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"Prospects for the Hobby?" Topic

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1,495 hits since 28 Nov 2011
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Wartopia Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 7:40 a.m. PST

On Friday my 11 y.o. son spent the afternoon and evening at a friend's house playing a WHFB mega battle. There was my wargamer friend's son who is 13, my son, and three other boys none of whom come from "wargamer families".

The game started at 1:00 and lasted until 8:30 with breaks for a nerf battle and dinner. Given the number of troops and the rules the battle ended just as the main troops were getting into some heavy fighting. (note: I played WHFB back when it was three thin books in a box in the mid-late 80s so I'm very familiar with the rules)

But the kids all said they had tons of fun! I had stopped by around 5:00 to say hello while running errands and when I returned to pick up my son it looked like not much had happened. I asked my son about this and he said, "Lots had happened. My doom wheel exploded, my infantry got shot up by Elves, and…" etc.

All of this got me to thinking (again) about the prospects for the hobby. My 11 y.o. is into computer programming, my 10 y.o. is into boy scouts and nature, both love computer and video games. But both also really enjoy miniature gaming too and collect armies for WHFB, 40K, Infinity, and Malifaux. They also enjoy building our own home grown rules for various periods (my 10 y.o. built his own for the renaissance!)

They do these things because of my influence. My friend's 13 y.o. son is a hardcore wargamer because of dad. But in both cases while our sons' friends will play and really enjoy the hobby they never seem to do so independently, without us. They don't go off and build armies of their own.

Miniature wargaming takes loads of time and money. The effort to build and paint a force is large compared to the effort required to pop a disk in an Xbox and play with friends online (both of my sons also play MP games online).

In your opinion what are the prosects for the hobby as boomers and gen Xers (like me!) get older? As boomers retire with more time and perhaps less money will they do more gaming and spend less? Will kids replace them in the ranks of gamers? Can tabletop gaming compete with other forms of entertainment, especially online games?

I watch my sons and see hope for the hobby but also potential for it to fade. There's something special about building and painting your own troops instead of using virtual troops on a computer. Many of us still have troops from our earliest days in the hobby and they're very special! I have 40K troops from the days when finding them in the U.S. was a real chore. Hopefully our kids will find the hobby as enjoyable as we have and stick with it.

Connard Sage Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 7:54 a.m. PST

Hobbies come, hobbies go – stamp collecting used to be massive. Wargaming will outlast me, I reckon.

Feet up now Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 7:59 a.m. PST

Great observation about the next gen of tabletop gamers.Your fears for the future of the hobby are justified with the awesome video games out there now.The trick is to get them to a table and start them off then they can't get enough of it , even lite stuff heroquest or heroscape to whet the appetite.

Angel Barracks Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 8:37 a.m. PST

with breaks for a nerf battle


I am not worried about the hobby.
I play on my Xbox and PC games and miniature wargames.

People will do what they like doing, if people decide they don't want to play toy soldiers any more then so be it.
Won't bother me either way I don't think.

Of course with miniatures being out there that are based on console games, Gears of War for example and so on I think there is plenty of room for cross over.

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Nov 2011 8:39 a.m. PST

I think the appeal of figures will have only a small audience but that audience will exist no matter how cool the video games are.

The trouble will be connecting the potentially interested kid with the hobby. It isn't all over the place in the states. That is one great thing about GW and, now, about FoW. They are out there and kids can see them and find the hobby. While stuff is increasingly available on-line you aren't like to run into it randomly online without something prompting you to look in the first place.

I live in a place where there are four wargaming stores within and easy drive, two I can walk to. Not everyone is so fortunate.

That is one reason I used to run my history club when I could. There were several kids who ended up gaming independently of me because of it. One kid has a huge collection of WWII stuff now and probably isn't going to stop. He went off to college and started a wargaming group there.

ming31 Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 8:49 a.m. PST

Some one will always be playing …it will have its peaks and valleys . and as stated getting the word out there is what gets people to play .

LeadLair76 Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 9:12 a.m. PST

I suppose it depends on what you mean by compete? If you mean still be here as computer / video games become even more popular then yes I think that will happen. But I doubt we will ever see a time when your average person even considers wargaming over video games.

We have always had a fringe hobby and I suspect it will stay like this for ever. Things come and go though so who knows.

Personal logo BrigadeGames Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Nov 2011 9:14 a.m. PST

There have always been distractions, although some are vastly different than we had growing up.

I don't think most kids love history naturally and therefore parental influence is important.

I think that giving them the exposure to historical or fantasy gaming sets them up to know that it is there for them to reach for as a hobby as there life progresses. Many of us that have been collecting/painting/gaming since our teens can surely remember times when we put gaming aside for some reason or another and then returned to it like an old friend.

My big concern from the historical perspective is the perceived decline in doing uniform and organizational research by the younger generation and the potential effect on the hobby. Anyone else see this as a trend?

thosmoss28 Nov 2011 9:20 a.m. PST

When I first saw pictures in a Donald Featherstone book, and knew I wanted to do this, it was a growing awareness that for me to see it happen I'd need to do it myself. I've always pursued what interests me over what's available to play, reaffirming the need to do it myself instead of having it done for me. We had a recent synchronicity between the four of us in my circles who call ourselves "miniatures painters", all of us wanting to explore WWII. Ended up with us using four different rules sets, and three different scales. It's a rare day when someone can bring support for someone else's game.

When I was that age, painting was an overwhelming chore. It wasn't until much later it became another hobby for me. I would recommend showing them some simple steps -- get them to assemble plastic troops themselves, show them how to modify pieces. Primer different sides in different colors (maybe one side black, one side khaki). Teach them how to drybrush (black with gray highlights, khaki with brown highlights). And then stand back. These steps can take maybe an afternoon, and already puts them yards ahead of some games of WarMachine that I've witnessed. The finer steps can come with their own inspiration, if it will.

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP28 Nov 2011 9:27 a.m. PST

I agree that FoW and GW are key for exposure, otherwise the hobby will likely dwindle over next 20 years like stamp collecting has already done. In 20 years, we will likely have 3D video games that simulate miniature gaming, which will be tough to compete with unless kids are actually exposed to the handling and painting of figures.

Of course, the glass-is-half-full crowd could say that kids who grow up playing video wargames and the great renaissance of boardgaming (which I currently believe is going on with Catan, GMT games, etc.) are prime candidates to graduate to miniatures when they get older. Arguably far more people are on the fringe of the hobby and primed to be recruited than ever was the case before.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Nov 2011 9:40 a.m. PST

For whatever this is worth, I think there are kids "born" with an interest in miniatures, not necessarily toy soldiers. Many of these grow up to collect miniature cars, "classic" toy soldiers, and possibly even stamps or coins. They all have an otherwise unexplainable interest in things they can hold in their hands and admire.

Whatever the percentage of the general population who may have this trait, it is clearly very small. And of that percentage, an even smaller number want to "play" with their toy soldiers. If they play with "army men" as little kids, the odds seem larger they may do so as adults.

Yes, a parental or significant-other influence can encourage the miniatures hobby "trait," but the interest cannot, I think, be created. There must be somesort of predisposition.

If any of that's true, I think the point is that there is NO WAY any of us can interest kids to enter the hobby without that predispostion. Which is to say, playing war games at home, conventions, scout meetings, etc, can expose kids to the hobby, and hopefully some one or two kids in 50 or more will feel something like a switch being clicked in their heads and not only want to play games, but begin to collect their own figures, etc.

There is also, evidently, a point where an undeveloped predisposition or talent simply dies out. For example, a boy may have musical talent, but if not awakened, the day will come when his interests are elsewhere, and the time and effort to develop that talent is too great.

And, yes, the more distractions there are for instant gratification type entertainment, and the fact that very few if any are actually historical in nature, works against our hopes of recruiting more young people into the war games hobby. Fantasy is an easier sale, not least because it really requires no study or special knowledge except of the rules themselves.

So, where is our Very Old School hobby heading? I don't know, but we mustn't think we can win kids over just by playing games with them and having a good time. This can win over SOME kids, those with "the gift," but without that spark of interest already put there by God Knows Who or What, we should not think we will ever do more than replace each one of us over time with one other young person, no matter how many public games we run.


GUNBOAT28 Nov 2011 9:48 a.m. PST

Wargames Association of Reading club is getting bigger all the time i'm told that we have over 110 payed up club members
most club nights attendance is 60 to 80 . The average age range is all so coming down as well from midd 40s 10 years a go down to 30s .
Most club nights the main hall is in use and the Bar had 15 to 20 games in it to . It help to have a well run coffee bar
and a big toy cupboard to put all our tables .wargames terrain. and club armies .
link to club web site a few pictures of club night on it

richarDISNEY Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 9:56 a.m. PST

For my son, he knew I was a big gamer, but showed NO interest in any of it.
Til one day (he was in Jr. high then…), he comes home and asks me if I have heard of a new game.
"What game" I ask…
"Dungeons and Dragons".
I laugh. I laugh really hard.
"Well son, I started playing that when I was younger than you."

We went down to the LGS, bought a few 3.5 books and showed him how to play.
Now he is into lots of other games, Blood Bowl, LotR, Shadowrun, Descent, etc, without me.

BUT, we (along with my daughter and wife) still do a D&D game together once a week.

Connard Sage Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 10:03 a.m. PST

I took a straw poll round the office so that'll be four respondents then. Quelle scientifique grin

"What, if any, hobbies did you father have? Do you follow those hobbies?"

"What, if any hobbies, do you have? Do your children follow them?

I got almost unanimous noes, apart from one bloke who plays golf with his father weekends.

Which must prove…something.

doug redshirt28 Nov 2011 10:40 a.m. PST

The computer is my enemy. I can waste hours on it going from miniature site to tmp to wargaming blogs. I found by buying a PC game that my daughter likes, she ties up my computer and I have no choice but to paint. I am always amazed at how productive I am with no distractions. Of course this weekend I did finish up the flags for my first imagiNation.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Nov 2011 11:09 a.m. PST

TVAG has a pretty good handle on it.

The entry bar for miniatures gaming is pretty high, and those who have the inclination, energy, and resources to cross it are relatively few. But, cross it they will, because once they are aware of it they cannot resist. Those who are predisposed to this hobby will find it one way or another, as long as we keep putting it out there.

Play it, and they will come.

Admiral Yi Sun Sin is my Homie Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 11:21 a.m. PST

My big concern from the historical perspective is the perceived decline in doing uniform and organizational research by the younger generation and the potential effect on the hobby. Anyone else see this as a trend?

Looking back 30 years (I'm 43) there was myself and…one other friend who did any research at all regarding the "toys" we were wargaming with. All the others just wanted to "play a game."

Looking around these days I see the research "issue" isn't a generational one as I've met older "gamers" that want to do just that and only that. They really don't care about the makeup of a Tiger Kompanie or when the Old Guard fought and in what numbers. But damn they're going to field the bestest! Most people just don't care about the details and want to have fun. Oddly for me fun IS research and it took me awhile to figure out what I enjoyed or thought appropriate doesn't apply to everyone else. grin

Edit: My son is 12 and has already researched SYW Prussian uniforms and organization. He's also researched Saxons, Welsh Vikings and Norman armies, fighting styles, clothing styles, etc thanks to…gasp…School(!) and then his Dad showing him Saga. When the internet searches are exhausted he starts looking for books to ask Dad to get a hold of! So there is hope. evil grin

flipper Supporting Member of TMP28 Nov 2011 12:06 p.m. PST


It is not surprising that a huge percentage of hobbies over the centuries have been tied into cultural and technological (or lack of) advances.

Lets be honest and accept that wargaming is a very MANUAL intensive hobby which has not really evolved over the last 5 decades (let alone the last 2).

I think it is fortunate that computer based wargames do not appear to have had the audience to make that area see more choice and development – I say fortunate as I think that would have taken more people out of historical miniature gaming.

I expect the historical side of the hobby will ultimately become smaller as time goes by if the modelling and (more importantly) manual aspect of playing a game does not get addressed.

Simpler rules are quite in vogue, but I believe solo play rules are almost non existent and in a period of instant gratification I can't see too many youngsters wanting to spend countless hours modelling, painting and rule writing (or reading) for the odd game.

I don't think it sad – if I was born in 1980 rather than 1960 I would probably have no knowledge or interest in the hobby – in a way it is not a hobby of our time … is it?

Mr Elmo28 Nov 2011 1:20 p.m. PST

I think the hobby has gamers and modellers with folks liking both in differing amounts.

Pure Gamers don't need miniatures and can play video games or even board games.

Pure Modellers don't need games, just shelf space.

There will always be those who like both, I just think we lost the "mostly gamer" to computers.

Omemin Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 1:43 p.m. PST

I remind people often that computer games are wicked expensive and rather easily "beaten". You can come and play a wargame for free at most clubs and for a small fee at conventions, and you'll never "beat" the system.

I'm not too worried about computer and video games. I use them as a gateway to get folks into miniatures, by making comparisons to the computerized game (e.g., "This game is like Call of Duty, but you have figures and can control your troops better"). If they try it, they tend to prefer miniatures to the video games.

Sparker Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 2:11 p.m. PST

I am optimistic.

Yes the proportion of the population interested may diminish, but the world's population, in terms of affluent leisured people, is growing fast.

China has a something like thousand cities with a pop. of over a million. India less but still mind boggling numbers. Mnay of these can afford to send their children to university overseas.

Thanks to the internet, there is scope for leisure pursuits and markets to become ever more diverse and arcane, and still have a significant customer base…

Its not a popular thing to say, but the emerging expanding middle class in India is actually very 'Anglo' – boys go to cadets, read Biggles books then PG Wodehouse, buy airfix kits, play cricket, etc. I am sure that a tiny, tiny fraction, but a still a huge absolute number, will stumble across wargaming – they are already into modelling in a big way…

Wartopia Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 2:25 p.m. PST


My older son preferred the campaign modes in video games…at first. Over time he came to prefer multi-player for the reasona you cite and the reasons I no longer play single player as much: the human interaction.

In a video game you can out smart your opponents and influence their behavior. You can enrage them with smart play, spoof them, surprise them, etc.

And they can do the same to you.

For these reasons he loves complex games such as Malifaux. its many moving parts provide ample opportunity to come up with intricate, complex tactics…against a human opponent.

One trend that gives me hope is the number of skirmish level games seeing succes. With just 6 or so figures you're up and running. That lower barrier to entry means more gamers…hopefully!

Timbo W28 Nov 2011 5:12 p.m. PST

I don't think that Miniatures gaming necessarily takes lots of time and money. As I remember I started with a box of Airfix British, a box of Matchbox Germans, a Panzer III and a Crusader and a set of clearly written rules (Operation Warboard). I think this should be do-able at well under the cost of a newly released video game.

In fact with all the nice new 1/72 plastics and easy-assemble kits like Armourfast and Plastic Soldier, and with free rules online they've never had it so good!

For Ancients I reckon the DbA rules (perhaps re-written a bit for youngsters) could be a good intro – a box of Romans versus a box of Celts perhaps?

For horse and musket/19th century perhaps some old Featherstone-style rules, or large skirmish like Brother Against Brother would be the way to go?

As kids, we happily played wargames for a good few years without bothering overmuch about painting figures, and a coat of olive green for Allied vehicles and panzer grey for Germans was more than adequate. At that age we were happy enough to use our imaginations to fill in the blanks, maybe that's not such a bad thing anyway!

Yesthatphil29 Nov 2011 4:57 a.m. PST

I am, as always, both optimistic and unworried. I find more stress about these issues (as so many) amongst the chattering class of wargamers than the wargaming class of wargamers.

At shows we get plenty of yougsters wanting to play our participation games. Amongst friends, the number of youngsters taking up wargaming is pretty healthy compared to those of my generation taking it up in the 70s.

And that excludes all those bitten by military based computer games who might well grow up with an interest in military topics (so who knows where that will lead by the time they are 30somes?) …

I have no interest in fantasy games or any of the other TMP type genres that are not 'historical' and 'military', and do not really believe that those other hobby genres feed my interests with new recruits. I have no doubt that Military History and good old fashioned wargaming as I know it is just as appealing today as it ever was (actually more so, even though it has more competition for leisure time and leisure spend)…

It's all good, as someone once said.

Phil Steele

HammerHead Inactive Member29 Nov 2011 7:32 a.m. PST

All interesting comments, the real only stumbling block to new recreits is the cost of everything dad can provide so much, but to the kids undecided what they like the cost is way out of pocket money reach.
also just so happened there was a small hardware store that sold models when I was growing up me & my friend bought soldiers & kits. my brother was never interested in kits soldiers & the like. Maybe there are more people interested in w/hammer, 40K etc than I think but its not COOL. But I am positive tha w/gaming will continue into the future

Early morning writer29 Nov 2011 10:16 a.m. PST

Computers as competition? Not so much. Why? Tactile. Miniatures are things in hand, as mentioned above. Our hobby is and always will be hands on. Those who like hands on will gravitate here as long as they also like history or fantasy – the two are not mutually exclusive – and enjoy modeling/painting and want to bring a social element into the mix.

I started as a kid with Airfix (and GI Joe that my well to do friend had so many of) and Lego's for buildings. Give me a blanket, my toys, and a free Saturday morning and I was entertained for hours. My younger brother often played as well. He has no interest today, I have one of the largest collection of figures I've ever heard of (not THE largest). My influences? Really only one I can think of: American Heritage book on the American Civil War with color illustrations of battles – I studied those for hours.

So, as long as there are people who like to model/paint and like history/fantasy and like to engage socially with these interests the hobby will be just fine. I think the explosion of figure offerings in and of itself tells a story that is hard to refute.

Omemin Inactive Member29 Nov 2011 11:39 a.m. PST

The bottom line is this: get the word out about this hobby, and you won't have to worry about it. Fail to do so, and we're toast.

Just think about how everybody loved the First Manassas diorama that Wesley Snipes's character had in Murder at 1600. Folks like the miniatures and always have.

billthecat29 Nov 2011 12:30 p.m. PST

As an aside, I would like to point out that one of the MAJOR factors in the continued 'survival' of the miniatures/wargaming hobby is the commercial availability of miniatures, as well as the pricing of those miniatures.
Without internet sales, how much exposure and how many sales would small 'super-niche' companies recieve?
Miniatures gaming, as a whole, probably costs a fair deal more than video games.
Most importantly, video/computer gaming is not only an 'alternative' to satisfying certain drives in young men (fantasy/sci-fi, modelling/collecting, combat simulation), but in fact negativley affects a persons capacities for imagination and concentration (required in certain amounts to enjoy something as 'intellectually demanding' and 'slow' as miniatures wargaming. I will not digress into tirade against the audio/video media, but the evidence is in front of us all day, every day.
The 'hobby' may well survive, but it will most likely shrink into an even smaller niche than today… our culture demands instant gratification and total audio/visual immersion… miniatures games do not provide these.
I will continue to play until I die, however, so no worries (it is only a hobby, after all.)

skinkmasterreturns29 Nov 2011 5:41 p.m. PST

I have been gaming historicals for over 30 years,and it seems that there have never been hordes of teenagers involved,only an occaisonal young adult under 25.I myself started when I was 14,but then I have always been interested from age 8 onwards.Its always been adults 25+ years or older.

Augustus29 Nov 2011 8:42 p.m. PST

The percentages will probably fall.

I'm a gamer and I don't have time to really do much else than peruse here for news.

Send me all your miniatures.

Omemin Inactive Member30 Nov 2011 2:16 p.m. PST

billthecat, you make the common assumption that a new gamer will start creating armies. Most of the gamers I know play, but don't get armies.

I'm wicked glad to have them, I might add.

At that level, the cost of miniatures gaming is WAY less than video/computer games.

Gordon Johansen Inactive Member12 Dec 2011 3:48 p.m. PST

Personally, I have no problem worrying about the hobby right now. Perhaps it is just our area, but gaming is going strong.

If you want to see what a gaming community looks like on a typical Saturday in Calgary, check out this quick five minute documentary that my daughter in grade 12 did for a school project. Link is YouTube link

She just posted it Friday and it is awesome.


Grizzlymc Inactive Member13 Dec 2011 4:00 a.m. PST

Entropy gets us all in the end

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