Saturday, October 11, 2014

Henry Hyde, Haiku and Hobby Hubris

Last month, Jonathan Freitag ran his second anniversary blog contest, and as part of that several generous prizes were offered. The contestants were asked to submit one or more haiku addressing two themes put for by Jon, as out lined in in the preceding link. The "grand prize" was a hard copy of Henry Hyde's recently published tome, The Wargaming Compendium.

Image from

As it turned out, in a hard fought, amiable contest of words, my offering came in first by a broken bayonet. This is actually the second time I have been a beneficiary of Jon's largess, receiving a copy of  the excellent"Eagles over the Alps" in last year's contest.  Thanks again, Jon! My copy arrived on time direct form Amazon a few days ago. I had considered purchasing this book several times in the past on my own, but concluded that the needs of the lead arms race took priority! The was good timing as my wife was away for a few days to assist my daughter. I have thus read the first 3 chapters already, which form a very agreeable introduction to wargaming as a hobby. Nothing too much I didn't know already, which is hardly surprising nor indeed a flaw in any way. This is a massive, beautifully and heavily illustrated book, that is obviously a true labor of love!

My only minor quibble thus far is with the chapter on the history of wargaming. As Mr. Hyde himself points out, it is far from exhaustive, and limited by the space available. Still, I found the degree to which it was focused on the British scene, while entirely understandable, becoming mildly annoying by the end of the chapter. Only Jack Scruby and Joe Morschauser come in for brief mention among Americans. Even Gary Gygax is referred to in passing with regard to Dungeons and Dragons (only), and many other major American contributors and contributions to the field such as Bob Coggins, Jim Getz, Scotty Bowden, Duke Siegfried, Bob Jones, Arty Conliffe, Sam Mustafa, Terry Gore, Buck Surdu, Frank Chadwick, Old Glory (among manufacturers),  Napoleon's Battles, Tactica, Fire and Fury, The Courier (hands down my vote for the best wargames magazine of all time - thanks, Dick Bryant!), The Midwest Wargamer's Association Newsletter (MWAN - thanks likewise to Hal Thinglum)), and so on. Of course, our European friends come off even worse, with Impetus, Dadi e Piombo, and Vae Victus being rather glaring omissions. In fairness to the author once again, he acknowledges that there are as many omissions as inclusions, and that some are bound to be annoyed by same, for which he offers an apology in advance.

All this does raise a rather intriguing question, which I am certainly not the first to ask. Why is it that the United Kingdom seems to have a much higher number of Historical wargamers (and manufacturers) per capita than any other country (recognizing that our perceptions of non English speaking countries are inevitably skewed downward)?  The US has 5 times as many citizens, but I'd estimate roughly the same total number of historical wargamers, and those are spread out over a vastly greater area. We in the U.S. are also unable to support even  a single Historical Wargames magazine in the modern era, and yet the UK supports two or three! Certainly the much higher population density makes access to other nearby wargamers much more likely, but the population of France is similar, and her population density of the same general order of magnitude, and yet Historical Miniature Wargaming certainly seems  is a far less popular hobby there. Similarly, from the standpoint of exposure to history, while the UK has been the scene of recorded battles back to at least Roman times, the same can be said even more so of France.  The US leads the world in per capita income (admittedly, increasingly unevenly distributed), so lack of funds is an unlikely rationale. Discussion?

Some comparative national statistics, from Wikipedia:
Total Population, Population Density, and GDP (purchasing power adjusted) per capita::

United Kingdom:  64 Million  255/km2    $38,711

France:  66 Million, 116/km2    $36,537

United States of America:  320 Million, 34/km2   $53,000

Canada:  35.5 Million, 3.4/km2   $44,656

Australia:  23.6 Million  2.8/km2   $44,346

New Zealand:  4.5 Million, 16.5/km2 , ,  $30,493

India:   1,210 Million, 380/km2  $5,777

India would seem to be one good long term market for the growth of our hobby...



  1. Very good that the book made it in a timely fashion and especially pleased to see that you are enjoying it.

    My sense is that Hyde is very UK centric with his wargaming view which is understandable since he is UK based. As for the wargaming density in the UK, I have often pondered that question too. Still no solid conclusions on my part. As you mentioned the combination of less less distance between locales and greater population density in the UK likely drives some of the disparity. USA has a wargaming density issue too but of an entirely different sort.

    I get the sense that in the UK shows seem to occur on a very regular basis and wargaming clubs abound. That frequent fellowship possibly drives up demand and with more producers, Say's law tends to kick in further spawning more demand. My view of UK wargaming viewed from the other side of the pond tends to distill down to a broad generalization and, perhaps, even stereotype that Brits live in smaller houses with less "in-house" gaming. What this does is create a more social activity where gaming is seen in clubs, pubs, school and other public venues. Something I rarely see in my part of the world. In the USA, I think we have yet to come out of the closet (or basement)!

    Maybe your UK readers can enlighten us all?

    India as a good long term market growth for our hobby? Perhaps, they certainly have captured market share in IT services.

    1. I have a similar sense to yours regarding gaming in the UK, but if I just consider the blogs that I follow, I know that much of the gaming that Jason, James, Garry and others do is in fact done in private homes, so it is far from an exclusively club scene.

      I'd definitely be interested in more feedback from gamers in the UK, France, Australia etc. Italy and Spain seem to be developing very active gaming communities as well., and of course we know gaming on some scale takes place almost every where now days... Poland, Russia, Czech Republic, Scandinavia, Brazil and yes, India are just a few more of the places that I have been in personal correspondence with gamers within the past few years.

  2. Hi Peter,
    Well done and a very interesting post.

    Would be good to see a comparison of military modelling and wargaming around the world.

    1. I fully agree, Paul. Any gaming in the Philippines that you are aware of? I would think it would have to ba a hobby fairly limited top the upper middle class and above there, but perhaps not!

  3. Great post, another point is that in the UK Nottinghamshire happens to have by far the highest percentage of suppliers that are based in the UK including the beast that is GW maybe that's the main reason both Nottingham and UK have the largest density?


    1. Good observations, Ian. Is it the tail wagging the Dragon, or vice versa?

  4. BTW, I just finished reading Chapters 4 (Terrain - great stuff), and am halfway through Chapter 5 (a long one on assembling your armies - also very well done, although being in the UK his cost analysis ignores the extremely economical [in the US] Old Glory 28mm figures).. Also as the book goes on, Vae Vioctis, Dadi e Piombo, The Courier and MWAN all coming up. Mr. Hyde, on making the same observation about the lack of a regular, large circulation wargames magazine in the US states "there have been a number of attempts in the past, such as The Courier (1968 - 2005)..." I do think "attempt" is perhaps a bit of an understatement for a 37 year publication run, however, LOL!

  5. Good observations Ian. There actually is a slowly growing Indian/ South Asian wargaming community. I came across a website for them a while back, but don't recall the name.

  6. Ravi and Manoj of the India wargamers were active participants in the development of Band of Brothers, second edition. Manoj studied in the US for several years, and I had the chance to meet him in person at several Historicon events.

    Their website::

    Their blog:

    Both have been quiet for too long, so I gave them a poke on the blog! :-)

    Thier blog

  7. I think a big part of the problem is simply a difference in reading habits. It seems that magazine and newspaper readership keeps declining in the US in general and so it's not unreasonable for the same to happen in our hobby.
    I don't know if subscribers to printed media is down or not in the UK, but that would be an interesting comparison.

    1. Interesting thought, Mike. Could be. Without being unduly inflammatory, I've always felt the main UK "glossy" magazines were beautiful to look at, and a pleasant diversion, but rather lacking in actual substance in a way that you couldn't say about MWAN or The Courier. I wonder what their ratio of newsstand/hobby shop sales is to subscriptions?