Thursday 4 August 2011

Crying Havoc and Unleashing the Blocks of War

Although I was home early yesterday (courtesy of a dental appointment) I was unable to shake off much of my ongoing lethargy despite the best of intentions - probably the heat had something to do this. It was truly oppressive last night and so my efforts towards anything hobby related were limited to messing about with some label ideas for my military blocks project - the results of which are above.

The blocks themselves are from a cheaper version of the popular game Jenga. There are many unofficial copies of this game - the set I am using is called, rather unimaginatively, Wooden Blocks! - all of which have one thing in common. They are not plastered with the word JENGA all over them! I picked this set up from a boot sale ages ago for 50p or so  purely for use as gaming/modelling purposes and am regularly on the hunt for additional sets as they are good source of ready cut wood.

The labels are in two sizes as I intend cutting a number of blocks in two. The smaller blocks will be used for detachments - skirmishers, artillery, under strength units, commanders etc. To be honest I have yet to formalise what represents what in terms of block/unit size. The symbols used are bog standard military  types which all war gamers are probably familiar with as they feature on countless battle maps in umpteen books.

This first set is very much an experiment and I may yet change the format slightly - especially for the artillery blocks as I wanted to have a stylised gun rather than the black spot. I have avoided having labels for differing weights of cavalry or types of infantry and artillery - simply because I did not want them to become too 'fussy' to look at - as the unit identifier will be on a label strip at the rear of the block. The command blocks - on the right hand end of the bottom row - are based on the design used in David Chandler's The Campaigns of Napoleon. When I have made a few of the blocks up I will of course post some pictures.

The next job is to acquire some sheets of labels to use and I expect to start chopping these up over the weekend. At this stage I have not even thought about the rules I intend using although they will be hex based and will certainly be fast play in their execution! If the idea works I will expand the coverage to include mechanised armies and the associated additional weapon and unit types.

The designs were made up using Microsoft Paint and for these simple first attempts it was easy enough to cobble up - even for a partial technophobe like me - and they measure 2" (or 1" for the smaller size) by 7/16ths of an inch. The size can be varied to suit different sized blocks as needed and in addition to the red set above I have also prepared blue, grey and green versions.

I am quite excited about the potential of this project for a number of reasons as follows:

  • It is suitable for use with many periods
  • It is much cheaper than using conventional figures
  • It is far easier and quicker to create an army
  • It strikes an historical chord (think Kriegspiel!)
  • It is quite aesthetically pleasing in a stylised way
Essentially the look I am aiming for is that of a 3d board game or even a 'living military map' and the above represents my first tentative steps along that path.


The Angry Lurker said...

I'd use them, brings back memories.

David Crook said...

Hi Angry,

Same here - and I hope to make some new ones!

All the best,


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

And they were also used to great effect on Time Commander :)

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

Sadly I managed to miss that series although I heard some good things about it!

All the best,


Jubilo said...

Blocks seem logical. I love miniatures but the 12 figure battalions look silly. With blocks the game/tactics count more than the attractive figures.

David Crook said...

Hi Jubilo,

For me the use of blocks is a practical alternative to that of figures. I agree that if using figures then in order to get the best representation you need to use them en masse. My preference would be for large, almost Charge! sized formations and therein lies the problem - the sheer number of figures required and the time, financial outlay and cold, hard cash required is a daunting undertaking. If you choose to use figures then up to a point you are committed to using a lot of them - especially for pre mechanised warfare.

I also think that once a game is underway aesthetic considerations tend to disappear as the unit becomes a vehicle for the tactics and game itself and it matters little if that unit is a block, counter or a stand of carefully painted models.

All the best,