Hi, I’m Henry Hyde, previously the Editor of Miniature Wargames with Battlegames magazine and author of the best-selling The Wargaming Compendium published by Pen & Sword in 2013. I am also currently working on a book about wargaming campaigns for them.
Inspired by my original battlegames.co.uk website (launched in 1998), I launched Battlegames magazine in March 2006 following what would now be called a ‘crowdfunding’ exercise. It immediately filled a niche and many gamers labelled it “the thinking wargamer’s magazine”. After running the publication on my own, with constrained resources, for as long as I could, it was bought by Atlantic Publishers in 2011, though I continued to edit and design the magazine. In 2013, Battlegames effectively took the lead when it merged with Miniature Wargames in April 2013. Finally, Atlantic sold the publication to Warners Publications in May 2015, and again I remained in the hot seat until, in September 2016, I decided to move on to pastures new.
My strap-line is “the spirit of wargaming”. What do I mean by that? Well, for me, it’s partly an expression of a ‘back to basics’ approach. Wargaming is supposed to be fun, an enjoyable pastime to release us from our everyday mundane pressures. It’s also an extremely creative hobby—wargamers spend much of their time researching, modelling, painting figures, building scenery, organising their units and studying tactics. Add to this the pursuit of excellence in a game that is infinitely variable, and you’ll realise that wargaming is highly challenging, a pastime one can study for a lifetime but possibly never completely master. This is a hobby, therefore, that I’m proud of, and want to tell the world about. It has a great deal to offer our children, of course, who can learn a great deal about history, literature and arts and crafts from the hobby, in addition to being able to express their competitive instincts in a safe and friendly environment. But for adults too, it offers a relaxing refuge in an increasingly stressful world, and many gamers like to sit and paint a few figures whilst listening to music or a podcast, or play a game with close friends accompanied by amusing banter, a real tonic after a tough week at the office. All these things are part of “the spirit of wargaming”.
Because the hobby is so infinitely varied, you can invest as much or as little time and money as you like. There are a few wargamers who have spent their lives and a small fortune amassing beautifully-painted armies to fight huge battles over custom-built terrain that would put most model railway layouts to shame. On the other hand, many youngsters will happily zap each other’s unpainted space marines across a bare table for half an hour after school. Most of us aspire to something between these two extremes—a modest collection of a few nicely painted armies that we can field with friends or at the club a few times a year, perhaps with the luxury of a permanent table in the attic or shed which we can decorate with some home-made or purchased pieces of scenery like hills, trees, houses and rivers.
What these things have in common, however, is the role that imagination plays in wargaming. Those youngsters, in their mind’s eye, see the red trace of laser fire zapping across the rocky moon, and hear the roar of the giant insect-like monsters as they charge towards the hapless spacemen. On the other hand, the historical gamer of experience may secretly hear the bugles call as his cavalry draw their sabres and nudge their mounts into a trot at the beginning of a charge, smell the sulphurous clouds of musket smoke as the defending infantry fire volley after volley. And the gamer who builds beautiful scenery might imagine the tiny farmers sowing seeds in the little ploughed fields, or hear the laughter and clink of glasses in the miniature inn she is building.
These are wonderful things to think about, creative and inspiring activities that enrich our lives. The fact they may also have a practical application in the everyday world is also useful: wargamers are used to planning and managing projects that may take days, weeks, months, even years to complete. Budgets neeed to be allocated, resources gathered, and then items produced or manufactured, demanding a high degree of skill and concentration of effort. Many projects require the participation and collaboration of many individuals of varying interests and possessing a wide range of talents, sometimes geographically widely separated. The fact that such enterprises work more often than not is little short of miraculous. The look of pride, for example, on the faces of a group of friends who have successfully completed a demonstration game for a wargames convention, speaks volumes for the satisfaction to be gained from the hobby.
Part of the “spirit of wargaming” has to do with the generosity shown by old to young and by experienced to inexperienced within the hobby. Whether it is someone demonstrating a painting technique to an onlooker, or a member of one of the many online fora answering a question about a historical uniform or weaponry, I have seen countless examples of people being generous with their knowledge and time. And it often happens that a veteran gamer with a near-priceless collection will happily see it being used by newcomers who may, as yet, have little appreciation of what it is they are handling!
For all these reasons, therefore, and many more that I’m sure I’ll think of later, I’m passionate about our hobby. This is why, of course, I started Battlegames back in 2006, and why I pent the best part of four years writing and designing The Wargaming Compendium: how better could I serve this extraordinary band of creative men and women, the sculptors, the terrain builders, the manufacturers, the publishers, the writers, the illustrators, the figure painters, and most of all the gamers, who have given me so much pleasure over a period of more than 45 years?
Here’s to another 45.