Transitional Era‎ > ‎


I began this era in 1/600 scale, for the simple reason that when Thoroughbred Models hit the market, they were so breathtakingly beautiful I had to own some. 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 the largest ships tended to be around 200-230', most were around 100'-150' long, and many small patrol boats and converted riverboats were less than 100' long. The 1/1200 ships I'm used to from further back in the Age of Sail tended to have huge plumes of sails and long bowsprits increasing their overall impression of size, despite being less than 2" long at the waterline. Most of the ACW craft were riverine or coastal designs without tall masts or protruding bowsprits, so their "presence" on the table is considerably reduced, even though the hulls are usually larger than average Napoleonic vessels. 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.