Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Quick thought re terrain…

How do I decide what the Table should look like in my ongoing campaign, it might be asked..?

Good question… My map has very little actual detail  - just stylised “zones” – so how the Dickens do I decide what kind of country my wee bods should be battling over - esp. as period maps, descriptions etc. are very often of no help at all......?

Well, if I’m feeling lazy -  or if it’s a random/encounter battle where neither side has ambushed, waited for or prepared positions to resist an enemy – I might have a quick look at the relief map for that area (this Ain’t Siluria, but the approximating South Welsh terrain acts as the basis for the campaign), apply IMP, throw some lumps on the table to go under the mat (height & number based on the nature of the terrain), close my eyes and chuck on some random bits of lichen to decide where woods etc. should be placed and put down watercourses if appropriate to the campaign map or if the topography resulting from the above screams “this will be wet/muddy” et voilà…..

My bods then have to cope with what they’re given. If the terrain is “unfair” to one side or the other, well that’ll teach ‘em not to have a plan (or scouts. Basically, this what I do for random one-off games where I don't have a particular theme or purpose)

However, if I want to “realistically” model a battlefield,  particularly in the case of a “Let’s wait here till they come” scenario I am a bit more regimental about things….

As mentioned above, this isn’t Siluria, BUT…. The magic of the Interweb obviously provides a range of images from walkers, hikers and others showing the kind of terrain roughly corresponding to the type of country found in the area of the UK where the skirmish/battle is to take place.   Also, “NOT Siluria” – or South Wales - like most of the UK is very well covered on Google maps, inc. the birds-eye 3d variant and street view.  This gives me not only a general feel of the “lumpiness” of the ground height and slope pitch-wise, drainage, “rockiness” etc., but - especially from the air - sometimes supplies an idea of the kind of land use practicable/likely, even in Ye Olde Tymes…

What WILL be necessary however are often considerable allowances for changes in:

a) Width, path and nature of rivers (e.g.  a modern 
dredged, embanked river with wide, flat, drained farmland on either side was almost certainly a wider but shallower water feature with boggy “water meadows” – if not outright marsh – alongside) and lowland drainage considerations (Most important!! Esp. in England; where what was once marsh became water-meadow, which became drained farmland, which now regularly turns into flooded housing estate).

NOW I remember why we built the Abbey on a hill......

b) Changes in farming practice/land use – esp. the amount of woodland (certainly NOT always “more than now”.. Seriously dependant on period and place) and arable cultivation, the type/extent of woodland management (e.g. For medieval fights what is today “wild, unmanaged woodland” would  almost certainly be tidily-managed woods and coppices  or even more carefully managed and closely supervised “forest”).

c) Settlement/population density will very, very, very likely be subject to considerable “backdating”  - always remembering that local population density and populations of towns can go down as well as up....

d) Industrial and other changes to topography.

e) Roads. Roads and tracks move - and what we think of as a "good route" today" was the very opposite of what what would be deemed a good route in the past (
"Lovely, flat straight highway for miiiiiiles.. "Put your foot down" aka "Horrid, wet, muddy river valley. Stick to the lumpy, but dry, hills").

For the particular part of the UK we are operating in (see image from Google maps birds-eye 3d below) there are going to be some big differences in drainage, settlement, land use and even topography (e.g. Is that a natural hill - or a greened & landscaped slag heap? is that woody coomb actually an ex-quarry where a hill used to be? Etc. etc.).

For the battle about to be fought/documented however IMP is going to have a BIG effect on what the battlefield terrain is likely to be like... The salient questions are:

1) Why is the battle being fought?  In this case it is because the high-status leaders of the Celtic army - particularly the charioteers - want to fight it out (this decision itself being more to do personal reputation than with military expediency).

2) What type of ground is likely to be chosen by those choosing the ground - and in this case waiting for the enemy?

Given that the charioteer commandeers have proved to have the loudest voices in Council they want a clear, flattish field to race around on. However, the skirmish element of the army want some cover to feel more secure from the enemy cavalry.

A "compromise field", with a bit of both would be ideal. The zone in question extends into the flatter, wider land south of the hills proper, so the Celts "choose" a location at the point just south of where the hills end, but where farming isn't too intensive (not too many hedges, walls or fences). 

Hence this rough plan. There will be small irregularities, but this will be the general thing the Celts want... 

The Romans will be coming from the bottom (actually the north), debouching from the valley.

The Celts will form a line east-west from the settlement, with chariots at the front.

Let battle commence...


  1. You really do think of everything!
    The map at the top...the Tabula Peutingeriana?

    1. Yep, that's the pic... I'm working on a redrawing of Roman Britain (on a bigger scale) in the Tab. Peut. style.

      Years and years ago (pre. Interweb days)I made a kind of "travel race game" based on it.. Have no idea where THAT went.... Maybe a project for later...


Post Xmas "Crossfire" etc.

Delayed Follow-Up.. Alas, seasonal duties and a series of seasonal bugs delayed my experiments (and some deliveries tempted me into some dis...