Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Dreaded Drift

As I potter around the electronic environment, observing the lipid prose of my wargaming colleagues, I sometimes stumble upon a post which outlines plans, or an avowal to reduce the number of projects and periods that a given wargamer is interested in, or building armies for, or some such most wargamers, most of the time, seem to be working on at least one project, planning another and thinking about the one after that.

I find myself not immune from this drifting and multiplication of projects. As you might be aware, I have spent a fair bit of the last few years painting ancient armies. Indeed, the very address of this blog suggests as such. The aim of these armies was to test the rules I am writing. The aim of the blog was to document the development, note important things that I read which needed to be incorporated within the rules, and so on. We can note, in passing, that this has not really happened.

In pursuit of my overall aim, however, I have painted a fair number of armies: Romans, of various hues, Gauls, ancient Britons, Germans, Parthians, Pontic, Spanish and probably a few others I cannot remember. From there I shifted to the classical Greek and Alexandrian age. Here, as has been documented on this blog, I have painted a double dose of Greeks, early Persians, later Persians, Macedonians, Indians and now, at my last gasp, Seleucids. And here I hit the problem of wargamer’s drift.

On the face of it, there is no problem. All I need to do is finish off the Seleucids and have a few wargames to test the rules, and then they can be published for the discerning wargamer to enjoy while I rest upon my laurels. But those niggles still seem to come along. It seems to me there are so many ways of drifting into another project.

Firstly, of course, there is the discovery. My first wobble in this saga came about when I discovered serried ranks of Spanish Succession and Great Northern War armies. These spring, of course, from an earlier project (which was published in Miniature Wargamer, I think, and might have sold Mr Berry two boxes of soldiers). My painting technique was not what it is today, but, nevertheless, they are nicely, reasonably painted by my (admittedly low) standards. The bases, however, are plain cardboard. So I consulted my wargame guru, the estimable Mrs P., as to whether I should undertake to rebase them. ‘What else are you doing?’ she enquired. I listed the other projects. ‘I think you have enough on.’ And there the matter rests; the armies are in a separate box, occasionally whispering ‘how about us’, but otherwise the drift in that direction is stalled.

Secondly, there is the desire to extend. An army is not (in spite of our army lists and neat categorizations) a static thing. It evolvers, and this can be quite rapid. So I have been reading up a little about Seleucids, and painting an army to represent early Seleucids. The army was part of a nice pack, which included troop types to make the army a later Seleucid one. So now I have the dilemma of whether I should paint up another batch of imitation legionaries and develop the army to cover all ages. Of course, I would then need to do the same for the rest, and then add in Roman and Carthaginian armies and suddenly I have drifted into another era, another project (and, knowing Mr Berry and his ability to persuade, another set of rules). This drift is unresolved. I like to paint the stuff I buy (ha, ha, says to Polish GNW army still in its box) and imitations legionaries are not that difficult….

The third cause of drift is the book. I have been very good, even if I say so myself. My unread book shelf is down to about 25. I have almost sworn off buying books until it is below twenty (I say almost because I cannot break the addiction of a lifetime; on the other hand my car would appear to need a new gearbox, which will put a dent in the book / soldier budget anyway). But I have brought some books recently on my original wargaming period, the seventeenth century. And as I read these I can see interesting wargaming projects looming. How did Lambert prevent the Scots crossing the Pennines in 1648? How did the Spanish form their empire? And so on. At present, I am holding out against this, but it is becoming a close run thing, particularly with the rediscovery of Flashing Blades and my Musketeer figures.

I am quite sure that there innumerable other factors in causing us to drift from one project to another. I can think, for example, of wargaming ‘friends’ who say ‘I have this half army of Confederated Nrudles; would you like them? I know you are interested in the period.’ And so we accept, go online, buy the other half of the army, and their opponents, just for good measure, and so another project is born which will compete for our attention until we give up on it in frustration and despair.

Another factor in this is the wargame show, or magazine. Often these are trying to push a ‘new’ period, that is, one ignored by most of the wargaming fraternity for a decade or two, or deemed to be too uninteresting or lacking in decent information. Thus there is a plethora of World War One games, figures, rules and articles at present, where, when I was a lad, it was all deemed to be too difficult or uninteresting, except perhaps the Middle East campaigns. To some extent, of course, wagamers who drift into these eras are fashion victims. Perhaps we should have sympathy with them, rather than gallop off down the same route.

I dare say we all have our own drift factors. I have tried to describe some of mine. Only time will tell if this blog evolves into a seventeenth century one, World War one or even becomes about the Confederated Nrudles.


  1. Ah, but the "problem" you describe here is also one of the joys of the hobby, which is almost without limits in its scope and possibility. My only caveat to others, and it is the reason I restrict myself to just the mid 18th century, is that too many projects in the air at any one time mean that it becomes difficult to finish anything in view of the time limits many/most of us have imposed upon us by due by work, family, and everyday life.

    Best Regards,


    1. Aye, a problem and a joy. But I am trying to finish my ancient armies and write some rules. I don't need or want to drift to something else at present.

      But I seem to be anyway. Am I just a sad case, or is this normal (whatever that is in wargamer terms)?

  2. Confederated Nrudles, you say? Sounds fascinating. I've just visited Amazon and ordered half a dozen books on the subject. Is there a manufacturer whose ranges you recommend? Obviously I shall be collecting the Cummerbundits in the first instance because their fashion sense is greater than that of the other prinicipalities of the Nrudles.

    As a self-confessed wargames butterfly, I identify with all that you write. Every so often I try to cut down my Unpainted Lead Pile and reduce the number of periods/scales that I seek to game. This usually results from a sense of despair at all the part-completed projects in the ULP. I find that progress on any projects at all stalls if the ULP gets too large. A sense of despair overcomes me and the painting mojo takes flight for warmer climes. The ideal would be to focus on just three or four periods and game only those. By not attending wargames shows and not buying wargames magazines, I find that temptation is much reduced. There is still the problem of reading online sites about gaming, but they don't tempt me in the same way that magazines and shows did. Of course, the key to stopping drift in my case is the current state of my finances. If I wish to start something new, I have to sell something old, so drift is temporarily halted by my currently limited employment. I do envy those whose focus is sufficiently narrow that they can play the same period all the time. Sadly my massive curiosity will always lead me to explore new eras and new games. It is both a curse and a blessing.

    1. I find that keeping my unpainted lead piles in different places aids the morale. The danger is that in a fit of tidiness they coalesce and start grinning at me, in the way that lead piles do.

      I do try to focus, although my extensive 17th century, medieval, Roman and Greek, GNW etc armies might beg to differ. At least I don't go beyond 1715 (OK, I might be tempted to 1745, because I've got a book on the Jacobites). I make that 5 periods.

      I think about many more periods, of course. I have even done a little light planning. But then the horror of another unpainted lead pile takes over, and the plans are shelved.

      As to the Cummerbandits, I wish you well in painting all those sequins!

  3. I have too many periods but I feel that I've at least convinced myself not to take on any more. But there is the "filling in the corner" syndrome for the existing periods. For example, Napoleonics. Did I really need to paint a Bavarian division? And why am I considering Spanish? Even in 6mm, Spaniards means that I need British ... when I started the Naps project, it was going to be Austrians and French, full stop.
    Last weekend I gamed with some chaps who have been doing nothing but Napoleonics in 6mm for three decades. I admire that kind of heroic focus.

    1. Heroic focus indeed.

      my own filling in the corners project landed up with being able to put on the table 100 AP of any (I mean ANY, although the troop types/ figure matches were imaginative, to say the least) DBR army.

      I'm sure there was a good reason for it at the time, but I forget what it was.

      I think Mr Grice once told me that he had Napoleonic Turks because if he won, it was great kudos, but if he lost, well, it was a rubbish army anyway. Perhaps that is why we fill in the gaps.