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.