01 January 2009

Happy New Year from the Grand Duchy of Stollen!

Can you believe it's 2009 already? Why, it seems like only yesterday when everyone was talking about Y2K and all of the coffee makers of the world going crazy or something. Strange. In any case, amid the excitement of the current play-by-email game taking place between the Grand Duchy of Stollen and the Electorate of Zichenau, I thought it would be a nice idea to pause and reflect briefly on the previous year here in my little corner of the world.

2008 was a good year here at Stollen Central, both in the spare "Purple Room" at our old apartment, and since early April here in Zum Stollenkeller, a large, finished basement with five different rooms where I have set up my office, a semi-permanent gaming room, and a rehearsal space for my amateur oldies rock & roll band, The Indras. It's more than I ever hoped for, and I feel very lucky. And before anyone mentions it, yes, I feel extremely fortunate to have a wife like the lovely Grand Duchess Sonja, who actively encourages these eccentric pursuits and permits me the necessary space to indulge in them!

Anyway, there has been plenty of painting and gaming going on in the last twelve months, though I confess that I always wish my painting output might be just a bit more per year. I heard from Charles S. Grant the other day via e-mail, and in response to one of my questions, he revealed that his painting output for the new armies currently in production, which will gradually replace his old Spencer Smiths, has been impressively high. Ah well, I suppose you can drive yourself crazy trying to match the activities of others. The wargaming hobby is really all about relaxing and having fun, and there has certainly been plenty of both in the last year for me.

Units painted in the last twelve months include a two-company unit of red-coated grenzers (RSM95), a two-company unit of plastic engineers/pontooniers (Revell), a three-squadron unit of cavalry (Spencer Smith), some mounted generals (RSM and Spencer Smith), and two squadrons of plastic hussars (Revell). Pretty respectable, I suppose, when you consider that most of that work has taken place since the move into our house last April. 2009 will see me finishing the Army of Zichenau by painting the 80-figure von Flickenhoffer's Fusiliers (RSM figures, currently in-process). A 30-strong unit of RSM cuirassiers is next in line, followed by a 60-figure unit of the new Huzzah Miniatures' Prussian musketeers. And last, a return to my first love, the largish 1/72 Revell plastics is in the cards for sometime late in the summer or early fall.

Now, it's a bit early to decide on what that unit will be, but maybe a third unit of Stollenian cavalry, or another 60-figure unit of infantry, a 30-figure unit of engineers, or perhaps another battery of artillery. Oh, and in here somewhere, I must finish that third squadron of Revell hussars too. So, there is a fair amount of painting work in the queue for the next twelve month period. We'll see how it goes.

You might recall that the Grand Duchy of Stollen project has certain definite aims in mind, which are to paint and complete two Sittangbad-sized forces as featured in that delightful little book from 1967 Charge! Or How to Play Wargames. A related brainstorm that I had during midsummer 2008 was to draw up a painting progress chart for keeping track of everything. After completion of the current 80-figure unit, the Army of Zichenau will be finished. It is analogous to Brigadier Young's and Colonel Lawford's Imperial Army, while the larger Stollenian Army will be the same size as their Electoral force. If I have figured everything correctly (pun intended), I should manage to finish the project by late 2010, meaning that the entire project will have taken about 41/2 years of painting and modeling, not too bad for a purely solo affair. But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit!

A particular high water mark of 2008 was finally purchasing and painting the materials for a semi-permanent 6'x8' table, which some of you might recall was done last July and August. And that was followed in November by the cutting out and painting of styrofoam hills for the current Action at Pickelhaubewicz between "Major von Hirschbiegel", er, Jonathan Broadus and me. The table is purely old school, in keeping with the nature of the project, and so features a dozen two foot squares of 3/4" thick MDF board and 1" thick styrofoam hills, painted in the same shade of bright green, with buildings and trees placed on top. My one concession to more modern, modular terrain has been to paint some extra river/lake sections, with the rivers starting and leaving from the center edge of each section. So far, I've only had a chance to use some lake sections in a solo refight of Charles Grant Sr.'s "Action" (from The War Game) last August, but I hope to fight a river crossing scenario soon.

During the mid-summer, my article on the merits of plastic figures finally appeared in Battlegames #13. At the risk of sounding silly, it was a blast to finally see it in print, and that strengthened my resolve to continue work on and complete a wargaming book project that, time permitting, I've been working on sporadically during the last year. The large translation project that I had going during the latter half of 2008 meant that the book project has largely sat on a back burner since June. But the decks are cleared now, and I hope to wrap up the basic manuscript in the first few months of the new year and, at the same time, begin the querying process with a few publishers I have in mind. We'll see how that goes. Of course, I'm not expecting it will make the New York Times Bestsellers List or anything, or even to earn scads of money from the book, but seeing it come to print and sell half a dozen copies would be neat. Keep your fingers and toes crossed in the meantime.

Finally, we return to the current Action at Pickelhaubewicz, which my wargaming opponent and friend, Jonathan Broadus, and I, are fighting right now. Since Jonathan lives in North Carolina, and I am in Central Illinois, we have been doing this via e-mail since late November 2008, something that comes close to the old play-by-mail methods outlined by Stuart Asquith in his Guide to Solo Wargaming (1988). However, we are putting a 21st century twist on things, relying on e-mail and the internet for our communications and related activities!

So far, our game has gone from strength to strength, especially in the last couple of days as the struggle for this key village has grown hotter and hotter. While the eventual outcome of the raging battle is still unclear, there has been something of a recent turn-around in the fortunes of the two commanders. Contrary to his poor luck early on, Stollen's Colonel von Grundig has more recently thrown a series of very good rolls with the dice when it comes to inflicting casualties on Zichenauer troops through musketry and artillery fire. Conversely, Zichenau's Major von Hirschbeigel has had a run of less good luck with the dice in the last two turns, in particular where the colonel of his Grenadiere zu Pferd, who was killed by a random shot at the start of Move Ten, is concerned! In any case, the game has provided hours of fun for both of us, and, no doubt, it will continue to do so as Jonathan and I see things to their inevitable conclusion.

Well, it's time to bring this retrospective to a close, and, therefore, it seems like a good idea to extend New Year's wishes to all of you again and also thank you for your continued interest, enthusiasm, questions, and suggestions where the Grand Duchy of Stollen project is concerned. It's so nice to be part of a closely knit community of like-minded people like this. Thank you so much, and Happy New Year!


Bluebear Jeff said...


May the coming year be even better!

-- Jeff

Conrad Kinch said...

Happy New Year old chap, now stop lollygagging and stick it to those Zichenaurs.

Robert said...

It would be great to see such a book- I'd be sure to get a copy. Your figures would make great eye-candy!

A happy and productive 2009 to you, sir.

tradgardmastare said...

A good 2009 to you and yours Sir.

Grimsby Mariner said...

May the New Year bring all your plans to a happy conclusion.

A J Matthews said...

A Happy New Year to you and the Grand Duchess. Here's to many more adventures to come in the world of Stollen.

littlejohn said...

Best to you Stokes, may the new year bring you and yours many pleasures and victories! I'm really enjoying the game you are posting.



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