May 31, 2015

Adler Miniatures review - part 6

I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit as I wrote the title of this post. When I started my homepage which then became this blog, its main reason for being was to ‘promote’ Adler Miniatures ACW range, which I thought at the time received very little love. And only now am I finally getting around to the cavalry of that range.

Alright, let’s get on with it. Mounted minis in this unit (10th Ohio Cavalry in case you can’t decipher the significance of the microscopic flag and yes, the only reason for it being that particular unit is because I could find their flag on the net Ler) are from ACWC1 and ACWC7 strips of Adler’s ACW cavalry range and are equipped with carbines and pistols. To be honest, I can’t recall if the dismounted guys are from ACW10B or from XACW12. Command base here is however definitely XACW13. Horseholder bases consist of ACW12B and ACW13B.

As for the minis themselves, it’s standard Adler stuff – anatomically totally incorrect, with pumkin-heads and closer to 8, maybe even 9 mm than 6.  Also, for those sensible to such things, a word of warning – pretty much every barrel on the rifles of minis of dismounted troopers strips will break off the instant you look sternly at them. Personally I couldn’t care less about any of those minis’ faults, as I’m childishly fond of them because of the their detail and variety in the range. And, they look good to me on the playing table. However, to each his own, so have a look at the pictures and make up your own mind.

Regiment in all of its splendour.


Unmounted, deployed for combat, reduced by 25 percent due to the need of horse-holders.

Horse-holder bases. Legacy of the first ruleset I’ve used for ACW and not really necessary, but they were integral part of ACW cavalry tactics and I like the way they look on the table.

May 24, 2015

Refighting assault on Battery Robinett

Time for another after action report for an ACW game we played earlier today. I’m still stuck on Caliver Books’ “Heartland” scenario booklet and now it’s time for Corinth. “Battery Robinett” depicts the Confederate assault on battery Robinett, so called after its commander Leutenant Henry Robinett and which was one of key Union positions in this battle.

For this game, we used yet again ‘They Couldn’t Hit an Elephant’ with the modifications I described in my AAR for ‘Shiloh’s Church’ scenario – card deck is replaced with chips drawn from a bag, number of chips is equal for both sides regardless of number of units on each side, with dummies making up the balance for the side with fewer number of chips in the bag. All chips are present in the bag from the start of the game, even before the tactical deployment to offset any mathematical advantages gained by unequal deployment of units/blinds on the table.

For those interested about the ruleset, I’ve reviewed and analysed it in my previous posts. There, you’ll also find descriptions of my modifications and reasoning behind them.

The scenario

As already mentioned, “Battery Robinett” is an attempt to depict one of key actions in battle of Corinth. The scenario itself is a surprisingly small affair – eight Confederate regiments with some artillery need to carry an extremely well-fortified Union position manned by a brigade consisting of five green Union regiments, a bunch of artillery batteries, two of which are heavy 20-pounder Parrots. Two small unattached Union regiments, short on ammunition, are also present on the battlefield, but they hardly played any role in our game. Union commander may get an additional large regiment in reinforcements during course of the game.

The game

I’m rather liking the picture-heavy format I used in AAR for the Shiloh game, so why not use it also on this occasion?

BatteryRobinett700The game starts with Confederate brigades formed in a wood facing federal field works, preparing for the assault. L. took command of Rebel right wing, while T. took control over the brigade to the left. Yours truly is peaking over the parapet of Union breastworks, feeling the tension in the air… The rebs are coming!

The picture shows the left and central section of Union line. Breastworks are stretching across the line, manned by the five regiments under command of certain Colonel Fuller. The ‘battery Robinett’ is the gun in the middle. Two lines of abatis cover the field works. Since there are no rules for abatis in TCHAE, I applied my own – either move to the breasworks and spend entire movement allotment to cross in ordered formation or spend half a move on breaching it and become ‘Disordered’.

BatteryRobinett701Nothing to do with the game, just T. making his own field adjustments for gaming purposes. Ler

BatteryRobinett702Confederate dispositions were uncovered instantly once the rebel regiments step out into open field, revealing their concentration of force on the centre of Union position.

BatteryRobinett703“In my campaigning I had never seen anything so hard to stand as that slow, steady tramp. Not a sound was heard but they looked as if they intended to walk over us.” – Captain O. Jackson 63rd Ohio Infantry .

L. chose a tight formation two regiments wide, his Napoleonic inclinations clearly showing. T. choose to throw one of his regiments into a skirmish line, with the remainder advancing in single line close behind.

BatteryRobinett704Not much of a prelude in this engagement. Confederates took some casualties while closing on Federal entrenchments, but close quarter combat was the name of today’s game. First to reach Union positions were the front regiments of L.s brigade. One of them broke under small arms fire as soon as it crossed the abatis, while another thrown back after savage point blank fight. That gave L. a pause. But by then T.s Texans reached the section of the Union line without the additional protection of abatis…

BatteryRobinett705…and it was all over but the crying. Both 63rd Ohio and 11th Missouri, manning the breastworks to the right of the road ignominiously run away before the Confederate charge. Even though I managed to stop their rout shortly after, their initial collapse turned them into a useless mob, just waiting to continue their flight. Even 27th Ohio, which I moved over from the left to the right just in time to plug the hole made by the fleeing regiments wasn’t of much use…

BatteryRobinett706…as L. figured out that a commander in chief shouldn’t have any problems giving move order to all of his brigades with single order if they were close enough… which in this case they were! And so, a general onrush of rebels smashed into the blue-clad regiments. T.’s Texans brushed away the already shaken 63rd Ohio and 11th Missouri and then charged 27th Ohio and an artillery battery, which now was all that stood in their way. Neither of Union units took much convincing before joining their already routing comrades in the rush to the rear.

To the right of unstoppable Texans, L.s brigade reached the breastworks yet again, slamming into and routing another Union regiment. Once the turn was done, the crew of guns of Battery Robinett and a regiment immediately to its left was all that was left of Union line.

BatteryRobinett709And so, it was done and the day belonged to the Rebels. T. and L. were courteous enough not to glee too much before heading for home, leaving me to clean up the mess while wondering what went wrong.

Usual musings after the battle

OK, so first a couple of words about the game in general. By now I’m quite familiar with TCHAE and it’s paying its dividends – today’s game flowed smoothly and we were done in under three hours. Questions still arose now and then, but with a bit of common sense, they could be resolved without too much pain or searches in the rules.

As for the outcome of the game… well, by now it is very clear that with TCHAE, raw troops don’t stand much chance in close combat against a side of significantly better quality. This is the explanation for the sudden collapse of my right flank; my regiments were raw and assaulted by veterans with ‘aggressive’ attribute, which is pretty much the best you can have in this system if you’re charging into a defensive position. I may very well have ‘overcooked’ T.s brigade while adjusting the scenario to TCHAE, but with only three troop quality levels and four attributes to play with, it is almost impossible to model subtle qualities of individual regiments.

Still, even with ‘aggressive’ veterans, things can go sideways also against raw troops, as L.s almost stalled assault clearly showed. TCHAE gives enough playroom for ‘fortunes of war’ that on a different day even T’s seemingly irresistible charge could have been thrown in disarray with a bit of luck.

It is also worth observing that the Union reinforcements in form of one large regiment never showed up – I may have been too restrictive with the conditions of its appearance and it could have played important role in stemming the confederate advance.

Historically, the Confederate troops were nowhere close to being as successful as T. and L. were. J.C. Moore’s brigade (L’s command) was apparently formed in assault columns, an unusual formation in Civil War; THAE doesn’t even provide rules for assault columns! Perhaps their unusual tight formation was the reason for them suffering terrible losses before being repulsed, their commander being one of those killed in action. Phifer’s brigade was also shot to pieces, with Texan regiments so effective and horrible in our game being especially severely mauled. However, the Arkansas regiment of that brigade did manage to punch straight through Union line, only to be ambushed in Corinth itself by 5th Minnesota regiment, which also happens to be the reinforcement that failed to materialize in this scenario. So, maybe the outcome of our game isn’t as far from historical result as one would think! Ler

Confederate dead in front of Fort Robinette, CorinthPicture of real Battery Robinette after the assault depicted in this scenario.

Finally, couple more words about TCHAE itself. If I am to be perfectly honest, after all those years and several games with it under my belt, I am for variety or reasons still of split mind about it. And that’s why I have now decided to run this very scenario with two other ACW rulesets I own at this moment – ‘Black Powder’ and ‘Guns at Gettysburg’. AAR’s and comparisons will of course show up here in due course.

May 17, 2015

Railroad tracks from Leven Miniatures

I’ve had the doubtful pleasure of spending last couple of evenings on painting railroad tracks. Damn, it was tedious… But at the same time, I’m glad I persisted, because several ACW scenarios I want to play have railroad tracks in the terrain layout and once it’s done, it’s done.

Anyway… 6mm railroad tracks, who produces such odd thing? Well, the name of the company is Leven Miniatures and if you’re into 6mm, then you should definitely take a look at their product line. So far I’ve only ordered the tracks from those guys, so I won’t speculate about their extensive buildings ranges, but the tracks themselves are very nice. Individual sections, made of resin, are 6cm long and require minimal clean-up before they’re ready for painting. There are 10 sections per bag for straights and curves and four pieces for interconnections. Two track endings were thrown into the order by the guys at Leven without me ordering them, with note ‘They may be of use.’ Now that’s customer service I like. Ler

The paint job is pretty basic. First, the tracks were primed. Next I airbrushed them with Humbrol Dark Earth. Heavy drybrush with light beige acrylic paint brought out the sleepers. Next, I painted the rails with GW-s Chainmail Steel, which took foooorever. Finally, I botched the entire job with a spur of the moment decision to add some texture with Vallejo pigments, which turned the tracks into dusty mess.


Another Thursday evening

Last Thursday was Ascension Day, which for some peculiar reason is actually a holiday day in Sweden. T. thought that the best way to to celebrate this occasion was with a quick western shootout and L. and I wholeheartedly agreed.

Background story of our scenario was as thin as a cowboy’s favourite worn out shirt – four bad guys were trying to leave town, while the sheriff and his two deputies for some reason attempted to send the baddies on their way in a decisively more permanent manner.

With a grand total of seven figures in the game and rather brutal death rules of ‘Dead Man’s Hand’, which we used in this game, it was bound to be a short and sweet affair. And indeed, initially it looked like it would be over in a heartbeat. The game opened with one of the marshals firing his scatter gun, missing and being shot in the head by return fire from one of the bad guys. The sheriff then stuck out his head from behind cover and shared his deputy’s fate. All that took about five minutes of game time.

With four against one, L. and I decided to statute an example to the town and take out the remaining deputy. Shouldn’t take more than another five minutes, right? One hour later two of the bad guys were lying bleeding out on the ground, while the leader of the baddies, with bullet in his leg, galloped out of the town in full panic. The remaining baddie (one responsible for two head-shots at the start of the game and under my control, mind you) concluded at the same time that the remaining deputy wasn’t worth his time and left in rather more composed manner.

As I  said, a short and sweet affair, perfect for a quick evening game – exactly what Two Hour Games aims at with ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ and their other rulesets.

20150514_182645_8_bestshotBeginning of the game

20150514_185655_3_bestshotMiddle of the game

20150514_193023_4_bestshotEnd of the game (shocker, eh? Ler)

May 09, 2015

It’s a dirty job AKA reinventing the wheel with caulk

Yes, after my declaration of dislike of working with terrain, the irony of the fact that this is yet another post about terrain isn’t lost on me. At the same time it is yet another proof that once you open one particular Pandora’s box, it is very hard to close it again. In this particular case, once I started working on the terrain boards, I became aware that I also needed a way to demark terrain types other than ‘plain grass’, and especially the wood sections. I already made a couple of woods pieces with MDF board as base and didn’t care much for their inflexibility. This made me remember a technique I’ve read about several years ago on TMP, where the terrain surface was made of caulk. Quick search on interwebs provided some rather intriguing tutorials by folks who made entire game mats of this stuff (have a look, some of them are quite impressive). After soaking up the experience of those talented people, I was ready for a trial of my own.

OK, first couple of words about the technique itself. Get yourself a piece of tightly woven fabric like canvas. Next, take a trip to a DIY shop and fetch a container of acrylic caulk used to seal cracks and gaps around the house. It’s important that it’s acrylic and not silicone variant – if the text on the bottle says you can paint over it, that’s what you’re looking for. You’ll also need a caulk gun to squeeze the stuff out of the tube. Finally, get some paint, sand, flock or whatever else you intent to put on the top.

Once you have the materials, the idea is quite simple – spread caulk on the fabric, stick the ‘topping’ on top and hope everything sticks together once the caulk sets. The final ‘product’ is flexible and can follow the contours of terrain, such as hills. It’s this property that makes this technique rather interesting.

Here’s a walkthrough of my first try.


I had a bit of difficulty finding the fabric that I felt was up to the task. In the end I bought a roll of cotton painting canvas from local arts shop. 6 meters long and 50 cm wide, very stiff, tightly woven and has a proper solid feel about it. The cut out piece is a 40 by 40 cm square, which I stretched over a piece of MDF to ensure that it wouldn’t shrink or warp.


Here, initial layer of caulk is put onto the canvas. As it turned out, it was far too much and about half of it had to be scraped off and tossed into the bin. As so often, less is more.


Here the caulk is spread in an even, thin layer. This is the ‘foundation’ layer, which is supposed to be worked ‘into’ the fabric. Some people do it, other don’t. Once this step was done, I left the piece to cure over night.


Now it’s time for the messy part – I squeezed out sizeable blob of caulk into a plastic container and mixed it together with some brown acrylic household paint. Sand and small gravel was thrown in ‘to taste’ just to provide some initial texture. The mixture was then spread evenly over the piece.


This step is done immediately after the previous one – caulk/paint mixture is to be wet, so that covering material can stick to it! Since I intent to primarily use this technique for demarcation of woods sections, I covered majority of text piece with flock mix I normally use for that type of terrain. Once spread in even layer, I tapped it lightly, trying to ‘massage’ it into the caulk/paint mixture.


Whatever surface was left uncovered by woods surface flock, I used for an ad hock test for other landscape materials. A strip was covered by very fine sand (a road, obviously). Top section on top left is covered with short fibre grass. Finally, the dark green pieces are fine flock I use as standard for my GHQ hexes.

At this stage, the test piece was left to cure for twenty four hours.


Following evening I took the still mounted test piece outside, turned it upside down and shook it vigorously until nothing else flew of it. And yes, a LOT of covering materials fell to the ground. But… a lot more stayed on. The pictures above show the state of the test piece after ‘shake-off’. Woods flock mixture and green flock adhered to the caulk admirably. Fibre grass coverage is OK, but not perfect – underlying caulk shows clearly through. I’m least pleased with the fine sand ‘road’ – most of the sand failed to adhere to the underlying layer. Perhaps sealing it with diluted PVA glue would render a better result. But even this section could in my opinion be used on wargaming table.


Here’s quick demonstration of flexibility of the test piece. I can bend it quite severely without caulk cracking or cover materials falling off. At the same time it must be said that it is quite stiff and doesn’t follow terrain contours as easily as I hoped it would.


Final verdict – I am quite happy with this initial test. Things can definitely be improved, but the basic concept is sound and I will proceed with it for my wood sections. I’m also quite sure that it can be used with success for other types of terrain, such as pasture fields, roads and even rough terrain and marshes.