Thursday, 31 March 2016

Bloody Big Battles! Borny-Colombey Hexoned

I'm not planning to fight this Bloody Big Battles! scenario just at the moment, but other players have referred to the difficulty of modelling the terrain for Borny-Colombey so I thought this would be the ultimate test for using Hexon.

Having established my basic approach and having played about in the drawing program with these maps and hexes for some time, it was actually extremely straightforward and quick (less than 20 minutes) to decide on and 'colour in' the hill hexes.

I used to do this by hand on a printout, but since completing these maps for the blog, I'm now finding it much easier to do it in the drawing program itself. Using a 50% transparent fill I can still see the original map detail underneath which helps me both to make and revise the hex definitions. The latest version of CorelDRAW (X7) works extremely smoothly and is a pleasure to use.

I would probably stagger the hexes to the north-north-east of Fort St-Julien to follow the original angle of the ridge and avoid encroaching on the river. A few villages need shifting slightly so they are on or off hill hexes in compliance with the original contour lines. Otherwise, everything is much as it falls under the grid.

All the high ground can be represented with Hexon - no non-hex features are required. One would be hard-pressed to reproduce the map as accurately with ready-made stand-alone hill pieces, and unlike bespoke scenery directly tracing the map, the Hexon tiles can be reused for completely different battles. Overall this proves to me that Hexon is an ideal solution for reproducing BBB scenario maps.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Langensalza Hexoned

This is how I would now reproduce the Bloody Big Battles! Langensalza scenario map with Hexon. The main part of Langensalza needs to be moved slightly to the right to get the bottom left-hand corner off the hill. All connecting rivers and roads should be shifted with it to maintain relative positions.

I've represented three of the small, isolated hills with Hexon, but non-hex features could be more accurate especially for the Judenhuegel and the Erbsberg. There is a loss of detail in the contour line to the north of Illeben but that's not likely to be of any significance. If it was significant, I'd move depiction of that area half a hex to the left so that the shape could be represented better, albeit displaced.

Once again, Hexon proves to be a very adequate tool IMO.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Converting scenario maps to Hexon

Hexon grid for a 4' x 6' table.
I thought I'd write again and in a bit more detail about converting Bloody Big Battles! scenario maps to Hexon II hexes.

I use the maximum number of hexes that can be fitted on a physical 6' x 4' table using the given orientation of the hexes. The equivalent diagram on the Kallistra website is only approximately 6' x 4' and requires an area larger than that to avoid overlapping the table edges.

The grid I use measures 13 x 18 hexes. It uses 36 6-hex tiles and a column of 18 single-hex tiles. When laying out the tiles I use a non-slip mat rather than the Hexon clips, and bury the single column in the middle. I do clip the single column for stability.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Behind the 2/3 scale idea

I wrote about the accuracy of using Hexon to reproduce BBB terrain maps at 2/3 size but I didn't fully explain how I came to that idea in the first place.

BBB scenario maps are very considerately designed for a standard 6' x 4' wargaming table. I can create an area of that size at home but it requires extension boards. It would be a little easier to play on my dining-room table without extension boards. Also, my 10mm American Civil War armies use 20 mm bases (rather than 1" bases) so the 2/3 size is a better proportional fit. (To be exact the bases are 40 mm wide, but I am counting them as double bases and making up some 20 mm wide ones for singles.)

Another advantage of the reduced size is the ability to print the 8" map squares 2-up on A3 paper. This means I can play on the printout of a map rather than having to set up 3D scenery. There are times when this could be advantageous.

It's obviously a good option for my ACW armies but I was also considering it for any future armies so I floated the idea on the BBB Yahoo Group. Rules author, Chris Pringle, suggested combining the 2/3 map size with normal size bases but reducing the number of bases in each unit. I didn't immediately warm to this idea but then I realised it would allow me to play at both scales without irretrievably committing myself to smaller bases.

For someone of my clumsiness 1" bases are fiddly enough! In extremis I could also borrow the 1" square bases from my Seven Years War Maurice armies.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Spicheren

Spicheren (6 August 1870) was a Franco-Prussian War battle which compelled the French to withdraw to the defences of Metz. In the Bloody Big Battles! refight we rolled dice for the privilege of choosing sides. I won the roll and chose the hasty and aggressive Prussians whilst my friend Ian commanded the defensive and well-armed French.

The game was fought over a 6' x 4' table using Hexon tiles to create the terrain. That involved some simplification of the contour lines, but none significant IMO. The river, roads, railway (black), towns, villages and ponds were fashioned from felt. Buildings were from a wooden toy village set. The bridge was resin. Matchsticks at the edges of the hexes were used to indicate steep slopes. Hexes that contain tree models or lichen (not enough trees) were wooded.


The Prussians (blue) were mostly off-table at the beginning. The main Prussian force came over the river in the north-west. The French (red) were somewhat spread out. A subsidiary Prussian force threatens to enter further to the south at Schoeneck or on the southern edge. The five white counters denote the objectives. The French must be prepared to defend the southern objectives as well as fending off the main Prussian force.

Bloody Big Battles! - Accuracy of Hexon terrain at 2/3 scale

Ideally one would create customised terrain for each battle directly tracing the contours in the scenario maps, and some people have done just that. Most people, however, probably use ready-made hills of one sort or another and I've been happy with Hexon tiles.

Recently, however, I've been thinking of reducing the maps by 2/3 so they will fit on a smaller table, i.e. 32" x 48", and using smaller base widths (20 mm). The issue that concerned me most was whether Hexon would still work at the reduced granularity.

The battleground in hexes would become 9 x 12 so I superimposed the hex grid on a sample map (Gravelotte) to see how well the contours could be represented. The illustration shows the original map next to my representation in hexes.

I personally think the representation is good enough and, more to the point, is likely to be at least as accurate if not better than using any other system of ready-made hill features.

I'm not now intending to adopt the 2/3 scale in general but it's a useful option and I'll write more about it in a future post.

Monday, 14 March 2016

The cast-pike controversy

15 mm mediaeval Florentine spearmen. All my 15 mm and
25 mm pikemen/spearmen have been re-equipped with
wire/pins, but I wouldn't want to do that with 10 mm figures
unless they come open-handed.
Doing the Thirty Years War with 10 mm Pendraken or 6 mm Baccus figures has been on my wishlist for a long time. For someone in Britain brought up on an Anglocentric view of history, doing the TYW rather than the English Civil War appeals to my offbeat tastes.

However, I am completely put off large pike armies by the prospect of bent and broken pikes or the effort required to replace cast pikes with pins or wire. Replacing 10 mm cast pikes is very tedious and time-consuming, and not always successful. Replacing 6 mm pikes is probably not even an option.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - basing figures 2

The BBB standard solution for representing a "4S" unit.
This assumes 6mm figures on 1" square bases.
Following my little article on BBB figure basing,  I posted to TMP about what late 19thC warfare really looked like. There were some interesting responses with links to pictures that contributors considered to be realistic. My overall impression was that while the firing line was fairly loose and irregular, the supports were in quite close order.

A parallel discussion recently took place on the BBB Yahoo Group about skirmisher basing. In BBB a unit (Brigade/Division) might consist of say 4 bases, one of which will typically be rated as giving the unit a skirmishing capacity ("4S"). The suggested way of representing this is to have 3 bases of close order troops and 1 of skirmishers.

A "4S" unit using a skirmisher marker.
However, the appearance of a skirmishing base in line with close order troops doesn't look right to me. Another approach would be to have, in this instance, 4 close order bases and 1 skirmisher base as a marker. The marker is ignored for all purposes other than indicating the skirmishing capacity. When the first base is removed as a casualty, you remove 1 close order base and the skirmisher marker.

This makes things a little more fiddly but should look a whole lot better while neatly fulfilling rule requirements. It also inclines me back to my original preference for 6mm Baccus figures...It's a good job I'm allowing this project to mature before hitting the 'buy now' button!