2D Gaming

Edit 20/11/20: This post has proven to be fairly popular since it was first published. For anyone interested in my other experiments in 2D gaming, please explore this tag, including other projects, rule set experiments and battle reports using 2D gaming pieces.

One of the issues I have with being a relatively new gamer is a lack of materials to play games with. Now I know for many people this gap in their own collection can be covered by combining with friends or joining a club, but for the moment I’ve been pretty much a solo gamer, roping in the odd friend or family member for a battle here and there, but providing everything myself. At present that means a sizable set of armies for the Crusades, a small set of English Civil War armies in progress and no scenery other than a could of bags of unbased trees and a few bags of base scatter.

There are clubs in my area, but having had quite a busy year so far I’ve not really had the time or inclination to go along to any. The aforementioned busy period also means progress has been fairly slow. Last year I managed to put together a couple of usable armies for the Crusades in a few months, however my follow up project, the English Civil War, has been going on for 6-8 months now and I’ve still a few units to finish before I’ll have even a small army to play with.

I’ve not posted yet about my ECW project on this blog yet (though have some progress updates on the Pendraken forum) so there’ll be more on that in a future post and hopefully an outing with them to the battlefield using For King and Parliament rules in the next couple of months. I really need to make some hedges though…

Regardless, this means getting into new periods and rulesets has a steep entry if I want to have two usable armies put together to face off. As I’m getting towards the end of “Phase 1” of the ECW project* I’ve been looking into researching a Horse and Musket era conflict next, to continue my core coverage of the difference periods of warfare. In order to speed up the process (and save some money) I’ve been looking into doing it in a very small scale, getting samples of both 6mm and 2mm. I think I’ve settled on doing the project in 2mm though haven’t decided where to focus it just yet. Mid to late 19th Century is the likely choice given the general uniformity of the… uniforms, compared to 18th Century and Napoleonic periods. This will look better at the very small scale and the scale will also give a better sense of the sheer numbers of people involved in the conflict. If I enjoy it I can plan a more visually appealing project using 10mm at a leisurely pace as I’ll already have a usable army to scratch the gaming itch if it arises. Assuming I don’t fall in love with the massed troops at the micro scales and do more projects there!

This weekend I received a copy of Chris Pringle’s Big Bloody Battles and its scenario counterpart covering the major European conflicts of the 19th Century. The game looks like a lot of fun and is very different from the rule sets I’ve been playing so far, being primarily ancient/medieval focused.

So how to decide what conflict to do? This gets me on to the title of this post. If I want to get a feel for what it is to play games in this period I need something to play with. If I want to do this with miniatures then I need to pick a conflict and spend time and money putting forces together. Bit of a catch 22 if I’m trying to decide what conflict. I’d have to just pick one that seemed interesting and dive in. Or…

Alternatively, I could make some very abstract units out of cardboard counters and use them to play some battles and get a feel for different armies and periods. With some different markers and clear differentiation I could even use these counters to represent just about any conflict I wanted.

While 2D counters will never give the same look and feel and satisfaction that painted, based miniatures would give, they do allow test games, rule teaching and versatility at a very abstract level. So rather than spending a rare free Saturday afternoon painting and basing my ECW Royalists as I’d intended, I instead went “back to school” with cardboard, rulers, scissors and colouring pencils to put together some cardboard troop counters and scenery pieces to use.

Simple red vs blue set up. Those with a horizontal line across the top represent infantry. Those with flags can be used as centre point stands or command as needed. The diagonally halved ones represent cavalry, the triangles artillery (despite looking a little like sail boats) and the circles with flags are generals. I can add markers or different symbols to show different units and statuses as well. If I use these for ancient battle I can use crossed swords, spears, bows, etc on the reverse to show different troop types.

To make up for my lack of scenery I’ve also started creating some 2D terrain to work with these.

This also has the added bonus of being highly portable. I’ve a family get together for a week next month that I might be able to get a battle or two in with some family members. While it would be impractical to transport miniatures while traveling, cardboard counters have no such issues.and would allow me to put on games in periods that might peak their interest.

Now, not only did I have some free time today, but I should have a few hours free on Sunday too and hope to put these troops into action in one of the scenarios from BBB. So stay tuned folks for the next post covering how they were to use in battle, how I found the rules and any other general ramblings that spring to mind.

Thanks for reading!


*There’ll likely always be more added to the armies as I play out scenarios and want to expand more, as I have been with the crusades and continue to do so. Indeed I’ve a stack of Saracens on my painting sticks along with the ECW at the moment.

4 thoughts on “2D Gaming

  1. An interesting read and a challenge we have all faced at one time or another. The joy of 2mm/3mm figures is that they can be used for pretty much any army as, once on the table, the tiny differences are not noticeable. As an interim, check out the following, especially their top down figures:


    As for Bloody Big Battles, they are an excelllent set of rules and have seen some very effective looking games with them in 2mm. Hope you enjoy them.


    1. Yes very true, it’s much easier to proxy in an army of roughly similar colour at that scale without it looking too out of place. Tricorne, shako or bearskin all just look a black blob at that size.

      I’d not come across junior general before – wow! What a great resource, thanks Steve!


  2. Neat solution to the biggest problem facing gamers. The time to raise and prepare an army of figures.
    2 other tips, slightly more expensive, but permanent and still fairly portable.

    1. Bases: Get MDF bases in place of cardboard markers – should you make the transition to figures, you can re-paint and base your figures on them.

    2. Terrain. Appropriate coloured felt – from a materials offcut store – cut up into sections. Very good for all sorts of grid based games, or free movement games if you’ve the artistic temperament to handle irregular shapes.


    1. Hi Stephen, I’ve used MDF bases before to try out rules, but it does mean having to recreate them each time if you end up basing on top of them. They do give a bit more weight than card though. I’ve seen people using painted woodblocks too. My stash of bases is running a bit low at present which is partly what inspired the cardboard idea. Off cuts would work well for terrain, I’ve a large sheet of teddy bear felt I use as a gaming mat that could afford a but shaved off too. I’ve also a couple of sheets of flocked paper I’d bought thinking I could use them for a game surface but turned out to now work so well. But could be easily cut to make terrain or road pieces.

      Thanks for your thoughts!


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