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

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Vive La Difference!

Finally, a few hours to catch my breath. I put some 25mm Medievals into a pan of water to soak prior to rebasing to 60mm standard bases and turned my attention to why the 6" squares were causing me grief over both rules and organization.

Part of it was fairly obvious, it changed the illusion. I just wasn't sure how, why or what to do about it. The thought came to me that the inner debate felt similar to an earlier one from the turn of the century about Volley & Bayonet (or Morschauser) 1 base is a unit vs a unit being a group of single figures vs a unit being a group of smaller stands or elements each with a few figures so I dug out some old photos to remind me of past gaming systems and what I liked about each and that helped. I also pulled out my 3" grid portable tabletop and tried a few things.

The answer I came up with is not definitive or well defined but it goes something like this:

a) When using 1 large base as a unit or a small grid with a few figures, the result is so abstract that the mind accepts it as a marker that represents the unit, much like a 2d game counter.

b) When using a larger number of figures the wargame unit begins to resemble the real thing even though much reduced. This leads the gamer to want to play with the figures to form lines or columns etc and to want more tactical details. The visible difference in distance of adjacent units which can anywhere from almost touching to being 10 or 11 inches apart  with no difference in how the rules treat them begins to bother a person like myself who has decades of expectations tucked into his head.

c) When using a grid with more squares or non-gridded rules with short unit frontages, the game invokes a larger scene and encourages one to think in sweeping panoramas as while a game with a few larger squares or larger units, is like zooming in and leads to an expectation of being able to see more detail of what is happening and why.

After some hard thinking and a bit of experimentation, I have decided that the easiest way to get what I want out of the late 19thC battle wargames is to either carry on with the original plan of subdividing my 6" squares into 4 quadrants which  may either be used simply as a 3" grid or as a way of subdividing squares to allow things like close or long range combat between adjacent areas, or to  ignore the grid and stick the 40mm figures onto large square bases with each being a unit. The subdivision has long been intended, is very little work and can be ignored later with no work at all. Rebasing is lots of work and if it fails is even more work to undo. Subdivided or smaller squares it is.

Next came the question of 1 set of rules or many. A very little experimentation and a review of December's Gettysburg exploration easily led to the conclusion that small squares with 2 stand 1/72nd or 4 figure 40mm units would easily allow the ACW game to proceed at around 200 yards per square with regiments as units for fighting division and corps sized battles while the same grid could be used at 100 yards per inch and 4 single figure companies as units for a lower level action with the large figures. How to fit boats on the grid or the train on the grid is a question for another day but if worst comes to worst and my imagination fails, the grid can be ignored or covered and a set of skirmish rules used with the same 40mm single figures.

So a summary of the main projects:
Prince Valiant: Modified Medieval Mayhem 40mm single figure Dark Age Comic Book skirmish
Gathering of Hosts: Modified Morschauser 25mm medieval figures with each 60mm base being a unit, grid optional.
Rough Wooing: Modified Morschauser 40mm 16thC figures each 60mm base is  a unit.
NQSYW: Charge! rules, 18thC no grid, 40 - 60 individual figure units.
AWI. MacDuff 40mm 8-12 single figure units
1812: Hearts of Tin. 40mm figures on bases 3-5 elements as a battalion.
ACW:  A modified Square Brigadier with 2 stands of 1/72 figures as a regiment on a grid (Now available as the Square Major General.)
Atlantica& WWI: The Square Brigadier  with 4x40 mm figures as a unit on a grid.
It'll be interesting to check back in 3 years and see if this holds up!


  1. Dear Ross,
    Your analysis of the mental impact the various ways of organizing soldiers is spot on and most helpful! A friend, Otto Schmidt, uses large bases with some thirty six figures to make a regiment. His argument is that the regimental commander knows how to go about the business of soldiering and the figures are posed to represent the troops going into combat - charging or firing or simply just marching. The impact on the way the game is perceived is totally different from a game like Charge where the individual figures are marched, form firing lines or charge into combat. There are different considerations and a somewhat different mind set of how play is done.

    Thank you for presenting your thoughts on this. Certainly I wish you all the best with getting your gaming in order!


  2. Thanks Jerry. Yes sometimes the best way to deal with unwanted fiddling is to remove temptation.

  3. Hopefully in 3 years this will hold up :)

    1. At current rates 3 months might seem like a minor victory!

  4. I use a 4" hex with a 10mm scale army with units typically based on 40mm wide by 20mm deep bases. Two bases side by side make a unit. I like two bases because I can show line or column and the physical dimension taken up does feel like a line (80mm x 20mm), a third base even more-so, but that won't fit in my hexes.

    As I explored grids more (I am from a boardgame background) for figures, I decided that the size of the grid v available table space had to leaver the gamer with something that would allow actions on two flanks and the centre and that each of these actions could feel independent of the other.

    I was able to get down to the surprisingly small space of 8 hexes wide by 6 deep and still get that effect - though I do like those games that have a bit more room to breathe.

    I think the grid space needs to be big enough to accommodate both unit and terrain, so going below 4" puts quite a bit of pressure on that, as does going above 10 / 15mm.

    I quite like Jerry's idea that a unit is a unit and it can be relied upon to be doing those military things that it needs to do (being in the right formation etc) and in any case the dice is determine success or failure and interpreting whether the unit and commander did in fact get it right.

    If I were going to a larger scale, I would likely increase my grid space to 5 or 6 inch, but only because I want my units to have a sense of mass and to share the hex with the terrain.

    1. Thanks Norm, some good thoughts there. I have a friend who has a great Hexon collection and builds wonderful rolling terrain that I get to play on. It was my homemade hex experiments led me to adopt squares. :)

      I definitely caused myself much grief by falling in love with the 40s. 10s are a good size for based units.

      Just signed on to you blog. Looks like good stuff.