Wednesday 30 October 2019

The Naval War of 1812

A couple of titles from my library supporting the naval side of the war of 1812. There is plenty of material available - even Alfred Mahan and Theodore Roosevelt wrote on the subject - so I will not be short of inspiration or ideas for scenarios.

I always enjoy the research part of a project and this invariably means some additions to the library. I have a small list of other titles I want to get but it is fairly modest and is in keeping with my usual half a dozen or so target. I rather fancy adding something covering the warships on the Great Lakes and know of a couple of titles to look out for that covers this.

Given the scale of the naval actions during the war of 1812 it would seem to be an ideal candidate for the Warlord Games Black Seas treatment with its 1:700th scale models - they even produce a U.S.S. Constitution - and for sure this is an option I am considering. However, I am seriously looking at 1:2400th as the models would be easier to paint and would have the advantage of fitting on the sea map board that comes with Honour and Glory, the Worthington Games board game covering the war of 1812.

There is an ulterior motive with this particular idea as I am also keen to take a look at the operations against the Barbary corsairs that the US featured in. Tumbling Dice produce some suitable models for the Barbary forces and again, the these will be modest in size.

For now though, research is the key and so I will need to get some serious reading in before making any decisions.

Sunday 27 October 2019

Preparing for the Inaugural Game

The opening positions as seen from the Union start line. The small town of New Rayleigh and the centre of the Confederate position.

I finally got around to setting up the inaugural game using my 30mm Spencer Smith ACW collection and to say I was delighted would probably be something of an understatement! The actual battle report will feature in a later post, simply because I want to go full on purple prose for the write up - you have been warned...

The view from the Confederate lines showing the extent of their defensive position.

This post will go over some of the organisation of the game and why have done what I have done to bring it to the table. To begin with the rules I am using are something of a hastily cobbled together conversion of the tactical rules found in Worthington Games Honour and Glory. Now it would seem a little odd using a set of rules for the war of 1812 For an ACW game but there is a couple of reasons for this. To begin with I rather like them - they are similar to the usual Command and Colours system - as they have a couple of little tweaks that appeal to me (more of which in a later post). Secondly, they are very similar to the ACW rules that  Worthington have available online and that accompany their new game on the subject. Obviously both of these sets are designed with hexes in mind but I have made the necessary adjustments for a square grid. I will be using the Portable Wargame in due course - indeed, they are my preferred set - but this was an itch that needed scratching!

I mentioned that I wanted to organise some theatre specific scenery so in its absence I had to make do with what I had to hand. Out came the Town in a Bag buildings, my very crude but functional hills and roads etc. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it all looked within the confines of using a 3ft by 2ft playing area. 

The scenario was a straightforward attacker/defender game with a small Confederate force tasked with holding the town of New Rayleigh against a probing attack organised by the Union. The Rebels are outnumbered but this is offset by the Gentleman of the South being in prepared positions. 

The forces are comprised of the following:


7 x 4 infantry
1 x 3 cavalry
1 x 2 artillery
1 x 2 Command

35 strength points and exhaustion level 12


4 x 4 infantry
1 x 3 cavalry
1 x 2 artillery
1 x 2 Command

23 strength points and exhaustion level 8

I toyed with the idea of replacing one of the Union infantry units with another cavalry unit and increasing the artillery strength point to 3 but I stuck with my initial choice - mainly because by the time it occurred to me the game was set up!

So there you have it - the forces are deployed, the plans have been made and all that remains is the fight itself.

I hope you will enjoy reading about it as much as I did fighting it!

Thursday 24 October 2019

For Honour and Glory

From Worthington Games (as it was) their game of the war of 1812 including the naval side.

A number of years ago I owned a copy of the above game produced by Worthington Publications (as they are now known). It was two games in one as there was both a land and a naval game contained therein. The land rules are best described as Command and Colours without the command cards, instead one used a set number of action points that could be adjusted as the result of a dice roll. There were no figures and units were represented with a single wooden tile with a label depicting the unit. There is a sequence of numbers around the edges with the idea being that a unit took losses the edge facing the enemy was rotated to the new combat value. The original, pre-Plastic Soldier Company version of Hold the Line (covering the American War of Independence and the French and Indian War used a similar method  which is reminiscent of the technique employed By Columbia Games except the tiles are always shown face up – no fog of war here then!

The naval game is very simple and, one suspects that in the interests of economy, contains only two small metal ships and the appropriate tiles. The rules use a system of tiles with directional arrows to determine movement but the arrows themselves are printed on the land game tiles. This is not easy on the eye but an alternative would not be difficult to cobble together. The actions the game covers are as follows:

Land Battles

Queenston Heights
Craney Island
Battle of the Thames
Chrysler's Farm
Lundy's Lane
North Point
Jackson's Night Attack
New Orleans

Naval Battles

Battle of Lake Erie

Battle of Lake Champlain
USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere
USS Wasp vs HMS Frolic
USS United States vs HMS Macedonian
USS Constitution vs HMS Java
USS Chesapeake vs HMS Shannon
USS Argus vs HMS Pelican
USS Essex vs HMS Phoebe and HMS Cherub
Capture of the USS President
USS Constitution vs HMS Cyane and HMS Levant

I owned this game for a couple of years and played it solo a few times although I did not do anything with the naval side at the time. Near as I can recall it ended up being disposed of during the great American Wars cull of my collection. Fast forward to the present day and I am delighted to say that I have managed to track down another copy which is currently on its way to me. This time I do not intend parting with it quite so readily!

In common with my Battle Cry ACW setup I have a hankering to do the same with another of the American wars - French and Indian, War of Independence or 1812 - but at this stage am undecided as to which. Certainly the naval dimension of 1812 is an interesting topic for low level naval actions and the land side has a lot of positives - small forces, colourful armies and easily transferable to the table top.

Something else to ponder.

Wednesday 23 October 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 51

The man cave did not look quite as bad as the above - no bicycles or wheelbarrows were in evidence although the latter would have been useful moving Eric's collection around!

Another week and another round of sorting, planning and making decisions as well as some practical chores. The sorting (and practical chores) refers to the man cave as this was at one point doing a fair impersonation of Steptoe's Yard (see above)! The remnants of Eric's unpainted late 17th and 18th century and WW2 collection have been condensed down to four crates meaning that at long last I am able to actually see the floor. the numerous piles of figures that covered my table have all been accounted for and at long last I am able to move about freely without fear of stepping on something. I have even managed to set up one of my square grid playing boards (12 x 8 squares each of 3") so that I can undertake the first game using my 30mm ACW collection. SWMBO was mightily impressed when I mentioned that next weekend would see the dusting, polishing and hoovering of the man cave as well as cleaning the two Velux windows in the roof. It is long overdue!

I mentioned that I had reorganised my as yet unpainted WW1 1:2400th collection acquired for my Indian ocean project. I must confess that I really like the scale for naval games and Tumbling Dice produce some lovely models for a variety of periods. I am leaning towards using their models for the naval element of my planned ACW adventures. If truth be told they would also be a better option for the age of sail especially considering the rules I am likely to use. Which kind of leaves me with a minor dilemma - what do I do in respect of Black Seas? Have I made a mistake with this?

As usual with me there is no simple answer to this. The game itself looks fine but there is a part of me that is screaming "Seduced by the shiny side, you were!" Make no mistake the models are lovely but I am finding that all I am doing is viewing the whole thing through the lens of other rules sets and my own ideas. I shall put this to one side have a serious think. Should I decide not to proceed with it then I have no doubt that I would be readily able to dispose of the same. If I am honest I am struggling to see exactly when I would be able to get around to assembling, painting and rigging the models, much as I would like to. One to ponder methinks.

Aside from the Black Seas conundrum I have settled on the war of 1812 as being the 'Napoleonic' option I want to explore in more detail. It has much to commend it. The forces are small and recognisably Napoleonic looking with some easily paint converted options for uniforms in evidence. There is an interesting naval dimension that is low key in respect of the number of ships involved  making it ideal for solo actions. I can also make use of the terrain I shall be assembling for the ACW. Just how I am going to organise forces for this will be a post for another day as at the moment I am busy just reading up on the period.

Another task I successfully undertook was the sorting out and cataloguing of the assorted Tumbling Dice 1:600th scale figures I have been quietly squirrelling away. I have yet to do anything with them but I am certainly NOT going to be getting rid of them. In fact viewing the collection has reminded me that I need to acquire some additional bits and pieces to make the armies a little more nation specific. You may recall that my plan was to produce three forces - one in grey, one in brown and one in olive green or similar. the rationale behind this is that by adding nation specific pieces I could model a variety of armies. This is the plan long term so in the meantime I shall continue adding bits and pieces as and when the mood takes me.

Monday 21 October 2019

ACW Naval Deja Vu

Overkill but in a good way....

Hmm. I suppose it is my own fault in a way. Whilst going through one of my many reorganisations a couple of years ago I offloaded a while pile of ACW naval books to the redoubtable Mr Fox. This was during one my ACW 'off' moments - and was one I have grown to regret! Anyway, to cut a long story short a short while ago I acquired a copy of the book Ships of the Civil War 1861 to 1865 by Kevin Dougherty and published by Amber Books. The title duly arrived but had a few dents in the cover (you can see in the picture) so I took the matter up with the seller (it was an eBay transaction) and they very generously opted to let me keep the book and to refund me in full rather than me having to return the same. Naturally I was rather pleased with this outcome but as an aside why oh why do some booksellers only send out books in heavy duty plastic envelopes rather than using card to protect the corners? I know there is a cost implication but surely wrapping books properly is safer than relying on the tender mercies of the postal system?

I digress. The book features over a hundred types from both combatants with an illustration on one side and the text on the other. It is not hugely detailed nor as good as the other title in the picture above but it is still an excellent primer. The other book in the picture is very highly regarded in terms of coverage and technical detail and was one of the books that headed out from my collection during one of my ACW 'culls'. Despite a couple of near misses I was finally able to track a copy down (again) for a pretty good price - using the refunded proceeds from the other book - and so was set fair for the naval side of my ACW project. Then I made the discovery that was by turns both amusing and embarrassing.

The illustrations in the 'Ships' title are the same as in the 'Warships' title by Tony Gibbons. In other words Amber have used the same artwork but added different text - presumably this was added by Kevin Dougherty. To be honest the 'Warships' title is definitely superior in terms of coverage but the 'Ships' title would certainly be adequate for what I am planning. Taking a couple of positives from the experience I now have two books effectively for the price of one.

The hat wearing Confederate cavalryman on the left and as fez wearing Turk on the right.

As well the above I also spent some time working on a couple of Spencer Smith conversions which you can see above. I am not entirely satisfied with this effort as the fez has come up a little on the small side although as a proof of concept it works well enough. The trickier conversions will be the fez wearing gun crew as well as the various command types as I will need to build up a kepi into a fez.

It looks like I will be reaching for the green stuff  soon!

WW1 in the Indian Ocean

H.M.S. Swiftsure in her tropical plumage. I have always liked this class of battleship despite being rather non-standard for the Royal Navy as they were originally ordered by Chile to offset a pair of Argentinian armoured cruisers. Fascinating to speculate how they would have fared against the German Scharnhorst class.

The weekend did not go exactly as I planned but it was productive in any event. For a variety of reasons the inaugural game using my 30mm ACW collection did not take place - I probably could have fitted it in but had I done so it would have been a rush and I really wanted to spend some time on it. I have a scenario in mind and need to cobble together some terrain pieces but nothing major. My plan now is to run this over next weekend all being well.

As part of what I was able to get done I had a sort out of my 1:2400th scale Tumbling Dice ‘Age of Battleships’ British and German forces. You may recall that I had amassed these with a view to tackling something set early in WW1 in the Indian Ocean that tied in East Africa, the Arabian peninsula and the legendary island of Madasahatta. The basic rational behind my idea was that the German East Asian squadron sailed West rather than East and that the Turks had naval assets in and around the Indian Ocean - including the Goeben and the Breslau (supported by the Blucher) that had somehow managed to evade the Royal Navy and in an audacious move had used the Suez Canal to escape.

The above basic idea led me to acquiring a couple of fleets from Tumbling Dice, supplemented with a Gorben and a Breslau from GHQ. If I needed anything further than Stonewall Miniatures would be the next port of call. these models are really nice but have sat in their bags for some months so I thought it would be high time I sorted them out and listed what there is. I am not planning doing anything with them just yet but at least it means that once they go back into storage I will know what there is. As it happens I am considering adding some French ships to the collection simply because they have some truly odd looking ships!


ABG2 (x2) Brandenberg
ABG10 Furst Bismarck
ABG12 (x2) Scharnhorst
ABG 13 Blucher
ABG14 (x2) Bremen
ABG15 (x2) Fraunlob
ABG16 (x2) Emden
ABG17 Prinz Eitel Friedrich
ABG18 (x2) S108 (1901 x3 per pack)
ABG19 (x2) S138 (1906 x3 per pack)

From GHQ are the Goeben and the Breslau


ABB5 (x2) Canopus
ABB9 (x2) Swiftsure
ABB12 (x3) Monmouth
ABB13 (x3) Devonshire
ABB14 (x2) Cressy
ABB15 (x2) Drake
ABB16 (x2) Black Prince
ABB17 Warrior
ABB18 (x2) Minotaur
ABB22 (x2) Pelorus
ABB26 (x2) Apollo
ABB29 (x2) Arab (1902 x3 per pack)
ABB30 (x2) River (1904 x3 per pack)
ABB31 (x2) Tribal (1907 x3 per pack)
ABB38 (x3) Bristol
ABB42 (x2) Invincible


ABM2 Tramp Steamer
ABM10 Otranto

The forces above feature a large number of cruisers and it can be seen that whilst the Royal Navy has the numbers there is a lot of second class material in evidence for 1914. From a historical perspective I could run Coronel and the Falklands and also the some of the pursuit of the Goeben and Breslau. Since I acquired this lot there have been a few additions to the range that I would be keen to acquire and I certainly need to bolster the merchant contingent.

I have in my mind's eye the plan for how I will realise this project in due course but there is much to be done beforehand. This will be a long term project or rather it will be a long time until I get to it as I have a couple of other things that will come first in the order of priority.

Friday 18 October 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 50

This is a peach of a book with some quite remarkable looking uniforms on display

The Royal Navy represented by H.M.S. Shannon besting one of the big Yankee frigates, the U.S.S. Chesapeake, despite the Americans not being aware that it was a duel resulting from a written request! 

"As the Chesapeake appears now ready for sea, I request you will do me the favour to meet the Shannon with her, ship to ship, to try the fortune of our respective flags. The Shannon mounts twenty-four guns upon her broadside and one light boat-gun; 18 pounders upon her maindeck, and 32-pounder carronades upon her quarterdeck and forecastle; and is manned with a complement of 300 men and boys, beside thirty seamen, boys, and passengers, who were taken out of recaptured vessels lately. I entreat you, sir, not to imagine that I am urged by mere personal vanity to the wish of meeting the Chesapeake, or that I depend only upon your personal ambition for your acceding to this invitation. We have both noble motives. You will feel it as a compliment if I say that the result of our meeting may be the most grateful service I can render to my country; and I doubt not that you, equally confident of success, will feel convinced that it is only by repeated triumphs in even combats that your little navy can now hope to console your country for the loss of that trade it can no longer protect. Favour me with a speedy reply. We are short of provisions and water, and cannot stay long here."
— Philip Broke, original message edited by James and Chamier 1837

Apologies for the delay in bringing this auspicious edition of the Sitrep to the blog - well it is number 50 in any event!

I have been rather caught up in a veritable smorgasbord of matters ACW, Spencer Smith and the age of sail - not to mention planning terrain and also the first game using the newly completed 30mm collection.

I have finalised what I will be acquiring for the ACW collection and the order will be going in over the weekend to that very nice man at Spencer Smith. I am also tinkering with left over figures from this collection with a view to seeing what they can be turned into with a little work - rather like gamers used to do back in their plastic heyday. You will have seen the very useful looking fez wearing gentleman from a couple of posts ago, well I am messing around with some other figures to see what I can come with as, needless to say, there are some cunning plans in the mix.

Thoughts of terrain for the 30mm collection are now front and centre as virtually all the pieces I own are really designed for use with much smaller figures. I am opting to use 2D/3D stylised buildings so I need to experiment with some ideas. The problem with using larger figures is of course that inevitably the table footprint of any scenery is larger. In many ways what I am planning will be almost 'cartoon' style and so will doubtless offend the purist. I have probably long since been denounced for modelling heresy so I will not worry too much about that!

The Age of Sail was originally going to be a winter project and indeed, it may well still be but I must get some terrain organised for the ACW first of all. In respect of the project I have in mind something that will also give me a good excuse to dabble in some associated land actions. Originally I was thinking about the Adriatic or the Mediterranean but instead I am looking to the war of 1812 against the US of A. The naval side will be quite low level in terms of numbers and is also very well supported in terms of the written word. I would not have to worry about building up great fleets of battleships for the war so the model count can be kept quite low - an important consideration when one considers rigging etc! Inevitably thoughts of the war of 1812 led me to looking at the land side and in truth, whilst it is a war I know very little about (aside from the war at sea and that is also rather limited) it does tick a lot of boxes in respect of the size and variety of forces in use. From what I have seen a number of troops could pass muster from a Napoleonic set up and indeed, paint conversions would cover a multitude of things if the above book I acquired is anything to go by.

There is also a number of figures produced by Spencer Smith that could be used quite readily....

I am now on the hunt for a good account of the war from the land side so if any readers have any recommendations please let me know.

Monday 14 October 2019

On the Forbidding Black Seas....

Ooh shiny! The contents of Black Seas: Master and Commander edition

Rather sooner than I had expected my copy of Black Seas - the age of sail game from Warlord Games - arrived at the weekend. The following is not a detailed review as such, more like a first impressions upon opening the rather modestly sized box.

I have to say that at first glance it looks pretty darned good and it is obvious that a lot of thought has gone into it - particularly with the models. Contained within the box you get the following:

An A4 sized softback rule book
3 x Frigate sprues
3 x Brig sprues (2 models on each)
A bag of dice
A spool of black thread for ratlines
A 4ft by 3ft double sided seascape playing mat (made from glossy paper) with one side being 'deep' water and the other for coastal waters and, as you can see in the picture above, marked with a grid of 4" squares (marking just the angles).
A bag of coloured cotton wool/kapok style material for smoke etc
Ship cards and movement devices
Thick card terrain pieces and damage markers
Assembly instructions for the models and cut out sails and rigging
Sheets of flags for the Royal Navy, France, Spain, USA and some generic pirate style ensigns.
A 28mm figure - I am unsure if this is a limited edition or not

I did not get my copy direct from Warlord (£50 including postage) but from an eBay trader where it was £43 including postage.

The models are lovely and I like the way that figureheads and stern galleys can be varied (there is a selection on each sprue) to suit specific ship types as required. Assembly looks straightforward, even for me, but the rigging may be a little fiddly. Mr Fox has advised me that the models have some clever touches to help with this process - I trust him implicitly on this has he has a lot of experience undertaking this tricky task, and to spectacular effect!

The rule book contains plenty of information about the ships of the period, the different types, the rating system and also identifies the names of various ship parts including sails and masts etc. More than enough information for the landlubber taking their first steps into the water so to speak! There are a number of scenarios, some historical background from the American Revolution through to 1815 and includes the war of 1812. The rule book also includes some background to each of nations featured and mention of some of their most famous ships - which happen to be available as 'personality' models. In short the rule book follows the modern approach of rules, background and eye candy in one volume. A separate play sheet would have been nice but no doubt one will be available, if it isn't already, on the Warlord website.

I have to say that I was very taken with the gaming mat, especially as it features a square grid. The only problem (and this is very much a personal thing) with it is that the grid has 11 x 7 full sized 4" squares with a border of 2" by 4" half squares. Although the rules are certainly not grid based it does make for a cramped fighting area if one is using a grid - as I will with Fighting Sail, the old SPI magazine game.

So what does this all mean for me? Well, I have mentioned previously that I have had a number of ideas for some small scale age of sail gaming and I reckon that this may well provide the raw material to do so. The areas I am looking at include the Adriatic and also the war of 1812. There is also the operations against the Barbary Pirates....

There is mention of a Xebec as well....

Thoughts on a Spencer Smith 30mm ACW Zouave

The figure on the left is the Spencer Smith Zoave wearing a turbaned fez whilst the chap on the right, by dint of some careful filing, is wearing a plain can probably guess where this minor conversion may be heading!

Now hear is the thing. Although the range of figures available from Spencer Smith ACW range is fairly modest it does cover most of the major types one associates with the war between the states. The Zoauve figure is a good example but whilst it is suitable for some of the units of this type it is not  viable for all - even allowing for a paint conversion. Purists will no doubt point out that the fact that equipment is probably wrong and the jacket is incorrect but they are Spencer Smith after all which means that they are close enough to look the part.

A couple of years ago I flirted with the idea of using the standard Union kepi wearing infantry type as Russians from the war of 1877 against the Ottomans but was reluctant to use the Zouave for the Turks for a couple of reasons. From what I can gather the turbaned fez was not used by the line troops although the Bashi Bazouks certainly did. Sadly the figure would not work for the latter simply because they should not have a back pack. The idea then withered away.

I was rather taken with this effort and realised that there would be a huge amount of potential for this chap. He could also pass muster for an Egyptian fighting the British or the Mahdists as well as the Russians in 1877, the Serbs just before that, the Greeks in 1897 and even during the Balkan War.

However, in between coats of paint I decided to see if I could file away the turban portion to leave a plain fez - the result of which you can see above. 

If I am honest the prospect of converting multiples of this figure is not one I would fancy, simply because the tediousness of the undertaking but it is certainly worthwhile bearing in mind as an option. Perhaps a word in the ear of that very nice man at Spencer Smith may be in order....

Sunday 13 October 2019

ACW Collection WIP....Part 6

Originally I had intended this post to be the grand finale in respect of the 30mm ACW collection but seeing as there will be further additions in due course I decided that calling it a WIP was more appropriate. In any event here they are, the two forces of 30mm Spencer Smith ACW figures as painted by Old Painter Bob and rebased, reorganised and finished off by yours truly.

Crude the castings may be crude and with glossy coats, plain painted individual bases and not a hint of shading or highlighting but they look so evocative.

"An elegant collection for a more civilised time".

Confederate Infantry on the march....

....with cavalry scouting ahead and....

....artillery in support (there is another gun).

Union horse on patrol....

....with artillery following up....

....and infantry marching to the sounds of the guns.

The collection as it stands is more than sufficient to enable me to fight actions using the Portable War-game or even straight Battle Cry type games. I could even fight actions using Rebels and Patriots which would make the collection 'bang on trend' - who would have thought that these venerable figures could make the leap into mainstream modern rule sets?

Once again I must extend my thanks to Old Painter Bob for helping me to realise a project that may have withered on the vine if left to my own devices. As mentioned in my previous post there will be some further additions to the collection but if I am honest there will not be very much as this is probably about two thirds of the entire amount I will need.

In the meantime though, I want to get some games in and also to get the purple prose genes flowing again!

You have been warned!

Friday 11 October 2019

ACW Collection WIP....Part 5

Looks good but I am really not enjoying the soundtrack....

I have finished the varnishing of the six 30mm artillery pieces for the ACW Spencer Smith collection!

Yes, you read correctly, I have finished!!!

This means that phase one of the project is at an end and I can't tell you how pleased I am with the outcome and overall look. I shall be positing the pictures over the weekend but trust me, they are glossy, old school and a fitting tribute to the style of Kurz and Allison.

To get me in the right ACW frame of mind I decided to allow myself the luxury of watching the Director's cut of the film Gettysburg. Now I know that this was in the East and my interest is Western facing but I wanted a dose of ACW flavour that was not Gone With the Wind! I have seen the original version some years ago but not the Director's cut. I should extend a big thank you to Mr Fox for the digital download code for the film using the now defunct Ultraviolet platform. As an aside that portion of my digital film library is now safely ensconced in Google Play. I have not seen Gods and Generals - the prequel to Gettysburg which has less than impressed most viewers by all accounts - so may well look to do so in due course. I am very early into the film - subtitled in a rather tongue in cheek way by some gaming acquaintances as Gettysburg: Men in Beards - but already I am less than thrilled by the Randy Edelman soundtrack. One wonders what John Williams would have done with it....

There will be three further stages in the ACW project but for now I have sufficient to get some Portable Wargame or Memoir of Battle style games in. I could even tackle Rebels and Patriots if I wanted to so there is a good deal of flexibility in the collection. the further stages are as follows:

Ships. I am more or less settled on using Peter Pig 1:600th scale models for purely naval actions but I will build some cartoon style warships for combined arms style games. These will be very generic and I reckon that i will need no more than half a dozen models in all.

Rounding out of units. For reasons that will be become clear in a later post I want to add some additional figures to the existing set up to round out the numbers. The infantry will add a further 8 other ranks (making 48 in total) and another couple of foot officers and drummers. The cavalry will add a further 4 troopers and an officer whilst the artillery will add a further 3 gunners, 3 officers and a mounted commander.

Additional units. Each side will add a unit of Zouaves and a unit of sharpshooters. I already have a painted Zouave unit for the Union but I want to add one for the Rebels.

Of the three stages above I suspect that the first two will be tackled first and probably simultaneously as it will be a collaborative effort. the additional units will be something for next year methinks.

As I have spent a lot of time rambling on about my small contribution from the painting perspective to this project the photo shoot will be picture heavy and rambling light!

Now to plan some games!

Thursday 10 October 2019

ACW Collection WIP....Part 4

The standard Spencer Smith field piece....

....and a painted version of the same complete with crew courtesy of Old Painter Bob and taken from the Spencer Smith Gallery. I have based the gunners above and the gun carriage is now a lighter colour.

It is really close now, so close you can taste it! I finished painting the guns last night and managed to resist the temptation to start varnishing until this evening. Although the guns have been painted entirely in Humbrol matt enamels I wanted to let the paint properly harden off before glossing the models.

This weekend will see the grand photo shoot of phase one of the collection and I am really looking forward to this. I have some modest expansion plans for the collection - more for completeness really - that I will detail in a later post but for now I will focus on what I have and how I will use it. The first order of business post painting though, is to think about some terrain and most importantly, a suitably gridded playing surface.

I am still torn between hexes and squares but whichever way I go the base dimension will be 4" across the flat sides. Time to look at some gaming mat manufacturers methinks.

Wednesday 9 October 2019

ACW Collection WIP....Part 3

The above is the overall look I have chosen for the 30mm ACW artillery. The colour I have used for the carriages is Humbrol French Artillery green and was probably purchased the last time I painted any black powder artillery - some forty odd years ago!

I am going to be perfectly honest here. The six Spencer Smith artillery pieces in my ACW collection have caused me no end of problems. It is not because they are complex models - they consist of but four pieces being the barrel, the single trail carriage and a pair of wheels - but I have struggled with the colour scheme and, dare I say it, detailing. The internet has not made matters any easier as there is a plethora of pictures of Civil war era artillery pieces and many of these are quit contradictory.

I had gotten myself into a right tizzy and had changed my mind umpteen times about the colour scheme I would use - and bear in mind that this was the only part of the collection I was painting myself. In retrospect I was guilty of over thinking the situation - I tend to do this a lot - and was in danger of losing sight of the look I wanted to achieve. Old toy soldier and in the style of Kurz and Allison has been the guiding principle throughout this project and as long as I bore this in mind then all would be well. Old Painter Bob had interpreted the collection in exactly the way I wanted (albeit with no input from me as half the collection was a good few years old) so I had little excuse for dallying over the mere matter of painting half a dozen artillery pieces! After much ruminating I reminded myself of the old adage of  the importance of making a plan and sticking to it as closely as possible.

I am almost embarrassed at the way I allowed myself to trip over every obstacle that wasn't there with these models but I am happy to say I have settled on the scheme and last night saw me finish them all bar the final gluing and varnishing. In my defence I would say that it is probably some forty years or more since I last assembled and painted a black powder era field piece. Thinking about it I reckon it would have been when I assembled my Airfix Napoleonic 1815 Allied army....

Hang on, didn't he say that he had finished them before? I hear you say. Well, I had, kind of. Last night, and in the absence of any suitable superglue - the tube I purchased yesterday lunchtime was left at work.... - I took a long look at the models and decided that some additional painting was required. I painted the wheel hubs black along with the ironwork supporting the central part of the carriage where the barrel sits. I also painted a section of the trail black. The end result is a whole lot better to look at (you will have to trust me on this until the pictures are taken) and is certainly in keeping with the overall look of the collection. Tonight I will glue the barrels in place and tomorrow will see the varnishing. this weekend then, will see the grand unveiling and the all important photo shoot.

Thinking about it I am convinced that my well known aversion to painting is as much to do with being out of practice as anything else as I actually enjoyed the work last night despite my earlier misgivings. I suppose that getting into a routine when painting is important and that regular sessions will help to hone one's technique.

In a small way perhaps this will encourage me to tackle further brushwork other than warships and anything else that is non-organic!

Tuesday 8 October 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 49

I am really disappointed with myself for running out of the above!

Last week was very nautically themed with the age of sail taking precedence, closely followed by the American Civil War. There was also a dash of Napoleonics thrown in for good measure - more of which in later post.

I was all set to varnish the 30mm ACW artillery last night when I made the startling discovery that  had exhausted my supply of superglue! This is really bad as I usually have half a dozen or so tubes in stock but no, none were to be found. I shall rectify this today and so the varnishing of the artillery can take place this evening. This means that I will be in a position to hold the much threatened photo shoot of the completed collection over the coming weekend.

From a practical standpoint I have been giving much thought to the subject of terrain for the ACW collection, starting with the need for a gridded playing surface. I am not going down the Hexon route as whilst it is very good I found it a royal pain setting it up and dismantling it when not in use. I would prefer a mat based option for the playing surface with terrain added as required. Using a mat with 4" hexes would allow me to make use of some of the rather nice Hexon pieces so my thoughts are very much heading in this direction. Having said that I am still pondering using squares rather than hexes - an option that would have a number of practical advantages, especially for the naval side.

As it stands I would need three such mats - one green, one desert and one for the sea. I have a couple of GW vinyl gaming mats - one green and one sand - that could readily be pressed into service if I wanted to grid them. To be honest I am loath to do this as they are perfectly fine as they are.

My mention of matters age of sail related of course is in reference to the forthcoming release of Black Seas by Warlord Games. I have had a rethink about this and so will now be looking to add some 74s to the mix - not many though - but the first order of business will be to tackle the smaller stuff. My plan is to make a tentaive start on these once the ACW collection is off the painting tray.

Monday 7 October 2019

Black Seas, Hammerin' Iron and Tumbling Dice

One of the final editions of Strategy and Tactics magazine complete with a game. There were plans to launch a deluxe version of this with some 800 or so counters covering all manner of ships and nationalities of the period. Sadly SPI sank beneath the waves before this happened.

Such is the fickleness of my wargaming temperament that for a couple of days last week all thoughts of Black Seas were very close to being consigned to the scrapheap - I even discussed similar with the sagacious Mr Fox - but good sense has prevailed, at least for the immediate future. The reason for my inevitable fear and loathing simply came down to the quality of the models (which are supremely good) and the work I would need to put in to get them to fighting trim. After much soul searching I decided that as the number of ships I would be looking at would in fact be rather low the amount of work involved should not be too onerous (famous last words? We shall see....).

As my original intention involved mainly frigates, brigs and smaller and would feature combined operations my thoughts naturally headed in the direction of terrain. Now the models for Black Seas are 1:700th (whereas Peter Pig's Hammerin' Iron ACW range are 1:600th) and I am unsure if anyone makes suitable terrain for the scale and period. By terrain I am thinking of such things as buildings, forts, shore batteries, harbours and such like.

Tumbling Dice infantry and cavalry alongside some of the Perry's Travel Battle buildings and Renendra bases.

It suddenly dawned on me that Peter Pig carry a small range of land terrain in support of their ACW naval rules which, although of a slightly different scale, would certainly not look too far out of place with the Black Seas ships. As an extension of this idea the troop blocks that Peter Pig produce could also be pressed into service although my preference would be for the Tumbling Dice range seen above. I also think that the buildings from Travel Battle could be pressed into service (rather like the crews of warships of the period....).

With the direction of my thinking heading into Black Seas and Hammerin' Iron territory I am fast coming to the conclusion that a better option for my ACW games would be to use the Peter Pig ships rather than building my own although I was keen to have some on table fire support for the 30mm figures. Perhaps as an alternative I could build a couple of representative models scaled to fight alongside their 30mm brethren whilst reserving the 1:600th models for purely naval engagements.

More to ponder methinks!

Thursday 3 October 2019

The Cruel Black Seas....Part 2

Black Seas - the Master and Commander edition

The contents - at least the ship markers and sailing paraphenalia

The playing mat that is also included

The base game contains the above three frigates....

....and the six brigs below.

 I have to hand it to Warlord games, or at least the chap I was dealing with! Yesterday saw the arrival of the box of Black Seas goodies by way of an apology for the Cruel Seas debacle. If I was being churlish I would say that something along the lines of "Is that it?" as the contents of the box, whilst very impressive, did not quite equate to the copy of Cruel Seas that I had been promised a year ago but one must be appreciative of the gesture - and that I am but probably more so by the speedy response.

The box I received contained a frigate sprue and also one of the two model brig sprues but more importantly all of the necessary sails, rigging and flags for completing some 6 ships (which coincides with the number of models I now have being a pair of frigates and four brigs) which is a solid start for what I need for a particular idea I am pondering.

I have to say that the models are lovely and look easy enough to put together. the challenge is of course the rigging element but as my old friend Mr Fox has often observed rigging a sailing ship takes time and is fiddly but curiously therapeutic - and he should know as he has produced umpteen 1:1200th scale age of sail warships.

If you only buy a single book on the naval dimension of the Napoleonic wars then you could certainly do a lot worse than this gargantuan offering from the pen of Mark Adkin

My library contains a number of books covering the period of the Napoleonic Wars from a navlal perspective although I do not profess to be anything other than enthusiastic amateur in respect of my knowledge of the period. Overshadowing the period from 1793 until 1805 is of course Nelson and there are no shortage of books about him and his exploits. At the lower end of the spectrum - and this is of course where my thinking around Black Seas is heading - frigates, brigs and sloops and their adventures have a huge advantage in that one does not need many ships for some challenging games and there is of course the potential for combined arms type operations, raids, convoy work etc.

Inspirational and just what I need to stoke the fires of enthusiasm!

We are entering Hornblower and Aubery territory here for sure but naturally there are many historical originals to explore. The Star Captains by Tom Wareham (and also Frigates and the companion volume, Brigs and Sloops by James Henderson) is an account of the exploits of various frigate captains during the Napoleonic Wars and how they came to be. I first picked up a Kindle version of this book courtesy of an Amazon sale for 99p and now have a secondhand hardback version on order.

Where is all this going? Well, I certainly have a hankering to reuse the Ship 'O the Line rules once again and my old friend Mr Fox has a cracking set that he has evolved for the period. I am looking at actions of no more than half a dozen or so models a side so ships of the line will seldom feature although I can see myself adding a few for variety at some point. am looking long and hard at the Adriatic as a theatre of operations and I have a couple of Pocock titles that cover this.

As an aside I am hoping to have the ACW guns ready for the weekend - at least the painting will be finished, if not the varnishing - so any thoughts about Napoleonic Naval are currently at the 'planning and exploring options' phase but with the imminent release of Black Seas this may change.

Tuesday 1 October 2019

The Cruel Black Seas

"I can resist anything except temptation or perhaps one should always choose the lesser of two weevils...."

This was a tale that grew in the telling.

Around summertime last year rumours abounded that Warlord Games were going to launch a coastal naval wargame complete with rules and an extensive range of models in 1:300th scale. This of course eventually saw the light of day as Cruel Seas and it has proven to be hugely popular. Some time prior to the official release I contacted Warlord to offer to produce a review of the game and indeed, I offered to purchase a copy of the game in advance of its publication in order to do so. This is a key point in the story as I did not want to appear to be a freeloader. In truth I was really excited at the prospect and potential of this game, albeit with reservations over the choice of model scale.

A number of emails flew backwards in forwards in a positive fashion - appreciation of my offer was extended and and this eventually morphed into them offering to send me a complimentary copy once the initial pre-orders had been satisfied.The chap I was dealing with seemed very sincere and although the game had in fact been launched I was looking forward to receiving my copy so that I could tackle the review on the blog, thereby spreading the word further. It all seemed like a win-win as far as I could see - I would get a free copy of the game and they would get an extra review, above and beyond the usual channels.

Remember I had offered to pay for my copy of the game.

Then it all started to unravel. Despite repeated assurances that my copy was awaiting dispatch nothing arrived. In the meantime the game had moved along with copious reviews in the wargaming press as well as online. My original intention of a review was fast becoming redundant!

I should also point out that the chap at Warlord said that they are always looking for reviewers and playtesters for their new products and games and indeed, when I extended my offer to assist with Black Seas the response was positive and that I would be notified in due course.

Then came the radio silence.

In respect of Cruel Seas I kept getting the 'we are so busy dealing with the game launch and pre-orders so that dispatching review copies is further down the list but please bear with us as we will get to you' response which, to be fair, was understandable given how successful the game was. I waited patiently.

Then the answers to my emails became harder to get and fewer. I was getting frustrated by this but when one is getting a freebie in my experience one has to be patient - and so I was.

The months dragged by and the only response I received was when I posted on a Warlord Games Facebook group and this was along the lines of 'someone will contact you directly'.

They never did.

Cruel Seas grew and thrived and then the first murmurings of an age of sail game appeared which again, I had been previously told that reviewers and playtesters were always wanted and so once again I threw my hat in the ring. Once again I was not looking for a freebie but for the opportunity to help shape something that I am interested in.

No response.

This summer came and went and the pre-launch hype around the release of Black Seas continued to crank up interest so, almost in a fit of pique, I dropped Warlord one final email in the chain stretching back over a year. The email was curt and dripping in sarcasm as I was not expecting to get anything by way of a response.

But I did.

Imagine my surprise when a response email arrived the next day. It was hugely apologetic in tone and mentioned that the chap I was dealing with originally had left the company some 6 months ago - I did not mention that all my emails went to a shared inbox so anyone could have responded if they wished, it would have been churlish for me to have done so - and whilst I was now too late to get in on the Black Seas playtesting they would welcome reviews on the models. To this end they are sending me a box full of ships with all the sails and rigging paraphernalia and also a copy of the rules in PDF format when they available for my trouble.

I was quite taken aback by this (and a little guilty of the tone I used in what I thought would be my final email...) so I emailed the new chap expressing my appreciation of their offer and acceptance of their sincere apology. I was doubly surprised when this was answered almost immediately by way of a confirmation!

I was quite willing to pay for my involvement in the development of either game but Warlord offered me a free copy of Cruel Seas which they then quietly forgot about. In retrospect from their side they could have handled the whole situation rather better than they did but the gesture from them in respect of Black Seas is most welcome and appreciated as is their apology.

It is quite obvious that initially Warlord were overwhelmed by the success of Cruel Seas and so I guess I kind of fell through the cracks so to speak. This was further compounded by the chap I was dealing with originally moving on from the company. I am glad I persevered with them and that the outcome, whilst different to what was originally intended, is a pleasing one all the same.

Of course I have yet to receive anything from them but I will let you know when I do....:-)