Saturday, July 29, 2023

Historicon 2024. Should I do Newton Station in the ACW?

54mm Little Round Top game shown at The Gettysburg Toy Soldier store
in Gettysburg, PA

Click on all pictures to enlarge

There is no rest for the wicked, as they say, so of course I am giving immediate thought about what game(s) to run at Historicon in 2024. Since I had visited the battlefield of Gettysburg prior to my stay in Lancaster for Historicon 2023, I have a mind to maybe do some kind of 54mm ACW game. The other idea is to complete my 54mm Punic Wars project and run that game at Historicon.


The 1959 film The Horse Soldiers , directed by John Ford and featuring William Holden and John Wayne, is a fictional account based on Major Benjamin Grierson's Raid in 1863. Grierson was a Union cavalry officer who was given the assignment of making a cavalry raid deep into the state of Mississippi in order to disrupt Confederate supply operations during US Grant's Vicksburg campaign of 1863. The movie features a short battle at the town of Newton Station, Mississippi that simply screams to be recreated as a wargame. The Confederate forces arrive in Newton Station aboard a railroad train's box cars and nearly catch the Union cavalry forces off guard. The Confederates come pouring out of the box cars as the train arrives at the station and then they go charging down the main street of the town to engage the dismounted Union cavalrymen. It does not end well for the Confederates, who are nearly wiped out from rifle fire.

Here are a couple of movie stills that I picked off from Pinterest and the internet.

Carleton Young (l), William Holden (c) and John Wayne (r) in "The Horse Soldiers"

A stirring sight that just screams out "wargame scenario" :  the Confederate army
pouring out of railroad box cars at Newton Station.
Picture from "The Horse Soldiers"

Someone else's wargame version of the action at Newton Station.

So one thought is to do a Newton Station wargame, complete with a running model train engine and box cars on the table. Today's train models blow smoke from their stacks and make whistle noises, so that would be pretty cool to see. The game would require my finding of a suitable One Guage train, cars and track. One Guage used to be popular in Europe, but less so now and it is very difficult to find a low cost train to use in this "one time" game. Someone suggested that I go down one smaller scale to "O" Guage trains. I bought one G Scale locomotive on eBay to see how it compares to 54mm figures when I was putting my Sudan Project together. However, the train was huge and I deemed G Scale to be unsuitable for what I have in mind.

Newton Station probably wouldn't require a lot of 54mm figures. I'm guessing something like 50 Union and 100 Confederate figures per side.

But then, hey! You know that Old Fritz never does anything small or nice and easy when it comes to wargaming projects. Undoubtedly this would morph into a larger ACW game project. Things always start at "let's do a small skirmish game with these new figures" but then they end up with over a thousand figures fighting over Khartoum.


The picture at the top of this blog page shows a game table set up in the back room of a store in Gettysburg, PA called "The Gettysburg Toy Soldier". The game is Little Round Top. There are not all too many figures as you can see (click on the image to enlarge the picture) but the large 54mm figures provide their own visual mass. A comparable 28mm game would require hundreds of figures to have a similar visual impact on the viewer. And 54mm plastic ACW figures are dirt cheap, probably less than a dollar per figure.

I don't think that I would want to do Little Round Top for my game because I don't want to have to deal with a lot of hill terrain pieces, which take up too much space in my automobile with regard to transporting all of the game stuff 700 miles to Lancaster, PA.

I bought a few bags of plastic figures while I visited Gettysburg several weeks ago, ahead of the Historicon convention. I think that one set provides around 30 figures for $10.00 and some larger sets cost $20 to $30.

I poured the plastic figures out of their bags and set up some infantry units and a 3-gun artillery battery on my game table for a quick look-see. I'm thinking units sized at 18 to 24 figures for infantry and probably two cannon and crew for an artillery battery. Here is how it might look:

Union artillery battery with caissons, backed up by infantry.

Close up view of the Union artillery battery with caissons and a mounted officer.

An 18-figure regiment of Union soldiers.

Overhead view of the plastic ACW figures. On the right is a 24-figure regiment and an 18-figure regiment on the left.

Thinking Big Picture, I could imagine a division of Union infantry that has two brigades of soldiers plus an artillery battery of two cannon with each brigade; or maybe I go up to three brigades in the division. They would be facing off against a similar number of Confederate forces.

Some thought needs to be given to how much table frontage a Union infantry brigade needs because this informs the total amount of table length that I would need to put on a game. I am assuming that 20-24ft long tables is the maximum amount that the Historicon game events staff would allow me because this is what I had for my Khartoum games. They have to get the best use of their tables so that people can get into games.  It wouldn't make much sense for me to set up a Khartoum like game and only run it twice and then having all of those tables removed from the pool of available game tables for other games.

In return for gobbling up so much table space, I would feel obligated to run at least four games with 12 players per game. I hosted four games at Historicon this year. Based on my experience at this year's Historicon convention, I feel that I have the stamina to run five games over the Thursday through Saturday stretch of days. So five games of 12 players allows for 60 plus gamers to get into a game.

So I would need to determine how much frontage I would need for 2 brigades versus 3 brigades. That in turn would point me in the direction of a viable scenario for the amount of table space that I have.

An ACW game will also require me to build some houses, barns and town buildings as well as some snake rail fences and stone wall fences.


If I don't do an ACW epic wargame, then Hannibal versus Rome in the 2nd Punic War would be my alternative game. I have already painted at least half of the figures that I would need for this type of game and I already have some of the terrain from my Khartoum game that could be repurposed into a battle such as Zama. I will talk about the Punic Wars Project in one of my next blog posts, so stay tuned for that.


  1. Jim, I’m sure either game would be well received however I think the ACW would give you more gaming flexibility for participants

  2. Hello Der Alte Fritz, Certainly, as Graham notes, the ACW would have greater resonance with an American audience than an ancient battle might. But not Newton Station. You already play Newton Station every time you play a Sudan Wargame - hapless men charge against a well armed defence and get shot in droves. Sound familiar? So not Newton Station, let it stay on the screen. As you won't be able to collect 'just a few' ACW figures I take it you are no longer thinking of going to Florida? If you are still thinking of that, then completing your Ancient army and using that at Historicon would be better, logistically. You don't really want an ACW army as well, then have to choose which to dump when Florida beckons. Finish the Ancients and run with that, whilst you thumb through your many ACW books. Take time to plan things out for the ACW. Well done in your interview on Little Wars TV - fame at last. Cheers Glenn

    1. Florida is kind of on the back burner for now, until my daughter sorts out her school plans. I could have two parallel projects going at the same time, sort of like in the movie The Great Escape where they build 3 tunnels (Tom, Dick and Harry) so that they have a backup tunnel in case the guards find a tunnel.

  3. Hmmm, should you do Newton Station? YES!!!

  4. How about Mine Creek?
    Plenty of wagons as objectives, no buildings, not a huge battle, but I'm sure you could build a fabulous table.

  5. It’s a very long stretch to even call the historical Newton’s Station a battle. Two Union cavalry regiments versus 35 Confederates? Honestly, that’s the equivalent of driving in a picket post. The game shouldn’t last more than a single round. But if you want to recreate “The Horse Soldiers,” that a different game altogether.

    1. I'm thinking more along the lines of Hollywood as it is something that is easily recognizable to war gamers.

  6. What about a skirmish game based on the Battle of Fairfax Court House? The building would make a striking centre piece on the table in 54mm.
    Alan Tradgardland

    1. I think that I'm looking for something a bit more epic similar to my Khartoum game, but I could envision some type of encounter game.

  7. Hi Do little round top. You can make the hill in small interlocking hallow pieces. I made the Samurai ACW Fort from last HC and it ended up being very lite weight.

    1. LRT would certainly be an eye catcher of a game. That's something worth considering.

  8. Recognizing that Newton Station couldn't be built up into a large game, I might have to gin up 2 to 4 different scenarios to spread across the table top and run different scenarios at different times, but keeping the same tables set up.

  9. You need to do a double game, Newton Station, and then do the bridge demolition and the attack by the cadets.

  10. Of course, I could also do Picket's Charge with 54mm figures. Heh, heh, heh.

  11. I am sure whatever you choose it will be epic - but a game with a train gets my vote !

  12. I noticed some Armies in Plastic figures in the background. I really like the Confederates and have used multiple sets for both US and Mexican for my Second-Mexican American War (aka Maxmilian-American War). I am also using the Union sharpshooters as regular infantry. I picked up a bag of the BMC figures but they are significantly smaller than the AIP. I ended up buying some Call to Army and oop IMEX ACW. These are also smaller than the AIP but have some nice artillery. Expeditionary Forces have a nice 1/32 line but they are pricey. I have used some of their mounted and dismounted figures for both sides. If you go with the Ancients that is fine by me as they are beautiful! Chris B.