Saturday, 31 October 2015

Is there another way perhaps. ?

My wife Carole is a keen Gardener. She potters about doing various gardeny things to sundry bits of greenery. Occasionally she calls upon me to dig holes or lift heavy things. This is about as far as my gardening expertise runs.
 However the other night I happened to be watching Gardeners World with her and caught comedian Griff Rhys -Jones in his rather palatial garden. The presenter asked him if he had always been a gardener.
 He answered "No it's like Radio 3 you have to grow into it".
 At this a light bulb came on in my head !
 "Grow into it" I thought- exactly what SHOULD be happening is our hobby.
10mm Sassanids- Maybe they can Grow into the hobby abnd become 25mm!!!

 Newcomers should grow into it they way most of us did. Starting small and simple with say Thomas' One Hour Wargames or indeed any of Neil's fine books Or indeed many of these "Osprey Wargames" which seem very simple and lightweight  (Sort of today's early Featherstone or even simpler Terry Wise.). To me these are perfect entry level stuff you don't need much period knowledge, You don't need many figures or that much terrain yet you are still encompassing some of the skills you will need if you decide to stick with it and expand and grow into the hobby .
 However that is not the way it seems to go- the idea is to as Priestly put it (that's Rick not J.B.) "Get the Kids to play" - the accent being very much on play rather than the multitude of skills we thought we needed when we started. Now lets face it "not JB" has a game designers axe to grind here- which of course is one reason why Warlord have "not40K at all in the slightest" -they call it "Beyond the Gates of Antares"  on their books and why every game designer and his brother are bringing out lightweight "games" because there seems to have been a collective commercial decision that
a/. It's for the children cos pester power gets us the bucks
 and
b/. Their customers are all lazy minded
and
c/. need to be spoon fed because they are too thick to deal with complicated ideas like counting into double figures...
 God Almighty - how bloody patronising can you get !
Nevertheless there does seem to be a perceived problem with so called "Entry level" to our hobby-me I'm not so sure.  The problem may be in defining what "entry level" actually means .
 For example I have Lion Rampant and much of it is pretty  predictable but having  said that  definitely "accessable"  and suitable for entry level. A child of ten would have no bother at all, see the review in my previous post
 As it is, it is wargaming very lite, an intro to pre-gunpowder skirmish gaming well done as it stands  but no more than that.
25mm Wars of the Roses.

The problem is really that many blokes are lauding it to the skiesas if it is something special. Take a look at some of the reviews of it - and of the others perhaps  It seems that "simple" and "quick" and "fast moving gameplay"  is all Joe Wargamer wants these days. Yet as it stands  it is simplistic almost to childishness and very limited.
 There is a misconception now common that detailed ( read complicated) rules MUST be bad and  simple(read simplistic and childish) MUST be good. This of course is cobblers both ways as nobody has a concrete definition of "good" . "Good" is not a constant. Lion Rampant for example is "good" if you want a simple entry level game of pre-gunpowder skirmishing. Not so good if you actually want more than a mere cosmetic resemblance to actual medieval warfare.
 As always the problem lies with Wargamers-the public wants what the public gets
  However the point of the foregoing digression is that I do have the background- I know the medieval period  so can adapt and "improve" the contents of the book and indeed  could do so with any period I choose to interest myself in. As can all of the chaps I know  Surely that is part of the point. One of the things that differentiates us from say  Scrabble or Risk or Diplomacy or monopoly  is that this in an open ended hobby where knowing your stuff- whatever it be SHOULD be encouraged rather than denigrated and belittled. Frankly I can't see the point of the gaming part of this hobby without the background knowledge. It is mere dice rolling for the hard of thinking. Most of the skills you need are  used before the playing actually starts. Especially if the "game" you choose to play takes all the decision making out of your hands and places it in a deck of cards or the roll of a dice. This is not to say that card driven games are bad
 As it stands today most newer rule sets downplay the knowledge you need to play. or attempt to supply all of it themselves.- This comes from the Fantasy Genre- you know the kind of stuff
(Deep Voice)
" In  the Days of Yore in the Caves of Fartolehiem the DWARVES  of King Shawtarze ......"- then Telling you what was permissable or not  in portenous and often  patronising language .
 Now a goodly number of Historically based rules do theis- most notably Flames of War and its ilk. .
 Possibly a question needs to be asked here- how many of today's wargamers have or even want the background knowledge to enable them to have enough of a critical faculty to say why they like or more likely dislike something beyond saying
"I don't like it cos its crap"
Yes some chaps ARE like that but equally many perhaps most  are not- are they being catered for by the quick and simple brigade?- and also do they care ?
 and secondly- the crux here for me
 Do we need to pander to the  child market at all?
 Where does the idea that we must catch new Wargamers before they hit 10 - we are not Jesuits (give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man)
 Of course there will come the answer- "Where are the next generation of Wargamers going to come from"
 Well for a start they are already here.
I have customers aged from the late 20s through to their 70s and I'm sure other outfits are the same. Granted the majority are past 40 but that does not mean they are in their dotage- as many commentators would have you believe.
There is a good bit of Ageist crap spoken about this hobby- usually by self proclaimed old men in cardigans who want to be Doddering Old Farts before their time.

 What exactly is the problem with wargames that take a little effort and are not PRIMARILY designed for a 10 year old? Especially once you get past so-called "Enrty- level"
 Why should we only be aiming our "recruitmant" at children. What is actually wrong with attempting to recruit inteligent adults- are the  elder generation saying there are no such animals? 
 What is wrong with making it clear that this is a hobby wheresome  intelligence and some specialist skills are requiresd, that you have to learn stuff over time and that at least some of the time that requires effort and even a little brain work. Lets face it other hobbies don't seem to have this problem- Model Railways , Model Car Racing-  try being a halfwit with a couple of grands worth of Radio controlled cars to play with  or  Radio Controlled Aircraft- get that wrong and SPLAT!  Several grand and Gawd know how many hours work in bits all over the field. Of course at entry level all hobbies are cheaper and simpler but if you stick it you grow into it as you gain skills .  So the Model Railway chap may start by buying ready to run off the shelf - and that may be enough for him but if he grows into it he may end up  building his own from plans and creating some truly wonderful scenery.
All hobbies have their specialist knowledge- why do we constantly downplay and denigrate ours?  Usually so game designers can make a few quid  or so it appears
 That getting a pair of armies onto the table requires something more than an ability to throw dice and read a few works from the" back of a postcard" is for me an absolute. If a Wargamer chooses to stay in the shallow end  of the pool so be it- his choice- but should those who swim in deeper waters  not also be catered for? Or is there perhaps and acceptance by  the Games Designer Dudes that we who swim at the deep end are largely beyond their reach?.
 Of course  perhaps we don't need the GDD's to tell US what to do, Perhaps WE have moved beyond THEM- at least some of the time.
 Of course in actuality- to continue the metaphor- sometimes you swim at the deep end and sometimes you just paddle about a bit getting your feet wet. I can - for instance- see me playing a modified Lion Rampant format for the Wars of the Roses in 40mm but some kind of Formation rules and Leadership rules will need to be added.
 What is the problem that some have with actually using their brain sometimes?
 Now don't get me wrong there is and has always been a place for "Wargaming Lite"   While sometimes you may want to re-fight Waterloo at others  you may simply want a Barney down the Boozer! Or indeed anything in between. There should be room for all shadings
 In MWBG no 390  Niel Shuck's column  says
 "When we play a wargame we are looking to simulate (however abstractly) what would happen should that battle take place in the real world"
Now to me this is so obvious that it should not need saying but it seems that it  is being said more and more. I wonder why this is?

 In a world where craft skills are fashionable again- Sewing Baking Gardening Potting- to name only those on BBC2 why do we CONSTANTLY belittle ourselves to ourselves. I begin to wonder if ours is the only hobby where actual thought and knowledge  is actively discouraged by some in favour or yet another Zombie game - see the two reviews in MWBG no 390 pages 59 and 62- 2 different reviews one for another bloody Zombie game and one- the  low point of an otherwise decent mag  for a game based around Slasher movies. Now just how are these "Wargaming" - they may have a place in  MW sister mag Tabletop Gaming which I've seen and was singularly unimpressed by - but here? - To his credit Henry offers his opinion on the Slasher game . Read it for yourselves !.. Nice One Henry !
Surely this kind of  nasty  unpleasant mindless dross has no place in our lexicon. Yet it seems the level of this crap is increasing. Somebody must be buying it and worse playing the bloody things over and over. Thank Gawd I can't see into what they are pleased to call their minds .....
If we don't  "reclaim our intelligence" perhaps we are doomed

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Rampant Regardant

 Recieved a copy of Osprey's Lion Rampant yesterday and to look at it is exactly what you would expect from and Osprey. Pretty, well produced and full of pictures - some of which actualy may be of use.
 This is my first foray into "Osprey Wargames"  as none of the other titles have even remoely picqued my interest. After all how many similar skirmish games can you do (though it has to be said the forthcoming "En Garde" may be added later)  what with Pirates, Samaurai,  Victorian Sci- Fi  assorted Fantasy etc etc etc  I wondered if they were actually going to publish anything that was close to a set of "proper" wargames rules.
 So  after hearing or reading sundry blokes' opinions on Lion Rampant - being something of a medievalist- I thought I'd give it a bash .
 Well it definitely falls into the  "limited skirmish game" category


Lion Rampant     

But despite that it has some nice ideas and the rules are presented with a light touch. For me they came across as quite old school and a bit simplistic. The basic system is actually not bad- and with a bit of tweaking could be  better. The limited nature of the units and "organisation" is for me a serious drawback. I HATE set unit sizes especially for the sort of Petit Geurre this is supposed to represent. However much of that can be ignored if you choose and much to his credit the author encourages you to look deeper into the medieval period and go beyond the fairly narrow confines of the book .
 As for the actual rules they are pretty simple- a child could follow these so Joe Wargamer should not have too much bother. If you want to get a bit less lightweight though you are going to need to tweak a bit. There are no formations in the system for anything other than spearmen types- despite the fact that there is a "drilled" skill for mounted Men at Arms .... bit odd that- you are a drilled unit but you have no formation ... Hmmmm
Also shooting and fighting- whilst basically good simple systems have a single silly foible that I can't see the need for. A unit can take up to 42.50% casualties without any loss of its fighting or shooting power. This is just daft- especially when the system allows for 1 combat/shooting dice per figure. I'll be dropping dice as a units is reduced thanks- its actually easier to do this than not ..No of figs in a unit = number of dice used - not exactly rocket science
 Again for this type of Petit Geurre such large losses are a bit ovet the top 
 Fortunatly the system should allow such tweaking and IMHO will be better for it . Avoiding the silly points system should actualy help too though bizarrely the points system is slightly tied into the morale test - again shouldn't  make a great deal of difference if you ignore it.
 Scenarios and basic "army lists" are provided for the lazy but once again to his credit the author acknowledges that they are only basic. Indeed I applaud  much- if not all - of his design philosophy.
 On the whole these rules should provide a basis for  some low level Medieval mayhem suitable for a child of ten or a wargamer of 47 - I plan to use my 40mm Wars of the Roses collection and possibly my 40mm Normans , Saxons etc. I'll play a run through or two - cold as the rules are written before Tweaking though.
 The "Armies"  are very limited in size around 40 figs being average though if you were mad I suppose you could do a peasants revolt where the maximum would be 24 units each of 12 serfs .... but that would be daft ... for your "24 point" "army" or retinue as the writer terms it. 

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Definitions and Dillitantes.

 Now the recent- but short- discussion surrounding the merits of Donnington show  last weekend on this and Robbie Roddis blog has prompted me to think a little on shows and what punters expect from them .
 As always the first conclusion is that they don't know what they want but the moan when they don't get it.
 Again I'm being deliberately provocative becasue I want answers - which doubtless I won't get.
Now Robbie admits his idea of some kind of overarching organistion to do "12 or so regional shows" is a fantasy but it does give us a worthwhile starting point to examine shows and why some blokes like Robbie find them  unsatifying..
 Now as it happens I don't have a problem with the current show structure and I'll tell you why. I like its individuality and quirkiness. The different levels of differing shows is  an advantage- From Salute at the top via Donnington , Triples, Partizan Claymore etc. down to tiny shows like Durham- all have something to offer. Now  I've not been to a show purely as a punter  for a good few years- my last was Fiasco at the Armouries in Leeds and frankly a mere wargames show could not- for me- compete with the magnificence of the Armouries. So I spent about an hour at the show and 3 or 4 hours in the Armouries- no contest. Nevertheless different shows have different levels- I always enjoy Durham- its the only show I demonstrate at these days. Deliberately doing a different game each year. All of the other shows I attend I attend as a Trader and big is not always best. My favourite "Club" show this year was Carronade in Falkirk- a little craker. See my report earlier in this blog.
 I don't for instance do the "Warfayre" show in Reading in November any longer. - Sunday was a waste of time Its a 6 hour trip each way  the venue is falling to bits and smells of jockstraps and wee wee- or used to.
 Similarly I don't do WMMMS any more for similar reasons or SELWG- mainly because for us it is a total pain to get to- another 6 hours each way- for a one day show with really bad unloading its not worth it.
 Nevertheless - these show continue without me so someone is getting something out of it- and it can't just be the wedge the organising club make!
Yes all shows can be a bit samey and Robbie quite rightly picks out the old WARCON show of the early 90s as a fine example of its time. - I both traded and ran games there and it was great fun BUT the additional lectures etc  were mostly failures- very few turned up. These days I'd wonder if any would. The intellectual down marketing of our hobby is now a constant . knowing stuff- in almost any walk of life is seen as not quite the thing so its bound to reflect in what we do. Look at the outporing of  simple background  knowledge free games. Intellectually low rent  for the hard of thinking- but well produced, marketed and of course priced . Convenience Wargaming for the Convenience Generation.
However moving on . How for instance do we get to Robbies Fantasy- who decides which are the "best" games- A Committee of retired Civil Servant and ex-Police Wargamers ?(after all they have the time and the money) -  NO CHANCE over my cold and festering corpse. A Committee of Traders- I refer the gentleman to the answer I gave a moment ago- only more so .
 The problem with any kind of National organisation is that it will inevitably lead to a narrowing of what is "allowed" . Give any group power and they will abuse it and  twist it to their own ends and there are always enough  brown nosers and fellow travellers who think they can get something out of it- and no I don't mean just money.
 Yes I'm a cynic devil a doubt but it is the differences that make this hobby so much fun. The current  commercial climate has seen a ferocious narrowing over the last few years so that in some quarters anything other than the "dice rolling and counter pushing"  is no longer in vogue. We need to keep the diversity- some of us are incurable Dillitantes- which is why I probably  wouldn't want to trade at a "themed" show for instance- though I might demo at say a Pike and Shot  show if invited and if I could get there- I wouldn't go near a SYW only themed show- too narrow and just possibly too far  up itself for my egalitarian soul.. No more diversity not less- if a show is crap don't go then it may die and be replaced with something else- Darwins Natural Selection perhaps?
 I remain of the opinion that many Wargamers are- for whatever reason - lazy in some respects, hidebound in some respects and don't want change- why should they when they enjoy their hobby..
 Wargaming shows no signs of snuffing it, sure it changes and its far far more trend and fashion concious than it used to be- but that is a reflection of the world in general. .
Most Demontrsators and PP games masters at shows are- despite commercialisation still volunteers giving of their time and effort more or less freely because they want to do it.
 Long may this  diversityand Freedom  continue.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Skyhawk.

Argentinian A-4 Skyhawk ove the Falklands - 1982

Finally I finished  what should have been an easy- ish paint job. took longer than I'd have liked simply because other stuff got in the way. Like work for instance- which of course this was anyway. So an Argentinian A-4 Skyhawk. The A-4 was a pretty ubiquitous aircraft in its day sering with the USA in the Vietnam War The Isrealis during the Yom Kippur Warand of course the Argentines during the Falklands War. Other airforces including Kuwait New Zealand and Brazil also used the A-4.
 It therefore seemed natural for Lil'flyin' Fokkers to make one to complement the Frieforce Miniatures 15mm Falklands range.
 LFF also of course do a Pucara- but that one is still on the painting table....

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Brutal Boks Batter Birds

 A bit of alliteration there - but the American Eagles really did get a proper doing 64 -0. Now I expected a bok victory but it was so total, so complete that there was only 1 team on the pitch -especially in the second half. The American scrum was awful - pushed all over the park by the stronger South Africans almost at will.
 Frankly I was surprised at how bad the USA were. They have played better but the Springboks are really on form now.
Wales have a hill to climb  I really hope they can do it.
 Now if Samoa beat Scotland- unlikly I grant you but not impossible tyhen Japa may Qualfy- which would be fantastic especially as they should I hope be able to beat the USA. Though we are told the USA have "targeted" that game and fielded an understrength side against the boks ..... Hmmmmm
 Should be an interesting weekend of blood and thunder.
 Times of the games here.
 http://www.rugbyworldcup.com/fixtures

Along with lots of other info

You will of course notice that I've been notably silent about the England disaster. I didn't see it as I was in Derby  but the result says it all. A customer- Derek was there and knows his rugger, better than I  and opined that the Australians gave us an object lesson in how to play a game.  English Discipline was again very poor so we deserved our kicking !
 Nuff said move on .....

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Pleasure and the Pain

 Normally I don't give personal health reports on this as nobody gives a toss anyway so why bother. However I did my back in loading up so any of you wondering why I was hobbling around the show like a man with 2 wooden legs now knows Nuff said. Its only pain - keep taking the tablets and carry on ....

 So far I've read 2 reports on the Derby World Wargames show which I attended last weekend. - I sort of recognised the show from the reports .... sort of .....
 Both Reports- Trebbians and Robbie Roddis'  could have been reporting different shows though neither of them  rated the show particularly highly for their own reasons. and mostly I agree with what they say. Though I  try to avoid non-historical games at shows like the plague.
 I could add a third report  from me which would rate the event higher  than both - probably for different reasons again. So here we see the basic problem which no-one seems to be able to answer clearly what dio you want from a show. Both of them have a little pop at the event but I can't see why - becasue neither of them got what they wanted from it ? I can't tell .
 Put  deliberately bluntly it seems to me that Robbie wants Bright lights shazam Kapow !  and Trebbian wants more speed and  dice rolling ! - and yes that is deliberately provocative but it seems to me that the event provided plenty of both - if you knew where to look and you are that way inclined (whichever way) .  Perhaps I don't expect as much from a show- my biggest personal bugbear  was the almost complete lack of Talking heads to tell you what it was all about- Now on some games I didn't have a problem here  Peter Bradfords MacPhersons Ridge allied with Martin Knights 1 to 1  example of a Brigade action from that battle- they'll talk your ears off if you give 'em a chance. Same with the Stonewall grouops  Quatre Bras which  like the ACW game looked pretty tasty too.  But on many  demo tables  the players were PLAYING not DEMONTRATING.For intance I never saw the WW2 Scheldt game being played but perhaps I was working. There were a good few others I never saw being played- a sparse  but well done WW2 desert game- Nice terrain and models  but devoid of players. There were also several games on really small playing areas which I had no idea what they were as I never saw them being played- and on the couple that were it was "Introverts R Us" . Mind you having said that I've never viewed our hobby as a spectator sport. Watching others wargame is roughly equivelant to watching  paint dry - only less interesting- but probably  on the whole quite as smelly ! .Nevertheless- the aforementioned back problem did mean I had a bit more time to wander than normal as sitting down or standing still for any length of time was a bit of a pennance- so I wandered
 None of this is the organisers fault-you can't force players/demontrators to act the way you'd like as always some do some don't.
 In other ways the show was a bit weird. Saturady was pretty flat tradewise but Sunday -abnormally was better than Saturday which made  my happiness index rise a good bit. Some at least of the other traders had a similar experience.. From a commercial viewpoint it was the best for a few years and I'd go further it was the best looking show there for a few years too.
 Certainly better than last year which had even more unplayed "tiny-board-unwargames" than this year- mind you the nadir this year was  a horrible board wargame of WW1 on printed paper with horrible little plastic men ... Why??? - Especially since I never saw it being played .


So overall I enjoyed the event- some good craic with some good blokes.; Some good looking games which the players were enjoying -and doubtless if I had played I would have enjoyed... If I had to score I'd give it an 8 but such things are largely pointless as you can't really compare shows anyhow. As a punter for instance I'd rate Derby above Salute simply because I can get about and see stuff BUT were I living in the Capital then Salute would be top dog all round as it is from a traders point of view it still is..


Can't recall seeing any 15mm games at the show .These are of course 15mm WW2


 Continued on Wednesday..... Thinking about the above  overnight I'd still say that Donnington is from  several viewpoits a fine show. Always one of my favourites in a good year. Commercially Salute is better no doubt but leans more hevily of non- historical stuff and on commercial outfite running Non- historical games.. Donnington is more grounded in "proper" wargameing- even to the competitons  which while I don't play I did give prizes for 2 of them . I know- because I asked that it was one of the organisers objective to give more prominence to clubs doing displays rather than  traders running games to flog them. Now I heartily approve of this stance. That it didn't perhaps get the diversity  it intended is a shame- no 15mm at all that I could see outside the competiton tables- yet I sold literally thousands of 15mm figures over the weekend. with just over 60%  of my pre-orders being 15mm . I was of course not the only 15mm manufacturer there- I saw Essex and Donnington nd Lancashire too.  So do 15mm players hide their light under a bushel ??  I can't answer that as personally my 15mm collection is pretty small. Also I can't run games and run the Trade stand- Though putting on a 15mm Modern game would be no big deal.