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Monday, 14 October 2019

Miniature Wargames 439

The second 'NEW LOOK' issue of the magazine arrived by post on Saturday, and I spent some time yesterday reading it.


The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Tabletop Gaming Live 2019: A photoreport with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Defence in Depth: Rule Books and Figures
  • Entering the Perilous Dark: The designer of Frostgrave leads us down into the dank depths of Felstad in this exclusive scenario by Joseph McCullough, with photographs by Osprey Games< /li>
  • Exclusive Scenario: The Slippery Slope
  • Otumba: The Aztec Empire: Mexico July 7, 1520 by Jon Sutherland, with photographs by Joe Dever
  • Lose sight of the shore: An introduction to Black Seas by Noel William, with photographs by Warlord
  • Send three and fourpence: Cornpone's Discomfiture: Part One: an American Civil War Kriegspiel with words and photographs by Conrad Kinch
  • Show Report: Many Coloured: The Editor goes to the Colours 2019 show with photographs by John Treadaway
  • How to assemble your free mausoleum
  • Kill Team: The Great War: A rules conversion for the Western Front by David Hiscock, with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Night of the Scarecrows: An exclusive horror scenario by James Winspear and Mike Hutchinson, with miniatures by Henry Smith and James Winspear
  • Exclusive Scenario: Night of the Scarecrows
  • Rags and Bullets: Painting the scarecrows and survivors
  • Quartermaster: Accessories & Terrain
  • Hobby Tips: Mat Making with words and photographs by Matt Moran
  • Recce
  • Club Spotlight: Abingdon Wargames Club an interview conducted by James Winspear
  • The Last Word: The joys and challenges of the mass battle wargame by Ronnie Renton
So, what did I think of this issue? To be truthful, not a lot. The move away from miniature wargames towards tabletop gaming with figures (which in my opinion are not the same thing) continues. That said, there were a few redeeming articles in this issue which I enjoyed reading.

What did I like?
  • Jon Sutherland's Otumba had a similar point-to-point campaign map to one that I am trying to develop for my own campaigning along with an army generator that was related to whichever option the players chose to take. This was not too dissimilar from my own approach, as outlined in the SIMPLE MINI-CAMPAIGNS chapter in DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME.
  • Conrad Kinch's introduction to his ACW kreigsspiel in Send three and fourpence. (I prefer to use the original German spelling rather than the anglicised one that seems to be quite common these days.)
  • Matt Moran's Hobby Tips, which seemed to be a throwback to the time when wargamers expected to make a lot of their own terrain rather than just buy it off the shelf.
  • There were fewer interviews, although there does still seem to be a bit of a trend to include what can best be described as 'product placement' articles.
What did I not like?
  • Night of the Scarecrows. Ten pages (one-eight!) of the magazine was devoted to a Halloween-related horror game. Now here I must admit to a serious dislike of the horror genre in general and anything to do with Halloween in particular, and this has certainly coloured my opinion of the pages devoted to this game. I am sure that the rules will give some people a lot of fun ... but I will not be one of them.

When I first looked at Ronnie Renton's contribution in The Last Word, I inwardly groaned. Any article that includes the following quote was probably destined to trigger such a reaction.
'There's nothing quite like the spectacle of lining up hundreds of miniatures on opposite sides of the gaming table, then smashing it out in a furious battle to the death.'
However, when I read it properly, I realised that what he was actually writing about was the needs of wargamers who are 'cash rich but time poor' ... the group within the hobby for whom THE PORTABLE WARGAME was designed. In his final paragraph, he states that:
'I never thought I would relate wargaming to the world of cricket but just bear with me. Just as cricket has room of Twenty-20, one-day matches and full on test matches, I think that we're approaching that stage in wargaming with skirmish games, warband level experiences and mass battles.'
Although I would have like him to mention games like THE PORTABLE WARGAME in that comment (I like to think of it as a Twenty-20 type of wargame), I tend to agree with his analysis. Modern wargamers may well hanker for large wargames, but may only have to time to take part in such events once or twice a year. For them the simple, quick to set up weekly wargame is the norm ... and it is important that their needs are catered for.

20 comments:

  1. Hi Bob,
    When I think Wargames- I instantly think of Napoleonic Games...I cannot for the life of me see how such a thing as Zombies ever became acceptable -as 'Wargames'. 'Horror Games'- perhaps, but certainly NOT a Wargame. Perhaps I'm missing some trendy, nerdy type of rational...but, I just cannot stand these new wave type of games. Rant over. Cheers. KEV.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Kev Robertson (Kev),

      I think that we are in agreement as to what we think is and is not a wargame. Games that use miniatures are not all miniature wargames in much the same way that not all wargames are fought with miniatures.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Again, nothing to tempt me in this issue. I did have a quick look at the latest WI mag due to the free ships, but was a tad surprised at the £5.25 price tag. I'll save my hard earned shekels for 2nd hand books thank you very much.

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    1. Steve J.,

      I must admit that I would probably not have bought this magazine had I not had a subscription. All the wargame magazines seem to be going up in price, which will no doubt result in a gradual reduction in total readership.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  3. For the first time for as long as I can remember for a magazine, I took it off the shelf at WH Smith, had a quick scan and the put it back again!

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    1. Norm,

      At least you looked before you didn't buy a copy!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  4. When Mr. Treadway took the reins a few years back, I sincerely hoped things would not turn out the way they have, or seem to at this point, although I admit to be highly skeptical at the time given his fantasy leanings. Not really the guy for the job in my view, but, If I recall correctly, the current publisher is really the driver behind the gradual move away from historically based wargaming, which is what led to Henry's abrupt resignation as editor back in 2016(?). Water under the bridge of course, but MW is but a shadow of its former self by now, and I cannot see myself ever subscribing again.

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke (Stokes),

      The publishers do seem to be moving the magazine away from miniature wargaming and towards tabletop figure gaming, which brings with it more fantasy and science fiction content. I also have the impression that they are looking to 'support' games/figures/rules that are - if I am using the correct marketing jargon - 'trending'.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  5. I guess, like a lot of print media, they have to find new ways to attract people to buy them. I can't knock them for trying, but MW is heading further and further away from the interests of this former customer.

    More and more articles seem to be linked to specific 'games' or products. The glory days of the 80s when MW published articles which stimulated thought, or flagged-up under-represented conflicts have long gone.

    I might be slightly more sympathetic to Autumn-related festivals if they'd chosen say a skirmish scenario related to the Gunpowder Plot. But Halloween????

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nundanket,

      Yet again we seem to be in almost total agreement about a topic!

      A wargame about the Gunpowder Plot would have made a great mini-campaign, with the plotters first having to source and store the gunpowder, and then there is a nice does it/doesn't it succeed, followed by 'what happened next'. Now that would have been something worthy of the old-style MW!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  6. I think there are several factors at play here, the first of which is generational. One or two issues back they interviewed a games designer, who said he had 'grown up on' stuff like Star Wars, sci-fi and fantasy, and I think that is important - whereas the older generation who were the first audience for the mag were of the generation who grew up with films about WW2 - and family who had experienced it. So maybe no surprise that gaming is moving in the SciFi/Fantasy direction? Plus the huge influence of role-playing games since 'D&D', and the success of Games Workshop; these have surely turned a generation on to 'non-historical' games. I agree about the time and money factors too - perhaps we were lucky to be able to recruit 40 or 50 troops for 21p ( I well remember that being the price of a box of Airfix! ) when starting out. Now a single GW or similar model is - how much? Finally, the commercialism - so much of the content of the magazines now seems to be driven by pushing the latest pricey 'game in a a box' (and maybe you have to buy the models from them too); articles about specific campaigns/battles seem to be aiming just to provide a scenario for a given set of rules ( e.g. the piece on WW1 in the new issue is aimed only at players of Kill Team - so I hardly looked at it ). When 'MW' started, articles discussing what might be called the 'philosophy' of wargaming seemed to abound - suggested morale systems, discussions of the importance of firepower etc, and campaign/battle pieces that were more about the actual history, presumably assuming the reader had their own rules which they might be inspired to use to refight the battle described. So, the guard is being changed, it seems - the publishers are doing what they think will sell more copies, and maybe they are right. But sadly, not to me, it seems. Is it just that I feel rather old...?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. David in suffolk,

      You make a powerful case as to why the magazine is moving further and further away from historical wargaming and towards the fantasy and science fiction end of the spectrum ... although I would argue that if you actually unpick things like Warhammer40K you will find that it is a Featherstone/Tarr-like World War 2 game at heart!

      (By the way, I can remember when Airfix stuff cost 2/- ... which is now 10p!)

      I suppose that more and more gamers want to buy a 'product' or 'game in a box' for the very reasons why Ronnie Renton stated in his article; so many of them are 'cash rich but time poor', whereas old codgers like me tend to be the opposite. I suppose that there is still a few rays of hope out there, with products like AIRFIX BATTLES being a bridge between the 'old school'and 'game in a box', although it does seem to be a pity that neither Airfix nor Modiphius have given it as much support and/or development as one might have hoped.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
    2. David, from data seen, your thesis on a generational shift in gaming style and genre is spot on. Will gaming continue on this track or will we see a reversion to the core at some point when what is old becomes new again?

      Delete
    3. Jonathan Freitag,

      I think that David's assessment is on the mark. Unfortunately, I suspect that it will be quite some time before the current trend reverses.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  7. Couple of boxes of Airfix - happiness! Still good value at £6 a box!

    I rarely buy magazines now as I am not 'trending' (games systems). Many articles feel very advertorial.

    Maybe the blog world has become the home of historical and old school wargaming? There is occasional crossover with the fantasy world.

    I think that is a very valid point re. the post WW2 Airfix generation, the 70s 80s D and D and later Star Wars generation - I fall between the two.

    Other games bloggers of a similar and older age also dip into both genres.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Mark, Man of TIN,

      £6.00 per box! That's only just a few pence more than the cost of the latest MW ... and will probably give far more hours of fun!

      The blogosphere may well have become the home of historical and 'old school' wargaming, although most of the bloggers that I have met seem to be drawn from the generation that grew up during the 70s and 80s (i.e. the are the 50 to 60-year olds). Personally, I'm firmly of the DAN DARE rather than the STAR WARS generation, having been born in 1950!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  8. I've been saying for well over a year that I'm not going to buy MW anymore. This last mag will be my last, for all the reasons you said above.

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    1. Ray Rousell,

      I'm on the point of cancelling my subscription. I think that I have a couple more issues to come, after which I think that MW and I will be parting company.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  9. I have pretty catholic tastes when it comes to wargames. I enjoy big battalion type games but I also like small skirmish level games too. My main games tend to be historical but I enjoy SF and fantasy games. Despite all this the last couple of issues of MW have left me very cold, especially the issue before the one you've reviewed. There just seemed to be very little of substance in it. The only redeeming feature tends to be Conrad Kinch's excellent articles. I suppose all magazines have peaks and troughs: I've read MW on and off from issue #1 and there have been other ropey periods so hopefully it will pick up again. Don't think I'll be buying this issue though...

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    1. Alastair,

      After re-reading the current issue, I decided that enough was enough, and I've cancelled my subscription. I may well buy the odd issue when I see it on sale, but I'll no longer be getting it monthly.

      I am sorry that I had to do this, but in my opinion it no longer warranted the title Miniature WARGAMES.

      All the best,

      Bob

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