Transitional Era‎ > ‎

ACW

I began this era in 1/600 scale, for the simple reason that when Thoroughbred Models hit the market, they were too breathtakingly beautiful to not own any. Unfortunately, I have struggled to find rules that I enjoy playing, and every rule set that seems to be that special thing I've been looking for eventually stalls on its own flaws like a steam engine with saltwater in the boilers. I'm still looking.

I find 1/600 scale is pretty good for small actions at close ranges, but the miniatures are just too big to play the the larger fleet actions of the era without cramping. I also dream of one day playing big fights like Mobile Bay, New Orleans, the run past Vicksburg, the real and "what if" attacks on Charleston Harbor (under the guns of Fort Sumter), and on and on. For sprawling, chaotic melees like these, 1/1200 scale and streamlined rules are in order.

When Pithead Miniatures released a 1/1200 scale set of the Confederate "Mosquito Fleet" that defended Roanoke Island in 1862, I bought it. The battle of Roanoke Sound was very uneven, but can be worked into a cute little see-saw campaign of Burnside's 1862 invasion of North Carolina quite neatly, a concept I've been toying with for years. When I received the Mosquito Fleet, however, I discovered a major caveat to 1/1200 ACW naval gaming: ACW boats tended to be quite small. I knew from reading that most were around 100'-150' long, the largest ships tended not to be much over 200', and many small patrol boats and converted riverboats were less than 100' long. What hadn't occurred to me was that most of these riverine or coastal designs had no tall masts or protruding bowsprits, so their "presence" on the table is also considerably reduced. The ironclads turn out to be even worse, since they were made low in the water to reduce their silhouettes in combat, reducing the presence of even the largest ones to a mere whiff of vessel. This phenomenon makes most of a 1/1200 ACW naval collection quite fiddly and difficult to play with as miniatures. I will probably buy the Mosquito Fleet (and Burnside's Union fleet to oppose it) in 1/600 scale to put my campaign on the table.