Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Thursday 2 January 2020

Review of 2019

A good gaming year, although perhaps not quite as good as I had hoped.  A move between continents, some serious health issues, starting a new degree course and a very busy new job have all played their part in holding me back! I reckon I played about 70-75 games this year, most of which made it to the blog in some form or other.

Looking Back: The Plans for 2019

So looking back at my plans for 2019, how did I get on?

1.  Try out the following rules with my 6mm Ancients & Medieval armies: Hail Caesar, Practical Wargaming, Lost Battles.

 I batted 1-for-3 here in that I did manage to get Lost Battles to the table but not the others.

2.  Start my proposed refight of Caesar's Gallic War.

I have just managed to start this, although I haven't finished writing up any of the battles or campaign events.  That said, I had a bit of a sense of humour failure during the first battle and nearly jacked it in.  Unusually, this wasn't because of problems with the campaign, it was to do with problems with the battle rules.  I had settled on Polemos: SPQR since that makes a decent stab at simulating some of the specific problems and benefits of commanding Romans as opposed to Gauls.  What I forgot is that the rules are just not very tightly written, particularly in terms of outcome moves (pursuits, recoils, flanks etc.): it is a perennial problem with this family of rules (except in Polemos: Ruse de Guerre) but this one suffers from it quite badly.  Anyway, I need to go back and look at what I did last time I played these rules a lot.

3. Try out DBV and Lion Rampant with my 28mm stuff.

Haven't done it, although I did a few turns with Lion Rampant.  I haven't been able to like them yet.  They feel a trifle too heroic for my taste.

4.  Buy or make some additional terrain suitable for 28mm stuff.  Ideally this should be realtively 'timeless', since it will have to serve across a wide range of periods.

I have just started on this.  To help myself out, I have bought the Paperboys' "European Buildings" pack and put together my first building.  I need to make some more progress on this though.

5.  Try out DBR and Practical Wargaming with my 6mm WotTK/ECW armies.  The only problem with this is that my current basing (a battalia of mixed pike and shot on a single base) isn't particularly suitable for these sets.  I am vaguely considering trying to write my own set to combine elements of DBR with Polemos: ECW for the first half of the C17.  On the other hand, the Twilight of Divine Right rules look very interesting and look as if they would be suitable for my current basing.  I don't imagine I will paint up entirely new armies for the Thirty Years War.  What I may do instead is just create lots of command stands and then use them with my existing ECW figures and add in extra stuff (more cuirassiers, Croats etc.) as I need them.

I didn't try out DBR or Practical Wargaming, since I never got around to either rebasing or putting the work into the rules to make them suitable for the single base units that I actually use.  On the other hand, I did get Twilight of Divine Right and played a reasonable number of the scenarios from the accompanying Thirty Years War book with them.  I enjoyed them quite a lot.  The mechanisms were pretty good and they solved the problem of how to get genuinely big Thirty Years War encounters onto a small table without needing any rebasing.  I thought the number of troop types seemed a bit fussy and excessive (and most importantly, a bit tricky to manage) but apart from that, I really enjoyed using them.

6.  Play the scenarios I haven't tried yet from Wargaming Pike & Shot.

Didn't do it.

7.  Buy a few 28mm ECW figures to try out Once Upon a Time in theWest Country.

Didn't do it.

8.  Finish my small 6mm War of 1812 US Army and then play some more games of Polemos Ruse de Guerre.

Achieved this, more or less.  My US Army needs a little more work but all of the essential elements are there.  I played some more games of Polemos Ruse de Guerre, including all of the scenarios in the book which could be reasonably adapted to my set up.

I was also very pleased to become an honorary member of the the Napoleonic Miniatures Wargame Society of Toronto, which club uses these rules!  The idea here is for me to tackle their monthly game, which they play as a big multi-player affair, as a solo small board game.  It has worked really well so far.

9.   Try out the following rules with my 6mm Napoleonic armies (with appropriate modifications to work with my basing scheme):Morale Napoleon, Shako, WRG 1685-1845, Shot Stone & Steel, Blucher, Lasalle, Grande Armee, the Grant rules, the Quarrie rules, Practical Wargaming, Black Powder, Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun.

I only acheived this with two of the rulesets, Shot Stone & Steel and the Quarrie rules.  I found that I quite liked the Shot Stone & Steel rules, I was impressed.  They look like they could fill a useful niche in my collection for a certain size of battle that otherwise isn't really covered.  I tried to play the Quarrie rules again...and everything that annoyed me about them before still annoys me.  This isn't the 'national characteristics' or over-powered artillery or anything like that, since all those numbers can be changed.  What just doesn't work is simultaneous movement and firing etc. for both sides and that is so embedded in the rules that it is hard to make even a workable bodge.  You can prove this to yourself by setting up an attack or two by three units against three.  All of those have multiple interactions in morale in which the success of one attack depends upon how the other two attacks are going: you therefore have to break the turn down into fifths or eighths in order to resolve the combat according to the rules and even then you have to switch between combats.

10.  Try out the following rules with my 28mm Napoleonic forces: Sharpe Practice, Flintlock & Ramrod, Skirmish Wargaming.

Didn't happen.

11.  Finish my Battlegames' "Martinstaadt Land Grab" campaign.

Finished, and the "campaign" side worked well.  What slightly spoiled it for me was that it ended up being quite one-sided since the French just did not seem to be able to buy a win.  I can't/won't cheat to make it more of a contest since that undermines the legitimacy of the game in my own eyes.  But the fact that it happened  overall makes my gaming experience better, even though in the short-term it was a little disappointing, if that makes sense?

12.  Try out the following rules with my 6mm WW2 armies: Spearhead, Tank Battles in Miniature, WRG 1925-50 2nd edition, Megablitz, Rommel and Combat Command.  This might involve a fair amount of prepatory work for some of the sets.

Didn't happen, since the prepatory work proved to be beyond my resources of spare time this year.

13.  Try out the following rules with my 15mm WW2 armies: Troops Weapons & Tactics, Bolt Action and Chain of Command.

Didn't happen.

14.  Play the scenarios from the Hit the Dirt! scenario book.

Didn't happen, although I have done some prepatory work for this.

15.  Consider getting some 15mm and/or 6mm forces for Vietnam for Bodycount and Firefight and maybe The Sharp End.  I might get a copy of FNG, too.  This would also need me to make or buy some appropriate terrain.

I got a few 6mm figures from Irregular Miniatures but I haven't done much more than prep them for painting so far.

16. Play more airwar scenarios and try and determine my favourite way(s) of recreating air war in miniature.

An unexpected success story this year.  I played lots of games, developing some very good ideas in Bob Cordery's Developing the Portable Air Wargame.  I have made a fair few modifications but left myself with a set of rules which is really quick to play, has very limited book-keeping but seems reasonably tactically valid.  Looking forward to developing this even further.

17.  Find a way to get my 1/4800 Napoleonic naval fleets into action.

Didn't happen.

18.  Fill in some gaps in my existing collections that I have previously identified, in preparation for some things I have in the back of my mind to do in 2020.  These include some more Napoleonic Russians (especially artillery), Austrians and Confederation of the Rhine troops; and some bits and pieces for my 6mm WW2 forces.

This has happened, more or less.  Lots more Russian Musketeers, Grenadiers and Guardsmen  are ready for action, with more Jagers, Artillery and Generals on the way.  French Allies have received some useful reinforcements, with more coming, and a few Austrian additions too.

19.  My two eldest children are quite into the idea of RPGs at the moment, so I would like to run a few games for them.

This happened a little, some of which I wrote up separately here.  On balance though they prefer to play boardgames: The Witches, Thunderbirds and Mansions of Madness have all proved popular (along with Chess)!

What else happened?  I played through the Too Fat Lardies' Pint-Sized campaign 29 Let's Go.

Inspired by Trebian's series of Jacobite Rebellion re-fights, I put on a few of my own (fulfilling a long-time ambition).  I did a smattering of Napoleonic refights (including Wavre and some 1805 and 1809 Franco-Austrian clashes).  I tried out Bob Cordery's Portable Napoleonic Wargame rules a few times.


I also got a few games of Nuts! in and have played the prelude to a 1940 campaign for it.

Shopping & Painting in 2019:
The main effort was to get my Scots armies for the War of the Three Kingdoms completed and this was done, with forces for Montrose and the Covenanters.  I think that I have sufficient models to refight any of the period's battles in some form or other.  I also painted up a load of Cuirassiers for the Thirty Years' War. My Napoleonic armies were expanded, in particular the Russians.  I also increased my Late Republican Roman ("Marian") armies quite a lot, to a force of around 8 legions and auxiliaries.  Unusually for me, my lead pile has mounted up a little over the last few months: I have a few more 6mm Napoleonic Russians to complete, some Napoleonic Bavarians and Wurttembergers and Austrians, some Thirty Years; War Eastern cavalry, some other bits and pieces.  I also have a few 6mm figures for Vietnam to have a go at, plus a few items for the Spanish in the Great Italian Wars.  In 15mm I have Italian and Commonwealth forces for the early desert war.  I have a small number of random fantasy and historical 28mm figures to do too.

Looking Forward: General Plans for 2020
The overall aim is simple: play more games.  The thing to work on is how to make that easy.  There will have to be a certain amount of physical re-organization as my current gaming space isn't really optimized for that at the moment.  It will also require a bit of thinking about how to get to the game more quickly in terms of rules and scenarios and so on.  Put simply, I want to be playing rather than reading about playing or preparing to play.  This means using the rules, figures and scenarios I have to hand as much as possible.
I will still be fairly busy over the course of this year, if not quite at last year's levels, so I want to minimize my modelling and painting commitments to myself, and frontload as many of those as possible to the first quarter.

Looking Forward: Specific Plans for 2020

1.  Continue and complete my Gallic War campaign.

2.  Start my Thirty Years War campaign.

3.  Complete my refights of the actions of the 1805 and 1809 campaigns.

4.  Refight the 1805 and 1809 campaigns.

5.  Refight the TooFatLardies' pint-sized WW2 campaigns for those which I have suitable figures for.

6.  Continue my own Nuts! 1940 campaign.

7.  Prepare some of my 6mm stuff for higher-level games: Spearhead, Megablitz, Rommel and so on.

8.  Play more WW2 air games.

9. Do a Five League From The Borderlands campaign.  I have plenty of figures, but I might need to make or buy some additional terrain for this one.

10.  Prepare some 6mm and 15mm desert and jungle terrain.

11.  Continue my slow progress through old magazine scenarios.

12.  Consider boardgames and magazine articles for campaign rules for the following: Fall of Rome, the Viking Invasions, 1066, Wars of the Roses and the Jacobite rebellions.

13.  Continue with the Polemos Ruse de Guerre Napoleonic and American Wars refights.

Shopping for 2020:

1.  Some additional early war 15mm WW2 stuff, including some French infantry and vehicles, some Africa Korps stuff, a few bits and pieces for the British.

2.  Some additional 6mm Napoleonic artillery, generals and casualty figures.  Possibly expand my Napoleonic Italian armies.

3.  Maybe some additional pikemen for early C16 scenarios (Flodden, early Great Italian Wars).

4.  Maybe Wings of the Motherland.

Concluding Comments:
Many thanks to those who have read the blog this year, particularly those who have left comments either here or on The Wargames Website or The Miniatures Page.  In my turn, I have continued to find great enjoyment and inspiration in many of the bloggers out there.  The podcasting world has just lost the Meeples & Miniatures podcast, but has gained a specialist 6mm podcast, God's Own Scale.  Henry Hyde's Battlechats and the TooFatLardies' Oddcasts have been coming thick and fast too and some of them have been excellent shows.
I was a very long-term listener to the Meeples & Miniatures podcast.  It has had its ups and downs but generally speaking, I have really enjoyed listening to it.  I think the only criticism I would make over the long term is that some of the shows got too long from including too much "what we have been up to" chat in the same episodes as "review of x", since it might be an hour before that review was reached.   I enjoy both types of content, but would prefer these things to be in separate shows - every fourth or fifth show a survey of the hobby or similar.  It has been interesting to follow the way Neil's hobby has changed too, especially how he has veered from boardgames to miniature games to back again.  As a primarily solo gamer then it is a way for me to follow a conversation about painting and collecting and organizing and so on.  I mention such things occasionally on this blog, but generally my blog is focused strictly on the games: rules, scenarios and campaigns.  Neil demonstrating in detail how lead mountains happen has been quite useful for me in working out how to avoid it myself by having a stricter relationship between acquisition of stuff, painting time and playing time.  I am far from perfect obviously but it has helped to keep everything manageable!  Neil's story also shows very much how easy it is to collect miniatures, but it isn't quite as easy to get them into games, particularly as boardgames do make it easy - they are all about the play.  And for me, one of the big selling points of the Meeples and Miniatures podcast was that it was done by someone who actually did get a lot of playing in and made it all about the game.
Being back in the UK now, I am looking forward to getting to most if not all of the shows local to the East Midlands and perhaps there will be a few more show reports this year.