Wednesday, 23 March 2016

"What's your focus in wargaming?"

Last weekend I was at a small local convention, and found myself talking to a fellow wargamer I never met before. Suddenly he asked me "So, what's your focus in wargaming?"

This question made me speechless. My focus? Wargamers have a focus? I should have a focus? Wow, I thought, here's a wargamer who has a focus and is able to limit himself on a single period!

A mutual friend standing by started laughing. "Phil focuses on everything". I guess that's true. I never exclusively focused on anything in wargaming. Lacking a clear focus probably makes you focus on everything and nothing at the same time.

I started miniature wargaming in the late eighties, and for the first 10 years or so, my focus was Games Workshop and Warhammer. This was not out of choice, it was because I didn't know anything else existed. There was a gaming shop in town, but in the 80s and 90s, this meant roleplaying games, fantasy and scifi wargaming. I have still quite a lot of miniatures from this period, which are still being used.
My focus in the 80s and 90s: big fantasy battles
(staging a big battle in The Lonely Mountain shop in Leuven, ~1994)
It only gradually dawned on me that "historicals" was not something one vaguely heard or read about, but actually did exist as a product. First by seeing some games at cons, later by trying to acquire some rulesets. I guess it was somewhere around 96 or 97 that we tried a historical ruleset for fighting a Napoleonic battle. Figures? Unpainted plastic Airfix, Esci, Revell, etc. So I guess my focus shifted a little bit.

Slowly over the years my interests (and collection of toy soldiers) expanded, and in my gaming group, we have played many different periods over the years, literally spanning the entire spectrum from Ancients to Moderns. As a result, I have figures for a wide array of periods, although I did cull the collection a little bit lately. But still, I think I have figures for at least 5 or so distinctly different periods that would allow me to stage a decent game with at least 200 figures per side.

I never deliberately made a choice to pursue any particular period. I am interested in military history in general. I also do not consider my wargaming as a tool to study history, but I treat it as a game to play with toy soldiers. I guess that makes a difference in defining a focus.

Next time anyone asks me about my focus, I know what I'll answer.

"My focus? Toy soldiers!"


  1. Great post Phil. Your question stopped me as well.

    I think I would classify my focus as "delusions of massiveness" - every army or set if plans leads inevitably to having a large collection. If only I could paint them that is.


  2. Focus in wargaming?
    Well, I have a few to be honest...
    For me, it started with collecting. In those days (late 70's) I bought Minifigs 25mm Napoleonics in a local toy store. Later on I discovered there was a wargaming store (The Tin Soldier), only 1km away from were I lived. I discovered fantasy, which was stunning for a 12 year old who just finished reading The Hobbit! I sold off my British Napoleonics then to buy other miniatures. Next to fantasy, I was very interested in ancient Greek history, so a small army had to follow. The story is becoming a bit long to continue here, but I am now the proud owner of between 3 and 4000 painted miniatures.
    I might blog on it on my own blog in the future.
    Interesting question!