Monday 29 January 2024

January Digest

One of my objectives this year is to post more on the blog, so an end of month review, or Digest, is in order...

January Production:

It has been a very good month.

Painting totals are up on last year's average (24 Janissaries, Ottoman command, plus basing of all the Cossacks) = c35 points. Plus I am working on a fresh unit too although this will only be added to the total when finished in a few days time and so counts towards the February painting points.

Additions to the ranks in January:

Cossacks - by Dave Woodward, commander's flag by Mark Allen. The addition of unit flags, lances and pennants, and the basing is worthy of a few painting points... I am awarding myself 6 in total for this as it did take a full week of painting sessions.

Janissaries. Flag by Mark, figure painting by myself.

Ottoman command. Flag again by Mark, figure painting by yours truly.

January gaming:

Last weekend I had the first game of the year when Andy Moran visited with his Haut-Dijon (Burgundian-ish) army for a game of Billhooks. My Bavetta condottiere army performed better this time, although we agreed that it was still a close win for Andy whose Haut-Dijon army remains undefeated!

The game ebbed and flowed, in true Billhooks style, and provided some nail-biting moments, and some real hilarity too (it was the Haut-Dijon artillery that exploded this time!!). Very 'bloody', fun and fast-paced. An enjoyable day all round.

The eagle-eyed might spot the inclusion of what the gang of Old Berks (Andy, Steve and John) have started to call "Olley-spacers". I basically really dislike empty gaps on movement trays, and perhaps it's my wargaming OCD, but decided to have spare 'spacer bases' to place in such gaps when casualties are removed. I could add casualty figures, I suppose, but for now having a box of spare, terrained and flocked, bases just helps with 'the look of the thing'. Tidiness is a virtue even in early renaissance Italy you know!

January thoughts and ramblings:

In addition to the painting and gaming, this month I have also managed to get my Eastern Renaissance project journal up to date. This includes snaps of each unit as I finish it, plus plans for the development of the project, a painting schedule to keep me on track, reference materials I gather as I go along, including images off the net, and plans for future games and scenarios. I have also got a plan marked out for a small demo game at Partizan in May. I decided to give the project an outing at this early stage, simply because it's a marker for how the project is progressing that even after only a few months I might have something worthy to show.

This has thrown into sharp focus the challenges of putting on a small game, on a 6x4. It has also highlighted some of the positives that come from planning such a small game for display.

In general terms, I do think it's a good exercise to plan for a 6x4 table, regardless of how large the project may become in the future anyway. There's a tendency amongst the historical fraternity to think that all games have to be 'huge' affairs to be in some way 'worthy'. I've noticed this a lot, browsing around online. Yes, we all love the vision of a sculpted 16plus x 6 table (with several tables for reserves too!). However, the lowly 6x4 has plenty to offer, and like a short letter or a short speech, requires a laser-like focus on the effectiveness of the production. I think it was Churchill who said, "If I'd had more time, I would have written a shorter letter", hinting at the extra efficiency and effectiveness required with the smaller/shorter version. And so, I suggest, for a 6x4 wargame.

Just to qualify, here I am talking about 28mm 'rank and flank' type games. the humble 6x4 is often seen with 15mm figures (and smaller), or skirmish games in the larger scales. That stands to reason. But for 28mm 'standard' forces it's often overlooked as a significant waypoint in a project development.

The 6x4 has, of course, in some quarters become the norm... WAB, Billhooks, and others are notable here. In the world of fantasy, 6x4 also seems to be the standard. Perhaps it's in Pike & Shot and Horse & Musket gaming that the convention is ever towards 'biggism'. And yet, so many scenarios and possibilities exist for challenging and enjoyable games at this level, even with the P&S and H&M periods. So for those who, for whatever reason, are limited to a 6x4 table, don't despair. There's still much to be gained from a brigade or two of infantry and some cavalry and artillery support taking on the same numbers and having a great game.

Years ago, I chatted at length with Graham Cummings (Scotia Albion blog - get well soon Graham), and Lee Maxwell (sadly passed far too young) about having an initial target of 9:4:2 for their Horse and Musket armies - 9 Infantry units, 4 cavalry units, and 2 guns (or batteries). Simple. 

Steve Gill and I have regularly discussed reducing this further to our "6-a-side" template. More of which in a future post perhaps.

The message is clear, plan to your limitations... it may reveal your strengths. 

Monday 22 January 2024


Continuing the Eastern Renaissance project again...

Here are a couple of units of Cossack lancers.

The figures were painted by Dave Woodward (a figure painter of some considerable renown!).

Commander's flag is by Mark Allen.

Basing, unit flags, lances etc by yours truly.

Outsourcing to the professionals can give a project an early boost. In this case, it has allowed me to get on with various other units, more of which soon...

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Ottoman commander

Thanks to all who commented so positively on the previous post. Much appreciated.

Continuing with the Eastern Renaissance theme, here is the Ottoman command group I completed recently.

Figures are The Assault Group. Flag by Mark Allen.... another of his 'gems'.

Considering names for this particular Ottoman personality... all suggestions in comments please!

Sunday 14 January 2024


 First unit of Janissaries complete for my 17C Eastern Renaissance Project.

TAG figures. Quite a bit of cleaning up required on the castings, but enjoyed painting them.

Flag is by Mark Allen.

A good start to the year I think...

Wednesday 3 January 2024

Reviewing, Reflecting, and Plans for the Year

Firstly, Happy New Year! 

I trust you had a peaceful and enjoyable festive season, and that 2024 is stretching out before you like an inviting new chapter, in hobby terms, to enjoy it with renewed vigour and joy!

In the twilight, numberless, nameless days between Christmas and New Year (liberally peppered with hosting several social and family gatherings), I was curating a number of old hobby photographs. Amongst these were some of my hobby room when I lived up in Scotland.

Made me all nostalgic for a moment!

Over the past few days, I have been enjoying the email correspondence with members of the Virtual Wargames Club who have been setting out their plans for the year.

Similarly, my little gaming group, The Old Berks, have also been putting together their individual views on what the year will hold for them, hobby-wise.

In time-honoured fashion, this afternoon, I had a couple of hours with my own hobby journal just taking stock and making plans, so I thought I would take this opportunity to do likewise on the blog, beginning with a frank review of the year just gone.

Review of 2023.

In short, if ever a school report could have said, "Could do better", 2023 was that year! Notwithstanding certain mitigating factors, reflections on the last year are:

Gaming - not enough. In fact, very little. Now, whilst the gaming part of the hobby is not necessarily always my number one priority, I do want to have more games in the coming year.

Painting - not enough done. I started the year well with some Condottiere for playing Never Mind The Billhooks, and raced away for the first calendar quarter. Similarly, the last couple of months have been productive with the eastern renaissance project taking centre stage and getting some 'umph!' behind it. In total, in 2023, I achieved only 237 painting points (where an infantryman is one point, a cavalryman two points- one for rider, one for horse - and so on).

Display games at shows - none done in 2023. Will be back 'on the circuit' in 2024.

Virtual Wargames Club - this was a real boost; a Saturday afternoon tonic. Having set it up during lockdown back in 2020, I had dropped out for a while, but I'm delighted that it has been taken on by Stephen Caddy, and others, and adapted and improved along the way. I now attend when I can and certainly enjoy the company of the assembled throng.

Correspondence and Sharing - whilst I'm not a great one for posting on social media about the hobby, I do value regular correspondence with several people, chiefly via email. Again, that has been a highpoint of the year in being able to just chat about plans and ideas for projects.

Talking of which...

Plans for 2024.

Games - already have some in the diary, and hope this will be a much better year. Billhooks, some Eastern Renaissance using the fledgling collection, the old 1704 Wars of the Vaubarian Succession, will all get some attention.

Painting - I have set myself a modest target of 350 painting points for the year, primarily for the Eastern Renaissance project. There are also plans to add to the Billhooks Condottiere armies, and to possibly add more to the 1704 WVS project. In addition, I may paint 'something different and surprising' later on in 2024, if the mood still takes me towards the end of the year. I'm not letting this get in the way of the primary projects however.

Shows and Display Games - I probably won't go to York this year, but will visit Hammerhead and WMMS at Alumwell. I plan to do Display Games at both Partizans in 2024.

Writing - I will blog a  little more (maybe a lot more) and I also have some articles in draft for whichever magazine fancies them!

That just about covers it.

Finally, I was sad to hear the news of Bryan Ansell's passing the other day. I didn't know him well, but back in the 1990s we did correspond for a while, and had a number of lengthy phone calls, chewing the hobby fat. I only met him a couple of times I think. He also sent a rather nice Christmas card on one occasion, which I kept.

He certainly had an impact on the hobby and made a remarkable contribution. My condolences to his family and friends.