A wargamer’s guide to Burmese architecture

While browsing through pictures taken at 2007’s Historicon I came upon this extremely annoying photo:

Mark Hayes’ Battlefront game portrayed the British attack on Pagoda Hill in Mandalay in 1945. See those three pagodas there? Yeah? Well, they are absolutely ludicrous. Why? Well, because it’s dead obvious that they are Chinese pagodas.

So? Imagine having a Russian church on a tabletop that’s supposed to represent Normandy or Sicily. Know what I mean now?

So here’s a short little something on the architecture of Burma.

Traditional Houses
Traditionally-styled houses were set up on a raised platform, which allowed for one to stay cool below the structure on extremely hot days. Until the British came most residences were built with wood (particularly timber) and bamboo.

Wealthy people had houses that had decorated windows, doors and shutters. A good example of such a house is that of Kinwun Mingui U Kaung (pictured below), which is made up of a complex of pavilions set on a raised patio.

Rural farmers often had much simpler homes, which were set up on stilts, had woven walls and roofs made of sun-dried grass.

Monasteries, Pagodas and Stupas
I’m sure the following images can speak for themselves.

Many wargamers seem to have a penchant for setting up Buddha statuettes – many of them oversized and too Eastern-looking (i.e. Chinese or Japanese )¬† – smack in the middle of a field on the table, exposed to rainfall , when they should instead be located under a pavilion’s roof within a monastic complex (unless it’s a ruined one). Of course, oversized Buddhas do exist, but, like Rio’s Christ, they are more the exception than the rule. More ubiquitous are stupas and spirit houses, but to date I have seen very few gamers do them. Compare this to those who bother getting the layout and buildings of the area around Oosterbeek or Pegasus Bridge correct.

Lastly, here’s a couple of pictures of Mandalay’s palace.

Note: this was originally posted on one of the The Guild’s older incarnations.

2 responses to “A wargamer’s guide to Burmese architecture

  1. Great post. Do you know where I can find more detailed maps of Pagoda Hill and the Mandalay Palace? I want to make a terrain board in 6mm of these areas for the battle that took place in ’45.


  2. A quick search of the British National Archives’ catalogue brought up the following:

    AIR 23/4699 – Target photographs Burma/Siam (including prisoner-of-war camps)Includes 40 photographs depicting: Aerial target photographs of areas of Burma/Siam including Mandalay and Bangkok showing effects of bombing. Dated 1944-1945.

    AIR 23/4557 – Target maps, reports and photographs, Burma: Mandalay

    WO 203/1165 – Mandalay reconnaissance and bombing: illustrated reports

    WO 203/1213 – Map of the Burma – Siam railway and air photograph of Mandalay: photostat

    WO 203/4898 – Operation “Tarzan”, capture of Mandalay: planning papers and alternative plan

    Not particularly helpful if you don’t live in the UK of course, but if you can wait a few months I could pop in there and have a look for you?

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