Thursday, 2 August 2012

How I discovered Wargaming

Today I listened to the latest episode of "View from the Veranda" with Neil Shuck and Henry Hyde, featuring guest Rich Clarke, whose beautiful Dux Britanniarum rules arrived yesterday, and the episode got me thinking about how I got into the hobby. Messers Shuck and Hyde shared their own "conversion" stories and this gave me the idea of writing this little post which is nothing short of naked narcissism.

For many people wargaming begins with Games Workshop, as so too did I. The general story for most people seems to be that they start off with the Fantasy or Sci-Fi offerings at Games Workshop, and then, as they start to grey they turn toward the dark art of historical wargaming with its doctrinal issues. Much like Orthodox theology, historical wargaming is a closed club making very little sense to those who are not participants in the eternal debates. Which Napoleonic ruleset is best? How do we accurately model command and control? What weapons did Hypaspists carry? It is, therefore, no wonder that for most of us Games Workshop is our way in. The rules are simple enough to learn quickly, there are well carved out backgrounds for the worlds, and, most importantly, I can walk into a shop and buy a box with all the bits I need to play.

The thing is, I always wanted to play historical wargames, I just didn't know anything about it, no surprise then that when I was finally introduced to the hobby by way of a sixth edition Warhammer Fantasy Battles starter set I opted for the Empire and set about trying to mimic a Landsknecht army. When I finally decided to dabble in 40k, no surprise, I chose Imperial Guard. Humans all the way, and always trying to build something historically themed, to the detriment of my results... This all changed on the day I discovered Warhammer Historicals. Almost overnight the Fantasy stopped, and I was intent on building an Early Imperial Roman force. The great part was that the rules were familiar, but they did things Fantasy didn't, for instance fire and flee. Because Warhammer Ancient Battles wasn't marketed at ten-year olds the rules allowed for greater complexity, whilst doing away with that magic rubbish which I frankly don't much care for.

The problem was that, unlike Games Workshop's neatly vertically integrated ecosystem, historical wargaming is a fractured mess; I was buying rules from here, figures from there and bases from over there. And it is precisely this disunity which keeps the newcomer out, so that even someone like me, who only ever really wanted to play historical wargames had no smooth path to entry and had to discover it through Games Workshop. From the discussion on "View from the Veranda" I glean that the good news is that this is starting to change. It seems that as the historical wargaming industry becomes more professional, and less of a cottage industry, the companies we know and love are realising the necessity to provide things like starter armies and bundles. This is important because if I wanted to introduce someone to wargaming who shows an interest in the Games Workshop window display, I can show them a demo with my stuff and if they are still interested, for about £80 they should get up and running with a Dux Britanniarum ruleset and a force to start playing. I for one am excited by the prospect of a more user-friendly historical wargaming industry that markets itself more effectively to newcomers and those who cut their teeth on Games Workshop stuff, because frankly I would like some more opponents to play. (and the self-centeredness resurfaces)

In other news, I finally got five more Vikings done and finished basing my first company of Grenadiers, I shall try and get some pictures up tomorrow evening for your delectation, gentle reader.