1809 Terrain 2: A Farmhouse

European rural architecture follows patterns that differ regionally. For example, timber framing, which can be found in parts of Germany, is virtually absent in Austria. The same is true for the layout of farmsteads. Different groundplans exist in different regions, and most traditional farms would have followed the local model.

Here is a map of the distribution of different types in Austria:

Image from Ellenberg: Bauernhaus und Landschaft

For my 1809 project, I decided to build a so-called “Dreikanter”, or three-sided farm, as this was the predominant model in Upper and Lower Austria, along the axis of the French advance towards Vienna. The farm has buildings on three sides and a wall with a large door on one side, closing the central yard. On one side would be living quarters, while on the other barns and stables would be located.

Image from Dimt: “Ergebnisse der Hausforschung”

For the overall look of such a building, I used this old photograph as inspiration:

Image from Dimt: “Ergebnisse der Hausforschung”

My aim was to build a model that was large enough to work as a central piece for a scenario, but small enough not to dominate the playing surface entirely. As with all my buildings, the scale is reduced, as I don’t assume a 1:1 ratio between figures and men in Sharp Practice – I usually assume that one figure represents 3-5 men, sometimes even more, depending on the scenario.

I quickly decided that I would not make the buildings accessible for figures. In my experience, this is too much of a hassle. It makes fitting the roofs more difficult and at the reduced scale, it gets very fiddly to place figures inside.

The core structure of the model was made with a material I now tend to use for all my buildings, namely a very sturdy but still easy to cut cardboard that is sold as “Finnpappe”, which seems to be some sort of wood cardboard made in Finland. It has really great properties – most importantly, I never had any problems with warping – and is inexpensive.

I printed windows with my 3-D printer and glued them to the cardboard. Then I applied thinned-down filler to the walls to give them a nice structure. The wooden parts I covered with matchsticks.

At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, most rural buildings in Austria were  still covered with straw or reed. Roof shingles or even tiles would be rare and only to be found on big estates or churches. To model the straw, I used a dustcloth which I glued to the roof and then soaked in thinned-down PVA glue.

I made the front wall seperately and did not glue it in place immediately, as I wanted to paint the whole thing before doing so. Otherwise, it would have been difficult to get to certain parts with the brush.

Also, I made the big front door moveable. After unsuccessful experiments with improvised hinges I went to a local dollhouse store and bought small hinges. They weren’t too expensive and the Lego-loving child inside me is happy that he can open and close the tiny doors…

Finally, a lick of paint and some drybrushing, and I have a Dreikanter for my 1809 campaign:


Dimt, Gunter: “Ergebnisse der Hausforschung im Mühlviertel. Eine Zwischenbilanz,” in: Das Mühlviertel. OÖ. Landesausstellung. Bd. 2: Beiträge. Linz 1988, p. 347-360.

Ellenberg, Heinz: Bauernhaus und Landschaft in ökologischer und historischer Sicht. Stuttgart: Ulmer 1990.

Schröder, Karl Heinz: “Das bäuerliche Anwesen in Mitteleuropa,” in: Geographische Zeitschrift 62 (4), 1974, pp. 241-271.

13 thoughts on “1809 Terrain 2: A Farmhouse

  1. Leigh Jackson August 26, 2021 / 11:09 am

    Looks really good, especially the thatch

    • Thomas Brandstetter August 26, 2021 / 11:30 am

      Thanks! Unfortunately, the cloth I made the thatch out of is now used up and I have difficulties finding a similar one…

  2. richardthebeard August 26, 2021 / 11:24 am

    Cracking model, Thomas! Great research, too. Thanks again for an interesting blog write up. 👍😊

  3. Daniel August 26, 2021 / 12:58 pm

    Wonderfull work. Lovely to see how you are integrating the 3D printed bits to great effect!

  4. stevebaker636 August 26, 2021 / 1:56 pm

    The dichotomy between how many men a figure represents and what an item of terrain represents is a really serious problem in tabletop gaming. It really prevents you from even approaching realism. If your figurine represents five people – then the buildings SHOULD be five times smaller in floor area in order that the correct number of figurines can (for example) hide behind it – so the linear dimensions should be (square-root-5) 2.24 times smaller than scale. But if you’re also using the height of the building for things like whether a cannon on a nearby hilltop can fire over it – then it needs to be 2.24 times shorter too. But if you do that then it looks like a children’s play-house compared to the figurines…and everything looks ridiculous.

    In skirmish games (with figurine-to-soldier ratios of 3 or 5) – you can kinda fudge it (as you did here) but for large battle actions (where figurine-to-soldier ratios of 15 or 20 are common) – this gets extremely problematic.

    I’ve heard some people say “This house represents a small village of 20 houses” – but if you say that then troops should be able to move through it and remain on a road…and how the take cover within it gets complicated…and the vertical scale for line-of-sight checks is all wrong.

    This also applies to trees and such.

    When I was into Napoleonic warfare with a 1:20 figurine-to-soldier ratio – we’d put our French troops figurines in three rows and our British in two when in line formation…but that implies that each figurine is 20 guys standing side-by-side in a row and not 20 guys in a roughly 5×4 group…so the space taken by the figurines is now entirely incorrect.

    When you try to recreate any kind of real battle – these problems really make things difficult…and the compromises start to really damage realism – even changing one’s views of tactics at a rather fundamental level.

    We do all of this so we can avoid having vast playing tables and spending a small fortune on figurines – but what it does is to destroy any claims we might have about this being a realistic representation of combat and turns the game into something much more abstract.

    This grew to a head for me when I started trying to do fantasy warfare – with large armies of Dwarves and Orcs and such. The trouble with that is that you need a high figure-to-soldier ratio for these massive armies – one figurine is 20 guys…yet you need a single dragon, a single wizard and individual heroes…and now things get really crazy because these individuals occupy FAR too much area on the ground.


    • Thomas Brandstetter August 27, 2021 / 4:30 pm

      I once experimenting with ideas for large-scale battle rules and then started to think about scales – ground scale, figure scale, time scale, etc. After a couple of days I stopped to prevent going crazy 🙂 But seriously, it is a problem, especially with larger figures. That’s why I wouldn’t play mass battles with figures larger than 6mm. Actually, I’d prefer 2mm. Or just play Kriegsspiel on a map.

  5. Pete S/ SP August 26, 2021 / 11:02 pm

    That is a brilliant bit of work- am really impressed with it.



  6. Anonymous August 27, 2021 / 12:55 am

    That’s a great looking piece. Simple and so effective.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s