Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fighting a battle with miniatures. Part One

I am taking a short break from painting now that my 6 mm ACW project is complete. It is at times like this that being able to throw a few troops down on the table, make all that painting worthwhile. We often select, buy and then begin painting figures for a dream scenario we can picture in our head, rows of painted minis advancing to the enemy lines, cannon roaring etc.

But often, maybe after just a few weeks, with just a few units painted and a huge pile of lead still awaiting their turn, that initial enthusiasm begins to wane somewhat. That battle of Waterloo, Gettysburg, or whatever, seems just as far away as it always was, and that pile of lead just doesn't appear to be getting any smaller.

The project withers and dies, the offending lead is boxed up and hidden in a cupboard as a new, shiny and probably just as elusive project takes its place. What you ask is the solution?

Well a number of suggestions spring to mind, scale down the project. Paint up enough units for each side to be able to fight at least a skirmish game. Three or four infantry, a cannon and a cavalry unit per side, will at least get the troops on the table and allow you to see the potential of what you started, and may even rekindle the project and drive you on to increase your forces by a few more units for a slightly larger battle.

There are rule sets out there, for the gamer with only a few units available. OK it is not the Gettysburg of your initial dream, but it is a damn good start and allows you to actually put those painted figures to doing what they were designed for, as well as being a lot of fun. Just playing and actually seeing your figures in action, should be motivation enough.

I have done exactly that over the course of the last year or so that this project has lasted. Used a small amount of bases to fight on the tabletop. as a break from painting and to have a bit of fun. So as mentioned at the beginning of this article, I am about to set up and play a battle. I thought I would let you look into my thought processes and ideas.

First of all it the question of where to play, If you don't have a dedicated games room or table set aside, then like me you have to make do with what is available. For me it is this rather small dining table.

Total length.


Next is the layout of the table. I have a scenario in my mind, which calls for a road running between two quite steep ridges, there are gaps in the ridges where roads will branch off. My ridges, as can be seen, are a couple of tea towels and face flannels.

The gap in the ridge for the road at the Western end of the table. The face cloth will probably be a hill to break up the monotony of the ridge.

There is also a gap in the ridge line to the South side of the table.

Finally, a road will also enter at this Northern point at the East end of the table.

Cover with the Cigar Box Battle Mat, and we have some terrain going on.

Some soldiers eye level shots to get a feel for the terrain.

Next up is to place the roads, the main turnpike running the length of the table, with roads radiating off to pass through the gaps in the ridges.

Doesn't look too bad and pretty much what I had in mind.

Add a farm, walled church, split log fencing and trees, and a battlefield is born.

Looking down the table from East to West.

Perfect setting for the local church.

Looking down a couple of lanes from low level.

Finally, the table looking from East to West

The table is now ready, though I may well put down a couple of crop fields, just to create some difficult ground.

Next up is the location of this small piece of countryside, back story and the troops that will be involved. But I shall leave that for part two of this article.


  1. Excellent article really enjoyed reading it. So true about large projects getting side steped

  2. Thanks Andrew, pleased you enjoyed it and agree about the large projects running out of steam.

  3. Great post Ian, had a few of those projects in my time.

    1. Thanks Richard, I think we are all guilty of that lol.

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  5. Yup. All begins with a lil idea in our head. A lil scenario takes shape as we add more and more. Looking good so far.


    1. Thanks Kurtus, I always enjoy the planning and laying out of the table.