Saka Light Cavalry

Saka Light Cavalry

Friday, 21 February 2014

Chatter Behind The Bike Sheds - Home Taping Is Killing Music!

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.

20 comments:

  1. I am rather having trouble seeing how Saga a historical skirmish game can be the cause of this, after all it is strictly historical, ok with some units that may or may not have been a reality but are in historical texts. I square the current trend and blame for this firmly at westwind and the empire of the dead, a total non historical bundle of victorian/steamwhatsamagiggy malarky that having played it made no sense at all and stretch my acceptance of altered reality to its breaking point

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    1. The whole blame game was said with tongue placed firmly in cheek, so Saga just got a little bit of a leg pull. I think in reality we have two main camps those who really get immersed in the whole alternative reality and the head scratchers.

      Ian

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  2. An interesting post, thank you.

    If think you've hit the nail by saying that adherence to 'true historicals' is too limiting for manufacturers or game designers. How many hussar regiments are people going to need? But if you can introduce them to a distopian world with six (to begin with!) factions...

    Equally though, perhaps History (with a Big H) is too limiting for gamers. Do they want to spend there time fretting about why the Loamshire Regt can't use Weapon X, or do they want to kick some Zombie butt (and, hey!, why not make it Nazi Zombie butt?).

    My feeling is that gamers want to have instant gratification. They don't want to sit down and have to read a book explaining platoon tactics, they want to open a box and have fun. And to buy the best Killer Army possible. In a non-historical setting the manufacturers can always invent something bigger and better that beats everybody else! And do it every three years (because their marketing strategy is that 40% will give up The Hobby after 18 months).

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    1. Yep I reckon you nailed it with your last paragraph.

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    2. It's a good point regards what I will call the quick fix, though I would not right off the immersion in real history. Sure I want to get a bunch of games played yesterday but I also want the long term goal of getting those big armies or wide army lists played through. After all that Persian army from way back still gets played and I am still expanding the new options I have under FoG:Ancients

      Ian

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  3. You make good points - GW has long held the mantle for fantasy / sc-fi kicks, but their recent pricing and product strategies have turned a lot of people off them who thus go looking for alternatives for their fantasy fix... plus a lot of the new stuff springing up is skirmish gaming with squads/factions/gangs whichare always tempting to get into because you do not need to paint up hundreds of figures to have a painted 'army' on the table...
    I like it, variety is the spice of life and all that... I'm currently enjoying EotD, LOTR, LotHS - all skirmish type games... I'd love to get properly into Black Powder or Hail Caesar, but the need for huge armies is constantly off putting when you can get into something else far quicker...

    Good post Sir!

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    1. Yes, the skirmish point is a good one (and ties in with a more RPG approach based on character development)

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    2. I am wanting to have a go at Saga at some point. I personally have little interest in the none historical, other that LOTR which has a history of it's own but I have no problem seeing others get into it.

      Ian

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  4. I can't really comment because what i'd say has already been said!! But it does seem people want that quick fix skirmishy type game nowadays and not the longer game like we play at Reject HQ. Our games usually last all day, from a 10 to a 5 o'clock finish. You can't do that with skirmish games, Saga, muskets and tomahawks or any of the Osprey sets. they're all 1-2 hour games. There's nothing wrong with a 1-2 hour game at all, but I think its a lot more easily marketable and aimed at the younger generation like the dreaded GW............Saying that I've just bought Donnybrook and will be doing exactly that!

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    1. Scott covers it with variety is the spice. Not just in periods but size. No time for a full meal then have a snack that will leave you wanting more. It's all good

      Ian

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  5. Very good post! I am probably one of the consumers encouraging this trend. My two favorite periods are the FIW and the Great War. For the former skirmish was the majority of the conflict with a few big set battles. Trench Raiding just seems the most fun and non historical conforming...like I can build and use very charactiful models.
    I am pursuing the Penninsular War and have focused on cav heavy French with mostly infantry British( perhaps overly influnced by the Sharpe books!) I am also hording for the ACW Miners Creek battle. The latter is very cav heavy and the rebels had all the artillery. Both will have units I like the look of instead of the purely historically present ones.
    The Iron Brigade, Irish Brigade, Zouaves, Michigan 2nd sharpeshooters, michigan 5th cav, and the kilt wearing union highlanders were not involved in that western theatre, but I'll have them just because I can! ;)

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    1. One thing that seems to be more common now is the amount of characterful figures mostly command but also odd rank and file that have been given a lot extra detail and these appear on tables all over the place.

      In the days you could play at Maelstrom I had a couple of occasions where someone came looked at the figures with close scrutiny before asking what battle we were playing and usually followed up with how such and such was incorrect for THAT battle. My reply was usually along the lines of well they also had more than twenty men in the regiment or such. Our Waterloo game will have mostly none 1815 French fighting it, since Baccus have yet to release the correct ones I have a feeling we would not have the time to paint up over 100 battalions in time!

      Ian

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  6. I think the rise in popularity of skirmish games is due to a number of factors:
    1. quick to get into with only a handful of figures that need to be painted
    2. they don't need a lot of space, so can easily be played on the kitchen or dining room table
    3. games take 1-2 hours, which means they can more easily be fitted in around gamers' increasingly busy schedules
    4. they're fun
    5. alternative genres may appeal to a wider audience than the historical gaming scene and could act as a gateway to historical wargaming

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    1. I have to agree with 1-4 but have a little issue with 5. I think historical still holds sway simply and will continue to do so. All the alternatives added together (leaving out GW) fail to dint the traditional base of wargamers. However I will agree that they are probably selling a disproportional amount of figures though still a smaller figure that true historical.

      Gateway to traditional wargames? I would say the amount of players they bring into the historical is around the same number that are distracted or lost as they get involved in the near historical.

      Ian

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  7. In the 60's and 70's, what's usually regarded as the heyday of historical gaming WWII was retro, most of the gamers then had either fought in or lived through the war, so the interest was in real warfare, now as we in the west have become a less militaristic society, most if not all gamers take their inspiration from TV and films. The 70's and 80's were the start of good mainstream fantasy and Si-Fi TV and films and the 70's and 80's are what's retro now, so that's what gets gamed now.

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    1. Personally I would not like to wargame any of the current conflicts nor such as the Falklands as that is just too close for me.

      A friend would not play WWI after visiting the battlefields and graveyards.

      I think more than anything it's the ability to play something quick and I suspect teamed up with not being yet another WWII, Nap or Ancients game the appeal is greatest to those getting tired of fighting the same old conflicts

      Ian

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  8. I agree with most of the post. But I have a (small) issue with the way wargaming is being looked at in splendid isolation. Take for instance Steampunk. This is getting a much larger following in literature, RPGs, LARP etc. It would be very surprising if this did not bleed across into wargaming. That however does not change the points made about the impact.

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    1. A good point, though I use ignorance as my excuse as I have not paid attention to the books but LARP really? That must be something to see.

      Ian

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  9. Thought-provoking stuff there. Does the current boom in skirmish games do the mainstream 'big army' end of the hobby any damage, or do the two strands complement one another?

    Exactly how much overlap is there in the Venn diagram of 'Historical Wargamers', 'Alternative History Skirmish' and 'Historical Skirmish Gamers'? More than we imagine, I suspect.

    Skirmish-level gaming is a useful intro to historical games for the younger player, but that's not the limit of its utility.

    There are those of us who have gamed on a larger scale in the past (in my case, when dinosaurs ruled the earth), but who have since downsized our living spaces, and unavoidably, our armies. Skirmish-level historical rule sets give us a chance to work on smaller projects, but still keep our collective hand in with painting and research on our pet periods.

    Additionally, given the pressures of modern life and work, not all of us can devote as much time to painting and gaming as we would like. Skirmish games are great for when you can grab a spare evening with your mates, get the beer in, and just kick off with minimum forward planning required.

    This isn't to say that I don't still dream of embarking upon various big army projects in the future (memo to self; 28mm Pontics, check availability of), but as circumstances stand now, I'm happy to stick with smaller-scale engagements.

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    1. I had not considered the downsizing due to space view though I should have given my lack of spare space.

      Skirmish games I think are far less likely to damage wargames than alternative history. The majority who play skirmish already have large armies and I believe most of these would not be looking to buy more. The draw of having something new to paint is very sweet and wargamers being wargamers that one faction is never enough and before you know it you have three or four and starting to push on to having the same number of figures as a small army.

      Hobby time has become more precious for many. Given the fact that a working life is being extended standing at age 70 in the UK at the moment but looking to be further driven up in my lifetime it makes me wonder if thinking of playing lots in retirement is little more than a pipe dream for most of us.

      Ian

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