Thursday, 16 February 2017

All about the history

Mais qu’est alors cette vérité historique, la plupart du temps? Une fable convenue. Ainsi qu’on l’a dit fort ingénieusement...
(What then is, generally speaking, the truth of history? A fable agreed upon. As it has been very ingeniously remarked...)
Las Cases (1823), Mémorial de Sainte Hélène: Journal de la Vie Privée et des Conversations de l’Empereur Napoléon, à Sainte Hélène. Cited at

Bonaparte devant le Sphinx by Jean-Léon Gérôme (WikimediaCommons)

This post has been inspired by a couple of recent incidents. 

Firstly, a questionnaire from Hat, one of the manufacturers of the wonderful 1/72nd scale figures that we like to use. They have had a change of ownership recently and have been surveying their customers a lot. One recent questionnaire posed the question:
"Are toy soldiers your main hobby?"
I found the question impossible to answer. For a start, I do not like to call them toy soldiers, preferring military miniatures (a bit coy on my part, I admit). More importantly, none of the options was "they are not my hobby". The collecting of 'toy soldiers' is but part of the wonderful hobby that I enjoy, viz. wargaming.

Secondly, a bit of email correspondence between Julian and myself regarding 'home made' models which made me realise that, while we have quite similar preferences on most things wargaming, the ranking of key aspects of the hobby for each of us—perhaps even what we regard as the ultimate 'point' of the hobby— is quite different.

You see, for me, it is all about the history.

There are so many aspects to wargaming aren't there? Reading and researching the history, reading and researching uniform details, collecting and painting the miniatures, building terrain items and other wargaming pieces, designing scenarios, getting together with friends... not to mention playing the games (perhaps even satisfying a competitive urge or trying to do better than one's historical counterpart)!

History is no. 1 for me. This explains my strong preference for historical wargaming and playing historically-based games. I'll join in with a fictional action but it does not hold the same interest for me. I've even been known to play a fantasy game, but it has been just that, a 'game'.

This may be blasphemous on a wargaming related blog, but, if push came to shove, if I were on a 'desert island'#, I'd take my history books over my figures—all 21 714 of them at time of writing this (figures that is).
# It is quite a well appointed 'desert island', you see! Probably more Gilligan's Island. Marie-Ann or Ginger, that old boyhood question...

So, what is it that most grasps you in this wonderful hobby, interest (obsession!) that we enjoy?


  1. I'd take my figures. For mine, the essence of war games is 'story'. The importance of history in this respect might be shown by my love for history that I began to develop even before I hit age 10. Historical novels, or even historical narratives were and are my favourite reading. But underlying all of it is story.

    And that is why I would take my figures. I can remember the histories. One can create new ones. My desert island would become a new land of warring nations - an endless struggle for supremacy, with the outcome forever in doubt. It would be nice if I had the means to record the events...

  2. Replies
    1. ... and Ion the beauty is the that the endless struggle is completely bloodless, with the ability to try again if one wants, hey?!

  3. I've blogged about this in the past as well, and I have the germ of a concet about it for elaboartion, that has yet to be developed. Our hobby has many facets, but in the broadest terms to really "get" Historical Miniature Wargaming, you have to like the three components - History, Modeling, and Games. I have always loved history and games, but the modeling aspect took longer for me to really become interested in. At this point, all three are of roughly equal importance... which is why I';m not primarily a collector, board/computer game player, or fantasy miniature gamer... hobbies that use 2 out of the 3 pillars of our hobby.

    1. Interesting points, as ever.

      Trust you to be so balanced Peter--he, he!!

  4. I'm with Gonsalvo on this one, except that different aspects of the hobby are more important for me at different times, usually because of real life/work considerations. When I was in Glasgow, I was able to paint a lot and game a lot, but now that I've moved to a very busy (but less stressful) job, I paint less and game a lot less. But that's okay, because I wouldn't have the time or energy anyway. So perhaps the history is taking the front seat at the moment. I'm quite relaxed about this - it's just life, you know!?

    1. ...and it is only a hobby (obsessession).
      Making the most of where you are and what you have. I'm all for that Paul. Not that such contentment stops one thriving to do more, different or even better. Particularly as the clock ticks and can stop at any time...

  5. Personally, I love the research that goes into painting units, thinking how to modify available figures if they don't actually exist in my chosen scale/medium, and actually bringing that plan to life.

    In that vein, I'd be hard pressed to give up one or the other; if I bought my soldiers and paints, i'd need reference books (or internet access, at least!).

    Another big draw to wargaming for me is the fellowship of like-minded enthusiasts playing games for the love of it. That would be something impossible to replace on a desert island (unless you could persuade Wilson to go French!)

  6. This desert island would have NBN for sure!
    I'd rather ask Marie-Ann or Ginger to go French...