Hills 2.0

28 07 2012

Early on in my blogging I posted an article on hills. In this blog I featured my GeoHex hill system which is really neat modular hill system that can be used to not just create hilltops but a very realistic undulating topography.


As cool as it is though, its a huge pain the butt to set up and tear down. It takes at least and hour to set up the hills and sometimes much longer to tear down. When returning them to their box they have to fit in just such a way. Ick. What I need is a set of hills I can just pull down of the shelf and plop on the table.

A more common hill solution involves making hill tops out of “blueboard”. Blueboard is a type of wall insolation that can be bought in 8” by 4” sheets at you your local handy dandy nifty neeto hardware store.


A sheet of blueboard costs about $10 a pop. There are a couple of funny things about blueboard; The only people that need a single sheet of it are wargamers. If you were building a house you’d use this stuff by the pallet. I have had the funniest interactions with people in hardware store when they apologize for how expensive it is or when I ask them if I can borrow a knife so I can cut it up to put it in my car.

To make a hill I start with a piece of blueboard (BTW…my blueboard is pink)


I then mark the shape of the hills on the blueboard using a sharpie. I want several hills to be of a manageable sizes ranging from about 1’ by 2’ down to small hills that are about 6” square.


I then cut out the hills using a hot wire. Hot wires (or foam cutters) are used by crafty types for sculpting.


First I cut the hills out making sure to leave a level edge.


Next I trim the edges do create as flat a slope as possible.


To create as gentle a slope for the hill as possible I continue slice off where the edge I cut intersects with top surface of the hill. This is a really inexact process. If it seems you are making a mess then relax… you are. The next set of steps are really forgiving and will make up for booboos you make here.


Next coat the hill in mod podge.


This is gooey and nasty. Do this in the garage.

Next I sprinkle Woodland Scenics blended grass everywhere and quickly. Once I get everything covered I shake off the excess. This makes a mess. Seriously. I do this over a box I keep on hand for this purpose. This is handy as it not only helps with the mess but it allows me to collect and reuse the droppings.


I let this dry and then apply a second coat.  Two coats should be enough to coat everything completely.


All this glue and grass creates a pretty thick layer and fills in the nicks and gaps I created when I haphazardly carved out the shape of the hill.

The next step is to coat the hills in a dilution of mod podge. If I don’t do this, the grass will come off to the touch.


I have a spray bottle I grabbed at my local hardware store for this purpose. I mix mod podge with water at about 3:1 ratio and spray it onto my hills 3 or 4 times. This is a really important step that makes the hill nice and hard to the touch.

Here is a finished hill.  As its covered in the same grass as my tiles it’ blends really well



Union Artillery, Part 2

14 07 2012

In my last Union Artillery post I based and primed my artillery along with their limbers.  This time we need to paint them up!


I begin by paint 4 out of 6 horsed on each of my limber stands a nice dark brown.  I mix up which horsed get a brown coat as much as I can so that there are no two stands alike.


I then paint the rest of the horses a mix of gray, tan, red-brown and beige.  This is a feeble effort to make it look like a mix of different horse colors.


I like the look of several horse colors but I have never gotten a really good feel for what the mix of colors of horses would have been common during the war. It seems like they are overwhelmingly dark brown though. 

Next I paint the “blanket” a navy blue and the leather harness and saddle a shade of brown.


I have two different casting for horses and the easiest way to tell them apart is how what I think are the saddle blanket (6mm is small after all) pokes our from under the saddle.  You can see on the horses closet in the image above that the exposed blankets are on the flank.  On the next limber the exposed blanket pokes out behind the rolled blanket (or rather what I think is a rolled blanket).

Next I paint the rolled blankets a vermillion red ( white red as opposed to a yellow red.)


The colored blankets actually make the mini’s pop on the table.  This is the easiest way to tell the Union limbers from the Confederate limbers.

Next I paint a whole bunch of things black.  It looks like I paint the horse collars, the wagon wheels and the tails and manes of the horses black here.


Next I paint the caisson a shade of pine green.  This would have been a really common color for civil war wheeled equipment.


Now the miniatures are painted.  Next I paint the dirt.

By the way… I know what you are thinking.  It would have been much easier to paint the dirt first. 

Yes.  Yes it would have.

I paint the base of the miniature brown (along with many a wheel and horse leg)


Then I dry brush pretty much everything ankle high and lower with a red brown.


I put the limbers aside for now and start in on the guns.

This time I paint the base brown first!


Next I dry brush the bases a red brown


I paint the guns a pine green (to match the caisson)


Next I paint the wagon wheels black along with the barrels of the rifled artillery pieces.


The barrels of the smoothbores get a coat of gold.  These cannons would be very bright given how often they were cleaned.


Next I painted the tunics of the artillerymen a dark blue (not navy blue… that would be goofy.)


Then some of the artillerymen get light blue pants.


I paint one the stands with red pants and another of the stands gets a red strip on their pants.  Artillery Units of both sides would commonly have red bling on their uniforms.


There are lots of little bits that need touching on the artillerymen at this point.  Hair gets painted brown or blond, bags and shells are painted black, and swabs are painted brown and grey.  I also give the tackle ropes on the carriages a nice yellow.


The next big step is flesh color.  As usual, this is the “magic” step.  I also paint the sides of the guns and Caissons black and the rear bevel of the guns white.


Next I add static grass to the bases and add another coat of black and white to the sides of the miniature stands.


Once everything is nice and dry I apply labels to the rear bevel of the gun stands.


Here is an action shot to give an idea of what these guys look like on the table.


Getting back in the game

7 07 2012

Troops get fundamentally tired of being shot at.  Not just tired in the “dead tired” sense but in the “they don’t pay me enough to do this @#)&$@!” sense.  When this occurs they walk off the job, or, as is more often the case, run pell-mell off the job.  Eventually running starts to look like a lot of work and they stop behind a convenient fence, a hill or in a barn.  At this point soldiers are on on or near the battlefield, recovering from the shock of battle. 

Maybe they do recover, maybe they don’t.  They may have it in them to be useful again today, even if only as units to protect a flank or defend a strong position.  They will never know what to do or where they are needed though because they are scattered and unorganized.  They no longer are a unit working with a single goal.  A ton of work must be done to get a significant enough group of them back together and give them an achievable goal that will inspire them to go back out and perform a dangerous job. 

This is one of the principle jobs of civil war commanders and their staff during a battle.  Good generals do this well. Bobby Lee famously waded into the 6000 surviving troops of his 12,000 troop assault on the third day of Gettysburg saying “This is my fault” over and over.  Not only did those troops rally but if contemporary records of that event are to be believed, they asked for another chance to carry the position with a second attack.  Regardless, those troops where in position to stop a Union counter assault. Other battles have notable failures where troops where around but were not able to be issued orders.  Recovering the Morale of troops is a foundational element of any Civil War Battlefield simulation.

Recovering Morale

Both brigade and division commanders can give orders for a unit to attempt to improve its morale.  This is literally an order by a general for a unit in its command structure to shape up.  Only one unit may be effected at a time.  It is totally conceivable that three units from a single charge should be huddling in the same barn but the order must be for a single unit (a regiment or artillery piece) to recover.

A unit that has been ordered to recover makes a skill check with the following modifiers:

  • -1 Unit Shaken
  • -2 Unit routed
  • -1 per stand lost
  • -1 if flanked (any of the shooting units can not be shot at)
  • +1 partial cover (fence or tress)
  • +2 full cover (building or works)
  • -1 if disordered (automatic if unit is routed)
  • + 1 for each foot the unit is away from the nearest enemy unit

Very happily, this list of modifiers is IDENTICAL to the modifier list for Flight Checks and Morale checks.  Huzzah!

With a successful skill check, the unit upgrades its morale status; from “Routed” to “Shaken” or from “Shaken” to “Good Shape”.  A routed unit that successful recovers morale (to shaken) can change formations too.  As all routed units are disorganized, this is a good thing.  

There is no bad outcome from a Morale Recovery check, failing just leaves it in its original (busted) state.


Consider the sad case of 47th Indiana.  As you may recall, we have shot the crap out of the 47th Indiana…


Having been reduced from 360 soldiers to a scant 30 in about 45 minutes of simulated battle, they “quit the field.”    We watched them degrade their moral and then flee until finally the found the backside of the battle and took a breather…


Now, they sit panting behind their fence listening to the battle and wondering how its going.  An order is given to reform!  (Some general must be bored because this is a seriously feeble unit now)

The following conditions apply to the poor 47th Indiana

  • The are routed
  • They are disordered (as are all routed units)
  • they have lost three stands (!)
  • They are in partial cover (woods or fence… take your pick (note… not both!))
  • They are (happily) over three feet away from the enemy

The 47th needs a modified 4…

4 + 3 = 7 for lost stands

7 + 2 = 9 for routing

9 + 1 = 10 for being disordered

10 – 1 = 9 for being in the woods (partial cover).

9 – 3 = 6 for being 3 feet away from the enemy

They need a ’6’ on one of their skill dice to recover their morale.  They are a veteran unit and get 3 dice.  Their general is also throwing in one of his dice because he cool that way and clearly has nothing better to do with his command influence.


Hey… we rolled a ‘6’!  Lets upgrade our morale to Shaken shall we? 


You can’t see it in this picture but the unit is now also in line. Note: I could create markers for showing formations for one stand units but this is a really odd occurrence and I doubt it will come up very often.

Now I have a shaken unit alone at the back of the battlefield.  In a subsequent officer order (perhaps even the same officer but a different order) another morale recovery order is given.

The following conditions apply to the poor 47th Indiana

  • The are shaken
  • They have lost three stands
  • They are in partial cover
  • They are still over three feet away from the enemy

The 47th needs a modified 4…

4 + 3 = 7 for lost stands

7 + 1 = 8 for being shaken

8 – 1 = 7 for being in the woods (partial cover).

7 – 3 = 4 for being 3 feet away from the enemy

They need a ’4’ on one of their skill dice to go from “shaken” to “good shape”. Again they are a veteran unit and get 3 dice and once again their general is also throwing in one of his dice.


All four die are rolled and each would have successfully rallied the unit.


The unit is now in “good shape” and eager to defend this section of the union line.  Huzzah!

My 50th post!

This has been the 50th post for McPherson and Revenge!  I started this blog in November of 2010 with little expectation of reaching 50 or even knowing I could stand work on a project that long.  By my own reckoning I am more than half way done but I still have a long way to go.  Thanks to everyone for reading and we’ll see if I can make it to 100!