Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Of Ski Hills and Wargames Terrain - Innies and Outies

Ski trips on two successive January 2nds had me thinking about war games terrain!  In 2011 I was skiing at Lake Louise in the Alberta rockies.  

The view from the top of the chair lift at Louise - classic alpine vistas and an avalanche warning on the back face!  The view alone was priceless and the skiing was fantastic.

Taken from the Gondola station at the Louise summit but the weather had clouded over.  I'm pointing at the Chateau Lake Louise hotel (as featured in CPR holiday posted of old and scenic calendars of every era).  The Louise guide posed me before telling me why - and yes she did this about 20 times a day!

In 2012 I went skiing Asissippi in Manitoba - very good and a day trip (3 hours each way) from Regina, but not Louise.  I wish I'd taken a photo of the view from the top of the chair lift - which at one point featured a farm pickup on a gravel road at eye level!  Think about this for a minute.

The realities of skiing on the prairies are that the only slopes available are in river valleys.  Therefore the top of the slope is the surrounding bald prairie land.  Driving up to Asissippi, although we knew we were close, the first real indication that we had arrived was when we saw skiers getting off the chair beside the road.

Okay here's the wargaming connection....what works for skiing works on the wargame table too.  Here's a shot of a Canadian militia column moving west through the Qu'appelle Valley during the 1885 rebellion (taken about 80kms north of my house about 125 years ago).  

How to Hide an Infantry Column 1885
The surrounding terrain at the top of the valley is billiard table smooth grain fields now (grass lands then).  Cue the jokes about seeing your dog  four days after he ran away.  And FYI the trees (bush and scrub really) is concentrated in the valleys too.  And you really can't see the drop into the valley until you're almost on top of it.

Now skim through your CS Grant scenario books (if you read this blog, chances are you own the set).  Look at "Scenario 8 -Dead Ground" in Scenarios for Wargames and "Scenario 8 -Dry River Bed" in Scenarios for All Ages.  The 1885 photo looks about spot on doesn't it?  

The problem is how to model this on the table.  I use a felt cloth with hills placed either on top (if I have enough reasonable looking hills on tap) or under the cloth.  The "drop" requires either a lot of painted hills or a lot of surface tremors when you remove the under the cloth hills!  The best solution I've seen used Geohexes, but that requires deeper pockets and more storage space than I have! 

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