Monday 28 November 2011

Vauban Fortification for the tabletop

Scenery of the Day

Today we look at simulating a small city on the tabletop that uses the Vauban style fortifications.


"Maréchal Vauban

Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707), is considered one the of the greatest military engineers of all time. In his life he was responsible for the fortification of over 160 places in France, however his major contribution to warfare was his methods of attack, which revolutionised siege warfare.

In his life Vauban had revolutionised the way sieges were fought, and he had fortified over 160 places for France. His deepest concern was always for the lives of the soldiers he commanded, and he was courageous, being wounded several times. Vauban wrote a series of papers entitled "Les Oisivetés" or "Leisures". These were on a diverse range of subjects including privateering, agriculture, canals and geography.

He was a skilled mathematician and a great engineer, but the last words should go to Vauban himself:
When I have a good look at myself I find I am still only half an engineer, after forty years of hard work, with the greatest experience. - Vauban"
The township of Neuf Brisach, a typical large township / small city that is ringed by a series  of walls of intricate design in the Vauban style.

I found an excellent tutorial online here :

That  describes all the steps needed to build an excellent model of such a fortification for under $20.

Using foamcore and a few tricks, this is not totally simple job, but it can be done in an afternoon with a little patience.

Here is my quick attempt at doing a fortified town ...

Building up the walls with foamcore, and then coating the walls with tissue paper + PVA to create the brick texture.

Interiors of the walls coated with modelling paste to build up a stucco texture, and fleche positions finished off with some wood panel floors and various bits of rubble.

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The whole position starts to take shape. Quite time consuming, waiting forever between layers of paint to dry.
By far the most difficult part of the job is the sloped walls. For a quick built, it is neccessary to cheat and go for flat walls. For the sloped part, you can pull out the calculator and paper and try and sort out the trigonometric theoretical geometry of each section ... or you can cheat and simply custom cut each part to fit.  I think if I did this one again, I would spend a lot more time calculating the correct dimensions of each sloped wall before hand, and precision cut each  section to fit.  This was a much quicker build though.

Finishing it off with some stains and dry brushing, the fortified position suddenly jumps to life. The tissue paper does the magic trick of leaving a suggestion of stonework on the walls, which the drybrushing instantly raises the detail for the eye. (the large, thick kitchen paper  works best for this)  So there we go - a fortified position in an afternoon, ready for the tabletop !


  1. Great fortress, and love the photo as well!!!

  2. We've been playtesting a very clever set of siege rules for the 18th and early 19th centuries by Eric Burgess, "Vauban's Wars". They work well and are a very different sort of game (see the "Siege of Mantua" report on my blog). I must admit to being too lazy to try scratch building one myself, but I am strongly considering the Paper Terrain version!

  3. Interesting idea there Peter, I will have to have a look at that set of rules. Thx.

    It has also been pointed out that a lot of these forts were actually sunk into the ground with moats around them, so the walls were not visible until you were right on top of them .... saves them being clear targets for distant artillery fire as well.

    Looking forward to building a larger version soon, and I will sink the next one into the ground a little more.