Saturday 14 September 2013

Consumerism Gives Purpose

Sometimes it's best to just come clean. 

A number of posts on this blog have expressed concerns about over-commercialisation of the hobby and the growth of Corporate Wargaming. The only time I had an article published in a glossy magazine, I concluded by encouraging readers to chant, 'I am a wargamer, not a consumer' (see this post from 2010). But, well... let's say I've been a bit down lately. I've been living away from home during the working week, and actual wargaming (that is, fighting battles with my toys) has dried up. So I'm afraid I've sought solace in retail therapy. This is not really what I want to be doing, but let me admit everything. Mea culpa, mea maxi culpa...

Ah yes, I'm always a sucker for books. To start with, I told myself time and again I didn't need Henry Hyde's Wargaming Compendium. It would be full of stuff I already knew and that I would have read before in any number of general wargaming books. But then a moment of weakness came over me and I saw I could get it cheap on Amazon. So there went twenty quid or so.

I'm fairly glad I bought it. It is indeed a labour of love by Henry, and a great deal of effort has clearly gone into this weighty tome, but for my money some of those gushing Amazon reviews are a bit over the top. For a book aimed particularly at beginners in the hobby, I reckon it will be read mainly by experienced gamers, which is interesting as (to repeat) a lot of this is well known stuff. So we have a newly published book which many will immediately see as a nostalgia read.

Contemporary nostalgia. The view from my armchair on one of the last days of summer.

Let me give you some examples of my fairly minor reservations. In explaining some of the basic mechanisms, I feel Henry is beaten in clarity by George Gush's 1980 book A Guide To Wargaming, which remains my favourite general guide despite being thirty years out of date. I also reckon the section on blogging could have been a bit longer, to give the book some more modern relevance. And whilst Henry's rule set was interesting to read, it was a bit too complex for my taste. 

Nevertheless, there is a lot in this book (including much advice on modelling and painting) and I know I will be coming back to it in the future, which is the test of a worthwhile purchase. Or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

Also obtained are Charles Grant's Fontenoy (1975) and the Osprey Zorndorf 1758 (2003). Both good, solid wargames reads. I won't go into detail - if the 18th century is your thing, they are both recommended.

And the list continues. Miniature Wargames 365 was purchased, then Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy 68. Both were OK, and kept me occupied for a few hours, but 'OK' is as far as I would go. No great inspiration here. Ho hum.

Oh, I hate those wargamers who write about how they just 'couldn't resist' some set of figures they've seen. But on seeing the new armed civilians range from Minden Miniatures, I just couldn't resist them. In my defence, I only bought ten, and the 'civilian militia' unit is already ready for action, thanks to Neil Parsons at Mount and Blade.

Neil's photo sent to show the (excellent) job he had done.
My photo after basing. Yes, plain flocking - the basing of champions!

After my last post, I had decided to leave the subject of painting alone (particularly as I know very little about it). However, I think it's worth noting that many figure painters would consider the figures unfinished. This is not down to Neil, who simply followed my instructions. I did add a spot of dark flesh to emphasise eyes and mouths, as well as flocking the bases, but the point I want to make is that the top photo in particular shows the figures in close up. They are nice figures nicely photographed, but a good part of the impression that they might be 'unfinished' is generated by the illusion that they are at least 40mm in size, or maybe bigger. But they are only 30mm figures. From 'wargames ranges' my own opinion is that these little marvels are indeed as finished as they need to be.

Continuing to trawl the adverts in my wargames magazines in search of a fix, I happened upon the one placed for Eagle Figures. These are nice looking miniatures with a 1980s pedigree, and a good SYW range is available. Just what I needed to flesh out some of my final units with command groups.

When I first received them, I thought they were lovely figures but too bulky to match with my elegant RSM95s. On reflection, and looking at the photos I took for the blog, I'm not so sure. I think they will blend nicely, and I will give them a go. Thanks to Ian at Eagle for excellent service.

Eagle officers, drummer and standard bearer with RSM infantrymen at either end.

Oh, the shame! These were my most straightforwardly unnecessary purchase. A box of 4 Battlefront DFS230 gliders were bought on a whim, at the end of a lonely evening in my digs at Oxford. The excuse is that I am probably going to keep most of the fallschirmjager that I bought a while back, and these gliders will give me an additional reason to trot them out in fictional Poland 1939 scenarios. 

The good news is that the models are great, being easy to put together and very nicely moulded, as well as being reasonably priced. 

What me, bothering to paint splinter camouflage? I don't think so!

I chopped 10mm off each wingtip to reduce the table footprint of these babies, and left off the optional machine gunners as these wouldn't be correct for the 'A' model that would have been used in 1939. The wing cropping doesn't alter the fact that these gliders are over-sized when compared with the Zvezda 1/200th Ju-52s that I also have (see below). However, since airlanding troops would be unlikely to operate with glider troops, a mismatch can probably be avoided.

My name's Keith, and I'm a consumer-holic
Oh for heaven's sake, why worry? The lead hillock is hardly increased, and I have some nice books and models in my possession. But a quick tally shows all the above cost me around £120 in total, including painting services and postage. That's a not inconsiderable sum over a few weeks. 

Let this be a warning to you all.


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

I had the great good fortune of visiting the Eagle stand at Colours yesterday.... was very taken with their armed civilians- would be great for AWI militia....

marinergrim said...

I'm coming to the conclusion that life is too short to worry about what I spend. Just as long as I enjoy it. Good post.

Archduke Piccolo said...

Totally understandable. Where retail therapy can be counter-productive is if it contributes to the pressure generated by lead or plastic mountains - piles of shame.

Having read you previous posting, I have a particular reason for having to revisit and revise my painting style. Although I have one eye that functions very well with corrective lenses, cataracts leave the other in which corrective lenses have only a very limited effect. New glasses have revived my interest in painting, but I'm going back to my old black undercoat, white drybrush system of preparation.

The reason for the second step is that the effect leaves the troops looking a bit more exciting in appearance and hence encouraging to paint. It has the additional advantage that I can see better what I'm painting.

The problem I had with the old block colours was that it took about four or five colours before the figures began to look like anything - most discouraging, I found.

James said...

It's your hobby. Was it money you couldn't afford that should have gone to the mortgage, groceries or the gas bill? Are the wife and kids wearing rags while you parade more finely sculpted miniatures?
If 'yes', then yes, you have a problem.
If 'no' then why not?
If the purchases gave you pleasure and you can afford them, then thanks for keeping things going while the rest of us save our pennies.

Steve J. said...

A bit of retail therapy is good for the soul now and then. At Colours yesterday I was on the verge of leaving sans purchases, but a chance chat led me to buy two Bruce Weigle books. Did I really need them? No is the honest answer, but they are full of wonderful information that will allow me to explore a new period of the 19thC. My knowledge will be increased and I know I will be happier for it.