Feedback, Itís a Beautiful Thing
Yes, I know it has been a long time since the last column. Yes, of course I have an excuse. I wonít bore you with it.
Last column definitely saw some interested responses - it seems that I woke up and worked up some of the historical miniature gamers. Which, in the end, is not at all a bad thing - dialogue is what we as a group need more of, and anything that isn't the newsgroup fodder of "Games Workshop is evil! They ripped me off!" or the likewise offensive "Screw the world! Cast your own miniatures!" threads. It is a wonder that you can mine nuggets of good info from the newsgroups - but more on that in another column; we've got plenty of ground to cover in this one.
Actually, for this column, I am going to let some of the reader's comments to me get addressed. I made a few statements that were pretty stupid in the last column, and as usual I got called to task for that. (Again, a good thing - lets me know who's paying attention)
A quick note about these replies - I didn't print the whole thing. Why? Space! You people like to talk as much as I do. I didn't cut out parts that were critical of what I had to say (that wouldn't be any fun), but I did trim in the interest of not running over in space. Don't like it? Tough. Second, you'll note that I am really not retorting the remarks - this isn't an argument, this the beginnings of a discussion. A discussion, which, hopefully will spread some of the goodness of historical gaming that so many people are lacking. Or not. I'll try to put in the odd witty comment to keep those of you with the lower attention spans awake during some of the more intellectual commentaries. Trust me, they're coming.
Let's start with Kurt Weihs first.
I read with interest your comments on rpg.net regarding your comparison of the fantasy miniature hobby to historical, miniature gaming. I found my frustration with your views similar to the frustration that the RPG'ers commonly air about the view of their hobby from 'outsiders.' On one hand you condemn the British for 'assaulting' you with multiple historical miniature conventions and a 'wargamer on every corner.' Yet, on the other you condemn the American historical miniature gaming community for not having a big enough presence and not actively recruiting new members. Which is it?
Ouch. Okay, he's right - I gave grief to both the gamers of the UK and US, rather hypocritically. In the end, though, I'm jealous - it seems the UK has a better "support system" for historical games than we do in the US. Plus, they advertise better - I've seen ads for a lot more UK cons than I have US ones. Where's HMGS, eh? I've heard about Cold Wars, but what else is going on? More info could only ever be a good thing.
Your second point is very valid. Our formative years DO have a lot to do with the interests we pursue later on in our lives. Noam Chomsky went to great length to prove this with his linguistic theories and it doesn't take much of a stretch to realize this applies to our upbringing in the gaming community. I also saw and enjoyed the same movies you did, but also spent a lot of my afternoons in high school playing Fire and Steel Napoleonics. I have no doubts that my early exposure to Napoleonics has led to a different understanding of the hobby from your own. You can't change the past and changing your interests at this point is an uphill battle (not impossible though).
Point six (skipping around a bit) is interesting. I am going to combine two here. You say that there is an apparent lack of historical gaming tournament and training groups. I agree, it would be nice to see more of this.
Wouldn't it be great if Old Glory or the Foundry came up with demo teams like Games Workshop or Wizards of the Coast? The opportunity to wander into the local game store and have someone teach me "Volley and Bayonet". That is a fantasy now - why?
We are a small hobby, though. Despite this, I have managed to attend local historical gaming conventions and am aware of at least one national convention that holds tournament centered on historical gaming (GenCon). It is unfortunate that Origins is no longer with us, but as I said, we are a small hobby.
I don't see why the loss of Origins should cripple even a small industry. We lose one fight, we start the next. Could Cold Wars replace it? Dragon Con, perhaps?
Finally, point seven. In your rant you mention that sci fi and fantasy miniatures are far and away superior to historical figures. I agree to a certain extent for two reasons. First, sci fi and fantasy have the benefit of not having to follow any historical or even practical considerations. The weapons that most GW fantasy figures are armed with are impractical to say the least, but they are quite attractive to look at. Most soldiers trotting into battle with the plate armor that is worn by most GW heavy fighters would collapse under their own weight, but, yes, the figure is attractive. Mk 6 Space Marine armor is very cool but face it, these guys must have really deformed pelvis' to be able to wear this stuff. Historical minis exist to model something that really existed (I know, this bites, but bear with me...). A Confederate soldier in full uniform just isn't going to look as bitchin as a Blood Angel psycher loaded down with artifacts, or a chaos warrior in full plate (spikes and all). What he is going to look like is a historically accurate model with arms and uniform that match those worn by people of the period he is intended to model. There is value in this to me. Sure, the pose could probably be a little more exciting and the lines a little cleaner, but that gets to my second point. Games Workshop is a hugely successful company. They have the capital to invest in the best sculptors in the business from all over the world. I think I am safe in saying that no other miniature oriented wargame company has even approximated the level of available resources that GW has. Back when GW (Citadel) was in its infancy its figures weren't all that hot. I still have a drawer of flash cut from my Nick Lund Black Orcs. When you have the resources available that GW has you are going to produce clean and well-modeled figures. If you want to find a comparable historical model I suggest you look at Tradition of Great Britain or Verlinden. GW figures are very well modeled, but the very fact that makes them so cool to look makes them useless to me in historical gaming. I love a good charge as much as the next guy and have participated in numerous charges in my gaming career. If the thought of getting the color of a belt right makes you violent I suggest you stick with fantasy gaming, I prefer my violence confined to a simulation on the tabletop.
A pity that humor goes across the Internet so poorlyÖ
Kurt did an excellent job counter-pointing the bulk of my article, in a completely reasonable manner. Makes him hard to argue with. Not that I would let such a thing stop me.
Robert Sulentic also had a few interesting points. He wrote:
Well from my perspective, I find historical games much more challenging in trying to duplicate history. Can I do as well as Nappy or Robert E Lee? Go and try to refight the Seven Year's War......How did Frederick ever win? Or the American Revolution? How did the British manage to toss that one?
This is a great point - I find myself trying to adapt historical battles for sci-fi or fantasy games. Why? The desire to measure yourself against history is a big draw.
ÖBut sometimes its hard to see people crowing over their Chaos beasts and not smile. Obviously this goes both ways.
Gamers of all stripes shouldn't try so hard to judge each other. Okay, well, maybe we SHOULD all go after those CCG types - they might be deserving of a serious beating.
Often people paint up an historical army because it has captured their imagination. And to that, they wish to get it right. One can get totally anal on the subject, but having worn a uniform myself, Show up to formation not in the prescribed uniform and see what it gets you.
This still going to irk me. It is going to take me a while to get a handle on the analness of painting to please historical types. GrrÖ
Next up: Rich Knapton.
I enjoyed your comments about historical wargaming. Iím not a member of your group [I found out about your comments from a discussion group I belong to on the net about Renaissance Warfare] but would like to respond to your well thought out remark. A little about my background. Iím 55 [yes an old geiser] Iíve been wargaming for the last 30 years or so. I was born during WWII, grew up during the Korean War and served in Vietnam as a infantry squadleader [received a silver star and bronze star for actions during TET Ď68] I DO NOT WARGAME VIETNAM. Iíve been exposed to a lot of war.
Whew. He's got me there. To me, war is something I can only vaguely imagine.
While I have wargamed in historical periods for over thirty years, I have never gamed Fantasy wargaming. When they first came out I wanted nothing to do with it. It was just make believe with nothing to it. I enjoy all aspect of gaming including research. How much research can you do on orcs? I guess Iíve mellowed in my old age. I enjoy going into a Games Workshop store and looking at the well-painted armies - ah so tempting.
They are masters of their craft, to be sure. I myself have fallen prey many, many times.
Outreach by historical gamers. You have a valid complaint. Too many gamers are extremely insular and only interested in their own gaming, not with recruiting. However, there are historical gaming societies that do recruit new members and will bend over backward to help new members. I assume your in the US so let me suggest two: The United States Pike and Shot Federation and the North American Society of Ancient and Medieval Wargammers.
I really wanted to paraphrase Groucho Marx (I would never belong to any organization who would admit someone like me) but I resisted - Rich's offer of info is the only of it's kind that I received.
From what you describe as your forays into historical gaming I think youíve looked at the wrong periods of historical gaming. I think Ancient and Renaissance wargaming would be more up your alley. I have been very tempted to build a Games Workshop army but then I look at Foundry Colonial India figure and see how they can be used to develop a Mogul army and ..... Since the designers for Games Workshop and The Foundry are the same people, the quality of the figures are pretty much the same [plus if what Iím told is true the historical figures are less expensive]. There are a number of other great designers for Old Glory, Dixon, Redoubt, Gripping Beast. They produce beautiful figures in the Ancient and Renaissance periods, every bit as beautiful as The Foundry figures.
A lot of the feedback that I got directed me to check out the Foundry further, and I absolutely have done so. And while I am going to try and keep this from being an ad for them, they do have absolutely beautiful figures. And, indeed, they share a number of sculptors with Games Workshop. Worth checking out, even if you donít normally enjoy historical figures. (Enjoy the plug, guys!)
Iím looking at an ad for Gripping Beast "the Age of Arthur"; Old Glory has come out with some great Landsknechts; Redoubt has a great line of Ottoman Turks turbans and all. Iím currently painting 16th century Samurai from Dixon. Also, not long ago, I received a copy of Warhammer: Ancients. This is similar to the Warhammer Fantasy rules. There are a number of people in my area [Seattle] who are preparing ancient armies for these rules. Maybe this is the way to go for you.
I've seen the Warhammer Ancients rules; they are effectively Warhammer sans Elves and Magic. I can handle this, but the ruleset hasn't seemed to catch on widely in my area. I've found more DBM players -so, naturally, I've picked up a copy. Next, the army lists.
Finally, let's take a look at some of the feedback I got from Ed Allen (no relation that we could figure out):
Well, I'm on the other side of the fence. I have played miniatures and boardgames, both historical and F/SF since the early 70s and have been finding myself enjoying the historical side more and the fantasy and SF side less in recent years. I don't know exactly why. It may be an age thing.
In which case I have a few years to wait. The quarter-century mark still isn't sparking me to historical side. Yet. I am liking the looks of DBM.
Anyway, the tournament side of historicals is mainly in ancients and medievals, currently with the DBM rules. And it gets slagged by the "only historical battles" end of the historicals spectrum who are offended by me bringing my Feudal Spanish and ending up fighting the other guy who brought his Alexandrian Macedonians among the three or four battles I play in the tourney.
This bugs me. Where's the fun in only facing "historically accurate" armies? Seems to me that would quickly grow tiring - and I would be back to fantasy in no time.
If the figure sculpting of many historicals bugs you, check out Foundry next time you take an interest in historicals - the sculptors will be familiar: the Perry twins, Copplestone, etc, satisfying their personal urge to do historicals outside of GW turf. For a good crossover army, something like their vikings or hundred years war armies that started out as part of the Warhammer line, and later moved to Foundry, would be a good possibility. Warhammer Ancients Battles that they are publishing outside of GW would be a familiar rules set with the publication qualities you are familiar with from their GW efforts.
Yet another WAB and Foundry plug. They should be sending a check any moment now. Seriously, I got so many people endorsing them it seems they are growing power in the historical world.
Well, that's all for this month. Next month: who knows?
Remember folks, if you aren't reading this with a grain of salt clenched in your teeth, you arenít getting half of the jokes. And, if you ARE reading this with a grain of salt in your teethÖyou can swallow it now. Column's over. See you next month. I promise.
Replies, Convention Invites, Complaints and Commentary, etc.