Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Building Up Steam

There were lots of more important things to do today than convert a wagon into a steam propelled mortar battery.

A dollar store cowboy wagon with new wheels and scraps of this and that. The new Zinnbrigade crew will eventually wear smocks and peaked caps. 

I originally planned to armour this thing and arm it with a light gun but while 1839 puts it after the first commercial steam driven off road vehicles, I think its too early for steel plating and even a light gun was presenting me with theoretical issues around recoil and muzzle loading without going outside the wagon (no room for "running in"). Some experimentation led me to try the mortar and it made sense. Field guns are mobile enough as is, the steam propulsion wouldn't help much but mortars are awkward to transport  and there are naval Bomb Ketches to provide an example.

 I'll need to lighten the olive green wagon body I think and add some detailing and hopefully some brass.

Rebasing is going well, after much experimentation and cyphering here' what I have settled on:

Infantry: 4 bases each 2"x2" with 6 figures  (in theory, some bases are short a figure). Some battalions have one stand split in half with 2 figures on each half so that they can detach skirmishers.

Light Infantry: 2 bases each 3" x 2" with 3 skirmishers or 4 militia. This is for small detachments that will not form in close order. 

Cavalry: 2 bases each 3" x 2" with 3 cavalry. This should be 2 small squadrons at 1"=25 yds but could be right for 1 large squadron at 1"=20 yards so I'm going to call it a squadron. This means my largest cavaklry force will be 6 squadrons so I'll do 2 instead of 4 per regiment..

Artillery: 2 bases each 3"x4" with a gun and crew. Often deployed as single guns.

This is obviously quite different from my 1/72nd  basing & organization but the good thing is, almost anything works!  

For teasers I need to experiment but am leaning towards each of these being a scenario "unit" with a gun = a gun.  This gives me light infantry with 1/2 the bases rather than 1/2 the number of men but I think the effect will be about right, maybe.

Tomorrow I need to clear the table and reset.


  1. "There were lots of more important things to do today than convert a wagon into a steam propelled mortar battery" - ROFL, wonderful, I'm still smiling.

    The new basing looks good and seems very plausible to me. It is striking that the slimmer 40s scarcely need much more footprint than chunkier 28s.

    I suppose only play-testing will confirm whether light infantry with half the bases rather than half the number of figures works in practice (in a Grantian context), likewise with the militia and indeed the cavalry, hope that goes well.

    1. Oddly even the chunky 40's fit on a 15mm frontage but only if deployed shoulder shoulder "like the good book says".

      I seriously thought about putting 4 or 6 cavalry in 2 ranks on a 4" base but it just looked too crowded with the 2nd rank eating tails or being kicked so I'll make do with 1 rank.

  2. I love the SP mortar - well ahead of its time! These cheap wagons are very useful - as the Commissary Officer of the Forbodian Army can testify.

    1. Thanks. Somehow I don't mind mangling the cheap ones quite as much.

  3. Ross Mac,

    The rebasing looks good to me, and I am sure that it will work in practice as well.

    I love the mortar carrier! The hill on which I live was used in the 1820s(!) to test a vehicle powered by a hydrogen-fuelled engine. The engine was adapted by English engineer - Samuel Brown - from an old Newcomen steam engine. It was also used by the British Army to test its first steam traction engines.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks Bob. The basing is very close to my original format which I only abandoned in an attempt to make the rules more friendly to people using single figures.

      I'm not generally an engineering or automotive type of guy so I have no idea why early steam vehicles appeal to me but they do.

  4. A splendid steam contraption, sir, simply splendid!

    The multi-figure bases certainly look good, and it sounds like they'll work well for Grant-ian scenarios

  5. That is most ingenious. I love how you have thought through what would be appropriate and plausible for your period. Basing looks good.

    1. Thanks Padre, I'm not sure about the plausible bit when I look at the size of the mortar but luckily the armament isn't fixed.

  6. Looking good !!! I love any type of Steam contraption ... Jeff

  7. Very creative, Ross ! Is this mortar carrier intended for transport to the battery location only, or also to be the firing platform as well ?


  8. Steve, it was originally intended to be a sort of battle wagon with swivel guns but I didn't have any. To make any sense, this device would have to be a firing platform but I'll have to come up with some sort of steam-punkish reason the whole contraption doesn't collapse when it fires, or find some swivel guns.

  9. Ross,
    Love the steam contraption. I also like the close-ups of your figures. Frequently I only see them in wide group shots. I like the up close images because they give me a better idea of what conversions you might, or might not, have done.

  10. Thanks. Anytime you're wondering about any of the figures, feel free to ask. There aren't a whole lot that are straight out of the box.