Monday 21 February 2011

Pretty Uniforms Make Things Better...

Just read an interesting piece on the Wargaming For Grown-Up's blog about Osprey's Elite Condor Legion and historical revisionism. I must confess I was quite shocked Osprey let this slip through the net but it reminded me of why I have a leaning towards F/SF gaming despite being a lover of history.

My view of the hobby is that we play games with toy soldiers, sometimes they look like historical counterparts, sometimes like things that crawled out of a cheap b-movie. I consider myself sufficiently au fait with the fact that war is a very nasty business and the human impact is terrible. Given the fact I like playing with orcs and giant robots and flying ships, why on earth do I buy models and play games based on real wars with the consequent pain and misery they bring?

First off I suppose it's cultural. I am of a generation brought up on WWII war comics and films where we bashed the Hun and saved the world from the Nazis. I also find history an interesting topic. There is also part of me fascinated at the bravery of the PBI at the sharp end who also feels their sacrifice should not be forgotten (whether that's some RAF pilot in the Battle of Britain or Caratacus fighting off Roman imperialism!). However I do not ever get so caught up to think that what I do is a realistic military simulation or so blase to forget that the little pieces of lead and plastic are supposed to represent something.

I do draw arbitrary lines in what I won't do. I won't field SS units and I don't understand people who do (and I really don't understand people who dress up as SS units). I've read too many accounts and seen too much film footage to have any illusions about the armed wing of the Nazi party. That said I do realise that the Wehrmacht isn't squeaky clean either, the SS never served on Crete but the atrocities there are terrible to research. An arbitrary line as I said...

Does going back in history make things ok? I don't know. Some of the actions of the French in Spain make the Nazi's pale and let's not get started on the Romans, an entire civilisation built on slavery and entertained by death and suffering. But both have such pretty uniforms (is that the attraction of the SS?)

As I grow older my meandering makes me want to dig out more stories such as the Bielski brothers and bring them to the tabletop. The Edelweisspiraten and the battles in Cologne in October 1944 are another topic I would like to find out more about and maybe look at wargaming. I do find it frustrating that the likes of the Friekorps are so well researched (and raised as tabletop forces by gamers) but not the German Red Army...

Anyway on that arbitrary note I'll stop rambling and get back to painting some more Russians, after all they were the good guys right? :-)


  1. You have a good argument especially when people do reenactments of SS troops. It kind makes my skin crawl to see civilians dressed as SS troops outside of a movie. As for painting notoriously evil originations, I suppose one could justify it by arguing that good forces need an enemy to fight (OPFOR). Still, the closer that evil origination comes to the present, the more difficult it is to justify. I guess it also depends on the stomach of your gaming group as well.

  2. “The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebble to vote.”