Thursday 24 April 2014

Wargames Magazines - The Road To Success

I have written previously in this blog about the positive role that the current 3 glossy magazines play in our hobby. I continue to hold to that position, yet I don't subscribe to any of these publications. Furthermore, the current issue of each one was checked out recently online (a great facility to have - thank you editors) and rejected for purchase. Why would that be? 

After some reflection I came to the personal conclusion that the problem could easily be summed up - too much diversity. Our hobby has become a very broad church and editors are sensitive to the criticism that they are leaving out one branch or other of the pastime. So we have modelling articles, painting articles, sci-fi articles, steam punk articles, articles about wars you've never heard of... you name it.

It's time to get back to basics. Every wargamer knows in his heart that playing battles with model soldiers has just three periods - ancients, horse and musket, and modern. Don't they? After all, this is what we learnt from Mssrs. Featherstone and Grant in the 60s and 70s. Come on, even my dog knows that wargaming is divided into three periods.

How much more proof do you need? Good boy Biffy!

So the lesson is obvious. Every issue of a wargames magazine should have at least one decent article dedicated to each one of these periods. And when I say decent article, I mean a good historical or fictional scenario with some solid background that can be adapted from one part of the period to another (say, from Napoleonics to Seven Years War), and including a nice little battle report. With a well drawn map or maps. And none of that skirmish nonsense or other diversification - I'm talking about solid, mainstream wargaming.

But what about sci-fi, fantasy, or steam punk fans? Perhaps they should get their own magazines going. For steam punk, you could call it Nutcase Monthly, or some such. Oops, sorry guys. Only joking. I appreciate that to most of the population we're all nutcases.

So there you have it. Gather in your traditional, core audience and all will be well. Our future lies in our past.

Editors, ignore me at your peril!


Arthur said...


Apart from provoking a barroom brawl I think a little contemplation is in order.

Is there sufficient strength or depth in the wargaming community for 3 magazines to survive economically without the broad church approach? Specialist mags would wither and die, as in the past, due to lack of sufficient subscribers.

Look for the common factors: terrain building, organisations, combat and outcomes, painting, campaigns etc. Then the genre fades a bit.

I say this even though raised in Featherstone camp.

Tolerance is all.


Keith Flint said...

Arthur, you represent the voice of reason and common sense.

Perhaps I've been listening to my dog too much.

Stryker said...

I say "let loose the dogs of war(gaming)!"

Your dog is right Keith!

Steve J. said...

I know where you're coming from Keith. I was in WH Smith at the weekend and had a look at all 3 main wargames mags and none of them had an article(s) in them that grabbed my attention. I wanted to buy something and was sad at not finding something of interest.

I've tried to like Miniature Wargames but have found that each issue seems to blur with previous ones. Why it has so much space devoted to Diane Sutherland's terrain making escapes me! Give me a good scenario with maps etc (as you've mentioned Keith) anytime.

Out of all of them I've found myself drifting towards Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy, as I currently like it's themed approach. As a result I'm looking forward to the SYW and Market Garden issues as the latter is of long term interest and the former a recent one, courtesy of yourself Keith.

And I agree that being able to check out forthcoming issues content online saves my poor old legs from unnecessary trips into town, which I greatly appreciate.

arthur1815 said...

I find myself in sympathy with you and your dog, while appreciating the fact that at least one of the editors can only print articles that are submitted or that he has written himself, and the commercial realities of having to maximise readership - if only to keep the advertisers happy!
Surely the publishers do not expect wargamers to buy all three magazines regularly? WS&S is bold enough to offer themed issues (great if one likes the theme; no sale if one doesn't!) and has some of the most interesting columns.
If only White Dwarf had not become the house magazine/catalogue of Games Workshop, all the fantasy/SciFi and Lace/Steam/Whatever Punk could have been safely quarantined there, away from eyes of historical wargamers...

Keith Flint said...

Steve, it's frustrating isn't it? We're both keen wargamers, we both have 3 commercially produced magazines to choose from, yet spending £4-5 on one of them seems a waste of money. One would think that one of the three would appeal. There just seems to be a lack of focus on the core appeal of the hobby.

This post is my answer to that conundrum.

Jim Walkley said...

What a clever dog. I remember when the wargaming element was evicted from Military Modelling and sometimes wonder if the fantasy element should be removed from historical wargame magazines but also think there may be an element of cross over among the readers. One of the best WSS issues recently was the one where there were linked scenarios on a Gettysburg theme and this met some of the criteria you were listing Keith. I think part of the problem is that the slightly older wargamer has seen most things before and has books which give more depth than the historical articles. We are of the time when the history part of wargaming was the inspiration rather than buying a set of rules.
That said, if someone can inspire me with a decent scenario and game report I am likely to buy the magazine.
Best wishes

 Ashley said...

I disagree. I would also add that editors can only print what writers send them. YMMV and clearly does.

James said...

As someone who tried to edit a magazine, one is seriously limited by what is submitted, which is heavily influenced by what is 'hot' and 'trendy' at the moment.

Also magazines have the greatest appeal to new comers to the hobby, more seasoned hobbyists have delved deeper into books etc. so magazine articles are less likely to appeal unless they are an intro to a new aspect/period.

I have also found that as I get older and life more complex, I have less time for the big ancient or horse and musket games. Moving more into a skirmishy direction myself.

Tiny Terrain Models said...


Despite my recent forays into SciFi (sorry) I do find myself agreeing with you. I too picked up all 3 mags, took a look this month and put them back on the shelf. I think they are missing a trick, I wouldnt think twice about buying all 3 every month if they had content that was more useful. Often a browse over a lunchtime is all they get before they get put to one side for reference.

Keith Flint said...

My thoughts exactly. Behind all the nonsense in this post there is a serious point. A solid core of articles devoted to the well-established and popular periods would leave plenty of room for some sci-fi etc., but draw in a constant mainstream audience.

Perhaps it's time to start commissioning articles instead of waiting to see what comes though the post.

arthur1815 said...

You put it in a nutshell very well. The latest issue of MWBG is dominated by four long articles: Threat Generation for WW2 games (though the principles could be adapted for other periods), a Great Northen War battle, 'an homage' to OGRE and a WW2 Russian Front battle. If none of those appeal, there is little to read other than the regular columns; if I did not have a subscription I would have skimmed it in WH Smiths and put it back.
It would, IMHO, have been better to have had more, shorter articles, covering a greater variety of periods/types of game, such as is usually the case in WSS. We should all write some!

J. Salkeld said...

I feel as though the comment that 'there are only 3 wargames periods' leaves a large amount of vagaries.

For example, WWI seems to be best defined as Modern, but until tanks appeared in late 1916, most of the weapons used had already been developed in the 1800s- breech-loading artillery had been equipped on ships by the 1860s. Percussion-cap based shells used against the French in 1870, and machine guns weren't all that new-fangled either, with the Mitrailleuse (1851), Gatling gun (1861) and Maxim gun (1883) all coming from the 'Horse and Musket' era. Poison gas had even been used against the Maoris in 1840!

This also does not account for naval and aerial engagements. Although the difference between triremes and ships of the line are clear, under the 'Horse and Musket' label, one would find the wooden sailing ships of the Battle of Minorca grouped into the same era as that of ironclads!

I have no disagreements with the part about magazines, however.

Keith Flint said...

Wise comments sir. Perhaps I shouldn't listen so much to my dog (at least where wargaming is concerned)!