I agree with others that at least a third of this professionally made film could have been edited out or, better still, more actual wargaming content included. I nearly gave up on it after the meaningless opening featuring a group of modern re-enactors in a wood. Then we had the first of what seemed like endless aerial drone shots of market towns placing each of the chosen people, who were to be the principal subjects, in their environment. I soon came across the second problem that I had. There were a number of onscreen captions which popped up from time to time offering further snippets of information. However, some of these disappeared before I could read them and all of them were really difficult to read as the font used a very fine line and it was too small.
The director decided that to give the film wider appeal (or appeal to his target audience of film festivals) it needed some personal interest stories; people whose wargaming projects we could follow during the programme, although of these only two were really just wargamers. The others were really manufacturers and I think the main fundamental issue I have with the film is that it was much more about manufacturers not players. Although we were offered glimpses of bigger industry organisations, the focus, perhaps accurately, was on garage style one man (or one man and a long suffering partner) operations. These threads, like much of the film, proved to be rather downbeat and told you more about the trials and tribulations of running a small business rather than wargaming itself. With these chosen protagonists I did have another problem in that I couldn't hear much of what they were saying.
Thank goodness, then, for Henry Hyde, whose section on the history of wargaming was excellent and was more like what I was expecting the whole film to be like. I have to say that I liked the animated graphics too; it should be said that there was nothing about the production that looked low budget.
My real issue with the film was the focus on an ex-soldier, not surprisingly traumatised by his experiences in Kosovo, who had used wargaming as a way to fight depression. This is a good story but, obviously recognising documentary gold, the director dwelt for far too long on it and it unbalances the film, particularly the last third. A lot of stock footage was included, mainly to justify its price, I suspect, without it adding significantly to the story and adding nothing to a documentary about wargaming. It's as if the director thought, oh damn, I am stuck with Kickstarter funding for this silly wargames film but I really want to make a BBC2 documentary about fighting depression. While wargaming was obviously pivotal to this man's recovery, the war story and his subsequent breakdown elements were given too much time and unbalanced the message somewhat.
In conclusion, I really appreciated the professional standard of the film with its excellent animation and good photography, although we could have done with less drone shots, better sound and readable captions. I enjoyed the wargames industry interviews and behind the scenes looks at some of the bigger companies and personalities in the hobby but didn't warm to any of the chosen 'characters' involved.
There were some things I expected but weren't really covered; such as a little on the mechanics of wargaming. No-one watching this would have any idea of how wargames work. This finally, begs the question: who is this film aimed at? Not much for the committed wargamer but equally a little baffling for the complete newcomer.
A valiant effort, very professionally realised with a few interesting things I didn't know. The whole atmosphere was rather downbeat, because of the particular personalities featured and how much time was devote to their stories. The subliminal message almost came across that if you are a socially inept, sad loser you might enjoy wargaming; which probably just confirms to the rest of the world what they thought about it anyway.
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