from map to table-top

The shape of the terrain on which the real battles were fought played an important and in occasions decisive effect on the final results of the event. Therefore, the replication of the more prominent terrain features of a given battlefield becomes mandatory. That representation can be made in very different ways, from simple chalk marks on a nude table to fully sculpted terrain. However the more important characteristics of the table-top is that the general lie of the land must be maintained.

Below appears a summary of the proccess I habitually follow to draw a scheme of the terrain that willl be replicated in the wargaming table.

1 Napoleon's Battles uses a 1:3600 (1 inche = 100 yards) terrain scale. My wargames table is  2x1.6 square meters and is covered with 5x4 = 20 modules (40 x 40 cm). Thus, each module represents 40x3600/100 = 1440 m
2 We must start from a digitized map of the battlefield. This can be found in Internet or by scanning the adequate book. In this case the digitized map corrsponds to the battle of Malo-Jaroslavets (Russia 1812)
3 Today Google Earth® or Google Maps® satellite images of the area are available and can be used. For example the zone around Vitoria.
4 In some occasions a digital survey map, with heights level curves, can be found. I have access to such maps for  all Peninsular battles fought in Spain like Vitoria (1813)
5 The digital map is inserted into a PowerPoint slide along the table scheme. Using the map scale, the painted line or or any other available information, the size of the map is changed to equal the table-top scale.


6 The main topographical items: hills, rivers, streams, roads, villages, woods... are drawn and placed in the slide using the PowerPoint tools
7 The digital map is then deleted
8 Finally the elements are refined, the units and the legends added and the map is finished.