The end of another year in wargaming is the time to take stock of the fun had, plans achieved, or not, and more importantly what's next in the year ahead.
The latter activity rather implies a bit of scoping out towards the horizon and making plans based on the conclusions arrived at from ones observations; apologies for a rather contrived way to explain the picture heading up this year's review, from the great film 'Master & Commander' which given my recent activities with all things 'Age of Sail' seemed an appropriate theme to start with.
It's interesting to look back to the previous year's review and to remember what the 'then me' was looking forward to and how I envisaged my activities would be going forward.
I note with interest that my personal circumstances were very much in transition as I got used to a new routine with my retirement from full time employment and the opportunity that change created to focus a lot more on aspects of the hobby and other life aspirations that I had not had the time to give them when working.
Those aspirations included focus on the work to build my 28mm ancient collection and a new collection of terrain items together with looking forward to a holiday touring Peninsular War battlefields that I had wanted to do for a very long time.
|Something I hadn't anticipated fully was my table being 'hors de combat' for nine months in 2019, and it's great to have things back to normal with 2020 to come.
As always and as predicted other life requirements filled the void left by not having to maintain a full time job that caused some modification to what I thought I might be doing in 2019, which primarily centred around the completion of some key house improvements to compliment my new found circumstances; that saw the addition of a new kitchen, new sun lounge and a refurbished utility room in which I normally store my 'to do' wargames stuff that had to come out and sit patiently upon my table during the refit.
Thus as mentioned in the Xmas game report with Tom, Will and Ben playing with the Romano-Dacian collection, the games room saw little action this year, but is now back and hopefully available to play some more games in 2020.
So as usual I begin this post with a look back on the activities in 2019 before considering what the plan is for the New Year and what you might expect to see here on the blog.
As laid out earlier in the life of JJ's Wargames, I decided I wanted the blog to serve as a personal journal of my time in the hobby and the friends I like to play wargames with, as well as being a magazine style blog with plenty of historical and wargaming content to interest the general reader.
|The final set of blog stats for 2019
That intent remains and it is great that with over one million hits in six years, achieved this year, it seems a lot of people are interested enough to come and have a look even when you discount all the bot crawler hits that infest the web and confuse any attempt to accurately assess this aspect; better still a lot of people keep coming back to the blog and comment on posts, and a great community of regular followers has developed which only adds to the fun of doing this.
So based on the fact that it seems a lot of people like what happens here on the blog the intent is to keep on doing what we do, but better, and looking to do other things that will keep the content as fresh and as interesting as time will permit.
The historical input to the wargaming that gets featured here on the blog has always been an important aspect of the content, reflected in the book reviews and reports on historical places of interest that compliment our hobby.
|Books reviewed in 2019
I have to admit to some other fictional reading invading my historical reading time this year but, between myself and Mr Steve, I like to think that the numbers of books reviewed is more than made up for by the quality of books included, that made for some easy titles to recommend.
In addition a lot of my reading time was devoted to identifying the key books I was planning to take with me to Spain and Portugal this year and that accompanied me on the trip securely packed in a plastic RUB to keep them safe and secure on the journey. All the books I used as reference are included on the relevant posts that I did covering that trip and include the two Peninsular War titles above that were new additions to my library.
|Some of the places visited this year and posted about - Offas Dyke, Montgomery Castle, Shrewsbury, Berlin, Dorchester's Roman town house and the Cartagena gun battery in Spain.
Alongside the reading I was lucky to be able to take the time this year to visit some extraordinary places that were also posted about on the blog.
It was great fun to pick up where we left off in 2018 with my old mate Mr Steve joining me on two walks and journeys, one to Offas Dyke, the battlefields of Shrewsbury, Montgomery and Mortimer's Cross, as well as Montgomery Castle and the Welsh Marcher borderlands and another later in the year exploring parts of Dorset that included Hod Hill, Maiden Castle, and Dorchester.
In addition Carolyn and I took time exploring sites close to our home in Murcia including Roman and Carthaginian Cartagena and the Spanish Civil War naval gun batteries close to the city and later with a visit just last month to Berlin to see Will and the historic parts of this famous European capital.
Despite having my wargaming room out of commission, I was still able to indulge myself in some great games this year, attending all but one of the Devon Wargame Group club meetings and able to play in two campaigns, Chain of Command and Target for Tonight.
In addition I really enjoyed the Gettysburg game at another friends place, Steve L, playing the new version of Fire and Fury, and I finally got to game a local battle, the Battle of Pinhoe 1001 AD where I walked the battlefield and organised a Dux Bellorum refight at the DWG meeting in February.
Our regular trip to Partizan in May was accompanied by a big Dux Bellorum game at Wargames Foundry which was great fun, and it was a real treat to have Will, Tom and Ben playing Augustus to Aurelian on my table for the first time this year.
|Shows attended in 2019
Another key aspect of the wargaming year is attending shows and reporting back on hopefully some of the best games in the hobby.
Although I attended fewer shows this year, much fun was had at the ones featured and it was great to be invited by the organisers of Salute to come and have a look at perhaps the flagship show in the hobby, after my last visit back in 2013.
It was a real treat to include interviews with some top notch traders such as Victrix, Battlefront, Oshiro Model Terrain and Warbases as well as being able to feature some great games and new products that have been launched since the show. The Salute team continue to do a first rate job in bringing a first rate show to the hobby.
Alongside Salute, I reported on Crusade, Colours and Partizan with some great games and other items featured, and also the Devon Wargames Group's very own showcase day in association with the Too Fat Lardies, 'Clotted Lard', that ran eight excellent games and raised £400 for the veterans charity Combat Stress.
|Terrain started at the close of 2018
As far as my own hobby work this year, the work picked up from 2018 with important additions to my 28mm terrain collection with new trees, rivers, hills, breached fortress wall sections, and my Roman watch-tower as well as other scatter items
|28mm Terrain Build started 2019
With the terrain items added, I turned my attention to adding enough troops to the Romano-Dacians to create two new divisions of four units plus commanders and casualties, before deciding to take a break from sandals, spears and shields with work on a collection I have long had in mind to start, namely my AWI Mohawk Valley collection.
|The first half of 2019 continued the work with the Romano-Dacian collection with some major additions to my core collection
The really great thing about enjoying the painting and modelling side of the hobby is the fun in just picking up a new set of figures or models, putting them together, if required, and working out how to turn them from an interesting piece of metal or plastic into a recognisable addition to a new collection.
I think this year I have rediscovered some of that pure enjoyment of serendipity, after a long period of painting to a specific theme.
That said, discipline is required to get anywhere with the hobby and I don't foresee any other collections being started until major progress has been made with those currently on the go.
|As mid-year approached I decided to refresh my pallet and start work on my 28mm AWI Mohawk Valley collection for Sharp Practice II
The ship modelling has been a great distraction and has refreshed my memory on skill sets I haven't used since working on my Langton collection of ships in the early nineties. I am planning to continue with these going into the new year so that I can try out some rule sets with this larger scale of model.
|The launch of Warlord Games Black Seas range of 1:700th Age of Sail ships has rekindled my interest in this era and theme and work started on this new collection last month.
One this collection has reached the target for the number of ships to be built this year, I plan to turn my attention back to the AWI, before ending the year with some further additions to the Romano-Dacians.
Alongside the figure collections I am also planning to add yet more terrain items to keep the tables I am able to produce as interesting as possible.
|Some of Mr Steve's travel posts from 2019
One of the best aspects of wargaming is the friends you make in the hobby, many of whom stay with you for years, and I am really lucky to have made such friends who share a common interest and who make it fun to do.
My friend and blog correspondent Mr Steve is one such person and he has regularly contributed some great posts to JJ's Wargames over the years its been running, covering books and places he has visited that has added variety and insights and 2019 has been a 'bumper year' with some great reports ranging from the dark ages, the middle ages through to a follow up on our visit earlier this year to hear Ian Knight talking about the 140th anniversary of the Zulu War with a visit to the South Wales Borderers Regimental museum.
|Ian Knight speaking at the National Army Museum earlier this year about the Zulu War and commemorating the 140th Anniversary.
Perhaps the standout hobby memories for me in 2019 are two events, both associated with my first love, the Peninsular War.
In January I was really happy to announce the result of two years work resulting in the publication of O'er the Hills, a scenario book designed around the Napoleonic rule set Over the Hills from Stand to Games.
|O'er the Hill's Scenario Book - My first stand out memory for 2019
Thank you to everyone who supported the project, it was great fun to do, and I hope it will provide some fun for those wanting to wargame this very interesting period in the Peninsular War.
Finally, perhaps as big a moment for me in 2019, was boarding the ferry at Portsmouth this summer to begin a three week holiday touring some of the key battlefield and sieges of the Peninsular War, that enabled me to walk in the footsteps of the veterans who fought it for real, and brought so many tabletop encounters to vivid reality when walking the actual ground.
|My Peninsular War Battlefield Tour 2019 - A fantastic experience, made even better by being able to record it and share the memories here on JJ's Wargames with other like minds.
There we are, another year over and what a fantastic year, and definitely one to remember.
I have to say that the thought of retirement back in 2018 created ideas of so much time to do so many things, which had been put on hold for a lot of years. If this last eighteen months is to go by, there still isn't enough time in the day to get everything done and long may it remain so.
The hobby is the best it has ever been and I hope JJ's Wargames can make a small contribution to encouraging more and more people to get involved and join in the fun.
So with that in mind what are the plans for 2020 and a new decade?
As mentioned I am really keen to create a core collection around the 1:700th ships and I have a mind to take that collection into a major new project in the next few years, with a plan build that will see a continual addition to the collection.
|Some of the new models awaiting some attention in 2020
Following that early work I will then return to the AWI collection as Sharp Practice will allow me to field games with a relatively small collection of figures with the added benefit of having terrain items for my ancient collection that will facilitate war in North America.
Of course I have some North American buildings and terrain items that I intend to add which will bring that theatre specific theme to the table.
Now the Romano-Dacians have a solid core to the collection I will add a few specific units later this year and aim to get some more games up and running before the end of it, and perhaps look to the new rules from the Too Fat Lardies 'Infamy' to try out with them.
In addition to the collections mentioned, I am halfway through a Target for Tonight campaign recreating the first month of the Battle of Berlin, and the next four games will be concluded at the Devon Wargames Group, starting next week with game five to be played.
We are creating a campaign module around the rules and will hopefully have something to share once the eight games have been played.
With regard to other key parts of JJ's Wargames, Mr Steve and I will continue to recommend good books to read and share our adventures on the walking path amid the riches of British history and some of the best pubs in the world.
In addition you can look forward to seeing the usual mix of show reports together with some of the best games to be seen in the hobby.
Finally the year will end with Carolyn and me taking a very long trip during which I will be looking to share some new adventures from the other side of the globe, but that is still in the planning stage and I look forward to sharing more about that in the New Year.
Speaking of which, may I wish everyone a very happy 2020 and all the best for a brand new decade ahead.
See you all on the other side, and looking forward to another year in the hobby