I often read articles that are bemoaning the lack of youngsters coming into our hobby. I dont think that there is very much truth in this – if anything, thanks to the power of the internet, the hobby is growing. I’ve been reading the same old stuff since I was a youngster myself, with the same complaint occuring some 50 or more years ago. If anyone doubts me, I have the original issues of Wargames Illustrated and Miniature wargames Magazines and you don’t have to look far in the letters page to find evidence. Like all hobbies, it is either in your DNA or not. Wargaming is never going to be a mainstream hobby, it is a niche at best and I suspect that in itself is part of the attraction.
I will concede that Historical wargaming is now, I believe, a minority part of wargaming itself, with Fantasy and Science Fiction taking the larger share and certainly attracting the younger player into the hobby. Many will stay with this side of the hobby, a few will stray into the historical thread. In terms of introducing my children into the hobby, I have been largely unsuccessful. They did take an interest for a while, particularly my son, who was attracted to Orks in particular and 40K in general but alas, the hobby didn’t stick and he has taken up golf…. My daughter quite enjoyed the the painting and crafting side of the hobby for a while but she too is more interested in sport, specifically scuba diving and swimming. I’m not sure where they got the activity bug from – I like sport but prefer watching it these days! As for golf, I’m happy to agree with the sentiment that it is a good walk spoilt. That said, I do like a game of crazy golf at the seaside!
However, another generation comes along and so the opportunity comes along to try and convert the grand children into willing opponents! Emily is now 6, about the same age that I was when I started making models, so when she stayed over at Easter and asked if she could sit with me while I had sneaked off to the garage to do some modelling, I was pleased to have her company. At first she was happy to watch me working on my WOTR project and we had a nice chat about the ‘Cousins War’. She was intrigued by the story of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ and that a major battle, Stokes Field, took place just down the road from her school.
It didn’t take long before she asked if she could have a go and so I looked through the ‘lead pile’ and found a figure primed and ready to paint that might be suitable. In the past, I have been quite protective of my paints and brushes but I decided that if Emily was going to try and paint something, she would be better off using the correct tools for the job! So with gritted teeth, I gave her my best brushes and we started to paint a Japanese Peasant lady.
I was surprised at just how good she was. Of course, you have to explain how to hold the brush, how to thin the paint, how to use the point of the brush, how to draw the brush over the bits that you want to paint, how to hold the figure. Gosh! I had forgotten just how much I had learnt but in teaching Emily, I remembered just how much technique there is to learn. When it came to the colour scheme, I let Emily choose which colours she preferred – I actually quite like the combination that she came up with – I’ll be using that again!
Overnight, I did the basing for her, in that I super glued the figure onto a base and added the texture. Superglue and kids are a dangerous combination! The next day, Emily added the scenic bits and to finish the figure off, we used some washes and did a bit of highlighting and dry brushing. Again, once I explained the techniques, Emily was happy to apply the washes and paints. The result is not too bad and I am thinking about what figure Emily can do on her next visit!
At six years old I think she is too young to start wargaming but she has already mastered Junior Cluedo and Camel Up so we are not too far away from a more complicated board game – say Space crusade. Another year or so and I think that I might just try her out with a simple wargame. I think a good skirmish game such as Test of Honour or Lion Rampant will be a good place to start. I may yet ensnare her into the hobby….