Sunday, 2 September 2012

Sunday Sermon: The Wargamers Pledge

The Olympic spirit is actually a noble thing

Right this has actually been sitting in my 'draft' pile of articles now for a fair few weeks, probably over a month. It sat at about 60% complete the first Sunday it missed it's allocated slot. then it probably crept up to 65% complete the following Sunday, as I struggled to get the time together in front of the computer to sufficiently complete it. It has been a really slow process, but it has allowed me to re-read over the ideas and contributions that you all plonked down in The Olympic Spirit Sunday Sermon. You see I've often talked with wargamers over my years of hobbying about the 'implied contract' between us wargamers. We've often spoken about what our hobby is at its core. What is it that we as gamers expect as the bare minimum from this hobby we love? Are there some common threads? Things we can all agree on as being of vital importance to our hobby? I had slowly started to believe there were.

True many hobbyists play wargames for many different and divergent reasons, from the camaraderie, right through to the competitive aspects, via pomp and ceremony, theater and narrative and many more I've probably forgotten to mention. We all come to the hobby wanting to take out of it what we want, what we need to get our enjoyment. Guess what? So does the person over the table from you, sometimes we forget that, and while we very rarely talk about it openly before a game, we all know that our hobby is in some respects uniquely reliant on the other person standing across the table from us. Without them we'd just be playing with our own painted collection of Barbie dolls really. You know, making "pew pew" noises and gargled sounds as we pretended to kill off the other side. Hell maybe that's a little bit more mature than actually rolling dice and comparing stats... it's just no where near as much fun is it?

Fair play is important to us Brits, and it should be to all wargamers too!!!

Obviously there have been attempts at solidifying what this 'implied contract' is between us. Privateer Press have their page 5, and other games publishers have tried to 'institutionalise' their own preferred behaviour patterns into their rulebooks. All very noble in their own way, and to some degree quite helpful. However, they're all more about trying to set a tone for their own product, rather than defining what the wider implied social contract that exists between gamers actually is. Sure this approach might be useful, by attracting certain sorts of gamer to their products via such methods, you can almost get into the realms of self selecting communities of like minded gamers. You know birds of a feather and all that jazz. But right now we are in the Golden Age of gaming. We really, really are blessed to be gamers right now with all these wonderful games out there, and many of us are trying them out and mixing things up a bit.

Sometimes with how good I roll I wander if I'm actually cheating... I'm not... but you know!

This is all good stuff, but I often here complaints from people now about how certain people are approaching the hobby. So and so is a "complete dick". Or maybe it's "pointless playing" someone else "because they don't take things seriously". I have genuinely yet to come across a gamer who was a complete lost cause, somebody so foul and thoroughly unpleasant that no one would want to play a game with them. It is just people haven't taken the time to understand what they're after from the hobby, or no one has communicated properly what they want. I think wargamers pledges could help with this, and I got the idea from watching the Olympic opening ceremony. So here it is, my wargamers pledge:

"I will respect my opponent and their wishes, and try to understand that the game we play is for both of our enjoyment and not just my own, and act accordingly. I will try to create an atmosphere conducive to a harmonious game, by discussing before the game what we both want out of it, This includes maintaining good levels of personal hygiene at all times. I will commit to not only knowing the rules of the game that I am playing, but also abiding by them and never cheat. I will respect my opponents miniatures and other possessions, will respect their boundaries and not touch them without express permission. I will endeavour to play all games with painted miniatures and on tables of fully completed terrain as I understand that the hobby has a visual element that adds to the theater of the experience. I will aim to treat both victory and defeat with equal good humour and ensure that my opponents will look forward to our next game."

Obviously this is my version of the pledge. It'd be interesting to see what other people make of it.

I'm not saying the pledge is perfect, or indeed right for every situation, but I do think it is a useful start. What I'd like to see is people discussing the idea of a pledge, and the implied contract that exists between all gamers. I'd like to see tournaments set the right tone from the get go with gamers pledges of their own, letting everyone know from the start the ethos of the event they are about to take part in. Maybe clubs could develop their own pledges, and let members know that's how they roll, it'd certainly help people get themselves into the right frame of mind for events, clubs and individual games. Because honestly I've found over the years that as long as you discuss what you both want from a game before you start playing it, most fluff bunnies can be convinced to toughen up a bit and play hard ball, and the most fervent competitive arse's can be convinced to play a story driven narrative game... as long as they both know that's what is expected of them, and you give them fair warning. So try floating the idea of Wargamer's Pledges in you local community, or try developing your own version. Peace out!


  1. It's not a bad pledge "includes maintaining good levels of personal hygiene at all times" some things things stand out more than others!

    1. Yeah it's not bad as things stand, but I'm sure others could help tighten it up and maybe make some good additions. And yes... of course some things stand out more than others. We've all played that guy who has yet to be introduced to soap.

  2. Nice article. Your pledge looks quite complete me. Without making it too specific to be usefull anyway :)

    It's something I'll keep in the back of my mind.

    1. Thanks.

      I'm open to suggestions and alternatives as well. In terms of rules at tournaments I'm of the opinion that many people think rules are made to be broken. So if people can skirt round them or bend them they will. However, if they have to make a pledge about how they will behave 9 times out of 10 they'll stick to it. Why? Because people still like to think their word means something.

  3. You've hit all the major. Nicely done and thought provoking as always.

    "I will aim to treat both victory and defeat with equal good humour and ensure that my opponents will look forward to our next game."

    Over the summer, I've had 2 players comment on what a good sport I was in losing and how so and so whines and complains the whole time they're going down. My thought was that losing well should be a given but its not. Of course, one doesn't want to become too good at losing!

    1. Well you'd think that it would be a given in civilsed society, but I assure you it is not. The amount of times I've had opponents whinge about their bad luck, or my good luck, or that my army list is bent and broken, or... you get the picture. Losing with good grace is a dying art form it would seem. Yet on the flip side gloating when people win is becoming ever more popular. Just don't get it if I'm honest. Enjoy the game and a bit of lighthearted banter, shake hands and art on good terms and as friends.