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Game Train

This week its not so much an amazing conversion as it is wrestling with one of my favourite wargaming challenges ... trains! Trains give us what I think is the hardest version of the terrain to figure scale problem, with very difficult movement, clutter, and base issues thrown in.

The basic train challenge is this ... We actually have really good, soild information on train sizes, so we can easily scale them to any size figure we want. Some of the standard train sizes (O, HO, and N) are very near to some of the most popular figure sizes (25-28mm, 15mm, and 6mm). Therein lies the problem. We know how they should look and have very little leeway to fudge things. But to play games in a train environment, we need to fudge a lot.

The interior of a train car is long and narrow and cars are pretty much accessed serially. This creates lots of possibility for interesting combat and roleplaying. But our figures end up crowded. First, their bases consume a lot of floorspace. Next, they are not as amenable to turning sideways and squeaking past and through cramped areas as our bodies are. And third, the furniture is even more crowded and less positioning friendly than the most crowded space ship or dungeon (where we have decent leeway to do as we like)!

So, enter Thomas the Tank Engine. Well, at least some TtTE toys. These won't solve all the problems above (or the ones not addressed, either). But they are nice, sturdy pieces that can be painted up nicely and have a few gaming amenbale qualities. We won't be able to do every train scene from every movie in one scenario with this set, but they turn out to be very good for the "people outside the training fighting people inside the train" games.

So for the compromise of a "toy look" in the cars, we get six for the price of one good, realisitic train-hobby style car. Let's see what we can do about that look ...

Here is what I ended up with after a little paint, drybrushing, wash, and sealant. All pretty basic techniques, but sometimes it is hard to see how a piece (especially a toy) will come out. Honestly, I didn't expect them to look so nice when I did the first one. I just found it lying around in a box of junk, so I painted it up for something to do. But the result was so nice (especially for little work), that I went ahead and grabbed a few more from the store.

Even though I don't have an engine (oooh! a project for another day!), I still felt obliged to block the tracks (which I also don't have here, either). This little obstacle sacrificed its head for a minotaur.

A - We get a decent height difference between figures on the ground and figures in the car. This is not necessary to make a good piece, but it is a nice visual.
B - We can fit figures between the cars. This will allow us to move in/around/through in the train yard as well make an area for two figures to fight between the cars on a moving train.
C - While I can jam four figures into a car, three is a better fit. This is not a bad number in terms of isolating forces so the battle doesn't just become a regular land battle with train terrain.
D - Matching the three figures, both types of car have a visual division into three parts on the outside. This is a good reference for deciding who can see what out of which window.
E - With three figures, I can either push them to the port or starboard (yeah, OK, but it was an easy way to convey the meaning) side of the car to further delineate who is shooting (or being shot) from which side of the train.
F - These young children's toys are bulky and sturdy enough to let me balance a figure on the corners. Now I can have guys clinging on to the outside of a train during a fight. It's not quite running across the rooftops, but its and important dynamic for theatrical train fighting.

So ... that's surely enough function to make a number of exciting scenarios. But what has been left for another approach:

  • No interiors - This will require a very large floorplan car
  • No roofs - I'm thinking roofs on stands that hover over the cars
  • Chunky Look - Yep, but we'll loose a lot of play for more realism

I've done other train set ups that did things differently for different types of scenarios (which had their own pros and cons), but I like this as an option for some a really good nail biting shootout.


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