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Friday, 20 May 2016

Miniature Wargames no 398

  Chaps who write for magazines are a funny lot. I know this as I am one of 'em! MW no 398 dropped on the mat yesterday and well since I'm all over the issue like a rash I have to be a bit careful.So leaving aside anything in it with my name on it here goes.
 The thorny issue of the ageing of the hobby comes up more than once and various solutions are proposed all of which seemingly forget that this is not one homogenous hobby but many different ones these days- some of which are not even  wargaming as their bits have no war in them. This is especially true of Brad Harmer-Barnes piece on Boardgames wherein he reckons that the way to get new blood into the hobby is to play fantasy and sci-fi games only, as what he calls VHS gaming is what drives the younger gamer- ie games inspired by videos and Cinema and he also opines that its all driven by Marketing. Now who am I a mere purveyor of models soldiers to argue with the might of Marketing. As it happens I think he paints the scene rather well though I object to  his solutions.It will be a cold day in Hell when I play a game with Zombies or Ghostbusters or Thunderbirds or Time travelling Nazi Robot Vampires or indeed any of the current crop of what Neil Shuck calls warband games. They are simply too limited in scope for my taste. Indeed of that whole crop of recent pulp games only Star Wars X wing even vaguely piqued my interest- until I saw the price for an even half decent set up. So no - although I suspect his overall premise may be correct and childishness abounds . I'll stick to wargaming with some War in it and not a Marketing man's wet dream..
 As always Neil Shucks column has interesting stuff in it and I can see I'm going to have to get a copy of Sharp Practice on Sunday at Partizan if I have time. However in point of fact - at least as far as Blue Moon are concerned 15mm Metal are cheaper that Perry Plastic Mr Shuck opines that metal 15mm are more expensive- not at My shop or indeed at several others His baseline is 3 boxes of Perry- so 60 quid from their website which gives you - in his example about 80 foot (Depending upon which boxes) and 12-14 cav. Now using Blue Moon your same 60 quid would get you 90 foot (3bags at 12quid each)and 15 cavalry-1 bag at £13.00 and still have £11.00 left over for some fiddly bits such as command or Rifles if you needed them. This as well as giving you many more pack options than the plastikrap  and not having to spend half your life assembling the bloody things. Now correct me if I'm wrong but more soldiers and 11 quid left over is hardy "more expensive"  than plastics ... not that I'd use my own cash on plastikrap anyhow ...  But having said that maybe Mr Shuck's 15mm  price examples were from AB/Eureka which would be more expensive,
Mind you the rest of the column is rather good especially the piece entitled "What attracts you to a game?" Despite the fact that Mr Shuck is far more "gamesey" that I will ever be I found myself agreeing with much of this.
 The Eastern Front in WW2 is not my thing. But the continuing series on wargaming its battles should be meat and drink to those chaps whose thing it is.
The Salute report was dammed useful as even though I was there I didn't see any of it so the report gave me a taste anyhow ....
 Another piece on the ageing of the hobby- by Clemmet and Davidson- I've known Tom and Dave for years. They have been part of the NE wargaming scene for  longer than I  by far so their thoughts and opinions are worth a read. I like their idea of the all inclusive show. I hope it works. Good Luck lads.
Fancy making an Eindecker or a sci- fi thingy- two articles show you how.
 There is also an article on skirmish gaming- Hmm not sure about this one. I've played enough assorted skirmish games in my time but somehow this article felt decidedly too general. Worse it just seemed a bit simplistic to me but perhaps that is becoming the way. "Leave your Brain at the door- become a Wargamer !!! "
Finally we come to Arthur Harman's piece- when Robbie Roddiss reads it he'll go spare !
Mr Harmans contention is that the emphasis on  high quality modelling   in some rulesets, books and Magazines puts people off joining the hobby therefore such is neither necessary  nor possibly desirable. He harks back to the early badly painted Airfix days and uses  mass produced 19th century engravings of Napoleonic battles to show us the way.
Talk about selective. Now his basic premise is right- fine artwork is not AND HAS NEVER BEEN a prerecquisite for enjoying wargaming but to fudge the issue this way is to say the least a little misleading. Also I don't accept that being good at something puts other off. By that train of thought there would be, for example,  no Sunday league Football because the small amateur teams would be put off by Manchester United. There would be no amateur photographers because they couldn't be David Bailey. I know plenty of wargamers who can't or won't paint or model.. That is their choice. There are plenty of other who paint and model to standards acceptable to themselves. That is their choice. I'm afraid "Lets all be crap to get the kiddies in" simply does not wash' as much as anything else its so bloody patronising.
 The only reason I used Airfix back in the day was because I could afford no better. The only reason my painting was truly crap was because I hadn't learned how- and yes I'm still learning!.
 That some modern rulesets are eye-candy heavy is true but that is the God of Marketing to which we must all pay Homage its not automatically a wargaming thing.For period inspiration why not try Baron Lejeaune Napoleonic battle painting  or perhaps some Victorian Genre artas well as  the "penny plain tuppence coloured" of Mr Harmans world?
 Of course the big difference is technology -we didn't have any- today you don't need models to play wargames you can do it on your phone without engagement of brain. So you'd have to actually like the models to engage in this hobby. If you like the models specifically you are more likely to want them to look goodand they will be an important part of the game to you so I'm afraid lets all be crap falls down on another level too.
When it come to new blood for God's sake stop obcessing about children- you'll get arrested !!!  New blood trickles in all the time though more of it tends towards Mr Harmer-Barnes end of the street than mine. So be it.
Nevertheless SOMEBODY is buying shedloads of soldiers. I'm busier than I've been for years
 Oh by the way- See you at Partizan on Sunday.


  1. Andy, I actually found the magazine sufficiently disconcerting enough to confirm my belief that I will not be renewing the subscription. Your article which championed understanding, knowledge and plenty of figures was a lone voice in the wilderness. Neil, and to a certain extent Henry, seems to want to see the end of large spectacle games (although he moans that salute was the poorer for not having more "wow" factor games). As for Arthurs article - it sent shivers down my spine and for many of the reasons you advocate above. What Arthur fails to grasp is that if you look at games workshop, the quality and standard of painting on display in the shops and their trade magazine are no deterrent to newcomers. Indeed they seem to actively encourage aspiration to purchase more.
    Miniature Wargames seems to have an agenda to promote the view that we should all move into small games (but now with poorly painted figures) and abandon large "mega-lead" games.

    1. Paul Having spoken to Henry about this- he is as concerned as you or I-and he does do big games- my view is that this was an odd issue. Small games are becoming more prevelant- true but all magazines do this. It certainly is not an MW thing. There for instance numbers of these little games at Carronade as well as Saluteand some at Triples- many of Ospreys rules cater to this kind of stuff- look at Lion Rampant for example. Up to a point a magazine editor has to follow the Marketing Gods too.
      Arthur Harman has been an advocate of "lets all be crap" for years- nothing new here he has said this before and your point regarding GW is very well made. I actually found his piece a bit"dog in the manger" without as you correctly mention any form of aspiration or progression.

    2. I can't let Paul's comment go unanswered.

      Why on earth would you believe that I "want to see the end of large spectacle games"? Have I ever said that? No, I haven't, because nothing could be further from the truth. I'll be at Partizan on Sunday with my camera, celebrating good looking games as I always have. Where and how on earth do these ridiculous rumours start? If I disliked big, pretty games, why on earth would I give them space in my magazine? Why would I spend my precious time and money travelling to see them? Why would I be helping to organise an annual event at the Wargames Holiday Centre, the point of which is to celebrate big, spectacular games with thousands of beautifully painted model soldiers - as Robbie knows, because he was there this year, and we were chatting about one of the champions of the beautiful big game, Peter Gilder. Why would I have spent four years of my life writing and designing the biggest book on wargaming ever written, with *hundreds* of photos of beautiful games if I felt they were of no merit?

      And then, there's that spurious word "agenda" being used again. What a load of bollocks. I don't have an "agenda", I haven't got time for one, and I would have thought that in the year 2016, such pathetic conspiracy theories would have been consigned to the bin where they belong. Like all magazine editors, I put together bunch of articles every month from the pile of those I've been sent. The ones that are interesting, entertaining, thought-provoking and well written , regardless of the subject matter, rise to the top. That's it. end of story. It's a job, not an "agenda". If more people sent me good articles about big games, I'd publish them. But they don't, and since I live outside the 'lead belt', it seems I have less chance of covering them than certain other publications. That's life.

      My view is simply this: my magazine is a reflection of the hobby and there are a range of different opinions and approaches out there, and my attitude is to be *inclusive* of the diverse ways of approaching the hobby, rather than *exclusive*. So Arthur gets to point out that you don't *have* to have pretty soldiers to play wargames, and I too have personal experience of potential newcomers (of all ages, not just kids) telling me that they "couldn't possibly achieve the standard required". That's certainly not true of everyone, and many do, fortunately, rise to the challenge that Andy describes, but it's not good enough to simply rubbish someone else's opinion when it's sincerely meant.

      And as for the rise of skirmish/small scale gaming, the fact is that it has a lower cost of entry and takes less time to paint up the forces and then play the games. It ain't rocket science. Get over it.

      Do what you like about your subscription, but don't ever put words into my mouth.

      Incidentally, Andy, your article is bloody brilliant – and others have already been telling me the same too.

    3. Well said Henry .

    4. Henry- Very glad you got into this discussion . I intended to send you the link once it had matured a bit but you pre-emted me. All you say is true.
      Arthur is entitled to his opinion though it is one I will never share. He has held it for years - he is at least consistant. I have to say that I simply don't follow the do things badly cos its easier path.
      Really pleased you like the article....
      Now how the hell do I follow it up ....

    5. I have been reading Henry's magazines ever since BG #1. I never felt there was a specific agenda to drive us all into a specific direction. Sure, the regular columns and opinion pieces reflect current trends in the hobby, and therefore, it might seem that smaller warband-type games receive some more attention these days, but to call that an "agenda" goes a bit far, in my opinion.

      One of the reasons I like MWBG is that there is room for all styles of games, ranging from traditional old-school big-batallion games to experimental and innovative games. This might not always be prevalent in a given single issue, but if you look at all issues over the course of a year, you get a pretty wide and balanced view.

    6. Phil Precisely - Just because one or another of us may not like a given issue is entirely beside the point. It is as you say the overall focus.

  2. Morning Andy,
    I have yet to get my copy of the Miniature Wargames, so cant pass comment on Arthur Harman's point of view, it sounds a bit like the old Paddy Griffiths article which advocated doing away with 'toy soldiers!'
    I also understand that you have a big input into this month's copy, so I am looking forward to it [ which isnt usually the case nowadays]
    It does seem everyone is an expert when it comes to bringing children and young people into the hobby, but I dont think dumbing it down will be the answer, and as for playing with crap painted figures, well what can you say really. What can be better than seeing loads of painted toy soldiers marching across a table heroically, they dont have to be well painted but sometimes it helps. Cant wait.

  3. I really enjoyed today's topic as you make a lot,of points that have me nodding my head in agreement.

    Regarding the greying of the hobby, we were talking about this in Hal Thinglum's MWAN back in the early 1990s. I really don't give a fig about finding new blood for the hobby ( makes us sound like vampires) because once I'm buried under the sod, what difference will it make? LOL. I don't feel like it is my responsibility to find new recruits, although I'm happy to help anyone from outside the hobby who shows even a scintilla of interest in the Little Men.

    Skirmish wargames: how many times can you go on a raiding party, stage an ambush or have a High Noon shoutout before it gets tired and same old same old? I like a skirmish game as a change of pace every now and then, but not all the time. Presumably the advantage of skirmish games is that they are a low cost entry point into the hobby. You don't have to acquire and paint many figures to run a Sharpe Pracitice game for example. As an aside, every time I told myself that "I'm just going to do this historical period at the skirmish level only" I have a change of heart midway through the program and convert everything to regular sized Wargame units. I end up with several hundred to a thousand figures at the end of the day. I know myself and I know that this will always happen to me when I go down the skirmish path.

    Maybe Time is the factor that appeals to skirmish fans: one doesn't have to spend as much time playing a skirmish game as one does with a dozen units per side. At least that is the theory. I think that we all have a finite amount of time that we can spend on the hobby ( due to outside influences) and our gaming projects tend to fill up that amount of time regardless of whether it is a skirmish game or a multi-unit conventional Wargame.

    Finally, quality of the games: I think that Old Glory's motto says it best: "Simply the Finest". That works for me all the time. I can't put anything on the table other than the best painted troops or the nicest terrain that I can find. Gaming is a visual hobby and I find that high quality visual games inspire me to try something similar or maybe step up my game a little bit more. A quality game table and presentation is hardly a turn off for me. It is what drew me into the hobby in the first place.



    1. Jim Pre-bloody -cisely . Spot on old bean! exact-a mundo ! When I'm dead who will give a monkeys.
      I don't mind the odd skirmish as light relief but as you say ... anyhow a burger only diet will kill ya!!

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  5. Andy (and other commenters) thank you for your piece. For what it is worth I am totally in agreement about your concern over the idea that fine looking big games put newcomers off. It was just such spectacles as these that sucked me fully into the hobby. In my limited way I've always tried to emulate them, not feel inhibited by them. Nowadays, with greater resources, some friends who feel the same, and the wonders of the internet, it's nice to be able to present some good looking games, not at shows, that clearly stimulate others. Like Jim I don't feel any obligation to encourage new young wargamers specifically, and when meeting any potential recruit I first look for a spark of interest in the History rather than the Game.

  6. Look at this poor little lad's face. His dreams shattered, his ambition quashed. If only they had used bits of cardboard on a 2' x 2' he wouldn't have felt so inadequate.

  7. Andy,
    Enjoyed this and I'm in total agreement with Jim I don't see it as my duty or responsibility to find new blood. Now I may not be making as much money as you :) but there are more figure manufacturers out there than ever before, it can't just be us oldies adding to the lead pile can it?
    That's why I felt Partizan was good, the majority of the demo games were quite big and impressive and from talking to people certainly provided loads of inspiration even if it was only to go and skin some more teddy bears for a new terrain mat!

    1. Graham- Partizan was a cracker on all counts. Dead easy load/unload better access better food better lighting more punters bloody good games.. winner on all fronts.

  8. About the greying of the hobby and all that: I think the hobby is doing just fine. You see plenty of young people at the major cons, so I don't think we have anything to worry about.

    What is true, is that preferential styles change over the years. Perhaps big battles were once the main style of play, now it's clear there is more a trend towards smaller warband-type games. Which doesn't mean any individual wargamer should pick up a trend he doesn't like.

    The wargaming hobby is simply the sum of all the games and preferences of many small (informal) gaming groups and individuals. There is no agenda, or big conspiracy to drive us all in a specific direction.

    Anyway, see my blog for some more thoughts on the subject ;-)

    1. Phil- love that blog post you are of course right- like I said somebody is buying soldiers so overall the hobby is pretty healthy. It just not the same as it was in 1979 - fortunately !

  9. I'm coming to the conclusion that wargame as a stand-alone hobby just doesn't exist, it is a sub-hobby of model making and figure painting and gaming.....

    As such worrying about how we can increase the numbers of young people taking part is not the right question, we should be asking how we can increase the numbers taking part in the HOBBY - Model Railways, Flying balsawood aircraft, model boats, Airfix kits, painting toy soldiers and gaming (computer or book based). After all I believe we are all part of a hobby called pastime or leisure. How I spend My time is my decision and different to other wargamers or figure painted or military modellers.

    I'm also not to worried about the future, I feel that computer games, animated or computer generated films will bring new blood into the HOBBY - it might not look like the hobby we have now, but there wil be a HOBBY.


    1. Tony - I know what you mean but as always it is a case of definitions. I'd like to hear from other parts of the modelling side- does Railway modelling agonise this way? I can't answer that.
      I'm not conceerned with recruitment in that sense- though I woud not turn away intrested parties I can only advise and point 'em in the right direction..

  10. Hi Andy,
    Just responding re the TMP thread you highlighted to me covering this discussion and our common reaction to Arthur Harman's article which both you and I have referenced on our blogs.

    I have to say I was disappointed to see it was Arthur that penned the article as I have and still view him as one of the lights in the hobby producing some great articles and inspiration for games over the years that I have enjoyed.

    My reasoning for disagreeing with Arthur's piece was that I feel passionately the hobby should be about encouraging and supporting fellow gamers to produce the best looking games they want to, and that the only judge of that quality should be you, nobody else. If you decide that you want your models and games to look better then just reach out because there has never been the wealth of materials, products and fellow hobbyists who are only to willing to support those aspirations than there is today.

    I think great looking games and figures attract more people than they put off and we should celebrate and encourage excellence when we see it, coupled with a welcoming, encouraging, and supportive approach which from my experience characterises the vast majority of wargamers.

    I would add that I whole heartedly support Henry's response. Miniature Wargames is a credit to Henry's editorship and long may it remain a magazine that will publish all shades of opinion in the spirit of encouraging friendly debate. The fact that our blogs and other forums are reacting to the article is proof of that debate and I see no hidden agendas, only thought provoking comment.


  11. Hi JJ. Yes there was a time when I found Arthur articles illuminating- still do come to that. However he has always downplayed the look of the thing in my view- his choice of course.
    Equally after a bit of a shaky start Henry has really made MW a better magazine over the last couple of years and I agree that there are no hidden agendas from him .
    I have always felt that differences of opinion and discussion should be one of wargamings strengths- and that the power of the "games lobby" has to an extent lessened this over recent years.
    I might massively disagree with Arthur Harmam but that does not mean he should not be able to express his views.