Friday 4 September 2020

In The Cold Season of the Year : A miniature campaign version of Laarden, 1688

One of the things I've been doing in Lockdown is working through a list of projects I've wanted to finish for some time.  This has included creating a very miniature version, of the old Games Workshop "Mighty Empires", set in the cold, winter-bound countryside of 17th Century Flanders.

I've always been fascinated by games which reduce military campaigning to a manageable, miniature scale.  Reading the accounts of soldiers through history, campaigning seems to have been anything but manageable, and 17th Century campaigning was no exception.  Yet there is something which really appeals to a world-building wargamer in trying to reduce a messy, chaotic, sprawling experience - moving armies across a potential battlefield - into a coherent, neatly manageable, tabletop experience.

“Mighty Empires” had the same feel about it, although the scope of that game was far greater – it created both a campaigning and battle game, as opposed to just a wargames campaigning tool.  I wanted to take my inspiration from the look and framework of “Mighty Empires”, but leave the project as a campaign tool only – being an attractive way of setting the scene before the action moves to the wargaming tabletop.

Projects often take some time to come to fruition, and this was no exception.  I’d had the 40mm hexagon tiles, in 3mm MDF, from Warbases, for some time.  I was also left with a fairly large amount of 2mm terrain pieces from Irregular Miniatures, a surplus from my Thirty Years War project in 2mm a few years back.  My first decision was whether to continue the winter-terrain theme from the 2mm Thirty Years War collection, or create something for summer or autumn to match my 28mm Laarden figures.  In the end, I went for the former, really because I thought winter campaigning offered some interesting challenges as a game environment.

Creating the small terrain tiles was quite fun, and not too difficult.  I had thirty hexagon tiles, and I wanted a variety of terrain types, mainly reflecting northern France and Flanders.  Woods, low hills, windmills, a river, some bad roads, several small villages and a small walled town all seemed to fit with the theme I wanted.  Much of this was scratchbuilt – with hills being scraps of extruded Styrofoam covered with Polyfilla, woods being clump foliage and the river banks being built up with green-stuff putty.  The Irregular terrain items made good-looking villages and farms.  The town was carved and cut out with a very sharp scalpel, using a stencil, and with Brigade Models’ 2mm buildings adding the ‘look’ of a Flemish town of late-17th Century.

As you can see, most of the items were basically scrap or left-over items from other projects.  I always like to try and get some use from leftovers like this, rather than consigning them into a spares-box for a decade or so!

What I was trying to create was something which looked like a reasonable approximation of a campaign map – showing major features, albeit major features which were somewhat out-of-scale and exaggerated.  I wasn’t keen on creating anything like a properly scaled model of a late-17th Century fortified town for the project.  Rather, I wanted to create something which had the feel of such a place.

I painted the hex tiles with a light grey emulsion paint, with a dry brush of white emulsion.  The woods I soaked in PVA, and then painted them black, and dry brushed brown, then light grey.  The cold, slow-running river was painted in a dark blue, with a couple of coats of varnish.  And some “1mm snow”, essentially cotton dust, finished the look I was aiming for.

Hopefully this will be a portable, and very versatile, campaigning tool, adaptable not just for the 17th Century, but for just about anything from 1550 to 1815.  Maybe it can even fit an earlier period if I add a medieval-walled town instead of the trace italienne version.  The tiles should be versatile enough to be picked out by the players at the start of a club night game, or selected before a tabletop battle and turned into a suitable paper map through a few photographs and maybe a little photo-shopping.

I’ll have a look in the next blog post at some possible rules to use with the tiles, again with a grateful nod in the direction of “Mighty Empires”.  

Also, while on the subject of acknowledgements, I’d like to thank fellow-Twitter user, Adam Clark, for his own posts of his “Mighty Empire” tiles from a recent Kickstarter, which were very inspirational and prompted me to rescue this project from the ‘pending’ pile.  Thanks Adam!

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