Recently, in a conversation over the aether, a gentlemen mentioned that in the past he wrote a twenty page letter to a convention complaining that it had begun to allow fantasy wargaming. That statement has been bouncing around in my head ever since.
I am a Historic Wargamer. I find great joy in researching the periods I am gaming. I study the organizations of the various sides, the history of the conflicts, the stories of the men involved and the tactics they employed. I find great joy in trying to replicate their uniforms in 28mm. I try to learn not only about the period I am gaming, but FROM the game as well. I certainly prefer a set of rules which seem to provide some understanding of the challenges faced by the officer in the field. I prefer historic wargaming.
One of the places that I enjoy my addiction to lead is at wargaming shows or conventions. Conventions offer so much to the wargamer. Inspiration in the form of beautiful wargaming tables or painted miniature soldiers. Opportunities to try new game systems before committing to purchase yourself. The chance to admire what new products vendors have on the market not to mention the savings one usually would spend on shipping charges. Some provide classes and workshops to improve your skills or knowledge. There are tournaments for those who are interested in that sort of thing. The world would be a sadder place without conventions and shows.
In recent years, I have noticed that many wargaming graybeards like myself lament that the hobby is suffering. The common complaint is that the young players do not play historic anymore, but instead they have turned to the dark side of Fantasy or Science Fiction gaming! This belief causes a great distrust of these genres as if they will somehow pull historic gamers away.
Frankly I am not certain that this is true. When I started wargaming was certainly before the days of Warhammer and 40,000, but I don’t remember there being hoards of young people flocking to historic games due to their absence. I first was introduced to historic wargaming at the wargaming club at California State University Northridge sometime in the early 1980s. The club was small and many of its members were beyond their college years.
When I started it was Fantasy Role Playing that was the hobgoblin waiting to destroy historic wargaming. That nefarious and demonic product, itself the work of traitorous wargamers, Dungeons and Dragons. i played. I played a lot. In those days I spent far more hours of my life engaged in RPGs than ever I did historic wargames. I spent more time playing role playing games than just about anything actually. I did however still play some wargames. I only learned of miniature wargaming due to rpgs. FRPs were huge in those ancient days, but historic gaming survived.
I think it is wrong to believe that fantasy and science fiction wargaming and Historic wargaming are competing for the same people. They are not. Most of those young people would not be playing historic if it wasn’t for their corruption. Oh I do believe that these games can act as a feeder to more historic gaming, but in general they do not. Most of those players will simply grow out of the hobby. Still, some is better than none.
So why not allow them into our conventions? Some argue that they take up valuable table space. The last three conventions I attended had more tables than games. Doesn’t seem like a great concern to me. Further more I think we would see a greater number of these players become historic wargamers in such circumstances. Brought to salvation by the rightousness that his historical, and saved from the sins of imagination!
They are not historical! Quite true of course. They pale in historic accuracy when compared with games like Saga or Flames of War, generally accepted as historic that often pit forces against one another that never met in reality. My Welsh defeated your Skraelings! How can the compete with popular World War Two rules where a man can run a further than a rifle can shoot in a turn?
If we disallow fantasy for being unhistoric where do we stop? Do we forbid “Very British Civil War” because it is only an Alternate History? ( I know some would be in favour of that actually). Is Wings of War not to be allowed because it is more gamey than simulation? Must “what if” scenarios be cast out since they are clearly fantasy? Who decides which games ARE history?
Further more these games ARE popular. They represent a great deal of profit to the gaming world and their participation could certainly help to support some of the conventions and shows we enjoy.
No, its time we drop our holier than thou attitudes and welcome these young gamers. We can still smirk over our beers in our packs of elderly wargamers in righteous knowledge that our games are truer to the cause and somehow more virtuous because they are HISTORICAL!.