Flexible Basing and Saboting (1) – Coins as bases
For over 20 years now now I have been basing single figures for skirmish games on 1p (20.3mm), 2p (25.9mm) or eurocent (16.25mm) coins. When I started I did it because it was the easiest and cheapest way to get circles of a consistent size. But using coins to base your toys has other advantages, they’re cheap ferrous circles that are attracted to magnets so they stick on to magnets or magnetic sheet in the base of a sabot or on the bottom of a storage box.
Note that you have to be careful and check your British coins before using them as some of the ones in circulation are not ferrous and won’t stick on magnetic sheet. All Eurocent coins are ferrous though they’re not as easy to get as you might think. Some countries in the Eurozone, the Netherlands for example, have all prices rounded to the nearest 5 eurocents, one eurocent pieces are still legal tender, but they’re not given out in change and you can’t get them from the banks. In other countries may well get looked at as being slightly mad if you go up to bank counter and as for hundreds of Eurocent pieces. It helps if you can say “yes I really do mean one hundred” in the local language.
When laser cutters showed up about twelve years ago and companies started making sabot bases for figures based on circles I started using them for other games. The sabots allow me to use my figures individually in skirmish games and on appropriate sabot bases for games using groups of figures as units.
I first did this with a lot of samurai I bought in the early 1990s and which I’d used in skirmish games. People at the club started playing Impetus and I used sabots to give me a Samurai army for the game (see above).
For an example of how I use sabots we’ll take a look at my Blue Moon Miniatures 15mm (18mm really) troops for the French-Indian Wars. I can use my French Infanterie de la Marine singly for small skirmish games or if I want to play Muskets and Tomahawks I can use them formed up in groups of 12, or as skirmishers in groups of six or eight on a sabot. If I’m paying Sharp Practice, it’s close formed groups of six. It’s all very flexible.
If I want to play Sharp Practice I have eight man sabots for the formed up infantry and can use the same six man sabot base.
You can get these sabots from many places, I’ve got different ones from Warbases, from Sarissa Precision and from Supreme Littleness Designs. Other sources are available. Both Warbases and Supreme Littleness do ranges of sabots for 1p and 2p pieces and both have been known to make custom sabots for customers, including me. Talk to them if you want something special done, though note that custom designs usually take longer to get than their stock pieces and may also cost more. I have had excellent service from both companies.
My current favourite sabots come from Supreme Littleness, he does a lot of what he calls “nibbled” designs (see below), which I find much more pleasing to the eye than the more regular ones usual from other manufacturers. I also usually use sabots made with a top layer of 2mm mdf and a bottom layer of cardboard which makes them nice and thin. I really don’t like sabots made from two layers of mdf which look far too thick to my eye.
I’d better put in a declaration of interest here – I’m friends with Mike, the one man band behind Supreme Littleness, and he usually gives me a discount, and sometimes even free stuff.
Below you can see some of his sabots I use for troops based on 1p pieces.
This lot of sabots covers me for everything I want from my troops based on 1p pieces for Sharp Practice and Dux Brianniarum as well as for skirmish games like a Fistful of Lead (which we played a few times at my club just before the Covid-19 lockdown .
This is particularly useful for troops like Spanish Guerillas who can operate in close order (top) or as skirmishers (bottom)
Some people are now using sabots where the bottom of two layers is drilled with holes into which they put neodymium magnets. This certainly gives a stronger grip than using magnetic sheet but the sabots really need to be about 4mm thick to make this work. As discussed above I much prefer thinner sabots made from a layer of mdf on top of a layer of cardboard. .
When they’re not on their sabots my troops live in boxes with magnetic sheet on the base. The attraction between the magnetic sheet and the coins stops the figures rattling around too much when I’m transporting them.
You can get self adhesive flexible magnetic sheet from a number of different sources. Magnetic Displays have been selling the stuff to wargamers at shows and by mail order for many years and you can also get it online from a number of specialist suppliers, such as The Magnet Shop or First4Magnets. It’s also available on Ebay.
Magnetic Displays have put together a range specially for wargamers. You can get tape, pre-cut dots in a number of different sizes and larger sheets which you can cut up yourself. They also sell sheets which are cut to fit A4 storage boxes and 4L and 9L Really Useful Boxes. It’s all very convenient. The specialist retailers also have a wide range of shapes and sizes available, but if you’re after a bargain head over to Ebay where you can by the stuff in bulk at a considerable saving. You’ll have to cut it to shape yourself though. For serious savings get together with your mates and buy it in 5m lengths.
Circles can be tricky to cut yourself, but you can get hole punches, designed for card makers and scrapbookers, in various sizes. I started off using some of the cheap punches sold in my local craft shop, but they’re just not strong enough for the purpose and don’t last long. I’ve had much better success with Power Punches from Fiskars, and EK Success Nesting Paper Punches, they’re more expensive but they do the job better and last longer. You can get them from Amazon, Ebay or online craft shops. Useful sizes 1” (25.4mm), 3/4” (19.05mm) and 1/2” (12.5mm) covering 2p pieces, 1p pieces and Eurocent pieces respectively. Shop around if you’re buying, prices vary quite a bit.
You can make a huge saving making your own dots out of bulk purchased sheet.
Sabots vs Movement Trays
Over the years a few people have asked me “what’s the difference between a sabot and a movement tray?” To me a movement tray is just a tray on top of which you place your figures (front row of the picture below), while a sabot has individual spaces into which the figures fit (back row in picture) . Works for me.
Anyway, having spent about ten years improving this way of doing things and working out how to get it done as cheaply as possible I’ve completely changed my methods for doing bases and have turned things upside down. Why? Find out in my next blog post. Flexible Basing and Saboting (2) –turning things upside down