Thursday, 4 November 2010

Memoir of Battle: Getting the 'look' right on Hexon II hexes

When I got home from work today I found that I had a bit of spare time that I had not expected to have. I therefore used it to see how different sized MEMOIR OF BATTLE units would look on my Hexon II hexes terrain.

I started with some 15mm-scale Colonial figures. What surprised me was that the 'standard' four individual figure infantry unit did not look 'lost' in the larger-sized hex.

However, the combined large multi-figure base plus individual figures did look more impressive.

Likewise, the artillery unit which was also a mixture of a large multi-figure base (including a gun) plus individual figures was equally impressive.

I then moved on to some 20mm-scale World War II German figures.

From the start, it was obvious to me that for infantry units, the four individual figure unit worked well, and allowed space for the figures and terrain items to both fit in the same hex.

The same was true for the artillery unit ...

... but the machine gun unit did seem a bit 'lost', as it only had two figures.

It seems to me that in the light of these rather unscientific 'experiments', I need to do some more thinking about how many figures a MEMOIR OF BATTLE unit should have. My first reaction was that a combination of individual figures that can be removed to indicate casualties PLUS either
  • a small multi-figure 'core' unit base (possibly with an officer and another figure mounted on it) for 15mm-scale units or
  • a single figure 'core' unit base (possibly an officer or NCO) for 20mm-scale units
might be the way forward ... but I don't want to make too hasty a decision for the time being.


  1. I like the look of the 6 rather than 4. Seems to me that for massed natives, one could probably increase the numbers farther, either with a larger fixed "last stand" (sic) (perhaps 1x6 in 2 ranks + 3 singles or by using 8 figures, placed 2 deep and removing 2 figures for each loss.


  2. Ross Mac,

    I am thinking along similar lines. What is stopping me is that it will require me to rebase my figures!

    That said, it might be worth it in the end.

    All the best,


  3. I have generally found that if something looks 'right' it'll help the game along. Certainly a 10cm hex is a lot of ground for 4 15mm fighures to hold! A further advantage of bigger units (or bases!) is that you don't need 'stacking' rules - what ever can physically fit into the hex is the limit.

  4. Tim Gow,

    I think that we have been of one mind about the 'look' helping things to work for a very long time.

    I am seriously considering the six-figure infantry unit and three/four-figure artillery unit for my 15mm version of MOB because they look 'right'.

    As to stacking rules ... I had not considered that situation yet, but what you have written makes sense to me, and I will very probably use your suggestion.

    All the best,


  5. Bob,
    I agree your MG unit does look a bit 'lost' all alone in the hex, but is there any reason why it shouldn't share the hex with an infantry unit, supporting the latter by its fire?
    Perhaps part of the 'problem' is that, using so few figures as you have been doing to represent a unit, the visual effect looks like a 1:1 skirmish game, so the viewer tends, subconsciously, to think of each figure as an individual man, rather than a sort of 3D tactical symbol to indicate the type of unit.
    The same was true of your Fort Wagner playtest - four ACW infantry just didn't look like a
    close-order attack...

  6. Arthur1815,

    What you say makes a lot of sense.

    One of the reasons for pushing models around on the terrain to see how they 'look' is to throw up these problems of perception. I don't have a problem looking at four figures and 'imagining' that they are an American Civil War Regiment ... but I know a lot of people who do. Tim Gow had exactly this situation when he first designed 'Megablitz'; people either loved it or loathed it. What is interesting is that when he used the same system with 1:300th-scale models, the objections seemed to diminish quite rapidly.

    The players' perception of what is happening on the tabletop can be quite easily distorted by the use of a particular sized of figure or the number of figures in a unit that they do not think ‘looks’ right, and this is something that not every wargames designers takes into account.

    All the best,


  7. Bob,
    What you say is very about wargamers' perceptions is very true. The irony is that, after playing games in which 20-30 figures represent a battalion, we have a false perception of just how wide a column of attack is, let alone a battalion in line!

  8. Arthur1815,

    Having just returned from Paddy's Memorial Service at RMA Sandhurst, I am very aware of some of the things he said about 'toy soldiers' sometimes getting in the way of good wargame design. Perhaps I am only just beginning to realise how right he was.

    That said, I am still wedded to the use of 'toy soldiers', but I am at least aware of their limitiations.

    All the best,