Tuesday, 24 May 2016

How to attract (or not attract) new blood to wargaming?

In the latest issue of Miniature Wargames with BattleGames (issue 398), there were a few articles that touched upon the subject of attracting newcomers to the hobby. On various forums this question is also raised regularly. I guess it's a recurring question that has been raised ever since the hobby was invented ...

Anyway, most of these discussions usually re-iterate the same arguments:
  • The hobby is greying! Well, I don't know about that. What is usually meant is that the gaming group the poster belongs to is greying. And that's quite natural. Wargaming is a social hobby, often played informally among friends. So, unless you are part of a regular gaming club with a lot different age groups represented in the membership, it is quite natural that your own little window on the hobby is greying. Which doesn't mean the hobby itself is greying.
  • When I was a kid, I entered wargaming through Airfix. We need more Airfix! This is a false feeling of nostalgia. Everyone had their entry point in the hobby, and what worked 30 years ago is not valid today. The gaming landscape has changed. Teenagers are far more likely to enter the wider gaming hobby through computer games. What was a gateway once, most likely is not a gateway anymore a decade later. And BTW, we do have an excellent entry point into the hobby that attracts many young kids. It's called Warhammer.
  • Conventions should attract non-wargaming visitors! I think this is totally bogus. What would a non-wargamer do at a wargaming show? Shopping? Watching games? Perhaps the latter. But even so, wargaming shows are set up for wargamers, not for non-wargamers. If a local club wants to attract new blood, they should have a game at a local general hobby fair, or a school event, or some other event in their local community. Sure, occasionally there might be someone who wanders in at a wargaming show completely by accident and gets the bug. But those are the exceptions. Overall, it seems a bad strategy. Moreover, how many wargamers have actively visited a hobby show of another hobby?
  • We need more games of type X! Fewer figures! More figures! More history! Less history! Simpler rules! ... This argument often simply states the gaming preferences of the person voicing this argument. We have products in the wargaming market that wargamers are willing to buy. The buyers drive the market. It might be that the hurdle for entering a specific type of game is very high. E.g. if you want a Napoleonic battle with 500 figures on each side, well yeah, it takes some years before you reach that level. But that's ok. Those are the type of games for wargamers that have a life-long commitment. It makes no sense to have entry games that give a teenager an outlook for that type of game. Teenagers also want to drink whatever their mates are drinking (cheap beer, lousy cocktails, whatever the hype is). A teenager is not going to be interested in drinking fine whiskys or wines. Keep that for later in life.
So what should we do?
  1. First, I am not sure we should do anything. Do we need to actively attract young blood? If people are not interested anymore in a specific hobby, the hobby will die. So what? Many hobbies have disappeared over the years. Wargaming will disappear as well, some day.
  2. Wargaming does not have a regulatory body as some other sports (or even hobbies) have (and let's keep it that way!), so we cannot launch grand recruiting campaigns. So, every individual wargamer should make his hobby known to younger people if he feels strongly about the issue. Not through grand initiatives, but simply by introducing your own kids, nephews, their friends, ... Sooner or later, one kid might become interested, and perhaps not pick wargaming up immediately, but several years later he might remember he had fun playing with toy soldiers. That's a much more effective way of spreading the word. Sure, you will not see immediate effects (as in, I need regular opponents now!), but in the long run, it will pay off.
  3. Don't panic! Gaming is a very diverse hobby, and mainstream gaming preferences have shifted over the years. Once upon a time, board wargaming (Avalon Hill!) or even miniature wargaming were the #1 gaming choice. Then roleplaying games took over. Then card collecting games. Now German-style boardgames are all the rage. Computer gaming has become a much larger hobby all by itself. A gaming geek in his teens will not turn to miniature wargaming in the current gaming landscape as his first choice. Face it, miniature wargaming is only a small niche within a niche of the gaming hobby. There's no reason to panic. People will find the way sooner or later.
  4. Accept fantasy and scifi as proper wargaming genres. In other words, embrace the wide variety of wargaming styles and periods. Too often, I hear grumpy grognards saying that fantasy is not proper wargaming, so it doesn't count. Sure, it is not historical wargaming, and there are some differences in approaching how you play the game, but does that really matter? Historical wargaming as we know it today also is something that only originated after WW2. Gaming preferences, even within miniature wargaming, change over the years. It used to be big battles with big units, now it's more small games with small warbands. 5 or 10 or 20 years from now it might be something else. What's the proper way to play with toy soldiers anyway?
To summarize: Don't worry! Keep playing games. Everything will be ok!

And here's my own little effort of recruiting new blood: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.be/2015/11/two-new-recruits.html

Monday, 23 May 2016

Wild West Shootout in Denderleeuw

This weekend I ran a Wild West game using our house rules, at the invitation of Dirk D. of the wargaming group PMC Denderleeuw. Dirk invited me over to show our approach towards Wild West gaming. I think it's always nice to have some good discussions across different wargaming groups, to inject some new ideas into each other's playing styles, and also to see firsthand where and how others are organizing their games. In this case, Dirk's garage!

I loaded up all my Wild West scenery and figures in the car, and once I arrived, I let the "locals" set up the terrain the way they wanted. Not all terrain and scenery was used, but the idea in such skirmish games is always to mix dense terrain with some open areas.

5 players were present, with me taking up the role of umpire. We managed 3 games, each player controlling one shootist each. As is usually the case in Wild West games, emotions ran high, especially when shootists are killed with headshots ;-)

I had a stack of pregenerated characters ready. Every player draws a random shootist, as well as a random weapons card.

The first game was a little test game to explain the mechanics. For the second and third games, each player had a secret mission ("Kill 3 shootists", "Free your friend from jail", "Dug up a sack of gold on spot X", etc.) Such missions give some flavour to the game, instead of having a "last man standing" game, which can really drag out the proceedings.

Pictures shown below, courtesy of Dirk D. Figures and scenery all painted by the Schild & Vriend wargaming group, in some cases over 20 years ago! Most houses are from Hovels, figures mostly from (Guernsey) Foundry.

Overview of the table.
Hangman stand from 4Ground
Shootist in action. Two blue cats from Black Cat Bases.
Indian Village
Barn. Plastic ducks from a toy animal set.
The not-so-historical OK Corral
Umpire in action
Shootist in action
Dead shootist. Using red cardboard templates is a nice way to visualize fallen figures.
Shootout in front of the church
Another overview of the table
Cactus from Grand Manner
Plastic toy sheep
Indian village
Another overview of town
Bandit shot dead before the jailhouse
Shootist hiding behind stack of wood
Another farm

Sunday, 22 May 2016

MWBG 398 added to the index

The index is still active, and new issues of various journals are added regularly. The latest one added is Miniature Wargames with battlegames 398.


Saturday, 21 May 2016


I finished painting 2 teepees yesterday.

These teepees were part of the Old West collection of wargaming buddy and co-author of this blog, Bart V. But a few years ago, our entire Old West collection was consolidated as part of my collection, hence the teepees are now in my possession. Bart only managed to paint one teepee, back in 1997 (the leftmost one), and because I am running an Old West game this weekend, this was the perefect incentive to finally paint up the last two. The paintjob is not as steady as Bart's, but it will do :-)

I must confess I didn't look up painting schemes for actual teepees, but rather on some photographs of wargaming scenery in the magazines. So probably these teepees are closer to what we think they should look like rather than what they actually looked like.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The last of the few

It's not in our habit to share links to outside (non)wargaming-related topics, but this is something I could not resist.

It's a story in the Daily Mail, featuring close-up photographs of Spitifires "in action". Great quality pictures, very colourful!

Full link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3598540/The-Photographer-captures-pin-sharp-images-final-55-airworthy-Spitfires-using-just-handheld-camera.html

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Painting monsters monstrously fast

In the 'pre game chat' phase of an RPG session the other day, people were showing their fantasy figures (as you do) which for me includes this big guy:

This is of course Reaper's Bones version of Cthulhu. When I mentioned that I painted this monster in probably less than an hour overall painting time, some disbelief was expressed. In this post, I'll explain the technique I used to paint Cthulhu by painting another figure using the same technique.

The technique in question is ink staining over a black base coat with a very heavy white dry brush on top of it. Staining ink over this results in an immediate shading effect. Let's show this on a figure of a forest troll. First, the black base coat:

Then, heavy dry brush of white:

And then the colour layers come in. Basically, just flow ink all over the areas that need colour. I use Windsor & Newton inks -- I've put the colors I've used in the photographs below:

And that's really all there is to it. With just two applications of ink (with a day between them to allow it to dry), this figure is pretty much done. I will add some detail to the teeth, nails and fungi like protrusions on the troll's body, but the main part of the figure is finished.

This is not a new technique by any stretch. I know of at least two other people who use it. One is Ed from the venerable and now long disappeared Ed's Hobby Hovel, the other is a French guy from the Lille club who uses it to successfully turn out thousands of 15mm figures for his painting service customers.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Imaginations in 42mm (5)

It has been a few weeks since I was able to paint some more figures for my 42mm project (the main reason here), but here you see my progress from last evening.

The figures are irregular 42mm, from the Balkan Wars range, and are Russians/Bulgarians. I will use them in an imaginations setting, so I am not constrained w.r.t. actual uniforms etc. I chose green as the dominant colour (that's also why they got an undercoat in green).

The figures you see are only the initial stage, allowing me to experiment a bit with the overall colour scheme. The idea is still to use simple block painting only, with limited shading, but using gloss varnish as a way to let them shine. Each unit (6 infantry, 1 officer, 1 flag bearer) should have some distinctive colour markings identifying the regiment - in this case in red.

The flags have a simple design, amd the idea that as the games progress, battle honours etc. will be added such that the flags become gradually more complex.

Monday, 9 May 2016

My painting desk (2)

The picture in my last post was a bit hazy, so here's a better one with some more explanation. This painting desk is in my garage, and not in the main wargaming room. Otherwise, the wargaming room (which is meant to play games) will rapidly become cluttered.

Going from left to right in clockwise order:
  • Some designs for flags for my 42mm imaginations armies, atop an orange/black box containing a lot of bits, leftovers from conversions etc.
  • A shoebox full of paints - mostly Foundry and Vallejo.
  • A toolbox full of bases of various sizes, shields, and other bits and bobs.
  • GW paint workstation, although it is more a place to put all sorts of junk.
  • Another collection of paint pots, mostly the ones in current use. Mostly Games Workshop paints, some dating back 25 years ;-)
  • A shoebox lid with various figures that still need to be stored away.
  • Main working area in front.
  • Guide on painting horses from Miniature Wargames & Battlegames.
  • Undercoated 42mm Irregular figures.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

My painting desk

I cleaned up and reorganized my painting station. A quick picture shown below ...

Friday, 6 May 2016

Some Quotes from WSS

The lattest issue from Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy (issue 84) has a nice opinion article by Warwick Kinrade. It's titled "The Four Pillars of Wargaming", and describes what makes a good wargame.
 After reading it, I found this article hits the nail on the head, because it correlates so much with what my own thinking is about wargaming as a hobby.

Let me give a few quotes:

"Fundamentally, wargaming is a hobby of collecting and painting."
Very true. I also wrote an opinion piece about this some time ago - "It's the figures, stupid!" back in WSS 78. Miniature wargaming is a very tactile hobby, and no matter how academic you want it to make, it's essentially still about playing with toy soldiers. Your figure collection will still be with you 20 or 30 years from now, but rules and the type of games will change over the years. It's the collection that forms the backbone of one's wargaming life.
I therefore do not understand one aspect of the current trend towards smaller games - warband-style, that only need a dozen of figures a side. I'm okay with smaller games, but I'm not okay with people selling off their forces when they switch games. It's probably less of a barrier to do that if it's only a few figures you're selling, but if you're constantly switching, buying, and selling armies, are you truly a wargamer?

"Even more than collecting an army, collecting terrain requires a long-term commitment to the hobby."
Again something I agree with completely. A good collection of terrain - both the "underground" and the terrain pieces that go on top of it, is a question of years. My own terrain collection has slowly been upgraded over the years - buying new (sometimes expensive) pieces, and out-phasing lesser quality pieces. It also takes some time to know what sort of terrain fits your style of play. A mat? Tiles? Hexagons? What sort of visuals do you like? Also, a good collection of general purpose pieces that can be used in wide variety of settings (and sometimes scales) is worth spending some money on.

"I want drama and tension and to feel as if the game rewards me for making good tactical decisions."
This particular quote is about the rules. I strongly believe a wargamer should write his own rules. Perhaps not for all periods, but you should have at least one period for which you write your own house rules. It forces you to think much more about the flow of games, and to sharpens your senses about what you like and don't like in wargames. And it's okay of this is different for each and every wargamer.

"... you have a responsibility to your opponent to lose with good grace and not ruin their enjoyment."
Wargaming is a social activity. What happens before and after the game is as important as what happens during the game. You need opponents that share a common view on wargaming, and with whom you can spend an enjoyable few hours pushing toy soldiers.
In my gaming group we have an abbreviation "DDZAB". It's somewhat difficult to translate from Dutch, but it roughly means "Always be the one who disadvantages himself". It implies that whenever there's a discussion about the rules, don't be the one who drags out the argument, but graciously give your opponent the advantage (a die modifier e.g.) in case of doubt.

Anyway, I really liked reading this piece. Recommended.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Pantheon of Chaos

 I just backed the Pantheon of Chaos kickstarter.

I've always had a soft spot for Chaos miniatures, dating back to my first days in fantasy wargaming  (and being a GW junkie, of couse).

Search for "Chaos" on this blog to see a few of my Oldhammer chaos miniatures.

I am not sure yet what models i will select from pantheon of Chaos, but they could form the backbone of a new Chaos warband.