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 …
Tipped off by some blogposts about the delights of the “Home Aquarium” section of pet stores and garden centres, I recently popped into a Pets at Home branch and spotted a 3 for 2 offer (buy 3 get cheapest free).
I didn’t tell the checkout lady the truth when she asked about my non-existent fish and tank, that these weren’t destined for underwater fish usage but for the gaming table or out in the garden / yarden for gaming.
This offer and their reasonable asking price (6 pieces of terrain for around £30) made affordable what I think are sometimes overpriced pieces of potential games terrain. I understand that it is not cheap to produce these if it has to be a certain type of safe resin and safe paint to protect the fish from chemical harm.
Some features like the old fishing boat seems Chinese or Japanese.
What I like about many of these generic buildings or features are their versatile uses. They could equally grace a garden game and stay out in the rain or appear on a games table.
With some imagination, the rope bridge could be a vital but damaged rail bridge with a narrow piece of rail track across it. It could be in Southeast Asian Jungle or the Amazon, Darkest Africa or the Wild West. It could be built in many time zones. It works across different scales or sizes of figures.
Similarly the tree houses could be on Fantasy or alien planets, or in Darkest Africa or Asia in a Colonial campaign.
All good Indiana Jones stuff.
A little bit of cutting and glueing work to put some balsa wood floors into the buildings should make them even more versatile. The cluttered temple floor might need some clearing or building up to be able put more figures inside.
Once again 15mm Peter Laing figures seems to suit these buildings quite well, as well as Airfix OO/HO.
I was quite intrigued setting up future game scenarios how helpfully camouflaged or painted the temple is for example when used with WW2 figures. I haven’t done matt grunge khaki camo painting for over twenty years but I found a few things in my surviving box of battered Airfix vehicles.
These were painted up in the early 1980s for Donald Featherstone WW2 rules (War Games 1962) and go quite well with these North Africa / Med / Middle East / Italy temple ruins. About time these had an airing on the games table with whatever I have left. WW2 Vehicle and camouflage scheme purists look away now!
With my small WW2 15mm Peter Laing force I can stage a few skirmishes. I have A few spare German WW1 steel helmet infantry to be painted up in Afrika Korps / desert camouflage to take on my WW2 British infantry.
These six aquarium buildings cost (after 3 for 2 discount) only around £30 in total but they offer lots of interesting possibilities for scenarios in many time periods and scales.
Ever since gazing into those childhood fish tanks, I have long had a bit of a fascination with the kitsch nature of aquarium ornaments. There is something suitably Gothic, melancholy, Romantic (and Bronteish), out of reach or abandoned about these drowned ruins and wrecks. In many cases it’s the plain surreal weirdness and lack of taste in some of the designs, they truly are the garden gnomes of the aquarium world in their “love them or hate them” colourful and kitsch nature.
I have had one aquarium piece for years, a ruined castle frontage which was free or unwanted from a bundle of aquarium stuff that someone brought into work. It has moved from house to house or garden to garden with me over many years.
I stayed in the shade of the trees surrounding our garden during the very hot and sunny Father’s Day weekend. We raided several starter Heroscape packs for hex tile and figures for a knockabout duelling game in the garden using versions of the Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust duelling rules.
Even the garden table cloth or white spotty oilcloth wanted to join in as a sort of hex sea between the hex islands.
I’m not what many would call a fantasy gamer, despite my historical Imagi-Nations and the occasional 54mm Space based garden game. These Heroscape figures came prepainted with the very useful Heroscape plastic Hex tile ‘make your own 3D gameboard’ terrain system. So it seemed a shame not to use them occasionally.
Heroscape games system
If you’re not familiar with the Heroscape game and figures by MB / Hasbro, available secondhand online, visit the following sites
The starter or master sets I had bought second-hand provided several interesting warrior groups:
Mech type robots – Zettian Guards (not shown in photographs)
Samurai type figures – Izumi Samurai
Elite Airborne figures
Government type agents – Krav Maga agents
Viking type fantasy Ancient warriors
Marro scary aliens
Very soon as I and other family members chose Heroscape warrior squads to take each other on in individual duelling or melee bouts, we switched from the slower cards (Parry and Lunge, Stop-Thrust and Cut system) to the quicker d6 version suggested by Kaptain Kobold.
The games proved short and brutal, mostly involving fast melee, using the Kaptain Kobold modification or d6 dice version of Gerard De Gre’s Lunge Cut and Stop Thrust rules for melee or duelling.
1-2 Hit on Attacker (lose one point)
3 – Both Hit (lose one point each)
4 – Both Miss
5-6 Hit on Defender (lose one point)
To simplify the rules, speed and even things up between the different Heroscape tribes or clans, we declared all figures or weapons equal in melee and no ranged weapons. In that way a Mech Robot could be defeated by a Samurai or Viking.
Each character had 5 life or combat points (recorded on a dice next to them during combat) and could also only move 2 hexes, halved if moving uphill or through water.
The surviving or winning duellist gained an extra life or combat point when the other rival character was killed off. It quickly got fast, fatal and furious!
My FBI X-Files team didn’t last long against the grim-faced Alien Marro figures. Warrior Mech Zettian Guards fought Izumi Samurai and fantasy Vikings, then Elite Airborne figures.
This was also the first outing for some new aquarium ornament resin scenery picked up in a handy 3 for 2 ornaments sale at Pets at Home. A battered rope bridge, a jungle temple, two Ewok style tree houses with lush jungle foliage, a Greek or Roman ruined temple and a Chinese or Japanese fishing boat. All variously suitable for 15 to 40mm size figures.
I didn’t tell the checkout lady the truth when she asked about my non-existent fish and tank, that these weren’t destined or bought for underwater fish usage but for the gaming table or out in the garden / yarden for gaming! More on these in a future post.
This proved a short fast knockabout game of the islands suitable for both young and old in the family.
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 …
To me, gaming since childhood, many rule sets look frighteningly both expensive and offputtingly complex what with ‘combat factors’ and worse still, lots of unfamiliar dice (always a bad sign that there’ll be advanced maths involved).
Airfix have recently launched or franchised a new battle game ‘system’ by Modiphius Games. It looks beautifully produced. You can use your old or new Airfix figures. It uses classic and familiar Airfix box artwork for illustrations. But is it more hidden maths? Is this likely to be as complicated to me as many of those dungeons and dragons rules that I could never understand as a child? (They also had lots of strange dice, another giveaway).
My Bish Bash Am-Bush ‘Close Wars’ rules
I currently use my adapted version of the simple two page appendix rules for ‘Close Wars’ out of the back of Donald Featherstone’s War Games 1962 book.
This book pictured below is a very old favourite: it’s the original copy from my childhood local branch library, withdrawn from lending and sold to me many years later. Still by my bedside and frequently reread.
Simple as Featherstone’s rules are in War Games, these two pages have always been a delight. They make up the core of my own fast quick simple small number of figures game that I can quickly and easily set up and play solo.
“It must be confessed that the question of how to fight a successful action with natives against disciplined troops has yet to be completely solved by the writer.”
This is a gaming problem that Donald Featherstone mentions with several brief solutions on page 58 of his “How to Start a War Game” chapter in War Games (1962). He solves it pretty well in my view in his Close Wars appendix (page 149-150).
A keen Colonial gamer, Featherstone was focussed here on “the type of fighting that happens between small numbers of men in forests, such as in the French and Indian Wars of the late eighteenth century in America” (page 149). Close Wars has many applications to other periods as brutal fighting in forests between organised troops and natives has not changed much since Ancient times.
Look out for future Close Little Wars scenarios and inspirations blogposts.
What do I like most about the Close Wars rules ?
“Small numbers of men in forests”, possibly large figure sizes
I’ve always liked these simple fast Bish Bash Am-Bush rules using about 20 to 25 odd figures each side. If rules have figures representing more than 1 figure: 1 man I get brain freeze and lose interest …
With such small numbers, you can also have Close Little Wars games set in many periods with only needing a few figures each side. Alternatively as I usually play Bronte style “imagi-nations”, I often mix the periods up if suitable figures aren’t around; this is not far from the plot of the 1969 Dr. Who ‘The War Game’ episodes (still available in book, audiobook or DVD form). https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_Games
2. “The terrain must be crowded with material”
“To play chess one needs a chessboard”, Featherstone writes as his opening to chapter 3, “How to Lay Out a Battlefield”.
After years of raiding and returning natural materials to the garden and yard for Close Wars terrain, I tried not very successfully making my own interlocking paper hexes (a bit like those “endless landscape” cards from Tobar / Hawkin’s Bazaar). Fiddly and unfulfilling. Much more happily, I then found on Ebay several damaged starter boxes of plastic MB ‘Heroscape’ sets, bought mostly to acquire the interlocking plastic hex tiles of rock, water, mud (and whatever else you paint them as ).
The starter sets include some useful fantastic / fantasy figures, dragons and usual (to me) incomprehensible rules. I think this game system bombed in the US and UK, apart from a very very niche cult following, hence the cheap starter sets around. I bought Heroscape partly so that I can build quick 3D landscapes for these Close Wars scenarios.
Heroscape is almost a 3D kind of early Minecraft but also combines well with natural materials. You can use the hexes as they come already coloured. Alternatively you can flock them, gravel them with railway ballast or fine beach sand / stones or paint them.
Piled up with garden or hard sourced twig logs, stones, lichen and moss bushes and other impassable features, these Heroscape hexes work really well with even just a small tray or table for a short skirmish. Being hexes, with adapted rules, there is no need for rulers and measuring inches.
“Fill any bare spaces with pieces of twig to represent fallen logs and trees …” Donald Featherstone.
Using natural materials to enhance the hex boards feels a little like the joy of Garden Wargames but with the comfort of indoors! A little less fuss about wet weather and creaky knees but still retaining some of the childhood fun of “fight them on the beaches” (sandpit), the “landing grounds” (lawn), the “jungles and forests” (shrubbery and flower beds) of childhood. A bit of dirt, some fresh air and sunshine, all that the childhood gurus want for modern children held prisoner indoors by tiny screens. Maybe Heroscape hexes are the indoor Terrarium or Bottle Garden version of garden wargaming, but it’s not far off the improvised spirit of H.G. Wells’ Floor Games and Little Wars use of real sprigs of bush and hedge trimmings.
I have also rediscovered on Project Gutenberg the original HG Wells Little Wars rules that I read once as a child in reprint and could never borrow again from my local branch library. It’s charmingly illustrated with line drawings in a suitably childish toy soldier way. Floor Gamesby Wells is also available on Project Gutenberg.
3. Flexible scales and figure sizes
My version of Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars rules and these interconnecting Heroscape hexes work really well with my original childhood 15mm Peter Laing English Civil War figures. I have been buying up some EBay oddments of Peter Laing figures, becoming more collectable now that Peter Laing has retired and the moulds vanished. (More on collecting Peter Laing in future blogposts.)
The rules and hexes work equally well with Airfix OO/HO or 1:72 figures.
As I scale up to DIY made ‘cakes of death’ figures (round about an inch high) or 30 to 40mm Prince August and Schneider home cast figures, I shall have to rethink the original Close Wars inches or my hexed up Bish Bash Am-Bush movement and shooting ranges.
Keeping the same inch / hex move and fire ranges for different scale figures presents some problems. Presumably the bigger the figure, the shorter the time period each hex move represents (if you simplistically keep to the same hex movement ranges) ? This doesn’t solve the firing range problem though.
There are some interesting thoughts on scaling up and down ranges and distances on the Sheil’s USA simple ‘sandpit’ rules for using plastic pound store figures on the Sheil family’s lovely USA Toy Army Men section of their Thor Trains website, adaptable to the garden, beach, sandpit or floor (though even these rapidly become a little complex for me).
“You decide what the basic range is. All others are multiples of that range.”
The Sheil family “Jersey Shore Battle Games: The Basics”
More on ranges and scales and Sheil family rules etc on a future blogpost The Sheil Sandpit rules seem to be in the spirit of H.G. Wells’ original rules.
And finally …
Close Little Wars, Bish Bash Bush! or Bish Bash Am-Bush!
Rules adapted from ‘Close Wars’ the 2 page Appendix of Donald Featherstone’s War Games (1962) in respectful tribute to Donald Featherstone (1918-2013)
Fast, simple and often fatal rules for small troop action versus ‘natives’ in cluttered bush terrain on a small scale table or hex grid for 15mm and 20mm troops or even outdoors with 54 mm troops in the garden, yard or sand pit.
Suits Cowboys, Indians, Bandits, Pirates, French-Indian wars, Natives and others … Whatever you have …
Especially suitable for solo play.
Donald Featherstone sets out simple aims or what would now be called Victory Conditions:
The aim of each force 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 the Governor General’s Daughter (always the same handy Airfix Wagon Train girl or lady civilian) or the secret plans.
Natives on foot move 9 inches per move or 3 hex / squares.
Troops in groups of 3 or less also move 9 inches or 3 hex / squares.
Uphill moves count as 2 hex / squares or half a move e.g. 4.5 inches.
Troops in groups of 4 or more move only 6 inches per move or 2 hex / squares. (Uphill moves of 1 hex square).
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 or 2 hex squares.
Moves on clear paths or roads (if they exist) have 3 inch extra or 1 hex extra BONUS.
Firing (if range of fire clear)
Range of rifles and longbows or crossbows (slingshots?) – 12 inches or 4 hexes
Pistols and spears half range – 6 inches or 2 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.
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 deaded.
If casualty under cover, 3,4,5,6 wounded and carry on. 123 deaded.
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.
Turns consist of four sections:
a) First side moves (possible melee)
b) Other side fires.
c) First side fires
d) Other side moves (possible melee)
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 Move, 1st side Fire, 2nd side Fire.
Melee / Messy Bish Bash Bush bit!
Assume each man has something to fight at close hand with (pistols, clubs, swords, rifles, bayonets, fists or boots, etc)
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 / 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 or can be bothered).
Highest score wins, loser throws casualty saving throw to see if killed 1-3 or only wounded / unharmed.
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 retires 1 hex backwards.
Then d6 again for losers to see if routed:
Throw 1-3 in rout unable to fire or move further that round. 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.
Not really got round to adding cavalry or cannons yet in this Last of the Mohicans / Robin Hood / Hollywood B Movie cowboy ambush bash up or mash up.
Featherstone also adds the final paragraph section about attacking troops in the flank or rear that you can choose to use or not. Keep it as simple as you like.
Ancient warriors rules
If using your Knights, ancients or partly armoured men, Featherstone (and Tony Bath?) Ancients rules from War Games (1962) had various protection/ survival elements modifying casualty saving throws after firing or melee. Use as you see fit:
If casualty unarmoured and without shield, throw 6 to live.
If casualty wearing armour or shield, 5 or 6 to live.
If armour and shield, 4,5 or 6 to live.
Unarmoured cavalry 5 or 6 to live (6 saves rider alone).
Armoured cavalry 4, 5 or 6 to live (4 saves rider alone).
Inevitably over time, new troops acquired will need new rules. What about cavalry, if they can operate in such Close Wars terrain? What about artillery? It might be a small forest outpost fort you are defending with your single gun … An artillery train would be near impossible in such cluttered terrain as the British fought over in America.
Close Wars has many possible small fort scenarios – awaiting the relieving column, escorting a supply wagon, sending out or rescuing a patrol.
Most important rule
If you’re ever not sure of the rules or what to do next, especially if playing solo: If in doubt about a decision or situation devise a suitable d6 dice throw e.g. Roll 1 to 3, group retreat to safety, roll 4 to 6 attack nearest enemies.
Another example of a rule that was needed on the spot when troops had some rescued civilians / the Governor General’s daughter with them and were surrounded in a building: If figures are holed up in a building, throw 6 for automatic risking breakout (unless group decide or are ordered to leave). But then do civilians always follow orders? Throw again: 1 to 3 non combatants stay, 4 to 6 non combatants or civilians leave with the troops.
Another example of a “made up dice throw rule” which emerged: Crossing bridges (or fordable rivers)
Throw d6 for each man, roll 1= Lose footing and lost in river, to be eaten by crocodiles and piranhas etc; you can use casualty saving throws or not as required.
Officer casualties: If needed to determine an officer casualty amongst group, throw a coloured dice (for officer) amongst X others for correct X number of men. Lowest score loses etc. To be fair, officers don’t have much of a magical morale rule or role anyway in this Close Little Wars scenario.
Add rules or make them up as needed, play as you go …
Misquoting Miley Cyrus, “This is our house , this is our rules …” and I’m sticking to them for now. Anyway I don’t tend to argue with myself, playing solo.