Building the Spanish Town for Sharp Practice

In deciding to do some blog posts on my making of a Spanish Town I reviewed all my photo’s and realised I had either not done, or lost some early ones, and could do with doing some more middle to late construction ones.

Well I can put right the last issue, but not perhaps the first. However, I have some and I will start off here.

This bit might be a bit wordy; apologies.

A discussion with Kevin last weekend made me think that what I had been subconsciously doing with the build. The build was for Sharp Practice 28mm scale. I was building to a true ground scale = effectively (and I know this Is rough) 1cm to 60cms, or as any British of my generation would put it, 1cm to 2 foot!

My table is 10’ x 6’, and my smallholding is nearly 7 acres. It’s a large rectangle and in effect, scaled down to a true 28mm ground scale, it fits slightly more than onto a 10’ x 6’. This means I can sit in my kitchen, look out and visualise the distance between terrain items on my table (and of course see what needs doing about the place). This helps a hell of a lot.

My objective was that I wanted to represent urban combat using Sharp Practice rules. In particular the Napoleonic Peninsular War. Strangely if you google ‘Napoleonic urban combat’ you get all sorts of nothing, or even people saying “well it didn’t happen, there are no tactics etc.” Read any history of the Peninsular War and you realise the urban combat was pretty much a common event, ranging from the well-known formal sieges, to the siege/assault of Saragossa to the numerous attempted ‘coup de main’ of towns by the French forces in the early years.

It’s there and it existed.

I read War to the Death: Siege of Saragossa-1808-1809 years ago, borrowed from Dave D, and got myself a copy recently. It details in quite readable prose the two sieges of Saragossa. It shows dramatically how tactics evolved from the attempted ‘coup de main’ of cavalry charging through streets in an attempt at intimidation; to the breaking down of large infantry tactics to become a grinding combat of small infantry groups, blowing doors or partition walls, rushing individual buildings, snipers, and the rise of the importance of the junior officer making the decisions.

There is no reason to suggest this was not the norm in this period. And well suited to Sharp Practice.

Terrain wise my first move was to layout some idea of what I wanted. Using all my, then, buildings, and adding A4 paper ‘walled gardens’.

Urban areas are not just buildings, they are gardens, squares, streets, alleys and all sort of impedimenta. As you can see – the new ‘Town’ immediately does two things, firstly it takes up more room then the usual group of wargame buildings skulking around a cross roads normally do on a table. Secondly, you start creating interesting side routes and alleys around the main streets you would normally see on a wargames table.

In scale terms the A4 paper gardens represent about 40’ x 60’ areas. A singles tennis court is 27’ x 60’, so it’s a good size. I had intended to use my existing Warbases modular buildings, buying some more and building up my stock. Seeing them against my A4 gardens, I thought they were simply too small. I checked out Charlie Foxtrot Miniatures they looked good and I bought a few. As you can see in this comparison, they are a better size and shape (even allowing for the one being behind the other). In scale terms the Charlie Foxtrot buildings are about 9cm x 16cm, or about 18 foot x 32 foot – a good size for a 19C town house.

Given that the buildings cost money, and there are only 5-6 different types I thought I would try to build my own, so I also bought this:

A table-top hot wire foam cutter. This has enabled me to make more terrain than I ever dreamed off, making the expense of it back in no time. You can churn out walls, roofs, and god knows what in no time at all, and I have also started to make terrain such as hills with it.

My next buy was a pack of 10 A4 3mm MDF bases, which are thick enough to take any build on them without warping. Interestingly through Amazon it was £10 a pack of 10 – through wargaming supply sites that would cost a whole lot more (£20-£25). And some high density foam – of the type used in insulation:

This is about A3 in size and 2cm thick. It came packed between 2 A3 sheets 1cm thick – result!

I firstly made the walled gardens – a simple 3cm high by .5cm thick wall, with a gate and some ‘look good’ wall supports. It would have been good at this point to show an unpainted version – but alas stupidity rears its head and there are no photo’s. However here is a completed one:

I found 3 cm high the sweet spot – tall enough to have figures behind, not too tall to make it look like a prison. As you can see I found it useful to have a few figures around when I was constructing them – you can check if you have left enough space at walls, between trees and clear enough areas inside for figures to sit.

The foam walls were PVA’d to death, then skimmed with a plaster, some had cornflake packet tiles attached, and then they were painted with an earth undercoat and a white/off white dry brush over. Ground was a simple sand/PVA mix, with Model Train ballast to add texture. I used old broken terrain items built decades ago to make fences and walls to divide the inner yard. I was careful to ensure I had left enough room to place other terrain items within the space as required. I also put Model Train trees made with armatures and clump foliage inside. Covered with PVA these soon harden off to become pretty solid.

All this creates sense of place. Imagine what you would normally find in a tennis court size walled garden in a Town – if you are working at true ground scale it would be stuff like that. So far I have completed 7 of these – and they with the buildings certainly start to create streets and alleys.

I built a door at one end and a clear area at the other as you can see – this would be where the building with the garden would sit. A small alley can be seen being formed between two gardens, where the evil French Empire Officer is running up. It was at this point I started to think about the additional rules I would need  – to reflect the town terrain. For instanced – in this circumstance – could both parties pass each other? Without noticing each other? How could that be reflected, and what would the ramifications on the game be?

Enough already. I will add a copy of the urban fighting rules at the end of this series of blog entries.

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