Sunday, 27 March 2016

Setting up the table.

I have spent two or three hours setting up my table for an American Civil War battle, namely First Bull Run or First Manassas. I took photographs along the way to show how I set up the terrain, which may be of some interest. I like to use felt strips for roads and rivers, as it is easy to arrange into the configuration I am after. All is laid out on, and beneath, the mixed terrain mat from Cigar Box Battle Mats.

The map of the battlefield on my iPad, taken from the Altar of Freedom scenario book. I have aligned it on my table to allow for placement of the terrain. North is the top of the map.

The wide open and very flat battle mat, 6 x 4 feet in size.

A raid on my sock drawer and my wife's pink dressing gown hood, will suffice to create the gentle rolling hills on the Western edge of the table.

The varying heights and alignment of the hills is finalised as per the map. The larger and highest highest hill to the South, next along is Henry Hill and lastly Stone Hill.

As can be seen from the map, another low hill is located just to the East of New Market.

So another hill is created. Doesn't look too impressive at the moment.

But lay the battle mat back down, smooth out the material and voila! Some pretty convincing rolling hills.

Next up is the light blue strips of felt to represent Bull Run itself, as it snakes across the table from North West to South East. The felt is a light blue, but doesn't look like that in the photos. I may have to place some pieces of resin river at various places when I photograph the actual battle.

Next up is some grey felt for the roads. Here you can see the junction of a number of roads in Centreville.

The network of roads with the McLean house in the foreground.

Looking North East from the South East corner, the terrain is starting to come together. Centreville is top right, the McLean House bottom centre. New Market is the white house in the valley. Henry House on Henry Hill (green coloured), Stone House and Sudley Church in the far distance.

The Eastern end of the table looking North. New Market in the foreground, then Henry House, Stone House and Sudley church, the Stone Bridge can also be seen crossing Bull Run.

Better view of the Stone Bridge.

Of course, no American Civil war battlefield would be complete without copious quantities of trees.

Looking along the table from East to West, the brown material represents some marsh land as a small tributary of the river, runs almost North to South at this point.

A few views taken at low level.

The marshy/swampy area to the South. Centreville can just be seen in the distance.

New Market nestled in the valley.

Stone House on its hill and Sudley Church.

Henry House.

New Market in the foreground and the Henry House visible through the trees on the centre left.


McLean House.

Sudley Church and ford, with the Stone House in the centre.

A couple of high angle shots looking down the table from East to West.

I think that is a reasonable representation of the Bull Run/Manassas battlefield, if I say so myself. Just need the troops to appear on the table now and for the action to start.

Thank you for reading this, assuming you got this far. A bit old school perhaps, but it serves a purpose. Of course all is re-usable for any other battle I wish to set up. Please call back for the battle report.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Andrew, it does give an impression of the battlefield, so very pleased with it.

  2. Nice Ian, very impressive professional map, though, pic #3 with piles of socks and undies did make think how this was going to go, glad I read on!

    1. Haha, wifey wouldn't let me snaffle her drawers lol, had to make do with my socks, still it works.

  3. Great set up, I am working on a load of Baccus 6mm ACW but haven't decided whether to use Black Powder with the new supplement due soon or Altar of Freedom. Watched the Gettysburg game with Altar of Freedom and it looked good. Any thoughts greatly appreciated. Looking forward to seeing this progress.
    Richard P

    1. Thank you Richard, I have used Black Powder and it worked fine, though probably not suited to larger battles. Altar of Freedom seems to be ideal but I am always on the lookout for new rules. The new BP supplement is on my shopping list too. This battle will be fought using Blucher Napoleonic rules with a few changes to suit the period.

    2. Thanks Ian, just ordered a copy of Blucher after watching Kurtus on YouTube. Looks good and seems to suit Solo gaming quite well. I hope to get onto a paint and chat session soon. Cheers

  4. Love the terrain. Now a running commentary on the battle would be great. We are playing a Civil War campaign over the Internet using Fire and Fury rules and Roll20 Virtual Top gaming syste, to recreate the battlefield and the soldiers. You are welcome join us if you like.

    1. Thank you very much Dale, I have heard of, but never read, Fire and Fury. The internet campaign sounds really interesting and I will definitely have a look, no idea what Roll20 is but heyho a day without learning is a day wasted.

  5. Everything came alive once the trees and building went down. Honestly, for a moment there I felt transported back in time. Great job Ian. THis is gonna be a great fight; great to see played out. I am looking forward to your reports.

    1. Thanks buddy, the troops, well Confederate troops, are now deployed and the battle will begin shortly. I am really pleased with the look of the table too.