It’s that time of year, though the weather isn’t really playing along here – much too warm and rainy for my liking! I’m doing my best to feel festive, however, and soaking up what xmas atmosphere is around. Wrapping presents and putting my favourite xmas album on are all part of it, and I’m sure it’ll kick in for me soon enough.
It’s around this time last year that I took up painting miniatures for wargaming again as a little project, having not done it since I was a pre-teen. My facebook even shared one of those ‘this time last year’ posts of my first painted minis to remind me. I’d ordered a ‘sample pack’ of Napoleonic Austrians, and bought the bare minimum of paints and brushes required to paint them, so I could see how I’d like it. In hindsight I can see now that I was actually sent some Brunswickers – famous for their all black uniforms – by mistake, but I was oblivious at the time and painted them up. I still use them on one base as a CO for my first infantry brigade.
Considering how clueless I was, and how difficult I found painting them to be due to my shaky hands, I really enjoyed it. They hold a lot of sentimental value to me, and I must admit I think they came out rather well. This spurred me on to order the Black Powder rulebook, and begin building up an Austrian army over the xmas period last year. I’ve always been a bit of a history geek, and the research that goes into painting and assembling groups historical minis made the experience even more enjoyable. My Austrian forces have grown considerably since this time last year, and I’ve painted some Bavarians and Frenchies to oppose them also, but I’m taking a break from the Napoleonics for a little while. With it being xmas I thought I’d change things up a bit and paint minis from a different era.
A few years ago, working in the USA, I got to visit Manassass and Gettysburg. Having never really known much about the American Civil War previously both places do a fantastic job of introducing you to the conflict in a very accessible way. Gettysburg in particular is nothing short of brilliant, and you’d need a full weekend to see everything – It’s a testament to how brilliantly the US preserves and respects places of historical importance. This visit, and Ken Burns’ seminal documentary series on the conflict, led to me having an interest in the period that I’ve decided to pursue over the winter break.
I could have stuck with the Black Powder rules for this project, as the rules are perfectly capable for this era, but they are primarily for games played at division level, maybe corps level if you have a lot of room for a game. The tactics at the time mean that games played at that level are a little too attritional and uninspired for my liking. Instead, I’ve gone with the Altar of Freedom ruleset, which I’ve now read through and am really keen on. There’s a lot of abstraction and simplification in them to get right down to the commanding and action, which is at army level. The game was designed for 6mm minis, but I’ve gone for 10mm to accommodate my painting ability (my Napoleonics are in 15mm, so I should also be able to use the same terrain for both scales.) I’ve also adjusted the base sizing of the game to better fit my gaming space, though I’m not sure whether I’ll try and convert the ranges as they’re based on a 1″=150yd ratio and could take a lot of work to adjust everything.
To get the ball rolling I picked up some Zouaves and raiders from Pendraken back in November as a little birthday present to myself, both to start the forces out and also to see if I like painting in 10mm. I should add – big kudos to Pendraken for adding sending me some WW1 samples for free in my order! It’s surprising just how speedy the scale is to paint compared to 15mm, and it makes me think I should be able to throw two sides together relatively quickly. I’m not trying to recreate historical units in this project, more of a generalisation with uniform variations like overcoats and Zouaves for flair rather than historical precedence. I’d rather have a colourful set of minis I can use in lots of different scenarios than a very accurate set of minis that perfectly recreate one battle, but that’s just me. Anyway, let’s see how it goes, I’ll share some pictures of them once I’ve got a few more units painted up.