Thursday 20 August 2009

Favourite Colonial units

I have just finished reading Andrew Martin’s DEATH ON A BRANCH LINE. One of the characters in the book recreates British colonial battles in which the York and Lancaster Regiment took part. This set me wondering about why so many colonial wargamers of my acquaintance have a particular ‘favourite’ colonial unit. For example, I know of several who have a ‘South Essex Regiment’ in their colonial armies, even though it is a fictional regiment created specifically for the SHARPE novels. Furthermore, this regiment always seems to occupy a prominent position in their army’s battle line.

Because most of my colonial wargaming is totally fictional I do not have a ‘favourite’ colonial regiment as such, but I have found that I do tend to favour two or three regiments over the others in my collection when I have battles to fight because they tend to be ‘lucky’ i.e. I always seem to throw better dice scores for them.

Am I unique in this, or do other colonial wargamers have their ‘favourites’ and/or ‘lucky’ units?

Thursday 13 August 2009

Hills and Mountains – Does Heroscape hex terrain provide a possible answer?

Heroscape is a fantasy figure game that was originally marketed by Milton Bradley, but is now owned by Hasbro. The original Master Set contained a set of pre-painted, plastic 28mm miniatures, rules, special dice, game markers, and a hex terrain system that clipped together to for the terrain over which the fantasy battles were fought.

Some time ago I looked at the possibility of using the Heroscape hex terrain for ‘normal’ wargaming; however the price of a Master Set put me off until I discovered that Argos were selling off their stock of Master Sets at considerably lower prices. I bought quite a few sets … and then wondered what to do with them.

The figures were easily disposed of to people who wanted them for their Heroscape games, and I was soon left with just a large collection of hexed terrain. I then discovered the Melee Wizards Terrain website, which had several tutorials on how to customise Heroscape hex terrain with paint and flock. I followed the basic methods that were outlined, and soon had some green painted and flocked hexes that I was able to use for a colonial game. The draft rules that I used are on my website here.

When I recently began thinking about creating hills and mountains for future colonial wargames, the Heroscape hex terrain – of which I still have a considerable amount unpainted and unflocked – sprang to mind. It can be clipped together quickly and easily, is easy to store, troops can stand on it, hills and mountains can be ‘built’ to suit a particular scenario, and the sides of the hexes look ‘rugged’ because of the system that is used to hold the hexes together.

The hexes are basically brown with different colours (green, grey [rocks], and tan [sand]) painted on the top, and different combinations (one hex, two hexes, three hexes, and seven hexes). The ones shown in the following examples are tan.

They can be combined to form a small hill …

… and medium-sized hill …

… and a large hill/small mountain.

N.B. The figure shown in these images is a 15mm British Colonial Infantryman made by Essex Miniatures. It gives some idea how large the hexes are when placed on top of each other.

By painting and flocking these terrain hexes, I could create suitable hills and mountains for all my games. They don’t look as good as the profile hills and mountains … but they are easier to store and can be taken apart and rebuilt into new shapes and sizes as required. Troops can stand on them, and pathways up, down and through them can be created.

Not a perfect solution but certainly a possible one.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Hills and Mountains – interesting responses

Judging by the responses my recent blog entry generated, the problem of representing hills and mountains on the tabletop seems to be of interest to several people.

As I wrote in that blog entry, I have tried several different methods to solve the problem, but none has been totally successful. However I think that Heroscape hex terrain might provide a viable answer, and as I bought a lot of it last year when Argos were selling off master sets very cheaply, I have enough to experiment with to see if it will work.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Hills and Mountains

I was recently asked why most of my colonial wargaming is set in Africa, and why I seemed to have ignored the North-West Frontier. The reason I gave was quite simple ... I have yet to find a method of producing hills and mountains that both look right and that model soldiers can stand up on. I have tried many methods, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Home-made Hills

My first attempts were very traditional stepped hills. They were made from plywood (to give a rigid base) and cork (to give thickness and texture without being too heavy). They were painted with a textured paint and patches of flock were added.

A 'rugged' hill. The same method was used to produce 'smooth' hills, which were much easier for troops to climb.
My second attempt used the thick cardboard end pieces that came in laser toner cartridge boxes. They were vaguely hill shaped, and once given a bit of internal strengthening (using balsa wood), they were stuck on thin plywood bases and flocked.

This type of hill was simple to make and very light to carry around, but although troops could stand on them, there was no obvious way for them to get up or down.
My most recent attempt used blocks of balsa wood shaped into hill profiles. These were similar in concept to the profile mountains featured on Major General Tremorden Rederring's website that I copied when I tried to create some mountains (see below).

The balsa wood made these hills light and quick to make. The slopes were rather steep, and on this hill troops slid down them. The stepped appearance did, however, give some indication as to how troops could ascend and descend the hill.
All of these hills can support troops standing on them, but only the first and last look like the troops have some method of getting up and down them during a battle.

Home-made Mountains

If hills can be difficult to model, mountains are almost impossible! The only method that I have found that allows troops to stand on the mountain, has a means by which the troops can get up and down it during a battle, has some height so that it looks large, and yet does not take up a huge amount of space on the battlefield was to copy the profile mountains originally created by and featured on General Tremorden Rederring's website.

Profile mountains ... in profile.
Mine were made out of thin plywood (for the vertical profiles) and balsa strip (for the spacers/steps). They were then fixed to a thin plywood base, painted with textured masonry paint, and flocked.

A pair of profile mountains placed back to back. The view from this direction is somewhat less convincing.
They look very convincing when seen in profile, but less convincing when seen from the side.

An example of a singe profile mountain. The steps allowed troops to ascend to and descend from the middle levels of the mountain.
Despite these aesthetic disadvantages they worked well on the tabletop, but I eventually passed them on to another wargamer because I had trouble storing them.

Commercial Hills and Mountains

I currently have and use Hexon II terrain for a lot of my wargaming. These commercially available hills and mountains are light and easy to store. However, although the hills can easily support troops, the mountains cannot. This makes it very difficult to fight battles in mountainous areas where one or both sides might wish to fight on the mountains.

British troops advancing up a valley between Hexon II mountains.
As yet I do not have an answer to this problem ... but one solution might be in several storage boxes in my wargames room ... Heroscape hexed terrain!

Monday 10 August 2009

The website is dead ... long live the blog!

Having run a website devoted to Colonial Wargaming for quite a few years – and having been a regular blogger since September last year – I decided that the time had come for me to create a specific blog for my Colonial Wargaming.

Unlike my other, more general wargaming blog – Wargaming Miscellany – this blog will only contain entries that are devoted to colonial wargaming in particular and colonial warfare in general. There may be some duplication of entries – notably if I am explaining how I have designed a particular set of colonial wargame rules or how I conducted a play-test of those rules – but my intention is that this should be the exception rather than the norm.

Happy reading!