Saturday 17 April 2021

Flibbertigibbets and Flip-Floppers

 I have refrained (read: not got around to) declaring a plan for this year. Perhaps that is due to the uncertainty of the world generally, with most of us hovering somewhere between hope and fear and, often, it seems to me, both at the same time. Perhaps it is due to my own incipient wargamer-ness, that is, most wargamers I read do not fix on a single period, set of armies or anything of the sort. In short, most wargamers are flibbertigibbets, which is a great word which does not get used enough.

Now by comparison with some wargamers I suspect I might count as a paragon of focus, in time frame if not in geographical area. Most of my armies are for the period usually classified as ‘ancients’, in my case Rome and Greece, including Alexander and the successors but not (yet) the Punic Wars, and ‘early modern’, in my case from 1420 – 1700. I am, so far, resisting the Anglo-Normans, in spite of reading a fair bit about them in the last year or so.

You might quite rightly object that two periods, both running over centuries, is hardly a focus. I would have to agree, but it is still rather fewer than many wargamers whose blogs I read. This is not meant as a criticism, by the way. Many wargamers are well-read and highly informed about the many periods they game in, often more so than in my periods than I am who claim to focus.

Still, having done an inventory of my lead pile, I decided to swear off buying any more soldiers and declared this year to be the year of terrain, of buildings at least. I have hinted at a target for the trenches earlier, and indeed a Vauban style fortification is wending its way through my painting system as I type. Actually, the fort is finished; I’ve still got some ruins to base, and then there is the problem of cannon. Even a modest star fortification must have had great numbers of cannons, at least in theory, and so must the besiegers. Still, progress, while slow, has not yet stalled.

The other hint which you may have picked up from recent posts is of Russian buildings. The Russians, in particular in their churches, have a rather distinctive style, unless you are close to the Baltic where there is a bit more western influence. A Russian village is, therefore, wending its way towards me (hopefully). Having looked back at my Colonel Cranium campaign (see the link to the right), I pondered the resources I have to do Muscovite armies seriously. The Poles I can nick stuff for from the GNW Polish army – the haiducks, pancerni and hussars seem not to have changed that much. Both Poles and Russians can, of course, hire mercenaries (usually from Germany), and the Ottomans can acquire reinforcements from the Moguls and other further eastern armies I possess. But the Muscovites are a bit thin on the ground because Peter reformed the army along western lines when he came to the throne, so I cannot really pinch elements from my GNW army.

I confess I hesitated; I am not sure I really want to paint a whole load of Muscovites, but the acquisition of a book about them from the Naval & Military Press and a sympathetic hearing from the Estimable Mrs P on the subject, who examined my Muscovite resources and declared them inadequate, gave me a bit of backbone. I remember painting the original, small, Muscovite army, and a painful process it was, as I had no idea as to what colours they were to be, how to organise them (I was following DBR army lists at the time) and the whole was a rather dismal and rushed experience.

Still, the flip (or flop) in my resolution occurred. I now have a fairly large Muscovite army to paint. I am not a keen painter, as I keep saying, but that does not seem to stop me buying soldiers. The whole point of focussing on terrain was that I find buildings a lot easier to paint than soldiers, and you can see some progress. On the other hand, I did find the 96 Poles of the GNW army a pain by the end, but you do get a bit of a fillip from actually finishing an army. Insofar as an army is ever finished, of course.

The other thing I do like is flexibility in my resources. I like to be able to deploy two armies, as the ancients doubling project shows. While I usually limit myself to 12 to twenty-four bases per army, I do like to be able to deploy more should I need to. I maintain a cordial dislike of crowded tables and really lengthy games – the GNW refight over 3 sessions was about my limit – but I do like to know I can deploy all the troops, waggons, guns and buildings I might need to anything the campaigns might throw at me. I suspect my original rush to paint Muscovites was due to my 1618-Something campaign, trying to get an army for every nation that might have got involved.

And so, here I am again. Another grey army to paint. I think my techniques have improved over the last twenty-five years of so. I suspect that the pain of painting has subsided a bit. I hope so. On the first point, I have learnt a lot about how to paint soldiers quickly and, in fact, more nicely than before. I hope this will be the case and stand me in good stead for what I expect will be a large number of cavalry. I have also learnt to limit expectations and paint in smallish batches. This might not be as productive as larger quantities, but at least some progress is seen towards finishing the whole. I shall also try to ignore all the other armies I have in grey store clamouring to be done.

So, there you are. The collapse of a resolution and the rejoining of this wargamer to the ranks of the flibbertigibbets and weak-willed flip-floppers.

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