I'm not sure how to start this blog. I've re-written this introduction a good four or five times now, wondering how best to grab your attention with the opening line. The choices varied from short and brief, to long and boring.
As it turns out, that makes for a great parallel with our hobbying – whether you enjoy a quick, casual game or a long weekend of campaigning with a local group, what matters is that you chose to play that game. Same as you're hopefully still sat in front of your screen/holding your phone to your face(delete as applicable) wondering what in the blazes I'm banging on about. Don't worry, I'm getting to that part.
My name's John. Some of you know me as Potter, others have(mistakenly) called me Sir. Whatever you choose to address me as, I assure you I'm as loopy as the average gamer(on a good day) and I've been involved with the running of the Barrage Wargames Show in Stafford for about a year now – working alongside the legend that is Mark Sproston, taking care of the social media side of the show(yep, twas yours truly that spammed you all with that countdown in the run-up to the show). Has it really been that long since I got involved with the running of a wargames show? Guess it has!
I suppose now is as good a time as any to give everyone a brief history of my gaming exploits, interests, why I'm involved with Barrage and where we go from here.
Let's start with a disclaimer: wargaming isn't my predominant hobby. In fact, it only just scrapes into the top five of my interests(in no particular order: board & card games, motorsport, scale modelling, video games, wargaming) and even then I'm not entirely sure I count as a wargamer. In my youth I played 40k(Eldar) and currently I play X-Wing. The reason I say I'm not sure I count is because I've unfortunately encountered a degree of snobbery when it comes to what defines a war game, and if it's mainstream by gaming standards then it's apparently not acceptable to the underground masses that have played their small, poorly supported games for donkeys.
There are some who will say that Games Workshop have broken the gaming industry, and that they're sucking all the money and fans out of it. Well I'm sorry, but I strongly disagree with this! I started playing 40k when I was 14, and stopped when I was 20. At the time I stopped, I wanted to spend my money on going out with friends, doing what 20-something-year-olds do best on a Friday night. The point is, going out was cheaper for me than buying plastic miniatures that were only escalating in price. My painting talents at the time, while okay for a group of semi-casual gamers, were also lacking by my own standards and I disliked that I had to paint everything before my gaming group let me use it. House rules it seemed, were lacking somewhat back then.
At this point, reading that last paragraph back, I'm not sure whether I'm blaming the cost of plastic crack or inflexible gamers. Ten/fifteen years ago though there was a distinct lack of local gamers and I had two choices: put up with ever-rising costs and poor gaming attitudes, or quit.
Fast forward to roughly three or four years ago. I'd hit 30, I'd finally passed my driving test and a friend of mine asked for a lift to a show in Donington Park. Curious, I decided why the heck not – I knew he still played 40k, and I wanted to see how the hobby had progressed in the decade or so since my last game.
As it turned out, prices had gone through the roof. Whereupon once upon a time a fiver would get me a handful of plastic miniatures or a single ornate white metal figure, it now felt that prices reflected not the techniques involved or the material manufactured with, but the prestige it commanded on the battlefield. As mentioned above, I have an interest in scale modelling – I can spend £20 on a good sized car, but the same amount in Games Workshop terms would have afforded me a very small squad of generic Marines. Any hopes of resurrecting my interest in 40k evaporated when I saw the cost of a Tau battlesuit. For the price of a Riptide model for example, I could have picked up three Gundam models. Crikey.
It was at this moment that I realised that of the whole Donington show, traders selling Games Workshop items totalled about three. Maybe four, my memory is a little fuzzy. What I do remember however, is the vast amount of everything else, for want of a better way of putting it. I was utterly blown away by how many other games there were, and more importantly for a 30-something-year-old that owned a home and a car and pets, much easier on the old wallet.
And we're not just talking gaming systems. We're talking tools. Paints. Scenery. Anything you could possibly think of for a successful evening in with a couple of mates that have an interest in some tabletop miniature gaming. And over to the one side, you could see these games in action. World War II. Aztec treasure hunting. Navy versus pirates. Even games based on video games. Honestly, I was blown away.
I went to Donington hoping to rekindle an interest in a gaming system with a rich back story. I left with my eyes opened to a whole new world. One that involves pre-painted spaceships.
Thankfully my exposure to any elitism or snobbery since rediscovering wargaming has been minimal, I am happy to report. That said, it does sadden me that this does exist. With the coming of the internet, it's never been easier to find a gaming group – so if you do find some individuals that look down upon you, you don't have to put up with their attitude; you can find another group. It's not the end of the world like it used to be.
So where am I going with all this? Quite simply, we should be grateful to games companies such as Games Workshop, or Fantasy Flight Games. Their marketing is quite complete; everything you'd ever need to participate in one of their games systems is available for purchase from them. In the case of GW, they even have a whole line of paints, brushes, tools, in fact a whole range of modelling equipment under the Citadel brand. Games Workshop - to me - no longer seems to be the bad guy, but instead a gateway game into the hobby as a whole for those that choose to embrace it.
This author doesn't think too much of the Citadel line of tools as he believes them to be overpriced for what they are, but they serve a purpose. It gets people into the hobby of wargaming. If someone is happy to spend all that money playing these games, let them. Rather than looking down our noses at these gamers, we should embrace them and invite them to our shows – because then they'll see what they're really missing out on – a larger gaming community.
And this is why I'm helping Mark with Barrage, because it is... no, you are, such an amazing community. We are, for the most part, respectful of what others choose to play. Doesn't matter whether it's Bolt Action, Dropzone Commander, Wings at War, or Warhammer, we all choose the games we play for fun. We can play them casually at home with house rules, or to stringent standards at a tournament. The game accommodates us and our tastes – so let's be more accommodating towards our fellow gamers' tastes.
Going forward, you can expect to see a bit more activity both on the Facebook group and on the website, starting with more of these blogs. I'm aiming for one a week, with a focus on the show as the date approaches(9th July, in case you didn't know) and aspects of the hobby far and wide. It's probably worth mentioning that all views expressed within this are mine and mine alone, unless I'm quoting someone of course, and are not representative of the show.
Parting Shot: X-Wing is totally a war game.