2021 Retrospective and 2022 Plans

From our Correspondent on the North West Frontier

Happy New Year!

It’s fair to say that 2021 didn’t turn out quite as anticipated, when I started this blog. Hopes of regular face-to-face wargames have been dashed, for a bit longer at least. We briefly had UK shows, but it was recently announced that Salute 50 has been postponed to April 2023, for instance.

More positively, I’ve acquired – and even played! – some rulesets that support both solo and competitive play, and made a dent into the Piles-of-Shame. I won’t present the planned Carry On-ish game of “The Men Who Would Be Kings” (TMWWBK) at a New Year 2022 Gaming event, but it should be ready for when it’s possible (and comfortable) to play it face-to-face.

First, for the Stats Fiends in the audience, here are the 2021 results:

  • 241: Bought
  • 329: Prepared
  • 393: Completed

The “Bought” number is fairly self-evident. The biggest single contributors were the Wargames Atlantic Afghans, the GW Kill Team boxed set and a Warlord British Civil Wars infantry unit – together, about half of the above. (I’ve finished the last of these, am making good progress through the first… and let’s not talk about the Kill Team box).

I have a bad habit (one of many) of cleaning, basing and priming figures… and then being distracted onto something else. This results in a ton of part-finished figures that Take Up Space. (In the case of terrain pieces: “… and a kitchen table”). Sure enough, I have drawer upon drawer of such figures – drawers that I’d gladly fill with other tat. The “Prepared” stat indicates how many figures reached the “patiently waiting for paint” state this year – whether they progressed beyond that or not.

Finally, “Completed” is what it sounds like: figures that have been painted, varnished and put into their “final” storage – usually Really Useful Storage Boxes or KR Multicases for newer projects, but with no shortage of magnetic-lined box files still in existence. (The curious mathematician will see that “Completed minus Bought” is the amount of shrinkage in the Piles-of-Shame, while “Completed minus Prepared” indicates the reduction in storage space dedicated to part-painted figures. Can I have the next slide, please?)

I have no idea of how many toy soldiers I own, nor the numbers painted, part-painted or whatever. Hence, I can’t quote stats for the “percentage of shrinkage in the Piles-of-Shame”, or similar. This is, actually, a Good Thing. If I could, I could also calculate projections of when the Piles-of-Shame would reduce to zero… and thereby have definitive proof that I need to live to the age of 879. (Some things are better left Unknown…).

Gnolls emerge from the Breeding Pits in the ruins of Felstad.

Now for the Analysis…

The raw “Completed” figure is very positive. However, it looks like I’m mainly painting the newest figures, rather than chewing into the part-painted backlog, and freeing up that all-important space. (No, I’m not going to follow up with: “So, in 2022, I’ll buy no more new figures, and just paint what I already own”. At least, not without my nose growing, Pinocchio-style…).

Now let’s look at the Hostages to Fortune ^H^H^H^H objectives that I set earlier this year. Fortunately, I was sufficiently foresighted to make them vague enough to be achievable. (SMART objectives? Pah!)

It was already clear, even when the Delta variant was so dominant, that the hoped-for “meeting up at 2022 for a multi-player wargame” wasn’t feasible/sensible. To this end, I rather took my foot off the proverbial gas, as regards completing the planned game of TMWWBK. The Afghan tribesman are nevertheless nearly complete, I have one full unit of Brits, and I’m amassing scatter terrain etc. I can play some skirmish games now; when I’ve finished another 12 British (or more likely, Indian) infantry I’ll be able to play the “half-size” scale of TMWWBK; and it shouldn’t take too much longer to be able to run the full-scale game.

Just say No to Vile Necromancy!

Both Frostgrave and Rangers of Shadow Deep are progressing well, with several games played of the latter, and sufficient scenery now to play some solo games of the former. There is, of course, nothing stopping me playing both sides of competitive, or even cooperative, games of Frostgrave – and a bunch of other things beside, e.g. “Last Days” [zombie survival]. The most recent Frostgrave supplement (vampires and giants!) arrived just before Christmas.

I’ve finished the “Zendarian” infantry, as planned. My original thought was to create an Adventuring Company for “In Her Majesty’s Name” (IHMN), which did indeed have its Second Edition released in 2021. Despite the mismatch in time, there’s now crossover with “The Silver Bayonet” – there are quite a few figures that will offer dual-service in the two games. (I wish that I could claim that this was deliberate planning, rather than serendipity!)

The catch-all “paint/do stuff” objective was adequately vague. Even I hadn’t anticipated quite such a random set of topics in 2021, even if it was encouraged by taking some focus off the big North West Frontier game.

In the spirit of “reuse”, my 2022 objectives may appear a little familiar:

  • North West Frontier. Complete the TMWWBK multi-player game in time for a putative Midsummer 2022 event. Expand the set of scatter terrain;
  • The Silver Bayonet. Complete an initial Austrian force, and play solo game(s). Expand the roster of monsters;
  • Frostgrave and Rangers of Shadow Deep. Expand the terrain set of Frostgrave, and play some games. Continue the current RoSD Mission (“The Beacon Tower”);
  • “Paint more Stuff”. At least: another post-worth of 15mm and Orks; another ECW/BCW unit;
  • “Play more Games”. Perhaps the thing I did least well in 2021!

Hopefully, some of these games will be non-solo, and at least one will be multi-player per side… but that’s harder to predict.

Hunt the Monsters!

Finally, some introspection on (not-quite) a year’s blogging.

(With apologies to Meatloaf): Objects In The Preview Mirror May Appear Uglier Than They Are. Before 2021, I’d casually photographed games-in-progress, trader stands etc. for painting ideas. However, it was all rather hit-and-miss, and no-one else ever saw them – often not even me. Now I’m posting photos that 7 people – sometimes even as many as eight – actually see. Eek! The responsibility!

Early shots – and all of the “game in progress” (i.e. “hastily restaged after the actual game”) photos – were taken with an entry-level DSLR on a table tripod. I’ve usually aimed for a painting style that looks OK “on the table” (i.e. arm’s-length-plus, with dodgy eyesight). Nothing prepared me for the horror of seeing my 28mm figures at a foot tall, on an HD monitor! It’s a sight that’s guilted me into quietly “improving” several paint-jobs (especially “wild, staring eyes”), albeit often after the post was published. We’ll talk a little more about scheduling in a moment.

Early experimentation showed me that I needed more light (“More Light! More Light!”), if I didn’t want to spend all of my time in what I’ll laughingly call “post-production”. YouTube videos told me that I needed a light-box – or that I didn’t. Or to make a light-box, rather than buying one – or not to bother. What I actually did was to buy a cheap (less than £20 on Amazon) folding light-box, which includes 2 LED strips. I also started using a more stable tripod. I find that I still need more light directly onto the front of the figures, but “post-production” with it is now cropping, resizing (to match the relevant WordPress template) and – at worst – a minor tweak to the exposure. (1/4s at f20, and using a cable release, in case that’s useful to anyone)

Oi! Where’s my battlewagon?

The “received wisdom” on starting a blog was to have 3-5 posts already written before posting the first one. Unfortunately, the same impulse that says: “I’ve just painted 6 figures of one type, and I like them… so I should immediately buy 20 more on eBay” also says: “I could just squeeze two more figures into the next post”. (A wiser option would be: “Or I could use the time to prepare for the post after that”… but I can usually manage to resist such sensible thoughts).

I’m still experimenting with the photography, but have a setup that Seems To Work. Planning posts turns out to be a pleasurable pastime in itself, especially with a detailed breakdown of the figure requirements per post, and it seems to help maintain focus. (Just imagine how random I’d otherwise be…)

Unsurprisingly, I’m using a spreadsheet. I can’t bring myself to use Jira or Trello to track the “painted” status of Orks.

The Plan for 2022 probably boils down to: “Paint more, write more, play more, have fun”. It sounds so simple…

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