Home Forums Terrain and Scenery Undulations

This topic contains 22 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by norm smith norm smith 3 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #86275
    Ochoin
    Ochoin
    Participant

    I’ve raved on a bit on the forum about running a Napoleonic game based on Quatre Bras soon.

    Those aficionados of the battle will understand how deadly the French cavalry were: appearing from dead ground to “flense” their opposing infantrymen.

    Now my set-up is quite traditional in that I use GW battle mats on a flat surface with bespoke hills (carved from MDF board) sitting proudly on top.

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    So, how to model undulations? The obvious answer is to use lichen to mark the boundaries but this is a bit ugly.

     

    Other ideas (& please don’t urge me to use terrain tiles or other radically different methods to the one I use)?

     

    donald

     

    #86277
    MartinR
    MartinR
    Participant

    Make some lower hills out of thin material like plasticard?

    I often just stick objects under battlements to to make rises etc, so maybe just cut some suitable templates from thick card and put them under the mat. Depends how well it drapes. For an undulation, maybe use a pencil?

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #86280
    Mike
    Mike
    Keymaster

    I never understood rolling for distance moved when troops were drilled into marching at a certain speed. Always seemed wrong to me. Then I tried walking quickly across what seemed at first sight a flat field. The subtle undulations made going at a constant rate very tricky.

    I would be inclined to use a variable movement rate to model the effects. And perhaps strips of mat or cloth for the peaks or troughs and the remaining underneath mat as the corresponding troughs or peaks…

    #86313

    Chris Pringle
    Participant

    Maybe you are worrying too much? The representation of the terrain should be of the same granularity as that of the troops. Is your base unit the regiment of cavalry/battalion of infantry? Then you want terrain features that will give cover/concealment that is significant at the regt/battalion level. If the undulations in question were just enough for the odd squadron of lancers to lurk in and pounce from, I’d say you don’t need to put that on the table; it should be one of those minor tactical factors that are represented by the spread of your possible dice results, assuming you’re not using a ruleset that is totally mechanical and predictable. British line rolls snake eyes for its volley? Those cuirassiers surprised them because of coming out of a dip and through the powder smoke. Chevauxleger break British square on a 6:1 opposed roll? Some of them found a gully that led right up to the vulnerable corner of the square.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of terrain fidelity, and really dislike the terrain tokenism of those unimaginative wargame tables with one hill, one wood, one village … just suggesting that things need to be kept in proportion, and maybe your problem isn’t as big as you think.

    Chris

    Bloody Big BATTLES!

    https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/BBB_wargames/info

    http://bloodybigbattles.blogspot.co.uk/

    #86339
    Ochoin
    Ochoin
    Participant

    . If the undulations in question were just enough for the odd squadron of lancers to lurk in and pounce from, I’d say you don’t need to put that on the table; it should be one of those minor tactical factors that are represented by the spread of your possible dice results, assuming you’re not using a ruleset that is totally mechanical and predictable. British line rolls snake eyes for its volley? Those cuirassiers surprised them because of coming out of a dip and through the powder smoke. Chevauxleger break British square on a 6:1 opposed roll? Some of them found a gully that led right up to the vulnerable corner of the square. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of terrain fidelity, and really dislike the terrain tokenism of those unimaginative wargame tables with one hill, one wood, one village … just suggesting that things need to be kept in proportion, and maybe your problem isn’t as big as you think. Chris Bloody Big BATTLES! https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/BBB_wargames/info http://bloodybigbattles.blogspot.co.uk/

    Yes, I get all of that, Chris. But if you take it the other way, and the infantry get in that volley, what happened to the dead ground? It disappeared? But the maps say it was there! I’m planning the battle of QB, not a generic game that may or may not have set typographical features.

    On Martin’s advice, I’m going to experiment with placing some lengths of dowel (Regiment-sized) under the battle mats: something I’ve never done before. I think it fair to think experienced cavalry commanders would try to sniff out such features.

    The other issue is standing crops on this battlefield which also provided cover.

    Normally, some hideous movement penalty applies to moving through obstacles . For this game, I propose to limit the movement penalty  as it is counter-intuitive to budget for such cover but make it so difficult to move through that it becomes useless.

    #86340
    Ochoin
    Ochoin
    Participant

    My pal, who  has built a fantastic set of sculpted terrain tiles that are covered by fur, of course does not have these problems.

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    But this game is at my house & I could also add the extra time to set up & strike his terrain tiles is formidable.

    The flat surface, covered with a mat & with some features placed on top may have many failings but it is practical.

     

    donald

     

     

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by Ochoin Ochoin.
    #86348
    MartinR
    MartinR
    Participant

    The only issue with putting things under the mat is you need to measure quite carefully where they are going to go, so make sure you have a decent gridded map of your planned table.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #86349
    Ochoin
    Ochoin
    Participant

    The only issue with putting things under the mat is you need to measure quite carefully where they are going to go, so make sure you have a decent gridded map of your planned table.

    Thanks, Martin. Advice noted.  It occurred to me to carefully measure as well & then gaff tape the dowel down so it doesn’t move.

    I may have a “window” tomorrow to do a test.

     

    donald

    #86377
    Autodidact-O-Saurus
    Autodidact-O-Saurus
    Participant

    Well, if you’re doing a specific battle, have you considered creating a specific table covering with some features, e.g., undulations, subtly painted on (airbrushed)? While the features might be so slight as to not show up as a physical element at the scale of the table, they do affect combat. So if the figures are in (on) the undulation, then perhaps a slight defensive bonus from taking fire?

    Just an off-the-cuff thought.

    Self taught, persistently behind the times, never up to date. AKA ~ jeff
    More verbosity: http://petiteguerre.blogspot.com/

    #86393
    B6GOBOS
    B6GOBOS
    Participant

    Donald,  very interesting thoughts here.  I have been wondering the same thing of how to represent slight rises and also low ground.  I am going to cut out some thin MDF boards into contour hills.  These will be lower then my traditional hills but will block line of sight and have slight movement penalty.  I  Plan on painting them green and cover with flocking matching ground cloth.

    #86396

    I’ve toyed with the idea of using brown or green string to mark contour lines,as on a topographic map, but never gotten past the “thinking about” stage.

    #86398
    John D Salt
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Yes, I get all of that, Chris. But if you take it the other way, and the infantry get in that volley, what happened to the dead ground? It disappeared? But the maps say it was there!

    One of the problems with dead ground is that it is often very difficult to spot that it is there, even with a good map and a direct view of the ground. During one of our “ditch-hikes” to the Normandy battlefield, some wargaming pals and I stood at the bottom of Bourgebus ridge and looked up it where a road ran diagonally across our front. A car is a rather shorter visual target than a man on a horse, especially if he is wearing a big hat, but it was instructive to see cars vanish from sight over the course of a few hundred metres because of a curve in the slope that was entirely imperceptible from where we stood.

    I’m planning the battle of QB, not a generic game that may or may not have set typographical features.

    Ah, “geo-specific” rather than “geo-typical” terrain, as the terrain modellers say. In that case I shall put off blethering about terrain wavelengths, statistical P(LOS) and Battelle walks for another day.

    On Martin’s advice, I’m going to experiment with placing some lengths of dowel (Regiment-sized) under the battle mats: something I’ve never done before. I think it fair to think experienced cavalry commanders would try to sniff out such features.

    The ability to read ground in this way remains one of the most important and hard-to-train skills of junior leaders. I have seen almost no attempt to represent it in wargames rules, other than perhaps rolling dice to assume hull-down positions in some armour games.

    The other issue is standing crops on this battlefield which also provided cover.

    Normally, some hideous movement penalty applies to moving through obstacles . For this game, I propose to limit the movement penalty as it is counter-intuitive to budget for such cover but make it so difficult to move through that it becomes useless.

    I don’t see that standing crops would provide much of an obstacle to movement of any sort; fresh plough might be a bit sticky, but would’t provide good concealment (which Mr. Picky distinguishes from cover).

    I know from my own experience that standing wheat can provide superb concealment for individual riflemen, and you can shoot SLR blank at people from under 50 metres and remain undetected. Don’t forget that before Borlaug’s invention of semi-dwarf wheat, the wheat would have stood a good deal taller than it does now.

    All the best,

    John.

    #86399
    Guy Farrish
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    I guess it depends on the type of standing crop

     

    Admittedly unlikely at Quatre Bras.

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by Guy Farrish Guy Farrish.
    #86401
    Ochoin
    Ochoin
    Participant

    I’m not overly happy with the dowels under the cloth idea. They’re very straight & a bit lumpy. They’ll do at a pinch, of course.

    I am going to cut out some thin MDF boards into contour hills. These will be lower then my traditional hills but will block line of sight and have slight movement penalty. I Plan on painting them green and cover with flocking matching ground cloth.

    The game isn’t until the end of Easter so if I find the time, this may be the best long term solution.

    BTW thanks to everyone for their informed comment & useful suggestions. TWW is becoming quite a place!

     

    donald

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by Ochoin Ochoin.
    #86421
    Grimheart
    Grimheart
    Participant

    Just a thought but if your mat is suitable you could sprinkle areas of any shape with something like woodland scenics turf.

    Sprinkle an area at the bottom of a hill in say brown to represent dead ground.

    Clear it up after with a mini hand held vacuum¡

    Alternatively different colour felt representing dips and dead ground etc laid on the mat would not look too bad and have the attraction of clearly defined areas so no disputes.

    Regards

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by Grimheart Grimheart.

    Interest include 6mm WW2, 6mm SciFi, 30mm Old West, DropFleet, Warlords Exterminate and others!

    #86431
    John D Salt
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Sprinkle an area at the bottom of a hill in say brown to represent dead ground.

    The trouble is that there is no such thing as “dead ground” in the absolute sense of being a specific place. Ground is “dead” when viewed from one point because the shape of other ground in between gets in the way, but move to another point and view from there and it all might be visible.

    Since the point of observation is in three dimensions, not just two, it may even be possible to see into otherwise dead ground just by getting higher up. One of the problems of siting fire trenches during the early 20th century was that mounted officers might choose a position for its fine fields of fire, and, when the men had dug trenches there, it would be discovered that points easily visible to a bloke sitting on a horse cound not be seen at all by eyeballs peering over a trench parapet at ground level.

    All the best,

    John.

    #86435

    Etranger
    Participant

    The ability to read ground in this way remains one of the most important and hard-to-train skills of junior leaders. I have seen almost no attempt to represent it in wargames rules, other than perhaps rolling dice to assume hull-down positions in some armour games.

    ….
    FOW does make it much harder to hit veteran troops, which is a somewhat abstract way of representing their ability to read the ground & find cover. Given the arguments that ensue when discussing Line of Sight, due in no small part to the (often poorly understood) difference in figure scale and terrain scale; & the difficulty in accurately representing eg a 18″ deep ditch on a table that’s potentially a representation of several square miles of terrain it would appear to be a sensible compromise.
    Possibly playing CoC in 15mm (where figure and terrain scales match up) on a sand table would allow for a visually accurate representation but it’s hard to do otherwise.
    #86464

    Gaz045
    Participant

    Following on from the dowel idea, maybe use plasticene ‘snakes’? Flexible in height,width and tapered as required, taped under the mat?

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by  Gaz045.

    "Even dry tree bark is not bitter to the hungry squirrel"

    #86476

    Chris Pringle
    Participant

    The trouble is that there is no such thing as “dead ground” in the absolute sense of being a specific place.

    Yes, absolutely.

    Absolutely squared.

    To add to what I said earlier about the terrain granularity matching the troop scale, let me make the point that it should match the scale of command decision as well. By that I mean, if as a player in a Quatre Bras game I am making decisions in the roles of Ney and/or his divisional commanders, then those decisions should be based on factors those generals could have been aware of. If the dead ground is created by a ridge/gully significant enough for them to see from their vantage points, the ridge should be on the table. If it’s one of those more subtle undulations whose effect only becomes apparent when the lance pennons emerge out of it from a particular direction, then perhaps it should be left to the dice.

    Chris

    #86503
    Ochoin
    Ochoin
    Participant

    @ Tim,

    I think I’ll make a few out of bevelled MDF; perhaps 2 layers tall. Noticeably longer than wider & not very tall.  I don’t want them to look like hills which have different properties to dead ground.

    This weekend.

     

    donald

    #86533
    norm smith
    norm smith
    Participant

    Because of the ‘surprise’ aspect of undulations suddenly becoming apparent as John describes, I wonder if there is any value in bringing a random element to the battlefield (you may not want to do this in a histrorical battle), so that say 4 tests per game happen as a sort of random event and establish ‘surpise’ undulations.

    At Quatre Bras, because of the very high Rye crops, I seem to remember an action in which cavalry suddenly fall on unsuspecting troops and perhaps a general ‘undulations’ rule could encompass all such effects.

    http://commanders.simdif.com

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