Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Stepping Back to Move Forward

Command and Colours in the Linear period - something to use figures with at some point perhaps! There is no pressing urgency though.

The units from the base game.

I apologise in advance for the rambling nature of this post but I feel pretty sure that what I am about to relate may well strike a chord with some, if not many. As the year draws to a close it is for me a time of reflection, of looking at what I do and why I do it. This year, rather more than usual, I have had much to think about.

My time thus far in this hobby of ours has been both richly rewarding and infinitely frustrating with the latter being largely of my own making. I have made lifelong friends and fought battles set in historical periods that would never have thought of. My gaming horizon has been expanded enormously and indeed, my first thought when seeing a new book, film, TV programme or something on the net or in a magazine that catches my eye is invariably something along the lines of 'There must be a game in that'. This is all fine and dandy and whilst better people than I can produce noteworthy set ups from the flimsiest of backgrounds it is something that I struggle to do. Invariably I will be enthusiasm personified at the outset but this never seems to last until it is turned into something tangible. Something else will come along and catch my eye and so the whole sorry process repeats itself.

There are however, constants. There are those periods that I will always come back and latterly I have realised that I may have missed a trick or two in not fully appreciating the rich tapestry of gaming options that they offer. I suppose in many ways I took them for granted which is generally considered to be a bad move in any relationship!

Stepping back and viewing the horizon of  the 45 odd years I have been involved in the hobby there are a couple of islands that standout and these are the ones I have realised that I should be heading for rather than splashing about aimlessly.

My first two major interests, back in the early 1970s, were Napoleonics and World War 2. When I moved to London I was introduced to other things such as the Seven Years War, Ancients, Naval games of many types, Sci Fi, Fantasy, role playing games and board games. Some were an extension of my earlier interests whilst others were brand new and shiny. Almost inevitably, when surrounded by infinite temptations, my two original interests were unceremoniously shunted to one side. Thus began a cycle of 'ooh shinyitis' that has effectively lasted since 1978.

I have lost count of the number of projects that I have started, invested in and have then abandoned - sometimes on multiple occasions - and this has become truly depressing!

This year has been something of a watershed for me on the gaming front. In many ways I have had the decisions about what I want to game taken away from me by a variety of circumstances. These are many and varied but can be summarised as relearning an important truth as well having the material to hand to be able to realise a particular project. The biggest single thing I have learned in all this is the value and importance of focus. Sorting through Eric's collection, aside from the sheer hard work and time involved, has been an object lesson in the value of maintaining, dare I say it, the 'Schwerpunkt' of a project. During his long wargaming career Eric, to my knowledge, fought Napoleonics, moved on to the late 17th and early 18th century, was building forces for the Seven Years War and then on to WW2. For sure he dabbled in Colonial WW1 - Madasahatta being the case in point - and also WW1 naval but as far as I know that was it - at least in a meaningful way. I can tell you that going through 18 crates of figures for effectively two periods was a salutary lesson in concentration of effort. It had a profound effect on me I can tell you.

I remember reading in Charge! that the authors believed that one should pick a period and stick to it and whilst I don't fully subscribe to that line of thought it does have value.

The other events that have served to focus the mind are primarily of the windfall variety. The unexpected gift of the beginnings of a Spencer Smith 30mm ACW collection served to make me look closely at the ACW again - my 'on off' relationship with this period is well known - because here was a way I could tackle it in the way I wanted to. Left to my own devices it may very well have not gotten off the ground. I am now set fair to have a completed collection that will satisfy my gaming needs for the period in a style that is pleasing to me. This is currently around two thirds of the way there but is certainly usable as is. The naval side is in hand and even this has had something of a helping hand in the shape of a couple of old board games that will help with the process. I should point out that the ACW was a period I really wanted to tackle using Airfix figures when I was back on the Isle of Sheppey but the only Airfix stockists on the island never seemed to have any!

The acquisition of a large collection of Del Prado Napoleonics (all being well I will have these at the end of January) is in many ways the icing on a particular cake - the figures are from the 1815 campaign which is a particular favourite of mine - with the cake being fighting table top battles using figures using my preferred grid based rule sets. I should mention that this Napoleonic renaissance has also been aided by the realisation that I should really start using the substantial Command and Colours collection I have invested in (especially now I have the Epic expansion!) as well as the impact that Bob Cordery's Portable Napoleonic Wargame has had.

What of WW2 then? Well, I own a goodly chunk of material for Memoir 44 which works well enough although I would not rely on it exclusively for my WW2 fix. Again, I will happily use models when I get to it as doing some basic kit bashing is very appealing. The important thing is that I have the raw material to tackle this as and when I need to.

WW1 and WW2 on the naval side are easy enough to organise as I have sufficient board game based material to use if needed and again I can drop models in as and when required.

Of the other things I have currently in a holding pattern there is little to say. I enjoy the 18th century - sorting Eric's collection reminded me of this - but the likelihood of me ever painting anything for it is remote. I have sufficient board game resources - Tricorne is excellent and when the Jacobite Rebellion set comes out next year I will be certainly be picking it up - to cover the AWI which is the period I always seem to gravitate to. That and pirates of all things - especially with the naval side (watch out Peter Pig, here I come!). Command and Colours Medieval will be an occasional treat as I am waiting on the Arab Conquests and the Crusades to feature - Plastic Soldier Company notwithstanding....

Finally there is the thorny subject of the Arab Revolt or rather, the campaigns across the Middle East. I want to game these but aside from using my block armies there is unlikely to be any figures involved for some time.

I have not included anything Sci Fi or Fantasy related in the list as I have always considered these to be side dishes or in other words pick up or put down as and when the mood takes.

In closing I make no secret of the fact that I use the blog as a sounding board and to help me think out loud. Taking all the above into consideration next year will see some focused gaming for a change but in the meantime there will inevitably be casualties. I plan to reorganise the man cave over the period of the Christmas holiday and there is much material that will be heading onward.

I have been in this situation numerous time over the years and have written about it ad nauseum but this time it feels rather more definitive than previously. If the circle is not complete it is at least heading that way.


Graham C said...

A very interesting read and one that has a lot of resonance with me. Whilstbive talked about focus and rationalising many times and even made half hearted starts it was only the last year that I have made a focused and determined effort.
Whilst I have my own commercial figure range which means 18th century is a major focus I have found me returning to my original staples of Napoleonic, ACW and ancients . Mainly 15mm this time for ease of storeage.!! Although Napoleonic is in 20mm ( a much forgotten scale)

For those butterfly moments then I use Command and Colours and the Paper Soldier books!

Dare I say it in some ways I find myself revisiting some of the older rule sets as well! Is that the circle complete when I find myself playing games with rules from 40 years ago??? I dread to think how many figures I've painted and sold in this pursuit.

David Crook said...

Hi Graham C,

Many thanks for your comment - it is a huge relief to know that this is not just me! I think the key thing for me is that fact that I have finally realised that figures, whilst nice and I would certainly not want to abandon them, are not the be all and end all of the table top wargame. As most of my games are grid based it seems more readily acceptable in my eyes to use units of half a dozen figures or so. I really enjoy Command and Colours so substituting a figure for a block does not faze me in the slightest.

I am sorry to disappoint you but I cannot see myself ever painting 18th century figures but C and C Tricorne is a cracking game and covers the period very well indeed (the AWI that is). I am really looking forward to the Jacobite version next year.

On the subject of old rules I wholeheartedly agree with you. I would happily fight games using Charge! Or Battle by Charles Grant and my standby set of rules for age of sail gaming are from the mid 1970s!

I feel properly enthused and with a degree of focus that has been missing for a long time.

All the best,


Mark, Man of TIN said...

Interesting and thought provoking, David. It is that time of the year for looking forward and back.

Having to sort through and find homes for your friend's collection must obviously give you and all of us pause for thought.

I find that saying what I am formally going to do and focus on in the coming New Year has often proved a bit of a dampener or kiss of death on doing it. It feels a bit like work. Somehow doing something else, something that you "shouldn't be doing" always feels energised and enthusiastically like 'bunking off' school / work.

At the end of the day it's a hobby. It's not work. I now try to keep my New Years gaming irresolutions as vague as possible, to make space for the random nature of the figures and inspirations that I come across (figures in Pound stores, seaside shops, job lots, gifts, conversions etc). I may do these things. I may not. The rest of the world doesn't care and doesn't stop if do or don't do.

Stuff comes up mid year by chance like the Scouting Wide Games project. Never expected to be doing that.

Sometimes I am just in the mood to paint, convert, cast and repair figures, rather than game with them at that time. It's almost 3D colouring in, and all the mindfulness and wellbeing that supposedly comes with colouring in.

I have also found that dual flagging or reflagging a historical army into an ImagiNations one also creates fresh possibilities and saves on storage.

I wish you all the best with the things you choose to do and everything else that crops up as a happy sidetrack and distraction. Enjoy!

Steve J. said...

An interesting and thought provoking read that has many parallels with my gaming history. Over the past few years I have been slimming down my collection and periods of interest, to 3 main ones, with a couple of possibles. I've also embraced the ImagiNations route for many armies, bar WWII, which allows me to game a wider period than purely historical ones. It works for me and gives me endless pleasure, which at the end of the day is what it's all about.

David Crook said...

Hi Steve J,

I am pleased that my own experience seems to have struck a chord with many! If I am honest it is not so much the money that I have wasted over the years but the time element. Next year I want to get my head down with some 'joined up' gaming but to have the odd foray into something that is for me not quite mainstream but still of interest. I want to be able to do this from my own resources rather than buying into something new and shiny. As far sa possible that is!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello Mark, Man of Tin,

You are absolutely right that this is not supposed to be work but I have seemed to make a hash of things over the years with wild flights of fancy and projects that realistically should not have been started.

It helps me to have a framework - not necessarily a plan as such - that can be added to (or not, as the case maybe) so as keep things in perspective. My Command and Colours collection covering as it does my two favourite period, is woefully underused and so next year I shall be making a conscious effort to rectify this - not because I feel I have to but because I want to. This in turn will focus many other areas - reading, prepping figures etc.

It is all about focus or as Yoda once said "Control, you must learn control...."

All the best,


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Hold the line David ,, never say never .. but you do seem to have painted those German Battlecruisers in three different scales .. just hold onto one, we'll have to get a game of Dogger Bank done ;)

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

We certainly will - although in what scale is another matter entirely!

All the best,