Sunday 31 July 2016

To Blog Or Not To Blog

I posted my first blog in March 2009, it was this Napoleonic Wargaming blog and my aim was to keep a record of my wargaming activities.   I had very little interest in blogging before then, and my only contact would be when there was a link on one of the wargame forums I read.

I have always kept a diary and after a family holiday compiled a scrap book with photographs and a summary of the holiday.   I suppose I have that sort of tidy mind which likes to organise memories.   So it is perhaps a little strange that I had not started a blog sooner.

We retired to Spain in March 2006 and had developed a lot of new interests and hobbies, not least organising our wargaming.   By March 2009 we were well into our new routine, and I found I had more time on my hands.   Hence starting the blog.

From the start I wanted to be able to index my blog entries, because I wanted them to be a permanent record.   I quickly found that this is not particularly easy with blogging, which by its nature tends to be short lived.   I asked for advice on TMP and fortunately made contact with Bob Cordery of Wargame Developments and Wargaming Miscellany fame.   Bob gave me some very useful suggestions, which helped me to make a good start.

My intention was to run one blog and to post once a week about my current interest or activity.   I would use the labels as an index.   However it soon became obvious that one blog would not be sufficient.

Most of my early blog entries were about my 1813 solo campaign.   But there was too much going on to restrict my entries to one a week.   So in April 2009 I started my first campaign diary blog.   I posted an entry each day and a battle report when we fought a wargame.   At the end of each campaign phase I started a new blog, to make it easier to maintain the index.   I am currently on my 14th campaign diary blog.   I have no idea how many posts, but I do know that there are 217 battle reports and 48,000 visits.

Also in April 2009 I decided to post a series of blogs on our experience of visiting Napoleonic battlefields.   We both enjoy walking holidays, and over the years have spent quite a few holidays exploring battlefields in Portugal, Spain, Germany and Italy.   I had a scrap book of each holiday, so producing each blog would not be difficult.   There are a total of 9 blogs, one for each holiday.  Each blog has an entry for each battlefield visit.   There are a total of 90 entries, each one a day spent walking a battlefield.   I don’t know how many visits each blog has had, but I do know that the index blog has had 55,000 visits.

In May 2009 I decided that I would start a series of blogs about our second major interest, which is hill walking.   We choose to live in a small village in the Jalon Valley because it is well known as an excellent walking centre.   The aim of the blog was to let friends and relatives see what it was like to live in Spain.  It has turned into a diary of our walking activities.   We have friends who run commercial walking holidays in the valley, and they tell us that many of their customers have read our blogs.  I start a new blog each year, to make it easier to index the walks.  At the start of each year I transfer the total of hits from the previous year to the new blog.   So far 8 blogs and 21,000 visits.

In addition I have posted a series of “one off” blogs.  For example Wellington’s Battles, which is a series of wargames based on the great man’s battles.   Then there is the Napoleonic Wargame rules blog, and the campaign rule blog.

I now find that I spent an hour or so each day typing up one of the three main blogs, which are Napoleonic Wargaming, Jan and Paul in Spain or the Campaign Diary.

I do all of this for my own entertainment and satisfaction.   It is pleasing that so many visitors take the trouble to read my rambling.   Of the 7 blogs I record visits there has been a total of 312,406 visits.   Obviously a lot of those will be repeat visits, and many will check out more than one blog when they visit.   But I still find it hard to believe that my efforts could produce so much interest.

My only regret is that more visitors do not leave a message.   According to the stats there have been less than 1,000 comments, and half of them would be my reply.   I think this is pretty common.   I now visit about 20 blogs regularly, and I note that few of them receive many comments.    The exception is my good friend (at least online) Bob Cordery.   He regularly gets 10 or more comments on his posts.  I did ask him why, and he told me that he always answers each comment.  But I am sure that there is more to it than that.   No doubt his style of writing prompts readers to comment.  

Blogging is now as much a part of my life as wargaming and walking, and probably takes up more time than either of them.   I would not say that it brings as much enjoyment as either of the other two.   But there is a certain satisfaction in posting two or three blogs each day, and even more when there is a response.

Thanks to all of you for following the blogs.   I would post them anyway, but perhaps not for long if I did not see the daily log of visits.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Wargames Nostalgia – Moving to Spain

Our first wargame in Spain

In 2005 we decided to move to Spain on retirement.   We bought out house “off plan” so we had a year to plan whilst it was being built.   We were also able to have the utilities room expanded to be our wargames room.

For the previous 20 years we had used a 12x6 foot table to wargame, and our collection of model soldiers was designed to provide that size of game.   With our move we would have to make do with a 6x6 foot table.   This was not a problem, as we did not plan to start a club, but would just wargame together.

I had just completed updating our model soldier collection.   The 28mm were mostly Front Rank, the 18mm AB Figures and the 6mm Heroic and Ros.   With our smaller table our wargames would have to be half the size.  Consequently I would only require half of the figures.   Throughout 2005 I put figures on EBay and managed to sell them all.

Our converted garage would have to be returned to its original use.    Our much loved wargames table would have to go, as would the shelves for storing the figures and scenery.   I could not find a new home for the table, so it was dismantled and my son took it off to Newcastle where it was used to convert his garage into a home cinema room.

Packing and moving the figures and scenery was a major job.   All had to be removed from their bases and packed in ice cream boxes, which were in turn packed in crates.   It took weeks, but was well worth the effort.   Not a single figure or building was damaged in the move.

Preparation for the move meant that we could not do much, if any, wargaming during 2005.   So I carried out a major review of my wargaming objectives.  It is ironic that after about 30 years of painting figures almost every day, I now found that I did not wish to continue to do so in retirement.   Instead I was determined that I would wargame with the figures I already had.
 Wargames Room

Starting with the wargame table I created army lists which would allow me to play with all of my figures and all of my scenery.   I wanted to be able to fight multi corps battles, but given the size of the table each corps would have to be pretty small.   My reduced collection consisted of national armies of 128 infantry, 16 cavalry and 4 artillery crews.   This would provide four corps of 32 infantry, 4 cavalry and 1 gun each.   There would be Austrian, British, Prussian, Russian and Spanish armies.  There would also be 7 French corps (including a Garde corps) and 3 Bavarian corps.  Plus one Baden, Italian, Westphalian and Polish.

To ensure that I would use all of the figures I created a fictional 1813 campaign.  It would cover Germany and Spain and there would be five allied and five French armies.

Next came the wargame rules.   All of the rules available at that time were designed to fight battles with 12, 24 or 36 figure battalions or brigades.   I needed a set of rules to cover 8 figure infantry brigades, 4 figure cavalry brigades and 1 gun and crew per corps.   I was currently using LFS rules, and they became the framework of my new Napoleonic Wargaming rules.   By the time I had finished there was not much in common with LFS, but they do deserve a mention as being the inspiration for my own rules. 

Then came the campaign.   It would be a fictional campaign designed only to provide interesting battles for us to wargame.   They started life as a list of guidelines, but gradually became formalised.   When I converted the campaign from solo to PBEM I put them on a blog so that they would be available to all taking part.
About half of the figures and scenery

It has all worked much better than I could have hoped.   The campaign is the framework for all of our wargame and model activities.   I have not bought or painted a single figure in the past ten years.  Running the campaign has expanded to fill the time I want to devote to wargaming.   Jan has produced a mass of scratch built model buildings to meet the ever changing requirements to transfer the campaign to the wargames table.   There is always a wargame on the table, and we usually manage an hour of play most days.

The future I imagine will be more of the same.   It suits us so well that I can see no point in changing it.   The advantage of it all being my own design is that I can easily amend either the wargame or campaign rules to overcome any failings we encounter.

It would be hard to imagine life without wargaming.   We do have other interests and hobbies, but our wargames table plays a very important part in our pleasant retirement.