This is a long running and continuing journey around a collection of ideas, projects, games, models and a variety of wargaming related themes from my own imagination and from others. As I have been described as having the attention span of a forgetful goldfish you can rest assured the resulting subject matter will be diverse and (usually) entertaining! "He lived in a frenzy of enthusiasm — but nothing lasted for long with him".
Thursday, 29 September 2011
Back to the Portable, Portable Naval Wargame
You may recall my recent decision to forego designing a set of land based rules for use with my block armies in favour of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame. You may also recall my throwaway comment about wanting to revisit the Portable Naval Wargame after my previous attempts rapidly assumed the 'tale that grew in the telling' status. I have given the whole subject a high level feasibility overview - aka thinking about it! - and I have come to a number of conclusions about what I should be aiming for rather than what I have been aiming for.
I have been tying myself up in knots over rates of fire, defensive capability, speeds, number and calibre of barrels firing, damage inflicting and recording of the same and all the usual minutiae associated with a set of naval war games rules for the 20th century.
I have tried using chunks of rules from a variety of sources - Jutland, General Quarters, Sea Battles in Miniature to name but a few and have attempted to fuse these into a fast play set of rules that capture that all important 'feel' for the action.
I have failed and the reason for my failure is blindingly obvious - too much of everything and trying to have a mass of detail simplified. If you are going to have a set of rules that worry about the number of barrels firing then the rest of the rules need to be of a comparable level of complexity otherwise they are 'unbalanced'.
I think that rather than trying to make an existing rule mechanic work I need to start from the ground (or sea) up and so one of the first things that needs to be carved in stone is the fact that the ship types will have to be generic. Any historical departure from the 'norm' should be borne in mind IF it had a bearing in the real world. Phil Barker in his experimental naval DBA variant - Damned Battleships Again or DBSA - has hit the nail exactly on the head in this respect and as a model for rules framework his approach has much to commend it.
Damage and the effects of the same are a perennial problem with naval rules. The system used in the rules depicted above is based on an official US Navy damage rating system and this actually seems like a good place to start. Damage is rated at D1 through D4 - D1 is superficial damage with no effect on combat ability, D2 is minor damage, D3 is heavy damage and D4 is dead in the water or otherwise crippled Above D4 is of course, sunk. In the rules every ship is damaged according to the same system - from the largest battleship to the smallest escort. Finding a way to assign damage to each category will be the challenge and this will mean tackling the thorny question of naval gunfire versus target defensive capability.
More to follow - once I have gotten my head around the whole subject.
Happy Blue Ray to Me! Happy Blue Ray to Me!.....
I have been an avid Star Wars fan since the first film was released and so seeing these in all their Blue Ray glory will be an indulgent pleasure at some point - I may even have a Star Wars viewing weekend marathon in due course! Gladiator needs no introduction and whilst the historical liberties are big enough to march a legion through it remains a great piece of entertaining cinema.
I also received a welcome addition to the library in the shape of the new book from Roger Crowley - City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire (ISBN 978-0-571-24594-9). I own both his other titles - Constantinople and Empires of the Seas - and as Venice features prominently in the story of the Ottoman Turks this is a timely and welcome volume. I have been to Venice a couple of times and have to say it is one of my favourite places to visit. Roger Crowley's writing style is very readable, almost racy in fact, and so I shall enjoy looking at maritime affairs from the perspective of the Turks great rivals for control of the Middle Sea.
My copy (or rather second) of the Nugget arrived as well (thanks Bob - much appreciated) and the customary birthday Indian takeaway was a delicious end to the day (especially as we were undercharged by £10 - despite querying the cheapness of the meal when it was delivered!).
The only downside was the news from France that Holly, my 15 year old daughter, had fallen off one of assault course climbing frames (she is on a week long activity holiday with her school somewhere in Normandy) and had popped her kneecap out. She suffers from a condition known as Lax Patella which means it is easy for her to injure her knee. She is OK and we have spoken to her (which much obvious relief) although she will be spending the rest of the holiday on crutches or being wheeled about in a wheelchair!
She is rather accident prone and I have absolutely no idea where she gets that from.....;-)
Tuesday, 27 September 2011
A Prudent Course of Action
I should know better, I really should. Trying to juggle two sets of rules (one of which is quite demanding, the other less so) means that I seem to have been making very slow progress with both. I have therefore, decided to abandon one set for the time being - simply because I have an extensively tested and suitable set available to use in its place. I am dropping the land based set for use with the blocks as I will need to spend a reasonable amount of time on them - not so much on the drafting as on the testing. This is time that I do not have readily available. My efforts will be concentrated on the naval rules I am tinkering with for the time being and so my 'Plan B' is to use Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame Rules for the latter 19th century. I had planned to use these originally before I had the idea of producing my own set so all I have done then is to reset the gaming clock by a couple of weeks.
The time I have spent on my own land based rules has certainly not been wasted and I have learned several valuable lessons from the process, lessons that will stand me in good stead when I go back to them in due course.
Bob Cordery's rules can be downloaded from the following: http://www.users.dircon.co.uk/~warden/portable_wargame/ and there are also some very useful optional rules suggested by various gamers to add to the basic set.
I fully intend using these rules for the ACW river project, the Balkan Wars and possibly for some of the WW1 sideshows.
Well that has cleared the creative decks somewhat!
20th Century Naval via Battleship Galaxies
It occurred to me that this technique very neatly handles the whole hit location and damage effect for conventional naval gunnery. I am not advocating using aerial drawings of every ship in the fleet as a ship card as such but a damage record card could easily be incorporated in such a fashion.
Off the top of my head a grid could consist of say, 8 by 10 squares. A number of squares could be the flotation rating of the ship (the main hit point record) whilst others are given over to the essential systems we are concerned with - main turrets, bridge, director, steering and magazine (aka the 'critical' hits) - and the all important 'misses'. The trick will be to ensure that the chances of a hit are calculated correctly and take into consideration all the usual firing factors e.g. range, damage potential and number of weapons being fired and so on.
In my mind's eye I can see this quite clearly but I need to spend some time cleaning up the idea before expanding on it further. I have a process in place for the ship cards as they stand for the Sea Battles in Miniature/Jutland hybrid set I currently working on and so combining these into a firing/targeting system will be the challenge methinks. Should it work out then the implications and potential applications are both many and varied.
Headache and nosebleed central - here we go again!
Monday, 26 September 2011
Battleship Galaxies by Hasbro
The loft in our house is roughly 20ft by 10ft, is fully decorated with power points, ceiling fixed lighting, a TV aerial point, a phone socket, a pair of Velux windows in the roof, a radiator, 'walls' in place over the eaves and also a very usable plain mid blue carpet. The previous owners of the house had fully converted the room for use as an office (the lady of the house ran a business from there) hence the completeness.
The sole remaining obstacle to me having exclusive use of this space was my son's multi gym - a huge piece of equipment that dominated the entire area. This has now been disposed of via ebay (he now regularly goes to a gym) and over the next weekend (I am having next Thursday and Friday off) I shall be moving my entire collection upstairs - after a trip to Ikea for some essential storage.
The big attraction of this undertaking is that I can spread my stuff out and at last have all my books on shelves rather than half of them in boxes. It also means I can leave models out without fear of any cat attacks! Best of all though - games can be set up and completed at leisure.
I have waited a very long time for this opportunity!
Sunday, 25 September 2011
'Revelling' in 1/1200th Warships
Lost in the furor surrounding the Airfix Sink the Bismarck! sets I had ordered I had neglected to mention my recent acquisition of these two kits from Revell. They are very nice models indeed and do not appear to present any difficulties on the construction front. Unless anyone else knows better I will happily use these for their respective sister ships and so am planning on obtaining a further two KGV class and three of the Gneisenau - only because I want to model the mooted 15" armed variant as well.
All I need now then is the Airfix sets from somewhere....;-)
Saturday, 24 September 2011
The 6 sets are no more! I have been refunded in full and to be honest I am unconvinced they were even sent in the first place! Why would you have a listing on ebay as a buy it now with a quantity of 80 plus available yet when phoning the customer service centre for the trader in question I was told that they are currently out of stock and are awaiting a new shipment!? Why would they have refunded me so quickly for an item that was supposedly 'lost in the post?' I get the distinct aroma of a rodent here - and it is not either of our Guinea Pigs!
A Potential Minor Distraction?
Whilst making my way home yesterday I made a point of popping in at discount book shop located close to Tottenham Court Road tube station (Aussie Paul will remember this one - if only for cheery disposition and welcoming smile of the owner!) and was very pleased I did.
I picked up a copy of the above title for £6.99 and what a little gem it is. The Ghurkas in service with the British Army have a long and proud tradition and I was always interested in how this came about. Look no further as this covers the entire period of the campaign of the invasion of Nepal 1814 to 1816.
It is very much a colonial campaign with a difference and pits a largely East India Company army against the redoubtable Ghurkhas.
I will report further but now have to devote myself to a days worth of filling in the en suite so bring on the Polyfilla!
Still no sign of the Bismarck(s)....:-(
Friday, 23 September 2011
'Bismarck, Bismarck, Where for art thou Bismarck?'
It is now 10 days since I ordered my six sets of the Airfix Sink the Bismarck! collection of 1/1200th scale models.
They have yet to arrive.
According to the supplier (a trader on ebay) they were sent via second class post on the 13th September and so should have arrived. I contacted the said supplier and received a very polite email apologising for the delay and suggesting that I should contact the local PO to see if the parcel was there and that perhaps a 'while you were out' card had not been posted. I duly did this only to be told by the PO that it should have arrived within four or five days maximum and that I should contact the seller again.
Luckily the ebay trader had a customer service telephone number and so I called them. They confirmed that the order had been posted on the 13th and that if it had not arrived by the 27th then I should contact them again and they would either offer a full refund or would post out another order EXCEPT that they no longer had the item in stock as they were awaiting a fresh consignment. That was all very reasonable if a little frustrating. I did point out though that they were still listing the item on ebay and according to the listing they still had some 80 plus copies in stock. I was then surprised to be told that the ebay listings were not always updated to reflect accurate stock levels!
This was somewhat less than encouraging....
Thursday, 22 September 2011
Of Colds, Ear Infections and Naval Wargames Rules
This evening though I rallied sufficiently to take another look at the Sea Battles in Miniature rules and how I could adapt them for use on a hexed playing surface. The short answer is relatively easily or so I thought. The only issue thus far is the fact that the rules are scaled at 20,000 yards equals 40". The hit tables are divided into 4,000 yard increments or 8". Conveniently this translates into two Hexon tiles (they are 4" across the flat edges) and so the logical course of action would be to say one hex equals 2,000 yards meaning a maximum range of ten hexes. Now I own sufficient Hexon tiles to be able set up an area large enough to have an action at a 10 hex range (it would be a struggle in respect of finding a table to put it on though!) but to be honest that would be larger than I would like. My ideal playing area in terms of Hexon is 13 x 9 and having a 10 hex maximum range is just too long. I prefer having some room to move around outside of maximum range and so in order to fit my playing area the range needs to come down.
Reducing the range would have implications for the number of hit tables (there are 5) as this would no longer be easily divisible i.e. one for each 8,000 yards. Changing the maximum the range to 8 hexes (which is divisible by 4) is a viable option which gives a little room around the edges for movement. It has meant though that I would need to lose one of the hit tables. I opted to remove the 8,000 yards table on the grounds that the old 4,000 yards table is now 5,000 and the 12,000 yards table is now at 10,000 yards, falling as it does nicely between the 8 and the 12 table.
Phew! The end result is an 8 hex range split into 4 increments equalling 5, 10, 15 and 20,000 yards.
I even managed to make sure that the hits were averaged out between the two tables which was a pretty impressive achievement given the state of my head!
More to follow....
Sea Battles in Miniature vs. Jutland
I was feeling particularly lethargic last night as the cold in my head refuses to shift and so all thoughts of any intensive mental effort were abandoned. The sum total of anything hobby related was leafing through the photocopied WW1 naval rules from Sea Battles in Miniature by Paul Hague. This time however, I had the nearly completed Jutlandised naval rules to hand and so contented myself with comparing the two sets with a view to seeing if any amalgamation or crossover would be possible.
I experienced what could only be described as a 'light bulb' moment as I quickly realised that much of the work I had undertaken with the Jutland rules could be readily added to the Sea Battles set. The complication of changing a tabletop set of rules into a hex gridded version had already been tackled in the Jutland set, as had specific gun ranges and types etc. All I need to do is to tweak a few of the Sea Battles rules to have a set with the ease of play of Jutland with the level of ship specification detail sufficient to satisfy most naval wargamers (well, me anyway!).
I had planned to type up the Sea Battles rules in any event and so will now take the opportunity to add in the Jutland material where applicable. The result will then be tested in the usual fashion - after the Blocks of War which I am planning to run at some point over the weekend - with my 1/3000th WW1 fleets providing the protagonists.
Wednesday, 21 September 2011
"Ladies, if this hill doesn't kill us it will surely break our hearts..." Keder Sirt, September 1912
Bulgaria - 1 x command, 8 x infantry, 2 x cavalry, 2 x artillery and 1 x machine gun
Turkey - 1 x command, 4 x infantry, 1 x cavalry, 1 x artillery and 1 x machine gun.
For the purposes of this action the infantry units are at 4 strength points each, the cavalry are at 3, the Turkish artillery and both the Turkish and Bulgarian Machine guns are at 2, the Bulgarian artillery is at 3 and both command units are at 2.
The Turks are able to use deploy detachments from two infantry units and the Bulgarians are able to dismount their cavalry.
The Turks have three hexes of trenches on the hill but are handicapped by being too few in number to cover the all of the approaches and the village. This was fairly typical of the period - the Bulgarians usually managed to get more bodies at the point of contact and so the Turks often had to cover more ground than was practical.
The challenge for the Bulgarians will be to keep the attack moving which means that the command stand will need to be busy as units out of command are not able to move. The Turks will have to cover a lot of ground and so will have to flexible and not rely of the entrenchments too heavily. I will produce a map and pictures of the action when the game is fought (probably at the weekend, possibly sooner) together with the inevitable after action report
The Battle of Keder Sirt never happened as depicted although the scenario could easily have - and not just in the Balkan War either.
No prizes for guessing where the post title or even the name of the action came from - unashamedly one of my favourite films!
Sea Battles in Miniature by Paul Hague (1st edition)
I am very pleased that I did.
The old chestnut of damage for large ships (armoured cruisers and larger) is tackled in Hague's book in two ways of which only the critical hit method need concern us. The damage a ship can sustain is a clever mixture of both a progressive damage and a specific nature - basically you roll an effect dice for each hit with 1 to 4 being a standard hit (more of which later) and a 5 or 6 a critical hit. The critical hits require a further d6 roll with 5 and 6 being a turret hit, 4 a bridge/conning tower hit, 3 a director hit, 2 a rudder hit and 1 the dreaded magazine hit.
Turret critical hits will knock out a main turret whilst the other critical hits have varying effects and in the case of 1 and 2 requiring a further d6 roll.
Secondary weapons are damaged on a progressive basis (ships from an armoured cruiser upwards are rated at 2 boxes per 1,000 tons and a further 2 boxes per inch of maximum belt armour with German ships receiving a further 20% to the total) with the number of guns on a broadside being divided by the number of hit boxes. This will mean that each broadside has the same number of guns at all times which makes life a little simpler. Speed is not reduced until a ship has sustained fifty percent damage and then it is reduced incrementally as half of the ships hit boxes are divided by four for this purpose.
What this all means then is that a ship could be sunk by gunfire whilst its main guns are undamaged or it could have all its guns knocked out but still be steaming at a fair rate. As a viable damage system this is probably as good a compromise between total progressive damage or individual shell damage as you can get and I wish I had looked at this in more detail much sooner.
Light ships do not use the critical hit system but instead rely solely on progressive damage which I have no issue with as the rules are pitched firmly at 'big ship - big battle' level.
The rules are designed for use on a tabletop and so some tweaking would be needed for use on Hexon but (especially in respect of ship speeds) essentially they are there or thereabouts in terms of being ready to use.
I recall that there was a second edition of this book of which sadly I have no knowledge but will now be on the lookout for.
Summer 1941, somewhere in Russia....
....A lone Soviet 45mm Anti tank gun unit prepares to sell itself dearly against the seemingly unstoppable Panzers....
One of the things that occurred to me whilst labeling the blocks was how the symbols would show up when photographed. For the purposes of any battle reports this is quite an important consideration and so I spent a little time last night messing about with different combinations. Although the blocks themselves are a reasonable size - 63mm x 21mm x 12mm - the vehicles are probably closest to 2mm!
I also managed to complete the grey set last night so all that remains are the khaki and irregular set and they are done. The rules are virtually ready (virtually ready as in meaning some tweaking of the format and typing up a roster sheet) and so I hope, en suite ceiling and daughter's impending school trip to France notwithstanding, to try them out over the weekend.
Also assuming that this wretched cold does not get any worse!
Monday, 19 September 2011
Block the Cashbah....
Initially the plan is to use these for Zulus, Mahdists, Afghans and Arabs so I can cover everything from 1879 onwards without too much difficulty.
The Arab Revolt - both the Bedouin and the Sanussi versions - has long been of interest to me so by using the blocks in this way I will have the ability to game some of these actions. The size of such campaigns and the battles resulting from the same are great fun for the tabletop and for solo gaming so this is ideally suited to my needs.
I will need to treat myself to a box of sand flocked Hexon tiles though if I am to war game in 'Arabia Deserta'.
Sunday, 18 September 2011
Don't Block me now, I'm having such a good time....
Whilst this was going on I was able to have a quick visit to the Works in Basildon and noted that they have now restocked with the Jenga blocks I have been using for the current project and so I quickly acquired a further three boxes. I also spun past the Basildon branch of Past Times whence I acquired another couple of the Town in a Bag wooden buildings. I now have more than enough of these for my needs and they look fine alongside the blocks.
On the subject of the blocks I have managed to complete all the 20th century weapons and one set out of the three sets of vehicles. As I now have sufficient quantity of blocks due to the recent purchase I am now also going to produce a set in light Khaki and an irregular set. The irregular set is designed for use as Zulus, Madhists, Arabs and Afghans and the blocks will be multi coloured (meaning they will feature white, brown and black) to represent the irregular look I am after. I will have two complete sets left over and these I have earmarked for something naval related - more of which later.
Whilst we were out on our travels SWMBO also surprised me by acquiring something rather special for my impending birthday - meaning that the 6 sets of Sink the Bismarck can be drooled over as soon as they arrive as they are not now my birthday present! This means though that my hobby budget for this month and the next has been well and truly blown out of the water as I am now paying for the 6 sets. I don't mind though as it is worth it!
I cannot tell you what my 'surprise present' is yet but suffice it to say I will be a very happy chap on the 28th September and will probably be detained in a galaxy far, far away for quite some time....;-)
Friday, 16 September 2011
Naval Imagi-Nations or Alternate History
Whilst reading Fletcher Pratt's Wargame (the John Curry version) I was struck by the fact that many of the famous 'ballroom' games of yesteryear used fleets made up of ships from varying nationalities. The closest I have seen of this approach these days is with Axis and Allies: War at Sea. Most naval gamers of my experience would probably cringe at using a fleet made up of, for example, American battleships, German cruisers and British destroyers. We stick religiously to our chosen navies - warts and all (and coming from a Turkish naval perspective the warts are truly biblical in their proportions!), and are loathe to amalgamate fleets as this would be an anathema to our collective loyalties.
The big problem with ships and their attendant models is that nationalities invariably produce ships that have certain similar characteristics - for example, a County class cruiser could not easily be mistaken for anything else; nor could the Bismarck nor indeed any other of the ships that most WW2 naval gamers know so well. With smaller navies this is not quite so obvious a problem as usually they acquired warships from a variety of sources. Taking the Turks again as an example, in 1914 they owned British and German built battleships, an American built cruiser, French and German destroyers and gunboats and nearly acquired an Italian built cruiser. Using ships from many sources then is, in this particular case, historically accurate.
The big advantage of using an imagi-nation in this respect is that it matters not in the slightest what the ships are or where they were built - the assumption being that the various arms merchants have very few scruples as to whom they sell their wares to. The downside is that however much you attempt to disguise a well known warship it will usually still look like its original version. The Sultan Fineghar 1st (the Turkish Fleet Flagship during the SE Asia WW1 naval campaign) began life as an Airfix HMS Hood and during her short service life still looked like HMS Hood despite the addition of a Turkish flag and an extra 15" turret amidships.
The option I am considering is from the three mentioned is to use the historical models as they are and to add in fictional sister ships where applicable and then to use an actual ship as a template in respect of specifications and design etc for any scratch builds or conversions. At its simplest level it could be merely adding an additional ship to an existing class - at the other end of the spectrum it could be a complete scratch build or an extensive conversion. In many ways this was how the SE Asia WW1 fleets started out although this was badly compromised by the continual beatings the Central Powers suffered and they eventually using ships drafted into action as soon as they could be readied.
In real terms then it means that the ships I will use can easily be furnished from the base Sink the Bismarck set. The purely historical types will remain as they are and any subsequent conversions or scratch builds will follow the pattern of their actual historical counterpart in respect of specifications. More importantly though, they will maintain the essential and all important 'look' unique to both the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine in respect of outline and fixtures and fittings. Essentially a scratch built British or German cruiser will then look like a British or German cruiser by virtue of using many of the fixtures and fittings that will be spare in the aforementioned Sink the Bismarck set.
I have yet to consider rules in any great detail although I own numerous commercially available sets. I will be looking at something home grown and old school in its approach though. This however, will be something for the new year methinks as I have quite enough to contend with at the present!
What's in a name?
Yesterday, despite all the turmoil at work, I was able to give some thought to the 1/1200th warship collection and how I would like this to develop. Once again I found myself recalling the events of the SE Asia WW1 naval campaign and some of the ships that appeared.
The Turkish navy that I commanded was an eclectic mixture of the old, the new and the never was. It started out being roughly similar to its historical counterpart but given its small size compared to the other great powers very soon acquired a considerable collection of additional vessels - with the only Turkish element usually being the name! I can remember the two Eaglewall WW2 County class cruisers appearing as 'El Shufti Zubrick and El Shufti Kush and an Airfix HMS Hood as the fleet flagship - Sultan Fineghar the 1st. I also recall four German WW1 B97 type destroyers featuring as the historical Muavenet-i Milliye type with the only similarity being the fact they were German! Historically the former was nearly four times the size of the latter.
This has set me thinking about how I will tackle the WW2 naval project when it gets off the ground - should I opt for strictly historical or should I allow a smattering of , shall we say, artistic licence in the selection of ships available?
There are many naval gamers that have happily made use of the German Z Plan as a source of additional ship types and the RN has also featured some ships that may have been projected but never built. HMS Hood was, I believe, one of a class of four so you can see what I mean. As I would prefer to remain using plastic as the sole medium for my models I am limited to an extent that simply does not exist in the metal world - assuming your wallet is of large enough dimensions.
Coming back to the WW1 SE Asia campaign the composition of the fleets became more and more fanciful as losses were incurred - especially in the case of the Central Powers as both the Austrian and the German navies had suffered catastrophic losses by January 1915 - and so WW2 era ships were being employed in an effort to maintain some form of (in)credibility in the latter stages. This culminated in the RN receiving the Ark Royal and the Germans Bismarck and Tirpitz!
I technique I could consider though is to make use of some of the Japanese 1/700th models as some of the destroyers in this scale have hulls that would be really useful as the basis for 1/1200th scale light cruisers so in due course I may look this for inspiration.
Thursday, 15 September 2011
Reflections on Blocks and the Naval Wargames Society
I managed to get myself in a writing flat spin whilst attempting to finalise the first draft of my Block rules. As usual I had contrived to cram too much in too quickly and as the result the whole thing looks an unwieldy mess. There are some good points but these seem to have been buried under the great wad of overly complex mechanisms employed.
I have put the end result to one side for a few days - simply so as I can 'clear my head' and look at them with a fresh pair of eyes. I have sufficient block related activities to be undertaking in the meantime though as I need to add the labels for the 20th century kit as well as the unit identifying strips. There is also the felt to be cut for roads and rivers. One thought did cross my mind though - and I shall be exploring this further at the weekend - and that is that there are an awful lot of Command and Colours based rules sets around. The core combat mechanisms I am employing are based on this system and so any further insights as to how other gamers have tackled the subject are most welcome. A number of these appear on the following site: http://www.tsoa.be/html/fuseliers.html and although I do not intend using them wholesale they are invaluable as a source of ideas.
A chance conversation at the club last night with my old friend Ernie Fosker gave me a good deal of satisfaction - we were discussing the blocks I had taken along to show him - as he exclaimed, without any prompting from myself I might add, "It is like a 3d boardgame!".
That is exactly the look I am striving for.
On another note I finally got around to renewing my membership of the Naval Wargames Society. I have been a member of the society at odd times over the years but for one reason or another had allowed this to lapse some time ago. This criminal oversight has now been duly rectified!
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
The "Noble Six Hundred"
The blocks are virtually finished and all I need to do is to add the identification labels and complete the 20th century add ons - vehicles and such like. Once ready, and the rules are complete (although this is by no means essential) I can then apply myself to the ACW and Balkan War ideas I have been mooting for some time. This will additionally involve completing the ACW ships (include the cat inflicted damage repairs!) and tackling the Minifigs ships for the naval side. Incredibly, these are in fact still on course for the fourth quarter of the year - simply because I am using blocks rather than figures.
Early next year will see me tackling 1941 on the Russian Front for Operation Barbarossa; again using blocks rather than models and also the great 1/1200th plastic warship building fest. This will kick off with the North Atlantic but I also have a few surprises planned along the way, just to keep things fresh.
That is probably more than enough to keep me going for a while and so to use once again the work of Alfred, Lord Tennyson: "Was there a man dismay'd? Certainly not I, although ask me again in six months time when doubtless something else new and shiny would have come along to wreck the best laid plans of mice and wargamers!
I would to close by of course extending many thanks to all that have commented, cajoled and criticised my ramblings over the last 599 posts - I hope our long association continues until the next 600 posts have been completed!
A Minor CATastrophe....
I had not reckoned on the cunning of any one of my three felines.
I got home yesterday evening only to notice that the said box lid was at an odd angle. I took this out from its slot on the shelf and was mortified at the sight that greeted me. The ships, instead on being in their neatly ordered rows were in a complete jumble. The funnel rack (a device I use for storing the funnels in pairs whilst the hulls are being painted) had an odd number of funnels knocked off and mixed in with those in the lid separately (meaning a tedious sorting out at some point) and three of the ships damaged to a greater or lesser extent. USS Lexington had a funnel knocked off which is easy enough to repair - once I have sorted through the two dozen or so to see which one matches the remaining one! General Bragg (both versions I should add) suffered the worse and both models had the forward mast snapped in half at the join. This would not ordinarily be a problem but for the fact that the grade of plastic rod I used I no longer have so will need a trip to Modelzone to replace it.
The evidence as to the culprit was compelling - numerous black and white hairs were found in the proximity. The only problem is that we have three black and white cats and extensive interrogation failed to reveal the identity of the perpetrator. Sadly SWMBO took a dim view of water-boarding the offending felines so the mystery will remain unsolved....;-)
The models are now residing inside a cupboard.
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Sink the Bismarck!....Again!
I have been and gone and done it. As I type this blog post there are no less six sets of the Airfix Sink the Bismarck! 1/1200th scale waterline model collections winging their way to my front door!
I am so pleased about this for lots of reasons. To begin with I spent many, many happy hours chopping and changing these models around when they first appeared way back in the late 70s/early 80s; primarily for use as ships of the Turkish WW1 navy that took part in the South East Asia campaign run by Eric Knowles and hot on the heels of the legendary Madasahatta affair. It is a lovely scale to work with and even gaming is not that difficult if you are not too picky about scales etc. For the aforementioned WW1 campaign we were fighting fleet sized actions using Fletcher Pratt's rules on a large dining table so it is possible. Fortunately my WW2 aspirations are fairly modest so it will be rare to see more than half a dozen models a side at any one time on the tabletop!
Why 6 sets? Well, aside from the usual ships I have a number of plans for the others and as a source of nautical spares the set is absolutely bang on the money. On the subject of money I have paid £13.97 a set for mine and so it works out at roughly £2 a model which is really good value - in fact, if memory serves me correctly that is actually cheaper than when they first appeared.
The plans I have are, as you might expect, many and varied but without anything concrete as yet. I have plans to augment the plastics with some Revell kits - KGVs and Scharnhorsts - and will obviously need to add a few metal models in due course but the great thing is that I will not need a lot of them. As it stands at the present time I will need of course Hood and The Ark Royal, a pair of the 'hangered' County class cruisers (why, oh why did Airfix not have the hanger as an optional piece!?) and perhaps half a dozen of the Tribal class. A pair of Bismarcks and perhaps three of the Prinz Eugens will suffice for the German contingent. That leaves the as yet undecided fate of the rest of the collection to be considered.
I am tempted to tackle a couple of Renown class battlecruisers using the Hood as the basis for the conversion. They are slightly smaller than the Hood both in the length and the beam but a lot of the superstructure and fittings could be easily tweaked. The huge number of twin 15" turrets I will have spare could be used for some QE and R class scratch builds - if the general shape is about right then the fixtures and fittings and a sympathetic paint job can achieve minor miracles.
Bob Cordery very kindly gave me a couple of ideas for German aircraft carriers - the Graf Zeppelin based on a Hood hull and the Seydlitz based on a Prinz Eugen. Something to ponder along the 'what if' lines - as is the use of some spare Bismarck 15" gun turrets to refit the Scharnhorst and her sister with.
I would like to try and see how I could get a German destroyer out of a Tribal class as well. Back in the old days the Tribals were regularly chopped up and used for various cruiser types so a destroyer should be straightforward shouldn't it?
There is a huge amount of potential with this set and given the low price it is available for it means that carving it up is not quite so wince inducing!
In summary I can think of absolutely no practical reason why I have chosen to do this other than because I can and that is reason enough or, as Oscar Wilde once said: "I can resist anything except temptation!" He must have been a wargamer!
Around the Block
The 20th century kit - MGs, mortars, anti tank guns and vehicles - will be in three colours only - grey, olive and brown - and should cover a reasonable number of nationalities as required depending on the action I am fighting.
The rules are now ready for their first play test and the thing that struck me whilst I was drafting them was the very simple fact that are equally usable for bases of figures as well as blocks. I am hoping, all being well, that I shall be in a position to try a game out at the weekend with the results as usual posted on the blog.
Monday, 12 September 2011
Birthday Considerations aka Presenting Hints
To be honest, I really used to struggle with this as I normally had so many things on the go that making a meaningful selection was very much dictated by the simple mechanic of the 'ooh shiny' syndrome or, more specifically, whatever was the newest and shiniest at the time!
This year is no exception up to a point but the list of 'must haves' is a good deal shorter than it has been in the past. Aside from the inevitable number of books seemingly always on the go I was hoping to acquire the Spanish expansion for Command and Colours Napoleonics but this is not out yet. The other main point of interest is the recently re released Airfix Sink the Bismarck! set of 1/1200th models. As a first purchase of this most welcome addition to the Airfix range I reckoned on needing six sets as the converting potential is really high with these and, as usual, I have a number of cunning plans for the models.
Then of course there is the boxed set of the six Star Wars films on Blue Ray....;-)
Decisions, decisions....(but pleasant ones for a change!)
Sunday, 11 September 2011
A Good Recovery from a Bad Start!
The rules are continuing to evolve despite some eleventh hour changes of heart - as usual the devil is in the detail - and I am hopeful that I will be able to try them out before long.
Friday, 9 September 2011
The Pain in Train
The picture above was Liverpool Street station at 6pm this evening - 55 minutes I arrived on the concourse and a further 2 hours and 45 minutes before I arrived home. For the record, my journey usually takes an hour and fifteen minutes door to door!
I had to take an alternate train home - via Southend on the Fenchurch St line - which would not have been so bad except for the fact the train I got on at Southend was cancelled as they had no drivers available!!!!
Needless to say very little has been done this evening other than to complain vociferously!
Three and three quarter hours to get home - I could have gone to the Mediterranean in less time!
Of Ink and Labels - A Tale of Woe
I had a minor 'incident' last night - disaster is probably too strong a term to use in this instance - in connection with printer ink and labels. In a nutshell the ink gave out whilst printing the vehicle sheets.
This was not so bad as I already had replacements in stock and so was able to duly change the cartridges (3 out of the 4 - it is an HP Photosmart Wireless printer). Problem solved - or so you could be forgiven for thinking (as was I).
Unfortunately I had also run out of the Rymans own A4 label sheets - this was not so good - but again, I had a fallback contingency in place. I merely made use of some other sticky labels - after having moved the images around on the page to avoid the label gaps.
I should perhaps point out that the two vehicle sheets were not complete write offs as only one column of images was affected by the 'streaking-due-to-the-ink-running-out-effect' and so the remainder would be OK to use. This was my thought in any event.
Feeling very pleased with myself and my new found technical expertise I printed off the replacement labels.
Oh dear - this was where it all went horribly wrong.
The labels I used for the replacements were of a far better quality than the Rymans version and boy did it show! Not only are the colours much sharper (and look different in terms of shade) but the paper is far better suited to inkjet printers.It also has a really nice matt sheen that was only noticeable when placed alongside the Rymans version.
For choice I would prefer to use the more expensive labels but I have already labelled up three sets of blocks using the cheaper version and so do not fancy having to redo them. What I will do though will be to use the more expensive labels going forward.
The moral of the story then is to ensure that you have sufficient materials of the correct quality to tackle the job in hand!
Thursday, 8 September 2011
Musing over Affairs Afloat....
I touched very briefly on matters naval related in my previous post and so it occurred to me that perhaps now would be as good a time as any to outline exactly what I have on the go of a nautical persuasion. The two biggest things, certainly in respect of painting, are the completion of the ACW ships and then the Minifigs WW1 kit. These will dovetail nicely with the ACW and Balkan phases of the block project and so are next on the to do list.
I still have to complete the Jutlandised naval rules (the Boardgamer disc is still en route) and also the expanded Man of War ironclad era variant designed by Dave Manley. The former is well advanced whilst the latter is less so.
I have a hankering to add to my 1/3000th WW1 Mediterranean collection and both the French and the Austrians look attractive - as does a representative RN squadron. The problem is that this will then overlap with the Minifigs ships I have meaning the perennial naval problem of having the same ships in more than one scale. I will have to think about that one!
I want to revisit WW2 in the North Atlantic at some point and perversely (certainly from a practicality point of view) really want to make use of the recently rereleased Sink the Bismarck! set from Airfix in conjunction with some Revell add ons (KGVs and Scharnhorsts). I expect sanity will prevail though and so the old standby of 1/3000th will probably be the scale of choice for this.
Overshadowing all of this though is MS Paint. I am determined to have a crack at some side elevations for ships to use on blocks or even some stylised aerial views for larger, fleet sized actions, again using labels rather than models. Using the Autorealm freeware mapping tool (as described by Bob Cordery) will be of use to a degree in that it already contains some wooden sailing vessels viewed from above that can be tweaked according to the ship type required. Again, this will be one to experiment with.
To finish up this nautical overview I should also point out that at some stage I should like to tackle galley warfare in the 16th century, perhaps even with a dash of the Armada thrown in for good measure.
I think my printer will be pretty busy over the coming months….;-)
A Whimsical Notion
I have spent some time today working on the rules for use with the blocks. The scribbled notes and ideas are slowly coalescing into a definite shape and so the great type up will take place shortly. The plan is to have all of the land based blocks ready by the end of the weekend and the first test draft of the rules ready to use on next Wednesday evening at the club. I have managed to secure the services of a suitable volunteer and am confident that the first run out of the system should be fine. I fully expect some tweaks to be required and am looking forward to further testing (and reporting the same via the blog) over the autumn months.
The Whimsical Notion of the title of this post concerns the future of my block project and how it can be developed further. The obvious gaming genre for me would be for naval games and I already have some ideas to experiment with in terms of ship blocks. It does not end there though - no sirree - as I also have plans to try a similar approach for the ancient period, as well as my old (and, sorry to say, much neglected) friend - Victorian Science Fiction. I think that once you have gotten past the heresy of not using figures and consider the practicalities and possibilities of the use of labels and blocks then it begins to make a lot of sense. Sadly not though, if you enjoy painting and using figures!
From my own perspective I find myself with sufficient blocks ready to use to cover pretty much anything land based from 1700 until the end of WW2 - with the sole exception being (at the moment) air support. I have three definite and one possible campaign in mind for use with the system - I use the word system intentionally as I will be including campaign considerations - and of course, progress with these will be recorded on the blog in the usual fashion.
The ACW river based campaign and the Balkans are the two to kick off with, followed by Operation Barbarossa in the new year. I also have a hankering for a low intensity war - something Colonial perhaps - and so am looking long and hard at the following:
NW Frontier, Arab or Sanussi Revolt, WW1 East Africa or even something completely different e.g. Napoleon in Egypt.
With some a coverage of some 250 years of military history to play with I am quite sure I should be able to find something to keep me amused….;-)
Building the Blocks of War....Part 4
Yesterday evening saw me finishing the revamped sheet of labels for MGs, mortars and AT guns. I am much happier with these compared to the original versions as they are far less chunky than their predecessors. Aside from some tidying up of the files I am pretty much done as far as designing the labels is concerned and all that now remains to be done is to stick them to the blocks. This is by no means a difficult task but it does take some time so my next couple of nights or so will be given over to this essential task.
The rules are taking shape and I have sufficient scribbled notes to be able to type up a first draft and that will follow on from getting stuck in to the labels.
An additional task will be to cut up some felt squares for roads and rivers etc so the forthcoming weekend will be very much one of preparation.
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
A Welcome Treat
Wow! This was only posted yesterday and it arrived this morning (well done to the PO!) - my long awaited copy of Jane's Fighting Ships 1914. Really pleased to have finally secured a copy of this and next on the list of similar acquisitions will the 1919 edition (as recently mentioned by Tim Gow in his blog - Megablitz and More)
No prizes for guessing what I will be doing this evening then!
Now we know the truth!
"In ancient Israel, it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a young wife by the name of Dot. And Dot Com was a comely woman, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com.
"I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. And the sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)."
immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.
and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures: Hebrew To The People (HTTP).
They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.
Tanks for the Memory
I had forgotten to add a picture of the vehicle labels in my last post so the above rectifies this oversight! I am quite pleased with these and it is quite clear what they represent. From the top the first two rows are tanks, the third row is of tank destroyers, the fourth SP artillery, the fifth half track and the sixth is of armoured cars. I suppose with a little work these could easily be made more detailed - even down to specific types - but that would defeat the object of using generic looking examples. The second three rows of olive vehicles are on the second sheet which also contains the brown versions.
As mentioned yesterday I am avoiding representing lorries as I see them more as a 'before and after' transport facility rather than for use during combat - at least within the context of the rules as I envisage them. I will probably include a rule mechanic allowing infantry to have an increased move distance for a turn to represent a lorry-based deployment of some kind but will need to give this some further consideration in due course.