I have come to accept that at least in this stage of my life, keeping a big wargame on a 6×4′ table up for a week or so is just not possible. I need to either play it in a day and pack up, or find ways to play on a smaller space. It just takes up too much room in my family’s house.
There are various solutions I’m thinking about. I have been given my old school desk to use, which is 2 square feet. One idea is to play more skirmish games, like Age of Blood, Comitatus or Song of Drums and Shakos. These often take up little space, and have the advantages of being fast and fun little outings.
But I also like the high drama of the big pitched battle- the excitement and variety that lots of different troops over a big and varied battlefield brings. I simply can’t do this on two square feet, not without converting to 2mm figures (!) or creating some abstract, simplized game (or playing DBA, which is fine but limited).
So I have hit on a second solution, which is of course completely untested (at least, not by me).
Most of my big battles are fought on 6×4 foot tables. I have a quarter of this space available, so instead of representing the entire battlefield, I will only fight out one quarter of it. I’d use the same big battle rulesets and the same figures, but only deploy the terrain and troops for a smaller section of the bigger battlefield. They will start fighting it out as normal.
I will keep track of what’s happening around them on the rest of the battlefield with a simple A4 map and an abstract combat mechanism. If I determine that troops from another area have marched into my chosen sector, then I simply add them at the appropriate part of my battlefield as reinforcements. If I determine that the commander-in-chief has called for certain units to be withdrawn from this sector, I march them off the table. Using a random events list, I can even represent off-table troops firing into my sector.
Of course, this means that my local commanders will have very little control over the big picture. They can’t control who marches onto the table or who marches off, and it’s hard for them to deal with off-table enemies. In short, they control only a small part of the chaos, and have to react and respond to external influences, just like real local commanders deal with the situations dealt to them, unlike overall commanders, who have more control over who they fight and where.
It’s slightly different to say brigade or company level gaming because in most low-level games I’ve played the battlefield is assumed to be the entire conflict-zone. Even if you’re only commanding a few platoons, you don’t have to worry about what’s happening “over the horizon” because the tabletop is the entire battlefield. In real life, those small platoons were part of an overall operation happening all around them.
I’d love to give this approach a try as soon as possible, as I think it has some interesting tactical and gaming possibilities.