Long Road To The Harbor City: Why Hex-board?

I have finally finished my harbor houses and that means that part two of my Harbor City-project is about to begin. Before the first progress shots let´s go through why I’m going to use hexes for my gaming table.

Let´s get one thing straight right from the start. I have never built a gaming table so this will be The One which will be remembered after many years as a great success or the hobby-ending disaster. Nevertheless I’m super excited to finally start something that was first imagined over two years ago!

I have a quite long history with different kinds of boardgames and RPG stuff so hex-boards have always been close to my heart. When the idea of gaming board came to my mind I was 99% sure that it would use hexes. But because of that measly 1 % I had to prove to myself why the hexes go ahead of everything else.

1. Transformable is the number one reason for hex-board. If I use a substantial amount of time on something, I would like it to be as flexible as possible to provide different kinds of games without repetitive situations. I thought about square pieces but with those you get only four different sides and therefore four different angels for the terrain piece. With hexes you get six different angles which, combined with other hexes, gives you superior layout options over square pieces. Here is one fine example of a board which has a lot of transformable potential.

2. Terrain merge. In my opinion it´s always better looking when terrain pieces are merged to the playing surface. I have nothing against terrain elements which are placed on top of the terrain surface (which is the most common way to use terrain) but I think that everybody agrees with me that for example this Rob Hawkins table wouldn’t look so cool if the trenches were on top of the table itself

Of course best table solution for this would be to construct a fixed table like the one above (well I coudn’t make something like that but hypothetical speaking) BUT then we would lose transformable nature completely. Here hexes come to aid. Because the table consist of numerous hexes you can build some nifty terrain element on one hex and merge it to the surface. Now although the terrain element is permanently fixed to the hex you can still place it in different places and in different angles and it looks like it belongs there. Great!! If the element is bigger than one hex, no worries. Combine two or more hexes and you will have all the space you need!

3. Storage. Even thought I have quit a lot of storage space I know that it will easily jam up if I make the items to big. Now if I have relatively small hexes those are much easier on storage. Also all my current playing buddies live in other cities so I have to be able to transfer the board easily.

4. Difference. Hex-boards are a minority in miniature wargames. It’s always good to test or do something different so that your skills can grow and maybe somebody else will learn something from your mistakes. Yes, mistakes. I’m not sure at all that this project will be a success. There are so many things that I’m going to try for a first time so it’s a fact that something will go bad, maybe in a big way, who knows?

5. Down sides. Hexes are not natural shapes. This means that the shape will be quite visible and unnatural if I can´t hide it properly. I think that the biggest challenge is accuracy. I have to hit every measure spot on so that the hexes fit together as tightly as possible. There will be a lot of joints and if there is big gaps the general view will be awful. I have searched through the internet and found many nice looking hex-boards were the joints aren’t too visible so why shouldn’t I have a chance to succeed? It´s a challenge and I accept it! Here is one example where the hexes are quite visible (but no gaps) but overall view is still stunning. Of course I will use much bigger hexes in my board.

This will be a challenging project but I think that the rewards, if I make it happen, will be massive!! Because this is just the beginning I’m open to all comments, suggestions and critics how to make the board as good as possible or to point out that I’m failing to see some down sides of the hex-board.

That’s all folks!!

Next up: The Beginning!



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  1. Aznable said:

    I am also planning a hex board, though I’m quite far out from making it. I’d also add that the corners can look more natural. I want elevation, and square cliffs are strange. 60 degree cliffs the mind can fudge better. See Civ5 over Civ4, hexes alone make the game exponentially better looking.

  2. The Key of E said:

    One thing I would worry about is that if the seam lines between the hexes are visible, that will make it a lot easier to judge distances on the board. Assuming you know how big each hex is, you can use that to estimate your threat ranges more easily. Now, since this is your home table for casual games, that shouldn’t be a huge deal, but it wouldn’t work for tournaments.

  3. Geist said:

    Keep in mind there is nothing preventing a player from measuring terrain pieces before an event.. So it can be quite easy to use the terrain as a measuring tool as well even without hexes

  4. Snickering Imp said:

    Growing up, I often played wargames on “Geo-Hex” terrain and I loved that stuff. They went out of business years ago but you can search for them to get ideas of what you like and don’t like about their product. The stuff I played on were 1-foot hexes, 1 inch thick. The pieces could be set on felt to help keep them from sliding around the table and they had a slit cut into each of the hex’s corner so a triangular plasticard piece could lock the 3 adjoining hexes together. This helped reduce separation of tiles. Sometimes we used this, other times we just let the felt underlayment hold the pieces in place. Most of the hexes were double-sided. For example, one side may be entirely grass flock and the other including a road segment. This doubled the options per hex. The downside is having to limit the built-on terrain on these pieces to being flat. But that certainly doesn’t stop you from mixing flat hexes with more 3-dimensional hexes. Some hexes were half-hexes so you could mix and match those pieces for additional flexibility. Some of these half-hex pieces had a sloped side to allow for two such hexes to give an elevation drop to a river/trench through the center of hex. In some cases we would run blue felt under these pieces for a simple river or we’d leave it as a dried up river just to use the tabletop as another level of elevation. We played on a large table (10 foot x 5 foot) at that time and we could build a quick board in minutes just be throwing down felt, then tiles, then some terrain on top (simple lichen foliage, forests pieces, and buildings). Cleanup was just as easy and it all stacked nicely in boxes and being all foam, remained very light.

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