Saturday, 11 February 2012

Mapping the Past

Like most wargamers I’ve ever met, I love maps. There’s something about looking over a map, particularly one which is authentic and historical, and wondering what would you do if your battalions were marching on that small town, passing those woods – would they be trapped at the ford, would your enemy be waiting on the wooded hillsides in ambush? I’ll wager you’ve spent a lot of time looking at maps (or star-charts, or dungeon plans, or whatever) with the same thoughts in mind.

Another of the great pleasures of playing wargames is fighting tabletop battles over actual terrain. There’s something about fighting a game, or a campaign, over ground which you know, which you’ve visited and which you can take a photograph of before or after the game.

But what happens if the period you’re fighting in has no maps available? The simplest thing is to make your own. Perhaps even more than looking at maps, I’ve love making them for years, usually in the notebooks where I’ve recorded the battles, campaigns and ideas about gaming. It’s old fashioned, takes a while, but when you’ve made the map and also fought over it, it becomes a real part of the memory of your games, just as much as any photograph can do.

But making decent maps always seems to me to take a fair amount of time, and of course sometimes the map you make just doesn’t work in a game. They can either be too detailed, or not show the right sort of detail or perhaps the geography is just wrong (why is that cliff there, and where does that river flow to?).

As readers of this Blog and Lard Island News will know, the current interest at Lard Island is the Dark Ages. I really thought that mapping out the Saxon Shore was going to force me to get my edding profi-pens and water colours again until a fantastic post appeared from Allen Curtis on the TooFatLardies Yahoo Group. Allen posted a link to the Ordnance Survey map of Roman Britain which is available online in segments here.

I can do no better than to repeat Allen’s description of the map: “As this edition was first printed in 1928, it shows place names that have been changed in subsequent editions to reflect academics' current views. But the map's sheer size, as well as the style of presentation, makes it a marvellous thing to behold.”

Here’s part of the map from Eastern England, which covers St Albans and much of modern day east Hertfordshire and Essex perfectly.

And here’s part of the most northern segment of the map, covering the Antonine Wall. To my mind, few maps, if any, convey such a sense of frontier and wildness as this one.

I’m hoping the Ordnance Survey maps of Roman Britain will be much in use in our games over the weeks to come. And, I hope also in your games. And even if I feel like making a smaller map, having the larger one available online and in very subtle muted tones will be a great reference point and inspiration.

Thanks again to Allen for this find. Now, off to finish my mercenary Anglii (or Angles, or Angels), which I’m hoping will be the subject of my next post. Have a great weekend until then!


  1. As always it is nice looking at maps and I might try making a few as you have done.


  2. How absolutely fascination, just had a snaky peak at our area; wonderful stuff. Many thanks for the link.

  3. Sidney,

    Well done with the map link of Britannia.

    Nice set of notebooks too. Mine are rather scruffy.



  4. Great find, loving that Roman map, its heading to a A3 printer ASAP. Thanks for the links.

    All the best


  5. Top find and the idea of fading out the map and over-writing was inspired!

    I'm enjoying the reports on the DA rules too, so keep them coming!

  6. What a great find, thanks for sharing. Looking forward to see how your DA games develop.

  7. Thank for the comments, guys.

    @Christopher: map making takes on a life of it's own when you get into it. I'd definitely recommend you give it a try!

    @Michael: A pleasure Michael!

    @Matt: Cheers, Matt. Scruffy ? I don't believe that. Anyway, it's what's in them which counts!

    @Airhead: Thank you Sir, You're very welcome. Nice to see you dropping by again.

    @Arlequin and Silver Whistle: Much more DA stuff to come as I finished the Angles last night. Thanks very much for your encouragement.

  8. Sidney, could you shoot me an email at I'd like to chat with you about a couple of opportunities/possibilities.


  9. Dave,

    Great to hear from you. I've just pinged you and email. All the best,



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