Tuesday, January 01, 2019

2018.. a review..

So as we say every year... "here we are go again"...

Still not really a 'blowing the trumpet', 'review your triumphs', etc etc type of person (I leave that to the business corporate types I work with), but 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.... and besides everyone else is 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, ever, make 'resolutions', just 'set  expectations', and thus when I inevitably fail to meet them yet again, it is not too demoralising or depressing an event...
  1. try to keep up my painting efforts.. 

  2. I would say I did "OK" with this one - I certainly kept up, but accomplished it all in the first two months of the year and then the brush pot dried - having said that if I can get them based up, I have a couple of bases of AWI dismounted dragoons painted to add to the tally, and I have also built the MDF terraced house I bought at Warfare but want to do some detailing before I consider it complete, so I suspect they will be the first points in next years tally..
    • 1/2/18 - CSS Planter (side wheeled paddle steamer) - ACW - Peter Pig - 1/600th @ 5 pts (5 pts)
    • 1/2/18 - USS Miami (side wheeled) - ACW - Peter Pig - 1/600th @ 5 pts (5 pts)
    • 1/2/18 - CSS Drewry (small gunboat) - ACW - Peter Pig - 1/600th @ 3 pts (3 pts)
    • 1/2/18 - CSS General Sumter ram/paddler - ACW - Peter Pig - 1/600th @ 5 pts (5 pts)
    • 9/2/18 - Officers/command figures - ECW - Les Higgins - 20mm - 4 mounted @ 2 pts (8 pts) and 2 foot figures @ 1 pt (2 pts) for a total of 10 pts.
    • 12/2/18 - Guns/crews - WWII Skirmish - Forged in Battle/Peter Pig - 7 guns @ 5pts (35 pts) and 19 crew@ 1 pt (19 pts) for a total of 54 pts.

    For a total of 82 points... that'll do...

  3. complete the Sudan re-basing, 

  4. An abject failure I'm afraid - I have to admit to having forgotten I still needed to do it - possibly because there was no game in the Sudan this year to act as a reminder? I'll carry this one over

  5. re-boot the English Civil War project, 

  6. Also an abject failure I'm afraid, despite my best efforts to kick start it with the officers and command stands I painted in February, nothing else happened ... my main issue is that I am not 'feeling the love' for the figures I chose - I HATE HATE HATE having to assemble figures even if it is as basic as gluing a head on... stuff it, I may have to start this project in a different scale .. 15mm... then I can use the exquisite Peter Pig figures...

  7. read more non-fiction... 

  8. A success - I told myself that I should read at least one non-fiction book a month and while I didn't quite manage that I did read some "absolute belter's", and one of them got a hallowed 10+..

    Score (out of 10)
    See blog post [clicky]..8
    See review here [clicky] 8
    See review here [clicky] 9
    See blog review [clicky] 8
    What an absolute belter - I have had this in hardback for some time, and read it when it first came out, but it came up on one of the Kindle deals a few weeks ago for 99p and it seemed stupid not to at that price (his Ardennes, and Stalingrad books also popped up for the same price and I also snapped them up - I suspect they are drumming up interest for the imminent release of his history of Arnhem) Immensely readable history of the Normandy landings from the point when the meteorological team gave the "go", to the freeing of Paris, and covering all the beaches, the breakouts, Caen, Operations Goodwood/Epsom/Totalize etc, the truly harrowing description of the fighting around Falaise, the American breakout by Patton, and the politics, always the politics of Eisenhower's truly monumental role in keeping the Allied forces pointing in one direction, while at the same time having to deal with Churchill/Montgomery, Patton, and de Gaulle...  an amazing book, chock full of first hand accounts, insights into the way the two sides fought wars, a re-appraisal of Montgomery (Beevor and I have to say I are not fans)...  my takeaways? The importance of propaganda at keeping the Germans in the war, the absolute ferociousness of any fighting involving the SS (both sides... and although it's Hollywood fiction put "Fury" in mind), the single mindedness of de Gaulle/Leclerc, and the bravery of the men on the ground...  very much recommended...10
    The first of two memoirs of RAF Battle of Britain pilots, one a survivor, but in this case one who died far too young.. Richard Hillary flew with one of the front line RAF squadrons int he Battle of Britain but was shot down and burnt horribly before being rescued from the English Channel. The book was written by him as part of his recovery from those burns, and covers the first experimental work by doctors on treating burns victims..  the book is sobering, and painful, but under it all there is also the story of a young guy taken from school, put under huge strain, and who begins to grow up as he receives treatment..  what is so sad, is that having recovered, he goes back to flying and was subsequently killed in action..  sobering doesn't even begin to describe it..9
    This was recommended to me by one of the guys I follow on Facebook (of all places), as I mentioned I had been reading Hillary's book, and the author of this biography, Geoffrey Wellum, had just recently died - in this RAF Centenary year it seemed apt I read it, and damn pleased I did as it is without a doubt another 10+ book (it has been an exceptional year for books..) Geoffrey Wellum has been described in may places as the youngest Spitfire pilot in the RAF when he qualified, I think I read somewhere else that he wasn't by a few months, but by the by, he joined straight from school, and was thrown in at the deep end..  he is a very un-pretentious writer and is more than happy to criticise his faults, but the description of learning to fly (Tiger Moth's), flight training school (Harvard's), his deep love of flying, and his eventual selection for fighters and assignment to a front line Spitfire squadron must have been so typical. What was unusual about him was that he survived - he had a tour and three quarters on the front line in Britain, and then just before his second tour ended he was sent as part of the Spitfire force that re-inforced Malta as part of Operation Pedestal before being sent home on sick leave completely physically and emotionally drained..  he recovered, of course, and went on to test the Typhoon, before ending the war as a gunnery instructor...  the descriptions of aerial dog fights over France are spine tingling..  that constant worry about how far you were from home, the engine, and the sheer physicality of flying a Spitfire on the edge in combat..  simply superb...10+
    See review here [clicky]..8

  9. a few more games would be good,

  10. Six table top games in 2018 (c/w eight in 2017) - details below - so less in number, but having said that it felt right, and I didn't feel like we'd not had enough games... I do remember cancelling one game with DG (apologies DG!) as I was just out of hospital (see later) so all in all it was "about right" again...

  11. Salute is just over the horizon, and given I missed Colours in 2017 I am fairly keen to make the trip

  12. Suffice to say I didn't go, but I did make Battleground South, Colours and Warfare this year... right at the moment I'm feeling the same way about Salute in 2019, so we shall see...

  13. More battlefield walks - Tangmere is just up the road and I'd like to take grandson - I also have a yen to visit Edgehill but that will be a slightly more adventurous trip (due to distance).. Bovington is also now on my bucket list....

  14. Bovington [clicky] was well and truly itched this year, but every time I upped to go to Tangmere something came up, so it remains on my list..
...there you go... you may beg to differ, but as it is my blog I can once again report that all targets and goals were achieved ...! Hurrah!!

In summary?? I've got to say that on the personal front 2018 was not the best year..

Not in any priority at all..... work continues to gobble up increasing amounts of what used to be down time; while delightful, and I wouldn't have it any other way, the family and grandson also deserve time; health issues for me and eldest daughter resulted in two missed holidays this year (one of them was a bucket list trip to Granada and the Alhambra Palace), and in my case, my first ever hospital visit (pneumonia); last, but not least, my Pa-in Law died early in the year... so all in all I'll not be missing 2018, and yes, I know and accept others have it far worse....

Re-reading 2017's review, I was finding it difficult at times to motivate myself and summon up the enthusiasm to sit down at the painting table, or set the table up for a game - not surprisingly that continued to be a trend in 2018. With grandson up about at half 6 for his breakfast, I leave for work about half eight and usually get home about 7, have something to eat and I'm usually exhausted and in bed by 9!    Given that, it really is much easier to open a beer, and read a good book for an hour (no cigars - the pneumonia was the wake up, so I kicked them into touch this year)... Having said that, however, this is still (a hugely enjoyable) hobby not a job, and I refuse to stress about it, and I still managed a fair number of good things, so on the hobby front I'll say it was an OK year...  the trip to Bovington with DG [clicky] was outstanding (the wargame show that was on at the same time, not so..) and  of course there was Colours [clicky] and Warfare [clicky]

Other bright spots in 2018?? Well one for sure was the boat [clicky], which was a bit of a life saver at times and restored much needed equilibrium, and to that I would add an utterly awesome concert at the O2 in London (the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer and I's first time at this venue) to see Paul McCartney (and as Ringo popped up for the encore I can very happily say I have seen both remaining Beatles play together) ..  stunning concert..  I've seen Led Zeppelin (all original members), AC/DC (with Bon Scott), Lynyrd Skynyrd (pre plane crash), Thin Lizzy (with Phil) several times, the Floyd, Genesis, and this was easily up there with them... stupendous.

There were 35 posts in 2018 including this one (c/w 45 in 2017, 58 in 2016, 69 in 2015, 68 in 2014, 84 in '13, 85, in '12) which is poor - the downward trend continues, not only for me, but with a few notable exceptions, the blogosphere seems to be slowing down across the board - I'm spending more time on Facebook and I see the same in others...  I'm happy with Blogger, I like to write and it suits my ordered mind, Facebook is great but seems more ephemeral and throw away - having said that I enjoy reading it (I don't post, just comment), finding out what people are doing - it's also a handy way of keeping track of the manufacturers, and what they are doing, but I have an increasing feeling that I spend too much time on it, so that will form one of my intentions this year... 

Six table top games in 2018 (c/w eight in 2017);
  1. WW2 - "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 15 - "Fortified Defence" - Setup and Game
  2. AWI - "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 15 - "Fortified Defence" - Setup and Game (Redux) - Part 1 and "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 15 - "Fortified Defence" - Setup and Game (Redux) - Part 2
  3. WW2 - "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 16 - "Advanced Guard" - Setup and Game
  4. WSS - "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 17 - "Encounter" - Setup and Game (Part 1) and "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 17 - "Encounter" - Game (Part 2)
  5. AWI (the John Corrigan Memorial Game) "Abundance Farm... Set Up" and "Abundance Farm... Game"
  6. WSS - ""La ferme d'abondance" - set up and game."
....the "One Hour Wargames" book (continues to be the best £10 I ever spent - oodles of small and immensely playable scenario's), we had a good'ish range of periods this year (tick, but DG, the next games need to be ACW and Sudan ), three solo games (#1, #2 and #4) the rest face to face with DG, and all games excellent apart from the first time we played #5 (#6 was the second game which was much better)

...apropos of absolutely nothing, 43 books were read in 2018, compared with 52 in '17, 54 in '16, and 46 in '15 so there's a definite feeling that I slowed down across the board this year - distractions aplenty and it needs to change..

Favourite books this year?

Fiction - these were my 'perfect 10's' of the year

I read the whole of the dark Materials trilogy a number of years ago, and am in awe at the imagination Pullman clearly has. He has dreamed up an entire world, with elements of 50's and 60's Britain, but with an entirely alternative technology and science. This is a return to that world, and is a pre-cursor to the Dark Materials trilogy dealing with the birth and very early life of Lyra. So we meet her father, Lord Ariel, her mother (boo hiss), and a cast of amazing support characters, one of whom has a three legged hyena as his daemon...  superb! Can't wait for volume 2.. and this is my first 10 of the year
Been looking forward to this and was not disappointed - Radcliffe is one of those natural story tellers, and this trilogy details the fictional life of Theo Trickey, a paratrooper in the the early days of the parachute regiment...  Radcliffe continues Theo's story, using the same present and past view of his life, and that of the doctor who nurses him in the present while they are in a POW camp following Arnhem. Absolutely fascinating and a real page turner...  so Trickey trains as a commando is transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute regiment is on the Bruneval raid (Operation Biting), before being seconded for SOE operations (a mission that ends in a particularly harrowing way...) in Italy at the time of Mussolini's overthrow, and then rejoining the regiment in time for Operation Torch in Tunisia..  absolutely excellent - can't wait for volume 3
There are a number of authors that classify under the category of "master story tellers" - they're the one's who grip you from the first page, and just tell a story you really want to hear the end of, and Nevil Shute is right up there in the upper reaches of the list..  Pied Piper, Trustee from the Toolroom, On the Beach, and this one, are absolute classics...  told from the perspective of the heroine, Jean Paget, this is the story of her life from the moment she is captured by the Japanese in Malaya, to her survival under brutal conditions, to meeting Joe an Australian POW, her immediate post war life, inheritance, and a life in Australia..  a belter, no other word for it, and an absolute time capsule...  recommended...
See Blog review [clicky]..
Having been completely and utterly enthused by the Falcon of Sparta book, I felt the need for some more hoplite action, and more specifically some Spartan hoplite action, so I turned to this old favourite that has been on my bookshelf for years - a novel depicting the battle of Thermopylae and simply superb as an introduction and taster into both the Spartan way of life (in a word, "military"), the background to the campaign, and how the battle was fought...  his descriptions of what it must have been like to fight in a hoplite shield wall are second to none, and the book is hugely recommended by me..
See blog post [clicky]...
This one came out of nowhere and I loved it..  watch for a review of both parts (see next) on the blog.. review here [clicky]
Liked the first one (see previous) so much that despite a full reading pile I went and got this and started it straight away! Review here [clicky]
My first ever Maigret, or indeed Georges Simenon, and at the end of it, all I could think was "why have I left it so long"?! Three short stories only one of which actually features Maigret himself, but all of which feature the Parisian police force solving a variety of crimes.. simply superb.. the descriptions are evocative and you find yourself immersed in a Paris of Galois smoke, bars, coffee, bistro's and the smell of fresh bread baking .... on the list for next year are the rest of the books!

..so an absolutely outstanding year for good stories but three of these got the hallowed 10+ rating - out of those, it was a close call but on on balance I think the C. J. Sansom book takes it, with Mallinson a close second..  Tombland was monumental I thought, and a stupendous return to print by the author.. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading the Georges Simenon, and I already know that will form an 'intention' for 2019...

For non-fiction, this was the standout in the year ...  it was sobering and eye opening in this RAF anniversary year..  we owe them so much, those young men...

...but this was also very good and make me want to re-read his others on my pile of books...

The worst lowest scoring book was... this was one of three low scorers, but on balance this was probably the lowest...

Volume 5 in the series - and if I'm honest it's a bit of a relief I didn't have to read all five..  as another reviewer put it - they are a trifle "thin"..  not in terms of pages, just food for thought..  this one ends with the battle of Malplaquet...

This year?? Well I intend to
  1. try to keep up my painting efforts.. 
  2. complete the Sudan re-basing, 
  3. re-boot the English Civil War project, 
  4. continue reading more non-fiction... 
  5. Salute is just over the horizon, and I really should go... no really...
  6. Tangmere visit
  7. Edgehill walk - unlikely but if we don't aim, we don't even shoot... (just call me Confucius the Wargamer....)
  8. Spend less time on Facebook - it's wasted time, and it's too easy to lose an hour that I could use doing something else
  9. Lose 3 stone - fed up being a fat bastard...
  10. HMS Victory - been years since I last went ..
  11. Read the whole of the Maigret series
Happy New Year to all my reader - may the dice roll as required, your brushes always keep a sharp tip, the beer be hoppy and bright, and the books all page turners...


  1. All good. I have really enjoyed your gaming posts, table size and format is just right for my world. I have also enjoyed Beevor, reading his Arnhem and Ardennes this year and his dealing of the fractures within Allied command leaves one disappointed in a couple of characters, but nothing that is unsimilar to what can be witnessed in corporate hierarchy today!

    I like the depth that blogs bring and tend to feel FB to be by contrast a bit shallow with all the perils of a time sink.

    Cheers for 2019.

  2. Happy New Year to yourself and the family Steve, you have achieved a damn sight more than me on the hobby front this year! If you do restart the ECW project in 15mm then those Peter Pigs are the very best out there I agree, I'd like to see that. Could not help picking up on your ;list of past attended gigs, we share a few in common there but have to say looking back there was nothing like Thin Lizzy live, very first time I saw them was at Hammersmith Odeon just after the release of the 'Fightin' album and they were supporting Bachman Turner Overdrive - blew them off the stage and I'll never forget Phil with that huge grin and bass reflecting the lights back to the audience. And AC/DC with Bon Scott, well what can one say? That man certainly had a huge voice and stage presence, thanks for the memories Steve and all the very best for 2019.

  3. Happy New Year Steve. I hope 2019 will be more kind to you on all fronts!