Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014: Out with the old, in with the new

So another annual milestone is passed in relentless frequency. It's time for reflection, resolution, and resignation. I'm a few days late with this, but here goes:


Looking back at 2013, I'm hard pressed to think of any big achievement in my gaming life. Most of my productive energy and gaming time was spent on Bolt Action. This is not a bad thing. I like Bolt Action. It has an energy and flow to it that makes our games enjoyable. Playing Bolt Action also meant a lot more playing time with Phil Bardsley, Bill Stewart, and Dick Larsen. Longer in the tooth now than when I first met them—as am I—they game less frequently than in their relative youth, so it's nice to be a part of the few times when they game. Our games are pleasant and exceptionally non-acrimonius, which is a good thing.

Bolt Action also has the virtue of not winding me up. For some reason, certain games that I have played a lot just get me going and force a rant. Kampfgruppe Commander is one of those. I played a few games this year and always found myself getting frustrated. I'm not sure why. I think that despite its qualities, the game also has inherent flaws. It's essentially a tactical game that was re-written, streamlined, and transmogrified into an operational game without really changing the tactical nature of some of its mechanics. The lineage of KGC II goes back to Clash of Arms Games' The Clash of Armora good, albeit complex, set of tactical rules than no one I know of plays any more.

I think my focus for WW2 gaming is getting more towards the skirmish level. Bolt Action is the current station of that pilgrimage. I had the opportunity to play Battlegroup Overlord just before the new year. This is a big lavishly-produced offering from The Plastic Soldier Company. I have the first set of rules for the series, Battlegroup Kursk. BGK and BGO are skirmish level games, like Bolt Action, with their own command/control system that emphasizes allocation of variable command points. Fire actions can be for pinning or for effect. Pinning has a major effect on the game in that un-pinning units requires a random pull of a numbered chit (1 to 5) that counts against a force's overall rating. Once the cumulative number of chits pulled equals the force rating, the side loses. This can result in a game ending even when there are significant units still intact, i.e., no fighting to the death of the last figure. In our game, we had remaining two Tiger Is, two StuG IIIs, roughly a platoon of infantry and some other assets (like off-board heavy mortars)—but still lost, despite having brewed up most of the American armor (not surprisingly when Shermans take on Tigers). I liked the game and will post more about it, and other WW2 skirmish games, later.

I managed to complete a lot of figures, terrain, and vehicles for WW2 skirmish. I know have decent forces for British in North Africa, Japanese, and US Marines. I also have made progress on French Foreign Legion for North Africa and Russians (lots of unpainted lead for Ruskies, but I did complete "The Beast," a.k.a. a big T-35 model from Company B.

I got back into board gaming in a big way. I attended Dragonflight and Bottoscon this year and had a great time. I tend to think, incorrectly, that a board game convention is all about playing lots and lots of boardgames. But actually, the average hex 'n' counter wargame takes as much time to complete, or more, than a miniatures game. Despite the expense of most board games, it's cheaper than miniatures by far. This point would be sensible if one were an alternative to the other. I do both. No money saved in that. I see board gaming as a continuing trend. Not only are there a lot of great games coming out, but I have several that deserve a lot of play. It's a matter of finding time and opponents. This, too, increases gaming overhead.

I made slight progress on finishing my two rules projects: Row Well and Live and Pike & Periwig. The former is further along both in finalization and in models painted. I have many more galleys to complete, but more than enough to play big multi-player games. Pike & Periwig requires more editing and significantly more figures painted (see Resolutions below).

I spent little time on painting over the year. My productivity came in spurts, but there have been long down times. Between the beginning of November until just after Christmas I painted nothing at all. Nothing. I somehow managed to migrate my painting activity from my little painting nook in my den to the dining room table. This migration actually started in the summer of 2012 when I was painting a lot of ships for Row Well and Live. It was more productive to have a large space to spread out on. It also gave me the opportunity to paint in front of the TV, which I can see from the table. The den has radio or I can play DVDs or stream video through my computer, but my back is to the monitor when I paint. When I prepared to go to Bottoscon for three days in early November, I cleaned up the table lest my cat-sitter think I was completely feral. I liked the clean table so much, that I couldn't bring myself to re-migrate to it. However, I never got things going again upstairs until I had two weeks off for Christmas. Now I'm set up in my wee painting nook again and have made some good progress on some ancients figures for skirmish gaming (about which I will post more later).


One has to be realistic. I am not going to invent cold fusion or perpetual motion any time in 2014. I will not paint Napoleon's Grande Armée in any scale, nor any part thereof. I can, however, take a stand on a few things.

Paint more - the most prolific painters I know (e.g., Kevin Smyth and Bill Stewart) paint at least one hour a day. Whenever I've put in a little bit of painting time over a few days, I'm amazed how much I get done. Part of it is the momentum of actually painting and seeing things get nearer to completion that impels me to paint further. Then again, the inertia of not painting can be almost insurmountable. This situation requires dedication. So, I resolve to paint something—even if it's just an eyebrow on one figure—every day.

Watch TV less - this resolution is a corollary to painting more. Actually, it's video-watching since I don't have cable. I do, however, have a lot of DVDs, Netflix (discs and streaming video), and Amazon Video. It's a cornucopia of flickering eye-candy. As I've mentioned, the painting place is once again upstairs where the TV is not. I'm chagrined to reflect that I spend a lot of time watching things on Netflix or Amazon Video. I blame the cats! It's far too easy to binge-watch several episodes of an old TV series. I have to confess that I managed to watch every episode of NYPD Blue from first to last this year—TWICE! That's a lot of sitting on my butt, even though with the painting table downstairs, I managed to paint a lot while watching. However, it has been all too easy to come home at night, fix dinner (or order in, like pizza), and collapse on the couch smothered in cats (whose lethargy is highly infectious). You can't hear it enough: as a grizzled old man on my death-bed, I will not lament that I spent too little time watching the boob-tube—though I will likely lament the opposite. So, I resolve to limit my video watching to five hours per week.

Eat better - I love to eat. Who doesn't? I managed to lose about 30 pounds this year, although I gained some (too much) back between Thanksgiving and New Years. I was on a strict fascistic diet that allowed only 500 calories per day supplemented by drops of HCG, which is a hormone that causes you to burn stored fat. When I was on the diet, the results were amazing. However, I discovered that after a week of eating 500 calories a day, I wanted to eat a whole pizza—and did. Mostly I found myself jonesing for Chinese food. I would see a week of steady weight loss flushed away after downing a large order of cashew chicken. I indulge myself too much. So, I resolve to stick to the HCG diet until I get to 180 pounds and then adopt sensible eating habits of 1500 calories per day with no empty calories. Wish me luck.

Read more - This resolution is a corollary to watching less TV.  I used to be a ferocious reader. Now I find that I fall asleep the few times that I pull out a book. I get home, eat too much, watch something on the TV for too long, then pick up a book just about the time I'm getting drowsy. I'm pretty sure I'm getting stupider as a result. I can't entirely blame TV; I must also blame the cats! (I did post about this some years back.) My reading also suffers from options overload. I spend a lot of money on books. My bookshelves runneth over and my iPad is stuffed with eBooks for my Nook and Kindle apps. However, I find myself often grousing that I have nothing to read. In fact, I have altogether too much to read. It's just my short attention span asserting itself. So, I resolve to spend at least an hour every day to reading.

Exercise - I have been a full-on Gold level 24-Hour Fitness member since about 2000 and was a Gold's  Gym member for years before that. I was never a gym-rat, per se, but I did spend several days a week working out. When I bought Stately Chez Dave in 2006—and acquired three cats!—I just stopped going regularly. I went from being 180 pounds in Jan 2006 to about 245 at the beginning of 2013. I'm fatter than Grendel! Through the HCG diet, I got down to 210 in late October, but its crept back up. In addition to dieting and eating better, I need to work out. Nothing too hardy. I'm 53 now, so I don't expect to be Charles Atlas, but regular aerobic exercise will keep me less tired and regular resistance exercise will keep my bones healthier. So, I resolve to spend at least three days each week working out.

Spend less - I have never kept a budget. Never. When I reflect on it, it seems absurd—even though I'm sure that most Americans don't either. Budgets are like dieting with money, and no one likes to diet. I indulge myself with gaming stuff: lots of expensive figures I don't paint, lots of expensive rules I don't play, and lots of paint I don't use (I'm a bit more than bemused at how many duplicate, triplicate, and quadruplicate paint colors I have. I just buy without knowing what I already have. Me: "Oh look, red. I think I need red..."). The excess causes storage problems. I'm not tidy in any sense of the word, but that situation is only exacerbated by too much stuff and too little space to put it. I also buy books, as I mentioned above. Sometimes, really expensive books. I like to think I'm a collector as much as reader (which is not untrue), but I do buy a lot of books that I can't possibly read. I also spend too much on food. Eating simpler and better (resolution #3) is not just healthier, it's more economical. To spend $20.00 on a pizza is not just a lot to spend on a meal, it's fattening. I also buy lots of boardgames that I don't play. Again, I think of it as "collecting," but I have to draw a line somewhere. When I look back on what I spend each month, I'm aghast. So, I resolve to set and live within a budget. I'm on, which helps. I just need to be stricter with myself. I've budgeted $150.00 for hobbies and $100.00 for books each month. These numbers are much below my actual average...

Declutter - Spending too much and having no space to put the excess leads to clutter. My garage is in disarray so that I can't put my car in. I meant to clean it out, I just don't like doing it. Opening up all the boxes is somewhat delightful as well as disturbing. I have lots and lots of little metal men that I meant to paint (really), but never did. In some cases, I have got back to them. However, there are a lot of figures that I've had for 10+ years and expect to be sitting around still 10+ years from now. I have a closet too full of clothes that I don't wear—in fact, my actual wardrobe is very simple, so why do I have so much else? I gave a lot away last year and should do the same this year. The clothes I have left are too small for me. The ones I gave away were the larger sizes that I expected to be unneeded as I lost weight. Oops. (I'll do better this year.) I need to take stock of what I can get rid of. For a lot of stuff, the Goodwill beckons. For a lot of gaming stuff, it's bring-and-buys or eBay. However, I need to organize and make stuff ready for sale. Books are a more difficult proposition. I regard them as resources, which I may not want to read now, but will later. I have a sordid history of getting rid of books only to re-buy them later—often for a higher price. Game rules are similar to books; I find them to be useful references and, more so than books, are hard to re-find at any price. In any case, I have much more than I need. So, I resolve to reduce my stuff-load to at least the point where I have a place for everything.

Blog more - I see that I've managed only 14 posts for all of 2013. To be fair to myself, my posts are long and often heavily illustrated. It takes a while to put on together and I don't always have time (however, less TV time will help!). I also have a lot in the hopper. My Blogger dashboard shows that I currently have 25 posts in draft mode. Many of these are almost complete, I just haven't made the final touches and posted. If I post more frequently, I may draw in more followers. Everyone needs followers. So, I resolve to post—on average—once a week for 2014. That means 52 posts overall. That may mean smaller posts, too.

Blame the cats less - However well the cats deserve my obloquy, I run them; it's not the other way around (hard as that may be to imagine). I've often reflected that the infectious nature of feline languor has much to do with my own laziness and unproductivity. Time to human up and admit that I laze around with the furry munchkins because I like to. However, the quality of torpor is more important than its persistence. I shall spend less—though better—time lounging about covered in a layer of cat. I will not let that be a drag on getting other things done.


This is what I resign myself to not doing.

Big projects - In my younger days when time and money seemed inexhaustible, I had dreams of doing big gaming projects. It never worked back then and certainly won't work going forward. My experience with Bolt Action has shown that I can get a lot of bang for my buck on small-scale games that can be added to over time. Less than 30 figures and a tank or so is more than enough per side for Bolt Action. I am more leery of anything that requires a lot of large units. My Pike & Periwig rules call for 18-figure foot units and 8-figure horse units. Also, the rules can be played with a small number of units per side, basically a reinforced brigade, even though larger games are possible. Like Row Well and Live, I envisioned P&P as a system that didn't require huge numbers of figures/models to play. Apart from P&P, I see my gaming trending towards skirmish games in 28mm or larger.

Totally new eras/genres - As I've mentioned, I have a lot of unpainted lead and a lot of painted lead that goes unused. Part of the ever-growing-lead-pile syndrome is the tendency to get sucked into projects that are terra incognito. These projects require buying new figures, new rules, new terrain, etc. which defies all my resolutions above. I will not start any new projects this year. I need to do someting with my existing lead pile that decreases it, whether that means selling it off at bargain prices or painting it for use in a project that's been on the back burner (I have a lot of these). Anything I've started in 2013 or earlier is fair game for new figures, etc. But I won't suddenly start painting for a whole new area.

No plastic miniatures of any kind - This is more of a resolution than a resignation. The last plastic minis I painted were some Airfix HO scale Confederate infantry in 1977. I have not painted plastic minis since, nor shall I ever. I only mention it here as a response to the alarming emergence of plastic figures in the hobby.  Chacun à son goût and all that, but the day that metal minis go away, I officially change hobbies.

So there it is. My 2014 plans in a nutshell. We'll see how it all works.


  1. That's a really super post, David. I read it twice. I feel so much comradeship in what you've written! Take heart, Sir, that I am sure a lot of us go through very much the same journeys. I know I do.

    You've made a great point on the connection with painting and regularity. I am exactly the same. As long as I do a little every day - even just 15 minutes - I get things done. My schedule doesn't allow me to get back early most weekday nights, and the weekends are filled with us doing family stuff. It can be depressing to get back after 9pm and then have to concentrate and force myself to paint wargames figures. All to frequently I don't bother , and I end up watching TV with Mrs Roundwood, or simply just messing about getting nowhere. But when I force myself to spend at least 15 minutes sitting and painting, it almost invariably ends up being longer (I mean, you have to use the paint up while its on the palette, right?), usually abut 40 minutes to an hour.

    And once you keep that consistency, it's like anything. It grows, you feel you're getting somewhere, and it has its own momentum. When I leave the brushes alone, it feels harder each day to get back to them, because I'm telling myself to "make up for lost time". (It's nonsense, I know, but it happens). Painting turns from pleasure to something which almost feels like guilt.

    Streaming movies and TV programmes (I use Amazon/ Love Film) have really helped me focus through this odd concoction of hobby emotions! I still prefer podcasts, as sometimes it can be hard to watch and paint. But I have found that a happy medium is a pretty low-brow (and I mean that in a respectful and complimentary way, not negatively), but fun, TV series. I've gone through both series of "The Walking Dead", "V", "Caprica" and "Hell on Wheels" last year. I'm about to start out on Battlestar Gallactica, which seems to have a lot of episodes. Again, it’s a routine - streamed TV shows and painting. I've also watched a lot of streamed films - most of which I'd never watch again. Oddly, a lot of them were romantic comedies - absolute popcorn movies.

    I could go on and comment on so many of your points in your great post - I'm with you on the decluttering, spending, exercise regimes! - but I'll sign off my saying (again), very best of luck with your resolutions and best wishes to you and your family for the New Year! It's a really honest and achievable set of goals which you have set out, and I wish you the very best of luck with them. I shall certainly be watching and following and wishing you very well!

  2. David,

    Its all about discipline, discipline, discipline.

    I have made many such resolutions in the past (first one in 1976 or so) and undoubtedly I will make more in the future. I’m hoping persistence pays off in the end but so far, no luck.

    I do paint for about one hour per day, very early morning. It is easier to stay focused when the house is silent and even the dog is asleep. A little Beethoven, Brahms or Dvořák and away I go. Just have to remember to stop in time to get to work.