As it is fast approaching Christmas, there is lots of wrapping and dispatching of parcels in our house at the moment.
I noticed on this Sainsbury’s brown wrapping paper with festive shiny red dots that they have a handy small square grid marked on the back to help with tidy cutting and wrapping.
Like most gamers, my brain instantly thought of gaming applications. I quickly wrapped a spare piece around the backing part of a redundant picture frame – one instant portable game board.
I had put this wooden picture frame aside for future game board use, when its glass broke long ago (Reuse Reduce Recycle etc.) It still has the string on the back, so I can hang this board out of the way somewhere on a spare wall when not in use.
Marking out grid lines on the game board can be tedious and intrusive. These wrapping paper lines are very faint and instant!
With two sides to the frame backing board it would be possible to use either side for game play or more tediously reverse the frame backing board each time. Undoing of the tiny metal clips is fiddly and not a long term solution.
Changing the hanging strap arrangement (D-rings to the side, string with some kind of clips?) would help in making a two sided game board more flexible.
This would allow the same board to be easily used on either of the two sides for two different grid sizes, different terrain habitats or flexible grid sizes.
If I decide to keep this paper grid long term, I will think about pasting the paper down as wrinkle free as possible (possibly with spray mount?) and a coat of varnish to probably help keep it neat. I shall test out on a spare scrap of this wrapping paper to see if some light watercolour terrain patches cause any wrinkling.
I tried the hex board out with some smaller vintage 15mm Peter Laing figures, smaller figures suit the hexes even better.
Obviously such a square grid could feature small size squares or larger squares made of four small size squares.
When I get tired of this grid paper, I can paint over what was before and mark up a fresh new grid board for quick skirmish games.
This gives me a variety of sized hex and square portable game boards, without any carpentry at all! You can see more of them on various of my blog posts including:
Both Peter at Grid Based Wargaming and Bob Cordery sometimes use 15mm Peter Laing figures on their grid based portable games, making them even more worth looking at!
As for Christmas, I have some Peter Laing 15mm figures to look forward to, already wrapped and packed away, embargoed throughout the last few months until Christmas Day. Something to share on the blog in the New Gaming Year of 2018.
Happy wrapping. Happy gaming to all my blog readers.
This is partly because the game board was a “take it as found”, scrounged before skipped notice board, rather than a purchased or commercial notice board as I think Bob Cordery used. Bob may have put his board dimensions on his post.
Recent Heroscape hex-periment blogposts
I have been intrigued and quite curious to see how Bob Cordery will incorporate these into his Portable Wargame set up. I enjoyed his stylish and smart coastlines, well worth looking at these on his blog:
The Heroscape hexes are versatile enough that you can flock them, paint them or plant a tree on them.
The Heroscapers gallery section on terrain https://www.heroscapers.com/ has some interesting ways of building walls, hedges, fences and walls of buildings around the outside of the hexes so that you can place figures inside. Something to try perhaps for a French-Indian War or Civil War stockade fort section.
Bob Cordery measures Heroscape hex tiles at about 4cm across, but add the locking bits and I reckon that this is almost 4.5cms.
So the ‘seven hex’ almost snowflake pattern plates in my recent post about Peter Laing and Base Overhang are about 13.5 / 14 cms across at their three hex widest point on any side.
Heroscape Hexes also come in ones, twos, threes, snowflake sevens and 24s giving a variety of possible 3D or 2D shaped terrains.
The eight large plates of 24 Hexes (which that fit onto my board to make the 192 hexes of Joy) are the standard Heroscape large base plate. These are about 6 Hexes wide or for each plate 24 cms at widest, 6 hexes long about 27 cms longest edge. 2 of these combine however to make a rough rectangle of only 38 cms long, as seen making up a quarter each of my hex base board (above top).
My big 192 Hex board (an old possibly handmade but disused noticeboard) is around 79/80 cms long and 54/55 cms wide. This includes 2cms of trim at each end – effectively the trim and painted wooden gap round the edge are about 3-4cms wide, almost one hex wide.
My smaller portable game boards are two wooden box lids of 54 Hexes each. These are used as bought / found, being no carpenter, bring 40cms long, 30 cms wide including 1cm lip (3cms deep) around each side. There is some wasted space around the hex edge to box lip which I infill with AstroTurf strips for rough grass scrub. Together they make up a board of 108 Hexes, good for small fast games.
Together they would make up 300 Hexes of Joy!
I have yet to put all three hex boards alongside each other, mainly as I don’t yet have a table quite big enough. I have no games room so the smaller boards have the advantage that they can be lifted off a table and put on a shelf if things like meals claim the table. The bigger board after gaming when stripped back to the 8 interlocking big hex base plates can be stowed away easily enough or even hung on the wall as modern art.
Heroscape tiles by Hasbro / MB are currently long out of production but the starter Master Sets are fairly cheaply available on UK eBay (usually the first Master Set called Rise of the Valkyries) and with more variety on American eBay including the Superhero variants.
On Amazon pricing is bizarre – complete Heroscape new starter sets and sequels are in the £200 to £300 plus region!
However on EBay you currently pay anything from £20 for just the completist set of hex tiles through to £50-60 for a used slightly bashed starter set; Some people split sets and sell components. Beware that you can pay a lot of money on some sites for individual specialist tiles, trees, mountain sections etc. More about these sets and web links on
These master starter sets contain 85 interlocking tile sections, made up of:
8 x 24 tiles, enough for the base of my board of 192 Hexes of Joy!
and then the interesting extras that give the 3D-ness:
2 ruin corners, which need a bit of work like upper floors to make them useful
10 x triple hexes (like a triangle),
10 ‘snowflake’ seven Hexes,
10 double hexes,
26 single hexes
21 fairly flimsy thin blue water tiles.
These hexes are in a variety of colours: sand, grey rock, green grass.
I have never bought the Hexon 10cm hex system that many other gamers like Bob Cordery also use for their games. I get the feeling from other blogs that it is quite expensive but you may prefer the look, size and flexibility. Each to their happy own!
I generally want smaller hexes in a smaller cluttered playing area for skirmish games like Donald Featherstone’s ‘Close Wars’ (appendix to his 1962 book Wargames) so the 4/4.5 cm hexes suit me from 15mm and 20mm through to 40mm figures. It might even stretch to 54mm figures on the usual 2p bases for very small skirmishes or duels.
Playing around with a larger board as Bob Cordery has been doing, I scrounged an old scrap noticeboard with bevelled edge and painted it ‘chrome green’ acrylic to match Heroscape hex green.
Filling it with the large Heroscape 24 hex base plates, I fitted 8 of these large 24 hex base plates into the board with a thin narrow gap round the edge.
If I were not using a found board with a prefitted sloping trim, at least a further edge line of single hexes could have been easily added, giving another 16 hexes, in total 208 hexes of joy.
Gamers with some carpentry opportunities or checking available notice boards should be able to make the hexes fit the board and trim, rather just my ‘make do and mend’ / working as found approach
Instead for ease and speed, I kept with 192 hexes and decided to paint the gap and edge, so that it does not stand out quite so ‘wooden frame’ like in any photos. I was quite tempted though by Bob Cordery’s smart looking approach with a white neutral edge and the wooden frame around, especially thinking about hanging the frame in between uses on the wall!
Still 192 Hexes of Joy – A big jolly emptiness to fill.
Wood glue was used along the joins of each board underneath and this has proved sufficient to hold the large hex plates together in place so far. If I don’t like the hex board, I should still be able to remove and separate the plates again. Failing this, a hot glue gun will do the sticking job robustly.
Tempted to check the strength of the adhesive, I could have hung the board on the wall. It still has its mounting cord on the back from its previous life as a noticeboard. However the rest of the household were not convinced that we could pass it off as modern art, especially once I had painted the frame edge green too.
Pausing before piling on hex terrain and figures to look at this beautiful big empty ground space, various games suggest themselves – chariot or horse racing games, surely what off-duty officers and troops do to keep busy in peacetime. Cross country running games, hare and hounds…
Even the hexspaces repainted yellow or gold could become a hive for some kind of sci-fi social insect game? Or alternative “hive” modern art. There must be some biological, physics and logistical reason why bees do these hive hex grid shapes of honeycombs.
Previous Portable 108 Hexes of Joy
Previously on Man of TIN I have used two box lids with a combined hex grid of 108 (each lid holding 9 by 6 hexes). This does not counting the four to six half hexes (infilled with scrappy clumps of AstroTurf) that exist along the raggedy hex edge on each board. These half hexes can be doubled up and counted as a whole for the purposes of counting hexes for moving or firing ranges.
The river in the set up below can be counted as one or two hexes wide and / or impassable, whatever you choose.
Hex size, overhang and avoiding rebasing figures?
I was interested to read the discussion on Bob Cordery’s blog Wargaming Miscellany about overhang of bases such as guns and crews or vehicles and limbers, with interesting discussions in the comments section about the overhang issue and Zones of Control.
I set up a quick skirmish game scenario to check this issue out using Peter Lang 15mm WW1 / WW2.
An easy scenario of a contested river crossing – but how to do the rivers on the new larger board?
Rivers and Streams
I wanted to see what to do about river and water features on a fixed hex baseboard.
I had thought about painting the base, under where the hex plates should be, with a suitable blue so that instant rivers are available, with a big of rejigging hexes around for each game as required. This idea came from Iain Dickie’s book WargamingOnABudget. This flexible coast or river system idea would not work if I was to stick down the big 24 hex plates.
I didn’t want the stalemate of a river in the same place all the time on every scenario.
Alternatively, I could have stuck down the main 24 hex base plates but left some gaps between them, creating a couple of covered stream systems (i.e. the blue painted baseboard showing) filled in and covered over with single hex plates until needed.
I can’t still try these ideas out on my portable 54 hex boards.
Overhang or bases too big for your hexes?
As you can see it is a tight fit even for my Peter Laing two man artillery crew with an Airfix hard plastic gun from the preformed Hanomag Half-track and Gun set.
This gun is tucked in behind the natural cover of the river bank. The Heroscape river hexes built up one deep on either side of the thin blue hexes makes an effective river bank or levee.
Again the defending force’s lorry is a bit of an hex overhang. Not quite to scale, this is one of three scrounged lorries from the giveaway cover toys from a BBC comic about five to ten years ago.
Who are these nonspecific European Euro-Nation troops?
Lacking many WW2 15mm Peter Laing figures, of which only a very restricted range was made, I have padded out my WW2 forces with WW1 troops. These could of course be used to represent the original figures, which were bought prepainted, bashed and second hand. I believe them to be WW1 Peter Laing 15mm Turkish Infantry advancing (F754)
Peter Laing figures being slender and slight of detail, these Turkish infantry could also be Soviets, Greek infantry or Low Countries remembered from my childhood library copy of Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of The World in Colour.
Overhang and Zones of Control
Playing a standard infantry game causes few problems four 15mm figures to a hex. I can achieve the same with a similar base size for 20mm Airfix figures.
As soon as artillery and cavalry are added, things need a little more work.
I begin to see Bob Cordery’s issue about Zones of Control and trying to avoid the need for rebasing, moving from the 4cm Heroscape hexes to the larger 10cm Hexon hexes, or your own chessboard or grid pattern.
John Patriquin the Wargames Hermit has been developing an interesting version of the chessboard style Portable Wargame grid so ably explored by Bob Cordery. Like Bob and myself, John uses (Heroscape) hexes and Peter Laing figures.
This square grid is still not out of the question, as I have a blank wooden back on the back of the larger portable hex board. This could be painted green, a small balsa edging strip added (to prevent slide off) and grid squares marked on in full or part, as Ross MacFarlane does on his Battle Game of the Month blog such as here http://gameofmonth.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/one-for-gaffer.html
In my next blog post I will show some more of what happens when you start exploring the Overhang Issue by unboxing your 15mm Peter Laing cavalry, chariots and artillery.
192 Hexes of Joy create many decisions, decisions and options …
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.
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!
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 …