https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/hastings-950-in-pound-store-plastic/ crossposting from our sister blog.
14 October 1066, 9 a.m. Somewhere near Hastings …
My contribution to the Hastings 950 anniversary will be a small one.
William the Conqueror on horseback meets King Harold.
King Harold is Peter Laing figure F220 Dismounted Officer (Harold)
M209 Mounted Norman Officer (William) in the Peter Laing Feudal and Dark Ages range.
These two figures are about the extent of my Peter Laing Dark Ages Norman army!
Posted by Man of TIN blog.
Robert Louis Stevenson, taken from the “Stevenson at Play” magazine article by Lloyd Osbourne, 1898.
Incidental Hobby Learning Bit
“The pleasure does not begin and end with the actual playing of the war-game. There are many pleasant hours to be spent in making model soldiers, painting them, constructing terrain, carrying out research into battles, tactics and uniforms …”
This is one of my favourite or reassuring quotes from Donald Featherstone, War Games 1962 when my gaming life seems to be too much preparation time, not enough games time.
Part of the interest (or irritation?) of researching and amending games rules is working out ranges of weapons etc. over time compared to each other.
I have been looking at adapting my hex version of Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars appendix to his 1962 War Games from 18th century forest skirmish to running simple WW2 platoon level games inspired by rediscovering a handful of childhood Peter Laing WW2 15mm figures.
Lots of questions arise from adapting or thinking through rules and ranges:
How far / fast can a man move on average carrying battle kit and weapons?
How fast is a loaded infantryman on a bicycle? Off road / on road?
How fast is a despatch rider off road / on road?
Movement and firing ranges
The original ‘Close Wars’ rules by Featherstone has a Redcoat / Infantry man in the French and Indian Wars travelling at 9 inches in loose formation under 3 figures or in formation 6 inches in cluttered terrain (natives carrying less and living off the land etc moved 9 inches).
We take each 3 inches to be a Heroscape hex square.
A British, German or American infantryman carrying their weapons and field kit is probably carrying as much stuff and clobber (weapons, ammunition, backpack, tools, food, spare uniform, water) as their ancestors 200 years before.
Effective Firing Ranges
Looking at effective firing ranges there is an interesting range of Wikipedia sites to research the weapons that the Peter Laing small WW2 platoon range are likely to be carrying.
In Featherstone’s simple Close Wars appendix, firing is 12 inches range, presumably for a Brown Bess musket , which I also take to be the firing range for native bow and arrow, spear etc., treating all the same just for simplicity.
Featherstone’s figures for his demonstration battles vary from 30mm Spencer Smith figures to 20mm Airfix figures without any alteration of any firing range.
A Brown Bess musket used from 1722 to 1838 by the British and American army (and beyond in many countries into the 1860s) had an effective firing range as a flintlock muzzle loading musket of 50 to 100 yards (or 45 to 90 metres). This would give us only around a 1 hex firing range. Even once converted slowly to the percussion cap from 1838 onwards, its effective range would only increase to 300 yards (270 metres or 2 hexes).
David Nash’s War Games book (paperback, 1970s) is an unusual colourful offering for the time with some uniform plates, being mostly information for those researching their own rules, working out weapons and army lists. He has an interesting weapons graph comparing a British 303 WW2 rifle compared to a French musket:
Weapons graph from David Nash’s Wargames (Hamlyn, 1974)
In Featherstone’s WW2 rules and in ‘Close Wars’, a rifle fires up to 12 inches. In his Horse and Musket / American Civil war simple rules in War Games, this is slightly more complex. Featherstone rules that a Rifle (still counted as a volley) can fire from 6 to 24 inches with a more effective hit rate the closer the range / target. Carbines have a shorter range of 12 inches and light troops are given an effective firing range of up to 30 inches, presumably to cover the introduction of rifles and sharpshooters?
“Like most muskets the Brown Bess was not very accurate because the ball had to be quite loose for ease of loading. It would be very hard to hit another soldier by deliberately aiming at him at ranges greater than 100m. This inherent lack off accuracy was compensated for by having a large number of men fire their muskets at the same time at very short range, sometimes less that 25m.” http://waterloo200.org/200-object/brown-bess-musket-bayonet/
In his simple Ancient rules in War Games, Donald Featherstone lists Longbow / crossbow etc having a range from 6 up to 24 inches. Javelin / spears are 3 to 9 inches (Roman Pilum are 3 inches only). So we are blurring it a bit making all distance weapons at 12 inches but it makes for simpler faster game play.
This simple WW2 range for platoon level action is highly praised for its balance on the Tim’s Tanks blogspot , which gave me my glimpse of the Americans for the first time (albeit doubled up as British Paratroops) : http://timstanks.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/peter-laing-15mm-miniatures.html
Any shortfalls in Tim’s Tanks WW2 Peter Laing collection were patched, as with my own Peter Laing WW2 troops, from Peter’s WW1 range.
“This range was ahead of its time and the figures surprisingly well thought through. For each nationality (British, U.S. or German) there was a sidearm equipped officer figure, a SMG armed NCO, an infantryman advancing with rifle at high port, an LMG and No.2 and a Light Mortar and No.2. Lovely figures, perfect for the task”. (Tim’s Tanks Peter Laing WW2 themed blogpost)
Researching WW2 weapons effective firing ranges
Featherstone has ‘Rifle’ in his simplified WW2 rules in War Games as 12 inches (or 4 hexes) so assuming 500 metres to be 12 inches or 30 centimetres / 300mm on our games table, this gives us a rough working scale of:
3 inch hex equals 125 metres.
1 inch equals 42 (41.6) metres
1 centimetre equals 17 metres (or 16.666 metres)
Standard WW2 British Rifle – assumed to be Lee Enfield 303 rifle with effective firing range 500 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard WW2 German Rifle – assumed to be Mauser KAR 98k – also with effective firing range 500 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard WW2 American Rifle – assumed to be the M1 Garand – also with effective firing range of 450 to 500 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard British WW2 SMG Submachinegun – assumed to be the Sten Gun with effective firing range 100 metres. The Thompson SMG (see below) was also used by Commando forces etc. (3 inches or 1 hex)
Standard American WW2 SMG Submachinegun – assumed to be the Thompson or Tommy Gun with effective firing range 150 metres. The later 1944/45 M3 Grease Gun is often shown in many plastic figures with effective firing range / sights set to 91 metres (both sets at 3 inches or 1 hex).
Standard British WW2 LMG light machinegun – assumed to be the Bren Gun with effective firing range 550 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard German WW2 LMG light machinegun – assumed to be the MG34 with effective firing range of 1200 metres or from 1942 the MG42 with effective firing range 200 to 2000 metres. (As this is potentially over 24 inches / 8 hexes, this could be standardised to between this or down to that of the other nations LMGs, 12 inches or 4 inches)
Standard American WW2 LMG light machinegun – assumed to be the Browning Automatic Rifle BAR with effective firing range 600 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
The WW1 Lewis Gun was also used early in WW2 mostly with Commonwealth units.
Standard British Light Mortar is the 2 inch light mortar (crew of 2) with an effective firing range of 460 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard German Light Mortar 50mm / 5cm Granatwerfer 36 light mortar (crew of 2) with an effective firing range of 50 to 500 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard American Light Mortar is the 60mm M2 light mortar (crew of 2 -3) with an effective firing range of 180 to 300 metres (or 9 inches or 3 hexes)
Standard British Heavy machinegun HMG is the Vickers (crew of 2-3) with an effective firing range of 2000 metres (or 48 inches / 16 hexes).
Standard German Heavy machinegun HMG is the WW1 Maxim MG08 (crew of two) with an effective firing range of 2000 metres (or 48 inches / 16 hexes).
Standard American Heavy machinegun HMG is the M2 Browning HMG (crew of 2) with an effective firing range of 1800 metres (or 48 inches / 16 hexes).
Grenades – the German WW1 /WW2 M24 stick grenade had an effective range / throw of around 30 metres, twice that compared to the British Mills Grenade at 15 metres. You can give them a range effective up to 1 hex.
As can be seen from the similar effective firing ranges of HMGs at around 48 inches or 16 hexes makes them almost to big for the average small skirmish gaming board.
Pistols – The Webley British pistol had an effective range of only about 50 yards / 45 metres. The German Luger equivalent also had an effective firing range of about 50 metres. American officers may have carried a range of revolvers including the semiautomatic M1911 pistol . These are effectively melee weapons but you can give them a range effective up to 1 hex.
Scaling up to 54mm skirmish games
As Featherstone was playing / writing rules in War Games using 20 to 30mm figures, and we have been pushing this down to 15mm, scaling up to 54mm skirmish games in the tabletop of the garden could for simplicity require a simple doubling of the inches or hexes noted. A rifle in 54mm games could therefore fire up to 24 inches (two feet) or 8 hexes, easily achievable in the garden / yarden.
Weapons of other nations
Peter Laing sadly did not make WW2 Soviets, Japanese, jungle or desert troops. However items from his WW1 range could be used or simple paint conversions done, which Peter Laing’s simple figures lend themselves well to. His WW1 German infantry paint up well as long trousered Afrika Korps. Tim in his Tim’s Tanks blog has for example painted the Peter Laing American infantry as British paras.
Readers will need to research the respective nation’s weapons or simply adapt the standardised ranges we have for different weapon types carried by whatever troops or figures you use. Donald Featherstone in his WW2 rules or elsewhere in War Games rarely distinguishes by a nation’s choice of weapons for simplicity’s sake.
What is effective firing range?
All references to firing ranges etc. are from that excellent, most accurate and occasionally mocked source of knowledge, Wikipedia!
Effective Firing Range and its relation to the further distance / effective firing ranges of machine guns are explained on http://guns.wikia.com/wiki/Effective_range
Q 19. What is the definition of Maximum Effective Range?
The greatest distance at which a soldier may be expected to deliver a target hit, as defined in http://www.armystudyguide.com/content/army_board_study_guide_topics/m16a2/m16a2-study-guide.shtml
Blogposted by Mr MIN Man of TIN, October 2016
I wanted in this skirmish games to get a motley collection of Peter Laing 15mm British and German infantry into action, WW2 figures bolstered by late war WW1 British and German Infantry in steel helmets.
I wanted to fight another skirmish over the hex terrain portable game board that I had laid out for the American Civil War skirmish a few weeks previously.
I also wanted to test out a platoon level infantry scrap with few heavy weapons and almost no vehicles using a mash up of Donald Featherstone’s ‘Close Wars’ appendix rules to his 1962 War Games with a few additions from his simple WW2 rules in that book.
A lucky find of some Peter Laing WW1 / WW2 figures (lots of Sapper figures) amongst a job lot of 15mm WW2 figures of various manufactures gave me just enough for a small platoon level skirmish. Sappers and others had rifles added by me from finely carved slivers of wooden coffee stirrers.
This gave me a scratch force of British infantry:
Three 5 man sections of pioneers or sappers with rifles and shovels (handy in a scrap!)
1 light mortar team (2 men)
1 Light Machine Gun (Bren Gun) team
1 motorcycle despatch rider
A light 2pounder anti tank gun team with three men emerge in Turn 5. A spare Bren gunner was also found to join the British several turns in.
Versus a much larger but slightly lightly equipped German infantry group:
A larger infantry force of German infantry consisted of:
Three cycle reconnaissance troops
1 German despatch rider
Five x 5 men rifle squads directed by 1 officer with pistol
1 light machine gun (MG34) team of two men
1 light mortar team of 2 men
Officer and two rifle men
The game was played solo over two evenings with a skirmish figure scale of 1 figure = 1 man.
Arrival of different sections and weapons at a different times and locations was staggered by dice throws d6. The two board(s) being roughly marked with 6 by 6 squares A to L and 1-6, arrival of different sections was diced for using 1 d6.
Indirect artillery fire could be plotted in using this grid system and dicing to see which turn this lands but none was used in this game.
The Germans started with their reconnaissance troops (3 rifle equipped bicycle troops) in place at the river crossing and to the North a British 5 man pioneer unit of sappers and officer and the Bren Gun team on the board.
Dice thrown at start of each move to see who moves first, other side second, first side also fire first, other side second – highest score wins first move.
To speed things up, no casualty savings throws were used after Melee.
In Turn 1, Germans moved first and shots were exchanged without casualty between the British motorcyclist and the German cycle troops who were behind the cover of the stone farm walls.
In Turn 2, the British despatch rider was not so lucky! In turn the first British rifle volley brings down one German infantryman.
Playing solo, deciding which of the two possible British infantry targets the German troops fire at is decided by dice throw: roll 1 to 3 aim at Bren gun team on left, 4 to 6 at British infantry on right.
The terrain is the same portable hex wooden box lid territory as used for the American Civil War skirmish, but with the house location moved and a small wooden hut used instead.
The high rocks and the forest either side of the river are deemed impassable, the river unfordable. This concentrates the efforts into dominating the crossings and the ground between them with all available firepower.
The Peter Laing WW2 German officer and infantry with rifles are really WW1 Germans with steel helmets.
Turn 3 sees more infantry on each side appear on the game board. Line of fire is checked with a reversed Lionel Tarr style periscope (from another appendix in Featherstone’s 1962 War Games).
Turn 4 sees the British move first and a further British rifle squad appear near where their despatch rider was killed. They close in melee with the German cyclists and two are killed for the loss of one British infantryman.
Turn 5 sees more German troops emerge onto the board. The German motorcyclist emerges onto the board only to be blocked and killed in melee with three British Infantry.
One of the British Bren Gun team is hit – I diced quickly to see if another nearby British soldier could help man the gun and it to remain operational. It did and brought down a German infantryman, as did the light field gun. Fortunately for the Germans the British light mortar team is just out of range.
In Turn 6 the German Light Machine Gun MG34 and light mortar teams (each of two men) make it onto the Board at G and J on the German / South side of the river.
This mortar team in Turn 7 take out one British infantry, whilst melee and rifle fire take out 3 German infantry and 2 further British.
The forest, impassable scrub, rocky ridge and river crossings continue to create safe spaces or bunchings but once the mortars come into action, lobbing their shells over trees and obstacles etc, these safe spaces are no more.
The British field gun is a board game piece from childhood.
In Turn 8, this gun begins to damage the hut and the Germans inside it. Melee, mortar and rifle fire brought down 8 German infantry including their officer and 3 British including their officer.
By Turn 9 , a stalemate has set in – the British mortar team from behind cover takes out the German Light Machine Gun team. Positions are consolidated. Both sides have lost their officers.
If the German infantry remain in the cover of the hut, they will eventually be killed by the 2 pounder which is just out of rifle range.
The British bridge position is now covered by one British mortar team and two Bren gun teams.
In Turn 10, the German mortar team move closer towards the British position whilst four German infantry take cover behind the stone wall to give themselves a better field of fire onto the British dominated bridge, should anyone try to cross it. Many of the German and British troops are now out of sight of each other and out of rifle range.
A lucky ‘counter battery’ hit by the British mortar team on their German rival reduces the last opportunity of the Germans to dislodge their opponents without a fatal rifle charge.
Turn 12 – the German infantry dice to advance or stay put. They stay put but a further German infantryman in the hut is then killed by 2 pounder fire.
By Turn 14, one of the British mortar team is hit crossing the British sector bridge. The last German in the hut retreats over the German bridge behind the stone wall.
Turn 15 – no movement, just British gun and mortar fire.
Turn 16 – The 5 Germans behind the stone wall must decide what to do as they are now within British mortar range. 1-2 Advance, 3-4 Retreat, 5-6 Stay Put. They roll d6 – advance.
3 Germans killed are crossing the bridge under rifle and gun fire; the bridge is destroyed (d6 1-3 destroyed, 4-6 intact). In the return fire, a further British infantryman is hit.
Turn 17 – German infantry retreat behind wall out of rifle range, their bridge blown.
The game is at an end, nominally a British victory but all depends on whose reinforcements turn up first.
Play testing these Close Little World Wars rules
The increasingly dominant force in this game were the heavier weapons – mortars, light machine guns and the light field gun. It would be interesting to play / replay this game at rifle squad level without (some of) these other weapons.
This and the restricted terrain created the shape and the pressures of this solo game.
Posted by Man of TIN blog, October 2016.
Close Little (World ) Wars
Recently I have been improvising a WW2 platoon level version of Donald Featherstone’s ‘Close Wars’ rules. These were originally written as an appendix in his book War Games (1962), as suitable rules for 18th Century redcoat versus tribal natives in a cluttered forest or wooded terrain.
I have been looking for very simple platoon level WW2 game rules, suitable for Peter Laing’s limited 15mm WW2 range, which were designed to give “a most satisfactory infantry action game”
Bolt Action they may not be, but it is interesting to look at the background logic, assumptions, simplifications, mechanisms and whys or wherefores involved to make suitable rules and weapons ranges for your style of game.
These simple rules could be used with WW2 infantry action in wooded or cluttered terrain, where vehicles cannot easily follow such as Normandy ’44 bocage hedged terrain (but without armoured vehicles) or early 1939-40 infantry action, the Bicycle Blitzkreig, the withdrawal to Dunkirk etc.
An Operation Sealion invasion of Britain scenario (1939 /1940/ 1941) is also possible with the few WW2 types that Peter Laing made. (I’m source some of them could double up as The Warmington Home Guard as required.)
Once artillery, heavy machine guns, vehicles and other long range weapons are introduced, the distances and ranges become too big for the smaller game boards and tabletops I work with.
Reference to weapons ranges and other scenario rules (buildings, street fighting etc) as situations emerge can be made to the ‘Simple WW2 rules’ that Donald Featherstone includes in his 1962 book War Games; the Close Wars rules are an appendix to this book (shown at end of blogpost).
Using 20mm plastic figures with a wider range of troop types available gives the possibility of an interesting jungle action of cluttered terrain which could be played with a box of Airfix OO/HO Australian / Gurkha infantry or US Marines and a box of Japanese infantry. Get those palm trees out to replace the fir trees.
1 figure = 1 man in skirmish rules.
Small numbers, small tables, short actions or games time = my style of usually solo game.
Aims or Victory Conditions
The aim of each force (as set out in Featherstone’s Close Wars rules) unless otherwise described is:
1. to seek out and destroy their enemy.
2. Alternatively, to get at least 50% of your troops to the opposite enemy baseline
However for each game, you can set your own scenario end or Victory Conditions.
This usually involves fighting to the last man, but occasionally involves rescuing or escorting to safety civilians, stretcher bearers or secret plans.
WW2 Peter Laing figures
WW2 Infantry Movement Rates
Infantry on foot move 6 inches per move or 2 hex / squares.
Uphill – moves up (opposed or unopposed) hills count as 1 hex / squares or half rate move e.g. 3 inches.
Motorised vehicle e.g. motorcycle despatch rider moves 12 inches per move or 4 hex squares off-road (Plus 3 inches / 1 hex on road). Bicycle moves 12 inches on road / 4 hexes, 9 inches / 3 hexes offroad.
Stretcher bearers move 1 hex per move. They are not armed.
If deemed passable, fording streams take 3 inches or 1 hex to cross. Fording places or bridges can be marked out.
Bogs and marshes (if deemed passable) at half speed eg 1 hex square per move. Other impassable features you can introduce include marked minefields.
Moves on clear paths or roads (if they exist) have 3 inch extra or 1 hex extra BONUS per move.
Crossing walls, fences etc or other barriers – as required, throw dice 1-3 yes, 4-6 no; takes 1 hex of a move.
Firing (if range of fire clear)
Range of LMG light machine guns (Bren Gun, MG34) – 12 inches or 4 hexes; throw 1 dice for LMG, full score counts as hits.
Rifles have a range of 12 inches or 4 hexes. Throw one d6 dice per firing man: 6 scores a hit.
If firer is under cover or in buildings, 5 or 6 scores a hit on enemy.
SMG or Submachine Guns (Sten, Tommy, etc) – 6 inches or 2 hexes; SMG – half dice counts as hits.
Pistols have under 6 inches or 1 hex range. Throw one d6 dice per firing man: 6 scores a hit. If firer is under cover or in buildings, 5 or 6 scores a hit on enemy
HMG (e.g. Maxim gun) – 18 inches or 6 hexes; Featherstone has a Mitrailleuse rule for ACW throw dice 1 to 3 entitles one dice for hits. 4 to 6 entitles 2 dice for hits.
WW1 / WW2 Maxim / heavy machine guns had an effective firing range of up to 2000 metres (effectively 48 inches or 16 hexes) which is too much for our space.
Mortars (2 inch or 50 mm / 60mm) require 2 man crew – target range from 1 hex to 3 hexes. Burst pattern for 50mm mortar is 3 inches or one hex. Roll d6 – if 3,4,5,6 hit target hex; all in nominated hex counted as hit.
Grenades – treat as mortars but with one hex throwing range /burst pattern; all in that square /hex counted as hits. Roll d6 – if 3,4,5,6 – all in nominated hex counted as hit.
Casualty Savings Throws
For each man hit, throw a casualty saving throw.
If fired on, each casualty has a d6 thrown for him. 4,5,6 wounded and carry on. If 123, casualty is dead.
If casualty under cover, 3,4,5,6 wounded and carry on 1,2,3 dead (except for mortar fire where use above as if not under cover)
You can choose to dispense with casualty savings throws if you wish, after firing and /or Melee. This gives a faster game.
Light Field Artillery
To check line of sight / range of fire, the Lionel Tarr reversed periscope can be used for fun to get you down to table top toy soldier eye level.
2 pounder anti tank gun with crew of 3 (British QF) using Featherstone rules counts as LMG throw 1 dice, full score counts as hits.
2 pdr gun if hit by mortar: 10-12 knocked out, 9 knocked out for 2 moves, 8 knocked out for 3 moves. Crew? Casualty savings throws.
Turns consist of four sections:
a) First side moves (possible melee)
b) Other side moves (possible melee)
c) First side fires
d) Other side fires
Throw dice at start of each game turn for each side to see who moves first.
Variations on this include: 1st side Move, 2nd side Fire , 1st side Fire, 2nd side move.
This is the ‘Bish Bash Am-Bush’ bit! Assume each man has something to fight at close hand with (pistols, clubs, rifles, bayonets, entrenching tools, fists or boots, etc)
Remember – We are playing 1:1 scale, each figure represents one man.
Melee is joined when one group of figures invades or faces the other square / hex.
You can add +1 to d6 throw for attacking side (if you choose / remember / can be bothered.) This is what Featherstone calls impetus bonus.
Choose pairs (of attacker vs. defender) and throw 1 d6 for each man involved.
Attacker can have the + 1 added to their d6 dice throw (if you choose / remember / can be bothered).
Highest score wins, loser can throw casualty saving throw* to see if killed 1-3 or only wounded / unharmed 4-6
Continue until each man has been involved in melee.
“Usual dice saving throws for melee Casualties” – Donald Featherstone.
* Or not if you want to speed things up.
Melee Morale Test (if desired / wanted / can be bothered)
At end of melee session, throw d6 for each side to see who wins melee morale test and who loses and retires 1 hex backwards. Some Featherstone versions times the dice by number of each side to come up with a post Melee Morale score.
Then d6 again for losers to see if routed:
Throw 1-3 in rout, unable to fire or move further that round, effectively in modern games terms “pinned”. Roll again next move to see if still routed and retreating. A suitable coloured marker can be added to remember this.
or throw 4-6 in good order, retreat only one pace / hex.
Movement and ranges
The original ‘Close Wars’ appendix rules by Featherstone has a Redcoat Infantry man in the French and Indian Wars travelling at 9 inches in loose formation (under 3 figures) or in formation (over 3 figures) 6 inches in cluttered terrain. Natives carrying less and living off the land etc moved 9 inches.
In cluttered terrain, I assume that a heavily encumbered infantryman in WW2 is still carrying about the same amount of stuff and moving at the same speed as his ancestor in the 18th Century. Hopefully his boots and field rations would have improved though!
I take each 3 inches to be a Heroscape hex square.
Featherstone has a ‘Rifle’ range in his simplified WW2 rules and in Close Wars appendix rules both as 12 inches (which I take to be about 4 hexes) so assuming 500 metres to be 12 inches or 30 centimetres / 300mm, this gives us a rough working scale of a 3 inch hex equals 125 metres.
1 inch equals 42 (41.6) metres
1 centimetre equals 17 metres (or 16.666 metres)
More in our blogpost Researching WW2 equipment ranges, matching the limited weapons ranges shown in the Peter Laing range to the rules.
It is possible to scale this set of rules and ranges up to 54mm skirmish games by simply doubling the ranges etc set out above. This would allow the use of 54mm Airfix, Britain’s Deetail or Pound Store plastic figures; I intend in better weather in future to try these Close Little (World) Wars rules outside as a garden game fought “on the beaches and on the landing grounds …” Sorry, on the flower beds and garden terrain. Could be fun!
Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, October 2016.
My portable game board is a real ‘hex-scape’ in a busy working week and a busy household. I can pick it up, ponder a few turns of a solo game and then pop it safely away on a shelf with figures in situ.
In chatting by email / through the comments page of this blog to John Patriquin from “The Wargames Hermit” blog in the USA (a fellow hexboard / Peter Laing / old school game enthusiast and long established blogger), I said I would write more about how my current game board came about and what’s working well or not with it.
John uses both hex and chess boards (with cool movement arrows for the photos).
Chess boards are something that I have not yet used but it’s an approach to gaming that Wargames Miscellany blogger Bob Cordery has written extensively about on his Portable Wargames website and is now writing a book on the subject. Quite often I’ve seen wargaming described by Donald Featherstone as “Chess with a thousand pieces” (and pieces with some very variable moves, attack value and morale!)
Putting a portable games board back on the shelf and picking up the game again sometimes days later doesn’t work well without notes. A few “End of Turn” notes scribbled help greatly the next time I come back to it and help me when I want to write up a Games / Battle report, reflect on rules play testing etc.
My current portable games board is created from a hinge-damaged wooden storage box lid, as I have few carpentry skills, few tools and currently no workshop.
Like many gamers, I look at household, work or pound store scrap and think, “What could I turn that into?”
The other half of the wooden storage box is still in use, with favourite war games books and notebooks stashed under the bed.
This nomadic wargames board is usually moved if the dining table is needed or it gets too late, not having a dedicated gaming space or workshop at the moment in our busy family home, just popping the board atop my desk. Nothing has changed since childhood where the dining table was cleared as wanted when everything stopped for tea, dinner, whatever!
Finding the right box
If you have no useful wooden storage lids sitting around, you have to go box hunting. The original box was bought about a decade ago in a UK Focus Do It All / B&Q / Homebase type store.
Equally a deep sided lidded plastic box lid such as the Really Useful Box company might work, but a wooden lid has some stability and shock absorbing properties that stop figures, hexes and terrain pinging around or falling over when you move the board.
I wonder if one of those TV dinners trays with bean bag base for putting on your knees would work as well? Too tippy?
I often reread the very amusing chapter by Donld Featherstone on “Wargaming in Bed” in his 1973 Solo Wargaming book (available in reprint from John Curry). Featherstone writes amusingly (from real life or fantasises?) about a stricken gamer in hospital bribing a wife or nursing staff to pop out to the local toy shop to buy 54mm Swoppet armoured Knights toy soldiers (unlikely in a busy British hospital today). This is his aid to recovery:
“gathering bodily strength while marshalling his physical resources in manoeuvring a mere handful of figures around a lone tree perched on one of those tables that wheel over the bed.”
If you fancy a lid / board with a plastic dust cover, you might find one of the right size amongst the propagation trays from the local garden centre. The plastic garden tray itself if you use it might be too flexible and flimsy, so might need stiffening with board as a base or inset.
The same hinge break has recently happened to a slightly larger box lid, so a larger board or an extension to the original is now possible!
Improvements to my wooden portable game board
I have now found a second similar sized wooden box lid so can put the two together as I did for a recent American Civil War and World War Two Skirmish. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/peter-laing-american-civil-war-skirmish/
Redesigning or rejoining the board edges, I have changed how the grid is set out down the side. The grid numbers / letters are used for planning staggered entry of reinforcements and random deployment of troops and terrain features.
At present one short axis / side of the rectangular board has six letters A to F, the other longer axis was 1 to 8. I have now changed this to be 6 zones on both sides, so easier to determine by d6 dice.
This makes it possible to allocate simple grid references in scenario set ups and call in indirect of random programmed fire like the Suvla bay and trench scenario / games mechanism in Stuart Asquith’s Solo Wargames book.
Grid references also allow you to map out your game board on photocopied template / paper if keeping a record of what happened.
Playing solo as I usually do, I can also sit the other side of the board, turning the board gently without dislodging figures and see what the other side sees, check line of sight etc (with or without a reversed Lionel Tarr type periscope).
At the moment I use a sheet of felt below the board on a table top, so the board slides smoothly around as needed without jolting. You could alternatively use one of those Scrabble game board turners, a plant pot wheely base or recycled old Microwave oven plastic circular runners found under the revolving glass tray (possibly sourced from your old microwave / friends / the household recycling centre / tip).
I also now more clearly mark compass points, so that you can assign entry and exit points etc. for different groups at North / South etc. rather than just left / right / top / bottom.
Squeezing hexes into a square lid creates some gaps at the edges which have to be filled somehow. I use thin strips of AstroTurf or model hedging to fill these gaps.
You could mark out squares or hexes on the wooden base if preferred. Bob Cordery at Wargaming Miscellany and blogger friends have been looking at portable hex or square boards using Chess boards etc, following up Morschauser’s grid ideas. However you would probably need to build / enhance a chess board with built up wooden edges if you wish to move the board around with figures on, pop it away and also use some non-slip figure basing.
Having two matching box lids means that I could repair the hinges and join them together to make a box that closes up for travelling. Truly portable. However the top lid hexes would fall off upside down unless stuck down to the box lid base.
I like the option of one lid or two lids that can both be stored on separate shelves without damaging or disturbing what is on each. A simple tea towel over the top of each keeps the dust off!
The Joy of Hex!
The Heroscape hex tile clusters fit in reasonably well to the women lid / game board but leave some edge gaps however you combine them. I fill the gaps with clump scraps of AstroTurf/ artificial grass, cut down from the offcut tiny trimmings from an outdoor seating area project at my workplace. These would otherwise have been tidied and thrown away.
The basic MB Games Heroscape starter sets are easily available from online auctions, and some gamers like John the “Wargames Hermit” blogger in the USA and others have painted them all uniform colours as a great basic game board.
Alternatively you could sand / grass flock or scenic them appropriately, as long as they still stack.
An interesting idea I have yet to try from Iain Dickie’s useful book Wargames on a Budget in his Wargames terrain boards section is to paint the base blue or swamp green, whatever you may want showing beneath any blank hexes to show a stream / river / coast edge. I have tried this with out dark blue paper and it does work well.
A tray lining of blue felt or blue card as this base would work equally well, with hexes then built up for each game on top. I find the flat blue water Heroscape hexes are quite fiddly, thin, brittle and break easier than the standard chunky hexes. However without being squeezed into the box lid frames, hexes shift around a bit.
Hex clusters also make great islands in the middle of a blue felt tabletop or floor sea, inspired by Pijlie’s blog but that’s for another day …
Posted by Mark Man of TIN, September 2016