Monday, 31 December 2018

JJ's Wargames 2018 Look Back and 2019 Plans

Last year's plan was all about construction and planning for a new campaign. This year has been all about starting the march towards fulfilling the ambition of those plans 

Here we are again at the end of another year, my sixth in the history of the blog, and the end of another wargaming year gives a moment for reflection on what has been achieved or not in the year just gone and some pause for thought on the plans for the new year.

If you are interested in seeing the results of this review process from last year I attach the link to the post.

I like to use these moments of review and planning as an opportunity to self appraise and to record for posterity what it is exactly that I am setting out to do in the next twelve months and did I carry out what I said I was going to do in the plan for the year just gone.

As each year goes by and knowing that none of us are getting any younger I am keen to make sure that I make the best use of the time I have available and to start doing the projects and having the adventures that I have always wanted to do accepting that life, work, family and other equally important activities compete for that finite amount of time and inevitably force a compromise.

However in my professional life I have learnt and come to understand that to fail to plan is a sure fire way to plan to fail and that to write down what it is you intend doing and then working your plan is what makes the difference between success or failure. Of course every plan changes on first contact with the enemy, as all wargamers know, but it is far better, in my experience, to have a plan that can be changed to accommodate new circumstances than absolutely no plan at all.

One aspect of that equation changed for me early in 2018 when the opportunity was presented for me  to retire from my professional life and start to allow me to rearrange my time commitments to those things that I wanted to give a priority to that simply earning a living hadn't allowed in previous years.

That said, life and family responsibilities still often have a superior claim to my time, just ask Carolyn if you are struggling with that concept, but I now have a lot more scope to start focusing on personal projects which include the things I like to do around this daft but thoroughly enjoyable hobby.

So with that rather longer preamble let me take a look at what I said I was planning to do this time last year and what came of those plans.

The 'O'er the Hills' project was very much 'front and centre' of my activities in the early part of 2018 

At the end of 2017 I was celebrating the culmination of the Talavera project and shifting the Napoleonic focus on to a project that I had been planning with the chaps from Stand to Games, Adrian McWalter and Quinton Dalton to put together a scenario book capturing a series of games covering the first two years of British involvement in the Peninsular War from 1808 to 1809 that culminated with the Battle of Talavera, using 'Over the Hills' Napoleonic rules.

That planned work started as soon as Talavera 208 finished in the autumn of last year and Steve M and I started to play-test each of the scenarios starting with the Talavera ones, given that the table was in situ ready to go.

One thing I was very keen to do was to make sure that each game was play tested and that Steve and I got to review the set up and play, thus allowing adjustments to the final write up as we went through them and making sure they worked with the rules.

In addition I was also working on putting other parts of the book together and getting picture rights permissions organised whilst also sharing the pictures of the test games and design ideas that lay behind each scenario on the blog, which produced some interesting discussions on certain forums as I was pushed to share more details that I could at the time, as the book was still in development.

That project reached its conclusion this autumn when the book raised over the KickStarter funding of £1500 and is due out soon from the printers.

Thank you to everyone that got involved to support the book and to Ady and Quinton who are two very nice gentlemen and equally keen enthusiasts for the hobby.

I would also thank Nigel Marsh and my friends in the Carnage & Glory community for ideas gleaned from the excellent games we enjoyed playing, many of the scenarios using C&GII and an equally great set of rules.

My first 28mm collection - Vikings and Saxons designed around Dux Bellorum

The other project that was occupying my attention in the first part of 2018 was getting a collection of Dark Age figures put together to allow me to indulge my intention of getting in some games of Dux Bellorum written by Dan Mersey.

These are a great set of rules and really fun to play and I haven't played a lot of games with my new collection mainly because my table was in transition this year and I still needed to build up my 28mm terrain collection, but both Saxon and Viking forces were out on the table during our big Dux Bel game that the DWG played at Wargames Foundry during our visit to Partizan in May.

My figures in action in May at Wargames Foundry during our 'Big' Dux Bellorum game

With the conclusion of the O'er the Hills game play and work on the Dux Bellorum collection I was then able to start to bring my attention to the key project for 2018, namely the creation of the Romano-Dacian collection of 28mm figures together with new terrain and table mat.

Some of the Dacian units added to the collection in 2018

The plan for this work centred around building an initial collection of units for both sides that would allow the playing of one of the scenarios selected from the Warlord Games campaign book, with a secondary plan of bringing the game together in time for the first Lardy Day to be held at the Devon Wargames Group, namely 'Clotted Lard'.

The first game featuring the new Romano-Dacians run this August at the DWG

That plan had to change due to a few unforeseen challenges but the first trial game using all but a couple of units was run in August and reported on the DWG blog and my lack of suitable terrain shows but the game was a good test of the rules and it was fun getting the figures out on the table at last.

Cavalry units added to both collections

The move to working in 28mm has been great fun and I really enjoy the scale and the opportunities it presents to develop the character in each unit.

The Romans have also been bolstered by additional units

Of course my test game revealed the glaring need to address my lack of suitable terrain which was covered in a recent post that explained that the terrain was in a queue of considerations including loft and wargaming room adjustments to create space for the change in scale.

That situation resolved itself this autumn and the first terrain items were constructed ready to go on table with my new mat acquired from Tiny Wargames and providing a fresh new look to the table to accompany the new collection.

Major additions made to the terrain collection including a lot of trees and scatter terrain that will allow me to produce more and better games in 2019

Of course alongside the Romano-Dacian work, other smaller projects vied for inclusion as a summer game in North Devon required some German Falschirmjager and a certain commander of the Walmington Home Guard to be prepared and Steve M had asked me to complete the work done previously on his FIW 28mm collection of 60th Foot by putting together some artillery units, Colour-Party ensigns and general officers, plus the annual Gus Murchie club game required some US Cavalry and Plains Indians, so these to were built into the plan.

Other smaller projects worked on in 2018

Looking back, I am really pleased with the progress made and the directional shift into a new scale with two collections up and running and with the terrain collection started, a solid foundation achieved for further progress going into 2019.

The new WWII Battle of Britain table cloth laid out after ironing to remove any unsightly creases

I also mentioned aspirations to progress my Naval and WWII air collections and those have not progressed much further (what did I say about plans changing on first contact with the enemy, which in this case was time?), other than the acquiring of a sea and air mat from Tiny Wargames in January that are now ironed  and ready to be used on my new table set up now that the wargames room has been reorganised.

That said the Battle of Britain collection is ready to be played with and I would hope to get some Bag the Hun games organised in 2019 (time permitting).

Books reviewed this year by Mr Steve and myself

The other aspect of my plans for 2018 was to continue to develop the blog and its content furthering the idea of making it a magazine style read with a mix of content that supports the hobby of historical wargaming.

Thus the book reviews by myself and Mr Steve continue to get a good response and both Steve and I strive to give an honest appraisal of each book, coming as we do, as long standing historical wargamers used to reading to inform our gaming and the books we have selected very much reflect that approach.

My own reviews have not been as extensive this year as in previous ones due to my recent inclusion of several historical fiction reads that now include all of Anthony Riches series of Empire books, both of Adrian Goldsworthy's novels centred around Vindolanda and more recently my reading of J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Simarallion' , 'The Hobbit' and now just having started 'The Lord of the Rings' a series of books I had always intended to read and with retirement presenting an opportunity to do so and enjoy.

The Butser Ancient Farm featured as one of the first big trips of 2018 and Carolyn and I thoroughly enjoyed the experimental archaeology on view not to to mention the highly entertaining groups of school children being 'cat herded' by their respective class teachers

The other content on the blog that seems to be a favourite for many are the posts covering visits to historical sites and presentations that I have always found inspiring and equally informing to my wargaming.

There is nothing quite like walking and seeing a battlefield or seeing up close military kit and hardware for gaining a better understanding of the impact terrain and weapons could have on the warriors we try to recreate on the tabletop.

Chalke Valley Book Festival visit in the glorious summer weather we enjoyed this year and the amazing Fred Glover age 92, bottom left

In addition hearing the accounts from veterans such as Fred Glover, former paratrooper with 6th Airborne who gave his account of landing in a glider on the Merville Battery in the early morning of 6th June 1944 was a real honour and privilege to hear and a highlight of  2018, seeing the veteran soldier get a standing round of applause from the audience.

The English Civil War featured large in 2018 with the visit to The Boot Inn, Chester, a real highlight

My additional free time this year meant that Carolyn and I could indulge ourselves by visiting more interesting historical parts of the UK including Cirencester and Roman villas in Gloucestershire, the last battle of the English Civil War at Stow on the Wold, a wedding anniversary trip up to wonderful Chester, the Roman headquarters base of Legion XX Valeria Victrix, and Royalist garrison city during the English Civil War that saw me enjoy a pint of the good stuff in the amazing time capsule that is The Boot Inn established 1643, finished off with a visit to the Roman town of Wroxeter on the way home.

Carolyn had a warm welcome from the Romans garrisoning Deva Victrix as well as enjoying our trip to Cirencester earlier in the year

Once the Dacians, Germans and Sarmatians are finished I can quite easily see a large number of those glorious Victix Ancient Britons joining the collection following the inspiration I have garnered soaking up the history of Roman Britain this year.

Chester was an amazing place to visit and was a highlight of 2018

Another great trip included into the resumé and one long in the planning was our August visit to Londinium primarily to allow us to watch the Indians playing England in the Test match at Lords and Carolyn's first visit to the Head-Quarters of Cricket, but also to discover the treasures of Roman London.

Sadly our day of cricket was a complete wash out, but the Roman part of the expedition lived up to all the expectations and more.

Roman London was really special and partly made up for not seeing any cricket at Lords

Two new expeditions added greatly to the content on the blog as Mr Steve and I put together a plan to start walking some interesting parts of the country and finding out if our minds were in better physical shape than our legs.

So in the first half of the year and taking advantage of the stunning weather we enjoyed in 2018, Steve and I walked part of the the oldest road in Britain, 'The Ridgeway' following in the footsteps of people living in this island over the last two millennia.

The Ridgeway walk earlier this year with Me Steve was a real pleasure if a stiff test for the legs and feet

We then followed that first walk up with a second expedition to Steve's home ground on the South Wales border and a visit to the Lordship of the Three Castles, Skenfrith, White and Grosmont Castles, topped off with visits to Raglan castle and Caerwent Roman market town of the Silures tribe.

The Three Castles Walk in September was a real treat if a little testing when getting to that final mile of walking on day one

Finally the show content on JJ's has always been a popular part of the blog and I really enjoy reporting on the games that really inspire me in this great hobby.

My usual list of shows featured this year, as with last, with the inclusion of a Continental expedition this year to Antwerp in November which allowed me to treat Carolyn to a birthday abroad and to allow me to check out a show that I had been very much looking forward to visiting, namely 'Crisis', hosted by the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp.

Shows have always formed a big part of my wargaming year and the inclusion of Crisis added yet more to the fun

I have to say that 2018 has been a fantastic year for me and I have achieved pretty much all I set out to do and more and have thoroughly enjoyed the hobby and the company of like-minded friends.

Not only that but the time has been well spent in preparing the ground for me to play some games with a growing collection of figures in some periods that I have long looked forward to getting stuck into and at a time which is often described as a 'Golden One' for the hobby, a theory, as one who has been involved in the hobby for over forty years, I have to entirely agree with.

The Plans for 2019
So what have I got in mind to achieve in the new year and what is it that causes me to look forward to 2019 with such anticipation.

I think the first thing that occurs to me is that whereas at the start of 2018 I was still producing a lot of work and games around the 18mm Napoleonic collection and looking forward to making the transition into the 28mm collections, that phase is complete and well behind me and now a significant amount of time, particularly given my new circumstances, is now earmarked for work to start to conclude the building of the Romano-Dacian collection and to turn my attention to some games that I am planning to put together with them.

In particular this will look to see the addition of the following units, with, as you will see, some already completed and a list of scenarios that this additional work will allow me to model:

JJ’s Scenario Plan – 2019
Next Phase – Battle of Tarpae, Fortress Assault, Relieve the Fort, Ambush (Scenarios adapted from the Warlord Games Dacian Campaign supplement to Hail Caesar).


Praetorian Cohort – 18 figs
Legionary Cohort – 18 figs
Legionary Cohort – 18 figs
Auxiliary Cohort – 18 figs
Auxiliary Archers – 8 figs
Auxiliary Archers – 8 figs
German Warband – 36 figs
German Warband – 36 figs
German Cavalry – 8 figs
German Cavalry – 8 figs
Aux Lt Cavalry (Numidian) – 6 figs
Auxiliary Med Cavalry – 10 figs
Roman Tents


Warband – 38 figs
Warband – 38 figs
Warband – 38 figs
Warband – 38 figs
Warband – 38 figs
Warband – 38 figs
Sarmatian Cataphracts x 6 figs
Sarmatian Cataphracts x 6 figs
Sarmatian Light Cavalry x 6 figs
Sarmatian Horse Archers x 6 figs
Sarmatian Horse Archers x 6 figs
Sarmatian Horse Archers x 6 figs
Sarmatian Baggage Wagons
Sarmatian Baggage Wagons

Alongside this core work will be further additions to the terrain collection with some extra river sections and improvements to the Roman city wall built earlier in the year plus some ideas about scratch building some damaged sections of wall.

Additionally I am keen to get a selection of modular hills constructed to add yet more variety to the tables I will be able to produce.

Oh and just in case you were thinking that I had forgotten my first real love, The Peninsular War, I will be embarking on a big driving trip to Spain next year that will see Carolyn and I taking the car over to Santander and driving from the north to the south of the country to our home in in Mercia.

This trip will see us stopping off along the way to visit Corunna, following the route of Sir John Moore's retreat to include Cacabelos, Benavente, Sahagun, then down to Salamanca, Cuidad Rodrigo where we will be staying in the castle which is a Parador hotel, before moving to the hotel fort at Fort Concepcion and taking in the various actions along the Coa frontier and the fortress at Almeida.

Cuidad Rodrigo

From there we will be going into Portugal to visit Busacco and the retreat route of Marshal Massena via Pombal, Sabugal and Redhina up to Fuentes de Onoro. Then it is off to Talavera, Badajoz, Albuera and a number of other sites close by before moving further south via Bailen and the famous Spanish victory.


Finally on the return journey north we will be checking out Burgos and Vitoria before catching the ferry back to 'Blighty'

The trip will give an opportunity to inform on some further planned scenarios for Over the Hills which will look to cover the middle and later years of the campaigns of the Duke of Wellington between 1810 to 1814.

These two major projects will form the core of next years focus for JJ's Wargames and will give me lots to write about here on the blog alongside the other posts regular followers have come to expect.

In addition to this activity I am keen to look at visiting different shows, particularly further north with shows that I have never visited but am keen to see and I have an invitation to report back on next year's Salute which I am hoping to include once I have confirmed some accommodation in my plans.

Mr Steve and I are also hoping to get some further ideas for future walking expeditions firmed up and Carolyn and I are working up plans to cover off some other interesting historical venues to visit.

So there we are, a busy new year ahead with work planned designed to consolidate that already done and with enough time allowed away from the painting desk to get in some fun games, interesting trips and informed reading and writing.

As always, I wish everyone an equally exciting and fulfilling 2019 in the hobby and every encouragement with your own projects

Onward and Upwards



  1. Thanks for keeping this blog alive. I really enjoy how you face this hobby.

    Happy new year!!

    1. Hi Antonio,
      Thank you, glad you enjoy the blog.
      Happy New Year

  2. A fair years work I'd say mate :)
    Have enjoyed being part of it
    Happy New Year

    1. Thanks Steve.
      Hope you are feeling better and Happy New Year


  3. Thanks especially for bringing Butser Farm to my attention, I'd never heard of it before but thanks to your blog entry I'm planning to visit it in the spring.

    1. Hi and thank you, that's really great to hear and I know you will find Butser an amazing place to visit.

      Have a great 2019

  4. As ever, impressive on all counts! Keep up the good work!