General Wargaming

Battlefield planning

Posted by C M Dodson on 01 Mar 2016, 09:46

Battlefield planning

Following the recent discussions regarding my Ligny project I was wondering if these thoughts might of interest to fellow gamers and modellers?

My ground scale is 1 centimetre represents 10 metres of real ground .

This allows planning of battlefield distances when setting up re fights.

I measure the distances between the centres of the built up zones, for instance and transpose these measurements to the table.

When planning, reference to old maps and Google Earth can be invaluable. Indeed the ground function of Google Earth allows you to research sites without the problems of travel. Tracing paper can be effectively employed to super impose scale original maps over a scale plan of your re fight area.

Built up areas are represented as near to the original 'footprint' as possible in order to minimise the tactical influence exerted by being too big. This can represent challenges such as Hougoumont. The buildings are relatively small in comparison to the woods and gardens etc in real life. What I did was to construct the built up area so that it looked the part when the gardens and woods were added, making sure the overall footprint was the same.

For Ligny This meant constructing the key buildings in a scale smaller than 1/72, that looked like the originals and gave the 'feel' of a village, whilst looking balanced to the eye.

Sometimes an area needs to be represented but the actual scale would make the table enormous to accommodate it. Such a problem was Plancenoit. My solution was to build it to scale and include on the battlefield in it's correct position but at a larger scale of 1centimetre representing 20 metres of ground between it and the other main points La Belle Alliance and Papelotte.

Similarly, with Ligny the pont du jour area has been modelled in the same way. I wanted to include the part of Thielman's Corps that could influence events, but modelling all the 'extra' villages would have taken up a large amount of space, that would then be largely redundant.

All movement and firing, ie by artillery to this area from these points is at a half rate to compensate for the change in scale. Operations within it are at the normal rate. I found that this technique worked well in practise.

Happy modelling.

Chris
C M Dodson  United Kingdom
 
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Posted by Mr. Cryns on 02 Mar 2016, 12:44

Mr. Dodson,

Your considerations and limitation-problems are the core and backbone theoretics for every gamer and dioramabuilder to solve and overcome. It is a pitty so little attention is played to this among other collectors and builders. So it is great you come up with this topic.

My ground scale is 1 centimetre represents 10 metres of real ground .


I am very sorry but I am afreight to say here it goes wrong already.
The scale of the models we use is 1/72.
Lets make it more simple and say: it is 1:100.
Now you come up with A SECOND SCALE which is 1:1000.
That is ten times as small.

For a traditional wargame this is no problem. Even 1:10.000 should be possible.
Because it is all a simplification and an abstraction of a historical situation.

But your impressive work and extremely dramatic and realistic pictures do not look like a traditional wargame. It looks like a diorama and that is what many people will judge it for. As a diorama it is still impressive, convincing and realistic. Though as I told you before there are some lesser points. But thats only for some spectators, since everybody sees something different in the same piece of work.

A terrain scale 1:1000 just differs too much (factor 10 or more) from the human figure scale. And in the architecture this will become most clear.
Trees have little proportional reference.
But doors, floor hights and ground sizes of buildings have.

For example: here is a picture I took from a beautifull diorama in the Schattenburg Museum, Feldkirch, Austria, depicting the French Revolution attack on Feldkirch and surrounding mountain villages.

Image

As you can see, the builders wanted to show different valleys, mountains and villages in one diorama but since rocks and trees have little reference to scale it goes wrong with the architecture. It is too small and so it looks like out-of-proportion toys. In this special case, I am sorry to say this for the people putting so much effort in it, this just looks silly where 2 or 3 floors of a house are as high as one soldier.

Image

These houses are an all-over different scale.

So then there are diorama builders facing the same problem but making another decision: they highten the buildings to camouflage the small scale.
The huge diorama I found in the Essling Granary building is a good example:

Image

Image

The builders wanted to show all historical buildings but crammed them together for lack of space.

In proper proportions it would have looked like this:

Image

But lack of space and mixing two different scales creates this:

Image

As can be seen, the hight of Granary and Townhall is near realism but the groundplan is not.

It might be because I am not the easyest-to satisfy-spectator but for me this model of Essling creates a certain unpleasant tension :( . I feel different scales distorting each other and 'fighting each other' for their right of existence!

I measure the distances between the centres of the built up zones, for instance and transpose these measurements to the table.


Dodson we have so much in common! :o
What you describe is exactly what I did, for example in 1986 when I was a schoolboy and we created our first massive Waterloo game. This was the simplified terrain plan:

Image

It was based on two table-tennis-tables and two additional tables, occupying a large room in my parents house. Playing the wargam was difficult since too much space was occupied by buildings, road, forest. No space to deploy troops, no space for a proper charge.

Tracing paper can be effectively employed to super impose scale original maps over a scale plan of your re fight area.


Image

You see what I mean? We used tracing paper too, to decide where the hills and valleys needed to be created. I found these in my store room. These tracing papers are 30 years old now!

Built up areas are represented as near to the original 'footprint' as possible in order to minimise the tactical influence exerted by being too big.


I am sorry but I am not sure what 'footprint' means in this context.
Is it the scaled-down size of a village, the number of houses or the distance from one village-center to another?


For Ligny This meant constructing the key buildings in a scale smaller than 1/72, that looked like the originals and gave the 'feel' of a village, whilst looking balanced to the eye.


I think a human scale that is ten times as large as the terrain scale is just to big a difference. Of course your houses are not factor 10 smaller. Probably only factor 2 but that is still a lot for architecture.

In this case we must conclude: You (or we ;-) ) just want too much in one game, one diorama or one picture. We can not build the whole world in scale in one room.

The closer you can have terrain and figure scales matching, the better it becomes for the architecture.
But then there might appear another problem: lack of table space and lack of figures available to occupy all this space.

Sometimes an area needs to be represented but the actual scale would make the table enormous to accommodate it. Such a problem was Plancenoit. My solution was to build it to scale and include on the battlefield in it's correct position but at a larger scale of 1centimetre representing 20 metres of ground between it and the other main points La Belle Alliance and Papelotte.


To avoid the problem of villages and buildings occupying most of the battlefield, in later times we started to build only parts of a battlefield. Like Plancenoit. The houses are just a messy collection of what was available for the battle game and we had no trees left to chear up the village since all were needed for the woods east of the village. But since we only had to build one village on a huge table, there was enough space for proper scale houses, space between houses and some suggestion, created by hedges, for gardens around the village.

On the picture you see the French trying to keep away the Prussians before they enter the village.

Image

I wanted to include the part of Thielman's Corps that could influence events, but modelling all the 'extra' villages would have taken up a large amount of space, that would then be largely redundant.


Here you have been drawing your limits. That is always very interesting: where we draw a line. At what moment or stage in the development of such a huge project are we able to say: here it stops?

All movement and firing, ie by artillery to this area from these points is at a half rate to compensate for the change in scale. Operations within it are at the normal rate. I found that this technique worked well in practise.


And here you have another result of mixing different scales. It creates confusion, especially when playing with a lot of different gamers together. But it seems like you came up with an effective solution that works well! :yeah:

Now I am very curious about what ruleset you use and who you are playing against?

It is hard to imagine you are practically able to play a traditional wargame with all those thousands of separate standing figures.
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Mr. Cryns  Netherlands

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Posted by C M Dodson on 02 Mar 2016, 17:47

Dear Mr Cryns.

Thank you for your observations and putting such an extensive amount of time in to present them.

The problem with scale is not the 'ground scale' which can be anything almost, ie 1 inch equals ten yards etc but of height. If one wishes to use a true 1/72 scale then an army drill hall will be required.

Certain things such as you mention doors etc are a given. Your diorama evidence is compelling in that it proves not much thought has been given to the asthetic look in this regard by it's creators, despite their hard work.

Hills etc in a correct scale will become mountains and mountains well, you get the idea. The answer in my opinion is to compromise. We can not get everything mathematically correct but we can attempt to create something that is representative and pleasing to the eye.

With respect to urban 'footprint' I mean the scale area occupied by buildings. Some such as your Granary are a must if you are doing a specific battle. If an area is 1 metre by 1 metre to scale you fill it up with representative buildings that 'look' the part. If you use a true 1/72 scale in that area you will have an office block.

Life is a compromise and so is recreating battles where terrain factors have a tactical importance. I like to call it the 'feel' of the thing. Does it work tactically and still look ok?

You mention diorama, and wargame, this is a mixture. Someone from another forum used the term 'Battle rama' and I am happy with that.

My childhood wargaming hero was, and still is Charles Grant. His practical approach to the problems of Napoleonic's wargaming and terrain factors was my initial guide. I use his original rules with some alterations by myself which seem to work very well. I game by myself and being retired can take as much time as I wish.

My object is to 're fight' the action with the troops that were originally present with initial orders that reflect the concerns of the commanders at the original. By using a sand table individuals are not a problem, apart from moving them.

The action is recorded on camera and individual 'scenes' within the context of the action can be created with conversions to add authenticity rather than static ranks that we normally see.

I would like to think that, for instance the view from Mount Potriaux church would look vaguely familiar to a local of the time and that the overall effect with the perspective towards St. Amand looks fairly realistic.

Nevertheless their is always room for improvement.

Chris
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Posted by Emperor on 02 Mar 2016, 22:24

I had similar dilemma like you two guys...The sconce fortress and its redoubt was 280 meters with 300 meters in dimension...That means if it is 72 times smaller it need sides of 3 to 4 meters, and that is my entire room...M C DODSON has a point, making battle terrain in real dimensions would need a gym hall...Beside looking from my point of view only the palisade fencing would take me a 10 or 20 years to build on sconce of that size... Only logical thing if you are want to make something in real size and it's too big, make it a fragment of it... I think there is diorama of sconce of Newark, it has only one section with gun bastion...
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Posted by Emperor on 02 Mar 2016, 23:04

I think we all have to go with our possibilities...Not all of us are able to have enough space...
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Posted by Mr. Cryns on 03 Mar 2016, 17:48

Mr Dodson, and Emperor,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us once more.
I have never heard of Charles Grant, I think I must be too young to know his work and his influence on this hobby. I only know Peter Guilder as the famous name from the good old past and the origins of British Napoleonic gaming. But I checked Grant out on the internet: good old times come alive again with 28mm metal armies!

As a conclusion for this moment I think I more or less agree with everything you and Emperor say.
Also I, I have to live and work with compromises. Which I do. But sometimes I am getting a little fanatic, trying to understand problems and trying to solve them while nobody else sees a problem in it. And Mr. Dodson, since in the end you have lots of fans on this forum you should finish your Ligny project first, before you may start to think of fundamental changes or improvements.

Good luck! Both of you!
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Mr. Cryns  Netherlands

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Posted by Paul on 03 Mar 2016, 18:04

Charles Grant is the grandfather of "modern" wargaming (along with Donald Featherstone)
Image
This is great..Peter Gilder on the left
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Paul  China

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Posted by Mr. Cryns on 03 Mar 2016, 18:18

Thanks Paul!

This is so great! I know just such a youtube movie of two British gents playing Waterloo.
Probably the same guys.
But the b&w pic is the best. Even the wallpaper fits the whole idea of 'typically British'.
Lovely town too. All of it very small. But the cathedral has by far the smallest scale: a horsemen can reach its roof with its hand. :eh:
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Mr. Cryns  Netherlands

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Posted by C M Dodson on 03 Mar 2016, 19:59

Thank you Paul for the picture and the link. It brings back memories.

Donald Featherstone and Charles Grant were the prime movers in England for the promotion of wargaming in the nineteen sixties and Seventies Peter Guilder and Hinchcliffe models together with Miniture Figurines, Hinton Hunt etc were the providers of choice, mainly in 25mm scale.

Thank you to Mr C for his kind approval. However, I can assure you that as my project evolves, improvements are constantly being sought as part of the process.

Chris
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