Know Thyself

It’s been a while since my last post, so in a departure from the writing content I’m going to talk about gaming. Apologies to visitors that don’t play games, but I assure you that normal service will be resumed shortly.

Miniatures gaming is a hobby. This means that what you get out of it is directly related to the effort and attitude that you put into it. To get the most enjoyment, one must understand one’s own needs and desires from our hobby. What I have found increasingly over the last few years is a lack of personal responsibility on the part on some players, who equate their own lack of enjoyment with failures on the part of games developers.

I’ll start out by saying that my greatest experience is obviously with Games Workshop games, but it’s not my sole source. This is not an attempt to denounce any particular choice a player makes about their gaming, nor is it abdicating from the responsibility of a games designer to provide a fun and entertaining rules system.

However, gaming is an interactive event; between opponents and between designer and player. With a hobby as nebulous a miniatures gaming there are many things that attract a person to participate, but everyone should understand some of the fundamental truths about what is required of them.

Most importantly, one participates in a hobby for fun. Some people get their jollies slaughtering their opposition and hearing the lamentation of their women. Some enjoy the tactical challenge of outwitting another human being in a close-fought contest. Many delight in the simple spectacle of a miniature army arrayed across the tabletop.

In fact, because one has chosen a miniatures game, this last point is crucial. There are many formats of wargames – miniatures games, hex-and-counter games, computer games. Some purport to be accurate simulations, others emphasise playability and entertainment. So the first question to ask oneself is why one has chosen miniatures gaming, and the only real answer can be because of the miniatures. Whether that first step was a box of Airfix American paratroopers, a War Machine Jack, a set of Roman Legionaries or a squad of Tactical Space Marines, for all of us there was an appeal about toy soldiers that hooked us.

That appeal, and the purpose behind all miniatures wargames, is to collect an army of toy soldiers and then to act out their battles. If this isn’t what you’re after then why the hell did you choose miniatures gaming when other forms of game provide more rigid, ‘balanced’ gaming frameworks?

Continued here

Upcoming event: Please come and see myself and Dennis at our GW Manchester signing on the 14th June for the re-released Angels of Darkness.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It is always a pleasure to read one of your posts.

    In regard to your latest topic, I might direct your readers to a book I read many years ago on war-gaming: H.G. Wells’ “Little Wars”. Not only is it fun to read, it provides a certain gravitas to the hobby.

    In another vein, I just finished your books–“Grudge Bearer” and “Grudgelore.” You probably know this but I think you have hit the mother lode, so to speak. Dwarfs are so rich in possibility and meaning that I would really like to see you develop the topic. In a moment of unbridled enthusiasm, I dug out my books on German folktales and Norse sagas to mine everything I could on dwarfs.

    One of Jung’s disciples, Maria-Louise von Franz wrote that dwarfs were a symbol of our buried or hidden selves, while Ron Schenk says they are symbols of change and transformation. Nevertheless, keep up the good work.

    My next book will be Nick’s “Oathbreaker.”

    Best Regards,



  2. Little Wars is indeed an inspirational text and many gamers would do well to seek it out. I also hold Donald Featherstone in high regard for his laid back approach to historical wargaming.

    On the subject of Dwarfs, I find myself much more at ease with their general down-to-earth nature (no pun intended!). Elves are usually lofty, idealised interpretations of ourselves, although historical elven lore, as used by authors such as Terry Pratchett, is much more interesting than most of the post-Tolkien fantasy renditions.


  3. Gav, I could not agree with you more.

    Recently I have returned to miniature (GW) gaming. I had spent several years pursuing more competitive ideals in other games. However, once I spent time working in a hobby and games store, I was able to recognise that the only thing that matters when you are gaming is that you find people who want to play the same game, in the same way, as you. Two people might both like Monopoly, but if they have different views on Free Parking, they aren’t playing the same game!

    Obviously Warhammer, like so many other games, is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes I think commentators can be too close to see that the game is DELIBERATELY vague so as to be as broadly attractive as possible (and as commercially viable as possible, but that is another story!). It is in the spaces between the rules that the game really comes to life; if the rules where perfect, the game would be ‘figured out’ (a la Puerto Rico?) and we would grow bored of it and move on.

    When gaming is all about winners and losers, it is little more than binary coding. There is something to be said about content over process, knowledge over information, humanity over machinery. Interaction and community are the things that make a game from what would otherwise merely be a puzzle.


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