Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Strength Through Diversity: The Year Ahead

There is an old saying that no wind is a fair wind if you don't know what port you want to sail to.

It may not be evident from my blog (he says with tongue firmly in cheek) but I'm not a very tightly focussed fellow when it comes to my hobby (or other areas of life). I like to sample a bit of this and a bit of that. One of the consequences is that despite having painted thousands of figures in 8 scales and almost every period over the last 4 decades, I can't stage even a moderately large wargame on my own, say one with 2,000 miniatures, all appropriate for the battle in hand and with terrain to match.. Probably the closest I came were my 15mm French Revolutionary Wars armies but they are all gone now anyway.  For the last few years, I have been trying to convince myself that I needed to rectify that, without success. It strikes me that if that was really what I wanted to do, I'd have done it by now.

Part of a beloved 15mm project which was sold off in bits over the last 2 years once I decided that 15mm was toooo small after all. 

When I look at the 8 or 9 (or 12)  sideshows that I have "permitted" myself to indulge in, I see that  10 of these appeared on my gaming table in 2010 and 7 of them had new figures added this year. Would I have been happier if more of these parts of my collection had sat neglected on the shelf while I focussed on just 1? No, not really, I like to see "my guys" getting out for a bit of exercise and I enjoy each of the periods I dabble in (and then some). So, hats off to them as enjoy the focus and indulge it, my path is my own.

A failed project from 2003, 40mm 1st Shleswig Holstein War. It foundered first on having unwittingly bought 2 irreconcilable (for my taste) styles of figures to convert, Zinnbrigade home cast & Scruby both slim slightly old toy stylish which look best in glossy toy style and Sash & Saber chunky which look best matte and shaded. I do use them together still but still don't like it and am working towards separating the styles. The final nail was that the Zinnbrigade Prussians were wearing knee boots and tight pants I could have overlooked the smaller picklehaube and other uniform differences if they had had loose trousers but all in all they looked too modern and I was not toy soldier-y enough in spirit to over look it  at the start of a project.

I have also noticed that these days I don't seem to have the mental and physical stamina to really enjoy an 8 or 10 hour game all the way through and I have never been keen on picking things up after a night or week's rest. I like to start and finish a game in 1 session where possible. Now that may change as my health & fitness improves again but that can be addressed on that happy day. In the meantime, 1 or 2 big events per year will suit me fine and having those be joint affairs makes them all the sweeter as far as I'm concerned.

Chippewa in 54mm at Cold Wars. The first of several "bring your own" battles staged by a group of us from the yahoo LittleWars group. Held in 2000 if memory serves.)

So here's the objectives for this year:

1. Make sure every part of my collection gets to play and gets something added at least once every 3 years and that most (off the cuff lets say 75%) get played during a year.

2. Make more of an effort to diversify the existing collection, not by necessarily increasing periods but by having different styles of game as well as different periods. Where parts of the collection overlap in terms of period and style they should be compatible/interchangeable, for example my 40mm Indians were raised for the War of 1812 but happily serve in the American Rebellion as well as the French & Indian Wars even if they may not be perfectly accurate.

3. Include at least one large wargame  per year though this need not be solo nor held at home. The goal is to use a convention such as Cold Wars or Historicon as the focus of this.

A Table Top Teaser, Surprise! where 1 wing of an allied army defects.  Fought in my old wargames room c2001. 54mm using WHAB . My Macedonians, Ron's Carthaginians and Tom's Romans iir. 

Breaking down the 2nd point I want to be able to tick each of the following boxes, note that the boxes are not mutually exclusive and that each part of the collection will normally tick various boxes.

I want to be able to stage at least one 3 to 5 hour game in each of the following:

1. historical eras/wargaming periods:

  • Ancient
  • Dark Age/Medieval
  • Pike & Shot
  • Horse & Musket
  • Victorian Colonial
  • Age of Rifles
  • Mechanized Warfare
  • ( I probably "ought" to include naval and air games but won't except as an adjunct though I did once have 16thC fleets)
2. game styles:
  • single figure skirmish
  • Old School single figure Horse & Musket
  • element based game
  • historical refight of an entire battle
  • small unit action with platoons or companies as units
  • mid-level game with battalions or brigades as units 
  • army or corps level game  
  • more rigid, game style with a sense of beginning, middle & end with definite choices and win/lose criteria (the Chess with a 1,000 pieces approach)
  • open, process game where what happens and how it happens and the story that gets told is what it is about. (The Kriegspiel approach) (these last 2 are not absolute differences but questions of focus).   

Peter Douglas on a trip home to Halifax c 2002 taking the Emir's forces against the might of the British Empire. 54mm Colonial. Like the Ancients & WWII 54mm collections, most of these figures are now gone as well after deciding that 54mm was tooo big.

In terms of numbers, I hope to play an average of 2 "at home" and 1 "away" game per month. Some of the at home games will inevitably be solo.


  1. Sounds like a good plan Ross. Obviously it won't happen (we've never met but I can tell...) but good luck with it anyway. I look forward to reading more.

  2. Gotta set the bar high eh? But your right Tim, it'll probably be the 1st year in ages that I really focus on one thing!

  3. I'm very enthusiastic about your going for a lot of variety - I've gradually got rid of all fringe interests to concentrate on one period, and one geographical setting within that, so - though I don't regret anything - I have to rely on your blog and other quality "proxy sites" to get a change of scenery.

    It seems a pity that you've unloaded some of these earlier projects, but I guess that's true for all of us.



  4. I'll do my best to provide stages full of sound and fury.

    It does seem a shame sometimes, thinking of absent figures. I have sold or given away more than I still own, probably 2/3rd or more but I still lack space for what is left. The problem is systemic. There have been only a few years in the last 38 that I haven't painted 300 or more figures and I know there were years when it touched 500. It adds up over time! I'm certainly not ready yet to cease casting & painting and one can only play with so many and can only display so many when sharing a small house and to my mind, the figures are better off being enjoyed by someone else than being stored in attic or basement. So off they've gone to pay for their replacements (or TO put food on the table when times were hard, brave soldiers)

    I try to remind myself that sometimes its about the journey, not the destination.


  5. Ross,

    For someone who doesn't do naval, you seem to have CHARTED a pretty good COURSE.

    Seems like a good and ambitious plan.

    -- Jeff

  6. Jeff, I like to claim that is the effective of the NAVAL training provided by Her Majesty many years ago but I fear it just the amount of NAVEL gazing that I have done this year.

  7. Ross, I very much identify with what you write.

    After a period of trying to focus and not succeeding (FAIL is such an ugly word) I'm coming to accept that it's better to follow my nose. It is, after all, a hobby and not work.

    On the other hand, perhaps I just always do the opposite of what I'm supposed to, so after all this could be, as you joke above, the year of focusing on one thing - reverse psychology :-)