The Strange Vistas of 2020

To say, “what a year, huh?” seems also absurd. So the good news: I didn’t lose my job or my home, and no one in my immediately family got sick or died from COVID-19. We survived (so far) and that counts for a lot. Emotionally the last year was devastatingly difficult for my family, with the most facing issue being the behavioral decline of my step-daughter “MJ”, who suffers from autism as well as intellectual and emotional disabilities. I don’t talk about my real life much, probably an artifact from once getting bounced out of a job possibility because the hiring committee did an internet deep-dive on me and discovered an obscure blog (not this one) where I used a word of profanity, which in their minds was unforgivable. But there were a lot of days where my wife and I just struggled to get through the day, make sure our daughter was asleep, and then crash out.

In the end, our daughter was placed in a residential facility this past Autumn, things changed dramatically, and now we are still adjusting to what the new reality looks like. In the meantime, I continue to bounce around from project to project, using my hobbies as a way to help manage my own existence.

Enough about that. How did all that hobby stuff go? In each month, I will link to what I think is the most seminal of the posts.

January
It is weird to look back on January and realize that the big moment was when I gamed with a group outside of my regular group that I’ve been with for the better part of a decade and found it revitalizing. I started thinking less about long, involved RPG campaigns and more about loosely-connected episodic games designed more for casual play. Little did I know…

February
I’m still gaming with friends, including a game at a local campus ministry facility. Perhaps the biggest thing is that I start printing and painting non-ruined fantasy buildings as part of a larger vision of creating an entire city table.

March
This is when my world starts to suddenly tilt wildly. The big plan for a whole new gaming group is scuttled. Now that the children are being sent home from school following Spring Break, and I’m starting to work from home, I get back into painting miniatures, particularly the Plague Marines from the 40K starter box set.

April
It is in this month that the reality of what is happening really sinks in. In an almost unthinkable moment, my church does not gather for Easter, the highest feast day of the year. Stay at home orders are being issued, and the debate about what are reasonable protocols to adopt start to rage.
I begin to explore options on ways to do wargames at home, using units that I print, rather than purchase, starting with World War Tesla.

May
I begin playing RPG’s with my older two children, Mac and Macy. Science fiction, rather than fantasy, occupies my interest. While not depicted in the blog, I also begin to realize that solo wargaming is something I should be considering, given how unlikely it is that I am going to be hanging out with friends any time soon.

June
June was a particularly difficult month for us. We are teased with having MJ attend summer school only to have it end after two weeks. Around us, people are pushing hard to get back to normal, but the numbers can not be denied. In my search for solo wargames I discover Zona Alfa and Hardwired, and in those two weeks of relief manage to paint an entire skirmish warband for the latter.

July
There are only two blog posts in this month, a subtle clue that things had begun to go really, really badly at home. So much so that all I have to really write about is how I had realized that two out of three of my “quaranteam” gaming group (my two older children and close friend of theirs that had been allowed into our bubble) were heading off to college. So that small, barely-formed group was basically doomed to collapse in another month or so. The other post was just about how I was printing things. I was always printing stuff, mostly because it didn’t demand much of my attention.

August
The miniature painting mojo continues to grow, and I’m able to crank out a surprising thirteen miniatures this month. I decide to try out Operation Last Train, and set one of the few major hobby goals of the year: get this game to the table.

September
Things at home hit the breaking point, and MJ suggests to us something we had been strongly considering ourselves: moving her into a residential facility. While we thought that it would take a long time to implement, it goes surprisingly quickly and at the end of the month she moves in. Meanwhile there are outbreaks at the high school and college my other two children attend. The struggle of the month is really reflected in the lack of posts (including one post that is just me writing, rather than showing anything I have made).

October
Thus it may not be surprising that I am able, at this point, to actually play one of the only (if not the only) wargame of 2020 in October. I do begin to think about planning for the end of the pandemic and building objects for in-person RPG play.

November
Lots and lots of sci-fi terrain got made in hopes of using it in future games of Operation Last Train or Stargrave. Meanwhile at MJ’s facility despite major efforts to keep everyone safe there is a massive outbreak. In a story that never finds its way into the news, a majority of the residents are infected and several hospitalized. Five out of six of MJ’s peers in her dorm test positive, but somehow she manages to stay safe. She will be moved three times in this month into an increasingly smaller subset of COVID-free students. The facility goes into hard lockdown with no in-person visits, a status that continues to this day.

December
This past month I’ve shifted back into fantasy terrain, mostly because Nightwatch has come out and offers a simple fantasy tweak of Hardwired, meaning I could tap into my large number of fantasy miniatures. Like the previous Easter and Pentecost, the third and final major feast day of the calendar year comes and goes without in-person worship. While Easter fell in the early weeks of the quarantine, losing Christmas feels worse because there was at least some thought that we might be farther along by now. But the numbers of cases and death coming out of the county would be terrifying in April but are de rigeur in December, and it seems a sure thing that Easter 2021 will not be in-person either.

Ending on a positive note
Posts in 2020: including this one, 56 (up from 36 in 2019).
Views in 2020 (as of this moment): 6,673, a huge jump from the 1,979 in 2019.
Miniatures painted in 2020: 58. The last time I got even close to that was 2012, which had a weighted 150, meaning I was counting vehicles and the like as more points. I’m particularly proud of that.

I’ll write about what I hope to see in 2021 in a later post, but in the meantime I would like to just say how much I appreciate the odd comment that shows me that people are reading and enjoying this blog. I hope you are all safe and well, and wish you all the best in the year to come.

-Rob

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