I do, occasionally, get accused of being both pretentious and boring on this blog. There is, I suspect, a class of hobbyists in any activity that think that, in the case of wargaming, the game is the thing and any consideration of what it all means, or the ethics of wargaming, or anything except pushing figures around on tables to purchased sets of rules is dull as ditch water and worthy of posting yawns on social media.
Well, so be it. I am not about to waste any stress or sleep over the existence of such individuals. That sort of attitude is not my problem at all, so I would simply ask those who do express such views to stop reading now and move on to something they find more interesting, like the number of zip fasteners on Caracatus’ uniform.
I do want to express here a little anxiety about some aspects of the way I see the wargaming hobby developing. I will, almost certainly, sound like a crusty old curmudgeon in doing so, and it is not as if I am in a state or meltdown or moral panic about it, but it does puzzle me ever so slightly so I thought I would note it here, and if anyone can explain it to me, I will be duly grateful.
I do not attend too many wargame shows, partly because I live in a part of the country ill served by such events, and partly because, although I rather enjoy the spectacle and chatting to the few people I do actually know in the hobby, I usually come away slightly depressed from them. And I have been wondering why.
As a second thread to this, I do, from time to time, peruse the lists of book sellers and, at said shows, look at the book stalls attending. Readers might have noticed that I rather like books and read a fair bit. But, again, the lists leave me feeling slightly depressed, and this is for a similar reason, I think.
Let me give a slightly more concrete example. At a recent show (which shall remain nameless) I perused the shelves of a certain book trader (who will also remain nameless, but only because I have no idea which trader it was). On the shelves I found eight books about ancient warfare. There were about six about medieval wars. The rest, so far as I could see, consisted, in rough numerical order, of American Civil War, World War One, Napoleonic warfare and, far and away the biggest subject represented, World War Two.
Now, as the long term reader of this blog has worked out by now, my wargaming extends through history from the ancient Greeks all the way to the Wars of Spanish Succession, possibly as far as the ’45 if I am feeling expansive. Obviously, I have always known that mine are minority interests, and the fact that I can by suitable toys for such minority wars is, in my view, a jolly good thing. But the focus of the hobby on, so far as I can see, two main eras, those of the Corsican Ogre and the madness of the mid twentieth century does worry me a bit, although I am not sure exactly why.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have once played a Napoleonic wargame, and some of my first ‘proper’ wargame figures were 1:300th tanks from the Second World War. But I moved on from there to assorted ancients and renaissance armies. At least, compared to the tanks, they had a bit more style and colour about them.
When I wonder around wargame shows, however, I do get a bit bothered about the preponderance of World War Two, in particular. Perhaps it is just me; I do not have any particular interest in the period, although as a teenager I read a lot about it (for history at school) and talked to my grandfather a lot about it (he landed in France a few days after D-Day). But as a wargaming activity it has not interested me for some years.
Similarly, the era of Napoleon did interest me for a bit, when I was young and poor and could only afford packs of Airfix figures. I think this interest waned when the impossibility of representing anything on the wargame table (or ‘floor’ as it was known then) of any size or relationship to the original battles dawned on me, let along not knowing what a chasseur actually was.
Interestingly, one of the most popular posts on this blog ever (that is not to say that it is at all popular by most standards) is ‘Why I do not wargame World War Two’. There, I do not put forward a moral case for not wargaming the era, but a practical one. The size of table to do justice to the topic, even using some of the Megablitz style rules, seems to be to make the topic more or less impossible. I suspect (but have not really thought about it) that the problem with Napoleon’s battles is similar. The only way I can see to do this is to go down the 2 mm route. I doubt this would work for WW2, but it might just for Waterloo.
One of the most beautiful, but perhaps better illustrations of what I mean was at a show I recently attended. It was a wonderful model of Plaicnoit (probably spelt wrong) the village where the Prussians arrived at Waterloo and fought the Young Guard for access to the battlefield. The village church was about as big as my coffee table, and could be seen from across the hall. The scale was 54 mm, and the beautifully painted big figures were arranged with helpful labels. The downside was that an entire Prussian brigade was represented by about 20 figures. It looked wonderful, but a bit odd in my view.
So, what can I conclude from this ramble? Firstly, that I am out of step with most of the rest of the hobby. No surprise there. Secondly, I am a bit perplexed as to why wargamers focus so much on the two eras which I have described. It seems to me that the compromises required, the mental gymnastics needed, to make such periods ‘work’ on the table are great. Or perhaps I am just lazy. Alternatively, I suppose that I should be told just to play the game, and not worry about what it all means.