Friday, May 31, 2024

Working on the Codori Farm House in 1/32 scale


The Codori barn is an iconic piece of terrain at the battle of Gettysburg and because I am running my Pickett's Charge game at Historicon this year, it seems like a must to have the barn as part of my terrain. I have the barn already, but where there is a barn there must also be a farm house. Hence my decision to make a 1/32 scale model of the Codori farm house for my game.

Here is an HO scale model of the Codori farm house that you can buy
at the National Park Visitors' Center for a cool $200

I already have a model of the Codori barn, and no, it wasn't red and didn't have a cupola in 1863. It was painted white. Here is the model made by Britains:

The Codori barn during a lull in the battle. Confederates playing a few hands of poker.

I have made good progress on my house model. The walls are made out of foam core material and have a basswood internal bracing structure to give the model strength. I am going to use the two chimneys from the BMC Meade's HQ plastic kit and also cut out the windows from the same plastic kit. I will use the those windows on my model of the Codori house.

The exterior is clad with paper bricks and paper roof shingles. I am glad that I don't have to make my own roof shingles.

Longstreet, Pickett and staff gather around the Codori farm for a quick meeting.

The pictures above show the unfinished model sitting next to the Codori Barn. I only have to insert the plastic windows and a few frew-frews (try saying that fast ten times in a row) to finish the model. Then it but a matter of attaching the house to a base, using my favorite base material: cork place mats from Target.


Tomorrow, Saturday, I will be traveling north to the Milwaukee area to play a 28mm Napoleonic game at Bill Protz's establishment. Infantry regiments are 72 figures strong and we will be using a variant of Bill's "BAR" rules for Napoleonic warfare. I believe that we are refighting Rolica in Spain with the British attacking the French for a change. I am looking forward to rolling some dice and enjoying some good company. I will post some pictures of the game early next week. 


Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Tool & Die Makers' Wooden Tool Chest


Tool and Die Maker's chest that I found at Costco.

I bought this wooden tool and die makers' chest at Costco several years ago and I am finally putting it to its intended use: to hold my hobby tools.

I used to spend my summers in high school and college working in a moderately sized factory, about 50 employees. I would run punch presses, drill presses and lathes as part of my job. I would often interact with the small team of tool and die makers who made the metal dies that go into the punch presses (and I never lost a finger or any body part during my work here). It seemed that all of them had one of these tool chests which held their own personal sets of various tools and measuring devices that they would use in their daily trade. When a die maker moved on to another company, he would take his wooden tool chest with him.

The various drawers pull open and reveal their contents of drills, Exacto knives 
and blades, pliers, rulers and mitre saws and boxes, etc.

I thought that these tool chests looked really cool and I always wanted to have one. Maybe about four or five years ago, someone in the online community found these at Costco and this is how I discovered this little treasure. I bought it and brought it home and put a few tools into it, but I never really used it for its intended purpose. Recently I was trying to find my T-Square so that I could cut up some foam core to make buildings. I looked all over the Man Cave for what seemed like forever before I finally found it. Then the next time I needed my T-Square, naturally, I couldn't find where I had put it. This was starting to get annoying and so in my best version of Scarlett O'Hare I said: "as God is my witness, I am NEVER ever going to misplace any of my tools again!"

Recalling that I had this chest somewhere in my basement, I decided to find it and then put all of my tools in it and place the chest on a rack next to my work bench. The chest was sitting in a corner of the room, behind my big comfy chair, serving as an end table of sorts. I opened it up to find it filled with a flotsam and jetsam of single wargame figures and artillery equipment, among other things. One of the drawers was filled with GMB Designs SYW Russian flags and some North Star metal spears that I use for flag poles. There were a few Exacto knives and blades in another drawer.

I took everything out of the chest and replaced it with all of my hobby tools. So now they are organized and I can find a pin vise, a box cutter, a protractor or what have you when I need to use them. Now I know where to find my various hobby tools.

I do not know if Costco still sells these tool chests, as I bought mine awhile ago. However, if you happen to be in one of their stores then give it a look-see to see if you can find one. I think that it cost about $100 to $150 back in the day.

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.