Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Universal Warship

Over the last few years I have dabbled with many different scales of model warship - starting at 1/3000th and working up to 1/600th via 1/2400th, 1/1800th and 1/1200th. That is a lot of scales - and does not even consider such smaller scales as 1/3600th, 1/4800th or even 1/6000th. It follows that different eras require different things in respect of how the models are used to fight our table top battles. For periods where ships get 'up close and personal' with the enemy then we can afford to use larger models as the space needed to fight over will be less. The other side of the coin is the 20th century where gun ranges reached miles and aircraft are able to cross a scale table top in the blink of an eye. Logic would then dictate that smaller models would be better suited to give the illusion of long range gunnery.

It is no secret that I enjoy many different types of naval game but also that I tend to operate rather off the mainstream in terms of exactly how I play my games. I have been thinking a lot over the last couple of weeks about how I fight my battles and how I intend to tackle other periods. The answer is a simple one (at least it is for me anyway) in respect of the models I shall use mainly because I have decided to look at he problem from the playing area upwards rather than from the model size.

For my personal use I will of course be utilising my Hexon collection and so this has given me a rather novel idea in respect of how I shall develop my nautical adventures. A Hexon tile is 10cm across the flat sides. This means that any models I want to use for whatever era need to fit on a single tile. So far, so good. Of course this happy state of affairs takes no account of the different sizes of ship in use in an 'average' fleet. My thinking in connection with this problem was to maintain relative size differences between types and his was exactly how I tackled the ACW fleets. I am now not convinced that this was the most effective approach as it generated vessels that were neither scale models nor true gaming pieces. Many years ago I used to game battles set in the Star Trek universe using the models produced by Micro Machines. These were usually available in boxes of three models and the size of these was determined by the packaging. It did not matter if it was the shuttle Galileo or a Borg cube - they were sized to fit the box.

So be it.

My models will be sized to fit a Hexon tile - which will mean roughly 9 cms in length. Now fairly obviously, and taking the pre dreadnought era as an example, what about the differences between destroyers, cruisers and battleships? Well, I have thought about this and have come up with a solution that owes much to the 'cartoon warship' concept that Bob Cordery has been championing on his blog Wargaming Miscellany

The basic idea that Bob has been working on effectively compresses the length of a model but exaggerates
the height with the result being able to be used without too much problem on a table top in conjunction with 15mm figures. I have no such problem as I do not own any 15mm figures - only a lot of blocks! However, I am mindful of the fact that this state of affairs may change at some point and so it would be prudent to prepare for the eventuality.

And it goes like this....

I have drawn up three basic hull shapes, all of which are 3 3/4" long but with varying widths -  1 1/2", 1 1/4" and 1" - and depths - 3/4", 1/2" and 1/4". These sizes will allow for he illusion of size between types - at least in two of the three measurable dimensions. It does mean that smaller vessels will appear larger but this could be explained by the fact that smaller vessels tended to operate closer inshore than bigger vessels so would appear larger (tenuous I know but good enough). The superstructures and fittings will be kept as simple as possible so the end result will be almost toy looking rather than model like. I am still experimenting with simple shapes for use with this idea but, and here is the kicker, there is absolutely no reason why these hull sizes could not be used for ships from a variety of periods. All that would be needed would be to make he unique features for the type to be represented (a good example would be things like stern galleys or outriggers for galleys) in such a way that they could be easily added to the hull to make something perfectly serviceable for the ship required. These are not scale models - they are gaming pieces used to represent the ships as required for the period. They will be simple to put together and with detail kept to a minimum.

This 'home made' approach will not suit everybody but for me it offers a number of practical advantages. Besides, it is fun mucking about with bits and pieces and seeing what comes out at the end!


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

I still am mourning the loss of your 1/3000 kit

Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

Axis & Allies used various sized playing pieces as well.

Nothing wrong with what you propose but if it was me, while I would insist that all ships fit in a hex, I wouldn't insist that they all fill it. So, I would leave the largest ships as you propose but as well as trimming the gieght & width of smaller ships I would also trim a slight amount of length to increase the suggestion of aize difference, perhaps 3 3/4, 3 1/4, 2 3/4. Not a true scale differential but instant visual recognition.

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

I had a lot of fun with them to be sure but 'the times, they are a changin'

I feel very liberated and if you ever get the chane to read the book Zorba The Greek you will find a very good description of what defines liberation!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Ross,

Its funny, I was having very similar thoughts almost as soon as I had posted the blog entry! It is very early on in the process as I am still at the experimentation stages - I will have a look at both methods and then see which looks better.

Certainly the concept is perfectly viable as some of my mock ups have proven - the ancient galley looked fine and so by extension the 16th century should also be OK.

All the best,


Paul of the Man Cave said...

Intriguing - I too would advocate thee relative generic size between Capital ships, cruisers and escorts so give both recognition and 'feel' of a battle formation

David Crook said...

Hi Paul,

I think between you and Ross you are on to something - I messed around with some smaller hulls and the effect was like magic! A small difference, but a telling one.

All the best,