Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Deciding tabletop terrain layouts for AWI

While I am happily playing a few games of WW2 as part of my campaign, I thought I would throw in an AWI game over the next week or two. As mentioned a couple of posts ago I will be trying out randomly generating terrain for some of my one-off games. My current method for positioning terrain works well for WW2 Northern Europe games, but might be more problematic for AWI games because of unit scale and the choice of battlefields by the armies, which required a certain level of open ground for their unit formations.

My immediate thoughts were to do the opposite of what I currently do, which is to increase the terrain features in the centre 16 squares based on the campaign map area being fought over (The rules for this are in a series of posts call WW2 mini-campaign). Thereby, reducing the potential clutter of some types of terrain, particularly woods, in the centre of the board.

Beginning the setup of terrain using a random method
Another approach is to keep the current random method, but to treat open ground as a terrain feature. Now an open terrain feature could be something like three squares by three squares on my gridded table (or 18 inches square) and comes with the advantage of a centre square to help positioning. A couple of these open ground terrain features would be positioned first using a random method, and only certain terrain such as hills, fields and buildings can be placed on these open areas. There may even be a limit of one piece per open terrain feature.

Two open terrain features are randomly laid out first. Their centres must be within the marked centre area.
The remaining terrain is all randomly positioned anywhere on the table with one field allowed in an open terrain feature.
The above pictures show a trial run which seemed to work. Some additional rules included were no terrain features are allowed in any squares adjacent to a building feature (except roads) and fields come in pairs, rolling for the first one and laying the second field north, south, east or west of the first one.

The other ingredient is the order of placement: 2 x open terrain, 1 x roads, 1 x buildings, 2 x paired fields, and finally 8 x woods.

I will need to consider other features such as marsh, ravines, roads, etc. Along with the numbers of features allowed.


  1. What sort of scale will the games be aimed at? (as in battalions as units? or possibly smaller?) and which theatre of war?

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  3. I generally play with one unit of 18 figures on a 4 inch by 2 inch base representing a battalion. However, in some games where I am playing battles from Wargamers Handbook of the AWI by D.Featherstone I have had a base representing as few as 150 man and as many as 1000 men. The games so far have been from the Northern theatre (e.g. Monmouth and Freeman's Farm). For randomly generated terrain I would be playing one base represents on battalion using house rules based on OHW on a gridded table.

    1. OK that's about what I thought. This is just an observation, I'm not expert on AWI terrain and I'm sure things have changed a lot in 240 years, but from what I've seen over the years the small hedged European style fields would be fairly unusual, especially on their own. There were villages but most farmers tended to live in the middle of the fields and the fields seem to be fairly large at least 2 battalions wide if not wider. A farmhouse & barn would be not be too small to be worth showing as feature so your separate town area is good. An orchard or similar might be a good feature next to a town or a farm.

      A 4 square field might be good surrounded by a fence (or hedge in a pinch) to keep the cows out. Apart from rail and stone fences depending on the location (the stones coming from the fields in many areas) there is often a narrow strip of uncut brush, often with a small ditch or stream in between fields. (A bit like your hedges but not as solid, orderly or continuous,) A few blobs of lichen and the occasional small tree along the internal grid divisions of a bigger field would look just the thing.

      Small bits of woods (orchards, woodlots) in between some of the groups of fields would also be common and help get that 'broken' North American look.

      Your over all system seems sound though and I'm looking forward to seeing it in action.

    2. Hi Ross - Your observation is very timely. I am making up some boarders for the fields, the hedges pictured were from my 20mm NW Europe terrain and looked huge against my 15mm Peter Laing figures. No re-use there. I will be using your suggestions in the construction of the AWI terrain. Many thanks. Peter

  4. Hi Peter- I have been so inspired by your postings on AWI and WW1 and WW2 - so much so that this evening I placed an Order for a swag of 15mm WW1 - British and German troops...I plan to write my own rules- though plan Solo games in simular terrain as you have done for Europe on your 6' x 4' table. I have a bit more space with a table of 5'6" x 13' -I'm excited!
    Mulled over doing the 15mm WW1 for some days- deciding at last that it is best for me and what I can indeed afford. Regards. KEV.

    1. Hi KEV,
      I hope you have as much fun as I did. Good luck building up your WW1 armies and rules writing.
      Regards, Peter

    2. Peter- I've also Ordered a copy of Neil Thomas'-One Hour Wargame- as you had mentioned it- hopefully I can glean some ideas from the Book for my own WW1 Home-grown Solo Rules. KEV.

    3. Hi KEV, I found OHW to be a really enjoyable book and the rules a really good starting point to modify and generate your own variant of the rules. There are a few versions available on various blogs. Peter