“The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being” - Socrates

I'm going to the Derby World Wargames (Championships) on Sunday, which isn't a clarion call for all bloggers to come and greet me because nobody knows what I look like (though with a bit of research that's not impossible to change). From memory I know James Brewerton's going too and I know what he looks like so I have the advantage. We all probably ought to have some badges made – like those the Steve Dean Forum had done a few years back. Maybe at least those of us who're members of the Bloggers for Charity (Christ on a bike, he's on about that again!).

Anyway, I've read mention of the show on a few blogs and (apart from the fact that almost everyone seems to be going on the Saturday) there are a lot of long(ish) shopping lists being promulgated. Mine are usually uttered sotto voce so I can change my mind at the drop of a hat. Now, other than the ability to see things first hand and to save paying postage (though you have travel and admission costs to account for), I wonder why so many people actually do buy so much at shows. T'internet seems to be the obvious way to make purchases these days and you don't have to schlepp around with a carrier bag cultivating a hernia. Oh yeah, and we could also discuss the members of the Everest expedition who traipse around with bloody rucksacks, but that seems to be falling out of fashion lately, thank God.

Now, I think I was going to ramble on about what I intended to buy, but I've pretty much talked myself out of it. I think I was going to have a shufty at 6mm C19th Europe, Dave Thomas (the stand, not the man), Caliver, Fighting 15's and some real estate, but, other than that, I usually tour the demo games and go for a smirk at the competition games, pointing at the losers and whispering defeatist comments in their ear. I don't really.

So, why the profound title of this post? A few days ago I spent an evening at a council consultation meeting, bored out of my skull. For those of you still in blissful ignorance, this was a meeting organised by our local authority to discuss some redevelopment proposals which will go through anyway, but under a smoke screen of public consultation. As usual, it was clear from the accents of the most vocal opponents that they began life south of the Trent, which is something which has always amused me. I laugh out loud when the TV reporter (any company) interviews 'locals' from, say, South Uist and you hear an accent from the South East of England. I could have left early or fantasized about a particularly attractive local government officer as she sat taking notes (which nobody will ever see), but instead, like all red blooded males of an uncertain age, I began thinking about wargaming. And what I thought was this -

We all participate in a hobby, about which we (collectively) know pretty much nothing. I don't mean the historical stuff (though this can be more than a bit patchy at times) or how to paint leads or who makes which figures, but I mean who wargamers are; what they look like; what they represent. Physically there's a caricature of someone who's a bespectacled, clinically obese male, devoid of any fashion sense, a stranger to the concept of male grooming and with the personal habits of a warthog; but enough of me. What I mean to say is that we don't seem to know how our hobby would appear to an anthropologist.

The geographical spread of wargemers is reasonably easy to assess, at least roughly, but what about:


sex (or even sexuality)


employment status

job or profession

periods gamed

duration of participation in the hobby

reasons for engaging in the hobby

And so it goes. But why?

Well, in the first instance, I suppose it's the product of a bored mind, but, the more I thought about it, I came to wonder if we really are the broad church that is so often claimed. There's been a deal of debate recently about painting standards, ethical issues etc., but nothing about what we actually represent. It's the sort of thing marketing people spend millions on each year, trying to identify their customers and market groupings, so it must have some significance. Employers garner similar information about their workforce, governments about their populations, even political parties and some trade unions about their members because they need to be  sure the organisation suits its members or vice versa; yet we don't seem bothered. I bet if Warlord Games found a massive wargames following in China they'd have every type of Chinese soldier for the past two thousand years available in neat boxed sets.

Is it important? As things stand, no, I suppose not. However, if there really is a greying of the hobby, shouldn't we as a group be able to identify who we are before we can discuss what we need to do about it? I have a good friend (yes, I still have one or two), Bill, who's ethnically Afro-Caribbean, born in Trinidad, but brought up in Manchester - he's as 'English' as I am. He's never played, but likes the game element of the hobby and loves the figures. However, he thinks this hobby is unashamedly centred upon white European or Anglo-Saxon culture and values and would have little appeal to anyone outside those groups. However, he doesn't see why women shouldn't be attracted to it just as they are to any game or sport. I asked him about Ancients, but he thought that they referred to historical periods so long ago that the ethnic groupings actually mean nothing nowadays. O.K., fair point. Nevertheless, I still wonder what our anthropologist would think.

I think that, while we're busily justifying the morality of the hobby, we should spare a thought for who holds these moral views. If there's a thriving Napoleonic wargame community among the ethnic Unuit, does that blow Bill's Anglo-Saxon theory out of the water? If the hobby's hugely popular in Argentina, is that a result of Anglo-Saxon/European influence? What about gamers in the Middle East? Africa? Asia? The Far East? Who are they and what makes them tick?

However, in the meantime, I don't think the council gives a monkey's about or opinion of the redevelopment plans.


  1. Enjoy Not Derby.

    An interesting post, which requires some thinking about. I hope it sparks a Heated Debate (was Mrs Merton at your meeting?).

    My initial thought is that t'internet has widened thinks out - it's now just as likely that we're communicating with the Argentinian wargamers (probably all Patagonian Welsh) or those in Trinidad as those in Devon. Is this changing things? You would know better than I.

    Ethnicity? Perhaps the kind of thinking you outline is why Games Workshop don't do historical now. What ethnicity are orcs anyway?

    1. I can't believe that t'internet hasn't had a pretty big effect on the hobby as far as cross pollination goes. Ideas shoot across the world in seconds and people get truly international feedback on blogs as well as forums and manufacturers' websites. However, I've no real idea how we're made up as a group and what influences come into play when anyone decides to take up the hobby. Hopefully a good few responises will help to clear some of this up.

  2. Interesting thoughts. Our club has in its membership a fellow of Vietnamese ancestry and I know of a List of Singapore gamers that includes more Chinese names than European expats http://singapore-wargames.tripod.com/#community

    While the West Tokyo Wargamers (http://westtokyowargamers.blogspot.com.au/) is mainly an expat organisation, I know there are local members, too.

    I know of a website that promotes wargaming in India, too. http://www.indiawargamers.com/players/index.html It seems to have an entirely locally populated membership.

    I think these are the exceptions to the rule, though, and middle-aged, white men would probably fit the demographic of most of us.

    1. God's teeth! I replied to this and it vanished. Good old Blogger eh?

      Anyway, I think the information you've provided is very useful and it's tempting to think that Bill's theory is now dead if all the other nationalities/ethnicities are passionately interested in Napoleonics of C18th European warfare or the like. I know there's a group cal something like the 'Napnuts of Hong Kong', but, given the location, they cold all just be ex pats.

      It probably sounds odd, but I really do hope we're not overwhelmingly middle aged class WASPs, but I'm afraid I'll be disappointed. Social class would be another interesting aspect because sheer weight of numbers would suggest that the majority of gamers are working or lower middle class, but that sort of study would be fraught with potential distortions. the level of disposable income alone would skew the result.

      Wait and see.

  3. As until this year my group of gaming mate was my Dad and my Sisters Father-in-law I guess I have no clue how ethnically diverse our hobby is, I do know that GW has a HUGE following all across Europe.
    As for Sunday I may wear a disguise :) although how I hide the fact I am an 18st ex-rugby playing bearded baldie I am not sure.

  4. As the other said, a very interesting post. It did make me laugh out loud,when you bored mind wandered over to wargame thoughts while at the meeting. I do it all the time, always planning what I'm doing next in my head over and over again, then when I get the paintbox out, I'm looking at the figures I've painted in my head a dozern times over, thinking "I'm bloody sure I painted them????"
    As for buying figures at shows, I still tend to do that, or at least have an order waiting to be picked up. I like to see the figures in the flesh before I buy something, just don't trust the net or companies. Last thing I want to do is spend 50 quid on some new NYW figures to find they all look like
    chimpanzees in drag!!
    I did think you were describing me as well, the bespectacled overweight chap in the corner who doesn't give a shit about fashion, jeans and t-shirt for me please, or my shorts!!!. Have fun at Derby!!

    1. Constantly thinking about the hobby and how I would like to be better at it, are we going to NOT SELWG? We also need to feel the lead before we buy it!

  5. Great post Gary, some interesting points but in truth my gaming group is small and we tend to do our own thing anyway and would not fit into any norms by a country mile.
    As to NOT DERBY I will be working all day saturday at warbases, While Sunday will be half work, half checking out some lead as want a couple of special miniatures

    1. Hmmmmm . . "checking out some lead' sounds like it's coming off someone's roof . . . .

  6. I know you used to look like Gregor Fisher, but I guess that was a disguise.

    I wargame because I am a snivelling wretch, with no influence or impact in the real world, and because it gives me a dark, private place that I CAN CONTROL ABSOLUTELY - HA HA HA HAHAHA.

    If any of these little lead guys think they can disobey me they have another think coming, I can tell you. I'm working on the ponytail, but I'm not brave enough for the tattoos.

    I am really ULF THE BERSERKER. But don't tell my mum.

    1. To tel the truth Ulf, I originally changed the avatar because Blogger went haywire and deleted the original somehow and I couldn't find the original. The Noggin the Nog picture is Edwin's fault ;O)

  7. Like most groups of individuals, it is difficult to generalize too much about wargamers. If you want an example, Google images from Gen Con. You'll see it all. When my 22 yer old son and I were there earlier this year, he saw many more people he knew than did I; although there were still plenty of middle aged and older folks present. I have been very fortunate, since 1974 I have had access to a miniatures gaming group. There are guys in the group that I have gamed with since the late '70's.
    The demographics of this group have varied through the years.

    Have fun on Sunday.

    1. Huh! Forgot to mention elves and the like. ;O)

      I'll have a scout round at the attendees on Sunday. I'm not convinced there's a 'greying' of the hobby. If there is, it's been a topic of conversation for about 30 years which means gamers would be dying off now at an alarming rate. Usually the age range at the competition tables is younger than accepted wisdom would have you believe.

      At the Triples this year I did notice a fair number of women who were actually engaging with the others rather than just being 'coat holders' and this show has a huge historical gaming bias.

      See what happens Sunday.

  8. Great, fun and interesting post, Gary.

    I'm missing Derby this year, but be sure to have a great time. As for your thoughts on demographics and wargaming, I think the hobby is more varied than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Like roleplaying, there's a strong, keen group of younger players coming through. That was much in evidence at Salute this year.

    As for geographic spread, gender and ethnicity, I'm not so sure its easy to generalise. In the end, and being totally honest, the way I like to meet new people at a wargames show is that I don't mind and I'm not worried (or thinking about) wherever you're from, whatever you do to make a living, whoever you are....you're a wargamer, and I've probably got loads in common with you once we start talking. I might be going out on a limb, but I think a lot of people feel the same way.

    1. Yeah, I think the same way about wargamers in general. When I meet someone I'm not bothered about the details and what does it matter anyway? No, I don't think you're going out on a limb. However, it seems odd to me that we don't know much about the population of our hobby. A guy I was in the navy with is a fanatical carp fisherman and he can tell you all sorts of detail about where it's more popular, where the best fishing places are, roughly how many fellow fishermen there are and can go on at length about the kind of demographics I mentioned. Now, it's relatively easy for him because carp fishing is pretty regulated by our standards, except in central and eastern Europe where it's a diet subsidy and is only just beginning to become a sport.

      Now, generally, we don't have the facility to come up with that sort of information other than maybe very locally, but (other than the Perries) I don't understand how companies can produce various games, figures etc., other than on a whim or based on the flimsiest market analysis and local knowledge. That seems strange for a hobby which thrives on rules, OOB's, uniform information and seeks to replicate the most regulated organisations in the history of the planet. However, I'm personally more interested in Bill's Anglo-Saxon theory and I think the Games Workshop approach that a couple of people have hit upon is more than a passing hint that Bill might be right (but how right?).


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