Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Rayleigh Naval Review....Part 1

Admiral Ushakov in 1897

The Russian Coastal Defence Battleship Admiral Ushakov

I must apologise in advance for the fact that there are currently no pictures accompanying this post - other than the one above - because I am having some minor technical issues preventing me from uploading any. This should be resolved on the morrow and so a photo-essay style second part will follow in due course.

Last night saw the collection of the  Stonewall Figures - My Little Ships models from Mr Fox and so these are now safely at anchor on my modelling tray. I was very pleased to get my hands on this little lot and so the plans in hand for my WW1 era set up are now moving, at the risk of being clichĂ©d, at full steam ahead. The range is limited but the gaps can readily be filled from other manufacturers - I fully intend adding in some C in C models and some from Viking Forge in due course. C in C models are available in the UK from Wargames Emporium - C in C whilst Viking Forge can be obtained from Viking Forge - Minifleet in the US of A. As far as I know these are not available from any suppliers in the UK which is a shame as the range is very interesting.

The Stonewall models are basic and my oft-quoted analogy of them looking like 1/3000th models on steroids is a pretty good one. I should further qualify that by stating when I say 1/3000th models I mean old 1/3000th models....

They are not going to win any prizes for detail although some of them are very nice little models. On balance I would say that the Germans are the better range in terms of cleanness of casting although the castings of the battleship Baden and the armoured cruiser Scharnhorst are pretty rough. I am quite sure though that a lick of paint will soon have them looking suitably resplendent and ready for action.  To give you an idea of the collection size take a look at the following:

Royal Navy

1 x Tiger - Battle Cruiser
3 x Lion - Battle Cruiser

3 x Iron Duke - Battleship
6 x Orion - Battleship
4 x KGV - Battleship
4 x Bellerophon - Battleship

4 x Bristol - Light Cruiser
4 x Chatham - Light Cruiser

12 x M Class - Destroyer

High Seas Fleet

2 x Derflinger - Battle Cruiser

3 x Baden - Battleship
4 x Konig - Battleship
4 x Kaiser - Battleship
5 x Helgoland - Battleship
4 x Westfalen - Battleship

2 x Scharnhorst - Armoured Cruiser
5 x Breslau - Light Cruiser
1 x Konigsberg - Light Cruiser

21 x T class - Torpedo Boats

The Royal Navy battleships have suffered somewhat from the battered tripod mast syndrome - many of these are missing the fighting tops although removing the residue and replacing them with wire pole masts would work pretty well - most of them are destined for service in fictional navies so some change in appearance will help in that respect. The KGVs  are the best of the bunch as all them are fully intact in this respect; the worst offenders being the Orions. The smaller models are very nice indeed and so buying these models cheaply and using more expensive and better detailed larger models is probably an option.

The models I have will be more than sufficient for the capital ship requirements for the four fleets under consideration but expenditure will be required to finish them off. Luckily this will not be too excessive and is limited to early battle and armoured cruisers and some more destroyers.

I also took delivery of a selection of Viking Forge pre dreadnought era warships that will serve to provide much of the older navies for both Fezia and Rusland. This little lot came from the Area 51 (in this case the garage) of Mr Hardman. The models are very nice indeed and also feature separate gun turrets for some of the larger ships - I am not sure if that is a good idea for me and so these will be fixed firmly in place when I get to them! The collection consists of the following:


3 x Wien - Old Battleship


3 x Pommern - Pre-Dreadnought Battleship

2 x Nymphe - Protected Cruiser


2 x Fuji - Pre-Dreadnought Battleship
1 x Mikasa - Pre-Dreadnought Battleship
2 x Shikishima - Pre-Dreadnought Battleship
1 x Asahi - Pre-Dreadnought Battleship

2 x Nisshin - Armoured Cruiser
1 x Chiyoda - Protected Cruiser
1 x Suma - Protected Cruiser

1 x Chinen - Coastal Defence Battleship

4 x Murakumo - Torpedo Boat


3 x Admiral Ushakov - Coastal Defence Battleship

1 x Pallada - Armoured Cruiser

6 x Boiki - Destroyer
6 x Puilki - Destroyer

The great thing with this scale is the fact that the smaller vessels are more viable than in 1/3000th - especially important for somebody as ham-fisted as I usually am!

There is a lot of material to be working with here and I am going to spend the next few days finalising exactly what I want to do and how I want to do it. I also need to think about the new models that will need to be acquired and the painting of the same.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Naval Estimates

Not my copy (mine is in a lot better condition I am happy to say!) but a great read all the same

I have spent some time over the last few days going through my naval library to get some inspiration for the composition of the forthcoming Fezian and Rusland navies. These will be assembled from part of the collection of 1:2400th scale models I am collecting this evening with the balance being used on a more historical basis. My naval library contains three volumes of Conway's Fighting Ships (1860 to 1905, 1906 to 1921 and 1922 to 1946) and copies of the 05 and 14 Jane's (pictured above) so having an excuse to dip into these was one that was hardly needed!

For sheer period charm then Jane's has to be a great choice - simply because of some of the less than flattering comments about certain ships, quoted with the the spirit of Victorian/Edwardian righteous indignation - rather like the 'disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' style of letter occasionally seen in the broadsheets.

I will certainly need to add to the collection but mercifully not by very much as it stands at present - certainly I could use some RN armoured cruisers and a selection of pre-dreadnought battleships would be useful. The great thing is that both Fezia and Rusland will not need to be very large in terms of numbers and what will be left over will more or less complete the planned set up for the historical RN and High Seas Fleet.

So armed with these titles, and several large mugs of tea, my plans have been slowly coalescing....;-)

Monday, 28 January 2013

Of Ships and what to do with them....

SMS Scharnhorst

SMS Scharnhorst - soon to be commissioned in the Rusland navy, together with her sister ship, SMS Gneisenau.

A large gray warship sails through calm seas; a dark cloud of smoke pours out of its two smoke stacks.

SMS Blucher - again, soon to be commissioned into the Rusland navy as the flagship of the Cruiser Fleet.

On Wednesday this week I shall be taking delivery of a substantial quantity of 1:2400th scale WW1 models courtesy of Mr. Fox. The models are the old Micro-Matrix range currently available from Stonewall Figures which Mr Fox has been hoovering up over a period of some time but have lain, like so many 'ooh shiny' projects, (and I am referring to pretty much all wargamers in this respect!) forlorn and unloved in his equivalent of Area 51. The collection is rather large and consists of a larger chunk of both sides present at the Battle of Jutland.

I am planning on using these models as the basis for the Fezian and Rusland navies but as it stands the numbers involved are far in excess of what I envisaged raising. At this point I should perhaps mention that something in the order of 40 or so dreadnoughts are heading my way! I did have a mad moment and thought that this may be my big opportunity to raise the forces to refight Jutland - mercifully common sense prevailed and so this is what the plan now looks like:

  • Fezia and Rusland will have a selection of capital ships - both of dreadnought and battle cruiser types - that will use roughly a third of the collection.
  • The remainder will furnish historical British and German navies - which will also include some new acquisitions in the shape of armoured cruisers and similar.
My first priority will be to sort out the collection and decide who is getting what - my thinking at the moment will be for the Rusland navy to use the German kit by virtue of the fact that I have based their strategic situation as being akin to that of the High Seas Fleet. This means their fleet is largely a short range force with ships that are well protected but relatively lightly armed compared to their contemporaries. Rusland light vessels are extremely effective in the use of the torpedo and mine warfare is extensively employed - both offensively and defensively. During peacetime Rusland regularly sends out cruisers into the Middle Sea for flag showing purposes - which usually leads to Fezia despatching vessels to shadow them.

For the Fezians I am planning on using the Royal Navy models as Fezia has the same strategic considerations as the Royal Navy in WW1 had in that they have a large empire with far-ranging naval commitments. This translates into ships with a long range and usually high speed, well armed but lighter on the protection scale than the Rusland vessels. They tend to keep older vessels in service for longer so fleets can consist of a wide variety of types. What the Fezians lack in quality compared to the Rusland navy they more than make up for in terms of quantity - especially as they are able to reinforce the Feian Sea easily from the other side of the Derdenalles straits.

The historical set up will need some additional models (actually so will the Fezian/Rusland set up) so once I have sorted out how I am tackling the forces I can plan accordingly. At this stage I suspect that I shall be using ships from Viking Forge as some of these do not look too out of place from the style perspective to the Stonewall models

I am really excited about the whole thing to be honest - both from the Fezian/Rusland side and the historical and as Mr Fox rightly observed, for the painting of this little lot I need to ensure I have sufficient shades of grey to be working with....;-)

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Something a little out of the ordinary....

Not my usual reading material but set against the backdrop of 1877 and the Russo Turkish War this was always going to be attractive to me!

Today saw the family visit the local, once a month indoor boot sale up in the town. It is small, inevitably crowded and always very stuffy but has the virtue of being a very pleasant way to spend an hour or so - especially if you are able to score any bargains as I did this morning.

Turkish Gambit by Boris Akunin is, I believe, the third in the series of books featuring Erast Fandorin, the reluctant gentleman sleuth and is set, as mentioned by the picture above, against the backdrop of the Russo Turkish War. The book is the hardback first edition and cost me the princely sum of 50p and needless to say, I shall look forward to this.

A very nice model and one that will be used to supplement my collection of souvenir type building once painted.

The second acquisition, which also cost me 50p, is a small die case metal model of the 'Basilique Du Sacre-Couer De Montmatre'. It stands around three inches tall and so would fit in very nicely with my collection of ceramic Eastern Mediterranean buildings once it has had a coat of paint (and the lettering covered!). My plan for this is to turn it into a rather ornate Mosque, complete with a green central dome. I apologise in advance if this has unintentionally offended anybodies religious sensibilities in any way but there is a historical precedent for this - think Constantinople 1453!

All in all then, not a bad start to the boot sale season for the year - £1 spent in total.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Rat(a)-attack on the Ocean Wave

The famous Polikarpov I-16 in Chinese service. Once repainted these will look very different from the above.

Today has been a good day. As a result of a few disposals on eBay I was able to acquire some new toys for the man cave - the first of which is pictures above, the famous Polikarpov I-16 single seat fighter - the 'Rata'. The models pictured above are from the Axis and Allies Angels 20 range of 1/100th scale aircraft and these will soon be joining the four 109Es currently being repainted.

I have taken the decision that I shall be using the Angels 20 aircraft repainted to serve in the Fezian and Rusland air forces and so as well as thinking about the back story for the navies I will also have to consider the aerial dimension. Again, I want to have demonstrably different capabilities between the two forces so that they assume a personality all of their own. As far as crew quality is concerned I will be rating the Rusland as the historical Soviets whilst the Fezians are currently an unknown quantity. Once I have worked out the back story for the Fezian air force I will have a clearer idea.

The other piece of really good news is that as the result of a frenzied email exchange and a couple of pleading phone calls (not to mention some reinforcements for his collection of Angels 20 aircraft) I shall be taking delivery from that very nice Mr. Fox ALL of his 1/2400th scale WW1 Stonewall Figures warships! This is absolutely brilliant news for me although it does present me with the nicest of dilemmas. I am planning on using this scale to furnish the fleets for both Fezia and Rusland - obviously this is part of the 1905 to 1920 tranche of the project - and so this is a very timely transaction indeed. I will post up some pictures once I have taken delivery.

The dilemma I obliquely referred to is of course the usual wargames stand by of the grand design. With this collection, incomplete though it is, I would have the basis for tackling the kind of project that separates the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, the cheese from the onion or indeed, any other combination you could think of. I am of course referring to Jutland. Yes, Jutland, Yes, THAT Jutland....the 1916 dreadnought slugfest.

Calm down, I'm only kidding, I couldn't possibly consider tackling the battle in 1/2400th....could I?

Nahh....never gonna happen! I will stick with imminent naval arms race across the dark waters of the Fezian Sea....for the time being anyway.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Of Ships and Scales and Naval Decisions....Part 2

HMS Tiger - without the benefit of the much maligned 'hideous rig' as commented on in the 1919 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships.

It has been strange old couple of days and no mistake! Still no joy on the job front with the added irritation of travelling to London for an interview that was cancelled just as my train pulled into London. Ho hum.

Enough already, of my domestic trials and tribulations and on to the good stuff!

You will recall that I was making noises about using 1/2400th scale models for the Fezian and Rusland navies - simply because they have more 'presence' on the tabletop than their 1/3000th cousins. The only problem at this stage was the apparent lack of availability of this scale in the UK. For sure you can get a hold of C in C and GHQ but for me, especially with the latter, these are scale models rather than gaming pieces and should be treated as such. I want something a little less detailed, a lot more durable and above all, a darn sight cheaper! Panzerschiffe from the US would be ideal but I was reminded of a range available from Stonewall Figures - Stonewall Figures - Micro Matrix 1/2400th Ships

As you can see, these were the models formerly available from Micro Matrix and although they are basic in respect of details as gaming pieces they are ideal. They are also very reasonably priced. Mr Fox has a selection of these for WW1 and whilst there are some holes in the ranges (and, one suspects, little chance of anything being added to what is available) gap filling from other manufacturers should not be too onerous.

The other alternative, and one that I have been having a very encouraging and productive exchnage of emails with Bob Cordery, would be to build the models using the 'cartoon' approach. This would mean models of a certain length (a typical battleship would be around 3 1/2" long) but both 'beamier' and taller. Again, I shallI have a play around with this and see what comes out.

In closing, it seems like 1/2400th would be the ideal scale for me for use with Hexon - the models are larger, with more 'presence' and with a ship of around 700ft (I am thinking of HMS Tiger here at 704ft long) being some 3 1/2" long, they fit very tidily.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Fond memories of Numidian cavalry

Numidian Light cavalry skirmishing and doing what they do best - annoying and irritating the enemy!

I have mentioned in the past about my various flirtations with ancient wargaming. I cut my teeth on WRG 6th edition and used a 25mm Carthaginian army with figures from Minifigs, Hinchliffe, Garrison and, I think, even some Lamming models for good measure. The army was of a fairly hefty size - over 3,500 points worth or nearly 500 models and whilst it was not the most successful army I have ever owned it was enormous fun to use. I think I mentioned the fact that the best ever result I had with the army was in fact a draw and trust me, under 6th edition that felt like a victory! One of the things I enjoyed about the army was the way that you could tailor it to suit the opposition and in fact this was historically accurate in that the army varied hugely over its career - especially over the course of the invasion of Italy. You could quite easily cobble together several DBA armies from the figure mix (although DBA was not around when I owned the collection) but the one part I always used to field was the famous Numidian Light cavalry.

These horsemen became the cornerstone of my battle plans and were routinely used for flank marches, happily popping up en masse behind an enemy flank just as the Gallic horse crashed into the enemy front - sometimes this even worked....;-)

I painted up a 15mm DBA Numidian army a few years ago with all the options - imitation Roman legionaries, elephants and a general with a Gallic and Spanish bodyguard - which was great fun to use and was really easy to paint. It was also undefeated, winning all three of the games it took part in.

Painting Numidians is very easy, even for me and so I may well revisit them in some way in due course - I am thinking about 20mm plastic DBA armies at some point - in order to recapture some of the fun I used to have with them - especially trying to tackle Seleucid Cataphracts and such like.

Mention of these fanous cavalry has come about simply because I was looking through the ancient section of my library and on the back of this have decided that my next game, by way of a change, will be an ancient one and so Numidia's finest can once again cause discomfort to the enemies of Carthage (and probably me as well given their track record!).

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Of Ships and Scales and Naval Decisions

Examples of Panzerschiffe resin 1/2400th scale warships

Whilst pondering the naval history of both Fezia and Rusland I have naturally been thinking about the models I shall be using. This has been rather more taxing that I first thought it would be - not so much in respect of the ships I want to represent - simply because I am uncertain of what I want to use for the models. The most obvious choice would be to use 1/3000th models, principally the enormous range available from Navwar. This would be a quick fix for sure but sadly I am not a huge fan of this scale and while I would use them in the short term I really need something a little more permanent.

Bearing in mind that I shall be using my Hexon terrain I really want models that are larger but not excessively so. Using 1/1200th models would not really be an option as most of the larger classes of ship will be larger than the 4 inches across a tile. My current thinking is to use 1/2400th models as a good compromise between tabletop size and practicality. There are a number of manufacturers of metal models in this scale but for my purposes I am looking quite seriously at the huge range of resin offerings from Panzerschiffe in the US - Panzerschiffe.

These models have been available since the early 1970s and may well provide me with a viable alternative to UK based metal models in this scale - most of which are shipped over from the US in any event! As mentioned, the range is huge and contains more than sufficient variety for even the most esoteric of fleets - which means that the navies of Fezia and Rusland should be truly unique looking.

Back in the early days of Navwar many of the warship models were produced in resin - Peter Pig use resin for their 1/600th ACW models - so there is most certainly a precedent for using this medium.

The other alternative would be to scratch build the models I need which would of course give me complete artistic freedom in etrms of the models I could create. The downside is not only the number of models needed (I am only looking at around a couple of dozen models per side but when you consider this is the requirement for, in effect, three sub-periods then the numbers mount up!) but also the time taken to build them - and I have yet to work out a satisfactory method of building turrets! Whilst this would be fun to do reluctantly I will forego this for the time being.

In summary then, I need to make some firm decisions about the type of models I want to use although I am fairly settled on the scale I shall be employing - 1/2400th.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Three weeks into 2013....

....and not a game in sight in the man cave!

I need to rectify this glaring oversight and soon - I have been so wrapped up in planning and pondering that I have completely managed to miss the real point of it all - fighting a tabletop wargame!

As it stands at the moment I am thinking about a Big Battle Portable Wargame: Modern covering the Rusland incursion into the Fezian province of Trabgudulak in 1935. This limited incursion (in actuality it was more like a large scale raid) was made by Rusland armoured formations with a limited infantry element with the express intention of wrecking the Fezian coal mines and rail head. Air and artillery support was provided but due to an intelligence coup the Fezian border defence formations had sufficient time to ready themselves for the attack.

There you go, I have talked myself into something so best I give it some further thought and actually fight the action!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Creating a Naval Background

The Spanish dreadnought Espana

One of the areas that will be of primary importance for me with the planned Fezian and Rusland armed forces will be the naval dimension. I enjoy naval wargames as any long time readers of this blog will know so naturally it will be important for me to reflect this on the tabletop. However, it is not sufficient for me to merely roll out two fleets of model ships and set to - definitely not! The fleets need to have a history and the models used also need to have a design rationale as to the choices made as to their selection. In fact the naval dimension will actually involve five sub - periods rather than the four of the land side. These will be as follows:

  • The sail era
  • The steam and sail era
  • The pre-dreadnought era
  • The dreadnought era
  • The air and submarine era
The first two periods are fairly obvious - the Napoleonic and Ironclad eras - but of course the three that follow on are largely linked, simply because historically there is a lot of overlap with ships being refitted and modernised from earlier periods and used in second line or supporting roles later on. Fezia and Rusland are no exceptions to this historical precedent which also has the advantage in terms of what models I can use.

I am slightly torn with this as I would like to make the ships myself but making use of the very extensive range of 1/3000th models from Navwar may yet be the choice, if only from a practicality perspective. Ideally though I would prefer to use slightly larger models if possible as I do not envisage needing many of them so may well take a look at 1/2400th. Again, I intend fighting the naval wars of Fezia and Rusland on my Hexon terrain so model size is important - the largest ships need to be able to fit within two hexes. Ironically, the best possible size would be 1/1800th - the size used by Axis and Allies: War at Sea. The one thing above all else I want to be able to do though is to make sure that the ships are unique looking or more specifically, not obvious as to their origin. This means that should I buy the models they will need to be from lesser well known navies and not just Royal Navy repaints.

Remind me then, just why did I get rid of the collection I had of these? 

Coming back to the background I am fairly comfortable with what I want to do and how I want to do it - the execution though will be slightly different from what I outlined in a couple of posts at the end of 2011.

The early sketches of just how the navies came about for the war of 1935 are still about right although as mentioned I will need to tidy this up slightly to bring it in line with my current thinking.

The one decision I have made though concerns the sizes of the fleets being considered - they will not be large by any means and my current hinking is for around a couple of dozen or so models for each side. Capital ships will feature of course, both rebuilt earlier types and more modern vessels, including provision for an aerial capability.

Meanwhile, back to the catalogues and planning, ever planning!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Organising an Organisation

One of the things I have been giving some thought to for the armed forces of both Fezia and Rusland is not only the equipment used but also the organisation of the same. For the whole set up - across the four sub-periods -  the opposing sides will be broadly similar in composition and surprisingly compact. I am using as the basis of all the periods I intend gaming that which is used in Charge - Or How To Play Wargames by Messrs Young and Lawford. This may seem a little unusual, especially for the mechanised period, but my reasons are driven by some less than conventional requirements.

My games will be primarily solo affairs or with the occasional particpation of a guest or two. My preferred method of fighting is to use a hexed based system and so the rules of choice will be Commnd and Colours based or, more likely derivatives thereof - and of course the Big Battle Portable Wargame series. The are I shall be fighting over will be 13 x 9 hexes or the same size as aCommand and Colours battle board. Most the games I shall fight will contain a mximum of 12 to 15 units a side with 8 or 9 being the usual average.

With these criteria to consider my projected organisation makes a little more sense as I am going to be basing the infantry element around 48 rank and file figures, individually based. Charge has a basic organisation of an infantry regimnet of three companies of 16 rank and file so you can see my reasoning. To illustrate this further, under both Command and Colours and the Portable Wargame an infantry unit consists typically of 4 figures. Suddenly my 48 rank and file can become 12 such units. On top of this are the command figures weighing in at around half a dozen or so. For the rifle and smoothbore era I will need to consider troops attired differently for grenadiers and light infantry but the basic concept remains the same and indeed, Charge made use of mixed regiments with both a light and a grenadier company accompanying the two line companies.

Cavalry would also follow a similar system although it would be rare for me to fight with more than the equivalent of a couple of Charge sized squadrons - these are 8 figures plus command whilst the standard Command and Colours cavalry unit is 3 figures strong. Two Charge squadrons would then furnish 5 units which would be rare under the rules I will be using, save for special scenarios.

Artillery will be the sole exception to the Charge system because not only will this include infantry support weapons - machine guns and mortars for example - it will also work in a slightly different way. I want to have single weapons and crews repesenting the units in question rather than the two pieces used in Charge.

Similarly, any vehicles will operate on the table as individual models (although usually 2 or 3 strength points in 'size').

Taking all this into consideration it can be readily deduced that the largest collection (in terms of figures and models) will be the mechanised era - the figures count will be quite modest but the 'extras' in terms of vehicles etc will be quite extensive. The earlier eras will feature progressively more figures but given the criteria I am working to - I like to call it the Charge factor - they will be not be onerous to prepare. In contemporary parlance they could be likened to DBA armies with all the options.

In closing the mechanised era will be the first port of call and using the word port leads me nicely into the subject of the next post - the naval dimension and revisiting some earlier posts on the subject.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Of Crossing the Rubicon....

I came, I saw, I created a pair of fictional wargames countries (actually that is not entirely true as I have only borrowed the names but the background will be my own!)

Make a note of the date - 18/01/2013. The concept behind the rather dramatic opening to this post has its origins way back in the early 1970s, when I first became involved with the insanity called wargaming - and was held spellbound by the works of Messrs. Grant, Lawford, Young, Featherstone and Wise. It has simmered over the years and first came to be realised in the late 1970s and early 1980s - primarily as a direct result of taking part in Eric Knowles's legendary Madasahatta campaign and the following South East Asia naval campaign of 1914. It then fell on a fallow period until around four years ago I was introduced to the priceless world of the blog and all the wonders contained therein - particularly those like-minded individuals who shared the same vision (and they know who they are!).

I am of course referring to the concept of the 'imagi-nation'.

I have flirted with the concept, danced around the periphery of it but never took the plunge in a full-blown, hell for leather kind of way. Until now that is....

Last year was a massive watershed for me for many reasons. The main one was of course the decision to make use of the blocks for an extensive gaming workout. Using the blocks has been a real revelation to me because for historical actions - translating battle maps into a 3d table top game - it has proven to be versatile, aesthetically pleasing and by virtue of some quite outstanding sets of rules, enormous fun to play with.

Since the end of the year I have been pondering what I want to do and how I want to do it this year. I have already mentioned a few projects I have under way - 1:4800th WW2 naval, the Angels 20 aircraft for the Battle of Britain to name but two. I also had some plans around some scratchbuilding involving ships of various periods. Always at the back of my mind though was the need to tackle something just a little bit different, a little off the mainstream.

Whilst I was wrestling with this continual dilemma (at least it is for me) it suddenly occurred to me that my most enjoyable historical gaming experiences have invariably been boardgame or block based - and that the figure games that I have enjoyed have usually been hypothetical actions, even when involving historical armies. I realise that this is the essence of the wargame - fighting hypothetical actions - but if the action is hypothetical then surely using hypothetical forces should not be a problem, or should it?

The whole Fezia Rusland thing has given me much to think about - simply because by tackling these two worthies over the course of 150 years (and four separate gaming periods) I have the potential to enjoy games of the type I would like to play using forces comprised of whatever figures and models I choose to use. The games will be hypothetical as will the armies and so this is for me a critical distinction.

I will be able to do whatever I want to with armies, navies and even air forces made up exactly how I like.

In the past I have tried to assemble historical armies but have never been entirely happy with the end results. I am at a loss to explain why other than because they have always felt somehow restrictive to me and my ideas.

This is the decision then. My days of painting historical armies and navies are over. My days of painting armies and navies with a history, especially those with one of my own making, are just beginning.

Crossing the Rubicon? No big deal, just another small waterway out of the way....;-)

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Of Tanks and Men....Part 2

Zvezda Art of Tactic German Infantry - the typical  early war uniform, beloved of TV and films! ....

The infantry figures I intend using for this part of the Fezian project are Zvezda 20mm WW2 Russians and Germans from their Art of Tactic; Operation Barbarossa game. They are plastic to be sure but I have a supply of them (with some more to come) so it would seem churlish not to make use of them! The Ruslanders will obviously be sourced from the Russian figures whilst the Germans will be used for the Fezians. Historically the Turkish infantry of the WW2 era appeared to look a little like late WW1 German infantry with a type of coal scuttle helmet and wearing jodhpur-like trousers . I am using the Germans as they are although may well use olive green as the base uniform colour with brown leather equipment. The only other thing I may be inclined to change is the machine guns in use. WW2 German machine guns look too modern in my opinion so I may well use the WW1 version from the Hat Industrie German Heavy Weapons set.

....and the corresponding Russian Infantry

Artillery of various kinds will be easy to come by. Aside from the Plastic Soldier Company I can also make use of Armourfast - they have a very nice German gun in their range -  and various other kits kicking around including the famous 25pdr from Airfix as well as some very useful bits and pieces from the aforementioned Zvezda Art of Tactic range. There is certainly no shortage of choice then!

Astute readers will have noticed that everything I have discussed for this set up is plastic - this has not been a conscious decision on my part, it is merely the way things have worked out. Having said that,  have been taking a look at the resin offerings from Frontline so some of these may feature in due course as well.

The ideas for the armies are gradually beginning to take a definite shape and so I can begin to make the appropriate plans for the acquisition of the material needed - and I have been very pleasantly surprised at the potential cost involved. Given my ongoing unemployment this is an important consideration as any hobby-related expenditure is obviously limited.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Of Tanks and Men....Part 1

A Rusland BT7 Tank on manoeuvres. Note the non-standard paint scheme - usually a sand colour features alongside the green and brown.

For the armies of Fezia and Rusland in the mechanised era (specifically the late 1930s) I have spent some time pondering about what vehicles I should use for them with the first item on the agenda being tanks. I wanted tanks that looked suitable for the period and that would fit in with the fictional historical background I am planning for these two protagonists. The decision I have come to is that whilst Rusland will be far more uniform in respect of their equipment the Fezians will be far less so - unsurprisingly given the perennially parlous state of the Fezian treasury, not to mention their industrial capacity.

The historical Turks made use of tanks from a variety of sources and so I will happily ensure that the Fezians follow suit. I also needed to consider the respective armoured doctrines used by each side and how this shaped their respective armoured formations and usage. For this I decided that the forces of Rusland would be great exponents of the concept of Blitzkrieg - massed armour and artillery, copious air support but with truly abysmal communications. Attacks tend to be well planned but executed but vulnerable to sudden changes in circumstances and also 'short legged' - very little initiative being displayed at lower levels meaning that once the initial objectives were achieved then the attack would invariably halt whilst a new plan was drawn up. A key component of this doctrine is the use of massed tank formations and so the Ruslanders developed a tank that was relatively fast, moderately armoured and mounting a 45mm main gun - the BT7. This was by far and away the most common tank in use by the Ruslanders although it was supported by a small number of heavier vehicles - details of which are classified and not readily available to the public.

A Fezian 38T Tank emerges from the factory where it was built

By comparison the Fezians appear disorganised and with a chaotic mix of old and new types in service and with no clear direction as to the employment of tanks. This is true up to a point but several factors contribute to making this apparent disorder considerably less disruptive than might be first thought. Tanks are deployed piecemeal and are attached to parent infantry formations with a small reserve maintained within each province. These provincial reserves are a key part of the Fezian defences as it is they that receive the newest vehicles. Whilst the front line tank numbers are modest what they lack in quantity they make up for in terms of low level tactical expertise. They are also supported by copious anti tank artillery and so are often held back and used once the anti tank defences have inflicted punishing losses on an attacking enemy. The tanks themselves are a mixture of types ranging from the FT17 through the Vickers Light Tank, to the 38t and the Panzer 3. Fezian practice is to maintain a reserve that is used to reinforce the front line as and when needed as the tanks on the border are invariably outnumbered. For the most part then, a border defence infantry regiment will have tanks but in a bewildering variety of types.

A Fezian Vickers Light Tank - note the factory finish sand colour to which various colours were added by way of camouflage depending on the terrain the vehicle was destined to fight over 

The geography of Fezia is for the most part suited to defence being very rugged and mountainous the further away from the Rusland border one travels. This means that the Fezian use of defence works and artillery, backed by tanks makes for a formidable series of obstacles to any would be attacker. Invasions tend therefore, to concentrate on the coastal plain where the room to manoeuvre is far more pronounced. This is an area of weakness and a feature that the Fezian high command is certainly well aware of.

The Models

As it stands at present I am looking at Pegasus Hobbies for the BT7 and 38T, Armourfast for the Panzer 3, Hat for the FT17 and Airfix for the Vickers Light Tank. Pegasus also produce a twin pack of both German and US trucks.

Part 2 will feature my ideas for the artillery and infantry.