Friday, January 2, 2009

My Introduction To Historical Wargaming: Part 3

Step 5: Choose Miniatures
Now that you've figured out a scale for your miniatures, it's time to find a manufacturer that makes the miniatures you need. You'll probably find several, and will have to choose which to go with, or possibly just mix miniatures from different manufacturers in your armies. You'll have to be careful with this, though, since even miniatures that are listed as being the same scale can sometimes vary in actual size from company to company. And, especially in the smaller scales, they can vary greatly in how thick and stocky they are and how they are porportioned. So 10mm miniatures from two different companies might look a little strange next to each other, if some are very thin and others very bulky.

I had decided that my choice was between 6mm and 10mm figures. After some online searching I found one company, Baccus, that makes 6mm American Civil War miniatures. Thankfully, their website has many great pictures of their miniatures, which is not the case with a lot of other miniatures manufacturers. The American Civil War section can be found here. They look great in the pictures, all ranked up in big units with skirmishers out front and terrain on the bases. But up close they seem to be very squat and disproportioned. Plus, they aren't that much less wide than 10mm miniatures, so it seemed like I could have just about as many figures in the same amount of space with 10mm as with 6mm, but the individual models would look better and be more realistically proportioned.

I was able to find many manufacturers that make 10mm American Civil War miniatures. Some of them have a decent number of photographs of their miniatures on the websites. Most of them do not. It seems pretty ridiculous to me that they'd expect people to buy their miniatures without seeing what they look like, but I guess it didn't stop me. Luckily, I found this great site called 10mm World that has lots of pictures of 10mm miniatures. Many of them taken with the miniatures in front of rulers or grids so you can see exactly how big they are. And the pictures are grouped by manufacturer and by historical period.

The pictures on that site convinced me that by far the best, most detailed, most realistically proportioned 10mm miniatures are made by GHQ. Especially convincing is the scale comparision picture shown in the Napoleonic GHQ section. So I found the webpage for the GHQ 10mm American Civil War figures. They have pictures on their website of some, but not many, of their Civil War miniatures. But what I had seen already had convinced me that they would look great. They are definitely more expensive than many of the other 10mm miniatures ranges I looked into, but I thought it was well worth it for the quality of the sculpting detail and the more realistic proportions of the figures. So I ordered a few packs of Union infantry to get started.

Step 6: Decide on Basing
At some point you'll have to figure out what size bases you are going to use, how many figures to put on each base, where to put command figures, and other things like that. This might already be figured out for you by the rules you are using or the miniature scale. If you are playing a skirmish game, then you'll just base each miniature individually on whatever size base is appropriate for what size miniatures you are using. If the rules call for a specific base size, and you can only fit one or two figures of your chosen scale on that sized base, then there won't be much to decide on in this step. But as I mentioned, many rules sets seem to be fairly lenient when it comes to base size and number of scales. This is so that once you have your figures based for one game, you are still likely to be able to use the same figures based the same way for a different game in the future. Nobody wants to have to completely rebase their figure collection if they decide to try out some new rules.

The rules I had gotten, called Field of Battle, did not require any specific basing. It suggusted that an infantry unit in line should be 4"-8" long, with 6" being idea. If the unit was closer to 3" long, all the movement distances and ranges in the game could be halved to make up for it. Depth of the unit isn't particularly important. Figure scale and number of figures per base is not relevant to the rules. Each unit does need to have multiple bases so that they can be re-arranged to represent being in line, being in march column, or being in attack column. Another point about the rules that affected my decision was that there is a mechanic called Unit Integrity, which tracks the morale of a unit as it takes casualties. Infantry units start with 4UI, cavalry 3UI, and artillery 2UI. So it would be convenient for each unit to consists of one command stand plus one stand for each point of UI. In the future I intend to make up casualty stands with some models wounded or running away on them. Then when a unit loses UI, I can replace one of the normal stands with a casualty stand, but the command stand will always remain, and I can label the bottom of it with what regiment it represents. With infantry units of 5 bases to a regiment (which contains ten companies), this also means that each company takes of half a base. This could be useful for any regiments where some of the companies were uniformed differently than others.

I wanted my infantry regiments to look as much like a real line of battle as possible, so I wanted to pack the figures closely together, have a lot of them, and put them in two ranks. Two ranks just looks a lot better. Even in one rank the formation is much deeper than it should be, but the depth of the unit doesn't effect the rules much, so having them in two ranks should be fine. I decided two ranks of four per base would be good, because then in a one column wide march formation, they would be four figures wide, which would look good. Four of the figures side by side, with minimal space in between, took up about 3/4" or 20mm. I wanted them spaced evenly front to back so that when in march column all the rows would be about the same distance apart, and I didn't want any parts of the figures hanging over the edges of the bases, which could make it difficult to place the bases touching each other. So to accomodate all of that, I decided on 3/4" square bases for my infantry. I purchased very thin square steel bases from, which can be found here.

With 8 figures per base and 5 bases to a regiment, that gives a ratio of 1 figure to about 10 or 15 men, which isn't bad. Next was determining where to place the command models, which involved a little research into where they would have been in reality. By design, I had an odd number of stands so I could make the center one a command stand with all of the command figures. I decided to place an officer figure in the center front of the base with a drummer to his left and one or two flags to his right. If two, I move the officer to the left a bit to fit them both. Union regiments normally carried two flags, a national and a regimental. So it looks good with two figures. But each figure represents at least 10 men, and the color guard would have been 9 men with two of them holding flags, so one figure can certainly represent both flags. The whole process of determining how to base figures is really a balancing act between aesthetics, trying to maintain the ground scale of the rules, and historical accuracy of where people were positioned and how much space they took up. I went back and forth many times with different basing ideas trying to balance these considerations. There is not one right answer, you just have to decide on something and go with it. You can always rebase them later if you change your mind or manage to come up with the perfect basing scheme sometime in the future. So what I came up with isn't perfect, but that's what I decided to go with. If you have other ideas or suggestions about determining how to base your figures, let me know.

Step 7: Paint/Base Miniatures
Now you're finally ready to paint your toy soldiers! You could do this before you figure out how you're going to base them, but it's nice to know how many you need for a single unit, so you can paint a whole unit at a time. Come to think of it, you might want to determine how you're basing things before you order the miniatures, so you can order then in the right amounts for the number or units you want to start out with. But I didn't do that, because it's much easier to figure out how you want to base things when you have the actual figures in hand and can arrange them and measure how much space they take up and see how they look in different configurations.

They way I decided to base my infantry, I would need 36 infantry figures and 3-4 command figures for each regiment. The GHQ American Civil War infantry come in packs of 24 infantry plus one officer, one standard bearer, and one drummer. So every three packs would give me enough for two regiments, plus some extra command figures left over to make brigade command stands. I won't get more into painting or basing here, since those are huge subjects and I plan to have plenty of posts covering those topics in the future.

Step 8: Play Game
Once you've got a few units painted up, it's time to play the game! I haven't actually gotten to this step yet, so I can't comment on it. I'll be sure to post my thoughts about it when I finally get to play Field of Battle. I'm looking forward to it, but I still have a lot of painting to finish before I get to this step.

Step 9: Repeat
As much as I'd like to deny it, I suspect this step is unavoidable. At some point you will become fascinated with some new historical period or set of rules and have to repeat many or all of the above steps all over again. But everyone needs a hobby, right?

Well, I hope you've enjoyed my walk down memory lane, and perhaps found some useful information in it. This is only the beginning, and I will be posting much more about my progress with this American Civil War gaming project in the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment