Wednesday 4 October 2023

Lorraine Village Bases

Despite a little side job of improving some laser-cut Wild West buildings, the Lorraine project lumbers onwards. I've now made a large batch of village bases, which you see below. These are based on pieces of felt and so are flexible, in the same way as the previous wood bases and road sections, so they go on hills and slopes. 

These pieces may not exactly look imposing on their own, but they are designed very carefully for my gaming needs. They're also exact to the groundscale of my rules (1" to 100 metres), and show in (only slightly simplified) form the actual ground areas of villages in Lorraine. Specifically they are based on the settlements which featured in the battle of Colombey-Nouilly in 1870. There were a lot of small villages on that battlefield, over twenty in fact, and this is common in many of the densely-populated areas where the FPW was fought.

This what the bases look like. Construction started with pieces of brown felt (thought the starting colour doesn't matter really), textured with thinned PVA and fine sand. Once dry they got a solid coat of dark brown and then two lighter drybrushes. Actually it's not strictly brown but something slightly grey-er;  camel colour, I would call it. This represents bare earth suitably, but needs to be brightened up with semi-random patches of static grass. In this case I didn't want the grass to be long or particularly standing up, as I want buildings and figure bases to sit flat on the village base. So the mega-grass applicator stayed on the shelf and the grass is just stuck on with slightly-thinned tacky glue, which holds a a denser coat of grass than standard PVA. I used quite short static grass, pile it on very thickly and press it down with my hand, then once dry brush it off with quite a stiff brush. Finally it's drybrushed yellow-green.  

This is close to the finished village look, though we still have freestanding sections of walling to come. Buildings and other bits and pieces will actually cover most of these bases. Larger bases will have several buildings on them, perhaps including a church or whatever. As well as the earth and grass texture, there are areas on the bases which suggest vegetables or flowers being cultivated. They are just spots of tacky glue, with my dyed granulated cork "leaf" material pressed onto them. 

Here's why I use felt for various terrain bases rather than somthing rigid. The felt will bend between your fingers so as to conform to hills and slopes. And it stays that shape until you bend it straight again when putting the terrain away at the end of a game. It is never going to break or anything.

Here's how these bases work in game terms. The Prussian regiment fits (near enough) onto the village base, so placed along the edge, "defending" it. The figure bases and village base integrate nicely. The house can just be moved back a bit so that we are still seeing a "village". But the felt base defines the footprint of the village in game terms. And because there are no fixed walls, etc, it's easy to place that wargames unit whose move places it part-way through a village area, even diagonally.

Here's the whole set of village bases, thirty-five in all. Because they are quite quick to make I thought I'd just do "plenty" rather than trying to work out exactly how many might be needed. Most of the village bases are quite small but some equate to the ground area of towns or the outskirts of a city. Of course bases can be placed adjacent, or even overlapped at a pinch, so any configuration should be possible.


  1. Interesting. It must take some patience to do it all.

  2. Clever in concept, excellent execution. I do like the fold hugging capability.

  3. Great ideas here John thank you for sharing

  4. Very nice effect from such simple materials. I'm a great believer in area markers for built-up areas as a way to get round the ground-scale v model-scale problem but have never made enough of them for this to really work - not something you could be accused of here!

  5. Thanks fellers. I am halfway through making a set of freestanding wall (and hedge and fence) sections to go with these bases, which will improve the visual effect of the figures actually being under cover. My previous approach of building rigid village bases incorporating walls, etc, did look nice, as you can hopefully see with the Bohemian iteration. But it was hard work in gaming terms, because unit bases only sometimes fitted in with them. Hopefully the new approach will reconcile practicality with appearance. Only playing a few actual games with the new system will tell how well it works. Hopefully that's not too far off now.

  6. Whilst I loved the Bohemian approach to the bases, these are much more practical and I'm sure will look just as good once all the components are together.

  7. I too like the idea of flexible rather than rigid terrain although I am sure you could overcome the issue of fitting bases into one of your Bohemian style settlements by simply ensuring the area of the base left enough room to fit a battalion inside the BUA?

  8. Thanks very much Steve. I am currently working my way through "boundaries", ie walls, hedges and fences to go around the village units. Then a batch of small trees, and that's this project finally complete, thank heavens.

    Rross, I did start off with exactly that approach back in about 1987. A friend copied my approach and got the credit for it in Wargames Illustrated at that time! It works well if you have units of a standard size, but I abandoned that organisational method a year or two later and converted my village units to the new approach, because I don't really have standard-sized units. Despite wanting to do everything in 28mm, I also want to do whole battles, not the division-sized encounters that most 28mm wargamers end up with. Wanting to have both these things at the same time is a bit uncommon, I know. Many think it weird, taking it for granted that a small groundscale means you have to use small figures.

    Anyway, if you want to have a whole battlefield on a normal sized table you have to have a small groundscale, ie an inch representing 100 paces or 100 metres. On that basis the frontage of a horse-and-musket era battalion is only going to be an inch or two, but since I'm trying to represent whole divisions and army corps, my game units are generally multi-battalion regiments or brigades. These units can be split down, so units of any number of battalions are possible. Hence there's no chance of making village bases which conveniently fit a unit.

    Another issue is that some of my gaming is done with the figures of friends, who like the "big battle" approach but don't necessarily organise their units the exact same way or on the same size bases. Hence their figure bases are somewhat different sizes. When I made the rigid village bases, I tried to work out overall internal dimensions that would accomodate multiples of the different base sizes, but that's not always possible.