Sunday, March 17, 2019


I average about one or two conventions a year and I have to say the conventions have a very important and noteworthy effect on the gamer - they provide some much needed impetus and inspiration for working on or completing projects.  Our sojourn to COLD WARS in Lancaster did just that, and may have been just the remedy for my gaming and project doldrums.

A hopeful Dave setting up his half of the table.  My rules and 1/72 plastics are in the middle.  They sold within the first 10 minutes of opening.  I think we both made out pretty well.

Normally, folks like to post pictures of the beautiful and impressive games that were put on.  Well, you'll be able to see enough of that from the Little Wars guys.  I saw a game that REALLY captured my attention and I am hoping it captures yours as well.  On our way out, actually to leave for dinner on Saturday, I saw an immediately familiar sight - the SPI Cedar Mountain boardgame map - blown up to 5 x 8 and rules adopted for miniatures!  

Read on as I discuss the merits of this brilliant idea and my thoughts for future of my "BIG BATTLE" projects.  Perhaps we've been going about this all wrong?

The SPI Cedar Mountain map, blown up to an impressive size with miniatures AND counters.
Admittedly there is nothing new about the idea.  Folks have been fusing miniatures games and board games for years, but I have never seen it done quite like this.

You can see how a hex map like this caught my eye.  The colors are brilliant, the print job is superb and the shiny, drool-resistant laminated surface makes for a nice, clean look.  Add to that the 1/72 scale plastics that we all know and love and you have a winning combination.

Stonewall Jackson's Corps deploys!  Artillery covering as the troops march on.  Note the original map in the background.  Units are Regiments per the original SPI "Cedar Mountain" rules and behave on the table in a very similar manner.

The GM of this game, Bryan, used most of the features from the SPI game, and combat features from another popular game series (BattleCry, CCN, etc) and made a simple, elegant game that still retains the detail, command/control, and tactical decision making from the board game, with a distinct miniatures game feel.

I never got to play because the game started too late for us, but I at least got the GM to talk me through his rules.  Turns out he lives about 45 minutes away from me and was amenable to putting his game on for us.  I can't wait!

Union starting positions for the attack.  Note the counters neatly placed within the hex.  Figures are removed and are used for strength points.
 Bryan used the strength points from the Regimental counters in the game and equated those to the number of miniatures that the unit would use.  Those miniatures are used for casualty counting, and firing.  Bryan used the shooting method, and I'm assuming the melee method from BattleCry / Commands and Colors and even had the BattleCry dice with him.  Another really great idea.  The range determines your fire dice with a single die used at extreme rifle range (4 or 5 hexes if I remember correctly).

Command and Control is tested each turn and units must be within the prescribed Command range of their superior.  Regiments within their Brigade Commander's radius, Brigade commanders within their Division Commander's radius.  Super easy.  I'm not sure what the penalties for being outside this range are.  Need to read the rules.  The counters remind you of who your brigade commander is, and what your Regiment is armed with, as well as its starting strength points.

Artillery has a range, in some cases, of 20 hexes!  So you can really reach out and touch the enemy.

Union brigades massing 

My megalomania got the better of me, and I immediately thought of the potential for bigger battles, using my square-based 10 or even 15mm troops.  Borodino, Wagram and Aspern-Essling are easily doable on a surface like this, and with rules that are time-tested and simple you could have a very enjoyable "miniatures" game with much less hassle.

It's super easy to test command and control, as well as adjudicate range and movement with these hex based rules and the miniatures really capture "the look" I think that the counters could not hope to achieve.

This got me thinking about Norm's Two Flags-One Nation rules, and his Eagles at Quatre Bras rules, and how much fun I had with them.  Eventually, after the first few turns, you're making decisions and maneuvering your troops.  Not looking things up in a rulebook and trying to figure out what the rules say you can do or what they prohibit.

While probably not everyone's cup of tea, this game at COLD WARS was inspiring for me and really is what I'm looking for in a game.  Maneuvering, fighting, command and control all in a neat, tidy package.

Another note, much of my time was spent in the flea market (Wally's Basement) where I sold 98% of the rules I brought with me and the rest of my 1/72 plastics, and gave away 2 x items that did not sell.  I immediately took that money and put it into acquisitions.  As it turns out, there was a guy about 20 feet away from our table liquidating his entire ACW force and had some great deals.  I dropped a ton of money on this guy's stuff and he ended up giving me a whole bunch more for practically nothing.  Here the lads are, in all their blue and gray glory:

13 new Regiments of Union troops

9 new Union batteries with some limbers

13 new Confederate Regiments with 11 guns and some limbers

The rebels

My reinforcements!  I will rebase them per my basing scheme and add them to my existing collection.  This will bring me up to 28 ACW Union "Units" and 28 ACW Confederate "Units" (be them a brigade or regiment) for ACW battles.  I'm super excited!
I guess I had better go buy more shelves!  By the way, here is a link if you want to read the old SPI rules (I will make this available as a link on the right hand side of the blog).


  1. wow, great acquisitions!

    Amazing thing is I've been reading the expanded designer notes from Decision Games "Musket and Saber" rules, which are here under the "musket and Saber" tab:
    DG basically took the mechanics from two SPI board game "quads" of four games, the Napoleon at War and Blue & Grey series, and updated them to correct the design flaws that lead to unrealistic and a-historical tactics.

    All the rules are free on line, but I've several of the games and have been playing the heck out of the "Germantown" one while pondering how the mechanics would work with miniatures. I think large-scale games where the basic "unit" is a brigade are basically best played on a grid, which is to say a board game. Not that they can't be put on the table, but a board game on the table with a grid is still a board game.

    One thing doing that accomplishes is eliminating all the fiddly mechanics of contact and range measurements that come with tabletop miniatures gaming. As Ken and I have been noting, most table-top miniatures "designers" have no idea how to manage them, and their rules are filled with issues and problems that pretty much ruin the game.

    Interesting line of thought that has me re-examining some of my board games.

    Where does Bryan live, anyway?

    1. Thanks. "Not that they can't be put on the table, but a board game on the table with a grid is still a board game"

      There is still an undeniably attractive aspect of miniatures representing what the counters are used for in the pure board game.

      The interactive nature of removing the figures when they become "casualties" makes it even more appealing as you're not simply "turning a counter over" for a status reminder.

      The other thing this does that I really like is it shows the progress of the battle in a more three-dimensional way that the counters just can't achieve. Part of what I find most appealing about bigger-battle games is seeing the evolution of the movement of the Divisions and Corps as they shake out into their attacks or feints, thus visualizing the battle more operationally.

      Using purely counters requires you to use a little bit more imagination. The picture is of course still there, but it's richer with the minis representing the counters. I think the pictures above have captured that beautifully and it's something I am going to start working on very soon.

    2. Yes, I meant that mechanically, a boardgame on a table with miniatures is still a boardgame and has the advantages of board games, specifically the difficulty of "ungridded" tabletop mechanics.

      Using miniatures instead of counters certainly adds visual appeal and can be easier to visualize than counters. One might also add that you can dispose of "marker counters" much of the time.

  2. I can't say that the laminated map really does it for me, but I am a fan of gridded tables from way back. It sounds like you made an excellent exchange of surplus items for some eminently usable, nicely painted ACW troops!

    1. Cheers, Peter. Yes it was a great haul. My ACW project is DONE with these fellows added to the ranks, and I have more space on my bookshelves now. If I haven't touched them in a year, they're going out the door!
      It's funny I absolutely loved the look of the map it caught my eye right away. For me it harkens back to when I was a teenager playing all those "Victory Games" hex and counter board games. Maybe it's nostalgia?

    2. PS will you be at Historicon? WOuld be nice to meet.

    3. I will indeed - I will be running 2 Tyrolian Revolt 1809 games, and two ECW games with FK&P, and would be delighted to meet you as well. I will be staying at the convention hotel, with UK Tim as my habitual roommate.

  3. Thanks Steve, a very enjoyable post, especially as it concentrated on a game that might only get a cursory mention in other reports on the day.

    The concept of hexes can be difficult to gamers who have not experienced printed hex boardgames. I recall one gamer talking about the problem of units zig-zagging, when in fact, in ‘spacial’ reality they are not, also the concerns of ganging up, but you can have rules that stop that, so for any figure only gamer who has never really boardgames, I think picking up a fast play, easy level hex boardgame would be a worthwhile purchase, as the mechanics are obviously totally hex based and I magine it would make an easier route for anyone contemplating moving their figures onto a hexed grid and then thinking about rule conversion.

    It’s odd really, after a life-time of boardgaming, when I move the counter for the 1st Virginia forward, in my minds eye, I am seeing and accepting the first Virginia is advancing. For that reason, on a hexed surface with figures, which becomes visual, I need to see a few more figures per hex cell, that better resemble a unit, rather than the stragglers that make the game look like a Battle-Cry game. The table look would also have gone up a whole level with some foliage on there. But ..... who cares, its great to see a table like that at a convention, it is unusual and it inspires people to do perhaps do something related and that has to be exactly what conventions should be doing. I mean, here we are talking about it and I am half way around the world!

    My current heavy 1066 heavy infantry (12mm) have 24 units per base in 3 ranks, the mediums have 16 units per base in 2 ranks, The bases are 80mm wide in a 100mm hex, so there is a ‘meatier’ look to the army. I am now re-looking at my ACW, Napoleonic basing to reflect a better density on the table.

    I like the 15mm ACW that you dropped on, just the right figures for the right moment and the saving of a shed load of work that you would have had to do if you were to paint your own forces up to that number.

    I really do like the increasing interest in the marriage of figures and grids that is naturally emerging within the hobby. Again, enjoyed the post.

    1. Cheers, Norm. The ACW figs were really an amazing opportunity and I made enough money to cover a good amount of the costs with my own sales.
      In regards to gridded games, I'm really coming around more and more to the idea of gridded gaming, especially as I seek out bigger historical battles. As Alex noted above, there is a "sweet spot" really for large, operational battles and that is best realized when movement is more tightly controlled like in a grid or hex, in my humble opinion. I really liked the look of this guy's map and I really applaud him for doing something different during a convention. My thoughts were to use based troops, like your TFON game, and either remove the single bases or track casualties a la CCN or BattleCry.
      For me, going back to 1/72 troops of my younger days, AND hex based maps this really brought back memories seeing it at a convention!

    2. Doh .. units per base !!!!!! I mean figures per base.

  4. I recognized the SPI Cedar Mountain map straight away. One of the S&T games I likely played most of any of them. Wore out one copy and have several in the "back up" pile. Well, maybe Abensberg/Eckmuhl is a toss up between which has seen more action on the table.

    While the colors of the laminated map look superb, having the boardgame counters along with the figures seems redundant. Personally, I don't think the figures add much to the game at all.

    Great grab on the ACW troops! You say you are done with your ACW project. Is that really possible?

    Thanks for the sharing your Cold Wars experience.

    1. Yes, me too Jonathan, which had me go over to the table. Who made the Abensurg / Eckmuhl boardgame? I have LOTS of Bavarians...

      I really thought the figures made a neat impression on the map, but the same could be done with tightly-packed stands.

      Yes the ACW troops were an amazing find. I got seriously lucky. In terms of being "done" with a project - My goal this year was to paint and base "every single ACW unit I own" which is a few more in the storage trays, but this purchase will bring me to enough units to fit comfortably on my table and still look like a respectable battle.

    2. Steven, when I mentioned Abensberg/Eckmuhl, I was referring to other most played S&Ts. These two were under 3W’s S&T leadership and appeared in 113 and 114.

    3. Need to check them out or find the rules online somewhere. Maybe ill hunt them down on ebay. 1809 campaign is my favorite.

  5. I would have to agree with the above that a few figures per hex doesn't add a lot to the game, visually. Ideally, 6mm figs or 10-15 figs with larger hexes could be used. But there is a convenience to size ratio involved here. Obviously, one could blow the map up to 6" or 6" hexes, but how many tables would be required?

    Oh wait, we are talking "megalomania" here...

    1. awesome - paint up a few hundred or a thousand and I'll play.

  6. wow - the merging of an old SPI game and miniatures is a stroke of genius - I totally missed this game but agree it's a grand idea. Maybe not for "War in the Pacific" but some of the old folio Napoleonic games might work very well.

    1. Cheers, Miles. Ive been enamored by this idea and really want to give it a go.