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Monday 1 August 2016

I can't get my head around this ....

Recently  on the Grand Duchy of Stollen Blog Stokes opined the the legendary TV series about wargaming  "Battleground" was deadly dull. Now there is no doubt that there is a good slice of dullness in it at least from a spectators point of view (though perhaps on reflection I'd say earnest rather than dull) but I'm not sure it was ALL dull.
I watched it when it first came out and found no dullness there but then that was the late 70s a time when dullness was part of everyday life and for many the world only woke up at weekends or after inhaling certain substances. Dullness was part of life and for many still is. After all if you don't have some dullness how do you know when you are enjoying yourself- what do you compare against?.

However back to "Battleground". The show of course emphasised the historical and studious approach to wargaming. You know that style of wargaming where you had to actually KNOW stuff...
 What? Never heard of it?
No the dice did NOT have skullz on them and no the figures are not plastic and you can't get them from Games Workshop. Indeed fantasy is never mentioned- even though it did exist and indeed had existed though for a bit less than a decade when the show was made.
 But yes the show was a bit earnest by today's standards and being television did emphasise the look of the thing with those complicated-to film- "montages" showing lots of very pretty toy soldiers a few of which I now own(Yippee -show off git !).
One of the "Battleground" units-  the fact thsat the Lifeguard of Foot never looked like this in - in this case- entirely beside the point;

 That was how wargaming was perceived  by many at the time and indeed for some years before and after. A hobby that needed a bit of knowledge and a bit of skill perhaps and gave satisfactions in that knowledge and skill.
 Of course how much it was really like that is another matter but as I was there then I can say that often it actually WAS like that despite the odd row over the rhomphia and a good bit of sometimes vicious competition.
 Fantasy had not yet seeped into every pore of "the hobby"- with unforeseen side effects like some over marketed drug by an unscrupulous pharmaceutical combine. Yes the drug had some uses and was successful  but the side effects? A massive dumbing down is only the most obvious and least harmful. The lumping together of all the multitudinous facets of the various genres  as "gaming" is something I'm not personally convinced of either though I don't think it is actually harmful merely sometimes inconvenient. Until you have been droned at by a games bore about his bloody space marines or his sodding dark elfs or whatever other meaningless drivel posing as conversation then you don't know what  true darkness can lurk in the human soul .... (This has happened to me several times but the worst was in a bar in Essen. One is polite but Dark Thoughts cross the mind(I wonder what would happen if I rammed his beer up his nose???) )
The urge to shout "I don't give a  flying **** about bloody elfs !! " is almost uncontrollable..Yes gentle reader I had- by this time given up Fantasy for reasons explained in earlier posts !. Yes living in Wargames World as I do you can't actually avoid it and try as I might I can't see its attraction any more.  Mainly because you can't reproduce the atmosphere of "otherness" that a successful fantasy or horror film or book demands. I do read fantasy and sci -fi and even the odd bit of steampunk but I've never found a way to reproduce the atmosphere of those books. I've seen some very good looking attempts but most fantasy is too "sub-GW"  for my taste. Sci-Fi does a good bit better but still seems a bit samey- gamey on the whole. So Fantasy etc is simply gaming and therfore- to me a bit on the tedious side. Especially when there are no jokes.
 So where does that leave us? What is today's perception of the hobby. Certainly less scholarly than formerly. More lightweight. Possibly more childish but then adults acting like children is far more acceptable now in many arenas than it was in the 70s and 80s and I'm not only talking wargaming here. The desire to hang on to your childhood is quite common though I don't understand why. There is- and I kid you not -even a cafe which ONLY serves breakfast cereals and is successful because adults go there to eat those things they ate for breakfast as children. When I saw this my flabber had never been so gasted !  Grow Up .- Though you can't blame the owners saw a niche.... filled it.
  I don't want a second childhood- had enough bother the first time around so I really don't understand the urge to revert to a teenager probably something to do with a lack of responsibility and  having ahem "fun" (fun with acne wasn't it great !!!). Badly painted cheapjack crap on the wargames table (because that was all you could afford) wasn't in great.
 All I can recall about those  childhood days- in wargaming terms -was thinking- when I grow up I'm having an army like THIS-at the time I was looking at stuff by old stalwarts of the Manchester group (I think) John Leigh and Chris Tofalos in the Pendlebury Library.
 Much  NewWargaming now seems to be dominated by these childish themes. - See the new Airfix based game by Modiphius and more especially their publicised reasons for doing it- though of course the real reason is implicit- they think they can make a few quid, Nothing wrong with that.
So I ask the question is Battleground now dull BECAUSE it appears  a bit earnest and scholarly? .
 Is it now de rigeur to reain a child?


  1. I would only say that scholarly doesn't HAVE to be earnest/dull... but Battleground was.. so I agree with Stokes and you.... ;o))

  2. Steve- It wasn't dull THEN- is pretty dull NOW and no scholarly doesn't have to be either earnest or dull but it often was in the 70s hence the substances at weekends !

  3. In fairness, some of the banter between Mr. Gilder and his companions is fun, but (and I'm sticking my neck out here I understand), the Wimbledon-style narration by Mr. Woodward, The Equalizer himself, is hard to take. And I've gone back several times in the last few years since the Battleground programs were first uploaded to Youtube. I've tried hard to like them, I really have, but I'd rather drag out old Featherstone and Grant titles and reread those. These books have something, even 40-50s later, that the TV show somehow misses. I will grant you that the modern phenomenon of adults dressing, looking, and acting like adolescents (albeit adolescents with money to burn) is awfully hard to stomach when one absolutely must rub elbows with them.

    Best Regards,


    1. "These books have something that, even 40-50 years later, the TV show somehow misses."

      Please excuse my abysmal typing skills!


    2. Now that I do agree with. Of course to Brits Woodward was Callan- the wargaming assassin long before he was the Equalizer and yes his narration is now hard to stomach.
      And yes I'd rather re-read Grant of Young on the whole than watch the shows too many times. Overall I find them interesting period curiosities but not much more. Their importance is that the programmes happened at all.(and personally that I own some of the toys )