Toys for Boys; Artillery

26 02 2012

Artillery has a magical way of irritating the average Civil War infantryman.  Because of its tremendous range compared to the rifled musket, it punished the soldier that had found good position and was not eager to move.  Many battles hinged on where guns were or could be placed.  Little Round Top, probably the most famous brigade (smallish) action of the war, was fought over a hill that would have utterly exposed the entire union position had just a single confederate cannon made it up to its summit.

Artillery organization varied wildly depending on the wants or needs of the greater mass of infantry that it supported.  In my Champion hill order of battle you can see this. Pemberton’s Confederate artillery was organized such that each brigade(~1800 men) had one battery (4-6 guns).  On the table this will mean that for every four or five regiments, there will be a stand of cannons.  Grant’s Union artillery is organized such that each division (~5000 men) has three batteries (12 – 18 guns).

The ratio was mostly the same for both my armies but the Union army is organized in a way such that guns could be more concentrated.  This is a good way to organize your army if your infantry commanders trust your artillery commanders as it allowed larger collections of artillery to be where they needed to be.  Imagine, you are a lightly engaged confederate brigade in Pemberton’s army.  You get one artillery battery!  Your lightly engaged Union opponent gets no Artillery!  Huzzah!  Keep imagining!  You press your advantage and advance.  The fighting gets hot!  Across the way you can see 15 cannons being set up because an alert Union artillery officer knows where he needs to be.  You still have one battery.  Boo!

A single piece of artillery would have been serviced by about a dozen soldiers. Each gun would have been attached to a horse lead caisson or limber that carried its crew, equipment and some of its ammunition into battle. Usually 6 horses would be attached to the limber.  A lieutenant would have commanded a “section“ consisting of two guns, their combined crew and limbers.


Guns would be delivered into battle and quickly “unlimbered” from the caisson and the caisson moved to a safe but convenient distance.  This is about 20 – 50 yards; close enough that you can quickly grab ammo and get back to your gun, but far enough that a direct hit on the caisson wouldn’t kill everyone.  Remember… the caisson has the ammo in it! 


Civil war artillery came in two flavors; smoothbore and rifled. This is a fun fact.  No one sat around and said that the right mix of big guns was two major types of artillery.  This just happened.  Like most wars of the industrial era, the civil war was filled with innovative technology that was just this “far away” away from being perfected but not quite done yet.  Badass tech o’ the future had a tendency to do its job better but frequently had tremendous drawbacks.  For instance,  blowing up and killing it’s operator, being devilishly hard to make, or not being available at the scale needed to equip an army.

Smoothbore artillery

Smoothbore cannons were made of brass and were drop dead simple weapons.  They were just a long smooth tube with a small hole at the back on top that could be fitted with a fuse.  Quite annoyingly for the soldier firing the gun, they were loaded at the “wrong end” (known as the muzzle).  This makes them simple to operate but shockingly dangerous.  Let’s walk through the process shall we?

  1. Load the gun.  A 2 pound packet of gunpowder about the size of a bag of rice or beans is pushed into the gun along with a big ol’ cannon ball.
  2. Aim the gun.  Sadly this involves tools and math.  But, unlike regular math, if you get the problem right, you blow stuff up.  Fun math!  Rock on.
  3. Fire the gun.
  4. Watch stuff blow up.  This step is optional and would be highly dependent on whether or not you are being shot at.
  5. Fish out the burning burlap baggie that held the gunpowder.  Not optional.
  6. Swab the gun.  This is a feeble attempt to remove cinders or debris from the barrel.
  7. If the cannon is really hot, water can be poured on it from a bucket in a feeble attempt to cool it down.
  8. Repeat.

Does anything stand out about this process as being overly dangerous?  Imagine you are the guy pushing the gunpowder into the barrel of the cannon after its been constantly fired for an hour or so and is hot enough to burn flesh.  The signature wound of a nineteenth century artillery man is the loss of one or both arms to the powder igniting as it is being pushed in.  Proper drill here involves pushing the powder in using only the non dominant hand.  This must have been very comforting to practice.

Below is a lovely video of a smoothbore being fired.  Notice the guy pushing the powder in using both hands.  Yikes!

6 pounder smoothbore

Note: This video is of a “6 pound” smoothbore.   That makes this a very “small” cannon. 

The smoothbore of choice for both armies was the 12 pound “Napoleon’.  Interestingly enough the cannon is not named for the famous diminutive emperor but his grandson who was the current monarch of France and whose army developed the weapon design.  Napoleons where plentiful at the time of the war and both sides knew how to make them. This gun was the staple of all armies in this period.

Polished Napoleon

Smoothbore cannons had a theoretical range of 1600 yards (almost a mile!).  At this range cannonballs could kill and maim but this was usually the result of an accident as there was no way to aim a smoothbore cannon at something bigger than a barn from this far.  Smoothbore cannons fired ordinance in much the same way that knuckle ball pitchers through base balls; wildly.  The effective range of a smoothbore was 800 yards.  At this range that barn is in deep trouble.  This range compares vary favorably with the ranges on the infantry rifles of the period which typically got effective at 200 yards.

Depending on the distance to target,smoothbores had three different types of ammo; solid shot, grape shot and exploding shell.  Solid shot would be used at long range and grapeshot (think a coffee can filed with gumball sides ball bearings) would be used up close.  In addition, both sides used shells with fuses that were designed to create a secondary explosion (with shrapnel) at a particular range.  These were crap and typically killed the wrong people though they were as common as dirt..

Grapeshot rocked up close but infantry typically didn’t hang out at the appropriate range.  Solid shot was the secret weapon of the smoothbore cannon.  What it lacked in accuracy, it more more than made up for in deadliness.  Cannonballs would bounce for hundreds of yards and would remain lethal for most of that time.  They could pass through several waves of soldiers, killing one or two each time, and continue till finally rolling to a stop near the rear.  So long as the target of the cannon was spread out such that it was larger than a barn,it didn’t really matter where the cannon ball went.  Smoothbore cannons were extremely effective against infantry.

Rifled Artillery

Because rifles were bleeding edge technology there where a huge variety of them available.  No matter how many cannon designs were out there, none were globally adapted and all had issues.  One thing that is true of all rifled cannons is that the barrels of the cannon had spiraling that made the fired shells go very straight.  Their accuracy was quite good.  They could hit the proverbial barn door and given that cannons are themselves about that size, that made rifles ideal for counter battery fire.

Rifles of this period were made of iron, not brass.  This is due to the fact that the shell fired from the cannon caught the spiraling of the gun and would take on a spin.  Brass would be blown smooth very quickly by this pressure.  So instead of using church bell to make a cannon, designers used grandma’s iron skillet. Iron was more rigid than brass, preferring to break instead of bend… which is good until its not good.   BTW… if you were to mount grandma’s iron skillet on a gun carriage and leave it outdoors for a few weeks it would not turn that groovy blue green that brass does.  It rusts.  Badly.  To stop this they were constantly painted and repainted black.


Iron is MUCH heavier than brass so you couldn’t make rifles as big  as smoothbores. This really limited how big these guns could be.  To save on material, they would reinforce back of the rifle (the “breach”) with an iron band giving them a really distinctive looks.  This improved things but they still were considered dangerous weapons.  To make matters worse (and aren’t we always making things worse), Iron smelting is a really uneven, inconsistent process.  Many guns would be built flawed and there was no way to work out which ones where lemons.  Steel would make better, lighter cannons but steel is in the future.

MORE FUN RIFLE TRIVIA!  Shells needed to be snugly fit in the irregular shape of the barrel so they would grab the rifling on the way out of the gun.  This mean that the shell (weighing about 10 or so pounds) would need to be SCREWED into the gun.  Really.  While being shot at!  OH… and that “powder could blow up at any second problem”… you still have that!

MORE FUN!!!  Rifled shells don’t bounce.  You had better hit what you are shooting at because you are NOT going to get lucking on the hop.  Rifled shells hit the ground and burrow.

THE FUN CONTINUES!!!!!!!  Grapeshot in a rifle… not so much.  You could do it but it was a smoothbore afterwards.

KEEP THE FUN GOING!!!!!!!!!! Many different makes of rifle were produced during the war.  The two most common where the 3” ordinance rifle and the 10 lb. Parrott which had a muzzle width of <wait for it> 2.9”.  Really.  Remember that “snug” thing.  Their bullets where not interchangeable but not really different in size.  Much hilarity ensued.  Usually mistakes could be avoided so long as you were not in a hurry or badly needed ammunition… otherwise you would send both types and just asked if the wrong type be returned.  The Union army was so nonplused by this problem that it reworked it’s Parrotts to have a ordinance rifle compatible 3” muzzle.

Now for the good news…  Rifles had a theoretical range of 1800 yards. This is slightly longer than their smoothbore neighbors.  They also had an effective range of 1800 yards meaning that the gun was accurate… always.  It was as capable as the crew firing it and could be aimed at actual targets. 

At the battle of Pine Mountain Georgia in 1864, General Sherman ordered that a cluster of confederate officers be fired on at extreme range with a battery of 3” ordinance rifles. Three shells were fired, the third of which killed (nay, messed up badly) General Leonidas Polk. This episode led Sherman to write Halleck his famous line “We killed Bishop Polk yesterday and have made good progress today…”

Rifles where extremely useful at suppressing enemy artillery and would provide literally dozen’s of insanely accurate shots before exploding and killing their crews. 


Updates on my Garage Project

18 02 2012

I am very pleased to report that I have finished the work I intended to do in my garage this weekend and even managed to get a couple of hours in working on trees.  Here are some pics!


My first project was to get a great big shelf on the wall for storage.  My house comes with neither an attic nor a basement so if we want to store something then it had better fit under one of my beds.  This shelf is about 32” deep and about 17’ long.

Madeline thinks this is her new indoor tree house.  She spent most of the day out in the garage with me helping.


I also added quite a few smaller shelves to help out with storing my miniatures.




Here is all of my backup lead I’ve been schlepping around since college.  This is why I only purchase lead when I finish painting something.


Where the hell is Doug?

7 01 2012

I have confession to make.  I don’t paint as fast as I blog.  (Who does?). 

I started this project about 3 years ago when I mentioned my hobby to a coworker and he seemed pretty enthused by what I described.  He wanted to know when we could play and I mentioned that I didn’t really have a game that could be played.  When he asked how long it takes to get one ready I said that at the rate I paint and given that I was really anal with my painting it could take 3 or 4 years.  He felt I should get started then.  This made sense to me so I did.

Meanwhile, I have found that a number or notable people/coworkers/people I admire had created useful blogs.  Blogs sort of last forever and they tend to give their writers a high level of credibility.  They also force changes to the perspective of the writer.  I don’t do anything with my game without thinking how I would explain it or illustrate it.  I can happily say this bleeds over into my work and home life. It was recommended to me and I recommend it to you.

Now… I started painting about 3 years ago, and, as you may have noticed, I started blogging just over one year ago.  This means that I had a good deal of my game finished before I started the blog.  A lot of this blog has been documentation of things I finished long ago.  Sadly, I am out of things I finished long ago.  I have few things in the can I can blog about but, sadly, I must paint and blog in roughly real time.

Thing 2…  I like football.  I like painting too.  I liking painting on the weekends.  Unfortunately, my teams like playing football on the weekends too.  Conflict!  Historically I slow down my painting in the fall.  Usually I am a spree painter anyway but September through December are slow months for me painting-wise.  Good news is its January and I can no longer blame my lack of productivity on football.  I now blame it on the weather.

Let me explain.  It’s cold outside and I paint in the garage.  I find this to be a useful place to paint most of the year as I have enough room for everything, I don’t have clean up when I’m done and I keep my beer in the garage fridge anyway.  Win!  Problem is its 40 degrees outside as I speak.  Some days space heaters are little better than huddling up with a lit match.  Today is one such day.

The Plan

My original plan was to play test the game in the fall before I hibernated.  This didn’t work out for interesting reasons.  I did get the painting done but I had a magical combination of business travel, head colds, and house guests last year that made play testing a no go.  I will try to get this fixed but it might be a month or two.  A playtest will not only make an interesting blog or two but I should get pictures for three or for rules blogs as well.

I also have some foundational projects in mind.  They will be boring blogging but essential for other things.  Right now I have a couple of bookshelves and tables in the garage and they are getting miserably cluttered.  I will be building a garage shelf that will help me with my storage.  I would like to get on that this month.

I also intend to install some gaming lighting in my garage so that McPherson and Revenge can be played without tearing up the house.  This should lower the threshold for getting my game on the table and, as I already mentioned, I keep my beer in the garage anyway.  It’s a weak blog topic but I might post it anyway to give the perception of movement.

Please bare with me over the coming months as I get reorganized for the coming year.  I may be far enough along that I can fight the battle of Champion hill this summer but it will be a bit longer before it looks like I’ve gotten back in the saddle.   Think happy thoughts.

Scenes of Battle

17 07 2011

I have always been intrigued by how technology and history interact.  The civil war  brought about many changes to our culture and economy that might have occurred differently or not at all had it not been for that conflict. 

For instance, the DEMONSTRATED tactical superiority of the Iron Clad over every wooden vessel in the world hastened the demise of the wooden ship and all the industries and professions associated with it.  The sail powered fleets slide into obsolescence could have delayed for many decades without practical proof of its vulnerability to armored steam only powered ships.  With the emphasis now on coal powered fleets, those nations with foreign holdings had to choose to loose the colonies OR step up colonization to ensure a coaling infrastructure for their new fleets.  It was not enough to have India or Australia as colonial possessions.  One had to have a network of ports for fueling the ships required to defend trades routes.  Suddenly Africa and Southeast Asia were critical strategic assets.

Another example is the settlement of the American west. The removal of an opposition party in government created unprecedented decisiveness in body known for conflict and toothless compromises.  At a blow , the Louisiana purchase could at last be settled with the debate over slaves in the territories solved.  This space had been left surprisingly empty for 60 years simply because neither American political party wanted to hand its opposition votes in congress.  The course of the great intercontinental railroad was no longer contested and the seeds of American progress were at long last planted.

Finally, the naivety of what battle must have been like was thoroughly removed by one notable technical innovation.  Photography during the war changed how we saw conflict.  By the time of the Civil war photography was quite common but was used almost exclusively used to document how middle class citizens of the western world looked in their finest dress surrounded by their most valuable possessions.  The war created a tempting target for the 19th century photographer. 

Prior to the existence of photographic images of the war, battlefield imagery tended to be created to in order to convey a particular point of view or commemorate a particular event. 


John Trumbull’s painting of the Battle of Bunker hill tells much of the story of the battle in a single view including the fatal wounding of virtually every famous person engaged in the fight.  While there are many casualties on the ground but it is difficult to make out any wounds and almost no blood can be seen.

During the war, American photographers followed around the armies of both sides for the opportunity to photograph soldiers of the war and the battlefield itself.  When the first true images of battle made it back to the cities a twelve thousand year old taboo had been broken.  Civilians understood that battle was death. 


Newly drafted soldiers of both armies now had an inkling of what they were in for and families of soldiers saw the conflict and sacrifice in a very different and unromantic light.

Casualty markers

Battlefields of the civil war era would be marked by casualties.  The scenes of the bloodiest fighting would have the highest concentration of the fallen.  You could literally make out where men stood in their firing lines.  No battlefield was an exception to this rule.  The wounded might be taken from the field during or shortly after the fight but the dead would certainly have remained until well after the battle were over, perhaps days.

In McPherson and Revenge casualty markers will be used whenever a “hit” is scored against a unit.  Indeed for every stand, three casualty markers can be placed.  These markers will be placed near to the unit receiving damage and thus the history of battle will be left on the table.

I have quite a few Baccus 6mm casualty figures.  These, for infantry, are a single soldier lying on a 1/2’ square.  This format is very convenient for basing but presents a unique challenge to paint.  It is the only figure I use that comes pre-based.

Here are the Baccus figs:


They come in strips of 4 and require separation.  At this scale they really don’t look like much. 

After breaking them apart, I glue them to popsicle sticks and prime them.  (no picture Sad smile)

First, with the union, I paint coats blue and pants light blue.


Next… I paint rifles, boots, and hair brown.


Next is the tricky bit.  Rather than use my static flocking, I use blended turf.  Static flocking would be impossible to keep off the figures themselves.  Also… rather than use glue (and my fav glue applicator) I use green acrylic paint and a brush.


These things are tiny and grass is just not going to give me the coverage I need.  Green paint has pretty adhesive like qualities and has the advantage of NOT looking like crap when exposed. 

As an aside, I have known many a war gamer that applies sand/grass/whatever using acrylic paint as it never looks bad and can be applied with a paintbrush (by definition.)


Confederates are similar….


… guns, hats, hair, face, bags…


and grass…


Stands 2.0

20 02 2011

As I established previously, my basic infantry stand is 7/8” by 5/8’.  Groovy.  With width and depth determined we have only the issue of height to be settled. How tall should a stand be?  Should it have any height at all?  This is one of those strange and nuanced topics that can divide miniature war gamers into different, almost religious, camps.

On one side are what I shall call the “flat-earthers”.  Soldiers did NOT fight on raised pedestals and neither should their miniature counterparts.  To the flat-earthers there is nothing quite as satisfying as seeing troops standing virtually level to the table.


On the other side of this robust debate are a somewhat more pragmatic group that mount their minis on deliberately tall bases.  Many don’t like to pick up miniatures by their painted surface or or are concerned that some minis are fragile and might break.  Also… they think pedestals are cool.


I like the look of both but I even if I didn’t, 6mm miniatures are just too small to pick up and move by the lead itself.  It would be great to have enough surface to move minis around without overly touching the lead itself.  Also… where would you put the labels?


So, another age old divide amongst wargamers is whether or not units should be labeled.  This is actually a pretty big problem with, again, several almost religious schools of thought. 

Most gamers prefer no labels permanently affixed to their miniatures.  This allows for great flexibility.   One does not have to know in advance their order of battle before painting and units can be assigned a designation as needed.  Armies can be generically painted and divvied up to their scenario dependent units on the day of battle.  The only problem is that it is not overly easy to track un labeled units on the table.  Usually a temporary label is joined to the mini’s for a gaming session.


Another approach is to make the label free standing like a name card.


In the image above, generic units are tracked using trifold labels.  (If you look closely, even the units themselves are massively generic;  25mm miniatures on circular bases are attached to green cards allowing the gamer to change the scale of the base or to reflect casualties by removing miniatures from their stands as they take hits.)  More common than the trifold label is the use of stickers or post-its to make a unit a battle time.

Another way to distinguish units on the battlefield without resorting to any sort of label is the distinctive paint job.


There where a lot of variation with uniforms during the war.  By using Zoaves, great coats, colored bed rolls and back packs, and other variations in uniform you can create enough distinction to tell troops apart but this is a lot of work and , once again, 6mm is no scale for counting on uniform details for distinction. Besides, troops with distinctive uniforms where rarely able to maintain these distinctive looks more than a few months in the field.

Another reason for using thick bases is to allow for a beveled surface to attach a label.  I have seen many flat bases with labels but it always looks a little awkward to me.


I like to bevel the backs of my bases and the base need only be tall enough to allow a 45 degree bevel to contain a single line of text.  This fits nicely on about a quarter of an inch.

Steel, magnet, card, wood, etc.

I have seen MANY different materials used for creating miniatures bases.  Basically, there are two approaches to basing miniatures.  Permanently base them and temporarily base them.  Now… I am a big fan of permanent basing.  To me it is more important that the miniature be well based than well painted.  The smaller the scale of mini, the more important this is and we are doing very small mini’s indeed.

However… IF I owned EMACULATELY painted 25mm miniatures and did not possess the skill or time to produce another whole set of painted minis AND I wanted to play many different games systems and scales with these minis I would be VERY reluctant to permanently base them.  It is not uncommon to see someone at a game convention attaching very big and NICE minis to a plain piece of thick card using trace amounts of rubber cement in order to temporarily make them street legal for one game system or another.

To make the pedestal deep bases I really have only one option for building material… wood.  I could run out and buy Bass or Balsa wood from Michaels if I liked or I could custom buy precut bases online from a miniature accessories company such as Litko.  Sadly wood as a basing material has one serious shortcoming.  There is no condition in which it is naturally sticky.

Metal is sticky… when placed on a magnet.  Magnets, conversely, are sticky when placed on metal.  Both give you the option of storing miniatures in an environment where you can be pretty confident that they will not shift.  Magnets can be bought sticky backed and applied to precut wooden bases with a great deal of success.  This is a really common scenarios.  If stored in a metal container or a metal bottomed container then this will work really well.

Metal bases, which can be glued to wood, provide a good base when stored on sheet magnet.  Additionally, if you wanted to cut your own bases and bevel them, it would also provide an excellent template for doing so and would be resistant to forces that might be used to shape the wood, such as a rapidly spinning disk of sandpaper.  I use this technology.

Making bases

To start with, I buy precut metal bases from the aptly named Wargames Accessories out of St. Petersburg Florida.  Not only do they have a wide variety of miniature base sizes but, if you happen to choose an amazingly odd size, such as 7/8” by 5/8”, to base your game upon then they are really eager to custom cut that size base for you!

Next… I need the right depth wood to get a quarter inch tall bevel, about the height of text I need, so I will use… <Math> …and keeping in mind Pythagorean theorem… <Math> …at 45 degrees… <Math>… and rounding the nearest depth of commonly available bass wood boards… <Math>… I therefore will use 3/32 of an inch as the depth of my bases.  3” by 24” Basswood boards are readily available at this depth.


Next I use white glue to attach bases to the basswood in lines and columns.  Once I attach the base I use a small clamp to hold the base in place while it dries.  Because I only have about a dozen clamps I glue bases to the board after a painting session working on something else.


Once I have a board or two filled up with bases, I cut around the bases using a scroll saw.


For those of you that you that know me… yes… this seems like an excellent way to hurt myself.


Once I have my bases cut out I then sand a strait edge onto all four sides using a belt sander.


The metal doesn’t sand all that well so the bases typically get really well squared.  This process works very well.

Once all bases are sanded, I then tilt the guide on my sander to 45 degrees (or so) and put a bevel on on side.


Repeat until finished


I now have a set of bases that are just high enough to pick up without lifting by the miniature, beveled to provide amply room for a label and just big enough for the miniatures I am using.



30 01 2011

How soldiers are presented on the war-gamming table is a central question of any miniature gaming rule set.  Some systems have units that are a constant size, manpower density being the only variable. 


In the image above, each of the regiments sit on individual stands.

Using this approach, planning is a breeze.  Each regiment is the same size so it’s a simple matter of painting as many as possible.  The downside is that you don’t have any variation in unit footprints.  All regiments take up the same space regardless of the number of soldiers they represent.

Another approach that is sort of novel is using a fixed number of troops (regardless of how they are organized) rather than using the “unit” as the basis of the game, .  The only rule here is that troops should be organized by type.  Using this system means a greatly simplified order of battle.  I need X stands of this and Y stands of that.  No generals.

Psioli vs Knights

In the image above, the knights on the left have the EXACT same width as the skirmishers on the right.

This allows for games where enemy units can come into contact and not overlap. It makes for an eloquent system and is REALLY popular in ancients war gaming.

One MAJOR issue ignored by both of the approaches above is that of formations.  Units of the Civil War typically fought in close order, two lines deep.  They also fought in a more spread out formation called skirmish lines.  Additionally they would have marched everywhere in columns.  And finally, troops exposed to too much battle would eventually break and run for their lives in no particular formation at all.

Another concern is that as units of the Civil War took casualties they tended to compress into smaller footprints, preferring to maintain a constant density rather than a constant frontage. 

What is needed is a method for laying out troops that can visually reflect different formations and can get smaller to accommodate battle casualties.  Using multiple stands to represent a singe unit allows for both of these.


In the image above 6 stands are used to represent a single unit.  Notice the third stand has the unit’s office and color bearers.


By turning all elements 90 degrees and placing the command stand in front, the unit now appears to be marching.

Basing for McPherson and Revenge

As I mentioned in a previous post, a 400 man regiment, while in line, would have occupied a frontage of 200 yards and 200 yards is 4 inches on my table.  This same regiment in columns would be much shorter.  Probably closer to 120 to 150 yards (2.4”-3”).

I could just say that I would use a one inch wide by 3/4 inch wide stand to represent 100 soldiers.  That would work really good.  However, I need the soldiers to look right on the stand too.  I know from experience that the 6mm minis I have ordered (and have AGRAVATINGLY not yet received) are only about 3/4 wide and 1/4 inch deep.  Even if I put two rows of these guys on a stand it would look a little goofy.  Instead, I will use 7/8” wide by 5/8” deep stands and say that each stand represents 90 men.  This too will work really well.

The number of stands used to represent a unit will be variable base on 90 man increments.  Rather than worry about odd numbers, I will just round the units either up or down as needed.  This effectively means that all infantry units in my game will represent units strengths of 90, 180, 270, 360, 450 and 540 men.


Using stands side by side, a regiment will form a line.


Using stands front to back, a regiment will form a column.


By placing stands side by side with a goodly bit of spacing, a regiment my form a skirmish line.


And by placing stands close but facing in all directions, a regiment may appear disordered.

Terrain Philosophy

23 01 2011

Ok… Before I go much further, I should point out what I value in war-gaming terrain . It’s not enough that terrain be pretty or realistic.  These are great goals but not the complete picture.  In no particular order, here is what I like in a terrain,

1.  Terrain that I can use in virtually any scenario. 

I don’t want a hill.  Ok… sure I do BUT I don’t want a particular hill.  I want all hills.  I want a box o’ every hill ever made.  Same thing is true of rivers and forests.  I need something that morphs into what I need at the time I need it.  I have already shown you the hill solution I keep in a box.  These hills are a bit of a pain to set up, and are showing their age but they can be formed to look like a lot of different terrains.  I like ‘em.  The alternative is to create a set piece or table for gaming.  Many gamers do just that to great effect.  I am not one of them. 

2. Terrain that is easily stored.

I spent some quality time in the consumer electronics industry and heard many products described as having a high or low “WAF”.  A “high” Wife Acceptance Factor (WAF) is key to enabling my hobby.  I would like everything on my table to have a permanent storage place and live neatly tucked away in a closet, or on a shelf, waiting for a full blown geek-mageddon to come out.

I have met more than one guy into model railroading, a pastime with a astoundingly low WAF, and asked them what impact their hobby had on their domestic life.  I have heard two answers to this question; 1) “I’m divorced” and 2) “My mom doesn’t mind”.  I keep my toys in the closet when I am not using them.

3. It’s easy to tell what stuff is and where it begins and ends.

Like sports, gaming can be intense, and like sports, a lot of games could benefit from having clearly marked boundaries.  Its not an accident that the boundaries on athletic fields are marked with chalk or paint and there are guys who do nothing but watch those lines . 

I have seen many miniature tables where one or two trees where meant to represent a forest.  Its easy for arguments to break out over whether or not a unit has cover.  It’s sometimes very hard to tell what terrain is meant to extend to where.  I like terrain that is really obvious where it extends too and what it is.

4. Pretty and realistic terrain

Ok… I likes me some pretty terrain.  Once it can fit in a box, has obvious boundaries and can polymorph into any shape, I care about how it looks a great deal.  I have seen many games where the terrain was a simply cut felt and thought “geez… would it kill you to dress that up?”


Ten out of ten for WAF but minus several million for looking icky.