Friday 13 March 2009

Cutlery Cavalry

Some years ago I found a copy of a book by John G. Garratt entitled "Model Soldiers for the Connoisseur". I have recently read it and it got me thinking about the changes our hobby has seen over the decades. Published by Weindenfeld & Nicolson in 1972 this books seems to me to represent the watershed between what I like to think of as 'old school' collectors and wargamers and the new generation of gamers (including roleplayers such as myself) that were coming onto the scene in the early 70's and 80's.

Much of the book concentrates on specific 'collectors' and their collections. To be honest I wasn't that interested in this part of the book other than from a curiosity point of view. I'm probably suffering from reverse snobbery when I say these people seem to have very little connection to the hobby I know. In fact they conjured up rather cliched and dusty images of aged generals reliving the glories of their youth (recreating their part in the battle of Balaclava using salt sellers and napkin holders to represent the Russians). That's probably a terribly unfair label to put on them but if you wear a tweed 3 piece suite and smoke a pipe then you have it coming!

This got me thinking about my earliest knowledge of the hobby of wargaming. I have already said elsewhere in this blog what my actual gaming 'root's' were but here I'm referring to my earliest awareness that there was such a hobby as wargaming.

The first is the stereotypical image shown in the above picture and came from the 1939 film The Four Feathers staring John Clements and Ralph Richardson. There is a scene in this film where one of the 'old generals' takes every opportunity to relive his past battles using whatever tableware comes to hand. It's a rather endearing image and represents the simplest form of battle representation I have ever seen on TV.

My other very early memory of wargamers represented on TV was an episode of The Professionals. I can't remember of it was Bodie or Doyle that went undercover to investigate a man who had a passion for wargames. I don't recall anything else about the plot (I was only about six or seven at the time) but I do remember looking at the games table and thinking "that's so cool!".

And three decades later I still think its "cool" and worse I can see both these stereotypes in me! So maybe they weren't so off the mark as I like to think. There was a spark of truth in both these portrayals of wargamers and maybe I/we are not so different from the collectors described in this book. There's a big kid in us all and sometimes we just like to play with our cutlery.

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