Friday, 29 July 2022

Too much stuff!

Perhaps an embarrassing statement, but not one intended to offend when set against the current cost of living crisis and the general belt tightening that many of us are having to embrace.

But by ‘too much’ I’m not so much reflecting on overfilled shelves, but rather of an overfilled mind that is too frequently distracted by the excessive wargame related tasking that gets in the way of gaming, not least, knowing multiple rule sets.

The point is, I would like to spend more time gaming and less time prepping for it or thinking about it etc. Two games a week would be nice, with the main course at the weekend and importantly a lighter snack for the more illusive mid-week game.

As you may have already gathered, this is going to be a rather a self indulgent post, but I am guessing that it simply highlights an aspect of hobby that touches many of us. If inclined to read on, please use the ‘read more’ tab.

In an ideal world, I might be the sort of person who as a figure gamer, collects one period, in one scale and has one set of rules. As a boardgamer, I might just have half a dozen to a dozen games or systems that can be played so often, that there comes an intimacy with the knowledge and control of those rules and situations.

After all, chess fanatics are satisfied with the same board, playing pieces and one set of rules providing lifelong play and challenges from what is arguably the greatest game in the world.

However, my gaming interests are wide, they also span the two worlds of figures and boardgames and while I consider my collections to be fairly modest, the content is still widely scattered across many systems and rule sets.

There are things that get in the way of getting a game to the table, such as the time spent cutting and trimming counters, painting figures, building terrain and chopping and changing between favoured projects, but it strikes me that the biggest obstacle to play is the number of different rule sets and systems that one has to read, learn and fight with to bring something to the table.

I have for a while thought that perhaps as an age thing, my gaming tastes had evolved into much preferring the lower complexity type game or rule set, as it is clearly something that allows a game to get to the table more easily and can conclude in a single short session.

However, I am increasingly sensing that this is not true, my own drive to lower complexity has most likely been driven not by my own desire, but rather by need, because I have so many competing systems and it is not possible to know them all well enough for the deeper game, so I end up seeking out the more superficial level of play via simple rules. 

In truth I like some of the deeper, richer games and my reasoning is that if I had fewer systems, I would actually have better quality game time.

Deeper / richer games don’t necessarily have to be ‘big’ and for the space / time strapped gamer, more involved games do exist amongst the smaller formats. So for boardgames, ignoring 2 mappers and even increasingly embracing half mappers may result in more games that are easier to be left set up or even at the end of a session, to have unit positions recorded to allow the game to be re-setup and continued at a later stage. 

For figures, my Pocket Armies (10 infantry, 2 guns, 2 cavalry units) type games covering a slice of a bigger action or even doing several scenarios looking at various aspects of a single larger battlefield, might bring more involvement with the subject, in a campaign sort of way. I particularly enjoy moving interesting situations created in a boardgame across to the figures table.


Anyway, the point is, the embrace of low complexity play might be the evolved solution to a problem that we have created through over collecting and despite my recent clear-out and scaling back, I obviously did not go far enough. There was an impasse where things I liked, but in truth would not get much use and just get in the way, stayed in the collection, I should have been more ruthless.

My favourite artwork on a Napoleonic set

Daft things like having 12 different Napoleonic rule sets and associated support material burdening the shelves and my clear-out only got rid of one set, when in reality it would be ideal to get down to owning just one or two sets that I come to appreciate fully and know intimately and equally important STOP continually browsing the other sets. 

On boardgames, there remain single titles that I like the look of, but which have never hit the table in 5 years or more and to play requires a full investment in reading the rules from scratch, taking notes and then the first game always carries rule mistakes anyway, in most cases reducing game satisfaction and making putting it back up for a second playing less compelling, so it goes back on the shelf - repeat. Surely it is better to be a regular returner to fewer titles or systems. 

We used to live in a small flat, where lack of space was an unforgiving master and we ran an essential ‘one in means one out’ policy! It worked on every aspect of life including buying clothing etc! But it only works when it becomes a strictly adhered to principle. Having moved to somewhere bigger, my gaming has just grown into the new space and once again has hit the interface between the sustainable and the not - so it is time once again for a return to a managed regime.

I have sometimes wondered what my gaming world would be like if boardgaming had not commercially taken off and I was left holding just a core of say around 10 games that would cover what were termed as ‘The Classics’ from Avalon Hill, such as Waterloo, Bulge and Anzio, plus a couple of iconic games such as the old 1977 basic Squad Leader by John Hill and a nostalgic favourite such as SPI Cobra.

A new 3rd edition of the first boardgame I ever played.

It is an interesting point to debate, though I’m sure given a choice most of us would prefer the diversity of also having ‘other favourites’ that we currently hold - could you settle for just 10 games / systems? There are Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) players that have that system as their sole game of choice - though in truth, ASL keeps their shelves full and scenario options many.

Having said that, I seem recently to have come naturally to a point in life of being less excited by future releases. For boardgames, as I look ahead to the schedule of releases planned over the next 18 months, my enthusiasm for some of those titles has surprisingly diminished even since last year. I seem to have moved from ‘Ooh that looks interesting’ to ‘will I really want to play that enough to want to learn the rules and get it onto the table’? Does it earn a space on my shelf?

With the above said, rather counter-intuitively you may feel, I have just bought into two boardgame series. Jours de Gloire by the Vae Victis people (a napoleonic system) and Panzer by GMT (a WWII tactical system), growing the very collection that I want to reduce!

This will be hitting the table soon.

But these two systems are fairly heavy hitters in terms of the number of play sessions that they can generate with the same rules and they do give decent games, so I will get a LOT out of them, while allowing me to lose other game titles that cover the same subjects, but across more rule sets.

Having been exposed to these Vae Victis games, I have been quite taken by their smaller folio style format, plus by inclination, they do seem to support the idea of series rules. 

If you take something like their Waterloo title, which has a 4 panel map and compare it to my (loved) Hexasim Waterloo game, which has two large maps equating to 16 panels, they actually encompass pretty much the same ground / topography, but it is the former that is much easier for me to get to the table and to keep it set up for the playing time needed, as neither are quick games.

As a consequence, I have recently pursued several Vae Victis titles (the newer ones that come with English rules included), bringing them into the collection while they are still in print. I can see these smaller games becoming an increasingly important part of the collection in terms of playability and more importantly - replayability.

As for figures, I am not so much wanting to cut back, but to curtail further growth for now until the back log of the lead / plastic mountain is brought under better control. Pocket Armies are definitely the way to go, with whatever needs doing above that, being done leisurely and for pleasure over time.

I already have the figures needed to round out the several projects part started, so getting all of that jacked up to chip away at the stockpile just needs to happen.

There is a vlogger called 7th Son (Martin on YouTube) who produces very interesting content that mostly has the larger scale figures deployed onto a kitchen table area and his scenario inventiveness results in some superb play with relatively small forces. He is worth checking out.

A not insignificant problem are the number of figure rule sets and their expansions / support material that sit on my shelves. They are all nice, but if a harsh benchmark of ‘will this ever get to the table’ was applied, there could be a drastic cutting back of that side of things. The real problem is that they compete with each other for my attention, which they do get and it just dilutes my commitment to any one of them. 

Is it possible just to have a few favoured sets that would service my 1066 to WWII interest and be permanent enough to learn thoroughly or is the reality that we are locked into looking for ‘the next thing’?

My current rules of choice for Wars of the Roses.

Having recently travelled the route of having ‘a big clear’ out, it obviously fell a little short of being ruthless enough, plus some things have flowed back into the collection that should really not have passed the ‘click to buy’ moment!

Either way, a slow drip feeding into e-bay should be a gentle enough way to avoid one of those drastic and often regrettable single day big clear outs. For the harder to move items, donation or refuse are both viable, with the ends justifying the means. Just close your eyes, hold your nose and jump in!

Of course all of this is somewhat contrary to my feeling that we need to underpin the fragile wargaming industry by spend, something absolutely essential if the show scene is to survive in the UK. My short term plans mean that this could become the elephant in the room, though I am certain that I will still see things that I want, but I will need to just be a bit more discerning. Balance in everything!

Crusader command stand

I would also like to transfer some spend over to ‘the posh’. For me, this means the luxury of buying some pre-painted figures from time to time. I recently did this for the first time, buying a Crusader command base from Colonel Bills. This was a treat that is rewarding because I enjoy the base so much (I also had some painted figures gifted to me by Phil a couple of years back to help start up a collection, for which I am eternally grateful and which bring much pleasure - thank you again).

On the boardgame side of things, the fact that I am buying into series games will likely mean continued purchase as those series will continue to grow and need to be owned by the completists (me). So for example, looking at the Panzer series, the next release is North Africa, which will be a biggie and is presently on the production cycle and may deliver next year.

Will there be an impact on the blog? Probably some, with less new stuff being explored, but it shouldn’t be too noticeable and hopefully with more situations being covered by familiar systems and more games on the table, then there should be enough interesting things to inspire the e-ink to keep flowing. 

I hope this post has not given a tone of ‘woe me’, my wargaming enthusiasm remains as strong as ever, it is simply a moment of reflection that I suspect some readers will identify with.

Currently getting clipped are counters for the 1st module of Panzer (GMT) and also for the Aspern-Essling battle 1809 (Vae Victis), both will be played soon. On painting sticks is a battalion of French Napoleonic Infantry, while the next scenario being drafted concerns the ongoing adventures in the imagined world of Piggy Longton between Lancastrian and Yorkist forces. Stephen the Fearless The Bishop of Dungborough is on top form! So there is plenty afoot, which is good.

Quatre Bras 1815 from Vae Victis has just been played three times and was very enjoyable. The Aspern-Essling game is from the same series, so should play out nicely with minimum rule prep and allow a full and easy exploration of the scenarios and variants. If only my French / Austrian 1809 forces were ready to allow some cross-over games from that boardgame, but all of that is in the future.

Anyway, to keep this first world problem in some kind of perspective, I am taking a gentle and slow approach to improving the balance between quality play and everything else that surrounds the gaming, but it is identified as a goal to achieve and so that deliberate journey begins. 

I don’t know whether it is an age thing, but I just don’t have the hunger to over collect any more - or rather, it has become a more noticeably adverse thing to me. A simpler path of getting old favourites to the table more often seems preferable. It has only taken me close to 50 years to reach this conclusion, not sure how the next 50 will evolve …… Oh Wait! :-)

As said, this has been a bit of a self indulgent post, but for many gamers with modest game space, budgets and spare time, some of this may strike a chord and at least get us looking a bit more critically at what we have / need / want / want / want / want / want :-).

I may have wandered off track a bit, but in essence, for those that do, are we seeking lower complexity in our games, simply because we have too many competing wargame demands and designs (too much stuff)? Would it be better to have some richer games, but fewer titles / rules / systems to better cope with what should otherwise be ….. ordinary complexity?

Is any of this relevant to your gaming world? What position are you in with regards to shrinking or growing your collections and do you feel you have enough liberated time to play all that you want to play or are you so spoiled by choice that good things come back around to the table all too rarely and lastly do you find it difficult to properly assimilate the wide range of rules immediately available to you, an interested friend wants to know. :-)

As always thanks for sticking with a meandering post.

Resource Section.

My sister webspace COMMANDERS is being re-configured to showcase various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and give a flavour of where current ongoing projects are up to. Link.


  1. I read your post with great interest. I have always had a narrower focus for my own wargaming interests - black powder, horse and musket era only and very few boardgames - but have recently reduced them still further to having only small 10mm ImagiNations armies (but in a pseudo-Napoleonic rather than 18th century style) so no more worries about historical uniform details; goodbye to my Ospreys and Blandford books! Ruleswise, I am also going for simple and playable, adapting Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame rules, experimenting with free or cheap rules from the internet and writing my own. I have sold more complex rules that I never managed to learn and was unlikely to play, and reduced my book collection dramatically, culling any volumes I am unlikely to read again and selling or giving away most of the books I receive to review. I have resolved wherever possible to spend on wargaming only what I have made by selling my stuff, to focus on writing rules and scenarios and actually playing games with the troops I have, rather than buying more. No sign of 'withdrawal' symptoms, I am relieved to discover, and I feel quite content.
    I hope your plans will work equally well for you!

  2. Hi Arthur, thanks for dropping by. Very interested by your comments, especially as you seem to have dialled back your collecting to something akin to how we might remember our very early gaming years - while still of course still wargaming with satisfaction and writing rules.

    I have a couple of core sets of home brew rules and after a recent dabble with several commercial sets, I am giving plenty of thought to giving my own rules a bit of a dusting and having a set printed so they look like a presentable set for my own use, a sort of (very) limited self publishing. These days everything can be made to look quite attractive at a surprisingly low cost.

  3. Trying valiantly to keep to regular rule sets here, you are probably aware that Dave and myself are sticking to Black Powder for games in that era. Ancients and Dark Ages, Neil Thomas, although a game of To the Strongest may get on the table here occasionally. WWII is almost exclusively Battlegroup here now with the odd game of Rapid Fire for old times sake. For the Spanish Civil War and WWI it will be Bolt Action until something that strikes the right chord comes along.

  4. Hi Phil, it is interesting that between yourself and David, with such solid collections under your belts and a tight focus on rule sets, much of my post will be happily alien to you. :-). I do think fewer rule sets is key to more and less fraught gaming.

    I am sat here tonight, 2 hours into a new boardgame and the ruleset has not been out of my hands!

    1. In my case the bare truth is I can't be bothered now learning new rule sets, the fewer the better is my default position. But too much stuff? Not my view really as I'm planning something new and working out how I'll fit it into storage here in GHQ.

    2. Hi David, between Phil and yourself, you are getting regular games to the table and getting a conclusion each session ….. no need for any tinkering :-)

  5. So much to say but at a loss on where to start!

    1. Hi Jonathan. I know that you collect widely and that you are exposed to a lot of different rules, particularly since your involvement with zoom.

  6. A really interesting post, thanks very much Norm. There is much to mull over and reflect on and I am particularly taken with the idea that it is the number of rules that we own and try to play that over-stimulates the desire for complexity. I will need to think over what proportion of the issue that is: I think there are absolute issues with many complex sets that more focus alone will not solve, but on the other hand your idea obviously feels right to some degree. And I think I want to react to that. But as you say, one of the difficulties is that the wargaming culture around us does want to continually create better mousetraps, which on one level is admirable, but on the other creates this issue.

    1. Hi, there are some sets that despite being complicated, have a huge amount of playability, the continual exposure to which works to bring down some of that complexity as familiarity kicks in. In particular I think this is true of WWII tactical systems - Perhaps the same could be said of your Roman v’s tribesmen armies.

  7. Also one quick comment about the small campaigns; I have found that the size of forces within a campaign can be quite difficult to get right and keep small, without ending up playing the majority of games as quite small skirmishes. Rules that have two or more levels, like the Portable Wargame, or the Twilight.. rules, or Lost Battles, or Polemos Napoleonics and Ruse de Guerre would seem to have an advantage here.

    1. Yes, Polemos Napoleonics is a good example, with the two sister sets allowing a broad approach to battle selection.

      Also ‘bath-tubbing’ of say Division to Brigade or Brigade to Regiment used to be a common principle, with a single set of rules ‘stepping up’ to serve both scales of warfare, but bath-tubbing as a term and solution seems to have lost favour now and instead there are rule sets for all eventualities.

      I note the new Napoleonic rules (Soldiers of Napoleon), which looks to manage a single division of 3 - 5 brigades and played in a setting that the table is nestled amongst a bigger battlefield and that some external influences from that surrounding battlefield can find itself worked into the game on the divisional table.

  8. Norm -
    I can relate! Unfortunately, once past the Big Seven-Zero, one becomes vaguely conscious of a lack of room in a fourth dimension as well as the three spatial. Equally unfortunately, resistance to temptation is hard to develop - not so much to expand one's existing projects (though there is the tendency for armies to require a certain 'rounding off') but to begin new ones.

    This is not helped by my playing chess as well (on line), which interest I began about 10 years before I discovered war gaming was a thing. But chess was always a war games substitute anyhow, but it had certain beauties of its own such that I was never quite able to let it go, even though I haven't played an over-the-board game for at least 20 years.

  9. Hi Ion, there is much to tempt us these days. I note in the Euro type gamer world, Kickstarter for new designs is a big deal and the stretch goals can mean that by time the game reaches you, it can include the base game plus expansion modules etc, so some meaty stuff is there, but one never gets the time to fully explore and ‘consume’ it as no sooner has it arrived on your doorstep that the next Kickstarter is up an running.

    I have a chess App, it invariable sees me off and that is with it being set to the lowest level (easy)!

  10. Spent the last few years configuring everything for small space gaming with pocket armies on a 3x3 playing area. My forthcoming house move will give me all the space I could possibly want for much larger games to be played…but I’m not sure that will necessarily translate into more or better games. By the way that GMT Panzer game looks very much like my old favourite Panzerblitz. Are they similar in ways other than the box artwork?

  11. Hi JB, No. The box artwork is just a nod to Panzerblitz, which was produced in 1970 (I just said that to shock you!).

    The original Panzer, together with sister games Armor and 88 have their production roots set in 1979. they were then translated into a detailed figures game, then in 2012 GMT gave Panzer a re-birth.

  12. I agree with some of your points but not with others Norm! I have been writing and commenting for a couple of years (at least) that I genuinely prefer the smaller level, skirmish type rules/gaming to the 50 battalions per side mega games on a 6 x 12 table that take 6-8 hours to play. The latter are still a great spectacle and provide a lot of eye candy fodder for my blog, but I get more enjoyment out of smaller scale, smaller area games now I think. As to rules, I don't really own any! Most of our large games in the last 30 years have been played with one or other of our "house" rule sets, generally owing a lot to our friend Mark of 1866 and All That fame. He has created a semi generic set that spans 1000ad - 1950ad, obviously including some changes for different tactics and weapons - but activation, movement, morale etc all work the same way ....which makes sense, of course. For variety, I rely on my Friday night gaming buddy Julian - over 25 years we have probably played 50 different sets of rules, some of which I really enjoyed and kinda wish we had stuck with, and others which were really a bit naff! As to reduced collecting and painting of figures ....NOOOOOO!!! I cant do it! Nor can I sell off stuff I don't use - hell, I have several collections that are up to 20 years old and are lucky if they have been on a table twice - but they aint going anywhere! My plan is, when I am retired (5-7 years hopefully) I will have all the time in the world to play as many games as I like - of course, this is mainly dependent on how my domestic situation develops - even over the last decade, I could have played 2-300 more games, if I had no one else to consider and could go to every fortnightly Sunday game at Barrys place - but "real life" commitments prevented that. allowing me to attend maybe 6 -10 per annum rather than the 20-25 possible - Its just a balancing act I suppose. Unlike many, I am time rich but opportunity poor when it comes to gaming I guess, and rely on others to provide a venue!

    1. Hi Keith, you make a good point about table / game size. The scope of a big game looks splendid at the outset, but I just tend to tire if something goes on too long and the game can start to feel a little tedious.

      Also, increasingly, I am irritated by any game that does not play to conclusion in the time frame available. I just don’t see the point in the effort / enthusiasm put into the play to reach the victory conditions and then have to pull the plug with one of those “I think this is what will likely happen next” type conversations. So games by size / scope need to be match to the available game time available.

      Your blog reports do reflect what a great gaming group that you have.

      I quite like the way that we have this wargame community, but that we are all practicing our hobby in slightly different ways that reflect life circumstances and making it work for ourselves. The theme behind this blog of ‘gaming in small spaces’ has opened my eyes to the numbers of people who game on 4x4, 3x2, 2x2 or actually cannot game at all due to space / circumstances and yet our media typically throws the bigger games at us as though that is the norm!

      Different bricks - I suppose that is what makes blog diversity so interesting and compelling as readers.

    2. I do now have my little folding card table for solo games in the garage of course, Norm - which I enjoyed playing a couple of Pulp actions on. The only reason I have not played a few more is, I made the leading Italian character say something at the end of the last game that infers the next game will be of a certain type - but I don't have all the terrain to do the game I had in my mind when I wrote it...DUH! I guess that's minor example of the kind of "slave to the blog" self-induced pressure you were trying to get away from when you took your blogging sabbatical earlier in the year!?

    3. Indeed, they can easily transcend the intended brief!

  13. Hi Norm, An interesting read about collections (figures, rules, and boardgames). I do relate to one of the areas covered in your post. That of preferring "simpler" rules which are easy to recall and maintain a playing pace to games. New rules are always very temping and I do on occasion succumb and purchase a new set, only to return to OHW or Charge variations. Regards, Peter

    1. Hi Peter, your preference to campaigns and projects that run over several consecutive games hits the sweet spot with the ‘repeated play / simpler rules combo’. It certainly keeps the campaign alive and I think keeps the narrative focussed on outcomes rather than rules, which gives a better story.

    2. Agree with this point too actually! I have only ever played in one campaign - Julian and I "did" the FIW using Habitants and Highlanders, a Canadian Wargames Group ruleset, which had an elegantly simple system of moving "armies" composed of different units around on an A4 sized map of the eastern part of the US/Canada, and when they came into contact, a figure battle would be set up on the table. Units had rosters, casualties were recorded and as a result, tabletop attacks might be called off if it seemed unlikely they would succeed, because you wanted to preserve the units as much as possible for "the next time" Funnily enough, we were just reminiscing over it last night - it must be twenty years since we played - the units were of 12 figures, I created a whole 25/28mm British force using locally produced Front Rank figures for about $80 (£40) and even recycled some much older Minifigs 25mm to bolster the numbers. Having a series of linked games and "real" consequences if you carry on fighting after a sensible point, made this campaign a lot of fun!

    3. With Henry Hyde just publishing his campaigns volume, perhaps the moment is right for a re-engaging with campaigns. They used to be very common, but seemed to have lost favour for a couple of decades and now too often in commercial efforts, they are no more than simply linking the existing scenarios together for some sort of points based totting up fest. Blogs seem the perfect platform for getting a campaign story going.

  14. This hits very close to home, Norm. I find myself in a similar position. For my own situation, I found myself looking at simpler rules because I felt that they'd get more time on the table and I would get more use out of my minis. This was not the case as I got bored quickly from the simple rules like OHW or Simplicity in Practice. They're great games but they got old and predictable.

    I think your conclusion is a good one - namely that you should have a staple set or 2 of rules that you play and know well. The familiarity with them will speed up gameplay considerably . I'm still looking my for staple set of rules and I'm still spending a great deal of time thinking about what I want, versus actually playing which is frustrating.

    1. Hi Steve, I was particularly thinking about your good self and your recent posts when writing this. I’m pretty sure that we all have some obstacles to play that we just didn’t seem to have a couple of decades ago and just contemplating every now and then about the reasons behind that is a worthwhile thing.

      The situation with rules does become relevant to me because I am a 50 / 50 figure and boardgame player and the boardgame side of things potentially introduces a lot of different rules to the party, many of them take a while to learn, but might only ever result in one game.

      If I was able to look back over a wargaming life and count how many rulebooks had passed through my hands and been read cover to cover, it would no doubt tell its own tale.

  15. I've been thinking a lot about downsizing my collection and have made some progress in that direction, but while somedays I think I could be very happy with just a single period for figure-gaming (WWI), sometimes I think "well my collections aren't that large, so they all stay!" Our identification with our possessions is a strange thing and I feel, for me, ultimately the fewer I have the happier I will be - but it will take some reconsidering of what exactly I want from the hobby and what I enjoy the most.

    However, it was the idea that we have so many competing systems/games that drives us to simpler rules/games that I found most intriguing. Previously, I had been assuming that my desire for simple games was due solely to a lack of time to read and learn anything complex - not considering that perhaps that perceived lack of time was at least in part caused by having other rulesets waiting in the wings (even if I fall back to the same ones repeatedly). If I made a decision and stuck with it, complexity would not be such an issue as I would get the same game on the table often enough to sort out that complexity. Or, so I imagine. Something I will think about further. Thank you for your post!

    1. Hi John, it is an interesting point and I am sure has a good basis of truth. I am tempted to go along with a view that we are just all busier these days than we used to be, but then I recall my early years of long hours at work, plus overtime, plus two kids etc and none of that ever stopped me doing ‘enough’ gaming.

      Perhaps our behaviours with the ‘screen’ is the thing that has changed things for many of us, but for me, I think constantly having a new rule set in my hands is at the core of much of my drive towards lower complexity. Going to series based rules has allowed me to raise that level of complexity and increase the number of games that I can readily jump into.

    2. John, I should also add that many of ‘sell-offs’ have ended in sellers regret and it is not unusual to see them getting bought back in! An expensive solution to impulsiveness.

  16. Hi Norm, great post and obviously from the comments is applicable to all gamers of a certain age. I agree with looking for the simplicity of rules and have recently decided on using OHW for my base set.

    Board games are always tricky to leave set up, even if you have the space, as they take up a lot of real estate in the wargame room.

    I think that the spread of interests also impacts what I do. Always the question of doing this or that, and what about this collection here! I am looking forward to retirement when the time available will be much greater and hopefully the choices will be easier.

    1. Hi Ben, I have been looking at some rules of ‘yesteryear’, a time when we generally think that there was more simplicity in the hobby and that there were fewer barriers to getting a game. Yet I have been seeing some quite complicated old sets and also when read with the modern more enquiring eye, they have some holes in them that today might be sticking point for us, but there was no internet then, you just made your mind up and cracked on with the game …. or failed to even see the rule problem!

      Something is different with gaming today, we have both lost and gained things along the way. I suppose we just need to keep a balance and make sure that we are getting some quality gaming time in whatever form that takes.

      But I think your comment about spread of interest rather hits the nail on the head, as it requires more servicing with prep, collecting and rule reading / ownership.

  17. You’ve summed up exactly what I e been trying to say on my blog for some time, I think the biggest shock to most people was when I sold my 18th century collection of figures following my Culloden demo game at Partizan. I would much rather play smaller games of the FIW or the early wars against th Spanish and French in the Caribbean. So close on 3000 painted figures made their way to a collector and I kept around 300 for the above games.
    Is it an age thing with the reality growing older and wanting more quality gaming ? Possibly. My 15mm collections remain and I’m far happier building armies for BBDBA to game and have now established a Friday afternoon for gaming with a colleague, who also likes board games. I am also pursuing a similar line of thought re board games and have just bought into Panzer and whilst the rule learning is always an issue I now view the board game route as a means of satisfying my butterfly interests.
    I have also started another trawl of the bookshelves for trimming rules and books where multiple copies of rules for various periods or books on a battle have been collected. Your piece on the WWII campaign in a day certainly inspired me to dig out some of my 15mm.
    I think the biggest change for me was that other than the figures for the skirmish gaming and the 1796 campaign was downsizing to 15mm especially in the ancients period, far more convenient for storeage and gaming.
    Finally I see no reason why you posts should slow, reports on similar systems would be well received

    1. Hi Graham, your two recent blog posts were uppermost in my mind as I constructed this post.

      We have a similar outlook in our hobby approach, I would fancy that our wargaming worlds are pretty much at level pegging. We like similar games (I have just bought back into Panzer) and we dabble heavily in both boardgames and figure games, so it is of no surprise to me that my post resonates with you as. Your exposure to multiple rule sets and spending time on what to focus on is pretty much where I have been for some time.

      I certainly like the definite path that you have put your wargaming on, it is all about sustainability and as you say the outcome of quality gaming.

      Lee is doing great stuff with Epic plastics, which I can see being an area that you will enjoy, especially when (not if!) the next era is announced.

      I see the blog as a continually evolving thing and imagine that any shifts will be very minor and in any case style and ethos will remain, which after all is what underpins a blog.

  18. A post that certainly strikes many a chord with me Norm: In fact I have something along similar lines waiting to be finalised on my Blog. In short whilst knocked for six with Covid recently, I made the decision to really cull my rules, books and figure collections to focus on core periods and rules that I know and enjoy. It is all too easy to think that I should dabble in 'X' period, when in reality it will never see the light of day. Over the past 5 or so years I have only played a few core rules anyway, so anything else can safely be disposed of. Well more to follow on my blog as and when I can find a quiet moment to sort my thoughts out, which is easier said than done with a full house again!

  19. Hi Steve, hope your Covid recovery continues (5 months on, I still have no sense of taste or smell! BooHoo).

    I very much look forward to your next post. In some respects, I can see that your narrowing of focus has been naturally occurring over the past couple of years and perhaps many of us are just reaching a similar point in what we might think of as the cycle of hobby involvement, which we can trace back to Airfix days.

    In the early years, the tightness of money across a wider proportion of the population probably naturally curtailed our wargaming excesses - plus in truth, in those days there was much less to buy, we tended to concentrate on just one thing. I had 1/300 WWII armies and Leicester Micro rules, followed by WRG 1925 - 1950, perhaps that super tight focus is what gives us rose tinted glasses on how good the gaming was in the early years - pure gaming and no distraction …. I think all of my tanks were painted Humbrol green!

  20. Hi Norm, your article really hits the spot! Having lost my gaming space at home it’s back to a small table to set up and take down. I have packed up my figures for now unfortunately and cleansed my boardgameg. I have taken two approaches, series rules for boardgames and smaller footprints. As a keen follower of your posts I have purchased several of the Vae Victis Napoleonic titles after reading your blog. They really have hit the sweet spot for me!
    Men of Iron Tripack does the same thing, again from your posts. You cost me money LOL.
    History and gaming when I want without all the faff. For me, the best part of the hobby.

    1. Hi Dave, delighted that you bought and are happy with the Vae Victis games, they have been something that have really grabbed my excitement over recent weeks.

      I’m sure the series rules / small footprint route is the ideal solution for most modern day domestic gaming. Hopefully Vae Victis will do well with their re-prints, especially as they are priced favourably when set against the background of shrinking budgets - good on them!

  21. Sorry above from Dave!

    1. Dave, that happens to be when using my iPad and having the anti-tracking (Safari settings) switched on.

  22. Hello,
    I did a lot of downsizing a few years ago and never regretted it. I am starting to sell some more of my 20mm WW2 items and wargaming books. I prefer small games and simple rules. To be honest I have never liked complicated rules that you get bogged down with. I only have a few board games and am going to keep it that way. I do wish however that I still had Panzer Leader by Avalon Hill.
    Best of luck

  23. Hi Simon, I remember reading somewhere that Panzerblitz sold 100,000 units, these days, wargames are being produced in runs of 1,500 to 3000, very different days. I would imagine that if someone (does MMP hold the licence) republished Panzer Leader / Panzer Blitz and basic Squad Leader today, they would have an instant success on their hands.

    Your experience of not regretting a downsizing is heartening, it’s just so easy not to do it and let one month slip into the next.

  24. Hello Norm,

    I am also one of those gamers that finds everything interesting, and have had a hard time with focus, especially in the past few years. However, I have found, somehow, the will to begin culling the collection, and I have only had a twinge or two of regret so far.

  25. Hi Greg, thank you, another voice of encouragement to just do it. In my last cull, it was just making the start that was the hurdle, once I got used to doing up a parcel (e-bay), it gained a flow, but I have sold and then replaced …. which of course is just plain stupid! :-)

    It is good to hear of others having similar experience with game focus etc.

  26. Norm, another excellent post with a thought provoking comment section. Several years ago I sold of the periods I knew I wouldn't play and what I thought were extra figures from some other periods, The rules and research books for those also went.

    I used your idea of Pocket Armies to structure my buying and help focus on getting things painted. It's worked well with ACW, GNW and WWII.

    I think as gamers we are always looking for that magic set of rules that meets every need. Using rules with a similar mechanic lends itself to devoting more time playing the game than studying the rules. Having a game that can be played/finished in the given time is also important to have. Many a game has been called when only a turn or two was needed to reach a solid conclusion or knowing we were about out of time everybody charged :-).

    A thought about controlling collection size. If your friends have a sizable collection or are interested in a new period gauging your own interest and commitment is important. Two of my friends have sizable collections of Medieval's there was no need for me to invest. I became interested in Vietnam one friend had a few figures and a few vehicles the other none. I built both sides with some vehicles, another friend painted up a few character figures and we've all contributed terrain. If we put all our AWI collections together we would need a Bocce Ball court to play.

    I've read this post and comments over the past three days. thought provoking and time well spent.


  27. Hi Dan, yes, visitors have been very generous with their comments, adding hugely to the value of the post. Glad you have found it thought provoking.

    I very much agree that it is important to match the rules / system to time available for play and one thing for sure, there is so much in circulation these days, that there really is something for everyone out there. My face-to-face gaming sessions are relatively short, so I am deliberately building part of the collection to match that available gaming time and to ensure a result at the end of play.

    For solo gaming, I do have a space where I can leave something set up, but it is under glass and our new hotter climate makes it harder to use that space in peak summer months.

    Sharing the burden of collection is a good idea, though my face-to-face gaming is pretty much centred on boardgaming and so it is boardgames rather than figures that sum up to greater access of game titles and systems (though in terms of this post, that brings its own problems of invariably playing something new .. more learning! :-) ), though I did recently bump into someone at a wargame show who suggested I visit their club as the club itself owns many armies, though I think gaming at home suits me better.

    Anyway, thanks for thoughts and I'm glad you have enjoyed the comment section ... which is now much longer than the article :-) hopefully it has stuck a chord with gamers travelling the same path.

  28. People stared to like low complexity rules for conventions to run participation games and they wanted everyone to know how to play by turn 3. That way they could go wander off and do something else while the game was going on. Lazy really. 😀
    People like low complexity rules for just the reason you describe; they got too many rules for a particular genre. And the rules are actually boring but bc they only play each one about twice a year they seem novel and more interesting.
    I like a certain Level of complexity in my miniature gaming. It’s down to personal taste of course but I like games complex enough to keep me interested and have some actual tactics/ choices to make but not so complex to provoke analysis paralysis. Once I find that rule set I tend to play it exclusively. For example; I like Fire and Fury for ACW; the regimental version especially. I won’t buy any more ACW rules bc I end up playing them once, deciding that I don’t like them as much as RFF. So sell them or give them away. I’ll still try a different rule set if someone wants but I won’t but it.
    And I wouldn’t call F&F an especially complex rule set. But not simple either.
    On the topic of too much stuff. You know I have had two great purges of stuff in my time and find them liberating. But you do have to be ruthless and beyond ruthless to be affective. “Oh man, I really should paint up those Gauls and Romans so I can play Brink of Battle…”. Well you never will so get the miniatures out of the house along with that rules and go hon something you like…
    The exception are painted armies. These you can keep forever bc they are complete.😀😂

  29. Hi Stew, yes I think F&F have just hit a sweet spot for many and perhaps they make a good demonstration of where rules can happily side for a wide swathe of the hobby, a sort of benchmark for complexity and content.

    By their nature, convention rules do need to be more accessible if you hope to rotate several games and gamers through the days proceedings. I have never put a show game on and would like to that at some point.

    Agree that there needs to be a ruthlessness on the disposal side of things, I doubt mother nature designed us to be able to cope with too many things at one time - which is why we only have 10 fingers and thumbs, the brain is not designed to count above ten things :-)

    The possession / selling of painted armies is an interesting point - unless you can secure their true worth, selling them should come with a note of caution.

  30. Thanks, Norm, a thoughtful post that deserves all the thoughtful comments it's already had above. To add my own, I think there are a few things going on. 1. Many wargamers have always been 'butterflies', flitting from one 'ooo shiny' new project to the next. 2. There is now infinitely more choice of figures, rules, and everything else than there used to be, plus the internet to find and distribute them. This feeds the butterflies. 3. There are also many more non-wargaming activities available to compete for people's time and attention. Once, rules that meant a game took all weekend were a virtue - now, that is a vice, as many people have much more limited timeslots for their wargaming. Hence, many rules are now geared to that 2- or 3-hour slot. I could go on but instead let me link to my own Reflections on Wargaming page: where there are some further pertinent thoughts, eg on the various reasons we play wargames:

  31. Hi Chris, I would agree with all of that, observing that some of our ‘modern’ spare time has been robbed by our affair with our screens, while some quality of life has been robbed by many work places being under-staffed with more demands, so people are having to push extra work hours into their day including working through what should be lunch breaks and as a result at the end of the day are tired, so simply crash with their screens rather than being ‘wargame productive’ (A generalisation - I know, but I have seen it first hand).

    Also all of our present wargaming diversity serving our natural butterfly has only been possible because of a ‘general’ increase in personal wealth over recent decades, something that in 2022 is going through a tight squeeze and we cannot be sure how going into 2023 the industry will cope with a customer base that buys less and is partly already sustained by their existing lead / plastic stash.

  32. I do wonder if sometimes the opposite effect happens - we can play more games as the rules are simpler so we buy more armies?

    I no longer buy new rulesets. I am happy to try new games out at the Guildford Club and recently played Soldiers of Napoleon there. It was interesting but I am not spending £30 on a rulebook that I will only play very occasionally when I am perfectly happy with Neil Thomas Napoleonic and my own tweaks...

    I have also reached "Peak miniatures", I think as I have 6,000 painted figures which will rise to about 8k+ when I finish the 3 big collections I am working on.

    I am lucky enough to have the space to store tham and space for a fairly large table if I want to play a big game. But I can't see me starting another larger period collection.

    It's a shame as I always wanted to do 18th Century Europe (I am build a big 40mm AWI collection) in 40mm semi-flats but I just don't seem to have the enthusiasm to work on another new collection when so much other stuff is unfinished.

    I have cleared out a lot of figures over the years - nearly all my 15mm, 54mm Vietnam, 28mm skirmish periods and I have a strict rule of never doing the same period in more than one scale which has managed to limit some of the excesses...

  33. Hi Mike, I have been looking at videos on the Soldiers of Napoleon rules and there is much to like, though I imagine, the typical audience already has at least half a dozen napoleonic rule sets in their collection. I’m sure it will sell out.

    For figure sets, I am starting to avoid those systems that will be relying upon making sales of future army list books.

    One of the things that I like about the ‘O’ Group WWII rules and the likes of ‘Sword & Spear’ rules is that they give the buyer full access to all lists via free supporting web downloads.

    It sounds like you have a good grip on your collection and that you know exactly where it will and won’t go in the future.

    I think my dilemma comes from the mix of boardgame and figure rules that I have, with the amount of boardgame rules that I access hugely adding to the ‘rule thing’. Hopefully my increasing move towards single systems will help in that regard.

    One period / one scale is certainly a helpful rule of thumb, though since terrain is the biggest space hogger ….. 1 scale is probably the leanest way to go.

  34. I am finding that working on 3 new collections at once is causing some paralysis though, in deciding what to work on. I also have other stuff to finish off for existing setups and a couple of small pieces (Ogre minitaures for example) to finish a few bits for to get it on the table.

    I have contemplated a large sell off in the past and played the game of "which 3 collections would you keep?" with friends. It is a hard choice.

    I also have a number of boardgames but have kept those fairly limited an tned not to buy new ones unless I know I will definitely play them soon after getting them. I have about 3 games that haven't hit to table yet.

    This conversation has prompted me to pull a load of rules off my shelf and to put them into the sell pile. Things like piquet, which I haven't played for years and would always play Field of Battle now rather than the original rules.

    Also British Grenadier which is just past my ideal level of fiddliness in rules - nicely produced but I can't see me playing them or General D'armee at any point. I am hesitating over keeping Picketts Charge...

    Then there re rules bought on spec for possible new periods - AK47, Company B for Vietnam, etc, etc.

  35. Mike, I entirely get the point about paralysis when multiple newish projects are demanding time.

    I like your benchmark of 'just past my fiddliness in rules' is seems an excellent place to draw a line in the sand - I shall use that as a yardstick. I have viewed my General de Armee and Pickett's Charge as sister games, if one goes, they can both go, but I have enjoyed my Pickett's Charge games, I just need to play them more often for the nuances to become more second nature and that may not happen as I am tinkering with my own rules.

  36. The difference, for me, is that I have a large 20mm acw collection which works with Pickett's Charge scale games. My Napoleonics are 54mm so either work best in an abstracted grid game (we played a grid version of Quatre Bras with them the other day) or with smaller scale rules such as Neil Thomas. Trying to fit several brigades on a table with 54mm is a challenge even on a fairly big table!

    For boardgames I am not as conflicted as you are on rules as, apart from the COIN games, I don't really have any straight historical wargaming boardgames (except perhaps Undaunted North Africa) as they are mostly SF/Fantasy, abstract Euro games or things like Battle of Little Big Horn redone with 54mm figures on a 6 x 4 mat.

    So I am not tied into a series of games using the same rules system.

    I also came to the conclusion that playing a series of periods with the same rules all the time isn't what I wanted - I tended to feel I was playing the same games just with different counters. Thus I tend to adopt one set of different rules for each period.

    There is some overlap as I am looking at Black Powder/Rebels and Patriots for larger AWI and ACW games but generally I don't use the same set of rules for FPW asI would ACW.

    I am rambling on, perhaps because I dropped my own blog recently due to dropping some expensive hosting - I haven't decided whether to start a new blog somewhere else yet...

  37. You should, gaming Quatre Bras on a grid in 54mm must be your first post :-)

    1. Ok, I have started a new blog at:

      we'll just have to see if I post anything....

  38. A most thought-promoting post. Having just reached 60, I recently had to experience moving my elderly parents into a retirement center, and the effort to downsize their belongings into the small apartment was truly agonizing for them. But it did get me to realize that someday I might need to do the same for myself. Or possibly limit my gaming due to physical limitations as I get older. You've given me a lot to think over during the rest of this year!

  39. Hi Mark, the ‘Airfix generation’ amongst us counts for a fairly significant part of our hobby numbers and almost certainly those thoughts are coming ever closer to the fore in our collective minds.

    I have spent a good few years sporting a bad back, so my figures play area has been raised to 40” so that there is less bending and reduced to 3½’ wide so that there is less stretching to the table centre. Also, I have been doing some games on a large pinboard so that I can sit for longer periods at the dining table with a small figures game. I think these are the sort of things that we are going to increasingly face having to do.

    in the UK, our properties seem relatively small to the rest of the world, so I think ‘downsizing’ becomes a national pastime :-).


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