Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Greetings to my viscous friends

Hello followers Tarty, Bluewillow, Lou and Vinnie, thanks for taking the time to visit Home Base Viscous or as we now call it HBV. I hope you dont find my ponderings too self indulgent or worse, too bland.


 How often do you get asked by people, "war gaming?" I know I often get faced with that "eh" expression when asked about my interests, hobbies, pastime when I give the reply war gaming. I know that the first thing I need to make clear is that it doesn't involve paintball or laser guns or indeed an Xbox or it's ilk, that's not to say I'm not adverse to the electronic kind, I usually expand with the statement "you know, little soldiers"

Now more often than not the conversation ends there, possibly because the listener believes it might be catching and they're worried one or the other of us may break out in a rash, or I move on to some of my other interests if I want to keep engaged in the conversation; now I must butt in on myself for a second, it has come to my attention after many years that it is usually women who show an interest in knowing more about this war gaming malarkey than men, maybe they are better conversationalist or have a son War Hammering across the living room carpet and are curious to find out if their offspring are going to become social pariahs.  I'm not sure why but it is definitely women who dig for more information or at least don't dismiss it outright, I'm going with the mothering instinct myself, what mother wouldn't want to prevent their little fellah from growing into a fat, balding, bespectacled middle age man by the time their twelfth birthday!

Dakka dakka dakka

So what is war gaming with miniatures, what is it about, who am I when I say I'm a war gamer, other than fat, balding, bespectacled and middle aged. Well it comes as a surprise to the average Joe that I'm not an altogether war mongery type of person (a common misconception of war gamers), I show a passing interest in militaria of my favourite gaming periods and modern military hardware but a passing interest is about all the enthusiasm I can muster and most of the gamers I know also fit this bill, the odd shako or pith helmet being the exception.

It can be hard to know where to start when describing my hobby and you don't need to reflect too hard on what war gaming is before you quickly come to the realisation that it is a multifaceted hobby and one that can be tricky to describe at the best of times let alone to those who aren't in the know.

The Artist
A great many war gamers spend and love giving their figures their first uniform and a vast many of them are very very good painters indeed, in particular I'm impressed with those that eschew printed flags and paint their own! Of course not all of us are blessed with the outrages abilities of these master brushmen but we enjoy painting our troops with the same enthusiasm. What is more enjoyable than fielding a freshly outfitted unit straight from the painting bench

There are some great books on the subject of figure painting

Interestingly the talented figure painter Kevin Dallimore very recently described, in an interview with Miniature Wargames, himself as a graphic artist with the rider miniature figures.
For those of us that wish to improve our painting skills (that would be me) or for those just starting out there is plenty of literature both in print, on the interweb and in forums to help get over those painting hurdles.  The blog o sphere really does provide ample examples that painting is a major part of most war gamers hobby, that they enjoy the process and are only to keen to answer any questions about their technique and approach is readily evident. I really think that one should take the time to browse through some blogs particularly those of the uber painters, but if your here you are probably aware of that already

An example of my artistic endeavours, dalliance I had with ww1
Of course not every war gamer has the time or inclination for artistry in miniature or maybe some of us want a superior paint job on that special unit guard, be it Praetorian or old, and some of those talented individuals offer painting services, brush for hire so to speak. It is clear to my mind that war gamers are amateur artists and it doesn't matter if your a master painter or a journeyman, I consider miniatures painting as art. WE ARE ARTISTS say it loud.

The Researcher
Taking the above into account a question I often ask and get asked  " how do you know 'what colour' and 'where to' splash your paint?"

Research my good man, there is research involved in war gaming, the study of uniforms, a chap or chapette (lady war gamer) only has to look at the dizzying array of uniform literature for periods like the Napoleonic Wars, for instance, to realise that there is a hunger for this information. Uniform literature is all well and good but "what about the actual battles, campaigns how do you know what your doing?" is an oft asked question from the non believers to which I point out the study of history is writ large in the hobby of war gaming, history for historical gamers obviously and codex's and fictional publications for the fantasy/scifi gamer.  Being a historical gamer and one that deals with uniformly uniformed armies - mostly - I will stick with what I know (let it be noted that I will be featuring, as an exampler, my first foray into the ancient period in later posts)

This and it's sister publication are personal favourites, I don't dare to assume it is perfect or indeed the authors opinions are correct and that is what makes researching exciting

Now any gamer worth his or her salt has at least one or two books, besides the rules, that cover their particular period or periods of gaming interest, indeed the interweb may substitute for a good book for some, not for me however. There is no doubt in my mind (limited as it is) a war gamer is a researcher cum historian, in fact I find this part of the war gaming hobby particularly enjoyable and of particular interest when it comes to eyewitness accounts.

Another of my standby books, clear where one of my interests lay

Like any decent historian worth his or her (lady war gamer) salt the war gamer can never be certain of any one source of information and many gamers have extensive libraries (and links) on their favourite subjects to cross reference the subject in hand.  Some of these books are written especially for the war gaming market such as the old Knight's Battles for Wargamers series which has been echoed in later years by the outstanding War Gaming in History set of books.

The Author
Closely related to researcher and historian and probably more relevant to fantasy and science fiction war gaming, though not entirely, is the ability to create histories and scenarios. Once again it is out of my field of experience but I can guess that those involved in writing commercial codex's and histories are gamers themselves certainly the gamer creating a back stories for their army must be considered an amateur writer/author and there are a number of very good blogs that reflect this skill.

Hmm, that sort of explains some things I have been wondering
Hang on, very good blogs often reflect an ability of the war gaming blogger to report on a recent game or proposed period or their thoughts on war gaming in general (cough cough) and can there be a better example of the amateur author in action? 

I should point out that Imagination gamers and those associated with pulp gaming come up with some highly amusing and well written blogs and back stories of/for their armies and games.

I probably shouldn't forget to add the rule writers (where would we be without him or her), the archetypal researcher, historian and author. I think it would be safe to say that rules writers, either the commercial or the amateur, type are war gamers too, it would be very hard to imagine otherwise wouldn't it?

As with the artistic endeavours it doesn't really matter whether your a Pulitzer Prize quality writer or a complete amateur with the spell check at near melt down, the fact is the writer/author is in a great many of us and long may it rain, rein .....reign.

As long as you get your message across

So far I have been able to describe myself and my fellow war gamers as part artist, researcher, historian and author and not a figure on the table yet, not really the geeks we're made out to be .......are we?

To be continued and as an example, and motivation, I'm going to document my first foray into a new period ..... Republican Romans. Lets see just what sort of mess I can make of the clearly thought out observances above.