Thursday, April 7, 2011
This is Part 2 concerning our recent Napoleonic game. I thought some of you might be interested in my gaming table, etc. The basic table is 5 x 10 feet. Around the walls, 4 feet or so from the table edge, on three sides, I have built two shelves, one on top of the other, 15 inches apart. The lower shelf is the exact height of the gaming surface, and we call it the "back table". It is flocked and reversible to do both "grass" and desert. We use the 'back shelf' to stage reserves, have camps and sometimes use as a "road" to a spot on the table. The top shelf is used to hold "dead" troops, troop transport boxes, etc. It's now frequently in use for storage of our inventory of Perry and Warlord box sets! I can and sometimes do, connect the "main table" with modular side pieces to get different battlefield shapes. Obviously you have to still allow people to walk around, but I have been known to make "duck unders" and make players play in the 'hole' as we call it! Some of the areas I have used for this are indicated in red. This has proven to be a very flexible arrangement that has allowed me to do lots of different kinds of battles with flanking manuevers and what not that would be very difficult on just a center table. I like it so much, I can't imagine doing without it now. Of course not all games use the auxiliary areas. This is a picture of the main table and the 'back tables' "dressed". Between the two shelves I have put up a simple backdrop painted sky blue with some clouds airbrushed on.
Another view from the Napoleonic game. Here you can see the "drink" rail that runs along both sides of the main table. It's mighty handy for keeping beverages off the terrain and catches all the dice, rulers and other things. This allows the "decorated" table to remain free of real world objects. I find that far more pleasing than a brillaintly painted unit of French obscured by a beer can! Here is the 'back table' in use. This is the British camp. It's only 18" deep, but I put terrain and hill panels up against the backdrop. I model these so that I 'force the perspective' making the scene look much deeper than it actually is. The backdrops are curved in the corner to not distract the eye and ruin the scene with a seam. I really like to get down at the troop's 'eye level' and look across the table. The background makes it look like the miniature landscape goes on forever. It helps me feel it's an actual battle in miniature rather than just a "game".
Under the shelves, I have installed a variety of lighting for the 'back tables'. It starts with simple dimmable cabinet fixtures. I also added blue 'rope' lighting for night effect games. There are also some individual orange lights scatterd about that are activated by sound sensitive switches. I often play sound effect files I make myself to accompnay games. When large explosions occur, for instance, the lights under the table pulse to the sound, giving the effect of artillery or bomb blasts. I haven't had a night game for awhile..sound like I should!
Lighting over the main table is important. I have two banks of dimmable spots and a center section of blue spots for "night games". They can be moved if I want to put more light on specific scenery features to 'highlight' them. I have some special spots on hand that will tie into the sound system, but have not yet put them over the main table.
This is a good shot of the side tables. The "shelves' are built like trays. The panels drop into them and can be flipped over. As I said above, one side is grass and the other sand. All this turned out to be pretty easy by using door panels and brackets from Home Depot. Door panels come in a variety of widths and are easy to cut to length. If you buy damaged ones (no issue for us gamers) they can be quite inexpensive and save alot of time. This is an old model railroader table trick.
This scene is only 18 inches deep but looks much deep. I bought some cheap paintings of an Italian village (at Target I think), cut them out and added some flock. I just lean them against the backdrop and put other scenery in front.
The path going up the hill is modeled so it gets narrower at the top. This, plus putting smaller trees in the back and bigger ones in front, really helps the forced perspective illusion. The larger building in the front really plays off the smaller ones in the painting. It looks like the village is a half mile over the hill, but in reality is only 6" or so from the modeled building. When reinforcements "arrive" on the top of the hill, it really looks as if they have rode in from the town.
Having lots of terrain and figures is great, but not so great if you don't have adequate storage. I have two closets I can use and they are stuffed. These cheap roll around drawer cabinets make storing and setting up figures a snap.