Monday, 27 December 2004

Wargame elitism

[An interesting discussion]( has started on the [message boards]( over at [The Miniatures Page]( The author starting this thread was a bit peeved when he asked for a few quick pointers on a new period he wanted to get into and only got a holier than thou answer berating him for wanting to approach the period in such a shallow and undocumented way (the thread in which this exchange occurs about halfway through is [here](, should you wish to verify facts for yourself). I might chip in to the conversation over at TMP, but allow me to express some of my views here.

This episode touches on two points I have given some thought to before, one related to wargaming, and one to that big 1:1 wargame that is life itself. This is essentially a difference of opinion between wargamers of different persuasions. I plan to elaborate a bit on this in a further post, but there are a myriad of ways you can subdivide wargamers, if you are so inclined. On one axis, you could divide wargamers based on the games they play, whether in general terms (fantasy, historical, ...), in terms specific game systems ([Warhammer](, [Blitzkrieg Commander](, ...) or referring to various periods or races they play (WWII, English Civil War, Skaven, ...).

Another axis sorts wargamers into various styles of play: there are those that play wargames for the games aspect, and often do so competitively; there are those that play for the social or fun aspects of pushing tiny tin men around with a group of friends; or those that play games to deepen an understanding in military procedures or history. It is along this axis that the two antagonists in the debate referred to differ: one is interested in playing with toy soldiers, the other one enjoys historical simulations. Taken to its core, the discussion is nothing more than a simple disagreement between different factions.

Where it derails (although this is -- still -- far from the sometimes spectacular and messy flame wars that can erupt on various message boards across the Net) is that one (and quite possibly both, given the fact that the author found it necessary to start a new thread complaining) party feels the need, sincerely or spur of the moment because his cat just scratched the wallpaper, to attack the other sides' point of view instead of accepting it as merely different and building a constructive discussion. That's the second point I referred to above: we, as the species of Connected Homo Sapiens, are far too often more concerned with rabidly defending our -- often misguided at best and down right wrong and damaging at worst -- convictions and _idée fixes_ rather than accepting other ideas as possibly interesting different angles on the same thing.

To put this back onto a wargames track, my own view aligns more closely with the original poster's -- I play with toy soldiers among friends, using miniatures and terrain which also give me great enjoyment to paint and model. What's everyones take on this?


  1. I'm also in the camp of 'playing with toy soldiers', although my attitude has changed over time. There has been a period in which I thought that good C&C was everything, and every player who was acting in contradiction with this was not a proper wargamer.
    I specifically remember some Rapid Fire games in which some players were doing some things with their units which could never have happened in reality, because the officiers-in-command would never do that (all in my humble opinion ...), and therefore, the wargame was not 'valid'.
    What I learned is that you have to converge to a playing style your specific group of friends is comfortable with, and that style (which is a mix of alle elements already mentioned previously by Bart) might be different for each group, and might even change over time.
    This is even more so in roleplaying. When I was still roleplaying a lot, I felt the need of convincing other players our style was right, and theirs was 'not proper roleplaying', because they were using the wrong rulesystem, or weren't playing 'in character', or this, or that ... After a while, you just realize that proselytizing is not a good attitude. Too much wasted energy for something that's only a hobby :-)
    That's also the main objection I have against any form of an 'organized club'. Once you grow beyond the initial circle of friends, you have so many different styles, such that, in effect, you have various subgroups within your club that never play together. So the purpose of the club has to go beyond that (could be sharing a room and distributing the logistic effort, but which takes real effort, and maybe not everyone is willing to do that ...).
    As will all things in life, it's mostly young people who see things in black and white terms, and 'older' people tend to put more nuances and see everything in shades of grey. I think I'm seeing more and more grey these days, but I acknowledge the fact that youngsters see everything in black and white. I've been there myself, so I understand their emotions and vocality.
    And before everyone thinks I'm an old geezer: "DBM sucks!" :-)

  2. Phil,
    I wasn't entirely sure (because of the long grey beard), but now I know I was right: it was you passing through my chimney a couple of days ago...

  3. Haha, yes, good thing then I shaved a couple of days ago, so I can resume my life again as young, innocent, and mild-mannered Flipje. ;-)