EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Serendipity and Collateral Damage

"I am a  leaf on the wind"

My decision to cut down my wargames table (planned but not yet executed) had nothing to do with the games that will take place on it. It was all about ease and comfort and the need to transform ny games room into a  multi-function space. None the less, the games will be affected and I was expecting this to be entirely negative thing. I was wrong.

The basic fact is, no matter how clever I get regarding scenario and terrain design, I can not fit as many 40mm troops  into 30 square feet as I was able to fit into 48 square feet. This only effects  the largest games that I might run but that's just the point. I was feeling, lets say an intellectual pressure to design my projects to fit the largest game that could be squeezed onto the existing surface. Since the amount of space available for storing figures is limited, this meant limiting the number of periods, an uneasy process which has not been going well. The smaller table means the size of largest game will shrink. Since storage space is not shrinking, the pressure to reduce periods is lessened. More than that, the revised layout may actually have more storage space for figures. It occurred to me while playing Chrysler's Farm that this means that I can switch from the so far unsuccessful paradigm of 1 large project with a few small diversions, back towards a previous model that I had been working towards of several (ok many) small projects, each with the troops and terrain needed in the way of figures and terrain to play specific scenarios.  They don't all need to be self contained, so aren't exactly "games in a box", but they trend towards that concept.  Some projects may share figures if the basing and figure style is compatible, others will be self contained. By having smaller projects and not "HAVING" to have them all compatible and related, I can dabble not only in different periods, but in different figure, basing and painting styles as well.

However, the last game also reminded me that when playing smaller games on a smaller table, the more densely figures  are based, the more  figures can be used in a game of the same size. This was heightened because it was an historical game which meant instead of standard units, I was fielded units based on the historical order of battle and  adjusted the ground and figure scale to make the game fit on the table while maximizing the number of figures. The result was a fun game that worked well but looked a little thin on the ground. If my troops had been on tighter basing, I could have fielded almost 100 more figures without changing the unit footprints. Of course do I want to paint 100 more of the same if it's not going to change the actual game? After all whether a unit is 16 men or 24, its still symbolic.  None the less, last night I wasted an hour re-evaluating my new basing standard vs an older rejected one with 6 figures on a  2" frontage. (Not to mention the 6 figures on a 60mm frontage seen up above).



  1. Ross Mac,

    You make some interesting points in this blog entry.

    It seems to be accepted wisdom that 'bigger is better' when it comes to the the size of one's wargames table, but as you point out, this means that one is limited in other ways.

    I seem to be moving towards a smaller - or at least a more modestly-sized - tabletop and more armies to use on it (at least that is the theory!) ... and this seems to be that way in which you are moving as well.

    Why do you think this is? Is it a sign of our growing maturity as wargamers ... or is it something else?

    All the best,


  2. Speaking as a chap who has never had a wargames table and has been playing compact games in 6mm for nearly ten years - I can't wait to get a big table and the bigger the better!

  3. I settled on "smaller is better" for me, because I don't have room for a big table (at least not without overcrowding the room that I use for painting, storage, etc.), because I know from past experience that I am never going to put together, store, and play with large battalions. It's whatever works for you. Big, small, medium-sized, we work with the space and other resources we have available.

  4. Bob, I thinking the idea of growing wiser is more comforting than that of growing older and stiffer in joint.

    Conrad, go for it! I greatly enjoyed having a 6x10ft table, Lots of room for 15's, though I ended up using it mostly for 54's.

    Fitz. You are absolutely right. Its about what works.

  5. Hi Ross,
    I think you're onto something. I suspect that it may have been the length of time it was taking each turn as well as the broken morale rules that made me tire of my last game before reaching a conclusion. Smaller forces play faster, so retain interest/excitement better. Maybe.

    I can't comment on the figure-painting dilemma, as I spend my free time working on vehicles (which I already have too many of) or terrain or rules.


  6. John, I suspect exterior factors pay a role as well as personalities but I certainly enjoy a game where things happen and I can reach a conclusion in the time available which is rarely long enough. In theory a solo game is ideal for long drawn out affairs but it doesn't work for me.

    Too many vehicles? too many troops? How can it be? If only my plan of getting everything out at least once every 2 years was going better.....

  7. 5x6 is the size of my table; yes, there are some of my projects that are set up for larger spaces (NQSYW in particular), but I've found most of my games on that table to be pretty satisfactory. Ergonomics is my real issue, though--the table takes up enough of the limited space that moving around it is an issue, and my wargame room tends to accumulate junk between games, making cleaning it out in preparation something of an issue.

  8. Rob, I had my experiences on that table in mind, inc the small NQSYW scenario last year. Ergonomics is onet of the issues with my current layout, partly that it is now uncomfortable to stretch to the middle of a 6 foot table but also the awkwardness of squeezing past bookshelves to move around the table. It gets worse when boxes of stuff, piles of books, clumps of waiting to be painted figures etc start to accumulate, and no one comes down once a year to help tidy up some of the clutter :)