Tuesday 30 June 2009

"Some Damned Affair in the Balkans" Part 3

Following on from the self inflicted destroyer problem with the Black Sea Russians i decided to concentrate on finishing the Balkan ships before embarking on a new fleet. The models for the Greeks and Turks have been duly prepared, based and undercoated and now have the initial grey and deck planking painted. I am hoping to have these finished by the weekend and will post pictures when they are ready. I use two shades of grey; one for each fleet and am absolutely convinced that they are way too dark in hue. They look nice though and so I am not going to change them! It does raise the issue though of exactly what colour grey was in use in the early years of the 20th century - certainly there must have been enormous variety even in notionally the same shade. Add in the effects of weather etc and it makes for carte blanche to use pretty much any shade that takes your fancy - that is my story/justification and I am sticking to it! The one problem I always have though concerns decking, or more specifically, wooden decking. Where was it used? What colour should it be? I use a Humbrol Authentic Colour (showing my age here methinks!) HC 4 Deck Plank which is a very pale khaki shade. It looks OK on the models so I shall continue to use this until the last tin has dried out!

The bases I use are made from artists mounting board - my local art shop lets me have a huge bag full every couple of years or so, it lasts ages - and when the model is ready these are painted Humbrol Matt 25 which is a nice sea blue. Waves and wakes are in white and to finish off I use the obligatory white label with the name printed on and the national ensign. A new departure for me will be to have the names of the 'never was-ers' printed in italics - this will serve to differentiate them from their historical counterparts.

Of the models used in this part of the project I would have to say that my favourite is the Agincourt closely followed by the Italian Libia. The former is huge and is very nicely detailed for the scale whilst the latter is a really nice cruiser model. You will see them in due course - hopefully in time for the weekend.

DBSA into the Great War Part 6

After an brief interlude for such things as decorating and various other domestic duties (not to mention the small matter of trying to find another job!) I sat down last night to consider the progress thus far on my DBSA WW1 naval rules. Although I am quite pleased thus far with the efforts I am becoming a little concerned at the classification of some of the older battleship types. It was whilst researching both the Turkish and the Russian fleets that I came to the conclusion that the generic ship types in use needed to be expanded to include Coastal defence or old battleships as a separate type. These are the purpose built versions (such as the various Scandinavian types) or older vessels that are either at the end of their service lives or are rebuilt ironclads etc. This category will serve to clarify some of the older scrap metal still afloat in 1914 e.g the Turkish Messudiye or the Russian Sinope or even some of the more effective purpose built vessels e.g. the Swedish Sverige or Norwegian Norge. I must confess that I had a certain degree of bias with this category as initially I felt it better represented a number of vessels in the Turkish navy than the existing categories. Even classing the Messudiye as an inferior pre dreadnought was a little on the generous side! It does mean that I will have a number of vessels on the ship charts that will need to be reclassified but that should not be a problem.

Another idea I have in this respect will be to draw up a spreadsheet of all the worlds warships as per my classifications so as to be to better able to define what is inferior, superior or normal.

It all adds to the flavour!

Sunday 28 June 2009

The Curates Egg

It has been a strange and eventful couple of days. I have managed to visit not one but two boot sales as well as a visit to the Navwar shop. The two boot sales yielded some real goodies of the written persuasion i.e. books. I acquired on Saturday a hardback copy of Anthony Beevor's 'Berlin - The Downfall 1945' for the princely sum of 50p. This will furnish a nice cheery read for those balmy summer evenings in the garden......................;-) Today saw me acquire hardbacks of 'Blood, Tears and Folly' by Len Deighton - this is a study of what made WW2 special in many different levels and is what I would describe as a 'broad brush' history. Along with this I acquired 'The Battle of Britain - The Jubilee History' by Richard Hough and Denis Richards. The Battle of Britain is one of my all time fave films and I would love to game this using Tumbling Dice 1/600th models - that will be another project for the back burner methinks! The two of these came from the same seller and cost the paltry sum of £2.50 for the pair. The final title is 'The Armed Rovers' by Roy Nesbitt and is an account of the exploits of the Beaufort and Beaufighter squadrons operating in the Mediterranean during WW2. The Med is a preferred theatre of operations for me and so this was a welcome surprise at 50p for the ex library softback. All in all then, a pretty successful couple of days but then it went wrong, horribly wrong..........

You may recall that I was going to visit Navwar on Saturday with the intention of acquiring everything I needed for the Russian Black Sea fleet 1914 to 1917 as well as the Greek and Turkish stuff - both actual and hypothetical. I was able to acquire everything I needed and was feeling pretty pleased with myself until this morning when I made a dreadful discovery.

The Lejtenant Pucsin class of TBDs (Black Sea Russian) were to be represented by, as posted earlier on the blog, the two funnel E (River) class RN destroyer. That would have been fine and dandy had the aforementioned Russian TBD looked anything like the E class. Sadly, due to the incorrect interpretation of a very fuzzy picture I have managed to get this completely wrong as the class had 4 equally spaced funnels - not 2. So I have bagged them up and will be returning them to Navwar in order to exchange them for something more suitable.

In respect of the Curates Egg it is fairly safe to say that whilst the weekend has thus far been good in parts the faux pas in respect of the Russian TBDs has served to take the shine off it somewhat!

Tuesday 23 June 2009

WW1 Black Sea Russian Navy Part 2

After much ferreting around (and a phone call to check some details with Mr Fox - cheers Neil!) I have at last come up with the shopping list for the Black Sea Russian Navy 1914 to 1917. Subject to availability I should have this little lot safely at home by Saturday evening. I will post the model codes and quantities etc - as I did for the Balkan Fleets - in due course and i am planning on getting the whole lot under the brush as soon as possible. I have a number of ideas in mind for mini campaigns involving this little lot; more of which later.

The main (in fact the only) difficulty experienced was the choice of model to use for the Lejtenant Puscin class TBs - as near as I could tell they looked like RN two funneled E or River class DDs. This sub group was built by Cammell Laird for the RN and the Russians were described in Jane's fighting ships as being Laird types. In 1/3000th though any differences will be minimal.

Cost wise the whole lot should come in at under £20 so chalk one up for credit crunch wargaming!

Monday 22 June 2009

WW1 Black Sea Russian Navy

By virtue of my sons very generous fathers day present (of £20 cash plus some very nice aftershave!) the funding is now in place for the 1/3000th Black Sea Russian Fleet and the extra Greek and Turkish ships mentioned previously. I started the research in earnest over the weekend using a combination of Jane's Fighting Ships of WW1 (the omnibus edition) and Rene Gregor's The Russian Fleet 1914 to 1917. Everything has thus far been pretty straightforward but I need to find out about the Laird and Yarrow type torpedo boats (just over 300 tons and looking like turtle backs) used as these will form the mainstay of the fleet in late 1914 - at least until the full quota of Novik class DDs are built starting early 1915. The Russians were very keen on mines as well so this will need to be borne in mind in any mini campaign ideas that result.

There is a really good book on the subject of Russian Naval operations in the Black Sea called North of Gallipoli by gentleman called something or other Nekrasov - I will try and source a copy of this although the Ottoman Steam Navy 1828 to 1923 covers the theatre in some detail. By referencing the Ottoman title and the Russian title I own I should be able to get a clearer picture of what went on.

Saturday 20 June 2009

Extra Boot Sale Bargains.......Again!!

Another Saturday, another trip to Sadlers farm for the boot sale. This time I was able to score a couple of titles to add to the collection for the riduculous sum of £1 each. The first - Blandford's Military Uniforms of the World is an old friend. I remember having a copy of this way back in the early seventies and it was an absolute goldmine of information - especially to a young and financially challenged wargamer! The copy disappeared over time and so I was very pleased to acquire this, albeit for nostalgic reasons. The second tome is far more serious and I was really pleased with this - Richard Woodmans The Real Cruel Sea - The Merchant Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic 1939 to 1945. The title covers exactly what it says on the cover and is a sobering reminder of the reality of ships at war with not only an implacable enemy but also the worst effects of nature. It certainly adds a perspective to what our naval games should be about - namely protecting our own trade and stopping that of the enemy. Much food for thought with this read methinks.

Friday 19 June 2009

DBSA into the Great War Part 5

The grand play test with the Austrians versus the Italians was not a great success and this was entirely my fault. By virtue of my poor choice of Austrian destroyers to use from those available and the subsequent suicidal handling of them it meant that the game was pretty much over before it started. The Austrian destroyers were the comparatively early Huszar class compared to the Italians and they came off distinctly second best in a melee with them. The melee was also conducted under the barrage of supporting secondary batteries from the Italian dreadnoughts so the Austrians had a short but exciting life. With the screen destroyed (three bases out of four with only a single point of damage to show on the Italian side!) the Austrians deemed discretion to be the better part of valour and broke off the action. A number of points came out of the game as follows:

1. The damage system of differing types (flood, fire etc) should not be used for destroyers as it slows things down and adds little to game play.
2. Dispensing with NIPs is a great idea and I am pleased I followed that particular line of thought.
3. A play sheet would be helpful!
4. The use of a D6 for ordering speed increases and extra turns worked well and added an element of uncertainty to moves as the action progressed - especially as formations began to get separated.
5. The use of tile spacer bow waves worked well and was a good idea.

I will not bother with a detailed account of this action as it was a fairly low key affair again, due entirely to my own fault. Running a play test at the club may not have been the best idea as the distractions are many and legion so the next round may be either a solo test or perhaps around someones house. I will tweak the rules accordingly to allow for the change in damage for destroyers and will also get a play sheet cobbled together.

The system does appear to be sound though despite the poor showing of the Austrian destroyers (and some truly abysmal dice rolls!). I have consoled myself though with the knowledge that the battle fleet breaking off when faced by an unchallenged destroyer attack was probably quite likely historically..........;-)

Wednesday 17 June 2009

DBSA into the Great War Part 4

At last the day is here for the great play test! My good friend Neil Fox has prepared the ships (the Italians and the Austrians) so I will extend much appreciation to him for his efforts. At present the Balkan Fleets do not possess any dreadnoughts so his help was invaluable. The game will be very much a straightforward encounter type action and I will write it up in the same fashion as the Battle of Mythos. It is no secret that I have high hopes for this system - certainly if the core concept is sound I shall look to see about a further extension into WW2.

A WW2 version will not differ hugely from the existing set up but obviously the biggest complication will be air power and its use. I have this in the projects list but will want to get the core WW1 system road tested and ironed out beforehand.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Searching for a Credit Crunch Campaign Part 3

This was really a no-brainer and no mistake! As you have probably noted thus far a large amount of this blog has been devoted to matters naval and, more specifically, the various trials and tribulations I have gone through to bring the Balkan Wars fleets to the tabletop and the associated rules to use with them. I had considered the land side of this campaign some time ago (in fact when Irregular released some 42mm scale figures to go with a set of Balkan Wars rules called 'In With the Knife') but had never progressed this much as there were no suitable figures around. I realise that this should not have been a deterrent but coupled with an absolute dearth of any information about the conflict it was more than sufficient to put me off the subject and this in turn hastened my looking at the naval side. Well, that is all about to change as Irregular Miniatures now have a range of Bulgarian, Greeks and Turks in 15mm available. This will be my credit crunch campaign and so I shall be acquiring the figures in due course, once certain selected items have been disposed of via ebay. I also now have a very good title on the Balkan Wars called 'The Balkan War 1912-1913' by Alexander Vachkov and this is volume 2 in the Wars for the Unification of Bulgaria series. The book is rather like and Osprey campaign series title with a Men at Arms and an Order of Battle thrown in for good measure. There are maps, colour uniform plates and black and white photos aplenty; together with weapon specifications for all combatants, the naval side, even the use of air power and it is an absolute goldmine. The only downside is that whilst the text is in English it is Bulgarian English so reads a little strangely at times! Check it out on http://www.knigomania.bg/ for details.

Armed with this book and the rules that Bob Cordery is developing for late 19th and early 20th Century games using a grid (once again, see his excellent blog Wargames Miscellany for further details) I have pretty much enough to make a start with and so planning in earnest can now begin.

Monday 15 June 2009

1:1 Scale Project

After some three months of redundancy it was inevitable that at some point a question of domestic harmony would need to be attended to - aka some decorating! Despite my best efforts to avoid this the excuses have at last run out! Prior to being given the axe we had managed over the four years we have been at our current address to get the entire house decorated except the kitchen which is now under the brush (and roller). Whilst rummaging in the shed for brushes etc I did discover some very nice green paint that I had forgotten about. It was used on a tabletop cover on my sons pool table and we used it to play table tennis. The green paint is OK despite being about 8 years old and has been earmarked for my gridded gaming surface. the colour is a pretty close match to Humbrol Matt 80 but without the smell..............;-)

Saturday 13 June 2009

Searching for a Credit Crunch Campaign Part 2

Well I think that the decision has been made for me - I have just seen the 15mm Balkan Wars range produced by Irregular Miniatures so I am sure you can guess where this will be heading!

I know their figures are very much an acquired taste but I have no problems with using them especially as I will be needing to produce three armies for this (Bulgarians, Greeks and of course, the Turks). They will be small in terms of the numbers of figures as I shall be using a grid based system inspired by Table Top Battles by Mike and Joyce Smith (available from Caliver Books) and with elements of DBA thrown in for good measure by the redoubtable Bob Cordery. Mention of Bob reminds me to point out that his blog Wargames Miscellany is an absolute goldmine of ideas and is well worth a visit.

I just need to check the Balkan wars uniform info and get the order ready for Irregular and away I go!

Boot Sale Bargains

Another Saturday and another visit to the boot sale at Sadlers Farm. This was a really good visit as I picked up the following:

An unread hardback complete Lord of the Rings (Harper Collins 2007 edition with all the appendices etc) in immaculate condition with dust jacket and at a RRP £30 which cost me £3!

An omnibus hardback edition containing Bram Stokers Dracula, The Lair of the White Worm and Dracula's Guests (various assorted short stories) in pristine condition - this cost me 50p

The two disc special edition DVD of the film Independence Day with Will Smith costing 50p - cheesy I know but entertaining none the less!

The DVD of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for 50p

A selection of classic WW2 films on DVD (originally given away with one of the newspapers) for 20p each comprising the following:

Hell in the Pacific
The One That Got away
Ice Cold in Alex
The Wooden Horse
Angels One Five
Sea of Sand
First of the Few
They Who Dare

So, for a total expenditure of £6.30 I have more than enough to keep me occupied in reading material and viewing for some to come. Needless to say I am a very happy bunny at the moment - and it was all so inexpensive which makes it even better!

Friday 12 June 2009

DBSA into the Great War Part 3

I have, after a good deal of consideration, revised the DBSA Great War Naval Rules to completely do away with the NIP system for command points. The rules will flow much faster in my my opinion which is an important factor when playing a large fleet action which is primarily what I am trying to achieve. Instead of using NIPs if a ship or squadron wants to perform either a costed speed increase or turn then it requires a successful dice roll to complete the action. On a d6 the score is 4, 5 or 6 with modifiers for superior or inferior ships being a plus or minus 1 respectively to the dice roll. The second such speed change or turn (where permissible) will require a base score of 5 or 6. I am also adopting the use of bow wave markers (made from tile spacers cut into a V shape) to represent speeds above cruising. One marker for one speed level above and two for two. The rules will be getting their first serious play test next Wednesday when the Italians take on the Austrians. There will be Dreadnoughts and all sorts having a bash at this and I am really looking forward to it. I have also more or less decided that the Black Sea Russians will be the opponent of choice for the glorious navy of the Sublime Porte rather than the Armee Navale of our Gallic cousins.

Monday 8 June 2009

Searching for a Credit Crunch Campaign

I am toying with the idea of a small 20mm plastic project - possibly to link in with the Balkan Wars naval stuff or perhaps even my perennial old favourite - the Arab Revolt. I have always had a soft spot for this since seeing the epic movie Lawrence of Arabia and I am of the opinion it would translate into an ideal mini campaign of the scale desirable. The Airfix Arabs are available as are the Turks (plus heavy weapons) from Hat. You could probably get some Turkish Cavalry converted from something suitable via the old head swap trick. The Imperial Brits would be a little more problematic as the short wearing Colonial types are not available but as you probably only need them for MGs, gunners, signalmen and officer types it would not be too much hassle to convert some WW2 8th army with the right heads (probably from one of the varied Colonial infantry boxes doing the rounds - not quite accurate but close enough!) or even use some spare Arabs. A couple of lengths of train track, a few palm trees and scrub and perhaps some peasant type buildings and away you go. I am pretty sure you can get a Rolls Royce AC from somewhere and aircraft would be no problem as well.

I had considered tackling a number of years ago using Minifigs WW1 15mm figures from the Colonial and Middle Eastern ranges but the project never saw the light of day. I think that using 20mm plastic would probably not be cheaper but it would be more fun and so will probably get my vote. The Sannusi Revolt would also be an interesting mini project involving regular troops on both sides although for the purist the Airfix Arabs have the wrong headgear for their Saharan brethren. The Osprey title 'Lawrence and the Arab Revolts' (MAA 208) provides some good background material and plenty of inspiration.

Sunday 7 June 2009

"Some Damned Affair in the Balkans" Part 2

After having read "The Mediterranean Naval Situation 1908 - 1914" as well as "The Ottoman Steam Navy 1828 to 1912" I was struck by the number of warships that were either ordered, built, paid for, requisitioned or merely planned by both the Greek and Turkish navy. With this is mind I have decided to expand both fleets to include those vessels that fell into any of the above categories. My trusty copy of "Jane's Fighting Ships of WW1" also yielded much information on the types that were taken over. For the Turks this was fairly straightforward and the tale of HMS Agincourt and Erin needs no retelling. The Italians were building a cruiser for Turkey that they took over as the Libia - in Turkey this would have been called, with a tremendous amount of irony, the Drama. Also, four destroyers ordered by Turkey were taken over by the RN - the so called Talisman class. As a design these were so successful they were used as the basis for the later V and W types.

For the Greeks the Germans were to build a battle cruiser - the Salamis whilst France was to construct a Bretagne class dreadnought. Four destroyers and a light cruiser were ordered from the UK and then taken over - these were known as the Medea, Melpomene, Melampus and Medusa (destroyers) in RN service whilst the cruiser was HMS Birkenhead.

With all this potential hardware heading towards the Aegean it certainly raises that staple of the war gamers diet - the 'what if?' scenario. Certainly it gives me a great excuse to expand the fleets into the dreadnought era without stretching the credibility too much. Besides, any navy with a battleship that has 14 x 12" guns and is fairly lightly armoured to boot has a lot going for it!

I will check my sources to see what other ships were on the go in various quarters for my selected protagonists - certainly the use of the 'never was-ers' adds an extra dimension to the theatre in question.

Saturday 6 June 2009

DBSA into the Great War Part 2

At last my grid based variant of DBSA for the Great War; together with the associated ship charts, is ready for play testing. The draft version is quite a different animal from the original idea and the design process has gone through a number of revisions. Only the acid test of using the rules will tell how successful they are and so I am planning to get some testing sessions underway as soon as I am able. If any readers want a copy I am happy to send them on with the proviso that they are very much a work in progress and should treated as such. I would greatly appreciate any feedback or suggestions as well.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

DBSA into the Great War

After what can only be described as a herculean effort I am now close to being able to play test the WW1 gridded variant of DBSA I have been wittering on about. The break in Turkey was extremely beneficial to the creative effort involved - mainly because I was able to get the ship details for eight major powers drafted. In advance of the posting of the rules and associated ship lists I can briefly describe how each ship is rated for its capabilities. Basically, a ship is rated as either inferior (I), normal (N) or superior (S) for each of movement, defence, guns and torpedoes. Guns also are subdivided into main and secondary/tertiary. Anything larger than a DD is rated as inferior for torpedo ability and ships from AC size and above may not use main batteries against DD. I am planning to have a play test session over the next few days to iron out any wrinkles and will also drive the system at the club in a week or so. Assuming all is well I can then think about the additions to the Greeks and Turks as well as the Black Sea Russians (and probably the French as well!).

Tuesday 2 June 2009

The Return of the Native.........

Back home from my travels in the Levant. It was hot....very hot.........

I am ashamed to say that the week was one on complete relaxation with no trips to anything remotely cultural although I did get to experience the unalloyed pleasure of a traditional Turkish Bath............it was absolute bliss!

The resort did provide daily overflights from the Turkish air force as well as many army helicopters.

Lots to tell later - I have been very busy with rules drafting for my various naval projects and sitting by the Med was very inspirational so you can guess where this is heading!

Back to the real world and the ongoing job hunt!