Wednesday 1 May 2024

Loving the Process

I continue to read the odd wargames magazine, mostly WSS. Issue 129 (the most recent) was pretty good, themed around Bronze Age warfare, but with some interesting non-theme articles as well. But it was the full-page advert on the back that caught my attention initially. There was a new WW2 game in town, apparently - Achtung Panzer! (I'm not much of a one for exclamation marks, but that's what it's called). It's from Warlord Games, as I'm sure you know.

Now, the wargaming internet is currently riddled with ads for the latest Flames of War/Gale Force 9 effort Trash of Steel (oops, I mean Clash of Steel), so my first thought was - what, another tank-only WW2 game? And then I remembered What A Tanker! (yes, it's exclamation mark time again), from 2018. So that's 3 such games now, all from prominent 'historical' gaming companies. 

I was surprised when What A Tanker! came out, as the Too Fat Lardies always made a fair bit about having a lot of historical flavour in their rules ('playing the period, not the rules', as their advertising says). A game like What A Tanker! is clearly one where you play the rules, not the period. But Richard and Nick have never been short of a sense of fun (as their company name confirms), so what the heck. But then there was Clash of Steel (shouldn't that be Clash of Steel!), and now there's Achtung Panzer!. 

It's worth hearing what Richard and Nick
have to say about their game HERE.

It's not hard to see the attraction here - lots of WW2 wargamers find messing around with tanks the most enjoyable part of their gaming. Those infantry and artillery thingies just keep getting in the way and slowing down the game, for heaven's sake. Which is essentially true. So there was bound to be a market for tank-only games. Plus there's all the interest in online tank-only games like World of Tanks, which holds out the promise of a truly vast number of potential customers. So why aren't I interested?

I guess most importantly, these games seem like a different hobby to the one I got interested in in the 60s, and am still interested in now. The historical element was always given a fair bit of importance. When gaming a particular period, it was taken for granted that, as far as armies went, one wanted the whole thing. That was the point of all that research and reading. The idea of playing Napoleonics with just the cavalry, or ancients with just the pike phalanxes, never occurred - except maybe for one-off games to test out the rules. Or perhaps just for the hell of it once or twice. But a whole set of rules just for that type of game? The clue is in that strap line from the What A Tanker! cover - 'challenging and fun'. Of course, the hobby is about fun - I've labelled it 'whimsical' in past posts on this blog, and I stand by that characterisation. But in a nutshell, a game of WW2 with just the tanks seems like half the fun.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, combined arms. Much of the fascination of historical wargaming comes from that. My serious interest in Napoleonics is relatively recent, but once I got some games in I found (of course) that the 'paper, scissors, stone' of Napoleonic warfare was truly fascinating. And the same goes for WW2. Have you ever read a tactical history of WW2 where combined arms wasn't considered vital? I don't think I have. To me at least, these tank-only games are a step back, and look a lot less fun than the ones I'm used to playing.

There is also the 'barrier to entry' argument, I suppose. These games, it is hoped, will get Warhammer gamers into historical (well, sort of historical) gaming. And Napoleonic gamers can get into WW2 just by buying a handful of tanks (plus an expensive rule book). The 'barrier to entry' thing is an interesting concept, one which we will all have experienced. The thought that it might take many months, even years, to get into that new period, to get to play the games you want to, is sometimes not very encouraging. But here we get to the reason behind the title to this post.

Yes, that's right. All that effort, researching, buying (when you can afford it), painting, writing rules or choosing and learning commercial ones, and playing games that might last more than 45 minutes  - it's what the hobby is. These things shouldn't be viewed as barriers to entry. The idea is that you're supposed to enjoy that shit. I think that's something that saddens me these days - those things that I learnt were part of our pastime are now 'barriers to entry'. As mindfulness tells us, the key to success is loving the process. Finding joy in the process. Not discarding the process for a quick fix. Which is why I find these three games not worth my time.

In my case, there's also the point that I'm not really bothered about encouraging young Games Workshop enthusiasts, or any other young people for that matter, into the hobby. I'd prefer them to get into a proper hobby, like football, or kayaking, or restoring old cars, or photography. Wargaming? That's for old tossers like me, you young fools.

Well, I think that's about it. I guess I wrote this because finding an ad for a third, high-profile tanks-only game kind of depressed me, and I wanted to explain to myself why. I've never been interested in World of Tanks, and I'm not interested in these new tabletop games either. It's like life really - I'd quite like to have a go at the whole thing, not just a bit of it. But that's just me. As an ex-editor of Minaiture Wargames once wrote - "it's all fantasy anyway". He's basically right, of course. We're just playing with our toys. So if you like and enjoy these games, good luck to you. I just don't think I'll be joining you.

Over and out. 'Til next time. (No exclamation mark this time around).

EDIT: I just noticed on the CoS packaging the phrase 'Complete WW2 Starter Set'. What is that supposed to mean? A starter set for the whole of WW2? I'm reminded of the description of the Games Workshop 'Lord of the Rings Strategy Game', which was of course a skirmish game. All a bit meaningless, and a bit misleading, IMHO.