Thursday, September 28, 2023

To Gloss, Or Not?

With approximately 450 figures to base for my Pickett's Charge Project, it's time to make the important decision whether to spray the figures with a gloss finish, or use a matt/flat finish. I've heard that some people use both, starting with a gloss coating on the figure and followed up with a spritz of Dull Cote or similar spray matt finishes. I did a test figure using the gloss/matte method and while it looked alright, some of the gloss shine was coming through the matte layer.

Gloss looks good on my Ancients and Sudan figures, but I kind of lean towards a matte finish for the American Civil War for some reason.

I'm wondering what the great Hive Mind has to say about the choice of finishes on my ACW figures.

Leave your responses in the comments section below, please.


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Classic Toy Soldiers (CTS) ACW Figures


A group of CTS figures plus a "Replicant" officer waving his hat and a rather large
60mm TSSD sergeant pointing and firing his revolver

Remember to click on the pix to enlarge

I picked up a couple of bags of 54mm Classic Toy Soldiers ("CTS") at last week's Chicagoland Toy Soldier Show. I finished painting them this morning so I want to post some pictures of what they look like when they are painted.

The Classic Toy Soldiers Company is a retailer of largely 54mm plastic figures from the likes of Marx, Barzo, Timpo, Harold, and other brands that many of us probably played with when we were youngsters. Most of these companies (other than Barzo) have long been out of business and it seems that various companies are legally able to "recast" these figures and sell them on the retail market. Maybe they have purchased the original moulds or essentially do what we would call "pirating figures" in the wargame industry. I presume that this is all on the up and up given that the figures are available seemingly everywhere.

Some companies have created their own brand of 54mm and 60mm (1/32 scale and 1/30 scale, respectively) for the toy soldier market. Some examples that come to mind are LOD Enterprises, TSSD, BMC/Americana, and of course, CTS.

I really like the CTS figures because they have some amazing animation to them that I haven't seen in many other figure brands. They look very dynamic and full of movement and personality when a unit of the figures are assembled. CTS also has some poses that I have not seen from other brands of ACW figures. I am specifically thinking of the right shoulder shift pose.

Here are some pictures of the charging poses from CTS. Note the right shoulder shift running pose in the center. The high bayonet charging figure on the left in these photos is one of my favorite poses in the CTS figure range.

Here are some of the firing line figure poses.

The big fellow in the center pointing his pistol is a 60mm TSSD figure. 
Everyone in his company call him Little John.

A very animated firing line grouping when all of the figures are put together.
The kneeling/ram rod figure is unusual. The casualty with the sucking chest wound
is a good looking figure too. The officer is from the Replicant range.

And here is the whole group having a reunion. I can't wait for my reinforcements to arrive in the mail.

I have probably mentioned this before, but I like to mix up figures from different figure ranges into an infantry regiment because it gives the unit a lot of character and individuality. They may be different sizes, slightly, but then people come in different sizes too, right?

My CTS reinforcements are on order and my plan is to have two regiments: one advancing/charging and one in a firing line. As Flounder said in Animal House, "oh boy, this is going to be great!"

Painting Update:

I finished my sixth Confederate infantry regiment two days ago and I still have eight Union regiments plus a half regiment (15 figures) of the US Sharpshooters. So that is 420 infantry figures painted in August and September so far. I am getting nearer to the 50% mark relative to the planned 900 to 1,000 figures that I need for my Pickett's Charge Project. I probably have about 15 to 20 more artillery crew, foot officers and mounted officers painted that I have not included in the figure totals above.

I might take a little pause in the painting action and work on making the flag bearers for both armies. The Americana figure range has standard bearers and I will be converting these by cutting off the plastic flag pole and replacing it with a metal North Star Spear and then gluing on a GMB Designs flag.  Armies In Plastic also has a soldier ramming a cartridge down the barrel of his rifle, with the rifle butt resting on the ground. I did a zouave conversion by cutting out the rifle and drilling holes through the hands to accommodate a wire spear for the flag pole. I will post a picture of the conversions within the next several days.

The Battle of Gettysburg Podcast

If you have a particular interest in the battle of Gettysburg, or the American Civil War in general, then I highly recommend listening to the "Battle of Gettysburg" podcast. There are 47 episodes in the archives at this date and I have been listening to them whilst painting my ACW figures. Jim and Eric do an excellent job of bringing their topics to life and the episodes are fun to listen to (no dry history retelling here).  Both fellows are licensed Gettysburg Battlefield Guides. You can tell that they come prepared to discuss the particular episode's topic. They are unabashed Daniel Sickles boosters ( I went on a Gettysburg battle field tour conducted by Eric this summer) and I have to say that I have a new appreciation for General Sickles. Well, as they would say, let's put a bow on this blog post and tie it up. 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Treasures from the Chicago Toy Soldier Show


Salt Box style clapboard house in 1/32 scale that I purchased at the show.

This weekend saw the Chicago Toy Soldier Show coming to Schaumburg, Illinois starting Thursday September 21 through Sunday September 24, 2023. There were 100 plus dealers from all over the country, coast to coast. The event was organized by Mike Murphy, who operates The Hobby Bunker out in Massachusetts. The focus of the show is on, wait for it, TOY SOLDIERS and runs the gamut from old plastic play sets to aged William Britain hollow cast metal figures.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday the show has something that they call "Room Trading." The various dealers set up their wares in their hotel rooms and punters like me can walk through the halls of the hotel (on three floors) and go room to room looking at all of the goodies. The dealers put a sign outside their door so that one doesn't walk in a private room unannounced. Hmm, what could go wrong here?

On Sunday the dealers move their wares into a large banquet hall where they are all in one room and then the public can come in and browse or buy figures.

It's amazing how many of the old plastic play sets still remain and even more amazing that so many of the original boxes survived years of play, followed by Mom throwing everything in the garbage can when her son hit his teenager years. Are you detecting that someone here has a few issues to resolve with therapy?

A play set is a boxed collection of plastic soldiers and terrain (buildings, fences, earthworks, bunkers, etc) pieces that represent either a television show of the 1950s and early 1960s, or an historical era such as Romans, knights, Civil War, Cowboys & Indians, etc. The Marx company was probably the leading producer of plastic toy soldiers during this era. Examples of boxed sets include Captain Gallant (French Foreign Legion), Combat (WW2), Fort Apache, The Alamo, Tombstone, The Guns of Navarone, Gettysburg, Antietam and Johny Reb.

However, I wasn't particularly interested in any of the boxed sets, other than to click on my nostalgia button, but rather, I was searching for 1/32 scale (54mm) buildings and other terrain pieces. My priority goal was to find a Pennsylvania style barn that I could use as the Codori Barn at Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg.

Lo and behold, there I was walking into my very first dealer room MicShaun's Closet and the owner, Mr. David Cook, pointed me towards some foam 54mm buildings that come preprinted (by him). There it was looking right at me (sort of like the Big W in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad World), a red Pennsylvania barn in 1/32 scale! Che Ching, he scores!

The actual Codori Barn at Gettysburg, on the Emmitsburg Road

My foam Pennsylvania barn.

Pennsylvania barns in the Gettysburg often have the foundation built well above the ground and have a dirt ramp leading out from the second story of the barn. It's similar to what we call an English Basement or a Walk Out Basement in houses. David told me that this model was based on the Rummel Farm barn at East Cavalry Field in Gettysburg.

I also found a 1/32 scale clapboard house done in the New England Salt Box style, but I figure that it can stand in for a house in Gettysburg on my game table.

The front view of the Salt Box house.

Britain's Deetail Range of 1/32 scale Confederate cavalry

Britain's Deetail Union cavalry.

Britain's Deetail ACW Napoleon cannon and Union crew.

I also bought a Deetail 10-pound Parrot gun with Confederate crew.
The Parrot is the gun on the left behind the fence.

Current view of my ACW game table with the Pennsylvania barn in the 
upper right corner.

Finally, one of my best finds was a couple of bags of CTS plastic Civil War figures. I will post pictures of them in one of my next blog posts. They have a level of animation and action that looks superb. CTS stands for Classic Toy Soldier company, the outfit that makes the figures. CTS has its own webstore where you can find lots of different plastic figures and a few buildings.

Here are the links to the companies mentioned in this blog post.

Classic Toy Soldier Company

MicShaun's Closet

Britain's ACW Deetail figures

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Artillery Batteries In My Rules System


Union battery section of two William Britain 54mm cannons: 3-inch ordnance rifles

Click Pictures to Enlarge

The William Britain company make a very nice set of moderately priced Deetail ACW artillery and crew sets. I have some of their 12-pound Napoleons and 3-inch ordnance rifles in my Union and Confederate artillery contingent. My arrangement is to have two gun models with four crew plus two helpers/gun in each battery. Batteries will have two guns of the same type, so I will not be mixing Napoleons and 3-inch rifles in the same battery. The Britains sets come with 4 crew, so I will paint two extra crewmen as "helpers" for each cannon. In my rules, we throw one D10 for each crew figure up to a maximum of four dice at long range and double dice (8) at short range. When a crewman is removed then one of the helpers can be added to the crew for the purpose of the number of D10s to be used.

Confederate battery of three 12-pound Napoleons plus limbers.
The two guns on the left are Britains and the one cannon on the right is
from the Americana range. The limbers are also from Americana.

Just for grins (and because I like the picture), here is a picture of the ACW game table and terrain. It is starting to fill up all of the space. I have 8 Union infantry regiments and 5 Confederate regiments. I will have a sixth Confederate regiment finished this weekend, giving me 6 Confederate regiments. I will keep painting Confederates until I have either 8 or 9 regiments, and then I will go back to painting Union blue figures. My infantry brigades will have three infantry regiments and there will be five brigades per side, or 15 regiments per side. That gives me 5 players per side, or 10 players total. I think that I will also have separate commands for each side's artillery arm. That will bring the game up to 12 players.

Fritz's ACW game tables. The one in the foreground is a 6ft by 12ft table and
the back table on the right is 5ft by 10ft.

I am using Cigar Box Battle Mats on my tables. Cigar Box is my "go to" provider or game mats in all of my games now. They are easy to transport to conventions and they fold up nicely. They look very very nice too.

I will have to make all of my own snake rail and post/rail turnpike fencing to fit with the 54mm figures that I am using in my Pickett's Charge Project for Historicon 2024.

My GMB Designs flags arrived the other day and so soon I will be painting the standard bearers and gluing the flags onto the flag staffs. To my eye, it looks like the 28mm GMB flags will work with my 54mm figures.

PS: please click on the pictures to enlarge the image. The pictures look so much better when they are enlarged in this manner.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Tenting Tonight at the Old Campground


I like to populate my game table with little vignettes of soldiers and civilians. Aside from the fact that they are fun to create and look cool to the tenth degree, they focus the eye to look for various “Easter Eggs” hidden hither and yon. So if you see or play in one of my games at a convention, then have a good time Easter Egg hunting.

Today’s fox is the Union encampment (or is it just the word “camp”) that I have tucked away in one corner of my game table. I like to place my vignettes in the corners of the table so that they don’t interfere with the play of the game.

There are three vignettes made by William Britain’s models from their American Civil War figure range. The first consists of three rank and file soldiers sitting around the campfire making coffee and eating food. The second one has two officers sitting on chairs enjoying “happy hour” while one of them is petting his pet dog. A third vignette has a man dispatching an unfortunate spring chicken  to his ultimate fate in the stew pot.

Then there are other vignettes that are not “off the shelf”, but rather, created from existing figures and modified, converted and grouped to make our own vignettes.

Meade’s headquarters  vignette that just uses existing figures that are simply grouped together in a manner that makes for a good creative story.

A traveling photography takes pictures of a couple of Union officers.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Buford In the Observation Tower


I do not have a 54mm (1/32 scale) Lutheran Seminary building for Gettysburg, nor do I wish to have one as it would be a HUGE model. So instead I used an observation tower made by Herb Gundt and placed an officer with binoculars up in the tower. The picture of the tower, previously posted on my blog, had a Union officer in a pointing pose. 

I found the officer with binoculars in the Armies In Plastic Union Artillery set of figures. The figures are all wearing long frock coats so I cannot use them. However, the officer figure can be used in my project. I have an idea to convert a mounted officer figure by swapping upper torsos and making a Union officer sitting on his horse and looking through his binoculars.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Berdan's Sharpshooters


Berdan's 1st US Sharpshooters form a skirmish line in front of the Union battle line.
These are 54mm Armies In Plastic figures.

Click on photos to enlarge

I had a little bit of spare time on my hands so I painted these 54mm First US Sharpshooters (Berdan's) yesterday. Yes, I painted all of the figures in one day!

These are Armies In Plastic 54mm figures. Because the uniform is entirely of green color, one large brush full of green acrylic paint gets you started, and then its just a matter of blacking in the belts and equipment, followed by some flesh tones, and then finishing off with the Old Gold and Aged Pewter metallic colors. Easy Peasy!

I have enough extra figures to increase the unit from 15 to 20 figures. Berdan's Sharpshooters were not involved in the third day of Gettysburg and Pickett's Charge. They did play a small roll in the second day as they went on a morning scout of Seminary Ridge. They found a lot of Confederate troops and so they high tailed it back to their own lines near the Peach Orchard.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Confederates in 54mm


The Liberty Rifles reenactment group at Chancellorsville this year.
The group portrays both Union and Confederate units.

Two 54mm Confederate regiments that I have painted within the past month.

Click on images to enlarge

This past week I have shifted my painting production from the Union forces to the Confederates. I currently have 8 Union regiments of 30 figures and 4 Confederate regiments of 30 figures, for a grand total of 360 figures. Two of the four Confederate regiments were painted over the last seven days.

The most recent addition is a regiment of figures that are in advancing poses and painted in a variety of "butternut" colors, whatever butternut is. The other three regiments are in firing poses and are largely clad in grey along with a mix of butternut colored uniforms. I like my Confederate regiments to look like they are on campaign, so I mix in a variety of poses from different manufacturers of figures that provide a certain individuality to the overall look. I also like to mix up the uniform colors.

The quality of the two pictures above is not up to my usual standards for they are a little bit blurry and out of focus. Since the Confederates are on one table edge and facing in the other direction, I had to climb up onto my game table and try not to knock over lots of plastic painted figures. Then I had to hold a high intensity lamp in my left hand and try to press the shutter button on the camera with my right hand.

Here is another picture of the  Liberty Rifles this year, demonstrating the look that I seek when I am painting a Confederate regiment. Note the different uniform colors, styles and hats. Click on the website link in this paragraph and visit the LR web page. This is a good source for Civil War uniform information.

This is the look that I am trying to achieve.

My painting is going along at a smooth and rapid pace. I expect to finish painting two more Confederate regiments by the end of this month (September 2023) and this would increase the CSA contingent to 6 regiments.

The Battle of Gettysburg Podcast

My nephew Alex turned me on to the Battle of Gettysburg Podcast this summer when we went on a battlefield tour conducted by licensed battlefield guide Eric Lindblade. Eric and Jim Hessler, also a licensed Gettysburg Battlefield Guide, do a monthly podcast about topics related to the (guess what) the Battle of Gettysburg. Eric showed Alex and I around the parts of the field related to the battle in The Wheatfield for the better part of two hours or more. It was the best battlefield tour that I have ever been on.

Both Eric and Jim are Daniel Sickles aficionados and I have to say that the tour gave me a new appreciation for why Sickles moved the III Corps up to the Emmitsburg Road and the Peach Orchard. When you are standing in the low ground where Sickles was told to deploy by General Meade and you are looking at all of that high ground in front of you, you begin to understand Sickles' thinking.

I now listen to the podcast while I am painting figures and it helps to pass the time away whilst painting 60 figures at a time.

Click on the link to the guys' website and from their you can find links to the podcast; or just enter battle of Gettysburg podcast in your Facebook search bar and it will take you to their Facebook page where you can find more information

Battle of Gettysburg Podcast


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

More Real Estate On the Game Table


Hey look, Old Fritz has added some new ground to our battlefield. I dare say that it is good ground.
54mm Americana plastic figures.


Yesterday I created more table top space on my game table in order to accommodate my ever-growing collection of 54mm American Civil War regiments. My main table measures 6ft wide by 13ft long and then I have a back table that measures 5ft wide by 12ft long. The back table had some of my 54mm Roman encampment on it and it was chewing up about 6ft of table length. So I put all of the Roman terrain away (took nearly an hour) and then set up some rudimentary ACW terrain on the back table.

I was putting this exercise off until my order for some new Cigar Box Battle mats arrived, and when they did arrive a couple of days ago, I knew that it was time to redecorate the back table.

The view from the main table looking towards the back table.

There it is: the Full Cleveland!
Main table is in the foreground and the back table is in the,well, background.

Once I have the terrain set up on my table I usually tinker around with the layout over the course of several days. For example, the first layout had two parallel roads running from the back table and going on to the front table. However, something just didn't look right, so I pulled up one of the roads and repositioned it so that it was running at an angle rather than in a straight line to the main table. Diagonal roads look better on a game table than do straight and parallel roads.

Straight road running across the width of the back table.

The improved road now runs diagonally across the table and looks more interesting.

Panorama view of the back table.

Here are some other pictures that I clicked this evening:

Meade's headquarters at Gettysburg

HQ and the nearby Union encampment.

A view of the main game table.

Union camp ground

Watching the troops marching off to the battle.

Union observation tower

I finished painting my third Confederate regiment of 30 figures yesterday and another 30 figures will be completed within the next day or two. That will give me 4 CSA regiments for a total of 120 figures. I will need 15 regiments for my Pickett's Charge game. The Union army has 8 regiments of 30 figures for a total of 240 figures. Thus I have 360 of the required 1,000 total figures that I will need for my game.

One thing stands out to my eye: I'm going to need a whole lot of trees. Much more than I already have, and believe you me, I have lots of trees. Both of the tables shown in these pictures are approximately 12ft long, but I will be using 24ft long tables. So in theory, I will need double the number of trees that you see on my tables at the present time. I will also need to make about 36ft worth of turnpike fencing for both sides of the Emmitsburg Road. Yikes!

Yes, I have some work to do.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Reinforcements Arrive!


About 10 bags of Armies In Plastic Confederates in 54mm

The other day a large box arrived in the mail from Armies In Plastic and it contained ten boxes of plastic 54mm Confederates. I opened up all of the bags and sorted them into piles of like poses. Some are advancing or charging, other are standing, kneeling, loading in a firing line. I got rid of the two useless figures that seem to come in every bag of plastic figures, no matter who the manufacturer is. The first is a standing firing chap without a hat, but he has the ubiquitous bandage around his head. The other fellow is kneeling and reaching into his cartridge box (so far so good), but he is wearing his kepi backwards with the front bill in the back. Who knew that Hip Hop style started in 1961?

So my painting plan is to paint all the figures of one pose and then move on to the next pose. This should quicken my painting pace as I become familiar with how to paint each pose.

I  have finished two 30-figure Confederate regiments and eight 30- figure Union regiments for a total of 300 figures to date. The project calls for nearly 1,000 figures so I am about a third of the way through the targeted number of figures needed for my Pickett's Charge Project.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

There’s the Devil to pay!


I don’t have a model of the Lutheran Seminary building at Gettysburg so I have substituted a signal tower to create a vignette of General John Buford reporting the battle situation to Major General John Reynolds on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. The figures are all 54mm and include a mix of Britain’s and Armies In Plastic figures.


Friday, September 8, 2023

Replicant 54mm ACW figures

Replicant 54mm ACW figures

Click and/or double-click on pictures to enlarge

I found some of these beautiful figures at the Gettysburg Toy Soldier Store when I was in the area for Historicon this past July. The brand name is "Replicant" and they are 54mm plastic figures and they are made in Great Britain. They are on the expensive side at $4 to $6 per figure compared to around $1 per figure for some of the mass produced 54mm figure ranges. I really like the figures, but I can't justify painting 30-figure regiments using only the Replicant figures. That would be $120 in figure cost for plastic soldiers. You get six figures in a bag for $24, although eBay sometimes has them for slightly less, say about $3.

Replicant ACW figures from the UK

The nice thing though is that the Replicant figures fit in nicely with nearly any other brand of 54mm ACW toy soldiers, so I can buy a few of them and then mix them in with other figure brands to give the regiment a certain personality and difference from other units on the table.

The picture below illustrates how a variety of figure brands can be mixed into one regiment. I think that it is fitting and proper that we do so in our Civil War regiments. Click or double click on this picture to enlarge the view so that you can see all of the different figure styles in this one regiment.

A Confederate regiment that includes a mix of Replicant, Americana, Armies In Plastic, and  TSSD plastic figures.

A note about flags and figure basing: I haven't based any of the nearly 300 figures that I have painted so far in this project. The reason is that I still have not decided on the size of the base stands to use. My current thinking is to use a base with a frontage of 3-inches and a depth of 5-inches, although an extra 1/4 inch frontage on the base wouldn't do no harm. As for flags, I am thinking that the GMB Designs 28mm ACW flags will look ok with these 54mm figures. The GMB flags are large enough to look in scale with the 54mm figures based on the length of the flag staff. I don't see the point of having HUGE flags just because they are 54mm figures nor do I see the point of hiring an artist to paint oversized flags at a price that would make one's accountant or bank manager gag in alarm. I have placed a large flag order with GMB and look forward to their arrival so that I can start adding flags to my ACW regiments.

I can visualize how these armies will look once they are based and flagged and I think that when everything comes together you will agree that they will have a significantly large WOW factor. I am really excited about the progress that I have made on this project so far, but I am even more excited knowing what only I know about how it will look when everything from figures to terrain all comes together.