Sunday 19 November 2023

Lorraine Village Boundaries

Here's the latest stage of the Lorraine villages project, which is finally nearing completion. But first:

Sixty Years of Wargaming

It's been dawning on me over recent weeks that it must now be just about sixty years ago when I had my first wargame with actual rules, at the age of eleven. I had played with toy soldiers since being little, but was getting to an age where I questioned why this Airfix soldier should be arbitrarily knocked down rather than the next one. (Some say I've always over-thought things.) Anyway at the end of the school holidays in 1963 my dad took me to see an exhibition in Manchester -we used to live in Sandbach, Cheshire. It was staged by the British Model Soldier Society and entitled "The Livery of War". After spending hours admiring the large figures in glass cabinets around the room we ended up in front of an American Civil War wargame, based on rules and dice. A card explained how it worked. 

Here was the answer. Excellent news, by having rules of this kind I could go on playing with little soldiers! My dad and I agreed we would make up some World War Two rules and have a game, the first of which must have taken place just about sixty years ago now. I had many epic games with my dad, first WWII, then Franco-Prussian funnily enough, then Napoleonics, and most things since those days. It's fair to say I didn't think this peculiar pastime would be keeping me out of mischief sixty years after I discovered it.

On reaching the 60th anniversary some would be announcing how they celebrated it by refighting Leipzig on a hundred foot square table. But actually I've hardly had a game in months, being too busy building scenery. One of the good things about wargaming actually, is you can pursue the parts of it you are enthused by, changing your focus as the next thing stirs you.  Another sixty years would just about give me chance to do all the things I want to do in this hobby, so fingers crossed.

Lorraine Village Boundaries

Here's all the bits of wall, fence and hedge I've made to enclose the buildings and village bases previously shown. There's forty-two sections altogether.

The hedge sections are like this. The usual rubberised horsehair and dyed granulated cork were used. I worked carefully to get a nice, open structure here, because solid blocks of hedge would only be appropriate for a well-manicured domestic boundary. The hedge sections are in two colours, slightly lighter and slightly darker, though this doesn't show too well on the photos.

Fences are occasionally seen in contemporary images of Lorraine. They seem to have been rough versions of the classic picket fence, and whitewashed from time to time. On this section I made a broken down, overgrown end to the fence.

Walls were the most common garden boundary in Lorraine, and here's a vignette from the Panorama de Rezonville, which shows the look I was after. As with the buildings they were made from rough stone rendered over, but here with an unusual triangular-section top.Note also the blotchy colour and the frequent collapsed sections.

This is my attempt to get the above look. The plan wall is just made from three thicknesses of mounting card, trimmed and filed to get the shape along the top. Both ends of every wall or fence section culminate in a broken down end, a gatepost, or the wall disappearing into a hedge.

A close-up of one collapsed section. I think some of these may have fallen down with age and others in the painting are meant to have been hit by shells. I used the Wills stonework sheets, backed with 2mm styrene sheet and then carved to give stone texture on both sides and at the ends. I made a pile of loose stones from the same materials, styrene strip and a few suitable-sized pebbles.

Sometimes the walls were topped with tiles, so I made some sections accordingly, using strips of ridge tiles left over from the buildings.

Here's an idea of how these sections are meant to be used, enclosing the village bases whilst leaving gaps to suggest gateways. There must have been some sort of gates there once, but the panorama just shows gaps, so I did the same. I think it's possible that troops bivouacing there the night before the battle had actually used them to fuel their camp fires!

This is how closely the boundary sections are designed to fit around the village bases. The outsides have various projections, but the insides are made clean of any interference.

Finally you see how the boundaries look when defended by infantry. The heights of the walls are about 20-22mm, which seems to fit "firing-line" units. In use, the figure bases would be on top of a village base, raising the figures up another couple of millimetres.

Of course there will be buildings in the final version of these village units. And trees, which in fact I've almost completed now. I may go back to a couple of the houses and add some damaged sections to wall and roof, and I am also tempted to make a couple of barricade sections, with carts and furniture piled up to block the road leading into a village. Both of these would look nice, but having spent most of 2023 on these villages I'm not sure it would be time optimally spent. Given that I may not actually have another sixty years of wargaming time to go.