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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Odd numbered files two paces forwarddddd MARCH!

I had just about talked myself into treating myself to a nice, attractive, practical, professional, hex mat from Hotz Artworks this fall and even had funds earmarked. Then the Prince August 7YW artillery sets came out and I needed some additional 54mm guns and oh dear, the warchest was empty again and those damned diagonals were still there gnawing at my mind.

Well they "ain't no more"!

I didn't set out to do offset squares. My back up plan was to draw hexes using the Archduke's scheme of starting with offset rectangles of particular dimensions and then then adding the angles. Not being a wiz at either math or accurate measuring, I none the less calculated that I would need rectangles of 4" x 3 15/32nds" and had already worked out that I could start by shifting the Northern and Southern edges of each square in alternate North/South rows 2" South. I was about a quarter of the way done when I realized that since I wasn't in the slightest concerned about inequity in speed  but only with getting rid of corners while increasing the number of directions in which a unit could travel, I should give offset squares a go. That way I only had 1/2 the east-west dividing lines to redraw/mask and I'd be done. More than that my existing hills could easily be made to fit and still be flexible with minimal work.  Two hours later and the board is ready for a trial game.

Now as to that other little matter, I am used to silly little things like receipts and statements going astray over the course of a tax year but a toy soldier head going absent over a mere 19 years is a different matter!

All present and accounted for Sir!
 It took almost 10 minutes of searching in day light before the culprit was found consorting with a collection of 40mm heads. Then I had to find a trumpet, something I didn't actually have back then. Oh look, that Hussar didn't originally have a trumpet, I wonder where it came from, they are over strength anyway and won't be able to take everyone into the field...

"Order from the Minister of Defence in Ottawa Colonel, the Princess Louise Hussars are to surrender that trumpet to the Governor General's Body Guard." 

"Yes I realize you are a New Brunswick Regiment and the Bodyguard are an Ontario Regiment but we're all Canadian now and in matters of defence, orders from the Federal government take precedence and trumpets are even scarcer than rifles right now." 


  1. Wow: super accuracy. I would have settled for an aspect ratio of 3 16/32 inch to 4 - 3 1/2 to 4... had my board been 4 ft wide instead of 120cm.

    1. Ant accuracy would have been purely theoretical. I don't actually have a ruler with 32nds and my pencel lines are thicker than that. Just as happy I didn't need to make the effort.

  2. I think your changes that you make to the grids by the application of paints, over time, builds up to give a very nice, care-free, artistic look to your table (though I know they are anything but care-free). It will be interesting to hear your thoughts on the practicalities of 'off-sets' as you get your next few games under-way.

    1. Thanks Norm, I do my best to adopt a care-free attitude and strive to be variable and inconstant in order to attempt a more natural look and minimize the appearance of a grid while keeping it easy to use.

      'Feels' promising thus far.

  3. I was thinking about the accuracy thing. When I made up my board I didn't worry overmuch about it, settling for something I could measure easily. Probably using decimal measures helped (although I have few straight edges apart from a tape measure that gives me Imperial measures). That is why I suggested aspect ratios of 6:7 or 7:8. Three-and-a-half inched to four is the latter ratio. The reason why you don't need any greater accuracy is that the way the grid is arranged tends to reduce the appearance of distortion, and, perhaps more compelling, the width of the marked out lines is wider than 1mm or even 1/16 of an inch anyway.

    You could probably get away with marking 1/2" up and down the short sides (is that what you meant by 2"? - I couldn't quite make that out).

  4. No, I've been looking at hex fields and at my existing squares and essentially in one direction, lacking a diagram lets give directions - the long axis of the board runs north-south so the squares have 4 faces north-east-south-west. If hexes replaced them with one grain running north-south then the hexes would have 6 faces nor'east,sou'east, south, sou'west,nor'west and north. the north and south faces are parallel to the north & south board edges and to each other but alternate rows are offset by 1/2 the width of a hex from face to face. With 4" wide hexes superimposed on 4" squares with the grain running east-west, alternate rows will either share the north & south faces of the squares or be offset by 2". By shifting alternate rows of squares 2" south, the centres of the north and south faces would be in the right spot for the centres of the north & south faces of the hexes.

    The next step would have evolved erasing all the existing east and west faces, shortening the north and south ones and replacing them with the new NE,NW,SW,SE faces and change all the angles.

    I realized today that if I'd persevered with marking rectangles to help find the angles, I'd have screwed it up as the 4" face to face distance is the short dimension of the rectangle, and the long would have been a bit over 4 1/2.

    Anyway, so far I like the offset squares but the first real test comes in about 4 hours.

    1. Now I understand - I think. You were redrawing a field of squares (rather than rectangles) into hexagons. In the words - well, word, really - of Deep Thought: 'Tricky.'

      But I think I've worked out a method that would work (though it's a sight easier using metric as everything can be rounded to whole centimetres and still look right). It's quick, too. i've just drawn on paper a 5x4 5cm squares and converted them into a hex field. Took about ten-fifteen minutes.

      Would you have any objection to my doing a blog tutorial on this?

  5. You are a braver and more industrious man than I, Ross! I once tried making my own 8.5" x 11" sheets of hex paper many, many years ago for Dungeons and Dragons and was permanently scarred by the experience. And as for misplaced figures and bits, I have a full 30 SYW French dragoon riders that I have been unable to locate for almost two years. It's maddening.

    Best Regards,


    1. Stokes, Have you checked your model taverns and brothels?

      I suspect fear of drawing more hexes will weigh heavily in favour of offset squares!

    2. If you're doing hex fields on paper, find a site that contains a page sized hex field and copy it. Years ago I downloaded a hex page. As it WAS years ago I can't tell you what my source was. Alternatively scan a hex page onto a pgn or similar file. Now I can resize and print at any time I need one. That's where the hex maps on my recent blogs have come from: downloaded hex field from my archives, and Windows 'Paint'.

      (Win 10 only intermittently allows me to scan direct to hard drive, which is bally annoying, for it was a very useful function).

  6. Ross Mac,

    I tried making a hex cloth some years ago ... which is why I ended up buying Hexon II hexes!

    I've read about and seen Archduke Piccolo's methodology for making a hex playing surface, and as far as I can see it is - as the expression goes - good enough for government work. I'm giving some thought to replicating it to work with my smaller PW set up. If I replace the Heroscape baseboard I made with a cloth, I can still use the Heroscape hexes for hills etc.

    By the way I love the look of your painted cloth. It looks much more realistic than my Heroscape and Hexon II hexes and my simple green and tan terrain cloths. One day I might try to emulate your efforts ... but not in the very near future.

    All the best,


    1. Bob its not a cloth, its the wooden tabletop but I like it.

  7. Coming late the party, but I put together a gridded game mat using offset squares. Might be of interest ("how to" pdf on my blog):

    Making the Gridded Game Mat

    Oh, happy to see the trumpeter regained his head (and found an instrument!)

    1. Thanks Ed, interesting idea but I stuck with old an fashioned yardstick and pencil.