Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Pinboard Battles Project

Returning to the pinboard project again, I have upgraded the board and given it a first outing, with a fictional divisional action from the American Civil War.

Figures are Kallistra 12mm and the rules are the Perry’s Firepower set, with inches converted to centimetres.

This post discusses painting the board and gives a brief AAR just to demonstrate some action in a small space.

Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.

The Board
First off, the new pinboard goes posh with an aluminium frame and a thick card centre, so it is very light and sturdy. It is faced on one side with some sort of grey thin felt type material. The internal measurements of the board are 34” x 22”. It is currently in stock at Homebase (UK) for around £17.

With a mini paint roller and those little tubs of tester emulsion paints, I rolled paint onto the felt material quite vigorously (to get it spread evenly before it dried on the absorbent surface) in multiple directions, adding slightly different quantities of the colours as I went along for some variety. Overall, I was aiming for a green surface. Masking tape had been applied over the aluminium frame to protect it from the paint and this worked well.

The emulsion ‘sets’ the fleece surface, so rough fingers don’t catch on it and hopefully it will control any bobbling. The bonus is that this gives a light textured effect.

The maths.
A few weeks ago, I put some 28mm units on a 6’ x 3½’ table and used the Firepower rules, which calculate all distances in inches. Going to a smaller board, I will convert inches to centimetres. So our 34” board being 85cm, converts to the equivalent of 85”. Likewise the 22” depth of the board will become the equivalent of 55” (becoming a 7’ x  4 ½ ‘ equivalent). In both dimensions, this actually becomes a bigger equivalent to the table I was playing on a few weeks ago, especially in terms of depth, so artillery ranges should feel a bit more proportionate to the battlefield.

Of course, part of this scaling down means I am using 12mm figures instead of 28mm and the typical unit frontage will drop for 150mm that I was using for 28mm, to 80mm for the smaller figures.
A bit of terrain and two ACW forces gets us into the action.

Folly at Hangman’s Hill.

So, for the first run out with the board, we have a Union army with 8 infantry regiments (in two brigades), two artillery batteries and a cavalry regiment. The Confederates have 9 infantry regiments (into 3 brigades) and one artillery battery.

The Union have two brigades advancing towards Hangman’s Hill, which dominates the Pence Turnpike. They have sent their cavalry ahead to occupy Hickory Woods, from where the troopers discover that Ewell’s Division was concentrating, with two brigades already in control of the turnpike and Hangman’s Hill, plus a third brigade under Trimble moving up with a view to scouting ahead of these defensive positions. It was too late to warn Shields, the lead elements of the Union division were already approaching and about to advance into this hornets nest!

Above - the dismounted cavalry took up position at the edge of the woods, but in a short action were forced back towards the rear of the woods. The Confederate left (Colonel Scott) came under pressure from 1st Brigade, with one of their regiments falling back in disorder and seemingly taking the worst of the casualties.

To an anxious Shields (Union Commander), this was in contrast to the fortunes of 2nd Brigade, who were closing on the Confederate right, with 13th Illinois Infantry in particularly taking heavy losses, but spurred on by their regimental commander, Colonel Sullivan, the 13th picked up their pace and broke into a charge, taking devastating fire from 31st Virginia Infantry on the way in.  The volume of fire was too great and their attack collapsed and 13th Illinois routed.

2nd Brigade found itself in further peril as their artillery (Battery ‘L’) from the moment of deployment had been taking long range fire from the muskets of 13th Virginia Infantry, lining the turnpike and Lusk’s artillery, located on Hangman’s Hill. In an unequal engagement and with a couple of gun carriages smashed, ‘L’ Battery was forced to retire from the field.

The height of the battle came as 1st Brigade, pushed onto the turnpike to take advantage of their initial gains before their left flank was enveloped by 58th Virginia Infantry, who unopposed, had moved down from Hangman’s Hill. There was also the growing threat of Trimble’s Brigade (below photo), with three fresh regiments moving up the centre and just cutting across the turnpike, being able to move either to the left or right and outflank either of the Union brigades.

But rather than ‘one more push’ breaking the Confederate defence in timely fashion before Trimble could act, both Union brigades lost the initiative and were thrown onto the back foot, though for different reasons.

Above - 14th Indiana Infantry, forming the left flank of 1st Brigade, were struck hard in that left flank by 58th Virginia Infantry, attacking from from the direction of Hangman’s Hill. The 14th, already mauled from their approach to the turnpike, were shattered by this attack and routed from the field. 67th Ohio turned to face the flanking threat, but were immediately sent reeling back, as they too fell to the full force of 58th Virginia’s assault. Assailed from two directions and with Trimble’s Brigade clearly now making towards them, 1st Brigade disengaged and fell back.

On the other flank, 2nd Brigade had been taking heavy casualties, but a local success in which 39th Illinois Infantry chased off 25th Virginia Infantry from the turnpike, drew the Union into further commitment, when perhaps they should have used their discretion to disengage instead, as the battle had generally been going badly for the Union.

Above - Instead, 5th Ohio Infantry, that had been a rear support to the 39th Illinois, moved further to their left to take a front line position in a gap that had been left by the collapse of the Brigades left flank.

The reason for that collapse had been due to the confident defence and firepower put down by 31st Virginia Infantry (Confederate far right) and 5th Ohio basically advanced into that same killing ground and suffered so grievously that they were beaten back. It was all over for 2nd Brigade and they too had to leave the field.

That was all a bit of a one sided affair, brought about by a bad scenario design that did not match up with the key elements of the rules. In Firepower, units throw a bucket of dice when attacking and will often hit on 4+ or 5+. Only units behind cover get a chance to throw ‘save’ dice (4+). So Union units took an awful lot of punishment on the way in, while the Confederates, who were lining a fenced road (counts as cover in the rules), took far fewer casualties, even when charged.

Nine hits removes a unit from play. At the close of play, doing a bit of jiggery-pokery maths with the hits accumulated, I settled on assessing casualties as being 80 for the Confederates and 290 for the Union, with 4 guns also lost, which helps quantify the ratio of harm that was being done in this scenario.

Anyway, what the rules do or don’t do is another matter, of importance here is seeing a game with a total of 21 formations being put onto a pinboard sized playing area. I’m not sure why it is, but in ‘real life’ to the eye, the table and units looked very good, photography does not seem able to capture ‘that look’.

The exercise encourages me to do more of this sort of thing and perhaps doing my own rules that would work to meet my own pinboard ‘imaginings’ of how things should run. At the back of my mind is also doing a second board that is 4’ x 2’, with the scale advantages that we get from 12mm, small unit frontages and centimetre measurements, that extra 14” on the pinboard width would be quite versatile from a battlefield manoeuvre perspective.

More to follow on this subject I think.

Resource Section.
COMMANDERS is my sister webspace, that is more snippet based than here. LINK

An earlier blog post that looks at the Firepower rules. LINK

An earlier blog posting on the versatility of the 34’ x 22’ pinboard. LINK.


  1. Interesting post, as usual, Norm. Every so often I think about dusting off my miniatures, getting out the paints, and then I think about all the games I have that can be played out of the box. Tragic!

  2. Yes, it is catch-22 and to make matters worse, there are just so many things in the queue to play out of the box.

  3. The pin board looks fantastic norm, and despite what you say about the photography I think the colour you've achieved on the pin board looks as good as any of the expensive mats you can buy.

    1. Thanks - there was certainly a touch of luck in getting the right look.

    2. I agree with JBM's assessment. Your game board looks fab.

  4. Well that pinboard looks great Norm; well done! Lovely to see a game on a smallish board and with relatively few units, yet one that still looks great and has a nice level of action.

  5. Thanks Steve, it is at a level that might encourage some to have a go, without it turning into a project that overwhelms.

  6. Great write up and very original board Norm. And those Kallistra figures look absolutely fab!

    1. Thanks Mike, though your recent 28mm Naps puts most stuff in the shade :-)

  7. Your board looks very effective. How did you create your map? It looks very nice.

  8. Thanks Peter, I used the art app Pro-Create on the iPad, combined with the control of an Apple pencil, but the aim was to get something that did not look too digital. For the text, I put the map through the Phonto app.

  9. Your whole set up looks splendid, Norm! I like the look of the 12mm troops on your small gaming space. The work done on the mat is very good. From the photos, I think I see striations from your roller marks. Those striations make me think you could convert your board over to grid with little effort.

    1. Thanks Jonathan, I'mpretty sure that the hint of lines comes from the corrugated cardboard that forms the core of the board, as I have seen this before with a cork veneer on board but not with a solid MDF board. I am guessing the glue bond between the board and the felt has some impact on how the paint is absorbed. I did want to do a grid, but did not want to spoil this board as the colour / texture was just right, so I might have a go at another board:-)

      I have a bit of 1066 stuff on 80mm frontages on the go,so would be interested to see whether the board / base size can give anything of interest.

  10. Your table looks excellent


    Take care


    1. Thanks Andy, I think in truth I was surprised by the good effect.

  11. Replies
    1. Thanks Aaron, a post that perhaps goes back to the very origins of why this blog was started.

  12. Always good to have a small option, esp one like this that looks good and works.

    I think the close up photos lose a sense of perspective, while it gives a nice view of the figures and terrain, its hard to tell the size of board and the fit of the game to the board, one just sees very attractive figures and terrain and the immediate tactical situation in one small area. I think the wider shot gives a better perspective of the whole battle and a better sense of scale. A wider shot showing the battle field in context of surrounding furniture,books coffee cup etc would give an even better idea of scale for those viewers who have trouble translating numbers into images.

  13. Hi Ross, yes, I find it really strange that the look to the naked eye is so much better than the photography shows. As I understand it the eye has a field of view that is matched by a 50mm camera lens, so I took most of the pictures at that setting.

  14. You know I’m a sucker for all ACW. 😀
    I could tell from that splendid map that the union would be in for a hard time: attacking an equal strength enemy. It played out as expected. Is there a way to adjust for quality of the unit in the rules?
    I don’t like it when fences give cover but that’s just my preference but it does work on a game table.
    This small set up looks awesome! Really pretty. The pin board came out looking good. 😀

  15. Thanks Stew. The Firepower rules are a free 'simple' set that comes with the Perry 28mm Battle in a Box set. So they do not have the depth of some of the bigger commercial sets, but are robust enough that players could add any manner of house rules. The difference betweenbeing able to roll for saves and not roll for save on a bunch of 9 dice being rolled can produced big swings and the effect could do with dampening down.

    Units do take simple morale checks after taking casualties, so perhaps that is the best place to insert a modifier for unit quality.

  16. Hi Norm, when I first saw this a couple of days ago my initial impression was Wow! It's been in my head since then because it's very close to what I want to achieve, maybe just slightly bigger to allow for the use of 15mm figures. That's a very lively little game with the feel of an ACW encounter and the figures look great. Not seen the Firepower rules myself, I'm trying hard to resist going back to the ACW again! Once again inspirational stuff Norm.

  17. Thanks Lee, the format of pinboard is of course interesting and I am increasingly aware of how many readers of this blog find this size of gaming area one that works best for them (and a good reason for a blog post going back to the roots of the blog), though I think moving out to say anything up to 4’ x 3’, especially with your 15’s in mind, would meet the focussed principlrs and objectives of this post. Your 15’s are coming along splendidly.

  18. I think the photography came out doing justice to the game. I may be biased as I played most of my 6mm WW2 games on a board the same size as this :-) I tend to play with too many units on the table but yours seemed just right.

  19. Thanks Shaun, I suppose weapon ranges for WWII make the difference, with the horse and musket ranges , a sense of flanks or wings is preserved.

  20. A fine, very portable looking game set-up, Norm. I do like the water-coloured (?) battle-map, too.

  21. Thank you, I used water based emulsion paint pots and the felt is a grey colour, so where the paint doesn't quite penetrate, the grey shows through as a sort of shadow - almost accidentally useful.

  22. Lovely looking board and the 12mm figures look great! Have you thought of just making crosses on the corners of the boxes, it wouldn't detract from the set up but still give you a grid?
    Best Iain

  23. Thanks Iain, I struggle with crosses (just corners marked) because I struggle counting out ranges. I think this purely because I am used to working with solid grids and they are second nature to me. I though I might square grid in pencil and then try and dampen the pencil lines down.


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