Monday, February 6, 2012

What's the Rhyme & What's the Reason?

With the coming of Winter, its time again to reflect and question. (With apologies to John Denver, neither children nor flowers are directly involved but there will be childish things and as much colour as any flower garden and together they can brighten a cloudy day).

Initially when I started this process, I often did no more than look over and list various collections of figures in an effort to decide which to work on, which to tuck away, and which, if any, to dispose of. In recent years I started analyzing the list a little more in an attempt to rationalize the collection to save space and get the most bang for my buck. In particular, I started to home in on duplication, particularly  duplication due to doing the same thing in 2 (or more) figure sizes but also collections of figures from different "periods" which would render essentially the same games but with different hats. This eventually led to a flirtation with the Universal Soldier concept or the One Project, in other words having  one collection of soldiers to fight all of the battles of all time, as proposed by Lawford & Young. This is now definitely and finally rejected.

At the same time, however, I am determined not to waste my time and energy building multiple, medium to large, collections which compete for time both in preparation and on the table while delivering essentially the same kind of gaming experience. My experiments with Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame and various related ideas have given me a new twist on the possibilities of a secondary collection of small games to let me paint those eras or campaigns that catch my fancy. Something along the lines of what Stuart Asquith calls a Game in a Box.

There are 3 reasons that make sense to me to collect wargame figures of any particular size, shape and type.
  • The first is because I like the figures or the uniforms being portrayed. This is a big trap if each collection consists of several hundred figures.
  • The second is because I am interested in a particular historical period or even a particular battle. For the purist, this requires the right figures for the job but taking a page from Lawford & Young, and putting aside the visual aspect, it is entirely possible to explore the battles of one campaign, using armies of toy soldiers dressed in the uniforms of another one similar one, especially if using fictious armies.          
  • The third reason is to be compatible with something a friend is doing. I have come to enjoy Solo wargaming but it is, at heart, still a social hobby for me. This is, however, another trap if indulged in thoughtlessly. An attempt to have something of everything that every one I know has, or even to try and have something in common with everyone would leave no time, money and energy for my my own particular interests ans just encourage additional fracturing of my efforts.
In the past my focus has generally been on figures with terrain as a periodic add on or something to be dealt with "later". Well, its later.

I make as much multi-purpose terrain as I can but not all items can be used by every size and style of figure. Lately it is the style of the terrain that concerns me as much as the size and that has been a major source of grief and delay as I decide on rules, table size and aesthetics, all of which affect terrain. So far I have dealt with it by compromising on style but the time is coming to take that a bit farther. I have added a complication though by becoming increasingly interested in gridded wargames. So no decision here except to work seriously on making and executing a terrain plan so that I can lay out my table with a consistent style for each collection, while getting multiple use out of as many pieces as possible and have it all pack away somewhere when not in use.

One thing that hasn't changed is a desire to be able to table a game in each of the major historical eras, lets call them Sword&Spear, Horse&Musket, and Mechanized. In addition to my usual Table Top Teaser (or generic situation /scenario) style of game in all periods, I also want to be able to play man to man skirmishes in at least 1 era, and be able to stage some historical battles.

So what does all this mean for my plans in the near future?

Oddly enough, the idea of One Main Thing has re-emerged, stronger than ever. This is of course my 40mm glossy Toy Soldiers. Its what I enjoy most and what I have painted the least of as I pondered many issues over the last couple of years. This will be balanced by a small host of those Games in Boxes as well as some if not all of my group contributions.

I think I'd best leave the actual summary of campaigns and collections for a separate post.


  1. I see that third reason as unavoidable but problematic. For some time I've operated the policy of providing both armies as host, but there is a bit of me won't give up on the idea of "you bring your army, or I bring mine, and we have a game". Since neither myself or most of my potential opponents will obey a commercial or mainstream template or indeed anybody else's, this remains elusive :-)

    Interesting you say you enjoy the glossy 40s most but have painted them the least. I'm conscious that I often fiddle on the periphery to avoid making the big decisions.

    Like you I couldn't do the Young & Lawford One Project thing to the exclusion of anything else, but, yes, I can see a lot of value in the One Main Thing for covering a lot of ground. As a distant observer, I can't imagine you not doing this with the glossy 40s.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

    1. I suppose the ideal would be "here's my army" "Here this is what your army is supposed to be". Glossy 40's are indeed about to finally come in to their own.

  2. This is one area where the mainstream, tournament style gamers have it easy - pick your army, build it, paint it, then just turn up and play. Much less John Denver required.

    Like you and Steve I'm committed to buying both sides on any given period, partly because I enjoy solo-gaming, partly because I know how fickle some of the gamers in my circle are. One used to have a reputation of getting highly enthused about a scale and/or period, persuade someone else to collaborate in buying opposing armies, then suddenly lose interest and/or suffer severe disillusionment, leaving the other person having shelled out for an army with no-one to play against.

    I think your "one main project + multiple games-in-a-box" is a good compromise and a good model to work on.

    1. Apologies about the JD angle, I heard the song recently and it turned into an ear worm.

  3. Ross Mac,

    I must admit that my preference is for the 'Game in a Box' concept ... but in my case I am attempting to do it so that the 'Games' can be linked together to create bigger ones should I so desire it. For example, I can use my British vs. Arab-looking Natives for the Sudan, India and even Africa (at a pinch) ... but I can also use the British vs. Prussians (from my Prussians vs. Austrians 'box').

    Good luck with whatever you choose to do. If it works for you, then it has achieved what you (and not someone else) wants.

    All the best,


    1. That sounds like a sound plan Bob. We'll see how my latest plan unfolds.

  4. Hi Ross

    As always, some interesting thoughts to dwell on.