Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Internet - Good or Bad

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.


Phil Dutré said...

I fully agree. The quest and the hunt is more fun that the instant gratification. I also fondly remeber they days when you could walk into a gameshop and discover things you never heard of before. These days, gameshops are sterile and full of product you already know of. Different experience.

Dick Bryant said...

There is a lot of truth to what you write. But the younger folks of today do not think of the long period of discovery as fun! They want instant gratification and if we don't want the hobby to die out, we have to make room for that level of interest. Witness today's availability of painted figures, professionally manufactured terrain and gaming tables that sell like "hot cakes". Paying to have your figures painted is such as lucrative business that there are multiple painting "factories" in Thailand and Singapore not to mention 100s of individual painters.

I still have on a shelf the first British Napoleonic Guard that I painted, not realizing that the figures were Crimean War with Bearskins and several British units with the cockade colors in the wrong order - but the learning was the fun. I still make my own terrain, paint my own figures and paint my own buildings! See: and

Dick Bryant

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Phil

I suspect that we often appreciate things more when we have to put some effort into finding them. Perhaps it is rosy hindsight which prompts me to ponder whether the novice of today is missing a lot by having it all made too easy to achieve.

And when there is such a high standard of presentation so readily available on the internet, it must be very disappointing to compare it with their own first painting effort. I am sure that ignorance was indeed bliss in the good old days.



thistlebarrow said...

Hi Dick

Thank you for your comments.

I don't disagree with anything you say in your first paragraph. Indeed it includes all that is good about the current wargame scene. And it is quite possible that without it all many of the younger generation would indeed not have taken up the hobby at all.

But how many more are put off by the expense of it all. By the apparent need for large armies of professionally painted model soldiers on wargame tables which would put your average model railway layout to shame.

When I bought my first wargame soldiers I was not aware of any standard I needed to aim for. Indeed my first purchase of Hinton Hunt figures had so much flash that I had to put in a few hours work with a file before I put a paint brush anywhere near them. They would be scorned by todays novice, and quite rightly so given the mass of well made and relatively cheap figures on the market today.

But will they be as inspired as I was when I eventually had my first wargame with them? I am not suggesting that it would be a good thing to go back to that standard. But I wonder how many of them will still have the same affection for their first figures as you have for your British Napoleonic/Crimean Guard infantry?



Vexillia said...

A nice, well written, and thoughtful piece. Keep up the good work.

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Vexillia

Thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed it



stuart said...

Interesting editorial! I too remember those first Hinton Hunt figures - although they were bought by my friend and way beyond my pocket money; trying to decipher the Funcken books too with our schoolboy French! Taking them to school and enlisting the help of the French teacher would have resulted in a loss of playground 'street cred' and possibly a couple of teeth, so was not really a viable option ;)

I recall getting the first Airfix Waterloo figures from Woolworths and the bitter disappointment at the bizarre poses and sheer ugliness of them - at least my awful 'Guards Colour Party' conversions looked fairly human and could march in ranks! But I digress!

The hobby then was virtually an underground activity, the preserve of people like Peter Cushing, wealthy men who smoked pipes and wore tweed jackets with leather elbows and we had to look for articles in Airfix Magazine and Military Modelling mostly; research was a set of encyclopedias or whatever your local library had available. As far as uniforms and orders of battle went, that was little to nothing. The internet has been an absolute God send! With a little time and patience you can find an answer to virtually anything. Not necessarily the right answer, but an answer nonetheless or at least an argument(TMP I'm looking at you!)

And of course we can source of models from the markets of the world and see what we are orering, instead of relying on a badly typed list sent through the mail in response to your letter - not forgetting to include an SAE ;)