Predictions about wargaming in 1981 – right or wrong?


Being a bit of a hoarder, I’ve kept nearly every wargaming magazine I’ve ever bought, right from when I was a teenager through to now in my late fifties.

I love occasionally leafing through an issue. I especially enjoy it when the authors of the time tried to predict the future of the hobby.

Recently I was browsing through the April 1981 issue of Military Modelling, and two predictions particularly interested me. One writer had got it totally wrong; the other was more spectacularly correct than he could conceive.

Firstly, here’s an excerpt from Terry Wise’s Observation Post column:

At one pound for two cavalry – and no doubt the price will go up again during 1981 – it is obvious to me that the days of big 25mm armies are numbered. In the years to come, the percentage of wargamers with 25mm armies must inevitably shrink, for this latest price rise must be the death knell of large armies of 25mm figures (I mean 500 and upwards) and of wargaming as I know it and love it. Those yet to join our ranks, or those buying additional armies, are almost certain to go for skirmish 25mm or armies in smaller scale figures. Before much longer I, and others like me, will be like the dinosaur – though very rich dinosaurs! The 25mm man will eventually become a collector, like those eccentric retired colonels and their 54mm armies of days gone by.

Well, 34 years later, I can certainly count at least 500 figures in my Napoleonic French army alone, despite it being by no means the largest 25mm army in my neighbourhood. And I hope I’m neither a dinosaur (I’m definitely not a rich one!) nor an eccentric retired colonel.

Now, here’s a sentence from R J Marrion’s report on the 50th Model Engineer Exhibition:

In retrospect, I believe the military classes reached their high point about four years ago with a number of up-and-coming young modellers such as the Perry twins delighting us with many of their scratchbuilt creations.

Well, Mr Marrion, who seemed to be a pretty tough critic of the military modelling entries submitted to the exhibition, was dead right about the ‘up-and-coming’ young Perry twins – but little did he know exactly how far up Alan and Michael Perry would come in the hobby, nor how much their modelling efforts would continue to delight so many of us.

4 thoughts on “Predictions about wargaming in 1981 – right or wrong?

  1. Interesting post, thanks. As with all these prediction pieces, it’s difficult to anticipate technological changes. Resin, now plastic injection moulding and laser-cut MDF were all difficult to anticipate in 1981. I think he was right to anticipate the popularity of skirmish gaming – more and more rules are geared to small battles than large ones, it seems to me. The other thing it would have been difficult to anticipate in 1981 is the trendiness of the hobby and the appeal of subjects (samurai, pirates, zombies, wild west, superheroes, SF) that now seem to sweep clubs and gaming groups like wildfire.

  2. I must admit I’ve been surprised at the surge in 28mm armies – close enough to the old 30mm scale which was before my time, but my first two metal figures were in that scale; still have them to (along with just about all my magazines as well). I thing as the gamers have matured they have more disposable income to spend on their hobby (certainly true in my case). I moved to 15mm and trying hard to stay in that scale (I find it hard to resist individual 28mm figures and still have a soft spot for 1/72nd scale plastic – and wow, that is an area that has expanded dramatically since 1981.

    The other thing that I’ve noticed is the move from bare bases to flock and now what I see described as botanicals complete with flowers

  3. Interesting article cheers Roly. I’ve painted about 1000 Napoleonic 28’s in the last 6 months, and plastics were a great money saver that’s for sure! Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s I remember concerns about “war toys” being banned, and also concerns that electronic entertainment would kill off the quaint toy soldiers. Turns out it has been bit of a golden age for wargaming in the end. So many blogs, products, kickstarters etc.

  4. I am not so sure the first prediction is in error. In the U.S. most historical gamers have gone to 15s, and new gamers I know buy 28s for games like Saga and Bolt Action, not big armies. Old Glory in the U.S. stopped revising their 28mm line and are putting all their effort into 15mm Blue Moon. Sash and Saber has done little expansion in their 28mm range. They are sculpting for Blue Moon. They both have to make money and see where it is going. Dinosaurs like us and our gaming circles are probably not representative. I hear plastics are selling, but I can’t say I found them storming the games at conventions like I thought they would.

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