Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

Big Table; Small Figures!

OK, I admit I have a subjective reason behind my decision, and that it flies in the face of common judgement (which has never been a big deal for me!), but I just sent an order to the Terrain Guy, who is having a pretty good sale on game mats right now, for a 4 foot by 12 foot green wargame table mat. Yup! I’’m building a twelve foot long wargame table in my basement! My current table is 4 by 8 feet and I have used it for damn near 16 years, but after all these years I think I have found one of the secrets of wargaming.

Many people have tried small tables with big figures ala Games Workshop.
Many people have tried big tables with big figures starting with H.G. Wells and Fred Vietmeyer.
Some have tried small tables with small figures such as many an apartment dweller or a person with extreme financial restrictions.

I’ll not gainsay any of them if they had a good time and it fit their perception of a good wargame.

HOWEVER, I’ve seen one too many GW battlefield with monster tanks and figures crammed stand to stand from one end to the other on a table top. How many trucks does it take to move boxes and boxes about of historical 28s only to have a unit density on the tabletop that makes the Japanese subway look spacious? “I’m sorry, Your grace, but we can’t fit the Hannoverians into the battle line!” (???) Do you really get the best diorama from a bunch of 6mm figures on a 4 by 6 table??? Really?

I’ve already committed to 10s in my gaming for many other reasons; cost, portability, mass look, ease of painting, storage demands, and sufficient detail to be attractive. The conversion to “Tens” led me to look at wargame design differently and led directly to a number of new approaches I’m taking in Zouave, and my 4 X 8 table allowed good maneuver space even with 4 or 5 divisions, two or more corps in play, but I wanted to have even bigger battles, and even more room for maneuver without the “Chorus Line” (1-2-3 kick) look of so many wargame deployments. That naturally led to the idea of even a bigger table. One seldom needs more depth to a wargame table since the primary interest is at the point of contact and not the logistical tail of an army. There are also mechanical difficulties with play once the width exceeds about 5 feet. What you want is more flanks, more frontage, more space to the right or left.

So I decided to go to a 4 by 12 foot standard table for which I will build an optional 4 foot extension to allow 16 feet! Hello, flanks! I mean FLANKS! Coupling this with a typical unit in Zouave occupying 6” when deployed in line and then put thirty 10 mm figures on those stands and you get some idea of the diorama and the sense of space that this will allow. In the Zouave main scale of 1”=50 meters (yards) and the twelve foot table gives you over 3 and 1/2 miles of frontage! Now if you keep the forces at typical levels for games the sense of not being able to occupy or block every enemy option and the pressure to control certain areas indirectly or with fewer troops will begin to grow.

Maybe this decision reflects in some distant way why Robert Louis Stevenson and H.G. Wells played on the floor with their miniatures armies instead of the limitations of the typical table. Bruce Weigle, the Dean of FPW gamers, has always used HUGE tables with his 6mm armies, though I think their depth often made play difficult, and not many people would have the patience and/or skill to custom make his beautiful terrained one-off tables.

I wish to stress this is my private hobby-horse. It is not at all required to make Zouave a good wargame evening, but someone has to try it! I’ll follow up on the forum with a report on our first BIG table
small figures game. Photos will be taken, of course! One other change I may try in our games is more cowbell!