The Current State of Siggins

Popular wargames writer Mike Siggins returns with a surprise update on his current wargaming activities.

Note: The opinions expressed here are Mike’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Editor.

Social Media

It is fairly certain that if, like my good friend Craig, I had almost entirely ignored microcomputers, low speed modems, bulletin boards, the internet and writing, I would have ticked most of my life goals by now. Okay, I wouldn’t have got the tech jobs I have had, and I still don’t own a Maserati, let alone an AC Cobra and a Morgan Three Wheeler. The expense has been frightening, but it is the time drain that has been enormous. Really, incredibly, unimaginably big. And then along came social media.

I recently logged ten years on Twitter, and more on Facebook – I actually signed up when it was a university app because… I worked at Cambridge. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea why I am on the former. It is largely people who are annoying, preachy, dumb and often just wrong. Many are busily fighting Pronoun Wars. But there is some genuinely valuable hobby stuff and so I feel I need to stick around. Facebook, even to me, is clearly old news. Not moribund, but I would not rule that out. Cough, Friends Reunited. I would leave FB tomorrow except that it is now perhaps the best place for hobby interest groups. They are focused, polite, moderated and quite inspirational. And for perspective, I have visited the toxic mess that is TMP twice in six years. For me, it is a poster child of poor leadership and editorial standards.

You can frame this one: my natural habitat is Instagram. Simple. Post a picture of the current project. Short comment. Quick check of latest posts. Delete the inexplicable Russian bodybuilders/filtered model followers, and you are done. Exactly the right level of involvement. Add on Pinterest, which seems to have swallowed all the Web’s image, and that is my social media day. I love it, almost as much as my Sky Fibre feed!

Crossroads

I feel very strongly that I am at the end of an era. I am not saying the miniatures hobby is behind me, it clearly isn’t – I am here, but I have made the changes I planned and now find myself wondering how to move forward. The hobby has changed. I have changed. I just need to find commonality, or leave the hobby behind and go independent. Not solo, just independent.

In many ways I am already there. My involvement is a small fraction of what it was, and being more detached has seen the hobby run away in different directions – almost ubiquitous and depressing skirmish systems, less history – more game, doubled prices, shows unchanged from the 90’s, and huge magazines that no longer do much to fuel enthusiasm. Am I a miniatures gamer? Yes. But increasingly those figures are plastic masterpieces from boardgames or the Perries, or Peter Dennis’ paper soldiers.

So where am I?

The five foot Lead Mountain is virtually gone – reduced to 100 or so 30mm figure conversions that I can’t easily part with – and I have bought nothing to replace them. I have also sold half my rules collection – over 70 titles. About 120 1/72tank kits went. Books I have kept. The bank account is happier, the storage space is welcome, and frankly I had precious few guilt pangs as lovingly acquired figures went off to the Post Office. For those considering the eBay route, it took me 19 months selling batches every week to shift around 2,400 unpainted figures. I had very little joy with painted sales – no rude comments!

A part of this is catharsis. I bought too much for too long and my hoarder gene did not want to face ‘getting rid’, or downsizing.  I wanted to clear the decks and find what I was really interested in and to kill that hobby butterfly that flitted from period to period for twenty years, finishing little. This was made very easy by the realisation that 28mm figures I loved at time of purchase have not aged well (some look very odd indeed) and that they have retained their value. I also fell out of love with many periods of history or, more accurately, wishing to model them on the tabletop.

I haven’t painted much since the theft of my armies. Any desire to finish and start new 30mm projects was squashed pretty much totally. But never say never. I have had a couple of false starts: AWI, Maximilian 1934, and Sassanids. All now loiter in their storage boxes, likely to be sold. There is currently no large painting project on the To Do list. That does not mean I have been idle. For much of the year, professional commissions aside, I have been at my bench daily. Sometimes for two weeks solid. See below!

I still design and play boardgames, three times per week, and some of the recent historical treatments have been superb – NapoleonSaga, Nights of Fire, Quartermaster General: Cold War, Cataclysm, Napoleon 1806, Helsinki 1918, and 1066: Tears for Many Mothers. While the price of these games is eye watering, a £60 boardgame will be learned, setup and played the same week – the same key benefit that converted me in 1977. For me, at present, a £30 miniatures rule set has virtually no chance being bought. And almost certainly no activity beyond the initial read and the thrill of the speculative rules purchase is long gone.

So what is left? I have 1/72 tanks but no infantry (remind you of anything lardy?), 28mm Dark Ages and Samurai, 1/600th Ironclads and most of my terrain. I have a reasonable pile of plastic – Perry, Fireforge and Conquest – all medieval. And it is the latter period, almost exclusively, that retains my interest. Ironically, it is also the one period for which I don’t have a Go To set of rules, but I have a couple of candidates (and do not suggest Lion Rampant!)

Core Beliefs

But Mike, what about Napoleonics? Well, I have the occasional urge to paint a hussar, still love everything about the period, but generally I am resigned to the fact that gaming in 30mm is not viable. Any figures I would paint from now on, and there are some beauties on the market, would stay in the display cabinet. Only took me 45 years to realise this.  Of course, if you have the dream gaming room, or visit the Wargames Holiday Centre, or play in 6mm, it is entirely possible. But having lost my 30mm armies, and having a maximum table size of 8×4, it is no longer an ambition. Boardgames (W1815, 1806, Bluecher) have kept me in Nappies and I have plans to not only finish my own rules but to refight Waterloo this summer. Pics and write up to follow.

So what have you been up to, Siggins?

Well, as you probably guessed, it is 2mm. Pretty bad case of small scaleitis. An experiment that was meant to be a proof of concept stretched into a year or more of work and painting. The drivers were Mark Backhouse and Realtime Rules. Almost everything has been bought from Irregular, and painted, heavily converted or stored for future use. Buildings are scratchbuilt or from Brigade Models. Terrain is GHQ and again, scratch. The philosophy is Troops in the Landscape, 1:2 scale or better, and no basing requirements. Periods launched include War of the Roses, AWI, Dark Ages and Lord of the Rings. Pike and Shot is about to start.

Here are some pictures to show current progress:

 

© Mike Siggins 2019

21 comments for “The Current State of Siggins

  1. 30th August 2019 at 12:51 am

    Siggins- aside from Duncan’s awesome mag covers, it was your editorials that always had me grabbing a WI every chance I could. There are few Op Ed folks in the gaming world, and non truer to it than you. Not that I haven’t thought you were bonkers at some point (2mm- lol!) but I always look forward to what you have to say.

    Thanks for this update, and I look forward to more, no matter what.
    Regards,
    Thomas

  2. Bill Protz
    21st August 2019 at 8:02 pm

    Mike,
    I’m pleased to read your thoughts and appreciate Henry posting them here. Skirmish games certainly are hugely in vogue. Having played a fair number of them in different eras in recent years, it seems as if we are doing almost the same thing with different garments and gear. The same could be said for grand tactical games too I imagine.

    A long time ago the only Skirmish game was by Blake and Curtis, The Colonial Skirmish Rules; several turns to load/aim, a turn to stand up, fix a bayonet, turn and all the rest. They had a western gunfight set too. Lots to do and it was too much for me even in my twenties.

    Last evening a friend brought over his mech. robots. The four of us playing had two robots each. So it was a skirmish game too. We had fun and there was enough chrome to keep us interested and happy. Clever system he has designed too.

    When I go way back to my Avalon Hill days, I was intrigued by statements that ran something like this, Now YOU can command a vast army and change history. So I went down that road for decades and still enjoy it a lot. A friend recently hosted an adaptation of Minden 1759 on three 6’x32′ tables. That was right in my wheelhouse. The venue was a home of another friend who know Peter Gilder well and was inspired by The Wargames Holiday Center. Lucky we are.

    So I wonder if marketing departments or sole proprietor manufacturers will wonder why they are not selling 1,000s of French fusiliers to invade Russia in 1812. Will that market dry up or become so insignificant as to _________ fill in the blank.

    I’m lucky/blessed to have a good cadre of local friends with varied interest for two hour ish weeknight games 3-4 times monthly and typically a morning/afternoon Saturday game for something really big. Next month we have our annual BIG Colonial game in 28-30mm Sudan.

    Best Wishes Mike,
    Look me up if you get to Wisconsin.
    Bill

    • Mike Siggins
      24th August 2019 at 7:58 pm

      Thanks Bill.

      “Now you can be the commander at Bastogne, after we have shelled you for $30”

      • Neil Burton
        29th August 2019 at 10:09 pm

        As someone whom is still in the process of trying to actualise his beloved hobby in the face of being a 24/7 carer , I too have come to question what we are trying to achieve with our hobby and what I am trying to create.
        I recently discovered 2mm and given that I had also simultaneously re discovered an interest in the Thirty Years War period and also the period just prior to it I felt the need to recreate it in a scale that can realistically portray the large armies of the period and not reduce it to something that resembles a skirmish with a figure raitio and ground scale of ridiculous abstraction.
        For myself this is what has regalvanised my enthusiasm.

  3. JWH
    21st August 2019 at 5:45 pm

    I have always enjoyed Mike’s writing and never found it demotivating – even when he writes about being demotivated himself, I find it inspiring because the message is that you, the reader, don’t have to do this or get in this space. I am always interested when gamers explain their journeys as it helps to make sense of my own, even if my own hobby experience has been very different. I think many gamers struggle a little to get their levels of commitment “right” for them – so the amount of games they play, figures they paint, money they spend – are in some kind of sensible relationship. I have really appreciated Mike’s honesty in this regard over the years.

    • henryhyde
      21st August 2019 at 5:48 pm

      Agreed – Mike’s pieces are always thought-provoking, even if his experiences don’t exactly mirror our own.

    • Mike Siggins
      24th August 2019 at 6:32 pm

      Thank you.

  4. 21st August 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Somewhat in the doldrums myself I see in Mike’s post more distillation than pessimism.

    After removal of pursuit of the “new hotness” and “shopitis” and associated high, then often buyer’s remorse, I’m left with the bare bones of my hobby and the realization that shopping is actually a pale substitute for the hobby itself. While I don’t dislike the new trend towards skirmish games I think that it’s fair to point out that this trend encourages period and army hopping like never before. How many half-painted warbands, platoons, and gangs are we left with in result? I got off that ride after my third half finished Saga and Frostgrave warband.

    After distillation I’m left with the friends and core armies and periods that I truly enjoy playing with, and I’m happier for it. The rest is just distraction vying for precious hobby time. That’s my take away from Mike’s article.

    • henryhyde
      21st August 2019 at 3:34 pm

      All good points, Sean. I myself have ruthlessly curtailed my spending in the last year or two and feel better for it. What I need is the accompanying clearout.

    • Mike Siggins
      24th August 2019 at 7:56 pm

      Good points Sean. Thanks.

  5. 21st August 2019 at 12:25 pm

    I guess we all go through our own dark hobby valleys now and then, but the key to keeping enthusiasm is not to remain stuck in the past, but evolve along with where the hobby is evolving (more or less).

    I also have bought a lot of gaming stuff over the past 3 or 4 decades, but I see no point in keeping it all if you know you’re not going to use it anymore. As it happens, I wrote a blogpost about this a few weeks ago (http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/2019/08/theres-time-to-say-goodbye.html). I have no qualms about selling games or books that have been with me for many years. Hobby time is too short and precious to wallow in memorabilia for too long. Also, cleaning up your junk and getting rid of old stuff puts your mind at rest, because you no longer have to worry about all this projects that will never get finished (or even never got started). And if I may add a little dark thought myself: better clean up your junk yourself during your lifetime than leave it to whomever comes after you 😉

    Does that mean I never buy new things? Of course not. But rather than adding to the collection, I upgrade my collection. Old terrain systems or scenery items are replaced by better quality ones. The same for rules, and to a lesser extent, painted figures. If there’s one thing I cannot part with yet, it’s figures I have painted myself.

    As for the evolution of the hobby and the type of game one likes: that’s of course a hyperindividual choice. But if you prefer the type of games that were fashionable in the 70s, and detest the current mainstream, why should that affect your joy in still playing the old games? There’s no wargaming Gestapo (not yet) banging at your door in the middle of the night requesting to see what game is going on in your house, and whether it’s up to regulations such and so. The hobby is diverse enough to allow for a wide variety of styles. And once you’re of a certain age, why do you care what other people think?

    Nevertheless, gaming styles adapt to your own stage in life. I cannot longer play the games I used to play when I was a university student, simply because spending 48 hours straight playing some daft Avalon Hill game, going on hamburgers and beer, is not something I voluntarily would like to do. So I have evolved to different games, shorter, more elegant, more casual, to be played with like-minded fellows in the wargaming room over a good glass of whisky or cognac. See, even the drinks have been upgraded over the years 🙂

    As for scales, 28mm is still my prefental scale, but I also use 6mm, and even have started buying 42mm figures. You’re never too old to try something new, but that new should not (anymore) be dictated by what the market says you ought to play. Leave the latter to the youngsters – they still care about that sort of thing.

    Happy wargaming!

    • henryhyde
      21st August 2019 at 1:00 pm

      Great response to Mike’s post, Phil, thank you. Thought-provoking stuff, and very apposite for those of us of a certain age!

    • Mike Siggins
      24th August 2019 at 8:06 pm

      I take your point on just shutting up and getting on with it.

      My response is simple. I thrive on inspiration – magazines, websites, ranges, rules and trends – that fuel my interest. When they disappeared, I felt sad and unsupported.

      I suspect I don’t function well as a one man movement and need validation!

      The last 30mm project I was working on was The Vendee Uprising. I had just three books and literally everything needed converting. I abandoned in 2013 when I found I couldn’t make a pitchfork and, seriously, while I liked the period and uniforms, it crossed my line on moral issues. Now, there are figures and kickstarters and enthusiasm for the late 1790’s. Realtime are doing some rules. I am enthused again.

  6. Tom
    21st August 2019 at 2:52 am

    I see Siggo is still his usual critial self, oozing with demotivational dribble. Sorry Mike, I am sorry you have lost entheusiasm for historical miniature gaming. (Happy to see you found 2mm because we can finally get closer to 1:1 ratios and in scale, too.) While I may agree that wall-to-wall tanks (or if you prefer the description- Linear Armored Warfare) is not historical gaming except for the pieces. But Man, this post was a real bummer! Indeed, your writing reflects a very lacking of enthresaism. While 28-30mm may not be my chosen scale to game in, I refuse to rid myself of my piles of lead! I have always seen you as a motivator- strange to see this article as being de-motivating. Does anyone really care what you haven’t been doing lateley?

    C’mon ole buddy…..get happy again! (Now THERE seems a challenge!) One out of 12 paragraphs about what is currently motivating you says it all. You can surely do better, my friend?

    • 21st August 2019 at 12:32 pm

      To be honest, it’s one of the reasons I stopped reading Mike’s columns at one point. There was simply too much negativity in them – with which I am not saying anything about Mike as a person, because I’ve never met him.
      But sometimes I was thinking: “If you dislike wargaming so much, then why do you do it? Isn’t there some other hobby instead you do like?” 🙂

      So, I hope he’s getting his mojo back! 🙂

      • Mike Siggins
        24th August 2019 at 7:50 pm

        I would regard Tom as a friend, a true innovator and skilful modeller. Just imagine the stick I get from my enemies!

        Overall, my response is that I have been in the hobby for 45 years, have posted over 100 columns and I am the sort of person who has peaks and troughs. I genuinely envy those of you that are always positive and upbeat. Personally, I started out with Joy Division and it went badly downhill from there. I was last happy in 2006.

        Cynic. Critic. Curmudgeon. I know exactly what my reputation and ‘enthusiasm profile’ has been. There have been misjudged columns, downbeat columns and gushing columns: warts and all. In my head, more than just a bit gonzo. But as a control sample, I would say my entire output for Battlegames was upbeat and enthusiastic (except the reviews!). Ultimately though, you don’t have to read the dribble, and thousands take that route. My hope is that there is some value in the shifting enthusiasms of Mike Siggins. And for those without long memories, I was a hobby evangelist for decades. Time served.

        Let’s have a look at re-enactors. I was not polite in my early days. They were a blight on my hobby. An embarrassment. I do not want to be lectured about history by someone who has fallen in one ditch and therefore understands the loss of the 23rd LD. I have slowly changed my view. I am still sure about SS twits encountering actual veterans, extrapolating anything unless you are under fire, or the sheer persistence of tiny units, but I have a lot of books where people have the proper kit. There was a decent stab at Austerlitz. I was finally swayed by a group who re-enact 19th century baseball. I love the living history thing. Now, I eagerly look for local events. Enthusiasm.

        For competition gamers, little change.

        I do write unashamedly about inactivity. About selling up, catharsis, and the implication of executors selling or binning your Highlanders. About stolen armies. About falling out of love with shows and hyped product. It happened. This is life, this is prime time. War is inactive – perhaps read some Spike Milligan. If my approach bores you, or demotivates you, please read something upbeat. Plenty of +ve stuff out there, most of it sugary, some actually cringeable.

        Illustrative story: There was a 90’s gamer who did massive games at almost every show. Huge, impressive efforts. He had a 25mm collection in the tens of thousands. He was the most enthusiastic gamer I have ever met, to the point of concern for his sanity. One year, at Triples, he just disappeared. I assumed the worst. I imagined a lone lancer on a coffin. What actually happened was that he had tired of the hobby, shows, travelling and the politics, sold everything, and was happily running a massive 00 gauge model railway. I sold up because it seemed to be exactly the right thing to do. No judgment of the hobby, just a clear out. I have five other hobbies to fill the gap. For comparison, again, my advice for forty years was Never Sell Anything.

        Specifically, what puzzles me is that the column does have enthusiasm. For certain things. Trust me, I wrote it. What was keeping me going for over a year on the 2mm project? Fairy dust probably. I am endlessly enthusiastic about uniforms and heraldry, about Paper Soldiers and plastics, about John Sandars, about The Baron’s War, about three medieval 28mm ranges, about Arthurian England, about Brigade Models’ next release, about exciting new rulesets and historical fidelity from Realtime Wargames, the Twilight series and Peter Pig. Don’t even get me started on boardgames (I listed some, and many are truly great). But most of all I want to make 2mm (and soon 1mm) let me depict battlefields that look the part. I am sorry I failed to convey my current enthusiasms.

        Why am I not allowed downbeat comments? It is just reflection. I said that I have changed and the hobby has changed. I am no longer a Rugby or Cycling addict – same reasons. The bulk of the hobby presents as a mismatch to my tastes. I care nothing about popularity. I am not interested in skirmish games and I really don’t think you could make me engage, especially those that emphasise game over history, and which use one man when they really need one hundred. That is all. If you want to build a faction, not an army, fine. Fill your boots. I get why people like it. But I am not changing tack at the moment, and this takes me away from the hobby.

        • henryhyde
          24th August 2019 at 8:03 pm

          I am standing here at my desk, clapping.

          Well said, Mike, and beautifully expressed (of course).

        • Christopher
          29th August 2019 at 3:14 pm

          I’m an outsider here, from Chicago. But…

          I was moved to hear that your armies were stolen. A close friend of mine had his collection of 1/1200 IJN warships (WW2, perhaps a hundred) stolen from his car thirty years ago. The ships remaining (at home) were crushed in the moving van when he relocated.

          Another acquaintance had many of his armies vandalized/taken from his office a few years ago.

          Hard it is to find an upside there, but your philosophy offers some consolation for loss.

    • henryhyde
      21st August 2019 at 1:04 pm

      I think it’s fair to say that Mike has been on a difficult journey in recent years and I decided to run this post because it offers a brutally honest reflection of how he’s reached the point where he is. It’s always difficult reading something that does not reflect our own view of the hobby, but does also make us feel lucky that we still derive so much pleasure from it.

  7. John
    20th August 2019 at 9:13 pm

    I’ve bought a lot of stuff, including many figures, on eBay, but never sold anything. I’m sure it’s fairly easy but some hints and tips, specifically aimed at people with lead/plastic mountains, would be useful.

    • henryhyde
      21st August 2019 at 12:34 am

      Thanks for the interesting idea, John. I’m pretty certain I could manage something like that. I’ll see what I can do.

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