01 November 2017

The Magazines Have Arrived!!!

The front cover of issue #1.

Kinda quiet here lately as work and real life continue their relentless assault on available free time (and the necessary calm, uncluttered mind) for wargamerly pursuits.  But.  The first dozen issues of the old Practical Wargamer arrived in the mail yesterday.  Hurrah!  Thanks to G. B. in the U.K.   Very rapid postal transit and well-packaged, so the 27 to 30-year old magazines arrived in fine shape.  

But what about the content?  In a word very good to excellent.  The photographs are, admittedly, not as prominent or, frankly, photoshopped as we have become accustomed to, but the articles!  Text heavy, interesting pieces by many familiar names in the hobby, both past and present, including a number of big guns, some still with us, others now departed.  Definitely worth the wait, and what a shame the magazine isn't still around.   Without doubt, I place it right up there with most issues of Battlesgames (to which PW seems closest in spirit), early issues of Miniature Wargames, and the first few issues of Wargames Illustrated.  

Haven't picked up an issue of the latter in more than 10 years, but it definitely had lost something by the late 1990s.  And to be frank, as much as I miss the independent Battlegames, things were never really the same after it was absorbed into Miniature Wargames, as published by Atlantic (I was always a bit anxious following that particular hiccup), to say nothing of the publisher after that.  

The other shoe did, in fact drop, not too long after when long-time MWBG helmsman Henry Hyde moved on to greener pastures.  The first issue or two of MW under new direction, and before my subscription ran out, just didn't quite scratch the historical miniatures hobby itch as well in my view.  Only my two pennoth, of course, but I felt as though the magazine lost its focus, and my will to write and submit something for possible publication dried up with it.  Take all of that with a grain of salt.  I probably don't have any idea what I'm talking about.  And maybe things have stabilized for the magazine in the time since?  Perhaps it has once again found its red thread, or raison d'ĂȘtre?

But back to Practical Wargamer!  I delayed looking at anything until  my own bedtime just following the Young Master's, who was out trick-or-treating in the neighborhood with the Grand Duchess in tow for a couple of hours early on Halloween Night.  After the usual pajamas, tooth-brushing followed by flossing, and bedtime reading together with said Young Master, I later spent a delightful two hours curled up in bed, paging through issues #1-#12 of Practical Wargamer and then reading a few shorter articles more closely before the ol' eyelids grew heavy, and I turned out the bedside lamp.  Can't wait to repeat the exercise this evening, but hopefully I'll manage to stay awake for a while longer.  What a windfall!  

Before turning to more serious matters that actually pay the bills (it is 11:40am Wednesday morning here, and I am on campus waiting for my next class to start), I will leave you with this observation.  It was quite interesting to peruse old advertisements for figures in 1987, '88, '89, and '90 and take note of figure prices then versus prices for metal figures now.  Even Battle Honours Napoleonic unit, brigade, and division prices seem downright cheap by 2017 standards.  

I mention these figures specifically because they were what I coveted most all those years ago.  I think continuously rising metal prices -- the rise of the internet, increasing popularity of digital gaming, the rise of mobile phones (like an incurable disease, these infect virtually everyone), the phenomenon of and now the palpable need for instant gratification, short (-er) attention spans, etc. notwithstanding -- are a major factor in why so many fewer young potential miniature wargamers enter the historical side of hobby now versus, say, the halcyon days of the mid-1970s to the early 1980s.  Even the better sets of plastics on the market, while less expensive than metal figures, are not exactly cheap if enough are purchased for an actual "army" of, say, reinforced brigade size (4-6 infantry units, a cavalry formation or two, and some artillery).  Again, just a randomly passing thought.  Discuss! 

-- Stokes


Still enjoying these magazines several days later.  So much to read and think about.  Consideable bang for your buck with these old Practical Wargamer magazines, even thirty-odd years on.  Imagine my surprise to turn the page in one issue from 1989 or '90 and see a group photograph of several wargamers that included future bloggerati Robbie Rodiss and Colin Ashton, whose blogs I routinely enjoy in 2017.  Another little bit of fun that has come from seeing these magazines for the first time.


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

I have that very issue - and also the very last one... an excellent magazine and much missed... well by me anyway

Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

What a joy that stack of magazines must be! I missed the first year or so of PW but enjoyed every issue from 93 to the end, despite initially cringing at the glossy look until I learned to unclinch a bit.

As fir price, I'm nit sure hiw to compare effective prices then vs now except to say that there were some ranges I couldn't afford then and some now but I have lors more and spend more now. As fir youngsters, I think thats an illusion spawned by the huge increase in fantasy scifi miniature gamers. I see enough young historical gamers at conventions to feel content that tge hobby is still growing even if it is still a niche.

Bezzo said...

Glad they are being enjoyed all over again.

Norm said...

Your post has made me dig out my one and only copy .... September / October 1990

A quick flick through - yes, there is definitely something of that style and content that is heart-warming, or is that just the nostalgia kicking in?

A J said...

PW is a classic, and I believe I still have a few in storage back in England. I dropped my subscriptions to any magazines after the first year of Battlegames, although I still occasionally buy an issue of WSS.

Prices have risen. I remember back in the 70's buying my first 25mm Minifigs (Austrian Napoleonic Grenadiers) for the princely sum of 12 pence each. As to modern gaming, I think there are still some up and coming gamers in the hobby - certainly in my club back in the UK which has a heavy emphasis on historical gaming.

CelticCurmudgeon said...

My Dear Heinz-Ulrich, Greetings!

I sincerely hope that your family is doing well and enjoying the cooler weather of autumn. It was wonderful to read that you had secured a collection of those classic magazines. The articles which actually deal with war gaming - how to do it, what to collect etc. were always worthwhile. Today too many articles in the glossies that are sold are merely re-hashed histories borrowed from works which themselves over utilized secondary and tertiary sources.

Are there differences in the world of war gaming from 1977 to today? Most certainly. Just the way in which figures covering just about every battle or war known to man are now extant, we also now possess access to figures of varying scales and materials.

The latter was something you posed as a conversation starter. There is a plethora of plastic figures available for many periods. generally the sculpting is pretty good and the variety you can get with, say, a box of German WWII soldiers is quite impressive. There is a caution though. Like everything, we pay for things like variety. The current price for a box of Perry Plastics or plastic figures from War Lord runs over a dollar a figure. But that is not the real cost: figure out how long it takes you to put one of these figures together in a manner which you find satisfying.

A box of plastic WWII figures might take you five or six hours to assemble. Each figure comes with a torso, two legs, to arms, a head, and then all manner of weapons and kit. After you remove all of these from the sprues that they may have been on you have to assemble them and there's the rub. Often figures are awkward to assemble and even the fastest adhesive (I use Tenax and other solvents) still requires "wait time" as the figure sets up. Let's say you have put the arms on and the adhesive has set up, you then have to position the weapon being used and let that set up. And so on.

There are some metal figures like those from Black Tree design which can be acquired for less than the price of similar plastic figures. The question, of course, is a matter of taste: do you like the plastic or the metal. And do you have the time necessary for assembly?

While I have focused on WWII figures, I must add that the ACW figures from the Perrys are actually relatively easy to assemble - two arms, a head and an ammunition box for most and ive you the potential for a rather nice looking unit of figures. I have to admit that I have not tried the AWI figures and must withhold comment.

Plastic offers quite a few advantages - they are light to carry, generally cost about a dollar or so apiece, and can be tinkered with to vary the look you want much more readily than metal. All that said, my personal preference is for metal figures which I can "get to" quickly and which have a pleasant heft that plastic lacks.

I apologize for going on about these matters, but it is a worthy conversation to have.

My very best to you and your family,

Gerardus Magnus
Arcbishop Emeritus


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