2011 A Gaming Year In Review

Well, here we are again at the end of another successful gaming year.  I shall cast a long-winded glance back at the previous twelve months, and
a furtive look forward at what's to come in 2012.  

For the last few years I have kept a gaming diary helping me to keep track and focus on my wargaming projects and help combat the effect of
'Ooh Shiny!' syndrome, which seems to affect us all in this strange hobby.  In my diary I log all my wargaming purchases; figures, buildings,
even paint and varnish, along with items I've sold from my collection.  In addition every game played gets logged too with a brief write up to
remind me of what occurred.   I also record every figure painted on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  I've found it to be quite an eye opener.  
Plus of course I try to add some of our more interesting and unusual games to this site.  

Whilst I'm on the subject of this site, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who visits regularly and emails me with their nice comments
about my various ramblings.  Since 2004 my site has been getting more and more hits and now averages between 4,000 and 5,000 hits in a
typical month.  I find this quite amazing considering I don't sell anything.  Every time I post a new game report I get a veritable barrage of
questions and comments which inspire me further and allow me to engage in the wider wargaming community.  Thanks again one and all.

Enough rambling.  Lets have a look at what happened in 2011.

Games Played

Times That Try Men's Souls (AWI) x 12
They Couldn't Hit an Elephant (ACW) x 3
I Ain't Been Shot, Mum (WW2) x 3
I Ain't Been Shot, Mum 3 (WW2) x 3
Le Feu Sacre (Napoleonic) x 3
British Grenadier (AWI) x 1
1870 (Franco-Prussian) x 1

These are just games involving me.  The rest of our gaming group have also played Impetus, 1870, Mud and Blood, Troops Weapons and

My record in 2011 was that I umpired 6, won 7, lost 8 and drew 4 games, respectively.  Noticeable absences for this year were 'Bag The Hun'
(WW2 aerial), 'Algernon Pulls It Off' (WW1 aerial) and Impetus (Ancients) .  I am sure they'll get played next year not least because the old BBC TV
series WW1 aerial drama 'Wings' has just been released on DVD, and the rest of the chaps continue to add to their Ancient and Medieval
collections for Impetus.   Eighteen of the games I was involved in made it to this website as after action reports.  The most in a single year.  If you
are a blogger you will realise that this in itself requires a major effort.  At times indeed I feel like I have made a rod for my own back with this site.

This was another good year when our gaming group of six (Me, Max, Clive, Nige and the two Pauls) proved to be both prolific and creative.  The
big thing was the American War of Independence in 15mm.  Max, Paul B and me tried our creativity at writing an AWI variant of Too Fat Lardies
'They Couldn't Hit an Elephant' ACW rules, (called
'Times That Try Men's Souls').  We ended up playing a dozen or so games, converting
scenarios for British Grenadier, tinkering and trying out various mechanisms whilst trying to stay as true to Lard as possible.  We managed to
put on
Freeman's Farm 1777 for visiting Big Rich Clarke of TFL to play in, and took Newport 1778 with us to a very friendly local club Wessex
Wargames Society of Southampton to see what others thought.  The lads at the Southampton club were very welcoming and invited us back for
a game of British Grenadier in return, which was nice, though confirmed that BG isn't for us.  We hope to attend the Southampton club's
weekend meetings more regularly in the next year and hopefully visit other local clubs too.

June saw Clive, Max and I attend
Too Fat Lardies IABSM 'Tobruk' games day at Lard Island.  Max played as Italians, whilst Clive and my
Australians got handed the job of attacking to create a breach in the line.  I didn't play particularly well on the day but the success of these things
can't be measured by how you handle the troops.  The friendly ready wit and banter of the chaps on the day was top notch and it was nice to
see some new faces amongst the IABSM veterans of Calais, Crete, Stalingrad and Burma games days.  A great day out in top company.  If you're
a fan of Lard rules and ethos, and have never been to one, I cannot recommend the experience enough.  Its like a proverbial pilgrimage to Mecca
for Lards.

Apart from AWI I also managed a fair few ACW games using
'Elephant'.  Stand out games were probably the disastrous game of Fair Oaks,
known forever now as the 'Fair Oaks F**k Up', when Clive and I found even more new and interesting ways for the Federals to lose and my solo
game of
Hanover Court House .  This latter game was played at 2am when, after three hours of trying to sleep, I got up and decided to play a
wargame.  I was glad I had when the game turned out to be an absolute cracker and a rare Union victory.  

Other notable gaming highlights of the year were two Napoleonic games using 'Le Feu Sacre',
Lardowitz and Lardau.  The first was set in 1813
with the Prussians trying to retreat off table, across a river, and past a garrisoned built up area, against mostly Saxon troops.  There were a
couple of desperate cavalry charges and some really tough fighting.  My Prussians lost, but they caused a lot of problems for the Saxons.  
Lardau was one of those rare games which saw newly painted troops win a stunning victory.  My
newly painted Russians fought Poles and
Bavarians under Nigel to a standstill in an incredibly bitter battle.  Fortunes swung to and fro before the Russians took the laurels with my
beloved Cossacks taking a significant role in the battle.

Another Napoleonic game which was a belter was
Hagelburg when a force under Max, Nige, Paul and myself ,consisting of mostly Prussian
Landwehr and Cossacks, defeated the French under Clive.  Clive is our perennial winner at LFS and seldom ever loses.  This game was
probably the best chance we'd ever get of defeating Clive but credit to him he almost pulled off a victory.  A really fun, interesting and
challenging game for all concerned.

This next year should see me hosting more Napoleonic, AWI and ACW games.  I am looking at adapting
1859/64 for the American Civil War, and
we're keen on trying Regimental Fire and Fury too.  Max, Clive and Paul B have been adding to their Ancient and Medieval collections for
Impetus and I hope to be playing in some of their games soon.

The new release of 'I Ain't Been Shot Mum 3' means that this perennial favourite will be inevitably popular amongst our gaming group.  Max,
Clive and I have sizeable collections of 15mm WW2 stuff.  I played scenario 4 from the rules when they were released and discovered that I had
lost my WW2 'mojo'.  After playing so many horse and musket games over the last five years, suddenly WW2 gaming all felt a bit 'skirmishy' to
me.  So, I decided to go back to an old favourite of mine, the Barbarossa campaign of 1941, to see if I could get my enthusiasm back, and hosted
a game
'Die Hards'.  It was just what the doctor has ordered and my enthusiasm for WW2 seems to have returned like a Phoenix from the ashes.

I'm certainly looking forward to getting more of my Panzer III's and T-34's back into action.  In fact I have decided that my project for 2012 will be
Eastern Front winter warfare.  All the scenery is now ready, along with all the guns and AFVs.  I have all but written three scenarios for us to try
out: 'The Cable Guy', 'Warm Bed For the Night' and 'The Leverets' so keep your eyes open for lots of WW2 action.

I have also promised to introduce several people at the Southampton club to the joys of 'Bag The Hun'.

Shows Attended
Last year after only making one show, I promised myself that I'd attend five shows, Salute, Bovington, Colours, SELWG and Warfare.  However,
this year I, and some of the regulars, attended just three shows; Colours, SELWG and Warfare.  Colours I thought was much better than
previous years and also had the opportunity to meet up for a pint with Rich Clarke and Nick Skinner of Too Fat Lardies.  SELWG and Warfare
were real disappointments for me and felt very flat and totally lacking that buzz.  I didn't get to Bovington show this year, which I plan to rectify
next year as its a perennial favourite and quite close.  For the third year in a row I decided not to attend the hype that is Salute.  The show is a
fine enough prospect with a chance to view all the major manufacturers, but travelling from Hampshire means petrol money, parking and then
show entry fees making me feel obliged to buy something.  I then invariably spend money trying to make the journey worth it, and then later
regret buying things I didn't really need.  I'm still not keen on Excel as a venue either.  I know I'm not alone in wishing it was back at Olympia.  All
that said next year is the 40th Anniversary of Salute so I guess I should really attend.  Time will tell.

Stuff Painted
One of the many benefits of being a house husband is being able to set aside time each day to paint.  Typically this is about three hours per
weekday evening, though I often manage to grab time in the day to put on a couple of colours here and there, or clean up, base, or varnish some
figures.  Since my daughter started Primary School in September, and my son now does pre-school three days a week, I have a little more time in
the day than in previous years.

 I've long since discovered that to keep my enthusiasm and momentum for producing stuff to game with I need to try to finish a unit per day.  
Typically this will be anywhere from 8 to 24 figures, though I try to average about 20 figures per day.  I am a quick painter but I also realised that
by setting myself realistic weekly targets ensures that I keep my focus.  When I was in paid employment, I was used to setting and working to
deadlines, as many of us are, so I decided to set myself goals in my painting.   This has paid dividends in recent years in allowing me to finish
projects as opposed to having a dozen or so unfinished ones on the go at the same time.

As I've said already the big new project for 2011 amongst our gaming group was the American War of Independence in 15mm.  At the close of
2010 Peter Pig had released enough packs from their Washington's Army for us to consider only using PP figures.  I had started to collect and
paint in earnest.  With my typical single mindedness I spent the first seven months of the year buying and painting figures for the project.  I
ended the year with thirty units of
British and Loyalists, seventeen units of Hesse-Cassel and thirty five units of American Rebels, a total of 1500
figures.  There are still units to add as Martin at Peter Pig has promised to release early British light infantry in caps and figures suitable for 17th
Light Dragoons next year so my collection will increase further.  The Peter Pig AWI range is for me one of the best 15mm ranges of any
manufacturer.  Clean, well sculpted, characterful and a joy to paint.  You can't really go wrong with Pig figures.

As this project started to slow down I spent most of the summer repainting my
Napoleonic collection.  When I started my collection back in 2005 I
needed to get figures on the table quickly and so I painted the miniatures in a basic block paint and wash with no highlights etc.  I always
promised myself that I'd return and touch them up, but then being a typical wargamer this hadn't happened yet.  So, summer afternoons and
evenings were spent adding highlights to the figures, and Silflor MiniNatur to the bases, to improve the overall look of the armies and bring them
more up to the standard of my ACW and AWI collections.  The offshoot of this repainting project was that I got a bit of a 'Napoleonic bug' again
and so bought and painted an infantry division, three brigades of cavalry and lots of cossacks for 1813/14, totalling some 400+
15mm Russians
to my Napoleonic collection.  I also added a few Saxon units for 1813 and enlarged my Polish cavalry too.

Family holidays over summer and the end of the school year saw my painting totals dramatically drop off from over 200 figures a month to a
mere dozen or so.  I felt a little jaded after almost 1800 figures in only seven months and decided to impose a break from the brush.  
Unfortunately, getting my painting mojo back was proving challenging.  Visits to Colours and SELWG helped, but then it was half term, a
Cornish holiday beckoned, and painting became sluggish again.   

2011 saw me replace my Peter Pig and Hovels 15mm ACW/AWI buildings with the lovely
10mm Timecast and Starfort Models, which have a
smaller gaming 'footprint'.  I
scratchbuilt a covered bridge for ACW/AWI and then constructed the Land Merrimack railway gun.  

The tail end of the year saw my interest in WW2 rekindled with the updated version of Too Fat Lardies 'I Ain't Been Shot, Mum' released.  I also
discovered the marvel that are inexpensive Zvezda 1/100th scale model tanks and trucks.  These can be bought from Peter Pig in bundles of ten
kits, or available in any number from E-bay.  I took the opportunity to buy several Panzer 38(t)'s (my second favourite tank of WW2 after the
Panzer III) and then hit on the idea of gaming Operation Typhoon, the assault on Moscow 1941.  I bought a company of early T-34's, a pair of
KV-1's, more Panzer IIs, IIIs and IVs, some Battlefront early StuG's all of which had a whitewashed finished.    Whilst I was at it I decided to touch
up my old WW2 collection with a bit of drybrushing and repainting.  At the close of the year this process is about half way as the early stuff is
finished but I've not even begun to look at the late war stuff in my collection.  I also bought a couple of Platoons of
Plastic Soldier Company
Panzer IV's as I plan on doing a few 'Kharkov' and 'Stalingrad games' too.  I HATE making, kits but there are kits, and then there are kits.  These
are so easy to assemble and are simply fabulous.  I only wish that there was such an available quality when I was a kid starting off gaming.   

                       Mostly Zvezda Halftracks with Battlefront stowage and Peter Pig Command SdKfz 251/10 and crews

                                               Plastic Soldier Company Panzer IVs with Battlefront tank commanders

Work also commenced on Peter Pig Germans and Soviets, mostly in greatcoats, starting first with Big Men and gun crews before moving onto
the infantry.  All were to be 'Winterified' in an effort to play something aesthetically different from the norm in our games.

I am probably going to resurrect my painting service once the latest project is out of the way in an effort to put some funds in the wargaming
coffers.  I will probably limit it to only 15mm WW2, or perhaps AWI or ACW.   If anyone wants a quote please feel free to email me on
Fatwallyuk@yahoo.com.br .  Also it will only be available to UK residents as it just isn't worth the hassle sending stuff abroad.  Sorry.  

Painting Totals for 2011

419 x 15mm Napoleonics
1420 x 15mm American War of Independence
16 x 15mm American Civil War
276 x 15mm WW2
45 x 15mm WW2 Vehicles
10 x 15mm Buildings
14 x 10mm Buildings

1638 x 15mm Napoleonic Repaints
150 x 15mm WW2 Vehicle/Gun Repaints

2,131 figures painted.  Up on last year, and comparable to 2009.  Quantity has a quality all of its own someone once said, and whilst my stuff
may not win any prizes, I like to think its of a fairly decent wargames standard.   I can paint quite a bit better actually, but then I might not finish a
unit per day, which would lead to me getting bored, and eventually all painting would stop.  Getting going again once you've stopped is the real
difficulty.  Better to paint a small amount daily.  We are all our own harshest critics though, and I paint well enough for my stuff not to disgrace
me on the tabletop, yet I have learnt to cut corners where minutiae of detail are not noticeable or needed.  

On the workbench, scheduled for summer 2012, is a Russian Grenadier Division for 1813, plus a brigade of Kurassiers.  Doubtless more AWI
figures will be added as Peter Pig continue their good work on what is one of their best ranges.  I'm still hoping they'll add some more British
Light Infantry in the earlier 'Light Bob' cap and the distinctive 17th Light Dragoons.  I plan to continue my repaint schedule by turning my
attention to my Young Guard infantry and cavalry divisons for LFS, and also finish off my touching up my WW2 vehicles.  Lastly I also still have a
500+ piece Essex Miniatures Late Roman army to paint up for Impetus, which if all goes to plan should hit the workbench in the latter quarter of
2012.  So busy times ahead.

In the meantime I am back on track with my WW2 collection and painting up stuff for winter games.  The scenery is all done and Max has also
promised even to paint up some Finns as opposition for my Soviets.  Great stuff!  As the New Year beckons I am only a Platoon away from
completing reinforced Company's for both sides.

The Balance Sheet

This is the bit I really don't like, but feel the need to do.  I am continually surprised at just how much money I can throw at this hobby,
considering that I am a full time house husband of limited means.  My wife is incredibly tolerant of my hobby but if she ever finds out how much
housekeeping I spend she will no doubt swing for me.

All things considered, this year has been a very expensive year.  Figures aside, believe it or not I've spent over £200 in Testors Dullcoat, £150 in
Silflor Grass tufts and almost £75 in static grass alone.  In an effort to create gaming funds I sold off my remaining 15mm Austrian Napoleonic
infantry and also my 15mm Southern Mediterranean buildings.  With the addition of the Timecast and Starfort 10mm ACW buildings I decided to
let go of my 15mm Peter Pig and Hovels ACW to my gaming chums.  However I repainted my existing Peter Pig and Hovels Russian buildings to
look wintry but then invested in new Kerr and King Eastern Front buildings for summer campaigning.  

Bought - £2,332.55
Sold      +   £764.00
Net -         £1,568.55

So all in all another memorable year in our gaming group.  It just remains for me to make mention and thank the rest of the guys in our group;
Clive, Max, Nige, Paul B and Paul T for their good company.  I'm incredibly lucky as our group is both active and prolific.  We all have our own
'pet' projects but all enjoy common ground.  As with most gaming groups ours is a forum to bounce ideas off each other.  We also have our own
Yahoo group where we can discuss, post pics and prepare scenarios and briefings.  There are never any disagreements and arguments in our
games and everyone is of the similar mindset, which is why we are reluctant to join any clubs where this might not be the case.  Basically the
bottom line is we enjoy each others company, have a laugh, and if we win, then all well and good.  If we lose, well there's always next time.

I'm not a great one for New Year resolutions but I hope to play and paint more, and spend less.

           Happy New Year one and all.