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"How do you use a table wider than 5 foot?" Topic

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1,180 hits since 6 Dec 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 3:57 a.m. PST

First, just a rough calculation: 5 foot width= 60"TT (TT means on the TableTop),,,,,,,1" TT= 50yards,,,,,,Width of TT is 1500 yards or less than a mile. Even if the rate of marching is 1 mph, then a unit could march clear across the table in three 20 minute turns.

Flank attacks? Hard to do on the TT. Pushing the enemy back a good distance? Hard to do on the TT. Refighting a battle that did NOT have basically two linear lines facing each other? Hard to do on the TT. etc.

How do people get around the 5' wide table problem, in order to get more variety in our gaming? I sort of remember tales of Peter Young crawling under the table and poking his head up thu the scenery of some forbidden terrain. Also, supplemental tables (how was this managed?).

Please, what have you'all seen or done?

Personal logo PzGeneral Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 4:07 a.m. PST

Isn't everything depended on scale?

Old Peculiar06 Dec 2017 4:09 a.m. PST

Peter Young did indeed have a trap door built into the table, that sometimes threw your army, (never his)into considerable confusion! Ahhhh happy days!

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 4:14 a.m. PST

Back in my college days (40+ years ago!) we had a fantastic wargames club at Penn State. We would do enormous Napoleonic games which lasted a full weekend with 10,000+ 15mm figures. The room we had was full of 2' x 6' tables. We covered each table individually with green felt and set up battlefields which could be up to 24 feet wide by 12 feet deep. As the action advanced toward the center we'd just slide out the perimeter tables to be able to reach the center.

Not an option to everyone, I admit. :)

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 4:31 a.m. PST

Hmm. First, PzGeneral is quite right. You have an assumption about ground scale, and ground scales can be altered.
Second, you can always have flanks. Just reduce the number of castings on the board.
But table depth. I find 6' awkward but doable and worth the effort, and I'm only 5'10'. A 7' table--and I've played on them--usually requires someone actually crawling on the table. Build sturdy, but I don't recommend it.
Tabled deeper than 7'--I have played on 12' and seen games on deeper--always seem to work with artificial lanes. The individual tables are no deeper than 6', but there are spaces between them for the passage of wargamers which don't exist in game terms. Very awkward if a combat arises at that point.

My advise would be to go to a table depth--the space you have to reach across--of no more than six feet, and a table width--to your right and left as you sit at the table--usually not to exceed 12 feet. But remember at all times that what causes horrendous head-on smashes on the tabletop is poor choice of ground scale and/or too many troops for the table. You can have a table 20' and still have no flanks. I've seen it done.

Personal logo Florida Tory Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 4:36 a.m. PST

1) 6' or wider tables. Uncomfortable for many players, particularly as you get older, but still sometimes the solution.

2) I've seen and used more novel configurations. Easiest is to turn the table into an L-shpaed configuration to offer room for a flank attack. Another is 8' tables arranged in a staggered offset pattern, enabling room for both reach-in to the table center and areas for deeper reserves. (I seen this with 21/2' by 8' tables arranged in pairs, with a 2' offset between alternate pairs of tables.)

3) There are plenty of game reports on TMP that bands of tables (with access areas between the bands) that are played seamlessly. I haven't tried this, but think I probably will at some point.


ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 5:47 a.m. PST

As PzGeneral said, it's scale that's your problem. Instead of trying to fit the table size to your game, make the game fit the table.

(That was the philosophy behind the creation of BBB: play Gettysburg, Leipzig etc on 6'x4' in an evening.)


Bloody Big BATTLES!

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 6:09 a.m. PST

As has been noted, at 1" = 50 yards your table limits you somewhat.

At 1" = 100 yards you begin to have many more options.

The weird thing is that a huge majority of battles are two lines having a bash. I was interested in Dark ages for a while, but the battles are totally boring. Hardly anything to game, just line up and go.

It's the usual gamer's issue: I want to play ACW or Napoleonics and be Napoleon or Meade. Bt I also want regiments and formations and skirmishers.

At 1" = 250 yards you table is now several miles deep. Problem solved!

14th NJ Vol Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 6:11 a.m. PST

I game on a 6'x12' table. We have one regular gamer who
Has trouble reaching the center. We simply move his troops for him per his instructions when he cannot reach. Usually lasts only a couple of turns as he moves to the other side of the table once past the mid point.

Ferd4523106 Dec 2017 6:15 a.m. PST

Robert Pipenbrink. "… there are spaces between them for the passage of wargamers which doesn't exist in in game terms. Very awkward if a combat arises at that point."
Isn't there an old saying that combat occurs where four map sections meet?
My table can be, and usually is, 12' X 6'. and it can be a stretch. I have the room to throw an extra table, if needed behind or aside an area where more room is needed. But as so many have said it is scale that matters. When I first started out in this obsession, er hobby, we played on the floor. Plenty of room. If you are desperate for space give it a try. My body is long past those merry days so for me it is scale or a scenario that I know will fit on my tables. H

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian06 Dec 2017 6:27 a.m. PST

usually not more than 6 feet wide, never more than 8 feet.

like Scott we have used multiple tables and moved section as needed

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 6:41 a.m. PST

Height of the table is important. The lower the table, the further one can reach. Of course, this has limits, as it still does not make 8' work, and no one wants a table 2' off the floor.

21eRegt06 Dec 2017 7:02 a.m. PST

In our games where depth is important we "simply" use the back table usually used for stacking boxes and put them in play. One group I play with on occasion has an 18x6' table with permanent 12x4' back tables. The only problem is transitioning troops from one table to the other since inevitably one player will forget and end up taking a PB volley when he says, "but he's four feet away!".

Old Wolfman06 Dec 2017 7:05 a.m. PST

How do I use it? With some difficulty.

4th Cuirassier06 Dec 2017 7:08 a.m. PST

First, just a rough calculation: 5 foot width= 60"TT (TT means on the TableTop),,,,,,,1" TT= 50yards,,,,,,Width of TT is 1500 yards

60 inches at 50 yards per inch is 3,000 yards' width, not 1,500.

Clearly, to fight battles on the scale of Wagram or Leipzig, you are going to need a very high man:figure ratio, and a very small ground scale, to make it work on a 5' by 8' table.

Taking Wagram, you're looking at finding a way to represent 350,000 men. If we say the average wargames table can accommodate 1,000 figures per side, each figure in a 1,000-figure army must do duty for 175 men if it's to represent an army at Wagram. That makes a cavalry regiment two figures, an infantry division 20 or 25, and so on. Whether this still even looks like a Napoleonic battle to you is a matter of taste.

Likewise the ground scale is going to be about a foot per mile, or if you like 60 metres per cm. A 600-man battalion in line would need to be 2cm wide, which kinda rules out any figure scale above 12mm. You can't get two 28mm figures into a space 10mm wide, you can't get many 1/72 into such a space and I doubt it can be done with 15/18mm either.

The thing for me is that, given the above figure count restraint whereby few of us has space for an army greater than 1,000 figures, your 1,000-figure army has to stand in for a full-size force. Either your 1,000 figures is 40 20-figure battalions, 12 cavalry regiments and a dozen guns, a force of maybe 30,000 men, and you sorta kid yourself that's an "army"; or they are 200,000 men in divisions of 20 figures and you sorta kid yourself three figures thereof are a "battalion"; or points in between.

You are bathtubbing either which way. It's just a question of do you want to control units and formations and charges, or do you want to manoeuvre by corps? You've got 1,000 figures to play with regardless.

It's either the beauty or a drawback of Napoleonics that it saw armies of 20,000 to 200,000 men. No single rule set can span all that optimally.

Personal logo T Callahan Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 7:52 a.m. PST

My table is 10'x5' with a 34" height. As far at rules etc. The Napoleonic rules I use is grand tactical, 1 foot equals a mile. The stands are equivalent to a battalion, 2 squadrons or a battery. I am not dependent on the number of figures on the stand. We've played large and small battles. The largest was Waterloo. Six foot width is a reach even for my six foot height, so I prefer to stay at five foot.

A gamer I used to play with had two 6'x20' tables set up side by side in his basement. he had a one foot aisle down the middle. Shooting across the aisle we always subtracted a foot or more.


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 7:55 a.m. PST

Ferd, I believe the original is either "a battle is something that occurs at the junction of three maps in two scales" or "a battle is something that occurs at the junction of three map sheets, one of which is missing." I've heard it both ways.

Some of my more interesting times in the service involved trying to assemble enough of the right maps at a scale the C.O. wanted--and then finding a place you could hang the final product. (Curvature of the earth became a real problem.)

Anyway, I prefer my wargame table to represent something a general could see from a windmill--no bigger--and narrow enough that my opponent and I can reach the center without mechanical aids. Otherwise, it's too much like work.

4th Cuirassier06 Dec 2017 8:43 a.m. PST

I prefer my wargame table to represent something a general could see from a windmill

That is an excellent principle.

Mick the Metalsmith06 Dec 2017 8:56 a.m. PST

I play 120-150 yds to the inch on an 6x8 ft table, plus I usually play smaller battles of the Peninsular war theatre. works great with 6 fig battalions and 4 fig cav regiments in 15mm.

Moving huge numbers of figs and stands always seemed to slow the game considerably.

nickinsomerset06 Dec 2017 9:08 a.m. PST

14th NJ Vol, same here, simple solution and I play all scales 6-28mm from Ancient Greeks to 20mm Cold War,

Tally Ho!

TMPWargamerabbit06 Dec 2017 9:22 a.m. PST

Generally 6' table depth in the warren, inside for small tables, larger table width on covered patio. Tables allow 4', or 5', or 6' depth so flexible as needed for scenario. Our napoleonic games has 50 yds inch and miniature ratio typically of 90-100 men per 25mm-28mm miniature. Player teams average 3-5 per side on the larger format scenarios. For 25mm-28mm ancients scenarios, using the Clash of Arms rules or WAB like, the depth varies to 5 or 6' depth.

wrgmr106 Dec 2017 10:09 a.m. PST

All the tables in our group are 6' wide, not a problem unless you are reaching onto the other side, then you just walk around the table.

steamingdave4706 Dec 2017 11:27 a.m. PST

Usually play on a 4 or 5 foot wide table. For some rules this might represent an area of a few hundred square yards, for others ( for example, my naval rules) it may represent many square miles. The assumptions of the original post might apply with certain rule sets and figure scales, but are not universal.

14Bore06 Dec 2017 12:13 p.m. PST

I play on a 6 foot 6 inch depth table. I can reach the middle and 11 feet 8 inches long. Empire scale for Napoleonic games is 1 inch = 60 yards so my board comes out to 4,320 depth and 8,400 yds in width

Rod MacArthur06 Dec 2017 12:23 p.m. PST

I have played massive multi-player (10 or more players per side) games at the Liphook Historical Wargames Club where there were three, four or even five rows of tables, each perhaps 20 feet long and four feet wide, filling a village hall. There were gaps between each row of tables, so the players could move around them. The troops moved off one table onto the next. You had to look at the next door tables to see potential threats. They played massive recreations of all of the Napoleonic Battles, normally in their 200th anniversary years.

You can see photos on their Facebook page here:



Glengarry506 Dec 2017 2:27 p.m. PST

In the 1980's the University of British Columbia wargames club had these wonderfully solid 4 X 4 foot tables. For larger games a number of tables were shoved together. Sometimes this meant having a table 8 foot wide but the tables were so sturdily built the players simply walked on the tables to reach their figures… this was before mattes.

Lion in the Stars06 Dec 2017 3:30 p.m. PST

My favorite FLGS had 4x6' tables on casters, so you could roll two tables together to make a 6x8', and put three tables together to make a 6x12'.

But a 6' wide table is about as far as you can reach and still move troops. Something that will help is one of those library kickstools, use that to get additional height for a longer reach.

To tell you the truth, though, table height is REALLY important. After leaning over a table for a couple hours, my back is killing me. So taller tables are better for that, but reduce how far you can reach into the center.

donlowry06 Dec 2017 5:03 p.m. PST

I managed to make my table 5'3", but anything wider and would not be able to walk/stand around all 4 sides.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2017 4:14 a.m. PST

Thanks for the posts.

Anybody ever use moveable tables (maybe one set on wheels) or removable secctions between two other stationary tables?

Any hints on how to measure from one table across a gap to a separated table?

Somewhere there has to be some weird method, that in retrospect, will look perfectly obvious.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2017 10:13 a.m. PST

One of the groups I game with uses a 12'x 6' table (3.65m x 1.8m)

We typically only play on a 10' x 5' (3m x 1.5m) or 10' x 4'(3m x 1.2m) area using tiles. That allows us to lean over the table without disturbing the terrain and leaving an area for charts, rules and dice.

Teodoro de Reding07 Dec 2017 12:22 p.m. PST

IKEA to the rescue.
I have a table that is slightly under 6 feet wide (59"), but when scaling down battlefields, I reckon 6ft – which is 1.5 km (4ft = 1 km).
It's made up of 2 ft wide strips, plus I have some 2x4 and 2x2 (roughly) bits as temporary add ons (e.g. for cavalry reforming just off table, a combat pushed back).That's no problem.
The table is usually 12 ft long, has gone up to 20 ft. What I like to do, though is to let it build out in any direction (well, actually it can only build out in two directions, which means judging how things will develop. I recently redid Ocana and at the end, the table was a kind of T (had been an L in the stage before) as the Spanish right was forced back.
And when you have an 8ft width (or 10 ft!) it's a problem.
My solution is to have some of the table supports on wheels: IKEA Holger bathroom bits (rather like a drinks trolley – remember drinks trolleys??) – reduced in height slightly and with a square bit of wood on top.
Works a treat: All my hills are in sections 2 x 2 or 4 x 2, so no problem there. The danger: a unit perilously straddling the fault line and crashing to oblivion when you slide the (additional) table(s) away to get at the troops in the middle. Something one only does once!

James Arnold07 Dec 2017 1:38 p.m. PST

Long ago I visited the original Wargames Holiday Center and came away inspired to emulate certain aspects. My basic table is 10 feet long by 6 feet wide. When there are trees and other terrain, it is too hard to reach the center. Therefore, I cut out two, two foot sections on opposite sides of the table. Also, the sections are offset. When one or both are open it is easy to reach the table center. As gamers advance toward the center, often they abandon the ground over the offsets. Then I lift up the terrain board and this allows the player to enter the offset and reach. Also, often the offsets can represent swamp or dense woods that don't allow movement, so the game begins with one of the offsets open. Combine this approach with terrain boards on rollers (the roller is actually one of those cheap storage bins with three baskets) and one can create almost endless variations.

Mick the Metalsmith07 Dec 2017 3:54 p.m. PST

offsets make a lot of sense, but my game mat is a single huge piece of cloth. Too, too much space between forces means the game play time is often spent in the approach phase and by the time contact is made the players have to head home. Keeping the depth shallow means more time fighting, even if it means the reality that some of decisions that historically decided much the battle have to be sacrificed.

seneffe10 Dec 2017 2:10 p.m. PST

We've been using Kallistra hex terrain recently for cold war games and found they enable much greater table depth than our normal terrain does. We use a 12 ft x 7.5 ft table and have no problem manoeuvring forces in the centre of the table, even though none of us is over 6ft tall.

This is because the hex system makes moving figures with the required precision very easy- troops are either in one hex or another. Certainly no debates about how far figures have actually been moved.

The physical act of moving figures is quicker, and ranges can be determined without having to bend over with a tape measure. Over the duration of a game we've found this ease of movement and measuring means MUCH less strain on the back muscles!

I suppose it's obvious really, but we had never foreseen this advantage of playing with hexes- we got the Kallistra stuff just because our cold war miniatures rules are lifted from a board game. It makes a very significant difference though.

For tape measure based rules- I reconfigure the table back to 6ft depth.

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