Sunday, 28 May 2023

Beneath the Claws of the Eagle….Game Number 75, Part 2


H.M.S. Superb, sporting the Turkish ensign (don’t look too closely - she is under the Royal Navy flag!) cautiously approaches the guarded entrance of the harbour of Navarone. Note the four Turkish ironclads anchored in the harbour.

Another view of the same. 

Captain Hornblower, his eyes glued to the remorselessly approaching Turkish fortress, gave no outward sign of being perturbed at the audacity of his planned undertaking. He could sense the tension present in his officers and crew but was mindful of appearing unconcerned. He knew that everything was as ready as it could be and the guns were primed to open fire at his command. Aside from the rhythmic, steady beat of the ships engines, all was reassuringly quiet.

Suddenly, from the tower of the Turkish fortress the recognition signal flags run up the flagstaff and snapped urgently in the breeze. The question black barrels of modern heavy artillery thrust forwards from their embrasures and Hornblower knew that any mistake now could be fateful. If he was concerned he showed no sign of it.

“Mr Shrub, have the recognition signal run up!” The command was instantly obeyed. First lieutenant Shrub whispered to second lieutenant Etienne. “Five guineas says that we will be tackling the fort before the ships”. Etienne smiled and said “Done, it is about time I took some money off you!” They shook hands, each with a grim smile.

All eyes were fixed on the Turkish fort as the ship steamed, ever so slowly, into the mouth of the harbour. 

The Turkish garrison commander, Mustafa Popathim, was hugely impressed at the sight of the latest Turkish battleship honouring his modest command by paying a visit. As soon as the great ship had been sighted he had instructed his staff to make ready to receive the captain and his officers for a grand banquet (thereby sending a gentle reminder to the admiralty that his service fully merited a recall to the high command) and so, feeling suitably honoured, gladly ordered the recognition signal to be acknowledged.

Captain Hornblower breathed an inward sigh of relief at the sight of the answering flags from the Turkish fortress. Maybe, just maybe, this ruse de guerre could work. In the time it had taken for his ship to draw parallel to the fort Hornblower’s resolve had hardened. His ship and his crew were ready and so with an audible “Haruumph” he gave the order for the crew to prepare for action….

To be continued….

Friday, 26 May 2023

Combat Infantry or Block Based WW2

From Columbia Games - the first game in the series covering the Western Front 1944/45 at battalion level. There is a further volume covering the Eastern Front. Nothing for the desert or the Far East as yet though.

The back of the box featuring a selection of the units included.

At last I finally managed to lay my hands on a set of the above - as new, still in the shrink wrap and less than half the retail price! 

Combat Infantry is Columbia Games entry into the tactical WW2 board game arena and features battalion level formations plus support assets for the Germans and Americans. There is also an Eastern front version and presumably other theatres and nationalities - including the British - will feature in due course. 

The units include Company and Platoon HQs, rifle squads, company level machine guns, mortars, anti tank rockets (bazookas and panzerschreks), battalion level engineer, snipers, tanks, anti tank guns and both artillery and air support. In short, all the usual bits and pieces one would expect for a battalion level tactical game. There are also man made defences and some twenty terrain types to fight over. There are also two geomorphic map boards to fight over but no terrain tiles or overlays in the style of Memoir 44 for the former or Advanced Squad Leader the latter.

The ‘coastal’ map and….

….one for inland.

In common with other Columbia Games games the units are represented by blocks which serve to add to the fog of war as they are intended to be deployed with their backs to the enemy until activated by either a platoon or company HQ. The blocks are rotated to show the strength of the unit at the top of the block and different units have different strength points. For example, a US rifle squad has a strength of 4 whilst it German counterpart has 3 - the difference being a reflection of the diluted manpower situation facing them in the late war period. 

A US rifle squad - assumed to be 12 men strong as opposed to 9 for the Germans. Initially I thought the blocks would be a little on the fussy side in terms of the amount of information on them but they are quite clear compared to those of Advanced Squad Leader in my opinion!

Combat uses a D10 rather than a D6 and units typically have a firepower rating which determines how many they roll - this is the ‘F’ number on the counter, along with a myriad other numbers and symbols.

Units have to be activated by the appropriate command level in order to do anything so the tactical implications of what to do and when are clearly catered for. 

There are half a dozen scenarios included in the game which is quite modest and given that there are only a couple of maps one could be forgiven that the repeatability would be quite modest but I reckon when one factors in using other maps - for example those from Axis and Allies, the miniatures game - there is certainly a lot of mileage from this set. I have already thought about figures - perhaps 6mm or even 3mm - so I am really pleased to have acquired this. 

I will certainly look to get the Eastern Front version in due course as between the two sets my tactical WW2 grid based gaming will have a firm foundation to take forwards.

I should also mention that the rules including examples of play are a mere 12 pages long and there are some suggested solo rules. Interestingly enough there is also a few side bar comments outlining what the game does not include and why - always useful to know the thought processes behind a game design.

That is now three Columbia Games I need to spend some time labelling the blocks for!

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

More on Patrol and Dark Attack 54mm Fantasy Figures

Following on from my recent boot sale acquisition I thought it would be good idea to share pictures of what the actual models look like on their sprues and so here you are.

The box art from set 5001

Minotaur Renegades

Elite Paladins

Centaur Scouts - these are rather cleverly sculpted in my opinion

Dark Warriors

The box art from set 5002

Orc Warriors

Elf Squad

Tomb Guards - got to have some animated skeletons!

Dwarf Squad - I thought it best to have another picture between them and the Elves for safety sake….

I have already given some thought to the make up of the opposing sides and any reader of fantasy literature will probably be able to work this out but if not my plan is this:

The Forces of ‘Good’ or ‘Light’

Elite Paladins (naturally!)
Centaur Scouts

The Forces of ‘Evil’ or ‘Darkness’

Dark Warriors
Minotaur Renegades
Tomb Guards

Simple.straightforward and definitely stereotypical! The models themselves have prominent detailing which will help with the painting considerably. For my own part I will probably go with a more muted palette than the box art suggests - I am not a huge fan of overly garish looking fantasy figures, the odd splash of colour works well enough, just to brighten the figure rather than saturate it in colour!

Hark at me, worrying about artistic aesthetics!

Whatever next? :-)

Monday, 22 May 2023

Back in the Building Business….Part 4

Although it has yet to see action I thought it might be a good idea to give a quick run through of how I built the model - actually I noticed that I had series of pictures at each stage of the construction process and so it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity!


1. The first step in the construction process. Two complete ‘not quite Jenga blocks’ with two three quarter length versions at either end and a quarter sized piece for the lookout tower.

2. The second step involves placing the shutters, main gate, side doors and the gun carriages from pieces of grey card. The lintel over the main gate and the wall around the top of the tower and the main gun platforms are fashioned from balsa strip.

3. After coating the model with sealer and then undercoating in white the real painting can commence. I used Vallejo Iraqi Sand for the walls.

4. The finished model. The walkways are painted using Vallejo Deck Tan - actually rather a grey shade. The gun barrels and flagstaff are made from wooden cocktail sticks painted black. The flag was printed on self adhesive paper by Brigade Models and is 1:600th.

Simple to build and the only time consuming part was placing the shutters and gun carriages. The gun barrels are 10mm long and my technique for making these is to paint a cocktail stick black and when dry I carefully file the end into a round shape. This is then repainted black and when dry a 10mm piece is cut off and glued to the gun carriage - 5mm of the barrel on the carriage and 5mm ‘overhanging’ to represent having been ‘run out’.

I hope this little insight into how I built the fort is helpful and I will also look to do something similar for some of my ship models at some point.

Sunday, 21 May 2023

“Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!”

Fantasy in 54mm (hard) plastic no less and a terrain pack that has a very gothic look (clue in the title methinks) about it

The types and the poses - they are all sporting rather more armour than I would have liked as well some unfeasibly large weaponry - rather like GW on steroids - but for all that they look suitably heroic

Sorry to say but part two of my planned naval game has not taken place so you will have to wait until next weekend to see how it goes. Time has run away from me this weekend, not helped by dealing with an infestation of ants in the kitchen, organising bits and pieces around the house, booking tickets for a concert - which means I shall be missing Broadside next month - along with a raging toothache! Fortunately the latter is now somewhat under control and I think manageable until my next dental appointment in a few weeks.

Laurel and I made our first trip to a boot sale this year and I managed to score the collection you see 

Examples from the box sides of some colour schemes….

….they look suitably ‘fantasy mainstream’

I have what I call a long distance relationship with fantasy - naturally I enjoyed Lord of the Rings and am also rather fond of the Conan stories. I have never really looked at fantasy as a big battle option and to be honest am not sold on Warhammer or its descendants. Hordes of The Things appeals due to its versatility and the fact that you can pretty much use anything. On balance I think I prefer a more skirmish based approach - probably a throwback to all those games of D and D back in the day and more recently, Heroquest (not the latest version though).

This little lot cost me next to nothing and in truth there is everything I need to rustle up some fantasy mayhem and to be honest they will be fun to paint. I just need to hunt down some rules to use with them.

For the record I will get just one more box - the set that has the orcs and skeletons in, simply because in my experience you can never have too many of either in a fantasy fight! 

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Beneath the Claws of the Eagle….Game Number 75, Part 1

To my eternal shame I have not read any of the Hornblower series although I have read some of the the other titles by C.S. Forester. The film is a cracker though and as well as Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo also featured Christopher Lee, James Robertson Justice and a young Stanley Baker.

Following on from the completion of my new fort the next step was of course to get it into action. Inspiration for naval scenarios can be gained from many places and in this case my point of reference is the 1951 film Captain Horatio Hornblower, starring Gregory Peck, Virginia Mayo and Robert Beatty. This was in turn was based on three books from the Hornblower series by C.S. Forester - The Happy Return, A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours. C.S. Forester is also credited with writing the screenplay for the film, most of which was shot in the UK, including Rye in Sussex. There are also another couple of sources for the scenario - tenuous links I know but that make perfect sense to me…

So, how did this work out? Well, what really started this latest flight of fancy was the fact that the sister ship of the Royal Navy ironclad H.M.S. Superb was the Turkish ship Messudieh. In the film Hornblower’s 74 gun ship of the line is H.M.S. Sutherland - a captured French ship. In other words a (class) of ship that served under two flags so to speak. The rest was easy. I could use H.M.S. Superb in the role of H.M.S. Sutherland (under two flags etc) and the four Turkish ironclads I have currently built became the anchored ‘targets’. I would need a fort and the only one I currently have is Confederate flagged. This provided the spur to build a Turkish fort to guard the anchorage. Obviously the Turkish lookouts could have easily mistaken H.M.S. Superb for the Messudieh - especially if she was able acknowledge the recognition signal from the fort previously obtained by the interception of a small Turkish cutter.

The Bombardment of Alexandria, 11th to 13th July, 1882

Of course the British and Turks did not go to war in 1879 although the former certainly did with Egypt in 1882 which of course included the bombardment of Alexandria by the Royal Navy Mediterranean squadron, in which H.M.S. Superb took part. It is also worth pointing out that the British ship spent a number years being modified after she was compulsorily purchased on 1878 by the government and so was not in service when this action was set. I have used the original Messudieh specs for H.M.S. Superb as found in David Manley’s excellent supplement for the Russo-Turkish War.

I shall be building more ships for this particular 19th century match up - seven more for the Royal Navy and four for the Turks - these will be the main fleet units although I fully expect there to be some supporting vessels as well.

The Players

Royal Navy

H.M.S. Superb - Size: Large, Speed: 4, Manoeuvrability: Medium, Hull Factor: 4, Armour Factor: 6, Hit Points: 12. Guns: (F) 2/3, (P, S) 4/4, (A) 2/3

H.M.S. Superb

Turkish Navy

Feth i Bulend and Mukaddeme-i Hayir - Size: Medium, Speed: 4, Manoeuvrability: Medium, Hull Factor: 3, Armour Factor: 6, Hit Points: 9. Guns: (P, S) 3/4

Feth-i-Bulend and Mukaddeme-i Hayir 

Avnillah and Muin i Zaffir - Size: Medium, Speed: 4, Manoeuvrability: Medium, Hull Factor: 3, Armour Factor: 6, Hit Points: 9. Guns: (P, S) 3/4

Avnillah and Muin i Zaffir

The fortress - Adler Kalesi - Size: Large, Hull Factor: 4, Armour Factor: 4, Hit Points: 12. Guns: (FW) 4/4, (P, S) 2/2, (AW) 4/4.

The Turkish Fortress of Adler Kalesi

Rules and Scenario Specific Points.

The action was fought using the Portable Ironclads Wargame but with a few hints as to what to expect in the next book! The observant amongst you will notice mention of Manoeuvrability. This featured in David Manley’s excellent Dahlgren and Colombiad rules and were applied by using turning devices. For my rules I have managed to allow for varying turns depending on the ship’s manoeuvrability - high, meaning that a ship can make its first turn at no cost and one movement point thereafter. Medium is as per the existing rules i.e. a turn equals one movement point and for low manoeuvrability a ship has to enter two hexes before it turns. I shall be using a system of markers for turns that go over the end of a move - these are currently being designed.

You may also note that the maximum armour factor is 6 as opposed to the 5 in the book. This is the optimal armour rating for the rules and is designed mainly for ships built from around the early 1870s - the rationale being that developed construction techniques made for more effective protection.

One other rule I shall be making use of concerns firing arcs. I have tidied these up from the original and so they are now far less confusing to use. This is not a change for change’s sake - rather it is me realising that the revised version is actually far simpler to understand than the original and, I believe, is closer conceptually to Bob Cordery’s ACW rules in his book Gridded Naval Wargames. Anyways, I will try it out and see how it goes. It will feature as an option in Developing the Portable Ironclads Wargame.

Somewhere, off the southwest Turkish coast….

Captain Hadley Hornblower - the grandson of the Admiral of the Fleet, Horatio Hornblower - surveyed the wine-dark Aegean Sea for any sign of enemy shipping, indeed of any shipping, for this cruise had been anything but eventful. For some ten days H.M.S. Superb had been criss-crossing this small corner of the Aegean Sea hoping for a sight of the four missing renegade Turkish ironclads - even though he was under strict orders to avoid engaging the enemy until the rest of the squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Sir David Leighton (known by the lower deck as the “Buzzard” after his rather large nose), was able to concentrate. Hornblower’s instructions on this point were crystal clear and so he needed to be mindful of his actions. Thus far though, nothing had come to pass and all was quiet so Hornblower revisited in his mind the events that had led to the situation he, his crew and his ship now found themselves.

The Russo Turkish War had recently ended in an ignominious defeat for the Ottoman Empire but there were some, especially in the navy, that felt that the Sultan and his cronies were to blame. Kemal I Fateful - an admiral in the Ottoman navy  - one of the new breed of modern naval officer that found defeat a bitter pill to swallow - had taken matters into his own hands and, together with some similarly disposed brother officers, had decided to offer their services, along with their ships, to any foreign power that would take them. After a long and frank exchange of views (that very nearly came to blows) the general consensus was that Egypt would offer a safe haven as well as suitable employment and remuneration. So with this destination in mind the four ships would make their way to Port Said. First of all though, they needed to take on coal and so the first port of call would be the small, out of the way island of Navarone, safe under the guns of the formidable fortress  the castle of the eagles or the Adler Kalesi as it was known locally.

“Sail off the Larboard bow!” Came the cry from the foremast. Hornblower immediately looked in the direction indicated. “Looks like a local cutter Captain, should we order her to heave to?” Hornblower was about to speak when two signal flags ran up the foremast of the small and innocuous looking Turkish ship. “Mr Shrub, do we recognise that signal?” Asked the captain, his telescope still trained on the the Cutter. The first officer shook his head. “It must be a recognition code captain - and if we don’t know the correct response he will  take to heels - look, he is hoisting more sail!” Hornblower had already decided that the enemy ship must have mistaken H.M.S. Superb for their own ironclad Messudieh - an understandable mistake given that they were sister ships and had not seen their flag. Her captain was probably unaware that the Turkish warship was currently in Black Sea but even so, the cat was out of the bag and Hornblower could not allow the Cutter to escape and give warning as to her whereabouts. “A shot across her bows Mr Shrub, if you please” he said, urgently. No sooner had the order been given that a strident crack rang out followed by a plume of gun smoke. 

No sooner had the shot fallen in the sea than the Cutter hastily hove to. “Well done Mr Shrub, have a boat sent over to take the ship and bring the crew aboard - I want to see her captain in my cabin”. He turned and headed below.

The interview with the Turkish captain was brief and he was unusually cooperative - probably due to the (unfounded, but theatrically effective) imminent threat of personal harm offered by Hornblower who now knew several previously undisclosed facts. To begin with he had the Turkish recognition signal although for how long it would be valid for was unknown. He also learned the destination of the enemy cutter - the small and out of the way island of Naverone. Finally, and most tellingly, that the cutter was carrying a cargo of coal - and coal could mean only one thing - steamships, in this case most likely the four missing ironclads.

“Mr Shrub, put a prize crew aboard the cutter and send it find the rest of the squadron. In the meantime we will head for Navarone at best speed and have the sailing master make me a Turkish flag!” Hornblower was convinced that he had found his quarry and that there was no time to waste in catching up with them -despite orders to the contrary, he could not wait.

Two days later H.M.S.Superb sighted the small island of Navarone and so Hornblower and his crew made ready for action and for the execution of his outrageous and possibly career-ending, plan.

To be continued….

Monday, 15 May 2023

A Turkish Delight - ‘Not Quite Jenga Block’ Style

The view from the front….

….and the rear….

….and finally end on. Simple to build and stylistically in synch with the model ships that will be used along side her.

I was able to spend some useful time in the man cave over the course of this weekend - time that proved to  be well spent indeed! To begin with I was able to take a selection of pictures for the forthcoming Developing the Portable Ironclad Wargame book - a couple of which I will need to reshoot but only due to some ‘continuity type’ errors so nothing major. It was very satisfying doing this as in many ways it helped with the clarity of the ideas I am working on - seeing it laid out on the floor helped to reinforce the impression that I am certainly on the right track!

The big plus though, was that I was able to complete the above fort which will feature in my next battle using the Portable Ironclad Wargame rules and some of my optional rules. I had hoped to have done this over the weekend but ran out of time to do so. No matter, it will be done next weekend.

The fort itself, rather like the earlier ACW version, was built from two full length ‘not quite’ Jenga style blocks (originally available from The Works in the UK - they were called Tumbling Tower or similar but are Jenga in all but the name), two three quarter length pieces for the shorter walls and a quarter length section for the tower. The shutters, main and side gates and the gun carriages are from laser cut grey card courtesy of Warbases and sized at 5mm square for the shutters, 10mm square for the main gate and 10mm by 5mm for the side gates and gun carriages. The main gate lintel and the wall atop the main structure and the tower is from balsa wood strip. Gun barrels and the flagstaff are from wooden cocktail sticks with the flag a 1:600th scale offering printed for me by Tony at Brigade Models. The whole thing measures 85mm by 45mm and is 40mm tall at the tower.

The model was painted overall Iraqi Sand with Deck Tan being used for the walkways and Medium Sea Grey for the gun carriages and black for the gun barrels and the flagstaff. All colours are from Vallejo.

So what it is for?

Well, I have a naval scenario planned to feature this model and without giving too much away lets just say that it has been well named - it is known locally as the Adler Kalesi - the castle of the eagles….