I don't think it's inaccurate to say that many people decide to give table top wargames a go while still at around school age: they buy a rulebook and a few models, paint a few goblins, play a few games at home, at a friends or at a local games store or club, but eventually decide to give the whole thing up. They tried it, and decided that it just wasn't for them. They perhaps find they enjoy another hobby more. That's fair enough, credit to those people for trying something different.
For others of us, we go through a similar beginning, but decide that we do enjoy the hobby enough to continue. We really get into it, make steady investment in our hobby. We practice and develop skills in painting, terrain building and commanding armies. We build up network of 'hobby buddies'. We even make it through that decidedly dicey phase when we come of age, and briefly an interest in regular and frequent inebriation and in the opposite sex corrupts our decision making processes. We make it through more or less in one piece. Then it happens. We meet that special person, and before we know where we are, we have a job, a partner, one or more demanding offspring and an unhealthy depth of knowledge of the mind control mechanism known as soap opera.
Those who have experienced this jolting change of lifestyle understand the insidious and destructive effect this can have on our 'hobby time'. The real conflict has moved from the tabletop into the open, grown legs and a voice, and the demands on our time are endless. The problem is, we love our partners and our kids beyond measure, and we have to go to work to earn money to cover the mundane stuff like keeping a roof over our heads and food in our increasingly Ogre like bellies.
We can't pretend even for a moment that our hobby is more important that these things, but that doesn't make the craving we have for the clamour of battle go away. It lingers, and plots, and gets us into bother with the wife because we 'left our stuff out again'. It points and laughs at us from the shadows. We see the exponential growth of the 'sig battle records' of unshackled forum users and feel a pang of longing. We watch the letter box like an over excited pooch waiting for the postman, hoping that our latest hobby magazine of choice will be pushed through the door.
Sad, isn't it?
So, one day, when we feel that the time is right, that we have changed enough nappies, been covered in puke and baby food enough times, and wiped poop off our hands so many times we just don't care anymore, we gulp down a breath, and utter the words: 'um, I think I might like to try and arrange a game with someone soon, that alright sweetheart?'
We pause, not blinking, not even breathing until: 'yes, of course you should, just tell me when. It's ok for me to go to bingo with the girls tonight, right?'
Our face breaks into a creeping smile, having heard nothing but a joyful angellic chorus after the word 'yes'. We wipe the drool from the corner of our mouth, and we dive for the laptop to get that first game after what feels like aeons arranged as fast as possible.
So, having set the precident that we are 'allowed out', (which we have to do, not because we're a whipped excuse for a human being, but because, as we have established, our hobby is not more important than loved ones and key responsibilities, despite what the voices say) we get in touch with the old gaming crowd, or find a new one, and we march TO WAR!!! (I wonder if I should upload a sound bite for that?)
It is a juggling act to be sure. Poorly kids, quality time with the wife and child (who we neglect at our peril, because we're lucky to have them if we're honest), and dinner with the inlaws all have their place in our busy schedules. We paint models and write army lists at lunchtime at work, because it's 'my time', and because I don't want to explain to the nursery why my son is pooing in Ultramarine Blue, or why there is what looks suspiciously like a chain axe on the x-ray pictures. We spend dark winter mornings in the pitch black garage with a torch in our mouths looking for those 'damned archers' in the stacks of boxes in which our younger more carefree self is stored.
We play that first game. We lose, but we don't give a fig because we got to play a game. I'll let that hang for a moment. I got to play a game... We arrange another one quick, before someone arranges some family activity for us and the ball not only stops rolling, it evapourates like Nottingham Forest's chances of promotion to the Premiership. We are especially nice to our partner, because it feels good, and it doesn't help to grease the wheels before we mention that all day trip to a gaming convention coming up.
You see, it is possible to continue with our beloved hobby and still meet our other life commitments, it just takes planning, agreement and cooperation with the important people in our lives, and only costs a sliver of our souls every time we go to the club. Besides, if we don't get some use out of the mountain of models we accumulated before we became responsible adults, one day we might have to deal with an entirely new problem:
'You know that stuff in the back room that you never use anymore? Isn't it time you got rid if it? I'd like to turn that room into a space for MY hobby'.
I would like to dedicate this post to M.A.D, the Melton and District Wargaming Club, who pulled me back from the abyss only a few weeks ago. Thanks guys...
To all the guys and gals who's partners also play wargames, in fact want to play more than you do, stop tormenting me. I don't know how you did it, but stop...