Let’s just start off by saying that we 2020 didn’t really go as expected for any of us. This blog is all about celebrating the hobby, so I’m not going to get bogged down in lockdowns, work stuff, and all that, nor the difficulties in not getting to see family or friends.
The past few years have been great in terms of getting to play board games and RPGs, but I’ve long felt unhappy with my lack of progress in painting miniatures. I love miniatures, and miniature games are what brought me into the hobby, so I do want to be better at keeping up painting.
Painting in 2020
At the end of 2019, I sat and sorted through years of Skaven miniatures to build a Pestilens army that I could then build and paint this year. I was organised. I was Enthused!
Yeah, it didn’t happen, though I did finally start messing with colour schemes in recent weeks. Ultimately, It just fell by the wayside, in the same way as my Adeptus Mechanicus had. I like the Ad Mech, and I like the colour scheme that I settled on, but I just never quite settled to the painting. I did finish up my red and made a little bit of progress on the metallics.
I think that part of the problem was realising that the items I had did not really constitute a coherent, viable army. I love the miniatures and I will return to them, but for now, they are firmly on the back burner. That said, I did dust some off recently in order to try out some metallic paints:
I just need to work out what I want from the army.
So, then, with last year’s project effectively abandoned for now, and the Skaven that I had planned to paint being largely ignored, did I do much painting this year?
This has been one of my most productive years for painting since I was a teenager. With the release of the Indomitus box, I jumped on the updated Necrons and put together 2300 points of the fellas.
You can click on through to see Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the army. There’s more here, and I’ve started building some of it, but I did need a break from painting brown. I’m particularly looking forward to doing those big Doomstalkers. They are so cool, and they pack such a punch in-game, as well.
I was really happy with how these turned out, and managing to paint 83 miniatures in this army was really something special for me. The positive feels from this accomplishment are real and motivating! It also helped that my Skorpekh Destroyers also won a club painting contest!
We held another contest later in the year, wherein contestants were asked to design a Space Marine chapter. The idea was to design a “house chapter” for our club, The Northern Knights. Here was my entry:
I had some fun with the painting, but a lot more fun coming up with the lore. You can take a look at all of the entries that we had for the contest, and then the results. I was quite happy with my placement!
There was one further miniature that I painted this year. This was a 3D printed figure of Marco, the main character from Studio Ghibli’s Porco Rosso. This is one of my favourite movies, so I wanted to do the character justice!
I think he turned out as well as he could have, given the nature of the print. As an FDM print, poor Marco is covered in little horizontal lines, denoting each layer of plastic that was put down by the printer. I didn’t do much in the way of clean-up to minimise this, but from a couple of feet away, you actually barely notice it. I’m delighted with this mini and it might actually be my favourite one of the year.
Gaming in 2020
At the start of the year, before everything went to hell, there were a fair few opportunities to play some games. I can’t actually remember a lot of what we played. There was a fair bit of Terraforming Mars (there always is), along with some Scythe. The most interesting new game for me in this time was Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia, from Stonemaier Games.
I backed the Kickstarter for this years ago and it’s sat on the shelf unplayed. This is not uncommon for me. In this case I was completely missing out. The game is fantastic. I like worker placement games, but I only actually had Lord of Waterdeep, and I was getting bored of that. Adding this game to the mix feels pretty good, and I am very keen to get it back on the table once we’re allowed to meet again in person.
Once lockdown hit, there would have been far fewer opportunities for gaming, had not our local group got a Discord sorted out and lots of games on the go. Tabletop Simulator has been an absolute joy and we have used that to play a lot of Terraforming Mars, as well as some 40K.
It’s not a perfect interface, but I’m just amazed by the quality that fans and amateur coders can put out, using the toolset presented by that game. It’s well worth the price, tag and more. Would recommend. Buy now.
The game I have played most often in lockdown is Dungeons & Dragons. Currently, I have three campaigns on the go. On the one hand, I slightly regret taking on three campaigns, but on the other hand I am enjoying each too much to give them up.
I maintain that D&D is not the best of systems, but it gives a good structure for your adventures and can lead to some fun interactions and really memorable moments.
I also continued, both virtually in lockdown and more recently in person, my after school group at work. I’m running one session a week now, but I had to run two during lockdown because of the popularity of the group and the difficulty of managing larger numbers online. One of the groups was keen on trying something new and asked to do Curse of Strahd. This, it turns out, was a lot of fun.
I love the module. The group took well to the setting. It was a little darker than our previous settings, but the game is going really well. They sometimes need a bit of prodding in the right direction, and the occasional reminder that fighting among themselves won’t necessarily serve them well in the struggle against Strahd. The thing that I like about Curse of Strahd is that it really lets me emphasise the importance of the decisions of the players and allows me to apply quite strict consequences to those actions. Call it a series of techable moments!
Speaking of vampires, I have also very much enjoyed dipping back into the World of Darkness. After an abortive attempt at a Dundee by Night campaign, we got going properly with Chicago by Night, using the new book from Onyx Path. It’s nice playing Vampire as an actual player for a change, and not as Storyteller.
Our Tuesday night game is just exquisite agony as out players at once work together to progress the main story, but also scheme and undermine one another to achieve their own, less overt objectives. Coupled with the general sense of menace from the setting, and from the elder vampires, this makes for a game that does not allow the players to feel comfortable or safe.
Early on in lockdown I ran a Dresden Files Accelerated campaign. This was my first time using the FATE Accelerated rules, a cut-down version of the full FATE rules. I liked them. They were simple easy, flexible. I very rarely had to clarify core rules, and only really had to decide where people’s aspects could be used and interpret the wording of a couple of abilities.
The campaign was a lot of fun. I based it largely on the Las Vegas setting from The Paranet Papers, but wound in a subplot with the Knight of the Blackened Denarius. To be honest, although this subplot went down well, I think I’d have more enjoyed keeping the focus firmly on the fae aspects of the setting. That said, it was a good campaign and I had a blast!
Other Stuff in 2020
Along with gaming, there are a few other things from this year that I’d like to share before looking at what I want to do in the year to come.
First and foremost, I enjoyed putting my hobby room into order. I’m lucky to have a good space in a room that was converted from the house’s old garage. Here are some pictures of the room at its tidiest:
Needless to say, it has rarely looked this good since. It certainly does not look so good at the moment. I should probably do a new year’s tidy… I might do that, actually. Again, I’m lucky to have such a space, so I really should take care of it.
Another little project from this year was getting started with 3D printing. I bought an Ener 3 during lockdown and tried my hand at a few prints, most of which turned out well. Here are a few examples:
I’ve now got some really lovely fantasy town terrain, which is something I’ve long wanted for my games. Since lockdown ended, I’ve had very little time and have not really done much with the 3D printer in recent months, but it’s something I’d like to get back to before too long.
Another challenge that I set myself this year outside of the hobby, was to broaden my cooking skills. One big focus of this was in trying to make more Asian food and just getting a better understanding of ingredients such as spices, herbs, vinegars, and the like. Here are a few of the highlights for the year:
I think if you asked my wife, she’d say that the highlights were the patatas bravas, the sweet and sour chicken or pork, and the crispy chilli beef. For me, I’d probably agree on the beef, but the chicken, chilli, garlic masala was a revelation and I’m a lot happier with my onion bhajis since switching to gram flour. I was also quite happy with my first attempt at from-scratch falafel.
I know I said that I was not going to mention work, but I will mention one part of it. During lockdown, I made a series of resources and videos on making distance learning materials more accessible and usable for children with literacy difficulties such as Dyslexia.
These were met with positivity, both within my own school and at the county level. I based the advice of that which is provided by Dyslexia Scotland, an organisation of which I am myself a member, and presented it in a firmly practical context for my colleagues. It was a lot of fun making these videos and, in making them, it forced me to learn to make videos. I learned to use OBS to bring in different elements. It was a real learning experience for me, and a rewarding one, too.
Painting Goals for 2021
I’m really chuffed with my painting progress this year. I basically got a 2000+ point army painted. This is the first army of that size I have painted since getting rid of my old Chaos, and it feels good to have a 40K army again.
In the coming year, my first project will be Gloomspite Gitz.
I picked up a couple of the Battleforce boxes with the intention of putting together two 2000 point armies. One of these will consist of Troggoths, whilst the other will be Squig-based.
So, my painting goals for the coming year:
- ~4000 points of Gloomspire Gitz (2000 points of Troggoths and 2000 points of Squigs)
- Expand my Necrons with vehicles and more troops
- A small force of Eldar for 40K and Kill Team
- At least one Blood Bowl team
- At least one Warcry warband
- At least one Necromunda gang
These are my goals. I would love to go beyond them, but I’d like to keep things reasonably realistic. If I go beyond, I’d like it to be with more little projects rather than another big one.
Gaming Goals for 2021
The start of 2021 is not going to be much different to what we saw in 2020. We will be firmly locked down for much of January and we really don’t know when our gaming venues will reopen. With that in mind, we’re going to be looking online for the start of the year with some hope for in-person gaming later in the year.
I’d really like to play or run a game that is heavily based on the fae. This could be done in either version of Changeling, or via The Dresden Files or another system. I just love these myths and would love to play among them.
Shortly before lockdown began, some friends got together for a game of Twilight Imperium 4. This was a big highlight this year and is something I really want to repeat next year – multiple times if possible.
My gaming goals for this year are:
- Continue engaging in regular RPGs
- Try to play more RPGs that are not D&D
- Run a fae-based campaign
- Play Twilight Imperium 4 again
- Play some of my as-yet-unplayed GMT Games titles
- Get back into playing Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar
- Play Warcry
Other Goals for 2021
We are all more than just or hobbies, and it’s important to have a wider life than just meeples and wee plastic men. What, therefore, would I like to do in 2020? Cooking has been a big success this year.
I feel that I want to build on this in the coming year. I’m not a vegan and am unlikely to become one, but I do believe that I should be cutting down the amount of meat that I eat. As such, I’d love to have a good go at more plant-based dishes in the coming year. This would help me meet my goal of cutting down on meat, whilst also better equipping me to cook for vegetarian and vegan friends and family.
My goals for this year, beyond those for my hobbies, are:
- Try making more plant-based dishes
- Continue to vary my cooking and be adventurous
- Bring a bit more order to my kitchen
- Have a thorough tidy of my hobby space
- Start planning what I am going to do with my garden (this will be a long-term project)
Happy New Year
And that’s us for now! As I finish up this post, it’s Hogmanay and we’re just a few hours from the bells. It will be a very subdued affair this year, but that’s okay.
When the time comes, join me in raising a glass of whatever you care to drink and welcome in another new year full of possibilities and potential adventure. Mine’ll be a Dalwhinnie!