Editorial: Stewarding The Hobby

(The following opinions are solely my own, and do not reflect the overall opinions of Breakthrough Assault or Battlefront)

In the US Army, one of the core principles of being a noncommissioned officer is to “Steward The Profession”. This means that you, in the present, lay the groundwork for the future success of soldiers and the Army as a whole. The actions you take, and the decisions leading to those actions, will influence future generations within the organization. So it is with wargaming.

Let’s be honest unless its a game that has dudes roided out, that looks like Iron Man and a smurf had a love child, we all have to build up the scenes in our respective areas. This goes directly back to stewarding the hobby. Simply put, if the hobby is to survive, it is up to the players to steward it to its continued success. Note, I am not speaking about business decisions made by the game developers. That is beyond our control, and I will address what we CAN control. Again, these points and perspectives are strictly my own. You are welcome to agree with them, or not.

This goes directly back to stewarding the hobby. Simply put, if the hobby is to survive, it is up to the players to steward it to its continued success. Note, I am not speaking about business decisions made by the game developers. That is beyond our control, and I will address what we CAN control. Again, these points and perspectives are strictly my own. You are welcome to agree with them, or not.

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME

My muse has a strange New Zealand accent…..:)

I’ve noticed some have talked about difficulty finding players in their area, and several have lived in urban areas where in theory they should have no problem playing. The reasons for this vary.

The local shop doesn’t carry it, guys are split on V3/V4, or what have you. Now, a gaming scene is not going to happen by itself nor is it going to happen overnight. If you got to start from the bottom, then do so! As an example, when I lived in El Paso, Texas and started playing in 2014 it was literally me and one other person that played. That’s it. The LGS at the time didn’t carry Flames of War or even really supported miniatures gaming, so we had to content ourselves playing on his dining room table in his house.

However, when we found out a new LGS opened up we transferred there and played each week like clockwork. When we were offered to demo the game for the shop at El Paso and Las Cruces Comic Cons, we jumped on it. People asked questions, and we gave answers. Slowly but surely, a player would join in and learn, then two, then three. When I left in 2017 for Arizona we had upwards of 8-10 regular players. And it started with just two guys who wanted to fly the flag and grow the scene.

Now, a note on personal bias. We ALL have things we dislike about the game. However, if you want people to play with, you NEED to push that aside and extol the virtues of the game. Remember, prospective players have no frame of reference what the game is like (as its different enough from say 40K or WarmaHordes), and if you come off a negative Nancy about it that makes things a non-starter and they will look for a more positive game or gaming atmosphere. Now, if they commit to joining and playing, there is a VERY IMPORTANT POINT TO REMEMBER…….

Baby Seals Are Cute (SO STOP CLUBBING THEM!!!!!!)

THAT LOOK THEY GIVE YOU WHEN YOU 8-1 THEM TURN 2 

We all like to win.

It’s always nice to see your plans and list and dice all come together to get that victory. Heck, even I am tracking my ranking in the current global campaign. It’s gratifying, especially when the battle was hard-fought. However, welcoming a new player to the group doesn’t mean pistol-whipping them to establish dominance and a hierarchy.
This happens, and don’t tell me it doesn’t. Some players are notorious for this.

Unfortunately, this is counterproductive.  If you’re doing it, no one will ever play with you. As I said in my previous editorial, don’t be an @$$. However, and more importantly, you are killing a new player before they even get started.

Think about it. They just invested time and money into something they want to be a part of, and if you kick them in the nuts first time out they won’t want to come back. Above all, they are TRUSTING you to show them the ropes and introduce them properly to the game. This is a genuine responsibility and can make or break new game scenes.

Honestly, I pride myself on being the umpire for my gaming circle here in Phoenix and make sure newbies understand the rules and they can come to me with questions.

Now, that all being said, I AM NOT saying you gotta hold them by the hand or purposely lose to them to fluff their ego. It’s proven fact that you learn more from mistakes than successes. Let them make mistakes, let them learn. My mentor (the one who started the scene in El Paso with me) was a great teacher, and he whupped me well over 85% of our games for a year running.

And I learned a lot, and pass it along to other players. So, it’s okay to beat the newbie. But afterwards, give them pointers, suggest additions to their list, and tell them they made a good effort. Small stuff like that matters. Don’t just whup their butt and then sashay out like you are a bad MF’er. No one will respect that attitude, and you’ll be wondering where all your opponents went after awhile. And, my last point is don’t be a……

Gatekeeper (aka History Police, Rivet Counter, etc.)

WE ALL KNOW THIS GUY……

Ok, let me be plain as can be on this: Flames Of War is playing with toy soldiers. TOY SOLDIERS. It’s make-believe. You want the real thing, give me a call as I am a recruiter. I know, many players love their history and love to show off their history knowledge chops.

I have a nice library in my home as I know many of you do and prefer war movies to romcoms. I like to bring historical things alive on the tabletop, and engage in a lively debate about the best tank of the war (Sherman, FTW!!!).

However, not everyone has to be that way. If they want to paint a Panther as Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony, then so what? Or if they run Panthers with an Afrika Korps list (I can hear veins popping out right now..) who cares? Its all an argument of semantics, and is a big waste of time. “But Panthers weren’t in Africa!!”

You’re right, but many people don’t know the Panther debuted against the western allies in Italy at Anzio and tropical (read: Africa Korps) uniforms were still used there. And lads, seriously give it a break losing your head overrunning a Panzer IV J when they had the H or using a MidWar Tiger in 1945. You’re arguing over toys and its silly.

Last point on this to consider. If they paint their tanks up like Girls Und Panzer or GI Joe, or they use an M4A3 Sherman model in a North Africa game that is their prerogative. At the end of the day, it is their money that they spent, it’s their models they built and painted and it’s their army that they’re playing. 

I’ve heard some players won’t play someone who plays the SS out of “principles”. Let me remind you: toy soldiers. Leave the politics, and snobby holier than thou cuz I’m “historical” attitude at the door. It’s their army to build as they wish.

THE REAL PANZER ACE OF ACES…..

CONCLUSION

As I have outlined here, it is the player community’s responsibility to grow, or “steward”, the hobby so future players can enjoy it just as we have. There is honestly an etiquette to this, and I hope it motivates those that read this to build positive, welcoming, and thriving wargaming circles wherever they are. As always, may your dice roll hot!

Category: Flames of War

10 comments

  1. Thank you Alex, for this well-written and thought-out piece. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said (ok, except for the best tank ever) here.
    When you play the game, you represent the game and its community. When you stop being inclusive and stop welcoming new players, you sign the death of your hobby.
    When you roflstomp new players and offer no insight in why they lost, you sign the death of your hobby.
    Flames of War is a hobby played by many people for many different reasons. But at the end of the day, it’s still a game, like you clearly put down.
    And games should always be fun. Otherwise, why play?

  2. Nice article, Alex. Here in Pittsburgh we are using many of your suggestions. Just two weeks ago we had 17 players for a normal club night!

  3. I strongly disagree on the SS part. It’s toys, but it still is history behind it, with actual events, lives, and personal histories.
    If you want to go full fantasy play warhammer; if you play history games, respect people taking it more seriously than you. Especially in Europe.

    1. As you know I am not European, but playing a force in a game does not in and of itself mean disrespect, nor does it mean one supports the ideals behind the Army they play. If someone plays the Soviets, do they support communism? Or raping thousands of women? That happened. If you play Heer, does one support ardent Nazi commanders such as Model? If I, a War on Terror veteran, play a toy soldier game as Al Qaeda jihadists, does that mean I support Islamic terrorism?

      One can separate real life from toys, and most players do so. If you judge people based on a toy army they play, that’s not fair and is not a full assessment. If you can’t seperate the two, then frankly speaking I think one should not play as they can, theoretically, find political fault with just about everything.

      One last point. I can acknowledge an opinion, doesn’t mean I have to respect or abide by it.

      1. And again, I have to disagree strongly.
        Firstly, and again in difference to fantasy games, players do relate to their armies in FoW, believe it or not. In Europe, you will find many Finnish lists in Scandinavia, a lot of Heer in Germany, Hungarians played by Hungarians, Poles Poles.. and so on. Not at tournaments, but people have these lists at home. Many, if not all, players have family that fought in the war. Players that play FoW, again, show some interest in history, so they know and care about that.
        And yes, SS is played, too, and players do like “the bad touch”, or bringing out the bad dice (that are forbidden in Germany, just btw). So just stating “boys will be boys and toys will be toys” is just not true, and doesn’t capture it.

        Secondly, pigeon-holing every Russian soldier, defending their homeland, as communist or rapist because “that happened” is.. disrespectful and ignorant, to say the least. Same goes for many other drafted personnel, including Heer. But, that aside, again, SS is a different story, a volunteer force under command of the party, not the army, (yes, huge difference), notorious for the most atrocious war crimes. Playing SS is somewhat of a statement, like it or not.
        “I don’t care” is a statement, too.

        And thirdly, I know that you are not European, but especially then there is no need for such condescending attitude such as “it’s just toys, get over it”, because, for many people it is not. No one expects you to share that opinion or “abide by it”, but I would expect you to show the cultural sensitivity to respect it, at least.
        Plain and simple.

  4. I tried to join the local Team Yankee scene when it launched, as a complete wargame novice and encountered pretty much exclusively rivet counters who proceeded to tell me why every choice I’d made for my army was wrong. Put me right off for a few years and I just modelled and painted various systems at home. Recently joined a friendly ‘Iron Smurfs’ group and am really enjoying it. Still keep an eye on Team Yankee as I like the setting but doubt I’d try playing it again. I wish the local groups had your mindset! Great article.

    1. Best advice I can give, get some like minded individuals and get the dice rolling! No law saying to play a game you have to be in the same group as rivet counters!

  5. Sorry @Moritz, but have to disagree with you. It. Is. A. Game. Nothing more. An SS army carries a number of advantages, not least for beginners because generally there’s way fewer models to paint to get an army on the table, and they had all the cool toys. I started with SS for precisely those reasons; I have no sympathies with and only revulsion for Nazi ideology.
    I fully understand that some players might choose not to play SS for ideological reasons, and that’s fine; each to their own. But it’s not OK to get all holier than thou and refuse to play SS armies. If anyone wants to get super-historical about it, then the truth is that no soldier ever got a choice. Whatever side they were on, the other side was always the enemy and the only choice was to fight the enemy in front of you.

  6. Very good article, Alex. I’ve seen many examples of what you have described in you article. Our group has been together for more than 13 years and we don’t play in FLGS on any regular basis. One of the main reasons for our success is that we follow your advice. I wish more people did! Please keep up the good work. Moritz, I hope that you will reconsider your position.

    Game on!

    Carl

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Article by: Alex Montalvo