Wednesday 22 November 2023

Rebalancing the hobby Collection.

I have nibbled around the subject before, but it is with some determination this time that I have prosecuted a clear-out with the ruthlessness that such things require.

I have been moving the whole wargame collection into a more sustainable and usable form (for me at least).

My boardgames have become very much series based, so that fewer rulebooks exist overall and each system gets to be played more often to gain better familiarity. There are some stand alone titles of games that for whatever reason, I want to keep, but the number of rulebooks related to my boardgames has been hugely curtailed. 

Enough has been said already about the boardgame plan in recent posts, so I shall leave it there, but of significance is that the scrutiny that the boardgames got, has now moved to other parts of the collection (figures and rules).

The figure side has seen things move (back) to 28mm for everything, except WWII, which is using 1/72 (20mm) and all terrain is sitting roughly in the 1/72 and HO/OO model rail scale. I can hear some sighs out there because we have been here before - yes we have and perhaps the least said about that the better!

This week saw the last of my fairly aggressive clearing out of everything that doesn’t fit the above. In total, E-Bay, a boardgame trader and the refuse centre have all been playing their vital parts in this restructuring.

The three big areas of clearance have concentrated upon; 

Single boardgame titles that never seemed to come off the shelf and those that when I pull them down from the shelf to think about playing, I take one look at the rule system or estimated playing time and back onto the shelf they go and something more accessible gets played instead - so their departure from the collection isn’t really a loss in any functional sense at all.

All figure and associated terrain scales below 20mm have gone! This turned out to be more stuff than I thought I had in terms of volume. The biggest impact that this will have is on my time ……. as I will now stop painting and planning around that stuff and concentrate my painting hours on those things that I now want to give full focus to.

Above - some Cuirassier cavalry recently bought off e-bay for a very fair price on behalf of the kids, so they don’t have to buy dad socks for Christmas - this is the look that I want on my table. They are 14th Polish Cuirassiers. They served in 1812 in Russia, I will be using them in my 1809 campaign, but I won’t tell if you don’t!

Above - I added a few highlights and added basing to match the flock / tuft fetish that I have for my own stuff! I will keep these tucked away in a box until Christmas Day, as the thought of my two keeping them in the same house as my Grandchildren gives me the shivers :-)

As for rulebooks, save for Black Powder II, Pike & Shotte, Hail Caesar (and their various supplements) and Rapid Fire as prime systems, everything has gone ….. wow! 

Well almost, for now at least, I have kept back Shadow of the Eagles (Napoleonic), ‘O’ Group (WWII) and a selection of the Neil Thomas style books ….. everything else has just gone and THAT WAS A LOT of rulesets, that for years have been very difficult to pare back to something sensible - you may want to weep, but a good many titles went straight to refuse recycling. 

The truth is they don’t fetch much and relative postage is high. I took the view that one single clearance to deal with the problem was better than the prolonged ‘death by 1000 cuts’ to try and move things on, together with the expense and administrative chore that would surround that. 

In reality, it doesn’t really matter where a rule set actually is if it has not been looked at for 2-3 years or more, as long as it’s not on my shelf, so a one off dump at the recycle centre (garbage centre to my cousins) made a significant contribution to clearing the shelves, with the rule collection dealt an instant and gratifying blow - too late now to regret any of that!

The choice of keeping the Warlord trilogy of rules (BP etc) might not be everyones choice, but as a deliberate course of action, it ruthlessly delivers the goals of slimming down, streamlining, gaining rulebook commonality and going for playability. I will of course keep on top of my home grown rules.

Once I got into a mindset and behaviour of clearing out, I was surprised to see the thing just gain momentum ….. nothing was safe! Everything shook with fear when I walked within four feet of it, but with shelf space salvaged, the collecting overspill has at last moved up from the floor and back onto shelves. The whole thing has actually been quite liberating and cathartic.

An additional pressure was that on recently checking some boxes in the garage (it is late autumn here in the UK), a terrain feature using old twigs from the garden had mold on it - yikes! So there was an urgency in moving organic stuff such as things with cardboard and those figures with MDF bases back into the house, where it is obviously warmer and broadly just leaving resin buildings and unbuilt plastic kits in the garage. This made me dig a bit deeper on the shelf clearing strategy in the house.

As an aside, I have even moved the ‘clearing out season’ to other fringe hobby areas, mainly due to having too much photographic kit (especially lighting and unused tripods and monopods etc) and artists materials, which despite still wanting to use, I know it will forever get squeezed out by the level of my wargaming activity - so to be realistic it has been heavily culled to practically non-existence.

Time can now be focussed on actual gaming, getting familiar with some select boardgames and ploughing into the lead / plastic mountain, plus processing the various bits of terrain kits that need building up and the resin buildings that need painting.

There is a lot there, mainly due to over collecting during the Covid lockdowns, I will just approach it in a measured way, so that it doesn’t just become an overwhelming task. 

In some respects, the clarity and focus that I am suddenly exposed to has a twinge of nostalgia to it, when as a younger wargamer just starting out and without much money, I was totally content with what I had. 

Consumerism has enriched my hobby, it would be dishonest to say it hasn’t, but it has also undermined a certain purity that comes with the contentment of yesteryear.

Other than a few things that are already scheduled to enter the collection, I can’t really see a need for there to be much hobby spend in the near to mid future - broadly speaking, I have what I need ….. an interesting thing to discover (and embrace).

As a single restructuring of hobby time and space, this has been a massive hobby moment for me. It has cut away a lot of dead wood and hopefully transformed things onto a much more sustainable basis.

I commented to Mrs. Wargamer that If I could pile up everything into the middle of the living room floor, that has flowed out of the home in the past 6 weeks, it would be a quite a sight. Mrs. Wargamer, as always, kindly agreed and said no more, perhaps secretly she will miss the over flowing shelves :-)

Amidst all of that loss, just one thing has flowed into the collection, a rather nice ridge feature that I commissioned from terrain builder Simon at S&A Scenics, with a view to some 1066 gaming in the far future, when those armies are built, but that is something that can wait for another post.

As always, if you got this far, thanks for sticking with what is pretty much a self indulgent post …. but if it is a catalyst for even one other person to do similar, then my work is done :-)

What next? Well, Napoleonic French are getting painted for a ‘Pocket Army’. I have some flags on the way to do some extra Stanley bases in the Wars of the Roses project, with a view to Piggy Longton sagas picking up again in the new year. 

I have just watched a documentary that presents evidence that the Princes (Edward IV’s sons) did not die in the Tower, but rather went on to become leaders that continued to challenge the Tudor dynasty, so that facet could eventually play out into the Piggy Longton story.

The WWII forces are being expanded for some low level Rapid Fire games. 

I have to paint both sides for all of my pocket army pairings, so this project and things like the 1066 project may take some time before they grace the blog pages and the other more advanced projects will be pegged at the smaller battles levels for a while, but I know there is an audience that appreciates the ‘gaming in small spaces’ aspect of the blog.

I have noted that generally there has been a slow down in new posts appearing on various blogs and I am not an exception to that apparent trend. If bloggers are feeling a bit discouraged from blogging at the moment, then for what its worth, the conclusion that I have come to is just to blog a bit less and do a post when the urge to share something occurs i.e. slow down but keep the door open. 

It sustains the writing urge but defeats the ‘obligation’ to blog servicing. Ours is a small corner of the internet universe where gentlemanly and ladylike behaviour underpins our space and  relaxation time …. it remains something to cherish.

This blog may, due to all of the changes that I have made in the last couple of months, morph a little, but I don’t suppose by much and after considering its future, I think it will still have a respectable presence and may even be stronger for it.

Thanks to all who stop by and care enough to read. Kind Regards, Norm.

Sunday 5 November 2023

Brothers at War - Regimental ACW

Brothers at War covers smaller battles from the American Civil War. It is designed by Christopher Moeller and published by Compass Games.

ACW game systems typically pitch themselves at one of two levels, either divisional with units representing regiments or at corps / army, with units representing brigades.

In this game, the units are regiments, but what makes this title a little unusual is that the language and sub-systems used, give this game something of a more tactical nature.

This volume (1862) covers four battles, Antietam (Miller’s Cornfield), South Mountain (Fox’s Gap), Mill Springs (Thunder in Kentucky) and Valverde (Guns on the Rio Grande).

Between them, they offer 13 Scenarios.

I am just starting out with the game and have three playings completed. I will be using the Fox’s Gap scenario to discuss the system and package in general. 

Please use the ‘read more’ tab to get the rest of this post.  

Saturday 28 October 2023

Side action at Fox’s Gap 1862

This week, in my face-to-face game, I was introduced to the ACW boardgame, Brothers at War, published by Compass games and designed by Christopher Moeller.

The game looks at four small battles from 1862 and offers a total of 13 different scenarios, covering those four battles.

The first thing that struck me was that this game provided the ideal engine to create some figure games for the table without the need for much conversion as the units are generally representing regiments and gun batteries.

In addition, the game is very tactical and itself has something of a figures feel. Anyway, as is my wont, I took a very local slice of action from a situation created in the boardgame and took it to the table.

Please use the ‘read more’ tab to see the rest of this post, which basically follows how the figures game played out.