Monday, March 9, 2015

Too much of a good thing?

Let them eat ' birthday cake' says Barry Antoinette
"There's no bread, let them eat cake!" is a line I associate less with Marie Antoinette and more with Geddy Lee, bassist and lead vocalist with Canadian power trio  Rush. Those of a certain age will remember Canada's politically motivated virtuoso threesome during the 70s long haired era. It is of course the opening line from their song  Bastille Day. Why mention it?

It came to mind during a recent conversation about trends within the the print side of our hobby press. An industry insider pointed to three major publications placing over heavy reliance on the assets of those who may be described as the hobby's glitterati. Enormous tables, customised terrain, fantastic collections shot in perfect conditions within the bowels of their cavernous wargaming halls.
The result being the same treasure trove appearing simultaneously in each magazine in the same month. Does such sumptuousness irritate the masses and stir up unrest or even resentment?. A little like Hello Magazine shots of some diva in her Monaco palace being compared with most of us living in a modest property on the outskirts of some grimy commuter town. Its not a real life view of the hobby. There will be a reckoning!
Hilton! Just whose side are you on?
That stimulated the conversation within our little gang. Is it a good or a bad trend? Is it even a trend? Views were polarized. One of the lads pointed out if it hadn't been for seeing that style of game at Partizan, Salute and the like, he'd never have pursued his own hobby path. So, it's a good thing to see aspirational games.

The original point was made on the basis that the majority of wargamers would eventually tire of seeing the kind of game they could never stage or participate in. This would lead to an undefined backlash against the magazines or perhaps the glitterati themselves. Not exactly the guillotine but perhaps some form of shunning!
Wait a minute... I thought only the Glitterati did ' beautiful'!
I am not so sure. My immediate reaction when I see some hobby related item done well follows a reasonably set pattern:

ADMIRE: Wow! that looks impressive. They've done a cracking job on it.
INVESTIGATE: How did they manage that? Let's have a closer look at how it was achieved.
CHALLENGE: Could I learn anything from this? Could I do that? What do I need to change to get this kind of result?
USABLE? Wonderful though it is, can I make any practical use of it even if I was able to achieve the same result?
Gaming Aristos - look over your shoulders on dark nights
At no point in the sequence did I detect the slightest element of the green eyed monster creeping in to my attitude. I can honestly say even when I have the occasional personal dislike of an individual or group I have managed to park that emotional disconnection and admire effort for what it is and what it adds to the hobby.

Of course everyone is different and maybe there are entire sub groups of the wargaming fraternity out there who harbour dark thoughts about the glitterati. I say, let the glitterati eat their cake and carry on giving us a peek through the window of their palaces!

What do YOU say?

Menacing? Menace? or full of mince? 


  1. I agree. Keep making the glitz and glamour, it strives me to be better at my craft!

  2. Was this penned on a lonely night in Dubai?
    Having the pleasure of knowing a lot of the 'glitterati' a lot of people forget that what they put on display is just their normal Wargames stuff. As we've discussed in the past I get inspiration from all the glitz, a cloth thrown over a table and badly painted figures does nothing for me.

  3. I like my game table and figures to look good. I do not attempt to duplicate the lovely display games that I enjoy looking at online . . . not because I don't admire them but because they don't really suit my preferred style of gaming.

    Many years ago I worked in a game store and we had game tutorials at the local Youth Center. The kids were into an early version of 40K and we had built a sand table (complete with sand yet) for their games . . . but we had one rule about figures -- "If they are not painted, they are dead". ('Painting' required that the whole figure be covered and at least three colors used).

    One young fellow just knew he couldn't paint the way figures were painted in the White Dwarf magazine. I explained that he didn't have to.

    He had a unit of plastic Space Marines. First we spray-painted them yellow. When that was dry, we painted one side of each figure a mid-blue; then painted their guns in a metallic color and the bases in a beige that matched the sand.

    From a gaming distance his unit was the best-looking one on the sand table. It doesn't take "fancy painting" to work well for gaming.

    -- Jeff

    PS, But I do enjoy looking at those 'fancy displays', I just don't need or want to copy them.

  4. Barry, I don't think it is a case of there being too much to aspire to. My own modelling and painting have come a long way over the years and the reason is looking at what others have done, and from the comments here already I can see I'm not the only one. I think the problem is that there isn't enough of the other. One of the things I used to like about Miniature Wargames magazine is that the photos looked like the sort of games and figures that most wargamers have. There was a certain sense of reassurance in that. Those figures have all but disappeared from magazines, and maybe as a result (I can't put my finger on it exactly, but the above is certainly a major contributor) I have gone from buying three magazines to only one. WI and MWwBG have gone, and only WS&S remains.
    I may be in a minority here, but I guess it is food for thought. I have no problem with the glitterati, but would like to see more of the sans-culottes as well.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. In the early days of my wargaming life I played on plane glass surfaces(!!) or wood painted green.
    As some sort of "growing up" I wanted always to have a nicely done wargames table and looked with envious thoughts on the pictures in those Magazines. I beleive we all must in some way "grow up" so why not with the look of our gaming tables and the style how our Minis are painted?
    I hold it here with the last lines of a Poem:

    And tho' We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,- One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made week by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

  7. As someone who plays on the floor and allows players to hurl actual projectiles at his toy soldiers while they hide behind wooden alphabet blocks, I'm all for the sexy tables and displays.

    Another thing I also enjoy, and we've seen this more often of late is the same nicely built gaming table reused for different periods and games. Makes me happy - if for no other reason than knowing I'm not the only poor Bas**&d out there with limited storage space!
    Many happy returns, Barry

  8. Good writing Barry ! I´m honoured that you use mu church as an example:) and I´m indeed on of those woth limitided time to build and storage space so I re-use my terrain in different periods and games like Foss1066 commented.

    But I like the good looking pictures in wargaming magasines and rules as they inspire, if there would be pictures of poor painted minis or lousy terrain I would probably not bother to spend my money on them and instead jump to the next shiny publication, its much about looks and presentation indeed.

    Thanks again Barry! glad you liked my terrain and you are ofcourse one again welcome for a game when you are in Stockholm next time:)

    Best regards Michael

  9. I'm fortunate enough to belong to a club who continually strive to improve and do better. As a consequence I don't really see much difference between the perceived pressure to improve paint and terrain quality from a magazine when you have similar peer pressures in the society. I don't believe that the magazines will be shunned because of the images that they have. the magazines will decline because they have no content and rely on the same authors over and over again. The internet is awash with wargamers proudly displaying their very high quality figures and tables - no one is calling for them to be shunned for the reasons you give. Indeed we still seem to want to see their presentations and be involved with the "glitterati".

  10. 'Ah, but man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?'

    There's nothing wrong with showing what can be achieved with a wargames set up, but it's essentially modelling isn't it? If it's to show off a figure range or some such, that's fine because the eye candy satisfies its own purpose; but it dooesn't necessarily follow that the actual game/rules/magazine will be any good. However, it surely does fire the imagination and feed the desire to do your own stuff just that bit better and, if you can get someone at the demo game to actually speeak to you (sometimes easier said than done), you can learn from them, even if it's just that one tip that solves a long standing problem. With publications, the photos are the window dressing (maybe the Page 3?), but surely can't sustain something which has indiffent content - and here I include the 'same old, same old' situation which Paul refers to.

    Me? Why I stick to a green felt cloth with 'floating' terrain (low energy, low cost, easy stowage and maximum flexibility) and, as far as I'm aware, that's the most common approach, even with many clubs. BUT, it won't stop me getting the burn to construct nice terrain or grow quite damp at the site of excellent displays.

    Glitterati? Celebrity on Sunday, bus driver on Monday. We're talking common or garden people here, though maybe with aspirations of joining the Hollywood set. ;O)

  11. Dave, I seem to remember it was a lonely night somewhere... quite possibly Dubai.

    And of course Gary, the use of the word glitterati is completely tongue in cheek as anyone who knows me will validate. I do like to have a poke at the system now and again :)

    I am surprised (but only a little) at the response to this topic. I didn't take the views of my 'contact' too seriously but it got me thinking enough to pen the piece and offer it to followers of the blog for their digestion.

    Inverted snobbery is of course the dogmatic response to the grandiose games of the the glitterati.. ie, out of principle we'll paint nothing, use a blanket for a table and some pine cones for trees (unpainted of course).
    I find the shot set ups, lighting, backdrops and photo editing on many of the magazine inclusions just as interesting and stimulating.

    I do agree though that content is important but that is not a new argument it has been rumbling on for decades. Does anyone remember the Peter Tanner pieces in WI about 20 years ago? Who was PT? Definitely a nom de plume never revealed to me by Duncan Mac despite frequent enquiry!

    1. Well, I know you were having a gentle pop, but I do know a couple of chaps who're a legend in their own lunchbox. They still speak to me though . . . .

      Your reference to inverted snobbery could actually have identified early signs of 'punk wargaming'. The demo games would be interesting providing they don't spit at the punters. :O(

  12. The 'Happy Warrior'
    'Looks forward, persevering to the last,
    From well to better, daily self-surpast...

  13. My Glitterati (um?) was Peter Gilder in the 1970s. That is why I am still here...

  14. Mr Gilder inspired many of us. I remember looking at the spiral bound, Hinchcliffe catalogue as a 12 year old and marvelling at the wonder of it all. I could hardly afford a box of Airfix plastics never mind 36 metal Imperial Guard Grenadiers

  15. I still enjoy looking through old catalogues.
    I've still got my old Minifigs catalogue and I am still amazed at the huge variety they produced.

  16. I discovered war gaming with Tactics II playing solo and then with a friend. Then came the Avalon Hill games but I always wanted to "see" the action in 3d telescoped down to the details. Then my friend found Swords & Spells rules for D&D miniature armies but I wanted to play battles from history not fantasy. (Though I was an avid D&Der).

    Then it happened, I went to the shopping mall and saw the most beautiful wargame table I had ever seen on display. Nobody was really playing, it was more for looks but there was clearly action goin on. I wandered around and kept coming back until eventually one of the guys there took notice. Long story short I joined their group and the rest is war gaming history.

    So yeah, there is a place for big demo games that are more eye candy than gaming.


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