Saturday, 26 May 2012

To hex or not to hex?

Recent comments here referring to the 'Dark Side' of wargaming have made me laugh, but also made me think deeply about the issue of grid based games versus conventional games. I recently posted a thread on TMP Napoleonic discussion forum asking for thoughts on grid based systems and was genuinely surprised at how clearly it divided opinion down the middle. One comment was "Why don't you just buy yourself a boardgame?" and made a flippant comment about "OCD rules". Clearly his guy was missing the point, that for me a game without hundreds of carefully painted figures, even if they are just 6mm tall would never be satisfying enough visually. However, I have always liked boardgame style rules, and that I think is my dilemma.

Yesterday during my Psychotherapy session I spoke about my blog and how much pleasure I derive from painting model soldiers. The 'therapy' aspect of this blog remains a serious focus for me. Filling my head with comparisons of various rule mechanisms and the direction I wish to take is also very therapeutic oddly enough I find, I think possibly because it blocks out so much of the 'negative' stuff which overwhelmed me last year, and at last my brain is able once again to 'file' and to retain much of this stuff as it once used to. This is a very good thing for me.

So to the point of this post, having spent a couple of days experimenting with various hex sizes and having made up a very nice accurate template a rather heretical thought occurred to me and I'd like to throw it out there so to speak for some feedback. I am now committed to 'Commands and Colours' as I have said. That's decision 1 made. So far so good. But do I REALLY need my table to be marked out in hexes to use them? If we take a hex to be a standard measurement on a tabletop to which all of the game mechanisms conform then why could not the adoption of a standard 'Distance Unit' work the same? If one of my hexes is 80mm then why could not I use 80mm as a standard 'DU' to play C&C? Instead of advancing a unit say 2 hexes, why not 2 DU's representing the same scale/distance? Apply this to shooting ranges/ command radius/movement etc and what is the difference?  OK so there is the question of 'angles' or arcs of fire, but again could this not also be a simple template representing the arcs of fire as indicated by a hex? I have racking by brain (such as it is!), and I honestly can't see why this should not be workable. I have been back through the rule book yet again, this time thinking in terms of DU's and I still can't see why not. Of course the table would still need to conform to overall size and width by length ratio and also be divided into the 3 sections on left flank, right flank and centre. Terrain items would need to scaled correctly to represent an area that ties in with the DU measurement, but that's easily done. If we look at the examples shown below for instance why should they not work the same without the grid?

So is this proposal workable or is it doomed go failure? Is it utter madness? possibly, but to quote Harry Hill, "there's only one way to find out ..... fight!" I plan to set up a game and play through using the 80mm DU and see how it goes. if it all goes pear shaped then I will simply take my hex template and mark them out, nothing lost besides a little egg on my face.

The next post WILL feature the opening moves of this planned test game, hopefully early next week with a full write up. I hope to paint a couple of Portuguese infantry battalions before then as well as adding the additional artillery batteries I previously mentioned.

I will now put on my tin helmet and await your comments!

*Edit* Using miniatures instead of blocks in C&C is simply a matter of marking my battalion bases with the number of 'blocks' it represents, ie 4 blocks for a typical battalion, 3 for a battery. I can then place a small marker on the rear of a base to represent losses. Note: the base below is still marked up for Polemos.


  1. I would go with the DU idea myself and see how it goes. Personally I don't like hexed tabletops but hey, each to their own! That's the beauty of this hobby, everyone has their own ideas on how to represent miniature battles and how they personally gain enjoyment from doing so. If you're planning to play purely solo games (such as myself) I wouldn't worry what other gamers think of your methods. There seem to be a growing band of elitist at the moment who seem to think their way is THE way. I ignore such people and enjoy seeing gamers ideas.
    All the best,

  2. Hi, I'm really pleased to have found this blog and links to many others!
    I say "try it" and if it pleases you keep doing it - if not - cease and desist!
    What ever you do don't pay any attention to the negative crowd about anything to do with wargames or anything else for that matter.

    My merry band of gamers are presently immersed in big battalion 28mm games but we're looking for something to play massive games without it taking 4 days! 6mm isn't doing it for me but curiously I am drawn to blocks of wood in different colours! I shall watch your project with great interest.

    Best wishes


  3. I actually think you will be OK with DU, it is no more complicated. The only thing that hexes will give you is an ability to glance at the terrain and say that eg. the town is 3 hexes away without doing any measurement.

    I like rules that use fixed measurements, like Lasalle and FoG-Napoleonic. Much easier to use measuring sticks then to pull out a tape measure.

    I will follow with interest.


  4. It must be worth a go before trying the hexes. I've had a quick read through of C&C and like you, many of the rules concepts appeal to me - in particular I like the way the infantry square system works. I think that good Napoleonic rules need to be a bit chess like making use of the different troop types and formations but for that very reason it's very difficult to come up with a good set. I don't think hexed terrain has to look bad - just see what Tony has done at "Prometheus in Aspic". I also think if anyone can make a visually satisfying terrain and miniatures system in 6mm it will be you!


  5. Lee,
    thanks for this blog. I first read it a few days ago after I purchased a rather large number of 6mm French from ebay and was wondering how to get to use them. I think your link to C&C gave me a really positive way forward ...

    I was amazed at how generous the C&C people are. All the elements of the game (inc. scenarios) are available and so it seems so easy to convert this to a figure based game. Thanks to you & C&C !

    On the hex issue. Yes, I had visions of printing out lots of hexs to cover the terrain boards with. However, I think the stand Measuring Unit stick will be more pleasing so I am going to give this a go.

    Because of the volume of painted figure I got I was going to use the C&C multiplier as in the number of traditionally based battalions I would regard as a unit (e.g. British Line is 4 so that is 4 battalions). It should make it visually impressive but I don't think I would go this way if I had to paint them.


  6. In my experience, the hexes really enable the game to move along so much more quickly than with measurement. They don't need to be at all obvious, either, even just a dot in the points where the hexes meet would do it. On a 28mm scale with 5" hexes, I used map pins pressed into the board and painted to match.

    Cheers, Simon

  7. Thank you all for feedback so far, I will comment further on some of the comments and suggestions made but I just quickly wanted to acknowledge the suggestion that Simon makes above. That idea had not occurred to me at all! That is actually a clever compromise between the two concepts and I'm rather tempted to try it. I can see how marking out the points in some way could be quite subtly done. I might have to do a bit more experimentation now.


  8. I know I was tongue in cheek about dark side but my regular opponent DG will tell you I have a real problem playing hex based games... :o)

    I have a feeling I'm not wired to understand them... depending on which way the hexes are laid moves forward can involve units jumping athletically left and right, before arriving at the point in a hex to the left or right of where you were, firing over long distances (I always mis-calculate the number of hexes) etc etc

    Having said that I've played a lot of games without hexes where there is still a feeling of board game about it - I guess the best example is DBA with their very definite rules on facing etc...

    If it was me?? I'd go with the suggestions above who say just do it - if free movement doesn't work out (and I can't think why it wouldn't) you've lost nothing - you'll have a better grasp of the rules, minimum.. :o)

  9. Hex or not, dark or light, find something that works for you and enjoy. I have decided to move to the kalistra terrain system, and am current converting my favourite Napoleonic rules, general de brigade to hexes.

  10. Simon's idea does sound clever. You could do it this way for multiple different rule sets as the pins could easily be changed. I have to think about this a bit more.


  11. This may not help but, I've been doing some experimenting with hexes after playing on a friend's Hexon terrain. I contemplated putting out money for some of the excellent Hotz Artwork felt hex sheets (eg ) or some of the Litko hex corner templates but ending up doing my a rather hasty and slightly wonky hex corners as a test.

    After a year, I like the hexes for some games but not all but find that with green on green hex corners, I can easily ignore them when not using them.

    You can see some pictures of my board and of my friend's Hexon board here:

    I presume you have seen Conrad Kinch's C&C miniatures blog?

    -Cheers Ross