Thursday, 24 January 2008

A World Of Hexes

Passing the bottle the wrong way, wearing the wrong tie: memories of these errors can cause strong men to blench as they remember the day they were thrown out of the club. So far everything has been very Old School, but now comes a dangerous idea. As I've posted previously, my terrain is based on 100mm hexes, so my battlefields will be divided into a grid that could be used to regulate movement and firing. I think that's an opportunity thats worth exploring, as I can see a number of benefits to using hexes; and the experiment has no cost associated with it, so I can discard the idea if it doesn't work. The good points that come readily to mind are:

  1. Unambiguous definition of position. The extent of a terrain feature is precisely defined by a hex. Whether a unit is in (say) a wood is therefore simply a matter of whether that unit is in a woods hex or not.

  2. Precise measurement of distance. In reality it wouldn't matter if two infantry units were at 100 yards range or 101 yards range: the effect on musketry would be imperceptable. But in wargames, where we have to categorise ranges into specific intervals that might make the difference between firing at long range and being out of range altogether. There are similar problems with movement distances. Hexes give us a precise distance, whereas measurement of ranges using a ruler is always subject to a certain element of interpretation.

  3. The game is speeded up hugely if you can determine distances by eye alone, without the need for a ruler.

I am aware that there's a number of disadvantages. The rarity with which figure-based wargames use hexes as a rules mechanism is a pretty good indication that they exist. For a starter, hexes limit you to distances of a given granularity - one hex or two, you can't move a hex and a half, etc.. However, its going to be an interesting experinment.

The first step is to organise units so they will actually fit the terrain. Infantry figures will have a nominal 16mm frontage, cavalry a 24mm frontage, so formations six and four figures wide respectively will fit comfortably into a hex measuring 100mm wide across flats. Depths will be 24mm for infantry, 48mm for cavalry and both will use 2 rank deep formation when deployed in line. The last is a tight fit for Stadden cavalry, but doable if I use the standing horse figure.

Infantry battalions will therefore have four companies of 12 figures each, cavalry squadrons will have 8 figures. In addition, there will be additional figures - officers, musicians, standard bearers floating around. These last will have no significance within the rules, being entirely decorative. I always loved the look of the battles in 'Charge' where there are always large numbers of such worthies in view, and its important to me to try and reproduce this. I am not entirely happy with the size of a cavalry squadron (its a little small) but that's one downside of using hexes I suppose.

Garde-Grenadier Regiment

The photo shows a battalion of Stadden Prussian grenadiers in march attack pose: my favourite wargame figure. I think that a similar photo in Charge (of the Erbprinz Regiment in line) was more responsible than any other factor in fixing my tastes in wargaming, as I read the book over and over as a teenager. My version of the regiment just received its drummers and commanding officer today. I posted before that I hate painting drummers, and there's no less than four of them to each of my battalions. But then the commander of a company is a man of substance who, in my possibly eccentric view, cannot be denied such perquisites as his own musician. There's a standard bearer left to paint and then the battalion is complete.

But I digress. The photo shows how a battalion in line would be formed on my hex terrain. As the photo shows, I'm going to keep my figures unbased initially. The time it takes to move singly based figures should not be a problem as I don't intend to build big armies. Should that change and I do base them later, then 48x48 mm bases can be used for both infantry and cavalry, holding 3x2 infantry and 2x1 cavalry figures.

Other than the above, the starting point for my rules will be a mix of those described in 'Charge' and 'The Wargame', using one hex as the equivalent of four inches. I will develop them from there, though I don't as yet know quite how they will develop.


Bluebear Jeff said...

One potential difficulty that I see with your "hex" use is . . . what happens when a unit isn't moving precisely with the "grain" of the hexes?

-- Jeff

Andy Mitchell said...

The honest answer is I don't know. It could involve a lot of wheeling for a battalion in line, or else moving the companies independently. I'll need to play about with the idea to see if there's a solution.

Stokes Schwartz said...

Hello Andy,

Well, this all sounds terribly interesting. I'll be interested to see how things pan out. Also eager to see your standard bearer once he's added to the regiment.

Best Regards,


Bluebear Jeff said...

I hope that you can work it out . . . yours seems like a worthy experiment.

-- Jeff