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

Friday, August 21, 2015

Ignoring the Alligators

I've been having trouble deciding on the best grid and table size for my proposed new table but yesterday it finally occurred to me that I had once again made  the often fatal error of skipping over the fundamental question of  why I wanted to have two tables and exactly what I was going to use each for and had proceeded straight with wrestling with the detail's of how I was going to handle various details such as which armies would fit on which size of grid without rebasing and whether this or that scenario would work if the grid was this size or the table that size.

The particular question I was pondering was whether my Late 19thC/Early 20thC 40mm units should be 1 stand or 2, whether I should be  aiming rules and units/grids towards 1 game unit = 1 scenario unit or 2 and so on.    If it was 1 stand per scenario unit then my WWI "armies" are nearly complete but if it was 2 per unit as originally planned then I needed to double the shelf space allocation on the already full shelf. Then I asked what if I want to put this game on the big table? Will I need to double the forces again?  Oh....What was the plan again?  I decided that before I waste more time wrestling the Detail Alligators before me, I should go figure out what it is I really want to do with the Swamp.  
General's Eye view of the current game at the midpoint.

1. Why do I want a small table?  This is fairly easy to answer. I could fit a bigger permanent table, say 5x4 or 6x4, that could be made to suffice for all my needs but it would be constantly in my way and I am tired of squeezing around and bumping into things, tired of overflowing cupboards and tired of the resulting clutter. I know a smaller table, well designed to fit a particular selection of games, can keep me amused and allow scope for indulging in a series of small "armies".

2. Why do I want a bigger table as well and how often would I use it? This one is harder. I suspect part of the answer is "Because" or " I expect it", neither of which are good answers really. Other answers include "In case I ever find myself hosting a game for 3 or 4 players again," Which is valid  even though it has been about 6 years since the last time I hosted a multi-player game and about 4 since the last 2 player game. A 2 player game could easily be played on the small table though, if it rolls out to make room on each side and I have played in multiplayer games, just not hosted them at my house. The final reasons are to play a larger, more complex game or to test a  convention game to be played on 6x5 or bigger table. Based on how life is shaping up at the moment, I suspect the answer is maybe once or twice a year or less.

3. Would a bigger game  be an upsized version of a small game or something different and does the grid on the small table need to be matched on the bigger table? This is actually a key question. If I am going to expect some or all of the games played on the small table to have Big Table versions then will they all need Big Table sized armies or can I use small armies on the big table for a game with more elbow space or can I have some armies designed for the bigger table but able to be used in part on the small one and others that only have small table versions? Repeatedly over the last few years I have found myself wanting to do some small pairs of "armies" so having these and the small table designed to fit each other would be ideal.  While I have various armies that are organized for and usually appear on a larger table, most of them actually appear as conglomerates of various armies lumped together so as to fill the table.

Unless the game and rules on the the big table are going to be significantly different from the game and rules used on the small table, I might get more enjoyment from actually finishing up some of the small ones and getting around to long delayed terrain building. It would be good if the expanded table was designed as an extension of the smaller one with the same grid so that the same rules and terrain could be used on bother tables. In this case, since the large table will be less than double the small one, the extra space could be used for scenarios requiring more space rather than more troops. The option to ignore the grid or cover it with a cloth would still exist.

Based on this, the best course seems to be to let the bigger table go for now and focus on the best possible set up of troops, rules and terrain for the small table. I have enough "stuff" squirrelled away to be able to improvise an ungridded cloth covered 6'x4' table in under an hour  if needs be, all set to play Charge!, MacDuff, Rough Woing or Gathering of Hosts. A matching permanent expansion/storage unit on wheels or "lay on top board" could follow.

As for that smaller game, good progress is being made on the WW1/Colonial front but this post is over long already so I'll save that for another day.

20 comments:

  1. Ross Mac,

    It seems as if you have almost made your mind up to go with a smaller table and smaller armies ... but you still seem to have a few doubts. Although I know what I would do in your situation, you have to be absolutely sure before you make your final choice.

    Not an easy decision to make, but once made I hope that you don't have to revisit your decision too soon.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    1. Not exclusively, its more a choice to not try to have every army able to use both tables, but there are still trials to be carried out before a final permanent table design is affected and a decision on the design of a larger one will be postponed until everything else is done with an improvised one being available any time.

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  2. The big tables need more discipline than I possess. I have a Warzone 8×5 folding Styrofoam table top. But smaller tables are better for quicker games. Big tables mean bigger games by and large, and the longer they take (days in my case), I invariably end up with the start of some project in the far empty corner, and eventually the table becomes a work area. It also encourages explorations of the feline variety, and they always favour the wobbly corner.

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    1. That sounds too familiar. One mistake I made with the last table wad that it was too tall to sit at but perfect height for a work bench.

      Decades ago Hermes taught me to never leave wobbly corners unbraced and to make sure all shelves full of soldiers were supported at the ends.

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  3. I used to take as my ideal size of table, the 8ftx6ft as being the ideal for space and practicality. A 9ftx5ft table-tennis table cane very close. I've never owned either. For a wjhile, many years ago, I had access to an 8x4, but never really cottoned to that shape.

    For the last 20-odd years I've had a 6x4 table - a rather heavy particle board slab on trestles - which is not permanently set up, and in fact isn't all that convenient. In the aftermath of the earthquakes a few years ago, I picked up two pretty decent sized sheets of 5-ply that were left behind after some repair work was done (why they were left, I have no idea, and they stayed outside leaning against the wall of the house for a year or so before I concluded no one was coming to remove them).

    One of these is 14ocm x 120cm - a very good side for smallish games. The other I cut into a pentangular shape like the gable end of a house. Its width is 108cm, and the height overall 130cm, but the 'vertical sides' actually just 104cm. This one I've painted green, with dark specles to give it a less monotone look.

    But I also have the kitchen table: 120cm long, or 150cm when fully expended, by 100cm wide. As I have two thick blankets, one of which will cover the thing completely, I'm not too badly off for playing surfaces at all.

    But my armies were generally built for big tables, and that is where my difficulty starts to creep in. I'm thinking I'll have to use the back (or front) lawn, or remodel my armies. Well, I've made a start with my Bid Battles for Small Tables Napoleonics, and, if I'm really really good, maybe I'll get a chance to bring that project into some kind of realization.

    Maybe.

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    1. I have several times had 6x8, 6x10 and 9x5 boards and they are good for bigger battles esp with multiple players but for solo games I think I used to spend more time looking at the table than playing. Good exercise running from side to side though.

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  4. The 'gable' table I'm thinking of dividing into 9cm squares: 12x11. The triangular surplus space can be used to keep dice, bits of paper, rule sets and other devices.

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    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      Table shape is one area that is rarely looked at or discussed by wargamers. We all tend to go for the rectangular shape in one of the standard sizes (e.g. 8' x 6', 4' x 3' etc) but from what i can remember, a lot of David Helber's colonial wargames (as featured on the Major General Tremorden Rederring website) were fought on an oval table.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. I really enjoyed your General's eye view photo.

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  6. Ross, this is a matter I've been wrestling with myself of late. I so rarely use my full 6 by 6 1/2 table that I'm not sure it was worth the hassle.

    Hard to say. I'm thinking about getting decent dinner table and adding an additional small table if I want the extra space.

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    1. Conrad Kinch,

      This is one reason why I recently bought the set of three adjustable height tables from Lidl. I can use them in different combinations to get a table size that I can use ... and then they pack flat afterwards.

      I might not use them anytime soon ... but if (or when) we move, they will probably be very useful.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Still, does one good to have had one. Once that's been done one can think seriously about what works day to day.

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  7. I've never had a table smaller than 9 x 5 feet. My current table (past 25 years) is 6 feet by 20 feet, BUT I think most of the time I use only half of it, and only once have I used 15 feet of it, although 12 feet has been used quite a few times.

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    1. I think I've had a 6x8 or similar size about 15 of the last 40+ years, the rest have been temporary ones 1/2 that size during the good years. No wonder I gravitated to 15mm for years.

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  8. How high is the room ceiling? Model Railroaders solve a similar problem by having their almost full room layout set up on pulleys so that they can raise it to the ceiling (or roof of the garage) when not in use. Sounds impractical at first blush but their are some very dense and heavy layout set up this way.

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    1. In the middle I can stretch up and touch it, near the gable ends I have to bend my head. An old 19thC farmhouse. But a good idea. Thanks.

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  9. Hi Ross - Sounds as though You are nearer to the Table Solution than not....I've a huge Games table- and well it hasn't been used as such for a very-very long time - alas, though by Christmas this will all change!
    Have changed my Blog- with all new Postings on 28mm Toy Soldiers- be pleased if You take a look and re-join me...be pleased to have You on board. Regards. KEV.

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  10. Ross - here is a LINK to my all-new PROJECT Blog:
    http://dwarfrhelm.blogspot.com.au/
    Regards. KEV.
    p.s., I think you may like the Introduction and some of the Content.

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