Sunday, August 27, 2017

Project Management - Planning for Success?

Aaron, author of the fine wargaming blog, Here's No Great Matter, recently ruminated on the topic of when enough is enough when working down The Lead Pile (my term, not Aaron's).  Perhaps, I should name my unpainted lead behemoth in the basement something a bit more visual like "Godzilla?"  "Behemoth in the Basement" is not bad either.  Yeah, that would likely conjure up an image of the monster I face.

Back to Aaron and his thoughts on project management...

Aaron wonders out loud at what point he would be satisfied with his accrued painted armies.  When can one, with confidence and satisfaction, put down the paint brush and rest on one's laurels?  Aaron then proceeds to lay out an interesting and relatively long list of projects.  If finished, he would attain his desired, painting liberation.  Of course, a couple of additional Wish List projects are amended onto this list for good measure!  Aaron's prognosis is that he is about a third of the way to recovery to rid himself of this affliction.  Given his current state on the march towards nirvana, Aaron asks his readers where they fall along this (sometimes) forced march on the road to project completion.  Good question, Aaron!

Aaron provides an interesting blog with a good mix of wargaming (with figures and hex/counter), painting, and a steady flow of thought provoking commentary.  Focus is decidedly towards the Ancients end of the historical wargaming spectrum.  Solo and Face-to-Face gaming appear in seemingly equal proportions.   

Nathan, over at Natholeon's Empires, quickly picked up the gauntlet laid down by Aaron and posited a challenge to his readers.  His challenge is,
You make a Project Management blogpost which includes a list of projects you have / are working on / one day realistically intend to be working on. In the post you link back to the blog of the person that you got this idea from, like I have with Prufrock, and these instructions. That way we might get a chain effect of people discovering new blogs that they hadn't been following before. Or maybe just a bit of community bonding like the 'good old days'.
Nathan quickly came up with a list of about twenty projects that he has either finished, in progress, or some day hoping to build.  Long list of projects, Nathan!  Nathan has a penchant for gaming in 15mm using a wide variety of eras.  All played out in a reasonable size and scope.  His 19th Century and GNW projects are among my favorites to follow and always a treat to see in action on his gaming table.  We share a fondness for Lancashire Games' figures so he must be a good bloke!  

Peter, of Grid Based Wargaming, But Not Always, provides a glimpse of his project plans.  Peter's project list includes a definite Old School feel with Hinchliffe, Spencer, Smith, Airfix, and Minifigs making up the building blocks to new or refurbished projects.  Peter always has interesting rules ideas for gaming  on a grid using his Old School figures.  The reader is placed as co-pilot to observe rules development, playtesting, and refinements.  As a participant in the 6x6 Challenge, a new BatRep is never far off.  Great stuff!

Throwing his productivity hat into the ring, is Mark, author of 1866 And All That.  Mark offers up a list of projects to be completed within the next year-and-a-half that boggles this mind.  A more aggressive long range plan is not likely seen.  If anyone can tackle his plans with success, it is Mark; one of the most prolific painters I know.  Mark is a master craftsman turning out little architectural works of art too.  Oh, if I possessed his talent.  Mark's blog also has a steady stream of fine painted 28mm figures and visually exciting BatReps.

Finally, we move on to my own project plans for the remainder of 2017 and perhaps a bit beyond.  To review where action at the painting table has concentrated in 2017, below are two graphics broken out by ERA and SCALE.

First up is the distribution of painting points by scale.  Not much variation here. Fully 89% of my painting effort thus far has been focused on churning out lead for the 25/28mm projects.  The "Pacman" graph is uninteresting.
I really dislike the "25/28" designation.  Perhaps only the projects using Old School figures should maintain the "25mm" while all of the more modern figures should be classified as "28mm?"  Same holds for "15/18mm."  What is a fella to do?  

A more interesting graphic slices the painting pie by ERA.  The pie is dominated by the recently started 25mm Biblical project.  Wait!  Should that be "28mm Biblical project?"  Are Foundry figures 25mm or 28mm?  Some ranges are 25mm; some are 28mm.  See I am in classification hell already.

The Top Three efforts for 2017 through August in order are:
  1. 25mm Biblical - Assyrian Wars
  2. 28mm Reconquista
  3. 28mm Great Italian Wars
What will the remainder of 2017 hold at the painting desk?

For 28mm, a few more units of Assyrians are planned before I claim a game-ready army.  Also a new basing scheme for Assyrian chariots requires a refitting of eight chariots and the addition of at least twenty-four "runners."  More Assyrians will likely pop into the painting queue while the iron is still hot.

After that, I plan to work-in a few more units for the 28mm Reconquista project.  Having not painted any 28mm Napoleonics for a very long time (painting log shows the last unit mustered out was in May 2016), I would enjoy seeing a unit for the Peninsular War project hit the painting queue.  What will I pick?  Unknown now but I recall the Allies falling behind the French in the arms race.  Enough figures for a cavalry regiment for the long finished ECW project waits patiently for attention from a recent, Empress Miniatures' order.  That would be fun to see these horsemen on the table (or at least in the storage box).  Could the Punic Wars project use a unit or two?  Of course!

With such a preponderance of 28mm figures seeing action on the painting desk thus far, moving down to 15/18mm projects is a reasonable direction to head.  Along those lines of effort, adding more units to the 1799 Suvorov and 1859 Italy projects remain high on my list.  A unit or two of Ashigaru spear for the Samurai Battles project would be useful too.  Any new projects on the horizon?  I am hesitant to look. 

The hobby is not all about painting any more either.  More games have been seen on my gaming table in 2017 than in many years.  Averaging one game per month is a reasonable goal and I am ahead of that schedule.  With a recent foray into 1/72 WWI aerial combat after more than a decades' long hiatus, I envision both modeling and gaming in that space.  Games I would really enjoy moving out onto the gaming table in the final months of 2017?  Great Italian Wars and Reconquista would top that list.  My Great Italian Wars collection awaits its first test in battle.  I look forward to the day these colorful troops deploy on the battlefield.  A return to the Peninsular War would be most welcome too.  Perhaps working in a few generic scenarios from Grant or Thomas would work?  With the success of recent Honours of War games, a return to the SYW battlefield is in mind as well.  Certainly, enough gaming fodder to take me through the remainder of 2017.  Mine is a target rich environment. 

Progress continues on codifying and refining various rules I have in work.  Perhaps, several are to the point of moving beyond "everything on a QRS or in my head" stage?  Of course, I continue giving other rules a workout on the game table and imagine a few more games of Norm Smith's Two Flags-One Nation (see Norm's Battlefields and Warriors blog) before year-end.

To address Aaron's original question posed at the top of this post, I find painting and the reward of seeing yet another unit march off the painting desk too enjoyable to put my brush down any time soon.

Well, this exercise turned into much more than originally conceived but scope creep is often a necessary evil in project planning.


  1. Thanks Jonathan thoughtful stuff. It is interesting to read about what others are doing and planning. Like so many it is the variety of the hobby for me. I do allow myself to wander rather that create fixed plans and targets but that is just my style. 😀

    1. Thank you, Matt. It definitely is the multi-threaded nature of the hobby that I enjoy. If you have followed the Palouse Wargaming Journal for any length of time, you can be assured that I am a wanderer too!

  2. Good overview of the here and now and near future. I know from your blog that your productivity is almost machine-like, with a focus and discipline that I can only admire.

    I think recently the tone of some posts across the board have had a hint of 'rebalancing priorities' in them, so we are seeing gamers with painting schedules, downsizing projects to something more focussed and manageable and trying to get troops to the table more often and to this end, the One Hour Wargames book really seems to have helped some bloggers.

    I suppose in the chaos of lead piles and the number of 'open ended' project and over-stacked shelves, project management gives a glimmer of hope that we haven't quite lost it and can recover to a sustainable level.

    It has partly worked for me, in that I do think about streamlining, which is little better than saying I am self aware of my own problem, but the gap between awareness and action has not fully clicked. But there is a plan and it is unfolding ..... is that good enough to be called project management yet? :-0

    My actions this year have been to start a project update page on my webpage. This did have the effect that I felt I really did have to do something each month to indicate progress, so it worked from that point of view, but in just 6 months, I added three diversions in projects, so I abandoned the updates as all it served to do was highlight my own chaos.

    I have however started tyo move things to ebay on a weekly basis, so that is working for me and for boardgames, I am starting to collect series type games, so that there is a learning of one set of rules for more situations and more play time hours, plus these games tend to be a bit 'deeper' so it makes it easier to harvest a more rewarding level of play.

    I do blog regularly and when I look back at say the last 20 posts, there is a huge variety of topic, which simply serves to highlight the butterfly in me.

    In conclusion, I can only say that I like the idea of project management and I really think that EVERYONE ELSE should do it :-)

    But if you start to see anything on my blog about 12mm 1066 armies, then take it as red that project management has once again caught up with me.

    I do love my engagement with the blogosphere, there is just so much creativity, enthusiasm and friendliness around. I have discovered a whole load of blogs thanks to bloggers running a list of the blogs that they support..

    1. Norm, you have a reasoned and measured approach to the hobby that I admire. I still wrestle with, as you aptly state, a gap between awareness and action. Awareness, though, is a significant step forward, no?

      As for boardgames, I am firmly in your camp with respect to preferring series games. Much easier at this age to learn a core or "series" game and then augment that core with battle specific rules. Many of the boardgames that I prefer fall exactly into that genre. Some don't but most do. Again as you state so very well, "series" games allow for a much deeper and rewarding gaming experience. Repeated playings using a familiar system allows one to optimize play and get the joy that only comes about through "good" play. Against an equally proficient opponent, a contest produces much satisfaction.

      There are so many excellent blogs about and so many fine gentlemen gamers that we are all quite fortunate to bring together our band of like-minded individuals from the four corners of the earth.

      Norm, a thoughtful reply, indeed!
      Thank you!

  3. Interesting post here and good to see your future plans. At present I am using big rock small rock time management idea to utilise small amounts of time to chip away at various projects in various scales.

    Main priority is to enjoy the craft and painting part of the hobby to its fullest potential.

    Gaming is an aside just now.

    Cheers, Ross

    1. Hi Ross! Big Rock/Small Rock is a good approach to time management. Keep in mind that sometimes, the little things ARE the big things!

      Keep plugging away on your projects. I enjoy following your painting and craft work very much.

  4. Thoughtful and interesting post. I always find these engaging when I run across them, and aspire to someday chime in with my own posting. First, I would have to bring order to chaos--either that or I could just make stuff up: this is the internet, after all 😊

    1. Ed, you made me chuckle reading your response! You are quite right. We cannot rely on everything we read on the internet or in a blog post. I tend to think our fellow bloggers are all enthusiastic about their part of the hobby with no need to produce any fake news.

      Bringing order out of chaos is what we all strife to do. Some are more successful that others. How many of us have the ambition to have a range of figures commissioned? Few but I am glad you took that step becuse your 1848 figures are gems!

  5. Wow! I know this is your forte, Johnathan so I can appreciate your assessment. For me, however, it boils down to this all being a hobby - not something to toil over, or even worry about toiling over :) Regards and respect, Dean

    1. Dean, you have me wondering what my forte might be. Is it rambling on about what I plan to work on?

      This is a hobby and if we toil it is due to the energy gained through this venture.

      Dean, you are a perfect example of one who clears out everything to move on to another interest. After a brief time away, your interests were reignited pulling you back to rebuild all from scratch. You must enjoy the journey, the toil, and fellowship!

  6. Interesting to see how others come to this hobby. I love painting so I won't stop until I have to. As for plans, I ask "What are my favorite local players playing?" and go where the historical action is. As as for a lead pile, I work FIFO with a queue of 1 unpainted SAGA warband and some Napoleonic Russians waiting for local players to join up. Both might get traded/sold if times and tastes change. Since I'm not a collector, I'm ruthless with both my painted and unpainted forces.

    1. Monty! Good to see you stop by and leave a comment!

      Your ruthless Just-in-Time approach to buying/painting/selling your figures and collections is well known and documented by me. How you maintain such discipline is a puzzle. Do you ever long for the collections purged?

    2. Oddly, no. There is always the new project to chase, paint, field and then sell. I do worry about having a bunch of X when X falls out of flavor. What an odd thing to worry about!

  7. Jonathan, what a great post. It's nice to hear that you are getting more gaming in (and that you can therefore see some of that magnificent painting you do out on the table!). The wonderful thing about wargaming is that there's something for everyone. You can be a gamer, a painter, a researcher, a historian (I think you yourself may have posted about this before) or any number of other things besides and find aspects that appeal. But the other side of that coin means that there will be aspects of the hobby that won't get a person so excited (ahem, TERRAIN, ahem), and there are some things you just have to push through rather than 'enjoy'.

    I love seeing all the different approaches and have really enjoyed the conversations that we can have about them.


    1. Aaron, your post certainly got me to thinking and I appreciate that! Terrain is a part of the hobby that could use some attention on my end. If I am to game WWII skirmish in earnest, I really need to get busy and build up some terrain for 28mm skirmish gaming. So many other tasks always push me in another direction, though.

      You started an interesting dialog. Perhaps we can continue this conversation or pick it up again later?

  8. I've been primarily focused on the great Italian wars for the past four years, with forays into ECW, last year I started Napoleonic, which will be the next big project, my nephews have persuaded me into collecting a bolt action force which I hope won't take as long to paint as landsknechts and napoleonics and I need to do some frostgrave figures, I haven't got any plans on hanging up my brushes until I can't paint /see! I thought Aaron's original post was very interesting as well.
    Best Iain

    1. Iain, I have enjoyed following your Great Italian Wars work. Yours is a motivation for my own GIW project. ECW and Napoleonics are favored eras of my own and I look forward to following developments on both!

      As you, I have no plans to retire the brushes any time soon.

      Aaron's original post as well as Nathan's extension were both interesting!

  9. Very interesting post Jonathan. I generally have projects, schedules, etc in mind when I start something, but tend to find them constantly altered by the interests of my gaming buddies. Grrr!

    1. Hi Rod! Having gaming buddies at all, let alone with varying interests is a blessing and a worthy diversion.

  10. Great post, Jonathan, and a nice summary of what has been talked about so far. I think it is mild OCD that makes me think that there must be some end-point in sight with regards to my hobby - some distant goal where I can say, 'I am satisfied now'. I just can't accept the idea that I will be in a cycle of buy-paint-sell for the rest of my years, but a surprising number of gamers have indicated that they are very happy with this open-endedness.

    I am definitely looking forward to seeing your Italian Wars on the table.

    1. Thank you, Nathan. I suggest we all may lean towards mild OCD. How else do you rationalize our project planning and execution that can extend to, some times, multi-year projects? These long term projects can require great perseverance and focus. By the way, my cycle is buy-paint-play...

  11. Great read, Jonathan. Like you my real goal is to play more games - I have managed 13 games year to date.

    1. Thank you, Mark. You certainly have participated in a great many terrific looking games in 2017!