Thursday, 6 June 2013

The American Civil War – An Odyssey in 6mm

This post is fairly late in the day in terms of purchases because I’ve spent so much time painting English Civil War troops I’ve rarely found time to post.  So here we go.


The American Civil War is a period I’ve had an interest in, although not much of a knowledge of, for quite a while, primarily thanks too a series of Miniature Wargames magazines which appeared to have an ACW article virtually every month on different battles.  Given that it is apparently one of the most popular periods to wargame – second only to Napoleonic’s in some views – that is unsurprising.

 I originally had the notion that the Confederacy was the way to go – they often seemed too win!  However for Christmas I had been bought a book on the American Civil War book; Battle Cry Of Freedom: The American Civil War (James M. McPherson).  It is well worth a read, much less battle detail than most and quite long (850-odd pages), but very well written about the causes and surrounding issues.   Within the pages it gives a general image of the confederacy as gallant underdogs against the North’s superior industry, technology and numbers, but further reading through it doesn’t appear to be a foregone conclusion, with political forces and differing aims of the North’s commanders conspiring to aid the South.  In the end I chose the North.  This was based on my dislike for the pro-slavery attitude in the South, although that was hardly an attitude retained solely in the South, or the sole reason for war, but is a reason as good as any to pick a side, and although it may give me a sluggish army to command it is at least better in moral terms, just.

Buying the Models

After a fair bit of indecisiveness over scales I decided to plumb for 6mm.  The Perrys superb 28mm plastics came close to victory, but I simply couldn’t face painting that many 28mm infantrymen, even if I could absorb the cost of buying them in the first place!  20mm plastics and 10mm metals were also gradually ruled out thanks to a couple of influences; firstly an old Miniature Wargames magazine with an article about the difference in size and perception of scales of models, which made the 6mm scale look much more appealing.  Secondly I was able to see a few games being played at the Deeside Defenders in that scale, and was impressed with the imagery of the big battlefield, the many battalions and even the detail that could be seen close up! 

I have previously owned 6mm figures, buying some heroics and ros modern and WW2 tanks years and years ago, but only a very limited number.  For modelling and painting experience I have to go back to my Epic 40k playing days (now sold to gain more historical figures), 15 years ago.  I also had an additional major boost to get going when Andy (see blog: ) from Deeside offered to collect one side, leaving me to only have to make up one army rather than the two I was thinking I would have too do.  Andy gave me the choice of side and as before mentioned I went for the Union so he started looking for his grey paint.  Since then Luke and Aidan have also shown an interest, with Luke going so far as to choose the Confederacy and buy an army pack at Triples.  His painting already far exceeds mine in numbers!  Blackpowder is the ruleset of choice, and the basis for how we’re making the armies.

The First Painting Attempts

 To get started I ordered some figures from a company called Baccus which specialises in 6mm troops and scenery for a variety of periods.  Their work came recommended, and I’d seen them online on a number of blogs and websites, and I ordered an infantry pack with hats, a cavalry pack, and a battery of artillery.  I paid around £2.50 postage to take it up to £19 overall, and for this I got 96 infantrymen, 48 cavalry, and 4 guns and crew.  They arrived around a week and a half later, and I was suitably impressed with the quality of the detailing – amazing for that scale, and the immediate thought was “oh sod, I’ll never be able to do that justice!”  I was right.  An attempt at painting enough men (4 strips – 16 men) for a single base was disappointing, the colours were dark, the image wasn’t great, I started too wish I’d picked the grey, I’m better at painting grey!  A couple of suggestions of painting styles from others didn’t work, and it went on the back burner.

I then went to Triples with a Union army pack on my list and on visiting the Baccus stand got talking to the owner, and a few others who were there.  The owners tips on painting all made sense, most interesting of which was that I was using the wrong shades of colour.  Apparently a smaller area (such as a 6mm figure) makes any colour look darker, so the way to go was too use lighter than usual colours for everything.  Armed with this knowledge I was also invited to do a 6mm painting workshop by one of the guys nearby, and later in the day took him up on his offer.  I sat down and painted 6 mini union troopers using his paints, and following the colour scheme.  The result was amazing, the troops really looked the part!  He then showed me a variety of ways of basing the models, although I decided to stick with the style I’d already agreed with Andy.  For painting the following few things were key:
  • I was using the wrong paints – they needed to be much lighter, and with different colours for the webbing etc (black was pointless, a sand however looked ace).
  • I was being too precise – my 28mm painting meant that I was caring when it wasn’t perfect, I should ignore it unless it’s a disastrous mistake.
  • Don’t detail –for example paint the gun all just metal, and the butt light brown.

I made notes, said a big thank you, and set off to get some new paints!  I picked up an additional 5 paints, and Luke ordered me the ink required and even kindly gave me an extra batch of 40mm by 20mm MDF bases.  I managed to forget to buy the additional base sizes I needed for the other troops (dismounted cavalry and cannon), but it was a very good start. 

Where Now

Back home the models have been sadly confined to boxes while I focus on getting my ECW done in time for Gauntlet, but once they are out I’m very hopeful I’ll be able to paint them quickly!

Base Sizes

For anyone wanting to emulate the armies, the base sizes we’re using are 2mm deep and:
40mm by 20mm for infantry (2 ranks) and cavalry (4 figures per base) with 3 bases per battalion.
30mm by 30mm for dismounted cavalry (4 bases per battalion).
40mm by 30mm for cannon batteries, a single cannon on each base.

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