Saturday 24 May 2014

ACW Black Powder in 15mm

Something a little different this month. I thought I would try out using 15mm figures for an American Civil War Black Powder game.

There was no reason to suppose that the rules wouldn't work in 15mm.  I decided to keep the same distances for movement and firing as I use on my 8 x 4 foot board as I use for 28mm figures. I use 50% cut down distances as standard for 28mm and this works absolutely fine.

It was another one of those wargaming treats to get the boxes of figures out of the attic and blow the dust from the lids.  Opening the box folders and removing the tissue paper covering from the figures, it was as if ten years had not passed since they had seen daylight.  I remembered the brush strokes I  had made on individual figures, blanket roll patterns on Confederates and coloured scarves on particularly individual Union infantrymen,

It did seem like a long time when I saw the card bases and flock scatter that I used to base them.  I started this collection in the mid-nineties when the Fire and Fury rules came out.  I loved those rules (and still do).  The coloured glossy pages were again such a contrast to most dodgy photocopy UK produced rules.  I painted like fury myself to build up forces. Eventually those Brigades, became Divisions and eventually Army Corps and I had well over a hundred bases of troops per side.

I'm not exactly sure why the last game I played of Fire and Fury was ten years ago.  The figures seemed to go up to the attic and then I just drifted into other periods of history.  At the end of last year I bought a number of boxes of the excellent Perry miniature ACW sets with the intention of going back into ACW in 28mm and using Black Powder rules, now established as my rules of choice.  But I couldn't resist just trying my 15mm ACW armies in the meantime and it was definitely worth doing.

 My Union Army in battle array

Louisiana Tigers forming part of the Confederate Army

It's not my intention to write a full battle report of the game I played with my regular opponent, Ian last Saturday. Instead I'll give a brief run through how it played.  I didn't write enough detail down of each game turn as we were chatting so much as we played as usual, but this is something which I don't regret.  An enjoyable evening of gaming involves lots of tea, chat, laughter, dodgy dice rolls and chocolate biscuits and if I forget to prepare a full de-brief of the game so be it!  I'll just try to remember to take more notes next time.

The Union Centre advances - Huzzah!

The game lasted all of about four game turns but this was no bad thing.  It gave plenty of time to observe the board and enjoy the change from seeing 28mm figures.  Don't get me wrong - 28mm figures will probably always be my main focus - but it really was something to see the smaller figures on the board.  It did feel as though there were more tactical options.  My brigade attack in 3 lines towards Ian's centre seemed immensely strong as it involved twice as many men as I would normally have in a 28mm brigade, and yet because of the lesser amount of space occupied the flanks of the attacking brigade felt vulnerable and the need for focussed generalship felt greater.

Most if not all of these observations are probably obvious in retrospect, but sometimes you just have to see the obvious to change the way you think.  Smaller scales suddenly opened a realm of possibilities especially with Black Powder/Hail Caesar/Pike and Shotte where figures do not have to be removed for casualties.

Berdan's Sharpshooter's skirmish with the advancing Rebels

The game continued at a cracking pace.  My Union charge to the centre was a very bold move, hastened as it was by one of my right flank brigades losing a regiment to a blunder throw which saw them skedaddling off the board.  My left flank hung back due to lack of received orders.  Ian's Confederates moved toward my Sharpshooters on my right but were unwilling to move to counter my advances in the centre and on my left.

My left brigade starts advancing finally

Rifle bullets crack into wooden fence rails

My centre brigade reaches the wood in the Confederate centre

The Confederates looked in trouble as my Union troops consolidated in the woods in front of the tardy Rebels.  The only problem was that I had completely blocked the line of sight for my artillery again!  Ian and I both have a habit of doing this.

My left brigade heads towards the big hill. Can I get up there before the Rebels?

My attack in the centre starts to unravel.  A counter-charge throws out the Union into retreat

A Confederate reinforcement column heads for a large gap in the Union line and threatens
 to cut off the Union retreat

The battle on the right flank intensifies

Old Minifigs Confederates prepare to show their mettle in the charge

It was at this point that we just ran out of time.  My Centre was broken and in disarray.  My left had made it to the big hill but the Rebels had go to the top first and were about to send volleys into my climbing men.  My right was about to get charged and no doubt feel the pressure of the Confederate reinforcements streaming in. 

A solid victory for the Confederates, a terrible defeat for the Union, but a superb wargame!  We spent a lot of time making observations about the sense of command when using smaller figures.  Interestingly this was probably the biggest game we had ever played in terms of numbers of troops.  My 28mm War of the Roses collection has over 500 men but this must have had nearer 900.

These observations on scale tied in with some other thoughts I had the previous week.  During a quiet moment at work, I had written down all of the periods of history I wanted to play in 28mm and those I had started.  To my surprise there were more than 20 historical periods, some with different armies e.g. Imperial Romans vs Britons, Germanics, Gauls, Dacians etc. Some also were in different scales such as WW2 which I could split into 3 scales. I then colour coded each period of history. Red for not started. Yellow for started and green for playable armies owned.

Only about 6 periods had green for 'playable' armies. This was shocking.  I then worked out how long it would take me to paint a playable army (say 3 x brigades of 3 units plus guns, commanders) and I estimated that it would take at least a year of intensive work.  So with a need for at least 2 x armies for each period it would take me a minimum of 30 to 40 years to get to where I want to get to....hmmmmmmmm!

The thought then struck me that by using smaller scales (which I now knew I could play with quite happily), I might achieve results much quicker.  I could get the armies I wanted and get playing.  


There is a dilemma - I like painting 28mm figures and painting 15mm Napoleonics and 10mm Romans hurts! Is there a solution? Possibly.  I need to re-appraise my painting techniques especially for ancients in 10mm.  I painted some up for Warmaster but never played it.  I always wanted to replicate that magnificent awe inspiring scene in the 1960's film Spartacus.  The final battle where Crassus's Romans advance over the ridge in the distance towards Kirk Douglas's formed army.  The Romans then perform manoeuvres in formation which are just terrifying, before they begin their slow advance (to be countered by the fiery rollers of doom!) I'm not sure that look could be obtained in 28mm unless I had a massive table and stood off 50 metres.  In 10mm however this is do-able if I persist with painting them.

I will give this more thought.  I'm toying with Punic Wars in 10mm seeing as I cannot add to my Renegade 28mm Punic forces at present (please come back Renegade!). However real life is really really busy at the moment I won't be rushing into anything. Watch this space!

Tuesday 13 May 2014

AWI - British Infantry 33rd Foot (1st Yorkshire West Riding)

My second British AWI regiment is now finished.  This time we have the 33rd Foot who fought in the same brigade as the 23rd Foot at Guilford Courthouse.

I painted these troops in a completely different style to just about anything posted on my blog to date. I was inspired by a brief painting guide in Miniature Wargames April edition, which showed a figure of Commander Maude, the Beach Master of Juno Beach painted by Kevin Dallimore  This figure was basically wearing the standard British khaki battledress but the subtle shades applied over a black undercoat, getting lighter each time, was so effective. It really made me think in greater detail about the use of shadow in the early stages of painting and ways of adding light to get the contrasts. I bought the Kevin Dallimore Painting and Modelling Guide published originally by Wargames Foundry and a large set of Foundry paints (Napoleonic Colours) and set to work.

If you are unfamiliar with the techniques used in the book, Kevin Dallimore commences with painting the flesh tones first over the black undercoat, so you are essentially finish all of that detail first.  It was quite a surprise to find that I treated my entire painting process differently from the time I had a miniature with a fully detailed face looking back at me, even though everything else (bar hands) was still black!  I was really careful throughout the process not to put a brush-stroke wrong (though occasionally I did of course but it was easily touched up at the end).

The plus side to this was that shadows were left by the black undercoat where I carefully left space around the edges.  This would save a lot of lining in at the end.  The foundry 'Triad' system of three tones of colour getting lighter each time worked really well and meant that I didn't need to apply washes over base colours and then go back over them again. To this end, the new techniques really worked.  Detail was much improved and painting time was considerably less.

The downside was that the level of concentration from the beginning was huge!  I also became detail obsessed from the beginning rather than just dealing with fine detail in the later stages (as I used to do).  The Foundry paints are wonderful.  I really like them and the British redcoat red does seem spot on.  I did an extra layer of colour on the trousers so you are seeing 4 layers over the black undercoat.  I used 'Austrian White' shades but the final light coat seemed too grey for my liking.  I resorted to my usual Vallejo White to finish off the highlights of the white and this really brought out character of the stereotypical British Infantry in the AWI. Campaigning would no doubt make whites turn into off-white hues, but these are British Infantry after all and it just felt wrong not to make the white stand out with purity.

This unit took about three weeks of work compared to five weeks for my old method.  I did spend a lot of time each week painting these, but I also spent a lot of time revising for study work.  The hours per week probably therefore equalled each other between the previously painted unit and this one.  But two weeks were saved overall with this new method.

The figures are from the Perry's plastic range and are simply superb.  They can be assembled advancing like this as shown,or advancing at the trail position. They were a joy to assemble and the choice of headgear give them an awful lot of flexibility for use in different campaigns.  The flags are again from GMB.

So in conclusion, I think I'll stick with using the new technique.  I might do things differently if I'm painting ancients in white tunics (like Persians etc) where I would probably be inclined to use washes again. But for these AWI chaps, black undercoat and Foundry Triad system paints is the way forward I think. I'll definitely be getting some more of these Perry's plastics AWI figures, especially now that the Continentals are out.  I have some metals from the Perry's to paint first (study work permitting!) and I just can't wait to paint some more.