However the other night I happened to be watching Gardeners World with her and caught comedian Griff Rhys -Jones in his rather palatial garden. The presenter asked him if he had always been a gardener.
He answered "No it's like Radio 3 you have to grow into it".
At this a light bulb came on in my head !
"Grow into it" I thought- exactly what SHOULD be happening is our hobby.
|10mm Sassanids- Maybe they can Grow into the hobby abnd become 25mm!!!
Newcomers should grow into it they way most of us did. Starting small and simple with say Thomas' One Hour Wargames or indeed any of Neil's fine books Or indeed many of these "Osprey Wargames" which seem very simple and lightweight (Sort of today's early Featherstone or even simpler Terry Wise.). To me these are perfect entry level stuff you don't need much period knowledge, You don't need many figures or that much terrain yet you are still encompassing some of the skills you will need if you decide to stick with it and expand and grow into the hobby .
However that is not the way it seems to go- the idea is to as Priestly put it (that's Rick not J.B.) "Get the Kids to play" - the accent being very much on play rather than the multitude of skills we thought we needed when we started. Now lets face it "not JB" has a game designers axe to grind here- which of course is one reason why Warlord have "not40K at all in the slightest" -they call it "Beyond the Gates of Antares" on their books and why every game designer and his brother are bringing out lightweight "games" because there seems to have been a collective commercial decision that
a/. It's for the children cos pester power gets us the bucks
b/. Their customers are all lazy minded
c/. need to be spoon fed because they are too thick to deal with complicated ideas like counting into double figures...
God Almighty - how bloody patronising can you get !
Nevertheless there does seem to be a perceived problem with so called "Entry level" to our hobby-me I'm not so sure. The problem may be in defining what "entry level" actually means .
For example I have Lion Rampant and much of it is pretty predictable but having said that definitely "accessable" and suitable for entry level. A child of ten would have no bother at all, see the review in my previous post
As it is, it is wargaming very lite, an intro to pre-gunpowder skirmish gaming well done as it stands but no more than that.
|25mm Wars of the Roses.
The problem is really that many blokes are lauding it to the skiesas if it is something special. Take a look at some of the reviews of it - and of the others perhaps It seems that "simple" and "quick" and "fast moving gameplay" is all Joe Wargamer wants these days. Yet as it stands it is simplistic almost to childishness and very limited.
There is a misconception now common that detailed ( read complicated) rules MUST be bad and simple(read simplistic and childish) MUST be good. This of course is cobblers both ways as nobody has a concrete definition of "good" . "Good" is not a constant. Lion Rampant for example is "good" if you want a simple entry level game of pre-gunpowder skirmishing. Not so good if you actually want more than a mere cosmetic resemblance to actual medieval warfare.
As always the problem lies with Wargamers-the public wants what the public gets
However the point of the foregoing digression is that I do have the background- I know the medieval period so can adapt and "improve" the contents of the book and indeed could do so with any period I choose to interest myself in. As can all of the chaps I know Surely that is part of the point. One of the things that differentiates us from say Scrabble or Risk or Diplomacy or monopoly is that this in an open ended hobby where knowing your stuff- whatever it be SHOULD be encouraged rather than denigrated and belittled. Frankly I can't see the point of the gaming part of this hobby without the background knowledge. It is mere dice rolling for the hard of thinking. Most of the skills you need are used before the playing actually starts. Especially if the "game" you choose to play takes all the decision making out of your hands and places it in a deck of cards or the roll of a dice. This is not to say that card driven games are bad
As it stands today most newer rule sets downplay the knowledge you need to play. or attempt to supply all of it themselves.- This comes from the Fantasy Genre- you know the kind of stuff
" In the Days of Yore in the Caves of Fartolehiem the DWARVES of King Shawtarze ......"- then Telling you what was permissable or not in portenous and often patronising language .
Now a goodly number of Historically based rules do theis- most notably Flames of War and its ilk. .
Possibly a question needs to be asked here- how many of today's wargamers have or even want the background knowledge to enable them to have enough of a critical faculty to say why they like or more likely dislike something beyond saying
"I don't like it cos its crap"
Yes some chaps ARE like that but equally many perhaps most are not- are they being catered for by the quick and simple brigade?- and also do they care ?
and secondly- the crux here for me
Do we need to pander to the child market at all?
Where does the idea that we must catch new Wargamers before they hit 10 - we are not Jesuits (give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man)
Of course there will come the answer- "Where are the next generation of Wargamers going to come from"
Well for a start they are already here.
I have customers aged from the late 20s through to their 70s and I'm sure other outfits are the same. Granted the majority are past 40 but that does not mean they are in their dotage- as many commentators would have you believe.
There is a good bit of Ageist crap spoken about this hobby- usually by self proclaimed old men in cardigans who want to be Doddering Old Farts before their time.
What exactly is the problem with wargames that take a little effort and are not PRIMARILY designed for a 10 year old? Especially once you get past so-called "Enrty- level"
Why should we only be aiming our "recruitmant" at children. What is actually wrong with attempting to recruit inteligent adults- are the elder generation saying there are no such animals?
What is wrong with making it clear that this is a hobby wheresome intelligence and some specialist skills are requiresd, that you have to learn stuff over time and that at least some of the time that requires effort and even a little brain work. Lets face it other hobbies don't seem to have this problem- Model Railways , Model Car Racing- try being a halfwit with a couple of grands worth of Radio controlled cars to play with or Radio Controlled Aircraft- get that wrong and SPLAT! Several grand and Gawd know how many hours work in bits all over the field. Of course at entry level all hobbies are cheaper and simpler but if you stick it you grow into it as you gain skills . So the Model Railway chap may start by buying ready to run off the shelf - and that may be enough for him but if he grows into it he may end up building his own from plans and creating some truly wonderful scenery.
All hobbies have their specialist knowledge- why do we constantly downplay and denigrate ours? Usually so game designers can make a few quid or so it appears
That getting a pair of armies onto the table requires something more than an ability to throw dice and read a few works from the" back of a postcard" is for me an absolute. If a Wargamer chooses to stay in the shallow end of the pool so be it- his choice- but should those who swim in deeper waters not also be catered for? Or is there perhaps and acceptance by the Games Designer Dudes that we who swim at the deep end are largely beyond their reach?.
Of course perhaps we don't need the GDD's to tell US what to do, Perhaps WE have moved beyond THEM- at least some of the time.
Of course in actuality- to continue the metaphor- sometimes you swim at the deep end and sometimes you just paddle about a bit getting your feet wet. I can - for instance- see me playing a modified Lion Rampant format for the Wars of the Roses in 40mm but some kind of Formation rules and Leadership rules will need to be added.
What is the problem that some have with actually using their brain sometimes?
Now don't get me wrong there is and has always been a place for "Wargaming Lite" While sometimes you may want to re-fight Waterloo at others you may simply want a Barney down the Boozer! Or indeed anything in between. There should be room for all shadings
In MWBG no 390 Niel Shuck's column says
"When we play a wargame we are looking to simulate (however abstractly) what would happen should that battle take place in the real world"
Now to me this is so obvious that it should not need saying but it seems that it is being said more and more. I wonder why this is?
In a world where craft skills are fashionable again- Sewing Baking Gardening Potting- to name only those on BBC2 why do we CONSTANTLY belittle ourselves to ourselves. I begin to wonder if ours is the only hobby where actual thought and knowledge is actively discouraged by some in favour or yet another Zombie game - see the two reviews in MWBG no 390 pages 59 and 62- 2 different reviews one for another bloody Zombie game and one- the low point of an otherwise decent mag for a game based around Slasher movies. Now just how are these "Wargaming" - they may have a place in MW sister mag Tabletop Gaming which I've seen and was singularly unimpressed by - but here? - To his credit Henry offers his opinion on the Slasher game . Read it for yourselves !.. Nice One Henry !
Surely this kind of nasty unpleasant mindless dross has no place in our lexicon. Yet it seems the level of this crap is increasing. Somebody must be buying it and worse playing the bloody things over and over. Thank Gawd I can't see into what they are pleased to call their minds .....
If we don't "reclaim our intelligence" perhaps we are doomed