Friday, 18 July 2014

Terrain Inserts for Modular Terrain Boards

I thought I’d put together a brief Blog post on terrain inserts, using as an example the inserts I made for the Operation Gericht games at Partizan and Evesham in June.

By way of introduction, it might be helpful to describe what I mean by “terrain inserts”. A long while back, we made the decision to build our First World War terrain in modular sections of 600mm square Syrofoam blocks mounted on battened MDF boards of the same size. This decision allowed us to “dig” into the Styrofoam terrain boards to create the trenches, shell-craters and flooded areas on the boards. While that looked good and helped create the image of a First World War battlefield, there was one obvious drawback  – once you have built the terrain boards, your decision as to what terrain is featured on the terrain board is made permanently.

You can reduce this challenge by making all the terrain boards an identical size so that they can be re-orientated in any direction. But what’s actually depicted on the board is still fixed.

With this in mind we tried to find a way of making modular terrain more varied. We came up with the idea a long while back of trying to make “inserts” into the modular terrain. So, for any single terrain board featuring an “insert”, we can have two or three variants. A terrain board with a defensive bunker transforms (with a change of the bunker insert) into a terrain board with a crashed Fokker D.VII, or a board with a badly flooded series of shell-craters.

Making the terrain inserts is something you can do much later than building the initial terrain board. Or you can create them at the same time as the original board if you want to try and match the terrain colours and effects perfectly.

In creating the inserts for the Partizan and Evesham games, I wanted to build a couple of flooded and shelled areas, complete with French infantry who had fallen valiantly in their heroic defence of the village of Fleury in the battles raging around Verdun in 1916.



I also built a small shell damaged version of the cordwainer’s cottage on the edge of Fleury, which would be the target for the German assault troops in the games. I made sure that the ruin would, once built, accommodate a number of support weapons and command stands.

The terrain inserts didn’t take long to make. They were fun to do, and added a lot of variety into some of the terrain boards that we’d already been using for some time with their original inserts.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Summer Wargaming Plans

Judging by the absence of posts over the past few weeks, you may have thought that I’ve been a bit idle on the hobby front. It’d be a fair assumption, but not quite the full story. The truth is that I’ve been pulled in a number of different directions hobby-wise.

First, I’ve been enjoying painting through the “last few” 28mm late war French figures. The Verdun/ Operation Gericht games at Partizan and at Evesham made me realise how much I enjoy running games in this period, and the variety of battles and engagements we can create from the history of the First World War. Within this in mind I’ve steadily been finishing some of the figures which have been in the painting queue for some time, including this French battalion command group. I’ve also not forgotten about posting the Operation Gericht scenario oline, and adding a campaign diary – sorry for being late in doing this, but it’s coming…

One distraction has arrived in the shape of the temptation to recreate a small unit from one of France’s most famous formations. I picked up the excellent Martin Windrow/Mike Chappell book “Uniforms of the French Foreign Legion” a couple of days after returning from Evesham. Getting books like this, stacked full of fine illustrations, is a very bad idea for a wargamer! In the long term, I’m tempted to get some of the splendid Artizan Foreign Legion figures for the 1890s.

For now, however, I bought a “final” few more packs of Brigade Games’ late First World War French infantry to recreate a demi-platoon of the 1e Regiment de Marche from the Legion Etranger, for around 1916/1917. I’m planning some conversions of these figures, aiming for a battle-hardened look. I’m also hoping to add in a couple of Scarab figures to the Brigade Games figures to give the unit a bit of a less uniform appearance. I’m hoping this will be something I can model and paint during the work downtime in August.

Also on the holiday reading list is “Poilu”, a recently edited volume of the memoirs of Louis Barthas. Well known in France, this memoir is less familiar in the UK. I’d not heard of it before famed blogger, and all round gentleman, Curt Campbell very generously brought a copy over for me during his recent visit. I’m about a third of the way through and can thoroughly recommend it. 

The two big distractions for the summer have some in a smaller scale. For about two years, I’ve had a Pendraken 10mm late war French army in a box on my study floor. I bought these as a complement to a 10mm late war German force I painted in 2010. I have no idea why I never painted up the French, apart perhaps from the fact that the focus at my local wargames club in St Albans moved on in the interim from large scale games set in the First World War. However, somewhere, in the Verdun Project, I got the 10mm inspiration again.

This motivation is probably connected with the misery or carting around 28mm terrain to club evenings and wargame events like the Evesham games day. As you know, 28mm terrain looks wonderful, is great fun to create and is something people always seem to enjoy playing on. For one-off games, it’s unbeatable. But for every-week gaming, it’s a bit of a pain. There have been a number of evenings when the club has fallen short of a game last minute because of a scheduling problem. Stepping into the breach with a 28mm game is hard in those situations. Focusing on building some 10mm forces, and easy to transport terrain is one possible alternative I want to try to help fill in those last minute gaps.


I’ve cleaned and based up the French over the past couple of weeks. They've not taken long. The Pendraken sculpts are little things of wonder. Beautifully modelled and cast, they are flash free, and just need a little clipping on their base before gluing down. The artillery needs some care, but nothing too which is too much trouble. The main challenge was keeping the wheels on the axles of the 150mm gun carriages – but I found a thick superglue really helped with this. The German infantry have painted up en masse very well, and I think the French with the Horizon Bleu greatcoats may well look even better.  

I’m hoping to try out these figures in August or September, aiming to recreate some of the brigade and divisional actions from the Nivelle Offensive of early 1917. I’m not sure which rules we’ll choose. It’s a temptation to try and create our own ruleset, perhaps borrowing from the work Richard has been putting in on the Boer War. However, I have heard many good things about Great War Spearhead II, and I might well start there and see how they work. There are rumours (heard around the table at the Evesham curry) of a fine set of rules coming from Alex Buchel for the Great war, and I shall certainly be keen to try those out when the arrive.  So, all in all, more on the 10mm front to come, hopefully.

The other small scale distraction is in 6mm, but more of that in a later blog post. It’s French again (at least in part), but from an earlier period and with very pretty uniforms. I’m hoping that’s going to be a lot of fun.

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