Remember this? Then it's very likely you bought music in the 90's and funny enough it did not actually manage it, but the same thing is being said about file sharing but that's not what this post is about.
No, instead I am banging on about non-historical wargaming or to be more exact near historical. I bought an issue of Wargames Soldiers & Strategy (good by the way) for my Frankfurt trip so as to have some light reading. Out of 84 pages only four pages are given over to none-historical figure gaming, double that of board gaming.
BUT the adverts tell a different story. nearly 33% of the adverts are for near historical or altered history. I would now say that at no time before has such a large part of the none Gamesworkshop wargaming been none historical. A Very British Civil War I believe led the way and whilst it might not hold the biggest slice of the pie possibly has the strongest attachment to a possible history whilst Osprey of all the people has embraced this trend the most via In Her Majesty's Name/A Fist Full of Kung Fu style of rules. Lets face it, if it did not sell it would not be supported. It is then obvious that there is a market for such themes and more besides. However the question "Is it good for the hobby?" is far more tricky to answer and before I do, cards on the table I do not play any of those games, or do I?
It would be a fair argument that Cowboy games often have as much to do with reality as many an alternative history game, especially those that try to mirror reality rather than morph (or twist!) reality. Something about Fantasy and alternative reality seems to turn the average frugal gamer into someone who is willing to double his spend on a single figure. I think it's fair to say that alternative history, fantasy and si-fi attract the more artistic painters and though it's a sweeping generalisation with plenty of contradictions I stand by the point in principle.
But is the sudden wide variety of alternatives to the norm actually a bad thing? Working on the principle that each gamer has a set amount to spend and other than at times of starting new projects tends to live within a fairly constant year by year budget I would say that diverting into such projects as Her Majesty's Name will actually reduce the amount of Lead/Resin bought whilst probably increasing the spend of the gamer. Given the amount the average gamer has in store I find that hard to see as a disadvantage.
Too many companies are jumping into the various off shoots for the interest to be a minor subgroup. Now if your waiting for someone to do that 28mm WWII French Colonial infantry platoon only to see the supplier doing a Victorian steam powered walker then yes your going to be disappointed. However, just how many unmade figures are their left to do? Certainly most of the core figures have multiple choices of suppliers so it's possible only pet periods or specialist figures are being hurt by the lack of availability of these.
Indeed it's just possible that such strange new quasi periods are actually bringing more money into the hobby, but for that either I have to be wrong and much more money is being spent by the existing followers of all thinks off centre OR it's bringing in a lot of new blood. The former is more likely than the latter but beyond the bloom of a new period I have my doubts that the increased spend results in continued increased spend.
Taking Saga though as an example (cowboys with swords and braids?) I don't see that doing any harm and has indeed increased the focus on all things from that period though of course that period is real and real historical wargamers have benefited from the extra attention.
Actually I blame Saga for all this alternative history stuff, this is not based on any idea if it's right or wrong and everything to do with wanting it to be there fault. After all what are all these games got in common if not that they tend to be skirmish (or small unit) driven and are a distraction to the big game player?
Thinking about it, would that ultimately mean the cowboy game is the real problem er maybe time to move along........
I think the time to worry is when the alternative stuff starts to gain a lot more column inches in the magazines just like that Fantasy rot did at one point, I remember how that caused all sorts of rashes etc.