What should I work on next?

03 January 2016

Is VSF Fading Away?

   I'm curious as to what the rest of you think.

   For the past couple of years, I thought interest was climbing. The In Her Majesty's Name rules surely seemed to have injected some life into the genre. But it seems to me that perhaps we have reached the summit of interest, and other genres of gaming are replacing VSF. Much the same thing happened with pirate and zombie gaming in the past, so the historical precedent is absolutely clear.

   I know that I am spending less time working on VSF projects. Part of that is because I feel very much as if my creative juices have been wrung dry in this genre. Note, if you will, the failure to produce even a single issue of The Aethergraph this year as an example. I have had a few submissions from other writers and artists over the past issues, but the majority of the content has always been my own. Partly this is a result of having a bit more work to do this past year with my new job and then the change in texts and so on, but mainly - I'm just not producing much.

   Maybe it is this failure to produce that has me pessimistic today. Maybe it's just the end of a year and the start of a new that has produced this melancholy.

   I gamed only a bit in VSF this year. Perhaps two or three small Dystopian Wars actions, and a couple of IHMN skirmishes. That's about it. I did paint the Bobbies, and put together (as you most recently saw) one structure. So a bit of project progress, I suppose. A couple of small vehicles half completed (one Martian, one Maton). A couple of large creatures for Doctor Vardu's yet-to-be-seen forces painted. I suppose I could stat them up for IHMN and field a small Varduvian force, just to get them on a table.


Clive G said...

I'm quite sure that the fashion for VSF will wax and wane as it does for any genre. It has been somewhat swamped of late by the steampunk end of the spectrum (a purely personal opinion), but it all garners interest.

As a wargamer at heart I have at least 3 other projects on the go - some have even received a smattering of paint - but VSF will continue to be my first love. That said, new shiny objects will continue to appear and catch the eye and lead me in different directions.

However I think it is altogether too early to start writing an epitaph for VSF.

J Womack, Esq. said...

Clive, I definitely see your point. Zombie gaming, for example, has had a bit of a resurgence I think with the Zombicide game series, for example. Perhaps a better question then is "has interest in VSF gaming waned, and when or what will reverse that trend?"

PatG said...

There are only a few genres that are consistently popular: WWII, Napoleonics, Ancients and ACW to name the biggest. The rest from Chaco Wars to VSF will wax and wane. I first became interested in VSF in 1989 when funnily enough, Space 1889 came out. 20 years later after school, family etc, I got back into VSF in 2009. Sure a huge amount has been done to support the genre over the years but it has been quietly ticking over for at least 2.5 decades and likely much, much longer.

I think we are seeing the same life cycle as Steampunk. Fanbois and trend followers pumped up the genre to new heights but are now leaving to find the latest new shiny thing. However, a core of enthusiasts will remain and quietly carry on until the next surge arrives.

Elderac said...

I am still interested in the genre, but have little time to pursue the production of models, painting of miniatures, or playing of games. I hope to fix some of that this year. I do, however see a bit of a downturn in interest, but fortunately most of my figures can be used for colonial period gaming as well.

Clive G said...

"has interest in VSF gaming waned, and when or what will reverse that trend?"

Your mileage may vary, but my take on VSF gaming is that it is actually a sub-genre of colonial wargaming, and that is going through a bit of a dry patch at the moment. My only real barometer for this is the level of activity on the Yahoo colonial wars group, but that has been very quiet of late. The decline may be age-related, or it may be because the latest, bestest, must-have, new sets of rules have all been WWII / Moderns / Ancients or whatever (I can't think of any recent ones for colonial gaming), so it has slipped down the gaming lists.

But I think Pat's comment that " a core of enthusiasts will remain and quietly carry on" is pretty spot on. Blogs like yours (and Pat's and mine and many others) will help to keep the flame alive. VSF games at conventions are pretty eye-catching, and might spark interest for some, but that is a fairly small part of the hobby (albeit a great photo opportunity!). I really don't believe that interest in a genre is something that can be forced - almost all wargaming is a labour of love, which is somewhat ironic given the subject matter! Like Pat I think it is leadership by example that will see VSF gaming come back into fashion.

J Womack, Esq. said...

I actually entered into an interest in VSF through an interest in colonial gaming, from an interest in the military history of the British Empire (and the film ZULU, of course).

Now I almost never play "straight" colonials.

Sam Pate said...

First bitten by the VSF bug via Space 1889, the "recent" surge in popularity (and IHMN) has given me the push to get my much dreamt of VSF wargaming started. I plan to keep the momentum going but as Pat says the hardcore fans will keep going and those who like the excitement of the newer shiny games will concentrate on those (for now). There will certainly be less games played round the countries, but on the upside more people will have forces painted and ready to go for a pick up game, so the genre should still have a wider base to grow from.

Dr Vesuvius said...

I'd have to agree with a lot of what's being said here. The thing is, very few gamers consider VSF to be their major wargaming period. Even the G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. authors Buck Surdu and Chris Palmer have said that they consider VSF is more like a pleasant diversion from other wargaming peiods than something anyone would focus their hobby on.

As such it's much more vulnerable to losing popularity to related styles and genres. We've had a few games floating around that are more Steampunk than strictly VSF like Malifaux and Wolsung, plus here in the UK, the Very British Civil War movement has had quite a popular run, producing games very similar in style and tone to VSF, albeit with real-world weapons and equipment from a slightly later period. Many gamers who might otherwise have had a casual interest in VSF gaming may well have been diverted to these other related games.

I wonder, is there anything we can do, as blogging stalwart bearers of the VSF torch, to rectify this? Maybe we can do something to start a revival, maybe we can't, as Clive says you can't force that sort of thing. But at least we could do something to bolster eachother's morale and enthusiasm with our mutual love of the period?

Is there, perhaps, a call for a League Of Splendid Gamers, collaborating through the wonders of Mr Edison's Interwebograph to a greater degree than ever before?

J Womack, Esq. said...

I suppose I am a bit of an aberration, then, Doctor V: given my druthers, I would play VSF primarily.

However, as you point out, that's not the case with many of my fellows. Sadly, I am also interested in VBCW. And SCW. And WWII. And sci-fi. And starships. And 30YW. And fantasy. And... But mainly VSF/Steampunk.

Captain Darling said...

Hi All!
I game WW II, ACW, Colonial and Napoleonics as well as VSF. My VSF gaming has always been more alternate gaming i.e. A hypothetical Imperial Russian invasion of Australia in the late nineteenth century but with Alien Dungeons release of their great Martian Tripod models I've moved more into the science fiction side of VSF I'll soon start putting together some Martian Invasion scenarios.
I think that VSF is a bit of a niche genre anyway so numbers of gamers is never going to be huge, I think it will 'always be there' but always in a smaller way.
Just my thoughts...

Eli Arndt said...

I would say, my friend, that it is an "if you build it" sort of thing.

There are a lot of shiny new things out there and it is easy for us miniatures gamers to flit from one twinkling whisp to the next. If you wish to see VSF stay afloat, then puts some boats in the water.

I certainly did not come by my interest in VSF through any deep-seated interest. It started with The Major General and then was spurred on by you, J. I remember back in the day we did a lot of chatting and talking about ideas and such but sadly our being in different states and me having no other local VSF fans did not help to keep those fires bright.

Get some games in, blog posts up, and miniatures shown off.

MaleGriffin said...

I fell in love with VSF back in 1989 when I discovered Frank Chadwick's Space 1889 and Soldiers Companion, and although it has always been dear to my heart, it has often had to take a back seat to other genres because of a lack of similarly smitten fellow gamers in my area. One of the best parts about collecting VSF for me was that the figures could be used for other games; Colonial Wars, Darkest Africa, American Civil War, Franco Prussian War, WWI, Russo-Japanese War or even Warhammer and Warhammer 40K games(My Venusian Parrotmen are Games-Workshop Kroot and Saurons are Lizardmen) that were more mainstream. The only time I get to indulge my passion for VSF is when I get to attend the rare convention where I can get into a VSF game. I often have to live vicariously through my fellow VSF enthusiasts on the internet. (Thank God for the Lead-Adventure Forum!)
Wargamers can be fickle. What is everyone in your area playing? The nearest gaming store supports Warhammer 40K and Warmachine. I've tried to get a gaming group going in my area and have had limited success with ACW and we are branching into WWII, but VSF is a bit too foreign to them. My wife has agreed to play IHMN, but somehow we never find the time. So I continue to live vicariously through the internet and grow my VSF collection when something strikes my fancy. (I just purchased a Omura Martian Airship from Crossover Miniaqtures!)

Chad Thorson said...

I don't think it's quite as popular now, but that's sometimes the attraction for me. When everybody is doing it, the hobby becomes saturated and overblown.

I've been a fan of your website and hope you keep up the good work!

J Womack, Esq. said...

Thanks Chad. I'm going to try my best.

kmfrye said...

Hello Gents - your pardon for my late arrival at the Whist table.

All that the previous respondents have writ rings true - my only addition would be, if I may mix a metaphor, is that having a canon upon which to hang the canvas seems to help keep interest going - viz. Space 1889.

Also, I expect that the small, startup miniature manufacturers have discovered what I have long suspected; that Steampunk is less a gaming genre and more a fashion sense, and that any tentative foray without a cracking good back story is fraught with financial peril.