Thursday, 23 June 2022

Fixing Broken Bayonets

Second post in a week! Blogger seems to be less temperamental for me these days, so if this continues I should hopefully find myself posting more often.

I thought I would share one thing I learned this past year; an effective way to make lasting and solid replacements for broken-off bayonets. 

Now while I accept that casualties are unavoidable in war, I draw the line at knowingly fielding miniatures with broken bayonets in my units. Some years ago when coming across miniatures whose bayonets had broken off I would have cursed and just binned them, perhaps cannibalizing some for the odd conversion or two. 

But given the price of metal miniatures these days, that’s not something I’m comfortable with doing any longer.

I was sorting through my (long neglected) Napoleonic Russians from Front Rank and I found that inevitably there were a number of figures whose muskets and bayonets had been bent to breaking, or had even broken off completely, while in storage. A lot of these were older figures, and the metal used was softer than what most manufacturers use today. Having left them jumbled together in bags for some years had taken its toll.

Fortunately, last year I had managed to successfully “rebuild” a missing bayonet on to a Dixon ACW figure. So using the same technique, I saved these from the scrapheap. 

I took a dressmaker’s pin, cut it a little longer than the length of the bayonets, and bent a bit near the back end into an “L” shape. Taking a small drill bit the same diameter as the pin, I then carefully drilled a matching hole through the end of the musket.  

Before that I had mixed up some of the JB Weld epoxy, leaving it to set up a bit. Then I used the glue to attach the small "L" -shaped part of the pin horizontally into the barrel, and covered both the join and the length of the pin with a good coat of epoxy. 

The JB Weld sets slowly, so from time to time I checked it to make sure the new “bayonet” was setting at the correct shape and angle. 

Once the glue hardened off, I placed the figures in front of a space heater to cure. Then out came the files and after a bit of work (and taking the sharp point off the pin for safety), I was left with a good, strong join, and a bayonet that will survive the roughest of handling. 

The figure on the left has had the pin attached, but it hasn’t yet been filed down into shape. The one in the centre is finished.

The one on the right had it’s musket broken in half where it had already been weakened by a casting flaw. This was an easy matter to fix, again using a small diameter drill to make deep holes through each part, to take a piece of thin brass rod to hold them together using the JB Weld again. 

Took less time to do than to describe, and with these three alone, I was able to rescue £4.50’s worth of miniatures at current prices. 

The JB Weld has become one of the most useful items in my hobby toolbox. It's a slow-drying epoxy that actually contains metal powder. It comes in two tubes, one white and the other black, and when mixed dries to- you guessed it- a dark grey. It dries as hard as rock, and can be drilled and sanded very easily once it has cured.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

On Ships, Shakos, Secession, and Skirmishes

Yearly update! I haven't been blogging for ages- way too much time spent at the computer already what with teleworking most days of the month. But gaming life has been relatively good as things slowly return to some kind of normal (or at least as normal as they are likely to get).  

GdB François Bony, 8th Div/ III Corps 1813
GdB François Bony, 8th Div/ III Corps 1813
So a mixed bag today. This past year has seen a modest number of games; by no means anything regular, but enough to keep the fires burning. 


These have included: 


Naval games (age of sail, WW1 and WW2). These are always fun and easy to set up. The WW2 game was a first; Giovanni here had been chomping at the bit to try the old (as in originally 1937- vintage) Fletcher Pratt rules. Frankly I wasn’t sure they would work on a ping-pong table, despite the mods given in the updated rules. But it was something he had long wanted to do, so we gave it a shot. 


It played out much as I had anticipated; while it has some good points, firing is a bit too deterministic, being a purely step-reduction system and with no provision for special damage. And estimating firing ranges on ping-pong table, even if scaled down, is just too easy, something the original game didn’t have to contend with given the humongous gym-floor distances and use of umpires. And it was evident just after three turns of play and some exchanges of gunfire that subsequent turns would just be steady and mathematically predictable slogs. 


But it was still quite an enjoyable afternoon. Giovanni has definitely been bitten by the naval bug, and it was fun to see the WW2 ships on the table again after many years. There are a number of rule sets we would like to try out, and see which of them best suits us.


When my friend Dave Morgan, owner of Sentry Box West Hobbies in Vancouver, closed shop back in the 1990’s he gifted me big parcel of 1/2400 GHQ US and Japanese warships- everything from CV’s and BB’s down to a destroyers. This past year I put a few together, and while fiddly to work with and to paint, they incorporate a phenomenal amount of detail and certainly look gorgeous when done.  


Here are the USS North Carolina and USS Northampton.


I love the US treaty-era heavy cruisers in particular, ever since playing all those games of SPI's CA as a teenager.

I have a number of Japanese ships on the painting desk as well, and have been experimenting with basing them. Very nice to feel the iron deck under my feet again. 
However, I have to admit that fast becoming a gaming favorite is the 18th C. Age of Sail, using the Fighting Sail rules from Osprey; the more games I play with the rules, the more I like them.


Rod and I had an excellent game just last week. This game had it all; lots of turns, fair shares of good and bad luck, shore batteries, boarding actions, and shifting winds causing problems for both sides.


A French victory, but hard-fought as two out of three ships made it into port past a British blockading squadron. We even had both a French and British ship grounding on the lee shore within broadsides of each other, with their crews having to have them pulled off by their ships boats (the British ship was also under fire from a French fort, but managed to row itself just out of range of the guns). 


The rules seem to give us the kind of game we want. As with Black Power, they are easy to tweak and I have already made a few house rules- for example, adding rules allowing for bow and stern chasers- to make it a bit more “meatier” for those games when we have less than four or five ships per side. But the rules play fast, we got a lot of turns in, and a real ‘story” developed.  


No pictures, alas. The ships remain unpainted- partly because space is at a premium on my painting table with miniatures I need to finish first, but also as I still have cold feet about rigging the ships. And at some point I need to order ratlines, or else try to fashion some on my own. Given the number I need, and postage/ exchange rates these days, the latter is tempting me.

Napoleonics- yes, Napoleonics!  We had a small refresher game of Black Powder, which somehow petered out due to the fact that Giovanni and myself hadn’t seen each other for a while, so we spent most of the time chewing the fat and getting a bit… tipsy. 

The most recent addition to my Napoleonics collection!
Front Rank figures, with a heavily-converted saluting officer.

Fact: when you’ve painted more division and brigade commanders, than you have painted divisions and brigades for them to command, you’re doing it wrong. 


Still, we enjoyed the game and are looking forward to staging more Napoleonic scenarios in the future. But I really need to get more Prussians and Russians painted first.


American War of Independence (!) Coming somewhat out of left field was a skirmish game using the Song of Drums and Tomahawks rule set, featuring Rod’s well-painted woodland tribesmen from Warlord, and my much older (and much less-well-painted) Front Rank equivalents. 


These were supported by five, hurriedly-block-painted (and even more hurriedly-based) British light infantry. That handful of redcoats represents the grand total of what I have for gaming that period, bar some old Front Rank Prussian grenadiers that might pass for Hessians. 


The game was an interesting change of pace for us, and proved to be a lot of fun. It was a good scenario, with lots of drama; I’ll likely post a full battle report soon. 


But despite that, and given all the other projects I have on the go, I can’t see myself going much further with the AWI. More likely the FIW if anything, as I already have more miniatures I can use for that one, both here and in Vancouver.

One of the problems is that the rising costs of miniatures, postage, and a crummy exchange rate are really making me think more carefully about what I need/ want / can justify spending money on. In many cases (Warlord!) the total costs of ordering abroad are well beyond my current comfort zone. 

But truth be told I really do need to work on what I have- and indeed to radically rationalize cull the increasingly out-of-control herd. 

Not on the endangered list, however, is my growing ACW collection for use with Rebels & Patriots

We haven’t even gamed this yet, as it is another of those projects where I need to reach critical mass for both sides, Yanks and Rebs, as no one else here has miniatures for the period.

But I'm steadily getting there. I’ve nearly finished the core of my Union force of infantry, artillery and (most recently) dismounted cavalry, but the traitorous Secesh need more work before they are ready in numbers to take the field.  

I also need more terrain- I’ve already posted pictures of the church I finished, but there is also now a barn and house. However, I still need to work on the fences I bought from Renedra- and that is a lot of fences! But one can never have too many fences for a decent ACW tabletop.

I'm very happy with the MDF barn, though.

And this sniper; a freebee from the Warlord Black Powder ACW supplement I got some years ago,

I have a skirmish campaign in mind for these, but more on that later.

Lastly, but by no means least, a shout-out to Richard and his new wargaming blog here. I've had the pleasure of chatting with him in some Zoom calls and in a number of fora, and he is always an entertaining poster- an all-round top dog, in fact.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Up, Men! And to your Posts!!

Long time no post! The reasons are the obvious ones- the Great Pestilence putting the kibosh on gaming being the biggest one- but also more problems with Blogger (grrr... if it ain't broken, don't keep trying to fix it, Blogger!).
But most of all was the fact that with teleworking from home almost 99% of the time now, I spend so many hours at the computer that I sometimes just couldn't be arsed to sit down and spend another hour or so blogging on top of what I was already putting in. 
But I have been painting, and in recent months gaming, so at least I feel I have enough of potential interest to people out there actually to justify a post, Several, in fact. Here's the first- the latest addition to my ACW forces: 
Battery “I”, 1st NY Light Artillery. 

Organized at Buffalo, N.Y. from a German-American militia battery attached to the 65th New York State Militia under Captain Michael Wiedrich.

Fought at the Battle of Cross Keys (part of Jackson’s Valley Campaign), Second Bull Run, and Chancellorsville. In July 1863 it was in tough fighting at Culp’s Hill on the second day at Gettysburg. 

September 24th, 1863, sent west with the XIIth Corps to Tennessee after Rosecran's defeat at Chickamauga. Captain Wiedrich resigned to take command of the 15th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment, and instead First Lieutenant Nicholas Sahm was promoted to captain and took command of the battery.
Captain Sahm later died, and First Lieutenant Charles E. Winegar of Battery M, First New York Light Artillery was promoted to captain in command of Battery "I".
In April 1864 the battery was attached to the 1st Division, XXth Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, where it was to participate in the Atlanta Campaign (Resaca, Kolb’s Farm, Kennesaw Mountain, etc.). 

Later part of the later Army of Georgia, during Sherman’s March to the Sea, where it's guns played their part in helping to make Georgia howl.

Although my infantry are all Dixon, I don't care for their artillery at all- too chunky by far. So instead I opted for Foundry artillery. These look fine alongside the Dixon figures as they are in different units. The guidon bearer is himself a Dixon miniature, but I think it looks fine here.
I had bought a number of the Foundry ACW artillery packs years ago, just at the time they started jacking up their prices (that being the days when Brian Ansell set out to make himself the Martin Shkreli of the wargaming world). As a result, I ended up just ordering the crews by themselves. For the guns, I had opted for Old Glory- the price was right, and you got a lot of them.
However, either the Union 3" Ordnance Rifle was designed with a flattened oval tube that undulated in profile lengthwise like corrugated iron, or else the Old Glory castings were seriously flawed. Turned out- unsurprisingly- to be the latter.
Having shelled out for the Old Glory guns, I was reluctant to just chuck 'em, Instead, I tried stubbornly to rework them; building up the tube profile with JB Weld, and laboriously filing and sanding them to something resembling their proper shape.
This proved patently unsuccessful, as well as being an unsatisfying waste of time.
So off to the bin they went. I then bit the bullet and ordered some plastic sprues from Perry Miniatures. These arrived in no time at all- in fact just one day after I had discovered that in some trade I made a year and a bit ago, were a bunch of ACW gun carriages with 6pdr guns. These were of unknown manufacturer, but they were nicely sculpted indeed. So in the end I used these carriages, but with the better (and lighter) plastic Perry wheels and (excellent) gun tubes.
Frankenstein's artillery, but I'm pleased with the result.

The Foundry figures were a bit harder to paint than the Dixon's, as I had to develop a slightly different technique while painting them. But if I don't say so myself, I think they came out great- and I enjoyed working on these very much (once I threw the Old Glory guns away).
I was fortunately able to source a NY artillery guidon from GMB, but they only did versions for Batteries “A” and “B”. So I got to work with a good pointed brush and sharp pencil, and converted the “B” to an “I”. 

It looks good, and if nothing else I think I’ve a potential career as a successful forger ahead of me.
This past Christmas Day I finished the Renedra American Church. An appropriate day, although being pretty much no-fixed-address in any religious way, it wouldn’t even have occurred to me had not my wife pointed it out.
It was a true swine of a kit to assemble, and I had to use all the tools of the trade I had developed over years of making plastic models to get the pieces to fit together and to fill in all the gaps. I had also decided to remove the rather crude cross moulded above the front door- which I believe would have been fairly uncommon on American churches of the time anyway.
But here it is: my Episcopalian chapel, the social and spiritual hub of the parish of Crabapple Corners. 

It’s a church on Sundays, schoolhouse from Mondays to Saturdays, once every two years a polling place; and every year, on the anniversary of statehood, it hosts the Crabapple Corners Annual Pie and Cider Festival- an event not to be missed, with visitors coming in from all over the county.
Quite the scandal in 1858, when Reverend Willie Johnson was discovered between the pews with young Ella-Mae Muffinbutt- she was found wearing nothing but her best silk bloomers, and the Good Reverend's remonstrances that he had merely been helping her find a nickel that had fallen off the collection plate fell, alas, on deaf ears.
But it kept the conversations over the cracker barrel at Judson’s General Store going for weeks on end.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Red Star Rising! Uncle Billy's Proud Nephews

As I mentioned earlier, I've a lot of different projects on the go.

Way too many honestly; but this is a hobby, variety is the spice of life, and anyway it has all been giving me a lot of pleasure.

So there.
These days I've been revisiting the ACW. One of my earliest loves in wargaming, thanks to a combination of two things.

First, as a kid, my brother and I each got a set of the old 54mm Britain's ACW horse artillery battery, with firing Napoleon guns. I was given the Rebs, my brother the Union.

Small wonder that between the two of us, we never took anyone's eye out.

The second was getting the classic book by Donald Featherstone, Battles with Model Soldiers. In it was a chapter called "Stepped-up situations", where he went through three very basic scenarios for beginners using the old Airfix HO/OO ACW figures. 

I loved it; it was my gateway drug to wargaming, so I was thrilled when just last week Norm revisited both the game and the book in his excellent blog post here.

Since those days, interest in the ACW has peaked and waned in cycles, but it's always been there. I find it far more fascinating than the AWI, and I even managed to plough through watching the movie Gettysburg (fast-forwarding my way through the turgid, tedious- and frequently embarrassing- speeches).

Before I came to Japan, the gang I gamed with were playing the ACW in a big way.

This pic is from a monster not-Antietam game we once played with several thousand figures, and all insanely individually based. Here the Irish Brigade is about to impale itself on my own line of Reb bayonets- Dick Taylor's Louisiana Brigade. 
The battles of Pepperidge Farm, Petticoat Junction, First and Second Taffyville; all became household names in our pantheon of great tabletop conflicts.

Almost all were Dixon and Rafm figures, which we bought and painted by the bucketful back then. I had- indeed still have- loads.

It helped that one of our group was Dave Morgan, then owner of Sentry Box West, one of the largest wargaming shops in the country- he stocked both ranges in industrial quantities.

I wore the grey back in the day; since then I (stupidly) sold off a bunch, but at least I kept my brigade of veteran Louisiana troops that I still have (again, stupidly) packed away somewhere back in Vancouver.

Later I turned my back on rebellion- not to mention all the Lost Cause, "it wasn't really about slavery" bullshit that I kept coming across in my reading- and decided instead to begin collecting a Union army. 

The "heritage, not hate" argument can be a contradictory one, which hasn't always been made convincingly- nor sincerely. I think it's pretty clear that much of the more overtly romantic bilge has been used as a fig-leaf to draw attention away from Jim Crow in the long years after the war.

Anyway, 'nuff politics, and suffice to say I haven't changed my mind. But Billy Yank needs an opponent, so now I am indeed working on some Confederates as well. 

The Dixon figures still hold their own; over the years I learned to weed out the codes with the worst of the pumpkin heads.  Although were I to start again I'd begin with the box set of plastics from the Perry twins. 

Fast forward to the next century, and the pre-covidian era.  We had of course been playing lots of Napoleonics using Black Powder, and I always had an eye to doing the ACW using the same rules. 

But that means a lot of figures to get mustered, equipped and uniformed, so the Rebels & Patriots rules from Osprey look appealing for getting started gaming using smaller numbers of miniatures. 

The Pig Wars of the Pacific Northwest are also an option- if Matt ever gets his British Intervention Force painted.

More on rules, specifically Rebels & Patriots, for a future post. 

But whatever the rules, over the past year I just found myself slowly, sporadically- but steadily- painting up more and more Union miniatures. 


So which Union formation did I choose?

After some consideration, I decided these were the boys I wanted to do: 

Union XII (later XX) Corps, 1863-1864
1st Div (Brig. Gen. Alpheus S. Williams),
2nd Brigade (Col. Thomas H. Ruger, 3rd Wis.)


2nd Mass.advancingpacks/ bedrollssky blue trousers
27th Ind.advancingpacks/ bedrollsblue-grey trousers
3rd Wis.firing linelight ordersky blue trousers
13th N.J.firing linepacks/ bedrollssky blue trousers
107th N.Y.firing linepacks/bedrollsblue-grey trousers*
(*...and that, kids, is how to do the Union without needing labels on the bases)

It's a formation that never gets a lot of press; but it is an interesting one to do, as unusually it served both with the Army of the Potomac and out in the west under Sherman.

The XII Corps was formed from an unlikely- and unlucky- source; the army that had been commanded by General Nathanial Banks, and which had been thoroughly whipped by Stonewall Jackson in his celebrated Valley Campaign.

It was more a case of terrible (if well-connected) generalship than of poor troops, as they did much better at Antietam in 1862- at a high cost.  

There the 2nd Massachusetts in particular paid a high price, with many officers and men killed and wounded- including among the latter a Lt. Robert Gould Shaw (remember that opening scene of Glory?).  

In 1863 the brigade was at Chancellorsville (ouch!) and saw fierce action at Gettysburg, Almost immediately afterwards it found itself sent to New York to help put down the draft riots. 

Shortly afterwards, the XII Corps was transferred out west to bolster the Union western armies there in the dark days after Chickamauga. 

There would be some minor changes in commanders and in brigade/ division organization over the rest of the war, but with the Army of the Cumberland it gained an excellent reputation, no doubt helped by its experience in the major leagues, as it were.

Later the hard-luck XI Corps was absorbed into the XII, and a new organization was formed; the XX Corps. But to the relief of the veterans they all adopted the XII Corps red star insignia and its higher command structure.

Must of been something of a clash of cultures when the XII met their new comrades from the western theater; there was none of the Army of the Potomac's spit-and-polish about Sherman's men, as this picture attests:
Old sweats; western officers from the 105th Ohio Infantry Regt. Not much polish, but probably plenty of spit. Lt. Albion Tourgee, on the left, was to go on to become a well-known and tenacious civil rights lawyer.
Weary XII Corps men soon after arriving in Tennessee.
But on the other hand, apart from Chickamauga, the westerners had been used to actually- you know, like winning -most of their fights. 

The XII/ XX Corps went on to fight in the Atlanta campaign with great distinction, being the first Union troops to enter the city.
Looking over the old Confederate defences at Atlanta. Note the stripped-down Hardee hat with the Corps badge. Forage caps were not as popular with Union troops in the west.
The 27th Indiana Volunteers was a celebrated regiment in its own right, with a hard-fighting reputation. In 1862, it was some soldiers of the 27th who found the “Lost Orders”- that copy of Lee's orders to the ANV- which were promptly passed up on to Gen. McClellan. Thus the regiment was instrumental in sparking off the Battle of Antietam, leading to the Emancipation Proclamation.

At Gettysburg, along with the 2nd Massachusetts, it participated in the ill-fated charge at Spangler's Spring at Culp's Hill. 

Brig. Gen. Alpheus Starkey Williams: commander of the XII Corps' 1st Division, Williams was one of the more capable, if under-rated, divisional commanders in a rapidly-expanding Union army. 

Never a glory-seeker, "Pap" Williams was popular with his men- but he wasn't a West-Pointer, and he also wasn't inclined to suck up to the press or to politicians. 

To the detriment of his career, if not his character.
Proudly wearing his XII/ XX Corps red star badge.
His statue in his home state; Detroit, Michigan.  He's portrayed here on his favorite old war horse, "Plug Ugly".  A wonderfully un-heroic, yet workmanlike, pose.

Col. Thomas H. Ruger, former regimental commander of the 3rd Wisconsin, before being appointed commander of the 2nd Brigade. 

And in miniature, here accompanied by the flag of the 2nd Brigade, 1st. Division XII/ XX Corps: the 'Bloody Pentagram'.

"Go clear those people from those woods!"

So far I have the 13th "Noo Joisy" done- or would have if I hadn't recently decided to add three more stands- along with some "Badgers'- the 3rd Wisconsin- coming hot on their heels. 

I already have all the flags I need for the brigade, courtesy of GMB.
"Down with the traitor, and up with the (red!) star!"


I'm in the middle of prepping a section of Federal artillery as I type- Foundry figures this time, destined to be Battery "I", New York Light Artillery, who were attached to the division. One of the packs of the Foundry artillery are in frock coats and campaign Hardee hats, and will be perfect for the western theatre.

On Dixon miniatures: there are more modern and more anatomically accurate figures out there, but when I got into the ACW it was easily the most comprehensive range available, and as I said, I had lots.

And they actually get painted, where sometimes more state-of-the-art miniatures never even make it to the painting table. They are fun to paint- being able to keep myself engaged in the painting process is essential. It’s a hobby, so I need to like what I am doing.

When I got back into the period, pre-Perry and post- ridiculous Foundry price rises, it was logical to pad out what I had with more Dixons.

And if I don’t “overdo” the painting (the heavily-sculpted folds and creases cast their own shadow and don't need much contrast), avoid the more oddball poses and pumpkin-heads, and don’t mix too many different poses in a unit, they look good. 

Seen close up, the exaggeration can jar; but a unit seen from a distance on the gaming table, they can look really effective.

They’re characterizations, not scale models.

I have just about all the Union (need one more advancing regiment) and most of the Confederates I’ll need. I may pick up a few Foundry units to flesh out the Secesh.

On basing: the round bases came into vogue with the Osprey Rampant rule series. I thought they looked good, even for closely-ranked units as here.

Although they are meant for semi-skirmish games, I see no reason why they can’t double-duty for Black Powder.

Besides, I was getting bored with rectangular bases; more base than figure, more often than not.

Here is the 27th Indiana which are next in line for cleaning up, here based as a twenty-four figure unit for Black Powder
The double- and singly-based figures can be used as skirmishers, although I may recruit the 150th NY, which joined after the Corps was transferred to the west, as a dedicated skirmish unit.

I like the round bases, as with only 24 figures they give me a line formation that bears at least some resemblance to the real thing- yet still gives the impression of some depth, helped by staggering the figures on their bases.

And here I have broken it down into two, twelve-figure “companies” for Rebels & Patriots (I’ll be playing it so that companies are the basic maneuver units, which I think makes more sense).
The basing system might not be to everyone's taste, but it works for me. Reminds me of the games I played as a kid! 

Need some terrain, though- currently working on a Renedra church and a Warbases barn. 
"Captain! Go organize me a painting detail!!"
Another project I'm thoroughly enjoying.