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Collecting or Hoarding? The treatment of dead enemies

There must come a stage in a person’s life when one considers “meaning”. I must admit being drawn to the Hoarders series on Discovery. Endless episodes detail the traumatic experiences that have led to, what must be, a good proportion of Americans to literally be trapped in their houses , or trailers if it’s the South! But is the average wargamer much better? Is our collecting a barrier to life’s fulfilment? Or else are we like dinosaurs, the last of a generation that fills their lives with miniature figures that few see the beauty of? Fear not, I’ve visited the Pitt-Rivers museum in Oxford!

For a number of different reasons, the hobby has not been at the foremost of my mind recently. The whole idea of  a whole room , and garage, devoted to wargaming has been questioned. Too many accusing looks fell on me as I watched Hoarders, eating Wotsits on my sofa. Do I fit the profile of a hoarder, older and neurologically challenged? Surrounded by hundreds of items, hiding in boxes; old coins, silver paper, dust and even sand? Sound familiar?

Well my room is not quite chaotic, not ordered, but not chaotic. It was Jung who noted that we can’t control the cosmos but we can control our personal space. The moment when I wanted to sell all my half started projects passed. I found an aiming point, a goal that was worthy of striving for, the ownership of things of beauty. The Pitt- Rivers museum is every collector’s dream. As one passes through the natural history section, one is struck by the most wonderful, mad, collection of “stuff” imaginable, but it’s organised, beautifully organised.

Pitt- Rivers obviously didn’t share this space with a demanding family. Nor could he have been too bothered by any limits to the collection. Next to model boats sit death masks from Indonesia, across the way from suits of armour, reside my particular favourite, the Netsuke. A massive collection, but an organised one. Every conceivable aspect of human creativity in cabinets. Inspirational!

Are we in danger of being classed as hoarders? Do we know anyone who has let their hobby become their life? Always remember that the problem is indeed solvable. Don’t suffer needlessly and stupidly. Organisation pays rich dividends and you need to visit this collection. Any collection that can juxtapose medieval hand cannons with fishing hooks is testament to the truth that any collecting can be organised and rewarding. The Pitt- Rivers museum is free to all and is just across the road from the Ashmolean Museum in central Oxford. Well worth a visit!

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I love being off work! Am I ready to retire ? Yes. Are my finances ready for me to retire? God, no! There’s a lot to be said though for doing what you like doing! Don’t worry this is not one of those blogs that will offer wellness or a cure for depression, but, there is a lot to be said for the simple pleasures in life. For the best part of forty years now, my personal path to wellbeing has been model soldiers, plus that must have add on the painting table….

Vijay in the house opposite may well wonder what I am doing but I rely on this three metres squared of wood and metal. The last two weeks has seen frantic activity in getting De Bellis Antiquitatis armies finished. The more I paint, the more armies that I prepare, the more forces I can morph into. The more I erase arch new armies, the more I read. The more history I read , the more I want to paint. It really is a vituous spiral of absorbing pastimes.

The Swiss and Imperialists are now nearing complation. It’s time to start planning a battle. I’ve been watching a large number of games on YouTube recently and haven’t given up on the idea of combing  the Total War computer game mechanics with D.B.A.. I did warn you about the way my brain works. I recent trip to Saint Fagans even got me interested in a Welsh medieval army and that would be something new.

The gardens at Saint Fagans reminded me of my plans for the English Civil War. Those minis are rebased but the American Civil war is the next priority.

So, if you want to be able to laugh off the stresses and strains of the real world, my advice would be the madcap, slightly odd, totally absorbing pastime of the miniature warrior. There is nothing better than a painting table with the next project in preparation. I hope you had a good weekend and please share your recommendations for the hobby. Here’s to Monday mornings and life’s priorities…

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Caput Porci- Unlikely Allies

Our short L’art de la Guerre wargames campaign draws to a close with the climatic battle outside of Milan. The Eastern Roman army stood victorious on the Po and the West’s forces are sadly depleted. But, the scavaging barbarians are more than eager to enter the vacuum. The salt mines of the Venito may have Gothic masters.

The western army would not leave the city walls. The Ostogoths would fight alone against the Eaastern invaders. Their allies would be the roving bands of Huns , the survivors of the earlier defeats.

Herak the Hun brought only five units of Huns and these were downgraded to “ordinary”, battered by too many lost battles.  The solid core of the Ostrogoth army held the centre. Six units of impetuous heavy swordsmen, with bow units on each flank. The Ostrogoth right was elite lancers plus an untarnished elite Hun component.

The Eastern Romans were ready for a siege and not a cavalry battle. Massively outnumbered by steppe horsemen, the two units of horse archers were shot down. Herak’s renegades had regained their confidence and began showering the Easter legions with arrows. 

In the fields to the West, mercenary archers held back the advancing auxilia. With bow support, the skirmish screen withdrew slowly. The main fighting would be done by the huge warband.

To fight legionaries with only ordinary impetuous swordsmen is not for the faint hearted. If the barbarian wins then losses will be heavy but the Easterners have impact, support and armour ( from turn two at least)

The dice were kind and holes started to appear. It had cost the Gothic foot dear but the once invincible legions were faltering. On the other flank, Huns were cutting down legionaries and the heavy lancers were looming.

With an almighty melee, stretching from end to end of the line, casualties were heavy but the Romans were losing. Twice as many Roman units were lost and the Ostrogoths were victorious. Knowing that they were now unwelcome mouths to feed in the Italian winter, our reluctant Hun heroes left on the road south.

The campaign had reached an impasse. Both Roman factions are now licking their wounds. The new rulers of the Po basin would be Gothic but Visigoths or Ostrogoths? Thanks to all the participants- the much expanded Fall of Rome campaign will start again in the Summer. Congratulations to the gallant Ostrogoths!

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De Bellis Napoleonics- Project closure

Nearly thirty years a go De Bellis Antiquitatis, affectionately known as D.B. A., revolutionised wargaming. From its introduction, you could play absorbing games at minimal cost. It was my main source of inspiration and set my gaming and collection obsession off. In fact it’s difficult to see how any new wargames system could break the inertia of DBA size “elements.” My aim is of course to get wargames armies completed ASAP. I think a matched pair of Napoleonic armies is beyond my resources of time and money. D.B.N. armies however are accessible…..

De Bellis Napoleonics , currently in version 2.1 is available from It is available as a fifty page download of quite densely typed text. I paid fifteen dollars for it, which is a tad expensive for a download with no illustrations. I do recommend that you view the YouTube clips to see what the game offers. It isn’t updated to version 3 DBA and it wouldn’t be beyond an experienced DBA player to write their own variant but it does the job.

The armylist for France 1794-99 gives you the following to choose twelve elements from. You can choose six to ten musket elements, half of which can morph into poor quality light infantry. The aspiring general can also choose two specialist light infantry that will become the legendary legere by 1800. Hussars are classed as militia light cavalry, up to two units.

Unfortunately for the French, the dragoons on their nags don’t class as true heavies but do loose the militia tag. The army only allows one unit but historical scenarios may call for more. I’ve gone for three bases 50mm square to equate to the rules’ units.

The reorganised infantry allows me to field five units already. These are the mainstay of the French army, five units of muskets.

The single base recommended by the rules just isn’t big enough for the collector in me. Two elements , one behind the other, gives a good impression of a Napoleonic column. It also means that with twelve more miniatures I will have completed the vast majority of an “armee”.

With some cannons and light infantry , the army can join the ticked box of projects. But then I need grenadiers and legere……..

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Ottoman Renaissance

The rise of the Ottoman Empire has long held a fascination with me. From obscure and unlikely beginnings, the family of Osman fought its way to dominate the Middle East and threaten Christendom itself. My keen readership will be aware that the early Ottoman army from 1281 to 1361, is quite a one dimensional army. In De Bellis Antiquitatis, the army comprises two elements of cavalry, the feudal Timariot fiefdom holders, seven Ghazi light horse elements, serving out of religious fervour, and some poor quality Azab “batchelor” foot.

The early army doesn’t look like a classic battle winner. Supporting your light horse with another, evens the odds against cavalry but you risk more units! I used the Old Donnington miniatures to represent the early Jannisaries, with some Essex slingers- unpleasantly referred to as babies by my sons!

The later army in DBA is a much tougher proposition. The guard cavalry Qapukulu make an appearance. I have painted a unit that would accompany the Sultan but in the Big Base variant, the general is detachable. There are now three Sipahi cavalry with a reduced number of light horse borderers or Akinji searching for loot.

In this scale, one only gets a single base of Jannisaries but when have we let that stop us! In the Renaissance version of DBA, you can have four units with bows, so I painted four! The arquebusers are next on the shopping list! I love the uniforms on these troops and would dearly love to visit Istanbul to see the modern reconstructions.

My choice of Big Base DBA was partly inspired by my desire to replicate the look of a contemporary army. The plan is below, Serb knights and artillery to be added later…

More research led me to collecting Levantine horde. These acted like a police force in conquered areas and I represented them with Turcoman spearmen. 

As the empire stretched into Eastern Europe, Delis and Voynuks can be added. I used Essex miniatures for Dellis and need to send to Old Glory for the heavily armoured Voynuks foot. I have two units of such horsemen to represent an Albanian ally. There remains plenty of scope for more purchases like Bedouin, religious berserkers and even fire lance armed incendiaries ( made by Baueda by the way!)

And there’s warwagons and Tartars…….and so on. I hope you like the collection so far. I’m not going to put them all on the bigger bases as I think the units blend quite well. I do have to say goodbye to some figures who aren’t part of the reorganised armies so keep an eye on eBay for some bargains looking for a new home! (Below)

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De Bellis Antiquitatis, Just do it!

Sometimes, in order to go forward, one must take a few steps backward. Backward to me meant going back to where my wargaming journey began, many moons ago. The ruleset was De Bellis Antiquitatis or D.B.A. to the hobby illuminati! For the first time it seemed, you could get into wargaming with a simple game that was easy to learn and addictive to collect. Many years later, I had come to derive more and more enjoyment from painting and collecting than uber competitive tournament style games. As figures have got better and better, the urge to collect everything out there is just too great. D.B.A. allows you to have a variety of armies and the rules can even be stretched from the Ancient period into the Reanaissance and beyond (you have been warned!). So with Christmas and Godendag out of the way it was time to reorganise….

D.B.A. Of course uses the “industry standard” 40mm wide basing and that’s not what I was looking for. Impetvs had been tried and these bases looked great although I could never quite get into the rules system. A lucky hit on the Miniatures Page got me started, Impetvs bases with DBA rules. The DBA- rrr variant is also available and that lead me to reconsider the formative Renaissance rules we have been working on…..

Next post will be entirely devoted to the Ottoman army as this army spans the longest period of history. I was quite pleased with the new bases, and the speed at which one can rebase. I am a great believer in diving into new projects and this one in particular seems to have reached a rich seam. Sometimes you have to just realise that something needs changing and just do it!

Once I had started on the Ottomans, I rampaged through the collection and worked on my Alans. Not enough for a full army but enough for an allied contingent. The temptation is to go for more than twelve elements but I have promised myself that I will limit myself to just every option, and a camp, and the ability to field every army simultaneously…….

You guessed it! Before too much longer I was rebasing my French Ordonnance and Hundred Years War English! I’m really loving painting, fixing and reorganising. Now to get some games in and work on getting my sons into playing! 

Thanks for reading!

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Rebels and Patriots- the shape of things to come!

I’m always envious of those people who can multi-task. You know the sort of person who puts us all to shame by chasing promotion at work, whilst restoring a house and carrying on an affair! Well I can’t I’m afraid. The last week has been one of basing wargaming figures and that is, how do you say, tedious in the extreme.At the local Crusade show, I picked up Rebels and Patriots by Michael Leck and Daniel Mersey. Building on the success of earlier titles, these books are the very epitome of what I look for in a set of rules, playability and fun. The downside was rebasing nearly three hundred figures.

I went for slightly larger bases than the standard, although the game is easily played with single based miniatures. The only thing to do was to set up a production line. I put out the discs and use Pollyfiller to fix the Woodlan Scenics ballast. The colour before was a ghastly bright green but that will just have to be screened by flocking and the ubiquitous tufts.

The great thing about our modern age is of course that you can do something else whilst performing mundane tasks. I decided to annoy my neighbours by blasting out the Dropkick Murphys on Sunday morning! Even I was taken aback by the scale of the task. As you only need sixty miniatures or so, I think some of my veterans may head to the great eBay hobby recycling site.

Once dry I’ll drybrush the bases but that will be it. I’m also rebasing De Bellis Antiquitatis armies at the same time so sand and MDF has been the theme of January. I’ll post these “new” armies this week. I really want to go back and play more DBA games this month to get writing on our own ruleset. Meanwhile apologies for a less than inspiring hobby blog but a necessary evil I’m afraid. I do wish I hadn’t bought sixty miniatures in exactly the same pose though………