Sunday 30 November 2014

Lion of the Desert

Lion of the Desert - the story of the latter years of Omar Mukhtar

This weekend has been one that turned out completely different from was originally planned - Christmas domesticity rearing its seasonal head once again - and the panting plan has gone right out of the window!

I will not bore you with all the tawdry details - suffice it say that much driving around, raking of leaves, redesigning the Christmas decorations and shopping - but the battleship painting has barely moved from last week. What I have managed to do though is to catch up on a film that I have never seen before - the Lion of the Desert starring Anthony Quinn and Oliver Reed. I recently picked up a cheap copy on Blu-Ray and I have to say I was really impressed! The whole campaign - about which I know absolutely nothing although I have some material on the earlier Sanussi Revolt and the Italo-Turkish War - would make for a really interesting wargames campaign.

Omar Mukhtar (played by Anthony Quinn) was fighting against the Italians since 1911 until he was captured and hung by the Fascist colonial forces under the command of General Rodolfo Graziani (Played by Oliver Reed).

During this time Mukhtar gave the better equipped and far more numerous Italian forces a real run around using his superior knowledge of the terrain to full effect.

I certainly need to find out more about the Italian occupation - starting with the original invasion during the war with Turkey.

Friday 28 November 2014

Jutland: The Rules of the Game

Aside from being the title of a very good book on the subject the rules of the game is something I have had on my mind to various degrees since the beginning of this project. I have considered and discarded numerous sets - some homegrown, some commercially available - but have finally settled on what I want to use with a few 'tweaks'.

The plan is to use the original rules from the Avalon Hill game incorporating some of the subsequent amendments from the sadly defunct AH General and Boardgamer magazines. There will also be a further tweak in that the current 'light ships' rules will be modified to better reflect the scouting and screening use of such vessels.

The rules have the advantage of being designed to generate games from an operational map movement perspective - which I intend to replicate on 'Der Tag' in due course. I will need to type up the final version and to prepare play sheets etc as the published rules are a little in the 'dog's breakfast' school of rules layout with examples and a less than logical format making for a somewhat irritating experience in my opinion - especially when you start including advanced and optional extras etc.

The work starts now but naturally painting the models comes first.

Monday 24 November 2014

Turks in the Crimea

The latest title from Caliver Books - as pointed out to me by that very nice Mr. Fox - cheers old chap!

No surprises for guessing what has just crept to the top of my Xmas present list! Available now from Caliver Books for £17.50 and needless to say I am really looking forward to acquiring a copy. I will need to source some details on the Russian army of the period but suspect that will be somewhat easier. 

I hope.

"I can resist anything except temptation..."

Two Shades of Grey - WIP

Following on from last post I spent some quality time yesterday working on the remaining 18 battleships for the Royal Navy. All of the models have had the two shades of grey dry brush applied and so the next phase will be the decks. As mentioned previously I have a couple of spare evenings this week so the plan is to use that to tackle this - it is the fiddliest part of the process - with the intention of finishing them all by the close of play on Sunday next.

In the meantime (and to get myself motivated after the events of last weekend) I have been reviewing the various rules options for the project and am now a lot closer to deciding what I want to do and how I want to do it.

More of which later....;-)

Saturday 22 November 2014

Back in the Painting Saddle

The deed has been done. The 12 models that needed a repaint have at last been started. I took a long and critical look at the varnish damage and decided that the repair work would be too involved and too fiddly so the only option was to start them again. So, this afternoon I managed to get them undercoated and then was able to apply the first dry brush coat to the entire remaining 18 models. The lighter grey shade will be applied tomorrow and then it will be on with the decks etc with the plan being to have all 18 ready for the close of play next Sunday. As luck would have it I have a couple of spare evenings coming up and so more painting time has been allocated than would be the norm.

This will mean that I will have all of December to complete the Germans - 7 dreadnoughts and 6 pre- dreadnoughts.

In the meantime though - and being somewhat enigmatic in the process - I shall be getting a game in using some newly acquired models.

Once I have collected them that is....;-)

Friday 21 November 2014

"Dust yourself off, brush yourself down....and start all over again"

Well not quite but the new plan with the varnish-damaged ships now looks something like this:
  • The original 8 ships will be undercoated to start again - from scratch
  • The 4 models that were finished will be undercoated rather more carefully and repainted
  • The final 6 models for the RN will be included with the above - so in effect I will be painting 18 ships in total which will finish the RN capital ships for the Jutland project.
If I am honest I have gone through the angry phase and am now at the 'coldly efficient and keen to get started' version.

The plan as it stands then, will be to get all 18 finished by the close of play next Sunday so I best get a wriggle on....;-)

Monday 17 November 2014

"We want 8 - but we'll have to wait!"

I am not a happy bunny.

By the close of play Saturday evening the current batch of 8 Royal Navy battleships had been finished and but for the lack of any varnish would have only needed yours truly to finish the bases which was to have been the Sunday job. In fact, this post was to have been the photo shoot.

I should also point out that I had needed to make some very minor changes to 4 other battleships to bring them into line with the two additional models I had painted to complete the classes - basically I had 4 of the 6 Bellerophon/St. Vincent types and needed the other two for the project as all 6 were at Jutland. The shading/highlighting on the last two was slightly more noticeable so I fine tuned the other 4 models to bring them up to the same standard.

The varnish had dried up so I opened one of the two new tins I had (I was using Humbrol enamel). Being mindful of the potential problems with a new tin I took all manner of precautions - stirring and shaking the tin thoroughly - so was confident that all was well. To be even more sure I tested the varnish on an older model just to make sure. It dried perfectly....or so I thought.

The next morning, before we went out Christmas shopping, I made a point of varnishing the 8 new models and 4 touched up others after having checked the test sample - rather too quickly as it turned out.

Six hours later, upon our return, I came home to an absolute horror story.

The varnish had dried to a milky white in all the crevices - around the bases of the superstructure and funnels as well as between the gun barrels. Under close inspection the same thing had happened on my test sample only I had missed it. I was distraught. There was absolutely no way to amend the damage easily - remember my technique involves generous amounts of dry-brushing which is awkward to carry out locally on a specific part of the models without it looking out of place.

After having scrutinised the whole sorry batch the only conclusion I could make was that the 8 models will need repainting from the main deck upwards and to make matters worse, the 4 I was merely touching up will also need the same treatment.

I could not bring myself to tackle it last night - it was too painful to contemplate!

I know on the global scale of things this is small beer - after all no-one has died - but my painting time is really precious these days and so this this is a bitter, bitter blow to my timetable.

I have never had this happen before - my only varnish dramas were restricted to the odd matt coat coming out gloss which is easily rectified or the very occasional metallic paint lift although the latter was firmly exorcised when I adopted acrylic metal colours some years ago.

My mood is dark but hey ho, onwards and upwards and back in the saddle once again - I shall be tackling these later in the week.

Saturday 8 November 2014

H.M.S. Agincourt - The Big Battleship

H.M.S. Agincourt - in 1/350th scale. Very impressive indeed!

I happened to be reading Bob Cordery's blog Wargames Miscellany earlier when I was reminded of a book I read many years ago by Richard Hough - The Big Battleship. The book was the story of the only battleship ever built with seven main turrets housing 14 x 12" guns. I had forgotten about this book so Bob's post was a welcome reminder - and needless to say it is on the 'to get' list.

Coincidentally the ship is currently on the painting tray along with seven other models as the penultimate batch of ships for the Royal Navy comes to a close.

She had an interesting career and no mistake as she was originally ordered by Brazil and then taken over by Turkey - only to be requisitioned by the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the Great War. The RN were less than impressed by the ship for a number of reasons and the model shown depicts her after the great flying bridge over the two turrets amidships was removed.

I remember commanding her in a game using Fletcher Pratt many years ago - and sinking an unfortunate destroyer with 14 x 12" 'all in' - in other words every shot was set to the same range. I was aiming at a battleship a little further away but had underestimated the range....

Whilst the 1/2400th version I am painting will not look as impressive it is still a bonkers looking battleship and one I am fond of - especially because of the Turkish connection.

Sunday 2 November 2014

The Crimean War at Sea: The Naval Campaigns Against Russia 1854-56

Things that make you go....'Ooooh Shiny!

This is the title of a really good by Peter Duckers and sure enough, it has given me much to think about! To my eternal shame and embarrassment my knowledge of the Crimean War is very limited with my knowledge of the naval side even more so. I had no idea of the scale of operations carried out in the Baltic and the Black Sea (not to mention the Sea of Azov) and although there was no Trafalgar-like fleet action (there could have been though) the scope of minor actions involving raids and shore bombardments - real combined arms stuff - certainly give plenty of ideas for scenarios.

I really want to find out more about the Turkish side of the conflict - especially as they managed to drive the Russians out of Bulgaria - as the British and French were originally planning on deploying troops in the Balkans in support. Naturally their navies would be covering the seaward flank in the Black Sea. Of course after the Russians had been driven off (and after they had manage to all but destroy the Turkish navy at Sinope) the allied plan was to render Sevastopol unusable and the rest, as they say, is history.

Although very much a transitional period in naval warfare the writing was certainly on the wall for sailing warships - the value of steamers for inshore work had been noted and so paddle steamers and screw sloops etc came to the fore.

I have a couple of ideas of where I might be able to take this and if I am honest, the period has more potential for me than perhaps the history would indicate.

Especially as there are Turks involved....

...and paddle steamers....