I was rather expecting a few hours of gaming time today, being my birthday and all. Didn't happen but I got a start on setting up the table. Since my mind was on civil war battles, what with the proposed rules and all, I thought I should try one. Not having a better idea, I decided to start with Bull Run since it was the first battle and thus a good starting point. I have a Fire & Fury scenario published in the Courier years back, Vol 1 of Battles and Leaders and there are maps & OB's a plenty on line. I settled on printing one out from Wikipedia, made a scale table size cutout, traced my table on to the map, added a scale 12" grid and set to.
Now it had been another hot day, I was quite tired before I began, and I had mistakenly repeated my morning insulin dose so my blood sugars were on a bit of a roller coaster with the usual affect on mental abilities. (given the last bit I should probably have skipped the celebratory glass of Propellor Special Bitters while I BBQ'd a bit of one of my niece's ex-pigs...but...). Anyway, I set to to translate the complex terrain from scale 1 foot squares on the map to 4" hexes on the table. I began with masking tape streams at which point I realized that I hadn't done a good job of placing the template so I tried again. (should have quit at that point). Bull Run itself was a bit wonky, especially where I cut out a loop that ran off table but over all it was ok.
Then I started on hills. Ah, yes well, if I had had a big stack of 4" hexes to build hills out of this would have been easier, especially if the map I was using wasn't just a bit vague on hill shapes. (The high ground was shaded but no contours were added and thus various famous hills were run together.) OK, I thought, I'll grab the Fire & Fury scenario map and use the hills from that. Of course this showed a table marked with what would be a 12" grid for F&F but were 6" squares in a corner of my table. It was while I was trying to match the 6" grid to 4" hexes that I noticed that the map didn't match the other one I using, even allowing for the alignment being about 45 degrees off. Add in the various misfitting hill shapes I had available, and it was all going south fast but eventually I decided to move onto roads and woods. Things got even wonkier and the disagreement between maps got worse. Eventually I broke out Battles & Leaders to look at the 3 maps in there. Yup. Parts of the scenario map had been twisted two points west, presumably to make the scenario fit better but none of the 5 maps I now had in hand quite agreed with each other! One thing was clear though, the way my table was headed, a bunch of troops would still start off table while 3/4 of the table was unused. That hadn't been the plan!
After briefly wondering why I hadn't just thrown a well tried Grant Teaser onto the table and broken out HofT, I decided to call it quits, clear the table tomorrow and start over.
If this hadn't been meant as a quick, casual one off game, I would have done the usual legwork to draw up a simplified map of the table and used that to guide the set up rather than working from a small complex map. Somewhere I have sheets of hex paper left over from eons ago, one of those would probably be quite useful. The lack of pre-cut hex hills is still a bit of a problem though not a show stopper. It is tempting though to scrap the hexes, rewrite the rules, buildup the contours, throw my painted canvas over the top and then add streams roads and woods. Adding a subtle grid of squares to the cloth would be easy enough and would require minimal rules tweaking, going grid-less would be even less work but the combat rules would need to be tweaked and distances converted to inches and virtual zones. But it would be nice to test them and even without a hexed scenario map, a clear table layout will be easier to deal with. But not tonight.
EXERT 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, July 26, 2012
How to not Start at the Beginning
Born and raised in the suburbs of Montreal, 5 years in the Black Watch of Canada Cadets, 5 years at the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean followed by 4 in the navy. 25 years with CPC in IT simultaneous with 23 years running a boarding kennel. Inherited my love of toy soldiers from my mother's father. Married with a Whippet, 10 Italian Greyhounds and 3 cats. Prematurely retired and enjoying leisure to game, maintaining our 160 yr old farmhouse and just living.