Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Third Day

Now its time for some land.

With 1/300 scale there are some important considerations. At this scale 3mm is one metre and any representation of a coastline should be to scale. It is too easy to create a bay or beach which looks ok on the table but is out of proportion.

The bays at Arapis and Palouka where the Greek fleet was harboured before the battle of Salamis are each about a kilometre wide. The third bay, Ambelaki is the narrowest but is still more than 500m wide. 380 ships were divided between these bays. Earlier in the campaign a portion of Xerxes fleet 80 strong beached at Platania which has a beach c.1km long.

The point here is that a bay or beach on the table must be of a realistic natural size. A kilometre is 3 metres on our ground scale ! If you look on a map of any coast and try to find a bay or beach less than 1km long you will probably also find one with dangerous rocks and currents around it and poor land access. Add to this the consideration of an ancient commander that he should not break his force into penny packets and we can see that it is not worth representing a small feature on the tabletop. If a beach is to be available for landing it would be a whole table side rather than anything 30cm or 50cm in size.

Now, to get the broadest area for a fight on the table it is best to approach each other from diagonally oposite corners. This gave me the idea that it is easiest to make bays in the corners of the table then there is always a wider area to fight in off the beach. A bay 1m long is good enough and if the sides taper off the table then the feature takes up as little space as possible.

This made me think about placing land areas on the game table. There is actually little justification for having land on the table. Any fighting will usually take place sufficiently far offshore to avoid shallows. A battle around a harbour is the only time to consider land as a significant part of the battle area, surely ? If land is to be available as a choice when setting a game up then it should perhaps only be on one side of the table. The channel at Salamis was an unusually tight place to fight in and it is more than a kilometre wide at its narrowest point. Not many gaming tables are 3m long ! A table-side of land is more likely to correspond to an island.
Considering islands... there are not many islands in navigable areas less than 1km long. I had to hunt for these in the Aegean.
It is rare to find small islands in an area where a battle might occur. If they are present they should be a minimum of 500m long. This equates to 1.5m or so and is closer to a table-side.

Another land feature could be a headland or promontory sticking out into the battle area. The same considerations apply and the main thing is to have it of a significant size say, 50cm minimum.

One type of terrain feature which is easier to deal with is 'rocks'. A group of rocks standing proud of the surface and marking a patch of shallow water is a nice tactical problem and should be available. Headlands represent areas resistant to erosion and rocks often stand close off headlands. Don't put rocks on the middle of a bay or randomly in the middle of the battle area.

Shallows or sandbanks are not common in the Mediterranean except on the African coast where they are a major hazard to ancient ships and for this reason navigation routes ran well offshore. They are found in relation to bays where sandbanks sit offshore or where longshore drift builds some spits or bars. Sandbanks could be around off the mouth of a larger river or beside a harbour which has a mole or quay to promote sediment build up. But again - these features often occur where ships would not go and certainly would not fight.

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