument as to its necessity. Such gobbledegook is really why I much prefer Umpire control. Rules are by their nature inflexible- the Umpire should not be.

Geeks and Old men with Tape Measures.....

 This kind of self denigration also gets up my nose. It might be funny once in a while but contantly p"""""g in your own nest gets really wearing. None of the TWATS -even Tom our oldest member in his mid 60s -falls into the "Cardigan and Flask" category seemingly so beloved of some of  those of our commentators who wish to be thought  or to appear to be   more socially inept or deliberately  dweebish
 Of course the problem is that some of you CHOOSE  to be old men with tape measures- and act like it no matter how old you actually are.
 Now don't get me wrong I don't want the equally ridiculous  SHAZAM- KAPOW ! of the comic convention or   the GW dudes I run into and the awful sloganned T-shirts are a definite fashion faux pas  but I've seen shows where- by Sunday afternoon there is more life in a 3 day corpse. Chaps wandering about  with faces like a wet weekend in North Wales in the 1960s- when the pubs were shut all looking as if they are waiting for either a mercy killing or a number 19 bus to fall under.
 I repeat- we do ourselves no favours here. Why  are some chaps so insecure about what they do as a hobby - even to each other? Its pathetic.

Well done demo games.

Now these I like  but a really good demo includes a couple of talking heads in the demo crew who will  give you the spiel - tell you whats going on and possibly allow you to play a move or two- without smashing the place up . Games do not repeat NOT have to be games for children- the average  club show game is not a creche where you can leave young Tarquin while you go and spend cash the wife doesn't know about...
Yet there are some chaps who want to ban Demos from shows altogether and reduce all the games to fast kiddies games of a hour or less- or -perish the thought those bloody awful "Boutique Games" . This of course will massively narrow the hobby and  turn it into merely a dice rolling contest or a chess or bridge  tournament..
So at any show you need a mix- from entry level "throw a 6 to win"  kids games to the more produced and yes sometimes complex re-creations of  period battles in miniature.

Good middle sized shows.

Another like. Despite some of the things I've said in previous posts there are still some good middle sized shows about.
 Falkirk's Carronade  last weekend being a case in point. There was a good mix of games from Durhams 54mm Napoleonic  down to a couple  boutique games- one being a massively overpriced Star Wars game. Which predictably was surrounded by kids- you need no effort to play and from my short watch it seemed massively simplistic superb if you are 10 .
 Yet overall the show was a little cracker- and yes we'll be there next year.
 This is the way a club show should be. Plenty of enthusiasm for whatever they were doing-games of  several different types both historical and not  right until the end no 3 day corpses' walking about and a good spread of age groups. There was no "Death of the Hobby" in evidence here.
 This was - and is a proper grass roots show with real wargamers doing real things and not always  pandering to the commercial whim of the games designer dudes .
 From the Traders viewpoint- I made a few quid and covered my costs and got to talk to some of the chaps buying my toys- never a bad thing.- despite having to get up before first sparrow fart !

Unlike a larger event such as Salute and Derby the more local middle-sized show has something different to offer. The atmosphere is usually more relaxed without the frenetic" buy this now" shyte from much of the Fantasy lobby. As a Trader I get to talk to chaps more at the smaller events and as a hobbyist I get to see what other chaps are doing.
 This tends not to happen at the larger commercial free- for- alls !  
 Of course in an ideal world you want a bit of both. Salute and Derby- now Donnington of course- have their own attractions and are excellent shows from both a Traders and a Hobbyists perspective and I heartily recommend that every serious wargamer goes to each at least once  but a good local show also has stuff to offer- different one hopes from the mega-shows  less strident perhaps. More detail less broad brush.

Now there are probably too many shows in any given year- but frankly I don't care about those I don't go to. In one sense if I'm not there either as Trader or Punter they don't exist .. I'll do 10 shows this year as a trader- already done3 of theseand one- Durham- as a Punter/ Demonstrator. Frankly that'll do me in a given year

Narrowing focus.

Finally a deep irritation but one which ultimately doesn't matter. The HUGE narrowing of the  hobby over the last decade. The emphasis on "games" has  narrowed the focus rather more than somewhat. If all you do is buy off the shelf and do the army list thing. then you are of course restricted to the products that are put into your sweaty mitt. If you don't think for yourself - at least some of the time- then you will be to an extent in intellectual thrall to the producers of those "games" .
. Frankly I can't see the point of many of the "games" touted about today. SAGA with its 6 man shield wall and all its attendant copiers Muskets and tomahawks etc etc - Why are the so popular- ans- no brain cells required. No effort requred no sense of achievement required either ....

Saturday 2 May 2015

Love hate relationship ?????

 I've sort of got my breath back after Salute- not that I've had a day off or anything wimpish like that! Not a chance, nor even a hope in Hell. Monday morning straight back at it with well over a hundred business emails to deal with. Some of course were twaddle but more than a few were from blokes who hadn't gone to Salute. There IS life outside Ex-cel ! 
 So come Tuesday the 28th another bundle of orders off to the post office.
 Wednesday morning, more orders, more parcels for Carole to wrap up for despatch  with Thursdays postbag- plus a couple of larger orders that will need a courier. However as I was pulling orders and trying to sort out my next  order to the USA it has to be admitted I was feeling just a tad tetchy- not least from reading sundry blogs about how wonderful  all the games at Salute were. Well I wouldn't know thinks I .... all I saw as usual was the kharsi . But that is the price of  the popularity of our ranges.
 But all the fole-de -rol  and the arrival of the latest WSS did cause me to think 
 so here are 
"5 things I hate about Wargaming " and "5 things I love about Wargaming " In no particlar order of either malice or approval - just as they arrived in the brain....

The 5 things I hate first....
1/. Wargaming newspeak-  Magazines no longer speak of "periods" and "figures " but of "games" and "miniatures"- this has leached into the populace especially those who come from the sci-fant background,the accent is less on a given periodand all that is associated with that elastic concept but more on a  limited set of games rules or evn a single limited game.
This in turn has lead to the idea that this hobby is ALL about daft games for children and leads me on to
2/. Games Designer geekspeak. You know the sort of twaddle "This is an innovative gaming system"  or "Simple yet challenging mechanisms"  . The sort of patronising crap that is handed down from on high  by the demi-gods of Game Design because the poor sods who who buy their games apparently can't do thinking " like wot they can". "When I pick up a new set of Wargaming rules the first thing I want to know about is the basic combat mechanism ......... if the mechanism that is used for fighting isn't interesting , why am I playing?"  Now to me the forgoing- from  the article "Designing Frostgrave" in WSS 78   is the epitome of this kind of  tripe . Forget period or tactics - its about the dice rolling how many and what shape they are ... How very narrow how very very pointless  .

3/. Use of the word "scale" when there is no concept of the term  or it is simply wrong. - We all do it  15mm is not a SCALE but a size  the nearest scale to "15mm" is 1/100th and "18mm" around 1/87th . Scale is a very very elastic term and much  misused in Wargaming. 
 Perhaps the worst is "28mm" - spoken in hushed tones by the Figure-fascists as if it were part of some ancient rite  millennia old- whereas in fact it didn't appear until the early 1990s. We now have a plethora of added "scales"- especially in the sci-fant arena . I've seen models advertised as "Heroic 28mm" "32mm" "33mm" and "35mm" - all "scales" of course to con you into buying ONLY that maker or that game- which of course was the reason for "28mm" in the first place.

4/. Figure Fascists-'nuff said really I and others have covered this one- though personally I might add "28mm hard plastic" - I lose the will to live building the bloody things and they are so sodding fragile .... with added "ping" - when a bit pings off  and you spend a measurable part of your life searching for it- usually to no avail,  you also might want to add the "Miniatures Range"  which is there to "support" a "game"  and how the lazy minded fall for it ....

5/. The "personality cult" that has arisen in recent years. None of these dudes are any "better" than any of us- merely louder or richer or more able to kiss the appropriate bum at the appropriate moment.  The small rash of pretty rich boys showing off books  is the result of this load of cults .... snd worse the drooling sycophancy of their fan- boys  which is nauseating in the extreme.
40mm British Peninsular Infantry advancing - taken at Derby some few years ago-" It's about the figures Stupid" ...

 5 Things I love about Wargaming 

 1/. Toy and model Soldiers- as "The Irregular "says in WSS 78 "It's about the figures Stupid" . But then for many of us it always has been. Nothing new here - except that to counterbalance the increasing tide of gamesey crap that it needed saying at all . It doesn't really matter what figures you use- that is a personal choice.

10mm Arabs painted by and from the collection of Dan Johnson of Lancaster. It doesn't matter what size the figures are

2/. The knowledgeable and  erudite chaps I meet . Despite the above there are still plenty of blokes out there who have not succumbed to the rising level and stridency  of gamespeak. These lads still know their stuff and want to learn more about their chosen periods. On the whole, despite  Richard Clarkes mildly disparaging remarks abouit geeks and old blokes with tape measures, I don't find actual knowledge  of your subject either old or geeky. - Games bores mind .... another matter ... 

3/. Umpiring - running a game. Often better than playing  as you can see the whole picture. For me a good Umpire is an essential part of the process. Without an umpire to add  period flavour and style the whole  thing become mere dice rolling and rulebook grubbing..

4/. Figure painting and modelling- the "arty-farty" bit as Jim the Builder  would  have it- though he's pretty good with a brush himself. Its this and the  3 above that turns the hobby from mere games play into "Compleat Wargaming " . Much much more than a mere dice roling contest.
"28mm"- they were 25mm when we relased them. Just to show the enormous levels of total crap that the corporate duses come out with - and many of you fall for ! I always try to tell it like it is.  

5/. The TWATS- surely the most laid back bunch of wargamers you will ever meet. Arguments about rules- nil. Arguments and discussions about military history - zillions  - thats the point. 
 Throwing teddies into the corner- nil 
Pandering to some mythical youth market of impatient thickies - none
 Beers drunk - more than a few. 
Beef Butties eaten - more than a few
. Different ways of running games- as many as there are members.
 Reptitive samey -gamey crap NONE.
 Satisfaction level- when all goes well very  high.

So there you go . I could have added the history - but I'd do that without the wargaming part so its not DIRECTLY relevant. Though without doubt it is very important. But then surely there is more than the mere dice rolling for Sci- fant chaps as well ? If as Henry once said- "Its all about the game"  then all the other stuff- the best bits are being ignored. I hope I've shown that they are not.