Saka Light Cavalry

Saka Light Cavalry

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Chatter Behind The Bike Sheds

I have been thinking about the term Golden Age of Wargaming. We have been quick to accept this label for figure gaming and why not? After all we have so much more going for the hobby now than ever before. Ask the same question about Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) and it's not so cut and dried with a fairly large minority agreeing that it was better when less was more. ASL suffers from too much syndrome these days. Quite simply if you committed all your spare time to playing the game you still would not be able to play everything that comes out in a year. 

I guess the biggest difference between ASL and figure gaming is that the figure gamer does not suffer the need to own it all. Plus of course ASL is a system for mostly one period (WWII) whilst the figure gamer takes what they want from the periods on offer. Sometimes you may want figures for every regiment that fought in such and such campaign but this is at least finite. 

But this does not help answer the question "Are we in the Golden Age?" What happens if rather than being in the golden age we are just on the build up to the golden age? What if on the other hand we are on the edge of end of the Golden Age?

Lets look at some of the features of today's gaming.

Kickstarter. Never has so much been spent on such diverse protects
Pro. The chance to bring out projects that would not have had a chance without such a system as established companies would, and probably have in many cases say no to such projects.
Con. There is a reason plenty of these projects would not get off the ground. Also unless they are increasing the funds going into wargaming they are just thinning out the cash being spent on the main providers making it harder for them to trade.

Global Market. Thank You internet, because of you so many things are now possible.
Pro. EVERYTHING is now available to all, Minor period desire can be fulfilled. Traders now have the widest possible market, we can see just what is available and money not withstanding we can fill our boots.
Con. It's hard to poor cold water on this, it's great to have access to all the new shinny but at what cost? Remember those old armies that you played with, you know the boring old XYZ castings? When exactly did they become so dull?

More Magazines than you can throw a stick at. Lets face it, we now have so many mag's almost all but the most fickle will find one they like.
Pro. Just that, you should be able to get a mag you like, often several, too often you have the lot and that's a lot of reading. You could arrange to have something new to read every time you want to wet your appetite. 
Con. Emperors New Cloths anyone? With so many mags out, how do they all keep going on? mostly because so many do buy either them all or most of them. BUT how much do you read them? Cover to cover or cherry pick? How about the cost? at £5 a time it's easy to be blowing £20 a month on the hobby and that's with out picking up a blister pack. A years worth of mags is a few painted units from a painter or a fairly impressive haul of figures.

Wargame Shows. You don't have much down time between shows these days.
Pro. Plenty of chances to catch up with friends, the opportunity to look and and touch the latest item from your dream supplier. Great games to look at and competitions to join in and if you will travel you can get a hit almost whenever you want.
Con. The pressure is on, how many traders have day to day jobs? How many are making little or no profit from shows but feel they HAVE to do the shows? Is it just me but do you miss when you looked forward to the next show knowing it's six months before you get to the next one? When did you last get a buzz from a show, I mean a BUZZ, if the reason was meeting up with mates only seen at shows then join the club. It's a big reason I think Blog-Con will be such a hit.

Skill Levels are a Climbing. Look at the quality of castings, don't they paint up so well.
Pro. Pride may be a sin but it sure feels good. Give an average painter a good casting and they will do a good job and the figure will look good. Now give it to a good painter and it will look sooo good.
Con. The figures would paint up quicker if they did not have so much detail. We would paint them up quicker if we did not want them to look so good. For some, the detail and raised skills are too much and their figures tend not to be seen as often as they should or their enjoyment is diminished due to not being THAT good. Worse, old armies stay in boxes as we look down on our previous skills.

Terrain and Buildings. Never on the field of human conflict as so much looked so damn good.
Pro. Don't it just though. Better looking games do add something to your playing pleasure and it's somehow sad to see the best looking armies being dragged around a Blue Peter battlefield (sorry foreign readers a bit of Brit culture being shown here)
Con. Oh the cost, the cost. First for a table to look good you need to spend to get it that way. But also the cost in time, unless you plan to get it all done for you then see point one x10. It's possible the table takes over, the battle becomes hard to fight as it's too cluttered.

Blogging. Nothing has changed wargaming more in the last ten years than blogs.
Pro. From being inspired to inspiring, you are not alone. Mutual support and the feeling of belonging. It goes on and on, truly blogging has extended many a wargamers projects and interest than possibly can be calculated. Suppliers have had so much free advertising and ranges have been pushed from marginal to success.
Con. At what cost? Well not enough to send too many mags under as we use blogs instead of mags but have they taken sales? Time, that one measure that is hard t quantify, how much time has been lost away from the painting desk or worse gaming table? It takes hours to write this drivel and how much time to read? Should we not be doing something more useful instead (sorry another Brit culture thing)

So I can't answer if we are in the Golden Age, but I can say this, it really does not matter if your enjoying where your at more than where you have been. The trick is to keep it that way.


  1. I agree about the show circuit, I think I look forward to Salute and possibly Broadside due to putting on a game but not much else but Blog-Con is the new buzz and blogging can only help the industry!

  2. The web has killed the magazines for me...why bother to buy them?, any info can be found online, same goes for figs, buildings what cost? I´ve learnt to avoid buying direct online, even the best pics cannot actually Show me what the finished product Looks like in the flesh.
    I´d like to be able to get back the "old School " of wargaming..the make do..convert to get what you wanted type of Thing..but it´s gone forever.
    Blogging...?. Shows I´m not a lone looney painting small bits of plastic/metal/resin :-D

    1. I'd disagree with the 'make do' issue. Most of my scenery is scratch built - except for buildings. I think people miss out on the aspect of 'hand made' scenery.

  3. Hmmmm . . . a lot to think about there. The interweb has really been a shot in the arm for the hobby for the manufacturers and for the punters (who also have access to a vast amount of information). The blogging side of things has had a significant part to play in hobby development and I think it punches above its weight. However, this seems all to the debit side for magazines who will soon reach the stage of regurgitating each others content (if they haven't done so already) and simply rehashing peoples' blog entries.

    On the down side, I think shows are on the wane generally and eventually we'll be left with a couple of big regional shows and the Salute 'supermarket' which, in turn, may fade too unless we change their format and adopt the American approach. Improve the quality rather than the number. I still go to Partizan when I can, but I went to the Triples this year after a longish absence ans was left pretty cold by it.

    Skill levels/terrain are really up to individual choice and we can't legislate for that. Skill levels rise with practice and many people get bitten by a desire to strive for perfection. Nothing wrong with that per se, but there's a danger of spending all your time chasing the impossible dream and not gaming. It takes a certain amount of realism and self discipline to get the right balance. Nevertheless, if that's the driver for an individual and they're happy, then so be it. It's a strangely individual hobby on many levels.

  4. I'd say that wargaming has not had a Golden Age. There is always improvement and development to the hobby and there is much more to come yet.

  5. Interesting post Ian. Great quality castings are one thing, but if you can never get enough done to do game because of ne detail.. It's counterproductive . As for mags , I have bought most over time , but had not for many year. I took a subscription to the MW&BG just to test the water.. But it's not doing it for me. There has been nothing I have not found at a better standard on the various blogs I follow.
    o the t'interweb is for me the stand out . I have bought figures from Australia, Canada, Europe etc which I would never have done .

  6. @ Fran, Yes the fact Blog-Con is SO different is what makes it so good. Really hoping you and the boys make it up for the show. Regards blogging, well I had to give two points but it's obvious which side of the fence I sit.

    @ Paul, so being not a lone looney is better? ;-) Not sure old school is dead forever though the acceptance is tougher to find. Not everyone has the skills to paint to what is seen as the accepted standard. Barry never really put the effort to make his 20mm figs look half as good as yours but we had some good games with them and it really did not matter. If you look back through the posts they still got blog time but the painting snob in me always made me point out they were not my figures. It was not that Barry can not paint well I have seen his good work but unlike you he did not put that level of effort into them.

    @ Paul, I think Paul was separating the two points there. Make do with the limited range of figures and convert to what you needed if you had the ability.

    @ Gary, great points, mags did that twenty plus years ago when WI started to pump out old MW articles but with better pictures, I was able to go back and find the articles but they obviously have some role to play but you hit the nail square regarding blogs they do more to sell the full range of hobby items and it's a gold mine for any company that harnesses or embraces it.

    Shows will always be there, twenty + years ago I was at the old Triples discussing the fading light of the shows and look at them, they still are there. If anything their size and cost could be the thing that pulls them down as they become unmanageable rather than wither on the vine.

    Nor should we legislate on the quality of terrain (or figures for that matter) but we tend to self legislate. I can paint buildings though when I left the hobby last time I could not, but terrain I have neither the knowledge or skill set to get good at it.

    @ Phil, good point, I see the curve very much in the assent, what happens when it peaks? or will it. I dream of the painting machine that paints up your armies for you to fantastic quality. Of course such a thing would be the end of the hobby as the whole process adds so much to the experience though I know people who much prefer their figures painted for them.

    @ Dave, I have to agree. Looking at the Adler I am doing now, if I was painting up Baccus I would be painting up twice the number in the same time span. As things stand I can get all done in time but if it becomes a chore to paint them..... After all I have nearly two years to go before the game and yet right up to the start of May I have to paint up over 100 6mm figures a month, again at the moment that's OK but......


  7. An interesting and thought-provoking post Ian.

    It's probably a 'golden age' as most of the hobbyists are in their middle age and hence at have there greatest resources to put into the hobby! :)

    I reckon that the blogs particularly stimulating and useful, despite being a bit 'addictive', . Unlike the glossy mags, the photos are of real wargames, run by real wargamers; warts and all. There are oodles of ideas for games, units, painting styles and the like. The comments from others in the 'community' are supportive, encouraging and/or helpful. If one has a query, you can usually get it answered, or you contact one of your e-friends via email to ask more directly.

  8. @ James, You have a good point there regards resources though I have been wargames neutral for the past two years and hope to remain so for some time longer. I guess the Golden age will be a floating period dependant on who you ask (what stage they are at etc.)

    Bloggers are so very supportive, it's one of the things that makes blogging so wonderful to do.