Poverty of the State exchequer causes and army to be maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished. On the other had, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people’s substance to be drained away.

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter II: Waging War, 10-11.

There’s a story among wargamers, perhaps you’ve heard it before:

An old wargamer just finished painting his latest batch of figures when The Grim Reaper  appeared before him. 

The wargamer seemed undisturbed: “Now you know I can’t die yet, I’ve got a storage room full of miniatures that need painting. It’ll take me years.” 

The Grim Reaper laughed. “Ha! Your wife just had a yard sale!”

In another variant of the joke, the wife sells all of his miniatures to his friends for a small fraction of what he paid for them. He has a heart attack and dies.

The joke itself infers a few important points:

  1. Wargaming can be addictive.
  2. Wargamers often buy more miniatures than they’ll ever paint.
  3. Your significant other can make or break you in this hobby.

I was tempted to title this post: “Wargaming: Wives and Girlfriends” because I’ve heard far more stories about women resenting their husband’s or boyfriend’s hobbies than vice-versa. But do to would have implied that women are a problem in wargaming, when they are, in most cases, not.

Because here’s the good news: Your significant other can make the hobby a lot more fun.

Let’s take a closer look at that joke:

Why would the wargamer’s wife sell all of those figures?

  1. Wargaming is expensive. She sees the hobby as a drain on finances. That money could be better spent elsewhere.
  2. Wargaming isn’t productive. Sure, it’s fun, but its a time-waster in her mind. And maybe the wargamer had a honey-do list and kept ignoring it.
  3. It’s sedentary. How the heck did the wargamer miss that yard sale? Was he in his workspace painting all day?
  4. The collection took up too much space. What’s
    “too much space” is a point of debate. I know a couple of guys who’ve dedicated their basements to wargaming, but the collection is out of sight. But in some cases “too much space” is any space at all.
  5. Embarrassment over the gamer stigma. Yes. They’re toy soldiers and we’re playing with them. Maybe the wife thought he should finally grow up.

There’s other reasons for resentment, I’m certain. But your significant other needs only one to resent your pastime (and perhaps make your life hell).

Most of these reasons can be ameliorated with a little moderation, such as cutting back on purchases, painting the miniatures you have, and keeping the clutter of your workspace out of sight. Oh yes, and getting some exercise.

Overcoming the gamer stigma is far more difficult to tackle. It all depends on how deep that embarrassment or resentment goes. Maybe she doesn’t like your gamer friends.

Maybe they are a bad influence on you. Maybe you spent too much time with them.

I used to be an officer in a college gaming club. There I met gamers–both wargamers and roleplayers–who were proud to play in 3 or more per week.

They all happened to be single.

Some of these same players loved to give relationship advice. One said to me: “Don’t date a crazy woman.” He then smiled bitterly. “They’re all crazy.”

(Ha ha. Good one. How long, exactly, have you’ve been single/divorce/lonely as hell? Now go away.)

And maybe women go crazy because they’re tired of seeing their husbands and boyfriends gaming all of the time with of bunch of… dare I say it… losers.

In this light, the old wargamer’s wife having that yard sale was an act of love, an intervention.

But it could also mean the end of their marriage. If your significant other does leave you because your hobby, you might have some hard questions to ask yourself.

I’m fortunate. My girlfriend doesn’t mind my hobbies, so long as I keep things in moderation. She’s actually one of the reasons I defeated The Bearded Bastard and escaped from Wargaming Hell.

At one point, however, she got fed up with me complaining about The Bearded Bastard all the time, and she told me so.

Since then I don’t talk to her about gaming as much, and when I do it’s in a more positive light.

Having a significant other can give you that spark to become a better person–to give you a solid reason to get out of a rut, to keep you in check if you start going off the deep end.

Next on The Art of Wargaming: Do You Know Wargaming’s 7 Hidden Costs?