Sunday, July 14, 2024

On the Road to Lancaster


I’ve got the old Conestoga wagon all packed up and ready to take to the (toll) highway for the two day trek to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. By the way, there is a town named Conestoga nearby to Lancaster.

I had to rent a huge Jeep Wagoneer vehicle to carry all of the figures and terrain for my Pickett’s Charge game to Historicon and I was rather amazed that I filled up the entire vehicle, save for the driver’s seat up front, with stuff.  It’s a miracle!  If it’s a miracle it’s a V8-powered humongous SUV vehicle miracle! With some nut job behind it.

Here is the proof in pictures:

I will be making a detour through Gettysburg before my arrival in Lancaster.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Pickett's Charge Historicon Game Slots Are Still Available


A section of the terrain that will be included in the Pickett's Charge game at Historicon.

Confederate artillery battery opens fire on the Union positions
under the watchful eye of  Colonel Porter Alexander.

I was reviewing the game registration page for Historicon game events and it appears that two of the games are sold out and two game slots are still available.

Still Available Game Slots

Friday Evening at 7PM - Event Number F19.304

Saturday Afternoon at 1PM - Event Number S13.512

Sold Out Game Slots

Thursday Afternoon at 4PM - Event Number T16.303

Friday Morning at 10AM - Event Number F10.311

Longstreet, Hood, Pickett and Lee are pointing out some potential players in my
Pickett's Charge game. General Hood, "hey you, yes you! Sign up for Fritz's 
Historicon games.

The registration site doesn't tell me how many people have signed up for the games on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon so I can't tell you how many openings there are. I need a minimum of six players to run the game effectively. I could also stand in and play in the game if we need another person to get the game started.

So save Old Fritzie from getting skunked in these two game slots and sign up for the game. As an incentive, I will give each player signed up for these game a free bag of Fife and Drum miniatures AWI or American Civil War miniatures. The ACW figures were never released for sale so these are as rare as hen's teeth, so they say.

Here is a link to the Historicon game registration web site

Historicon Game Registration Link

Game Preparation Update

Sadly it is time to tear down the table top in my Man Cave and to start packing up all of the figures and terrain that I will be bringing to Historicon for my Pickett's Charge game. I was astounded to see how much terrain there was when I started grouping things like fences, buildings and roads together. The number of fences in the game is mind boggling.

At this point in time, there will be no more items to paint and add to the game. I have got to go with what I have right now.

Historicon is almost here. It starts next Wednesday so get ready to join in the fun.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

New Pickett's Charge Video Is Up On YouTube


The center game table with the Emmitsburg Road running down the middle. The 
table on the left is where Cemetery Ridge is located, while the table on the right
is where the Confederate starting point is on Seminary Ridge. By the way,
I don't have the third table in my basement due to lack of space

Click on the pictures to enlarge the view

Here is a short video tour of some of the terrain that I have set up on my home field game table for my Pickett's Charge game at Historicon July 17 - 21st in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I have two 6ft wide by 12ft long tables in my basement, with an aisle between the two parallel tables. My Pickett's Charge game at Historicon will have three 6ft by 18ft tables, running parallel with aisles between the tables.

I have set up a smaller portion of the terrain and troops on my table so that I can assess the amount of spacing that I have for terrain and troop deployments. So what you will see in the video is about half as large as the actual game will be.

The Movie

I have spent most of the past week working on terrain pieces and some vignettes to enhance the overall look of the game table at Historicon. Some of my additions include a large expanse of wheat field that has been freshly cut down and harvested. This fixes the problem of having troop bases stumble over the top of the material that represents the wheat in the field.

The Making of The Wheat Field

The first iteration or generation of my wheat field was made by cutting strips of coir or sisal from a door mat and gluing them down onto a two inch wide base that I made from a cork-backed place mat for one's dining table. I sprinkled some strands of fiber, that I cut off of the door mat, over the rows of wheat to give more texture to its appearance.

The next generation of wheat field was cutting out irregular/circular shapes of door mat material and then basing those pieces on the cork mat with fiber sprinkles. I didn't like that version that much so then I hit on the idea of my third generation.

The third generation wheat field assumes that all of the wheat has been cut and harvested or that it has been trampled down by passing regiments of soldiers. Thus the ground is flat, save for a few clumps of mat fiber that I glued to the board to give it s 3D effect. Then I used spray adhesive on the surface and sprinkled more cut up strands of fiber on top of the glue. I let it dry for a short while and then give it another spritz of spray to seal it.

The two haystacks are resin pieces that Ian Weekley used to make and sell. These had been sitting in my bits box for at least three decades and I finally had a project where I could put them to good use. I painted the haystacks with a light tan color and simply sprayed adhesive on the surface and sprinkled and placed bits of coir fiber that were cut off of the door mat. BTW, I purchased the door mat at Home Depot if you are trying to find a similar mat. My local hardware store (where I always look first) did not have any natural fiber door mats so I reluctantly had to go to the big box store. I like to give my business to the small Mom and Pop hardware store in my town whenever possible.

Lifelike Grass Fields (sort of )

My trip to Home Depot led to me finding a roll of artificial grass that actually kind of sort of looks like real grass. It comes in a roll 5ft by 7ft and looks much better than that Astro-turf style of plastic grass material. I cut out several 12 feet squares of the material and placed it on my game table, then I surrounded the green grass field with pieces of stone or snake rail fences.

Grassy fields of some unknown crop are framed by fences along the Emmitsburg Road.
In the distance notice how the grass and the wheat field complement each other.

Colonel Porter Alexander looks through his field glasses for enemy targets.
This is one of my favorite photos that I snapped recently.

Confederate artillery battery deployed on the artificial grass material that I found
at Home Depot. The field is framed by snake rail fence pieces.

Other Sods and Bods

I am pretty much done and ready to pack and go one week ahead of time. The other day I assembled some casualty dials for the infantry regiments and terrained the tops of the dials. These will accompany individual regiments across the fields so that the players can keep track of the casualties in their units. Each regiments has five stands of six figures. Once a stand is lost then a morale check must be made. So the dials only have to be numbered from zero to six - once there are six casualties the stand is removed and the dial is turned back to zero. I bought the dials from War Bases in the U.K.

I still need to make a few more feet of post and rail fences for the Emmitsburg Road and base a couple of wagons that I have already painted.

Finally, I have a little theatrical Hollywood vignette that will appear on the table top during the game. You will have to wait until the games are played before I reveal further details of what this is.

The last bit of work will be to start tearing down the game table terrain in my basement and put all of the terrain into stackable boxes. I want to use a uniform size plastic container that I can stack and place all of the terrain pieces therein. This is better than putting everything into random sized cardboard boxes and then hoping that I can fit everything into my vehicle. This will make it easy to transport the terrain in my vehicle and also to unload and carry to my Historicon game table.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Happy Independence Day


I want to wish everyone a happy Independence Day on July Fourth. Have fun at your local parade, grilling hamburgers with friends, and watching the fireworks show this evening.

The figures in the pictures are all Fife and Drum Miniatures. Photo editing done by Chris Gregg.



Tuesday, July 2, 2024

There's Some Thang Going On At Gettysburg


General Hancock arrives at Cemetery Hill on the evening of July 1, 1863.
Painting by Don Troiani

So I almost missed the anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. Well, I did miss Day One on July 1st, but an hour before midnight on the 2nd I am making this post to commemorate the event.

Back in 2020 or 2019 my daughter Lelia and I visited Gettysburg as well as a number of other Eastern Theater ACW battles. Below are two pictures that I took of the McPherson's Ridge area which saw the opening shots fired on the first day of the battle.

McPherson's Farm where much of the action took place on the First Day  of
the Battle of Gettysburg. I took this photo around 5PM in the evening and 
captured a view of the dramatic sky.

The Chambersburg Pike leading into the town of Gettysburg.
McPherson's Barn is on the right.

Back here in the present, I spent much of the day making wheat fields to use in my Pickett's Charge war game at Historicon this year. Here are three different iterations of wheat fields that I made:

Left side is the Third Generation wheat field. It is a simple flat board with tufts of wheat.
The Second Generation wheat field consists of irregularly shaped bases.

The First Generation wheat field was made of strips of coir material from a "welcome mat"
that I bought at Home Depot. I glued the one-inch strips of coir onto a base and then
sprinkled clippings from the door mat onto the field/ The Third Generation wheat field
can be seen in the background.

Here is the Third Generation of my wheat field construction ideas. I think that 
I like this version the best. It is supposed to depict the wheat field after it has 
been harvested or trampled down by soldiers passing through. The base is made
from a piece of cork backed dinner table mat. I then spread my mixture of "goop"
(wallboard paste mixed with brown acrylic paint) onto the cork side of the mat
and then let it dry overnight. The next day I dry brush a light tan color over the 
now-dried goop. Then I clip off cuttings from the coir welcome mat and sprinkle
these clippings onto the board. I use spray on photo adhesive for this step, but
while glue works just as well. I have glued some small pieces of the door mat onto
the board to represent random areas of the field that were not cut down and  harvested.

Battle in The Wheat Field. July 2, 1863 on the second day of Gettyburg

General Barksdale leads his vaunted brigade of  Mississippi
regiments through the Peach Orchard and on to the Trostle Farm.
This was Day Two action.


Sunday, June 30, 2024

Picture of the Day


Charging through the Wheat Field at Gettysburg

Friday, June 28, 2024

Making Wheatfields or other crops


Wheatfield made from a coir doormat

My Pickett's Charge game stretches out over three 6ft by 20ft tables. One of the things that I noticed in my previous playing of the game is that the third table (the Confederate back table) looks a bit sparse after the Confederates march off of it and on to the middle table and the Emmitsburg Road.

The Confederate back table during the game at Little Wars this year. Look
at all of that empty table space once the Confederates move off of the table.

The middle table features the Emmitsburg Road and it has more visual
things going on than there is one the Confederate back table.

I decided that I need to add some terrain pieces to the back table so that it doesn't seem so bare. I considered using teddy bear fur to make some amber waves of grain on the back table, but I have never made a bear fur mat, it would be cumbersome to carry to the convention, and it seemed like too much effort and not enough payback to do. So I decided to create some areas of wheat fields for the back table.

Doormat strips are glued to cork bases and terrained with goop.

The typical material for such a field is to use a sisal or coir doormat like you might use for your front door to your house. I picked one up at the local Big Box store for about $10.00. Gamers often cut the mats up into rectangular pieces and set them out on the table. The problem with this is that the field just looks like a giant piece of doormat, which is what it is.

So my next thought was to cut the doormat into one-inch wide strips and place them on the table about one inch apart from each other. This would break up the single piece look of just cutting up a large section of doormat and placing it on the table. This adds a three dimensional look to the wheat field, however, I didn't like leaving bits of the green table mat exposed beneath the wheat strips. So I cut out some bases for the strips of wheat grass (2-inches wide for the 1-inch strip of door mat) and then added my usual mixture of "goop" wallboard past mixed with brown paint and let it dry overnight. The next day I did some dry brushing of the bases with a tan color called "Camel". The final touch was to cut the threads off of some of my doormat offcuts and sprinkle them over the wheat field bases like you would if you were flocking a base of war game figures. I used Elmer's spray adhesive along the sides of the bases and sprinkled the bits of coir threads on the surface. After doing this task on all of the strips, I then placed them together, side by side, and sprayed adhesive over the surface of all of the strips. This reduces the appearance of the strips as pieces of door mat and adds a little more texture to the top of the wheat field strip.

The strips of doormat have not been based at this point, they are merely
set up on top of the game mat. The sections of green do not do much for the
overall appearance.

The finished strips of wheat field made from a door mat.

I might have done the wheat field pieces in a different way had I been using them for 28mm figures.

Here is a picture that I pulled off of the internet showing a different way of making grass or wheat fields for smaller 28mm figures. The irregular shapes look good and they can be moved around as the war game units move through it.

In my situation though, I am not anticipating any of my Confederate regiments marching through wheat fields so they don't have to be done in the manner shown in the above picture. My wheat fields are "for looks" only and their purpose is to fill up blank space on the back table. I will also add a farmhouse in the corners of the back table as vignettes of interest and this should help steer the eye around the table.

Friday, June 21, 2024

One Building Equals Three Houses


The most recent version of the BMC model that I have modified with 
window shutters.

Click on all pictures to enlarge the view

I am adding a few more farm houses for my 54mm Pickett's Charge game at Historicon and I just finished the third model that I have made from the same kit. I used the BMC "Meade's Headquarters" building and tricked each model out differently so as to end up with three different looking houses made from the same BMC model.

Here are pictures of the three models:

Version #1: The original BMC model of Meade's HQ at the Leicester farmhouse.
No modifications other than adding stones to the chimney.

Version #2: eliminates the front porch of the basic model. A cellar entrance was
added on the side of the house and the roof shakes are made from tree wrap material.

Version #3: I have added wood shutters to all of the windows to the basic BMC model.
I also added a wood front door and wood floor planks to the front porch.

Here are some work in progress pictures of the newest model so that you can see how the modifications were made to the original plastic model:

Wood floor decking was added to the front porch. I used balsa wood that I scored
with a tooth pick to give the appearance of wooden planks on the floor. A gap in the roof
was covered over with a piece of balsa wood.

Here is a view of the front door that I made from balsa wood, again, scored to give the
appearance of wood planks. The hinges and the door handle are also made from balsa.

And here is the finished model ready for primer:

The model as it looks prior to priming with black primer. This illustrates
most of the modifications that I made to the building.

A view of the model after it has been painted. It will be glued to a base that I make 
using cork place mats that I buy at Target Stores. The inhabitants of the house 
standing on the front porch are 54mm figures made by Wm. Britains.

This project was started to have a model of the Bryan House that is located on Cemetery Ridge. It will be on the far right flank of my table. BMC plastic models typically come with some bad warping of the wall and roof pieces so my initial plan was simply to place pieces of balsa wood in the four corners of the house to hide the warped joins where the walls come together. After that, it hit me that I could make some relatively simple modifications by adding window shutters that would differentiate the house from the earlier versions of the model that I made. Balsa Wood and Bass Wood are easy materials to work with and the modifications did not require much in the way of carpentry talent on my part.

It is rather amazing that I could make three different models from the same basic BMC model of Meade's Headquarters at Gettysburg.

I now have one more model to make: the Bliss farmhouse that was located further away from the Union positions on Cemetery Ridge. Both sides had been using the house as cover for their respective skirmishers. Union general Alexander Hays (II Corps, 3rd Division) finally had enough of the Confederate sharpshooters picking off his men so he sent a company of soldiers down to the Bliss farmhouse with orders to burn the house down so that the Confederates could no longer use it for cover. So I will have to make a model of a burned out destroyed house.

Finally, here is a picture of the Gettysburg terrain that I have set up on my game table in my home basement. The picture shows about half of the amount of table length and depth that I will have for my Pickett's Charge game at Historicon this year. I set up various sections of my planned layout so that I can visualize the spacing of the terrain relative to the size of the regiments.

My two game tables in the basement. The near table is 6ft by 12ft and the back table 
measures 5ft by 12ft. I could add three more feet of table to increase the length to 15ft.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Picture of the Day: Ian Weekley Buildings


I was scrolling through some old pictures that I took in 2022 when I had a large SYW setup on my game table. It featured two small villages with houses made by Ian Weekley. I commissioned these buildings with Ian back in 1986-87 years and I think that they still hold up well today compared to laser cut and resin buildings. I also think that they have a sort of ramshackle appearance that is both charming and more realistic for a small German town in the 1700s.

By the way, does anyone even have an interest in the Seven Years War era anymore? I’m not seeing it in my convention games, which were totally skunked for lack of players signing up. Figure sales for SYW figures are significantly lower, but are offset somewhat by a rise in AWI figure sales. This might be a function of people still trying to paint all of the figures that they bought during the COVID lockdowns around the world. Figure manufacturers of all stripes had a once in a lifetime bump up in sales during that period.

Finally, blog viewership is also lower. I’ve had some recent posts that failed to garner even 100 views which is shockingly off from peak viewership. ACW and 19th Century Colonials are significantly higher than SYW articles. I am a bit baffled, but I shall keep doing my own thing and sharing my activities on my blog.

 I still have a post about my recent Napoleonic game in the works and I will drop it on the blog this week (hopefully). I’m thinking that a 28mm Napoleonic Peninsula War  game might be my  convention game for the 2025 season. I can do this type of game on one table rather than the three tables that I’ve needed for my 54mm games. Hmm, 54mm Napoleonics. Now there’s an interesting idea, although I also have 54mm Hannibal lurking in the background.


Monday, June 17, 2024

Paint Your Wagon(s)


Confederate supply wagons on the Emmitsburg Road

I have some plastic munitions wagons for my 54mm Civil War armies that were just begging to be painted and based. And so I did.

Some months ago I was thinking that I would leave wagons and limbers unpainted to give the game a nostalgic toy soldier feel, however, as the Pickett's Charge Project progressed all of the other terrain elements were so well done that leaving the wagons unpainted made them look out of place.

The first picture below illustrates the look of the unpainted wagon versus the painted and based wagon.

The "before" wagon on the right and the "after" painted wagon on the left.

The wagons came from a set of 1/32 scenic pieces made by BMC and sold under the "Americana" label.

They are a little bit on the small size relative to 54mm figures, but they will look just fine on my table top set up.  Painting the wagons was easy; just black primer all of the parts and paint the wagon carriage an olive green color. The canvas was primed in grey because I did not want the undercoat of the canvass to be too dark. I used some P3 brand paints (Jack Bone, Menoth White, and Menoth Highlight) which give a khaki color to the shade and gradually lightens to a light cream color. This results in the canvas looking like, well, canvas. I didn't spend much time on the horses (black primer, burnt umber shade and brown highlight colors).

The bases were cut out from cork dinner place mats and slathered with my usual terrain mix of wall board paste mixed in with dark brown paint. I then sprinkle some fine railroad ballast material from Woodland Scenics and then let the base dry overnight. The horses and wagons are glued to the base with two-part epoxy before the terrain goop is slathered onto the base. When the base is dry I dry brush a tan color called "Camel" onto the base and then finish off the base by gluing down a small bit of green static grass. Don't use too much static grass, just enough to add a bit of color to the base. In the picture below you can see how the wagon bases resemble the roads.

Confederate supply wagons trundle down the Emmitsburg Road,
passing by the Codori farm.

Close up view of the wagons.

The wagons do not serve any purpose in my Pickett's Charge game other than to add a little bit of eye candy to the table top. I do like the way they turned out, but I kind of wish that I had used the larger wagons from Classic Toy Soldiers (CTS). However, I am too much time invested in the wagon project to start over, they look fine and Historicon is coming up in four weeks.