Tuesday 31 May 2016

In another time and place

No progress on the Siege Campaign to report, largely because I spent 12 days in Japan. It was a good trip, pretty packed taking in four cities and Hakone national park and riding the bullet train five times.

Japan is generally thought to be a very different culture, but there are some parallels with the UK. Both are Island nations*, with a strong naval tradition. There island status makes them just far removed enough from the nearby mainland to feel somewhat apart from it, while still being heavily influenced by it. Both are obsessed with manors and class. Both punch above their weight culturally. And then there's the question of modelling.

While in Kyoto I visited the International Manga Museum (strongly recommended if you get the chance), which was holding a temporary exhibition about model kits. Sadly, photography was banned, so I couldn't get any pictures. But the exhibition was a mix of historical dioramas and customised giant robot kits, all painted to a standard comparable to the best professional painters of wargaming figures I have seen. Each artist's area was accompanied by a large black and white photo of them at work with a comment about the ideas and influences in three languages. It was a bit pretentious, but interesting that the modellers were being treated as serious artists.

Not far from the Museum was a basement shop selling a substantial range of model kits, along with the tools and paints needed to put them together and a number of glossy magazines about the hobby. You can see from these what Games Workshop was trying to achieve with Warhammer Visions, even if they have a long way to go to reach the Japanese standard of magazine production.

The kits on offer ranged from historical vehicles, to giant robots from various series, video-game, manga and anime characters. Conspicuous by its total absence, was any kind of wargame rules. There is simply no home-grown wargaming hobby in Japan at all. This is not to say there is no gaming. Trading card games, from Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon to western imports like Magic the Gathering are hugely popular and there are stores selling board games. I even found one with a range of western imports like Ticket to Ride and Small World. But wargaming has little or no traction.

I visited Japan once before in 2010 and, during that trip, stumbled across Tokyo Games Workshop and even found a few shops with a scattering of GW paints and models. All of this seems to have died away since my last trip and wargaming has, if anything, even less of a presence than before.

The latest issue of Miniature Wargames Magazine includes an article reminding gamers that you don't need perfectly painted models to play a game and advocating a simpler painting style. My trip to Japan reminds us that the opposite is also true. That you can collect and paint models quite happily without ever playing a game with them.

Although, in the UK, we automatically associate collecting and painting models with wargaming, Japan reminds us that there are really two separate hobbies here and that, in another time and place, one can exist without the other being present at all.

*Actually archipelagos dominated by a large central island

Sunday 8 May 2016

Conventions, spending money and having too many models

No further updates on the siege campaign this week. I am still painting stuff for the final assault, but progress has been a bit slow and I am on holiday soon for a week and a half, which will slow things down even more.

So this post won't be about that and will probably be something of a ramble across a few areas I have touched on before.

I was at Salute, the UK's biggest independent war games show, a few weeks back. I'm not going to write a review, there are plenty all over the Internet better than I would have written.

I have been going to Salute for ten years now; my first was in 2006. I have been to a lot of conventions during that time and spent a lot of money at them. But Salute was always the big event and I always took the most money. Even after deciding to significantly reduce my spending at conventions, I have still taken more money to Salute than to any of the others.

What was a little unusual about this Salute was that I had no plan about what I was going to buy. AT every Salute I went with at least a short shopping list, even if I took more money than I needed for a few impulse buys. This year, no list. Consequently, I ended up buying a fairly random selection of models that I may use at some point for future projects.

Inevitably, once the show was over, I questioned why I had bought what I bought. It's not that I regret spending the money, exactly, but why those things at that time? I already have plenty of projects to complete. Here is a list of potential projects I could work on when the Siege campaign is done:

- Three different Warhammer armies
- One army for Warhammer 40,000
- At least four factions for Otherworld Fantasy skirmish
- An historical Samurai campaign for Ronin
- A Lord of the Rings campaign
- A campaign for Lion Rampant involving 11th century Normans

These are all projects for which I have all the models I need. And it isn't even an exhaustive list.

Putting it simply, I could never buy another model again and I would still have more than enough to keep me going for years.

So why buy more stuff at Salute?

Part of the problem, is that I am not naturally suited to the social aspects of conventions. I am naturally introverted and feel uncomfortable with people I don't know. I also have to psych myself up before playing games and don't enjoy playing lots of games in a day. This is not very compatible with playing pick up and demo games at conventions. I tried entering a tournament at the last UK Games Expo and, while everyone involved was perfectly pleasant, friendly and good sports, it just wasn't for me. Eight hours of one game in a day is beyond my stamina level.

So, naturally, at conventions I gravitate towards the dealers.

This isn't the only problem. I have written before about how our hobby offers few opportunities for instant gratification. Buying new models is one of them. Sometimes buying a new model can be a substitute for assembling, painting and gaming with the ones I already have.

Lastly, the is the problem of staying up to date. A couple of years ago, when I decided to spend less money on new models, I stopped visiting a lot of the wargaming news websites and blogs. The idea was to avoid temptation. But it is impossible to stay involved in the hobby, reading the forums and the magazines, without learning about new models and games. Despite having made a conscious commitment to avoid new games, a small number have slipped through the net. Part of the problem is that, as I get older, I don't want to be one of those people who ignores everything that was invented after they turned 35. But to keep up with new games and models you have to buy them.

So what have I learned from all of this? I am serious about wanting to reduce my spending on new models. Not because of the money spent, but because I don't want to keep using up space on models that never get used. I want to finish the projects I start, or at least start the projects I planned. But if I am going to do that this may mean I have to accept a couple of things.

1. I need to go to fewer conventions, or at least find other reasons to go than to spend money.
2. If I'm not buying new things, then I am increasingly going to be playing with older games and models. And if that means this starts to look like a retro blog, I'll have to accept that.