Saturday, 16 April 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Blocks or figures?

Labels for blocks
I was just about to place an order for some 6mm Franco-Prussian War figures when I wavered at the prospect of buying and painting almost 50 packs of figures, and that would be just to do the battles of the Imperial period. In the meantime, the use of the blocks, Hexon and wooden toy village buildings has received a lot of compliments. I've therefore decided to put any figure orders on hold for the time being.

I began with block labels showing standard  NATO symbols. They don't have the 'Xs' and 'Is' used to denote level (e.g. 'II' for a Battalion) because while in one game the blocks might represent Platoons, in another they might represent Divisions or anything in between. I soon realised that it would often be important to indicate facing, so I later added triangular arrows.

For Bloody Big Battles! some blocks need to  indicate a skirmishing capacity, so I've now added a little hunting horn symbol. A similar approach could be taken with later period armies which require special assets. The artillery are also now flippable for limbered/unlimbered. At some point I may do flippable blocks for dismountable cavalry. The blocks are not otherwise individually identified as they are typically grouped together. For BBB I have separate unit ID labels as here.

The labels are designed to fit Gibsons Mah Jong blocks which can be found in charity shops or on eBay, and you can download a copy of the labels in PDF format. I print the image to an A4 sheet containing a single self-adhesive label (LL1) and then cut up the individual labels with a scalpel, metal rule, magic cutting mat and enough care and attention to avoid slicing into my fingers too often. As you get older and clumsier this becomes more hazardous. If you are going to use these blocks on an incline (i. e. 3D hills), you may need to put a blank paper label on the bottom to stop them slipping.

8 comments:

  1. Recently I considered the idea of representing large battles using blocks for an 18th Cent scenario..I haven´t the time to paint up enough figs, base then etc, build the landscapes or the Money to buy them in the first place. I read up on the prussian game "Kriegsspiel" but thought it looked a bit boring with the blocks looking all the same but then I saw your "preparing for Gettysburg" post and thought, "that#s the way to go" :-D

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    1. 'Smoke and mirrors' but I think it will work! Note Sam Mustafa's views on the future of wargaming...

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  2. I actually use 2mm blocks from Irregular Miniatures to play BBB with. I laid on a game at the authors BBB Bash day recently, using the 2mm figures to run the Balaclava scenario. It looked nice (people said) as you get a real impression of big units of men moving from your God-like view. And they are easy to paint too.

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    1. I've often thought about 2mm but never committed myself. It's something about still wanting to see models and know what they are without reading a label. This is less important for the 19thC where one side might be grey and the other blue. But I don't think it works so well for, say, Ancients.

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  3. I really like the blocks (I have a large collection myself - see 'a war gaming odyssey' for some of the actions I have used them for - on Hexon but primarily Command and Colours based) and have recently acquired a copy of BBB for which they are crying out to be used for. I used imitation Jenga blocks sawn in half and labels prepared using MS Paint. the symbols are pretty much NATO standard and I have a choice of 7 colours.

    Happy to swap block stories - drop me a line to discuss further - and I am delighted to not be the only one using them!

    All the best,

    DC

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    1. Hi David

      Good to hear from you. Your Jenga blocks were my major inspiration though I eventually decided on the Mah Jongg tablets partly because they required less work.

      A friend of mine has since used balsa blocks mounted on card. These have the advantage of being soft enough to sport pins with flags on them and this adds a nice touch. I will be posting an AAR showing these when I get time. The Mah Jongg blocks could also be put on their sides in C&C-style.

      I've also got some mini-Jenga blocks and plastic equivalents, but no immediate plans to use them. Many years ago I also created some bases using matchsticks mounted on green card. That would be another interesting option if you could buy matchsticks in appropriate colours.

      You can email me direct using the name of this blog @gmail.com.

      Best wishes

      Richard

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  4. Thanks for the block labels. I was wondering if you have done any smaller lebel sheets with just leaders? That is the only thing that seems lacking in what you've done. I've ordered a bunch of wooden blocks from Columbia Games to start down this path myself. Thanks.
    Clay

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    1. Hi Clay

      The blocks with the flags represent commands for when they are required, but they are the same size as the other blocks.

      Good luck with your efforts.

      Richard

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