Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Why Do we Play Wargames?

I'm living up to my name again and providing a few more smurf like musings for you to ponder and digest. This time I wanted to consider what it is about the hobby that makes us want to participate.

Warhammer, amongst other games, has been described many times as 'addictive plastic crack', which obviously suggests that most players cannot simply turn off the hobby. I'll be the first to admit, I spend a serious amount of time each day either thinking about what I want to add or I am actively participating by playing or painting. I'll even admit that thinking about my next conversion usually prevents me from sleeping at night (although not at the moment since I'm working nights).

So why is warhammer such an addictive hobby? What is it about warhammer that makes us invest so much energy? In order to explore these questions I want to consider some of my other hobbies first.


I love music. I had the fortune to be introduced at my local warhammer club to a guy in his 20's when I was just 14. He had been a teenager in the 90's and so was really into his American alternative music, which he let me borrow. Now at 23 I own just over 300 hand picked CD's and now that I have a full time job, it's bound to increase. I have a massive list of records to buy which I have been noting down during the time I had no money. I also have a part time job in the local independent record store and so I am surrounded by music all the time. I love it, it's the best job I have ever had.

So what is it that music provides to me as a person? Well it has quite a few elements in common with warhammer now that I think about it. I love to 'collect' CD's and place them in my CD rack. I love looking at them all neatly filed away and I enjoy the process of watching the collection grow. Sound familiar?

CD's (and records especially) often have fantastic and inspired artwork. My musical passion lies in a large spectrum of music including; alternative, math rock, post rock, shoegaze, post punk, hardcore, soft core, experimental, dream pop, etc... Artists within these genres often invest a great deal of effort into the art featured in their record and so I appreciate viewing it. Again, it's one of the reasons why we blog isn't it? I mean now that White Dwarf doesn't provide us with the artistic inspiration any more we have all turned to blogs so that we may appreciate the skills of others and try and add that knowledge to our own skill sets.

CD's are similarly priced to warhammer. I would expect to pay £12 per item, which isn't too dissimilar from warhammer really. Considering I have spent over £3000 on CD's over the years building my collection it suddenly dawns that perhaps I have spent less overall on warhammer?

CD's also provide you with repeat enjoyment. The best thing about music is that it provides you with enjoyment when you want it. That is why we listen to music after all. Warhammer has a similar aspect in that you use your army again and again and again. Ok it isn't on demand like music is unless you work at GW, but you use it often enough for it to be considered a repeat enjoyment. Also warhammer games are never the same twice and so perhaps it has a slight edge over a CD. Then again I don't get emotional emphatic with my warhammer models, whereas a piece of music is designed to do just that. Sings and roundabouts.

My Guitar:

As a sideline from my music obsession I also play the guitar and have gigged around the UK in a band. Not really much to add here as the music element covered most of the benefits. However, the guitar I suppose could be seen as my extension of actively participating in music, which is similar to how we all actively participate in warhammer games from playing and painting. Again my guitar is; a repeat pleasure, it improves over time (I guess you could say I collect my improving skills and techniques) and I have invested a similar amount of material cash into it.


So I guess warhammer is addictive to us because it has a multifaceted texture. The benefits we gain from participating in warhammer as a hobby operate on every level of our being. We gain the emotional benefits of pride in our work, challenging our strategic thinking, communicating with other human beings (most of my best friends I met at my club), quenching our desire for competition and achieving the often elusive feeling of victory! We also gain the physical benefits of improving our awareness, numeracy skills and also our hand-eye coordination when painting. Finally, the material benefits also weigh up in the end as most of us probably spend as much on this hobby as we do on the others (think how many xbox games you might own, how much the console and the tv cost you and also include the internet charges and electricity charges you might have built up!).

The take home message then is to enjoy the hobby. It is repeated time and time again but seriously, just enjoy the hobby as there truly is much to enjoy!


  1. Mate I could swear you're living my life, just on the other side of the world. Once again my mind is in sink with your 'musings'.

    I have this thing about loads of things I collect (DVDs, music, books, games, gardening implements, miniatures whatever), they all get arranged just so, and I frequently sit and look at them, take one down, look at it in detail, maybe rearrange a shelf slightly.

    Maybe its a slight case of OCD or something - who knows, and who cares.

    The hobby gives me something to do that is engaging and rewarding. I have met some great lads down at the local playing this game. It keeps be out of the missus' hair, and gives me somewhere to retreat to to relax, maybe with some music on low in the background, to wile away a lazy afternoon.

    Wargaming is what it is - everyone will have their onwn view on it. Most bloggers I am in contact with share similar views to me, we are in it as a hobby more than as a gamer - thats what I have my xbox for.


  2. If I ever venture over the pond, we'll have to hook up for a beer!