Monday 5 December 2011

29 Ways to (try to) Stay Creative: A Wargamer’s List

In September, over at the excellent Massive Voodoo blog, Roman posted a fantastic YouTube video clip yesterday called “29 Ways to be Creative”. Here it is …

All of that got me thinking of a wargaming specific list. I think wargaming is a very creative hobby, and with the internet and the growth of the blogosphere, I think it’s getting even more so.

So, below, I’ve given my own version of 29 Ways to Stay Creative as a wargamer. It’s definitely not comprehensive. I think we all get inspired by different things – things we see, word of mouth, ideas from a huge range of media, games we play, things we come across at wargames shows, and so on.

And in that fashion, my list is very personal (and no doubt prejudiced). It's what gets me thinking. I'm betting yours might be very different - and long live that diversity! It’s meant as a bit of fun at the start of a new week and – given that a lot of my current inspiration is obtained from the internet – is a huge thank you to everyone out there who’s hobby stuff and wargames have inspired me to try and do something different.

29 Ways to (try to be) be Creative (A Wargamer’s List)

1. Carry a notebook everywhere – ripped (shamelessly) from the embedded video above, this one really does work.

2. Join a club – in my humble opinion, nothing beats the social interaction side of the hobby whether running games or just joining in as a player. Not rocket science, just great times.

3. Embrace cross-overs – love the look of that ancients unit but play moderns? I keep being tempted by new periods and new sets of rules. OK, so who doesn’t? I’ve done a fair amount of “wargames butterflying” in the past, but these days I’m as likely to try and force myself to think how those colours, that basing, those rules mechanisms would look and work transported or across into the period I’m working on. 2,000 years of history, crossed in a heartbeat.

4. Read History – it’s a lot easier than just making it all up!

5. Give yourself time to be creative – the best ideas are not a eureka moment, but evolve and gestate over time. Looking back I tend to remember a single spark because that lingers in the memory, but often I’m forgetting the long period of planning, talking with hobby friends and experimenting.

6. Listen to Podcasts when painting, modelling, and whatever – this has certainly given me loads of ideas. The guys recording these shows week after week need to be pretty dedicated to keep doing that - and that’s inspiring in itself. Current favourites: Role Playing Public Radio, Jaded Gamercast, El P and the Man, Meeples and Miniatures, The Podgecast and Fear The Boot

7. Try Writing – blogosphere, wargames magazines, self-published rules, scenarios. Spread your word …

8. Never, never, never think that you have nothing worth blogging aboutthank you, Mel!

9. See a different world – try wargaming your favourite period at a different or try fitting an RPG approach into a wargame. I’m trying out a mini-campaign right now doing this – full details to follow, so stay tuned folks…!

10. Break your own rules – go further than you thought you could

11. Try a new technique, even if you’re not sure it works. Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to try something new which you’ve read about in a book or online. I felt the same looking at the paint-flicking techniques for rust in the Forgeworld “Imperial Armour Model Masterclass” book. Surely it could never work. I tried it. It worked brilliantly. Leaps of faith – go on, try it.

12. Learn from your mistakes, but never stop experimenting. Even when it means ripping up the terrain you've just spent hours gluing down....arrrrggghhh!

13. Try not to listen to accepted wisdom – when we thought about building some modular First World War trench terrain to run a participation game at Salute 2009, some of the things I read on online forums suggested it might be inflexible, lead to dull games with no tactical subtlety and be generally a dead end wargaming-wise. Three years on, we’re building yet more terrain and people at my club still seem very happy to carry on playing the period. Dead-end? Dull? Well, it certainly hasn't turned out that way so far ...

14. Visualise and dream – try an imagine in your mind’s eye what it will look like when it’s finished, and then be realistic in what you can do in the time available

15. Respect the past and the Fallen – a very personal way to be creative for me, but some of the modelling I have got the most out of has been focused in this area.

16. Realise other people have been here before or are here now – the internet has been wonderful for following in giants' footsteps. Porky’s Expanse, A Gentleman’s Ones – please take a bow.

17. Break the rules and take risks – fixing some of the problems I’ve had with air-bubbles and “Solid Water” made me realise I could do a lot more and get a better result by being adventurous

18. Adopt a complete approach – embrace everything in the hobby, or at least try. Modelling, rules, terrain, club gaming, history … delve deeper into your favourite period

19 Remember original materials – see the word from your lead soldiers’ eyes

20 Think Cinematically – scenarios work best when they’re like a night at the movies. Keep it tense and tight if you possibly can.

21. Try and start a scenario as close to the action as you possibly can – always throw in an early explosion!

22. Quit beating yourself up – relax, this is a hobby, not work.

23. Have heroes who show you the way as gamers, modellers and people – the hobby has many of them. Be inspired. One mountain, but many paths to the summit.

24. Choose a style of painting which suits you - don’t be someone else’s perfect, but find something you enjoy and work at it. I like to catch the eye from a distance. Impressionism, colour contrasts, mood, shapes and not super micro-detail. Works for me. What’s your style?

25. Dream a favourite game – what game settings would you love to have in your perfect game? For me – close assaults, urban ruins, darkness falling, chaos and battlefield friction. They’re my signatures for an intense, cinematic game. Now slot them into a game – Porky had some great ideas in his brilliant post “Getting out of the Boat

26. Watch great films – it really helped me get new ideas for running all sorts of games

27. Visit museums and battlefields – be inspired by the real thing. Touching the past, physically.

28. Put on a game at a show – people are interested in what you’re trying to do. Honest!

29. Have fun – it’s the only Golden Rule of wargaming.

That’s my list. Have I left anything out? What would you add to your list?


  1. You've covered so many and they're all relevant except for the hero one which Ray has ruined for me forever with constant rejectio and No.28 which we hope to do next year....great idea and a great bloody list.

  2. Yeah, great list - I'll link that up to the jungle soon! Well said, Sir! Thanks for kind words about the jungle! Keep on happy painting and gaming! Best Wishes Roman

  3. A great list, like Fran above said, we hope to put on a show at a game next year, fingers crossed that is!! The notebooks a good idea, I've often seen something at a show I like, then forgot all about it because I never wrote it down!!!!

  4. Very good set of ways to stay creative from a gamers point of view. Numbers 11 and 12 are my two favorites.

  5. Nice interpretation and explanation of the rules. Good luck keeping to them.

  6. Excellent advice and I'll try several of those you listed.:-)


  7. Great list, I really enjoyed reading through. I'm a big fan of #11 and #27.

  8. Great post. Keeping this this list in mind will help keep me motivated.

  9. Amen, Sidney!
    Great post, a lot of (slow & high quality!) food for thought and good ideas to include in the New Year's resolution list for any wargamer around

  10. Top quality post Sidney, something we can all aspire to.

  11. Good stuff! Great list and nice looking blog too! :-)


  12. Brilliant!

    I'm going to ask for a notebook for Christmas. I have some good ideas in the middle of the night and then forget them by morning. At least, they seemed like good ideas in the middle of the night...

  13. Wonderful list of things to do and remember. Thanks for posting them. I certainly have to be less "hard on myself" with this hobby.

  14. Thanks for all the comments, guys. Glad you liked the list, and particular thanks for everyone adding their own inspirations:

    @Angry and Ray – really looking forward to what you come up with next year for No.28. Salute will never be the same again! Yeah, notebooks … very handy things.

    @Roman – So chuffed you liked the list. I should have mentioned your Jungle as a big inspiration for loads of people out there including me. Thanks for everything.

    @Chris – yes, 11 and 12 … I put those two together – a bit like Ying and Yang :)

    @Fire at Will and Christopher – thanks guys!

    @Brian – Thanks so much. And thanks for reposting on your own Blog. Every time I visit your Blog I’m in shock with how much you get done. In itself that’s deeply inspiring!

    @Trojan Bunny, Michael and Der Feldmarschall – thank you Gentlemen. Very kind.

    @Anibal and Captain Richard – thanks to both of you. Its not as if either of you need any inspiration at all, but thanks all the same! Really glad you liked the post.

    @Monty – thanks, Monty. Notebooks are great things. Middle of the night, train or tram to work, walking in the countryside, lunchtime at work – you never know when a good idea might strike…

    @Victor – my pleasure, Victor. Never beat yourself up over the hobby. I know that’s easy to say, but in the end it’s all about fun and good friends.

  15. This is a truly awesome list. #15, #27 and especially #29 are the ones that resonated the most.

  16. One mention would make me happy with a comment that generous, but two risks my head popping..! Thanks again - it's keeping my motivation level high, and even having me raise my own sense of what I should aim for.

    The list itself is an excellent idea, and each point is worthy of contemplation, even if it doesn't lead directly or immediately into action. The first is a fine foundation, and the middle stretch has some big ones - that respect, challenge and interaction are all absolutely key I think. Some points are even what we might call game-changers and would be at any time, but more so at a time like this, with the blogs, industry and wider world being where they are. In that sense, thanks for it all.

  17. Sidney,

    Thank you! Having a bad day here, and reading your post has cheered me immensely. Plus it's given me a little boost to go home this evening and pick up the brushes again.

    Well done that man!


  18. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    Nice post!

  19. Sydney,
    What a great post. I love the way you tie so many different threads together in a way that's coherent and gives voice to the many faces of this hobby. For years since starting a family I've tried to find motivation to get back to the painting bench and terrain-making table. Blogs like this have breathed new life into my hobbying interests. Rather than robbing time from other things I "have" to get done, I actually feel that reserving a little time for myself makes me more present at other important moments in my life.

  20. Thanks again everyone. I really appreciate the comments:

    @Anthony - #15, #27 and #29, yes they're all things close to my heart when wargaming's concerned. Great to see you thinking the same way, Anthony.

    @Porky - You hit the nail on the head, Porky. Bringing all parts of the hobby together is a big part of the challenge. When it happens, that's the inspiration for next time!

    @Matt - Really glad I could help, Matt. If just one person feels like you at any time with any post I've ever Blogged, this Blog's done it's job!! For me, it's all about giving back to people in the hobby.

    @Jfaria - Thanks very much, you're welcome.

    @Kevin - I feel the same way, Kevin. Blogging has really enriched the hobby for me. As I mentioned to Matt above, this is just a place for me to say thanks to everyone out there for what they bring to the hobby themselves.

  21. Sorry to be so extraordinarily late to this post. Thank you, sir, for the kind words. I fear that we may hastily become the mutual appreciation society, as the feeling is entirely reciprocated.

  22. Really good post. Thanks for sending me the link. Also read a few other article's on here, I like your writing style. :)

  23. Only just found this post (thanks to the "You Might Also Like" section). Brilliant.


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