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

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Oh Strewth...!

Boards #4 and #3 (behind) - good so far...
Good news and bad news. There is even a moral – the moral is that it is possible to outsmart myself by trying to be too clever. The working definition of “too clever” is not as impressive as it once was...

I’ve been promising myself for a couple of years that I will replace my current battlefield boards with some nice new 18mm MDF ones, and paint them up with the hexes the right way round for Commands & Colors. My existing table is battered, ½” chipboard, and was painted in the mid 1970s with hexes that are, sadly, 30° awry for C&C. I did have the foresight, however, to have the correct table proportions of 13 hexes by 9. Yes – I know, I know – I even had a number of Mr Borg’s game mechanisms spot on all those 35 years ago, but somehow I still managed to avoid inventing Battle Cry, and avoid becoming rich and famous as a result.

Anyway – no matter. This week I suddenly decided that, instead, I would just refurbish my old boards. If I really didn’t like the results I could still do it again with the full MDF, and the practice would be useful. So I went to the hardware store in Dunbar that does paint mixing to order, and bought in the official shades. I was trying very hard to remember the history of these old boards, and how I had painted the hex cells last time – last time being in the days when I had crisp eyesight and knew no fear.

Last Time

My boards were originally the sort of dark, hen house green that I had seen at my local wargames club. It was the sort of green that made the room actually seem darker when you switched the overhead lights on. When the time came to apply hexagons, I switched to a paler, pea-soup shade which I have used ever since. The hex-cells were painstakingly scribed in pencil, using a homemade cardboard stencil (which I still have), then I inked in the grid lines – literally – with black Indian ink and a fine brush. I felt a bit like one of those fabulous Japanese artists you see on the TV – as I got into the job, my skill improved, and they really were surprisingly neat. Well, I thought so, anyway. Only problem was that the black ink was very vivid, and the overall effect was like the old Pop Art from whenever-it-was (1960s?). If you stared at it for a little while the room started to rotate, which is distracting during a wargame. So I had to tone it down a bit.

My plan was to thin down some of the pea-soup green – about 40% water – and apply it with a roller, building it up, coat by coat, until the grid lines were sufficiently obscured to give a better effect. I was concerned about the waterproof qualities of Indian ink – I had nightmares about my nice black lines running in all directions when I overpainted them. I recall that I asked Allan Gallacher what he thought, and he reckoned it would be all right, so I went ahead. In fact it was all right, but when I discussed it with Allan later he said he based his opinion on the need for Indian ink to be capable of withstanding monsoons. Thank you, Allan...

This Time

I decided this time I would use a similar approach, but instead of spidery black lines I would make a feature of the fact that it was hand-painted, and use a pleasing khaki shade in rather thicker lines, the intention being that I could still apply coats of thinned-down green if it was too much.

I started on Wednesday. Two coats of pea-soup green to obliterate the old markings – 2 hours drying between coats, then pencil scribing and freehand painting with the khaki, and then block-in the off-table areas outside the 13 x 9 hexes with a complementary grey-green, in proper C&C style. It looks OK – I’m pleased with it. The khaki was a bit of a fright after the old arrangement, but it has grown on me and I have decided against the over-wash.

There are 4 boards in total. I started with No.3, which is the right-hand middle sheet, and then moved on to No.4, the right hand end. Great. As of this morning, the second coat of green on No.2 – the other middle sheet – was dry and I was ready to start scribing to match the meeting edge of No.3. Because of the limitations of my work area, I had to rotate the board through 180° and work the other way round. Sadly, because I managed to confuse myself by this rotation, I then transposed the sequence of half-hexes and whole hexes at the meeting edge, but didn’t notice until I had finished painting the grid lines. I mean FINISHED PAINTING the grid lines. I made a nice job of them too. I had been really pleased with myself today – in much better form than of late – popping in from cutting the lawns to apply more paint – all that. Around 8pm I suddenly realised that I had screwed up in a big way, so board No.2 is now green again, and should get its second (fourth) coat of green about 11pm. By 10 o’clock tomorrow morning, after I get back from an appointment at the hairdresser, things will be exactly as they were this morning at around 8am. It’s hard to see this as progress.

I did get the Contesse to check that I really had got it wrong, in case I painted it over, back to green, when I didn’t need to, which would be even less amusing than the current situation. She confirmed it was wrong – I had almost kept a little hope alive that it was somehow correct...

Never mind, I’ll be even better and faster tomorrow, but it’s hard to dress this up in a way which conceals the fact that I have lost a complete day through my own, mind-boggling stupidity. The job is now half done (again? still?) instead of the three-quarters I had aimed for by tonight. Still hope to finish it off by tomorrow night, but a few other things I should have been doing tomorrow are going to fall by the wayside. That’s OK – it will feel like a little penance, and something small and dark and mean in my upbringing approves of that.

More haste, less wassname. If time permits, the plan is also to apply coats of plain green to the reverse side of the boards, so that I may keep the option of some proper wargaming if the mood takes me.

Onward and upward – with a few staggers on the way.


  1. Never mind. It's a really professional finish and will look top notch when it's completed. I've dropped more cods than a blind juggler, but I just smash my fist against the wall, kick the cat, swear for about half an hour and start again - in a week or so when I can face it. ;O)

  2. Oh Dear! (been there). If it helps, I'm told this sort of things tend to happen more often as we age.....

  3. You are making a very good job of them and when finished will stand good service , so in about 10-20 years time you will be able to laugh about it !

  4. Thank you, gentlemen. After my initial disappointment(!), I got over it by concentrating on making as good a job as possible of the repair - beautiful smooth brush strokes, even application of paint, Debussy on the CD player and everything.

    Priority 1 is to get it sorted.

    Priority 2 is to make sure that the first thing I think about when I see them - forever - is not how stupid I was, back in Sept 2013.

    I don't have a cat - probably just as well - I can just abuse myself instead...

    As for getting old, it's taken me a good many years to perfect my current state.

  5. Don't you just hate it when something like this happens!!
    btw my shiny new book arrived yesterday, it looks great, ta very much!!!

  6. Let me see if I got this right... you lined half the board incorrectly, then overpainted the whole board rather than just the 'wrong' half, so you had to reline the whole board instead of just half?


    1. Nope. I got board No.2 (out of 4) wrong and redid that one. I already had two correct, and one not started. I did briefly consider putting a saw through the lot of them, and ordering the MDF sheets straight away. As I write this, i am about to start scribing and lining the last board, so don't get me more confused than I already might have been.

      If I get this last one wrong, you will hear the roar from there.

  7. That must be infuriating. If it's any consolation - the boards look very well. Nice and crisp. A credit to the steadiness of your hand.

  8. You had me worried for a minute there!