Thursday, November 26, 2015

Buildings - the problem of scale.



One of the vexing things in assembling war games battlefields is the matter of buildings - farms, chateaux, hamlets, villages and towns - summed up by that favourite of all war games acronyms, BUA (Built Up Areas).  It is difficult to find an ideal that reasonably approximates the scale of the figures, with the minimum of ground profile.  And how ought one to treat BUAs anyway?
 
The leading picture in Ross Mac's recent posting (Battle Game of the Month) is of a gridded war game dating back to the 1960s.  In it I recognised several buildings of the type featured in the first two pictures of article. I bought these so long ago - thirty years or more - that I have no recollection who the makers are. Printed on light card stock, they are very easily assembled.  They probably ought to be mounted on some sort of base, for the sake of solidity, as they aren't what you would call robust. Approximately 'to scale' with 15mm figures, they don't look so out of place with the 20+mm plastic Prussians, or the 25mm Hinchliffe cuirassiers in the photo.  Even the large buildings seen in the leading picture have a fairly small 'footprint'.
I have otherwise experimented with home made buildings.  The above walled farmhouse was carved from a foam rubber block.  Not a total success, I've not had the heart to deep six it, though it rarely features in my battles.
These have been more successful, but were intended to be large buildings - country houses, taverns. or public buildings.  Two we made using 'brick paper' obtainable at hobby shops, from which tunnel facings are made.  They seemed to me quite suitable for this purpose.  Only the ground floor of the right hand building of the trio used this material.  The rest was made from cereal packet.  The black timbering was fiddly to say the least!


The two to the right were an experiment that wasn't quite the success hoped for.  They were intended to represent small built up areas upon which troop stands could be placed on the clear bit to represent garrisons.  I have an idea I intended to enclose the space with walls or fences.  The addition of the figures in the picture below give an idea of the scale.  Memory tells me they were based on an idea from other local war gamers, who used them for Volley and Bayonet games (and these featured some very remarkable and extremely well made examples of war games architecture).


 This little water mill was cut from a cereal packet.  It does not do to waste opportunities!


The above farm buildings were picked up cheaply at a bring and buy.  I have a second stables building like that above - very versatile piece.  The cobblestones we simply some plastic packing for chocolates or biscuits or something such.  A grey drybrushing overall yielded the cobblestone effect. I have found that a BUA profile ('footprint') useful in many respects for defining its limits, and whether a garrison can or not claim its cover.  If the buildings are mounted on top, then the profile defines the town.  But one can alternatively place buildings around it, but in contact, leaving a cobbled or paved town square.  This method gives you a larger town area if you want it, and still retaining the 'well defined' effect that is desirable for the smooth running of the action.

The buildings in the pictures above and below were made from downloadable files and printed.  My experience with these indicate that it were preferable to print them on a heavier stock than your normal printing paper.  Alternatively paste them onto heavier card before assembly, if not before cutting out.  As you can see, the towers are good and tall, but have a very small ground profile.
The following are ceramic buildings bought at $2 the time four or five years ago.  Although they do 'go' with the other buildings, and there is the small matter of the thick bases to get past, yet they seem to me to evoke a sense of middle-European alpine villages.
The following two pictures are from the Usborne series, which I cannot recommend too highly. They are from the Make This Medieval Town  and  Make This Mediaeval Port. There is also a Make this Medieval Village title.  They come in book form, printed on thinnish card stock, and you get a big variety of buildings.  Excellent resource for war gamers!

As you can see from the pictures several of these are very small buildings.  The picture below features some of the larger houses, taverns and what have you placed in contact with a rectangular 'paved' area, upon which a building has been centrally placed.  The effect is to suggest quite a sizeable settlement - a town withal - the integrity of which is easily maintained during the accidents and vicissitudes of war games action.

 One of the conventions I used to adopt in my war games, is that individual buildings represented the internal arrangement of the built up area.  As buildings could be entered only through doors, and yet each building represented several, this approach had the effect of suggesting the alleyways and back streets that characterised any particular town.  It tended to make street fighting and interesting and hazardous business.  I've tended to depart from this approach, lately, with my larger scale battles.



The above pictures show the smaller buildings around a paved village square, and with 20mm plastic figures indicating scale.

The above rubber peasant hovels have been a very versatile pair, having the virtue of near-indestructibility. I added the colouring, painting and dry-brushing the thatch, and using felt-tip spirit pens for the rest. They came with rude rubber stone walls and a haystack that is now looking rather the worse for wear.
Finally, this is another home made set of building intended to represent a hamlet, farm or small village.  The brown masonry or brick work is again embossed sheet available from hobby shops.  The roofs were made from corrugated packing cut into strips and placed in overlapping layers.  The cobbled together outbuilding nearest the camera used up the last off cuts of the brown masonry sheet and corrugated cardboard,  The rest was simply plain cardboard painted with water colours to suggest timber construction.
There are five pieces to this home made set, which can be used in the manner shown here, or mixed in with other building for greater variety. The small tower that forms part of the building on the left is in fact a separate piece that can be stood alone.  Not pictured are some wall sections using the same brown masonry sheet with corrugated capping that can be used with these to make a walled farm or even a small chateau.  All these buildings were also constructed with an eye to minimising the ground 'footprint'.

19 comments:

  1. Great write up..and you´ve got a Grand collection of buildings

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    1. Thanks, Paul. I have discovered that it IS possible to have too many buildings! I haven't mentioned here the well-known cardboard model railway building associated with the name 'Hornby'. The larger scale architecture for my 'Army Men' project were the subject of a couple of articles mid-2013.

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  2. Archduke Piccolo,

    Your blog entry addresses a problem that we all struggle with ... and which I have yet to find a solution that I am totally happy with. (You have a great collection of buildings, by the way!)

    All the best,

    Bob

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    1. Thanks, Bob. I can't say I have found a fully satisfactory solution, neither. The 'paved' town squares do go some way towards 'well defining' the built up zone, and one can remove buildings to accommodate a garrison. I'll discuss more about that in another posting.

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  3. Nice article on a subject all wargamers wrestle with sometimes. Your card buildings in the first two pictures are German and still made by Schreiber-Bogen Card Models.
    I second your recommendation for Usborne Card models, I had a 15mm Roman fort that they made but I ruined it by letting it get damp.
    I do like your home made models too, my efforts always looked very poor.

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    1. As you will have seen, the quality of mine have varied. The Usborne Roman fort you mention I also have, all the admin and accommodation and walls assembled. Haven't quite found a use for it yet!

      Thanks for the heads up on the makers of those German town buildings.

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  4. I like the cobblestone idea!

    In the early 80's a local jewelry store sold fold it yourself Tudor house gift boxes, small ones suitable for 15mm, larger ones for 25mm
    I think the store was surprised when 1/2 dozen young men cleaned them out without buying any jewelry. I still have and use one of the small ones.

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    1. War gamers by and large are nothing if not opportunists! I'm thinking of adding a short posting on the cobblestone thing. I have also made some road sections with the same material that can be used as streets. possibly branching out from the town square.

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  6. I struggled with this for a long while and now like to use 6mm small footprint buildings for 6mm 10mm and 15mm games. I gather them into prebuilt BUA's of fixed sizes but do not leave space to put troops in the areas. If I want to garrison them I simply remove the BUA and replace it with a cobbled area. In gaming turns it works fine but aesthetically stinks. The current plan is to replace the BUAs with hollow towns. (something I did many years ago but have no idea where the originals went. heheheh) Hollow towns are simply a BUA with card or wood surrounds with houses printed onto them and the troops sit inside the walls

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    1. That 'hollow towns' idea, Robert, I've seen on other war game blogs, and its one that I find very attractive. I don't use it myself - but that only because I already have a largish inventory of buildings! Those narrow houses in my 5th and 6th pictures were an experiment in that direction, but I hadn't got to the 'all-round' idea. Had I been aware of the possibility early enough I feel sure that's they way I would have gone!

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    2. I do like the hollow town idea, I'll see if can find some pictures on the net.

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    4. check out the blog skull and crown. The guy makes wooden soldiers in MDF large scale and uses hollow towns in his games. principle is the same as i used

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    5. The skull and Crown blog is one I follow. But there is another who has explored the same concept, but I can't quite place it right now...

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  7. Excellent article Ion. Well thought out, and lots of eye candy.

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  8. Excellent article Ion. Well thought out, and lots of eye candy.

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    1. I've done a follow-up on this, Paul. Thanks!

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