There are a few constant threads that run through internet discussions about wargaming and one of them is the thorny subject of where the next generation of players will come from. Usually the debate is sterile, argumentative and seldom gives rise to much of value. Therefore I was pleased to see the following piece from Kim R Young:
Two young boys were playing in a sandbox when they were approached by an older man that appeared to the boys as being about the age of their grandparents. "What ya playing there boys?" spoke the gray-haired heavy set man. "Playing Army Men!" replied the younger looking of the two. The older boy brushed back his stringy blonde hair as he looked down on his group of green plastic soldiers he was arranging next to plastic model tank "Yea, we’re playing Army Men".
"Now you know that's not the proper way to be playing a game about the Second World War" the old man decried. The boys looked up with a bewildered expression, "Look here ..." the old gent went on, "your soldiers are just plain green, they should be painted with a realistic looking uniforms, you know like in Saving Private Ryan." The young boys now stopped playing as the eyed the older man while both sifted sand through their fingers. "And you also know your tanks are way out of scale with the men, you either need bigger tanks or smaller men". The man reached down to where the boys had built a fort with a flag sticking up on top of it, "And that American Flag, well that's a 50 star flag, there were only 48 states during World War Two, you need to get the right flag for the time period."
The boys were now totally perplexed, and the older blond haired boy began to dig a hole in the sand and started filling it in with is green toy soldiers. "Now if you really want to play a historical game, you boys are going to have to spend some time in the library and start doing some studying so you can learn how to organize your soldiers correctly. You got too many men with bazookas, your squads don't have any support weapons, you don't have any mortars. Also those figures with the mine sweepers, they need to be organized in with engineer units, not combat teams."
"And you know you boys are going to have to get some real rules to play with including charts, tables, markers and of course lots of dice. You can't just say bang bang and knock them down" spoke the old man in a somewhat berating manner. "Tell you what, I'll come by tomorrow and show some of my painted figures and show you some good reference material that you can use to get you playing for real, see you then".
As the grey haired man walked away, the blonde haired boy was finishing up burying sand over the last of his green army men in the hole he dug. "Well? What you want to do?" he said to his younger playmate. The younger boy stood up, dropped his tank on top the fort toppling the 50 star flag and said: "Let's go over to my house and play with my Star Wars stuff!"
A nice reminder that wargaming is, and should remain, a broad church with room for all sorts of games at all sorts of levels.
Reproduced with permission of the author.