Friday, 8 September 2017

Rommel: 6" grid or Hexon?

40mm square bases on Hexon hexes
I like the aesthetic of depicting a whole platoon of 3mm miniatures on a large base, but I'm still weighing up the practicalities. I now have the rules in my hands thanks to Caliver Books and I got a PDF copy as well for study when I am out and about. I see the conversion to hexes in the Advanced Rules is straightforward, or, at least, left to the player.

It prevents use only of the 'Gaps in his Lines' rule, but Peter Hunt (Bertie on TMP) has suggested the following: "We just made it that if a unit is in the ZOC of two enemy held hexes it cannot move into a vacant hex that is in the ZOCs of those same two enemy held hexes unless it is using "Gaps in his Lines." So you can use the rule for what is intended: going around or through a loosely held enemy line."

So what are the pros and cons of switching from the default 6" grid to 4" Hexon hexes?  First the pros:
  • I already have Hexon (including hills) and thus a ready-made battlefield. Rivers are easy to add on the hex edges using felt strips.
  • It would allow me to use a much more compact playing area or play a much larger game in the same space.
  • Hexes look less grid-like than squares and this carries through into the shape of BUAs, wooded areas and river courses.
  • Hexon is going to look better than any alternatives I'm likely to end up with.
  • BUAs would require much fewer buildings.
  • Smaller (40mm wide) unit bases would be more compact to store and transport.
  • Hexes eliminate the distance distortion on the diagonal which could affect artillery in large games.
The cons:
  • There would be a loss of aesthetic appeal to the unit bases. The AFVs would be and look closer when going head-to-head.
  • Full platoons would be a bit overcrowded on a 40mm wide base, but not impossible.
  • Hexon is bulky and heavy but when needed I would have the option of substituting a 4" hex cloth like the European Fields one from Hotz. Another cloth would give me a desert option.
Anyway, I don't have to decide now. My first game will be with counters and then my existing 10mm armies.


  1. I am guessing that with Hexon in your hands and the advantages of compression of the battlefield, that the Pro's out-weigh the cons at this moment, plus, it seems that if ever there was grounds for a conversion to hexes in any figure system, it would be from another grid system and this game no doubt will develop a wider traction towards hexes as more people do it and share their house rules.

    I don't have the rules, so am not sure what the 'gaps rule' is intending, but it strikes me that we are simply dealing with cells here (either one hex or one square) and so despite what the ZOC rules make the situation look like, to see whether you penetrate a square (i.e. one square) should be based on a calculation that involves only looking at one attacker hex and one defenders hex - not both. In this regard, the only impact of hexes is providing choice that would not be there on a square grid.

    The only thing you would have to stop is the weak defending hex may have two attacker hexes that could make such a move against it (almost like a super break-through) - just revert to the principle that this is a square base game in which only one of them could do that.

    I looked on the forum to try and get a better grasp of the gap rule to help me answer this and I noticed one poster not liking hexes because it does not allow straight ahead movement and I think this is the problem that some gamers who are not used to hexes have with them. They describe the zig-zag effect of movement, but if they could change their mindset to seeing it as forward movement it would greatly help.

    (plus the so called zig-zag effect, brings the benefit of compression of the battlefield over the depth of the table, so you can effectively get a deeper game area for the same table space.

    Anyway, the bottom line is one can change the system to make it hex friendly by using known hex sub-systems (but that will change the game) or make the hex field accord to square based rules, which of course means that what we want to represent is that a unit in a square can only deal with the square directly ahead - unless diagonal sub-systems are in being.
    I think your 10mm is going to look good and a desert cloth is a good idea - though cost wise you are probably approaching something similar to the unflocked light brown Kallistra tile sets (18 tiles).

  2. I suspect that if everyone had access to hexes, Sam would have made it a hex game.

    The gaps rule is about moving diagonally on a square grid through two enemy-held 'shoulders', but I need to start playing the game before making any further speculations...

    I think only three bases can attack a given square/hex, so there shouldn't be any more ganging up with hexes, though it may be easier to move round a flank with hexes. Not sure.

    With hexes you do get straightline movement in one axis, so a decision needs to be made for each game about which way you lay them down. As you say, you also get more compression in one direction, but if using the same number of hexes as grid squares this won't have much effect beyond distorting the shape of the playing area.

    You make a good point about the relative cost of Hexon and cloths! Maybe I'll have to get another box and finish them with sand!

  3. Right, then going through a diagonal in which both shoulders of that passage are formed from enemy occupied squares should be no different than a unit in a hex traversing along the hexside (rather than the hex itself) between two neighbouring units - except of course, the unit has travelled in effect two hexes to get there, though that is not much different than the distance issues raised by diagonal movement for squares.

    Squad Leader used a similar mechanic to move around building hexes and they actually called it Bypass Movement.

    1. I get your point which is definitely worth trying and possibly closer to the original rule. However, a continuous line of held hexes seems a little more solid than two squares meeting at their corners...

    2. It depends on scale, there might be a lot of empty space in that hex. Your 10mm will make the hex look full, so the visual is detracting from what is really going on.

      It will be really interesting to see how these rules take off (or not). We now have these and To The Strongest (by Simon Miller) commercially taking the traditional figure gamer to square grids.

    3. High level games are necessarily more abstract and inevitably lack the flavour of lower level ones and that may limit Rommel's appeal to the average gamer. For me this is compensated for by the opportunity to re-fight historical battles but that means you need a range of historical scenarios. I hope these will be forthcoming in the near future.

  4. I have to say after reading a few blogs I am a bit uncertain about Rommel. I really like Blucher but grids uuuhhhhhh...

    1. I shared your disgust for grids until I tried them with the original Square Bashing and really like it!

  5. Simon, even as a wide user of grids, I know exactly what you mean. The grid seems to be mechanic orientated and can offend the eye, but is highly functional. The open table (especially a nice one) has a natural, pleasing visual that does everything to enhance the sheer joy of figures.

    One day I like one and then I change my mind .... again.... repeat :-)

    1. Right on, Norm! Some days I feel like grid; some days I don't!

      Interesting discussion, nonetheless.