The folks over at Little Wars TV posed the question, “Is Historical Wargaming Dying Out?” I know this is something that has been often discussed in the wargames press, in forums, at shows and when just sitting around and chatting at the club. The greying of the hobby is apparent from the results over a number of years from the Great Wargames Survey.
If you haven’t seen it already, have a look at the YouTube video below, produced by Little Wars TV.
This video spoke to a couple of US wargame “dignitaries” as well as many UK ones. The mix was rules writers, figure producers and so on and one of the premises was that there has been very little in the way of new rules releases from US rules writers, although the English rules producers have been having a field day over recent years.
Some lively debate has followed on Twitter about this. Some of it has suggested that the responses were biased. I don’t think that there was a deliberate bias, the guys just spoke to the folks they knew at a show in the US and via other arcane means of communications in the UK.
Storm of Steel Wargaming, in his YouTube channel also discussed this topic, offering an alternative view:
To the actual question posed, here are my thoughts, written here as it is too long for Twitter 🙂
The first thing to note is that the feeling of the future from the folks in the UK was positive. More figure ranges being produced in more scales, many more rules written and released and, apart from the current plagues, clubs well attended as are shows.
Compare that to the US where they make the point that apart from Sam Mustafa’s Honor series, there has been little in the realm of new rules releases. Most of the rules systems being played are, in fact, systems that were written many years ago.
I’m not sure that I would describe this as dying out, rather I think it is a product of the times and the way wargames are played in the two areas. With a couple of notable exceptions, clubs in the US tend to be few and far between with most gaming occurring in gamer’s homes. Shows are organised by the various societies and generally run for 2 to 4 days with game masters running games for the attendees, often running a game many rimes. The objective of the show is to play games. It seems sensible then to stick to rules that folks know for that reason.
In the UK, the shows are mainly for shopping, and looking at lots of eye candy. There may be wargames competitions on as well but the shows are generally one or two days maximum, and the largest, Salute, is a one day show with many traders and demonstrations games.
Europe also seems to have a healthy scene as well with large shows (Antwerp for example) as well as manufacturers and publishers. APAC also has a healthy scene, and wargamers in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong seem on average younger than those grey heads in the UK and US.
Where are all the youngsters playing wargames? Mostly on their mobile phones, Play Stations or Xboxes, playing Mobile Legends or Fortnite. These gamers will age, and eventually at the ripe old age of 28 or so, their reactions will have slowed, the ability of their thumb to hit a key at about 200 times per second will have diminished and they will start to look for other entertainment.
Enter the recent spate of “all-in-one” sets. These are boxed sets and are new scales and warames periods with all the new items being released with rules, models/figures, and painting instructions in one box. Verily these are starter sets and like them or hate them, they do provide an entry for folks whose interest has been piqued. Cruel Seas, Black Seas, SPQR Victory at Sea and other Warlord games provide complete packs, an easy entry for new starters.
The wargame shows, once the Plague passes, provide a means of showcasing the hobby and these days, with YouTube channels, podcasts, not to mention books and magazines providing support for the new starter, I certainly think that while the future the future may look a little dim in the US at the moment, in the rest f the world it appears vibrant and bright.