Having, as I have, perused wargaming blogs and websites for a while, I can see that there are, usually two piles of things that wargamers suffer from, usually gladly.
The first pile of things is what the estimable Mrs P. refers to as ‘grey armies’. We have, I imagine, all got them. Ghostly ranks of unpainted toy soldiers crammed into cupboards, drawers and other nooks and crannies in our wargame dens, whatever form they make take. It seems to be a natural part of being a wargamer, this hording tendency. Perhaps we are concerned that our favourite figures will go out of production, although that seems unlikely. Perhaps we simply decide that a new period of wargaming is nigh, and buy figures for that, forgetting all the previous projects which have remained unfinished and now languish in a box somewhere. Perhaps we do not make any sort of conscious decision, but simply buy because we live is an acquisitive society.
In my case, of course, I Have boxes of unpainted figures. In part, it is because I am a very slow painter. Again, it is much easier to buy figures than to paint them. Hence grey armies accumulate. I dread moving house because then my indolence is exposed. I suspect that, to use an old adage, a wargamer’s eyes are bigger than his mouth; we always tend to bite off more than we can chew. A forty base wargame army sounds simple in principal, but in the actual lead is much bigger than we might have thought. And, of course, any army is infinitely expandable. I mean, I know the Romans only had one lot of camel mounted cavalry, but I have bought enough to mount the whole twenty something legions. Or maybe I just like camels.
On that subject, of course, there is the issue of personal preference. For my English Civil war armies (in whichever scale) I have vast quantities of artillery, so much so, in fact, that they would put Napoleon’s grand batteries to shame. They all have crews, limbers and, if deployed properly, would leave no room at all on the table for any other troop type. The fact is that ECW generals happily abandoned their guns when they needed to move a bit more quickly. Artillery was not very effective or efficient and had little influence on any battle that I can think of. But I like it, and I have bought the guns, so there.
To some extent this is just a factor in our hobby. I can do what I like. If I want to deploy a tableful of guns and call it the Covenanter army of 1644 I can. I am not hurting anyone by doing so. It would not be a practical army, or a good representation of the original, but aside from the damage done to historical repetition I am not harming anyone. I could also deploy Tiger tanks against the Roman legions. I am not sure what I could achieve by so doing, but I could.
The point is that while I do feel guilty about my grey army masses, I am not hurting anyone by having them, except, perhaps, the foundations of the house. Nevertheless, I suppose that the guilt spurs me on to do a bit more painting.
The other pile wargamers seem to encounter a lot is a pile of books. I was encouraged recently by a fellow blogger and wargamer who confessed that he was having a book buying pause, while he got his unread book pile back under the one hundred mark. And I thought I had a problem.
My ambition for this year is to get and keep my unread book pile under forty. That said, of course, my ambition last year was to get the said pile under thirty, something which is singularly failed to do. Add to this the fact that the said pile only in fact relates to the unread books on the top shelf of my bookcase. Other unread books lurk on other bookcases, and are strategically placed around the room and around the house to deflect attention from their quantity.
Now, of course, I intend to read them all. They were all acquired expressly to be read. Books are not just decoration, they are there to be used. As with toy soldiers, however, so with books. I suspect that I will never manage to conquer this pile, as I will probably never get around to painting every toy solider I possess. The human mind is restless and moves onto the next project before the present one is finished.
Put another way, we are all, at heart, flibbertigibbets. A new range of soldiers is produced and we all cry ‘Ooh! Shiny’, spend our money on them and, a week or two later, cram them into a cupboard (unpainted) along with all the other projects, while we flit on to the next interest. So it is with books. We are happily reading something when we notice that another volume of interest has appeared, so we move on. The pile of unread and semi-unread books simply increases.
I am not entirely sure that this behaviour is unhealthy, but often, I think, we feel that it is. I have finished a number of armies, over the years, and I have spare soldiers. Is there a law which states that I have to paint them all? If not, why do I feel guilty about them? Do they represent failed hopes, dreams unrealised, or simply over consumption? I am not sure. But however much I might feel bad about them, they are not in fact hurting anyone.
As with toy soldiers, so with books. I am interested in the subjects. If I could just find a few more hours a day (about 24 would be fine) I would read them all. I intend to do so. I just do not, and buy another one, perhaps to cover over the original guilt.
But then, if I did not, perhaps the world economy would grind to halt, and that would probably be a bad thing.