Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Christmas: Friends, Family and the Force Awakens

Friends

For a variety of reasons this post has taken a while to get to and as a result is in fact a combination of three. Christmas has been and gone but Maison Crook has been busy with all the usual pleasantries - Christmas Eve at the local church for their Christingle concert, family visits and the sheer joy of having our 5 year old grandson to stay. Needless to say industrial sized quantities of Lego have been built and repaired as well as umpteen readings of the assorted Marvel Heroes adventures (note to self - I must make a concerted effort to acquaint myself further with the adventures of Iron Man and Captain America). We have certainly eaten too much and and have (probably) drank too much as well but it is only once a year after all.


The three stooges meeting on a rather wet Monday in the heart of the West End of London. Yours truly on the right, Paul in the centre and Reilly doing the honours in respect of the 'Selfie'

At a personal level the holiday season really started on Monday 21/12 when I had the pleasure of meeting my long time partner in VSF crime - the redoubtable Paul O'Grady and his son 'Right Stuff' Reilly. For a short while before the day we may have also had the company of Bob Cordery but sadly he had to pass due to unforeseen circumstances. Nevertheless we hoisted a cold one in his honour.

The last time I met up with Paul was around 6 years ago so it was a real delight when he mentioned that he and his family were passing through London en route down under (via Norway for Christmas) and that a meeting could be slotted in. We spent a very pleasant Monday afternoon including a very good lunch, numerous examples of the Brewers art (ahem...) and a flying visit to both the Orc's Nest and Forbidden Planet. We talked gaming, life, the universe and everything in it - and also swapped a couple of purchases to avoid ruinous shipping charges. I will describe mine a little later but will refrain from mentioning my side of the arrangement as I am sure that Paul will prefer that pleasure in due course! Reilly is a delight to talk to and I have seldom met a more grounded and mature 14 year old - you do not get to be an Eagle Scout for nothing - and it was a privilege to meet him. I would certainly not want to play Bloodbowl with him though - he sounds far too good for my modest abilities!



The title on the left I have coveted for some years now - I did not paying some £40 for the UK paperback version though! The title on the right came as a very unexpected surprise - and one that I am truly grateful for!

My half of our mutual purchase arrangement was a hardback copy of a book I have been after for some time but was reluctant to order from the US as the shipping would have been expensive and the value of the item would be sure to incur customs charges. Taking both of these factors into consideration it would mean that the price would have been effectively double - and certainly not financially viable for my budget. A paperback version is available in the UK but this is in fact dearer than the hardback version from the US and if I am honest, I really begrudge paying out more than the cost of an Osprey campaign title in softback. An exchange of emails with Paul whilst he was in the US meant that he acquired this for me and carried to the UK whilst I got some goodies for him (top secret at the moment!) - with the exchange taking place over a couple of very nice beers. What I was not expecting though is that Paul had also acquired the Russian Campaign title by way of a surprise for little old me! I can't thank him enough for this gesture and it is a very welcome addition to the Russo-Turkish section of the library. The Allan and Muratoff title covers everything you wanted to know about the campaigns in the Caucasus between 1828 and 1921 between the Russians and the Turks - maps, orders of battle, campaign details - everything the aspiring war-games campaigner could need! I will review both of these titles in more detail once I have had the chance to read them.

So to sum up this part of the post I had a really good afternoon with an old friend and his son which really set the tone for Christmas. I should also point out that whilst the new Star Wars film was discussed at length Paul was diplomatic enough NOT to tell me what happened other than that they both really enjoyed it!


Christmas loot - and it rather reflects my somewhat eclectic tastes! The Serbian title further complements my growing Balkan collection.

Family

As far as the Christmas present haul was concerned I was a very lucky chap indeed! My fondness for anything Balkans related was acknowledged by SWMBO who also knows that I am a sucker for anything to do with spying, secret agents and special operations (I have bored her incessantly over the years - especially as I recall when we went to Crete for a holiday - the scene of the operation described by Patrick Leigh Fermor) hence the new Max Hastings title and Patrick Leigh Fermor's account of the kidnap of General Kriepe. SWMBO also surprised me with the copy of Frostgrave - rather she surprised me when I said I was going to get it so she could wrap it up for me for Christmas - she readily agreed which in itself was rather unusual! I enjoyed Master and Commander on DVD so the Blu-Ray was a welcome surprise from Holly who is currently home from University. Finally my son, Reece, surprised his old man with a very welcome £50 Waterstone's voucher which I am sure to put to good use.

The Force Awakens

Holly, the redoubtable Mr Fox and myself are going to see the new Star Wars film tomorrow and needless to say I am really looking forward to this. I would ask respectfully that any readers refrain from posting any spoilers by way of comments although I have a pretty good idea of what happens and I also have a theory about what will happen in Episode 8 and 9....:-)

So in closing I hope that you all had a very pleasant Christmas and in case I do not get the chance to post again before 2016 have a healthy and safe new year!


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Return of the Mac

At last! After 11 phone calls, 5 emails and 14 text messages the broadband service to Maison Crook has been returned to full power. In fact it is now faster than previously so I can at last get down to some serious work on the new family PC. Attempting to commission a new computer without the net has been a frustrating experience to say the least....

Our new PC is an IMac so for home use it is goodbye to Windows and hello Apple - and I am really excited about the potential of this brave new world.

In the meantime though, I have a number of posts to complete and publish and these will include a battle report, a couple of reviews and most importantly of all - a meeting with a fellow blogger that took place in the rather wet West End of London on Monday afternoon just gone....

More to follow - and it is good to be back!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Internet Issues

Aside from the usual work related dramas I have also been struggling with a very poor internet service from our friends at BT. After some nine phonecalls to the wilds of Bangalore or wherever else in India the Broadband technical support team are located they have finally discovered that the problem is in fact a line fault that an engineer will be fixing next Tuesday. At least I think is what he meant when he said he would 'see you next Tuesday'....

It has been really frustrating but to be fair we have never really had any problems with BT over the years. It does make it doubly frustrating when you are also trying to set up a new PC as well!

I hope to be posting on a more regular basis after Tuesday with not only a battle report, details of a couple of new additions to the collection but also a very important meeting tomorrow taking place between yours truly and a well known member of the blogosphere.

I will say no more at this point so as not to spoil the surprise....;-)

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Command and Colours: Weird War 2


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The Heroscape US Airborne figures in their original finish

It has been a busy couple of weeks so the blog has dried up slightly. Work has been frantic and I have also been suffering from a chesty cough which has been particularly tenacious. The net result of this is that little has been done in a practical sense. I have managed to get some planning done and the reading has caught up - I am a fanatical user of my commuting time on the train - but nothing tangible on the gaming front. I have set up and action to fight and this is what forms the subject for this post. The battle has yet to be fought as I need to finalise the rules I have been working on - a Sci-Fi version of Command and Colours or, more specifically, Bob Cordery's MOMBAT or Memoir of Modern Battle.


The game has been set up using some of the recently acquired collection of Heroscape figures and a standard Command and Colours playing area of 13 x 9 Hexon tiles. The figures in use are the WW2 US Paratroopers and the alien Marro. The terrain consists of a number of trees from my collection (and I need to base them on something smaller than present), a scattering of hills including a small plateau, a ruined research centre, the magnificent Marro Hive and a number of rough hexes designated by the liberal use of an old aquarium plant broken up into segments. They are a little rough looking at the moment but will have some work in due course to make them a little more alien looking.

The Back Story

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A selection of the Alien Marro figures. The chap on the right is a conversion - although not one of mine, the picture is courtesy of Google Images.

I set great store by having a background to whatever wargame I play and Sci-Fi and Fantasy games are no exception. What I have decided on for this little mini project falls very much into the Weird War 2/Secrets of the Third Reich category - although with a little twist as it features Imperial Japan.

When U234 arrived in Tokyo Bay and mid 1945 few could have foreseen the impact its small cargo would have. Aside from quantities of Uranium Oxide and a crated Me 262 jet fighter there was also a a small number of V 4 containers. It was the V 4 chemical that the Nazis used to such devastating effect in the creation of the dreaded Sturm and Bomber Zombies used in their top secret underground Gibraltar base. The V 4 containers were sent under heavy escort to the secret laboratory used by unit 731 for their chemical and biological weapon development  - with volunteers selected from the Kami Kaze corps and also from a local Sumo wrestling academy.


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Marro support troops

Following the application of the chemical it was quickly realised that something had gone. During transit from Germany on board  U234 the V 4 had been stored next to the Uranium Oxide. Unfortunately the Uranium Oxide was not sealed correctly and was therefore able to contaminate the V 4 chemical. This contamination caused the V 4 to completely reorganise the victims body chemistry to make them very different from what was intended. Essentially the victims body chemistry was completely reordered and gave rise to a very different life form - a life form that was ferocious, cunning and above all, sentient.

Initially the Japanese scientists opted to keep the Kaiju or 'monster' in a secure holding area in the laboratory complex as the initial batch had already killed a number of investigating scientists and armed guards. As well as being ferocious close combat specialists the Kaiju possessed the ability to convert certain mechanical items into biological versions of the same by coating the said object in a secreted bodily fluid - as a result of this they were soon able to arm themselves with 'living guns'.

The Kaiju were 'asexual' and were able to lay eggs to produce their offspring so in a fairly short space of time they quickly increased their numbers. The Japanese scientists, realising that this experiment had gone very wrong were going to blow the entire complex up to eradicate the menace within.

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The Marro Hive - note the 'eggs'. Early indications are that it is made from some kind of secreted resin - but secreted from what?

They were too late - the USAAF did this for them in the shape of a vast B29 raid that destroyed the laboratory, the out buildings and everything in it.


Or had they?

The Americans were aware that the Japanese had been experimenting with the German V 4 chemical and so assumed that by way of survivors from the bombing raid (assuming there were any) all they would encounter would some of the Zombie types. A special Airborne unit was hurriedly assembled with the intention of dropping on the site, collecting any data that may still be found and getting the results back to the US Intelligence service in advance of the landing being planned.

It would be quick 'smash and grab' raid and as the troop transports headed off into the Japanese night sky the paratroopers confidence was high.

To be continued....



Friday, 13 November 2015

Salamis....Part 2

Refighting an Ancient Naval Battle

Okay then. I have most of the models and terrain, the rules I plan to use and sufficient research material upon which to base the project - so I am in pretty good shape, right?

Wrong!

All of the four areas mentioned need work - and lots of it. Taking each area individually makes the whole look a little less daunting and so this is the plan of sorts.

The terrain is relatively straightforward and is merely a case of, in effect, replicating the hexed playing area from Richard Nelson's book. there are a number of photographs of the game in progress so this should be easy enough to do. Nelson used a smaller hex size than I am and also a larger playing area but I am thinking having the reduced size would be no great loss as pretty much all of the conflict was in a confined space. The land will be represented by use of the appropriate Heroscape tiles and, I will crave a certain degree of artistic licence here, a couple of 1/1200th buildings from Rod Langton's range. I rather fancy the notion of a Greek temple or two dotted about....;-)

The models are of primary consideration and the last of these I plan to acquire this weekend from Navwar. That will leave me with some 54 triremes to paint. The models will be based on 40 by 30mm bases - I shall be using those available from Essex Miniatures for this - and I will be naming the models by contingent for example Sparta 1 or Ionia 4. Each contingent will have a designated flagship which will also be marked. I will be producing the models with the mast deployed rather than left off (which would be more historically accurate) as it will mean that I will not have to fill the large hole in the middle of the main deck! I also plan to use 15mm ancient greek shield decals (available from Essex Miniatures and produced by Veni, Vidi, Vici) on the sails for a further piece of artistic indulgence. The first step with this part of the project remains the trip to Navwar and then the grand assembly and undercoat.

The rules are taken straight from Nelson's book but I will need to type these up and produce a quick reference sheet and the fleet lists. This should not be too difficult and has the advantage of being something I can do on the train. The rules need to be extracted from the text as they contain a number of examples of play and what could be considered designer's notes which means that they occupy a chapter rather than a couple of sides of A4. For clarity I can reference his fleet action rules from which the book set were derived if required.

The research aspect will of course mean reading, reading and more reading. I have a modest section in my library devoted to ancient naval warfare and a couple of titles specifically on Salamis. These will be revisited as will some of the histories that cover the period - Herodotus being the main one for the present. I will also take a look at a couple of rule sets that have Salamis as a scenario as this can be useful as well.

I am rather excited about undertaking this project at last and hope that the techniques employed will serve me well for some similar ideas I have in mind. I have some later ancient galleys from the Punic and Civil Wars period so the potential is there for some more refights - Actium springs to mind. I would also certainly envisage using Heroscape for some river based naval action from the ACW in 1/2400th but I also have a couple of 'wind and water' ideas as well - and probably not what you would expect!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Salamis....Part One







A map of the battle of Salamis 480 B.C.


One of the particularly helpful benefits of my recent Heroscape acquisitions has been the greatly increased number of blue 'water' tiles I have accrued. I now posses over 250 and this will give my small scale model naval games a major boost as these can look a little lost in a standard Hexon tile. Going forward the plan is to use the Heroscape water tiles in conjunction with the normal land based version to be able to models river banks, coastal areas and such like. My interest initially centred on the ancient period and the use of 1/1200th galleys but I am already thinking about 1/2400th for the Armada, the Anglo Dutch Wars (I bet you did not see that one coming!) and possibly the ACW/Victorian naval. Taking it further forward in time possibly even WW1 and WW2 using 1/4800th or 1/6000th but that is a long way off.






I guess it may have been easier just to get a plain blue hexed mat for naval games but for me that misses the point. I like the idea of having some land as terrain - either riverbanks or coastline - especially as many of my gaming ideas involve combined operations and similar. Heroscape lends itself very well to this approach and for me offers a lot of potential.







The Persian King of Kings, Xerxes, looks on at the unfolding catastrophe




I have acquired a modest collection of Navwar 1/1200th ancient galleys - including some later types for the Punic Wars - and am looking to use these for a refight of the battle of Salamis. This was one of the most significant naval battles in history and my inspiration for this project has come from various sources. Many years ago I used to play the Avalon Hill game Trireme which was huge fun. I never used models but always planned to do so at some point. Fast forward a few years and I had the good fortune to pick up a copy of Richard Nelson's book on the subject published in the Battles for Wargamers series. A copy of his fleet action rules published by WRG appeared courtesy of EBay and a copy of Warfleets of Antiquity from my good friend Chris Hardman.


The rules from book by Richard Nelson are in effect a cut down version of the WRG set. they feature enough detail to cover the refight of the actual battle and in terms of the number of ships involved he uses a scale of 1 model equalling 12 actual ships. Based on the sources he has used this translates into 54 models - which is eminently achievable. I only need a further 16 triremes from Navwar (not as detailed as Rod Langton but a lot cheaper!) and I will be good to go.


I will have to make some important decisions about the models. They are all going to based on a 40mm by 30mm base with the nationality and number as a label. That much I have decided upon but the main area of contention concerns sails. Do I have them mounted on the ship or do I leave them off? The former would look better but the latter is more historically accurate. I did toy with having them detachable but in 1/1200th they are a little on the fiddly side. An associated problem is there is a huge hole in the deck where the mast is stepped which is quite an eyesore without the mast in place. Of all the options I am leaning towards having the masts in place - simply because the models look nicer.


Ah but what of Jutland? I can almost hear a collective sigh as yet another project is launched. I shall be tackling something Jutland based to commemorate the anniversary next year but it is unlikely that models will feature. Salamis however is a lot more achievable and so my naval efforts will be focusing on this for the next few months. the final models will be acquired at the weekend.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Putting the Hero in Heroscape

                                      
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The first Starter set....

You may recall my earlier posts on the subject of Heroscape - the fantasy miniatures board game formerly produced by Hasbro. Many war games players have acquired this game primarily for the hexed terrain tiles that came with it and there are many blogs that feature games taking place on this terrain - with your truly also having done so. I now own the tiles from three copies of the first starter set as well as whole pile of flocked and painted tiles courtesy of Bob Cordery. From a land perspective I have more than enough for my needs and if I am honest the only disadvantage of using these is their size as the hexes are only some 45 mm across the flats - less than half the size of the Hexon version. In the game as played a single model occupies a hex (in some cases two hexes for the larger types) and this is fine. In fact if you check out Google and look at the images under Heroscape you can see some quite superb set ups. For my own use though these tiles will be used for games involving small scale models - I am thinking about the 3mm troop blocks from Peter Pig or those from Tumbling Dice - and will be suitably painted in due course.

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 ....And the second - which I had not seen

What of the figures though?

The figures thet come with the game are, in my opinion, not bad. They are prepainted and fairly basic in terms of detail BUT are very usable en masse. I had mentioned previously about using some of them as the basis for games of either HOTTs, the forthcoming Dragon Rampant or any other skirmish level fantasy/sci-fi rules that came to hand. I also have a downloaded set of Command and Colours Fantasy rules produced by a chap from Belgium called Te Wapen - needless to say given my fondness for this system this is very much in the forefront of my planning.

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A Heroscape map of Africa - now that is a clever idea and one that would lend itself to many other settings

I had even mentioned about repainting the figures as they are very basic in that regard. The ideas I am considering will certainly need some painting in due course and whilst I have no objection to basic painted figures - flat colours and no shading/highlighting - I do get very upset at sloppy painting though - you know the kind of thing, where the paint has gone over the edges and has slopped onto something it should not have. Heroscape figures are ideal for the gamer that is either unable or unwilling to opt for something more aesthetically pleasing - and up to a point I am guilty on both counts.

I now have a very large collection of the figures from the original starter set and also from the second version courtesy of Jim Duncan and I cannot begin to tell you how pleased and inspired I am to be in this position!

Jim came to my rescue in the biggest possible way. Like many gamers he has a lot of Heroscape terrain and has also purchased sets specifically for that reason. It has also meant that he has a huge selection of the figures being unused and unloved. Several emails and a phone call later the entire box full figures, rules, markers, dice and even some terrain was winging its way to Chez Crook. The plan is that I will cherry pick the pieces I want and then put what is excess up for sale to raise funds for th charity that Jim is supporting - so everyone wins. I get some figures that have given me a major boost in the inspiration department, Jim gets a whole lot of extra room in his den and the charity will hopefully benefit from the sale of some of the rarer items.

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Some of the Marro figures. I will probably leave these as they are but I will do something with the bases.

To say that I am pleased with this little lot is an understatement and I am truly overwhelmed by the generosity of Jim in passing this lot on. To give you an example (and I will be posting lots of pictures over the next week or so to give you an idea of the scale of the windfall) I now have some 80 Marro figures. The Marro in Heroscape are a race of aliens similar to the GW Tyranids in concept. The plan is to use them against the US Paratroopers supported by the robot types - the paratroopers will need repainting into something a little more near future/sci-fi ish - for some Aliens type games. The Vikings and the Samurai may turn into some HOTTs or Dragon Rampant armies and there is even some figures that would be usable for Frostgard.

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The Heroscape Vikings - complete with horned and winged helmets and therefore eminently suitable for some heroic fantasy action. I will need to do something about the spears though!

I was also delighted to get a great pile of the blue tiles as well so I now have some 250 plus of these so the seascape for the Salamis project will have a playing area in conjunction with the land tiles and the 1/1200th scale models I have been stockpiling.

So all in all my mojo has been given a fairly substantial kick up the derriere with this little lot and I cannot thank Jim enough for this - even more so given that he is still recovering from surgery and various assorted health issues. I titled this post specifically with him in mind....;-)


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Going Postal

 You may recall a short while ago I ordered a copy of the latest version of Richard Borg's ACW Command and Colours game Battle Cry. The parcel duly arrived on September the 18th but was left on the doorstep by the postman rather than being taken back to the depot for me to collect later - you know the kind of thing, the card through the letterbox advising they were unable to deliver as the house was empty. In this case the postman left the package on the floor by our front door where it was exposed to around four hours of monsoon-like rain. Needless to say the packing had leaked and the box was ruined on one end where it had been in contact with the ground and water.

As luck would have it the contents were undamaged so all that was wrong was the box itself. Now I know this is not such a drama but I was and still incensed that the postman just dumped the package. I duly put in a claim form - not so much for the money but more because I was really annoyed at this very poor service. 

I duly submitted a claim form and after a week or so received a cheque for £20. The letter was obviously a standard response type so I I went straight back to them to have this reviewed as I wanted the full cost refunded. Now I know this seems bloody-minded but the game is no longer in production so if I wanted a pristine copy (I am rather fussy about boxes, dust jackets on books etc) I would have to pay around £40 plus postage.

The case was reviewed by the 'Escalated Claims Unit' and they stuck to the party line of 'the maximum we can give out is £20 due to the postage method used' and that they would be 'taking steps to make sure it did not happen again' you know the thing, the great British fob off....

I had the option to have the reviewed case reviewed so, still not satisfied (and feeling very Victor Meldrew-ish), I opted to go to the postal equivalent of the Supreme Court for a final review. Surely common sense would prevail when confronted with all the evidence? Nah.

They wrote back and apologised for giving me the incorrect information as I was not entitled to anything from them as the parcel was sent via a service that meant the sender had to put in a claim in the event of any loss or damage! As a goodwill gesture though I was allowed to keep the £20 cheque.

I have alreadyou wo been in touch with the seller and they are as bemused about this as I am. They are now going to tackle something that I have spent 6 weeks trying to sort out but to no avail. You would struggle to make this up!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

More on Heroscape

Following on from my last post I have managed to acquire another set of the figures from Heroscape as well as a complete copy of the game courtesy of EBay. Aside from the terrain tiles it means that the figure selection now consists of three sets which will be enough for me to be going on with. Dragon Rampant - the fantsy version of Lion Rampant - should be out in December so if I get a move on I should be ahead of the curve for a change with some models ready to go.

The first lot I will be tackling will be the Viking types which are suitably heroic looking and ideal for a fantasy type set up. There are also some Samurai types - more like well dressed Ronin to be honest that look pretty good and should be useful. The rest of the models are mainly sci-fi types (excepting the dragon of course) which is not a problem as I will have a use for them as well.

The great thing about skirmish level games is of course the fact that you do not need a huge number of figures and so are a good option for me at the present especially as even a DBA army presents a real challenge in terms of time to prepare.

The terrain tiles I am especially pleased with as I have a number of plans for these. You may recall that I have a large selection of these that have been flocked and painted courtesy of Bob Cordery which I have used for a couple of games. The plan is to use the additional tiles for a desert type set up (Bob's old set is in grass green) in due course and I may well be tacking this as my Christmas project. My firm shuts down from Christmas Eve until the New Year so tackling terrain will make a pleasant change from eating, drinking and watching endless repeats on the TV!

The blue tiles are also very welcome as I now have sufficient to make a 13 by 9 hex playing area - the standard Command and Colours battlefield - ideally suited to smaller scale ship models. This will enable me to revisit my 1/1200th Ancient galleys in due course and the often mentioned Salamis type project.

Much to ponder methinks.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Heroscape, Lion Rampant and probably HOTTs as well....

      

Robots, Vikings, Samurai, US Paratroopers, dinosaur riding Orcs, Men in Black and even a       Dragon - what's not to like?
 

I am still struggling with an excess of lethargy in respect of anything gaming related. Work is just so demanding at present that by the time I get home I have precious little energy for anything other than dinner, a bath and some 'vegetable television' before going to bed. My hobby time at the weekend is generally limited due to domestic duties to around a couple of hours so it is little wonder that at present not a lot is getting done. I have caught up on some reading though and the all-important planning continues but I am finding myself making and discarding these with alarming regularity. It is a personal conumdrum to be sure.

On Sunday last SWMBO, my daughter and I did a swift tour of not one but three boot sales. I should point out that given the time of year the outdoor boot sales in our area are generally beginning to wind down as the weather becomes cold, wet and unpleasant. This usually means the pickings are a little on the slim side. However, I was able to score a fairly significant purchase which has given me a whole world of ideas to mess around with.

Heroscape - yes, that Heroscape, the one with the hexed terrain. I picked up a complete set of Heroscape for a fiver and was immediately struck with a number of ideas. Aside from the terrain tiles (especially the sand and blue coloured types) the game contains some thirty 28mm sized figures for use with the system that are ready painted and made from a curious rubbery material - similar to that used for some of the ships in Axis and Allies: War at Sea.

The figures are a very random selection of types including Vikings, Samurai, Men in Black, Robots, WW2 American paratroopers, a Dragon and a dinosaur riding Orc. Oh, and some swamp dwelling humanoids called Marro.

They are not bad and are usable as is BUT - I reckon that even I could make a better job of the painting. So I gave this some further thought and an idea formed in what passes for grey matter in the old brainbox. It would be easy enough to cobble together some motley skirmish sized forces by the simple expedient of acquiring a few other sets of figures. These could be combined into just about anything from HOTTs to Lion Rampant (more specifically the forthcoming fantasy version: Dragon Rampant) - certainly enough for my immediate needs. If I am honest though, it is all about painting some figures at a small scale to see how I get on. 

I am rather excited at the prospect of tackling these models and will be sure to take before and after pictures.


Saturday, 17 October 2015

Great Harry's Navy and Greenmantle

                       

Does exactly what it says on the cover - and with a lot of the details that we gamers like!

Following on from my last post I suppose it was inevitable that some further investment in the period would be needed - esoecially in respect of reading material. The above title has been crtically acclaimed as being one of the best books on the subject and although you can currently get a copy from the Works in paperback I really wanted to get a hardback version. Luckily a quick trawl through EBay came to the rescue and I was able to pick up a copy in very good condition very cheaply - and what a title it is! Not only do we have the background as to why Henry wanted to a strong navy but also how the ships and tactics evolved. Ultimately the stimulus he provided in matters naval saw it full fruition during the reign of Elizabeth and the on-going war against Spain. There are a couple of Osprey titles covering warships in the Tudor era and these are currently on order. My library of Tudor naval history is now a little more 'joined up' and so has given me not only some inspiration from a gaming perspective but also from the historical interest angle. 

Greenmantle by John Buchan is a further title in the adventures of Richard Hannay and I downloaded a version as a free ebook onto my IPad and was really pleased I did. Aside from The 39 Steps I have not read of his other titles but this one was hard to resist. Russians, charging Cossacks, Turks, Germans and a Femme Fatale all striving to get the Muslim world on a huge Jihad to aid the German war effort - what's not to like?

I really should make an effort to study the Russian war against the Turks in the Caucasus - particularly as the climatic battle in the book takes place in the environs of Deve Boyun - in which I fought a Russo Turkish War of 1877 battle using the block armies a couple of years ago for my end of year game. Clearly this was an area that saw a lot of military activity over the centuries!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

(Mis)Adventures in Plastic

                                     

                                                Oh dear, what have I gone and done....

Well here is something I never expected to be doing. SWMBO, my daughter Holly (back for the weekend from Uni) and I went to Basildon this morning for some odd bits of shopping and aside from a disappointing visit to the Works - no luck with the vehicles everyone has been raving about - we also popped into Home Bargains. I like to think of this cahin of shops as being the Waitrose of pound shops  and we never seem to come out of there without having spent upwards of £50 - trust me this takes some doing! 

I should perhaps mention that my plastic storage boxes used for the block armies are from here - the size I use costs £2.49 which is pretty good when you consider that Hobbycraft, a couple of doors along, sells the same thing for nearly £8. It is a good shop for browsing in and with all kinds of odds and ends. 

Whilst in my customary automatic pilot mode wandering down the aisles pushing a rapidly filling trolley I spotted the above kit priced at £3.99. Now this is where the 'Ooh shiny' gene kicked in and so I snapped one up (not literally - that would make a mess of the kit for sure....). The story of the Mary Rose is well known and so I will not repeat it here. I have had a hankering for some months now to tackle a sailing ship kit of a modest size but was not keen on H.M.S. Victory or the Cutty Sark. The Mary Rose would tick the boxes quite nicely and, from the gaming point of point of view, could possibly see some use with a version of any of the appropriate sets of rules by Dave Manley. His Medieval rules would be a good starting point but suspect that any good renaissance set would suffice. It is a delightful kit and the potential for conversion is certainly there. I may attempt rigging it - for which I will need to consult Messrs Fox and Hardman - but at this stage it is merely just to get ma doing something constructive. I MAY cut it down to the waterline but if I am honest am rather nervous about doing this - I was never part of the gang that regularly chopped up the kit of H.M.S. Victory to turn out 74s and all manner of other ships, not to mention the kit of H.M.S. Shannon....

So I have landed myself with a kit to build and some research to be done - possibly a couple of books may need to be acquired as well.

One thing that I was impressed with was the name of the near sister ship - originally, according to the blurb in the box, called the Peter Pomegranate....

That is the stuff that wargames armies and navies are built of!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Secrets of the Third Reich

                            

Secrets of the Third Reich - complete with a Helga from 'Allo, allo' lookalike - kind of. Well               maybe not......


I suspect that most readers of this blog are familiar with the German V1 and V2 rockets used towards the end of WW2. In addition to these two weapons the Germans also had a bewildering array of designs and prototypes for a huge variety of advanced weaponry and equipment - from infantry weapons to AFVs and submarines to aircraft. As I recall Revell produced a range of 1/72nd scale plastic kits of a number of the aircraft designs and Pegasus some of the vehicles.







Many of these designs the Germans came up with never made it beyond the drawing board but they do provide a huge amount of potential from a 'what if' perspective. Unsurprisingly a number of games and rules have been produced that capture the essence of the potential post 1945 technology developed by the Germans and the game you see above is one of them. Incursion take the premise that Franco and the Germans captured Gibraltar and the  Third Reich used the existing underground passges for a number of scientific experiments. The complex was also greatly expanded to include U-boat  pens and all manner of technological marvels. The Allies using power armoured infantry have to assault the complex and deactivate a doomsday device protected by some of the results of German chemical experiments - meaning Zombie types - Sturmzombies and Bomberzombies, together with Blitzhounds. All of these types are the result of a chemical administered to them called V-4.

Now I realise this all takes the whole Nazi secret weapon thing to a whole new level (or should that be depth as the action takes place underground) but it makes for a fun game in a Space Hulk kind of way. Interestingly the weaponry used is pretty standard WW2 kit so it would be too difficult to substitute ordinary WW2 types. One could carry out games similar to that in Hour of Glory or using films such as Operation Crossbow, The Heroes of Telemark or Where Eagles Dare as inspiration. I should point out that the miniatures that are available for this game are really nice but are a little on the expensive side for my taste.

I picked up a copy of this game in pristine and unpunched condition at the same boot sale I mentioned in my previous post and if I am honest I purchased it solely to sell on EBay. Having looked at it more closely though I may well do something with it - if only the WW2 stuff mentioned.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Remembering Nelson

                                     
  
                                          Gotta love some wooden ships and iron men!

I am a great fan of the author Tom Pocock and have several of his titles in my collection. The book you see above is the latest and was acquired at a local boot sale for the princely sum of 50p. Captain Sir William Hoste was in command of the Royal Navy frigate squadron at the battle of Lissa in 1811 and 'Remember Nelson' was the signal he ordered to be run at the onset of the action.

Hoste was very familiar with the Adriatic and the operations therein would make for ideal gaming material due to the scale involved - none of the fleet actions so beloved of wind and water naval gamers, this was real low level stuff - raids, cutting out and taking on the odd fort for good measure. In fact his exploits would be very familiar to anyone that has read Hornblower.

I rather like the idea of gaming in this theatre in some fashion or another and would not expect to need much in the way of kit to do so. I am thinking that Peter Pig's 'Pieces of Eight' pirate rules may be a good place to start in terms of rules ideas as they allow for government forces as well as pirates and other assorted irregulars.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

In Blocks we (still) trust....Part the Second

It has been a funny few days since my last post - funny in the sense that a number of things have conspired to come together to steer my thoughts in certain directions. You may recall that I mentioned about the range of troop blocks in 1/600th produced by Peter Pig for their 'Hammerin Iron ACW naval rules. I am rather taken with these. My collection of samples from this range began with a selection provided by Mr Hudson of Steel on Sand fame and was added to by the redoutable Mr. Fox when he was clearing out his own personal Area 51.

Essentially I started with two sets comprising one of each of the catalogue codes being infantry, cavalry, infantry skirmishers, artillery and command. You get 8 blocks in each pack for £3. I certainly prefer these to the Irregular types (which are 2mm) nor because they are better - and the Irregular range is huge - but simply because they are bigger. I have added to the collection and am looking forward to painting them. At this stage I have a number of ideas floating around but reckon that ACW will probably get the nod to begin with.

I have also been looking at the Tumbling Dice range with its generic 20th century types and also those models available from Pico Micro Armour - mainly inspired by playing the Wars and Battles game on my IPad. The two campaigns I have been fighting are Normany 44 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and they are huge fun. Certainly for the £4.99 I paid for them I have had a lot of pleasure. With this game in mind I reckon there is a lot of mileage with the concept of 3mm models for me if only because I should be able to churn out some forces in fairly short order. They are in effect substitues for the wooden blocks I have been using.

I am still going to get some normal sized figures organised as I will have a specific use for these - I am talking 15mm here - in time. I have also settled on what i will be getting as well - ore of which in my next post.


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

In Blocks we (still) trust....

I seem to have spect an awful lot of time thinking about what to do rather than just doing it. My recent acquisition of a copy of Battle Cry has served to inspire me in many different directions which is probably the boost I needed in order to make something happen. I really like the figures in the game (they are a big improvement on those from the original version) and with this in mind I am planning to acquire a second copy. They are scaled at 20mm so would be ideal for use in a wargame - and that is exactly what I am planning to do. As is usual with me I will be making use of every component included in the game with the exception of the rules. I prefer the Napoleonic version of the Command and Colours system to the ACW one and so will be more likely to use either those or a fusion of Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle derivative with a smattering of my own ideas.

Now here is the dilemma. I could build a pair of ACW armies of the blue and grey variety - none of that brown or butternut stuff - or possibly even a pair of kepi-wearing imagi-nation style armies. This is something I am currently mentally grappling with. I have worked out uniforms for both nations and reckon there is some mileage in the idea. I will give this further thought in the meantime though. I should also add that an email from that raconteur, wit and bon vivant, Conrad Kinch pointed out that some 20mm plastic figures are available for the Russo-Turkish War but of course this would absolutely no bearing on any decision I make....;-)

One thing I am going to tackle though is something a little different but given my fondness for my block armies should come as no surprise. I want to produce a couple of armies using those quite splendid 3mm or 1/600th scale troop blocks produced by Peter Pig in support of their Hammerin' Iron ACW naval rules. The range covers all that is needed in that there is an infantry block, a cavalry block, an artillery block and one for skirmishers and the inevitable command. I am conscious of the huge range of 2mm blocks that Irregular Miniatures produce and indeed, I have owned a few of these over the years but have never really progressed anything with them other than a brace of DBA armies for the Punic Wars. The 3mm blocks are a better fit for what I am planning and have the critical advantage of being more painter friendly in my opinion than their smaller counterparts from Irregular. The fact that Tumbling Dice also produce some models in this scale designed for the 20th century  - not to mention more aircraft than you shake a stick at - is also a major consideration for me as well. 

The size of a standard Battle Cry playing board would suit the use of single 3mm troop blocks representing an individual unit with the use of markers of some kind to record hits. For use with Hexon one could simple use 4 infantry, 2 cavalry or two artillery blocks for the standard units and merely remove a block when a unit takes a hit. Most importantly though, the game would have that 'en masse' look of whole ranks of troops rather than a few figures. 

The figures in the game I intend using with larger units when using Hexon - my thoughts at present are towards 6 or 8 figure infantry units 4 or 6 figure cavalry units and a pair of guns for the artillery. This will go some way towards the impression of massed ranks of troops in combat.

Mention of Tumbling Dice and the 20th century should also serve as a clue as to what else I am thinking of in this scale - specifically the Balkan Wars or WW1. There is also the tempting possibility of WW2 as well - and I am very aware of the models available from Pico in this scale! 

The geat thing about the 20th century in this scale is the variety of armies one could represent with three basic paint jobs - grey, khaki and olive green. Certainly the main bulk of infantry could be used for pretty much anything and by adding period and army specific vehicles can be tailored to suit any conflict or theatre imaginable. The same is also true to the ACW blocks from Peter Pig although the cast on flags mean that the country of an army would be defined rather than the period being represented. Painting flags in 1/600th will be interesting although I have a cunning plan for this.

All in all then this little foray back into a period I had resigned myself to not gaming - the ACW - (and the inspiration to do so came from a most unlikely source!) has served to give me a much needed shot in the arm and has set in motion a train of events that are leading to who know's where?

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Start of a Big Adventure

   
                                       
                                      

                            Holly and her mum - the two women in my life - sharing a moment. I was at                  that "....gonna need a moment alone boys" stage by this point......

It was a busy day at Chez Crook on Friday 18/09. That was the day that my brilliant and beautiful daughter Holly moved to Reading University to start her four year combined Honours degree in Fine Art and Psychology. She has worked really hard to get to where she is and has had to overcome a number of personal challenges as well (and no, that does not include being my daughter....). We stopped for lunch at a Beefeater restaurant - I had no idea they were still going - which is where I took the above picture of Holly and her mum. I don't mind admitting there were a few tears but she seems to have quickly adjusted to student life - in a good way as well.

I am so proud of her.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Battle Cry Blues

Around ten days ago I finally got around to ordering a copy 150th Civil War Anniversary edition of Battle Cry by Richard Borg. I have a couple of cunning plans to go with this acquisition but for now I was looking forward to some Blue and Grey action in an attempt to try and galvanise some enthusiasm. The ACW as a gaming period has had a chequered history with me - I think my feelings of apathy were as much a result of the rules in use rather than not being interested in the war between the states. Acquiring a copy of the game would enable me to fight the battles of the period in a style I would be comfortable with.

The parcel arrived yesterday morning and that is where the problems started.

There was nobody in at chez Crook so the postman - who obviously thought he was doing me a favour - chose to leave the parcel by our front door (which is actually a side door leading on to the drive). Unfortunately we then had around five hours of heavy rainfall....

My son came home and placed the parcel in the house. We arrived home around 8pm and I immediately spotted the large padded envelope and knew what was inside. I should have known that things were slightly awry when water started to pour from out of the envelope. I opened the package and mercifully the box was shrinkwrapped. This protected it from the worst of the water but there was a small hole in this that allowed water to seep in and essentially ruin the side of the box that was in contact with the ground. Luckily the contents are in a plastic storage tray so were not in the least bit damaged.

To say I was less than impressed with the post office is perhaps an understatement. I duly completed the online claim form and took copious amounts of photographs by way of supporting evidence and now have to wait up to 30 days for them to hold their hands up and compensate me. The game itself is fine and undamaged but this is hardly the point. I would have preferred the inconvenience of a visit  to the Post Office to collect the package rather than having to go through a tedious claim process - all because the Postman could not be bothered to take it back to the depot or even try one of our neighbours, both of which are retired and seldom out and about.

Still, the main components are OK so I can start using them sooner rather than later.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Much Ado About Something....

                                 
 
A recent Chinese takeaway - it's enough to drive you (prawn) crackers although the art-wok is quite chow mein....

I am not really surprised that it has been nearly a month since my last post - work and real life dramas have certainly taken their toll (especially the latter!) - so it is with some relief that I am finally putting finger to keyboard to update all and sundry about what is going on in Chez Crook.

In short, not a great deal....

You may recall that I had taken the decison to have some figures professionally painted and therein has lain some of the problem. I have really struggled to make up my mind as to what to tackle first! I know the sizes of the forces I want to raise and am also pretty much decided on the scale - DBA and a half for the armies and 15mm for the scale - but pinning down a period has been a challenge I can tell you! I think I am pretty much where I want to be in this respect and I suspect that the end result will be no great surprise to most readers of the blog.

I want colourful troops so at this stage WW1 and WW2 are not in  the running. I am giving consideration to a few armies of around 1880 meaning British (Sudan rather than NW Frontier), Colonial French, Turkish, Russian, Mahdist, Zulu and even Boer are all in the mix. Ideally I would like to get three forces initially with one of them being a native type army. I am still pondering this and as I will not be in a position to commit to anything until the end of October there is plenty of time.

Planning and pondering has been very much the order of the day for me over recent weeks which is oddly therapeutic even if it does not translate into anything tangible.

I have not been idle on the retail therapy front and have scored a couple of nice items from our local boot sale - The Ashanti Ring by Leigh Maxwell and a copy of the Lord of the Rings Risk variant - for which I have a cunning plan. I have also picked up a couple of items from Ebay including the title you see above, again, I have an idea for this and finally I got around to getting a copy of the newest version of Battle Cry by Richard Borg.

China's Wars by Philip Jowlett covers not only the civil war but also the war against the Japanese and as both of these I know next to nothing about I am hoping this title will rectify matters. When the words 'Civil War' are mentioned one usually thinks of any of the English, American, Russian or Spanish as a rule so the Chinese version will make a nice change!

I have a few other ideas rolling around the brain cell but this will be enough to be going on with methinks!


Saturday, 15 August 2015

East of Malta, West of Suez.....Game Number 51

East of Malta, West of Suez....

Prior to the landings at Gallipoli Turkish spies had been able to uncover details of the naval forces assigned to the expedition. Whilst the Turkish navy would not be able to seriously challenge the Allies forces they could operate successfully against isolated portions or even the convoy routes expected to be used. They would need to move quickly though and so the Yavuz Sultan Selim (ex Goeben) and her escort, the Midilli (ex Breslau) were secretly dispatched to attack the convoy routes in the expectation of disrupting the planned invasion. Speed was to be of the essence as if the Allies knew that the Yavuz had put to sea and was loose in the Aegean it would take a concerted effort to hunt her down. Similarly the Turks and their German allies were well aware that they would have a thin time of it should the allies catch them with overwhelming force on the high seas.

The Game

The following action was fought using a WW1 naval variant of the popular One Hour Wargames book by Neil Thomas. The variant was devised by Martin Rapier and John Armatys and was based on a WW2 version available in the files section of the AMW Yahoo group by richinq. The rules have been used to fight a 'bath tub' version of Jutland and I believe that Martin has a report on his blog, as does Tim Gow. They have also been used at the annual Conference of Wargamers (COW) back in July and were, by all accounts, great fun to game with. The action I fought used 1/2400th scale models on a standard OHW battlefield of 3ft by 3ft.

Note that there is not a hexagon in sight....;-)

The Forces

The Ottoman Turks

Yavuz Sultan Selim (ex Goeben), BC
Midilli (ex Breslau), LC

The Royal Australian Navy

H.M.A.S Australia, BC
H.M.A.S. Melbourne, LC

 Somewhere in the Aegean: Spring 1915....


The Turkish ships approach from the north east (top left) whilst the Australians appear from the south west and are now heading east.

With the Midilli leading the mighty Yavuz Sultan Selim at some 25 knots in a south westerly direction the Ottoman commander - Kerim Keyk- had little to fear from enemy submarines known to be active in the area they were traversing. The expectation was that they would be on station within the next day or so and could then settle into the routine of patrol. It would only be a matter of time before a convoy loomed over the horizon and the full weight of the 11" guns of the flagship could be brought to bear on the enemies of the Porte. The commander relaxed slightly as the most difficult part of the operation - the breakout from the straits - had gone without a hitch although the coal consumption was higher than he would have liked. His mission though was a simple one. Intercept and destroy a convoy and then had back at best speed. Aside from light forces the only ships in the area that could damage him were too slow to catch him so he was not unduly concerned about potential opposition. His mission would be a success and so when the signal came in from the Midilli that smoke was ahead - he quickly reasoned that it could only be from enemy vessels - it was with a grim resolve to do his duty that he called the ship to action stations.

Heading in largely the opposing direction and at a similar speed were two ships of the Royal Australian Navy; H.M.A.S Australia and H.M.A.S. Melbourne. They were in the area solely due to having been transferred from the Pacific in order to join up with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. They had been told to watch for possible submarine activity but also that any encounters with the Ottoman navy were very unlikely. In fact, it was more likely they would run into ships of the Austrian fleet rather than anything else. Even so, the Australian commander - Rear Admiral Thomas O'Malley - was taking no chances with his charges and so insisted on operating at action stations whenever possible. His foresight proved well founded as the signal came in from the Melbourne that there was smoke was on the horizon off the port bow.

Both sides quickly worked up to maximum speed but the Ottoman commander changed course to a heading of due west in order to identify the oncoming ships. He wanted to ensure that he would have the maximum number of guns available when, as was likely, he would be opening fire. The Turkish formation remained the same as suddenly the opposing smoke clouds seemed to split into two - one, the heavier of the two, continued on its existing course whilst the other swung away to the west, almost as if it was heading to intercept him. Kerim Keyk had no intention of splitting his force and so held on to his existing course to assist the Midilli if needed.


The two Turkish ships have changed course to  'open their arcs' whilst the Australians have opted to investigate from both sides of the enemy formation.

Captain O'Malley saw his escorting cruiser head off in a northwesterly direction whilst keeping a close eye on what appeared to be the larger of the two vessels heading west. He was in two minds as to whether or not he should emulate his mysterious counterpart and replicate his supporting move as if the the two ships proved to be hostile the Melbourne would be in serious trouble. He reasoned that he would have a another five minutes or so in order to decide and had made his decision to do just that when the explosive crack and dull rumble of distant gunfire shattered his reverie.

Almost immediately an urgent signal came in from the Melbourne to say that the lead ship was a light cruiser flying the Turkish flag and that she was engaging her. O'Malley quickly grasped the significance of this - the light cruiser could only be the Breslau which meant that the large ship following her (and which his own ship was rapidly closing on her rear port quarter) had to be the Goeben. Without a moment to lose he ordered the Australia to swing around to the north west in order to engage the Goeben and to support the Melbourne.

Meanwhile, aboard H.M.A.S Melbourne, her commander had quickly decided that discretion was the better part of valour as whilst he was confident he could tackle the oncoming Turkish cruiser he was less optimistic about his chances against what could only be the ponderous bulk of a German built battle cruiser bearing down on him. He could make out the distant shape of the Australia on the horizon and coming up on the rear of the enemy battle cruiser. Without hesitation he swung his ship around to cross between both of the enemy warships in order to engage both the cruisers in passing, thereby giving the Australia time to come up and engage the heavier of the two ships at a tactical advantage. He gambled on the fact that the enemy battle cruiser would be too concerned about the oncoming capital ship to worry about a lowly light cruiser. Once he had crossed the enemy front he would then be able to rejoin the Australia so both ships would be between each of the Turkish vessels.

It was a sound plan and so the signal was sent to the Australia. It was seconds too late.

The Midilli opened fire on the Melbourne from one flank whilst the Yavuz, ignoring the impending threat off her aft port quarter of the fast approaching Australia, opened fire with her main artillery. The gallant Melbourne was surrounded by great mast high gouts of water as both the Yavuz and the Midilli quickly found the range and battered her unmercifully. The 4.1" shells of the Midilli were but small beer compared to the great 11" guns of the Yavuz and the Melbourne was quickly in trouble with guns disabled and her steaming ability impaired. Still she kept on but her own fire had scant effect on her enemies.


Battle is joined! The Midilli has taken damage from the Melbourne whilst she in turn has been subjecting to a battering from both the Midilli and the Yavuz Sultan Selim. Meanwhile, the Australia continues to play the stalking tiger to the rear of the Turkish battle cruiser.

At last the Australia was in range and, with not a moment to lose, she proceeded to engage the Yavuz. Captain O'Malley, mindful of the damage the Melbourne was taking, fired at the enemy battle cruiser at the maximum rate his guns could be loaded and trained and was quickly rewarded with the gratifying sight of the dull orange glow and black, smoke-laden cloud of a hit or even hits.

Aboard the Yavuz Kerim Keyk listened to the damage reports with a mixture of relief that it had not been worse and apprehension as to how he would now be able to fulfil his mission. Clearly after having been engaged by enemy warships he would need to fight his way clear and head for home - any thoughts of tackling an enemy convoy were now largely redundant - as his mission had been compromised. His ship, although suffering minor damage had her steaming and fighting abilities unimpaired. Considering his options he decided to head for the south and then to swing back around to set a course for home. The Midilli would fall in behind and the enemy would not be able to catch them. He was sure that his assailant would follow him around so he needed to give him a good reason to slow down. The reason would be having to stop to pick up survivors from the light cruiser they had recently engaged.

With this new plan fixed in his mind Keyk gave the appropriate orders as the huge bulk of his ship heeled into a sharp turn to port. Meanwhile, the gunners made ready to finish the gallant Melbourne.

With a dogged tenacity the Australia clung to the stern quarter of the Yavuz as she completed her turn. In doing so she managed to draw the fire from the enemy battle cruiser, thereby alleviating the punishment the Melbourne was receiving, albeit it momentarily. The 11" shells of the enemy rained down on the Australia and shook the ship from stem to stern. From the bridge of the Yavuz all that could be seen were great clouds of smoke and steam and flashes of orange and red. Surely she must be out of the fight? The deafening roar and bone-shuddering clang of a heavy shell hit soon dismissed that notion from the mind of the Ottoman commander as the damage continued to mount. The Yavuz had lost some speed and the aft turrets were out of action - the roof of the main deck aft turret was peeled back like a sardine tin with great gouts of smoke gushing from within and the two gun barrels at drunken and impossible angles. Kerim Keyk new that it was time to get away and so he called for maximum speed and attempted to get the battered Yavuz away.

The Yavuz attempts to get away from the Australia whilst the Melbourne is heading into some serious trouble.

As the Turkish ship swung away from her relentless assailant the burning and battered but unbowed Melbourne once again loomed into view. No sooner than she appeared so the remaining great guns open fire at the plucky cruiser. Almost immediately the Melbourne was struck by the great shells of the Turkish ship and her once proud lines were reduced to resembling a blazing and smouldering scrap yard. Yet still she limped on.

After her initial brush with the Melbourne the Midilli had come about to follow her and was surprised to see two things. Firstly, the huge bulk of the Yavuz, obviously heavily damaged judging by the amount of smoke and the list she was carrying, was thundering towards her with what looked like an enemy ship of equal size pursuing her. She had been unable to reach the Yavuz (the commander of the Midilli was unaware that the wireless on the Yavuz had been destroyed) but second guessed the intentions of her commander and so made ready to come about and fall in in her wake.

Whilst the various commanders made their decisions the climax of the action was nearing.

As the Yavuz completed her turn to the south she fired a final salvo at the Melbourne. Once again the Turkish gunnery was excellent and the Melbourne, although still afloat, was battered to the point of sinking. Still she kept firing at the Midilli (her gunnery was badly affected by her opening damage and she only hit the Midilli once in the entire action) and was gamely trying to limp away from her tormentors when disaster struck. At maximum range a salvo of 4.1" shells pierced the engine room, severing steam lines and wrecking the boilers. This also impacted on the pumps which had, up until that point, been keeping pace with the amount of water flowing in through the riven hull. It was too much for the gallant ship to take and so, as the way fell off her she began to settle by the bows, her fight was over.

The end of the Melbourne. With further damage inflicted by the Yavuz as she attempted to get away from the Australia it was left to the Midilli to administer the coup de grace - which she duly obliged.

Captain O'Malley stared aghast at the smouldering and sinking wreck of the Melbourne as the Australia sped by. Should he stop for survivors or should he first try to finish the Goeben? He was sure she had been sorely hit and it was he duty to try and sink her. The sea was calm so he resolved to engage the Goeben first and then return to pick up survivors. 

Aboard the Yavuz the celebrations at the destruction of the enemy light cruiser were short-lived. Kerim Keyk had gambled that his counterpart would stop to rescue survivors, thereby allowing the Yavuz to make her escape but instead the enemy ship showed no sign of breaking off the action. 

The Yavuz was heavily damaged and could not hope to outrun her opponent so the only thing she could do was to try and outfight her. Like a punch-drunk heavyweight the great ship swung slowly around to give herself a better broadside against her oncoming assailant. Her guns spoke and her crew were rewarded with seeing great towers of water and black smoke surrounding her enemy. Once again the ragged cheering of the ship's company momentarily lightened the mood but it was to be an empty gesture as the heavy shells of the Australia rained down on the stricken Yavuz. With smoke and flames, secondary explosions; the screams of the dead and the dying ringing his ears Kerin Keyk gave the only order he could - the order that was the most painful any captain of a ship could give: the order to abandon ship.

The final reckoning. As the Yavuz attempts to limp away from the Australia she finally succumbs to her damage but not without getting in some telling blows on her assailant. The Midilli steams towards her stricken flagship to pick up survivors. The Turkish mission has failed and the spine of her navy broken.

Captain O'Malley saw the end of the Goeben with a huge sense of relief for his own losses and the damage to his ship was extensive. He was about to give the order to pick up survivors when he saw the other enemy cruiser in the distance, obviously with the same idea. He had enough of the fight for one day and besides, he had the crew of the Melbourne to consider. Seeing that the enemy appeared to be taking care of their own wounded he decided to do the same and so ordered the Australia to come about and to head for the last resting place of the gallant Melbourne. 

Afterthoughts

The scenario was essentially that old naval standby of the infamous encounter battle - although I hope that the back story added a little flavour to the proceedings! The rules worked very well although I already have in mind a number of 'tweaks' that will add to the experience and these will feature in a later post. At the conclusion of this brisk little action the Midilli had sustained 4 points of damage whilst the Australia had taken 9. This meant that the latter ship was carrying a yellow damage marker indicating penalties to both her firing dice and speed. Each ship takes 15 points of damage with a yellow marker at five points and a red one - with greater penalties to both firing and speed - at 10. 

Tactically the Australians had gambled by splitting their forces in the face of the enemy but they managed to get away with it simply because the Yavuz had ignored the Australia whilst concentrating on the hapless Melbourne. In game turns the Australia had an unanswered turn of firing at her opposite number meaning she was able to get her blows in first - which proved to be decisive in the long run. Well might Kerim Keyk rue his decision (he was picked up with the other survivors by the Midilli) to concentrate on the Melbourne but the margin between success and failure or even victory and defeat is often a narrow one.

It was good to be able to fight a game after what seems like an age and the whole 'One Hour Wargame' phenomena certainly appeals to me at present so you can be sure I will be exploring the concept further in due course. 

Did I mention that there was not a hexagon in sight?