Friday, 7 September 2012
Figures Are Gonks
On Table Top Diversions blog there is a nice post on do we need figures for games?
But first I'm going to explain what a gonk is? A gonk is a something that looks like it would be a cool thing to have, but which turns out to be useless. So to somewhat paraphrase what Paddy Griffith's said in his article The Case Against Toy Soldiers from Miniature Wargames issue 13, " toy soldiers are a dead end as they add nothing to the wargame that can't be done better by other means". Funnily enough, here we are twenty-five years later after this pronouncement, and toy soldiers are still with us.
Given that inherently Paddy's statement is true, no matter how upsetting that may feel, what is the attraction of the toy soldier?
I read a post on one of my email lists where the writer likened wargame players to Mentat's from Frank Herbert's Dune series. Mentat's, for those who have not read Dune, were human computers; for in the Dune universe it was forbidden to make machines with an image of a human mind. The metaphor being that what miniature wargamers want is an immersive virtual reality like game, but without using computers and CGI. So, the more detail the game has, the more immersive it will become. Models are details and therefore elements that make the game more immersive.
So not so much the person with the most toys wins, but the person with the most toys has the most fun.
Let's take my two favourite games for example of this; BattleTech and OGRE/GEV. Both are boardgames, and both have a line of miniatures to go with them. The current box set for BattleTech has plastic miniatures in it. The new designers edition of OGRE will have laser cut self assembly miniatures in it. It certainly looks like the toys are "fun" model is at work here.
In addition, I have spent an inordinate amount of time painting up miniatures for both these games, as you can, or have seen see in previous posts. If I were to take all that time I've spent painting, modifying and adding magnets to make the turrets to my tanks how many games of each could I have played? A lot I guess.
So why didn't I just play the games?
Because while I might spend an inordinate amount of time making and painting figures up for a game, if I weren't doing this it wouldn't mean that I would be playing more games, because it takes time and effort to get everyone around to play a game. It seems to me as you get older then getting everybody free at the same time on the same day becomes more difficult. Mostly down to having family, or work commitments..
Furthermore, I like toy soldiers, or tanks, or giant stompy robots, whatever really. I like the feel of moving miniatures around on a table. It's different to other forms of gaming, even boardgames, because the miniatures are in someway more infused with the character of what one is playing.
So is it just love the gonk? Yes it is. Love the gonk. Long live the gonk! Long live toy soldiers.