Wargamer’s Notebook 22

There seems to be some debate in the media world as to whether one should read one’s reviews. Personally, I have come to be extremely worried when turning to the WI letters page, lest there be another barking idiot on the loose, bemoaning the fact that I ever entered this world, let alone the column. But I will not be deterred, this is all grist to the mill and as Mr Lucas so astutely pointed out, exactly the point of the exercise. So, thankyou to Messrs Moon, Wood, Clode and Lucas for their support and understanding of what I am about and to Mr Pry, did you perchance fail English Comprehension? Please read what I said, rather than concocting fiction from between the lines. The entire piece on Game of War was written and re-drafted three times; I ensured that each word was chosen carefully. It really makes a difference and, you know, you could try it next time you are writing in. I have no axe to grind (indeed I wanted nothing more than Game of War to be better than it was – was this not evident?); as the baseball umpires say, “I just call ’em as I see ’em”.

Whatever, in an effort to promote constructive discussion in these pages, and importantly a counter-view to my ramblings, thanks to Duncan’s generous offer I am now open to letters on the subject of wargaming. A wide brief, for sure, but it should get the old pen flowing. If you have views, I want to hear them. If you think I am mistaken on something, let me know why. If you have an idea, an observation or have seen a product that might appeal, we want to hear about it. If you have questions, I will do my utmost to sort them out, or find someone who can. Finally, I am particularly interested in your ideas on recruiting new blood and assisting beginners. So, snail mail to Mike Siggins, PO Box 2062, Woodford Green, Essex IG9 5DL, email to msiggins@aol.com. Stop moaning and get writing!

The rest of the column is devoted to Alan Martin, of Simulations Association of Sussex, who has some of the most constructive ideas I’ve seen on the subject of pitching the hobby to the public. Thanks to my current domestic crisis this is about two months later than it should have been, but hopefully there is still time to react and either way the ideas stand up for the future.

“Here are a few thoughts on what we hope to put on at the Napoleonic Fair. We want to build on the display we put on earlier this year by trying once again to make the game as clear as possible to the non-wargaming public, but take it further by trying to allow any onlookers who may have an interest in the hobby to get started as easily as possible. To have any hope of success, we need to enlist support from the hobby, whether it be manufacturers, the hobby press, societies or anyone else. This is not to ask for helpers, but for ideas and support for the ideas we want to put forward. I think that events like the Napoleonic Fair which are not aimed specifically at wargames, but which offer a broader range of interest albeit within a specific period, perhaps offer the best chance of recruiting people into wargaming. We need to communicate with these people and try to turn any latent interest they may have into active involvement. Although we have to bear in mind the nature of the event, we may consider extending the information we provide beyond the Napoleonic period in order to indicate more of the scope of the hobby and to increase the chances of striking a chord in the audience. The ideas we are going ahead with whether we get support or not are:

1) To try and make the game as clear as possible by explaining things in terms understood by the public and providing explanatory posters and handouts.

2) To put together some sort of chart showing history split into the generally recognised periods, showing examples of the figures and rules available to game in those periods, plus details we have of specialist societies which focus on those periods.

3) To have a map of the country on the wall with forthcoming events and their locations, so that people can go and see a specifically wargaming show and try to get more information.

4) To make sure we have plenty of presenters to keep the game moving and ensure that no viewers get ignored unless they actually want to be. We are hoping to link up with one of the Brighton clubs in this respect.

5) Although the game is not a participation game in the usual sense, we will involve people for short times if they wish. to help them understand how the rules work.

If we get support, there are a number of additional ideas we would like to follow up: A pamphlet to explain some of the basics and how to take their interest further. It’s possible that we could have period-specific information to back the general stuff. We could offer photocopies of simple, home-grown rules suitable for beginners. We may have one or two of our own, but if anyone out there has come up with something suitable and is willing to send it to me it would help. We could have copies of commercial rule sets available for people to flick through. We have a fair number ourselves, but there are a lot we don’t have. If any retailers let us have a copy we would have a sticker inside so that anyone interested knows where it came from and where to get a copy for themselves. If they have a shop, we could put it on the as mentioned above. If there are any clubs out there which are keen to recruit beginners and are willing to make the effort to help them and bring them into the hobby, send me details at the address below, perhaps with a bit of ‘sales’ blurb to encourage the potential recruit to get in touch. We’ll mark them up on the map. In the event of us getting a huge response, which given the apathy of most wargamers is rather unlikely, we may have to modify the map idea, but we’ll make the information available to the viewers somehow.

If there are any manufacturers who would like us to have their catalogue so that people can see the variety that’s available, send one in. If specialist wargame-related societies want to send in promotional material, it would be most welcome. I’m sure that any, beginners or not, would be interested in good photos of figures and games. If manufacturers, clubs or societies send them in they would be good advertising for them and we could ensure that they are captioned so that it’s clear where they’ve originated. I don’t want to put off individuals either – many will have good shots taken at shows or of their own collections. All would be welcome. If we get a lot we’ll get hold of some poster sized bits of card from somewhere to mount them. If there isn’t wall space, we’ll put them in albums for people to browse.

There must be many who read the magazines who are not active wargamers and for some of them it may be because they don’t know how they would get started. To any of them I would say come along to the Napoleonic Fair and find out. What I would be willing to do would be to provide a. information pack at the show for any individuals that contact me beforehand at the address below. If they have an idea of the type of wargaming they might be interested in, it could be tailored to provide more in-depth information on the subject. The above are ideas I’ve come up with over the past few days. I’m sure there must be load of other things that could be done, so please, contact me and let me know what they are.

I’m not sure if this sort of thing has been tried before, but if it is to be successful it needs those in the hobby to help out in some way. If everyone makes the usual assumption that someone else will make the effort, it probably won’t work. One thing we have to bear in mind is that our exhibit is only one part of a show, so space is limited and we are not seeking to dominate other aspects, even the wargaming bits. We are seeking to enhance the show, not undermine it. Last year we used two or three extra tables to put supporting material and it would not be reasonable to expect more space than that. To those who do help us out I would say come along on the day and see what the results are. It isn’t a wargame show as such but there will be other exhibitors there that are worth a visit. If you are interested in Napoleonics it’s a must.If we can encourage people to attend who would not have otherwise then everyone benefits ad we have a chance of being invited again. My address is 56 Willow Road, Redhill, Surrey, RHI 6LW.”