Sunday, 24 July 2011

American Civil War for Fire & Fury

My big achievement so far in 2011 has been finally finishing both my American Civil War Armies in 20mm plastic. The main set of rules that I'll be using are 'Fire & Fury', although there should be no problem if I decide to use Volley & Bayonet or Black Powder instead. Fire & Fury are 'Grand Tactical' rules designed to fight large battles with a ground scale around 1":50 yards, but Volley and Bayonet is for even bigger battles and uses 1":100 yards. Black Powder doesn't have a ground scale as such but the musket range would imply around 1":1o yards, so more appropriate for regimental sized actions. We've given the figures a spin with Fire & Fury rules and all agreed they gave a really great game, so they'll probably remain our core set.

One innovation for me was trying out the paper flags found at The only problem is that I felt they were such a big success that I will have to do this with all armies where I can do so, especially the Napoleonic, which will even further delay there arrival on the tabletop!

This requires trimming away any existing flag and pole (or rifle if you use a different figure) on the figure and replacing it with some wire. I did this with pliers, after heating the wire on a gas flame, strengthening with PVA where necessary. The flags on the site are for 25mm, not 20mm figures, but I tried different sizes using photoshop to reduce them, but settled in the end for the size I downloaded them. This makes them a bit bigger than true scale, but I actually think it looks much better on the tabletop. Flags are added by sticking together around the pole with PVA glue. Once dry they are bent into a more interesting shape. The site recommends varnishing, which I haven't done yet.

The following pics show them before trimming the ends of the poles with wire cutters:

I bought all the figures a scarily long time ago. They are a mix of Esci, Imex and Italeri. I bought most Esci (probably for a dumb recent like they are cheaper), but if I were to do it all over I would buy all Italeri, and some Imex Confederates. Italeri figures are much nicer, and there is a lot of variety in their various boxes. Imex Confederates are mainly valuable because they are all in floppy hats, which are thin on the ground in other sets, so it gives you more troops like this. I've gone for almost 50/50 units with hats and kepis for the confederates and I like that look.

Just for reference for future games/opponents. I initially based these up according to the F&F recommendations for 25mm. I later regretted it for three reasons:

1) This doubles the base width viz-a-viz 15mm, and they recommend doubling move distances/ranges etc.. But F&F is specifically designed for 'Grand Tactical' games with AT LEAST one Corp of troops per side, in fact the rule writers themselves are clearly play with 15mm, with lots and lots of figures (most of the published scenarios are for huge battles) on very big tables. Double the frontage of your brigades and scale up your movement distances/ranges and unless you double your playing area you have to scale DOWN the size of actions you put on the table. So why buy a set of rules for large scale actions then restrict yourself this way?

2) Being a cheap skate, I planned everything on the basis of using about 3 infantry figs to a stand. This is recommended for 15mm, and for 25mm it says 3-5 figs. I thought I'd get away with 3 figs, but after basing everything up it just didn't look right, and I didn't feel like buying and painting any more figures, which was already plenty to paint.

3) My big bases with a sprinkling of figures were taking up lots of storage, far more than my tightly packed bases of Napoleonic troops. My two 'starter' armies were taking up nearly 10 storage trays.

So when I finally decided to have a second serious go at trying to get this lot painted in 2010, I took a drastic decision. Rebase the lot. I decided 20mm was after all in the middle of 15mm and 25mm, so why not go for the smaller base size. In the result, I have been very happy with the result and it has caused very few issues. Infantry look good three to a base. Cavalry took a bit more thinking out -it being a toss up whether to have one mounted figure or two on a base- but I stuck to the 2 to a base recommendation, but based them first individually (might want to use them for Western or some other type of skirmish) and used 'sabots' with magnetic sheet to get them to the same size as the infantry 'stands'.

As mentioned many of the F&F scenarios are MASSIVE and designed to be played out over many hours, if not days! The rule writers clearly are in love with this period and love painting hundreds of figures in blue and grey. I do not see myself spending night after night for the next few years doing this, so this is a relatively small F&F army. Fortunately there is a brillant website at with loads of scenarios and 'competition armies' for exactly this size of army, designed for games completed in 3-4 hours.

For future reference if any potential opponents are reading this and selecting a scenario, I have 10 brigade command stands per side with a little over 80 stands of Union & 70 stands of Confederate infantry (ie. close to 250 figs a side). I have around 10-15 stands of figures per side left to finish painting, so there will be over 90 when completed. I also have 2 Corp Commanders and half a dozen divisional commanders per side, two units of cavalry - about 10 stands a unit-per army. I take my artillery and limbers from a large 'pool' including Napoleonics and have crew based separately on stands of two figs each, which can be deployed two stands to a gun (ie. 4 crew) or just one, so there is no problem deploying ten plus guns per side. Overall this gives me enough for about 'a Corp and a half' to put on the table. It would be nice to push this up a bit (to two or even three Corps) so that I can play a few more of the scenarios out there, but overall it is a 'tabletop-filling' force, so I'm happy for now.

To finish off here's a pic of the two armies 'filling the table', although taken before I finished painting the cavalry.

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