About six months ago, I stated that under no circumstances would I ever start a new ‘major’ wargames project… Yeah, right…
I forgot of course, that I still have at least one unsatisfied wargaming itch to scratch in the form of large-scale American Civil War gaming. I’ve got a stack of books on the subject, I love the classic Fire & Fury rules and the period fascinates me. It also does not require sources to be read ‘in the original German’…
I once even assembled a corps-sized 15mm Battle Honours/AB Figures Union Army, but realised that it would cost me a FORTUNE to build an army large enough to refight any of the notable battles and I foolishly disposed of it. However, the bug recently bit me again and I ordered a 10mm Union army from Pendraken Miniatures before I could talk myself out of it!
So why 10mm? It’s not a scale I’ve done before, but I think it looks great for massed battles and has the added advantage of making them rather more manageable in terms of table space and cost. I also anticipated (correctly!) that they would be easier and quicker to paint than 15mm. In fact, it took just two weeks (nine painting sessions) to complete the Union I Corps for Gettysburg and a further three days to paint Buford’s 1st Cavalry Division, including all the dismounted cavalry and horse-holders! A 15mm army would have taken at least 2-3 times as long and would cost me around eight times as much! At this rate I’ll have enough troops completed to fight the first day of Gettysburg by the end of the summer (and dozens of other battles to boot).
I don’t have any 10mm scenery items in my collection, but then I don’t have any American-style scenery in any scale anyway, so will still need to buy a fair amount of scenery and that’s going to be a lot cheaper in 10mm than in larger scales. Some of my 15mm scenery, such as trees, roads and bridges, will do equally well for 10mm battles. Thus far, I’ve sourced buildings and fieldworks from Pendraken and Timecast Models, stone walls and bridges from Battlescale Models and a heap of laser-cut MDF ‘snake’ fencing from Blotz Models.
So why Fire & Fury? Very simply, I’ve played them before and love the rules. I’m very familiar with their WW2 set Battlefront: WWII, which at its core uses the very similar ‘Manoeuvre Table’ system, which combines the Movement and Morale sections of more ‘traditional’ wargames rules. The set is designed for big, multi-division and multi-corps battles and as such, each unit on the table represents a whole brigade, while each model gun represents a whole battery. Each base of figures represents either 150 or 200 men, depending on the game-scale chosen. This isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I already play Napoleon’s Battles which is set at the same level. Simply put, I want to be playing the Great Battles of History, commanding entire corps and divisions, rather than manoeuvring individual battalions and skirmish-screens.
As it happens, while purchasing my new collection, I discovered that a 2nd Edition of the rules, now called Brigade Fire & Fury (to distinguish it from Regimental Fire & Fury, which came out a few years back and which caters to those who like a more tactical-level battle) was released very recently, so I immediately bought a copy! As expected, the rules seem excellent, though do add quite a bit more detail, especially in terms of separating out various types of infantry and artillery armaments and unit fatigue levels.
While I’m sure that it’s a great game and I will eventually get around to playing the 2nd Edition, I think that it’ll be simpler to stick with 1st Edition for now until I get used to it. It also strikes me that larger, multi-corps battles might be more manageable with the more ‘homogenised’ unit ratings of 1st Edition, but we’ll see.
From browsing other blogs, it seems that most people playing Fire & Fury with 10mm figures seem to opt for the same ground-scale (infantry bases having a 1 inch frontage and 3-4 figures), but fill the bases with twice as many 10mm figures. This looks absolutely stunning on the tabletop, but rather defeats the object for me, because I want to reduce the cost, space and painting time required!
Consequently I’ve opted to reduce all Fire & Fury game scales by 1/5th, therefore using 20mm wherever 1 inch is mentioned in the rules. To simplify this and eliminate the need for mental gymnastics and mental arithmetic, I’ve made measuring-sticks out wooden batons, with 20mm increments marked off as ‘game-inches’.
In terms of basing, my infantry bases are therefore 20mm wide by 15mm deep with 3 figures per base (4 figures where a unit command base has two flags). Mounted cavalry have 25mm square bases with two figures. Artillery are 20mm wide by 25mm deep, limbers are 20mm wide by 50mm deep.
The last consideration is how to organise my armies. I could simply go for ‘generic’ armies for both sides, but I always find that I’m at my most productive when painting toward an objective. In this case (and like many others), I’ve opted for the Gettysburg order of battle, with the Phase 1 Objective being the 1st day at Gettysburg: For the Union, this means Reynolds’ I Corps, Howard’s XI Corps and Slocum’s XII Corps, plus Buford’s 1st Cavalry Division. For the Confederacy this means A.P. Hill’s III Corps and elements of Ewell’s II Corps (plus a Confederate cavalry division for the purposes of scenario flexibility).
In the next instalment I’ll be looking at the first formation to be painted: General John Reynolds’ Union I Corps.