This article was written by Ralph Hart, a member of an Australian gaming group set on replicating the Battle of Gettysburg later this year for its 160th anniversary using Black Powder Epic Battles: American Civil War figures…

Ralph: Back in November 2022 we described our vision for us Aussie wargamers to put on an insanely large gaming weekend to celebrate the 160th Anniversary of the iconic Battle of Gettysburg. To briefly summarise our goals we are intending to use Warlord’s Epic Battles: American Civil War plastic figures to represent every single Regiment or battery present on that fabled day! The game will be played out over 144 square feet of tabletop fully loaded with terrain! For a fuller account check out Part One!

So, now that we are three-quarters of the way through the project, and with a big dress rehearsal game under our collective belts, it seems as good a time as any to review how we are going and how the project has evolved over the last few months.

The Models

Let’s recap on what we saw as the main challenges back then, how we’ve addressed them and what progress we’ve made…

They may not all be painted, but that many figures on a table still looks fantastic.

By far our biggest issue was the enormous task of painting up around 500 plastic regiments. We’ve taken a few shortcuts where possible; by making our standard-sized units only three bases instead of the five bases you’d get on a sprue, for example. Luckily Warlord do spare Command strips for just such a contingency! But even so, back then, after having drawn up a complete list of units from Gettysburg’s orders of battle (OOB) for both sides I was really worried about the amount of painting involved. I needn’t have been so concerned; collectively the group have really come to the party on this one – as of a few weeks ago between most of our 22 players we have commitments for the entire orders of battle – phew! To be honest, as you can see from the pictures, some of the models are just undercoated so far. Wargamers are just as prone to procrastination and ‘last minuteitus’ as anyone, especially when it comes to painting! But I think those players have been inspired to action by seeing what masses of completed figures looked like at our recent game!

Practice and Preparation

The next biggest problem was getting our knowledge of the rules up to speed, which would influence our rate of play to a level where we could get a battle of this scale finished over a single weekend. I initially also drafted up a set of shortcuts to the core Black Powder rules which I hoped might simplify matters and encourage players to play more strategically, at the cost of losing some focus on the fighting between individual units. Finally, we tinkered with how to amend distances and ranges that might better suit the Epic Battles scale.

Our rehearsal game was based upon the Battle of Antietam (17 September 1862), and even though only a fraction of the group was able to attend (I didn’t expect people to travel interstate just for a practice game after all), enthusiasm has gone through the roof! For some folk, this was their first glimpse of the possibilities allowed by the Epic Battles scale in a massed project such as ours! Much of this discussion came to a head at this game, when for the first time two separate groups of players, from Wollongong and Campbelltown, first physically came together to a big game using these modified rules. It was quite an eye-opener!

Much deliberating was had amongst our generals.

In the immediate aftermath of that game, a couple of veteran Black Powder players (who weren’t so keen on my modifications) came forward to act as umpires, making my proposed shortcuts immediately redundant. With these experienced umpires available, gameplay will be sped up considerably and inexperienced players will have more help on hand to be able to play faster. An added benefit of sticking strictly to the rules as written is that there will be fewer surprises for regular Black Powder players coming to the game from outside New South Wales who have never played with our two primary groups of players: those who frequent Campbelltown’s local friendly games store – The Hall of Heroes – and the Wollongong University mob.

A gentlemanly handshake wrapped up the practice game.

Another outcome from the practice game was confirmation that our final proposal for the format of the Battle of Gettysburg was appropriate. My original vision had been of a singular long table for the event, as we had done for our previous 28mm game. Online discussion and polling then veered to instead play three to five games that would recreate specific moments from the historical battle three-day battle, with a number of smaller tables highlighting those areas of the battle rather than having a single huge table that represents the entire battlefield. This too proved to be too complicated to plan and coordinate given the geographical spread of all our key players. Our compromise, no doubt much to the relief of the long-suffering Hall of Heroes staff, is that we are going to play Day Two of Gettysburg, on two 12-foot by 6-foot tables, splitting the battlefield lengthways into a northern and southern half. That way our two umpires can cover a table each and we won’t be taking over the entire store for the weekend!

Glory Hallelujah!

Glory, Hallelujah! is an invaluable resource for those looking to play Black Powder games set in the American Civil War. Order from the Warlord Games webstore and receive a free 28mm special miniature- Dead Eye Davey!

We’ve spent months discussing which optional rules in the Black Powder supplement Glory Hallelujah! to include or to discard. They are all terrific for 28mm games and provide fantastic period flavour, and some gamers are very wedded to them, but if they complicated things too much or involved a lot of bookkeeping, we feel that they might not be conducive to making a game of this scale manageable in the time allotted. Ideally, we need to confine the chosen rules to a single sheet of paper that can be quickly referenced during the battle.

There are a few must-have special rules. Rebel Yell is a firm favourite and will encourage the necessary aggression for our Confederate players. Given the wooded terrain of the Gettysburg battlefield, we will certainly adopt Light Woods and the recommended terrain cover rules. We are also unanimous in adopting the Charge rules which preclude charging on initiative and require a -2 command modifier to charge formed infantry if starting the charge in the target’s front arc. This should encourage historically correct firefights. Optional rules which give great flavour but might slow down or complicate this mega game have been reluctantly omitted, including Pour it on, Seen the Elephant, and Whipped. We’ll save these for our 28mm games!

Another issue was to scale down distances and ranges to better suit the Epic Battles scale. We are following the recommendation to halve all small arms ranges, but will keep artillery ranges as printed, to better model the long reach of the big guns! All movement will be halved as recommended, but we will keep command as originally stipulated.

You might think that providing authentic terrain for 144 square feet of table would be a big problem, but fortunately, the Hall of Heroes is well-equipped with lovely gaming boards. Between the players and the venue, we have plenty of roads, buildings and foliage, so the terrain will look the part.

We have plenty of terrain between our players and the Hall of Heroes gaming store.

The only remaining challenge that has no easy solution is what I call ‘Force Marshalling’ – that is getting models from the person providing them to the person who will be actually playing them on the day, ideally at their historical starting point on the table. With over 500 units to distribute, this will take a while! Hopefully, now that we have an umpire for each of the two tables, and myself coordinating, we won’t waste too much of the weekend in the setup and pack-up stages! Wargamers aren’t too keen on reading detailed plans, so I may just have to send each player an individual ‘ticket’ directing them to where they get their models from, and where on the table they need to go!

So that’s a quick round-up of how the project has come along in terms of addressing the challenges. And while you can see that we achieved a lot at our practice game, we also had a huge amount of fun playing too. There’s nothing quite so motivational for a big project as actually getting some figures you have built and painted (or even just undercoated and fixed to the bases with blu-tac), onto a table and into the fight, and raring to do it again!

By the time of our next update, we will have finished the Wollongong Uni Club’s Epic Battles: ACW campaign based around Shenandoah Valley 1862, so will include an account of how that transpired.

With the Battle of Antietam complete, it’s on to Gettysburg for these gamers!

Getting Started with Epic Battles: American Civil War

The recently released Gettysburg battle set and the Guts & Glory starter set make it easier than ever to get started gaming this fascinating period of history using the Epic Battles: American Civil War system.

Guts & Glory

This starter set is ideal for new players easing their way into Black Powder Epic Battles for the first time, or even those who want a healthy number of reinforcements for an existing army. In here you’ll find enough for a regiment each of zouaves, cavalry, dismounted cavalry and skirmishers, as well as six regiments of infantry, cannon & mounted commanders. In addition, we have a dutch-style barn and snake fences in laser-cut MDF and everything you need to get playing, and with flag sheets included for both Union and Confederates, you’re not tied down to a particular side.

Gettysburg Battle-Set

For those who want to follow Ralph’s example and go big (and who doesn’t?) we have the superb value battle-set, Gettysburg. This is the ultimate way to get started with Epic Battles, with two massive armies in colour-coded plastic, MDF scenery pieces and just about everything you need to get playing the American Civil War on the epic scale it deserves. The Gettysburg Battle-Set contains:

  • Union army (blue plastic) – 8 infantry regiments, 1 Zouave regiment, 1 cavalry regiment, 1 dismounted cavalry regiment, 1 skirmishers regiment, 8 cannon & 8 mounted commanders
  • Confederate army (grey plastic) – 8 infantry regiments, 1 Zouave regiment, 1 cavalry regiment, 1 dismounted cavalry regiment, 1 skirmishers regiment, 8 cannon & 8 mounted commanders
  • Green plastic bases for all figures
  • A5 Black Powder rulebook
  • 36-page American Civil War background, scenario and supplemental rule booklet
  • Flag sheets for both Union and Confederate forces
  • Laser-cut MDF farm building
  • Laser-cut MDF Snake fences
  • Six D6 dice
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