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Friday 13 November 2015

Modern Wargamers ????

 Now this is really a continuation and a reply to the chaps who commented on my "Is there another way perhaps"  post.and indeed contibuted to the discussion- which was rather the point
 To me at least it is pretty obvious that the "Broad Church" idea is  if not actually  dead is  no longer  quite apt as a metaphor.
" In my fathers House there are many mansions" - perhaps  devil a doubt, but the idea of "wargaming" being one hobby -  no I think not and it probably never really was. The potential scope is simply too vast- despite what the Games Designer Dudes tell you.
 There are common threads and doubtless some fella will come up with that clever circle-cum triangular diagram whose name I've forgotten to tell me that yes really all this is nice and happy and mutually inclusive and that we should all have a group hug. Well no thanks- Happy it may be and indeed is but all inclusive  Not really except insofar as we all enjoy what we do - which is the main point.
 According to Norm's defintion I'm not a "True Wargamer" and according to mine he is  mostly a "Boardgamer" or simply a "Gamer"  Neither of us is actually  wrong. Now as it happens  I don't define myself as a Wargamer - not usually anyway . It's a useful shorthand but does not go the whole hog Compleat Wargamer - for me comes closer- including the waltonian spelling of complete. But really I'm a historian who plays games sometimes- the history part being more to the point than the games part- hence my loathing of  DBA
 Steve makes the point that playing DBA does not stop you researching the history and of course he's absolutly right but if you know your history what the hell use is DBA  other than as a dice rolling contest and a game with more akin to snakes and ladders than to Ancient warfare. of course if you simply want a game with a funny name and some silly jargon it fits the bill perfectly (Yes I know I have a major Blank where the DB's are concerned  I've played 'em and they all seem the same to me. I really can't see the point and in 25 years. No-One has been able to enlighten me as to what actually is the point. Especially as this is one of those times when boardgames could do it better . Indeed I'd actually class dba and DBR as mediore to poor Baordgames. DBR still has my vote asWorst Crap Ever Produced in the Hobby (section 2 Rules) )
 Equally  from the perspective of a  toy soldiers first type of "wargamer" DBA and its ilk are not toy soldier friendly- thus neatly removing one of the reasons for  being a "Wargamer " in the first place- at least if you are British...
 Yes I'll expand on that- my perception over many years is that in the USA  a Wargamer was a chap who played war based boardgames- Avalon Hill SPI  etc and figure based games were  if not exactly second -fiddle were not exactly first port of call either. In the UK - thanks to Featherstone et al  the Figure based games were to the fore much more- Featherstones books barely mention Boardgames and Wise devotes only a short chapter. A recently acquired copy of Tunstill "Discovering Wargames" - from 1971 does not mention Boardgames at all.  Indeed there are separate books on Boardgames and Board- Wargaming. This side of the Pond they have a perceived separate genisis. Most of the major Boardgame publishers were (still are???) American  SPI, AH Yaquinto The Wargamers etc.  Panzerfaust, an early US magazine was boardgmes orientated - its offshoot Campaign  became history and later  miniatures.
 My point being in this instance simply that it is hardly surprising that Norms perceptions and preferences should be different to mine.
The Classic British books are figure centric- this is not always the case in the US- Look at Morchauser and his squared board. Many of today's games- see Robbie Roddis "Blucher" games- as an example(Mustapha being American I believe.)    have the toy soldiers as mere counter decoration  whereas I still want those pesky little men to the fore. I don't - at least not all the time want pretty counters but models of actual regiments.
 So this is beginning to look like a mere catalogue of my personal likes and dislikes- not really the point- see my piece in MW391 for more on THAT
 No I think what I'm driving at is to get some kind of picture of "today's wargamers" if that mammoth task is remotely possible. For many the accent seems to be on the actual play - like junkies they have to have a fix- of dice rolling  NOW
 Now that kind of thing may be the case in many households but not in all by any means. What I see is a much more fragmented hobby, simply because there is so much stuff about you can't be intrested in ALL of it- even assuming you were well heeled enough to afford it- most recently another massive wallet catcher from the Stars Wars X- wing con- job 80 quid for a plastic spaceship ! Garnferkyersel!
"But I can put it straight onto the table and play with it immediately"
 Assuming you've already spent the 90 quid of so on the basic core set - Its Geordie  lawyer time again
 Hadaway and Shyteman!

Obviously being time poor our "Modern Family Wargamers" have money to burn!
So we have the new situation comedy show

 "Modern Wargamer Family "!!!  Episode 1

"Joe thought wistfully of the Imperial Guard he finished painting last night"

Que jaunty "comedy" music and canned laughter (Depressing isn't it- I bet they use the word "fun" a lot)
 Joe Wargamer is in the  kitchen  opening some microwaved steams in a particularly nauseating fashion.
..."But Darling I want to  re-fight Waterloo tonight with Murgatroyd  and the lads at the club.. told you about it- its on the calender....
 Ms Fleur Smith- Brown - Wargamer shrieks from upstairs.
"Waterloo- no chance that will take at least 3 whole hours.
 You have to get Jocasta to her Mud Wrestling and Pole Dancing seminar by half -past  then pick pick up Tarquin from his Larceny and Financial Management Class- you do want him to be a Merchant Bsanker don't you !! "...
 And YOU PROMISED Tarquin a game of ZOMBIE BLOOD  MASSACRE 27 so he can have the red dice with skullz on - it will be fun  won't it- she adds menacingly as she enters the kitchen.."And did you finish painting his EFFINDEAR Miniatures Plastic Zombies or were you reading books again and fiddling about with" - she glared testily-"historical stuff!!" She sniffed audibly in marked disapproval -
 Joe stares at the dull khaki of his cooling Hummus and swallows hard. Thinking wistfully of the   Imperial Guard he finished painting last night. .
 But Sweetness ...." started staring  fondly at the  top of her purple hair.
"No Buts" she continues as she laces up her  red leather 14 hole Doc Martins "When I get back from my "Personal Self- Defence  attack dog training class" with Fluffy here (at this a sleeping Rottweiler in the dog basket  opens a lazy eye) we can all have a game of  "Overpriced Spaceship Battle" and all have "fun" together  rolling lots of dice ....

More canned laughter........whether we like it or not .....may the fun never start .....

Is this more stuff that Joe Wargamer will never get to use ......

But that is their choice of course - and again that's the point. The choices do exist.and it works both ways- which is the part some really hate. Some of us are wise enough to eschew  this weeks fashion and do the stuff we actually like doing- whether it be "Traditional Wargaming" or something else.


  1. There is another way. Instead of blaming American boardgamers, Designer Dudes, Fantasy Gamers, Skirmish Gamers, SAGA, Lion Rampant or whatever, for your perceived decline in the quality of wargaming (and instead of treating us to a highly misogynistic charicature of modern family life), you could present the games you play, the rules you use, and explain why you think these better capture the historical feel of whatever period they are set in. It would make for much more interesting reading.
    Have a nice day!

    1. Politically correct or what !! - Oh sorry no giggling allowed ...

    2. Oh I forgot about self -righteous and Po- Faced

    3. Name-calling, but no substantive reply. If your basic thesis is that wargamers today are too lazy, or too stupid (or too hen-pecked) to make their games anything other than games, but that you and the TWATS are different, then show us how. How, for example, is an ACW encounter with Don Featherstone's "Horse & Musket" rules anything other than a really fun, really pretty, game?

  2. As wargamers and game designers/rule writers love categories, let's stick to that. I think there used to be four broad categories of wargamer: player (map/board games), player (figures), modeller turned wargamer and history buff. For many years they all got on well enough together although the 'player' was often sneered at for his/her obsession with the desire to win.

    In more recent years, I think the 'modeller' has declined somewhat, but a fourth type has developed: the 'Ooooo shiny!' player, who flits unapologetically from one fad to the next. BUT they're all wargamers just as coarse fishermen, fly fishermen, game fishermen are all fishermen. An anthropologist wouldn't care too much what type of wargame you played; you'd be a wargamer.

    So, we're all wargamers of varying types, but is the quality of the game in a nose dive? No, I don't think the quality of games/gaming has deteriorated: if anything, I think it's on the up. Rules/game systems are pretty much in your face as to where their focus lies on the playability - historical simulatiion axis, figures are better sculpted and more widely available (and various) than they've ever been and there's abundant, good quality scenic kit by the ton (or tonne). I think this fosters more imaginative, good natured gamers, although we've still got a leavening of tossers, but convention organisers and traders will be able to evaluate than better than I can.

    I think our real weakness in all this is that we have no real idea what war was like in 350BC and only a pretty reasonable idea of what it was like in 1815, so we can only design rules which give an approximatiion of what we think war was like in a particular period. Despite what we may or may not think of DBA or Armati or Napoleon's Battles or whatever, they can only reflect a few peoples' ideas about what they're attempting to represent. Of course, we know all about musket drill and how to fight in a phalanx IN THEORY, but, although by now generations of re-enactors have waddled about pretending to be whichever bold soldier they admire, nobody has actually been trying to cause them harm and they drift off back to their centrally heated, double glazed homes at end of play. Quite simply, they are different animals to that which they try to represent, physically, intellectually and emotionally. So, just about everything a wargamer comes across is second hand, from a memoir (notoriously unreliable), a contemporary account, a military manual etc. or even someone's interpretation of the same. We can get bloody close, but nobody's really sure exactly how close and I'm sure no rule writer has had his bowels turn to water at the scream of an approaching shell or a cataphract. Ergo, we deal with approximations and what must be 'near enough' so 'playability' and 'simulation' aren't that far removed from each other.

    Me? I'm an unreconstructed historical gamer and that was my path into the hobby, although I've met some 'historians' who probably ought to stick to decorating or something. My simple rule of thumb is that if I'm not interested in the historical period, I'm not interested in gaming it. However, if you're into sci-fi or fantasy games or maybe the Texican wars, you're not a numpty or of a lower caste. To be honest though, I don't recall any GW types describing themselves as wargamers. Maybe we should scrub the pursuit of intellectual and social respecability and just describe ourselves as big kids playing with toy soldiers or shuffling counters around a map?

    1. I believe Don Featherstone, Peter Young and the Grants had a bit of experience at the sharp end...

    2. Featherstone and Young certainly saw combat in WW2

  3. Gary- Don't disagree with any of that - except perhaps in detail - certainly not in any major way. . I can think of a couple of lads who have been under fire who have wargamed with me including my late stepson and a Vietnam War vet who has more Napoleonics than I've ever seen in one place but neither were really rules writers. Over the years I've known a good few soldiers who wargame and most "like to get it right" or as right as they can .
    Where I part company is the idea that you can't attempt to get it right and its all only a game - just like snakes and ladders . If that is true then what is the point of all the stuff we write or paint or indeed anything we do. Intellectually speaking we on average - put in the same amount of effort and cash per person as many other hobbies from Fly -fishing to Model Railways- why should we declare OURSELVES intelecually inferior to any of those.
    Social respecability- not sure I care I might become politically correct and Po- Faced !

  4. No, no, we can (and, I think, should) attempt to get as near to the 'real thing' as possible, but I don't believe we'll ever get in bang on with available resources, including time for games and the players' background, experience and knowledge not to mention anyone's sensibilities. Remember the TAG suicide bomber figure a few years ago and the flame war on TMP? We can maybe avoid colateral damage in games by simply ignoring the potential, but how can you realistically 'play' a scenario set in the current Middle East without the possibility of civilians copping it?

    Is it just a game then? Yes, if only because it's not real. Even the military describe exercises as wargames. We can give sound intellectual arguments and rationalisations for the hobby and some 'gamers' aren't primarily gamers at all, but rather historians , intellectuals, modellers, painters - the list can go on and on, I suppose. But we still end up playing just like anyone playing chess or backgammon or even Ludo (you ever seen a game of Uckers?), but not snakes and ladders - playing in that we pit our wits and skills against an opponent. The only real qualification in this is maybe the attempt to simulate warfare with more spohisticated rules rather than a simple 'bang you're dead' approach.

    Social acceptance? It's a larf innit? As a conversation stopper, wargaming is certainly far more socially acceptable than, say, paedophilia, but a good few points behind bird watching. I have two mates who blanche at the thought of having their 'secret' exposed to the unininitiated: one seems to live in fear and dread of it. Fair enough; "My name is Gary and I play with toy soldiers" will never make it onto the list of classic speed dating openings.

    1. Gary- well put- yes I've played uckers back in the day with some relativesand their mates who were matelots- I still can't recall who won - just the intensity and the drink ... Never again.
      No we'll never it it bang on - but yes we should try .
      Socially acceptable- I've said before here that I've never had any bother explaining my job - beyond a few raised eyebrows. Most people get the history part and the modelling part and definitely the collecting part and though its the hardest bit even the gaming part is easier to explain than it used to be. This is why I get the right hump when bretheren trivialise what we do . Its easier to explain- if you ever have to- how the history and knowledge is part of the whole thing rather than "I rool dice with Dwarfs" or "I play with Space Marines"
      We play in a pub- which is open for business and while there have been the raised eyebrows nobody has ever given us any grief- indeed sometimes the opposite- there is no "secret" here

  5. I totally agree with Gary on this. Having come back into Wargaming a few years ago after a nearly 20 year hiatus, I've been amazed at the breadth, diversity, and accessibility of the hobby now compared to in the 1980s. Unlike Andy, I'm content to read my history books, paint my toys, pick and choose among rule sets, and not worry about whether other people think it's a "serious intellectual pursuit" or not.

  6. OK here we go- and remember this is discussion a bit of a laugh. Ivan can sniff away in his politically correct tower of superiority as he chooses - me I'll continue to charicature and take the mickey as it amuses me to do so but make no mistake- as I've said before more than once on this blog I don't actually care. Cos it does not matter in the larger scheme of life. as Gary says its a larf innit ! I could and indeed still may scribble episode 2 - which could take the mickey out of more historically minded chaps - ie me or equally something else as the mood takes me
    I prefer my games to be more intellecually challenging than - say- Featherstone at least some of the time but equally as I said there will always be a place for "wargaming lite" . If I have a concern it is that currently the vast majority of the "public face" is all wargaming lite as if that is all that there should be.
    Now if that is all you want fine sit in your superior middle class contentment unencumbered by any humour

  7. Another point occours- a bit later- i Surely it is encumbant upon us- at least those who don't do Sci-Fant in its more obvious forms- to give some thought to what we do. If we relegate what we do to "mere gaming" then as it is so trivial then there is no need for that thought. We can "escape the consequences.and ignore the human element. I prefer not to go down that road

  8. I have to say that Gary makes a number of very good points. As for me I have an interest in history that gets focused by wargaming, I want to research the period and the politics as well as costume / uniform and I enjoy the craft side and specifically 28mm figs and I'd like a game that will reward tactics of the period. Having said that I am quite happy to have a game of lion rampant, probably because it takes me ages to paint all the figures I want, I don't think I'm that unusual and I get a lot of enjoyment out of my hobby , and I guess that's the point it's my hobby and I do what I like nobody makes me and I can trundle along quite happily and not give a stuff about everyone else. I also have to say my pre national curriculum history experience was very poor and my daughter is currently getting a much better grounding in history then I did at school.

    1. Nothing to argue with there- frankly its almost exactly my own view. Though the more I study it the more lightweight I find Lion Rampant- My first impressions on my review of it have been somewhat downgraded by subsequent readings. It says on the front "Medieval Wargaming Rules" the publishers blurb on the back is the usual publishers BS and I didn't take that into account.
      What I did take into account was how popular it appears to be... Pretty big mistake assuming you are not new to this hobby (I still think it is a reasonable entry level set for those new to the concepts). But as a set of
      "Medieval Wargaming Rules" it as it stands does not cut the mustard there is nothing "medieval" in it. Even at the low level the game aspires to medieval military science evolved - One example will suffice as crossbow of 1066 was different from a crossbow of 1166 and 1266 different again fron a crossbow of 1366 or 1466 and no account is taken of the differing kinds of crossbow- now this may even out in a larger battle but in this kind of low level small unit action having to use a crannequin instead of a crowsfoot or a stirrup may be the difference between life and death.
      Now its not that difficult to make these distinctions so I will when I have a bash and doubtless other have too but reading the reviews on Amazon the overall impression I get is that the reviewers didn't know the basics- or chose to ignore them. Equally the impression I get is that it is popular solely becasue it is simplistic which frankly I find quite dissapointing.

  9. If we accept that there is a degree of abstraction in producing a set of wargaming rules we have at one end wrg 6/7 with lots of charts and graphs and at the other end something like lion rampant which does simplify and gives a good game obviously what we all want is something between the two which will be different for you then it will be for me as we are going to be looking for slightly different things even though our outlook is broadly similar. I would say that when lion rampant came out the author said at the time that he was not producing a historically acurate rule set and that really it was closer to Hollywood history I think it is more the marketing people at osprey who have turned it into this medieval wargaming rule as he seemed to think of it as a bit of fun, and at least he isn't po faced about it and is happy for people to adapt it , there is no holy writ . If you take it as it is a bit of lightweight fun for a rapid game it's great, it isn't the second coming and doesn't pretend to be. Best Iain

    1. No he isn't po- faced at all- and frankly that is LR's saving grace he makes no bones about the players ability to tinker- as I said in my review - now as it happens I 'll end up tinkering a good bit . Where I have bother is the idea that something this simplistic could be so popular with "adults" its a "roll a 6 and you are dead" game as it stands great if you are 10 but if you are already in the hobby why would you use it- untinkered- more than a couple of times surely its going to be dealy repetitive.

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