The quest to get a figure game into a small playing space (a pinboard) and keep game storage low, has continued, but at last has taken a direction that leaves me happy to conclude these project posts. The past month has been busy with three quite different gameboards being assessed, a working set of home grown WWII rules tested, the painting and basing of two forces gaining ground and some terrain bits added.
Readers who want to see the three previous posts to get some context of how this project has evolved can use the following links.
Please click below to continue with this post.
Last month the project had two boards (one open and the other marked with 5" hexes), a number of 6mm and 10mm test bases and several sets of commercial rules to evaluate for our pinboard use. The project was at a crossroads as to what direction it should take, but this actually resolved itself rather quickly.
Back-ache, unfortunately, is my constant companion! and recently has been particularly bothersome. Those with back problems will know that at times, leaning forward to even a small degree can be problematic, even making gaming on a standard sized boardgame map uncomfortable. For figure gaming, leaning forward and having both arms out-stretched to measure movement and move bases precisely, just exacerbates the symptoms.
The solution has been to fall back with more certainty on my old friend - the hex, which appears to be gaining popularity with increasing numbers of figure gamers, perhaps helped by the popularity of the Commands & Colors and Memoir '44 systems and for the easier management of naval, air and space combat games. Hexed game mats and hexed boards with matching terrain accessories are available commercially, making the adoption of the hex somewhat easier.
Hexes have many 'in game' advantages, but from the perspective of this post, they remove all need for manual measuring. Units can simply be lifted from one space and placed in a new location without the necessity of millimeter precision. This can all be done one handed, allowing the gamer to turn into the board rather than leaning forward over it - essential for solitaire play if you have to also manage the far reaches of the board.
Anyway, with all that said, on with the post - there is plenty to share this month.
The Board(s) - This has never stopped evolving since my first post. The open board (the large pinboard) has had a face-lift this month. The 'carpet under-lay' surface has been removed and replaced with a piece of light green Draylon fabric, ironed reverse side up (because it creases like hell) through a tea towel (because it's delicate to heat) and then fixed to the board using two inch double sided sticky tape. It seems a very functional way of making an open gaming board and keeping everything very lightweight. The double sided tape seems a better way to go than using glue for fabrics. For now though, this board has been put to one side in favour of a hexed board.
A second board (2' x 3' piece of thin 6mm MDF) was covered with another piece of the Draylon fabric (double sided tape again) and marked out in 4" squares, giving a grid that is 9 wide by 6 deep. This has also been put to one side ( Edit - this has since gone to the re-cycle centre!).
The 2' x 3' board that had been set out with 5" hexes to give a 7 x 5 grid, has gone to the re-cycle centre (a shame because I did a lot of work on it). The large hexes were nice enough as each hex easily held both the units and a decent sized terrain item, while features like waterways and roads had some freedom to roam, with gentler bends. However, for our small board, that 5 hex depth just seemed limiting for tactical manoeuvering and had the enemy baselines too close together.
On 10th March, at the Allumwell wargame show (UK), Wargames Emporium were doing a demo for their revamping of Command Horizon, a Sci-fi system and figure range which they recently bought from Baccus 6mm. To demo the game, they were using a hexed board (Kallistra 4" hex tiles) 8 wide by 9 deep with 6mm Sci-fi miniatures. I sat with the chap for 20 minutes or so and played through a demo game, which I enjoyed (good luck to their endeavour). Importantly, that small hexed playing area left a real impression on me.
Consequently, in abandoning the 5" hex, I switched to the 4" hex and stole back some extra depth on our pinboard sized area, giving more locations within the same space. Already being a fan of Kallistra, I went with their hard plastic tiles and decided to buy loose tiles, to create a sort of starter set, with a booster set as an option for later purchase. For our large pinboard, the battlefield can be formed from 8 of their 6 hex block tiles (see below photo), set in two rows of 4 tiles, using the orientation shown below. This gives a gaming area of 8 hexes wide by 6 deep and the tiles just fit inside the perimeter of the large pinboard.
There is a choice of flocked or unflocked terrain pieces. Unflocked is obviously cheaper to buy, but my past experience has shown that their flocked stuff is superbly done, very resilient and importantly, consistent in colour and texture across their range of supporting accessories, which you can add over time.
Above - a 6 hex tile flocked in the 'mixed earth' colours. The 10mm Pendraken tank and 1/300 Heroics and Ros tank are shown to demonstrate scale v hex size.
For the 'starter kit' eight of the above tiles were ordered, together with a 2 hex hill, a 4 hex hill, a brook equal to 8 hexes in length (this being a 4 hex straight section and two x 2 hex sections with bends, to get some turns along the brook) and a couple of blank templates (these will be painted grey to cover the grass hexes when I want to put buildings out, making the hexes look a bit more 'towny'). This collection will give an 8 wide by 6 deep hexed grid, with enough terrain bits to break up the board. The cost of the items was around £45 (unflocked would be about £10 cheaper), with just over £5 on postage (internal UK) and a pound or so PayPal fee.
For a booster set, which can be bought later, I thought it was useful to expand both the playing area and the terrain density. My booster purchase took two more 6 hex tiles to make the battlefield 2 hexes wider and a pack of 10 single hex tiles to push the board depth out from 6 to 7 hexes for a total gaming grid of 10 x 7, which whilst bigger than the pinboard, is still a relatively compact gaming area, but gives the player the extra gaming space when needed.
Going wider will also need two extra hexes worth of brook. The additional terrain items ordered were another 2 hex hill, an 8 hex hill for a dominant feature (4 hexes wide by 2 deep) and a 2 hex 'pulverised ground' piece (photo above) from their WWI craters range, but great just to represent rough terrain. Finally some blank templates were added, a single 3 hex template and a pack of 4 blank singles. These are good for home made terrain features such as fields, building bases, marsh (see below) and anything bespoke. This second order (all flocked except the templates) again came in at a shade under £45 plus £6.30 shipping and £1.01 PayPal fee.
The Kallistra kit does the job properly and in truth, the starter set order worked out cheaper than the money I have spent so far on the various boards and coverings bought for this project from day one (several of which have not even mentioned in these posts).
This does of course put me on a track of developing or finding hex rules or converting ordinary rules to hexes, but my own hex based WWII rules (more later) have given me a flying start.
So at this point, I am satisfied that I have a small board setup that I am likely to stick with and develop to cover multiple periods. There will be future posts on this setup being used, but they will go under a new title rather than as being part of the Pinboard Project Posts.
Figures - All this months painting efforts have been put into terrain (some now not immediately ideal for the 4" hexes) and Russian / German WWII forces for circa 1943 actions. Each army has a small infantry force supported by tanks (T-34 and PzIV) and anti-tank guns (57mm Zis-2 and 75mm Pak 40) and a couple of transports in 10mm scale from Pendraken, which is certainly enough to get going.
Above - a Russian lorry. Some boxes and a taup have been added as cargo. Above - The 57mm anti-tank gun with crew using the cover of bushes. Below - a second 57mm is behind a stone wall, which has a slight turn on the near corner to give the wall additional stability.
The anti-tank gun bases are constructed in a way that always has them firing from cover. Firstly, my rules always allow deployed anti-tank guns to claim cover, accepting that the crews of these low profile weapons were masters of finding the best positions from which to ambush the enemy. Secondly, the cover on the base gives an anchorage point to secure the gun to, so that by accident or otherwise, I don't end up with bendy barrels.
By using home grown rules, I can base to my preferred style of 1 infantry section per base, but I have gone for a smaller footprint than my old forces (old size 50mm frontage and 30mm depth), with the new size being a 40mm x 20mm for sections / squads and 20mm x 20mm for weapon teams. I wanted the base to have a linear look and enough figures on it not to look weedy! Because the rules use abstract sub-systems for command and light anti-tank weapons, those figure types can also be added to the 'section / squad' base, giving more variety in poses.
(above - the new squads on the painting tray) Initially the vehicles were not going to be based, even though that makes the based infantry become slightly artificially taller. However, the metal 10mm tanks are heavy and I don't like the way they strike against the hex surface of my boards, so I have ended up 'cushioning' them with a small base, but these bases are slimmer and shorter than I have used in the past, being 25mm wide for tanks and anti-tank guns and 20mm wide for trucks etc. The lengths have been shortened as well, so they don't really protrude beyond the front and rear facings of the vehicles. This does help keep a smaller footprint.
My painting technique has seen some minor changes (none of which include becoming a better painter!) Everything is primed black, but the subsequent dry-brushing in white is now mixed with some brown to give a creamy tan colour (this seems to cover slightly better than pure white and does not look so harsh when bits are missed). Block painting follows. Hand brushing the figures with a coat of satin varnish is meant to help the following splash of 'magic wash' mix, by protecting the highlights and letting the wash just find the folds, but I am not sure about the results and dislike the smell of the floor polish anyway. To try another angle, I am waiting for some Army painter inks (they are washes really) to arrive in the post and want to experiment with them before I settle on a particular wash technique.
My current 'magic wash' type mix is not preserving my confederate greys, napoleonic whites or adding enough shade to the WWII figures. I doubt there is one single 'wash' fix, but I am thinking of having a black based mix for blues, greys and whites and a brown based mix for everything else. (EDIT - The Army painter inks have arrived, I am now doing detailed washing, so sepia to flesh, mid brown to Russian uniform and black lining with a fine brush with the blackest ink to vehicles and the German infantry. The figures are then brushed with Winsor and Newton Galeria Matt Varnish (water washable for clean brushes) for protection (so no spray cans!) before mounting. The bases will not get a protective coating.
In an effort to keep the inside of the apartment solvent free, for basing, I have just moved across from solvent based general glue to UniBond's solvent free, tube of glue (branded as 'NO more nails'). It does glue metal but at least one surface needs to be porous, which seems fine for basing metal figures to cardboard bases. It does take 24 hours or more to fully cure though, so some patience is needed. The UHU / Bostik general purpose glues are still on standby for metal to metal fixing.
As an aside, above is a cheap way to get a painting tray. It is just a small pinboard sized chalkboard (whiteboard on the reverse). The black stops any glare during painting and there is a wooden lip around the edge to keep everything on the tray, which is small and light enought to be put up onto a bookshelf when not in use. The board cost just £2 from Wilko's (UK). On the photo, you can see some German infantry being prepared on the bottom right, a couple of 10mm Panzer IV's in the middle (some micro armour in the background) and an old CD that makes a handy painting palette. The red and black wooden beads have just been hot glued onto little buttons (to act as stabilisers), with the intention that they will be game 'pin' markers - but something a bit more subtle might be better (edit - it was, the beads are in the bin!).
Terrain - Aside from the Kallistra spend, this month I am concentrating on preparing resin terrain bits bought last month at a game show. My favourite piece is a little collection of three peasant type huts, with trackway running through and a small well at one end. This was picked up from Tom Allsorts from his vietnam range (code VN12) (all links at the foot of the post), but will look okay in my east front games games. The resin is a nice quality and paints up rather nicely.
A couple of field pieces were bought from The Baggage Train. The first was pre-painted and is a nice low, ploughed field piece that can cover two hexes and will be good for any period.
The second was a walled ploughed field for 6mm (below left). I wanted higher walls so that it would fit in with the 10mm units. I added three levels of stone chips, increased the height of the gate pillars with the filler paste that is used for unit bases and then dressed it with flocks. It looks a really nice feature on the table and fits well with the 10mm without increasing the footprint of the piece.
All of these pieces fitted nicely in the 5 inch hexes but, there is overhang in the 4 inch hexes. However, the terrain 'spilling' out of a hex looks good to my eyes, as it visually breaks up the hexfield and as long as everyone knows exactly what terrain actually classifies the hex, then all is fine (i.e. if a farm creeps over into an adjacent open hex, then that open hex is still classed as open, as this would be the main terrain type in that hex).
Finally, from Coritani, a pre-painted marsh piece looked too good to resist. I added a dirty wash to the water and when dry, added a scattering of grass tufts. The curved edges of the piece allows it to fit snug to the curvy sections of my Baccus river sections, so that the marsh has a relationship with the waterway. This is quite a big piece, bought with the open board style in mind.
I will soon have a need for a stash of Stalingrad type buildings, so I had a go at putting together a home-made ruined building, using black foam board, split matchsticks for window lintels and a variety of small gravels for rubble piles. It seems to do the job quite well.
The blank hex templates from Kallistra are ideal for making bespoke terrain pieces to place over grassed hexes, such as the marsh tile below, which can be useful in a wide range of periods.
I began by abrading the plastic surface of the template with some sand / glass paper, followed by a thin and well spread layer of tacky PVA. Try not to leave thick brush marks, as these will show through the water surface, fine marks are OK because this can be made to look like vegetive texture.
Using filler with some green paint added, areas of raised ground around the hex edge were applied with an irregular look, plus a couple of island type features. Once dry, a dirty wash was used to knock back and darken the green paste, which looks too light when first applied.
The water was painted dark blue (ultramarine is fine) and when dry, it was dulled with a dirty wash and then given the lightest of dry brushing with a pale blue to pick up on some of that vegitive texture and likewise to the higher ground. Once dry, flocks and grass tufts were added to suit and inks applied to dips and hollows as needed.
Rules - Well it took a lot of keyboard bashing, but my WWII rules were converted firstly for use with the 7 x 5 hex terrain board and then amended again to fit the 8 x 6 Kallistra 4" hexfield. Four scenarios were also worked into the rules. Producing a 'home set' of rules has allowed them to relate specifically to our limited board size, rather than trying to shoe-horn something else in.
Napoleonics - This subject has mostly gone onto the back burner while WWII gets all of the attention, but I am still mindful that I want my board and terrain to serve several military periods. The Snappy Nappy rules look good, as do the Rank and File rules and when the time comes it will be a question of whether the commercial rules get converted to a hex based set, or whether another home grown set is developed. Also at the back of my mind is using the Napoleon 20 boardgame series (see Danube, Waterloo and Borodino postings listed on the game tags in the right margin). It is a very low counter density game and sections of those battles might translate well to our board with the 'booster' hex set. I have already picked up Austrian and French 10mm armies from Pendraken at a recent show (Alumewell), so there is a real plan going on to get a napoleonic small table project going.
ACW - Not wanting a lead mountain to start growing, any ACW purchase will be held back until after the above mentioned napoleonics are at least on the painting tray, but at this point in time, the big 12mm ACW figures from Kallistra (shown in last months post) are callling. I do have some ACW rules somewhere on one of my hard drives that were written for 5" hexes on a 5' x 3' table and a McPherson's Ridge (Gettysburg) scenario to go with them, put together over a decade ago. The brook in the hex 'starter set' and the hills in both the starter and booster sets would probably give the kind of terrain needed. But we are getting ahead of themselves here........ let's get back to the current situation.
Action - At last! I hear you say. Well it does feel a bit like that. Four scenarios have been developed to go with the WWII rules, these being based around the scenarios that already exist in my boardgame version of the rules. As the armies were still being assembled, empty cardboard bases were used for some of the testing, while the future occupants of those bases were still on the painting tray. Remember EVERYTHING for this project is being bought in new, so that as these posts are written, they will hopefully 100% resonate with new gamers who want to have a dabble at this sort of thing but are starting from scratch. You can get into the gaming side of things quite quickly with card and paper while you assemble the things that you will ultimately want to have.
Anyway, this post is already long enough, so an AAR report of a game will appear as a totally separate posting and for the sake of doing nice visuals, will wait until the newly based units are 'fully dressed' (soon).
In the mail - On the way are five models from Pendraken (Panther, Tiger I, Marder II, SU 152 and SU 76). The WarGameStore have e-mailed a dispatch notice to say that the Army Painter inks and dark green grass tufts are on the way. (EDIT both lots have now arrived and all add nicely to the project)
Storage - For all the Kallistra tiles and terrain bits, a visit to a local shoe shop resulted in the aquiring of two boxes around 4" deep and just over 18" long (having contained ladies boots). All the Kallistra stuff mentioned above fits nicely into them and they are stored sideways on shelving, to give relatively compact storage.
It just remains to say thanks to everyone who has kept up with all of this. It has been demanding of time, but a new player could just pick the bits from the four project posts they like and short cut straight to a small set-up that specifically suites their needs and interests. If anyone is having a dabble for the first time, please add a comment here, it would be nice to know how you are getting on.
Link to The Baggage Train (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)