Saturday, 26 December 2020

End of Year Review 2020

With the end of 2020 fast approaching, it is somewhat customary in many quarters to take a look back at the past year year, which is quite an interesting undertaking I find. So without further ado:

The Long Summer  
Well 2020 has certainly been a year to remember (or forget) for several reasons. Firstly I was made redundant towards the end of February. Whilst not a surprise it still came as a bit of a shock, but as I'd been part time for a good few years, I saw it as a blessing in disguise. No more 5.30am starts of cycling through wind and rain; no more office politics to deal with; no more difficult clients who didn't know their arse from their elbow! When the day finally came it was such a relief and I left with a big smile on my face and a sense of utter relief that I had 'retired'. The first few weeks were sheer bliss of doing what I wanted when I wanted, whether this be long overdue DIY on the house, reading a book, going for long bike rides etc. Sadly this didn't last

Within a month of 'retiring' the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic hit and we went into a national lockdown here in the UK. For my family this meant social distancing within the house for the first 6 weeks, with no physical contact allowed due to our son being on the extremely clinically vulnerable list, with me sleeping downstairs on a camp bed. Queueing outside shops became the norm in the early morning, but at least because of our son we were able to be in the fast lanes at the supermarket, which helped a lot. We also has the good fortune to be blessed with wonderful weather.

One of my other hobbies aside from wargaming is gardening, so I and the family were able to enjoy some outside space in a relatively safe manner. Not everyone was so lucky. Sitting outside in the evening as the sun went down, with no traffic noise to disturb us and the sound of insects in the shrubs was a soothing time that we all appreciated. As the weather lasted for the most part into Autumn, we were incredibly lucky to have such fine weather, a rare occurence in the UK and frankly I cannot remember a Summer like it in my 57 years.

Naturally face to face wargaming stopped dead and to date hasn't resumed, but luckily I was still able to enjoy my hobby as you will see. so enough waffling on from me and time to have a look at the wargaming year in more detail.

Rules Bought
It's Getting a Bit Chile by Graham Evans
Black Powder II 
Platoon Forward by Too Fat Lardies 
The Portable Colonial Wargame by Bob Cordery 
The Portable Pike and Shot Wargame by Bob Cordery
Never Mind The Billhooks by Andy Callan
Irregular War Conflict at World's End 
1914 by Great Escape Games
Libertad! SCW Supplement for BKCIV 
I had planned to limit or stop rules purchase this year, but as you can see I failed somewhat in this. At the start of the year, Dave and I were playing Black Powder and he had just bought BPII. I was retiscent about buying the book but succumbed quite quickly and boy I'm glad I did! To my mind they are an improvement on the original rules, are much better laid out and it is easier to find rules as you need them during a game. As you will see they have been the most rules played this year for a variety of reasons. I know they are not everyones cup of tea but I enjoy the games they give, especially for when playing solo.

Most of the other rules were bought for reference, retail therapy or to add to existing rulesets, such as Blitzkreig Commander. Most have only had a cursory reading and some may never get played, but they will be referenced again in the future I'm sure.

Wargaming Books Bought
Osprey Gettysburg Campaign Series book
Gettysburg by Sears
Chancellorsville by Sears
The Peninsula Campaign by Sears
La Ultima Cruzada by Bob Cordery 
Osprey Salerno 1943 (Father's Day gift)
Antietam by Sears (Father's Day gift)
Operation Sealion by P Fleming
The Battle Cry of Freedom by McPherson
Case White by Forcsyk
Nomonhan 1939 byS D Goldman
Airfix Magazine Guides 8th Army & Afrika Korps

The book purchases this year have largely been around the American Civil War and early WWII, the former to increase my limited knowledge of this conflict, the latter to add to a period I've long had an interest in.
The ACW books by Sears have been an absolute joy to read, giving me a brilliant understanding of some of the major battles of the Western theatre. Added to this has been McPhersons book on the ACW as a whole, setting it very much in the context of American history of the time and the build up to the war and the issues involved. I just wish all history books were as good as these! During lockdown they have given me untold hours of escapist pleasure and an overiding desire to game this conflict more when face-to-face gaming can resume. 

Miniatures Bought
Pendraken 19thC figures for my ImagiNations forces
Pendraken Napoleonic Peninsula War Spanish (kickstarter type)
Pendraken WWII Belgians 
Zvezda Bf-109 & Ju-88 
For once I haven't added much to my lead mountain for several reasons. Firstly being without a job meant I had to be careful with my purchases to start with, until the fallout on the finaces became evident. Secondly with plenty of time on my hands it soon became evident that I had more than enough lead to keep me occupied for a good many years at my normal painting rate. Before lockdown hit I had planned to sell stuff, but this was stopped dead as with no shows to sell stuff at and the stay at home message, this could simply wait for another day.

Miniatures Painted
Leven minature buildings
10mm Pendraken 19thC ImagiNations Grand Duchy of Ruthenia 
Italian WWII tanks 
British WWII tanks 
Fallschirmjager Assault Engineers 
Commission Figurines MDF ImagiNations 
Lion Rampant 
At the start of the year I made a conscious effort to start on two Imagi-Nations forces for games set in the mid 19thC in Europe. This was going well with the aim to get enough troops painted for some games against Dave, the with lockdown my drive evaporated. I did manage a few more units, but attention turned to spending time outside with the family to escape the confines of the house.

As Summer drew to a close I turned my attention back to my wooden blocks after discussions with a fellow Blogger and for some reason my mind drifted to my mdf figures that I had bought a few years back for some planned Napleonic gaming. Very quickly I was taken with this as a project and once I had got the hand of painting smaller 2D shapes, they flew off the painting table, to the point that I had two sices with which to fight smallish battles on my normal 4' x 4' table.

Terrain Made
ACW sweet corn fields
Scratch built hills
Commission Figurines trenches 
Scratch built pillboxes
Not much was done on the terrain front, other than add bits and pieces as I needed them for my games, as really I have enough terrain. However I still enjoy making 'stuff' and will continue to do so as and when required.

BKCII campaign
ACW campaign 
PBEM campaign 
OHW Scenarios 
Lion Rampant 
Campaigns were one of my aims this year and I certainly hit or exceeded my targets on this front. Even with lockdown, I was able to carry on campaigns, either solo such as my Operation Sealion one using BKCII, or PBEM Imagi-Nations with Keith and Dave. Both gave me great pleasure and given the current nature of the Covid-19 situation, campaigns of this type will I'm sure feature heavily next year.

Games Played
Black Powder II - 18
Ancient & Medieval Wargaming by Neil Thomas - 4
The Portable Wargame - 1 
Never  Mind The Billhooks - 3
Rebels & Patriots - 1 
The year got off to a good start with my usual mid-week games with Dave and then after a bit of a break during the early days of lockdown, carried on via a variety of campaigns and latterly my OHW scenario play throughs. BPII and BKCII were the most played as you can see. I had planned on some Honours of War games, which sadly didn't happen as I was in a BPII groove for the campaigns. Next year the aim is to certainly play HoW much more and again in a

Wargames Shows Attended
None due to the Covid restrictions closing most of the shows this year, which won't come as a complete surprise.

End of Year Thoughts 
Given all that this year has thrown at us, it hasn't turned out too badly from a purely gaming perspective. So as is my wont, a few thoughts in no particular order on this year and maybe some plans for next year:
Wargaming as a hobby in general really helped during lockdown, as I was able to carry on playing more or less as normal. Of course with FtF gaming I missed the banter and general chat that goes with it as well as meeting my friends on a regular basis. However as most of my games are solo friendly, the games themselves could carry on. Also the researching and planning games took on an increased importance along with reading of my history books as already mentioned. 

The reading of existing Blogs I follow as well as finding new ones has been a constant source of pleasure and encouragement this year. It has been good to share thoughts and ideas with other Bloggers and to now they face the same issues as myself in terms of falling visitors, comments etc. I hope to discover more next year and in the future as they have been my virtual magazine for that wargaming 'hit' that I'm sure we all need.
I started to re-assess the periods that I play last year and during the lockdown I focussed on this a lot more, as I had the time to think it through properly. In short my aim is to create Imagi-Nations forces for the 17thC, 18th and mid-19thC Europe, that may be linked in terms of the Nations involved etc. I realised that I really didn't need four Armies for the SYW and that two would work perfectly well. I know this may be viewed as heresy in certain quarters but it works for me. With WWII I want to concentrate on more forces for '39 - '41 and possibly 'follow' a unit from the invasion of Poland, through France, maybe detouring into England and then onto Russia. I certainly won't achieve all of this next year, but it will give me focus.

The size of my Armies will by and large reduce to around 12 units per side with some additional options thrown in for good measure. As most of my games are played on a 4' x 4' table or smaller, this size works perfectly for my normal mid-week games of solo outings. I've realised that I honestly don't need bigger Armies than these and the smaller forces are easier to focus upon when trying to paint them up. For me the games have become more important than the figures, which I still do enjoy painting when the muse is upon me. Maybe this is a reaction to some 33 years in the design industry as a modelmaker, as painting the figures could seem like a busmen's holiday at times.

This year has been very much one of focussing on core rulesets that I enjoy and that give me at least a good and challenging game. This also means that I've come to 'know' the rules very well and so can focus on the game itself and what I want to do. I suppose I used to try and find the perfect ruleset and this year with the time that lockdown has given me for reflection, I've realised that this will never happen. So for me Honours of War, Black Powder II and Blitzkreig Commander II tick all the boxes and will continue to do so.

The painting of my Imagi-Nations and MDF figures has given me plenty of time to come up with a good but fairly quick table top gaming standard that I'm happy with. Due to my previous job I would always try to paint them to a very high standard, but this year I realised that it wasn't nescessary. when on the table as long as they looked OK that was fine, as the game was the important thing to me. My mdf figures look like normal 3D 6mm figures at a distance and the little mistakes that are there aren't visible. This has been a refreshing approach and one that I wish to carry forward into 2021 and beyond.

Basing figures and one what size bases is one of those perennial problems for the wargamer. This year I settled upon 1" square bases that meant that I could play all of my favourite rulesets with this size, but also from skirmish games such as Rebels & Patriots through to Bloody Big Battles, all with the same units. This has the added bonus of meaning less storage space for a variety of figures and aslo less painting time, both of which are at a premium for me, so I see it as a win win situation!

Over the past few years I have bought quite a few scenario books, but have never really used them. Of late I have been delving into them for inpsiration and have recently been enjoying playing through the scenarios from the One Hour Wargames book. This is something I want to do more of next year and beyond, along with playing more campaigns, probably incorporating the scenarios into these.
As mentioned earlier, I've realised that my lead mountain is too big and seriously needs reducing once the lockdown eases. So the aim is, famous last words, to buy only minatures that will augment existing ranges or armies that I have. Whether this happens of course remains to be seen!
It would be nice to think that life in 2021 returns to some level of normality, so that FtF gaming can continue and that we can meet up at shows etc.One can but hope. At least if this doesn't happen I can carry on as 'normal' as I did this year and focus on my plans as outlined above. As always I'd love to hear what you think, whether good or bad, and hope my waffling on has given you food for thought in some shape or form. So until next time...


  1. Thanks Steve, enjoyed the insights of your year.

    We tend to live in the 'here and now' and it is easy to forget just how much we have actually done during the year, Recording and framing activity of a single year gives a good momentary opportunity to capture that.

    18 Black Powder games is a goodly number of games with a single system. 2020 has certainly had its problems, thank goodness we have our hobby as a refuge!

    1. Thanks Norm and by logging my games, purchases etc, it all adds up to a useful amount of info with which to reflect upon the past year. Mid-point my games count was very low, so it was nice to see that I had had a good surge in the Autumn onwards.

      Focussing on a single system has had great benefits as already mentioned, especially when coming to design scenarios and table layout, which is something I think that is often overlooked. A misplaced piece of terrain or poor unit selection for both sides can easily spoil a game.

  2. Steve, I enjoyed this post on your 2020 reflections very much. It is comforting to read that our wargaming band of brothers is adapting and rallying around our common interests and fighting through our extraordinary situations. On a whole, the hobby seems to be weathering this storm well and has actually opened up new possibilities for many of us.

    I always enjoy your battle reports and find your
    post-game thoughts most illuminating. Thanks for letting Norm and I take the reins of command in your last battle. That was good fun!

    For my own reflections 2020, it ain't over yet!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed my reflections Jonathan. As you say and as you know very well yourself, technology has opened up so many possibilities to carry on gaming when FtF opportunities simply aren't there.

      I hope Norm and your good self can once again lock horns in 2021, as I'm already planning games and campaigns as I type! I'm looking forward to your reflections for sure and mine were 'early' to take advantage of some quiet time to compose my thoughts on the year.

    2. More battling and campaigning across your table would be fun!

  3. I enjoyed reading your reflections on the year Steve. Your comments about redundancy (isn’t it often the way that one feels a sense of relief), and lockdown 1 resonated.

    I remember being asked in June/July by a coach ‘how would you sum up lockdown for you?’ I was able to answer with one word: birdsong.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed my musings on the past year:). Apparently with the first lockdown the traffic levels dropped to that of the early 1970's, hence to drop in pollution and the wonderful rise in peace and quiet, broken only by birdsong as you say. If only it could continue like that as it was so peaceful...

  4. Interesting reflections Steve on what has been a very odd year. I agree that this wonderful hobby has helped me cope. Let’s hope things settle down.....I’m particularly missing shows and when they restart plan to really pull my finger out putting on games and get to as many as I can. The problem is I’m not sure when that might be. Interested by your thoughts on imagination campaigns I think this might lead me into using my SYW figures outsdie of their historical context. More to think about here going forward. Finally I couldn’t agree more about blogs engaging sharing and supporting each other is an enormous help in these times 👍

    1. Thanks Matt. I discovered your Blog this year and have enjoyed your posts as well as the photos of the lovely Cumbrian countryside. I suppose I should try and take some pics when I'm out on my bike, if I remember to take a camera that is.

      I've found the whole Imagi-Nations route rather liberating as my Tricorne troops for example could fight the WSS, the SYW, the '45, the AWI and others too. All I simply do is take a battle and fight it with troops. Not perfect for sure and purists would call it heresy, but it works for me and means I get more games in.