Friday, 27 January 2023

A Battleship Kickstarter

A wise man once said “How do ya like them apples?” Or as Dr. Oscar Parkes himself said on page 689: “To those of us who remember the rigged ironclads in Reserve, and have followed battleship development from the old Royal Sovereign, there is something infinitely pathetic in the passing of man’s most wonderful creation afloat.”

Since the publication of The Portable Ironclads Wargame I have been in something of a funk hobby-wise. I always intended signing off at publication on the ACW project and then looking to tackle something else with the Samurai being the main focus. In the meantime I have fussed around a few other ideas and have also fully intended getting some games in but I have found it very difficult to get motivated in any particular direction. More and more I am realising that I have a degree of unfinished business in respect of the whole ironclads thing and this has really acted as a kind of brake on tackling anything else.

So what do I do?

Well, there are a few models outstanding for the ACW project - ships and terrain - which will serve to draw a line under this particular phase of the overall idea. However I had a couple of other ironclad based ideas to play around with - War in the Pacific, the Boshin War and possibly something Russo Turkish - but these were always planned to be tackled much later.

Further down the line I was also looking to extend the system into the pre dreadnought era but this would require some major building work beforehand as I would be making the models from scratch. 

I am going to tackle the unfinished business of the ironclads project but in a different way than envisaged. There are a couple of book ideas in the planning stage - no details as yet - which will serve to fully wrap up the ironclads. This is something I always intended doing so is not anything new. What is new though, is the choice around the models I shall be looking at building. I had flirted with the idea of something Lissa based but now reckon that I have some rather more fun to look at. 

I can lay the blame for this idea at the feet of two worthies from the blogosphere. In the first instance and the reason for this post, is Mr David Manley.

I met up with him for a couple of beers up in town and as ever the conversation was illuminating and the company convivial. The book you see above, considered by many to be the definitive word on the design and development of the British Battleship, now has pride of place in my naval library, courtesy of the aforementioned Mr Manley. I have no words to describe how gobsmacked I was have been given this - it truly is a magisterial work. Thank you Mr Manley, I only hope that my future naval endeavours will be worthy of this magnificent gift!

The book itself is a great doorstop of a tome. It has 701 pages and 450 plans and photographs. Covering the period from the Warrior to the Vanguard it describes with technical detail every single battleship built for the Royal Navy as well how the designs came about, foreign contemporaries, service histories and much, much more. I can see me getting an awful lot of use from this!

The second source of inspiration would be Jim Jackaman. The reasons for this are simple. He has built many ironclads models for the English and French in 1:2400th and has fought a number of really interesting battles set in the English Channel. I shall be revisiting his blog for further inspiration for sure and will no doubt be perennially distracted by his myriad other projects! For now though, I shall be trawling through his blog for his ironclad stuff.

Just the one for now and due for a change in the paint job. H.M.S. Superb, sister to the Turkish ironclad the Messudieh.

The Plan

I rather fancy building some Royal Navy and French ships for use with the Portable Ironclads Wargame. Some blue water action would make a change from the swampy bayous of the ACW. Most of the ships will be one offs so some careful preparation would be needed but I reckon it is a goer. It would be nowhere near as large as the ACW collection in terms of numbers but the variety of ships will be interesting to build for sure. I already have one for the Royal Navy: H.M.S. Superb.

So it looks like my naval itch will continue being scratched for a while yet - like that was ever even a choice!


Sunday, 22 January 2023

Reaching for the Skies….

I saw the original version of this a couple of Salutes ago. I never picked up on it at the time but following the hefty discount offered for the Air Strike edition by Warlord - £25 including a box of Spitfires and Me109s - it was a temptation I found hard to resist. 

I have long enjoyed playing aerial wargames of one kind or another although for the most part these have been using hex and counter set ups - Air Force, Dauntless, Richthofen’s War, Wings, Ace’s High and Air War. My biggest foray into using models was undoubtedly via Axis and Allies: Angels 20, and at the time it was a huge amount of fun. The models are 15mm scale and so visually it was pretty impressive to look at and worked well for fighter level plane to plane combat. 

More recently I have been thinking more about air combat from the perspective of formations - sections and squadrons etc. The board game Wing Leader: Victories covers this but to be honest I really fancied using models in some way.

Enter stage left, Blood Red Skies, produced by Warlord Games.

I rather like the look of these for a number of reasons. To start with the scale works well - they are very much formation driven but with the all important individuality so important for the budding fighter pilot. The rules lump all manner of manoeuvres into a rating for agility and use the concept of advantage/neutral/disadvantage to determine how the games work. Advantaged planes act first and only disadvantaged planes can be shot down. There is a whole raft of plane, pilot, theatre and nationality related traits that impact on how the aircraft work within the game - the all important ‘feel’. 

The models, at least those I have, the aforementioned Spitfires and Me109s, are a little disappointing. They are cast in a resin like material in 1:200th scale and whilst the detail is not bad - certainly good enough for me - there are some issues with warping with the wings. Of the models I have warping in a single direction is not the end of the world but when it is two directions - on the same wing - it is a whole new world of pain.

To be honest I rather fancy tackling this using 1:600th models so will be taking a long look at Tumbling Dice for inspiration (and probably a dent in the wallet as well!). Using models of that scale will necessitate using a different basing arrangement together with copious numbers of dice frames. 

The Airstrike rule book contains the original rules as updated along with revised scenarios, additional rules as well as the Mig Alley supplement for the Korean War. 

As a side hustle Blood Red Skies has much to commend it. I will not need very much in the way of material - I am looking at the Battle of Britain - and painting the models will be very straightforward in the scale I am looking at.

Something else to ponder then….

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

More on the Samurai Project

From the Osprey rules stable - skirmish combat in Feudal Japan, designed for forces of around 4 to 20 figures a side so similar in scope to Test of Honour

I have previously mentioned that this will be a slow burning project and whilst I have yet to start the actual work involved with the figures it has not stopped me undertaking some essential research aka looking at sets of rules! 

I had somehow missed the above but my old friend Mr Fox had very kindly reminded me of this and emailed me a few handy roster sheets I could make use of. Anyways, the last of am Amazon gift cad was duly mobilised and so I am now a proud owner of a copy of the above. At first glance I think I would prefer these to Test of Honour but that could merely be due to the ‘Ooh shiny’ factor than any sensible comparison!

Certainly a set worthy of consideration.

In other news….

I have yet to fight the battle set up in my pervious post and due to circumstances beyond my control this is more likely to be at the weekend.

Work on the remaining ACW ships will be resumed shortly - mainly because there is unfinished business in respect of my Ironclads itch. I will say no more….

Monday, 16 January 2023

Tabletop Titivation

I figured it was about time I revisited the block armies and also to make use of one of the small sized Axis and Allies maps. 

It has been quite a while since the block armies made an appearance and so I decided to cobble together a small action just to get a game in. The battle itself has yet to be fought but I wanted to post this to help with the motivation to actually get it done!

I shall be using a variant of the rules found in Battle Cry - the ACW Command and Colours game by Richard Borg - that Bob Cordery came up with and that predated the Portable Wargame. They are suitably generic and so would work readily for what I have in mind. I will explain the details in the battle report.

Setting the Scene

The action pitches a Blue reinforced infantry brigade against a slightly smaller Red force. In each case the light companies have been taken from their parent formations and have formed combined skirmish battalions - the Blue force using theirs as a screen for the regiments of the line whilst the Red have theirs deployed in the wood so as to harass the approaching columns.

The Red force are defending the town and for a variety of reasons are required to spread themselves across the whole frontage. The only real reserve is arguably the cavalry currently supporting the light infantry ensconced in the woods. 

The Blue force are relying on a quick attack against the Northern end of the town where, it is hoped, they are able to make the most of their numerical advantage. 

The battle report will follow shortly, certainly in the next few days.

Sunday, 15 January 2023

The Portable Impact Xenos Rampant Wargame….Part 2

As mentioned in my previous post here are the sentient reptilian/dinosaur-like opposition for the humans. Their weaponry is very bio-looking and from the make up of the force they tend to rely on larger figures to carry the support weapons rather than the mechanicals the humans use.

Reptilian heavy weapons

The full collection

The individual figures at close range. Interestingly enough they all have a Velociraptor-like large slashing claw on their feet. They are really horribly painted and I am looking forward to banishing those garish colours!

After a closer look at both sets of models I will definitely need to get a further set to round out the collection so a quick trawl through eBay will be in order methinks. Then to think about colour schemes.

I am looking forward to this - it should be a fairly compact project that should not need much work but will serve as a good figure painting training exercise for me.

Looking forward to painting figures? Moi? Who would have thought it?!

Saturday, 14 January 2023

The Portable Impact Xenos Rampant Wargame

Only kidding, there is no such animal as the title would suggest but in my defence I tend to view just about type of wargame imaginable through the lens of the Portable Wargame! For the future a Portable Wargame Sci Fi Skirmish set of rules may be an option - not from me though as I have way too many other things on the go!

Anyway, I mentioned in my previous post about Xenos Rampant - the latest addition to the ‘Rampant’ stable - and about how I had in mind to tackle a refurbishment of some pre painted figures to use with the rules, or with Galactic Heroes, the set from the ‘Fistful of…’ series. There is of course Stargrave and Five Parsecs from Home - the latter I do not currently have but have the great advantage of being designed for solo use.

The figures I am planning on refurbishing will in fact serve several purposes. Not only will they enable me to game some Sci Fi actions but more importantly it will give me some much needed figure painting practise. 

The figure game Impact was originally published by Drummond Park and was released in two sets. There was the first version and then a standalone set call Impact: The Battle for Wolf Ridge. Both featured two set of figures - humans and sentient reptilian/dinosaur types - with heavy weapons that fired small plastic missiles - ideal for Little Wars if you were so inclined. The figures are made of a kind of rubbery substance that reminds me of the material used to make the ships in Axis and Allies: War at Sea except for being ‘shiny’ to the touch. As you can see in the pictures, the paint job is fairly basic, and so for me to say that I could do better than that means that we operating from a very low level of artistic interpretation! 

Various devices. The model on the left could be used as some kind of armed engineering droid whilst that in the centre could be a combat model. The models on the right could serve as a patrol drone or sentry gun style robot. Note the firing buttons - I shall be removing these.

The selection available. I will probably pick up another set (cheaply available on eBay) to round up the number but it is worth pointing out that everything I have for this collection has cost me so far around £2.50!

A closer look at the figure selection. The chap on the bottom right of the picture reminded me of a Byzantine greek fire operator! All suitably heroic looking but they could certainly use a better paint job.

In the next post I shall show the reptilian types - they are quite nice but incredibly garish looking so my plan will be to dial this down a notch or two.

In terms of terrain I am currently torn between a dry, arid, desert-like set up or something swamp and jungle like. I need to think about this carefully, mainly because it will Impact (no pun intended….oh alright then, yes it was!) on the selected colour scheme for the human force.

I also need to think about the best way to prepare theses figures for painting.

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

….And Now For Something Completely Different….

Definitely a no-brainer in terms of my ongoing interest in Sci Fi stuff as I have coveted a copy of this since its was first announced!

I mentioned last year that I was keen to get some games in this year whilst readying further projects. By far and away the largest of my planned projects is the Samurai in one form or another. It whatever shape I finally settle on for this - I am exploring a number of options - it will definitely be a slow burner so I have a couple of contingency plans in place for some smaller ‘quick win’ style undertakings.

I want to paint some figures and for me this is quite a big deal. You could be forgiven for thinking that starting off painting something so potentially tricky as 28mm Samurai may be a step too far for someone that has not painted a single figure for over fifteen years - and you would be right! I need to do something to cut my teeth on so simpler stuff would be the way to hone my technique (which is still firmly rooted in Humbrol enamels circa 1972). I have a few ideas to dabble in and none of these involve water!

Circulating in the Foreground

Xenos Rampant/Stargrave/Galactic Heroes (From the ‘Fistful of Lead’ stable - I enjoy Sci Fi skirmishes and it is a genre I have had a lot of fun with in the past. There are a myriad of figures available in all manner of mediums and scales although for me 28mm works best. I have a pile of figures for the old board game Impact that feature human and dinosaur/reptilian infantry and support weapons that are ready painted. The figures are made of a rubbery resin material - not unlike that used for the old Axis and Allies: War at Sea 1:1800th scale WW2 ships - and would certainly need a better paint job so I may attempt to refurbish these. It will cost next to nothing and will give me some valuable practise. 

Battle Suit Alpha/Gamma Wolves - An extension of my fondness for Sci Fi extends to the use of ‘Mechs  as there is a lot of fun fighting with large stompy fighting machines! I have a selection of yet-to-be-assembled plastic ‘mechs from the game Heavy Gear Blitz - roughly a dozen or so - that could easily be put together to use with the above rules although I would need to think about some scenery for them to fight over (the same applies to the 28mm figures).

Anything Starship related - This is probably the last on the list of Sci Fi ideas to mess about with. The main reason is that for the most part it is a little close to naval gaming and I am trying to ease off of that for a while! Having said that I do have a couple of ideas to play around with - one rather novel in my opinion - but this is unlikely to be anytime soon. 

RCW and Russo Polish War - Hmm, this is an interesting one. Both of these would be ideal Portable Wargame material but in truth I do not feel that at present I have sufficient knowledge of either to run with it in a meaningful way. I have sufficient material to read up on and given the scale and complexity of both it would be worth spending some time on research as in both cases operations were far from straightforward in terms of execution and the forces used. Having said that the board game Strike of the Eagle is crying out for some TLC and as this was going to form the basis for anything figure related I may well stick my toe in the water in some figure related fashion.

The Default Option

It never ceases to amaze me how certain periods of military history can become so ingrained in a wargamers DNA that they can be left for long periods of time and then revisited without breaking into a sweat. They are almost like a pair of comfy slippers in that immersing oneself in them again little or no effort - neither does moving on from them because they are always there. In my case this tends to be Napoleonics - actually the 18th century and Napoleonic period if I am being accurate - or WW1 or WW2. 

At the present time I am more likely to be looking at matters horse and musket related but more from the direction of playing out scenarios than looking at specific campaigns. My blocks armies allow a degree of anonymity in terms of the forces being depicted - this is the classic ‘army red vs army blue’ Kriegspiel style approach - so just playing out some games using them without tying them to any specific campaign may be just the ticket to satisfy my immediate need to get in some games without all the research preamble one would usually undertake. I have a substantial number of scenarios to try out of varying sizes so it would simply be a case of picking what I fancy and setting it. The rules of choice would be the Portable Wargame in one form or another and I would look to use the pre printed and laminated map sheets I have from Axis and Allies: The Miniatures Game. These I have used on many occasions and they are a quick and easy way to set a game up - which is just what I want at present.

Small, Large Scale Ideas

Over recent years there has been what appears to be a huge upsurge in gaming using very small scale figures - I am thinking of 3mm and 2mm. There are some quite fantastic models  available in these diminutive scales - from individual figures to blocks of troops. ‘Lee over on his blog has produced some quite exquisite looking Romans for a DBA project he has on the go and the level of detail he has achieved is unbelievable. This is a great scale for having units that look like, well, units. Serried ranks of foot and horse really work for rules in the DBA or Portable Wargame stables as one may only have a dozen or less units BUT they look solid and visually ‘right’ in the way that a calling a dozen figures a battalion does not. 

3mm Barbarian style infantry suitable for Celtic types

From the hand of brush master ‘Lee - how outrageously good does that look?

I have used both of these pictures without Lee’s permission but I doubt if he will mind! Thanks in advance Lee!

I have often flirted with these smaller scale types and indeed, have a selection of blocks from the Peter Pig ACW Hammerin’ Iron range but as yet have done little with them. Flags may be an issue but I am sure something could be done.

Aside from commercially available figures there is always the old standby of making one’s own kit and if I learned anything from the ACW ship building it is that anything is possible with a little imagination. One of the numerous FaceBook groups I belong to - Super Cheap Wargaming - has a gentleman by the name of Will Coster amongst its members. Well, Will has been busy scratch building units for the 30 Years War using Balsa wood and card and they look simply lovely. He followed up his original post with some information about how he made them and needless to say it has gotten me thinking - not for the 30 Years War though! He very kindly gave his permission for me to use some of his pictures so here we are. 

Under construction - the ‘pikes’ are 10mm cubes available from the famous South American River

The finished article - they look really effective and the trick is definitely to keep to the impressionistic approach.

I have bags of material that could be used in this fashion to produce armies from all manner of historical periods. I think I know now why I kept that industrial sized bag of matchsticks….