Sunday, February 8, 2009

A wargaming mistery is solved - plus a few ideas about making terrain

There has been some investigative reporting going on by veteran wargamer Bob Cordery, both on his blog and TMP. In an old newsletter he found the following picture, and he did some work to identify the wargamer so concentrated on the developing game.

It turned out that this fine gentleman was a Canadian professor of sociology, Gerard De Gre, who apparently was a significant contributor to the hobby in the '60s and the '70s. Later, Prof. De Gre fell into oblivion -- until Bob started asking questions about him a few weeks ago. I want to thank Bob for the fantastic job in rediscovering the forgotten ideas of a pioneer in wargaming!

A close inspection of the picture posted above, though, spurred a few thoughts on my own. Look at his tabletop. In my games, I tend to have an emphasis on the "vertical" elements -- typically, houses, trees, and hills, plus, of course, miniatures. The only "horizontal" elements I depict are roads and rivers. Yet it seems to me that De Gre had used the horizontal surface to depict, in a two-dimensional space, some "vertical" elements -- look, in particular, to the banks of the river. Hence the idea: maybe I could integrate 3-D elements with 2-D drawings of terrain features. I am thinking, in particular, to all those details that would make a table look good, but whose physical presence in 3-D would slow down the actual game -- or adding to the cost of terrain. Elements like bushes, river banks, sunken roads, small walls, fences.

I did some research, and I found out that the practice of using miniatures over 2-D surfaces with 3-D effects is very popular among RPG players. (That's "Role-Playing Games", just in case...) There are actually special software programs that help RPG players in drawing their maps, dungeons and the like: Dundjinni, Campaign Cartographer, Fractal Mapper.

Here's an example, from the Dudjinni website:

My idea would be to use printouts like the one shown here to add character to the flat ground, and then add, on top, the "regular" wargaming elements in 3-D -- hills, houses, trees. I would expect the final look to be close to what appears on Prof. De Gre's table.

I confess: the idea is intriguing. I am not sure how much money and time I want to invest into this side project, but I definitely want to explore this possibility more.


CWT said...

That is indeed a very good idea, and it hadn't occurred to me before. As someone who is habitually a bit 'light' on terrain, this would be a great way to build up a lot of home-made battlefields.

It's also a very good point you make about flat obstacles not becoming real game obstacles to the miniatures, with only a few 3D objects for effect.

I wonder how it'd be best done? Printed A4 sheets to fit together modular-style? De Gre seems to have a large painted mat of sorts.

I'll have a think about this as well, and write if I come up with anything.

All the best,

Bluebear Jeff said...

You'd use a lot of ink if you tried to print. I think that you should do what it looks like the Professor did . . . paint it.

Start with something like muslin sketch out your terrain in pencil, then paint it!

You could re-create the terrain of some famous battles (although not necessarily from our period); OR just make up something that looks interesting.

If you like it, you could create a number of these "terrain mats". They would also travel fairly well if you were careful rolling or folding them up.

-- Jeff

Adik said...

Good point, Jeff. I thought about the printing costs. Maybe, rather than printing the whole gaming area, it would be worth limiting myself to those zones and features that deserve more details: built areas, rivers, roads, etc.