Saturday, 24 February 2018

When To Retire Gracefully

Oh dear. It is very difficult, I suspect, when writing a blog not, at some point, to offend someone. Not only that, but blogging, as with all social media, leaves a permanent record on the internet of all your blatherings. Thus, as some politicians, journalists and other people in the public eye have discovered, a few words dashed off without your usual care and attention can come back to haunt you.

I seem to have inadvertently upset M. Foy, of the Prometheus in Aspic blog. He feels that a post from last November, entitled Vive la Difference was a criticism aimed at him and/or his blog. While he (or rather, a post on the aforementioned blog) was mentioned, and quite prominently, admittedly, in the post, I was doing the ‘philosopher writing a book review’ sort of thing. I am sure you have seen the sort of thing – you read a review of a book and find that the words have little to do with the book in question. Philosophers, in my experience, do this rather a lot. They prefer to talk about their own view, rather than the views of the author. Thus, my post was sparked by the original, and not meant as a criticism.

Be that as it may, hurt feelings are hurt feelings, and I apologise for any impression of criticism which was present in the post. I shall not try to defend it. I do note that it was not the first time I have moaned about people (not M. Foy) laughing at the size of 6 mm figures and claiming impossibility to paint. I doubt it will be the last. I also note from the date of the post that I was probably donning emotional armour in preparation for my annual foray to a wargame show. Such things leave me rather depressed about my hobby, I admit. Finally, I hope the point of the post was that we, as wargamers, should be open to learning from each other. If that was not as clear as it could have been, then mea culpa. Still, an explanation is not a defence, and the apology stands.

I hope we can lay the matter to rest here. A hobby is a hobby; even considering waving handbags at each other at dawn is taking the whole thing too seriously. I hereby lay my handbag down.


I have started to wonder as to when wargame toys, of various types, might be laid to rest. In my second wave wargaming, I have been going for about twenty years or so, on and off, and have accumulated a fair quantity of stuff. Thus, as many of you may have noted, my "new" 'Wars of the Counter Reformation’ armies are old ones revived. Well, re-based, anyway. On the whole, I do not have a problem with them. I would concede that I could probably do a slightly better paint job on them now than I did all those years ago, but not sufficiently better as to warrant repainting them.

You might have noticed, from the photographs of ‘Whitby Fight’ a few weeks ago, that I have a range of buildings. Many of them are very old, Hovels, card ones. I recall the pain of cutting them out and sticking them,. Often, the pain was real, as you had to ensure that your knife was very sharp to cut them, and small pieces, fingers and sharp hobby knives are only asking for one outcome, really, and that involved blood (among other things, of course, but I do try to keep the blog family friendly).

Now, other buildings I possess are more recent (I think the Hovels buildings were copyrighted in 1980-something), and things have progressed. There are some very nice resin buildings around, and, over the years, I have acquired some of them as well. Even I can, often, make a reasonable paint job of them. They mix in reasonably well with the card stuff, and so I am not particularly bothered by any differences. In fact, the only thing that did surprise me was the light splash (I’m sure there must be a technical term for reflection in flash photography) which the card buildings gave, particularly the tower masquerading as Sneaton Castle. The inner part of that, where the battlements are, was white and proved a bit problematic to get a picture of.

Before digressing further, the point of what I am trying to ask is: when do we pension things off in wargaming? I am sure there are some gamers who are still happily using the figures they bought and painted four decades ago. Similarly, I have little doubt that many are busily buying and painting the very latest models which, it has to be said, have a lot more detail on them than even those of a few years ago.

As a further aside, I have sworn off buying the latest Baccus ECW range. Having seen them in real life, they are way too detailed for me to do them justice. At this rate I shall have to head for 2 mm, just to keep my painting efforts sane.

But the pensionable age of figures, terrain items and rule is a question I have not resolved. As I mentioned, I still recall making the Hovels buildings, and am reluctant, even at this distance in time, to relinquish them and their use. I am not claiming they are particularly good, or beautiful, or anything. But I made them and do not want to let them go (after all, they have mouldered in a cupboard for the last decade or so while I have sojourned in the ancients world). As with the buildings, so with the soldiers. I painted them. I do not need any (well, many) more. I continue to use them.

Rules, I think, seem to be a different issue. I have many rules of a certain age on my shelf. The wargame rule world seems to move on more quickly than casting technology. Rule sets also seem to multiply. I used to have a fairly comprehensive collection of ‘early modern’ rule sets. I doubt if I could afford such today. But I am not sure when I decide to pension a rule set off.

Further, over the last twenty years, historiography has certainly moved forward. My recent reading has suggested that a lot of things I thought I knew about warfare in the sixteenth century is probably wrong. My recourse, as some of you have probably worked out, is to write my own. But things will change again, and they too will be pensioned off.

So, is wargaming a hobby of constant renewal? A quest for the ‘perfect’ set of rules? A desire for beautiful figures of gorgeous terrain? How does it work for you?


  1. I’ve never been able to retire gracefully, so can’t help you there. I imagine that I will insist that my rottenly painted first attempts at 15mm are table worthy until I die (possibly from keeping up the pretence!)

  2. I suppose that if the continued use old figures, scenery, and even older rules continues to work for one, then why change? As long as you still get the kind of game and tabletop aesthetic you are after of course. But that's just me. It has taken me a long time to find the era and 'look' that I like, but at this point I'll continue playing with and adding to it until they haul me away in a pine box. Put another way, why fix what isn't broken?

    Best Regards,


  3. To an extent the acquisition/retention/disposal of wargames toys seems to follow the same rules as any category of consumer durables (if that term is still in use - especially as most of them don't seem very durable).

    Some folk have joined the equivalent of classic car clubs and have gone 'Old School'.

    Some of my oldest toys are about 30 years old now (I traded in my old chunky-era Minifigs in for H&R in the late 80s). I touched up the waiting and rebased them a few years back when I discovered the Baccus basing guide. They still form about half my SYW collection.

    1. 'painting' not 'waiting'. Touching up the waiting sounds very, very wrong and something that would get a doctor struck off.

  4. I'm a really bad one to consult on age. In addition to figures bought in my teens and still in use, I still game with a few figures that I first played with when I was 5 and with some that someone else first played with decades before I was born.

    The closest I can come to an answer is that when the cupboards runneth over, I try to gracefully find homes for some of the ones that I am most sure have fought their last game in my service.

  5. I still have the old 25mm MiniFigs, and game with them, that I bought in the early '80's. Like most, my painting leaves a little to be desired. I have used a wash on them to brighten them up which is effective in rejuvenating them. They are still based for 6th edition (WRG 6th of course)

  6. I am still gaming with (and catching up on painting) TTG Laserburn figures I bought in the mid-80s. I am also redoing the paintwork on some of them because my mid-80s painting was done with a distemper brush and gloss varnish that has yellowed with age. I very much doubt they will ever be pensioned off despite this, because I have a strong emotional connection to these figures. They generate a level of positive nostalgia that I find to be good for me. The same applies to the Laserburn and Imperial Commander rules. For me, they have stood the test of time, where other rules fashions have come and gone. The main reason I can think of for pensioning other of my figures off is out of courtesy to those who must inevitably dispose of my estate after my (hopefully not imminent) death. I have many figures and rules sets that I very much doubt will ever see the table again. De-cluttering can only be a good thing that also helps prevent wargames butterfly syndrome taking hold again.

  7. I did get to the stage where I was buying rules and figures for the sake of finding perfection, and then realising that it doesn't exist. Now having said that, you do eventually gain enough wisdom enough to realise that (1) your blocks of figures are simply 'pretty counters', (2) you eventually lose the eyesight/inclination with which to paint large masses of them and (3)you can boil your massive collection of rulesets down into groups which are all effectively the same (i.e. turn sequence and modifiers or TSAMs, or seemingly innovative but not really - SINRs), with a few bright points of light which are the rules you should hang on to.

    Worst of all, I even swapped some old figures, which I'll never paint, for painted stuff from one period which I want to specialise in. Add to all of that the admission that it's patently ridiculous to have multiple scales in the same period, and that convincing yourself that you're doing it so that you can field strategic AND tactical forces, is the road to hell, and you're probably getting somewhere.

    Also, quite morbidly, I have promised my wife that I am now on the downhill slope, and will have removed much of the collection before I die (of natural causes I hope) such that she won't have a pile of expensive crap left to dump.

    ...and relax...

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  9. Well, in summary, it seems that the answer to the question "What do wargamers do with old toy soldiers?" is "Play wargames with them", or, in some cases, "Get around to painting them."

    I am glad I am not the only one, I have to say. Now, where did I put those 1970's Peter Laing ECW figures?