Monday, March 6, 2017

Portable Wargames and Drawing Hexes...

A One-Hour Wargames scenario '#15:Fortified Defence', using
my vaguely late 19th century Imaginations armies.  Because I |
wanted to use one of my Gatling guns, I went for the 'Machine Age' rule set.

After many vicissitudes, my hardback copy of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargames finally landed on my porch - on my birthday too!  I wonder how they arranged that!  Could not have been timed better. You'd think I would have tried out at least one of the games by now - but we'll come to that in another posting.  At any rate, I have been busy buffing up my armies of Ruberia (RED) and Azuria (BLUE), though the latter may well supply the soldiery for another nation - the Settee Empire of Turkowaz (TURQUOISE).  Ruberia at least now has its guns and gatlings painted and based...  Of these, more another time.
Ruberian infantry advance to the attack against heavily
fortified Turkowaz troops.
Discussing grid systems just lately, Mr Cordery has been puzzling over why a field of offset squares 'did not feel right' as a compromise between a field if hexagons (hexes) and a field of squares. Here's link to the article on Wargames Miscellany.

This led to my exercising my own mind about this. I recalled that, way back in 1991, in preparation for a 'Bathtub' 1941 campaign based on Operation 'Crusader', I wanted to make a campaign map. A field of hexes being 'too hard' to make (a chore I had tried once before) I came up with the 'offset square' idea. The project never did get off the ground, though I had made the map and drawn up the ORBAT lists. The thing has lain more than half forgotten somewhere among all my war games jottings ever since.

But one thing I had forgotten and recalled to mind just this morning. I did not 'invent' the field of squares.  Mine was a field of rectangles, with an 'aspect ratio' of about 10:8.66 (or, if you prefer, 11.55:10, or 30:26). There was a reason for this.  I wanted this field to approximate as closely as possible a hex field, such that the physical (as distinct from the notional) distance between the centres of the cells were the same along the 'horizontal line' as along the angled 'lines'.  

I have a feeling that the slight distortion of distances in a field of squares might be the source of Bob's unease. Maybe.

All through last week I was also off and on thinking that the field of offset squares could be transformed into a field of hexes. Well, actually, no. But is took a while for me to figure this out, and the why. It was not until I recalled to mind my oblongs that I worked out how it could be dome. I wish I had figured this out 30 years ago. No doubt there will be readers who know this method of creating hex fields...

 1.  Draw up your field of oblong cells. For the purposes of this article I have made them 50mm by 43mm.
If you are making 100mm wide cells, then the other dimension should also be 'doubled' to 87mm.

I have done this solely with a ball pen and an ancient, badly battered, wooden foot rule. No other tools are required. I also allowed an 7mm margin at the top of the page. The reason for this will be apparent in the next paragraph.
The 'offset rectangles' field.  The red triangle shows how
I wanted this field to work. On a field of squares, the
'angled'  lines would be close to 170mm to the 'horizontal
line's 150mm.
2.  Draw in additional horizontal lines above and below those already laid down at a distance of 7mm either side.  The side of a hexagon that is 50mm between the faces is 29mm to the nearest mm. Subtracting 7mm from the top and from the bottom of 43mm gives us our 29mm hex-side.
The additional horizontal lines drawn in.  You can see now,
possibly, why the top 7mm margin has been left!
I could have drawn in the hexes at once,
but hallucinated a need to mark
intermediate points that I was never
going to use.
 3.  Now you can start drawing in the hexagons as shown in the diagrams below. You will see here that I added in at this point some additional markings. This was simply to confuse myself: they were entirely redundant, unnecessary and a waste of time. Through this cause I managed to get mixed up a couple of times...

4, Having drawn up the hexagons, they can then be inked in. Being lazy, I inked then in freehand, following the lines. Normally, one would have drawn the oblong field and additional lines in pencil that could be erased. But you can see from these pictures there is scarcely any distortion, even on this pretty roughly drawn field.

I took the last two pictures to show how little distortion there is, even viewing the 'angled' lines of hexes.  Something over thirty years ago, for a naval war games project ,I build up a hex field using triangles.  What a chore that was!  I filled two sheets with hexes (you will see them here), and then tossed in the sponge.  A few weeks ago, inspired by the idea of Portable Wargames naval, I finished of 5 further sheets using the 'pin' method of reproducing the hex field.
 But I wish 30 years ago I had figured out the method I have described here!

I'm sorry the ACW 'Stonewall in the Valley' Campaign has stalled.  Too many distractions.  It has not been forgotten, and will resume soon.


  1. Clever stuff Ion, it makes my head spin trying to do things like this.

    1. Tell you what, Paul, it makes the job easier. True, it adds to the effort of making the oblong field, because you have to make that first, but that page took me less than half an hour.

      If you were doing it on fabric, you'd have to use ink that would wash out for marking up the oblongs, and a fast marker for the hexes. That would work.

      I can understand the idea of offset square grids - you start with the size and shape of the cells. My starting point for the 'stretcher bond' grid had to do with distances between the centres of the cells. But I can see how the shape of the cells might put one off. I never developed the idea beyond a single campaign map over 25 years ago. (Note to self: see if I can find it...)

      Cheers -

  2. I tend to regard drawing straight lines of precise length and accurate angles as some what like magic.

    1. I measured to the whole millimeter, of course, and didn't worry overmuch about super-accuracy. When I measured the horizontal 150mm between the centres of the ends of 4 oblongs, it was, as one might expect, pretty much dead on. When I measured this distance from the centre of the left hand one to the one forming the apex it actually came out as somewhere bewteen 151 and 152mm. An error of about 1% ain't hard to live with! :-D

  3. That is a very clever method for doing hexagons. Since I cut my wargaming teeth on paper wargames of the 70s and 80s, I tend to think in terms of hexes rather than in squares and grids, pace messrs Cordery and McFarlane. They just seem more intuitive to me.
    Oh, and happy birthday, sir, if I forget to wish you that on FB. Many many more to you.

    1. Cheers, Michael. If it had not been for Bob's offset squares AND my sudden memory of mu offset oblongs, and my reasons for the oblongs, I would never have thought of this method.

      What I particularly liked about it was that it was pretty quick to do, and all. OK, twice the time taken to do offset squares and oblongs, but as they can be knocked up in a matter of minutes, you're really talking adding on the same 'matter of minutes'...

      I had a great birthday, thanks. On top of everything, my long awaited copy of Bob Cordery's book turned up that afternoon. Couldn't be better...

      Cheers -