Sunday, 1 January 2012

That Was The Year That Was....

So let's look at how Dr Vesuvius has done this year in his quest to get back into the wargaming hobby.

Total number of wargames played - 11
  • 3 GASLIGHT games with other players, 
  • 1 GASLIGHT solo tutorial game, 
  • 2 solo games of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame, 
  • 2 games of Force on Force
  • 3 solo games of Rally Round The King for Solo Wargaming Month.)
The bulk of my efforts have been towards the 28mm Steampunk/Victorian Science Fiction collection, where I went from having a single unit of British and a single unit of Germans and about a dozen civilian adventurers painted, to 6-8 units of infantry a side, plus a unit of cavalry plus assorted steam tanks, walkers etc and about 75 civilian/Adventurers all painted and table ready, with an even bigger backlog of figures and vehicles in various states of completion.  My personal interest in this genre/period was greatly boosted by the experience of attending The Asylum Steampunk Convivial, my personal highlight of the year.

As part of the overall 28mm Victorian Science Fiction project and in addition to the ongoing recruiting of character figures and steamtanks, I've launched four sub-projects, of which only one has seen any significant progress but which I think will be key for gaming in 2012.

  1. The expansion of the Evil Genius army - I have five units of regular uniformed troops and five unique vehicles  lined up for this.  The vehicles are primed and two are on the painting table, but the troops remain untouched bare metal.
  2. The Russian VSF force.  I have the infantry all based and primed, and a couple of vehicles from my old collection already earmarked for Russian service.  Frankly I'm panicking about how I'm going to paint the distinctive stripey shirts on my Russian sailors, so for now this is well and truly backburnered and all Invasion of England games will have to be restricted to the Southern (German) front.
  3. My long cherished Fenian Brotherhood VSF force - four units of regulars and four vehicles.  Although I had two units of The Boys sitting on my painting table throughout November and December, I've made no headway into them at all, apart from a single officer and standard bearer. Sadly returned to the figure cases and consigned to the back burner for now.
  4. The Victorian Cityscape Project, as chronicled in earlier blog posts, saw me first scratchbuilding some terraced hovels, ably assisted by Jonesy, then in a binge of pre-Xmas shopping I purchased a ton of buildings from Sarissa, Ziterdes, Warbases, Amera, PMC and Oshiro.  Only a fraction of the buildings are anywhere near table ready, and the work already done on the baseboards looks set to be scrapped in favour of a superior cobblestone surface, but this looks like it's going to turn into the key project for 2012 (see below)

Returning to GASLIGHT after so many years was like reuniting with an old flame. And yet, though GASLIGHT still gives a very enjoyable game, I'm still sorely tempted to try a few new rulesystems to get games with a slightly different feel or larger scope, or maybe write my own "perfect" ruleset (which would essentially be a rewrite of GASLIGHT, since it's already delivering 80% of what I want.)

Work on the 15mm modern Imagi-Nations that gave this blog its name has pretty much stalled completely, and the planned 15mm zombie collection has been supplanted by 28mm, mainly down to the inspiration of other zombie gaming bloggers like Vampifan and LTLDad.  In fact I've found myself drifting away from 15mm, a scale I've always favoured.  Ironically, we're in the middle of a boom period for 15mm sci-fi gaming, and even for 15mm Victorian Science Fiction, with several manufacturers starting to bring out suitable figures and steam vehicles.  However alea iacta est, and having given away all of my 15mm VSF gear that couldn't be retasked for 28mm, I've zero inclination to start collecting it again from scratch.  I'm left with the figures that were originally purchased for pseudo-historical Colonial adventures, more on which later.

The brief dalliance with 20mm modern gaming using Force on Force ended unsatisfactorily, although I'm promising myself a second fresh look at the rules along with the sci-fi version Tomorrow's War (which mi hermano santaclaus Jonesy very kindly bought me for Xmas).

Things that have tickled my fancy in 2011

  • Kaiser-Rushforth Multicases - I'm now a complete convert, with all my VSF stuff being stored in KR cases or GW cases with KR foam refits. It's my default storage solution for any individually based 25-28mm figures.
  • Old-school horse & musket gaming as exemplified by the wonderful 18th century imagi-nations at the Emperor vs Elector blog (tips hat to Tradgardmastare and Fitz-Badger who I know are visitors from that corner of the web)  I find myself absolutely entranced by the spectacular battle reports, often featuring huge units of beautifully painted figures.  The background narratives, the toy-soldier aesthetics, the nostalgia for old-school gaming, all are things I aspire to in my own wargaming, especially the VSF games. I've even picked up my own copies of "Charge" and "The War Game" to try to soak up the nostalgia for the period.  Sadly, I have to accept that this is a period and style of gaming that I am probably never going to be able to get into.  The reasons are numerous - I can just about cope with painting a unit of ten 28mm figures using my "daub n dip" technique.  A unit of 30+ figures, from an era when military uniforms were possibly at their most complex and detailed, just doesn't bear thinking about.  More significantly, I'm just not sure I have a decent enough grasp of the period to produce a suitable imagi-nation, or build an appropriate army.  I just don't feel I could do it justice.  So for the forseeable future, I remain the unwashed street urching gazing in through the "Emperor v Elector" toy shop window with longing admiration, and if I want a tricorne-era horse and musket game, there's always Empire: Total War to fall back on.
  • 1938 - A Very British Civil War.What's not to like?  Dad's Army meets P G Wodehouse, with colourful units, delightful inter-war vehicles as well as a degree of Heath-Robinson-esque improvisation.  And of course, afternoon tea.  I've bought all the VBCW sourcebooks to date and greatly enjoyed reading them, and avidly follow the fine gentlemen of the Edward VIIth Cocktail Lounge at the Gentlemen's Wargames Parlour. Although the creators of the setting have now brought out their own set of rules for the conflict, I'm delighted to see that they still keep the sourcebooks entirely rules-neutral and encourage everyone to play with their own favourite (or self-written) rules, something which is a refreshing change from the standard commercial wargame practice of tightly bundling wargames rules and settings and sometimes even figure ranges, to the exclusion of outside influences.  I approve of Solway's approach wholeheartedly. Everything about VBCW is so close in tone to my existing VSF gaming, it feels very familiar and comfortable.  However  there also lies the reason why I'm unlikely to ever invest time and money in VBCW armies.  I've already got a significant investment on forces to play light hearted "Jolly Tea and Cricket" games set in 1889, it seems an entirely wasted effort to duplicate all that simply to play a functionally identical game, except set fifty years later and in khaki instead of red.  VBCW has however directly inspired a line of thinking that led to a potential new background for VSF gaming - how about a Very Victorian Civil War (OR if you prefer "Winter of 1879")
  • The fine works of Mr Robert ("Bob") Cordery and his use of gridded terrain in what I think of as "operational" level wargames.  Brother Cordery has sold me on the virtues of Heroscape terrain in wargaming and his 1st edition Portable Wargames rules hit a sweet sport for me in the way that it felt comparable in a lot of ways to DBA and its family of games, without merely being another tired retread.  I've yet to play the 2nd edition or his more recent "Memoir of Modern Battle" rules, though I find the latter particularly intriguing as a possible way to resurrect the Axis of Naughtiness imagi-nations quickly and cheaply.
  • Finally, a nod specifically to Vampifan's World of the Undead.  While Vampifan's blog is a treasure trove of zombie wargaming material in its own right, it also acts as the hub of a larger circle of gamers covering the genre in a wide variety of formats and scales.  I often find myself visiting there purely as a jumping off point to explore the blogs he links to.  Which sounds like it does Vampifan a great disservice, but it shouldn't.  I've spend hours going through his earlier posts, following his All Things Zombies campaign, admiring his simply spectacular cardmodel buildings (all with fully detailed interiors)  The irony of this all is that prior to this, in real life, I wasn't particularly a fan of the zombie apocalypse genre or splatterfest gory horror in general.  But Vampifan and his fellow zombie bloggers have opened my eyes to the gaming possibilities of the genre.  It offers personalised, skirmish level gaming with a natural campaign structure.  It's almost perfect for the solo gamer, with a foe that is literally mindless and whose actions can be very easily programmed via simple game mechanics.  And that also makes it perfect for an entirely co-operative wargame, where multiple human players are all on the same side (athough judging by some of LTLDad's games with his family, some more than others) against the programmed zombie horde.
This is turning into a much longer post than I'd originally planned, so I think I'm going to split it here and do "Plans for 2012" tomorrow.

So in summary, how was 2011, the year I returned to wargaming?  Well I actually managed to roll dice and push toy soldiers around a table a few times, just a lot less than I'd hoped to.  I've discovered that I can actually start to enjoy painting figures, now that I've discovered my "daub and dip" technique and settled down with my "toy soldier" style.  I've also rediscovered the joy of building wargames terrain, which is second only the satisfaction you get from seeing all those separate terrain projects laid out on the table suddenly come together to look like a real place in miniature.

The biggest problem was Real Life(tm) getting in the way.  I've had to cancel at least four scheduled GASLIGHT games this year due to emergency Family Duty.  But I have found ways to continue working on and enjoying my hobby, like setting up a painting station at my parents' house for use while I've been there.  And I still maintain that it's at times like these that we most need our hobbies to distract us and help us unwind. 

So here's to 2012 and a Happy New Year to one and all.


  1. Happy New Year!
    I do read your blog and that mention prompted me to "Follow" it as well.
    As to the tricorne era and "big battalions" and knowledge of the period (or lack thereof), none of that stopped me. lol I find about 8-10 infantry figures are about as many as I really want to paint for a given unit, and then there are issues with limited storage space and gaming space. So I'm not playing the classic big battalion style of games, but I am having fun trying out various rules and such.
    I enjoy following your blog and many others for all of the inspiration, entertainment, ideas, and rules you all bring. It has really invigorated my gaming and hobby life. And I quite agree that hobbies are, if anything, more important when "real life" throws things at us. May you find more time for painting, gaming, terrain-building, etc. in 2012!

  2. Happy New Year! I'm another visitor from the world of 18th Century ImagiNations, and have recently branched out into 1880's Colonial on a small scale. My main rules set is Sharp Practice with some homespun mods. I bought GASLIGHT a while back but have yet to play it - a fault I shall remedy in the New Year!

    I came across your blog a few weeks ago at the Lead Adventurers' Forum and have followed it since. It's full of useful stuff and eye-candy. Well done and thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Happy New Year and may things go better for you and yours in 2012...

  4. Thought I'd add another comment re what Fitzbadger said.I too have tremendous fun with small imagination units,normally 12 figs or so even fewer too- doing the colour scheme,finding a flag and painting/basing them.You do not need a big area to have a great solo game or loads of lead. two feet square with a few units can be fun,easily set up and put away too. Go for the 18th century this year- you won't regret it and have loads of fun!!!