Home Forums General General The cost of expectation

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    Avatar photopaintpig

    I not only refer to the monetary cost but also the cost in losing people to the hobby. I relate this thread to that on the game design page discussing entry costs however I think this subject encompasses much more than just the design of games, it goes to the selling and presentation of the hobby.

    I guess most of the older gamers here would have got our start with a few of boxes of Airfix figures for a couple of bob, some balsa wood to make buildings and bridges and a raid on the fish tank while mum and dad weren’t around for trees. It might have take a couple of months to get ourselves set but it was affordable and just as importantly achievable. Of course these things are still available but expectations have changed, why? Marketing, how is the hobby presented in magazines, on the internet and as far as I’m concerned Rules, all have huge glorious photo’s of games and figures that it took us years to accumulate, along with the skill to present them in such a fashion. My introduction to war gaming was through The War Game by Charles Grant, this book of rules provided history, solid explanation, demonstration and discussed acquisition, really the whole gamut for the budding war gamer, and other rules books of that era did exactly the same thing, Featherstone, Quarrie, Young etc. They concentrated on the game and entry not the pomp and spectacle. Now dont get me wrong I have nothing against large glossy images of startling well painted figures on luxurious terrain, but too often than not this is overwhelmingly the selling point for a set of rules, not the text, despite what the authors think. Well I went slightly off the track there, the point I was trying to make is a set of rules should be engaging because of what is written on the pages and in my opinion part of it should promote the idea that it is the game not the barely achievable imagery that is important. Would it hurt to swap some of those images for a bit of well researched potted history.

    So rules bashing aside the same applies to magazines and online gaming sites, everything is perfection, they are selling the spectacle not accessibility. I’m not so stupid as to think that WI should be full of Bob’s hastily daubed Yorkists and Harry’s half painted Lancastrians bashing the beyjasus out of each other on a green blanket covered in aquarium trees, but at the same time there is very little in these sources to promote accessibility at a modest cost and noob artistic skill. Sure we love aspirational but does this promote an expectation that pushes the boundaries of cost and achievability to the point it is a deterrent. Spotty Cuthbert may talk his parents into handing over the cash to buy himself some Foundry Vikings just like on the telly but he drops his load because he cant paint them like a pro, his expectation level has been set preposterously high by magazines, websites and rules so fuq it he’s back on the playstation. So why cant the hobby in some small way promote the idea of  starting out modestly and demonstrate how to?

    This, in one sense, is an old old subject that has been thrashed to death, an old fart talking point.  “Back in my day… blah blah blah” …so grab your waking sticks and start pointing them to make your case.


    I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel
    Slowly Over A Low Flame

    Avatar photoRod Robertson


    Why do kids in South Chigago or São Paulo shoot each other to make a buck in the drugs trade or any other illegal activity? They have been sold an unreasonable bill of goods, inflated expectations drilled into their heads by a relentless advertising machine that promotes that which is beyond their means to have. These young people have a choice, to abandon these falsely implanted aspirations which are more and more at the core of their being or to break the rules of their societies and to go for a quick fix which might give them the remote chance to grab the gilted dream which has been marketed to them. Many are consumed in the predatory struggle to find and take the Golden Fleece hung like a tasty worm on the barbed hook of reality and great harm is done to all.

    The same mechanism is at work in wargaming although at a far less lethal level. We all put great effort into our hobby and try to put on the most visually appealing and satisfying show we can. We labour intensively and extensively to paint figures, models and to make or prepare terrain that is visually appealing. We struggle to do our best and then post our results hoping for approval from our peers and fearing the comments that, despite our best efforts, we fell short of someone’s expectations. We are crushed when it is pointed out that we fell short of an almost unattainable perfection. We forget that a Michelangelo or a Stradavarius is a truely rare thing and expect everyone to be a maestro. Sure, we deny this in public discussion but it is there always in the back of our head. It is a neurosis which permeates this hobby.

    We too often forget that what made wargaming fun was the game itself and the fellowship around the table; not the pretty figures or terrain which sat upon the table. We forget the excitement of wracking our brains to come up with that new stratagem or tactic to wrong-foot our opponent(s) and the teeth-grinding dread and anticipation which consumed us as we prepared to roll the dice. We have lost sight of the the excitement of a new and great set of rules which wowed us and got us all excited to play a game and have instead become preoccupied with the modeling end of the hobby rather than the social and the gamesmanship dimensions. We reinforce this drift towards the visual end of the hobby by constantly demanding photos and declaiming, “Post pictures or it didn’t happen!”. We turn away from well written and crafted narratives of games, instead demanding punctual and pithy reports with lots of piccies. Advertising and our own expectations have conditioned us to all but ignore the game and to focus solely on the products used in the game. We are obsessed with the pieces and have forgotten the game.

    Is it any wonder that kids and up-and-comers are drawn to video games? All the visual impact you could want, none of the work to achieve that and alas, little if any social interaction with their fellow players during the game short of grunts and cursing. Unless we rediscover the game and put less emphasis on the bits and pieces, this hobby will continue to intimidate newcomers rather than inviting them in. We should celebrate the game and not the products used to play the game. We should market the comradely and not the lead. We should seduce the newbies with fine games and great gamesmanship and not fine figures and squabbling rules-lawyering. Community and not consumerism, people and not product, game and not gear are the ways to keep the hobby alive and accessible. Here my manifesto ends.

    Cheets and good gaming.

    Rod Robertson.


    Avatar photoRhoderic

    I have mixed feelings about this subject.

    On the one hand, I actually like a bit of “gloss” (or “chrome” as it’s also called in fantasy/sci-fi circles) in a rulebook or a hobby magazine – maybe not exactly in the sense defined by the OP, but ultimately, yes, I do appreciate some pretty photos as well as some artwork. Also, in the case of rulebooks, a goodly amount of text blurbs that cover tangential/peripheral subjects/aspects that don’t strictly belong in the rules but nevertheless, same as the photos and artwork, enhance the experience of “taking in” the rulebook, but I digress. The point is that I view rulebooks very much as “inspiration packets”, not just a means to an end for the sake of gaming.

    On the other hand, it’s important to me that the content in a rulebook or magazine be genuinely inspiring, and I do agree that some photos can feel more daunting than inspirational. In the case of newer GW and WarmaHordes publications, I feel that there’s even a shameless “hardsell” spirit to the photos. “Bombard their optic nerves with our product and nothing else but our product, and they will buy it.”

    What I mean by photos being inspiring, is that they should communicate a sense of pleasure in having stories come alive on the tabletop. So, yes, sometimes this may be shots of thousand-figure armies on a 6X10 foot table, but more often a close-up of a few decently painted figures with a few pieces of nice-looking terrain will better communicate a story; the idea that something interesting is happening. (I should point out that I generally tend to put a lot of emphasis on good-looking terrain, sometimes even over figures.) Scouts in a forest. The first few horsemen cresting a hill. A tank being ambushed in the bocage.

    A sense of achievability is also important for it to be inspiring. Some photos may show off the impressive collections that may finally be achieved if you stick with it long enough – no one wants to take up a hobby that doesn’t have long-term rewards. But there should also be photos that show what may be successfully achieved in the shorter term. The sight of a small but functional “fledgling” army would be more likely to inspire me to start painting, than that of a gargantuan warhost amassed by a hobbyist 20-40 years my senior, or for that matter a super-productive hobbyist 10 years my junior. In either case, I can’t relate as well to that person.

    The reason A Tale of Four Gamers (an article series in White Dwarf magazine in the 90s) is so fondly remembered (and so often imitated these days) is that it captured this sense of satisfaction that could be had from fledgling armies. In our minds, we were all Fat Bloke collecting his Beastmen when we read those articles.

    On a related note, it sometimes bugs me that in some high-chrome fantasy and sci-fi rulebooks these days, several pages are devoted to “painting masterclasses” that ostensibly teach readers how to paint their miniatures to a CoolMiniOrNot standard. I don’t mind a rulebook having a small painting section, but for my own part I wish it would mainly cover the subject of painting to a standard that’s “decent and respectable”, thus achievable for the average hobbyist, not “masterclass”. However, I’ve run into some flak when bringing this up in the past on other forums, so I acknowledge that I may just be a rogue vector in this respect.

    Avatar photoAngel Barracks

    I really like eye candy.
    My first wargames book was IIRC, WFB 2nd edition. (The hardback one?)

    I recall seeing the images and being totally in awe and wanting my games table to be that cool.
    I was still at school and these were adults who did it for a living, but that did not matter.
    I wanted the pretty too.

    When I started I was woefully miles away from that high standard.
    However I did not give it all up and go back to my spectrum 48k..
    Neither did my friends.
    We kept going as we wanted to have cool stuff too.

    Do some give up and jack it in?
    Maybe, I have not met any though.
    Perhaps those that do quit are just as likely to quit the online gaming world if they keep getting pwned.

    I think keeping going in an effort to be better is about your character in general, and has nowt to do with how pretty a game looks.
    Quitters will quit.
    Perseveres will persevere.

    Avatar photogrizzlymc

    Not sure weather I am some sort of fossilised luddite, or just a simple sort of soul, but for me chrome eye candy etc is fine till it gets in the way.  When, in my youth I used rules out of books I carefully read the explanations and the extra story, looked at the pictures and then typed out theRULES, without all the gloss, so that we could play.

    My games are played on a blanket, my painting is sufficient to differentiate the figure and my terrain is indicative rather than picturesque.  Yes, I have played on railway layouts and loved the look of the thing, but not by much.

    Personally, whilst I appreciate the trouble to which people put themselves for some of these breathtaking games, I think that shows and magazines should occasionally show the public what an entry level game looks like.

    Avatar photowillz

    I here a lot on forums about people not taking up a certain period because the figures they see are so fantastically painted that they could not achieve the same standard so there is no point of doing it, so they decide to leave the hobby.

    I believe there is no such thing as a poorly painted figure, yes some figures are not as well painted as others.  I have been painting figures since 1971 so that is 44 years experience in painting my little toys.  I still have the first metal figures I ever bought and painted (sadly the plastic one have long since gone) at 13 I thought my Hinchcliffe French Napoleonic infantry were the best painted in the world.  All I had to go on mainly was black and white photo’s in the wargame books and magazines, occasionally I would see colour photos or painted figures at shows.  Yes they were better painted than mine but it made me strive to get better and hope to achieve near the same standard.  For me it was a long learning process, acrylic paint was unheard of (I think Plaka paint was a water based) I had to use enamel paints, oil paint and white spirit (did not help the spots of a 13 year old youth).  Around about 1986 I started using acrylic paint, the drying time was so fast I doubled my painting output overnight, all the time learning new skills and achieving different things with paint.  I now can paint reasonably well I am generally happy with the figures I paint, sometimes I repaint figures as I can achieve a better paint finish (matt ink washes have helped to speed up my painting again).  My point is that my painting style has changed over the years and is continually evolving, its is not a quick process but it is an enjoyable and rewarding one.

    Maybe people approach this hobby from the wrong direction, “oh look I want to have a French Napoleonic army of several thousand figures all extremely well painted” and “I want too paint them in two weeks”.  “What do you mean its not achievable”, hmmmmmmmm grump, “what’s the point”.  “I can’t paint as good him, this hobby a waste of time.  Its a hobby for relaxation, fun and enjoyment, so what if your first painted battalion does not win best painted unit in the world war gaming championships on its first outing.  Enter this hobby and try your best, have ago at different periods and scales but most of all have fun.

    Avatar photoJust Jack

    I’m with Grizzlymc. 

    I was able to spend $30 on little metal men and vehicles (10mm, modern US and insurgents, complete with helos, HMMWVs, AAVs, a couple ‘Technicals”), $15 on plastic trees, $10 on modeling clay (to make tree bases and berms/walls), $10 on felt (rivers and roads), and $15 on Jenga blocks (which I glued together, spray painted, and drew windows and doors on with a Sharpie, for use as buildings).  Let’s say another $20 for paints, brushes, I rug I cut up and use for hills, etc…, but for $100 I was in the wargaming business, and all the other money I’ve spent since (better roads, rivers, houses, more troops, more vehicles, different scales, different genres) is gravy, stuff I didn’t need.

    But I think it’s a valid point to say not everyone knows you can do that.  I think there are, or at least could be, people out there that know about military history but not wargaming, and might see a pic of a high-end wargame and think, “wow, that’s cool, but I could never do that,” then simply move on.  Fortunately for me, I kept looking around on the internet and found placed like TWW and wargaming blogs, which did much to educate and inspire me, to convince me that I could hop on into wargaming.

    I wasn’t the one who thought of cutting up carpet and using it to show hills with different elevation levels; I wasn’t the one who thought of using clear Legos as flight stands; I wasn’t the one who thought of ordering plastic trees from a cake decorating store, spray painting them green, then using modeling clay to form bases; I wasn’t the one who thought of running small-scale (6/10mm) campaigns with personalities whose exploits you followed, re-writing history.  All those things I got from other wargamers who shared them.

    So I think, in line with the original post being about lessening the barriers to entry, I know there are introductory books for wargaming, but I think there is plenty of room for more, especially in a digital medium for the digital age.


    Avatar photorepiqueone

    I really appreciate the inventiveness and resourcefulness in gamers who find ways to provide cost savings and bring some novel, and often very effective, means of creating units and terrains to the table.  I also understand the need for younger newcomers and gamers with the expensive costs of a newly arrived family to ration hobby monies carefully.  I went through that phase of life, too.  I can also see merit in creating some pre-packaged game sets for a newcomer to get a discounted cost for his entry into the hobby.

    BUT, to advocate eliminating beautifully painted examples from the wargame press (limited as it is), or setting expectations lower for terrain, painting, or rule set simplicity in order not to discourage people, seems to me terribly wrong headed.  Or to try to disguise the fact that this hobby requires money to be spent, and patience in achieving numbers, quality, and satisfaction, is a patently counter-productive approach in the long run.

    You should aspire to great figures, a dedicated wargame room, and see some examples of what that may look like.  That’s a perfect role for the magazines, and some blog sites. Your local game club will give ample examples of lesser efforts, what does an impressive army array look like?   Check out Miniature Warfare, or Vae Victus, and behold! Why not aim for something special that you’ve created?

    Anyone that can afford a hobby and has a few discretionary dollars, can, with focus, planning, and a multi-year time frame, have “pretty things.”  You can’t have it all- no one can.  You can’t diffuse your efforts over unlimited periods and scales.

    Some must always settle for something not quite what they’d like, but most can have a very nice wargame army.  It just requires discipline both in planning and spending, and a fixed plan to get you there.  If you’re young, you will have opportunities to increase your hobby budget as you progress in life and career.  Time’s on your side. If you’re older you’ll probably have a few more dollars about and kids gone, and, if retired, more time to do the painting and modeling.  You have upcoming mortality and fewer years ahead, but you can afford some Sri Lankan painting more readily than when younger, which will get the troops on the table much more quickly.

    I think every gamer should aspire to something that will cause non-gamers to marvel, and cause other gamers abject bouts of envy.  There’s enough mediocrity in life as it is , your hobby offers you an opportunity to create something as perfect, and to your personal specifications, as you like.  Don’t miss that chance!



    Avatar photokyoteblue

    I encourage new players and have helped them paint and build up models. That is part of the hobby for me.

    Avatar photoNorm S

    I think the  first thing to observe is that wargaming is a global hobby and audiences who tap into the inter-web wonder are diverse in all regards. There is a lot of internet content made from a rich western world perspective, that once the bills are paid and the food is bought, that there is excess cash. The reality is different not only world wide, but also within the richer economies, so everyone wargames both within their financial constraints and also with their own level of enthusiasm or interest being a factor – wargaming does not have to be your main hobby.

    That means for some, throwing down a ground cloth and using some blocks or card to represent troops is enough and for others having battalions of splendidly painted troops marching across lovely terrain is a minimum standard. For some, their wargaming is playing Call of Duty and other military sims on the X-box until four-o-clock in the morning. They may not consider themselves to be wargamers, but that is exactly what they are and many know more about the capabilities of a Sherman tank or the effective range of a rifle than I might.

    One of my criticisms of wargame magazines is that they don’t even have one section (except in the very early days) dedicated to the kind of wargame tables that typical wargamers have in their homes. Seeing some shots that people send in of their own ‘kitchen table battles’ would have a more honest sense about it, but we don’t really have an environment in which people would want to do that, because a sort of gold standard has been set as a consequence of all the goodness shown in magazines and to a degree, the internet.

    I say degree because at least on the internet, there is the liberating aspect that every person can self publish without editorial censorship and to that end, we do get a glimpse of wider gaming standards.

    I am the first to swoon at a beautiful table and figures – though I know I will not reach those standards, but when I see a game very basically set out , more-so than I would like for my personal gaming, I just pick up on the sense that the person is participating, enjoying and most importantly sharing their hobby with the global wargaming community. It reminds me more of the raw pleasure that I first got from gaming, before everything was manicured.

    So the bottom line is whether we feel compelled to game to expectations of others or whether we are happy to remain true to ourselves, with personal commitment, finances, time and other circumstances all playing their part –  do we belong to a wider community that allows us to do that?

    It seems reasonable to assume that gamers will mostly be trying to do the best they can (though that itself is not a requirement to wargame) to satisfy their wargaming pleasures and that alone is as much as can be expected of anyone.

    Avatar photoSparker

    Yes, at the risk of sounding like a tree hugging lefty áll must have prizes’ relativist, I think and hope that wargaming as a community, and any wargaming club worth belonging to, is a ‘big tent’ were all levels of presentation and accomplishment are welcomed. I have learnt the hard way that if you are addicted to huge games with large teams of players, you are going to have to accept all standards of painting and presentation. To be elitist is to be lonely!

    And whilst trying to get the best out of people may be ingrained in sad old ex servicemen like me, its worth remembering we are talking about games with toy soldiers!

    That said, surely presenting the very best of the hobby in the media can only serve to inspire and attract, not deter?

    'Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall need to be well 'ard'
    Matthew 5:9

    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    It’s nice to play with beautifully painted figures on a fantastic table, but I’ve come to accept a simple truth, that’s served me very well:

    “A game with two armies that are painted to an okay standard, on an okay gaming table with okay terrain will still look pretty ****ing good in aggregate”

    Avatar photoAngel Barracks

    You should aspire to great figures, a dedicated wargame room,..

    I could not disagree more.
    You should not have to do anything you don’t want to.
    It is not for me or anyone, to tell people what they should be doing for fun, that is very much for them to decide.
    If they enjoy using card counters with Phalanx and Cavalry scrawled on them, then good for them.

    However, I myself am very much about the visual and I do have aspirations of creating great eye candy.
    I have come to the conclusion that with a six year old daughter, it may well be some time before I get that perfect set up though.
    So for now I settle for ok.

    I think also the fact that some people in their professional lives strive to be the best means that when hobby time comes, they just want to kick back a little and ease up on the throttle and relax.

    I don’t think there is a right way to have fun, either you are having fun or you are not.

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    What Mike, Ivan and Grizz said, and some of what Norm said. Personally I don’t swoon at wargaming eye candy, but neither do I swoon at Fender Custom Shop guitars, and I don’t ever remember swooning at flashy kendogu either. And while Aston Martins remain on my automotive wishlist, a Ford will still get you from A to B.





    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoBlackhat

    Interesting topic.

    My take has always been that wargaming is an individualistic hobby – it is what you make of it. That has always been the case otherwise the moves for standard rules that started back in the 1950s would have succeeded and we’d all be playing the same thing!

    Personally, I have come to the conclusion in recent years that the glossy, pre-boxed, Warlord/WI style of gaming isn’t something I am interested in but I can see their appeal to people brought up on the GW style of game packaging rather than the library books of my youth.

    I also realised that I prefer larger scale games than skirmish (though I pay a few skirmish games), a table with a decent amount of scenery on it (which is why I struggle slightly with ancient games) and simpler Featherstone/Wesencraft/Thomas style rule which let you play the game rather than the rules.

    I am lucky to be a member of Guilford wargames club and the members tastes vary from DBMM style games with cardboard circles for scenery to beautiful setups on handcrafted terrain. I am lucky to have a few opponents who like the same style of game as me and we have a great time playing them.

    I am going to be having a clearout of a few periods over the next month or so and I’ll be concentrating on mostly 54mm and 40mm for new periods. This is partly because I like the simple toy soldier style of painting and because by using 54mm plastics and Toy Soldiers I am evolving my hobby away from what I do for a living with Black Hat which is important to me to keep my sanity and love of the hobby….


    Avatar photorepiqueone

    Well, of course, de gustibus applies, and each person must decide for himself what he will do with the hobby.  That’s pretty self-evident.  Nor, in my experience, does anyone ever have much succcess in dictating other’s preferences in wargaming.  The hobby evidences the herding cats syndrome in a number of ways.

    However, there’s nothing wrong with someone advocating great painting, good terrain, interesting rules, creating a good venue for play.   Nor at anypoint did I say it was necessary for everyone to have these things, but that ANYONE could have these things if they use discipline, planning, and are patient in developing their hobby, and not seeking everything at once.

    This thread (and a similar one) started as  extended arguments that forgoing these things will somehow attract new gamers to the hobby and allow it to grow. At least one person said that great painting, good terrain, etc. DISCOURAGED gamers in the hobby and drove off newcomers.  That’s, I believe, is simply not true.

    This hobby is small.  It has always been small.  Its greatest growth was in the early fantasy area-and a lot of that occurred several decades back.   In fact, from reading GW’s public reports, one senses its actually diminishing in size.  Be as accessible as you like, declare 12 wooden blocks and an old sheet thrown over books as the perfect initial exposure to “miniature” gaming for newbies, and you’ll find that the hobby will not grow appreciably beyond its present size.  Will any amount of using low quality units, simple rules, and crude terrain make the hobby more appealing to potential new gamers and cause a spurt of growth?  I doubt it.

    This is particulary true of historical wargaming which is a small subset of the wargaming hobby that is arguably last to computer wargaming, Boardgaming, Role-playing, Fantasy miniature wargaming, and Sci-Fi miniature wargaming.  As I said before, set-aside WWII wargaming and the historical minatures hobby is probably measured in the thousands world -wide, not hundreds of thousands.

    Is this bad? NO.  Does it mean anyone should give up a hobby they enjoy?  Of course not!

    I think it highly more probable that new gamers will be attracted by a well-done presentation of figures, terrain, and rules, and a venue that is attractive in the same way that more people are attracted to a well-produced movie as opposed to a shipping box hand-puppet show!  It’s just human nature.

    Does one have to apologize for gaming to the best of his abilities, even if it isn’t of a very high quality? Of course not!  Should that prevent him from recognizing good work, and aspiring to learn from it and improve his own efforts?  Certainly not!

    No one is talking about the “Correct” way, and any umbrage taken in that regard from my remarks is very mistaken as to what I have written.  My point remains that equating “Accessibility” and its desirability as being limited by top-notch painting, elegant terrain, challenging rules, and a great venue for play and these theings being the culprit rather than adding a substantial  creative aspiration to the hobby is really wrong headed.



    Avatar photoSparker

    Well, of course, de gustibus applies

    Oh, of course!

    'Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall need to be well 'ard'
    Matthew 5:9

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    I don’t think the issue is that it’s somehow wrong to display the “pinnacle” of the hobby to beginners. That would be absurd. Rather, the issue is that every level and manifestation of the hobby (certainly including the pinnacle) should be displayed – particularly with the implication that everything below the pinnacle is a self-sufficiently satisfying “waypoint” on that upward slope. It’s easier to remain optimistic about reaching the top when you know what the waystations look like. And optimism is the real point of it all, right? I may never reach the top, but if I can climb some of that slope with high spirits, taking in such vistas that I can along the way, it will hopefully still be worth it.

    Hence my promotion of giving more space to the display of fledgling armies/collections and paintjobs that are perfectly respectable but not at a Masterclass level with 5+ layers of highlights. And while one of my personal idiosyncracies is a need for good-looking terrain even above good-looking figures (no bare felt or printed papercraft terrain for me) I acknowledge, and promote the acknowledgement of, the enjoyment that can be had from any practical instance of miniatures gaming, even when it’s done over a makeshift terrain set-up.

    Avatar photoRod Robertson

    Rhoderic has it right. Widen the scope to include the realistic as well as the”best” of gaming. Also, I would add the need to promote the hobby by getting out into the community and putting on games in public places in order to offer those who are unaware of the hobby a glimpse of what it is all about. More marketing of the hobby and the joy of gaming and less of the products available would be nice. And please don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating limiting product marketing but increasing hobby marketing. Sell the hobby and widen its market and demand and the sales will follow. It’s trickle down gaming!

    Cheers and good gaming.

    Rod Robertson.

    Avatar photorepiqueone

    I have been hearing about inviting kids into the hobby, running kids games as conventions, putting on exhibitions at malls and shopping halls, getting our hobby covered in the news (My first appearance in the local newspaper was in 1975), widening the appeal with special club games, etc. etc. for over 50 years, and guess what?  The hobby as a whole has remained static or slightly smaller in size with the exception of computer wargames and POV shooters.

    Right now fantasy sci-fi is the largest miniature group, and you might notice that GW’s strategy has not been to expand their market, but to re-sell the same people new armies by declaring older figures, rules, and codices defunct and void.  They structure these phasings about 10 years apart, partially  so that younger brother can’t “officially” use older brothers stuff when he discovers girls are more interesting than he thought.

    Get some copies of magazines from ten years back and note how many companies go under and are replaced by newer companies.  This is called churn in business strategies, and denotes that there is lots of coming and going, but the net number of miniature companies is about the same.  There are a few long termers, but, ask them if their business has grown substantially over the last decade.  In GWs case their store count, and their announced financials are down.  The U.S. has no national wargame publication when it used to have several and its present major information site is problematical.   This site, thank heavens, is flourishing.

    There is a tremendous amount of churn among wargamers themselves entering and leaving the hobby.  That’s one reason why the same rules and ideas keep being rediscovered (or copied) every 10 years or so.  For every newbie in the door, one long termer exits, is the only conclusion to be drawn from the facts we see.

    Examine Yahoo! Or private blogs or Internet storefronts and you will see that the maximum number of users is about 5000 with the average at 500 or less-and those all include a LOT of duplicated users.  The largest Internet forum claims 3o,000 plus, but most people know that’s a vastly inflated number, and it has no independent substantiation.  Historicon attendance has been down for the last three years.

    In short, this has been a small hobby even if you count all aspects of miniature and board games.  GMT usually launches a new boxed set with about 800-1000 commitments.  Few rule sets break a run of 3000 copies, and 20% of that number is a huge success, and most that exceed it do it over a period of a decade or more. AND THEY ARE All SELLING TO THE SAME PEOPLE!

    I think it is a great hobby that can be a fun way to play with history, super-heroes , Space Rangers, Knights, and WWI aircraft.  I really enjoy many of the people I meet in the hobby, but  if anyone seriously thinks it has grown much in the last ten or twenty years, I’d love to hear their evidence.

    Enjoy the hobby for what it is, and if that includes putting on a show at a mall or market hall, great!  If that includes getting you face on TV, or in the print/Internet press, great!  Just don’t kid yourself that there are throngs of people out there ready to become wargamers.  There are a few to replace the old sods, but cribbage is easier, darts are more social, and only a few, a chosen few, will stiffen their Windsor and Newton brushes with the sinews of sable, gather their dice about them and charge once more into that breach in the 28mm castle wall.

    The hobby has a long established finite size. It hasn’t varied much in my lifetime. It has changed emphasis and quality in the castings and terrain materials, but it will never be much more popular.

    Ultimately , when it comes to our wargame hobby, we must each cultivate our own garden.    Don’t grow weeds and call them roses.




    Avatar photoEtranger

    …. One of my criticisms of wargame magazines is that they don’t even have one section (except in the very early days) dedicated to the kind of wargame tables that typical wargamers have in their homes. Seeing some shots that people send in of their own ‘kitchen table battles’ would have a more honest sense about it, but we don’t really have an environment in which people would want to do that, because a sort of gold standard has been set as a consequence of all the goodness shown in magazines and to a degree, the internet….

    The magazines just can’t win! Miniature Wargames (now MWBG) used to get lambasted on a regular basis for doing just that. There was a continual stream of complaints about the quality (or lack thereof) of the photography. Personally it didn’t faze me, but there were a lot of unhappy campers ……

    Avatar photowillz

    Its just a hobby folks, you either enjoy it or you don’t.  If you don’t I assume you won’t do it and move onto something else.  Looking at well painted miniatures be it ancient or all periods up to the distant future and beyond I personally find fascinating and inspirational.  As I have posted before there is no such thing as a poorly panted figure, yes some are better painted than others.  What is so wrong with wanting to achieve better, 44 years of practice in painting and I might get it correct one day.

    Always be proud of whatever ever you paint, have fun.

    As to super detailed gaming tables, I aspire to having my own gaming room one day with wall to wall cabinets and 36 x 6 table but until then I still have excellent games on a dyed dust sheet and some simple home made trees, walls, buildings and hedges.

    Avatar photoMcLaddie

    Nothing stays finite and everything changes. Conventions grow, decline in attendance, more conventions pop up and others go extinct.  The hobby population hasn’t stayed finite either. The hobby doesn’t enjoy the same same population size or quality[or qualities] as it was in 1985, 1995 or 2005.  Every decade is different.  I would think as historical wargamers, a sense of history would be part of our outlook. 

    The things that folks find entertaining about Historical Wargaming is hard to lump into one set of offerings, but here’s a go:

    • The game challenges
    • The history–the story and the research
    • The combination of the first two, where the challenges relate to the history
    • The art of painting the figures, basing them etc.
    • The terrain and panorama aspects on the table
    • Simply building armies, organizing them etc. researching a new period
    • The people and social gatherings of like-minded people.

    I’ve probably missed a few, but when I look at this incomplete list, I know of folks who say that they don’t care about the game, it’s the people, and others who put an inordinate amount of time in the terrain and look and play solo, posting their games on a blog. There are those who wargame with unpainted plastic figures, and wargame because they enjoy the challenged of ‘the game’ and don’t care about the history  Everyone picks each point to different degrees and others who only develop one or two of them.  They are all part of the same hobby, right?

    I don’t see costs as a barrier.  Look at RR modeling or RC modeling. Huge outlays of money, for something far less dynamic or flexible in play than the experience of wargaming.  [My dad did both… in depth.]  I don’t see the subject matter as a barrier.  Is discussing the benefits of a 4-8-4 over a 2-4-4-2 engine or the guide wires and the right spin of a rotary engine in a Sopwith Camel anymore esoteric or easy to find researching than the uniform colors of the Westphalian Jagers?  Certainly ‘war’ isn’t a barrier, considering the popularity of computer and board wargames, movies, military history and WWA. There are RR model and RC model magazines in local grocery stores and several current U.S. magazines covering board wargames….

    The “expectations” for RR and RC modeling is certainly no lower than table top wargaming.  All you see in those magazines are spectacular train layouts and  terrain and super detailed and beautifully constructed RC airplanes.  And when it comes down to it, how many RR and RC hobbiests are there? If there are more, the question is why?  Why would our hobby be perceived as ‘static’ or shrinking when other hobbies with easily the same cost, room and expectation barriers are not?

    No, if, and I say if, it is true that our hobby is static or shrinking, and if it is true there are barriers causing this, then they come from a different quarter, one that I don’t readily see.  Why are other hobbies with the same apparent ‘costs of expectations’ perceived as less static?  Are they doing something we aren’t?  They too had to start from the same beginnings as miniatures… in fact miniatures have a longer history than RR and RC modeling.

    Frankly, with the surge in game playing in general [e.g. there are a dozen game ‘clubs’ in just Seattle where a predominately young crowd play anything from Risk to the Settlers of Cartaan], the draw for youngsters to wargaming should be a natural. [When I taught high school, I headed up a game club of Sci/Fi and wargamers. It was always growing.]

    So what are those unique ‘costs’ that our hobby faces that other hobbies don’t?


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