Thursday, 24 December 2020

The 2020 Wargaming Year



A self indulgent post that looks at wargaming from my perspective over the past 12 months. It has been interesting (for me at least) to chart a year which has seen the impact of Covid 19 and also some projects raised, chopped or continued.


This blog traditionally produces a long read type post on Christmas day, just to give some wargame material to anyone who for one reason or another has time on their hands and it may even be more pertinent this year as the fallout of Covid might be making Christmas a different experience for many of us.


So with all of that said, please use the ‘read more’ button if you want to see what this dark, handsome, strong, tall, slim, fit 21 year old, with good eyes and own teeth has been doing / contemplating / cogitating and flip-flopping around from one thing to another, over the last 12 months.   



Having been a wargamer for long enough that an eye can be cast backwards over several decades of gaming, I seem to find myself increasingly looking at those earlier times and wanting to capture some of ‘the feel’ that really fired me up for a life long passion for wargames.


This is not a nostalgia thing and it would be both right and wrong to view this as a desire for some simplicity or even greater playability, because some of the things I was gaming back then were sometimes neither of those things, but I do think there was an overall simplicity in how we approached the hobby and we didn’t seem to allow much to get in the way of actual gaming. 


On the flip side, it surprises me that so many years have flown by and yet, in 2020, I still feel a freshness and vigour to my gaming, with the twists and turns of projects and acquisitions, sometimes distracting and at other times enthusing, keeping things alive. 


It seems an increasingly diverse hobby environment in which more and more niche stuff becomes available and we have seemingly become a hobby of niches within a niche and perhaps it is the availability of product in such volume that has made our relationship with gaming more complex.


The following monthly wargaming calendar shows a steady path of progression with ideas ebbing and flowing, the ongoing conflict that I have with scales and continuing attempts to pretty my table and streamline my boardgames for an overall more accessible hobby.


On the boardgame side of things, for the first time in years, there has probably been a better balance between games sold, games bought and some titles repeatedly played. This is largely due to me wanting to move to owning more games that rely on series rules, so that more games can reach the table without having to learn a different rule set each time.


Also, I am de-cluttering, so things that just sit there, have to be pretty special (to me) or they go. Finally, there is less of the new stuff being produced that really captivates my interest. I have become more of a cherry picker in my choice of purchases, but thankfully have been mostly happy with the games bought.





On the figure side of things, I have spent a bit more time this year on improving terrain, trying to get a more cohesive look. That and flip-flopping between 15mm and 28mm figures have pre-occupied much of the figures year, but as the year closes, one period has at least taken a firm interest with the exposure to some Wars of the Roses rules and a very generous donation of some 28mm painted figures to jumpstart my collection, which has led to a more determined project approach to the period.


Before discussing the January to December bit, here are a few headline statistics for this year. Ideally I am aiming for a ratio of more games played and fewer different rule sets used to play them.


Games played totals - 66


Boardgames played - 41


Different boardgame rule sets used - 16


Of these Old School Tactical was played 13 times, Waterloo 1815 4 times and Bulge (Compass Games) 3 times. This is a big improvement, just a few years ago, those 41 games would have likely involved a good 30 plus different rule sets.


Figure games played - 25


Different figure game rule sets used - 8


Of these Black Powder was played 6 times, Firepower (Perry ACW) 5 times and Never mind the Billhooks (WotR) 5 times.


Painting totals;


10mm - 3 artillery


15mm - 4 artillery, 147 infantry, 14 cavalry, 7 tanks, 2 chariots


20mm (1/72) - 2 tanks, 5 infantry


28mm - 114 infantry, 17 cavalry 4 artillery


The number of different boardgame rule sets used still looks a little high to me, but would look worse if we had been doing face-to-face gaming, which by its nature introduces a wider variety of game systems over the year as each of us takes it in turns to host games from our own collections.


The number of different figure rule sets used this year is not as straight forward as suggested. While the number of sets actually used this year is quite constrained, the reality is that there are a lot of sets on the shelf waiting to be properly assessed. So 2021 might be a year of wider testing and then a slimming down to a narrower range of ‘fit for purpose’ favourite sets, covering the major periods of interest that will set the future course of figure gaming. 


Just for the ancient / medieval period alone, on the shelf, I am counting 12 sets of rules printed in the last decade. An initial goal should be to get these down to 3 sets, making it easier to choose a ‘go to’ set (dream on!). In essence, the streamlining of boardgame systems has been more efficient than that of the figure systems.


The painting output just reflects my scale distractions, but if this ever settles, I should become more productive in a single scale of choice. Though, this has been the most uncertain area of my wargaming for years and so it might be too optimistic to think that 2020 going in to 2021 will fix it and perhaps the reality is that multi-scales are needed as a better compliment to my wide range of interests.  


Throughout the year, I kept a note of some wargame observations and as the year started, I had no idea that 2020 would become so 'unusual'.


These observations have been transcribed into this post, so what follows is some thinking and play experience in the order of occurrence and so the earlier entries are made without the foresight of how things would develop throughout the year and the text here reflects that.





January.

And so it begins! I left 2019 with a clearly planned path towards streamlining the boardgame collection to include more series based games and for figures to move towards 15mm for ‘Pocket Army’ sized battles that could play out on a 4’ x 3’. To that end it has been a good start to the year.


We have played a couple of games of the Battle Hymn boardgame by Compass Games. The first in a proposed line of ACW series games, with units representing brigades. As I have done previously and since, when an interesting piece of action crops up in a board game, I note it, for recreating later as a figures game.





In this instance, in the Gettysburg game, we had the initial Confederate moves towards Seminary Ridge generating two figure games scenarios to play with Kallistra 12mm forces and Black Powder rules with the ACW Glory Hallelujah supplement.





The first battle was for the slopes of Seminary ridge and the second called ‘Smash the Iron Brigade’ is rather self explanatory! and worked out well, but I haven’t got around to playing the planned third scenario that combined the first two scenarios. 


I enjoy this symbiotic relationship between boardgame and figure games and can see it becoming a more established feature on my gaming and the blog. 


Years ago the boardgame and figure game hobbies were very far apart, but as a genre, figures on grids have become more established across the hobby in the past few years, with rules like ‘To the Strongest’ and ‘Rommel’ enjoying commercial success and hobbyists blending Command and Colors games with figures to further establish that cross-over and increasing numbers of gamers have a foot in both worlds.


I have cut down an existing 6’ x 4’ neoprene gaming mat to 4’ x 3’ to give a consistent frame to the size of games I am aiming for and bought some latex roads and rivers from Timecast that mate with their resin bridges to give a more consistent look. I want a properly scaled rail track to work with 15mm and have discovered that this should be TT scale to look right. Handily Ironclad Miniatures do rather nice resin TT sections, which also work correctly with TT rolling stock fitting the tracks properly.


Part of the yearly plan is to support magazines with some written work. The first submission is a very short article for Peter Pig’s free 15 MILL house magazine, it is a sort of mini review of the new Zvezda 15mm Brummbär assault gun, a fast build kit on an unusual subject.





On the rules side of thing, a very nice purchase of Bataille Empire has been made. Firstly, this is a one stop buy (no extra volumes needed), so it has all of the rules, some scenarios and extensive army lists, but the army lists are well filled out with a lot of unit / tactical detail, a very good resource in their own right. These have not been used yet, but I am strongly inclined towards them once napoleonic battalions start passing across the painting table ..... in whatever decade that happens :-)


February.

No figure games at all this month, but 8 boardgame sessions have been played. Of those, 4 were Waterloo 1815 from the 3Ci magazine, a victory of sorts, as it is exactly this sort of repeat play that I want to get from individual games to get to know them much better.


Despite no figure gaming, the buying and painting of 15mm continues. In particular, I have enjoyed the resin model of a windmill, made by Ironclad Miniatures, which is just one of those building projects that turned out looking good and I want it in every scenario! 





Controversially, for me at least, my more certain plunge towards 15mm compels me to take some decisive action against my distraction of the bigger scales. As an act of bravery (read probable stupidity), I have taken a bunch of bigger scale terrain, including some painstakingly home made snake fences and my big posh trees ...... to the tip! (refuse). It has in the immediate moment worked to break the mindset that has been pulling between multiple scales and causing procrastination for too long and it has been a step that has applied enough shock to better encourage a ‘sell off’ of some 28’s and 1/72, both painted and the boxes (and boxes!) of plastic figures via e-bay.


We didn’t know it, but as we played out the month with Hammer of the Scots (a Columbia Games block game), it was to be our last face-to-face game before Covid restrictions came in (end of year edit - A gaming situation that for us has still not changed). It is much harder to socially distance when playing boardgames, sitting within a metre of each other, than it is with figure games, where there is more room and players can bring their own figures etc. I am guessing that it will have to be the availability of a vaccine that will become the game changer .... literally!



March.

The month that things changed for many of us and that time line can be personally drawn by my attending at the Allumwell wargame show in the middle of the month and then deciding against going to the Hammerhead show the following weekend as Covid 19 was becoming ‘a thing’. Within a few days of Hammerhead, the UK Government introduced the first national lockdown. This has brought an end to my face-to-face gaming.


I can remember the evening news just a few weeks ago in the U.K. saying that we had 13 known cases, how could it have deteriorated to this so quickly! It is the same around the world.


The alarm bells have been building up for a while, so my journey to Allumwell involved me taking my own coffee and when I stopped at motorway services, I just bought food in pre-sealed bags and ate off the premises. As the news that week worsened, I felt compelled to miss Hammerhead (a favourite), but I understand it was well attended - so perhaps my loss, but I had been to a show the previous week, so all-in-all it was easy to take it on the chin.





Above - one of the games from Alumwell that really captured my imagination. It is a 6mm napoleonic game of Vyazma, gamed out on a modelled terrain that sits nestled in a converted pasting table that has been changed to hinge on the long side instead of the short. It is exactly this sort of moment of inspiration that is an invaluable part of the show circuit, that and being able to then go straight to a trader and buy the bits while the motivation is hot!


For boardgames, I played a bunch of Old School Tactical (WWII tactical level) and have been reminded of the fun play and excitement of exploring the squad level game of old Squad Leader (Avalon Hill) some forty years ago. Again, getting several plays on the trot from the same system meant that rules didn’t need re-learning between games.


As self isolation begins, there is something of a sentiment of needing to support our fragile gaming companies as the wargame show scene has stopped and now the cancellation of shows for months ahead are being announced. I have been doing my bit, but am become increasingly aware of being overwhelmed by doing several from scratch projects in different periods, plus terrain for 15mm.


As the month rounds out the familiar thoughts of a ........ scale wobble are coming to the fore! (You may want to take a moment to swear at your screen ...... very loudly!).


April

While the boardgames saw a few more games of Old School Tactical being played, on the figure side of gaming I have been more widely active, churning through several different rule sets, but with the ultimate goal of trying to settle upon some favourites.


A gaming highlight of the month came from a YouTube channel called Check Your Leader (link below in the resource section). The Vlogger was running an ACW scenario called ‘Mathilda’s Field’, using Pickett’s Charge rules. 





He was doing a solo demo of the rules and had asked whether anyone fancied taking one of the sides and if so, to send him some orders. So I had a go as the Confederates and he played the game over 4 videos, with me sending a new set of revised orders for each video.


All good fun and enjoyable to see the rules (which I happen to have) explained while also having a small investment in the game. I note other bloggers are starting to use things like Zoom and Skype to getting their gaming fix, a new direction for sure - though surrendering my world to even more screen time is something that I hope I can resist.


With the lockdown biting, I have several orders out with hobby dealers, which is seeing a raft of 1/72 and 28mm plastics starting to flow into my ‘storage problem’. Yes, that’s right a reversal of the scale decision ..... what can I say!


Anyway 28mm ACW, Wars of the Roses, Napoleonics (Austrian and French) and 1/72 (20mm) WWII figures are now pushing their nose in and taking up the mantle of doing the Pocket Armies idea of fairly small armies (8 - 12 units) operating in a relatively small space.


A few years ago I did a single 80mm x 50mm base with 10 Warlord 28mm Celts as a warband base and have always liked the look and so I have taken a fancy to using this as a basing standard for the new Wars of the Roses stuff, feeling that the frontage is around just the same as I had been working on in 15mm, which had used formations of 2 x 40mm bases or 3 x 30mm bases and so it just becomes a question of aesthetics of how many figures you are happy with seeing on a base.





Some will think that a unit of 8 or so figures to an 80mm base might look a bit ‘un-unit like’, preferring mass instead, but even in 15’s, for a supposed mass effect, you don’t use that many more figures in the same space. What I mean is that 15’s can look only slightly less ‘un-unit like’, well that's what I am telling myself anyway!


Units being represented by 80mm frontages would allow more units in the gaming space and important as that is, it is however not what I am after. I don’t want to get drawn in to painting a ton of figures for each army for big armies, I am interested in too many periods for that to be sustainable and I still want to pursue the ‘pocket armies’ look, so with just 100 - 150 figures per side, they may as well be in a larger scale than a smaller one, if that is what suits. 


I can see in my gaming notes for April that I have recorded finding the 28’s much easier to paint and by that I meant that I could see the detail better. For the 28’s I just use my ordinary glasses to paint, for the 15’s, I now have to additionally wear one of those opti-visor magnifying head pieces for most of the figure and my neck is held much more rigidly forward to get exact focus. For those special occasions of intense concentration, I find my tongue poking out like a dog! Next thing you know, I will be getting hairy ears - oh wait!


The 28mm basing will be set around ACW having 18 figures in two ranks on 3 x 50mm bases for a unit frontage of 150mm. The Wars of Roses will have 7 - 9 figures on an 80mm frontage and the Napoleonics have 20 figures in two ranks on 2 x 80mm bases, so that column of attack or line can easily be formed. This should all work fine for Teaser type games - wow a plan! That must surely mean success!





May

The month opened with a small boardgame scenario called ‘Streets of Ligny’ to re-familiarise myself with Hexasim’s Eagles of France series. This was to ready myself for their latest game, Quatre Bras, which I have decided to play one turn every day and add the result onto an ongoing AAR blog post (link below in the Resource Section).





In total, this has taken 7 days to play out, with the blog updated each day. I enjoyed the actual game, but the blogging of it has been an interesting exercise, though not in a good way. The site stats are clearly able to show that after the initial posting of turn 1, interest in returning to subsequent posts significantly wained as the week went on and this was also confirmed in the comments count.


Halfway through the game, I found myself frustrated by being committed and compelled to completing the apparently unpopular blog post with text and pictures, but really just wanting to lash the write up and just play on for my own pleasure. This is not a criticism of the readership, as firstly my subject matter was clearly not interesting enough, as I did a similar thing for the Bulge campaign last year, with each day of the campaign played on the 2019 Calendar date and seemed quite a success, so I think we are back to subject matter. 


Though after the Quatre Bras experience, I will not be doing that again. It has bothered me enough that for the following few days I have felt that the blog has become a too bigger part of my overall gaming time allocation and I should reduce overall service to it, with articles being much more concise and dare I say a tad more superficial for that. 


As a direct result of this, I have reformatted my Commanders website, with the intention of doing more of my writing and posting there, as it just seems better suited to organising thematic articles and subjects.


My big haul from last month leaves me not really wanting to buy anything else, as I look on at several boxes / containers with new stuff to feed into the projects.


I must say at this point that I am fully conscious that we are all in different places as far as budgets are concerned and I am lucky to find myself able to have got this stuff together, but I am a bit bothered that blogs (i.e. this one), can smack of being too ‘enriched’ with new product, with modesty being the first casualty. Please be assured that I am recording new items here purely to give that accurate sense of project success / failure and re-direction over the year. It is not to Grandstand on purchases made, I would rather not post at all than give such an impression or to offend.


I do wonder whether the sudden high lockdown related internet sales reported by online wargame retailers will bite back when our boots are full and we take a serious break from ordering? i.e. has the current sales boom actually been about taking sales from the future?


A third party has contacted me and invited me to join their napoleonic peninsular campaign. It has provided a shot in the arm to re-enthuse me back towards shared activity. It is a play by e-mail campaign that has suffered the usual fate of a few participants dropping out, so I have taken up my duties as Jacome. Having got my documents it is immediately apparent that there is a French threat to my right .... I am instantly drawn into the game ...... and the campaign life!


But the real big event for me this month was the parting with my ASL (Advanced Squad Leader) system from Multi-Man Publishing (MMP). It is the third big tactical game series to recently leave my hands, the previous two being Panzer (GMT) and Lock’nLoad (by Lock’n Load), both full collections. Years ago, I used to revel in ASL and play a lot of it, but today I find the needless complexity (fans will likely totally disagree with this) of ASL just isn’t working for me as I haven’t been playing it often enough to get good enough at it or able to enjoy a game without constant rule referencing or simply ignoring some scenarios because they use an area of the rules that I am not familiar enough with, such as off board artillery.





I am however keeping the ASL Starter Kits (above) for now as an emergency back door and also have my full compliment of Old School Tactical games (Flying Pig), which I like.


June

June just means one thing ..... my mid year wargame show, the friendly meeting of ‘Phalanx’. I have not missed a year in at least 35 years, but this year Covid has certainly been the ‘show stopper’ ...... literally!


Not to be outdone, I did my own solo virtual show visit (link to blog post in Resource Section below) just to celebrate and to take a moment to remember and value Phalanx and the show circuit in general. 


Taking the essential elements of the show, I sold something on the Bring ‘n Buy (e-bay sale), I played a demo game (28mm ACW) and bought some goodies from traders (internet sales) amongst which were the new 28mm Perry Austrian cavalry, 20mm AB WWII German infantry, bases, glue and some rather interesting AWI rules, Red Feathers & Delaware Blues by Simon William Hall. For some eat treats, we went to a local garden centre and within the rules of safety, had some rather fine Lemon Drizzle cake and coffee.


Just a bit of fun overall, but a heartwarming thing to do during a lockdown, that also linked in to trader support.


The big event of the month (well at least the one that did happen) was the running of a Play By E-Mail battle of Germantown, using the Decision Games boardgame, which has a compact footprint and low counter density.


I managed to rope in 9 other bloggers to take positions of leadership and through the turns, I sent them situation updates, which included some text and a part of a map graphic, which represented their position and what they could personally see from their position. 





Above, one of the information feeds to the British / Hessian player (Knyphausen), mid game. It shows that two militia units have just come into contact with the Hessians in the woods. They have no idea what else is (or is not!) lurking in the masked out brown area.


This worked particularly well in the early fog turns, when visibility was basically down to one hex and players (the local commanders) had to work to get the right information out to their respective army commanders, who then had to get their orders out across a battlefield that was still largely invisible to them. The only information that I gave the army commanders was based on what they could see for themselves and the information flow from their local commanders.


I was really lucky to get 9 players who gave this their full attention, with very tight turn-rounds of orders etc, all the more impressive as the players came from time zones across the globe and and worked things in with their work commitments.


As much as I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot from it, some days I was putting over 8 hours into it, with all the updated positional graphics being hand done and an excess of over 1000 e-mails being handled in just a few days - it was in truth all-consuming, but, also an experience not to be missed. Thanks everyone who made that work.


There is a link below to the final blog post that brought all the campaign threads together, which was written for the benefit of the individual players, who often had no idea what was going on in other parts of the battlefield.


It is a thought provoking moment to tell some of the players that their army has lost, when you know they can only see what’s in front of them and from their own position they are actually doing rather well!


In the second half of the month, I put another little campaign system together, this time for the Old School Tactical boardgame series and it was something that I would be playing solitaire.


The idea being that it would have a generic framework and be capable of working with any of the core modules in the series (link to initial post below in the Resource Section). I based my own action around the east front 1942, with the campaign running over 4 ongoing scenarios, with an admin phase between them that allowed for some recovery and replacements to filter in. This element of linking games together was thoroughly enjoyable and the month has nicely dealt with my general lack of exposure to campaign gaming.


On the Commanders website (my sister webspace), I have clocked up 100 new entries for the year to date as I try to refocus it to better compliment the blog. This is taking quite a bit of time and I am not sure that it is particularly well visited.


Finally, to round out the month, a gift from a fellow blogger that highlights the best of the internet and this community. Phil, a wargamer, blogger and professional painter had been painting some Wars of the Roses figures for his own use, but that project became redundant when he and David decided to switch their attention to the Italian Wars. In consequence, Phil gifted his work done so far to me. Thank you, I was well chuffed and having never had professionally painted figures before, these have been quite special and a privilege to own. A good motivator to get my own wars of the Roses project properly up and running.


July

Compared to a hugely hectic June, July has proceeded at a much more sedate pace. My interest in the Wars of the Roses saw the new rules ‘Bloody Barons’ from Peter Pig arrive and I went through several games of testing the Sword & Spear rules (Great Escape Games) for the medieval period. They have a more mechanic driven gaming style, with dice being drawn from a bag to activate units and depending upon the value of the roll, depends on what the unit can do.


The effect of this is to bring some uncertainty into the game and I think this works well for Ancient / Medieval games which because they have ‘line them up and go’ type armies, it brings potential individualism to each unit and therefore parts of the line start to take on their own character to give a good overall narrative.


The other thing that I like is that the rules are complete, with plenty of free downloadable army lists, so you are not having to invest in multiple books. I am increasingly disliking the multi book thing for rule sets.


There has also been a good reason to hang the celebration flags out. The Perry 28mm ACW Battle in a Box set, which I have owned for 5 years, has finally had the last unit painted. They are the Zouaves and they look, if I may say so, pretty good. With all of the contents now painted, Scenario 6 from the included Perry ‘Firepower’ rules, went onto the table with a sense of satisfaction at a job done. There is a link below to the post that covered that playing.





With solvents causing me a problem and with so many plastic figures to assemble, I have been taking advantage of the summer to get outdoors and glue up the figures, ready for painting over the winter. So far there are six additional ACW regiments (of 18 figures each) done, but distractions are happening as the Wars of the Roses project pushes it’s nose in!


Unusually, just one boardgame got played this month, an ASL starter kit 1 scenario, but using the Retro generic rules from Minden Games. I have used Retro a lot in the past, but I feel the underpowered CRT suffers in scenarios that have a lot of stone buildings and I do like my city scraps, so I am better just using the starter kit rules for infantry battles, which I am very familiar with anyway.


August

The month starts with me buying a fantastic gaming bundle published by GMT. Basically, they have reprinted all three boardgame modules from their Men of Iron series, which covers mid to late medieval and importantly to me, the Wars of the Roses. As a further bonus, they have added the Agincourt scenario that was published in their 3Ci house magazine. The whole lot comes in a single box.


All together, this is offering 20 battles, with the huge advantage that this package is based upon the principle of series rules, so learn once and then play 20 battles, what’s not to like!


This month, three games of 1st St. Albans hit the table, while I became versed with the rules, followed by the Bosworth battle, a personal favourite and then Agincourt. All told a good value, highly replayable package that helps firm up the ongoing transition to series game rules.


On the figures front, Steve from his ‘Sound Officers Call!’ blog (link below), is starting a series of posts on the ‘allure of the simple game’ and he asks players to get involved with a simple game and then answer a series of questions that he poses as to the effectiveness of the rules, or rather what it is about the rules that successfully or otherwise delivers a simple game.





I set up a symmetrical table, with equal forces to both sides and used the Perry Firepower rules as my initial contribution to his project. As I go through his questionnaire, it gives some cause for thought as to what we think makes up the important elements of a game that delivers that sense of enjoyment or satisfaction. 


There seems a general view that the gaming of yesteryear was simpler, but when I look back, there were some quite complicated systems about then. Thinking about it, perhaps it is that better play experience simply comes from picking one set of rules for a period that adequately hits the user’s sweet spot and then just sticking with those rules without distraction, getting to know them well and so getting the best out of them. 


In many respects this is the path I am treading for boardgames with the series rules emphasis, I probably just need to transfer this mindset across to figure games and I eventually will, it is just a case of identifying the right sets.


I am turning Steve’s question around in my mind and rather than asking what is simple, I am wondering instead where the complexity comes from and I am starting to ask whether it simply comes from over collecting and having too many rules / systems and projects to give adequate service to. By default this wasn’t the case years ago when both product and money was scarcer - so perhaps that is it!


On the painting front, never particularly happy with my figure shading, I bought a cheap black polyurethane varnish. I particularly wanted a cheap non-brand name as I felt that it probably had less pigment in it, so would be less devastating on the figure. In my trials, it gave good shading and put a tough shell on metal figures, but the whole figure became significantly dirtied in the process and it has been too much effort to bring things back with highlighting.


My latest wash ‘recipe’ is to use Army Painter Dark Tone, with an acrylic colourless medium at a ratio of either 3 or 4 medium to one of wash. Hmmmm, still not sure! an ongoing work methinks.


September

At the start of the month I picked up Antietam, a boardgame from Worthington Publishing. From the go, this boardgame nicely hit the mark, with an ease of play and also scores as being a series game. The system looks like it is intended for the ‘big battle’, but it throws in three smaller scenarios, which I set to straight away, playing Bloody Lane and Burnside Bridge. 


There is already a sister game (Shiloh) out and one in the pipe, so the basis of a series is there.


It is not complicated, neither is it an in depth simulation, but it is very playable and so taking those things holistically, maybe this is where my choice of gaming material is starting to settle.


The main pleasure of the month came with the free rules booklet with Miniature Wargames magazine called Never Mind the Billhooks, written by Andy Callan for the Wars of the Roses. They are in some respects a paper, scissors, rock game, but I like the flavour they impart and while they sit at ‘big skirmish’, one blogger (Eric the Shed) has taken the system to do multi player replays of 1st St. Albans and Blore Heath and his tables are lovely, with the St. Albans game looking tremendous with his fine collection of 28mm buildings on a big table.


Formations are activated when their card is drawn, so the play sequence is somewhat randomised. I ordered the official cards from the magazine and they have been very nicely done. Anyway the month has seen several playings of the rules, with a mix of painted (and dare I say!) unpainted bases on the table to try them out.


The result of all of this has caused a flurry of activity to get more figures painted and based and this in turn has set my mind to basing solutions.


The rules take single casualties from units of 12 in two ranks (I suppose a bit like Lion Rampant), that the author has fixed in sabots. My inclination towards single, fixed based, small footprint units (80mm x 50mm), still remains strong and I am having to ‘manage’ the maths of casualties, as combat strengths are based around the number of figures remaining in the unit - so for example, an archers unit will shoot with as many dice as there are figures remaining in the unit, while Men-at-Arms, get 1.5 dice per remaining figure. Since my bases have a fixed number of permanent figures (7 - 9), I am having to use casualty dice and deducting losses from the unit’s notional initial strength of 12.


Another very short article has just left the keyboard, given to Peter Pig for inclusion in their next 15 MILL house magazine. This time I am covering the resin Windmill from Ironclad Miniatures as shown in the February section above.


October

The Burnside Bridge scenario played last month with the Antietam boardgame, produced an interesting situation, which I recorded for transferring a slice of that action to the figures table.


The units in the boardgame are brigades, so a bit of research (thank you Wiki) to identify the regiments present and convert to a regimental level scenario for Black Powder, was produced using the Glory Hallelujah ACW supplement and my 12mm Kallistra figures. (Blog post linked below).


It also saw me return to trying a short 30 second video type trailer for the next blog article, the first I have done for a couple of years. I may or may not do more.





Anticipating some Wars of the Roses battles hitting the table soon, I have formalised my previous blog AAR references to the fictitious Dungborough with its Parish of Piggy Longton, used in some battles and produced a map to create a sort of ‘Imaginations’ type landscape for various upcoming actions.





A couple of purchases have arrived and I have had a test game with each. Firstly the new small format Rapid Fire Reload rules saw Russian infantry and T-34’s attack up the table against a small force of German infantry and StuG’s holding a building in a 1/72 game. It worked quite nicely and I really appreciate that the army list stats are downloadable on the internet. Superb for a fiver!


Next up was Wagram, a boardgame with the ‘Paper Wars’ magazine, designed by a well known and solid World War II game designer and there I think was the issue that I had with the game. The units in the game activate singly and in impulses, so that player 1 activates 1 unit, then player 2 activates 1 unit, then back to player 1 to activate a unit etc. To my taste, this gave the armies too much flexibility in responding to the other sides last move and it felt more like a WWII response to me rather than a napoleonic one.


A good game? probably yes, but whether it felt right as a napoleonic army level simulation, I was left with doubts. Even though I invested quite a bit of time in the game to come to that conclusion, it did not appear on the blog, because the blog really only highlights those games that I have enjoyed and would want to play again, it is not a review site, even though it looks like one and so has a bias in hat regard.


After making the 131st update to my Commanders site this year, I have decided to pull the plug. The yearly fee (£55) is up this month and each year I go through the same process of deciding whether to close it down or not and whether it serves a justifiable purpose - anyway, it’s going. My ‘pay for’ service gave me 30 pages of advertisement free space. I will now default to the free level which is 7 pages with adverts, which I will hold onto while I try to undo the various links to it that are on the blog.


November

The month becomes notable for the introduction of a 2nd Covid lockdown in England which is to last until 2nd December. Wales is already partway through a planned 17 day lockdown with Scotland and Northern Ireland putting various parts of their nations in various degrees of lockdown, depending on local transmission rates. So in this second lockdown, there is not a unified approach in the United Kingdom. 


The shops are mostly closed (just essentials allowed open) and so for them, the loss of critical pre-Christmas revenues will be a breaking point for some. Internet wise of course it is all systems go! and the editor of Miniature Wargames Magazine this month mentions in his editorial that his contact with a range of traders seems to suggest that traders are doing better than normal and he highlights the concern that the ‘wargame show circuit’ may come under threat if its future relevance for traders diminishes ...... we can only hope that when we bounce back from this, that the show circuit is still there for us! It will of course only survive as a trader based event if money is spent at the show, a simple matter of commerce. A case of use it or lose it!


News of successful vaccines emerging and being ready to roll out is just being released and so the first steps for a return of shows and face-to-face gaming is at last on the horizon - Hurrah for the scientific community who have jumped through hurdles to get us this far.


Anyway, to the matter in hand, I have seen less actual gaming this month, yet had some of my best quality wargaming involvement of the year. The Wars of the Roses is increasingly occupying my attention and this is roughly divided between painting up additional units and planning an ‘imagined’ battle on the Dungborough map (Discussed in October).


It has a storyline looking at neighbourly tensions in early 1471, as Yorkists and Lancastrian tensions grow and spill over into local clashes. On behalf of Lancastrian inclined Lord Darcy of Dungborough, local taxes from the estates had been collected and are being held at The Merchants House. Neighbouring Yorkist inclined Lord Trebian has made an attack on Piggy Longton with a view to capturing the taxes before they can be safely evacuated to Lord Darcy’s manor and then onwards to the King’s War Chest.


This all caused a sense of urgency at the paint table, a good bit of internet research to find some fictitious names for nobles in the scenario and more research to properly identify the liveries of real units from the period. Conflix medieval looking buildings were sourced for Piggy Longton and props such as an ox pulled cart (from Colonel Bill) and terrain to represent rough pasture (home made) were gathered, which allowed for a pre-battle post to be written up.





The scenario for the actual battle worked a treat with a sort of teaser style element to it. As well as some blog posts falling out from getting the game together, some medieval type music was sourced so that a ‘opening positions’ video could be put together.


The Billhooks rules used have been fun and effective and the whole thing has probably generated one of my favourite wargame experiences of the year so far, pretty good to get that in a Covid solo environment.





Above, another video clip showing the Wars of the Roses table.


And now as they say, for something totally different! I’m not sure why, as I don’t like card driven systems (I like card supported, but not card driven), but after reading some battle accounts, which suggest the system does bring out the character traits of differing armies, I made an investment in the latest edition of Simon Hall’s Mortem Et Gloriam rules, published by Plastic Soldier Company, together with a couple of 15mm armies, also produced by PSC.





The rules have 3 sizes of game (rather like Armarti did those many years ago), but the smallest (Pacto) can play in a 2’ x 3’ space with 15mm figures and 4’ x 3’ with 28’s. PSC are producing Corvus Belli 15mm figures under licence, using their new ultracast material. I picked up the Gallic Pacto army box (above photo), together with an Early Imperial Roman army.


Gaming in this 2’ x 3’ space will likely generate some posts that will hark back to this blog’s roots and be of real interest to the space strapped gamer. So although I am not ready for it yet, I hope to see some future fun with this package and it certainly feeds into the Pocket Armies concept.


In anticipation of that, I ordered a couple of figure blister packs (British chariot and skirmisher packs) from PSC to add to the Gallic army to create a more British feeling force to use with the Warlord Games ‘Britannia’ supplement (Hail Caesar series) to generate a campaign game. The chariots (below) got painted and based just to see what the Ultracast material was like to work with.





With all of the above putting a squeeze on my spare time, for boardgaming I explored the relatively low complexity Bulge game from Compass Games. The first play revealed something of a puzzle for the German player to solve as to how to get a good win. 


Historically the Germans strove to cross the Meuse River, a tough objective and one that was failed, but the game has victory built around that concept. On the upside it drives the German player to play in accordance with German ambitions, but on the downside, a German player can find the game tough to win, which may disappoint players who simply want a good game with a 50 / 50 chance of a win. Further, if the Germans do make it to the Meuse, they will automatically release the British forces, which can make that ambition something of an own goal. I am just as content to see the German attack limited to fighting into the mid-map position and then awaiting the Allied counter-attacks and just play it as a Bulge game in the way that many Bulge games play out.





This has me intrigued and with the system under my belt, I have gone on to play another two outings over the month, with the third game giving me the German win and a really nuanced game that highlighted some of the cleverness if this design.


Playing a single title more and getting better at appreciating the system does reinforce the notion that repeat playing of a few systems brings more rewarding play as familiarity of rules and their subtleties grows. I keep saying this, but it is feeling truer as the year moves on.


One of the things that interested me most was the call by some gamers to have a more balanced game. They are clearly gamers who want the 50 / 50 chance of a win to make a good game. I prefer the history and the engagement of play, so am okay with the German player finding it a struggle. What becomes important is that the allies spend the first part of the game stressing about being overrun, while the Germans constantly feel that their objective is just out of reach. These two things give the players an emotional connection to the real commanders perspective and come together to give a truer Bulge feel ..... and a good game!


To round out the month, I decided to take up a subscription with The Lance and Longbow Society. I was a member in its very early days and just thought it was about time I supported a few of the societies and this fits with my current interest in all things Wars of the Roses and an interest in general of the medieval period. There is a bi-monthly journal that was always an interesting read, good value I think at £22 in the UK.




 

I told Mrs. Wargamer, who seeing my rapture said that she would pick up the tab as a Christmas gift. That’s good, firstly it is better than the dreaded socks / scarf thing and now I can start to tell her about that clever Ultracast material that Plastic Soldier Company are doing their ancients in :-).


Enthused by rejoining a wargame related society (above), I have also decided to take out a subscription with the Society of Ancients (£27). I have not been a member before (my loss), but have seen them and their Slingshot magazine and various publications at many of the game shows that I have visited. Since suspending my Commanders web page, which was costing fifty five quid a year, supporting two wargaming journals seems a fitting way of re-directing those funds back into the hobby.


December

England (as opposed to the U.K. as a whole, as the Four Nations all seem to be doing their own thing!) comes out of general lockdown on the 2nd, but goes straight into fairly strict Tiers, where region by region, restrictions are applied depending upon infection rates, though pretty much all of the country will still have tight controls - but it does mean that the ‘non-essential’ shops can open, giving high street retail a chance to recover something of the Christmas trade.


The Government have also announced that regardless of the lock down situation, families will be able to get together for a period of 5 days over Christmas, providing they do so in a ‘bubble’ of no more than three households. The scientific community do not appear to have particularly welcomed the move ....... something to do with a Pandemic! 


I plan to get a bit more gaming in this month as I typically set my figure games and larger boardgames up in what is best described as a sun lounge, where the summer heat can be quite punishing, so I don’t want to waste a moment of this chilly winter month, even with its shorter days, when everything, including photography is just easier to do.


Borodino 1812 from White Dog Games is a newly released boardgame and this is the first time that I can recall ever putting a game up to play on the table on the same day as arrival. It was not on my radar at all, so was a surprise bonus purchase - Happy Christmas to me!


Four pages of rules being a great help of course, though perhaps not really being quite enough to answer all of my game questions either! In any case, it has given me an enjoyable game taking around four hours and hitting the table a second time this week and it will get more play.


I really enjoyed the package, but not untypically it has set my mind in two directions. Should I get some Russian figures and then lift some figure games to the table from situations that have been created in this boardgame and worse .... much worse! a temptation to get back into doing some boardgame designs of my own, even with one eye on self publishing.


This is not a whim, but a serious moment of contemplation, somewhat accelerated as chance would have it by my Chromebook suddenly and annoyingly deciding to give up the ghost!


This has had me question whether as a replacement, I should get a more capable machine to support game design endeavours, for the heavy lifting of making counters and maps etc. Anyway, after two days of internet searching and some more thinking and reflection, I have settled, for a variety of reasons, to stick with a mid model Chromebook and not going into to a new commercially driven venture and the many hundreds of hours that would get sucked into that.


Having been there before, I know these things can take over and that the hobby you love can suffer. Many, many years ago (36 in fact), I designed a game for the Spectrum computer that got published. It took 3 months to write and 3 months to de-bug and continually amend to meet the company satisfaction. It was a time sink, with me regularly coming home from work and then working on the game until 2 or 4 AM. In the last stages, my combined passions of wargaming and computers that started the whole thing off, took a very hefty dent and the lesson I learned was never to combine your hobby with commerce, because there is a price to pay on the hobby. 


I would still like to press on and add to my Hastings / Stamford Bridge 1066 boardgame designs with two more battles, but at least for that the core series rules already exist and for the immediate future at least, I rather see myself doing some smaller format games under the blog’s Battlefields & Warriors banner and do them as not-for-profit mini games, making them downloadable for gamers to print off, in the ilk of what we know as postcard games, but doing them a little bigger and with say 3 pages of rules. Perhaps doing one as next year’s Christmas Post instead of a ramble would be a do-able idea (I thought the same last year, so no placing of bets please!).


Being a bad back sufferer, I have been hit harder than usual over the last couple of days by it and for a few days have been limited to just sitting at the table in a ‘sensible’ dining chair. So I did some gaming there with the game area right under my nose. This is naturally fine for most boardgames, but less so for figures. So I resorted to looking at my pinboard set up and 12mm Kallistra figures, which takes up the same space as a standard boardgame map.


This sparked a memory recall of teenage years when everything I owned, wargames wise, sat in a small suitcase and so I set about replicating that idea with the 12mm figures, a set of rules and a bit of terrain, all fitting into a single box - a complete wargaming solution. Anyway, rather than bang on about it here, the episode was blogged (link below in the Resource Section), which may be of interest to anyone looking at a small and convenient set-up.





It does though once again get me back to a simpler time, when simpler just meant not being overwhelmed by product and getting good at just a couple of sets of preferred rules from a small collection. I keep returning to this theme, I know, but it may have merit.


The ‘design’ fad that I am currently in is still unabated and so today and yesterday, I dragged my hexes onto the table and looked over my ACW figure hex based rules and pushed a few units around. It all went well, but as I pick through the rules again, I am thinking that I would like to make a better stab at bringing the ACW and Napoleonic hex rules (Eagles at Quatre Bras) into a closer union, so no doubt once this long post is put to bed on the 25th, those rules will be the next thing to get my attention. The question is whether those hours will be best served by sticking with the hex version or whether to create a sister set for the open table?


It is now 21st December and there has been significant developments on the Covid front. It seems  that there is a mutation of the virus that makes the risk of transmission something like 70% higher. With fears of rampant infection rates and the National Health Service being overwhelmed, much tighter restrictions have been announced. The freedoms planned earlier for Christmas have been curtailed or cancelled all together, depending on where you live and restrictions overall have tightened with some key parts of the nation going into full lockdown. 


The fall out of the situation must be causing serious widespread worry as over the day, over 40 countries have announced that they will not allow visitors from the UK into their country and the Stock Market and Pound Sterling have both lost notable ground.


The situation is somewhat bitter / sweet, with the obvious escalating hardships from the virus set against the salvation of a vaccine just starting to be rolled out. The number of new infections has been climbing and today there are 35,000 confirmed new cases, similar to yesterday. Face-to-face gaming has just been kicked a long way down the road!


Today is 22nd and I got a very pleasant surprise e-mail from a fellow blogger Steve J, who runs the ‘Wargaming Addict’ blog (link below in the Resource Section). He is planning a 7 Years War battle with Black Powder rules and is looking for commanders who can remotely give some orders to start his game off and set the pace of direction.


I was sent a sketch map, a list of forces and the game background and victory conditions. I did a bit of research for the period (thank you again Wiki, whenever they ask for that two quid donation, it is worth it) to get some commander names for the brigades and then used an art package to overlay my unit dispositions over his sketch map. I have divided my force into 4 brigades, then sent the map, my overall strategy and specific formation orders back to Steve.





Above, here is Steve's sketch with my dispositions overlaid. My ‘A’ Brigade with two infantry units and one artillery battery start on the hill. On turns 2, Brigades ‘B’, ‘C and ‘D’ come on as reinforcements. I designate ‘D’ as a reserve and have ‘B’ both screen the woods and cover the gap between the hill and the woods. ‘C’ will cover the right.


I now know that fellow blogger Jonathan F. is involved, giving orders for the Blue forces. Jonathan runs the ‘Palouse Wargaming Journal’ blog (see link below). He gives a lot of time to supporting other peoples blogs and encouraging them. He also took up the role of Washington in my Germantown play by e-mail game mentioned above in the June entry. I’m very much looking forwards to learning of his approach to this game and what forces he has been allocated.


I can’t wait for Steve to play the out the battle and then blog about it, as that initial involvement with the game and the fog of war at this stage of not knowing the other sides plans and dispositions will make his narrative all the more personal to me.


This internet thing is quite good - isn’t it!


Today is Christmas Eve and Steve has played his 7 Years War battle and already blogged about it. A very enjoyable and tight action ensued. Also there is additional incidental terrain on the table and I like this gap between the key terrain on the sketch map that the commander uses to set objectives and the more detailed terrain that the local commanders have to deal with once the game is set up. I have put a link up in the Resource Section for Steve’s article.


So here we are, we have arrived at the morning of December 25th and I am now uploading this post and though there is another week to run on the month, that is neither here nor there for this yearly wargame summary. My Christmas gift from Mrs. Wargamer has been the newly released expansion ‘Phantom Division’ for the Old School Tactical system. 


It covers the final months of WWII on the western front and importantly has what they refer to as pocket maps, which makes it easier to get this big game to the table, so no doubt this is what I will be playing to see the month out and the New Year in.


One of the maps has the look of city block buildings, which imaginatively takes me back to that favourite introduction to tactical boardgaming, board 1, used in scenario 1 (The Guards Counter Attack) of my early Squad Leader years - nice! Not a bad way to bow out of 2020.





To the bewilderment of another family member, I had asked for a nail varnish shaker, but being the good wargamer who sees an alternative use for everything, this hopefully will become my solution to shaking my model paint droppers. A small steel ball bearing will be popped into each Vallejo dropper and this should result in properly mixed paint and much less wristage for me.


Conclusion.


So all in, there have been some notable moments this year. Covid and the loss of face-to-face gaming is the obvious one, with the cancellation of wargame shows also being a frustrating  consequence.


That of course sits in the shadow of our National Health Service doing a valiant job in trying circumstances and the many who have lost loved ones to the virus either directly or indirectly.


My ASL series going was the final and probably hardest step in dropping from 4 substantial WWII tactical boardgame systems to just one (Old School tactical). It was just too much trying to hold four main rule sets in the old noggin!


The current flick back to 28mm was an about turn that influenced collecting, painting and gaming in the second half of the year. But even as this is typed, I have had a few days of tinkering with 4” hexed terrain and then there are those two 15mm ancient armies from Plastic Soldier Company, so perhaps I should just resign myself to seeing the differing scales as complementing each other, rather than being in competition for ‘the one scale’ and hoping that the ‘Pocket armies’ concept will keep the collection small enough to alleviate storage issues. 


The running of the Germantown game as a participation play by e-mail game was both highly rewarding (as in new to me and enjoyable) and exhausting (as in for a few days it became the total centre of my universe). But it was an experience that I am glad to have become involved with and it was a bit of an eye opener to compare just how limited a commander’s view of the battlefield should be, with the excess of intelligence in most games that we allow ourselves to see as normal.


Our typical birds eye view allows us to respond to enemy manoeuvre long before we would ever be able to do that. I was initially left feeling that ‘ordinary’ gaming would from now on, feel a little diminished because of that. As it happens, it hasn’t, but only because I am conditioned to 45 years of gaming it the ‘other’ way. I have always liked chaos rules in systems - I like them even more now, perhaps they are even essential, but you have to have a play style that is okay with releasing some control.


The social media side of things have been both strong and wobbly. Putting my Commanders site on ice has been as much about me wanting to spend less time at the keyboard as anything else. That sentiment has encroached a couple of times into blog writing, when effort has not equalled pleasure, but here we are at the end of the year, with there still always being something new to write about and some fairly strong articles have appeared over the year. 


To date this year, there have been 54 blog posts (there were 44 last year). Accepting that each post is typically quite lengthy, with several hours of work going into each one, it does beg the question whether this is increasingly eating into what perhaps should be more quality gaming time.


Looking down at the bottom of my screen now, I see that the word count has passed the 12,000 mark (yikes) .... so yes, wordiness is still alive and well! But I know in my heart of hearts that I want to bring the blog under a bit more concise control and 2021 will almost certainly see that. The number of posts probably needs to reduce slightly, the length of them certainly does for the benefit of myself and others!


As to the nature of posting, I often put in a disclaimer that this is not a review site (despite it feeling like one) and that I buy my own stuff and am not indebted to any game company or supplier.


The importance of this is that since I write about what I like and this could result in others spending money, the reader needs to be aware that I cannot be considered truly critically objective, because I start from a position of already liking the game. It does however remain the case that if the reader generally likes the same games as I do ....... then they will like the same games as I do :-).


Of course, I am hugely enjoying the material that other bloggers and vloggers are putting out. It is a rich aspect of our hobby and I am also ever grateful to those that follow this blog and have the fortitude to wade through the longer posts and for those that take the time to comment. 


A main pleasure of 2020, if we are voting for such things! was probably the Wars of the Roses battle in November of the ‘Piggy Longton Taxes’. I just loved the creative aspects of putting that together. Relatively small armies on a standard table with a teaser type of scenario and straight forward rules, is exactly what I want to be seeing from my figure games.





Was there a 2020 disappointment? Once again I have failed to get the ‘Cobra’ boardgame onto the table. This was the first boardgame that I was ever exposed to back in 1977. A good game and perhaps with a memory tinged with a nostalgic fondness, I have bought the third and latest boxed reprint (and sold the original magazine copy!) and really want to get it to the table, but it has been continually squeezed out. I want to be able to play this as much as I used to and that is a lot ..... however, if that is my most notable disappointment, then things aren’t too bad are they!


As for yearly goals or at least hobby direction, I am content that my boardgame collection continues to become more streamlined with an emphasis on series games, so that I have less systems to learn and can better appreciate the nuances of the games that I do play. There are certainly some stand alone games that I also want to keep and re-visit, such as the recently played Borodino and the east front Red Typhoon game played earlier in the year.


To a degree, this streamlining still needs to be applied with greater vigour to the figure side of things. The process has started, but it just takes time to fall on just a few sets of favoured rules that one can stick to. The goal of moving the figure collection to ‘Pocket Armies’ of 12 or so units is likewise ongoing and delay here has been mainly caused by some of these projects being started from scratch, so there is a lot of painting to do. 


As various Pocket Armies become more functional and rule systems are settled upon, then I expect both my boardgaming and figure gaming activity to reach a better balance of actually getting more games to the table with fewer distractions. Some of this of course really requires some clearing out and disposing of those things that don’t make the ‘A’ list - but the reality is that I’m not very good at that (I am in need of Challenge 5 below).


So overall, I seem to be making good headway in getting to a gaming balance that suits me in the form of some easier, more fun games, less rules and hopefully a bit less time spent at the keyboard and more time at the gaming table and to see that all play out into enjoying some better quality gaming time.





Finally gentle reader, to cover that one remaining gap of the year, the final 6 days taking us through to New Year, I am setting myself 5 challenges that deliberately do not have budget considerations, but which rather like a box of chocolates, you may want to join in and choose a couple of nice ones, or scoff the lot and feel sick!


Challenge 1. To visit a few new blogs or vlogs and if liking the content and hoping to see more from them in 2021, posting a comment and telling them. There is an importance in valuing the blogger’s time they take to prepare and publish posts or videos and more-so valuing their approach to openly sharing and building a community. Bloggers can easily start to feel that it is all one way traffic and be tempted to give up, a bit of encouragement goes a long way!


Challenge 2. Dip into the shelves and pull an interesting rulebook or boardgame that has not been looked at for at least 2 years, sit down and have a quality hour with it.


Challenge 3. Look to recapture that mid week game - try and get something small to the table that will be done in 1 to 1½ hours, it may even involve the rules or game pulled in Challenge 2. It doesn’t even need to be a full game, just a plonking down a few units to admire and trying out a few combat and manoeuvre procedures might just tick this box. If I can make this a weekly practice, then I will have triumphed mightily over the time wasted and surrendered to looking at internet content (exception being here of course!). For boardgames, I have actually already started to keep a part of a shelf set aside for such games to gather.


Challenge 4. Paint a posh unit or figure. Accepting my painting standard as what it is and my aim is just to get figures to the table, I shall have a ‘one-off’ go at raising it by one level. Picking a figure or a base (even an existing already painted one) and trying to just elevate it with a few extra touches or improved basing materials. The good thing about this is the new posh unit / figure will almost certainly inspire the rest of the army to roll high (my mounted Richard III figure for Wars of the Roses might just be the candidate, it is already winking at me!).


Challenge 5. Finally, the hardest one of all, diving into the horde of all things good and find something that really is of no further use or interest and which is just taking up space and either e-bay it, donate it or more drastically, bin it! Either way, get rid, making that start on clearing mental and physical space has proven to work for me in the past and a fresh kickstart in that direction is needed for 2021.


Finally, a thought to all of those who find themselves having to work today, doing the stuff that keeps the wheel on! thank you.


And that’s it folks. All is good and thanks for staying with this long post. There’s a ton of other stuff on this blog to browse through for anyone who wants this lovely moment to last forever :-)


Best wishes and have a strong start to the New Year.


Resource Section.

Check Your Leader video channel LINK

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fprFkLrlJ2c&list=PL8VX1GJ37NUzqCzIEjFzz3NV9nIy7Ee3I


Quatre Bras by Hexasim AAR. LINK

http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2020/05/the-battle-of-quatre-bras-1815.html


Being a virtual customer for a virtual Phalanx wargame show. LINK

http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2020/06/not-wargame-show-part-2.html


The Germantown campaign - analysis. LINK

http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2020/06/pbem-germantown-game.html


Initial post for the Old School tactical generic campaign. LINK

http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2020/06/ost-campaign-east-front-1942.html


Scenario 6 from the Perry ACW Battle in a Box, with Firepower rules. LINK

http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2020/07/party-like-its-1862.html


Sound Officers Call! Blog - the ‘simple game’ post. LINK

http://soundofficerscall.blogspot.com/2020/08/the-allure-of-simple-wargaming.html


Burnside Bridge for 12mm ACW. LINK

http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2020/10/burnside-bridge-1862-part-3-action.html


Wargaming out of a small box! A post about a single storage box being ...... enough! LINK

http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2020/12/the-spartan-wargamer.html


Steve J’s ‘Wargaming Addict’ blog GRUNBERG BATTLE. LINK

https://wwiiwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/12/ohw-scenario-4-battle-for-grunberg.html


Jonathan’s ‘Palouse Wargaming Journal’ blog. LINK

http://palousewargamingjournal.blogspot.com



53 comments:

  1. Merry Christmas Norm, having sent the wife off to work it was good to sit down and read through your post. Certainly your opening paragraphs hit home and it may be an age thing but I have certainly been harking back. As you say not a nostalgia thing as such and certainly not an aching for old simple rules, ( I acquired a full collection of Miniature Warfare and some of the rule discussions etc are way beyond me now ,)
    I have drawn many parallels with you although other than my own figure range I have committed to down scaling to 15mm although Warlord games ‘epic battles’ is very interesting and their talk of doing ancients and Napoleonics should the ACW prove popular has brought some exciting thoughts to the fore.
    Enjoy the day and here’s to an easier 2021.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Graham, I suspect there are a fair few of us that think along similar lines and have similar gaming experiences. The Epic is certainly something to keep an eye on. Best Wishes Norm.

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  2. Thanks Norm for your excellent overview of your gaming year, that I always look forward to reading. It is a pleasant way to start the day sitting here watching the sun rise on a crisp, frosty morning which at least makes it feel more like a normal Xmas!

    Many of your thoughts echo with my experiences this year, with the loackdown giving me plenty of time to really assess what I want from my games. So for me it is a few core rulesets and periods, so I can concentrate on my games, rather than re-learning rules for each game, which is not beneficial to my enjoyment of the hobby. Similarly I'm drifting down the Imagi-Nations route, so that I can have say two forces for 18thC games, ditto mid-19thC etc. This means I can focus my efforts rather than being distracted by multiple offerings that my lead mountain provides!

    As for wargames shows, whilst I have complained of their pretty narrow focus on the bigger scales, I have missed them. However with many gamers buying online due to the lockdown, I do wonder how viable they will be going forward given we are likely to still have restrictions for much of 2021.

    Your thoughts on the efforts of Blogging versus the perceived rewards of comments, hits etc also struck a chord with me and, from reading other Blogs, is a trend that is seemingly common. I do often wonder why I bother, but I hope that I put up AARs etc that might inspire other gamers to give them a try or a set of rules a go. Still it can feel a thankless task at times.

    So on that note, I value the time and effort you put into your Blog, which is always enjoy reading, no matter the subject matter. On that note thankyou once again for this post and have a very Merry Xmas!

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  3. Thanks Steve, I think we sing from a similar hymn sheet. Your Black Powder exploits this year certainly exemplifies the single rule set approach and getting comfortable with them.

    I think the scale thing at wargame shows will change this year with the likes of 28mm Victrix, Warlord and Gripping Beast plastic companies now supporting the smaller scales. Even their influence on advertising in the wargame magazines will drag the magazines to better figure scale diversity.

    Best Wishes Norm

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  4. Great post Norm although it has taken me quite some time to work my way through it, so perhaps your aim to cut back a bit on word count has some value! I agree with a lot of what you have written although I will never be getting rid of figures, even if they have not been used for a decade (or never, in the case of some of them!) I have come to the conclusion that I enjoy the collecting and painting as much as I do the gaming and, in fact, some of the games are far better in the anticipation than they end up being in reality. I also think I prefer smaller scaled games with fewer troops/units involved. I have even been tempted by some of the examples of smaller scales on some Blogs and have had a couple of looks at the Pendrakem 10mm and Baccus 6mm sites - but I very much doubt any of my gaming mates would follow me down either of those rabbit holes, so I will likely stick with mainly 28mm figures.

    This ahs been quite a ,long comment by my standards - I felt it important to make an effort given the effort you so obviously put in to many of your posts! Enjoy the last few days of 2020 and have a happy New Year when it comes.

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    1. Thanks Keith. I made an extra effort top be wordy today, as the aim is really to entertain anyone who is not really doing Christmas this year and are looking for distractions :-)

      Group influences are huge and it is difficult to step outside of that due to the expense and degree of work needed for a ‘go it alone’ project, especially as you end up having to create both sides - though I suspect a good many by summer will be tinkering with that new Epic scale that Warlord Games have announced.

      Best Wishes, Norm

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    2. By the way, I was thinking about it afterwards and totally agree with your first "challenge" - I already try to do this, using other blogs comment section to identify the recipients of my interest (eg below!) One thing I tend to do though is if I have made two or three comments and the blogger does not reciprocate, I give up. We all need a little bit of validation and if I comment on your efforts, the least you can do is return the favour, in my opinion!

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    3. Most blogs take quite a bit of time to maintain and for the viewing public at large, they provide a great, almost magazine style resource, where you can sit down in an evening and spend an hour or two flitting from blog to blog and so as part as the quid-pro-quo between consumer and creator, there should really be a greater willingness than we currently see of a passer-by who has enjoyed the post and got something from it, just to say thanks.

      For me, it wouldn’t work if everyone did it all of the time just for the sake of it, because I respond to comments and would be over-whelmed due to my hit rate, but it would be fair to say that there should probably be more of it than there currently is and for the most part, comments are mainly made by the same polite group, who themselves are usually creators as well as consumers .... but not always.

      The discussion does come up from time-to-time and it was once said to me that in the first instance, one must be happy to blog just for their own satisfaction, that way you can never be disappointed :-)

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  5. A great read mate, many thanks and merry Xmas!

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    1. Thanks JBM, hope your Vikings get to do some plundering and your ECW have a siege or two in the New Year :-)

      Best Wishes, Norm.

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  6. Well like a child at Christmas I couldn't wait and have read your post over morning coffee and glad I did. A fine interesting and thought provoking post which I may have to revisit later to absorb it all. Particularly interested in the sticking to one rule set approach, I think Dave and myself are settled on Black Powder for our Horse and Musket games these days, World War Two less so flitting between Bolt Action and Battlegroup here, although BG only for 20mm games and Bolt Action and Rapid Fire at Dave's. Chain of Command will remain a solo game set here at OHQ. Ancients wise Neil Thomas rules with the occaisional Too the Strongest game here.
    Thank you for your blogging efforts over 2020 and look forward to reading more posts in 2021.

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    1. Hi Phil, thanks for 2020 support. I think your range of rules is pretty tight and your Neil Thomas variant for ancients exactly hits the mark. It is interesting to see how those rules have been so adaptable to solo play.

      Best wishes, Norm.

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  7. Thanks Norm for your review and a very happy Christmas to you and yours. There is a lot to comment on in your post as always. More like a conversation which I sometimes find difficult postings as it seems to take so long. Anyway I will restrict myself to the challenges and can easily support 1 to 4 in fact I think I have plans for them in hand already ! , 5 is very hard for me although I have started to consider storage ever more carefully. Two things that do spring out is your change to scale. ? The investment in time effort and space for 28’s is enormous but so rewarding. My desire for smaller scales is more about get more of the battle on the table rather than fighting the same battles in smaller scales....i find an increasing desire towards historical gaming ? As for taking terrain to the tip...........I pray the wargaming gods weren’t watching ! As you are well aware I have managed to keep gaming in the virtual world and found it very rewarding. Who knows how this next phase of lockdown and the new 2021 will treat us but this hobby and more gaming will keep me going whatever. My challenge is just time and capacity and find with virtual gaming I simply don’t have enough time to paint, plan game etc.... I find myself rambling so will go and eat some more chocolate, thank you for all your informative blogging have a great new year and I will be in touch about how we can involve you in some dungeon activity 👍

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  8. Thanks Matt, you put on a lovely table and are very giving of your time, whether than be Virtual style gaming or putting on demo’s at the shows - hopefully we can have a better ‘normal’ by the time that the Phoenix show comes around.

    Scale is a tough one, each has strengths and pulls, but I suppose it is demands on our time and space that perhaps set the agenda for this.

    If you can’t face challenge 5, then you obviously need to start a couple of more periods :-)

    Best wishes, Norm.

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    1. Challenge 5 is a toughie, for sure. While I may benefit from a slight reduction in force, the decision of where to start is paralyzing. Besides, inertia is difficult to overcome!

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    2. I’m not even thinking about getting rid of anything far too painful, so yes I will start a couple of new periods this year 😀

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  9. Merry Xmas Norm, Thanks for this much anticipated holiday treat. I must confess to only skimming it right now, but looking forward to a good sit down and read as a nice part of this lockdown Christmas.

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    1. Thanks Ed, it will be there for when you get a moment of calm :-)

      Best wishes Norm

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  10. Wordiness is alive and well, Norm, and such a pleasure to read! I found your 2020 reflections fascinating as I recalled each of your games, topics, or projects encountered. Your Germantown game was one of my 2020 highlights as well. Great fun and high tension for the participants. The logistics and effort required must have been daunting. Glad you enjoyed the fruits of your labors in this venture.

    2020 is a year like no other but many silver linings have emerged from the dark clouds of COVID.

    Thank you for your continued efforts and enthusiasm for our Wargaming hobby, Norm. You are a First Citizen of the blogosphere. Merry Christmas and a Happy 2021!

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  11. Thanks Jonathan, Thank goodness that blogs are not limited to 128 words or similar constraint and that wordiness is given ample room to breathe :-)

    I have not purposely set out to list wargame activity from January 1st before, but a decision to that in January suddenly took on a life of it’s own as the unusual events of 2020 evolved and influenced our hobby in strange ways.

    Thank goodness we have this hobby that we can rely on or even retreat into if need be.

    Thanks for a year of supporting posts across the blogosphere, where you are happily omnipresent with your encouragement.

    Best wishes, Norm.

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  12. Merry Christmas Norm. Thanks for the great read. I have to agree, going backwards in time during lockdown to play things from yesteryear has been fun for me too. Playing Operation Warboard WW2 for fun plus a few other has kept me going. I am definitely going series rules for board games. I have loved Men of Iron and SPQR this year. I also have the Battle of the Bulge, based on your write up. You hurt my wallet but they have been bright moments in a pretty dark year.
    Best wishes
    Dave

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  13. Thanks Dave, I will try and spend more of your money in 2021 :-)

    The Operation Warboard is a tremendous blast from the past, mine was such a well handled copy.

    I am pretty determined to get SPQR to the table next year, though will likely be using the official Simple alternative rule set. Though when 1st Edition SPQR (and Alexander) came out, I used to play them with the full set, so who knows.

    It will be interesting to know what you think of Bulge, as it is not so traditional.

    Best wishes, Norm

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    1. Good choice Norm! I use SGBOH. I now have Cataphract too!
      Best
      Dave

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    2. Forgot to add! I enjoy Bulge because you can try different theories. The rules don’t prevent this but provide a good framework where the rules don’t get in the way. Given the playing tome you can get thrashed, not worry and try another way n the next session. It was a good buy. As you say “a gamers game!”

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    3. I picked up Cataphract last year and that looks useful for the smaller scenarios.

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  14. Merry Xmas Norm. Another great Christmas read. Thank you for all your effort and investment in the commanders website and blog over the past year.

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  15. Thanks Paul,sorry the Commanders site has been put on ice, I know you visited that, thank you. I hope the blog continues to interest folk, there always seems something to write about. It will be nice if we can get the show scene started again and I can give that some coverage.

    Best wishes, Norm.

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  16. Merry Christmas Norm! A wonderful post and I'm looking forward to your wargaming challenges this coming year! Your blog is a never ending source of inspiration for me and many others so thank you for that! What a year this has been - I am eager to see it done :)

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    1. Thanks Steve, I love visiting your blog to see what battle you have planned for next and which system you are enthusiastically embracing with a ton of your time. It is very much a glass half full blog, ideal for these testing times.

      I think 2021 holds a lot of potential.

      Best wishes, Norm.

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  17. Many thanks for taking the time to write that up Norm. There were a lot of interesting games this year, that is for sure. I think that my personal favourites were the Quatre Bras game and the AWI game. The 5 Challenges look doable, so I may give them a go. I have followed the twists and turns over your scale and size preferences for a little while now, but it seems that you still have some further thinking to do about it - good luck with that!

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  18. Thanks .... you enjoyed the Quatre Bras post! .... I should hug you :-)

    Both those games game the wide sweep of battle, which I know you enjoy. I have been an avid follower of your blog, because of the sense of battle that you can draw out of the table with the 6mm armies.

    i actually started with Challenge 2 this afternoon and pulled out Storm Over Normandy, which is a boardgame from MMP.

    Best wishes Norm.

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    1. It was a fascinating take on a fascinating battle. Quatre Bras allows a lot of latitude by scenario designers with regards to victory conditions, since it (still) isn't clear what constitutes a good result for either side and for that reason, amongst others, it is always an interesting refight. The rules seemed to make a reasonable fist of the tactical side too, modelling that definite, but non-linear, degradation of combat capability as a Napoleonic battle went on.

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  19. As always an entertaining and engrossing read! Your blog is of the highest quality and more like a magazine article so I'm glad to hear you're continuing with it! It would be nice to see more of your 28mm Napoleonics, your Austrians look good! I think you have to just accept the multiple scales and resign yourself to it, I was looking at your challenges and after saying never to no5 I realized I'd just shipped a load of 40k orks off to Spain to a fellow blogger who will definitely get more fun out of them, so perhaps I am downsizing!
    Best Iain

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    1. Thanks Iain for the kind words. Napoleonics are just getting going, but the stash will ultimately give French / Austrian 1809. I do find whites hard work, I just need to discover a knack. Great if your recycled Orks get more table time and it leaves a gap ...... for more dark age :-)
      Best wishes, Norm.

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    2. Well as I am planning Austrians/French in 1809 for this year I'm even more interested !
      Best Iain

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  20. A most enjoyable read as you recounted your wargaming 2020 year and thoughts.

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  21. Thanks Peter, 2020 certainly can claim to have the material for such an article. I mention your campaign and blog page today to the Tank on Tank designer. It is a small world.

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    1. It certainly is. 2020 seems to have linked a lot of warmers together with virtual games and just generally connecting with ideas, etc.

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  22. It has certainly been quite a year Norm, and your article looking back over it was most engrossing and enjoyable, tinged with sadness. I read it yesterday (25th) after my morning dog walk and over a coffee, perfect start to the day. You have really got me thinking about hobby related matters for the coming year. Your enthusiasm for the actual gaming side of things is admirable, especially as one who does struggle with it these days whilst getting most pleasure from painting the soldiers. I think I have to accept that my gaming days are largely behind me now, I really wish that I could engage as you do Norm where your narrative brings the game alive. Talking of which the Peggy Longton map and video was probably the highlight of your blog year for me, really brought a huge smile to my face and I look forward to reading more next year. Of course your ongoing T34/Tiger encounters are always enjoyable and so well described I almost feel like I'm inside one of those beasts of war.

    Hard to believe now that I attended Cavalier in Tunbridge Wells in February, just before Covid really hit home and affected all our lives, I was so looking forward to attending shows and meeting people after my time in Spain, but alas not to be, at least not this year.

    Anyway, all the best to you and yours and I look forward to things improving next year for all of us. Thanks for a great blog that has kept me thoroughly entertained.

    Best regards,
    Lee.

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    1. Thanks Lee, I think we come from a similar position in that our wargame thoughts are often in a state of flux, but you are right, it is the game for me and everything just hangs off that.

      I have had the hexes out over the last few days, so the torment of freshness continues :-)

      I hope to continue bringing the sort of material that will give a gentle start to the day ... with coffee :-)

      Best wishes, Norm.

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  23. Merry Christmas Norm, an engrossing read and I'm only up to June.. :o) Your review of the windmill was so fulsome I went and ordered one straight away..!

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  24. Thanks Steve, The Windmill is a lovely piece, so much so that it will end up in every one of your battles :-)

    Best Wishes, Norm.

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  25. Great post! You have inspired me to try keeping a record, in 2021, of my gaming activities.

    Your use of boardgames to create miniature scenarios encouraged me, earlier this year, to note some interesting game situations while playing GMT's Market Garden game HOLLAND 44. I had some grand battles between 30 Corps and powerful kampfgruppen on the highway between the 101st and 82nd's sectors that will make fine miniatures games.

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  26. Hi Nathaniel, thanks for visiting. Yes, a record is worth doing as it ‘frames’ the years activity and I also think it keeps you active as it quickly reveals when you have not been getting games to the table.

    I really do like the idea of grabbing interesting situations created in a boardgame and then playing them out. I note in GMT’s latest newsletter that Simonitch is going to do a Salerno ‘43 game, that should be something worth looking at.

    Best wishes, Norm.

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  27. What a tome! I usually like longer ish blog posts which is just yet another reason why I am a fan of your blog. It deserves a longer comment than I’m ready to write but truth be rid I haven’t read it completely.. I blame the kids, and in-laws and the weather.
    But I did read the bit about the German town campaign so I wanted to thank you again for putting in the time and effort running it. It was one of the best games I played during the year. 😀

    Merry Christmas to you.

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  28. Thanks Stew, The Germantown game was an eye-opener to me. Sounds like Christmas is keeping you busy :-)
    Best wishes, norm.

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  29. Thanks for posting that. Great to experience another gamer's year. Hope you had a good Xmas and that 2021 is a year of good health, prosperity, and peace for you and yours.

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  30. Thanks Ellis, all good, already there seems plenty on the horizon for interest in 2021.
    Best wishes, Norm.

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  31. Hi Norm,

    Many thanks. I very much enjoyed reading this post on Christmas Day!

    Very best wishes for next year!

    Cheers

    Jay

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  32. Hi Jay, I note via my BGG feed that your Battle for Ramadi has been getting a lot of interest / play, so a good year for you also. Much to do in 2021 :-)
    Best wishes, Norm.

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  33. Norm, thanks for this and for an excellent year of blogging! This has reminded me of how many of your posts I have read, enjoyed and been challenged by. I always wish I could play more games after reading Battlefields and Warriors:) With two small children that rarely happens (though child 1 does like my games and sometimes plays properly with me, rather than just laying out all the pieces on the maps!) so your blog also provides me a great service in vicarious wargaming. Thanks again and happy New Year

    Gareth

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  34. Hi Gareth, thanks for posting and the thumbs up. Your comments link in to some thoughts I have been having over the last few days of making things easier to the table, so I think this year the blog will be seeing some of that play out and also highlighting those games that are just more accessible. Thanks for supporting the blog.

    Best wishes, Norm.

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