Sunday, March 31, 2024

A New ACW Video From Der Alte Fritz Productions


Pickett's Charge play test game on Keith L.'s huge tables.
We used three tables measuring 6ft wide by 24ft long.

I made a new American Civil War video (1 minute and 40 seconds long) yesterday and posted copies all over Facebook and so far it has been very well received. I employed the Ken Burns method of showing a series of still photos that are accompanied by music. It can be very effective. Since many of my viewers don't have access to Facebook I have posted the video here on my blog. Click below to watch. I hope that you like it, especially the bit of razzle dazzle in the last frame.

The Little Wars convention is fast approaching: April 18 through April 21, 2024 in the Chicago area. I will be running my Pickett's Charge game three times, once each on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. If you happen to be at the show, please feel free to walk up to me and introduce yourself. Better yet, sign up to play in the game.


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Play Test #4 - Pickett's Charge Scenario

Click on the pictures to enlarge

or Double Click to make them humongous

Yesterday we conducted our fourth play test of the rules for my Pickett's Charge game scenario for the upcoming Little Wars convention in April. With respect to the rules, we are down to making a few minor tweaks here and there that really don't have much impact on the way that the rules work. So we are mainly just running more iterations of the game to see what types of outcomes the rules produce.

On the terrain side of things, this was the first time that we had enough game mats from Cigar Box Battle Mats to cover the entire surface of three 6ft by 24ft tables. The difference in the look of the ground before and after using the mats is remarkable.

The two pictures below provide a "Before" and "After" view of the Union position on Cemetery Ridge with and without the Cigar Box mats.

Union position on Cemetery Ridge shown without the use of game mats.

Union position on Cemetery Ridge shown with the game mats from 
Cigar Box Battle Mats.

Here is a view of one of the back tables showing the starting deployment position of the Confederate army.

Joe Davis's Brigade of Mississippi and North Carolina regiments.
This is the starting back table for the Confederate advance.

Davis's brigade shown on a bare green painted table surface.

I'm kicking myself for not taking many "long distance" photos that show all three of the tables with the new game mats. As you may recall, we are using three 6ft by 24ft tables, arranged parallel to one another and with aisles running on each side of the center table. The aisle space does not exist in terms of table top distances. For example, if a Confederate regiment is on the back table and has 20-inches of movement and starts only 8-inches away from the edge of the back table, then the player measures the 6-inches up to the edge of the table, and then hops across the aisle to the center table, and then measures out the remaining 14-inches of movement that his regiment has. In other words, the aisle area effectively doesn't exist.

This can create some interesting moments in a game when, say, two opposing units are on opposite tables and the players do not realize how close they are to each other because their eyes have been fooled by the three feet of aisle space between the center table and one of the back tables.

Here are few more random views of the game tables with the new mats:

The Confederate back table showing the starting point of the Confederate advance.
The tree line represents Seminary Ridge. The Confederates will be moving from left to right.
This table is 6ft wide and has a length of 24ft.

Confederate's starting point on the back righthand table.

The Confederates "jump across" the aisle between the back righthand table onto the center table.

A move or two later, the Confederates approach the Emmitsburg Road while
maintaining rather orderly lines and formation.

A Confederate brigade attempts to cross the Emmitsburg Road. It takes one full turn to 
cross each post and rail fence on the road. Thus Turn 1 the regiment crosses the fence
but then that is the end of its movement for the turn. On Turn 2 the regiment can
now cross the second fence and resume its movement for up to half of its allowed movement.

And now a look at the Union deployment on Cemetery Ridge:

A Union artillery battery supports troops located in The Angle.
The famous Copse of Trees can be seen in the background.

Front view of The Angle

A Union regiment deployed behind the stone walls.

Union regiments defending The Copse of Trees which was the directional
focal point or landmark of the Confederates in Pickett's Charge.

We had to cut short the play test around 3PM because it is a one hour drive from Keith's house to my house, plus we needed about 30 minutes of post game discussion time to go over some of the things that we saw in the game. We plan on resuming the game this coming Friday, on Good Friday. After that there will be one final Dress Rehearsal play test game in early April and then it is time to pack everything up and get ready to take the show to Little Wars.

On Friday, I will make a point of taking some long view photos that include all three game tables and try to see if I can do something about the lighting so that I can produce some better looking photographs.

I am pretty much done with painting figures needed for the game so now I will be turning my efforts towards terrain pieces such as more post and rail fences for the Emmitsburg Road and perhaps a couple of 2-ft square fields using Teddy Bear Fur

Saturday, March 23, 2024

It's Time To Base My Figures - Ick!


Pettigrew's North Carolina brigade (recently based)

Click on the pictures to enlarge the view

It happens to all of us, we accumulate our painted figures but we do not get around to putting them on bases and adding all of the terrain, static grass and tufts, etc. The unhappy consequence is that we finally reach the point where the dreaded basing of figures task can no longer be ignored so we just have to pitch in and do it. This happens to me frequently.

So this time I had accumulated 49 stands of figures that needed to be based and I knew that I couldn't put the task off any longer. It helped that I have another play test of my Pickett's Charge game coming up, so I wanted the newest units off of the assembly line to get their terrained bases.

I had finished painting 6 Confederate regiments of 30 figures each (5 stands per regiment), 2 Union regiments, 7 skirmisher stands of U.S Sharpshooters, and 2 brigadier general command stands. The amount of figures painted was done over the past month or so, although I had painted two Union regiments and the sharpshooters this past week in anticipation of the play test game. The play test game was originally scheduled for last Friday (yesterday in blog time), but the weather forecast was for six inches of snow at Keith's home town so we thought it prudent to reschedule the game for this coming Monday.

A week's worth of figure basing.

The US Sharpshooters:

US Sharpshooters have been attached to bases, the bases have been terrained,
but still require static grass and tufts to finish them. These figures are made
by Armies In Plastic.

I received another batch of seven Cigar Box Battle Mats a couple of weeks ago and I am keen to lay these out on top of Keith's three 6ft by 32ft tables (although we are "only" using 24ft of table length on the three tables) and get a better idea of what the terrain will look like for my convention games this year. Here is a link to the web store of Cigar Box Battle Mats. Highly recommended!

Cigar Box Battles

Here is a picture of a Confederate brigade (3 regiments) treading across a game mat by Cigar Box Battle Mats. I like the way that the mat and the figure bases blend in together.

A North Carolina regiment in Pettygrew's Brigade

So let's see what Old Fritz based this past week. First the two new Union regiments:

The 14th Brooklyn Regiment of the First Corps

A Union regiment. I forget which one, but they all look the same. It's probably 
a unit from the First Corps, which was shattered during the battle of Day One
on July 1, 1863. Some elements of the First Corps were deployed on
Cemetery Ridge at the time of Pickett's Charge on Day Three.

Buster Kilrain figure. You just know that some company would make a figure of the fictional character in the movie "Gettysburg". Buster reminds me of the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" in that in each scene of the movie, Buster gets wounded in a different part of his body and then he doesn't have the good sense to hurry up and die so that we don't have to hear him called Colonel Chamberlain "Colonel Darlin' " one more time.

Oh no, it's Buster Kilrain!

Buster Kilrain, as played by Kevin Conway in the movie "Gettysburg" which 
was based on the book "The Killer Angles".

Now before I get skewered with criticism, yes, I do know that the 14th Brooklyn regiment was not on Cemetery Ridge during Pickett's Charge on Day Three of the battle of Gettysburg. However, it is such a colorful looking unit that I just had to paint the regiment and add it to my Union forces. No company makes such a figure in 1/32 scale (54mm) as far as I know so I simply took some ordinary Union figures and painted them with red trousers and red kepis. I'm assuming that my version of the 14th Brooklyn is not wearing its gaiters. 

And now for some of the Confederates:

I really like the animation of these plastic toy soldiers from Classic Toy Soldier Company,
or "CTS" figures. That running/right shoulder shift pose is simply Fab.

Pettygrew's North Carolina brigade. They did not carry the state flag, but I 
wanted a little bit of variety in my Confederate regiments and I didn't 
want to have all of them carrying ANV Confederate battle flags.

Project Update

I believe that I am nearly finished with the painting of regiments for my Pickett's Charge war game. I have six Confederate brigades of three regiments each; and six Union brigades of three regiments each. That works out to 1,080 painted figures. This doesn't include the various mounted officer figures and extra artillery crewmen that I have painted thus far.

Upcoming Little Wars Convention

The lads will get their first "official" workout at this year's Little Wars convention April 18 - 21. 2024 at the Weston Lombard Hotel in Lombard, Illinois. See link below:

Figures that I have commissioned from Speira

I have commissioned Speira Miniatures in Sweden to make these three Confederate prisoners in the iconic photograph after the battle of Gettysburg. I don't think that they will be ready in time to appear at Little Wars, but they should be ready and painted and on my game table at Historicon in July 2024. Presumably, the figures will be made available to the public on the company's web store in the near future. You can order Speira figures printed in almost any scale or size, including 15mm, 28mm, Perry scale, 1/32 scale and more.

Play testing the scenario

We have been play testing the Pickett's Charge scenario and purpose-made rules at the expansive man cave of Keith L. A lot of progress has been made on the rules that I will use at the conventions. The rules will be on one sheet (both sides) of a standard letter size paper and are designed to be easy to learn and fast to play in a convention setting. I don't like to have complicated rules for convention games because I want the players to be able to understand them quickly and get on to the task of moving figures and rolling dice. This way the players can focus on their tactics rather than trying to figure out the rules.

Our next play test on March 25th will have all 18 of my Cigar Box Battle Mats laid out on the tables so that I can get a better feel of what the game will look like at the conventions. I will post pictures of the game probably several days after the play test game.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Fife & Drum AWI British Guards


British flank company soldiers from Fife and Drum  Miniatures.

Some people seem to overlook the fact that Fife & Drum Miniatures has the British Guards figures in its product range. Well we do and in fact the Guards were the very first figures that kicked off the company back in 2010. I started the range with Guards figures because no other company offered Guards figures in the 28mm world. Click link to the Fife & Drum Miniatures web store to check out the details.

British Guards

BA-004 British Guards Command Pack

BA-005 Guards Center Companies Marching

BA-006  Guards Skirmishing

BA-007  Guards Flank Company Marching

The Command and Center Company figures are wearing a brimmed hat with the left side turned up so that the musket doesn’t knock one’s hat off his head. The flank company figures are wearing a cap that sort of resembles a baseball cap that has a vertical plate in the front. These hats were actually fashioned from cut down tricorn hats. All figures wear the short cut down cut worn in North America.

So whenever  you are on social media and someone asks about the availability of AWI Guards figures I’d be grateful if you could point them towards Fife & Drum Miniatures.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Speira 3D Printed Figures


Spear ACW surgeon and casualties

There is a company based in Sweden called Speira Miniatures that makes 3D printed figures for wargamers and toy soldier collectors. One can order the figures in a variety of sizes from 15mm to 152mm (1/12 scale) in height and scale. The company manufactures the figures to your order and then prints and ships them to your in a 3 to 5 week period. You can make adjustments to the figures for an extra charge, such as changing the hat style, adding a back pack, making the figure thin or fat, mirror image of the original, or you could even put your own face on the figure.

Speira covers a variety of historical eras including the American Civil War, the Wild West, French & Indian War, Napoleonics. Ancients, WW2 and the modern era from the Cold War to the present.

Speira Miniatures link

I was looking for some casualty figures to use as morale markers. I couldn't find any Confederates from other plastic soldier manufacturers and the figure poses were rather limited for the Union figures. I had been painting Union soldiers in kepis as Confederates. When I visited the Speira web site, I was amazed at  the vast variety of just the casualty figures, let alone other ACW action figures. So I purchased approximately 40 individual casualties.

Assorted Confederate casualty figures that I have painted/

I also purchased some vignette figures and a Whitworth breechloading rifled cannon in 1/32 scale.

(L to R: Confederate prisoner, James Longstreet, and Matthew Brady.

Whitworth breechloading cannon in 1/32 scale

Whitworth breech loading rifled cannon, shown with BMC figures for size comparison .

The Whitworth shown without artillery crew figures.

The famous illustrator Alfred Waud, made by Barszo.

The material is some kind of plastic resin, I assume, and it can be a little bit brittle so I generally selected figures that were in relaxed poses that didn't have arms or equipment waving around away from the torso. This minimizes the opportunity for breakage. I probably wouldn't want to buy charging poses, for example, due to my concerns about breakage.

I am a little concerned about the strength of the axle on the Whitworth cannon. The axle itself is solid, but each end has a slender peg that fits through the hub of the wheel. I will bore out the hole in the wheel hub so that the axle pin slips in without resistance. My fear is that the pegs might break off if I try to force the peg into the hub piece.

Speira's artillery pieces are terrific looking models and I have already ordered another Whitworth so that I can have a battery of two guns. I am going to use BMC/Americana artillery crew with the model. See picture above.

Some of the Speira figures come with no plastic base, so you have to order your figure model with a base, at a modest extra cost. Some of the figures come with bases so this won't be a problem with the vast majority of the figures.

A single figure in 54mm, or 1/32 scale, costs around EUR3.0 to EUR 5.0 while a 28mm figure sized to fit in with Perry figures (this is actually an available option) can cost around EUR3.0. So these are not inexpensive figures and it would be very expensive to create a 20 to 30 figure regiment, however, for vignettes I think the prices are reasonable. My Whitworth model cost me EUR14.80 so it ain't cheap. On the other hand, some of the ACW cannon models are not made by other companies, so Speira is a good choice for your mainstream and exotic (e.g. James Rifles and Wiard Rifles) artillery pieces.

In the not too distant future I will paint the Whitworth and post pictures on this blog.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

We Had A Great Play Test of ACW Game


Cemetery Ridge with Union defenders on the left and Confederate attackers on the right.


Several days ago four of us convened at the home of Keith L. -- yes, that Keith L, the one with the huge basement that holds three 6ft by 32ft game tables. Our previous play test games established the need for 24 feet long tables in order to hold six brigades of 54mm for Pickett's Charge.

This game largely focused on the rules that we will use in our game. They are based on, mechanically, the Sudan rules that I used last year, but obviously needing some modifications for the American Civil War. The rules are printed on two sides of one sheet of standard 8-1/2" by 11" sheet of paper, they are easy to figure out and learn, and they worked well in a convention game setting.

Musket fire:  Our previous play test revealed that the musketry fire was too devastating resulting in none of the Confederate regiments getting remotely close to the stone wall defended by the Union soldiers. For this game test, I reduced the number of D6 dice thrown per stand of infantry from 4 dice per stand down to 2 dice per stand. This still thinned down the Confederate ranks after they crossed the Emmitsburg Road, but the Rebs were able to hurl a fair number of regiments at the stone walls. This time we had a number of Confederate regiments advance far enough to get into a melee with the Union regiments.

Artillery Fire:  The artillery rules did not need any adjustment so we let well enough alone. We began the game with the Confederate artillery getting a free turn of firing at the Union positions prior to the start of the game. Thereafter, the Confederate artillery could continue to fire at Cemetery Ridge until their infantry reached the Emmitsburg Road.

Melees:  There were no particular problems with the melee rules in the previous play test game (other than the key fact that there were no melees in that game). This game established that artillery crew do not melee, They can either evade the charge and fall back, or they could make one last fire at the oncoming attackers, and if the attackers passed their morale test, then it is assumed that the Confederates got in among the artillery crew and cut them down.

Armistead's brigade engages a Union regiment in the Angle atop of Cemetery Ridge

Cushing's battery is about to get over run by one of Armistead's Virginia regiments.

Morale Tests: My play test gamers had a little trouble getting their heads around the mechanics of the morale test. A regiment has a morale number that it must attain, with a limited number of modifiers, and then it rolls two D6 dice. If they roll their morale number or LESS with their two D6 then the unit passes its morale test. My play testers seemed to want to reverse the test so that a higher number was passing and a low number was a fail. For example, if a Confederate regiment of infantry has a basic morale number of "7" then it must roll a 7 or less on the roll of two D6 dice..

I over ruled my players arguing that it makes more intuitive sense for a gamer to understand that the target number or less made more sense. I like the way that the modifiers can move the morale number up (+1 for defending the wall. +1 for having a leader attached, etc) or down (-1 for each stand lost due to casualties or for losing a melee. For example, if the Confederates need a score of 7 or less, they lose -1 for each stand that is lost; so as they lose more stands, the morale number that they need to roll gets lower and lower. In our example, if the Confederates have lost one stand then they would need a 6 to pass; if they lose two stands then they need a five to pass, lose three stands and need a 4 to pass. The attrition of lost stands makes it more difficult to pass a morale test.

Leader killed when attached to a regiment: we added this rule in order to put some value or use for the leader figures in the game. They already added a +1 to morale, but we decided that there was a chance that the leader might be shot when his regiment was fired upon. So we had a player roll one D6 and a roll of snake eyes ("1") resulted in the leader being killed. So this puts a little bit of risk into your decision to attach your brigade or division commander to a unit for morale purposes.

General Lew Armistead could become a casualty since he is attached to a 
regiment that has taken fire and lost figures.

Crossing the Emmitsburg Road: Historically, this post and rail fences along each side of the Emmitsburg Road proved to be a major obstacle to the Confederate advance. We simulate this by requiring a unit to cross a fence (and nothing more even if the unit has more movement left over after fence crossing) on one turn. Then it could cross the second fence on the next turn, but not move any further so that the regiment could dress ranks and prepare to move out on the following turn. The result is that it takes a regiment two turns to cross the road (double fences) and subjects them to musket fire from the Union defenders.

Kemper's brigade crosses the fences of the Emmitsburg Road. The two regiments on the road
arrived there this turn. They will be able to cross the fence to the other side of the road,
stop to dress lines, and then be allowed to fire at half effect. A third regiment has to wait its turn
to cross the fences.

Removal of stands from the game: we don't want our regiments fighting to the last man so I had a rule that the regiment has to be removed once it is down to two stands, An infantry regiment has five stands with each stand representing 20% of the regiment's strength. So when a unit has lost three stands it has actually taken 60% casualties. This number is higher than what a typical infantry unit could sustain before being rendered ineffective. In our next play test, I might experiment with removing the unit when it is down to its last stand of figures. We had a situation where there was an infantry melee and the Confederate unit won the melee; however, the casualties that it sustained in the melee pushed its strength down to two stands. Should the winning unit get to hold its hard won ground or should it be removed from the game?

A Union artillery battery is about to get over run by a Confederate regiment.

Here are a few more pictures of the play test game:

The middle table (of three tables) is the site of the Emmitsburg Road. Confederate
forces can be seen moving towards the road.

The Confederates of Pettygrew's division (foreground) and Pickett's Division (far end of the table)
descend from Seminary Ridge and advance across that open deadly ground.

Division commander Johnson Pettygrew command stand.

We are planning another play test game in two weeks so that we can implement the new rules changes and see how they perform under actual game conditions. I will also have all of the tables covered with game mats from Cigar Box Battle Mats. This will give us a better idea of how the game will look at the upcoming Little Wars convention in April.