Thursday, 26 December 2013

Quid agis?


Quite a bit really, some of it even wargames related.

The past month or so has been a bit of a smorgasbord of events, including hospitals (not me), mortuaries (not me – I think!), house moves (again, not me), disputes with neighbours (strangely, not me either) and not forgetting Christmas.

Going to follow the usual pattern of 'wot I got for Christmas' and then on to the usual fantasies. So, had a nice haul of goods and, strangely for a blog like this, only one wargames related gift. The overall total was certainly a collection worth having and I'm pleased as punch. The wargames present is best described as a 'birthmas' gift from my son who had been badgering me for weeks for some idea of what to get me for my birthday (November) and Christmas. I finally got round to giving him a list for my projected Prussian force C1806 and received a couple of pounds of AB pewter in exchange. Proper chuffed. This was followed up with a copy of Al Murray's book 'Watching War Films With My Dad', one of only two books received this Christmas.


Now, it's certainly a niche book and not to everyone's taste either because the subject doesn't appeal or you don't like Al Murray, but I've started reading it and find it enjoyable. He writes pretty much the way he speaks so it's almost like listening to him talk you through it.

This is actually Al Murray but the way and not 'The Pub Landlord'. He strolls along discussing Airfix kits and Action Man as well as some bloomers in war films and dismissing some awful titles from the Hollyweird catalogue. However, it's much cleverer than it first appears and draws in a variety of topics such as how generational change has led to a view of the Second World War which is far removed from that of our parents.

It's not belly laugh funny and not intended as a comedy piece at all, but it certainly generated at least a smile a page for me. I've certainly recognised myself and a few others in it so far and I think it's worth giving a go. It'll almost certainly be in libraries by now (if you've still got one near you, that is).

As many of you will know, the world's gone completely mad with this Analogue Hobbies' Painting Challenge, well sixty one people have and they're (mostly) going flat out in the pursuit of glory and painted lead. Personally, I'm far too indisciplined to follow such a path: I'm still trying to convince myself to base the Maine battalions I painted recently. Real life does tend to get in the way though and I do get seduced away by books and films too as well as other pleasurable things. I am, however, ploughing on with the Bloggers for Charity painting quota for the 2014 demo games and, when these are put to bed, I'm likely to start on my new 14th Brooklyn ACW figures from Forgotten and Glorious. Lovely figures, very cleanly cast. The company has also got an Iron Brigade funding campaign underway.

Swiped from the Forgotten & Glorious website.

About a month ago I went across to a mates' house in Welsh Wales (it's 'English' Wales really) for a couple of days for an old school style game. 
 
He hasn't got a bloody clue!

Good fun and the food and beer were good, but it's not really my thing to be honest. However, the important bit it that he's thinking about making the rules available on the net free of charge. This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows him, but might be something of a shock to the more money or kudos driven. The rules have been at least three or four years in development and now look nothing like their original form, but they do work, they're simple (but not unsophisticated) and, if you're experienced enough, reasonable easy to adapt/modify without destroying their balance. So, we're still thinking about the best way of doing this, but watch this space for more details later.

Now then, I've been thinking again. During the course of that weekend foray (and other conversations) it became clear that there's a certain cachet to being a wargamer. True, it only has value amongst those of the wargaming persuasion and many proud wargamers wouldn't be so proud if it came out in mixed company and it can be a deal breaker in some situations: “Have you seen my 28mm Seleucid Companions?” doesn't seem to have the same innuendo as “Have you seen my etchings?” - or, God forbid, maybe it does. Nevertheless, solo gamers are a type sometimes sidelined, tournament gamers can be looked down upon, wargame developers revel in the esoteric and so on. So, what is a wargamer? If there was a Euro-standard for such a beast or there was some financial benefit to being a wargamer, how could that animal be defined? Is a solo gamer a lesser being than a club gamer and which clubs are more desirable to seek membership of? Is a fringe interest more or less beneficial to the hobby than mainstream periods? Do 'rule mechanics' gain extra kudos? There are league tables, mostly associated with particular rule sets, but do they show anything other than who's best at playing to those rules or, possibly more accurately, of those players who have access to sufficient opposition, enter tournaments or simply can be bothered, who is best?

National associations have tended to be eschewed: a natural reaction by a group which can't even agree on a common set of rules for a given historical period or conflict and certainly can't seem to decide on a definition of what a wargame is. Ergo can anyone define a wargamer?

14 comments:

  1. I do like Al Murray and I liked his WW2 documentary that he did, I define a wargamer as someone who never grew up and proud of it!

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    1. I enjoyed AM's documentary(ies) if only for his enthusiasm. Apparently he's a fairly quiet bloke in real life - pretty typical of many comedians, I think.

      As for growing up, I think we're probably more 'mature' than most members of society and certainly more interesting!

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  2. I'd be scared to offer a definition of a war gamer, not least because i have been told numerous times that I am not the real deal myself - and the fact that i didn't really follow the reasoning, not to mention the fact that sometimes i was quite pleased to be excluded (don't mention that - mention what? - you know…) hasn't helped with the understanding thing.

    The reason I'm a solo gamer came about, firstly, because i moved into a sparsely-populated area where most of my neighbours were sheep and horses and - secondly - because i came to quite like some aspects of the freedom of playing on my own, including a big reduction in handling damage to my figures (yes - quite so).

    On the rare occasions when i venture into Games Workshop premises (for example) I am forcibly reminded of my twilit, fringe status and - again - I am strangely comforted.

    I like toy soldiers, I love military history and I am a reclusive bastard - are we getting close to a definition here?

    Cheers - Merry Wassname

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    1. Well, did the club thing for a fair while and, as a result, I'm more than a bit selective as to who I'd want to spend time with, especially these days. Done the demo game thing and almost cried - I'm not really good at PR. The irony is that during my 'club' phase and a good deal of my solo phase, the two mates who were discussing what a wargamer is or isn't each had a wargaming hiatus of about twenty five years! Strangely, they couldn't come up with a definition either.

      I'm much happier pottering at my own speed trying new ideas and pursuing the projects I want to. I'm quite comfortable with my own company. My rule of thumb is: if I saw this person in a pub, would I duck him or buy him a pint? HAsn't let me down so far ;O)

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    2. I confess I had a wargaming hiatus as well - between 1980 and approx 20 years later I - like countless others - had a burgeoning(?) family, a demanding job and played guitar semi-pro in jazz groups. I got back to wargaming once everyone had lost interest in me.

      Maybe the hiatus is a standard subcategory for the official definition? Returners might well be born-again, possibly have a need to put energy into something, will probably have more spare time and might even have a bit more cash.

      As for growing up - I'm with CS Lewis - I've always believed there must be some better alternative. I worked for years in the Scottish finance industry, where people were disapproved of if they had a sense of humour. Very sad.

      Cheers - Tony

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  3. Great post, I enjoy Al Murray and may pick this book up, as to a definition for a wargamer hmm very tricky to put a nail on it but I am proud to be one

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    1. Yes, but would you let your daughter marry one?

      I think my idea is that it's a bit like looking at a cheese counter in a deli. There are dozens of different varieties, but they're all cheese.

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  4. Nice post; my name is Mike and I am a wargamer. Hah! Our hobby is too diverse and dynamic for simple definitions. I've been playing miniature games for a long time, but I am still awed when I attend a large multi-day convention.
    It's enough for me to continue to research and paint, and play 8-10 games a year. I like it.

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    1. Yes, I too like conventions and I enjoy watching demo and participation games, but I often find myself watching the players rather than the game - they're frequently more interesting. I'm stymied at present as regards solo gaming (don't ask!), but I probably get in about 6 to 8 games of all kinds each year so I'm happy enough with that for now.

      As to a definition, I think I'm hap ehough with my 'cheese counter' view for now ;O)

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  5. I like to think of myself and other wargamers as Peter Pan's, the boys who never grew up. We'll leave the growing up the the female of the species, they do it so much better than us???

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  6. If people like you and Fran ever grow up it'll be a sad loss to the hobby and humanity in general. Cracking quote from C.S. Lewis:

    “Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

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  7. I like all Murray's enthusiasm for history more than his comedy but he cones across as a good chap. I just love looking at toy soldiers painted or unpainted. The fact someone sat and crafted them. I do get a lot of fun out of gaming but not as much as putting that varnish coat on a painted mini yet. I'll keep trying though!

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  8. I think you've got to find the part of this hobby that you like best of all and hang on to it. There are so many 'experts' out there it's bewildering. We need more honest folk and fewer snake oil salesmen.

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