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

Friday, 1 June 2012

Magnetic Spaniards - and beyond....?

The Sideways Spaniards

Some months ago, I suddenly realised the usefulness of magnetic sheet for storing figures safely. The Cupboard had run out of space, and I decided to rehouse my artillery and support vehicles in A4 box files, lined with steel paper - much like everyone else does, in fact. My units are all based with rigid plywood or MDF, and applying self-adhesive mag sheet to the undersides was a lot easier than I had expected. So I now have 6 boxes full of guns and limbers and pontoon trains and wagons and all that stuff, and the magnets stick so powerfully that on occasion (and it makes me a little faint to think of it) I have shown off by slowly standing the odd box file vertical, so show that the pieces stay firmly attached. I have, I hasten to add, laid them flat again before the applause died away.

I have been very pleased with this exciting new departure (for me - I don't get out much), and, as The Cupboard determinedly continues to shrink, I have come to accept that I need to adopt the same approach for some other units, to free up more space. Next in the queue, I decided, is my Spanish Nationalist army, so I bought smart blue files for them from Tesco, ordered up some mag sheet and steel paper from the most excellent Trevor at Magnetic Displays, and spent an interesting evening preparing the files and applying the mag sheet to the subunit bases. And in the files they go. Excellent.

Now, of course, this requires me to separate the (sub)unit bases from the sabots on which they normally live, and it suddenly became very obvious that if I put a steel paper patch on each sabot, and re-painted them with baseboard green, my newly-magnetic Spaniards would sit very firmly thereupon when they came out of the boxes to fight. So another evening with ruler, pencil and scissors followed, and - by 'Eck - it works!

I was a bit worried that even a thin coat of baseboard paint would weaken the magnetic pull, but it is still fine. I was going to publish a picture of all the units standing on edge on their sabots but I chickened out. It does work, though - trust me – there is a single unit at a near-vertical angle in the photo.

And the point of this further step with the sabots? The point, gentlemen, is that I am a noted dropper of wargame soldiers. It may be the hated varifocals, it may be temporary changes in the Earth's gravitational pull, it is most likely connected with dementia in some form, but I live in constant dread of subunits sliding off their sabots because I have momentarily lost my artificial horizon. As the collection get older and more valuable, and as my own ability to repair or replace them decays, so cruel Nature has me always a little anxious about accidental damage on the battlefield - or on the floor not far from the battlefield. The magnets look like they could be the answer. Certainly I could still drop an entire unit in one go - I haven't thought of a solution for that one other than not playing with them - but with magnetized bases on a steel-paper-coated sabot they are very reassuringly solid.

Downsides? Not much, really - the mag sheet is 0.55mm thick, so the units stand just that much taller, but the bases are a mixture of 2mm and 3mm anyway, so I can't really notice - expecially since I am quite a lot taller than the troops, and tend rather to look down on them (so to speak). This is all so successful that I have now started pondering whether I should treat all the rest of my units the same way. The chaps who are still living in The Cupboard would be much easier to handle safely, and it would be possible to put them in prepared box files (or whatever) if I need to transport them - a facility I have never had before. There is the further problem that I have nowhere to transport them to, but that is a detail, and I might have some friends one day. You never know.

The real thing to think about is the cost and the labour involved. It also occurs to me that I have no idea how permanent the magnetic properties of the sheet are, or - more seriously, perhaps - what is the life expectancy of the self-adhesive coating. It would be a sad thing to invest a lot of time and beer money in converting my entire collection, and then find that the pads all dropped off as the adhesive perished. I could, of course, glue them back in place....

Stop it.

I'll continue to ponder this. There seem to be a lot of advantages, but I'll weigh it up. At present, not yet having worked out the cost, I am gently enthusiastic.

To end with something of a digression, my young son and I have a long-standing private joke about the Sideways People - this stems from a display that used to be in our local IKEA store, which had kitchen tables and desks and similar mounted on the wall, 90 degrees from the vertical, with dishes, cutlery, computers and so on attached to match. Our theory is that the Sideways People come in at night, and live their strange, 90-degrees-out-of-phase lives in IKEA when no-one else is around, though how they could pour milk into the cereal bowls has always been a puzzle. Anyway, my new enthusiasm for magnetic sheet enters into the Sideways People fantasy - in theory, it would be possible to fight a small battle on the fridge door, for example. Not sure I'll rush to try it, but the Sideways People themselves might see this as a further advantage. 


  1. I can attest to the stuff holding its pull for at least ten years and counting.

    1. That is genuinely reassuring - thanks very much.

  2. Well of course there are sideways people, they live on the ecuator!

    I've moved to magnetizing my stuff too as you likely saw on my recent post. It really does make everything better and can keep it safer should I ever move to the equator.

    1. Excellent - I love this. My son and I debated this - we got a bit bogged down when we got to considering the fridge door battles of people who actually live on the equator. We could see that their fridge doors might by The Right Way Up or Upside Down, plus some other configurations which we gave up on (we watched the TinTin movie instead). We agreed, though, that sometime I should publish a photo of a battle on our fridge door - this will have to wait until I have something other than magnetised artillery with which to oppose the magnetised Spaniards.

  3. Sideways wargames - Could be a whole new concept for those with limited space for a gaming table, I can see it taking off :-) only problem is that the dice would keep falling off.... do they do magnetic dice?

    Enjoyable read as always,

    1. The dice would be a problem - and I know for a fact that they don't do magnetic beer.

      Actually, if you think about it, a vertical wargames board would allow you to reach across an 8 foot wide "table" - you'd have to do a bit of bending and stretching to warm up before a game, but it would work. You might get problems with a stiff neck as well. Nah - needs work.

      Cheers - Tony