Monday, 21 March 2016

(Un) Inspiring Stories (3)

Having written about things that inspired me to start wargaming certain subjects whilst I was a student I thought it might be interesting to ponder some of my other projects that had less successful outcomes.

These days I average about one to two new project a year. This can include expanding an existing period but is normally something completely new. I don’t know how I got into this cycle, but it seems to work. I don’t go out looking for projects. I don’t think “Oh, a New Year coming up, - must start a new project”. If nothing comes along then nothing new gets done. There’s always something in the back log that wasn’t needed at the time I can work on. When you buy soft plastics you don’t always use every figure in the box first time round.

But generally I get interested in something new most years.

If was not always thus. I don’t know if it was peer pressure or what, but I did go through a phase when I felt that I should be doing new projects, and I cast about for new subjects to take on board. I particularly recall a couple from my time at University and just after.

If you do a modern history degree there’s always a lot of war going on. As Trotsky remarked, "War is the Locomotive of History". When you are doing mainly political history it is quite clear that Clausewitz was right, - “War is a mere continuation of politics by another means”.

Which brings me to Frederick the Great. He sits slap-bang across the middle of European history in the 18th century and he is unavoidable if you study the period. He’s a great military leader, no doubt, and his campaigns and methods are interesting. 

I can’t recall if I wrote an essay about him. I think I must have done. I do remember researching his father, Frederick William I, and finding him really interesting. (Built a great army, but never started a war.) That gap in my memory is a bit of a giveaway, I think. Anyway, he seemed like someone I should have been interested in. And I sort of felt I should be starting something new, although on a student grant funds were limited.

It just so happened that Spencer Smith did a range of 30mm Prussian Seven Years War infantry. They were distinctly affordable and really nicely realised. As they were cheap I reckoned I could make up the cavalry units with Hinchcliffe figures as they were size compatible. By this time I had acquired the Blandford book of Seven Years War uniforms and standards, and would shortly lay my hands on the Funcken “Lace Wars” books, which I think were a Christmas or Birthday present. The flags looked really gorgeous and my design concept had each regiment with one of these “in large” amongst the unit. Also, to round it all off, we were using the WRG Horse & Musket rules which are rubbish for Napoleonics, but rather good for the wars of the Ancien Regime.

I bought in a lot of figures and set to work on them. I had tightened up my painting style as well now as I was amongst much more experienced and proficient figure painters. I wasn't shading much, but I was using a lot of black lining to create a classic toy soldier look.

I think they came out okay. They were fairly well regarded amongst the group I gamed with but I was coming up against a few problems.

The Hinchcliffe cavalry were coming out as expensive and difficult to get hold of. The range didn’t have what I really wanted either and some of the figures were frankly quite ugly. I was also struggling with executing the flags really well. Try as I might I couldn't get a Prussian Eagle that looked like anything other than a charcoal grilled Tweety-Pie. In the days before computers and internet clip art I couldn't work out how to fix the problem.

And then there was the fact that no one else was interested in the period. Or rather no one was interested enough to paint up an army. So. No opponent. Unless I painted it myself. And these armies are big.

I finally also came to the conclusion that I actually didn't like the period. Perhaps I should be interested in Old Fritz, it was just that I wasn't. Nothing I could do, nothing I could read, could make me remotely interested in him and his miserable self-serving wars. How I hated him and his perfectly coiffured infantry.

The whole project had been a ghastly error. There was nothing for it but to off load the stuff and write it all off to experience.

Those ghastly Hinchcliffe cavalry.
Make me an offer, but you're paying postage
I think Pete Berry took the infantry off my hands, but didn't want the cavalry. I still have them, sitting in a box in the study, survivors of several bring and buy stalls. Every so often one of our group suggest we start a Charles Grant “The Wargame” type project where we could all paint and contribute units over a period of time. Well, they’re sitting there, waiting for the call.

But I don’t think I’m putting my toe back in that pond ever again.


  1. This is a really good article. I have had similar experiences... no one else was gaming near my home. Hinchcliffe figures were a rare treat, and can still look the right light.

    1. Hinchcliffe were good when the alternatives were Minifigs.

      Nowadays, of course, I buy both armies anyway because it's just easier.

  2. Reflections of an honest man! Good for you to get this out in the open. Like you, most of us have had projects taken up on a whim only to be jettisoned with great agony. Some of these projects linger on for ever. I have a few such projects begun for the wrong reason.

    1. The problem was it wasn't a whim. It was carefully planned and I'd convinced myself I wanted to do it.

      The important thing now for me is to recognise the signs this is happening again. It still happens that I do something because I think I should, but I can usually back out before it gets out of control.

  3. We all have skeletons in our wargaming closets , Tony

  4. Yes- casting about for NEW Projects can indeed be frustrating and at time costly and at times a complete waste of effort...recently I managed to sell of the incomplete collections ranging from 6mm up to 18mm - about six projects- things I'd never continue with. Sticking with a theme can often be it's own problem - there are a lot of distractions out there. KEV.

    1. I think the lesson from this was NOT to cast about for new projects, but let them come to me.

      I still have some unfinished stuff, but nothing that I ended up hating as much as this lot.