Thursday, 20 July 2017
Reflections on Wargaming Publishing
To the casual observer it looks like 2017 is another golden age of wargaming publishing. Not since the Donald Featherstone era have so many books on our hobby hit the shelves. There are a number of wargaming publishers, all centred on the UK. There are a continual deluge of wargaming books, including many self-published ones. However, the numbers hide a problem; the reality is many of the books are dire.
With the dearth of experienced wargaming editors, the content, history, game system etc. in the books is of variable quality. I bought a second hand book on gaming ancient naval warfare and found the rules were flawed. If you ignore the errors on the picture captions, the book is basic introduction to ancient naval warfare, with some nice pictures, the rules seem to lack play testing. I will give an example. Triremes attacking triremes from the front kill each other on a roll of 2-6 on a six sided dice. This means if you outnumber the enemy you should simply charge the enemy from the front and statistically you will win. E.g. when they lose ¼ of their ships, which is very quick with triremes in these rules.
Many of the books are far too wide ranging, by authors who lack awareness of developments in the wider wargaming world. They contain the author’s ‘wisdom’ that is either just general knowledge or just wrong. This situation is exasperated by the publishers being forced to keep editorial input to absolute minimum in order to make the books cost effective.
Of course, there are exceptions. Bob Cordery’s The Portable Wargame is an example of book well written and focussed on a specific theme, games played on small table tops. However, to get to write a book of quality, is the result of writing hundreds of articles over years to develop the craft of word smithing wargaming literature. Most of the new writers arriving on the wargaming publishing block have omitted this literary apprenticeship and it shows.
What are the potential longer term trends from this? The wargaming publishers are jockeying for brand position, but they are damaging their own name with each publication. For every book such as Frostgrave which succeeds, there are nine more that are not. There are a lot of disappointed authors out there who expected to make substantial income from their pride and joy in print, but are dismayed that the free market is more discerning than they realised.