Wednesday, May 15, 2024

U.S.Sharpshooters at Gettysburg


USSS concealed in a cornfield and taking pot shots at Confederate artillery.

Click on the pictures to enlarge

If you have ACW armies to fight the Eastern Theatre (largely in Virginia) then you probably have had the urge to add a unit of the U.S. Sharpshooter's to your army. They are akin to the British rifle regiments in the Napoleonic wars, such as the 60th Royal American and the 95th Rifles regiments that fought in Spain.

The 1st USSS ("USSS") fought at Gettysburg, attached to Daniel Sickles' Third Corps (everything Gettysburg eventually comes back to Dan Sickles),  fought in Pitzer's Woods, basically on a scouting mission to see what Confederate forces might be in said woods. They were driven back, of course, as only several companies of USSS were sent on the mission and didn't have sufficient numbers to hold back the formed regular regiments of Confederates (as opposed to being trained open order skirmish troops as were the USSS).

They are probably better suited for fighting small actions rather than being part of a larger battle such as the Peach Orchard/Wheatfield or Pickett's Charge battles at Gettysburg. Nevertheless, I wanted them in my Union army so I painted a force of 30 figures, all sourced from Armies In Plastic. I divide the unit into two groups of 15 figures and base them 3 figures per stand rather than the 6 figures per stand that I use for regular regiments.

A group of sharpshooters run up the road to take up a position.

The sharpshooters have moved out of the cornfield and onto the turnpike road,
resting their rifles on the post and rail fences for better aim.

In my rules, I don't want the sharpshooters to be more powerful than their numbers would indicate, so I divide them into smaller groups of 6 to 15 figures. They "hit" on a die roll of "1" on a D6 dice, but even with a 17% probability of getting a hit, they are still fairly deadly. Do I think that I will resort to using D10 dice and scoring hits on "1" only. This will make them annoying to their opponents, but not turn them into walking machine guns. 

I had this problem when I used skirmishers in my AWI games, allowing hits on a 1 or a 2. With up to 20 figures at a time rolling for 1 and 2, the skirmishers were too deadly. They could hit up to 4 figures per turn using 20 figures, which is almost a full stand of formed opponent's figures. Two regular players in my SYWA convention games, Tom M. and Daniel H., were particularly adept at finding loop holes in the rules and they quickly figured out the favorable math in which the skirmishers were hitting more opponents per turn than a formed regiment of 30 figures could inflict on them.

So I broke them down into smaller groups and decreed that there could not be more than 6 skirmishers in a group. Of course Tom and Daniel still got around the new rules by amassing three groups of 6 figures, generating similar deadly results. You have got to hand it to them, they are good. LOL!

OK guys, now I'll fix you by scattering the skirmishers over different ends of the game table so that they could not gather in the same area of the table. And I reduced the "hit" score down to hitting only on a 1. That seemed to solve the problem, although Tom and Daniel were still searching for a way to utilize their skirmishers to deadly effect. My final counter-measure might come down to removing skirmishers from the game completely. I have to say that I had fun trying to match wits with the fellows.

So getting back to the USSS in my Civil War games, I want them to be a little bit annoying, but not too powerful that they produce better results than Confederate formed troops. I could paint some Confederate skirmishers to (he, he, he).

In any event, the U.S. Sharpshooters are a good looking unit with their dark green uniforms and brown leather equipment and are probably a unit that any ACW gamer should consider adding to their armies.

Monday, May 13, 2024

War Bases casualty dials


Casualty disc to denote the number of casualties on the unit.

In some of my recent games I was using a red D6 die to denote casualties in my 54mm ACW regiments. Each regiment has five stands of six figures, so a D6 made a lot of sense. One would simply move the die to the appropriate number of pips that corresponds to the accumulated casualties on the stand. When six casualties were recorded, then the stand would be removed from the game.

However, I found that having red dice scattered all over the game table did not look good to me. I wanted something better. I recalled seeing a round numbered dial disc that other gamers were using in their games and I noted that these looked quite nice. So I did a little bit of internet searching and found a company called War Bases located in the U.K.  They had exactly what I was looking for: 40mm round discs with moveable numbers.

This picture demonstrates the use of the dial discs with my ACW regiments. One disc moves about the table with its regiment. The casualties are dialed up on the disc until it reaches "6" and then the stand is removed from the game. Note that the dial goes from "0" to "12" so it can be used for a variety of gaming systems and games.

Marshall's North Carolina brigade at Pickett's Charge.
Note the use of the dials and compare to the picture below.

The use of a red D6 to denote casualties - the die is rather distracting 
to the visual appearance of the game.

Here is a teaser photo of things to come:

A company of U.S. Sharpshooters in a cornfield, picking off officers and artillery crewmen.


Thursday, May 9, 2024

Building A Civil War Barn in 54mm


Scratch built small barn. Figures from Wm. Britain. Cigar Box Battle mat.

After doing some conversion work on BMC plastic models of the Leister House, I decided to try my hand at making a barn from scratch. Having made a number of houses and boats for my Khartoum game last year, I have the minimum skills necessary to make a barn from foam core and balsa wood. I am not so great at employing the mathematics of miniature architecture and my tools are limited to Exacto tools, a pin vise, and a miniature mitre box with saw.

Side view of the barn with a hinged hay loft door and ladder.

The rear area of the barn. A couple of wagon wheels have been added
to provide some "junk" detritus around the building/

I made a template of the side elevation of the Meade Leister House model and used this for the sides of the barn. I chopped down the height of the barn so that it would be lower than the roof of the house. Once the end pieces were cut from foam core, it was a simple matter to decide how long to make the barn ("6-inches") and the parts were glued together with wood glue and sewing pins.

The next step was to find lumber to make the walls of the barn. Initially I was resigned to the idea of cutting out planks from cardboard cereal boxes, but then I looked into my box of junk wood offcuts from previous model building and I found some small craft sticks that look like coffee stirrers from Starbucks. I only had one pack of 50 sticks and did a little bit of measuring to determine that I would need more than 50 plank pieces for the whole building. However, digging deeper into the box of offcuts, I discovered another pack of sticks that were narrower than the other 50 sticks. I found that alternating the two sizes would provide me with enough wood to clad all the walls of the barn.

I cut the planks first, and then slathered the sides, one side at a time, with wood glue and then placed the sticks onto the side of the barn. I would attach a wide stick and then put two narrow sticks next, followed by another wide stick. I should note that one should cut out any windows and doors that will be on the model prior to attaching the lumber to the walls.

Next, I added some "doo-dads" to the building. These included a hinged door on the hayloft opening; a bracket for rope and pulley to haul items up to the hayloft, a ladder for the hayloft, and finally a pair of larger doors for the barn entrance. I used a small hinge on the hayloft door so that the door could actually swing open and close. In retrospect, I probably wouldn't do this on other models. The amount of time to make the door and hinge isn't worth the final result. Thus I didn't make hinged doors for the main barn doors.

Then the roof was added and glued to the building. I used pieces of foam core to make the roof. I temporarily painted the roof brown, but it is my intention to come back later and make roof shingles from tree wrap. The next step was to prime the model black. I use black primer on building models so to enhance the use of dry brushing to paint the model.

The final step will be to glue the barn to a larger base and add some terrain and grass to finish things off.

The four walls are constructed from foam core material and the corners are
reinforced with sewing pins and wood glue. I used craft sticks purchased at
Michael's Stores to make the plank sides of the walls. I mixed in some thin
and wide sticks to give some variety to the appearance.

A piece of black foam core is added to the interior to give more strength 
to the barn walls. I briefly thought about having a lift off roof, but then
my sanity returned and I discarded that idea.

Attaching the swing door to the hay loft.

The hay loft door is installed and actually has a hinge allowing the door
to swing open. On the left side is a bracket to hold a rope and pulley.

Adding the roof made of 1/8-inch foam core. I used wood glue to attach the 
roof and used sewing pins to hold down the roof sections.

Once all of the pieces were assembled, and allowing the wood glue to dry overnight, I sprayed the barn with black primer and then painted it with three shades of grey and finished the painting by dry brushing some "Antique White" craft paint.

I also made a ladder from bass wood leading from the ground to the hayloft door. The finished model will be glued to a base and some small accoutrements such as the ladder, some barrels and a couple of wagon wheels around the outside.

I may build another house but I'm more or less done making the necessary buildings for my Pickett's Charge game.

Finally, here is another photo portrait of some noted personalities such as Hancock, Warren and Custer.

Back row, left to right: some artillery crew guy, Winfield Hancock, George Custer, Governor Warren, and some 
other guy on the right end of the row. The names of the seated characters have been lost to history, maybe one 
of my ancestors.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Iconic ACW Photo Comes to Life in Miniature


Speira Miniatures Vignette in 1/32 scale (54mm)

The colorized version of the original photograph that most of us have seen.


I wanted to add a special figure vignette for my Pickett's Charge game at Historicon this year, so I contacted a 3D printing company called Speira Miniatures. The company is located in Sweden. It has a large variety of sculpts in the ACW, WW2, Napoleonic and other eras available for purchase. You can have your figure selection printed in any size and scale. I commissioned the company to make the three figures that comprise the famous photograph of three prisoners taken after the battle of Gettysburg. The company accepted my idea and in approximately four weeks they had finished the computer renderings of the figures and then they sent me a set of the figures.

As you can see in the pictures, Speira did a really good job of creating the three Confederate soldiers shown in the original figure. I suspect that anyone who takes a close look at my Gettysburg tabletop at Historicon is going to recognize the three Confederates.

My vignette in black and white.

I will also have a number of other vignettes scattered about my game table. One of the things that I am working on is a field hospital at Gettysburg. Here is one of the Speira vignettes that will be included in the hospital scenery.

Speira surgeon, nurse and wounded soldier vignette.

Another view of the field hospital vignette.

The hospital set up will include some horse drawn ambulances, orderlies carrying wounded soldiers on stretchers etc. The only thing that I won't do is depict a pile of amputated limbs. That would be crossing the line in my book.

In general, I like to put my vignettes in the corners of my game table where they may be scene, but they are out of the way of the tabletop action and don't get in the way of moving one's troops.

I am pretty much done with painting Union and Confederate regiments for my game, so I have the next two months available to work on vignettes and terrain features. Stay tuned for more posts in the genre.


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Lights, Camera and Action!

Movie crew set of figures made by Barszo.


I recently bought a Barszo set of figures depicting a movie crew to use with my Pickett's Charge Project. The vignette will be placed in one of the out of the way corners of the game tables. It will depict Lee and Longstreet conferring over the plans for Pickett's Charge and they are surrounded by the movie crew.

The set includes the director, a seated woman holding the script, two cameras with camera operators, one large light stand with crew, and one fellow holding a boom microphone near the actors. The actors are not a part of the set.

This should be a fun little project to paint and assemble.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Tricking Out A Common Building


BMC "Meade's HQ" after I have painted and based the model.

I have plenty of buildings for my collections of 28mm figures, but finding "off the shelf" buildings for 54mm figures is not an easy task. After a fair amount of searching, I have an idea of where to find some of these buildings, but the selection does not come close to what is offered for 15mm and 28mm figures. So this necessitates converting whatever buildings I can find and turning them into unique individual models.

The BMC model of Meade's HQ Leister House is a pedestrian white plastic model with a medium blue roof. It is a snap together model whose parts are usually warped and hard to fit together. I decided to fix some of the model's defects and paint it. The results can be seen in the photo at the top of this blog post.

I added the exterior portion of the stone chimney using, well, stone pebbles 
that I picked up while walking my dogs. A resin chest was also added to the base.

I had a second model of the same building and decided to give it a different look. I removed the attached porch to change the profile of the building, making it thinner.

The dry brushing completed, I now added a new roof using tree wrap that
I bought at the hardware store. The idea comes from Herb Gundt. Individual
wood shakes will be delineated with a brown Sharpie pen.

The model after two rounds of dry brushing dark to light grey.

The basic model after a coat of black primer. The add on porch has been removed.

The partially finished model. I have to add things like a balsa wood door, maybe some card window shutters,
an outside cellar entrance, and attaching to a base made from a cork backed table place mat. A 
little water well would look nice too.

Here are a couple other commercially made buildings that I have not done any conversion work:

Foam clabbered house from Classic Toy Soldiers store.
Photographer's wagon is made by Lemax.

Colonial Salt Box style house from McShaun 's Closet.

The Rummel Farm Barn at Gettysburg from McShaun's Closet and sold
through Classic Toy Soldiers store.

Britain's - made resin barn. This model is Verrrrry heavy and is hard to find.

So I think that I am fairly well set for 54mm (1/32 scale) building models for my Pickett's Charge Project and other ACW games that I might play. These buildings would also be suitable for the 18th Century such as the American Revolution and the French and Indian War.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

A Zieten Figure Does Exist - Minden Miniatures


A couple of days ago I was rather gobsmacked to to look at my Facebook feed and read a post by someone lamenting the lack of a von  Zieten personality figure across the 28mm spectrum. All I could do was to just shake my head in wonderment since Minden Miniatures has not one figure, but TWO ZIETEN PERSONITY FIGURES.

So for your viewing pleasure I present pictures of both the mounted and dismounted version of Minden Zieten figures.

Zieten is the figure base that is second from the left. Frederick of course is in the center.

Oh, and by the way, Minden offers the only Marshall Maurice de Saxe riding in his wicker carriage at Fontenoy figure. Simply put, if you are looking for 18th Century military personality figures, then Minden Miniatures has the largest selection of such figures by a wide margin over any other manufacturer of 28mm figures. That’s a fact.

By the way, let’s dispense with all of this copyright nonsense that we see elsewhere; if you want to copy any pictures on my blog then feel free to do so.

Maurice de Saxe and his uhlan escort. All are Minden figures.

A close up, and better picture, of a dismounted Zieten handing a message to an orderly.
Minden Miniatures 

Please click on the pictures to enlarge your view and look at these wonderful Richard Ansell sculpts.