Kallistra hexagon terrain and how I use it

Most of my wargames are played on a 4ft x 3ft (120cm x 90cm) table on Kallistra hexagon tile terrain.  I play in 6mm, 1/300, 1/285 scale.
Although Kallistra make roads and rivers to place on top of the standard tiles the roads are too wide for my scale and the rivers too regular.
I make my roads and streams about 2cm wide – which fits my standard troop base size – and rivers are 5cm wide, or almost the full hexagon edge.
I buy my hexagon tiles ready flocked with grass/earth colours.  To make a stream or road I take a hexagon tile and mark the entry and exit points at the centre of the hex-sides.  Next I take a paste brush about 2cm wide and liberally paint the route of the road or stream with water.
While it is wet I scrape the flocking to the edges of the road or stream route with a sharp knife.  This has the effect of creating low banks on both sides. When dry I paint roads with a “pebble” tester pot from Homebase (a UK DIY store) .  This shade was decided on after viewing European roads from above on commercial air flights.  While still wet I sprinkle with fine builder’s sand and spray with matt varnish.

A road painted onto Kallistra Hexon tiles
J A road painted onto Kallistra Hexon tiles

For streams I use a mix of blue, grey and brown tester pots and follow up with several coats of PVA glue to give a shiny surface.

This stream needs two or three more coats of PVA to increase the watery look
This stream needs two or three more coats of PVA to increase the watery look

To make marsh I use an unflocked tile. I still have a few from the days before I bought ready-flocked. I paint them as for the streams and then add flock and short lengths of cut sisal string or old paintbrush heads to represent reeds.

A Kallistra hexagon tile embellished to tepresent a marsh or swamp.
A Kallistra hexagon tile embellished to represent a marsh or swamp.

For woods I use either pre-based trees or by preference I drill holes in the tiles and “plant” the trees.  Judge the results for yourself.  Feedback is welcome.
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September 1st 1939 – still waiting

So much for not holding up the game when I discovered I had missed creating an entire unit (see earlier post).  When I came to set up the battlefield I found I was short by three slope hexagons, so an emergency order to Kallistra was prepared.  At the same time I ordered some new houses from Total Battle Miniatures to replace the Irregular Miniatures buildings I intended to use, which look a bit small against the new troops.  If they don’t arrive before the new hexagon tiles I will press into use some nicely painted American Civil War models I bought at a tabletop sale last year.  They are a reasonable substitute, judging by newsreel film of September 1939 recently viewed.
ACW bulidings from Total Battle Miniatures ACW buildings from Total Battle Miniatures

So now it’s a race.  Will the new hexagon tiles arrive before the buildings? And in the meantime I can start painting the missing unit.

“Order – Counter-order – Disorder”

El Trompatista 7th June 1808

Action at Manresa

General Schwartz, from Duhesme’s Corps in Barcelona, has been ordered to move north to Manresa His force consists of three battalions of Italian and Neapolitan light infantry, one battalion of Swiss infantry, a squadron of cuirassiers and four guns.

Having received a bloody nose from the local militia when leaving Molino del Rey on 4th June, he arrived at Manresa on 6th June to find nearly 5000 Spanish militia barring his entry to the city.

Manresa 7th June 1808

His force needed supplies, as the action at Molino was caused by his men plundering the houses to get food.  With a third of his force strung out on the road behind him, he decided to wait until the next day to attack.  The local Spanish commander, Coronel Sant’Iglesia, did not feel that his militia were up to attacking the French, so he too waited in a defensive mode.  Most of the militia were stood down overnight while a few hundred men manned the southern walls of the city.

Manresa is a city straggling along the River Llobrigat.  There are steep hills to the northwest and a few low hills and woods scattered to the southwest. There are some old fortified walls at the south end of the city.

On the morning of 7th June, with his forces assembled, General Schwartz sent his cuirassier squadron forward to protect the left flank as the infantry advanced.  He placed his guns on a low hill to the left of the road with a good view of the city walls.  The Italian Velites, who had suffered losses a few days earlier, had crossed the river downstream and advanced along the eastern bank of the river.

The sight of the cuirassiers was too much for the 600 militia cavalry who were assembled at a mill at the extreme northwest of Manresa and they charged, scattering the cuirassiers who were outnumbered four to one.  Buoyed with their success the militia swarmed up the hill and captured the French guns. General Schwartz narrowly escaped with his life for the second time in three days, and was badly shaken. The French managed to spike two of the pieces, but the Spanish took the other two and turned them to face the French.  It would have been better had they towed them away because they were unaware of the presence of a battalion of Neapolitan light infantry in the woods immediately to their southwest, who counterattacked and took the guns back, albeit useless now as the militia did manage to wreck the remaining two cannon before retreating.

At this point the Swiss and the other Neapolitan battalion opened fire and the Spanish cavalry ceased to be a viable fighting force. It was now an infantry only battle.

The Velites had moved up the right flank to within musket range of the town and opened fire across the river, doing slight damage to the militia battalions in the buildings to the southeast. The Neapolitan light infantry kept up a fire against the militia lining the walls to the southwest while the Swiss stormed the bastion to the southeast and took the walls.

The militia unit defending that sector withdrew and kept withdrawing until they were out of town and in the hills. But they were swiftly replaced and the Swiss were forced back out of the city again. With more militia battalions arriving to bolster the defences and some of his troops running short of ammunition, General Schwartz gave the order to withdraw.  He would now have to move back to Molino del Rey, short on supplies and with little hope of finding sufficient food there for the retreat to Barcelona. Casualties:  French 241 men and four guns.  Spanish 291 men.

September 1939 – the models in detail.

In my previous post I gave the orders of battle for the first battle of my Second World War Campaign.
Here is some information on how the models were prepared.
I paint the models with acrylic paints from Coat d’Arms and Vallejo, after attaching them individually with PVA adhesive to plastic bottle tops for ease of handling. It is a simple matter to remove the models later by slipping a sharp knife beneath the layer of glue.
My game bases are made from 1mm thick MDF sheet, cut into 2cm squares (or multiples thereof for horse teams and other longer models). I round off the corners with an old pair of nail clippers to prevent bending or fraying at the edge.

1mm MDF sheet cut into 2cm x 2cm squares.
1mm MDF sheet cut into 2cm x 2cm squares.

I label all my bases with a Bother P-touch label maker, colour coded by army, but not always in a consistent style. For example the Polish tank label has a catalogue reference which the other examples do not. Something to rectify when time allows. I must create and stick to a standard!

A selection of Polish and German bases.
A selection of Polish and German bases.

Working with about half a dozen bases at a time I cover each base with PVA adhesive and attach the models. I try to randomise the positions of infantry on the base, but it’s amazing how many come out almost one to each corner. When the glue is completely dry I start to work one base at a time. For infantry and artillery crews with moulded bases I carefully add a coat of green “basetex” textured paint and immediately scatter some model railway “grass” flock over the base, sieving it through a redundant fine mesh flour sifter. Any stray flock that clings to the tiny men is blown or brushed off after the assembly is dry.  The flock colour is almost identical to the Kallistra pre-flocked hexagon tiles that I use.

Rifle squads. An error in the focus for the Poles. They were supposed to be the "in focus" group for this shot. Must revisit the tips from Henry Hyde!
Rifle squads. An error in the focus for the Poles. They were supposed to be the “in focus” group for this shot. Must revisit the tips from Henry Hyde!

For vehicles that have no moulded base I more often use a pinch of fine builders sand, also sieved or rubbed between finger and thumb to remove the larger lumps. I don’t mind a few large bits which can represent small rocks. I am still trying to get the timing and mix correct, but I tend to use more sand on vehicles that are likely to spend most of the time on roads because I use the same sand for my road surfaces. For example:

Vehicles with a sandy base. The raw MDF edges will need a touch up, and I am not happy with some of those white crosses.
Vehicles with a sandy base. The raw MDF edges will need a touch up, and I am not happy with some of those white crosses.

Here is a selection of Polish and German armour with generally less sand applied. Most of these were based in an earlier session and have plain green paint rather than basetex. You will see that I have chosen to use the disputed grey and brown camouflage scheme on some of my German tanks. That probably means that they will need a repaint if they are to fight beyond June 1940.

Representative Polish and German armoured vehicles for the 1939 campaign.  Not all are included in my first battle.
Representative Polish and German armoured vehicles for the 1939 campaign. Not all are included in my first battle.

Finally everything is taken to the garden on the next fine day and given a coat of matt spray varnish.  I have learned never to apply this if there is any dampness in the air.  The varnish turns white and ruins all the hard work.

Next: The game map selected and transferred to the table.

Poland, 1st September 1939, forces ready (or are they?)

Poland, 1st September 1939
The opposing forces are ready.  Well, when I started this post I thought they were!

In a previous post I showed the situation in Poland on 1st September.  Here is how the forces available for the local battle were decided.  I am using “Axis and Allies” (A&A) for the overall strategic campaign and “Memoir 44” (M44) with local adjustments for the tabletop battles using appropriate 1/300 or 1/285 scale miniatures and Kallistra terrain tiles.  This is very much a game based on history rather than a historical game.

Rule: only forces orthogonally adjacent on the map may participate in battle. The attacker (current active country in the Strategic game) selects a target map square and a primary attacking unit.  Any other uncommitted unit adjacent to the target square may be included as reinforcements.  The defender must fight with whatever unit is in the target square but may also be reinforced from neighbouring squares.

For this battle Germany is attacking with 2nd Panzer supported by 1st Infantry against the Polish 1st Infantry.  All other forces are pinned or not directly adjacent to an enemy.  Note that I am not calling these strategic units Divisions, Corps, Armies or anything else.  The entire Polish national defence is represented by four units, so maybe they could be called “Armies”.  We shall see as the war progresses.

To determine the forces available to each commander the appropriate number of Memoir 44 dice are rolled.  This process will be carried out at the start of each battle, so the commander on the spot will have a variable force available from battle to battle.  This will make it more interesting and I can rationalise it by claiming that this was the key point in the bigger picture.

All forces for this battle are fresh and complete, so 8 dice are rolled for each A&A unit.  Why 8 dice? Mainly because that’s how many are in the box but also because it gives a reasonable sized force for a 4ft x 3ft table, which with 10cm hexagons neatly replicates the 13 x 9 hexagon board in M44.
The dice are cubic, with the faces marked as infantry, infantry, tank, grenade, flag and star.  For those unfamiliar with the game system the relevance of these symbols in play will become clear in the battle reports.

German 2nd Panzer uses the “armour” conversion table.
Dice rolled were:
2 tanks = 2 units of 3 medium tanks (Pz II for 1939)
3 grenades = 3 units of 2 Self-Propelled guns (for 1939 replaced by howitzers towed by half-tracks)
2 flags = 2 units of 3 armoured cars
1 star = 1 unit of 3 half tracks.
Note that no infantry were rolled on this occasion.

German 2nd Panzer force September 1st 1939.  GHQ models on Kallistra hex tiles.
German 2nd Panzer force September 1st 1939. GHQ models on Kallistra hex tiles.

German 1st Infantry uses the “infantry” conversion table.
Dice rolled were:
3 infantry = 3 units of 4 rifle squads (4 figures per squad)
1 grenade = 1 unit of 2 horse towed artillery
1 flag and 3 stars: these dice are rerolled to obtain specialist units.
1 infantry = 1 unit of 3 rifle squads and a machine gun team (tripod mounted for sustained fire role)
2 tanks – 2 units of 3 rifle squads and an anti-tank rifle.
1 star = 1 unit of 3 trucks.
At this point I realised that I have only prepared one rifle/AT infantry unit.  Rather than delay this battle I rushed to the toy cupboard to dig out some replacements, so the second unit is Heroics & Ros figures on somewhat different bases, seen in the top left of the picture below. 

German 1st Infantry 1st September 1939. GHQ and Heroics models on Kallistra hexagon tiles.
German 1st Infantry 1st September 1939. GHQ and Heroics models on Kallistra hexagon tiles.

Polish 1st Infantry also uses the “infantry” conversion table.
Dice rolled were:
3 infantry = 3 units of 4 rifle squads
2 tanks = 2 units of 3 medium tanks (for a Polish infantry force I used the TKS and TK3 tankettes, one unit with 20mm cannon and one with machine guns)
1 grenade = 1 unit of 2 horse towed guns.
1 flag and 1 star re-rolled.
1 tank = 1 unit of 3 rifle squads and an anti-tank rifle team.
1 star = 1 unit of 3 trucks.

1st Polish Infantry September 1st 1939.  GHQ models on Kallistra hexagon tiles.
1st Polish Infantry September 1st 1939. GHQ models on Kallistra hexagon tiles.

In my next post I will show the forces in detail.

September 1939 – Getting there with the painting

I am slowly getting to my objective – to actually start gaming this campaign.
I find nowadays that I cannot stare through a magnifying glass for as many hours as I need to get these models painted. The problem with using a magnifying glass is that the figure gets bigger but you are painting it with a yard broom!
Painting webbing on 6mm high soldiers is a necessary chore, particularly for my Polish troops. If I paint it I can’t see it, but if I don’t paint it the uniform looks bland and incorrect. Catch 22.
My fine point brushes are beginning to fray from too much use with acrylic paint and when I look at the magnified photograph I realise just much I have strayed from the target areas and need to tidy up.

A close up of some of the Poles.  Still being equipped with some time before they are battlefield ready.
A close up of some of the Poles. Still being equipped with some time before they are battlefield ready.

1939 September 1st. preparing the forces

Normally whenever I want to play a wargame the full forces are not available.  My replay of the whole of the Second World War hit just such a hurdle on 1st September in game time.  This is mainly because last year I sold my existing Irregular Miniatures armies and started to rebuild using GHQ miniatures.  So some sorting and ordering of new troops later, I have started on the painting.

I had hoped to get quite a bit done over the weekend but the Memsahib went out and bought a horse (she has only been waiting 45 years for the opportunity), and therefore much of the weekend was taken up with the necessary adulation of the beast.  I am only jealous because I am no longer able to ride anything more adventurous than a bicycle!

However, this morning I got the base coat onto my Germans

1939 Germans base-coated.  Other soft drinks are available.
1939 Germans base-coated. Other soft drinks are available.