|My Tiny Wargames sea mat in action as the Combined Fleet gets set up to visually test the arrangement of the fleet and the size of table needed to accommodate the whole Battle of Trafalgar (more anon).|
Whilst working on the Trafalgar collection I have had several inquiries about the mat I have been depicting in some of the games run as the collection has grown and the challenge that will be posed by moving such a large collection of models around and so I thought I would devote a bit of coverage to those two aspects of the hobby.
Working to the principle of 'Begin with the End in Mind', as a very wise man once said, I've always embarked on creating any of my figure and model collections by taking into account terrain and storage planning which are forefront in the process of bringing a collection together, so much so that my move from 18mm into 28mm ranges of figures has necessitated a move into terrain items and storage capability to compliment the larger models.
|Another example of one of my Tiny Wargames mats in action as Ben, Tom and Will joined me for a Xmas 2019 Romano-Dacian set to.|
Those ideas have featured alongside the builds of my Romano-Dacian and AWI collections which incorporated the ideas of being able to use most of my terrain items to enable a Dacian forested, mountainous terrain to marry quite happily with the type of terrain encountered around the Great Lakes in 18th-19th century North America.
|The print quality of the sea effect on the mat really enhances the models when seen close up|
Thus storage and functional usage was maximised around two new collections, with a minimal space given over to additional terrain.
As discussed way-way back at the beginning of the blog, as focus developed on the Talavera project, I was keen to emphasise the importance I place on great looking terrain items as a way we can make our games more immersive and that I have never taken the view as some do that the figures and models are simply 'tokens' designed to be pushed around the table as you would with counters on a giant boardgame.
If that was so we might just as well do that, and not bother with the artistic side of the hobby that sees fantastic tables, terrain and models create a game no boardgame despite great graphics and artwork could ever hope to compete with as a 'total' gaming experience, and I would go so far to say that also applies to computer gaming that often comes close, but again cannot compete with the three dimensional effect of a beautiful table complete with figures, models and terrain that seem to appeal to all five senses with a good game even seemingly able to evoke the smell of black powder and cordite.
The use of purpose designed mats has revolutionised the hobby and the look of games able to be produced, be they home made or specially made wargaming products, and my preferred option has been to use mats supplied by Tiny Wargames, and it is an example of their 'Bright Sea' cloth mat that my model ships have been pictured on.
|Tiny Wargames - Sea-mats|
I have been using this and other mats, like the grass one in the Romano Dacia game shown above for four years now as have members in the DWG and I like them for several reasons. First the patterns and artwork used are great and really compliment my figures and other terrain items, an aspect I was keen to take advantage of with this collection by maintaining a clear base to the ships to allow the mat to show through and make the bases as discreet as possible.
The use of cloth mats makes transporting them too and from club so easy and I pick up old cardboard tubes from a local carpet retailer to allow me to roll my mats thus avoiding unsightly creases which if they occur are easily ironed out should the need arise.
Finally the mats are hardwearing and washable making them a very durable item that they need to be but ensuring a nicely turned out game every time we want to play. So none of the chipped pieces missing from game boards or from textured mats, which initially look great but can become tired looking after only a few games.
The second point about transporting the cloths has been really emphasised to me in my planning to play Trafalgar and other large naval actions of the period in 1:700th in that in the case of Trafalgar I will be using just under 250 square feet of table space, with five cloths, similar to the one seen on my table, to allow the two fleets to deploy and leave enough sea room for manoeuvre and thus being able to carry rolled up cloths that are easily draped over tables makes them an obvious choice for the naval wargamer.
The other major consideration for anyone putting together a collection, and especially a large collection, of models and figures is how to safely store that collection between games and a simple but effective system to be able transport them between venues.
If you intend to invest your time and hard earned cash on building a collection it will be well worth your time and money in investing in suitable storage for that collection to be able to display it if you care to in your home and also to be able to transport it safely to a gaming venue.
I am very fortunate in having my own permanent gaming room with space for display cabinets and storage boxes, and this storage/gaming space will also be a key determinant on the size and scope of any collection built.
|Glass fronted cabinets are a popular option if you have the space and permanent room in which to play. However if space is an issue then other safe storage that can be used to move a collection around in is the next best choice.|
So as my collection has been added to, the models have been placed in glass fronted display cabinet in my room, but as the collection neared completion I had to consider how I would be able to move them safely and securely.
When I first got into the hobby, other more seasoned wargamers recommended to me getting my first metal tool chest to carry around my small collection of Phoenix 20mm Napoleonic soldiers, with the metal container serving as a useful magnetic container once magnetic tape for bases became available.
|MDF Really Useful Box Insert Trays from Sally 4th with added extra bracing strips along the bottoms, with each tray capable of holding up to eight ship of the line models, slightly more frigate and brigs.|
However the old cantilever metal tool chests, of which I still have a few, are heavy and very capable of taking a large chunk of plaster out of your walls or leaving unsightly dents in metal objects should they be carried carelessly from the house to the car, and in recent times have given way to the new wargaming storage item of choice, the Really Useful Box (RUB), with its sturdy lockdown lid and robust stackable construction with rounded corners in light durable plastic offering protection without threatening house demolition every time they are moved.
These boxes are useful for storing just about anything we use in the hobby from figures, models, terrain, and even rule books, dice and measuring tapes.
Not only that, but with the advent of MDF and laser cutting, the modern wargamer can now not only purchase terrain items, game accessories and bases but also storage trays in this versatile material designed to fit into these boxes, and allow more stuff to be be held securely in bigger boxes, some examples of which now grace my collection of model ships.
I already use the nine litre RUB's for transporting my 28mm figure collections, which hold two MDF trays in each, and with the extra large lids give ample clearance room for items such as long spears and flag poles.
However extra clearance was required through the whole box with the model ships sporting masts on the First and Third Rates requiring a depth of at least 10cm to allow another tray to be stacked above and ideally a box that could carry multiple trays to allow the seventy-three models for Trafalgar to be carried as a collection in as few boxes as possible.
The solution was provided by Sally 4th who make a 100m deep RUB insert tray for the European 19 Litre and 25 Litre RUB, and for which I acquired three 19ltr options with the same extra large lids that are used on my 9ltr Rubs so adding a little extra flexibility.
|Sally 4th - 100mm Type B Solid RUB Tray|
I contacted Chris Abbey at Sally 4th and he was able to make me some extra copies of the long brace strips that go along the top long sides of each tray to support the stacked tray above. Thus by gluing five of these along the bottom of each tray I was able to create four lengthways rows to accommodate securely the Fluid 3D bases my models are fixed to, as seen in the pictures of my newly constructed trays in their boxes.
Each box holds three trays of eight models in each, thus twenty-four models per box - Perfect!
|The Trafalgar Collection all packed and ready to go|
So I hope this post is useful in highlighting two very important aspects of our hobby that we are all likely to encounter as we get deeper into it, with ever growing collections of models and terrain to create the games we want to but also the need to be able to safely secure those items in between games.
Next up I will take a look at game planning, an aspect for any aspiring game organiser who has taken the time and effort to create a collection around a given theme and wants to create an interesting game to allow the models and the payers to become immersed in it.