Sunday 4 August 2019

Custom board for The Battle of Vyazma 1812 - Part 1

I've been wanting to try my hand at a custom board for a battle since starting with 6mm scale Napoleonics. In the last post I posted photos of the start of my solution to this, pasting tables with the hinges moved and legs taken off.

I was intending to do the Maloyaroslavets battle, but this has proven to be limited in tactical options and manoeuvre and the more I read about it it became clear that the battle was much more skirmish in size despite the large forces available, being based solely around the town, bridge and church.

I'd been introduced by my friend Gerald to the amazing reference book "The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book : Actions and Losses in Personnel, Colours, Standards and Artillery 1792-1815" by Digby Smith. This massive tome has details and orders of battle of 2000 land and sea engagements through the entire Napoleonic period.

I devoured this with relish and found the battle of Vyazma (also Wiazma and several other spellings). There was quite a bit online about this battle, but I wanted more. So got hold of a book references from a scenario I found for the battle. "Napoleon's Invasion of Russia" by George Nafzinger. I'd already got one of his books about 1813 and so looked forward to an equal level of detail. Unfortunately he doesn't give that much about the battle of Vyazma, though there is a little more detail. However I do really recommend the book, his account persuaded me finally against doing the Maloyaroslavets battle. That one would be far better re-fought using a much lower level game than Blücher.

The Battle of Vyazma was fought as the French column retreated down the road from Moscow to Smolensk. It was a few days before the heavy snow started and Davout's rear-guard corps had become slightly separated from the rest of the force. Miloradovich decided that it was a good time to sweep in and destroy this significant part of Napoleon's retreating army. What resulted was a complex rear-guard action as Davout tried to rejoin the main force and the other tail corps of the force tried to assist in his movements. All this harried by Cossacks and Miloradovich's several corps and heavy artillery superiority. Quite an interesting tactical challenge for both sides.

I spent quite a while studying the OOBs of both sides and came up with a scenario. The first try of that was last Monday and it showed me clearly that this was a much more interesting battle. I also tried out the new counters and ammo trackers I've made for the Russians. They worked well and I'll have to make some for the French as well.

Eugene comes under fire from Miloradovich's artillery as he retreats down the road to Vyazma, with Davout coming around the wood to top of the picture harried by Cossacks 

So next I needed to start on the board. To spur me on I set myself a target and booked a game with Ed for the beginning of September.

The board was marked out and polystyrene cut and glued in place. Undulations were added by use of a heat gun. The centre wood strip being chiselled and sanded down.

Then once glued I've been adding some filler. First some lightweight filler to fill in the large bits, a quick sand, and finally a skim over with more traditional filler to smooth it out. (both from Screwfix).

Next step is paint, a basecoat then paint on where the roads and rivers will go.... after that onto flocking.


  1. Very cool. I always enjoy this kind of "how I did it" post.

    1. It's how I'm doing it! It might be a disaster! ;)

  2. Excellent! I watch with interest. I'm not as far advanced on my Russia 1812 projects as you. I'm still painting/basing the troops! But when I get there, eventually, I also intend to make custom battle terrain. Maloyaroslavets and Smolensk are my two initial goals... Good luck with yours.

  3. Thanks!

    As I said I looked at Maloyaroslavets and in particular the description in "Napoleon's Invasion of Russia" by George Nafzinger, which I recommend to you strongly, and decided it didn't fit into the scale of Blücher. I've not looked at Smolensk and will have to do so!

    I've now got the base coat on. I also sculpted a river and lake into the landscape. Tonight I plan to paint the roads on paint the base of the river.

  4. Replies
    1. It's a cheap folding table used when putting up wallpaper.
      You can see one being used for it's normal purpose here:

      Note that most of them have very thin hardboard surfaces. The one I got is an improved one with a better top: