Welcome wargamers and hobbyists, to the mess hall. This is where tired and battered warriors gather to eat, but more importantly to chew the cud over the hobby, our great victories, crippling defeats, and the general state of the war effort.
For this week's Sprue Cutters Union topic (#spruecutters), we have been asked to talk about the social aspect of our hobbying: where we go to meet with likeminded individuals and talk over what we are up to in the hobby, our projects and plans etc. Once again, this is a topic I will likely be addressing in a very different manner to my scale modelling comrades, because typically tabletop wargaming is social by necessity, and the face to face social aspect revolves mainly around massed miniature marauders shooting and stabbing each other to death. So...
- Where do you gather? -
The places I have gathered to share my hobby over the years have changed as my circumstances and ability to fit in hobby time has been affected by 'real world' commitments. When I started out (at secondary school, aged twelve), our group of about half a dozen noobs played at each other’s homes, wherever we could fit in a battlefield, and we made arrangements to use one of the art rooms at school for painting and gaming at lunchtimes, which allowed us to partake of the hobby out of the way of the rest of the school.
As we got a little older and began spreading our wings a little further, I began catching the bus from school into Nottingham and attended weekly games nights at the Biggin Street Games Workshop store, which was a great time in my gaming life, and my Dad or Granddad would pick me up when games finished. Good old Games Nights, with 'bring and battle' games involving a dozen or more players at once. Eventually, a Games Workshop store opened in Loughborough, which is much nearer to where I lived at home, and so I started attending games there. I still sometimes got collected by my Dad though!
After I met the brother of a school friend when I was about fifteen, and with him living around the corner, we used to game and paint a generally hobby round at our house, because I had a gaming board set up, or we headed off to the Games Workshop store to play. Bear in mind that this was all before the rise of internet forums and the like, so at this point all my hobby socialising was done face to face, or in some cases, by letter!
When it got to the stage where people were disappearing off to College or University, local games got a little more sparse, and at around the same time, Games Nights at the Games Workshop store got a lot more strictly organised. None of the big bring and battle games anymore, so if you weren't there to pre-arrange games it was a struggle to get sorted.
It wasn't too long after this that I discovered the joys of pubs, night clubs, alcohol, house parties and general mayhem and shenanigans ensued apace.
After a couple of rather hazy and drink sodden years, I was amazingly lucky to meet a girl named Rebecca, who went on to become my wife. two or three years go by, with almost no gaming going on at all, barring the odd 'solo' game played just to stave off the withdrawal symptoms, though throughout this period I would still pop into the local Games Workshop store to chat to gamers and staff, and still buying stuff (models, rule books and army books, so I can keep up to date with everything) and doing some modelling. I also took out a White Dwarf magazine subscription, which helped keep me abreast of what was going on in the hobby. Real life almost takes over.
I discover the 'Inta-nets' and wargaming forums, notable among which are 'The Warhammer Forum' (great forum, but can't get onto it at work), '40K Forums' (ditto Warhammer Forum), 'Astronomican' , and 'Warseer'. Using these forums becomes my primary way of socialising with other gamers, discussing various aspects of the hobby, and sharing modelling and painting projects. These forums are a real life line, to be sure, and by using more than one, I was able to keep busy enough to always have something to talk about or to look at. Being able to post pics online is a real boon it must be said. It should also be said though that some forums are what you want and others are not. Astro for example is like sitting in a cosy pub with mates and chatting over drinks. Warseer can be great, but can also be like shark diving without a cage…
Rebecca gets a job for a distribution company. A guy in the warehouse plays Warhammer and 40K. He comes round for a game. My Vampire Counts lose to his Ogres. I then start attending the Leicester Wargames Club every two or three weeks, meet a load of new gamer buddies, and play games on a regular basis. This continues for about two years, and I feel like I am really 'back in the hobby'.
Then Oscar arrives...
Having a new baby in the house, as I am sure any parent who is also a hobbyist or gamer with empathise with, somewhat defecates all over our hobby plans. For a period of about 18 months, all gaming ceases, but I keep up with all other aspects of the hobby, now that I am fully back into the whole thing. Forum use steps up a gear to compensate for lack of gaming.
Oscar grows from a wriggling pink worm into a small boy, and when he hits about a year and a half, I broach the subject of gaming passes being issued with Rebecca. I create a Facebook Group page for my local village, and trawl the internet for gaming clubs closer to home than the Leicester club I was attending, which was about 40 mins drive away, and rarely allowed enough gaming time to complete a battle. Strictly out by 23:00, which meant games ended at 22:30, and as some guys didn't start till 20:00 or 20:30...
I started putting up posters on the village notice boards. I knew there were gamers in the village, I just couldn't find them. There was no club that I knew of. I also sent the posters off to be put up in gaming stores in the two nearest towns.
I got a hit, a guy new to the village, who had seen a poster. Gaming restarts! On a weekly (almost) basis, we get together and play some small point games of Warhammer 40,000. The guys was part of a movement I barely comprehend that like to collect several small forces (about a third to one quarter the size of typical games) to give plenty of variety in the gaming and modelling, rather than larger forces. The games are fun, but after a little while his work takes over and he can't make games, and before I knew where I was, he had moved away. I don't think it was me...
I start filtering Warseer by member location, which is a task with little hope of success, because forum users typically tend to be located in places like 'Behind you' and 'The Dark Tower', and apart from 'behind me', (which was a lie, I checked behind me and there was no one there. Well, no gamers anyway. Got a funny look from the lady in the supermarket queuing behind me though.) I have no idea whether 'The Dark Tower' is nearby or not.
I posted a simple thread on Warseer asking 'Are there any Gamers in North Leicestershire?'
A hit! A palpable hit! A guy responded to my thread (the third or fourth of its kind over a number of months) having seen it by sheer luck (on Warseer, threads that aren't responded to tend to sink into the murky depths pretty quickly), and sends me the details of MAD Wargaming Club, which turns out to be only 20 minutes’ drive away from home, starts early, finishes late, and plays all the games I play. A massive score.
So there we are. As things stand, I am active on a couple forums, though less active since I became more involved in blogging and Twitter, where we have a fantastic wargaming community. My games are played at the M.A.D Wargames Club, where there are a great bunch of guys (and gal) playing all manner of games that I enjoy, and all of these places, both digital and physical, allow me to chat, share ideas and projects, and basically feel like I am really part of the hobby.
If you would like to read the thoughts of other Union members, check out the links below:
And finally, if you fancy yourself as a Sprue Cutter, look here. All you need is a blog, and a passion for miniature collecting and modelling. We are varied bunch, so whatever your area of experience, I am sure you have something valuable to contribute.
Thanks for reading...