Saturday, 17 November 2012

What do real, rather than proper, wargamers look like?

In yesterday´s post I´ve shown that all of the 18 wargames bloggers scored between 13 and 18 points on the 20 questions posed by Phil Broeders, with an average score of 15.

But that is all based on the ideal of scoring 20 points, while it is much more interesting to look at the score of each question. This way we can learn about real wargamers, rather than the ideal that Phil holds up (even though with a wink).

The scores for each question, based on 18 respondents

What unites us is that we all spend a generous amount of money on our hobby. 500 pounds is not a hard threshold to attain given the fact that many of these bloggers are veteran gamers. Although most respondents indicate they don't spend 500 pounds each year, I've also seen comments that people have flunked on this question on purpose so as not to arouse suspicion with the wife.

Much of this spending is aspirational. Every wargamer has tons of unpainted lead on the shelf, and more dice than he has use for. This probably also has to do with the fact that we are all very broadminded in our taste of periods and rulesets. Everybody dabbles in more than one period and almost all of us have tried at least 10 rulesets. And if not, that's something we expect to happen in due time. I've written a bit on this aspirational buying and the concept of the anti-library elsewhere on this blog.

Wargaming is not a solo activity. Almost everyone has been to a wargames show at least once, although for many it doesn't seem to a regular event. I am happy to see the high rate of club membership. Playing in a group of potential opponents seems to be the dominant form to enjoy the hobby. I think it's a good thing that we're a social bunch.

These bloggers all seem to have seen both sides of wargaming as all of us have suffered embarrassing defeats, and almost all have inflicted whopping defeats. And although many have experienced a game so tight it went to the last die roll, this isn't a universal experience.

Luckily, less common are the experiences with the occupational hazards of wargaming, such as injuries caused by pointy objects and dropped boxes of miniatures, but they have still happened to the vast majority of us.

Although not for everyone, there's still over half of us who've gone through the pain of rebasing an army for a different ruleset. Given that this is one of the most highly detested chores in miniature modelling, I personally would hold this up as a defining question to establish whether someone is really hard core.

Me taking an apprehensive stance as the umpire calls the situation. 
Will I explode into rage and embarrass the Liphook Historical Wargamers?

The questions with the lowest scores are obviously not particular to wargaming but more indicative of the individual character and digital behaviour. Although about half have used eBay (or digital equivalents) to buy miniatures, fewer still have used it to dispose of them. Some people just don't like eBay and paying online. Bring & Buys are mentioned as alternatives. And in most cases it was as units or individual miniatures, rather than armies.

Although over half of the wargame bloggers admits to having had a proper, standup argument, this was followed by so many qualifications it was stretching the argument very thinly. Throwing dice apparently is also more a matter of poor hand-eye coordination than frustration. And finally, only very few of us have made enemies as a result of wargaming. That would indicate that we are a reasonably well behaved lot, but then again this describes a group of mostly middle aged men drawn to reflection, rather than hardcore competition gamers.

I think this overall image won't be too shocking for most of us. Tomorrow I will post my answers to Phil's original questions, Lee's expansion and even on Trebian's alternative list and you can judge for yourself whether I am a proper wargamer.

Any questions?


  1. Interesting read, but I used to be a very hard nosed competitive wargamer. I still pop to the odd tournament every now and again and if I do I go with the aim of winning. Yet throughout my 6 to 7 year heavily competitive career, as it were, I did not make one enemy. I also play games with highly competitive people, even friendly games aren't really friendly. Cheers, I look forward to seeing your answers.

  2. It could be that competition gamers are as well behaved as other wargamers. I'd say that a competitive setting puts more tension on a player, but it surely isn't a foregone conclusion that you will have arguments and make enemies. I'd like to have the data to answer that question ;-)

    1. There is also a frequency issue. A hermit for instance could spend their entire life in isolation and therefore never have a single argument. However, that doesn't mean they're a wonderful communicative individual with a diplomats charm and a comedians wit, able to deftly handle social situations! :P

      Nope, tournament / competitive wargamers are more likely to have had arguments. I'd just suggest that this is more a function of the fact that they more often than not play more games than most people. Also many of those games are crammed into single days, in a pressure cooker environment. That plays a part too.

  3. It's a common thing in many competitive contexts, for players to be 'aggressive' during play, but 'passive' outside of that. I've discussed to a point, but hopefully fell short of actually to have been seen as 'arguing' and have not taken it away from the game as a grudge.

    Most of the gamers I've encountered over the years have been intelligent and easy-going, to the point of what I would describe as 'gentlemen'. There are always exceptions of course, but thankfully few of them.

    1. There is a bit of character involved as well. There's competitive players that are entirely reasonable, and some just argue their point ad libitum. At some point you have to step back and take a deep breath.

      Thanks for taking the time to show up and discuss!

  4. Hmm interesting excercise this Jur !!!
    However you fail to notice the complot which I thought to be very obvious from the figures presented above.... How is it possible that more people are buying armies on e-bay than people selling them ???? Well ???? Here's your complot.......

  5. LOL Rene! I guess I'm just too naive to spot the conspiracy. I think it would be the result of wives checking up, so that spending (=buying) would be underreported. "Look honey, I sold this for 300 euros to pay for new stuff!"

  6. I think many hobbies and past-times have aspirational buying. Listen to bibliophiles and their tottering towers of "to read" books; of cookery books never being opened; of power tools never being used. Its kit that we want, and the promise of a better experience.

    1. It's the curse of the postmodern age: too much money and too little time.

  7. Jur, thanks very much for compiling this evidence. It shows that there are perhaps a lot more similarities than differences among all wargamers - or "real" wargamers if you like. I certainly echo the point about "aspirational buying". I was thinking last night about what I wanted for Christmas which could relate to the wargaming hobby. I didn't come up with a single thing.....apart from getting more time to complete everything I'd started!

    1. Hi Sidney

      Having a hobby is probably the greatest time sink you can think of. I have potential projects stacked up until 2020 probably, and I am sure I will be occupied after that as well. And the weird thing is that we feel life gets in the way with the hobby rather than the other way round.

      I've been wondering whether wargamers are 'really all the same' or whether there are significant difference, other than the ones that Phil pointed at.

      I certainly see the differences between historical wargamers and fantasy players not in the fields of modelling and painting, and not in the field of research (the GW mythos is now so deep you can spend years just ploughing through it). But there may be differences in approach to the gaming side.

      I will get back to this. SO thanks for the comment!


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