A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday, 2 September 2011


Since I got on to a DIY thread with the previous post, it seemed appropriate to talk a bit about another hot topic for me - boards, or what I have always called battleboards.

Now there are four of them

I have only had one set of boards since I started wargaming. Around 1971 I bought two 4' x 5' pieces of half-inch chipboard - placed side by side they made an 8' x 5' tabletop. They have been various shades of green over the years, and since about 1975 they have had 7" hexagons applied to one side, but otherwise they are the originals. They are leaning against the wall here in my office, and it is sobering to think what long-redundant armies have marched on them, and how many visiting generals have played on them - quite a few of those players are no longer with us, I am reminded.

Same boards. A shot of a Romans v Celts battle in Feb 2001 - this picture intrigues me, since it is taken in the old dining room of our cottage, a room which is now the downstairs bathroom. This is as near as I have got to fighting battles in the toilet

Chipboard is not ideal - it tends to crumble around the edges, especially the corners, and the half-inch stuff, though light and easy to handle, tends to droop a bit if any unsupported overhang exceeds a foot or so. The boards are getting a bit battered now, and they smell strange, since for a while they were stored in the garage wrapped in tarpaulin. They have been placed on all sorts of supporting surfaces over the years - wallpaper pasting tables, various dining tables, and - surprisingly successfully - for a while I used a child's playpen, with lengths of Dexion angle-bars lashed on. This was good because the tabletop was much lower than standard and (whatever it says in the books about the advantages of high tables) this gives a terrific view and puts the middle of the table in easy reach. Gives a glimpse of what gaming on the floor would be like, I guess. Might not be too clever for the spine, but I was immune to such problems in those days.

Anyway, I'm now back up to standard dining-table height, which is fine. Our current dining table is a big fellow (2.5 metres long), which meant that I was able to cut the battleboards in half, so that I now have four 2' x 5' sections, which are much easier to store and to lug around.

My ancient hexes run in the wrong direction for CCN, so I have been working out how to remedy this. I reckon that I can keep my 7" hexes and still fit the official CCN playing surface on an 8 x 5 table. My original plan was to paint the new hex grid on the reverse side of the present boards but they are not in a good enough state - it would be a lot of work, and I would be disappointed with the result. OK then - new boards. Some swimming of the brain here - what sort of materials, how big? Yes, how big? Could I fit a 9' x 6' board in the dining room? - hmmm. In fact, commonsense prevails - I'll stick with 8 x 5 - it fits the CCN layout and gives a little room for a blank surround, and I can paint the reverse plain green, or maybe apply felt. Anything bigger, though tempting, would be difficult to walk around. For material, I fancy 20mm MDF. It should be structurally robust enough, and a sealed-and-painted MDF surface is smooth but tough. I've also given some thought to having four 8-foot battens to place on the dining table, and site the battleboards on top of these - that would enable me to have the table as eight 1' x 5' panels instead of four 2' x 5', which would store in a wardrobe or similar without drama. Interesting.

I don't think I'm going to start on this until the Winter. I am strangely reluctant to abandon my old boards, but they've been in use for 40 years, so they do not owe me anything, and it's time to smarten up.


  1. I was so pleased with my new table when my new room came on line 2 years ago. 6x8 with storage underneath. Sheets of some stuff that resembles plywood but is very light, especially in 1/4" on a frame. There were 2 4x6 sections joined down the middle.

    Then, once the room was all back together, I noticed that the table which I had so carefully levelled, had developed a roach in the middle, Not easily visible but just enough thta a hill or rigid river section lying across the join had a slight rock to it and a visible gap. ARRGHGHHH! Various attempts to subtly remove it have failed but thus fall I need to rotate my shortened table and will reconstruct a sturdier frame with even greater care when framing.

  2. Would a four or five inch hex destroy all of your calculations? Sorry;D

  3. Well I guess they would - my unit sizes and my stack of 7" hills and terrain panels have me kind of committed to this size. I realise that if I switched to 4" I could utilise commercially-made hex terrain tiles and probably move to a smaller house. This might work, since if I made a profit on the house swap it would offset some of the cost of hex tiles.

  4. That's defeatist talk Foy! The only reason to go to smaller hexs is so you can have more of them.

  5. I admit I should think more seriously about the hex size. It would be daft to commit a huge amount of work to producing a new table if I was then going to wish I'd gone to smaller hexes. I would be reluctant to cut new hills (AAAARGH!), so availability of tile systems would be key, but the cruncher is the unit sizes. My light cavalry units are 150mm x 110mm - if I am to stick with (CCN style) 1-unit-fits-inside-1-hex then the smaller hexes just won't fit, particularly if I am to have room for supporting generals. I believe that 4" hexes are intended for 15mm figures. 6" might work, though I need to check out what sort of tiles are available for that size. 5" seems very tight. I might alter hex sizes, but I'm definitely not going to rebase any units, and that's a promise.

    7" gives a fair amount of space, and avoids the units being crammed shoulder-to-shoulder. Thanks for getting me thinking about this again - I need to do some more reading.