Saturday, 27 March 2010


First off, I see that my blog has just passed the 20,000 hit mark this last week.  While I'm sure that a lot of those hits were probably spammers or the like, it is still something of an achievement, and I really appreciate all those who have checked out this blog over the last few years.  Especially those who have shown faith despite those long periods of inactivity as I have flitted from project to project, or was otherwise kept busy with other real-life issues!  Thanks to all of you.
March 2010 is coming to a close, and I have to report minimal work on my Napoleonics during this time.    

I've actually been doing a lot of painting and it has been a productive month- but not for Napoleonics.  My main activity with the West Tokyo Wargamers has been to concentrate on WW2 using Blitzkrieg Commander, and a lot of fun we are having with it too.  Our collections for WW2 continue to grow, and we are rapidly reaching a stage where we will have enough to field varied forces for good-sized games.  

Once that point is reached, the painting pace can be geared down a bit, so I can turn my attention back to the world of shakos and czapkas as well as on Shermans.

But with Matt here building up a force of 28mm British using Perry and Victrix miniatures, and me preparing to send of my Russians to Roger for him to paint, I'm confident that we will start seeing some decent Napoleonic games in the not-too-distant future.  It looks like Black Powder will be the rule set that first gets used, but we're not adverse to trying others out either to see what suits the bill.  Vive l'empereur! 

So even if I can't provide much in the way of eye-candy, there are a few things I've realized since we've started gaming regularly at the community centre here:
1) Unless you have access to a van, transporting figures and terrain not a lot of fun.  Packing carefully is a chore, the figures themselves are prone to any number of mishaps along the way, and metal gets heavy.  Very heavy when you start getting brigade size or above in 28mm! I'm starting to look at plastics in a new light after lugging boxes of lead back and forth; and that was just in 20mm!  
2)  Terrain makes a game just as much as do the figures; good looking buildings need to be bright, yet not too vivid.  Likewise, a lighter green table covering seems to suit the horse-and-musket period the best, especially when gaming in fluorescent lighting.
3)  I realize now that nothing spurs on my painting as does the pressure of getting ready for a game!  It also forces me to be less of a perfectionist; seeing a painted unit set against the backdrop of a good-sized table with terrain cloth and buildings makes me realize that it is the unit that really stands out- not just the individual miniatures.  The whole can be much, much greater than the sum of it's parts. 
The reality of #1 above means that I am going to have to accept the probability of taking at least a few casualties both on the field of battle and on the "approach march", as it were, and the hard plastics may well be the way forward. They are light, relatively robust, increasingly well detailed- and if one gets damaged or broken it is less of a heartbreak financially!  Likewise, no matter what I use for varnish metal models are going to get chipped and have their bayonets bent or broken from time to time.  

Now I'm not about to turn my metal figures into landfill, but for fleshing out a collection and making larger Napoleonic games a reality, plastics will be serving proudly shoulder-to-shoulder with their white metal brethren in my French army. 

Finally, I suspect there is a shift underway in my approach to the hobby as I find myself once again gaming on a regular basis.

The hobby has certainly changed since the last time I was in this position in the mid-1980's or so.   Nowadays, many wargamers are used to expecting the same amount of detail in 25-28mm  miniatures that could once only be found in 54mm collectors models.  Indeed, some of the more recent releases easily put a lot of older 54mm models to shame.  Accordingly, many 28mm gamers want to do that detail justice in their paint jobs- myself included.

But for me at least, and I suspect I'm not alone, the narrowing gap between these two related hobbies- painting miniatures intended for the display cabinet on one hand, and painting miniatures for the gaming table on the other- has resulted in a switch in hobby focus.

For example: while a high school and university student, I was very much into gaming medievals using the old Chainmail rules, and I'd regularly go up to Tama Hobbies in Kerrisdale on a Saturday morning and buy a pack or two at a time of the old Heritage (Hinchliffe) 25mm medieval miniatures.  I'd prime them the same evening after I got home, and paint them up the following morning.  In the evening I'd be gaming with them.  Instant gratification, and no one to pee on my parade by telling me I was doing it wrong.

But even allowing for the fact that in those days I had more time than money, these past years it has been more a matter of building up the lead mountain, agonizing over orders of battles, the kind of headgear the unit should be wearing, whether to go for a three-colour or two-colour painting technique, and what shades to highlight white and blue uniforms with. Simply put, the figures take that much longer to both research and paint.

Now there is nothing wrong with this in itself.  I love painting, and I wouldn't go back to the days of white metal blobs passing themselves off as Prussian grenadiers when they looked little if at all different from French line.  But the hobby appeals to me not just because of the detail in any one particular figure; it is the whole concept of the moving diorama that I've always hankered for, and that means giving other aspects of the hobby equal weight as well- terrain, basing, and getting the troops out in numbers! 

So it is worth reminding myself from time to time that I should stand back, not get too hung up on individual figure detail, and look at what am trying to achieve overall.  And make compromises in order to get there.  

Over the last twenty years or so, I have been a miniature painter as opposed to a miniature wargamer as I simply had no opportunity for actual gaming.  Now that gaming is back with a vengeance these last few months, it is time to recalibrate my sights and just get figures on the tabletop again. 

Exciting times!