Monday 29 November 2010

Somewhere in the Black Sea....Breaking News



Reports are beginning to arrive of a major naval engagement having been fought somewhere in the Black Sea between the forces of the Ottoman Empire and that of Russia. Initial details are both vague and contradictory and so further investigation is being undertaken by our correspondent in the St.Petersburg office, Mr.Thomas Royston. Further information will be made available as soon as it is has been verified, subject to the usual wartime reporting restrictions.

Friday 26 November 2010

Back on Track and Back to Basics

I was late in again last night but managed to suppress the urge to go 'bald headed' at the casemate ironclads and contented myself with removing the old fittings, cleaning up the surfaces affected and replacing just the hatches with plastic card. This took up an hour or so and was sufficient effort - especially as I had a few things to tackle on the PC. I suppose the moral of the story is to take things steadily rather than attempting too much in one session. The first ironclad I made has had similar treatment to the others and is therefore now out of commission - I wanted to ensure that all the models were finished in a uniform fashion which was historically something the Confederates never managed to achieve!

I was also able to get a couple of further tweaks tackled on the Memoir of Battle at Sea rules and the forthcoming scenario - again nothing major, just some minor clarifications and typos. The main area in this case was the use of destroyers on multiple bases (2 models per base). Within the rules destroyers may be based in either fashion with the expectation that most WW1 and earlier forces will use multiple bases whilst the later era including WW2 will use models individually based. That is the idea anyway! I have also revised the firing ranges slightly - simply by way of explaining short and long ranges (I had missed this from the draft - a basic and serious omission! D'Oh!).

Thursday 25 November 2010

Somewhere in the Black Sea....Notes and Dramatis Personae

The scene has been set; the protagonists revealed, the dispositions of the two forces have been plotted, the paperwork is in place and all the myriad last minute ‘tweaks’ attended to. Nothing remains but to fight (with apologies to Ian Knight). The two ‘scene setters’ posted previously were very much an indulgence on my part for which I offer no apologies – I like to add some flavour text to a game – as these add to the overall experience in my opinion and serve to set the fictional engagement within some degree of historical perspective.

I will now detail the fleets taking part in the forthcoming action – together with their game ‘stats’ which will follow the format thus: Name, type, hit points, speed, main combat dice, secondary combat dice and torpedoes. All the destroyers and torpedo boats in use are on multiple bases in pairs and so their names appear seperated by a dash.


Yavuz Sultan Selim, BC, 9, 3/4, 8, 4 and 1
Midilli, LC, 4, 3/4, 3, N/A and 1
Turgud Reis, PB, 6, 1/2, 5, 2 and 1
Hayreddin Barbarossa, PB, 6, 1/2, 5, 2 and 1
Hamidiye, PC, 3, 3, 3, N/A and 1
Mecidiye, PC, 3, 3, 3, N/A and 1
Muavenet-i Milliye/Yadighar-i Millet, DD, 4, 3/4, 2 x 1, N/A and 2 x 2
Samsun/Yarhisar, TB, 2, 3, 2 x 1, N/A and 2 x 1
Tasoz/Basra, TB, 2, 3, 2 x 1, N/A and 2 x 1


Evstafi, PB, 6, 2/3, 6, 4 and 1
Ioann Zlatoust, PB, 6, 2/3, 6, 4 and 1
Pantelejmon, PB, 6, 2/3, 5, 4 and 1
Tri Sviatitelia, PB, 6, 2/3, 5, 3 and 1
Rostislav, PB, 5, 2, 4, 3 and 1
Pamiat Merkurija, PC, 3, 4, N/A and 1
Kagul, PC, 3, 4, N/A and 1
Bespokoinyi/Gnevnyi, DD, 6, 4/5, 2 x 2, N/A and 2 x 3
Gromkiy/Popeshnyi, DD, 6, 4/5, 2 x 2, N/A and 2 x 3
Leitenant Pushchin/Zavetnyi, TB, 4, 3, 2 x 2, N/A and 2 x 2
Zavidnyi/Zhivoy, TB, 4, 3, 2 x 2, N/A and 2 x 2

As can be seen from the above the forces involved are quite different although on balance if the fight turns into a long drawn out affair then the advantage lies with the Russians. They have little to fear from most of the Turkish navy excepting the Yavuz and the dilemma there is does the Turk risk his best ship to be sure of a victory or does he 'tip and run'? This course of action is problematic given the slow speed of the Turkish battleships and the threat of the Russian Bespokoinyi (Novik) class destroyers. In effect the Turk needs to use the Yavuz to cover the retreat of her slower companions.

Whilst working on this scenario I also took the opportunity to refine the rules slightly and correct a few typographical errors as well as rethinking the ship specification charts. This probably sounded like a large undertaking but it was largely cosmetic in nature and therefore nothing major.

The waiting is nearly over and I am looking forward to getting the game underway at long last!

Scratchbuilding a Disaster

I should have known better, I really should! I was later than usual getting home from work yesterday evening and was feeling pretty tired to go with it but decided to 'fit out' the four casemate ironclads thinking it would be a straightforward task. It all went horribly wrong as I seemed incapable of cutting anything squarely or lining anything up correctly. The end result was a shambles as although the funnels are fine just about everything else went wrong - gun ports, hatches and pilot houses. I have now decided that such fittings will now be cut from plasticard rather than balsa wood as cutting 5mm squares was an exercise in futility - especially at the end of a very long day!

I have spent the early part of this evening removing everything that has thus far been added (mercifully only 17 of the 35 gun ports had been placed) and tidying up the models in order to start again. Fitting out a model is not difficult to do, merely time consuming and is therefore best tackled when feeling fresh!

Somewhere in the Black Sea....From the Bridge of the Evstafi

Vice Admiral Andrei Eberhardt downed his customary glass of morning vodka in one gulp and let out an explosive ‘Pah!!’ as the ice cold liquid seared his throat. He turned to the young and very nervous steward and favoured him with a benevolent smile. The steward blanched at this unexpected gesture of goodwill (Eberhardt was known as very serious commander and a draconian disciplinarian) and saluting hurriedly, withdrew from the bridge. Normally the Vice Admiral would have taken the steward to task for his unseemly exit but today such lapses of protocol could be forgiven. He was pleased; both with himself and with the fleet – especially as it was now united into a single formation having rendezvoused at dawn, some hours beforehand. The timing was fortuitous although very much a case of better late than never. The Evstafi and her sister ship, the Ioann Zlatoust, together with a small escort of torpedo boats had been patrolling along the coast in anticipation of more Turkish mine laying and shore bombardments. The remainder of the fleet should have been with them but had been delayed on its outward journey by some minor engine trouble in the Rostislav. By the time this had been rectified they were several hours behind the Evstafi and her sister ship and had then had to struggle to catch up. They made it, in part due to the herculean efforts of the stokers but more to the Vice Admiral’s foresight in moving his patrol line much closer to the coast thereby reducing the distance the remainder of the squadron had to traverse. This was not without risk as the possibility of running on to a Turkish minefield was very real. Still, that was all in the past and the most important thing was that the whole fleet was now in place. Although the ships of his command were old, they were well trained and more than capable of dealing with anything the Turks could face them with, except of course for the Yavuz Sultan Selim. Eberhardt knew that once the Dreadnoughts currently being completed for Black Sea service were ready then even the Yavuz had best be wary but until then, the five pre-dreadnoughts were all he had. Singly they would be no match for the Turkish battle cruiser but combines it was a different story. The two newest ships, the Evstafi and the Iaonn Zlatoust, had drilled in a new technique of firing by spotting the fall of shot for each other rather than individually. Also, the maximum elevation of the main 12” guns used by the two ships had been increased to 35 degrees which extended their maximum range dramatically. Eberhardt was too wily a tactician to think that such a novel approach to naval gunnery would compensate for the obsolete material under his command but, he reasoned, it would certainly give the Turks something to think about – especially if their pride and joy, the Yavuz Sultan Selim was in anyway damaged as a result.

Thus far the Russian sweep had passed off without incident with nothing worthy of his attention. It would soon be time to turn the fleet around and Eberhardt was about to address his captain when a young and breathless sailor rushed on to the bridge, fairly bursting with emotion and clutching a flimsy signal report. After a hurried salute and in moments the signal was read and its contents exploded like a shell in their midst. The leading Russian cruiser – the Kagul – reported heavy smoke to the West and was awaiting further instructions.

The bridge fell silent, the only sound disturbing the quiet, almost church–like atmosphere being the steady thrum of the engines. All eyes went to the Admiral who stared out to sea and into the murky distance; his face impassive, his thoughts unreadable. The seconds ticked by, agonisingly slowly. Eberhardt pondered the enormity of his responsibility and weighed up the inevitable risks that a general action involved. This was the moment he had worked towards throughout his long career and he allowed himself a momentary savouring of the heady bouquet of commanding men and ships in time of war. He reached his decision. Suddenly, the Admiral blinked as if waking from a short nap. He turned to the Captain. “Signal the cruisers to maintain their surveillance but to avoid action unless unavoidable – the Captains will have full discretion in that respect,” he grinned wolfishly and continued.”Signal the Pantelejmon, she and the rest of the squadron will maintain current course and speed whilst we shall head due North to position ourselves so we can welcome our Turkish visitors!” The bridge crew grinned to a man and hurriedly set in motion the appropriate orders.

Captain Yuri Gregoravitch of the Evstafi was that rarest of Russian naval officers in that he was cautious and preferred to act when in possession of the fullest possible information concerning his opposition. He badly needed to be sure of exactly what they were sailing towards, the ships involved and their positions, basic and elementary facts that his superior seemed to be largely oblivious of. He had enormous respect for the admiral but often wondered exactly what he based any of his tactical decisions on – in this case a solitary and unconfirmed sighting report from a cruiser. “Admiral, with all due respect, what if the Yavuz Sultan Selim is present, should we not keep the squadron together as these are Germans and not Turks,” he enquired, as tactfully as he could. “Yuri, Yuri, Yuri,” began the Admiral, placing his hand on the Captain’s shoulder and shaking his head slowly in mock admonishment. “Turks or Germans is of little consequence; just because they have this one ship does not make them invincible, remember Yuri, you can give a dog a gold collar and feed it on fresh meat but it is still a dog!” The Captain visibly winced at his commander’s earthy observations – he was far too cultured to use such language – but inwardly agreed with the sentiment.
The Evstafi swung around with her sister ship following closely and the destroyer screen falling into place both forward and aft of the battle line. The four 12” gun turrets were already trained to the port side and with the great barrels set to maximum elevation waiting for the order to open fire. It was not long delayed as the Evstafi's guns roared out their defiance at the age old enemy. The seonds passed with all privileged eyes facing the direction of fire at the distant columns of smoke. Great geysers of spray, light pillars of fire were seen on the far horizon as a second salvo roared out, this time from the Ioann Zlatoust. Still the stomach crawling wait as the huge shells sped to their target. More towers of water as the Evstafi's guns spoke for a second time, the roar and shudder vibrating throughout the ship. The range was good and it would only be a matter of time before straddles and hits followed. Suddenly, the horizon erupted with a long, rolling, threatening cloud of smoke with terrible and ominous intent as the great Yavuz Sultan Selim exposed her full broadside and opened fire with her ten huge guns, surrounding the two Russian ships with their own forest of shell splashes. Eberhardt roared his defiance at the hated enemy "Now Yuri, we fight and may the devil have mercy on their souls for I shall have none!" Battle had been joined.

To be Continued....

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Nearly Ready....

Despite a later than usual arrival home from work last night I managed to finish of the casemate part of the next four casemate ironclads - the sanding and filing phase. I enjoy this part simply because when it is finished all that remains to be done is to apply all the fittings and then the model is complete. The total time taken thus far on all four of these combined is thus far a mere two hours and so I am confident that, depending on the complexity of the model chosen, it should be possible to make three or four models in a full evening sitting with the only delay being required by allowing the glue to dry. I also have some plans for some other models - more of which in due course.

I even managed to watch the second episode of The Walking Dead as well so the evening was a full one albeit quite short.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

For the want of a Nail (File)...............

I had little time to work on the next four of these models last night although I did manage to complete the casemate section on each of them prior to fitting out with gun ports, hatches , funnels and the pilot house. This is the fiddliest part of the undertaking as getting the sloping panels and angles to match and fit is an exercise in patience. Happily they all appear to be OK in this respect so after the tidying up with an emery board the hard part of the model is done. I make both the front and rear casemate panel slightly larger than the final size in order to allow for this finishing off as the extra wood can then be filed to fit on the model. A rough and ready technique I know but helpful to the occasional modeller rather than the draftsman!

I use emery boards (nail files to the uninitiated) for filing and sanding because balsa wood is very delicate and emery boards, being designed to be used on fingernails, are much 'softer' on the building material as well as more convenient to use. I had one of these from SWMBO but had to buy a packet of my own at the weekend - £1 for 10 - from Savers - a local discount drugstore. I also acquired a pack of wooden cuticle removers for the same price - these looked like fat cocktail sticks - that are exactly the right size to use for the slimmer funnels that some ships had rather than the dowel I am currently using.

I am hoping to have these four models completed over the next day or so and will post pictures when they are ready as usual.

Monday 22 November 2010

More on Scratchbuilt Ironclads

Although the weekend did not go entirely to plan in respect of play tests etc, I was able to get the next four Confederate casemate ironclads roughly half finished. I cut the hulls out on Friday and last night was able to get the casemates partially assembled. My technique is to have the long side panels glued in place on the hull (lined up around a central core for support) and then to add the front and rear panels - the whole is then filed down to square of the corners and edges as appropriate. I should have these four models finished over the next couple of days or so.

I am building two smaller vessels, another of the same size as the one I photographed in an earlier post and one larger vessel. The hull lengths are 3", 2 3/4" and 2 1/2" with the casemates being 1 1/2", 1 1/4" and 1 inch long. Once these have been completed the whole lot will be primed and then based prior to painting whilst the first units of the opposition are under construction.

Sunday 21 November 2010

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Wargamers....Part 2

Due to unforeseen domestic circumstances my planned play test of my version of Memoir of Battle at Sea involving the Turks and Russians still has yet to take place. My weekend chores took a little longer than anticipated and so the available gaming time was greatly reduced - so much so that I am seriously considering scaling the size of the forces down to ensure that I am able to complete it in less time than I originally intended. The third attempt is tentatively scheduled for next Sunday all being well. It is frustrating but it has given me a chance to catch up on some other tasks that needed attention - not least of which was downloading into my Sony reader some 28 books from Project Guttenburg including the complete works of Sherlock Holmes amongst others.

Three historical non fiction titles also came into my ebook collection - The Malakand Field Force and The River War by Winston Churchill and The Balkan Wars 1912 - 1913 by Jacob. Plenty of reading material then so I am pretty happy with that and it made up for the lack of the game.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Somewhere in the Black Sea....From the Bridge of the Yavuz Sultan Selim

From the bridge of the battle cruiser Yavuz Sultan Selim (until recently the German ship Goeben) Rear Admiral Wilhelm Souchon surveyed his small fleet through the watery gloom of a clearing sea mist with grim satisfaction. Despite the poor visibility his ships were where he expected them to be once the mist had lifted and even as he watched, those vessels that were slightly awry in their station keeping were manoeuvring into their correct positions. Thus far all had gone to plan and so it was with a sense of relief that the fleet could increase speed to an almost magisterial twelve knots. Souchon would have preferred to have made the journey at a faster rate but was constrained from doing so by the two old and slow Turkish battleships accompanying him. He was not concerned about meeting the Russians as he knew that they had nothing in the Black Sea that could match the Yavuz Sultan Selim in either speed or firepower but any combat contained an element of risk and he could ill afford to sustain any severe damage. This was of additional concern to the Rear Admiral but he was painfully aware that there was little to be done about it. He was as confident as he could be and knew that he had done as much as anyone could do to drag the creaking and woefully inefficient Turkish navy into the twentieth century.

Since war had been declared on Turkey by Russia, in part aided by his devastating preemptive shore bombardments, he had worked hard to instill both German discipline and training into the ramshackle Turkish navy. Efficiency had improved; albeit painfully slowly, but the more difficult issue of sufficient skilled crewman was another matter all together. The men were brave enough and when competently led were quite effective but there never seemed to be enough time or skilled personnel available for training on such an intricate device as a modern warship. It was not in his manner to complain of such difficulties but to a man used to the highest levels of both skill and competence it was nevertheless a daunting challenge. His concern was now focused on the material he was to fight with. The two Turkish cruisers, Hamidiye and Mecidiye, currently deployed with the Midilli (formerly the Breslau) in a loose line abreast in the van of the formation were useful enough, as were the newest destroyers – especially as he had been able to ‘salt’ the crews with a number of German officers and men. Small ship work suited the Turks better it seemed to Souchon, but national pride had demanded big ships. Those same big ships that had been confiscated by the Royal Navy and were now facing Germany from across the North Sea he mused, bitterly. He sighed inwardly and resumed his scan of the horizon forward. Satisfied that the cruiser screen was now on station and holding position, course and speed he turned his attention aft and to the two lumbering bulks of the old battleships Turgut Reiss and the Hareddin Babarossa. It was with great difficulty that Souchon was able to remind himself that these two museum pieces were in fact German built. They were decrepit, rust eaten, rat infested, disease ridden old wrecks that should have been scrapped years earlier. National pride had insisted that these two relics of a bygone age should be present in his fleet as a gesture of allied solidarity. It was a pity that the same pride had not been applied to the vessels upkeep and maintenance he thought. They were all that were available and so they had to be employed. Their one saving grace was that they would give the Russians something else to shoot at as well as his battle cruiser. Better they were damaged than the Goeben (he refused to call her by her new Turkish name) because he was under no illusions that the Turkish naval repair facilities would anywhere near as good as Wilhelmshaven. The operation the fleet was undertaking was simple enough and the value of sea time in respect of training was inestimable. A series of shore bombardments and the sowing of some minefields would be an effective demonstration of Turkish resolve in the Black Sea and would provide some badly needed live firing practise for the big gun crews. Should the Russian navy attempt to intervene then they would be engaged and Souchon was confident that he would be able to deal with them accordingly. Visibility was improving by the minute, bringing with it the promise of a bright and clear day. Souchon was about to leave the bridge to go to the wardroom when a noise like tearing canvas, preceded by dull rumble, reverberated around the normally silent interior.

A huge white pillar, the size of a house erupted in the sea ahead of the great ship. They were under fire! Immediately the bridge, and indeed the whole ship became a flurry of frenzied activity as the crew raced to their battle stations. Orders were barked out - both to the ship's company and the remainder of the squadron; bells rang, voices shouted and eager feet thundered urgently through the companionways and ladders as first a second, and then a third minaret-high shell splash seemed to smother the ship. The great engines throbbed as she worked up to full speed, as fast as her stokers could feed the blazing furnaces of her boilers as simultaneously the Captain swung her helm over hard to starboard, leaving her slower charges scurrying in her wake. The three screening cruisers had veered off to engage an as yet unseen enemy whilst the Yavuz Sultan Selim desperately maneuvered into her best firing position so her great guns could reply to her assailant. The rest of the fleet would have to follow her as best as it could as for now, the great battle cruiser was engaging the enemy on her own. No sooner had she straightened out of her violent turn than the firing switches were pressed and the ten eleven inch guns spoke in unison with an ear shattering roar. Battle was joined at last.

Friday 19 November 2010

Some More ACW Scratchbuilds

I spent some time on my train journey to and from work yesterday pondering the next phase of my ACW naval construction project. The Confederates managed to construct a number of casemate ironclads in the most trying conditions and so whilst they all had a similar overall appearance of course differences existed. It was with this in mind I decided that I would need several models to 'cover all the bases' of types available. After my deliberations (and reference to Angus Konstam's Osprey hardback - Duel of the Ironclads, more of which later) I settled upon the construction of five models, the one already completed and four others. Yesterday evening I cut out the and shaped the hulls for these four models so am hoping to make progress on them over the weekend - as well as the play test for Memoir of Battle at Sea.

The models will consist of one with a larger casemate (in terms of length) and with a hull about a quarter of a inch longer than the already completed model, a straight copy of the existing model and two models that are smaller (by around half an inch) than the version in yesterday's blog post. When completed these five models will give me sufficient variety in terms of the models used in a game and will allow for specific historical scenarios to be depicted with greater representational 'accuracy'.

I am still pondering about monitor turrets and so have decided that the first opposition for the casemate models will be some Cairo class gunboats. I shall make three of these and am also going to make the USS Benton - this being the unique vessel made from a couple of ex snagging boats joined together and hulled over making her a lot beamier than the Cairos by nearly half as much again (70+ ft to 50+ ft).

The Rayleigh shipyard is going to be busy but boy oh boy, is this great fun to do or what?!

Duel of the Ironclads by Angus Konstam is one of those Osprey hardbacks where they combine parts from several titles (e.g. from the Men at Arms, Campaign or Vanguard series amongst others) and to be honest, some of these are much better than others. Happily this is one of those and the book contains the best parts from the two Vanguard titles: Union Monitor and Confederate Ironclad and the Campaign series title covering the Battle of Hampton Roads. Osprey cover a number of other ACW naval titles which I shall track down but this hardback is a very good starting point and as I acquired my copy from a remaindered bookshop a couple of years ago for £5 represents great value for money.

Thursday 18 November 2010

ACW Casemate Ironclad - A Scratch Build

Pictured above is my first ever scratch built ACW casemate ironclad and is the first of a number of vessels I am planning to make. I have placed her on a single Hexon terrain tile so you can get an idea of the size of the completed model - Hexon terrain tiles are 4" across the flat sides - which is very slightly under 3" long and 1" wide. She is built of balsa wood throughout except for the casemate panels which began life as a double thickness ice lolly stick. I had purchased a pack of these craft sticks and they are made of a much harder wood than balsa and so would stand up to handling far better. I started with the flat hull and placed a central core to which the casemate panels were fixed. The detailing in respect of gun ports, the deck hatch and the small pilot house were cut from some thin sheet balsa and the funnel from a length of balsa dowel rod. The dark lines are not were the model is poorly fitted together - they are pencil marks from the cutting out process! Although the picture does not show it very well the edges of the casemate are in fact very smooth with the stark edges being due to the different colour of the wood from the side to the end grain. Detail wise I would equate this to being similar in style as Davco 1/3000th ships in that it is chunky with over sized features and thus is ideal for war games.
She is not intended to represent a specific vessel; rather a conglomerate of similar types. I plan to make probably another four or five of these - one identical to the above and the others smaller in size. In all I reckon that the construction of this took in the region of an evening's work spread over a few days so is fairly economic in terms of time. The next step will be to seal and prime the model prior to undercoating and painting. I will tackle this over the next few days although I am tempted to make her sister ships first and paint them en masse before moving on to opposition.
I really enjoyed making this model and am very pleased with the final result. I did have some trepidation about constructing the casemate but my process, whilst not perfect, seemed to work out well. I am now really looking forward to the next models and having been inspired additionally from the efforts of Steel on Sand on his blog in respect of forts etc I will have to give some thought as to how to construct some shore defences as well.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Memoir of Battle at Sea - Rules and Models

The paperwork for the next playtest of my naval version of the Battle Cry/Memoir 44 inspired rule set is virtually complete and so the next action set in the Black Sea will be taking place this weekend. I am looking froward to this for a number of reasons, not least of which because I am keen to get the rules to a satisfactory level before I tackle the complex issue of aircraft. I have the air section complete but it exists as an untested draft and so will need to be tried out a few times. The game turn sequencing and most of the mechanics for aerial combat have been unashamedly 'borrowed' from Axis and Allies: War at Sea although they do have a couple of minor 'tweaks' incorporated.

Meanwhile the great ironclad construction programme continues with the first casemate ship for the ACW nearing completion - I am at the fittings stage of adding deck grills, gun port covers etc - and I hope to post this to the blog soon. I am pleased with the progress of this thus far and should the finished model look OK then I shall press on with some more - quite a few more in fact!

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Online Fraud - A Note of Warning

I have mentioned in passing that last week, aside from the sad business of Misty, also saw us having to contend with an attempted online banking fraud. This happened during the early hours of last Monday morning (08/11). The fraudsters managed to reset my debit card password enabling them to to put through a couple of purchases totalling over £300.Luckily SWMBO (who checks the bank online daily) was alerted to a large pending debit that was unaccounted for and so called me to find out what I had been spending that sum of money on (I am sure you can imagine the conversation!). After we had established that neither of us had anything to do with this it was then on to the bank and the first of a series of long and wearying phone calls to sort this mess out. We eventually received the money back so had not lost out financially but the sheer inconvenience and worry have certainly taken their toll (remember that this was alongside Misty's final few days). We had to cancel our debit cards and order replacements and then 'delouse' the PC as an additional precaution. This has all been done (although the PC is pretty darned safe in any event) and SWMBO and myself reckoned that the remedial action to this relatively small incident has taken between us some six hours of phone calls and the same on the PC - changing passwords and 'nuking' anything vaguely connected to personal details.

We were lucky in that the bank is checked daily so it was nipped in the bud early on. I am posting this simply because most gamers use online shopping etc in one form or another and I am absolutely no exception to this. All I am saying is that be very careful out there in cyberspace - this kind of thing is not just something that happens to other people - and make sure that you exercise care around changing passwords, keeping personal details etc safe and your PC protection up to date etc. Clearing out your PC after using it with any of the instant delete software for things like cookies and temporary internet files is a good habit to get into.

In the words of Shaw Taylor - "Keep 'em peeled!"

Sunday 14 November 2010

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Wargamers

It has been a rather busy weekend and as a result the planned play test of my version of Memoir of Battle at Sea has not taken place. I had a number of administrative tasks to tackle for this that took rather more time than I had anticipated so I took the decision to postpone this until next weekend when I shall be fully prepared.
The weekend did yield a few highspots (and heaven knows I needed something after the deluge of misfortune this week has thrown up so far!) as my visit to deepest Basildon furnished a number of items I had been after for some time. Firstly I have managed to acquire some Winsor and Newton acrylic paint - a 60ml tube of Cobalt Turquoise which is as close as I have seen to the blue used in the manufacture of Hexon blue terrain tiles. I needed to get this for my ship bases going forward rather than the old Humbrol enamel Matt 25. Me using acrylics? Whatever next?!
I also managed to get a pack of assorted sizes of balsa wood and some wooden craft sticks - rather like double sized ice lolly sticks - which will also come in very handy. The best part of the day though was when SWMBO spotted that a branch of the Past Times chain has opened in the main shopping centre. I dived in there like a shot and came away with one of their 'Town in a Bag' sets of wooden childrens toy buildings. I have been after a set of this for ages after having seen it used extensively in Bob Cordery's various 20th century games but without success so was very pleased to get one of these (I wish I had got a couple though!). The contents include everything in the picture above (except the 18th century 10 - 12mm plastic figures from the board game Risk whch I put in the picture for size comparison) and some other pieces e.g. the vehicles, people and livestock, which I have set aside for my grandson for when he is about 5...................;-)
The buildings are very basic and many of them are detailed only on one side but having said that, they are ideal to set up villages and towns etc quickly and cheaply. They are very stylised and so will offend the purist but have an old school charm all of their own. The buildings would suit 15mm figures at a push - even my Peter Laings look a little on the large side compared to them - but I think that 10 or 12mm look ideal with these. Seeing them alongside the aforementioned Risk figures (of which I have three complete boxes worth) has certainly given me much to consider in respect of 18th century 'imagi-nations' but that, as they say, if for another day/month/year/decade (delete as applicable)!
The price for this bag of goodies was £5.62 which is an odd price but they should have been £7.50 but had 25% off. For seventeen building, nine walls and five trees that is not bad at all.

Friday 12 November 2010

Rules, Plans and Good Intentions

After a week of high drama (aside from the distressing feline episode there was also the small matter of the attempted bank account fraud we had to contend with) it is with an enormous sense of relief that at last the weekend is upon us. I have a few domestic duties to attend to but anticipate being able to visit my local branch of Hobbycraft for some bits and pieces as well as running the next play test of my version of Memoir of Battle at Sea. This will be a much larger affair than previously and will feature more ships types. Once again, the Black Sea will be the theatre of operations with those old protagonists the Russians and the Turks. I will also be using the Hexon set up to a full sized 13 x 9 playing area. This is a big deal for me as this will be my preferred gaming area size going forward and happily the set up fits snugly on the dining table. I will be doing a full write up with photos (I intend experimenting with these beforehand) so it will be a rather lengthy post methinks.

In respect of battle reports I confess that I have changed my approach slightly in that I am now recording actual moves and dice rolls etc rather than describing the action as though it were a real battle. This is not nearly as dramatic (or as much fun!) but makes for a better record of events. The one thing I learned from my previous report is that preparation is key – I am going to set up a game turn template for recording moves, combat results and hits etc rather than relying on odd scraps of paper. I do not envisage using this for actual face to face games; rather it is intended as a tool to use whilst testing.

Another task for the weekend concerns the previously mentioned flying bases for use with the WW2 aircraft counters from Victory at Sea. I need to make a couple of dozen of these so will be gluing, painting and chopping at some point.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Misty R.I.P.

Not a wargaming subject I know but I would like to share this all the same. Misty, our beloved Persian had to be put to sleep this evening as his viral condition had taken too much out of him and his recovery was extremely doubtful. We are all feeling pretty down at the moment and his idiosyncratic ways will be sadly missed. His liking for sleeping in the laundry basket or with his head in anybodies shoes had been noted on many occasions - as had his irrational fear of silver foil. He often enjoyed sleeping on my lap upside down and with his paws in the air - looking like he had just been shot. SWMBO would spend hours grooming him and his attempts to avoid this were legendary. He was noisy and not the most agile of cats - his landing technique could best be described as a controlled crash - but he was a good friend and a cornerstone of the family.
R.I.P. Bubs (I have no idea why we called him that!) but at least the Magpies won't be able to get you now.

Synchronicity and the ACW Afloat

It never ceases to amaze me just how powerful synchronicity can be. A chance conversation leading to a couple of rule sets; an ebay acquisition rekindling interest in a particular period; an additional variant of the aforementioned rule sets sparking further interest and the need to satisfy the creative urge resulting from the inspiration provided by all of these things.

Memoir of Battle at Sea began as a chance conversation between Bob Cordery and myself whilst at the Skirmish show a while back. He has made much more progress with his interpretation of this idea than I have (mine is still very much at the testing stage) and has successfully taken the concept backwards in time to cover the 1860 to 1870 period. I was not initially caught up in this facet of the MoBaS naval rules but the recent acquisition of a copy of the ACW game Battle Cry by Avalon Hill had me scuttling to the ACW naval section of the library once again.

I would not describe myself as a particularly talented model maker but it is a part of the hobby I enjoy within the framework of my own limitations. I tend to be able to improvise and make use of existing objects and then turn these into something else. My scratch built dirigibles being a case in point – take one plastic kit aircraft bomb and stick various odds and ends to it and voila! Instant dirigible. Ironclads for the ACW should be very similar in theory – a monitor or even a casemate ironclad should be pretty straightforward to cobble together, certainly sufficient for use on the war games table. I have enough information and pictures etc to be able to do this and so I spent last night rummaging through the spares boxes to see what I could find to make use of in this construction project.

Bob Cordery is currently working on some models using his famous cartoon style approach and the ships are designed to be representational and not to look too far out of place with his 15mm collection (correct me if I am wrong here Bob!). My own models will be under no such restraint other than that they have to fit on a single Hexon terrain tile and will also need to fit on a card base 100mm by 50mm maximum. My models will also not be to any specific scale per se; rather they will be built to fit the hex which means in reality the maximum model size will be around 85 to 90mm long by around 40mm wide. The models will be loosely based on specific types and will be named after their closest historical counterparts. Using the Hexon terrain tiles makes life a lot easier in terms of movement and firing etc and of course, should I acquire the flocked green land set the possibility of some river based actions with forts etc becomes eminently achievable.

I have had a hankering to have a stab at this for some time and so all this recent activity has provided me with the inspiration to have a go. Looking at the longer term implications of this idea of course there is a VSF angle to be considered – assuming the basic building techniques work out for the models then there are many other possibilities for ironclad fleets. At the time of writing I envisage manufacturing around a dozen models a side and perhaps even a couple of forts for good measure. Ultimately I would like to tie this in with Battle Cry itself which of course raises the issue of what troops to use for the land stuff – clearly 15mm will be too large – and so I may look to see what I can do with some 2mm figures although this is a long way down the batting order!

I know I could just as easily buy the models from Navwar (they are the cheapest in 1/1200th) but that is not the point of the exercise. I want to make the models and derive the pleasure from doing so. My WW2 naval will need to wait a while – at least the model side will – but from a solo perspective I have more than enough ship counters to use so this is not critical. I may undertake a small 1/3000th project in the interim, just to keep my eye in. In all probability this will mean that the 1/3000th ‘mini-project’ will come to fruition sooner rather than later – details of which will come to pass in due course.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Avalon Hill Naval Games CD

Apologies for the delay in reporting about the above - my only excuse is that I have been somewhat distracted with the usual round of domesticity and other 'shiny things!'

The CD arrived and I am very impressed with both the quality and the contents. The games included are as follows:

Attack Sub
Flat Top
Peloponnesian War
Tokyo Express
Victory Games - Pacific War
War at Sea - Victory in the Pacific
Wooden Ships and Iron Men

For each of the above games the rules, countersheets, play sheets, maps, game boxes and any associated articles from the Avalon Hill General magazine - this often includes some of the variants e.g. Tsushima for Jutland and the South Atlantic mapboard for the Hunt for the Graf Spee using the game Bismarck.

All the components are scanned into PDFs and are easily opened. the games are scanned usually within several files and so each game has its own folder but be warned - due to the content the files are pretty hefty is size!

I plan to get some of the maps and counters printed (probably at a local print shop) and I am sure that anyone with the requisite knowledge could chop the files around if need be. I do not have access to a printer of larger than A4 so would need to do this but even colour printing would not be overly expensive in the quantities I envisage. I was quoted £3 to £4 for colour printing and laminating an A3 sized map using a matt film which is not too bad - Bismarck search boards in this case.

Overall then, a cracking product and more than sufficient to be able to construct the games from scratch if need be although printing, mounting and cutting the 2,000 odd counters for Flat Top may be an exercise in patience or needing a long and uninterrupted weekend!

Monday 8 November 2010

Victory at Sea - Countering the lack of models

Following on from the disposal of my War at Sea collection and in advance of acquiring the 1/3000th replacements I was left with the small problem of representing ships for any projected solo games or even play tests. At a push I could have press ganged some of my completed Balkan Wars and WW1 models but that is hardly inspiring and even for my fertile imagination perhaps a step too far. I was pondering this dilemma when I rediscovered all the counters I had kept from the Victory at Sea WW2 naval rules published by Mongoose. The rules were largely unsuccessful in my opinion and I offloaded them some time ago but had kept all the counters. These are top down line drawings of many of the major ship classes from the US, UK, Italy, Germany, France and Japan – together with a lot of aircraft counters. The ships vary in scale but fit on a Hexon terrain tile easily enough. There is also a sheet of merchantmen and submarines should I be so inclined. Obviously these are no substitute for the models but they will suffice until I have some ready to use.

In fact, the aircraft counters will probably continue to serve even after I have the new 1/3000th collection – I have a cunning plan for this – as they cover many of the types I would have liked to have seen in the War at Sea range. I have a number of plastic flying bases used for such things as Aeronef and Battlefleet Gothic. These consist of a hexagonal base with a centre spindle upon which the model is placed. Some time ago I modified some of these by adding to the top of the spindle an inverted GW round flying base – this has a flat underside – with the intention being to use the flat surface as the base for whatever I wanted to put on it. I used some of these for the air groups from my scratch built Greek dirigible and they looked quite good. My plan now then is to put a square of magnetic strip on the top of the base and to stick the counters to some metal paper prior to cutting them out. This means I can use the same couple of dozen bases for any number and type of aircraft depending on the scenario and nationality. Simple but effective and all I will need to do is to paint up some flying bases and chop up the magnetic strip etc. It is quite likely then that I will have the air assets completed before I even take delivery of a single warship!

Sunday 7 November 2010

Memoir of Battle at Sea - A Question of Damage

I have been forced to have a little bit of a rethink in respect of hit points for recording damage. I think originally I had set these rather too low and so ships would disappear more quickly than I would have liked. As a result I have increased these very slightly - most noticeably at the lower end of the ship types - torpedo boats and destroyers. The lowest number of hit points a ship can have is now 2 - this being for early torpedo boats and destroyers of under 500 tons. The knock on effect of this is that everything above it has needed to be tweaked upwards as a result - and this also includes the first batch of ship specifications I had drafted.

Although this will mean some extra work in respect of the ship specification charts I feel much happier with the resultant scores I will use and so will not mind the added task. Tactically it will cause players to be more aware of the potential of a torpedo attack as the attacking ships in question will not be swatted away quite so easily.

Saturday 6 November 2010

Memoir of Battle at Sea - Still Afloat and Making Waves

My version of the Memoir 44 inspired naval rules is coming along very nicely following the recent playtest. I have incorporated a number of tweaks into the rules and am set fair for the next trial. This will involve the use of some other ship types and so will be more representational of the scenarios I envisage playing. I have also completed the ship specification charts for the Austrian, French, Italian, Greek, Russian (Black Sea) and Turkish navies. I will need to add to my fleets for this theatre in due course and so the proceeds of my recent disposals will be put to good use.

The rule changes are fairly minor but may well be significant in respect of their overall effects - as is usually the way with these things it is only obvious when the rule is actually tested!

One small problem I am having at the moment though is trying to find a shade of paint that matches the blue/green of the Hexon tiles - this will be for the card bases of my models when I complete them. I have a couple of colour charts available so will explore them over the next day or so and see what is suitable. As a rule I prefer to use colours straight out of the tin/pot rather than mixing shades - mainly because I can never seem to replicate it later!

The cat is about the same - no better but mercifully no worse either. He does look very sorry for himself though.

Thursday 4 November 2010

Battle Cry! by Avalon Hill/Hasbro

It has been an eventful week thus far for a number of reasons. Firstly, SWMBO and I have spent three anxious nights commuting to the local vets with one of our two cats, Misty the 10 year old Persian Blue (seen above, looking as aloof and disdainful as only one of his breed can!) who has been diagnosed as suffering from cat flu. He is very poorly but expected to recover in time and resume his customary regal bearing. He is cutting a particularly forlorn figures at the moment and looks little like the handsome chap in the picture at the moment. According the various cat books SWMBO owns Persians are supposed to have a 'soft, musical voice......' I can only assume then that Misty has yet to read this book as his voice when in full flow is neither soft nor musical!
Secondly I was at home with a dose of the screaming awfuls on Tuesday, feeling particularly achey and feverish with the obligatory sure throat thrown in for good measure. I feel a little better now but am looking forward to the weekend for a proper rest.
Thirdly, and despite all this medical doom and gloom, a huge box arrived from the US today - my copy of Battle Cry! by Avalon Hill/Hasbro - the ACW Command and Colours game. To say I was pleased to see this after what has thus far been a particularly bleak week (excepting of course Chelsea winning 4 - 1 against the Russians last night in the Champions League!) is perhaps an understatement.
Finally, The RN and the Kriegsmarine Axis and Allies: War at Sea fleets have both gone to new homes and I also have a ton of Lord of the Rings figures to sort as part of the result, as well as the funds for the new 1/3000th versions.
Anybody want to buy an Italian Navy?........;-)