Monday, January 02, 2017

2016.. a review...

Here we are again... and while I'm still (still [clicky] ) not really a person for doing the blowing the trumpet, review your triumphs, etcetc type of person (I leave that to the business corporate types I work with), like my end of the year review on the sailing blog it is kind of nice to cast my eyes over the year gone and remind myself of the ups and downs.... ad besides who am I to argue with the mass of the bloggerati who, to a man/woman, appear to be doing the same thing?!

So by way of a joining up of the threads, and a bringing to a close of the last year, let's push on...

First, how did I do against my expectations [clicky]?? Note: I never make 'resolutions' only 'expectations' and thus my failing to meet them yet again is not too demoralising an event...
  • I intend painting more this year (it would be difficult to paint less) So I painted 73 points worth in 2015, so that was my target in 2016, which..... I failed miserably..  Only one painted article left the paint table this year, the ACW wagons [clicky]
  • high on my list this year is a couple of re-basing projects - for the Sudan and AWI has already started on the Sudan collection - this one however was a resounding success..  the AWI rebasing project completed, and the Sudan project is only a few bases away from completion as well

  • I'm also overdue another game with DG - wanted to fit one in over the Christmas break but time got away from me..We finally did that in March!
Such a weight to carry on such tiny shoulders - my entire painted output for 2016!
I've got to say it wasn't a brilliant year, it did seem to me to be a a bit "hard work", not sure why, too many competing things for my increasingly limited time I think..  work continues to gobble up increasing amounts of what used to be down time, the boat, family (and none of that is is listed in terms of priority by the way). Having said that, however, this is still a hugely enjoyable hobby for me, and it's not a job, and I come here to relax not stress, so as I still managed a fair number of good things, I'll say it was an OK year...

So the painting totals for the year turned out at 8; I started poorly and ended badly...even worse than 2014's twelve points!  Having said that, I sat down an painted a regiment of Confederate infantry for the ACW project yesterday, they have just been spray coated. I need to base them and do some unit research so watch out for a post..  and as I've done that then I'll also be doing  Union regiment to keep sides balanced; I also have an English Civil War project to kick into life from it's current moribund state...

58 posts last year (c/w 69 in 2016, 68 in 2015, 84 in '14, 85, in '13) which is OK given the general level of engagement in the hobby in the last year (I'm surprised I was so prolific - it didn't seem like it at times...) what was a bit of a surprise is that 1 of my top 10 posts of "all time" (by page views - though that is increasingly a discredited value in light of the sheer number of Russian crawler bots out there..) was written during 2016... (though I suspect the post title my have have been partly the reason )...

Four table top games this year (c/w nine last year); the "One Hour Wargames" book (continues to be the best £10 I ever spent - oodles of small and immensely playable scenario's), the down turn in games is due to technology, DG has had some bandwidth issues, me more so - the trusty netbook is also beginning to do that slow descending circle towards the ground as the disk struggles to cope with the sheer number of competing demands on it, so I plan to remedy that this year...  the games we had however were all excellent, and DG and I are currently mid-battle on scenario #10 from One Hour Wargames (played correspondence style using the excellent Battle Chronicler program)
I work long hours, and I still find it very difficult at times to summon up the enthusiasm to sit down at the painting table, or set the table up for a game, when it's much easier to open a beer, light a cigar, and read a good book... speaking of which, apropos of nothing 54 books were read last year, compared with 46 in 2015 so there's a definite feeling that was what I was mostly doing...

Favourite books this year?

Fiction would be one of the three I gave perfect 10's to

Without a doubt my favourite of the Ronald Welch "Carey family" series - when I was a youngster I devoured the entire series, but this one, "Son of York" (set in the Wars of the Roses), and "For the King" (English Civil War) I re-read hundreds of times. Illustrated by the immortal William Stobbs (as were the originals) the entire series is currently being re-printed by the sainted folk at Foxed Quarterly [clicky] and I have waited 3 years for this one to come out as it was practically impossible to buy on line, being long out of print. I was not disappointed - this story deals with Alan Carey, offered the opportunity to travel to America following a fabricated scandal at Cambridge, he arrives in the newly founded colony to take over the reigns of the family estate in the Mohawk Valley at the start of the Seven Years War/French and Indian Wars. When he arrives he learns the skills of the back woods men and is soon caught up (as an officer of Loyalist militia) in the attacks on Fort Ticonderoga, and the assault on Quebec. Hugely Recommended.
This is the third book in the series and reminded me just how damned good they are...  set in the period of the 100 Years War, this series is about archer Thomas Blackstone, knighted after the Battle of Crecy for saving the Kings life, but now (after events in Normandy in the previous book [clicky]) living in exile in Italy (or rather Tuscany, as there was no "Italy" in 1358) where he is a leader of a band of condottieri in the service of the city state of Lucca protecting it from the attentions of similar condottieri in the pay of Milan. Blackstone is very good at his job and rewarded well, but is still estranged from his wife (again described in the previous book)

Things are going reasonably well for him then, but then he receives a message via a wounded man that  appears to have come from the Queen (Isabella) - it is a summons back to the court in England, and while it is quite obvious that it may be a trap, Blackstone remains a 'Kings man' (despite the exile) so decides to return. As expected a number of attempts are made on his life during the journey, and when he arrives in England the Queen tells him she needs him to fight the Black Prince in a tournament that has been announced, and which has attracted the very best knights in the whole of Europe...  he does it, but in a way that only the Prince can see as to all intents and purposes he yields, in the meeting with the Prince, and the King, Isabella explains that English political handling of problems in France are leading to the chance that they will lose their holdings (England still held the French King at this time and were demanding a huge ransom, which effectively France couldn't pay, but meant a power vacuum that the French Barons were exploiting for all its worth). The King orders Blackstone back to France, into the heart of the Peasants Revolt, to rescue the French Kings family, but holds out the hope the Blackstone's estranged wife might be with them.

After many adventures, skirmishes, and battles, this he manages to do - and reunites with his wife who has forgiven him. At the end of the book however, the assassin who has been stalking him since the beginning of the book, is reveled to be in the pay of Milan, and Blackstone has to face him in trial by combat...
Quite possibly the best to date...  his beloved ship L'Aurore is condemned (rotten timbers) on his return from events in Turkey, but the Admiralty are pleased with Kydd and give him command of a brand new frigate not even built yet, but on the stocks at Bucklers Hard (I was there last weekend!). Before he can take command however, he is summoned to the court martial of Popham, something that has hung over him ever since the ill judged invasion of South America three books back. Kydd cannot in all conscience bring himself to condemn Popham, so earns himself the enmity of the same Admiralty, and before he knows it, the new frigate has been given to someone else, and he has been given command of a frigate (the Tyger of the name) recently in mutiny... he has a short crew, poor officers, and it is clear he has been set up to fail, but then it transpires that the cause of the mutiny are French agents within the crew - managing to sort this out, his ship is attached to the North Sea fleet where he is sent on convoy duties to the Russian ports. In a superb sea battle at the end he manages to fight off three crack French frigates and his character is re-approved to the Admiralty. Superb book bringing me to the end of the current (written) series, and which has been a joy - hugely recommended. Looking forward to the new book now which comes out in October...

..on balance Stockwin takes it, as I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entire Kydd series this year - I am part way through the latest one at the moment, but have to say I'm not enjoying it as much as I have the previous ones.. more anon when I review.. but on the Kindle I have the latest David Gilman as well....

For non-fiction, although I enjoyed the Osprey "Ramilles" Campaign book, this was the book that kick started an entire project..

This book is about the first major engagement (yes there were some skirmishes and minor engagements before, but this was the first big battle) not only substantial research on the timetable of the actual battle (who was where and when and why), but the bigger benefit to me was the earlier chapters on each of the major arms - cavalry, infantry and artillery - their equipment, training and weapons at this stage of the war with some commentary on how these changed as the war progressed..

So we learn that at this stage of the war Parliament would have had better equipment (access to London),which in turn lead to a higher proportion of musket to pike (2:1 or better compared with 1:1 or 3:2 for the Royalists), and that Pike would have worn more armour at this stage of the war (it tended to be worn less as the war progressed, due to improved musketry, and the weight)

Both sides had armies that were pretty new to the game. Largely raw, and poorly trained, but leavened by experienced NCO's, officers and gentry that would have had had recent experience on the Continent either with Gustavus in Sweden, or the Thirty Years War, and some of them would have fought in the Bishops Wars [clicky] a few years before. The authors (Christopher L. Scott, Alan Turton, Eric Gruber von Arni) have a very good chapter on the two major deployment/tactical types - the Swedish and Dutch systems - and the differences between them..  a chapter I feel I'll be coming back to again to refresh my memory from time to time.

This site is very good [clicky] on the difference between the two (and on a huge number of other subjects to do with the English Civil War!) but basically the Dutch was older, more basic (deeper ranks and chequer board deployment) and more easy to learn (and was used by Essex and his Parliamentarian army at the battle), the Swedish system (fewer ranks, diamond pattern deployment, and more complex firing methodology) was newer and controversially was adopted by Charles on the advice of his battlefield commanders (Rupert).. possibly one of the deciding factors in his losing the battle given the paucity of training his infantry had?

All in all then I thought the book was a belter, and an excellent primer to the early armies of the English Civil War..  time will tell if subsequent research comes up with contradictions, but I thought it was very good..

The worst lowest scoring book was...

...lots of possibilities, but I thought let down by poor characterisation..  ....

Once again then no resolutions will be made (or will be made), no targets were set (or will be set), no projects defined (or will..... you get the picture), so once again I can report that all targets and goals were achieved ...! Hurrah!!

This year??

Well I intend painting more this year (it would be  really difficult to paint less) and I have already started.. but high on my list this year is to complete the Sudan re-basing, and kick off the English Civil War project...  a few more games would be good, but this year felt about right..

Salute is just over the horizon, but DG was mentioning at Warfare he might not fancy it,... I've blogged in the past about the cost of attending this show (cost each of us  about £30 this year - tickets/petrol/parking - plus the opportunity cost of an entire days travelling - to see a show that is increasingly fantasy orientated)..  so I'm not sure whether he'll be going - if he doesn't then I'm thinking I may go up solo on the train and see how that goes?? Either way the days are already getting longer - soon be summer!!

Happy New Year to all my reader - may the dice roll as required, and your brushes always keep a sharp tip...


  1. Happy New Year, Steve - I think you probably did pretty well last year, but next year will be even more betterer.

  2. Happy New Year, the Neil Thomas rule set does seem to have stuck a chord with many gamers for much the same reasons. While your painting was down, I rather fancy that your re-basing project does off-set that by some margin.

    1. Thanks Norm.. I wonder if the reason they are striking a chord is for the same reason, ie. that most of us are suffering from the same malaise of lack of time.. well the non-retired one's anyway..!

  3. Replies
    1. You too Ray.. here's to plenty of games, pork pies, and beer.. :o)

  4. Happy New Year, Steve! Great job on churning through your reading list. I need to tackle that monster one day...

    1. Thanks Jonathan, you too.. my book list is sometimes mistaken as being goal orientated, it's not, but it does give me a clue as to whether I've been active in the hobby though.. if the book numbers are up I know I've been too busy to do any wargaming! :o)

    2. That reasoning helps explain why my book numbers are low!

  5. Hello,
    Twice in the last week I've bumped into your posts on your planned ECW project and I wonder if I can help with your deliberations. My own TYW/ECW 'imagination' project, which is well and truly stalled, is based on Tumbling Dice and SHQ figures - they seem to go together rather well. I like the TD musketeers (because they include some very nice poses and have nice big muskets) and the SHQ pikemen because they have a bit of bulk. These pictures may help (I hope the link works)..
    The TD figures come in packs of mixed poses....which I don't like....but the very nice man was willing to supply exactly the figures I wanted as a 'special'.
    Best of luck.

    1. Thanks Iain - guidance very much appreciated - I seem to be stalled on the "rules thang" at the moment... what do you use?

  6. Hello Steve,
    I'm nowhere near playing a game with my own stuff but I have tried Victory Without Quarter in the past - a free set of rules loosely similar to Beneath Lilly Banners. They're not for me despite getting lots of good comments. I rather like diorama type bases so perhaps the Baroque version of Impetus. My toys aren't really based for Pike & Shotte and in any case I rather like the visual impact of keeping the shotte bases beside the might not be accurate but it looks good and reminds me of contemporary artwork such as that showing position of the armies at Naseby. I think Forlorn Hope may be a bit too old school for me but I'll dig them out and have a look. I prefer not to remove casualties so that may be an issue.
    Hope that helps.


    1. Iain - you look to be in the same place as me from the rules front with the exception that I would be happy to separate pike and musket (in base terms) - have tried VWQ but don't really like the randomness, hadn't thought of BLB must have a look and see if they are adaptable, bought and read FH but a little too micro for me... ditto on casualty removal - I don't spend what little time I have painting stuff, only to put it in a box half way through a game.. :o))

  7. Steve - Yes, I think that was my main complaint with VWQ....too random.
    I should clarify that my pike and shot are on separate bases, but I don't like the idea of them rushing off and doing their own thing - like removing casualties - it unbalances the look of the unit.
    I suspect that for me BLB3 will be adaptable for TYW and ECW, even if the writers might think that a travesty.