Saturday, 20 October 2012

Why I Stopped Buying Wargame Magazines


It is a sad fact that I do not buy any wargame magazines any more, I I suppose that asking the question ‘why’ is a reasonable one. After all, in my time I have subscribed to a few, both mainstream and amateur, and even contributed articles to both kinds.

So I suppose the question is: why did I stop?

I am not so na├»ve as to suppose that there is a single reason for my ceasing to purchase such publications. Firstly, the price kept going up. When a subscription to a magazine starts to look like the same price as a decent sized army, then one has to look to one’s priorities. Nevertheless, being reasonably happily employed means that price could not have been the overbearing issue.

Another reason could be the range of articles in an issue of a journal. The mainstream journals, in general, claim to try to keep a wide spread of articles. As far as I can tell, not having done a major survey and statistical analysis, the journal I mostly read always has a World war Two article, usually a Napoleonic or Seven Years War one, often a modern one and, from time to time, an ancients or medieval article. I suppose this was for a few reasons.

Firstly, the editors can only print articles that they have to hand, so if no-one had sent in any ancients material, it could not be printed. Secondly, the editors, presumably, know their market fairly well, and the two most popular wargame periods are, so far as I know, precisely Napoleonics and World War Two. So it is inevitable that the articles written and published will be in there two areas, at least in the main.

Now again, I am not suggesting that this, either, is why I stopped buying the magazines. I am, after all, a solo wargamer and quite prepared to borrow good ideas from any period you might like to mention. If a good mechanism is described in an article on, say, the Battle of Balaklava, and it would work for my Romans, then I am absolutely not averse to using it.

It was not even the photographs of miniature figures that stopped me buying the magazines. These, I suspect, are also linked to the issue of which articles are printed, it is true, and could be of varying quality. However, they were all better than the figures I can paint, so I am not going to criticise, although some of the image manipulation just did not seem to work well from my point of view. I also have to say that, having had a few articles published, the editor’s decision about what formed suitable pictures to accompany a given text sometimes seemed a little bit, um, interesting. But then I am not an editor of a magazine, so who am I to criticise?

Finally, I did not stop buying wargame magazines because they are, in general, opposed to 6 mm figures. I am not convinced, despite recent issues, that they are, in particular, anti small figures, but I suspect that the editors simply feel that, except perhaps for World War Two, such figures are not mainstream and so fall outside what they want to publish. There is also, I suspect, an increased difficulty in taking pictures to satisfy the eye candy lobby who want to see the whites (and the pupils) of the figure’s eyes. As I said above, if the text explains a nice rule mechanism or bit of insight, it is still something I can  use. Furthermore, the nice colour pictures enabled Mrs P. to say “Oh, those are nice”.
So, having explained why it is not that I have stopped purchasing wargame magazines, I suppose that I should try to give some real reasons. My real reason for stopping buying magazines was that I got bored and irritated with them.

Magazine articles, I feel, fall into two types. Firstly, there are re-hashes of battles that have been described many times before. I finally despaired of historical articles on these ‘mainstream’ battles when I read the third one in a few years on, I think, Neville’s Cross (1346). This was a lengthy article but it essentially followed the description from, I think it was, Oman. Now, a lot of work has happened between Oman’s time, (1920’s or so), and now. I am not saying that Oman is useless, far from it, but he is not the last word in the subject. At least one book has been published on the battle recently, and a number of scholarly articles have been written, incorporating sources of which Oman was unaware into the story of the campaign and battle.

Your response to that may well be ‘so what?’, but one of the aspects of most historical wargamers is, I think, a wish to get the details right. If you set up your figures in accordance with Oman’s description, you will be fighting a nice medieval wargame, but it will not be Neville’s Cross. So my problem with this is the very limited range of sources that most wargame authors access. If you are going to write an article, base it on the latest work you can access, not on near hundred year old accounts.

The second type of article is based on research, but is on such an obscure wargame idea that you know, before you read it, that you are never going to wargame it. For example, there was a very nice and lengthy set of articles on the border wars in Thailand. I am sure that they were very interesting to someone (presumably the author), but quite how many people were inspired to follow suit I am not sure. There are few figures, books or other resources to cover these periods, and the effort to find figures and other items is greater than I, for one, am prepared to make.

So while mainstream battle articles tend to the predictable and outdated, the obscure ones tend to suffer from a lack of resources. So, for me, magazines became much less useful than they had, perhaps, once been. So I stopped reading them.

8 comments:

  1. Seems reasonable to me. I stopped buying wargames mags ages ago too. My reasons were two-fold:

    1. I used to read wargames magazines from cover to cover in the search for inspiration and ideas. Some years ago I realised that I was now picking through the articles and only reading one or two at most. Some months, particularly with Wargames Illustrated, I found myself looking at the glossy pictures and not reading any of the articles. Too often the articles were about games/periods I would probably never play and/or had nothing that I could use in my own games. The magazines had ceased to enthrall me. Perhaps I had become too jaded.

    2. I found that when articles did interest me they often encouraged me to indulge in the newest, shiniest thing and leave everything else part-finished on the painting desk. I did not need that distraction, when I was already too easily distracted.

    So, I gave up wargames magazines and quickly realised that I did not miss them, had a few extra pennies in my pocket each month and my house was not filling up with yet more magazines. I am still easily distracted by new periods, but avoiding the magazines and the wargames news sites reduces the possibility for distraction, so I complete more projects.

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  2. I stopped buying them because everything i could get from a magazine is freely available on the internet, and my limited storage and gaming area was full of them. I chucked the lot of them in the recycling last year, and haven't missed them.

    Steve

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  3. Aren't we a set of rebels?
    I haven't bought a wargames magazine for years either - just found them too expensive for the fluff contained within. Money could be better spent on wargames figures, history books and beer.
    Still find plenty of inspiration from the old back issues from 20-30 years ago which are stacked in the cellar though. Frankly, the magazines nowadays are filled with pictures of figures painted to a far better standard than I'd ever have the patience to aspire to, even if my eyesight were up to it, so they're just depressing.

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  4. Dear Polemarch

    Have you not tried Battlegames?

    Yes, I'm the editor. I created Battlegames back in 2006 for all the reasons you state -- I felt none of the other magazines had what I was looking for.

    BG is now owned by Atlantci Publishers who aslo publish Miniature Wargames, but retains a fiercely independent identity, which was part of the deal they agreed to when they took over.

    You can find some free bits and pieces on my blog, together with cheap PDF downloads of issues 1-26. Atlantic now do a digital version that you can read on your PC or using an app on a mobile device, as well as, of course, the printed edition.

    The printed version is about to hit the shelves of WH Smiths at long last, bagged with Miniature Wargames as a free giveaway in November and then on its own two feet in January and March as a trial run.

    The Atlantic site is http://www.atlanticpublishers.com/magazines/battlegames/

    My blog is http://henrys-wargaming.co.uk/

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  5. Oh, P.S.

    1) Sorry for the typos - pressed "publish" too quickly!

    2) No photomanipulation in Battlegames, ever.

    3) I love 6mm and have lots of Baccus lovelies myself. :-)

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  6. So, in principle, if one of the current magazines started publishing articles on pre c1700 battles in the relatively popular sub-periods which incorporated relatively recent research, then you would start buying them again?

    Regards

    John

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  7. Hi,

    Well, thank you for all the comments and all the readers. For some reason this post seems to have hit a nerve and the number of hits on the blog has shot up, I dare say temporarily.

    To be honest, I'm not sure I would buy a journal even if it did exactly scratch my interests; I suspect that I'm at an age now where I want to "do it my way". For example, I have also given up on Arquebusier (UK Pike & Shot Society). The one which is highest in my list of 'might try again' journals is Slingshot, though, as many articles were of high quality.

    It could just be, of course, that I've drifted so far away from the mainstream that no journal will work for me now.

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  8. "I stopped buying them because everything i could get from a magazine is freely available on the internet,"

    Andrew Keen was right.

    Regards

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