CRISIS really gave me a motivational boost – I’ve been quite busy painting since coming back from Antwerp. One big bunch I could finish was the ACW artillery. I’m still working on bringing my ACW forces up to regimental level, so I needed a couple of guns.
This is what I have so far. The crews are mostly from Peter Pig, while the guns are from QRF/Freikorp15. I’ve ordered some more, so in the end I’ll have at least six guns for each side as well as a couple of limbers.
I’ve also touched up the river I bought from Products for Wargamers. I still have to put grass and lichen on the banks. I also knocked up a small bridge and a modular ford to go with the river.
Finally, the painting tray:
In the back, you can see Union ‘enthusiastic soldiers’ from Old Glory – those are the ones I got at CRISIS. In the front rows we have Confederate soldiers at ease from Essex. Additionally, there are two ‘out of ammunition’ markers from Peter Pig.
Wagons are cool: They can be used as scenario objectives, but they also look nice as pieces of scenery. Unfortunately, wagons are also among the most expensive models a wargamer can own (at least, for those of us who play periods before the 20th century).
So I decided to scratch build my own. I found some examples of scratch-built wagons in 28mm on the internet, but I couldn’t find any in 15mm. Fortunately, 15mm is a very forgiving scale and you can get away with a lot, which is a good thing for a sloppy person like me.
I didn’t use a lot of materials: For the chassis, I used balsa wood, match sticks and polystyrene. The wheels come from Langely Models, who offer a good selection of sizes. Several miniatures producers offer spare horses, e.g. Alternative Armies or QRF/Freikorp15. Drivers are a bit more difficult to find and I’m not really happy with what I got, but it will work.
The first thing I made was a simple hay wagon. The hay was made out of dried tea leaves, which were covered with several layers of thinned down PVA glue.
I then proceeded to build carriages for the artillery train. First up was a mobile field forge. I’ve modeled it in the working position:
The second model is a battery wagon:
Last, I made an ambulance wagon. This is modeled after the two-wheeled Coolidge ambulance wagon. The Perrys offer such a wagon in 28mm, which has been masterfully painted by my mate Sigur, from whom I got the idea to make my own. The roof was made out of green stuff.
Making wagons is fun and the results are, while not perfect, good enough for me. The next thing I want to make is a pontoon train – I have an idea for a scenario dealing with the river crossing at Fredericksburg…
Last week-end, Sigur and I had another game of Sharp Practice. I had devised a short and simple scenario: A Union held fort was attacked by a Confederate force, but a relief column was on its way.
Sigur decided to command the attackers and got a couple of infantry, a unit of cavalry and a small mountain howitzer. I had three rather weak units in the fort. To make things more interesting, I drew card for the composition of the relief force, which gave me three units of regular infantry and one unit of cavalry armed with breech-loading carbines – quite a potent combination.
Well, that was that. With my Force Morale at 2 and Sigur’s at 7, I conceded defeat. My relief force was routing and the garrison in the fort would probably surrender.
This was a fun and interesting game. Sigur was very unlucky at the beginning, as the turns were short, he couldn’t deploy much, and then my relief force turned up at the earliest possible moment. He squandered away his cavalry, but so did I. Detaching a group from his line and positioning it in the wheat field was a prudent move. For a moment it looked very dangerous for the Confederates, but I don’t think it was actually that close a game. I took a huge risk by moving my infantry that far forward and by trying to charge his units. Playing aggressively can have a psychological effect on the other player which can make a situation look more dangerous than it really is – believe me, I’ve been on the receiving end of aggressive moves many times!
Having finally finished painting the Native Americans, we decided to have a game of Sharp Practiceto try them out. K. played the Union defenders, with four groups from 2ndRegiment, Indian Home Guard (irregular skirmishers) and two groups of 1stKansas Colored Infantry (regular line infantry). I played the Confederates and got 4 groups of Cherokees (irregular skirmishers), one group of cavalry and one small mountain howitzer.
To make it more interesting, there were two objectives and I randomly drew one of them. K. wouldn’t know which I had. Turned out I had to steal the horses!
I also had a moveable secondary deployment point, which I cunningly positioned in the woods to the left, near the house where the second objective was located. For the first couple of turns, I had very bad cards and was unable to deploy my troops. K. meanwhile put most of her skirmishers to cover the house and keep my moveable DP in check. Fortunately, that was what I wanted. As my cards were so bad, I didn’t move my secondary DP but deployed the skirmishers as soon as I could.
At first, I thought I could maybe get this done with swiftly and moved them toward the paddock. However, K. immediately reacted and moved her skirmishers to cover the approaches. She had quite an impressive defensive line so for the next turns, I manoeuvred around, probing her line and trying to find a weak spot. However, she countered each time by shuffling her nimble skirmishers around. At least the effect was to totally confuse her about my objective.
Finally, I decided to go for the flank and moved most of my skirmishers to the far left. When they went out of the woods, the ball finally opened and bullets started to fly.
Meanwhile, I had deployed my cavalry from my main DP and had them canter on the right towards K.’s regulars, which covered the paddock. I also had kept back one group of skirmishers, which was positioned in the middle, ready to dart forward and grab the horses.
Unfortunately, my flanking groups got themselves into trouble by moving a bit too much forward. K., playing her Indians aggressively, immediately charged them into the flank, with the result that they were driven back. She also brought a lot of muskets to bear unto my braves. I knew I wouldn’t stand this too long, so I wanted to get the job done while this firefight occupied the bulk of her troops.
The threat of my cavalry made K. a bit panicky and she dissolved her line to avoid being hit in the flank. For unknown reasons she also had one group retreat into the field behind the paddock (she later said that this was her one big mistake). Surprisingly, my cavalry made a successful charge and drove the Union infantry back.
At the same time, my reserve skirmishers ran into the paddock and started to capture the horses.
K. was hard pressed now. Fortunately, the infantry which had retreated into the field decided to take matters into their own hands. A random event caused them to charge forward and hit my troopers in the flank! Surprised by such impudence, the cavalry broke and was for all purposes out of the game. This gave K. the space to press the horse-thieves, which she did relentlessly. After weakening them by musketry, she charged and broke them. With my Force Morale down to 2 and any chance at getting the horses gone, I conceded defeat.
Another fun and very close game of Sharp Practice! The Indians worked well, I might modify the characteristics a bit but generally, they are fun to play – fast and nimble, but as soon as they take casualties, they don’t last long. I couldn’t really use my moveable DP and I certainly didn’t develop the potential of the mountain howitzer – after dragging it unto the hill, it was parked there for most of the game and, due to the difficult terrain, could only get one or two shots off. Perhaps I should have taken more risks with what is essentially a highly mobile piece of artillery. My cavalry performed well and exploited K.’s single error; however, she was quick to recover and, as I had no reserve, could attack and break the horse thieves with impunity.
As always with Sharp Practice, there were some great stories developing. Of special notice was Union Sgt. Big Beaver, who was the driving force on K.’s right flank and, although most of his men became casualties, survived the affair with a wound. Undoubtedly, he will show it off to his grand-children long after the war, as the centrepiece of a long and dramatic story about how, one day in 1863, he single-handedly fought off a Confederate raiding party intent on stealing a herd of horses.