Friday, 11 December 2015

Run for the shadows in these golden years

Not much to report, truth be told, no newly completed figures or terrain project so no eye-candy pics in this post I'm afraid.  But I had a thought the other day that I'd like to pose to you as a question...

Are we in a new "Golden Age" of wargaming?

Now I consider myself well outside the mainstream of wargaming, dominated by the glossy hardback rulebooks and "big box" games that Games Workshop pioneered back when they set themselves apart from wargaming as "The Games Workshop Hobby".  (Yes I'm still bitter!)  I mainly play oddball periods and subgenres with cheap indie (or free) rules that work for me.

But if I was the sort of gamer who liked glossy, commercial games, look at the choices I've got available.  Historical gamers now have quite a selection of high production value games to cover most periods.  I'm thinking about games like Hail Caesar, Black Powder and Bolt Action, three glossy games that cover the iconic three periods always covered by the early Featherstone-era books that got me into the hobby.  Osprey, an established historical publisher, are now producing more and more wargame rules after their success with Force On Force.  After leading the way bringing GW-style production values to historical games with WW2's Flames Of War, Battlefront are now doing the same for "Cold War Gone Hot" with Team Yankee.

And while SF & Fantasy has always been well served by the commercial hobby industry, we're starting to see a number of non-GW game emerging with some actual longevity, rather than games that are fashionably popular for a year or two before being dropped like a stone in favour of the new hotness.  For example, Infinity is well into its third edition and shows no signs of losing steam.  Spy-Fi/Pulp TV emulator 7TV is just getting a second edition as well.

And not only do we once again have access to classic wargaming books from the likes of Featherstone, Morchauser and Grant thanks to John Curry's History Of Wargaming project, we also have new authors like Neil Thomas producing a new generation of introductory texts, available as hardback or softback from mainstream marketplaces like Amazon.

The days when most wargames rules were poorly printed A5 stapled booklets are a thing of the past.

Yet while the mainstream gamer has all these great options available to him, the flipside "independent" side of the hobby is still thriving too.  We're seeing great and innovative rulesets from outfits like Nordic Weasel thanks to electronic distribution via services like Wargames Vault.

And on the shiny toys front, we have the wonders of 3D printing, MDF laser cutting and a healthy cottage industry of miniature micro-manufacturers.  It's now entirely possible for a hobbyist with a modest disposable income to commission his own, original figures and have them cast by a third party and sold via the internet to recover the costs.

So much choice.

Are we not living in a new Golden Age of our hobby?


  1. A golden age of choice maybe, but fragmentation that mirrors other fragmentations in the in the wider society...he says with his usual gay cynicism! Too much choice!


    1. Hmmmm I'm not sure I'd agree with that at all. Fragmentation is what you might have expected back in the old days before glossy commercial rules, when wargamers used to be more independently minded. Charlie plays horse and musket wargames with his son using his own set of rules. The Brigadier on the other hand plays the same period with his cronies but with his own rules. Donald, meanwhile, has his own ideas on rules but likes that cannon-bounce stick he saw Charlie using. But then Peter insists on playing with units three times the size of all the other gamers and complains that their tables are too small. Yet somehow from that scenario, we still managed to evolve a semi-coherent hobby community.

      Honestly, if anything I think the current situation is more unifying than fragmenting. A player of one of the big commercial games is more likely to be able to find other willing players than someone who's looking to play a small-press game. Look at me, for example. I live in what's arguably the second or third largest city in the UK. I've been looking for another G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. 28mm VSF player for the last 15 years, and in every game I've played, I've had to supply all the figures, vehicles, terrain and rulebooks for everyone. On the other hand, if I was looking to play a mainstream game like Bolt Action or Black Powder, I could almost certainly just turn up at my local wargames club and find one or more willing opponents to play against, or maybe travel an hour or so to a tournament full of people playing the same rules (if I could stand competitive tournament play, which I can't!)

      TL:DR With big commercial games covering the popular historical periods, you're more likely to be able to find other players, which I'd say is more unifying than fragmenting.