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The Wargamer's Notebook

Like many wargamers, I played a lot in my teens, fell out of the habit in my early 20s and then rediscovered it as an adult - just as career demands, responsibilities and a family conspired to drain time and money away from me!

Through the fallow period of my re-entry into gaming, and latterly into my pursuit of more and wider historical genres, I was geographically isolated: living in the countryside and not driving, so my wargaming became more of a paper exercise, and I invested a lot of time and energy in writing down all of my ideas.

ALL of them...and I put them down in what I came to call the Book of Arcane Scribblings, and here it is - Volume Eight:

The content of my notebook has evolved over the years, but this essential aide-memoire goes everywhere with me and - broadly speaking - tends to contain pages dedicated to the following, all painstakingly dated, indexed and cross-referenced:

  • A master list of which forces I have in which scales for which rules systems and how 'painted' they are (or not)
  • A record of every single wargame I play, in every system, including the opponent, the forces and the result
  • A record of hobby expenditure by month (this should really be encoded in case it falls into the Wrong Hands)
  • A detailed breakdown of each of my forces by unit, including notes on composition and their painted status
  • After-action write-ups of key games, including lessons learnt
  • A master list of everything I finish painting, in date order
  • To-do lists (no fun)
  • Wish lists (much more fun)
  • Plans, edits, feedback and re-writes for the scenarios and missions I like to write
  • Step-by-step painting guides...for my own use
  • Notes on how I base each of my forces
  • Ideas for storing and transporting my forces
  • Notes on articles, reviews and posts for WSS (of course!)
  • Notes on FAQ changes, house-rules and ideas for rule tweaks
  • Most pleasingly one of the very earliest entries - back in Volume One - was for Dungeons and Dragons character notes...and so is the most recent - today's - some 27 years later!

As someone who is both thoughtful and very forgetful, I find my Book of Arcane Scribblings to be absolutely indispensable, and I would urge any wargamer who doesn't already have one to pick up a notebook, cheaply or otherwise (Volume One was rescued unused from a bin outside my school in the early 90s), just to give you something always to hand in which you can scribble notes for where your flanking cavalry will enter the board, or record the hilarious deeds of your suicidally heroic PIAT team.

Evidently this is not a subject which lends itself to easy photographs, but here is a selection of the content:

Detailed lists of forces...

Records of games played...

Lists of stuff painted...

Storage solutions...

This next bit is unashamedly for stationery geeks...

The book in use currently is far and away my favourite ever - it's the gorgeous Leuchtturm 1917 A5 Hardcover in ice blue, and it's the loveliest thing I've ever treated myself to...

I choose squared pages as I find them best for sketching scenario maps and other ideas, but lined, plain and dotted options are also available. The A5 size is perfect for travelling (especially with the hard cover to lean on) and I've enhanced mine with a pen-loop for the incomparable Bic 0.7 propelling pencil. Some of the other great features of this notebook include numbered pages, detachable pages, rounded corners, a pocket inside the back cover, two page-markers and a sturdy elastic loop to enclose it.

I also keep small stacks of post-it notes inside the covers...just in case.

NB: A fortnight ago, I pledged to paint five of my 1/56 1940 German vehicles by mid-June, and to my surprise I've pretty much finished it...but it'll too late to make this post with photos, so it'll be in my next one. Didn't think that one through properly, did I?!

12 thoughts on “The Wargamer's Notebook”

  • Alex

    I enjoyed this article and it's so true. I use an A5 notebook for theory bashing & remembering painting schemes too!

  • Mark Jessop

    I wish I could be as organised as you, I love the work you have put into them. I used to keep a notebook in my back pocket (I wrote rules ideas, paint schemes etc.) all the time. But, I now use the notebook feature on my phone but it's not as nice.

    You have inspired me to get a proper notebook and go back to analogue. Thank you.


    • Chris King

      Thanks, Mark - I'm delighted to hear it! Some folks love their electronic devices, but for me, nothing comes close to the tactile convenience of a good notebook!

  • Peter

    Great post - I had started trying to record paint schemes and basing colours on my Chromebook, but have signally failed to keep it up to date, probably because it lacks immediacy (and I am not the world's biggest techno-phile). Suitably inspired, I have ordered today two of these notebooks and am already mentally mapping out their contents! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Chris King

      Thank you, Peter - I hope and trust you'll not regret it!

      (I also keep certain hobby records digitally, but you're right: it really does lack immediacy. Plus, I can scribble at night if sudden inspiration takes me, and I couldn't stand to have the laptop with me in bed!)

  • Jon Yuengling

    I also keep gaming journals, I wish I had my earlier ones. I also will have a journal per project, so now I have Spanish American War 1898 and Netherlands 1940. Helps keep me motivated.

    • Chris King

      Hello Jon,

      I love the idea of keeping a specific journal for a particular project - what a great reference that would be!

  • Joe McKeen

    I too keep an A6 notebook at my painting desk and take notes on the( few) paint schemes that I have used.
    Regarding the wargames planning an A5 ring bound book is my go-to for taking notes

    • Chris King

      Great to hear, Joe, and thanks for swinging by!

      Yes, the stationery geek in me is also a massive fan of ring-binding and spiral-binding - you're in good company, I feel.

  • Phil

    Hi Chris

    After a long debate admittedly with myself over digital or analogue when my last painting book collapsed, you have inspired me to go back to a book as well. Like the idea from above of a book a project but to start with mine has just arrived and looking forward to seeing how it develops over the coming months. Cheers. Phil

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