01 January 2011

2010: A Stollen Odyssey . . . The Year in Review

The Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II, his faithful manservant Hives, and the flamboyant General von Tschatschke, along with Colonel von Adalnowski and Major von Topfsange, would like to wish each one of you peace, happiness, and prosperity in the coming year.

The start of a new year sees many of us taking stock of things. Where we are in life, where we want to be, the previous twelve months, the next dozen, and so forth. For wargamers, early January is an ideal time to review hobby-related activities like painting, gaming, reading, historical research, and the like. Initially, as I let my thoughts drift back over the last twelve months, I felt like I had not really done very much given the requirements of professional and personal life. However, as I paged through old blog entries earlier this afternoon, I notice that rather more has occurred here at Stollen Central than I suspected. So, let's revisit a few highlights from 2010.

Last year opened with a bang when I managed to finish 30 RSM95 Austrian cuiriassiers. That same month, I managed to maintain momentum and add 13 Garrison Prussian artillery crew along with a couple of Holger Eriksson cannon to the growing collection. A flurry of building activity followed, in which I constructed another half dozen or so new buildings, in the style of the Grants, although my own structures are based more on the red brick Gothic-style of architecture found across Northern Germany and formerly German areas to the east. I also dug around online and through a few different books here, examining the different regiments of Germans, who fought for the French during the 1700s. Lots of inspirational uniforms and flags there for future painting, of which more below.

Similarly, the late winter and early spring saw me start applying paint to a regiment of 60 Huzzah musketeers, which were painted more or less as the Garde zu Fuss of Wurtemburg. I also wrestled with some persistent painting fatigue at that time, which took some little while to go away. April and May saw the momentous decision to sell off my unpainted stockpile of plastic Revell SYW-era Austrian and Prussian figures and shift my focus to building the rest of the Sittangbad-sized collection with metal figures of various kinds. Several readers of this blog contacted me via e-mail to express their disappointment with my decision, and one fellow even took me task rather strongly for it. Who would have thought? All that just because I decided to alter my path slightly. . . S-L-I-G-H-T-L-Y.

June brought continued slow painting progress on those Huzzah figures along with a great deal of written narrative, to set the scene for the Campaign of Teodorstal, which unfolded right here over several weeks during July and August. Lots of photographs and quirky description of the game fought between the blustering Colonel von Adalnowski and his guest, the younger Major von Topfsange, who fell head over heels for the Colonel's maid, a.k.a 'Valerie l'Vivandiere' during his stay with the Colonel. The end of the game in August saw the first win of a tabletop encounter by Stollen in two and a half years of campaigning between that state and its arch-enemy, the neighboring Electorate of Zichenau.

September and October saw the start of the fall academic term here along with the yearly and inevitable slow down of wargaming activities as real life intruded yet again. However, there was the excitement of Phil Olley's Classic Wargamer's Journal, the pilot issue and issue number one, both of which featured a couple of pieces written by yours truly. Don't know that I have anything but enthusiasm to bring to the hobby, really, certainly nothing revolutionary or innovative, but it is always fun to see something you've written actually appear in print. Hopefully, I can continue to make occasional contributions to the CWJ in future.

On a related note, that was also the point at which I decided to shelve my planned wargaming book indefinitely. Sure, I have written a great deal, and even mentioned the project here a few times, but the superbly high quality of recent Grant and Olley titles made it apparent that I would simply not be able to produce anything of comparable worth. It seemed best, therefore, to put the emerging manuscript to one side and move onto other projects. A tough decision, to be sure, but frankly, I've seen too many substandard wargaming publications over the years, to continue entertaining fantasies of adding a title of my own to the pile. . . self-published, or not. Why try to say clumsily what has been said excellently already by established names in the hobby? Rest assured, I'll keep sharing bits and pieces of my painting, collecting, and gaming adventures here, or in the occasional magazine article, editors permitting, but I don't foresee a hobby-related book by me anytime soon.

November came and with it, the completion of the final batch of those 60 Huzzah musketeers. Whew! I also managed to start and finish another 13 Garrison artillery crew in fairly short order, who are still awaiting the issue of their two MiniFig cannon, which have been base-coated since early December. November was also the point when I more or less decided to base all future uniform painting schemes on particular units from the old North German Hanseatic towns of Hamburg, Bremen, and Luebeck as well as the Holy Roman Empire's 'Reichsarmee'. Many of those battalions, regiments, and batteries wore extremely colorful dress and are much less commonly seen in 18th Century tabletop armies than, say, miniature representatives of Prussian, Austrian, or French mid-18th Century troops. Needless to say, I have since jumped headfirst into learning all I can about the various units, mostly poor quality, that were part of these assemblages of men and horses. Two books on the subject are even in transit to Stollen Central as we speak. That said, those previously mentioned German infantry units in French service continue to tug at my heartstrings! Undoubtedly, one of those will join the ranks of 25-30mm miniatures standing at the ready here before long.

The end of the year was here before the Grand Duchess and I knew it with December ushering in the end of the fall term, and the start of painting on those first twelve of 30 Holger Erisksson dragoons (almost finished), purchased during our Summer '09 residence in Berlin, Germany. There was also considerable narrative concerning the various and sundry holiday period misadventures of Stollen's Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II, including the very real threat of engagement to a young Swedish lady, from whose clutches his trusty manservant Hives rescued him.
Christmas Day brought with it a copy of Charles Grant's new book Wargaming in History, Volume II: The War of Austrian Succession, which my in-laws sent me. . . A wonderful gift and as good if not better than the first volume last year.

Last, but not least, the final four issues I needed to complete my collection of numbers 1-12 of Miniature Wargames arrived in the mail from Great Britain just after Christmas. The person from whom I purchased these was culling his collection of hobby-related stuff, and some of you might recall my quest to track down the first dozen issues of MW, which was instrumental in bringing me to the wargaming hobby (from Dungeons & Dragons no less) in the early 1980s.
So, opportunity presented itself, you could say, and I've since been able to immerse myself in long forgotten articles by the likes of Peter Gilder, Charles S. Grant, et al, to say nothing of photo after photo of Mr. Gilder's painted miniatures along with those of Phil Robinson. A veritable treasure trove of wargaming thought, ideas, and painting methodology, circa 1982-84. Fun reading, and my how figure prices have gone up in the last almost 30 years!

Christmas Week at last saw me painting those various houses and other assorted buildings that were assembled the previous January. Watch for a few photos of those here in the coming weeks.

What about the coming year then? Well, 2011 should see me working to finish those last few units for the Grand Duchy of Stollen project. Long-time visitors might recall that the plan laid out in 2006 was to paint two Sittangbad-sized armies, and we're just about there. Only a couple of cavalry regiments outstanding -- the HE Swedish dragoons plus a unit of 30 Minden Prussian hussars -- along with another battalion, or maybe two, of RSM Prussian musketeers. I'll need to consult my painting progress chart to be certain, of course, but the end of is within sight. There is an outside chance that I might just be able to achieve project completion by the end of this year. Cross your fingers!

Beyond that, there are some specialized troops I want to add to the collection, including a 30-strong bridging/pontoon battalion, a few barges, a 30-figure unit of Pandours or Croats, some more cavalry in the form of dragoons, horse grenadiers, reitere, or cuirassiers, and a small park of ammunition and/or baggage wagons with horse teams. But that's putting the cart a bit before the horse I suppose. Far better to get back to work on those HE dragoons and quit daydreaming about it. The figures won't paint themselves after all!

And on the gaming front, January 2011 will also see a small solo game unfolding here in Zum Stollenkeller, based on Phil Olley's 'Vanguard's Collide' scenario from the pilot issue of the
Classic Wargamer's Journal last summer. It would seem, then, that there is a fair amount planned for the coming months. Tune in occasionally to see how things pan out!

Later the Next Day. . .

According to my progress chart, one more 60-figure regiment of infantry, two 30-figure cavalry regiments (one of which is currently in-progress), and a final battery of two guns with crew (done save for the cannon) are what remain to complete the initial Sittangbad-sized project. Exciting and encouraging news!


John Clements said...

Happy 2011, Stokes, to you and yours. I really appreciate being able to follow your saga of Stollen and the building of your army - long may it all continue.


Bluebear Jeff said...

And best wishes for your coming year, Stokes.

So, tell us, did you get any "gaming goodies" under the tree this year?

-- Jeff

Der Alte Fritz said...

Best wishes to IA the Deuce and Hives and all of the Stollen retinue. May you win many more battles in 2011.


Giles said...

Happy New Year, Stokes. You've certainly been productive this year and I hope you find plenty of time to enjoy the hobby next year.

Best wishes


Gary said...

I visit regularly to follow the further adventures of Hives. History will certainly remember him as one of the great men of the 18th Century.


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