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.