The last few weeks have seen painfully little time for wargaming related activities. Oh sure, a tiny bit of painting here, a tiny bit of gaming there, and some work on finishing a few buildings for the tabletop. But by and large, nothing of any real consequence sadly. We're almost a month into the fall term (Week Four starts tomorrow!!!), and the days just seem to fly by. All of the sudden, it's 10:45pm, and, to be honest, I just don't feel like sitting down to paint by that point in the evening. Much nicer to retire to bed with a book or magazine and some quiet jazz on the radio. But I digress!
However, I have been thinking about wargaming real estate -- built-up areas in military parlance -- the last several days, chiefly the requirements for tabletop buildings. Here's a short list of points important to me that I've been mulling over in no particular order:
1) Scratch-built -- I've always liked to make my own stuff. Commercially made houses, etc. are too pricey and never look right to my eyes. . . unless we're talking about the custom/bespoke work of Ian Weekley and/or Herb Gundt that is! And I've always preferred to spend available funds on figures, paints, brushes, and books.
2) Distinct Appearance -- I prefer tabletop buildings that don't look like those seen anywhere else, hence my use of North German Hanseatic merchant townhouses, churches, and so forth as models on which to base my own wargaming structures, which pop up now and then here on the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog.
3) Readily Available Materials -- I like to use easily obtained materials for constructing my tabletop BUA's. . . so, heavy cardboard scavanged from writing pads, balsa wood from the local model railway shop, white glue, acrylic craft paints, black Sharpie permanent magic marker pens. Add a cutting mat, a metal edged ruler, and a new X-acto hobby blade, and away we go!
5) Interior Ruins -- In the fine tradition of Charles Grant and Charles S. Grant, I like interior ruins which can be occupied by eight figures (half a company according to the rules outlined in Young and Lawford's Charge!), so my houses and other buildings fit over an unobtrusive base onto which I glue balsa "ruins", which I whittle away at which the X-acto knife to approximate stone or brick rubble. These are painted gray and a few stones or bricks are picked out here and there with the Sharpie marker.
6) Ease of Construction -- With the exception of some odd, complimentary angles where roofs and steeples are concerned, I produce buildings that are easy to construct, requiring little more than imagination, some time, and a few materials to make. And, to my eyes, the result is attractive, durable, and looks like what it purports to be. . . a house or other structure in the Baltic region of Europe. . . where the Grand Duchy of Stollen is located.
7) Unfussy Appearance -- I want tabletop buildings that look like buildings, but in a stylized way, emphasizing function and durability rather than minutely detailed, highly realistic structures that are scaled accurately with the figures. The photographs of Charles Grant Sr.'s buildings, which I first saw in old issues of Military Modeling and Miniature Wargames back in the early 1980s, have always stayed with me as THE ideal for wargame structures. . . although I went through a rather long stage of emulating Ian Weekley's work during the 1990s, creating highly detail, laborious "models" of actual buildings, which had only limited application.
8) Troops Can Occupy Them -- I've always liked the idea of being able to place occupying troops inside the houses and other structures on the tabletop, something that's not always possible with commercially produced buildings, to say nothing of resin casts. I've never cared for the idea of keeping track of the number of occupants in a structure on paper. Yet another reason for constructing basic hollow shells that can be placed over ruined bases, which will hold seven-eight 25mm figures.
9) Rapid Assembly -- Time is the enemy of wargamers! We NEVER seem to have enough of it, so tabletop buildings and scenery must be relatively fast to design, assemble, and paint. While a few of my buildings are somewhat complex, for example churches, must of the others are simple 2 1/4" x 3 1/4" shells (or there abouts) with steeply gabled end walls. If everything goes as planned, I'm able to cut out, assemble, and paint two or three of these in an afternoon. . . enough buildings to represent a village on the tabletop.
10) Lots of Buildings -- Ever have a look at the Tabletop Teasers featured in Battlegames or elsewhere? Then, you'll have noticed that many of those scenarios feature quite a few buildings, maybe a larger town with an outlying village, a farm, or two. Unless you are in the enviable position of being able to spend a lot on ready-made buildings, you'll need to make your own. . . unless you don't mind representing a village with a single house, but I've never really liked the look of that.