Saturday 14 November 2020

I have been thinking about woods again...Part 2

After a miserably depressing week at work I was getting to my car to leave on Thursday afternoon when I noted that two of the Pohutukawa trees in front of where was parked had come into bloom. For anyone who lives in New Zealand the appearance of the Pohutukawa blossom is the sign that summer in just around the corner. That flash of red is always an uplifting sight for me.

Since I an happy with the first couple of wood bases discussed in an earlier post I have added a few more.

Some end pieces...

Some angle pieces...

And the first of what will be four more standard blocks...

Then it occurred to me that this is all dreadfully limiting because with this standard sized block woods would always need to either be on the table edge or if placed back to back would be 240mm deep and would assume this basic squareness. So I made some narrower strips that can just back onto a standard block. 

I will makes some shorter pieces like this for the ends and perhaps a couple of odd shapes, just to mix things up a little. The narrow pieces may also be useful along roads and rivers.

I also changed the way the trees will be fastened to the bases by adding a small piece of steel in the hollow of the block and then mounting an 8mm x 3mm Neodymium magnet in the base of the tree.

Because I want to use these blocks universally across a number of theatres I have made some tree stands with palm trees on them. I am thinking particularly of Paraguayan War here.

As I mentioned in Part 1 the original concept of the wood blocks, 30+ years ago, as defensive zones morphed unsatisfactorily into fortresses. I wanted to avoid that this time around so I looked in depth at a number of mid-19th century battles that involved heavy fighting in woods (Skalitz, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Chickamauga, The Wilderness, Spicheren and Froeschwiler being the main ones on which I have good refernces - not an exhaustive sample I know, but representative I think all the same) and it soon became clear that the woods did not make particularly good defensive positions because they do not create significant barriers.

In most cases an attacking force could carry the edge of the wood relatively easily because managing a defensive fighting line along the edge was no easy task - communicating along the line and exerting fire control were the greatest problems. Once fighting was established within woods action became a series of disconnected skirmishes of varying intensity and neither attacker or defender is able gain any real advantage from the cover. Fighting in woods could drag on for hours and the introduction of even small contingents could tip the scale in any fighting. In the words of the British author Colonel Henderson in his book on Spichern, and I am paraphrasing here, that woods are like a filter paper - much goes in but not much of substance comes out. My own analogy is that they are like a sponge and will absorb every that goes near.

So I plan to fight in woods using these guidelines:

Occupying a wood - blocks are broken into two sizes:

  • Small – up to 120mm x 120mm and can be occupied by two tiny units or one larger unit
  • Large – up to 240mm x 120mm and can be occupied by three tiny units or two small units or one larger unit

Concealmenttroops can claim to be on the edge of the wood or back from the edge:

  • If on the edge, they can see out under normal line of sight rules and can fire at any valid target outside the wood
  • If on the edge, they can be identified and fired on by any enemy unit within 300mm
  • If back from the edge they cannot cannot be seen from outside the wood  and cannot fire out
  • If a wood consists of multiple blocks units can see into and fire into adjacent blocks
  • Units entering a wood from the outside will deduct 50mm to enter and are then ruled to be within the block
  • Units moving within a wood move from block to block without restriction

Firing - Woods provide cover from fire for any unit within its boundary but fire is limited to:
  • Two firing dice for every 120mm of wood frontage up to the maximum permitted for the unit(s) size
  • Units must measure the range and arc of fire from the centre of the wood block
  • If a target is not able to be engaged because it is out of  the arc of fire,  fire by a single firing die is permitted 
Close Combat - All troops fight on equal terms unless:
  • Veteran vs Raw
  • Specialist light infantry vs line infantry
  • Woodsmen and natives against other troops.

I want to make it so that there is a high threshold for victory in any combat within the wood so that once you commit to woods fighting, you had better be prepared to stay there all day.


  1. Seeing those red blossoms would uplift my spirits too.

    Under ”Firing” is this for firing out from a woods position when not deployed too deeply into the woods?

    1. Yes, firing from the edge. Although in my reading I did find an instance at Spicheren in 1870 where the French some 200 meters in the woods were firing at the Germans also in the woods, but the fire was high and struck another German unit some 150 meters outside the wood.

  2. I really like your modular approach to woods and your rules that you are either at the edge or deep is the way that I like. It terms of attacking capability in woods, some rules essentially put the unit in skirmish formation, so they fight as skirmishers. In effect skirmish v skirmish in many sets lowers casualties, so can make fighting in woods a rather drawn out process.

    1. Thanks Norm. We have an American Civil War game in a couple of weeks that may test the ideas.

  3. Inspired and wonderful job on the terrain, congrats!

  4. oh hell, more rule changes! Just kidding Mark - hope the Sunday game goes well and sorry I wont be there with you all.

    1. Ha ha! We have used these for the last couple of games now.

  5. Sorry to hear that you had a pretty awful week at work, but nice to know that Nature gave you that little lift. As for the woods, they look very effective and a nice idea to be able to use them for different theatres.

    1. The work frustrations are a result of merging subsidiaries into the mother ship just a few months before COVID hit and we lost a third of our staff. They won’t go away in a hurry, sadly, but at least I have our wonderful hobby to keep me sane.

  6. Sorry to hear that work continues to be a source of aggravation - keep updating that spreadsheet. More lovely woods Mark, and these look like they will work terrifically well. We tend to classify woods as either light or heavy, which affects all those factors you mention. Thinking about it it's probably an unnecessary distinction, but it seems to work well.

    1. Yes the spreadsheet tells me that there are only 1019 days until the glorious day! I want to make it as simple as possible to move and fight in woods. I find moving figures within our current modular woods a little like working with nuts and bolts - fiddly and annoying...and the woods are always in the middle of the table!

  7. Great post Mark, those pieces are so versatile.