Friday, 1 January 2016

Look Back on 2015 and New Year Plans for 2016

This year culminated with the biggest Talavera game staged so far with the full "Dawn Attack" scenario played in November
As regular followers of the blog know, I am a bit of structures and planning kind of chap and have always worked on the basis of  "begin with the end in mind" and thus move forward saying what I will do and then doing what I have said.

Last year on January 1st I took the time to post my thoughts on progress in 2015 with the blog and the projects outlined in the previous year which seemed to generate a lot of interest and I hope allows regular followers of activities at JJ to see why things happen in the time and way they do with items of pure serendipity on my part thrown in throughout the year to add a bit of spice and variety.

Look Back on 2014 and New Year Plans

So in that spirit of sharing my ideas for 2016 and inviting your comments and questions should you be inclined I thought I would start, as last year, with a review of what the plan was for 2015 and progress against it together with the interest in the blog. Then I will look at what I want to achieve in 2016 with a look at the plans put in place to make it happen. It feels a bit like an appraisal at work except much more fun.

So what did I naively and rashly commit to doing last January?

The plan outlined in 2015
Well as I outlined last year, I would take the Peninsular War career of Sir Arthur Wellesley and his army on to Talavera with a series of scenarios that focus on that battle that will allow me to game the battle in small chunks as we build up to doing the full battle. This project is BIG with 24 battalions of French infantry to be done plus a dozen odd Spanish units.

The progress is well under way though with the completion of the German Division last year, and you will have seen progress towards completing the British units for Casa de Salinas which requires just two more British battalions.

I am planning to carry on with the posts about the units and their back story as they are added to the collection. The feedback on those done too date has been really positive, so to keep it interesting I plan to alternate between French and Allied units interspersed with battle reports on the planned scenarios.

So with regard to the Talavera project I hope you will agree that good progress has been made with this BIG project with a series of posts throughout the year that has looked at the building of some really key additions to the two orders of battle; and the playing as we have gone of the battle broken down into bite size scenarios that looks to model the battle that was fought over two days between the 27th and 28th July 1809.

Mackenzie's British 3rd Division
The year got going with the completion of Mackenzie's British 3rd Division in anticipation in playing the first scenario "Casa de Salinas"
British Units at Casa de Salinas-1809

Battle Royal around the farm enclosure of the Casa de Salinas back in March 2015
Soon followed by three play tests of the scenario to work out play balance and test out special rules which finished in March.
Casa de Salinas - Talavera Game Three

General Portago heads up his Spanish 3rd Division needed to play the last of the scenarios planned for this year,
Attack on the Pajar de Vergara
Whilst the Casa de Salinas play tests were happening work moved on in between play tests to complete General Portago's Spanish 3rd Division from General Cuesta's Army of Estremadura with this work completed in April.
Spanish 3rd Division-Talavera

The final clash in the Night Attack Scenario that produced a thrilling last round of combat to decide matters
Play testing then moved on to three scenario plays of Talavera - Night Attack which culminated in the final game in Mid-May
Talavera Night Attack Game Three

General Fane heads up the brigade of "British Heavies" at Talavera, completed in May
By the end of May work was finished putting together the final British Cavalry brigade, that of General Fane's Heavy Dragoons, needed for the next series of scenario play-tests for the Dawn Attack.
3rd Prince of Wales Regiment of Dragoons

Another 2015 highlight - My purchase of musket balls and clay pipe relics from the military museum in Ligny. These were found on the battlefield during the construction of the museum and have now found a new and caring home
The month of June caused a slightly prolonged pause in progress as JJ's Wargames took time to pay tribute to one of the most influential battles of modern times that ended major warfare in Europe up to WWI and put the final laurel on the glittering career of the finest British General Officer since Marlborough - the two hundredth anniversary of Waterloo.

The panorama of Waterloo, with the Lion Mound top right against the skyline and the bell tower of Plancenoit church poking up from the valley top left at the end of the track. I could picture Blucher's triumphant smile as he realised he had Napoleon exactly where he wanted him and there was no coming back from this.
My series of posts completed on the day in question two hundred years previously culminated in a family trip to Belgium in July that allowed us to tour the campaign area and produced some memories for life. I remember particularly the view of Waterloo as Blucher would have seen it, mid afternoon of June 18th 1815, as we parked up on the "Green Route" that his troops would have recognised instantly, little changed in two hundred years.

Wavre and the Prussian march to Waterloo

A clash of Titans as the French and British go at it full tilt on the Cerro de Medellin in November 2015
The Talavera Dawn Attack play tests began in July and culminated in the biggest game so far in November with the final pay test and produced a really exciting and hard fought battle with the narrowest of victory condition on casualties to the French.
Talavera Dawn Attack Game Three

The 3/54e Regiment de Ligne finished in October 2015 and marking the half way point on the French Line Infantry painted
Since July the work has focused on the biggest part of the project and a step by step completion of the eight regiments, or twenty four battalions of French Line infantry required to field Marshal Victor's I Corps d'Armee for the final afternoon attack scenario that will be the ultimate end point for the project as a whole.
3/54e Regiment de Ligne

At the time of writing I am working on the 3/45e Ligne which will complete the fifth regiment in the corps.

The 2/83rd Regiment of Foot "Fitch's Grenadiers" completed in November, finishing the British order of battle for Talavera
In addition to finishing off the French forces I completed the last British brigade and final two battalions with the completion of the 1/61st and 2/83rd Foot Regiments in General Alan Cameron's brigade in November, completing the British order of battle.

Attack on the Pajar de Vergara with the sweeping attack of the Hesse Darmstadt regiment about to meet the Provincial de Badajoz Militia!!
With work set to continue on finishing off the French and then the Spanish orders of battle we have started a new series of scenario tests only this week with the first run through of "The Attack on the Pajar de Vergara. The game produced a really exciting battle with a new and unlikely set of heroes to finish the year off with, namely the Provincial de Badajoz Militia Regiment who turned the result of the battle completely with one last irresistible counter-attack.

The plan outlined in 2015
Alongside the Napoleonics, Tom and I plan to carry on the progress with the Roman collection, with plans discussed to build, in time, sufficient units to look at gaming scenarios from the Year of the Four Emperors as well as Dacian and German barbarian units.

I am really chuffed with Tom's enthusiasm towards the ancients and his love of painting 28mm so I am looking forward to showcasing more of his work this year.

As well as the wargames projects, we have a family trip to the Waterloo battlefields this June as part of our pilgrimage to commemorate the bicentenary of one of the most important events in world history. I am really looking forward to our week in Belgium and to share the highlights of it here on JJ's.

Alongside the trip to Belgium touched on in the comments above, it was great fun to watch Tom develop his skills as a very accomplished painter, much better than his Dad, whilst completing his studies this year for a well earned BSc in Ocean Science this year.

A memory to savour on a lovely sunny day in Plymouth for Tom's graduation
The post on the plans for the Ancients collection outline the work, mostly done by Tom before he left for Australia. My focus on bringing Talavera to a successful conclusion has limited my contribution to the Dacian Wars project but that is set to change in 2016.

A sample of Tom's other work in the summer that produced equally excellent results
2015 will be a year of consolidating the progress too date and the figures added to both the Peninsular War and Roman collections will set things up to look at bigger projects in 2016 and beyond. In addition I am thinking about another period to look at in 28mm, but am holding off until this years work is complete.

As well as the painting, playing and battle anniversary celebrations other work has helped to consolidate progress in other areas. I am keen to broaden my writing into other fields and so it was fun and a real thrill to be invited to follow up the series of articles in Miniature Wargames in 2014 with an article in the May edition of Wargames Bloggers Quarterly, which is a brilliant free, full colour, PDF publication that I think really helps to promote what is really great in our fantastic hobby, with the work of some very talented people who do this stuff for fun.
Wargame Bloggers Quarterly

As well as that, based on feedback from comments left to previous posts, I was prompted to put together two painting tutorials summarised in PDF downloads for painting French and British infantry and will look to complete a trio with one covering Spanish infantry later this year.

In addition I was really pleased to include material from another contributor other than myself to cover a period that I would not normally look at, but of great interest to other gamers. Having been playing wargames for over forty years I have been lucky to build some very special long lasting friendships through this, rather strange to many, past time and these friends bring a knowledge and a reading of periods and eras that I frankly do not feel qualified to cover, but would like to.

So it was great to include a book review form my old friend "Mr Steve" last month and to collaborate on a board-game play-through of Alfred the Great - The Great Heathen Army 871AD last month. Steve has large collections of Ancient, Dark Ages, ACW and Seven Years War figures and is well read on many periods and brings a witty insightful view to subjects
Gettysburg The Last Invasion-Allen C Guelzo
Alfred the Great and the Great Heathen Army-871AD

Finally I am really looking forward to the release of the much anticipated campaign module from Carnage & Glory. I am really pleased that the coverage of the Oporto game in Miniature Wargames has generated a lot of discussion  about the merits of computer moderated gaming. The addition of a campaign module will only add to that and, with the growing Peninsula collection, I am keen to try out some campaign modules that I would love to play and will demonstrate further the advantages of these kind of games.

So there we are, 2015 here we come.

I think in Carnage & Glory I have found my preferred set of rules when playing Napoleonics and horse and musket games in general, and I have really tried to illustrate, in the games we have played over the last two years, what the rules have to offer. I often find myself playing other paper based rules comparing how easy and seamlessly C&G covers the basic gaming concepts of movement, firing, combat and morale compared with the other way of doing it! I can't say too much about the Campaign system, as I like others have been closely following developments, but through the focus on current projects have not really been able to contribute. I do though look forward to this and other improvements to the system that I have had the privilege of previews of and am really looking forward to sharing them with potential new players going forward.

So what to look forward to in 2016

The immediate work is set focused on completing the remaining ten battalions of French line infantry whilst developing and testing the Pajar Vergara scenario as we go. Then it will be on to the remaining Spanish units, namely the seven battalions of infantry in General Bassecourt's division and the five regiments of Spanish cavalry in General Albuquerque's division, both of which took post at the end of the northern valley during the afternoon attack. These three groups of figures plus a few supernumeraries in the form of general officers and artillery limbers will take the best part of the year to complete.

Once done we will stage the big battle using Carnage & Glory to fight the afternoon action with about fifty battalions of infantry on each side going at it. I think we will play several games with different sets of players to fully explore the potential of this, one of the most interesting Peninsular War battles.

On completion, I am planning to put the information gathered from this and the previous years work into a scenario book and guide that will be tailored for both players of  Carnage & Glory and other battalion level rule sets, that the unit strength C&G orders of battle easily facilitate.

Once the Talavera project is complete and written up I will be shifting some of the focus on to the Dacian War collection and it is the aim to be in a position to be playing or close to playing the first games by the end of the year.

The last boxes of Dacian war-bands showed up between Xmas and New Year, so now it's just a case of painting and basing them ready to play. In addition I will be putting together a collection of 28mm terrain and buildings to compliment the figures on my table. As the Dacians and remaining Roman forces are built I will be putting together the German War-bands for the next phase as we move into 2017 and thoughts of moving the Duke of Wellington back to the valley of the River Coa and a meeting with Marshal Massena Duc de Rivoli, Prince d'Essling.

As well as the project work I plan to continue the work to make JJ's Wargames a magazine style blog with a variety of subject matter and hopefully additional contributors to add to that variety and keep the blog fresh and interesting.

Thank you to everyone who has commented and joined in the conversation and to all those who regularly look by to see what is happening. Last year I reported that the blog had doubled its traffic in 2014, since it started on December 2012, to seven-thousand hits a month; well you guys have doubled that in a year to fifteen-thousand a month and the blog reached its first major landmark of 250,000 hits in October this year, so you must be interested in something that is going on here. I would be doing this stuff anyway, but it is a privilege to be able to record and share it with other people who also get fired up by this kind of nonsense.

The last year has been very focused on breaking the back of probably the biggest wargaming project I have so far taken on and with the end in sight I am keen to take more time to enjoy the journey this year.

Oh and in case you were wondering about the secret 28mm project in addition to the ones discussed. There are plans to start purchasing that collection in 2016, but it is so so secret I am going to save news about that project until later in the year.

Another highlight of 2015. The addition of a family heirloom to "JJ's mancave" with the restored
1845 Pattern Infantry Officers Sword
I hope you like the look of the blog at present with the recent addition of tab subjects at the top to capture the key projects that are the focus of JJ's Wargames. I am rather keen on keeping all the activities together on one site rather than set up separate subject lead blogs as others have done. I rather like the Too Fat Lardies approach of keeping all their game themes under the one banner and exposing visitors to all the delights that different themes have to offer.

Here's looking forward to another exciting year and wishing everyone in the hobby good gaming for 2016.


  1. I look forward to seeing those Dacian warbands in action. I hope your boy showed you how to paint them before he left....


    1. You and me Vince. Don't worry the "old man" has a few skills up his sleeve that the "Young Turk" hasn't mastered yet.

  2. A great year by any standard mate. It was great to have your work in WBQ and it made for an impressive cover pic too. Happy New Year!

    1. Thank you Michael, and a Happy New Year to you. The production quality of WBQ makes me think I will need to pick your brains at some stage.

  3. Happy New Year JJ,
    2016 looks to be a goody for both of us, enjoy.
    Best wishes,

    1. Happy New Year JJ, I can't wait, so much to do, so little time!
      cheers and good gaming

  4. I was always inspired by visiting your blog in 2015. Your Napoleonic unit posts were little gems of regimental history and the Talavera games were epic. Sorry I didn't catch your Alfred campaign until it was half over. I need to go back and read all those posts in order.
    Best for 2016,

    1. Hi Michael, thank you, it's a real buzz to hear that and I hope you enjoy the Alfred Campaign posts, with the second game in the series to come later this year.
      Have a great 2016

  5. An epic year of "work". Thanks for the Talavera info it proved a great help in planning our 28mm Black Power refight, to be revisited this year with additional Spanish. Hope you have a great 2016 and look forward to reading the posts.

    1. Thank you Tony. Like you, I have few Spanish units still to work through and am really looking forward to seeing all the toys on the table.

  6. Good work, you've proved a prolific inspiration of beautiful work.

  7. It has been a pleasure to follow your journey in wargaming via the blog these past two years. It has been entertaining, educational and inspirational for me. I cant wait to watch/read how 2016 unfolds. Happy new year!


    1. Hi Adam, thank you that's very kind. I am very excited about the year ahead and I wish you a Happy 2016.

  8. Great work over the year. What is the manufacturer for the Casas de Salinas building? Not seen that one before.

    1. Thank you. The buildings are from the JR Miniatures range that I put together for Oporto but came in handy for the Casa with its corner towers, from which Wellesley spotted the French attack

    2. I suppose your painting level elevated it above what we think is possible with JR Miniatures. Never thought the tower in particular was something they had. Very well done,