Here we are again at the close of an old wargaming year and the start of a new one. For the past five years I’ve posted my annual review of the year, where I grab a proverbial glass of Port, and a hunk of cheese of course, look back at the last twelve months and try to make some sense of it all. Several people have expressed their pleasure at reading this annually and have encouraged me to continue this process.
In the past I’ve suffered, as all gamers do to an extent, from the ‘shiny’ syndrome of “Its-new-I-simply-have-to-have-it” and flitted from one project to another without really getting anything done properly. The advent of, and effect of, the internet has made it easier to view and obtain manufacturer’s goods and view other peoples collections and projects and get sidetracked.
I’m generally a very organised person. For ten years now, off and on, I’ve kept what I can best call a handwritten wargames diary. A non-wargaming friend at the time who worked for a successful advertising agency suggested I try doing it, as they were encouraged to do the same as a creative exercise. Well painting, collecting and playing is a creative exercise. What the heck. I tried it and I’ve stuck with it ever since.
This is the place where I write down my thoughts and plans, record all gaming related purchases, such as figures, paint and books and also log on a daily, weekly and monthly basis the figures I’ve painted and the games played. The very act of putting pen to paper and writing it all down helps to really focus the mind and not flit. Its also nice to look retrospectively at old diaries and see how things developed.
So lets have a look at my personal wargaming year.
For most of us, our hobby must fit in with real life. It is subject to upheaval in our routines and proverbial ‘bad dice rolls’ in our fortunes. I am lucky that my wife is the breadwinner and career woman which allows me to be a househusband and Dad first, and a figure painter second. My work as it is, is painting figures, mostly for other people but also myself. This year was one heck of a year for painting, especially as it was the first full year of my painting business.
2013 Painting Totals
7,066 x 15mm figures 11 x 1/144th WW1 planes 2 x 10mm Bridges 6 x 10mm Buildings
Whilst not as high as a lot of painters (Matt Slade - This means YOU - LOL), this is amongst the highest number of figures I have painted ever completed on record. Lets put this into perspective. 52 weeks a year, say five days painting per week, averages just over 27 figures per day, or 136 per week, completed. I’m amazed how many figures that is, especially bearing in mind the odd week off for family holidays in Cornwall, and that towards the close of the year eye infections meant I had to ease off somewhat, painting only for a couple of hours or so per day. Also both my own and my wife's elderly parents are now in very ill health. My father is seriously ill in hospital with double pneumonia and kidney failure as I type this. He has been written off three times by the NHS and through sheer bloody mindedness and iron, will refused to go. Thank heaven for that. Regular mercy missions are now par for the course and inevitably affect production. I doubt Dad will last much longer though. He's under no illusions. Life is what it is.
The vast majority of figures painted were ACW or AWI, with healthy totals of ECW, Wars of the Roses and Ancients. If you’re interested in my painting service CLICK HERE for more details. I also make fencing suitable for ACW/AWI gaming which I thought would be useful to make whilst waiting for commissions. Well, the painting service has been a huge success AND I managed to make over 400 feet of fencing! Particularly when the eyes needed a rest, or I needed a break, making fencing was quite therapeutic.
My own collection in 2013 total ran to just 708 figures, about 10% of what I’d painted for others. I gradually replaced all my Peter Pig AWI Continental units in 'fighting' poses with marching ones, and sold off my existing regiments. I am about a third of the way through doing the same with my British, and hope to have completed the process by this time next year. I also added lots more skirmishers and batteries to my AWI collection specifically for British Grenadier. I then finished an ECW commission for a nice chap, and before I knew it plans for my own collection were in swing. See, even with the best plans and intentions, even I still get sidetracked. I've had ECW collections in 15mm, 6mm, 25mm and 10mm and sold them all off in the distant past, but its always been a favourite period.
People are constantly asking about my daily painting routine. Well, after walking the kids to school I usually start my working/painting day at 10am and aim to finish at 2.30pm when the school run and ‘Dad Duty’ beckons. I try to start again at 7pm when the kids are in bed, the wife is fed and is on the way to the gym or fitness classes. I usually finish at about 10.30pm. I have Tuesday night, all day Saturday and Sunday daytimes off too. A working week of 40 hours, give or take. Not all time is actually painting though as there’s prepping and research to be done, emails to be answered and forums to be read. Most of the year I tried to spend Sunday night on my own collection. I suppose I spend as much time in a week as most wargamers can hope for in a month. See, told you I was lucky.
The plan for 2014 is actually to paint somewhat less. I'm aiming for around 4-5,000 for 2014.The eye problems may be linked to too much painting, or reduction in medication at the time, its not clear. My astigmatism increased dramatically which meant vision was blured. I am going for more eye tests later this month but generally things are back to normal. My own plans include painting a lot more ECW for the Basic Baroque version of Impetus, plus AWI French when Martin at Peter Pig gets round to sculpting them (subtle hint Martin), and replacing my existing British regiments. I've got another couple of Continental Regiments I'd like to do too.
Priority is my customers though as December was a bit of a nonevent I now need to get back properly to the coal face. Everyone has been fantastically supportive and very understanding through all the trials and tribulations. Time to work.
One of the 'casualties' in 2013 was this website. Maintaining and updating the site is now way down the list after painting, playing etc. It also got corrupted and so pictures and text is obscured on some pages, yet in my master programme it looks fine. I've been onto Yahoo countless times but.....[SIGH]
I apologise for lack of updates etc and somehow I still average about 4,000 hits per month. I promise to try and add more game reports and stuff at least once per month in 2014.
One of the biggest problems for a painter of figures is that there is a danger that the work and the hobby fuse inextricably and wargaming ceases to be fun anymore. Well, personally speaking, I can confirm that is rubbish. The act of playing wargames seems to make the hard work more than worth it. Games now are more enjoyable, especially if I’m playing with/against figures I’ve painted for friends. It’s a win-win situation folks.
I’ve also taken to attending Wessex Wargames Society of So’ton more regularly. A large, local, well run and incredibly friendly club that play most of the popular rule sets around. Plus being the old club of the late Donald Featherstone (R.I.P.), its got some pedigree. I've met some really nice friends at the club. First session is free so if you're in the area drop by, say hi and push some lead about. Plus after session entertainment involves purveying beer at a local hostelry, so what's not to like?
Last year I made a resolution to attend more often and managed, a not exactly earth shatteringly, six visits, though this is up on 2012. Having a young family means my weekend attendance is often sporadic, and at very short notice, but you will almost always find someone who will involve you even if you drop by. My missus is quite keen to spend time with the kids at the weekend and it suits us both for me to be out of the picture occasionally. She's a keeper. Another win- win. :-)
23 Games Played in 2013
Regimental Fire and Fury (ACW) - 1 Algernon Pulls It Off (WW1 aerial) – 2 Times That Try Men’s Souls (AWI) – 2 Basic Baroque (ECW) – 4 Impetus (Medieval/Renaissance) – 5 British Grenadier (AWI) – 9
This total is up on last year's 17 and bucks the trend that each year in succession since 2009 my gaming has actually declined. I plan on trying to hit at least 30 games in 2014. Generally though if I were to have a wargaming resolution it would be game more. Now, I don't give a fig about winning but for those of you that do my record was Won 9, Lost 13, Drew 1.
My regular gaming group of Max, Clive, Nige and the two Pauls, still meet informally at each others houses on Friday nights. However, weekday evenings are a problem now due to work commitments, my missus gym class timetable clashes and Friday night is now our time to socialise together. My gaming group have fallen recently in love with Regimental Fire and Fury, Age of Eagles and Age of Honour. I played a game of RF&F last year, but my reaction was decidedly luke warm. Too much micro managing and not enough 'friction'. I much prefer TFL 'They Couldn't Hit an Elephant' as it plays like a Peter Cozzens book reads. Age of Eagles just doesn't do it for me aesthetically. I'd rather play less units with more figures per unit, but that's just me. Age of Honour ticks the box period-wise but its still too small a unit for me to like. Though I miss playing regularly with the chaps, if that's all that's on offer, the time is now best spent elsewhere. We have plenty of common ground with the rest of the rule sets we play and so regular hookups are certain, and gaming with the chaps is more fun than you can shake a stick at.
I started the year playing WW1 aerial games using Too Fat Lardies ‘Algy’. As I’ve said many times WW1 aerial is one of my favourites, bordering on an unhealthy obsession, and Algy is a great ruleset for simulating it, albeit abstractly. Rich Clarke had been looking at a hexless updated version of Algy, and but 2013 was the year of Chain of Command. The roaring success of that highly innovative ruleset was deservedly, understandably all consuming for Rich, and Algy is on the back burner again. We tried out a playtest version of hexless Algy as the first game of the year and had a terrific time. We're not exactly creatures of change in our gaming group but everyone much preferred the hexless variety.
After a couple of games playing our AWI variant 'Times That Try Men's Souls' of Too Fat Lardies 'They Couldn't Hit an Elephant', I decided that we had gone full circle and that the games seemed to be more number crunching than anything. I hunted around and thought I'd give Partisan Press's British Grenadier another try. I'd played a couple of games at the So'ton Club in 2011 where they are popular and hadn't really appreciated them. Well, I managed to pick up a cheap copy of British Grenadier Deluxe on Ebay for £20 so I thought, what the heck? The first game was a nightmare. The rules though looking lovely are very badly edited and proof read, with lots of inconsistency in terms which makes learning rules very difficult, but as my opponent said at the time 'There is a good rule set in there somewhere trying desperately to get out'. Fortunately I was in between painting commissions so I decided to rework them. Usually with any new rule set I type out, or cut and paste bits from the PDF, into an MS Word document. I reorganise them and add bullet points, bold type, tables etc to produce a version which facilitate playing the game with minimal flicking of the rules book. Well, it took a week, and I do mean a full week (40 hrs+) to sort them out. We tried out a few more games, tinkered a few bits, and wouldn't you know it there WAS a good rule set in there after all. They do give the right feel and result, its just that you do need to persevere and have a full day to play.
I managed a full nine games of British Grenadier in 2013, (including refights of Hubbardton, Freeman's Farm and the morning action at Monmouth) and they were some of the best games I've played. So, it was all worth it in the end. The shooting and movement are really simple to pick up and Disruption Points are a fantastic way of handling things. At the So'ton club we meet fortnightly on Saturdays with usually one all day session once a month. This is perfect for playing British Grenadier. With the small 15mm move distances, Disruption Points system, and even using Brigade Moves etc, you'd be pushed to finish even a small game in a evening. We've played using 28mm move distances, but with 15mm firing ranges and, though it shouldn't really work, trust me it actually works better. The So'ton club still use 15mm movement as written at the moment, but in my own gaming group we manage a reasonably sized game in an evening using 28mm movement.
Recently Paul Marsh ran a AWI British Grenadier refight of the morning action at Monmouth at the So'ton club. We rebels managed a victory of sorts by doing much better than Lee on the day. I'll settle for that. It was a really close game which Ronan's two-figure Queen Ranger Hussar troop made a charge of glory routing a Continental Line regiment and a battery by contacting them head on whilst they were in column of march. Spectacular.
I am generally much more a 'scenario wargamer' than a 'points-based wargamer'. However pressures of work meant that I couldn't really afford the time to devote to writing scenarios for my wargaming. Usually I produce a full orbat with situation and briefing for every player etc. This takes time. Frankly time as a commodity is precious, and time is now money. Impetus is great for 'pick-up' games and is full of 'Friction'. With our Lard leanings it ticks all the boxes. Perhaps 2013's most memorable games were all using Impetus.
In January So'ton Club chairman Kev played with Paul B and me in a Wars of the Roses game. Though people tend to love or hate Impetus, Kev being willing to try most things, really enjoyed the game. A hard fought victory went to Kev and Paul's Lancastrians, with their Scottish Allies, after swinging too and fro and I did an all too rare full report for this site.
Paul B proved an erstwhile opponent in 2013. We fought an extremely unusual Wars of the Roses scrap when his Lancastrians, this time with lots of Irish, literally ran rings round my Yorkists, picking them apart. Not my most glorious day but one of the most enjoyable defeats ever. The Lancastrian army has much more choice when it comes to troop types and is much more flexible than the bow/bill dominant Yorkists. With difficult terrain, lots of light Irish proved too hard to counter for the forces of the true King.
It was Paul I faced yet again when for his birthday day off game, along with Nigel, we fought an Impetus Italian Wars bash. Paul and Nigel commanded the French against my Maximilian Imperialist Landsknechts. After dalliances with light horse the game came down to the inevitable 'Bad War' between the French employed Swiss and the Imperial Landsknechts. My more numerous Landsknechts prevailed by the skin of their teeth in a close game which became akin to a bloodbath. Lots of colourful troops and a very enjoyable days gaming.
Towards the close of the year I now have enough lovely Peter Pig ECW painted to play Basic Baroque, the variant of Impetus for playing the English Civil War, amongst other wars of the period. Nige and me have embarked on a path of playtesting using a variety of different combinations and situations. So far all has been terrific.
The other week was my missus works Xmas meal out so Clive, Max and Paul mounted their steeds and were round for an ECW game. We're all still learning what we can and can't do and many tactical mistakes were made but we had a cracking night. Clive and I playing Parliamentarians were soon down 9-0 with a score of fifteen victory points needed to win.
Clive then produced some of his special magic and scored fourteen unanswered victory points taking the score to 9-14. However after taking some beating the Royalist Ladyboys under Max and Paul B rallied sufficiently to score a 15-14 victory. Cracking stuff and a nice chance to see the chaps again after a long period. In 2014 the mantra is play more, much more This will largely be British Grenadier, Impetus and Basic Baroque. Noticeable from its absence this year was 'Bag The Hun'. Usually with the cold dark nights, where playing in garages isn't really an option, our group gravitates to playing aerial games which are easy to set up and pack away on the kitchen or dining room table. As yet I guess it just hasn't been cold enough. No IABSM either, or 'Elephant' which is rare.
Lets turn now to look at shows I made it to in 2013.
I managed to drag myself to Salute, SELWG and Warfare this year, missing out on Bovvy and Colours from my regular attendances. My ever present osteo- arthiritis proved just too much to consider Bovvy this year coming at a time when I had a bad flair up. This is a shame as the So'ton club were putting on a game there. Colours clashed with a wedding but I managed Salute for the first time in years. The arthritis was behaving and now I've started the painting lark I couldn't avoid the show really. Well, Salute 2013 was just fantastic. Previously I think it has lacked atmosphere and buzz. I also hate the lighting, the building, the cost etc. This year was very different.
I was busy handing over stuff, meeting others and collecting lead. I got stuck in one corner for well over an hour talking to punters and by lunch I hadn't even got half way yet. I mentioned Chain of Command earlier, you might recall. Well it was showcased at Salute by Big Rich Clarke and the Lard Loving lot. The game was attractive, vibrant and many of us fans of Lard from the Yahoo Group met up there. I even got interviewed by Lardmeister Nick Skinner for Youtube (never again) though Clarkie ended up doing a swear-by so we had to start again. I was crushed when someone said I sounded like a wargaming Jamie Oliver. Then again Clarkie gets the wargaming Jeremy Clarkson tag, so I guess I got the better deal. Then again, maybe not.
There was an enormous buzz about, mostly to do with Chain of Command. Everywhere we went you could overhear traders and gamers talking about it. Well, I walked myself sore and talked myself hoarse and won £1400 worth of commissions so it was another win-win. Massively up o the day financially. Aside from that it was so nice to meet so many people who read this site and like it, and chew the Lard/fat. People who know me will tell you I'm a great talker. I shall be attending this year too. Salute totally re-invigorated me.
About Chain of Command. It looks great. It reads great. It is innovative, however I haven't jumped yet. Why? Again, largely a time thing but I have just got my hands full with everything else that I don't need to do WW2 as well. I do focus. Focus works for me, flitting is the path to chaos. I hope to play Chain of Command in 2014 but at the moment I can't get my stuff out of the loft, can't make games with my gaming group as it is, haven't got the time to properly go through the rules. I'll get round to it, but not yet.
Also I managed to make it to SELWG in 2013. In 2012 SELWG just didn't do it for me. However the show was really good in 2013 and had a bit of buzz. I also met up briefly with WD3's Timmo, 'Ronan The Librarian' and 'Levied Troop'. Fortunately 'Ronan' is now a member of my club and we get to meet up and play regularly. Timmo and me have corresponded for years but never met. I think I've met LT at Bovvy when he was running an IABSM game. SELWG standard of games seemed to be up on last time and despite the atrocious weather this year was well worth the trip. Also I collected 100+ bags of 15mm ECW figures from Peter Pig using their show discount.
Warfare was also fun, though by now my arthritis was kicking in. Warfare is really my last wargaming shopping trip. However, I met up with a chap I paint for and had a nice natter over a coffee and a limp round.
I hope to get to Bovvy and Colours next year along with Salute, SELWG and Warfare.
OK and now finally we get to the bit where I look at the financial side. This is the side I least like but the side that needs to be considered most, finances and economic situation as it is. I'm lucky though that the mortgage, food and bills are covered by the missus. I just do the kid stuff. Now, having my own painting service means some costs inevitably are work really and therefore not part of this calculation. This is just my personal expenses like lead, rules and books, lots of books.
BOUGHT £1957.71 SOLD £ 398.00 ________ NET £1557.97
OK less than £2K isn't bad compared to past years, or other hobbies, but next year the target is no more than £100 per month tops for expenditure and under £1K if I can. I have no plans to streamline my collection any further as yet. Also for 2014 there are no plans for new collections and projects. I will run with ECW and AWI getting new stuff if need but as of now there are 600 figures in my lead pile, which is the first time in many years there have been more than just a couple of hundred.
So there we have it, 2013, the year of painting...and then some. The year we lost the Don. A huge thank you to all my gaming mates, on-table opponents and allies, my painting service customers and cyber friends. There are some top people out there who have been of great support this year.
In 2014 with the best of intentions I'll play more, paint less and spend less. The same mantra we all seem to share in this weird hobby of ours. I look forward to the new year for all the games I'll play and the fun times I'll have but with a certain trepidation tinged with sadness knowing that my father will probably not be around for next Xmas. Time will tell.