I often wonder whether the influence of the internet on wargaming has been good or bad.
At first sight it would appear to have had a very good influence, bringing all of the knowledge and experience within the hobby to any new wargamer with access to a computer. They have only to type a question on TMP (for example) to have it answered within minutes by an array of experts.
There is also a mass of information readily available on all aspects of the Napoleonic Wars. Uniform information, tactics and strategy, campaigns, battles, generals etc. All available instantly and for free.
But does all of this information make it easier for a newcomer to the hobby to develop a lasting interest?
Unfortunately most of these forums are dominated by a small number of experts. They are quick to offer advice to any novice who posts a question. But they are also quick to engage in flame wars with anyone who dares to disagree with them.
The end result of this is often to stifle a genuine exchange of information. Worst still I am sure it must put a lot of prospective wargamers off the hobby.
I well remember the excitement of discovering wargaming through “Charge, or How to Play Wargames”. It took me a week to discover where I could purchase any figures. I had no idea what I wanted and ended up with a collection of metal Hinton Hunt figures covered in flash consisting of Scots Greys, French Imperial Guard, Polish lancers and RHA gunners.
My first attempts at painting were best forgotten. But there was no one around to offer advice. More important there were not a mass of photos of professional looking figures and terrain to discourage me.
It took two years before I realised that a Napoleonic French army did not consist of Imperial Guard infantry and Polish lancers, or that a British one did not always have Scots Greys. In my ignorance I was happy to play what would now be dismissed out of hand.
It was only after another couple of years apprenticeship that I discovered balanced armies and felt I had to leave my French Guard on the shelves and purchase lots and lots of the new Airfix plastic figures to fight my battles. The modern British Guards trooping the colour figures were replaced by the newer Napoleonic British and French infantry.
I think the reason I became deeply involved in this wonderful hobby is largely because it was a long voyage of discovery. For years the first volume of Fred Funken Napoleonic Armies (in French) was my sole reference book. When the second volume came out it opened great opportunities to paint minor armies of the period. When both volumes were issued with English text I immediately ordered them.
The very fact that so little was available at all made each small discovery more rewarding.
Now everyone seems to be an instant expert. Novice wargamers ask the most detailed questions on TMP. The ready availability of free information and a mass of cheap figures, the mass of rule books plus the modern demand for instant information, has removed the fun of doing your own research.
Certainly the internet has enlarged the pool of prospective wargamers. Without it perhaps the whole hobby would have fallen into decline many years ago. But whether it has also removed a lot of the enjoyment of the early years is the question that prompted me to write raise this subject.