Scale 2.0

28 11 2010

Now that we have established that we will be gaming at a “Regimental” level I need to pick a scale that my troops will be represented at on the table.  How big a footprint in inches on the table will a regiment occupy?  How big are these miniatures anyway? 

A good ground scale for Regimental gaming in this period and, one more or less accepted as a standard for Regimental games, is one inch of table space is equal to 50 yards.  A 6’ by 5’ table decked out for a war-game at this scale will cover something like a 2 by 1.6 mile patch of ground.  I will be using this ground scale partially because I think it right but mostly because I don’t have a good reason to zoom in or out. 

A regiment of this period would have fought primarily in a formation called a “line” which would have been two rows deep with 1 man per yard in each rank.  Soldiers would have formed themselves in the field by placing one arm on the should of the man next to them in order to ensure the spacing.  Using 2 men per yard as a standard, an average size regiment of 400 men would have occupied 200 yards of real distance and 4 inches on my table.

Union line

OK… we now know two things about troops on my table.  One… 400 men covers 4 inches and two…a regiment would have been two rows deep.  As you can see by the picture above… this has a certain signature Civil War look.  I like that signature look and want to keep it for my miniatures.  (Keep this is mind as I go through the various miniature scales below.)

A number of popular miniature scale options exist ranging WILDLY in size.  Miniature Figure scales are described in millimeters from the base of the foot to the eyeball  (not the top of the head!  Hats vary in tallness and pointy-ness but eyeballs are usually at the same height.)  The most popular scales for ACW minis are 15mm and 25mm and but others are used including 6mm, 54mm and 2mm (yes… 2! mm)

15 mm


15mm is by far the most popular scale for ACW regimental gaming.  At this scale you can tell very easily by looking that miniatures are for a given period and it’s even possible to make out a lot of the details on the figures.  These figures are big enough to paint well but small enough that a mediocre paint job will be hard to fault.  The figures in the image above stand on 4 separate bases each of which (I would be willing to bet) must be near and inch in width.  These 12 guys must represent 400 soldiers.

15mm is pretty affordable and it paints pretty easily.  I have seen MANY poorly painted armies done in 15 mil that looked pretty good on the table.  I would estimate that 60%+ of war-gaming occurs at this scale

To give you a better idea of the scale here is a figure… and a thumb:

15mm scale

25 mm


25mm miniatures is also popular.  At this scale you can see all the details you might hope to see.  I table of 25 mil miniatures can take your breath away if the painter is an artist. 

The problem for me at this scale is that you can’t tell what the troops are supposed to be.  I would estimate that each of the two stands above are about 2 inches in width.  That would mean that those 8 figures represent 400 soldiers… Yikes!  This looks NOTHING like the picture of soldiers in line above.

I should point out that gamers who do 25 mm miniatures tend to be elitists.  They paint to a high standard and really are into the craft.  They play on bigger tables and really nail things like buildings and terrain. 




6mm is the new kid on the block in terms of scale.  It has been possible to buy minis at this scale for only about a decade now but it is growing in popularity. 

At this size detail is sort of lost.  If I were to show you the same figures above painted grey with different flags then you would have no difficulty believing that they were Confederates.  For this reason, they are really easy to paint.  There is very little detail to screw up.  6 to 8 colors may do for an entire army.

In the image above, each stand is (once again, “I bet”) three inches wide. that means that at this scale 32 figures would fit (in two rows of 16) on a 4” front. 

I think these figures look MUCH more like the pictured men fighting in line above.



Needless to say… this scale is insane.  The figure above is probably 1.5” wide.  The stand does NOT represent a single regiment but rather 3!  Using figures at this scale I could fight Gettysburg on the hood of my car.  Blech!



54mm miniatures are simply huge.  It’s a statement.  A figure at this scale would take 6-8 hours to pain and would look bad from across the room if not well done.  The three guys above would barely fit on a 4” front and each would represent over 100 men each.  Blech!

To be fair, guys who game 54mm do so VERY abstractly or VERY literally.  I have seen skirmish games where 54mm figures where used and each represented one man.  Very novel.  Also, I have seen Brigade level miniature game where one figure was placed on a rectangular stand and was meant to represent literally thousands of men. 

And the winner is….

Once upon a time, I had a 15mm ACW setup and was pretty happy… until I saw a table using 6mm.  It looked like a battle.  It was surreal.  If you picked the miniatures up and looked at them, they looks sorta… blah.  BUT if you put them on the table and hovered above it then suddenly the dioramic characteristics of the figures took over.  It made me want to start over again.  …and, years later, I did.

I am painting 6mm figures at a ground scale of 1 inch = 50 yards.


Who was McPherson and why does he need revenge

20 11 2010

As I mentioned previously, I am developing an ACW rule set.  These rules will govern how my miniatures move, shoot and run away.  Rules of this nature tend to be dry and hard to comprehend.  (It is a running joke amongst war gamers that rules make perfect sense once you know how to play the game.)  To offset the dryness inherently embodied in written rules, games need a historical, obscure, yet groovy name.  Some really good ACW war-game names that other’s have used include “Terrible Swift Sword”, “A House Divided”, “On to Richmond”, “For the People”, “Across the Rappahannock” and “In Their quite Fields”.  Most of these names are quotes from famous speeches, news headlines or song lyrics from the period.  The name of the game I will be creating is “McPherson and Revenge”.

James Birdseye McPherson was a Union Corp commander during the Civil War.  He served under U.S. Grant and later under General Sherman.  McPherson started the war as a Captain of Engineering and was repeatedly promoted for valor on the battlefield until made a Major General at the age of 31.  He was at Forts Henry and Donnellson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Champion Hill (more on this later), Chattanooga, and Atlanta . 


McPherson was one of the principle commanders of the West, a close confidant of both Grant and Sherman, and would have been quite famous…had he lived.  On July 22nd 1864, he was shot in the back by Confederate pickets while scouting a position during the battle of Atlanta.  His death so angered his men that his name became the battle cry of his Corp for the rest of the war; “McPherson and Revenge”.

The news of his death spread with lightning-speed along the lines, sending a pang of deepest sorrow to every heart as it reached the ear; but, especially terrible was the effect on the Army of the Tennessee. It seemed as though a burning, fiery dart had pierced each breast, tearing asunder the flood-gates of grief, but, at the same time, heaving to their very depths the fountains of revenge. The clenched hands seemed to sink into the weapons they held, and from the eyes gleamed forth flashes terrible as lightning. The cry ‘McPherson, McPherson!’ and ‘McPherson and revenge!’ rose above the din of battle, and, as it rang along the lines, swelled in power, until the roll of musketry and booming of cannon seemed drowned by its echoes.

McPherson again seemed to lead his troops-and where McPherson leads victory is sure. Each officer and soldier, from the succeeding commander to the lowest private, beheld, as it were, the form of their bleeding chief leading them on to the battle. ‘ McPherson! ’ and ‘Onward to victory!’ were their only thoughts; bitter, terrible revenge their only aim.

– General John A. Logan at the dedication of McPherson Square, DC, 1876

By the way… They burned Atlanta.

I dearly love this piece of American history and its implication; that there where two sides, equally passionate and able, that fought our Civil War.  The notion of Union soldiers honoring the courage and ability of their generals flies in the face of our romanticized understanding of this conflict.  At a blow, the war is MUCH more complicated than we as children where led to believe.  The Union had its heroes too. 

Gaming the American Civil War

14 11 2010

Ok… so now that we have established that I play with toy soldiers for fun, I should probably take a moment and point out that my current project is from the American Civil War.  The American Civil War (or ACW as it is referred to by war gamers and people who like acronyms) is a really popular war gaming period.  There are a TON of documentaries, histories and literature about the war and, growing up southern, a good deal of pop culture as well.  It is dead simple to research this period and its a blast to see a table turned out for this game with blue and gray figures along with period flags.

Gaming this era is done at a number of scales:

  • Skirmish – Each unit represents one or just a few men.  A battle might be an action to take a building or be an isolated cavalry fight
  • Company – Each unit represents dozens of men.  This would be a good scale to fight little round top at as there where only a few hundred men on either side
  • Regimental – Each unit here is a regiment of 300 – 500 men.  Too small for Gettysburg but just the right size for a front in that fight such as the devil’s den or Pickett’s charge.  Smaller battles will fit very nicely at this scale.
  • Brigade – Each unit represents a Brigade of 1500 to 3000 men.  Gettysburg, Shiloh, Antietam… no problem.  It is possible to get 300,00o troops on a nice size table.
  • Naval – Each miniature is an ironclad or a wooden vessel of the period.  Obviously not for land fights but naval war gaming in the ACW is wildly fun.

I will be painting miniatures and building terrain for the regimental scale.  (I am also a a fan of Ironclads but that’s another blog.)  There are a number of reasons I like this scale:

  • The terrain scale is sensible at an inch of table equals 50 yards.  if you go much bigger then buildings and trees are so out of scale it just looks goofy
  • Units at this scare are green, veteran or elite.  Regiments were formed all at once and stayed together getting more more experienced (and smaller) as the war dragged on.  At a higher level experience typically gets blended together and you just have unit size.
  • Generals are stand alone units.  Most systems at this level (and certainly mine) have  command and control as a concept of the game (a general’s ability to know what is going on a coordinate their troops).  You KNOW you need to move your troops.  Does your General?
  • I’ve always gamed at this scale and know what I am doing.  Brigade level war gaming sounds awesome but I’m not sure that I can’t handle the scale shift*

*I should point out that miniature war gamers tend to specialize.  Once they get familiar with an era and scale they tend to stick with it.  I have been to several conventions where ACW was played at one of the other scales I mentioned above and it looked wrong.  It’s like driving a pickup truck for 5 years and then getting behind the wheel of a Volkswagen.  I’d rather change periods than scale at this point.

The American civil war, as viewed from the regimental level, is interesting for a number of tactical reasons:

  • The weapons matter.  The rifled musket became widely used for the first time in this era.  Early in the war however many units (mostly confederate) fought with period muskets or shotguns.  The difference comes through at this scale. 
  • Cannons came in two flavors; rifled and smoothbore.  Oddly enough, you needed both.  Rifles where accurate and had a longer range but you had to hit what you were shooting at.  A riffled artillery shell burrowed into the earth when it struck whereas a smoothbore projectiles tended to bounce, and therefore, kill more.
  • Units had to create mutually supporting positions.  It took a great deal of coordination to either hold or take a position as effective fire could rarely be delivered in more than one direction.
  • Reserves mean a lot.  Units get exhausted and need to be replaced.  This isn’t represented at a larger scale (it’s assumed to be happening and is not represented) or smaller scale (It’s simply out of scope).
  • Units deployed in a number of formations (column, line, skirmish) as the situation dictated.  This is very well represented at this scale and is totally abstracted in others.

There we have it.  I am not just a historical war gamer…. I am a regimental level war gamer of the American Civil War.  Huzzah!

I am a blogger

6 11 2010

Hello… I am a historical, miniature wargamer.  What I do for “fun” is obsess over tiny painted historical figures.  I have done this for some time now and it seemed high time to share with others… or seek help.

The purpose of this blog is to document:

  • the development of a new  miniature wargame ruleset
  • the creation of miniature armies for that game
  • the creation of terrain for that game
  • the historocity of the game, mini’s and terrain I create

Over the coming month/year/decade I will update this blog with images of my progress, discussions of challanges I face, and musings on what I am doing.  Hopefully this will prove interesting.  Stay tuned.