Sunday, 20 January 2019

Holiday Loot (and a little Rantette...)

Happy New Year! Haven't posted for a while, but I am just as much into the hobby as is usual for me.

Matt, Giovanni and I are scheduled for a Napoleonics game on 1/27 (postponed from earlier this month), so I'm looking forward to writing up both scenario and battle report.

Holiday gifts resulted in the acquisition of some rather nice Front Rank Landwehr (I had ordered a few hussars and chasseurs, as I've decided to up the size of my future cavalry units; I added the Prusskis in order to make the cost of postage worthwhile).

There was also this rather nifty and compact reference book on French Napoleonic uniforms, one that I've been coveting for over a number of years now:

The English version is long out of print and costs a small fortune. This softcover translation was the equivalent about US $25.00- and of course minimal postage costs- so it was a bargain.

I can probably just about cope with the Japanese, especially as I'm familiar enough with the subject already. It's the uniform plates by Rousselot I've been hankering for.

Another present was Rupert Degas' reading of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's  The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard.

Heroic Colonel of les Hussards de Conflans, the First Light Cavalryman of France, the bravest soldier, the greatest swordsman, the most accomplished horseman and the most gallant lover in Napoleon's army. A true legend in his own mind and one of my favourite literary heroes.

This is the second set in the series; I already have the first set of CDs in the Naxos series, The Adventures of Brigadier Gerard, and loved them.

What better to listen to while painting spurs, shabraques, dolman and pelisse lace, all while drinking a fine wine from Suresnes.

Right now I have these on the painting desk, not far from completion.

Starting the new year with an editorial rant of sorts, having just turned my back on another Facebook wargaming page. Read no further if this kind of thing doesn't turn your crank.

This was one on naval wargaming, and while I had been uneasy with some of the borderline political commentary on current events (I don't go to hobby sites out of any interest in what the political views of its members may be), what did it for me was, yet again, bitching about wargaming rules.

I've seen it now with anything Warlord puts out these days, although to be clear it's not only them who get the flak.

Basically it tends to run like this:
  • The rules suck; you should try...
  • The rules ignore history
  • People who play the rules- clearly GW-weaned sheep- also suck
  • Kids these days suck- they are lazy and want it all spoonfed
  • Glossy publications suck
  • In my day, yadda yadda...
  • Why this scale? Why not in the scale of the miniatures I already have?
But the whole thing was certainly not unique to this particular group. I see the same going on other pages and fora as well, be it with Black Powder vs, GdB, Bolt Action vs. CoC, Lasalle vs. Empire, FoW vs. Anybody- what have you.

Now to be clear, it's not a hurt fanboy reaction on my part. There are certainly a lot of valid criticisms to be made with Warlord products, and I have reservations about a number of aspects of their rules which I could post here at some length. 

But much of it just reflects my own ideas, preferences and prejudices, and I can then just make any changes I see fit to fix what I don't like (that usually does the job). Or, should I feel it's a dead end, there are other options out there I can look at. 

These days there are many game systems, periods, and styles of play that do (and don't) float my boat; as is the case with music, sports, cars, and Brussels sprouts (the God of vegetables, BTW).

What I just honestly don't understand is why some continue to feel this urge to go online and at length denigrate not just a set of rules, but those who don't share their preferences. Or when they somehow imply that they have got it right when other sane, intelligent folk somehow haven't. I often find myself astounded by the misplaced arrogance.

The problem I have is not the criticism of a set of rules per se. But first off, when someone chooses to share pictures of their games on social media, it is inappropriate- and even plain wrong- to just blurt out an (unsolicited) opinion that the rules are "rubbish"- if the people playing the game evidently enjoyed it- well, how can it be "rubbish" to them?

And I doubt very much that anyone would get away with saying that face-to-face in a club setting; my own reply would be (indeed, has been) unfettered by any restrictive forum rules. Keyboard warriors are always the boldest. 

Now a given set of rules may not be my own cup of tea for any number of reasons that reflect my own criteria as to what makes for a good gaming experience. 

For example, rules like LFS, Empire or ESR leave me colder than a long-deceased halibut sinking to the bottom of the Sea of Murmansk. But that fact alone does not make any of them necessarily crap- they certainly aren't. But they're not what I'm looking for.

A number of commercial rule sets are indeed very sloppily written, poorly explained and/ or edited, and can be riddled with proofreading errors (a bane of our times). That's fair game and fair comment- when appropriate.

But few are actually outright, plain bad, and are likely to be even less so if they have garnered a strong following.

My main issue is that any criticism should first of all be framed within the purpose or design philosophy behind the rules to begin with- something all too often ignored.

Secondly is when the commentator goes well beyond merely critiquing the rules themselves, and ends up casting the net to include dissing the people who play them, the company who produces them (almost invariably the commercially successful ones), and for that matter just showing an overall annoyance with the modern world in general. 

Aside from the fact that the latter sentiment has been expressed since at least the time of Socrates, it's just ridiculous to attempt to pigeonhole wargamers in that way. It ignores the fact that some out there may actually be playing more than one set of rules according to the situation, and that one gamer's pet historical period may be no more than an evening's worth of light entertainment for another- and of course vice-versa. Horses for courses.

And being so unnecessarily judgmental sparks in turn a natural negative reaction from those who- surprise, surprise- resent finding themselves being summarily dismissed as the hobby's untermenschen, and who dislike being told how they should be enjoying their pastime.

No wonder the atmosphere so quickly gets poisoned.

People are different; differing hobby and time priorities, differing skill sets, differing levels of interests in, and interpretations of, history. The list goes on and on.

So if others tackle the hobby in ways that don't fit your groove- just get over it. There are choices out there; we make our own and other people are free to make theirs. As I mentioned, there's no lack of alternatives.

I can understand that some gamers may get frustrated because others in their group don't want to play the same rules that they might do (I'd love to try Republic to Empire, or GdA, or even Shako II, but for a number of very practical reasons I know they're not going to fly locally). 

But that's a fact of life in any social gathering- we go with the flow. 

Unless, of course, we prefer to be (ultimately friendless) despotic sociopaths, seeking to impose our heavy-handed will on those around us. I've met a few of those around the gaming table in my time.

I also suspect that taste in rules might be a generational thing.

But if we want to get others to buy into trying a set of rules that we fancy, then slagging these folks off for their existing choices probably isn't the best way to do it. And be prepared that even if they do give it a try, it may well fail to tick enough of the right boxes for them so that they would want to stick with it. 

This doesn't make them wrong, and we have to respect their choices too.

Getting quite fed up with it all. I honestly don't understand the tribalism and need to piss into other people's cornflakes all the time in what is just a hobby. 

My first New Year's resolution; don't waste any more time on people with a Mission.

*And don't get me started on home-grown rules! Personal experience has led me to be very wary of these. Those who go to the effort of writing their own rules can get very attached to them, seeing as their creations often reflect a very personal vision of what a game should be all about. Fine for solo gaming, but such games often end up on the rocks in a group setting as the authors often don't take kindly to criticism or suggestions for improvement if it means losing control over their "baby". 

It all too often seemed to end in tears, or at best in endless discussions and rule tinkering which come at the expense of rarely being comfortable enough with the mechanics to just enjoy the game. Eventually those participants who have suffered in silence for the sake of group harmony just get tired of it all and vote with their feet.