Saturday 11 January 2020

Retrospect and Prospect

Many blogs and bloggers run posts around this time of year describing past achievements and discussing future projects. It is something I have never really done, so I thought I would make an exception this year, just because, well, I can.

Looking back over the past year’s posts I discover that this has been something of a bumper gaming year for me, with, so far as I can tell, fourteen wargames played. That may not be many by most people’s counts for the year, but it is a large number for me. In 2018, so far as I can tell, there were four wargames played. That is an increase of about 350%. Impressed?

The rebasing project has proceeded apace, however, with now most of my old figures proudly boasting plastic card mounts and their own stands roughly concealed by filler, chinchilla dust, glue and paint. I have tried but failed, to recall what I have rebased this year, but it includes Samurai, Aztecs, Italian Wars, and the Inca, Wars of Spanish Succession and Great Northern War armies. That amounts to a fair horde of bases.

On the painting front, I have finished, of course, the castle, and painted the early-modern Irish, alongside a few bits of Scots for the Armada Abbeys campaign. As I keep moaning about, my painting is slow and bad (but I am too proud (or skint) to get someone to paint the figures for me). Still, it is nice to see a little progress from time to time.

In terms of the campaigns, the Armada Abbeys continues, with the Scots poised to assault Northallerton, the Spanish having suffered a couple of setbacks at Croft Bridge and Mount Grace. Nothing decisive, so far, but you never know. So far as the ancients go Alexander IV is still partying on Ibiza, wondering if his reinforcements will arrive before Daddy’s empire collapses. A few other pointers to campaigns have been strewn around, such as the Khmer and Vietnamese, an Aztec campaign without Conquistadors, the Portuguese in the Persian Gulf and, I dare say, a few other things that have occurred to me perhaps caused a wargame and then been left.

Reading has been quite wide this year. Theoretical historiography has figured with post-colonial history as applied to wargaming being, perhaps to the fore. I realise that for most people that might simply leave them cold, or at best give rise to a puzzled ‘huh?’ Fair enough, and I am not going to argue with anyone who says ‘Stop worrying and put the figures on the table.’ However, I do think that there are some grounds for challenging the ‘normal’ approach to historical wargaming, especially as applied to the historical part of that expression. The normal narrative of the conquest of Central America is one such, as I have tried to hint.

Another issue which has been a theme in my reading recently is what could be known as the rise of Spain. As someone who started off as a Seventeenth-Century wargamer, Spain was the superpower, the global hegemon (at least as far as any power could claim to be such). Until at least mid-to-late century everyone was worried about Spanish domination and, basically, fighting them. One of the themes of the blog this year seems to have been the rise of Spain, that is the era of the end of the Reconquista and the unification of the country under the Catholic Monarchy, that of Ferdinand and Isabella. With the exception of the early Italian Wars which have occasional wargaming traction, this does seem to be an under-explored subject in wargaming, possibly because there were few, if any, pitched battles, the war being one of raids and sieges.

Looking ahead, I do have a few bits in the pipeline, of course. A return to sea warfare is on the cards, when I get around to it, both in the early modern era and ancients. For the Reconquista period, I really should get around to rebasing my renaissance galleys, such as are left after years of neglect. After all, one of the defining issues was the blockade of the southern coast by the Aragonese navy, which blocked supplies and reinforcements arriving from North Africa. For the ancients, a fleet action is on the cards (planned, but not tabled) to relieve Alexander IV, as noted above.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that the unpainted lead pile is growing again. Currently, I am working my way through a pile of siege equipment and some other scenic bits and pieces. These are, of course, aimed at the Reconquista which is becoming a bit of a theme (or bee in the bonnet). I also have acquired some Baccus Wars of the Roses hand-gunners, crossbowmen and spearmen for the same purpose. By my usual pace of painting, these should be ready around mid-August.

Further to those, I also have some more buildings, including from the Far East, hoping to kick start getting the Samurai onto the table, and a couple more towers for the castle. The main additions to the painting mound are Baccus ECW Irish, some extra Scots musketeers, Scots horse and cuirassiers. These are to fill in gaps in my current provision, of course, not to start anything new. It does not sound all that much, but I do not expect to get these through my system until the end of the year.

You will notice that I managed to avoid the Wars of the Sun King and, in particular, obtaining anything to do with the British brigade in the Hispano-Portuguese war. This is entirely deliberate as I am not sure I could cope with the quantity of painting. I do, however, have some GNW / WSS armies to finish or start – the Danes need an extra base of infantry, the Anglo-Dutch have been undercoated for about fifteen years and the Bavarians and Poles are unstarted. I also have, of course, a pile of ancients I could paint; in fact, a need for officers is becoming slightly pressing.

As for my future reading, your guess is as good as mine. On the shelf I have some books about the ancient economy, triremes, Ranters, and the philosophy of Herbert Spencer. Awaiting a write up here is a book about the early-modern sea, a paper about the Reconquista, another about warfare in Morocco in the Fifteenth Century and probably a number of other things I have temporarily forgotten.

I realise that much of the above is not to everyone’s taste. Wargaming is a hobby, as is amateur history, and I do not want to take it all too seriously. On the other hand, I do feel that historical wargaming runs a risk of being stuck in a historiographical rut, recycling the same narrative of historical events to run, effectively, the same battles. I am not going to change that single-handedly, I know, but I will continue to throw my penny in here.


  1. Excellent recap, though I do look forward to an analysis of theoretical historiography, when you get around to finishing your WSS armies. There should be plenty of meat on the bones of the Sun King's dynasty?

    1. Hm. The WSS armies might be finished in another 15 years or so, or maybe not. As for theoretical historiography, it all depends what I can find cheap...