A Hex Upon You

Creating a hex grid for movement regulation
Tom Sparhawk

(Originally published in Big Muddy's "Fifth Column")

Terrain over hex pattern Recently I became interested in exploring World War Two aircraft combat using the "Blue Sky" series of rules by John Stanoch. This rule set requires a one inch hex grid to regulate movement of the planes. I purchased one "rug" that was already gridded out, but I wasn't all that happy with it - especially because of its rather small size and high cost. In examining this issue I came up with a solution that may be of use to others.

Most craft stores, including such stellar shops as Walmart, sell a item called "Plastic Canvas." This is designed for needlepoint projects and may be familiar to many folks as the basis of tissue holders, cloth Santas, and other items too cute to mention. It comes in a variety of sizes, up to 13" by 22", which is the size I use. The interesting aspect of this plastic canvas is that it is a grid - that is, a series of equally spaced holes.

To create a hex template I take the canvas and mark off those holes that trace out a hex shape. I do this over the whole canvas so when done the plastic canvas has a series of marks on it - each mark being one of the six corners of the grid pattern. Don't try to draw out the whole hex, as it doesn't work. You can create hexes of various sizes with this stuff, from about one half inch to, well, something really big. The pattern for the one inch grid is:

Basic hex pattern Once this template is completed, take a piece of fabric (I used a blue vinyl for sea), and starting at one end place the template over the fabric and use a pen to mark the corners from the template onto the fabric. Once one sheet's worth is finished, overlap the drawn pattern with the template by two or three holes, and continue marking through the canvas onto the fabric. This part is a little tricky so be careful or the grid lines may be way out of wack!

Once the hex corners are drawn on the fabric it is time to fill in the hexes. With a permanent magic marker (test this if you use vinyl - or you may end up with colored hands each time you use it!) simply "connect the dots." Don't try to draw lines between the dots - errors become REAL obvious if you do this. I use two or three marks between each corner, which seems to work well.

Hex over terrain Once the basic grid pattern is done you can add "terrain" or other things to make the mat more attractive. Conversely, you can draw in the terrain first and put the grid on afterwards. The results is a good playable surface that if fairly quick to create and significantly less expensive than what is available commercially. With this you can have air battles over water, desert, forest, or countryside!

The B-17 raid mat pictured here is composed of 2 inch hexes.

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