Sunday, 27 December 2015

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over...

First off, let me say I hope everyone has had a happy and safe Xmas holiday with their loved ones.

It's only natural at this time of year to look back at the past year and look forward to the next.  On the personal front this has been a very difficult year for me, dominated by an inability to get back into full time employment and the associated financial difficulties that entails.  I know there are many folks who are far, far worse off than me: I have a roof over my head and food on the table, and with a little help from my friends we've managed to keep the wolves from the door.

But this is almost certainly going to change for the better.  At the time of writing I have a provisional job offer starting in January, pending completion of the usual pre-employment checks (references, criminal records etc) which seem to have fallen foul of the Xmas slowdown.  But barring some unforseen problems, this time next month I should be looking forward to my first paycheque in a while.

On the gaming front, 2015 has been a mixed bag.  I've managed to pull off a couple of decent "event" games (The Big Birthday Bash and the Hillbilly Halloween Special) and done quite a few small games - 5Core Brigade Commander, Air War C21, Pulp Alley and 7TV, but it's been a long way from the glory days of my youth when every second Sunday I'd be off to Manchester Area Wargames Society for a game of something.  And my blogging here has been pitiful, compared to the first couple of years.

On the plus side, we've finally turned the Imagi-Nation of Paradiso, first mentioned in the very early days of this blog, into some sort of gaming reality, with a collection of suitable figures and vehicles painted and the first few games in that setting completed.

In terms of wargames terrain, I think I've reached the stage where I've got everything I need.  Between the Victorian city project from a few years back, and the more modern Plasticville & TTCombat buildings bought for Paradiso, I think I can fill an 8'x5' table with a built up area suitable for the 19th to 21st centuries, from the grim streets of Northern England to the sunny Caribbean shores of Paradiso, adding flavour with assorted scatter terrain.  And I have a couple of boxes of Plasticville buildings left to restore, so although there are several MDF building manufacturers who have really taken off in the last year, I'm going to be good and not buy any more large items until all the buildings I have are table-ready.    The same goes for rural terrain, I have trees and hills and rivers and roads aplenty.  There are a couple of projects currently in a half completed limbo (like the suspension bridge and rural village buildings for Paradiso) but once they're done I'll have everything need.

In fact if there's a theme to my musings, it's that I have everything I need in my lead/resin/plastic/MDF mountain to keep my hobby going for the forseeable future.  I've got figures for at least three full VSF/Steampunk armies stashed away, plus several units to expand existing forces.  So that leads to the first New Year Resolution for 2016


There are two important exceptions to this rule: firstly I've long promised myself that I'd treat myself to a 28mm monorail set from the MadMechaGuy as soon as I started work again, and that still stands.  The other exception is in the case where I need to fill in a gap to make figures that I've already got usable.  For example, I know that I've got a load of 15mm modern figures from the likes of Rebel Minis, QRF and Peter Pig, and have been thinking about basing them up for 5Core Company Commander or War In The Age Of Madness.  But if for example I find I need to buy some extra heavy weapon team packs to make a balanced force, then that would be an acceptable purchase.

Another thing I've noticed about this last year: I've been spending too much time doing preparation for games and not enough simply playing.  Part of this has been a natural side effect of tackling the lead/resin/plastic/MDF mountain.  But I think I have a need for Resolution #2


Put another way, I just need to play a lot more games in order to get a return on the investment of time and money I've put into the figures and terrain.

All this navel-gazing has led to another revelation about myself and my gaming habits  While I've long accepted that my tastes lie way outside the mainstream of the wargaming hobby - I can't stand tournament style competitive play and I shy away from glossy, commercial and popular games in favour of more obscure rules and periods - I've realised that his has led me to become incredibly insular in my hobby.  I have a pool of maybe a dozen gaming friends who I've played with in the last few years, and only irregularly at that.  However many of them are scattered across the country and we can only get together on limited occasions.  Plus there's no channel for bringing new blood into the gaming circle.  It's like I've been so afraid of the sort of bad gaming experiences that were so common back in the old days, I've withdrawn like a turtle into a "safe" shell.  On reflection, I don't think that's entirely healthy, which leads to the slightly fuzzy Resolution #3


I'm thinking primarily this means I should start going back to MAWS again and see if there's anyone there open to non-tournament play these days.  And of course there are the various wargame shows that I once again failed to go to in 2015.  But this resolution could also include more blogging, networking with other bloggers and I've even been considering doing some YouTube videos on my particular style of wargaming, in contrast to the ALL WARHAMMER! ALL THE TIME! videos that seem to dominate the medium.

There's also the culture of gaming in your Friendly Local Gaming Store, something which has always been alien to me since my only personal experience of it was a Games Workshop store full of screaming pre-teens.  But I know of at least one recently opened, dedicated Wargames shop within reasonable driving distance, so I wonder whether a visit is in order.

I think those three resolutions pretty neatly sum up my hobby goals for the year ahead.  I could maybe add a fourth one..


...for example the industrial terrain layout was at the point where it was quite usable, however a lot of it was still incomplete, undetailed, the pipework was unpainted and just loosely wedged into the platforms.  Or the Plasticville suburban houses and motel buildings, which were unbased and unweathered.

Anyway, expect to see much more frequent updates on this blog in the new year.

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?