It is fairly certain that if, like my good friend Craig, I had almost entirely ignored microcomputers, low speed modems, bulletin boards, the internet and writing, I would have ticked most of my life goals by now. Okay, I wouldn’t have got the tech jobs I have had, and I still don’t own a Maserati, let alone an AC Cobra and a Morgan Three Wheeler. The expense has been frightening, but it is the time drain that has been enormous. Really, incredibly, unimaginably big. And then along came social media.
I recently logged ten years on Twitter, and more on Facebook – I actually signed up when it was a university app because… I worked at Cambridge and it was the thing to do. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea why I am on the former. It is largely people who are annoying, preachy, dumb and often just wrong. Many are busily fighting Pronoun Wars. But there is some genuinely valuable hobby stuff and so I feel I need to stick around. Facebook, even to me, is clearly old news. Not moribund, but I would not rule that out. Cough, Friends Reunited. I would leave FB tomorrow except that it is now perhaps the best place for hobby interest groups. They are focused, polite, moderated and quite inspirational. And for perspective, I have visited the toxic mess that is TMP twice in six years. For me, it is a poster child of poor leadership and editorial standards.
You can frame this one: my natural habitat is Instagram. Simple. Post a picture of the current project. Short comment. Quick check of latest posts. Delete the inexplicable Russian bodybuilders/filtered model followers, and you are done. Exactly the right level of involvement. Add on Pinterest, which seems to have swallowed all the Web’s images, and that is my social media day. I love it, almost as much as my Sky Fibre feed!
I feel very strongly that I am at the end of an era. I am not saying the miniatures hobby is behind me, it clearly isn’t – I am here, but I have made the changes I planned and now find myself wondering how to move forward. The hobby has changed. I have changed. I just need to find commonality, or leave the hobby behind and go independent. Not solo, just independent.
In many ways I am already there. My involvement is a small fraction of what it was, and being more detached has seen the hobby run away in different directions – almost ubiquitous and depressing skirmish systems, less history – more game, doubled prices, shows unchanged from the 90’s, and huge magazines that no longer do much to fuel enthusiasm. Am I a miniatures gamer? Yes. But increasingly those figures are plastic masterpieces from boardgames or the Perries, or Peter Dennis’ paper soldiers.
So where am I?
The five foot Lead Mountain is virtually gone – reduced to 100 or so 30mm figure conversions that I can’t easily part with – and I have bought nothing to replace them. I have also sold half my rules collection – over 70 titles. About 120 1/72 tank kits went. Books I have kept. The bank account is happier, the storage space is welcome, and frankly I had precious few guilt pangs as lovingly acquired figures went off to the Post Office. For those considering the eBay route, it took me 19 months selling batches every week to shift around 2,400 unpainted figures. I had very little joy with painted sales – no rude comments!
A part of this is catharsis. I bought too much for too long and my hoarder gene did not want to face ‘getting rid’, or downsizing. I wanted to clear the decks and find what I was really interested in and to kill that hobby butterfly that flitted from period to period for twenty years, finishing little. This was made very easy by the realisation that 28mm figures I loved at time of purchase have not aged well (some look very odd indeed) and that they have retained their value. I also fell out of love with many periods of history or, more accurately, wishing to model them on the tabletop.
I haven’t painted much since the theft of my armies. Any desire to finish and start new 30mm projects was squashed pretty much totally. But never say never. I have had a couple of false starts: AWI, Maximilian 1934, and Sassanids. All now loiter in their storage boxes, likely to be sold. There is currently no large painting project on the To Do list. That does not mean I have been idle. For much of the year, professional commissions aside, I have been at my bench daily. Sometimes for two weeks solid. See below!
I still design and play boardgames, three times per week, and some of the recent historical treatments have been superb – Napoleon Saga, Nights of Fire, Quartermaster General: Cold War, Cataclysm, Napoleon 1806, Helsinki 1918, and 1066: Tears for Many Mothers. As good as these are, the stars of recent years are Root and Pax Pamir 2nd Ed. While the price of these games is eye watering, a £60 boardgame will be learned, setup and played the same week – the same key benefit that converted me in 1977. For me, at present, a £30 miniatures rule set has virtually no chance of being bought. And almost certainly no activity beyond the initial read. The thrill of the speculative rules purchase is long gone, and believe me that was a major part of my hobby.
So what is left? I have 1/72 tanks but no infantry (remind you of anything Lardy?), 28mm Dark Ages and Samurai, 1/600th Ironclads and most of my terrain. I have a reasonable pile of plastic – Perry, Fireforge and Conquest – all medieval. And it is the latter period, almost exclusively, that retains my interest and forms a core shopping list for metals – Paul Hicks’ new Baron’s War range is perfect, if ten years too late! Ironically, it is also the one period for which I don’t have a Go To set of rules, but I have a couple of candidates (and do not suggest Lion Rampant!)
But Mike, what about Napoleonics? Well, I have the occasional urge to paint a hussar, still love everything about the period, but generally I am resigned to the fact that gaming in 30mm is not viable. Any figures I would paint from now on, and there are some beauties on the market, would stay in the display cabinet. Only took me 45 years to realise this. Of course, if you have the dream gaming room, or visit the Wargames Holiday Centre, or play in small scale, it is entirely possible. But having lost my 30mm armies, and having a maximum table size of 8×4, it is no longer an ambition. Boardgames (W1815, 1806, Bluecher) have kept my mind on Nappies and I have plans to not only finish my own rules but to refight Waterloo this summer. Pics and write up to follow. I also have my eye on the Victrix Guard Lancers.
So what have you been up to, Siggins?
Well, as you probably guessed, it is 2mm. Pretty bad case of small scaleitis, to be honest. An experiment that was meant to be a proof of concept stretched into a year or more of work and painting. The drivers were Mark Backhouse and Real Time Wargames rules. Almost everything has been bought from Irregular, and painted, heavily converted or stored for future use. Buildings are scratchbuilt or from Brigade Models. Terrain is GHQ and again, scratch. The philosophy is Troops in the Landscape, 1:2 scale or better, and no basing requirements. Periods launched include War of the Roses, AWI, Dark Ages and Lord of the Rings. Pike and Shot is about to start.
Here are some pictures to show current progress:
The basic hex. GHQ Terrainmaker.
The grassy towelling hex.
Reserve Hexes, just in case.
The Housing Stock. Almost all from Brigade Models Small Scale.
Irregular 2mm, mainly cavalry for Lewes 1264/Baron’s War. Some Sassanids, artillery, cataphracts and Riders of Rohan if you look hard.
The Lead Pile.