Saturday, 31 December 2016

JJ's Look Back on 2016 and Plans for 2017

I hope you like the theme of my header picture for this post as JJ's Wargames goes through the annual event of looking back on the year gone and contemplating the fun that lies ahead in the year before us.

This concept and how things come together here at JJ's HQ could be summed up in the picture of Napoleon and his entourage of General Officers who use their telescopes to look at the events of 2016, swapping banter about the highlights that stick in the mind, of the fun and games that caused the most comment and of the expeditions and travel that will be forever the landmarks of 2016.

All this whilst a distracted Emperor, contemplates the year ahead about what are the priorities, with projects started, projects yet to begin, projects to complete, exciting games, shows and travel ideas to fit into the schedule for the new year, not to mention all the units with their painting and modelling plans. Ah the weight of all these decisions, I can often be found sat on the camp chair lost in thought amid the plans of Empire.

Anyway back to the real world and our review of 2016 and a look forward into 2017 and the ideas about what you can expect to see covered here on JJ's.

Scanning back over the one-hundred plus posts, I started to struggle to pull out highlights, to carry on with the analogy above, my telescope was moving from one point to another continuously scanning the horizon.

However I am determined to keep this post as a review and a look forward so have grouped a few things under one topic for conciseness.

In addition, JJ's Wargames is all about working to plans and themes and if you cast a look back to this post in 2015, there was definitely a plan. So I will cast a glance to see if I did what I said I was going to do and more.

Review of 2016

Look back on 2015 and 2016 plans

The year started very much on the theme that it has finished with, namely, Napoleonics and the project that has evolved into Talavera 208.

The completion of the 45e Regiment de Ligne moved the building of Victor's I Corps to about two thirds done at that stage  and the completion of the corps as a whole in August 'broke the back' of the Talavera project and left me looking at light at the end of the tunnel.

Marshal Victors I Corps d'Armee - Talavera

I had never done a project of this scale or intensity, Napoleonics with all the intricacies of uniform peculiarities are always intense, and under the gaze of an audience which demands discipline and I have grown personally in knowing what I am capable of doing.

The plan to complete the Talavera collection in 2016 has proven to be elusive, principally down to other demands on my time that weren't a factor in the previous year. That said, the whole point of a plan is to adjust it as required but still progress towards the desired goal, and that has happened.

Spanish 2nd Cavalry Division at Talavera

In addition to Victor's Corps, Albuquerque's Spanish  2nd Cavalry Division are done together with the French command and as I write this the last of the British commands are done, together with a battery of French horse artillery.

The French will also require three more foot artillery limbers which are on the paint desk now and I will complete a couple of British foot limbers to finish that collection and then we are back to the Spanish.

I should also mention that friends and family supported the progress by getting me some lovely presents this year in the form of the wagons and rear area models such as surgeons and cantinieres from Blue Moon, plus extra casualty sets from Captain Games and AB which will only help bring the game alive with the added drama and eye candy they create.

Talavera 208 King Joseph & Marshals

So although we still have Bassecourt's Spanish Infantry Division to complete plus a few supernumeraries, the collection should be about done in the first quarter of 2017; and of course the final 'big game' recreating the Afternoon Attack by the French forces has now morphed into Talavera 208 and support for Combat Stress which has really added to the project as a whole.

Talavera 208 (1809-2017) In support of Combat Stress

So Talavera has to be a huge high point in 2016 and will feature large going into the New Year 2017.

As discussed in last year's review, I was and am very keen to make 'JJ's Wargames' a magazine style blog and have looked to develop that theme in 2016.

I took a look at the numbers viewing the blog and even given all the issues of distracting fluctuations brought on by 'crawler software' and spikes in traffic from Russia, the traffic to the blog continues to grow as does the followers and comments from you guys.

So what has changed from last year to develop the blog? Well we have contributions from friends of the blog, Mr Steve and Steve M who have added their own insights into places visited and books reviewed which really adds breadth to the content that I create.

The Book Review section of the blog has really developed this year with thirteen reviews posted from Mr Steve and myself that seems to have been well received. We have both looked to write reviews from the eye of the historical wargamer.

Books Reviewed

In addition to books, rule sets have featured with three rule sets getting the JJ's Wargames thumbs up
on the "Game/Simulation, Fun/Pins in the Eye" score-ometer.

I am really looking forward to running another play-test of Over the Hills in January at the Devon Wargames Group first meeting in 2017 and have resurrected my Vimeiro scenarios originally done for Carnage & Glory and Napoleon at War and converted the troop stats to OTH.

Over the Hills - Army/Brigade Fatigue Record Card
Following the first test I have also come up with some adaptations that I want to try out including my own Fatigue Record Cards for the various brigades, using dice to monitor fatigue losses, rather like the arm morale system used in Sam Mustafa's Maurice.

Once I have tested my adaptations I will post them for others to use if they wish.

As well as OTH I am really looking forward to more games of Sharp Practice and A to A in the new year and I am hoping to produce some initiative tokens instead of cards for the latter game as I found the use of the tokens in Sharp Practice much more convenient that card shuffling and is definitely the way I want to go.

Augustus to Aurelian
Over the Hills Napoleonic Rules
Sharp Practice II

A real find occurred whilst on holiday this year. As regular followers will know, I have looked at various campaign vehicles for my Napoleonics which is where I want to go as the collection develops and so this board game drew my attention.

Of course you can only gauge the potential after having played the campaign fully and so Will and later Tom and I played through the game from start to finish with all the possible historical event cards taking a hand.

I was really taken with this neat system of a game and in anticipation of using it in the future have my trusty Cyberboard version all set and ready to go.

The addition of the "Over the Hills" rules to my trusty "Carnage & Glory" also makes campaigning even more doable going forward.

Wellington's War Pacific Rim Games
Wellington's War Campaign PlayTest

One of the best parts of our hobby is the ability to combine it with just about anything we are doing in doors or out. Books and games pretty well have the indoors covered and holiday expeditions and trips to historically themed sites have the outdoors covered.

The highlights of this year for me have been the museums, shows, historical sites and holidays abroad.

The Penarth show, Crusade was a new addition to the wargaming calendar and a very welcome one to start the year, with a very nice show, good selection of traders plus the added attraction of two excellent authors presenting. Great day out.

I am really looking forward to going again in 2017 and to hear Gareth and Adrian present on Command and Control in the Ancient world and Napoleonic warfare in the Mediterranean.

Crusade-2016 Penarth & District Wargames

Another trip up to Cardiff followed the Penarth show to visit the Roman ruins at Caerleon and the National Roman Legion Museum, both fantastic sites to visit.

Caerleon & National Roman Legion Museum (1)
Caerleon & National Roman Legion Museum (2)

Wargames shows always form a big part of my hobby and I try and bring the best games  to JJ's as well as other highlights, which this year included me getting an original copy of 'Dracula' at this year's Attack at Devizes where Mr Steve, Vince and I spent a very pleasant summers afternoon.

In addition, the Talavera collection got a day out at Legionary in Exeter as Steve M and Will went at it in a Carnage & Glory demo game of the Pajar Vergara Scenario that ended up being featured in Wargames Illustrated.

Wargaming Shows

Of course no review of 2016 would be complete without reference to our big holiday this year, principally to meet up with Tom who was touring Australia and the Far East and our trip to Vietnam.

I did several posts about this extraordinary country and the lovely people we met together with aspects of the history of this amazing place, plus Will was doing his bit to promote Anglo-Vietnamese relations in his role as British Ambassador without portfolio.

Vietnam 2016 War Museums

Later in August we took a short week's break to France close to Paris. As well as celebrating my birthday I had the chance to visit two sites I hadn't visited before, Vernon and Rommel's HQ at La Roche Guyon.

It is always fun retracing the steps of the warriors from history and Vernon had an added poignancy for me as it was where my Dad crossed the Seine back in 1944 with Guards Armoured Division on his way up to Brussels.

France 2016 Vernon & Rommel's HQ

Exploring battlefields and sites abroad and away from home is always interesting but it is easy to forget that my home county of Devon has battle sites of its own going back over centuries and I, and it seems you, have enjoyed the series posts looking at the Battlefields in Devon, some new to me.

Battlefields in Devon

This series of posts will continue into 2017 and I am really looking forward to bringing you the many and varied battles from history that can be seen here in beautiful Devon.

I have noticed that Meeples Podcast have started a "Grumpy Wargamers" section airing their rants and 'beefs' against petty annoyances that crop up in the hobby.

As you will know JJ's Wargames is not afraid of exploring the odd subject of contention in the hobby news, and I am pleased to say that the posts and the accompanying comments have been discussed in a constructive way, a quality not always in evidence on other forums.

Subjects covered have included, 'Painting Mojo', 'Great looking Games vs Not' and recently the future look of Miniature Wargames since the departure of Henry Hyde and the take over by new management.

Miniature Wargames Magazine - Whats Going On?
Aesthetics in Wargames - Another Aunt Sally?

I tend to engage in these debates if the subject grabs me and I always enjoy hearing your opinions so I aim to keep that as a feature of the blog going into 2017.

And Finally

In between the work on the Talavera collection there has been the inclusion of projects for friends, with an end of year focus on the Dark Ages big game at the Devon Wargames Group, that finally prompted me to get a copy of Dux Britanniarum and start my own Saxon/Viking collection which I will be adding to, going into 2017.

The Dacian War collection also got some input as I finished off a project that Tom left me, namely to base up the unit of auxiliary infantry he had painted and finish off the Roman commander plus dog.

So there we are, some of the main highlights for me that featured in 2016 and there is still other stuff that didn't make the cut.

It really has been a great wargaming year and one that will live long in the memory, but life is all about what you are going to do now and always having a plan; and so it is time to put down the telescope and to ponder the weight of Empire and who to invade next, no, no, I mean what we will do next...... now you can see why I'm not Napoleon's greatest fan!

2017 Plans

Well as alluded to in the review of 2016, Talavera 208 forms the centrepiece of the year and I am really excited, as it seems many of you are if the comments I have had are anything to go by, about the prospect of seeing the Talavera battle up and running. 

As wargamers, a lot of us have those 'bucket list' of games we want to do and the manner we want to do them in. In this age of skirmish level rule sets and pressure on time to play games of anything over two hours, I feel a bit anachronistic in wanting to play games like I used to, 'In the Grand Manner'.

So for a Peninsular War nut like me, Talavera is one of those games that wouldn't let go, and the excitement of playing it in the grand manner now that the collection is so near to completion is building.

However I was always brought up to believe that life is more about giving than taking and that there is more satisfaction to be had in doing things for others than for ourselves.

Two occasions in my life brought this home to me and one example was fully understanding why my Dad, for many years, continuously raised money for Guide Dogs for the Blind a UK based charity that for many years was based here in Devon. 

His support and money raising efforts spanned decades and only after his death and only after my research into a family story about the commander of his tank being killed in Belgium, did I realise the significance of his efforts. 

Captain Wifred Geoffrey Good was just 31 when he died in one of the bitter battles that were a feature of the German retreat from France into the Low Countries.

Dad always described his officer in loving terms as being like a father to the crew and that his eyes were badly injured at the time of his death. His loss left a deep impression on Dad that obviously demanded a response from him and I came to understand that his efforts for the Guide Dog charity symbolised that.

In 2005 I had the privilege of accompanying my uncle back to the Burma railway, the scene of his traumatic time in captivity as a Japanese prisoner of war and in company with other former POW's as part of an organised trip with the Royal British Legion. I got to get a personal understanding of what those men went though under such a brutal imprisonment.

My uncle was one of the more fortunate survivors in that he received psychiatric support as part of his rehabilitation back into civilian life and his account of surviving his experiences and making a good life following them was truly inspiring.

The realities of war bear no relation whatsoever to our hobby, but our hobby exits because of the interest many have in warfare over the ages and the challenges it creates. I am sure many of us with that interest in the hobby end up having a great appreciation of what our servicemen and women can and may well experience during their service.

So in addition to the fun we will have, playing and sharing these games in 2017, will also have a sincere pursuit of using them as a vehicle to generate as much support as we can for Combat Stress.

The plan is to have the collection as a whole finished and ready to play by the close of May 2017 with an objective to get the first of four games played in June with three players on each side running the two forces.

For more information just check out the Talalvera 208 plan linked at the top of the page or here.
Talavera-208 (1809-2017) - In-Support of Combat Stress

As mentioned, I am planning to run a smaller game using the "Over the Hills" rule set in January at the Devon Wargames Group for the die hard bone rollers out there, so an AAR on that will also follow.

As the painting of the Talavera collection reaches a conclusion the plan will be then to gradually start stepping up the production of the other main theme here on JJ's namely my Dacian Wars project in 28mm as the Napoleonics move off the top spot for painting.

I have covered off the plans for this collection in a series of posts and I can't wait to get stuck into the task of putting the units together and getting the first game up and running.

Like many I am eagerly anticipating the release of the Victrix EIR Legionaries and Auxiliaries and given that Tom and I have already created a core of Roman units I will start putting together some Dacian Warbands and cavalry so we can get a game going sooner rather than later thus playing while the painting is happening.

I will not be joining the latest craze, it seems, of looking for a new Ancient rule set. Spearpoint from the chaps at Gripping Beast looks like being the latest set doing the rounds.

Over the couple of test games played, I really like Phil Hendry's Augustus to Aurelian rules with their more "Lardy style" randomised activation system and they have the added attraction of being focused on the era I am looking to play.

I have already designed my own stat cards for the various troop types and have, as mentioned made some enquires about getting some purpose made counters to use for activation instead of cards.

The new collection will also demand its own terrain and in the build up for this project I have already acquired some pieces for the games planned.

And I am really excited about the launch of this new range of Roman buildings from Warbases in 2017 as shown at Warfare this year

One piece of terrain I am on the look out for is a suitable selection of Greco/Roman fortress walls, gates and towers to recreate the Dacian fortresses.

The other smaller collection that will demand attention as we move into 2017 is my newly acquired Saxon and Viking forces that I intend to work on so I can get into some more shield-wall warfare

So there we are, alongside all the usual content that you would expect to see here on JJ's, the plan will see the painting shift from Napoleonics to Ancients in the second half of the year whilst the gaming will lean heavily towards the former, and the building of a good collection for Combat Stress, until the Romano-Dacian collection takes the table hopefully towards the end of 2017 interspersed with some Dark Ages action.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to making JJ's Wargames a really interesting and fun blog to do in 2016. I really appreciate the comments and feedback from fellow enthusiasts, the kind of interaction many of us can't get from friends outside of our peculiar hobby, who don't really get it. It is the exchange of ideas and thoughts that really make the hobby the sociable interaction that it is and I hope you find that this blog, if anything, is a celebration of that.

Here's wishing everyone an exciting and happy 2017 and even more fun with this hobby.



  1. It is always a pleasure to follow what you are doing. I really appreciate your dedication and effort into creating this blog. Your work over the last few years has helped guide and improve my own development as a painter and wargamer. Looking forward to following you in 2017. Have a great new year!


    1. Hi Adam, thank you for your comments and your inputs into the blog. I am really pleased that you enjoy the content. Have a great 2017 and keep on gaming.

  2. A most impressive recap and plan for the comming year. May it be a happy, healthy, and prosperous one for you!

    1. Thank you Peter, much appreciated, and have a great 2017.

  3. From here I'd say you've had a great year and I'm looking forward to your plans for 2017.
    Best Iain

    1. Cheers Iain, that's very kind. Have a great new year.

  4. Happy New Year JJ.
    Keep up the good work, best wishes for 2017.

    1. Hi Jeremy, happy new year mate.
      Many thanks