Tactica 2017 - Back to the future?

Our bare-naked table

And.. with the troops - The Swedish view

And the Russian

Well, Toggy and I made it back to Wilhelmsburg this year via Bremen although we lost Mrs H missing in action with melted credit card in hand and crushed under an avalanche of shopping bags.

The Poles finally made their debut and saw considerable action

We know Hamburg's public transport system almost as well as our fellow travellers Phil and DT but defer to their local knowledge of the saltier areas around the Hauptbahnhof and The Reeperbahn. wherever that is.

The Russo-Polish army had 13 battalions and 13 squadrons

This year we sacrificed trade space for a larger participation table which proved a wise decision. It allowed us to concentrate on providing a quality gaming experience for the fourteen players we picked up over the two days.

The Swedes had 10 squadrons, 4 battalions and 4 guns

Tactica is a gaming show with trade as opposed to a trade show with games. The majority of the games were bijou and beautiful and we felt we presented a bit of old fashioned theatre with a biggish table and lots of toys. Dull and Historical or, interesting and informative? I think we came out on the right side of the ledger.

The Poles were very popular with iphone users

Gaming or is it gamers? has (have) developed a preoccupation with low effort skirmishing  over the last few years and the trade is sucking on that particular teat pretty hard as far as I can see.

We played four games - the Russians attacked a lot

Why do I mention this? well, the last three punters we had during Sunday were German lads aged about 20 who had been brought up on skirmish gaming and had never played a 'proper' wargame (what they said). They passed our table several times on the Saturday, stopped, looked, pointed, talked to the dice-chucking punters but no more.

Imitating myself.. in the style of the 8 gun French Napoleonic battery of  a few years back

When Bob and I decided we'd had enough of public participation about lunchtime on Sunday they actually pleaded for a chance to play the big game. How could we refuse? That is why we were there in the first place.

Down on the farm...

Two men who took the wrong turning at Rochdale

They were not period nerds and didn't know the history of the GNW but they were smart young men and caught the spirit very quickly. They really enjoyed their 90 minutes of cavalry charges, cossacks and cannon and were so happy that it lived up to expectations.

Aggressive Sunday play from the Swedes put the Russians on the defensive

They asked plenty of questions about tactics, weapons and characters. They wanted to know the history, who was who and why were the Swedes so successful? To me it appeared their eyes had been opened a little wider to the possibilities of a different wargaming experience than they were used to.

This Swedish regiment saw most action over the two days

These chaps are the future of the hobby and if large scale figure gaming is to survive beyond my generation we need wargamers who feel the burn of putting effort into larger collections which involve more sweat and grunt than painting 20 plastic miniatures and moving on to another 20 in a different setting two months hence.

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It is true that designers will go on sculpting outlandish and wonderful creations from Snowland, Planet Bonk and the jungles of the lost African kingdom of Mondobondage but as fad skirmish settings come and go the dusty old periods of Ancients, Napoleonics, ACW, Pike and Shot and WW2 demonstrate the staying power necessary for long term success.

This regiment survived both days but the Streltsi were destroyed on day 2

A glance at the books Aly Morrison had brought along to Hamburg reaffirmed the power of tradition. His 1960s magazines featured the Napoleonic and Franco Prussian games which inspired him into the hobby. Weighty articles, hundreds of minis and battle scale games. Even the grainy black and white shots did not diminish the impact of these great spectacles.

The Russians won two games from four!

The bridge was a focal point for the action

Today's hobby is mirroring the modern consumer/disposable society. Well marketed but largely hollow creations which shimmer and sparkle for a while as you twist them in the sunlight. Many are however fading as quickly as they flower. This is not necessarily a pop at populism but rather a recognition that many gamers are still searching for that silver bullet, nirvana, holy grail, Shangri-la table top moment.

Lots of charging from these boys

Not one single Swedish infantry charge all weekend

To my mind it is far more likely to be found by putting a little more cooking effort in a period they are already familiar with rather than gorging on the pop-tart experience indigestion created by endless reheats of Sherlock Holmes, Flash Gordon, Bram Stoker, The Lost World, African Queen and Lord of the Rings cloning.

Very successful weekend for the Cossaksi

Arguments about space, affordability, painting time and no opponents all have some validity but what did we do 25 years ago? We found a way to make it work.

We may see you next year Hamburg