Thursday, 7 January 2010

A Review of 2009

28mm Austrian Army

For me 2009 would be the year of the Blog. Not only my wargaming, but also much of my spare time has been taken up with this project. It all started in March as a means of keeping a record of what I was doing, and allowing friends to keep updated with developments. But it grew and grew and grew. I find it amazing that the main blog has had 12,500 visitors since March.


When we retired and moved to Spain in 2006 I spent a long time considering what I wanted to do with my wargaming. It had formed a large part of our lives for almost 40 years, and obviously would continue to do so after we retired. Having devoted about 2 hours per day for each of those 40 years to painting wargame figures, I had always anticipated that this would take up a considerable part of my time when I retired. However when I carried out the assessment I found that I had many, many more figures than I could ever use. Furthermore I had already replaced the main 20/25/28mm collection six times and the 15/18mm twice. The 28mm were all Elite, Front Rank or Foundry figures and the 18mm were all AB figures. So I could not imagine replacing them with “better” figures. And with a collection of 8000 in each scale replacing either would involve not just months of paint, but years.


In fact the first thing I did was to downsize the collection. This was because we had decided to replace our 12 foot by 6 foot table with a smaller 6 foot by 6 foot. We had decided that we would no longer run a club, but would restrict our gaming to "one on one" type of games. We found by trial and error that a frontage of 6 foot was just about right for one player.


2006 was devoted to setting up the wargames room. Making the table, scenery, shelves and trays for all of the figures. 2007 found me reorganizing the armies – yet again. But this time it was all about designing the right size two player games using my new table. 2008 we experimented with different rules and finally settled on designing our own.


At the start of 2009 I had already designed a massive 1813 campaign which would allow me to fight coordinated mini campaigns from north Germany to Spain. All of the administration was in place, such as maps, orders of battle and a detailed historical setting.


For the first three months we played regular games within the campaign. I ran the whole thing alone, so I could manipulate the campaign to produce the size and type of games we wanted to fight. It worked very well.


So why open it to a blog? To be honest I am not really sure. It was partly that I wanted to share what I was doing. We missed the contribution of outside influences. We did not really want to include other players on a regular basis, partly because Jan does not really like wargaming with anyone except me. I have never understood this, but when I ran a club in UK she would never take part. And after many years of gaming together I really wanted her to be involved again, particularly now that we were both retired.


I had recorded our wargames over the years by taking photographs and writing up a battle report. But all too often the campaign would fall apart after a few months. I wanted to have the discipline of “going public” to keep the campaign on the straight and narrow.


Whatever the reason I started the blog in March. The main stay of the blog would be the 1813 campaign. It took many weeks to take photographs of the figures in their corps and divisions. Then I had to make the maps again. I had developed them over the previous 10 years, but they were very rough work. I wanted to tidy them up before making them available to the public. They are still far from good, but much better than they used to be. Someday I will find a way of making them more professional.


I was delighted with the response to the blog. There was a lot of interest, and I corresponded with many of the readers. I was given excellent advice on how to organise the blog, as I wanted it to be a permanent record of the campaign. So I started a new blog to deal with the 1813 campaign, but kept the “Napoleonic Wargaming” for my thoughts and development of wargaming in general.


I enjoyed it so much that in April I started a new blog to cover the many battlefields we had visited; it would be called “Walking Napoleonic Battlefields”. This would also prove more popular than I had expected, with more than 4000 visits to date.


In May I decided to start yet another blog. This would cover our other hobby which is walking. We belong to two walking groups here in the Costa Blanca, and walk with each at least once a week. I enjoy photography, though I am not particularly good at it, and always took photographs of each walk. I sent friends copies of photos I had taken of them, and eventually was asked by other members of the group to include them. By May I was sending an email each week to each member with 10-16 photographs of the current walk. By starting a new blog there would be a permanent record of each of our walks, and they could be seen whenever anyone wished to do so. This would be particularly useful for those members who did not live permanently in Spain. There is one blog for each year and so far they have been visited more than 1800 times.


In July I started a Yahoo group devoted to Napoleonic Campaigns. Despite the success of my Blogs there was relatively little feed back. I missed the exchange of information and ideas which I had enjoyed when running the club and later on the LFS forum when I was using those rules. My particular form of wargaming is not really “main stream” and I did not feel there would be much interest in the forums I now visited, such as TMP. I hoped that a new group might be the answer. Unfortunately it turned out to be a disappointment. After a great start the contributions became less and less. Mostly they were restricted to my contributions, with little response from the 130 odd members.


However the group did introduce me to Play by E Mail (PBEM) games. One of the members started an 1805 PBEM campaign in July. I took the part of Napoleon and found it very interesting while it lasted. Unfortunately in November, when the first battle was to be fought, it just stopped dead. I have no idea why, and that is the big disadvantage of internet wargaming. I assume that the moderator lost interest, or perhaps found that wargaming the battle was too difficult. Whatever the reason he simply stopped responding to emails.


But taking part in this campaign made me consider whether I might open my 1813 campaign to other players by means of PBEM. It started in September and is still going strong. It was based on my sold 1813 campaign, and in fact refought the mini campaigns of Magdeburg and later Halle, as I already had the appropriate campaign maps. This project had proved more complicated than I expected. The administration of a PBEM is much different from a solo campaign.


The biggest problem with a PBEM is that is just does not produce good wargames as quickly as a solo campaign. Worst it can take weeks to produce any wargame, and than it may well be uneven and not one you would wish to play were it not dictacted by the campaign.


But it has been interesting, and has caused me to reconsider a lot of mechanics which I had just accepted for the solo game. I am now considering whether it would be better to keep going with the PBEM concept, or just return to solo campaign. Or indeed whether it might be better to try to do both.


2009 has been great fun, has provided a lot of good wargames and has given me many enjoyable hours of Napoleonic Wargaming – whether on the table or designing elements of the campaign or updating my rules.


2010 looks like being just as challenging and I am really looking forward to it.


Good wargaming to you all in the coming year.


5 comments:

Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

Congratulations on a great blog (or should I say, group of blogs).

I still hanker to use my Napoleonic collection as a result of reading your blog regulalrly, and once I have sorted out my other projects I intend to put some effort into this.

Many thanks for you inspiring blog,

All the best,

Bob Cordery

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Bob

Thanks for your kind comments.

I remember that that you were planning to try the Napoleonic period. But reading your blog I can see that you have a lot of irons in different fires!

I look forward to reading on your blog that you have at last found the time to have a go at the only period for me.

Happy New Year

Paul

Matt said...

Blogs are the new "wargames newsletter"...for me the fun is not having to wait a month for a magazine/newsletter to hit the shelves/letterbox in the hope that there will be something that tweaks my interest. Now I can drop in to what I want to read and if I ever consider a T-55 or Tercio as possibly interesting (Gawd forbid!) I can search by Google rather than try and remember which volume of Wargames Illustrated etc. I need to find.

Keep it up-I enjoy it!

Best Regards,

Matt

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Matt

Your mention of "Wargamers Newsletter" made me realise just how much the hobby has changed since those far off days. I can well remember the excitement of that brown envelope dropping through the letter box with the newsletter inside. For most of the 70s it was possible to keep up with everything published about wargaming, whether one of Don Featherstone's books or all of the figures released.

The web is a great way of seeing what everyone else is up to, and getting inspiration from other's efforts. Best of all, its not just "eye candy" which is available out there.

regards

Paul

Capt Bill said...

I always enjoy dropping by to see your latest adventures. Keep up the good fight...