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PRACTICAL STUFF
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The game room 

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A dream come true.

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Steps to do a table 

Everything takes time, the reward is pleasing.

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Making specific game tables

The battlefield of Gzatsk 1813 Russia

  


Gjatsk 1813 massive defensive battle, alternate Borodino on a wider better battlefield, in 1813. What if!!!

it will take the whole available space 4.5m long on three tables, totaling 2.95 m deep. 18km by nearly 12! 

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Bottom layer, polystyrene 2cm tiles

this layer features most of the big solig level 2 heights. Fortunatelly it happens that I could recyble many of the Wagram "heights" with a bit of added depth. Only one big 120x 60cm was to cut. It all goes under the mat so precision is not needed..and ...

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The magical sand

and... the Swedes had Gustavus and more but more significantly to me now they sell Kinetic sand. It stays up, does not make a mess and is most useful for redoubts, finishing the sides of a hill, the approach of a bridge you name it. I will do a feature on it.

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A redoubt on a round hill top? Da

Here it goes. With sculpted and painted balsa bits bought from Timecast, plus sticks to maintain the thing up, stuck behind the sand ad you know redoubts need support behind the earth. Actually I should not have angled the balsa so much.

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Bottom heights then rivers.

Put the felt mat on it, then add rivers. the beauty of my flat plastic rivers; I can do junctions everywhere I want. Ideally I could even put them into suitable lower dents in the polystyrene but that was too much job and makes the tile less multi use. 

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Chalk in

I use chalk to write on the felt (it is even easier on fabric mats. the harder part was to find the right coloured chalks a half success so far. Some greenish one to mark the woods. I also use some funny material for woods zone on one off battles but here they had to be as much as possible following the  map.

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Roads in chalk or thin earth.

Chalk can be more or less easily dusted/ brushed off. I also use the better stuff which is real earth, thin with little rocks (sand for cement) in it. On the felt taking it off needs two people not to waste too much of the stuff and limit the amount of mess on the floor. As for this I was start alone, better mostly use the less sriking chalk.

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Hills on top and under

Some of the dozens of  flocked hils I have are 30 years old! Most resist adamantly being hidden under the felt mat sticking to it and losing some cover in protest. So they often end up on top even if distract with the colours unity.

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Woods

surprisingly made of trees; done as described elsewhere on this site, with lichens and clumps from Woodland scenics, plus some trunks (twigs) and scatter gathered from precious terrain or flocking mess. Plus some real rocks.

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Marshes 

Even managed to squeeze in some of my newly made marshes and some of the magnificent Timecast ones. On the North side  trusting partly the 1941 map, which also explains why a further northern approach by the French would be too difficult.

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Plenty of villages

One or two houses with fences and a bit of a garden 600m c 400m which includes the  150m all around that would be the firing zone ogf guys inside. I assume in the game system no one would go there unless assaultin the stuff. No firefight against villages, no.

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Redoubts

A bit of thinking as to where to put them. I calculated at Borodino all in all they had   "12 length of works" counting Shevardino and the great redoubt as two each. Here I assume they had more time, more material, some more stuff which consists of redoubts, breastworks, abattis and fortifying villages.

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Village, redoubt river and crest

The ground is not flat I use crests to mark some cover and the slight changes of slopes. idea taken from Bob Mackenzie's Web Page. 
they are my "level one" thing. or the change of slope crest on top of a hill if needed. I mark fortified/prepared villages with sand (earth)  on walls, and barricades. they give better cover and resist better fire and battering.

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Breastworks from trees and abattis

done at the end of the center woods to slow down and guard the deployment of French on the main road. Also would act as a strong "bell ringing" for the Russians who have no line of sight there if the French really pushes on. To be maned by good Jaegers. And a bit of my earth and sand road.

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Kutusov inspecting

and the numbered labels for hills, villages (which often have actual names written but not this time) and woods, for ease of orders in case they have to be written and for orientation. another redoubt made from a gabion battery position sold by Wargamer.pl with added sand, making it fit a rounded top.

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The thing done

three tables as I have back problems and un extendable arms, also makes the best use of the room which is deceptively not at all rectangular. NOT one corner is 90°. No.


BACK TO TOP


WW2 setting

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Mat or felt over or under

A bottom layer of polystyrene tiles or re use of GeoHex from last century but under the felt or mat cover. 
ideally have a specific cover printed for each historical battle! 

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Tiles and sand

tiles or anything that gives height and shape; finished to detail with the Kinetic sand. 

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Here for a Battlefront WW2 game

Felt under houses with the system for sectors. Here needed for this specific ruleset.
Best to have another table nearby to lay all the stuff before doing and redoing. A bit of thought saves time.

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Roads (and rivers if any) done, villages set up.

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Fields, hedges, crests, scatered trees+++

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The devils is in the details. It takes time and even more to properly store back. Nothing you can do in a club game of  4 hours.
I got the bug from old Wargames Illustrated.

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The ditches should be done with sand (which fortunately is greyish as a lot of earth is.) But no time. Handmade log and earth bunkers. Not glorious but small enough, not to be too ridiculous with the ground scale..


OF THE DANGEROUS TASK OF SCENARIO DESIGNING

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Nice set up? go for a game

Once upon a time this big river I dug out. Well it just about is not long enough for the whole table. One day i shall find a way to extend it, the same colours?
So I went for a big river crossing scenario.

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Yes but...

One side to cross and secure (or even chase away the other one). The other one to be reinforced and eventually contain or push back the attacker.
It all started nicely... Here initial moves with hidden troops. 

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Things not to do...

It got complicated.
I put the river too much in the center. There was little chance of the defender crossing to make fancy moves and counter attack across (then it was not even in the scenario hey why would they?).
It brought problems of depths as the fight would not be linear but in a sort of L shape. 

TENTATIVE LISTS OF THINGS TO DO OR  AVOID

Tailor it to your possibilities. Easy, but you might be tempted to chew more than you can. 

Turns and average time length, compared to the expected game time you have (after all that waste with using both thumbs 200times  minutes on that little piece of Asian electronics).

Length of table, leave flank(s) space to avoid the forever end of the world and linear  fight. It is linked to the number of engaged troops, their probable formation and space use and the terrain density.

Depth can often be needed, but a bit of critical thinking might go further than " the  middle" as one side might want more of it. Otherwise you might have a defender depth deep and unused. On the other end check if the defender artillery are not limited in their firing, artificially as the attacker (or just one side) is starting too close. it might be a scenario feature though (fog?). Be sure that the side which needs to be able to reach the other side of the table, for example, has plenty of time to do so. Or if the scenario is that he has to rush, figure out how to still give a bit of leeway; you will underestimate it...

Linked to that: think well the positions of key terrain features compared to the table space. (even if historical fight, then the playing surface might be moved from the historical map). Terrains that are effectively closing part of the table? move all to have most of the closed up space out, no need to waste. (rivers, huge dense woods?)

Key defensive features that are likely to be used as such should no end up close to the table side (rear) as it will effectively curtail in an artificial way the defender (or likely user) rear maneuvering space. It might also provide unrealistic and even game sabotaging, security to those terrains.  (cf. my river game up).

Unless a very simple terrain, it pays off making a quick sketch on paper and thinking of what can happen. Once 95 tree bases, 27 hedges and 400 figure bases are set up it is too late. That is where being able to set up before people are coming to play is  best used. Internet and electronics can be used too, sketches can be crudely made on Paint, send to the players, or the relevant part of them for ideas and input. I think it could even be externalized, in that someone else not playing can do a lot on line, though I never yet tried to do that. I imagined a teams pregame umpiring exchange. You do it for my game, I do it for yours.

Most of us cannot afford an umpire. On the other hand if you are blessed with 4-6+ players one can be the director of terrain, set up, and umpire at the beginning. It is often at these stages he'd be most useful. He can start playing after a few turns as a subaltern commander. Possibly not knowing before hand on which side? or on the side which needs most fog of war etc.

 He can put unseen Fog of war terrain, numbers, speed up reconnaissance, check troops detections and introduce bits of role play and realistic unknown. Go to the essentials don't waste time on discussions. 

It might be often better to abstract pre game recon than get extended games turns spent on trying to find the other side. On the other hand it varies mush with period and subject. It can even be the game. 

Think well of victory conditions. In solo games it matters less, you can tweak. Card events tailored or not can go far and wide to focus things and create a sort of controlled chaos. You can even that way change one side victory conditions on the way, the other one knowing at the end or when  it looks obvious. A sort of Friedland from the beginning?

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Terrain generation done on Cyberboard. Ideas and system from Steve Thomas.
By all means use his system.
I added potentially more cards, and more rows as my table is normally way bigger than his. It would not do to have a steppe.

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Not a great job in image quality but it will do. The idea is now you can easily do random choices, using the cyberboard box, (make a game, then a scenario, you can tailor the cards you need and add more). 

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Nothing to do with it, but done the same day, an A4 page of  cobblestone to print for a  town base. download

The terrain generation can be done online even with another guy. print screen of the results and use whatever system for choosing, all way before installing.

MAT MAKING

Gjatsk (again!) and Wagram  each on  the sides of a permanent dedicated mat. 80% accurate and speeds set up tremendously.

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1 research

Already explained a bit. Maps of the place, historical, topographical... The more the better, then you can sort out the important from what can be overlooked.

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Under layer; relief

You need to find the ups and downs, and to save future time  best to have a relatively permanent dedicated set, bits can be used for other set ups.

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Labels and set up order

Don't forget to label it! and mark + number the set up from one side to the other, to avoid a puzzle game next time (as I did with  my Gjatsk ).

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Fix it

Here I use pins to keep the layers in place. When you cover the set with your mat, they have a wish to move and fly away.

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Sketch plus overlay

Here a heights map captured from a Russian site, +overlay with numbers and labels of the various pieces, many not stuck on different layers.

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ze mat

The heights are still simplified and adapted so figs can stand!  (presumably not changed much since 1812).  Found a colour that would suit the base earth of Russia there,..

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Chose better the base colour!

I used felt as it was the strongest thing I knew among the limited choice. That brown is too dark for Wagram! I have a pot of earth taken on the Russbach height...

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Chalk is your friend

...as it can be erased easily, mistakes second thoughts will be many!
start to mark rivers and roads, as they will corset everything else.

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Jump:

When you feel safe to, start creating with pastels (or paint depending on support and aimed effects). Dumbed down pastel mistakes will disappear under the paint.

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Few colours.

You need to get the right ones. Here they are from sets offered to me a long time ago, but carefully chosen browns, blues (or blue grey) and greens in an art store will do.

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If only...

I had a lighter coloured background the river could have been more blue gray... think well of contrasts as pastels will tone down.

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Effects

When too subdued either with age or scrubbing, you can give it a bit of refreshing. Here an example of village gardens, and river being made.

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Roads, fields gardens for villages

Chalk it all first!
Here the stony road was painted. It is a bit messy but it flattened the grassy effect of the felt. Tones of grey with a bit of white dots. 

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Contrasting

Will be polished with pens to make the stones smaller a Benedictine monk work at the scale!
Paint sprays used lightly can do fields too.

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All kind of things to save time in the future

Here brush painted green dots plus some pastels to make riversides; fields, gardens and greenish outlines of woods.

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Once all done...

On this felt, thick enough to be used on two sides, spray paints, from art shops, Various greens, a light green yellow can be fine tuning. 

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If the mat /cloth was greenish browns too.
On the balcony spraying. the other side I did in the game room windows open, poisoning myself and embalming the place.

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The down side of the outdoor: any bit of wind will have consequences, the lightest is a waste of paint. 5m x 3m used 2 cans of basic green, 2 halves of lighter ones.

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Set up, pastels greenish to sharpen the heights limits. Could have been better, maybe some brown. I used 2 cm as base heights, 3 would have been better.

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If I ever want to use this mat in a different way, the not too vivid hues will help. Anything can be hidden with fields or wooden sectors put over.
Maybe I can do one mat for you?

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