Sunday, August 5, 2012

3mm Confederate ACW Regiments for Black Powder

On our recent trip to England, I managed to pick up a copy of Black Powder, the Perry Brothers' excellent and well-produced rules set for 18th-19th century miniatures warfare. Black Powder uses the same basic engine as Blitzkrieg/Cold War/Future War Commander in that it's a mutation of Games' Workshop's old Warmaster system. I thus thought it'd be a great game to get as it would allow the folks I play with to learn one basic rules system for combat from 1700 to 2100.

Back in Rio, I set about re-basing my O8 3mm American Civil War armies for the new rules. Here's the first two Confederate States regiments on a recently built terrain module:

Black Powder units are regiments or battalions and can be based to any size you like, depending on what your collection holds. All you really need are enough stands to reasonably portray the five basic unit formations: line, column, assault column, square and skirmish. Using 28mm figures (which is the scale the Perry Bros prefer, being independently wealthy and owners of a huge, private gaming room), this means 24-36 figures, based two b y two on 40mm x 40mm stands.

Being that I am an apartment dweller and independently impoverished, I play in 3mm. I've thus decided to base my Black Powder regiments on four 20mm x 20mm stands. Four is enough to attractively model the four principle formations and I have a bunch of skirmisher stands painted up for when the regiments break down into the fifth formation.

Each stand contains two O8 infantry strips, which makes each regiment cost about USD 1.75. I plan on building 12 infantry regiments, 2 cavalry regiments and 3 artillery batteries for both the Confederate and Union armies, which means that the entire ACW project, including houses and fences (also bought from O8), will be brought in at under 100 USD.

I've also provided each regiment with a separately-based colonel because I plan to port the leader rules from the old Battles and Leaders boardgame to Black Powder.

Cavalry and artillery will be based differently, of course. Each cavalry unit will be a half-regiment of four stands, accompanied by 4 dismounted skirmisher stands. This will give the cavalry the proper on-table foot-print as compared to infantry. Union batteries will be three 30mm x 30mm stands and accompanying limbers, each stand with two cannons. Confederate batteries will be two similarly-sized stands.

When O8 comes out with its Napoleonics line later this year, I'll probably go with six stand units as it will allow me to make each stand a French Line company. Even so, this means my Napoleonics game will take up half the footprint of one of the Perry's 28mm games. I'll probably simply reduce inches to centimeters and play that way.

For the ACW, however, I can cut all ranges by 1/4th if I like, given that my regiments are 1/4th as large as the Perry's suggested 32 figure regiments in 28mm.

Again, this shows off the two great benefits of 3mm gaming: cost and space. There is no way I'd ever take up ACW gaming if I had to play in 28mm - or even 10mm, for that matter. But at 3mm, it's a small project that costs very little and can be played on a coffee table. And while it's not as visually impressive as 28mm, by a long shot, I think the above photo quite clearly shows that we're not dealing with "grains of rice" or "counters", as many 3mm haters often charge.


  1. Looks nice. I have the Black Powder rules and may use them for my 6mm stuff (I currently use Piquet: Field of Battle for my larger stuff - gives a wild game). My 6mm infantry is mounted on 20mx15mm bases

    One thing with Black Powder is that you might want to go with 6 bases per unit. This is because BP has Large, Small, and Tiny units in addition to the normal units. I can see this in the ACW as the regiment sizes were all over the map. Average regiments had about 350-450 men, but I have scenario booklets where a brand new unit could have 800 men while some units had under 200 men. I have some scenarios where a cavalry unit had only 80 men. So Large = 8 stands, Normal = 6 stands, Small = 4 stands, and Tiny = 2 stands

  2. I figure I'm going to do the unit sizes this way: 5 is large, 4 is normal, 3 is small and 2 tiny. All the formations can still be done that way, except for small units and squares... and squares were quite rare on the ACW battlefield, anyhow.

    Tiny units can't do anything but skirmish, IIRC, so I'm OK there.

    I was going to do 6, but I thought it was rather overkill, given the two main goals of the project (low price and small game footprint). The 6 stand units really didn't look that much better and just took up more space.

    I have a Union brigade already based and just waiting for the flock. It's a "Western" brigade (with black hats) and has two three stand regiments, 2 four standers and a large 5 stand unit.

  3. very cool! nice find.. I have a set that came with some real black powder bullets so I had to go try them out and it was pretty fun :)

  4. Well I'll be damned. If that isn't precisely targeted spam marketing, I don't know what is...

    I'm going to keep it up on the board simply because I admire its balls-to-the-wall audacity.

  5. Very nice, what did you use for fencing? How would you recommend that I build my stone walls? I am in the process of building a 3mm Antietam board.

    Thank you in advance

  6. I've been thinking about a similar project except I'm going for a 1:1 ratio with each unit being a company. Like a lot of things right now I'm kinda stuck on basing, diorama style vs a more adaptable one like you're doing. Diorama would be each company in line on one base, adaptable would be about 30 or 32 figs a base also in line. In that way a standard company could get two stands and a large full strength company would get three.

    Like I said, I can't decide. :)

  7. Dear Dave,

    The fences are from 08: they sell them by the pack. They're nice, if a bit expensive to use everywhere.

    For stone walls, I use wooden matchsticks covered with Vallejo sandy paste. I paint them dark grey and dry brush with a light grey.

  8. Dear Ben,

    I've done everything from dioramas to "throw a green cloth over some books" and I still haven't found the Holy Grail when it comes to terrain.

    When you're playing 3mm, you have another problem: keeping mobile terrain stuck to the board. Often, it's so light it get's moved about quite easily.

    Here's my solution: my terrain modules are painters' canvases, backed up with styrofoam. All the hills are painted and flocked cork.

    When I do a module, I only do roads, rivers and basic landforms (although some modules do have some more built-in terrain such as walls, fields and darker flocked areas for woods). I also take a bunch of stick-pins and glue coarse green flocking around them.

    When I do a terrain piece like those fences up there, I drill two or three holes in it. I then stick the pins through those holes and into the styrofoam backing behind the canvas. They look like bushes and hold the terrain feature in place.

    If things get too pricked up, I toos more glue and flocking over the holes.

    You can see the result in the second picture, here:

    The forest base is a bit of painted and flocked cloth. It's pinned to the module with stick-pin bushes and has various bits of flocking (glued to coins and washers) tossed on top of it, which can be moved about, as necessary.

    1. Have you considered using the foam side up, and carving it down to make rolling terrain? I'm planning to do a little experimenting with that soon. A hot wire cutter would be a real useful too for that, too...


  9. I thought about that, but had two concerns....

    1) Obviously, I wouldn't be able to carve the frame's edges, so that might look strange;

    2) I'd have to cover and paint the foam and it's much easier to paint canvas! :)