In good old blogging tradition, it is again that time to look both backwards and forwards with a rundown of various associated gaming highlights of 2018 and to think about shaping 2019 with plans that might even have a chance of surviving first contact.
And so, in no particular order;
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The main figure project for the year has been to do a Hastings 1066 game on Kallistra hexes with their 12mm figures. This was in fact the main project for 2017 and so it is disappointing to reflect that things are not much further forward.
This is mostly a ‘from scratch’ project and needs 53 or so bases, with the front lines of heavy infantry having 24 figures on each base. I have the figure count at the equivalent of roughly 1000 infantry, so the stop-start nature of all this needs to change to something more decisive if this is to see the table. I am however now resolved to using single bases per unit with frontages of 80mm.
With boardgames, I am trying to move to series based games so that I at least have a chance to get a proper grasp of some rules without having to do full re-reads all the time. In this regard, the Eagles of France system from Hexasim has become a roaring success and will be my go to Napoleonic boardgame system.
It started off at the beginning of the year with the Ligny game, by dipping a toe in the water with their ‘Street’s of Ligny’ scenario. Short, limited in scope and with super sized hexes, the battle just concentrates on the fight for the Town of Ligny and this urban focus made an enjoyable change of character for a napoleonic fight.
Since then, I have played the full 2 map Ligny campaign, which took around 11 hours and participated in part of the Austerlitz game, both offered up excellent gaming sessions. Waterloo is in the playing queue and Quatre Bras in the buying queue.
The first wargame show of the year, was York (Vapnartak), which I felt has probably outgrown its current venue as it just gets too packed to be able to move around comfortably (especially with the old bad back problem and moving repeatedly between several floors). I also did Phalanx and Phoenix, but outside of that, for reasons of other commitments, I missed three other shows that I would usually attend. In the words of my old school reports ‘He must try harder’.
My own Tigers at Minsk rules, designed for figures on hexes, had a tidy up and a North West Europe 1944 - ‘45 expansion was added to the downloadable material. It was good to get back to some rule writing and I like the new ‘shoot and scoot’ rule for tank destroyer types, which will just adds the occasional nuance to play.
On the nostalgia front, I picked up a “very good copy” of Napoleonic Wargaming by Charles Grant. It was published in 1974 and at that time, I received it as a gift from my father, a matter of significance as there wasn’t much money in the family and it was to become one of the base ingredients that fuelled my life-long passion for wargames. Anyway, it is just something that brings a pleasure and might drive a game or two at some point. Nice to have a copy.
A good moment of crossing over between boardgaming and figure gaming fell out of a playing of the 2nd Bull Run scenario in the boardgame Clash of Giants ACW. The game has units representing brigades and I took a slice of action from a specific attack across a creek in the game, researched the units down to the regimental level and then played out that three brigade action on the tabletop.
It was initially played with Black Powder Rules, together with the Glory Hallelujah ACW supplement and then played again on my hex terrain, using my own Two Flags - One Nation rules. The research that goes into these sort of things brings its own fun.
Above - The ‘pinboard’ project stole some more time. This allows gaming in an area roughly 34” x 22’. I had ordered some Baccus 6mm terrain, napoleonic cavalry and infantry to test out some ideas. Basing was a sticking point, whether to go with 3 rank deep 40mm frontages or use a 2 rank deep 60mm x 30mm bases. I didn’t make much progress and things were put away, only to be revived in November, when I put a 12mm ACW game onto the board, with a total of 21 formations in play with 80mm frontages per unit (regiment).
At the start of the year, I had decided to try and insert some ‘game fest’ sessions into my gaming year, when I would put something bigger on the table that would typically take a few days to play. The first outing was with the very enjoyable Ligny game from Hexasim, mentioned above. The next occasion came in July with the 75th anniversary of the Kursk Battles (east front 1944).
I had been reading the new version 5 rules for the Lock ‘n Load Tactical system, which covers tactical combat at 50 metres per hex and with individual squads and vehicles (a boardgame system published by Lock ‘n Load) and they have a module called Dark July that covers the Kursk subject. Together with their oversized hexed maps, I played through the six scenarios in the module, while reading Kursk by Lloyd Clark (which takes rather a long time to get going). I enjoyed taking a single module and playing right through, again treated by having a rare opportunity to have double mapper on the table over a few days.
Most recently, I did my third and biggest gaming fest for 2018, the playing of Bitter Woods boardgame (2 maps) from Compass Games, covering the Battle of the Bulge. A pair of game turns, each equalling 12 hours were played each day to coincide with the historical fighting, so this saw play starting on the 16th December and playing through until 26th December, a sort of real time event. Each day the blog was updated with the latest developments and hopefully it was as interesting for others to read as it was to play.
Above - Having made a decision at the start of the year to get rid of all 1/72 and 28mm stuff and just concentrate on the smaller scales, I ended up building a couple of fast build vehicles and of course was once again enchanted, buying back into plastic kit and now there is quite a bit of it!
Above - This led to my 28mm Perry ACW Battle in a Box project getting jacked up (again!). With some regiments already painted and almost half not, I decided to temporarily base the unpainted figures and just put a game on anyway, with the intention of painting and playing a live project. I know some could never countenance unpainted figures going onto the table, but for private games at home, that is an easily jumped hurdle. It all went rather well and was a bit of fun with objectives named after some of the prolific bloggers that generously support the blog world. Anyway, the idea was that it would encourage further painting and improvement, while still getting some games in. It worked for a short time, with a splurge on terrain building, but as soon as I moved onto other things, the painting stopped. It awaits a re-awakening!
In addition to this blog, I have some paid for webspace for a site called COMMANDERS. I again renewed this year, but with reservations as to its relevance. It sort of sits there serving a slightly different purpose than the blog, being a bit more snippet based, but I’m not sure its current purpose is worthwhile. It was intended as an alternative to the blog should I ever hang my bloggers keyboard up, allowing me an outlet for some writing. The subscription of £48 might be better spent elsewhere.
Hex gaming with figures has taken something of a back seat this year as rebuilding and streamlining my boardgame collection has taken centre stage. I did update both my hex based Horse and Musket rules and the hexed tactical WWII rules, but table time has not really reflected that work. This is partly to do with some hesitation on how to progress my figures side of gaming as mentioned in the 2019 part of this post - below.
For some time I have fancied doing some limited naval gaming, imagining that I should get some blue coloured Hexon tiles and a handful of nice ships. Recently I bought the Dreadnoughts and Battleships boardgame from Decision Games, which gave River Plate and Bismarck scenarios. I enjoyed the games and am left wondering whether this one off, easily stored package, scratches the itch enough to just leave it at that. I also have Master and Commander by White Dog Games, that covers Napoleonic and AWI naval battles. The level seems simpler than the already rather simple Fighting Sail rules from Osprey, so I am totally undecided about this.
Finally after many years of absence from it, I have been re-buying back into Advance Squad Leader (ASL), a somewhat complicated but satisfying squad level tactical boardgame. My current dilemma is that I have several tactical games systems / series and need to just decide on one (or two), so that I can get better at it and not get confused between rule systems.
And so on to 2019.
This list of plans feels a little short as I write it, but I know real life means that there will be enough here to give a full plate and it just seems daft to be unrealistically optimistic as to what can be achieved, but in truth, this has as much to do with hobby direction as it does about activity.
Plans set last year for the board gaming side of things have really developed well. My collection is much more focussed on the subjects that are of a prime interest and structured to take advantage of series type games, so that rule learning is better streamlined.
For 2019, I would like to take that one step further. Years ago I was playing ASL (Advanced Squad Leader) regularly as a midweek evening game and I would like to get back into that discipline. The system benefits from regular use to keep the processes as second nature and doing a small tactical based game midweek just seems like a good way to streamline and schedule some proper quality gaming time.
Boardgames that I want to see hit the table this year are;
Cobra from the S&T magazine. It was the very first boardgame I ever played back in 1977, so this will be a nostalgia session that deserves to get played.
Revolution Games have three nice sized WWII eastern front games, Red Typhoon, Konigsberg and the recently published Across the Narva, with the last two being sister systems. The subject matter appeals and I would like to play each one several times to get to ‘know’ them properly.
Blenheim from Legion Games, uses the new ‘7 hex system’ which has me intrigued. With Mike now also owning a copy, a certainty of a near future play is on the horizon, more so as it promises to become a series system
It is the figures side of things that continues to cause me the greatest distraction. Last year I decided to chop the bigger scales and did in fact sell all my 15mm and quite a bit of 1/72, but didn't get around to selling the 28’s. But since then, more 1/72 goodness, including some rather nice resin buildings have been bought, as have some Perry 28mm Wars of the Roses plastics. So the storage space was never really liberated and neither did the conflict of scales and collecting get sorted in any meaningful way. Things have just been flip-flopping all over the place.
My main question for 2019 is exactly the same as the one from 2018 and 2017, which scale and type of game should I support. This is a tough one as I see several advantages to both and being undecided is in no uncertain terms responsible for a lethargy in painting and building, while wasting time on the distraction it causes.
So perhaps it is time to rephrase the question to give a more decisive course of action, so instead of wondering which scale to keep and support, how about .... ‘which scale / kit should I sell off and wave good-bye to’ ........ Ooh, it hurts just to say it, but from a space and mindset point of view, I do need that liberation!
I am looking at just one of two gaming style possibilities;
Go larger scale on an open table. This is 1/72 WWII and 28mm everything else. Buildings would be 1/72 and table size would be up to 6’ x 3½’, I see having quite a lot of different armies, from ancients through to WWII, but with each only being formed from 6 - 10 units. I like the visuals of the scale and the terrain modelling. This will result in either low level, local battles or parts of battles and / or bath tubbing, such as having regiments count as brigades etc. I would likely go with commercial rules. I see this as lighter, tactile, visual activity to compliment some of my heavier and two dimensional boardgames.
Go with smaller scale. This means 12mm and 10mm with buildings at 10mm. Table size will be between 4’ x 3’ typical and 6’ x 3½’ extended. I would use Hexon 4” terrain and home brew rules. Measuring and movement is easier, but visuals lose something. Battle sizes in truth are only marginally bigger than using the larger scale and oddly, needing more bases and terrain items means that the footprint of storage is similar to the bigger scales, but the depth of each box is less, with stationary drawers being quite adequate for armies and shallow 3” boxes fine for buildings and trees etc.
I don’t think I particularly want to do small scale on an open table, it is the aesthetic that makes me want to do large scale and the practical application of the hex that makes me want to go small. If the question demands that I threw one scale away, I think it would be tough to move my hexes on.
Anyway, taking firm action, supporting one and lashing the other, though painful, that cycle needs to be broken one way or another. Oh how I wish I was that person who’s only interest was in one scale and one army.
Another burden of the above dilemma is that it becomes much easier to crack open a boardgame than to sit down and perhaps paint the ‘wrong’ scale! and this accumulates and runs through into what does and does not get done by the end of year review.
Anyway regardless of the above, there are some new projects in mind and some part done projects already in motion and so each of the following needs consideration;
After a visit to the Bosworth battlefield this year and finding an old booklet that I wrote about the battle, which included rules, a Wars of the Roses project is begging. I already have four boxes of Perry 28’s in plastic to get started on creating two small armies.
1066 in 12mm has recently been on the painting table out of guilt. I have all the lead that I need for the project. Units will be on single 80mm bases and ranked in two or three, with between 16 and 24 figures per base. I have already painted and based around 20% of the project, but the needed total of 53 bases does seem something of a hurdle. This will be a hex based game, that will use a similar game engine as my Hastings published boardgame. I would like to see this done.
I have 10mm WWII British forces to complete to work with my Tigers at Minsk rules and Hexon terrain. More vehicles need to be bought to bring more variety to their order-of-battle. As an alternative, building two small 1/72 WWII armies to include fast build vehicle kits for an open table is equally do-able and I have all of the plastic kit already.
Completing my 28mm ACW Perry armies. This is a relatively small project that is halfway complete, using the cheap plastic Perry figures, which I already have. I currently have 12mm lead armies for both Union and Confederate, which I think would benefit from rebasing. I really only need one of these scales.
It would be nice to say that some AWI or Napoleonic forces would grace the painting table this year, but that is simply not realistic .... another year perhaps!
Finally, as I embark on some ASL gaming, I know there is a growing sentiment that we are ageing and that our poor brains can’t cope with complexity or big games anymore and we don’t really have time for anything more than skirmish stuff etc etc, and as much as I have one foot in that world view, my gaming experiences this year have shown that effort and some depth in rules produce the more satisfying game sessions. For me wargames are about simulating the military subject at hand. If something is too generic or not tight enough that gamey stuff happens, then my interest bombs. I expect this, more than anything else to inform my gaming choices for the forthcoming year.
Have a good and rewarding 2019 everyone :-)