Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Naval Evolutions or a Tale of Four Battleships

S.M.S. Worth under the flag of Imperial Germany

Back in the 1970s following the conclusion of the legendary Madasahatta campaign organised by Eric Knowles I was fortunate enough to have been asked to take part his next project. This was a naval campaign set in South East Asia starting at the outbreak of the Great War using 1/1200th scale ships and with a modified version of Fletcher Pratt being the rules of choice. I say modified because the actions were fought on an 8ft by 5ft dining table with movement distance being in the order or roughly 30 kts equalling 12" or thereabouts.

Time has dimmed the memory of how the campaign ran on a blow by blow basis but a few of the highlights have stayed with me.

The navies of Great Britain, Germany, USA, Russia, Japan, Austria, Italy and Turkey featured and yours truly was given command of the Turks - a decision which has led to my lifelong interest in the martial history of the Sublime Porte through the ages. As a young and experienced naval wargamer I took my new command very seriously and immediately besieged a local reference library for any copies of Jane's Fighting Ships. I was able to photocopy the complete 1914 Jane's entry for the Turks and set about producing the requisite models. I scratchbuilt the battle cruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau as well as the two protected cruisers Hamedieh and Mejidieh whilst the rest of the fleet came from a variety of sources. The old ironclad Messudieh was represented by a Mercator model (or it may have been Navis) of HMS Nile and the two old German pre dreadnought battleships Brandenburg and Worth were converted from a Minifigs Iron Duke type dreadnought with a couple of turrets removed (bear in mind The Minifigs ships are 1/1800th or thereabouts so are smaller than the preferred 1/1200th).

Mention of the these two venerable old German warships is the main raison d'etre for this post for reasons which will become clear in due course. Suffice it to say that during the aforementioned campaign they were surprisingly effective as both were generously armoured and had a useful main battery of 6 x 11". At the time we fought the campaign no allowance was made for the types of armour used nor of such consideration as length of guns barrels being used - two of the Brandenburg's 11" weapons were short barrelled so had a lesser range (think of the 75mm gun used on the Panzer 4D as opposed to the F2 version for a similar comparison).

Looking back the campaign was a lot of fun but if I am honest the rules really did not work on the tactical side but as we were all under the same handicap it did not matter. If I were to do the same again though I would happily use Fletcher Pratt rules on a table top but with smaller models instead.

Many years after the end of the campaign I raised the Turkish Navy again - this time in 1/3000th - along with the Greeks, Bulgarians and the Black Sea Russians. I fought a number of actions with these models (they posts are in the games folder) but something was not right about the scale. I think for me that 1/3000th as a scale is better for actions where the models are larger which means dreadnoughts etc. As ships tended to be larger in WW2 I think this is where it comes into its own. 1/3000th scale pre dreadnoughts now seem too small for my taste - perhaps it is an age thing.

1/2400th is a different kettle of fish though as the extra size makes for models that have greater presence on the table top. I have flirted with this scale for the Jutland project and it was a revelation for me as to how much better the models look when deployed. The problem though is that there are very few UK manufacturers in this scale meaning using imports from the US - GHQ and C in C being a good examples or even Panzerschiffe. An honourable mention could also be made of Shapeways or the War Times Journal. Anything from the US invariably means high postage and possible customs charges - all of which add to the cost.

Now lets be honest, GHQ and C in C models are beautiful. They are highly detailed and to my mind are more models than gaming pieces. Panzerschiffe are at the other end of the scale and are more gaming pieces than models - each have their advocates. For my taste the GHQ models are too good to be used for gaming - there are far too many small parts that will either fall off or break under the stress of heavy handling during a game. Again, just my opinion. They are also pretty expensive when you are looking at raising large forces. As an aside a chap in the blogosphere raised the forces for Jutland using GHQ models - they looked superb.

Luckily help is at hand. Tumbling Dice: Age of Battleships is a range of models for the pre dreadnought era that cover at present the Russian, Japanese, Spanish, American, British and German navies with the Austrians and Italians to follow later this year and the French in 2018. There is also a very useful selection of assorted merchantmen (aka targets....) for the period. With the recent release of the Germans for the period I took the plunge and acquired some RN and German types - notionally for overseas use rather than the Home Fleet. Paul at Tumbling Dice has produced some discounted starter sets which I took advantage of. Essentially I have two of the China Station RN packs and some extras (including Triumph and Swiftsure) in the shape of cruisers and destroyers and for the Germans I have the East Asia Squadron (the 1914 version) plus the earlier Boxer Rebellion East Asia force. Guess what? All four of the Brandenburg class took part in this so the Germans now have a quite healthy force - especially as I have also added some destroyers.

I will post some pictures of the models in due course as they are very nice indeed. I would describe them as being detailed but not to the GHQ standard which means they are far 'safer' to use for gaming. This is not in anyway a criticism though! They are quite reasonably priced and the number of parts that require assembly is limited mainly to funnels and military masts. Take a look at the Tumbling Dice website and you will see some pictures.

Of the Brandenburg models themselves they are really quite delightful and I shall enjoy using them in due course - with the armour and main guns properly accounted for naturally!


Simon Jones said...

I have Russian and Japanese fleets from Tumbling Dice. I am a big fan of Paul Sulley and his products.

David Crook said...

Hi Simon,

They are very nice indeed and whilst I have no plans to tackle the RJW the quality of the models may determine otherwise!

I will certainly be buying some French when they ae finally out and I know a gamer that will certainly be looking at the Italians and Austrians.

All the best,


J Jackaman said...

I have a lot of the TD models and very nice they are too. I posted some photos of the unassembled Japanese and British models on my blog a while back, as I thought they would be of interest. I'm looking forward to seeing your ones too.

Conrad Kinch said...

Good stuff David. They should paint up relatively quickly.

David Crook said...

Hi J Jackaman,

I will take a look at them later today. I need to sort out the packs of models prior to prepping so am planning on getting some pictures up soon.

They are very nice models though for sure.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello Mr Kinch,

They certainly should! I am just waiting on some bases to arrive then I am good to go!

All the best,


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Glad to see you back posting David

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

Many thanks old chap! The new job is certainly more 'time friendly' so I hope to get a few things done. I have opted to tackle the ships first as I can usually churn these out quite quickly which means they will get into action sooner.

The Tumbling Dice models are very nice indeed and I am pleased to have opted to use them rather than 1/3000th.

All the best,