Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SYW Potpouri

The death of Captain von Kleist vignette. Foundry casualty and Minden Miniatures jager. Oh, and a couple of Silfor tufts too.

I was working on another battalion of Austrians for my Minden Project game at this year's SYW Association Convention and think that I might have finally hit the proverbial wall in this hobby. It is the first week of March and there are three more weeks to go before the convention. So should I go all out balls of fire painting to finish all the things that I would need for the game, or should I just give up and run the game some other time?

A good general knows when he has pushed his troops to the breaking point and if he is smart, then he backs off so that he does not destroy his army. I guess that I am a good general, because I decided that there was no way that I could finish all of the artillery support wagons and limbers, two more battalions of Hungarians, and a partridge in a pear tree. Oh, I could probably pull it off, but at great cost to my personal life. So I threw up my hands and said, "I quit!"

I don't want to end up like the unfortunate Captain von Kleist, above; so I have cancelled my games at this year's SYW Association convention. In fact, I am not even planning on attending the convention at all. Furthermore, I am going to take a long break from running convention games at all. Too much work and not enough appreciation for what I do. I have been running games at this convention for 25 years now, and everyone of them was a beautiful game with well painted figures, superb/realistic looking terrain, easy rules and fun scenarios.

You won't have to look at anymore cruddy games like this at the SYWA convention. This was my game at the 2010 convention.

Or this stinker, a skirmish game, that I hosted at the 2009 SYWA convention.

I think that I have set such a high bar for myself that people have become rather blase about my SYW presentations, to the point where they pay them no heed. With that in mind, I feel that it would be best not to attend the convention and give my armies a rest. I will let others pick up the colours and contribute to the convention.

Are we gamers, painters or collectors?

The wargaming hobby has a number of different facets to it. I started in the hobby back in 1985 because I was captivated by the visual splendor of watching a SYW game hosted by the original owners of RSM Miniatures. I couldn't paint worth a lick, but I really enjoyed playing wargames. So I started out in the hobby as strictly a wargamer.

After awhile, I had the desire to start painting some of my own figures and so I started out with Austrians, figuring that guys in "all white" would be easy to cut my teeth on as I learned how to paint. Over the next 25 years my painting improved. The more figures I painted, the better my efforts became. In fact, I can almost say that I now prefer painting figures to actually playing in wargames. I certainly spend a greater proportion of my hobby time painting figures than I do in running games at conventions these days.

At some point along the way, I made the mistake of painting a few Napoleonic figures and ended up with thousands of them. One of my friends started ACW armies at 1:10 using the original Dave Alsop-sculpted Old Glory figures. Ah yes, those were the glory days in my hobby life. So I built up some huge 28mm ACW armies at 1:10 ratios. Then I ventured into the ancient world with Late Romans versus Barbarians. I had evolved into somewhat of a collector of wargame armies. I was acquiring armies and figures, but I did not seem to be gaming with them very often.

The ultimate thing for me was the appearance of Frank Hammond's Minden Miniatures range of SYW figures. The lifelike sculpts of artist Richard Ansell were just the thing that I was looking for. I had grown tired of figures that were charicatures of the human body. No more over-sized heads or baseball mitt hands or 'strong faces' for me.

A Minden dragoon officer painted as a Jager officer. I acquired this figure from Ioannis to add to my collection.

At about the same time, I became acquainted with John Ray and I really admired the way that he could stick with one historical period (in his case, the AWI) and really develop his collection in great depth. I then realized that this is what I wanted to do with my favorite historical gaming period -- the Seven Years War. So I resolved to start all over with my SYW armies and rebuild the Austrians and Prussians using the superb Minden Miniatures. Not only was I going to paint battalion of infantry and vast regiments of cavalry, but I was also going to work on historical vignettes, as inspired by such people as Phil Olley, Barry Hilton and the master, John Ray.

So that is how I evolved into a collector of historical miniatures. I intend to foresake wargames at convention settings, but continue to play the occaisional game with my gang up in Brown Deer, Wisconsin. So I have not given up gaming completely. You will continue to see battle reports and glorious photos on this blog, but you won't see me running convention games for awhile.

I will continue to work on my Minden Project, but now that I no longer have the pressure of artificial or real deadlines, I can enjoy the painting part of the hobby and add more units at my leisure. So you will continue to see the progress of these armies as I add to them and as I drill down and work on more vignettes. For example, I would like to develop the camp scenes in even greater depth, add a cavalry encampment with stables and the cavalry regimental commander's headquarters tent, etc., a pontoon train and a number of other bits and pieces that occur to me along the way.

So for now, I am a painter and a collector and my hobby will be something that I pursue at a slower, more measured pace to ensure my own relaxation and enjoyment, rather than a frantic arms race with paint brushes and tin figures.


  1. You constantly refer to your "Minden Project" . . . by that I am presuming (because of the Austrians and lack of French and Hanoverans, etc.) that you are referring to the "figures" and not the "battle" . . . is that correct?

    I would think that building the troops for the battle (with Minden lead) would be a worthwhile project too . . . especially with the uniform differences.

    Have you considered that at all?

    -- Jeff

  2. Always loved to read these sort of letters in MWAN, as it humanizes the experience. We identify with the parts that resonate with us.

    Besides gamers, collectors and painters, there are those for whom the reading, history and participation as reenactors are a big branch as well, plus the boardgamers, to widen out the tent. It all overlaps, so for some all seven are a part of it, in the same person.

    My first thought on reading this was of Achilleus in the Iliad, sitting out of the war to sulk in his tent. The whole Iliad is sometimes called The Wrath of Achilles, as it is really about his wrath, and his good reasons for it, no matter how much the other Greeks realized later on they needed him. Ionnais could probably confirm it's perfectly understandable to the Greek mind, if not to the American one.

    My second thought, though, is of Johnny Cash in A Boy Named Sue, fighting tooth and nail when he finally tracked down the absentee father who named him Sue, to make him tough enough for this world.

    He discovers the reason after the crisis, when he's about to kill the old man. And then after the crisis passes in a moment of catharsis and recognition, he says that he came away with a different point of view. Maybe something like that will happen, with a catharsis, of some sort.

  3. Good call, don't put your health and sanity on the line, just to complete a project. It's a hobby after all.

    Good luck and keep on painting, playing and blogging at a moderate pace.

  4. Hullo Alt Fritz

    I heartily agree on a number of points you have made in this post. After a rather tumultuous year health wise i made the decision to turn my hand at display painting and collecting.

    I think you have made a good call what is the point of pursuing a hobby to the limit, if it is going to turn you against it. You have made what I consider a sensible choice, you remain attached to what you enjoy and make it work for you in a relaxing manner.

    I still have my paintpig blog where I show the wargames figures but decided on a new blog for my display painting and it kept things on a nice even keel!

    I noticed more vignette posting from you recently, look forward to seeing more of your work.


  5. Nothing like feelings of obligation and frustration to suck the joy from a hobby. We all need to find our own paths.

    Glad to hear that you aren't kicking over the traces all together and will still be sharing with us.


  6. I always set myself the rule "Never run a game that you don't already have the figures for" because you just know that even with a year's advance planning, that health or work or life will get in the way and cause last minute rushing and angst.

  7. Classic burnout. I know how you feel Jim: whilst I don't 'perform' at that many shows, I certainly do recognise the pressure of having to live up to people's expectations on a regular basis!

    It's important that you turn this back into *your* hobby. Take your time and realise that there _are_ large numbers of us who really do appreciate your efforts.

  8. Taking resorative "waters" in the fashion you want is vital. Go for it mon ami.

  9. dear Alte Fritz,
    some heathens don't know quality if it struck them in the face like a cannon ball. Fear not, your work is appreciated by many across the world for the history, modelling, painting and the spirit in which it is conveyed. After a rest in winter quarters you may ride forth again to fight the barbarian hordes

    best wishes
    a syw novice by comparison

  10. Hey Fritz,

    A hobby is supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable. So relax and enjoy what you're doing.

    The "Affair Of The Runaway Duchess" skirmish game, and the part played by Agent von Mack and the Raubenstadt Pilfering Frei-Hussars will remain a personal highlight for me!

  11. DAF
    I cannot express how much, as a SYW newbie, I've learned from this blog and how much I enjoy reading it. It's a standing joke at home that when I'm on the net I'm "Alte Fritzing".

    As said above, by MARK J, your good humour, your conviviality and the joy that you get from the hobby are obvious. Thank you for your efforts.

  12. Dear Fritz,
    Having not been able to post on my blog since Christmas, I completely understand reaching the wall. The good news that you are working on my command stands has improved my morale and has had a positive affect on my health as well. Hopefully in another week or two I will be able to return to our hobby. Best regards, Bill

  13. Der Alte Fritz,

    I have been following your blog now for several months. I check it almost on a daily basis to see if you have posted anymore great stuff. I also bought some of your old RSM Austrians and Prussians, and found you to be generous and kind in your business dealings. I just wanted to say thank you for all that you do for the hobby, and that I appreciate your good nature and artistic sensibilities.

    It is hard to believe that the SYW Convention community has failed to recognize your outstanding contributions, it must be terribly disappointing after so much dedication and hard work. Anyway, I think you are taking the right path to greater hobby happiness. I look forward to seeing whatever work you care to share on your blog.

    Be well,
    T. Ballinger

  14. Dear Jim,

    I echo many of the comments above. I am a regular long time reader of your blog. Your toys, your rules, your decision. Your out put never ceases to amaze and has been hugely educational and inspirational. You clearly need some 'me' time and to step of the hobby escalator. Most of us never even make the first step. I sincerely hope it won't be too long until the situation is a clearer and the sun is shining again.


  15. I also echo the sentiments many have expressed. If I hadn't found your blog 3 years ago I wouldn't have the Austrian, Prussian and Russian armies I now have. I enjoy every post, and wish you the best in a slower paced enjoyment of our hobby.



  16. Dear Fritz,
    Seconding some of the comments here ... take a break and rest up ... then keep up this marvellously inspirational blog! I so enjoy it!
    Strength and Honour!

  17. Jim,

    I agree whole heartedlly with how you feel. I too have come to the same conclusions. I really enjoy painting and researching more than I do gaming. I always come away with an empty feeling after game as though it just isn't enough anymore. I would rather sit back, relax, paint, and talk history more than game. All that has also gotten me to join a figures club here in town. They focus on painting and displaying figures. Their figures are 54mm and up so we're not talking armies we're talking about single figures. Some of the guys can truly paint, they are real masters and I hope to learn more from them.

    Enjoy your break and branch out if that will help.

  18. Ioannis would certainly agree...that's one of the many reasons he does not live or work in Greece!

    Wargaming with 'friends' always brings up surprising aspects of human nature in each one of us, and sometimes this is not the best thing...So, going solo is indeed the only option left if you want to enjoy your hobby AND keep your sanity.

  19. Been there got the T shirt. You have my complete sympathy.
    The hobby is a source of inspiration and relaxation but, lurking in the background, it is a monster just waiting to take over and consume you.
    Enjoy it. No pressure just fun.

  20. I had a similar revelation after a convention recently. After years of running games, I recently ran a game where I felt the players expressed very little appreciation or gratitude for the nice game they had the opportunity to participate in.

    After packing the game, driving it there, setting it up, picking it up, and driving it home, I reflected on all of the time I had spent planning, painting, purchasing and compared it with how the players simply took it for granted they would be able to play in a game with nice figures and terrain, complain about the scenario, and grouse about rules. There was no payoff for me.

    Some players treat game masters as if they are just employees of the convention who are there to entertain them. In the future, I plan to only run small scale club-type demos where players can see the rules demonstrated and step in to participate for a brief period. I no longer the desire to make such a time investment for people who don't appreciate it.

  21. I found your blog a few months ago and have been happily reading my way up through the archives. I really enjoy it, so I'm sorry to see this posting. Given the amount of time you devote to the hobby, I can imagine how you feel. Even old Fritz needed some peace time to rebuild the treasury, reform the army and play a little flute.

  22. I respect your position and have shared it.

    After four years of devoted games demonstrations, winning some of the event awards particularly in 2007, I have been unable to gather any more new tabletop game players.

    The blaze response from some of the game veterans is part of my disappointment. I suspect that the 'old guard' (as I am viewed now lol) is thought of as ready and able to do these game events with less effort than any others.

    In a sense I can see that once the tabletop parts and pieces are all assembled it is easier to run the game, still all the same ~ those of us who actually put on the show are most often the ones whom are missed in the handing out of accolades.

    I have long been a supporter of the idea that the GM's that do host the game and run it bringing all that actually *IS* a convention game event deserve some reward, in the small local one I have had the honor of leading for a while, we have the policy of *FREE* attendance, food and drink credit for those GM's that get into the list for the program book. Nominally about 6-10 each year.

    When you consider that 4 (or more) players would be in each of these GM's games the value of having them attend for free and celebrate them for their efforts becomes immediately evident ... why is it that so many other games convention organizers continue to refuse to see this?

  23. Jim,

    Take a well earned rest, read, enjoy some music and return with vigour!!!!

    Sunny Australia

  24. Jim,

    Pictures of your modeling creativity and your big games have been one of the primary inspirations in my own pursuit of SYW gaming and spurred on my collecting of the Minden range as well. Have fun with what you're doing and I look forward to seeing more of your works in the future.

    All the best to you and thank you.

    Mike aka Goldwyrm

  25. Good call! Take it easy and enjoy the hobby. It's what is should be about.