Wednesday 30 September 2020

Rising with the Jacobites

Not from the game but an example of the WoFun range of acrylic pre coloured 2D figures in 28mm

With my mortal aversion to figure painting being legendary the following will probably come as no surprise! For many years I have had a guilty pleasure in the shape of the Jacobite rebellions. I can offer no reason for this - I suppose it appeals to the romantic in me although the era in question was anything but by all accounts. I don’t know why it should have the appeal that it does but, it is what it is and so when I saw that a standalone Command and Colours: Tricorne game covering the rebellions was in the offing I knew I would be very hard pushed to resist it.

So I didn’t - and it arrived today!

I have wanted to game the rebellions for many years but had resigned myself to never doing it using figures simply because painting all that kilted and lace wearing foot was not something I would ever do. 

Not at all.

“There can be only one....

....or maybe not!

The Command and Colours system needs little introduction from me and as such is very straightforward to play. The Tricorne series introduces some army specific cards as well as the usual command cards to that the respective forces are more representative of their historical counterparts. With a game such as this there will be many I am sure that will opt to substitute figures for the blocks but that is not something I am even remotely considering!

To support this self contained standalone project I have a small library of relevant tomes which I shall now be dipping into for some inspiration.

I have only ever been to Scotland on two occasions - both times it was business and based in Edinburgh. In fact one of those visits did not go beyond the airport business park! The other I stayed in the city itself but with no time for sightseeing. Given the way foreign travel is at present it may well be that next year will see me heading north of the border.

No metal figures were harmed during the writing of this post....

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Of Birthdays and other Life Events

The Haul Part 1. Delighted with everything - I have the Great War version of the naval atlas and the other two books will support my Pacific adventures. A portion of the Amazon gift cards has already been earmarked and the Bombay Sapphire will tickle the taste buds!

The Haul Part 2.A birthday would not be a birthday without something sweet to indulge in. I am a sucker for fruit pastilles and chocolate Brazil nuts with the matchmakers adding a little tone to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl....

First of all a very big thank you to all that wished me well yesterday on the occasion of my 60th birthday - the thoughts and good wishes were very much appreciated.

I had a quite wonderful day out with my wife and daughter at Colchester Zoo - not our usual birthday celebration for sure - and a really nice family meal in the evening when my son was with us after finishing work for the day. The zoo was really good and my daughter took some stunning pictures of the assorted wildlife - we managed see all the big cats up close - and even the weather turned in our favour with sunshine but not too hot to walk around in.

I received a goodly haul of presents and so felt thoroughly spoilt!

Now 60 is not really a significant birthday as such other than being the end of another decade. Having said that the circumstances around this birthday did give me pause for thought. My wife and a very good friend of ours were all 60 this year and, pre pandemic, the plan was that the four of us (Including our friends husband) were going to celebrate on a joint basis. This was supposed to ave happened in May but was obviously cancelled - we had planned a weekend away. Our friends husband has an auto immune disorder and so has been virtually a prisoner for best part of a year now - we last saw them both in September of 2019 although have been in contact via phone and FaceTime etc. They live just outside of Exeter and I wonder when we will be able to get together again.

As I write this I am sitting in my man cave surrounded by my ‘stuff’ with a gnawing feeling of unease. How much of it do I need? How important is it all? Is my collection fit for purpose or is it an overblown caricature of what I actually can find a use for?

My next decade will be an important one as retirement will be featuring at some point, potentially with a downsizing as well. With this in mind many decisions will need to be made, some hard, others less so. More than ever my birthday has drawn attention to the fact that the clock is rolling ever onwards and so I need to be sure of my future direction in our hobby and so can make my plans accordingly.

Saturday 26 September 2020

MDeFinitely a Good Idea!

All sorted and ready for me to use - the turrets sizes are 10, 15, 20 and 25mm with the larger two available in a single or twin barrel configuration.

 My custom order from Warbases has arrived for the various pieces of ship construction material - and I am really pleased with how they have interpreted my ideas!

I also took the opportunity to make use of one of my spare storage boxes so that the pieces are properly organised.

I am absolutely delighted with this lot and the potential for my various projects. To begin with my plan is to tackle the few ships I need for the ACW project. After that I am looking at ships for the pre dreadnought era. 

The pieces in more detail. All, both turret sections and hulls are 3mm think.

The turrets are circular which works well for early turrets designs but I will look to get some more modern shapes prepared In the same way in due course. Construction will be really simple - just pop in the appropriate lengths of bamboo skewer or cocktail stick, add a plain circular base above and below and hey presto - instant turrets! The sections with the cut outs are 3mm thick as are the hulls.

If I was being really picky I would have liked the gap between the two slots to have been a little larger and also for the hull stern to be slightly curvier but this is very small beer indeed. The indentations are nice and deep meaning that the gun barrels will have a secure fixing point.

As mentioned the building plan will look at the ACW first and then I shall be looking at some later bits and pieces. All the models will be ‘based upon’ rather than specific ships but they will be recognisable. I am really looking forward to seeing where this will take me but one thing I am sure of is that I will certainly enjoy the experience!

Wednesday 23 September 2020

More on the South Pacific

The M3 Light Tank

The Japanese Chi Ha

The M5 light tank

 Amongst the demands of work and the domestic round I have managed to get some time on the Pacific project which was most welcome. I have settled on the force compositions and am looking at three set ups. To begin with the bush hat wearing infantry will serve as both British in Burma and Australians in New Guinea (I only hope the uniforms are the same colour!). The Japanese will be just about everywhere and I have added the USMC into the mix, inspired by my acquisition of Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal and my fondness for Flat Top.

My word that is a lot of figures I hear you say! Fear not, each force is toughly the same size being built around 50 or so infantry with support to taste. There will be some vehicles involved but not on the scale one would see in Europe or the desert!

My plan is to use four figures to represent the infantry counters in Conflict of Heroes with support weapons and vehicles on a one for one basis. This will give me 4 Japanese tanks, 6 assorted artillery pieces - 2 battalion guns, 2 regimental guns and a couple of anti tank guns - and a smattering of infantry weapons. To be honest this is more or less what my planned organisation was going to look like anyway, even before I purchased the game. The Marines gain 3 Stuarts and an M3 gun carriage, a pair of 105mm guns, a couple of 37mm anti tank guns plus the associated infantry support stuff. 

Does anyone know where I can get a 20mm scale US 37mm anti tank gun?

I have the artillery for the Commonwealth troops - 3.7” and 4.5” guns and will add some 2pdr anti tank guns. Not sure about the vehicles to go with this part as yet but I will get to it in due course.

For scenery I will probably be using Vietnam style buildings although there are plenty of Pacific style bunkers available. A visit to my local Pet shop should supply some fish tank plastic plants that will work well for jungle style foliage.

That is as far at present as my thinking goes in respect of the land side although in due course it may expand to include the Chinese and Indian troops.

The naval and aerial dimensions are a whole different kettle of fish though and as yet my thoughts have not gone beyond using Flat Top but this may well change. I will fall off that particular bridge when I get to it!

Monday 21 September 2020

Wooden Ships and Iron Men

 I am quite sure that most readers with an interest in naval warfare during the age of sail will be familiar with the Avalon Hill board game sharing the title of this post. Well, I can tell you that this post is not directly about that particular game at all - splendid fun that it is. I have said in the past that whilst I enjoy the hexed based board game I actually prefer the square based miniatures rules that preceded the Avalon Hill game called Ship ‘O the Line. No matter, I have included that purely for completeness.

Wooden Ships....

Today I took delivery of two board games that thematically slot into my existing collection really nicely. Taking the age of sail first sees the arrival of Flying Colours: Fleet Actions in the Age of Sail by GMT Games (3rd edition). This is a huge game in that it covers Exactly what it says on the box lid but with the option to fight smaller actions. There is something like six sheets of counters with named ships from a variety of fleets from 1st rates downwards. There are some 40 plus scenarios as well as some campaigns and the great thing with this game is that one does not have to write any orders. For Wooden Ships and Iron Men you have to which is fine but it does add to the gaming time. Another big advantage is that ship counters have names rather than numbers! This will go into my collection alongside Wooden Ships and Iron Men and Fighting Sail and I fully expect to be using the counters on the table top with any miniatures rules e.g the set that Mr Fox has cobbled together that work very nicely although for the life of me I cannot remember what they are called as well as David Manley’s Form Line of Battle.

....and Iron Men.

The second game is altogether different but does have a connection with one of my all time favourite board games - Flat Top, the game of carrier battles in the South Pacific during 1942 (not including Midway). The game is called Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal and it is a platoon and section level tactical game featuring the Japanese and the USMC as they battle over the aforementioned island. The naval side was frantic with heavy losses on both sides and the land actions were brutal. Conditions on the island were appalling and the combat was invariably up close and very personal. The number of counters in this game is quite low - 175 and a portion of these are markers of one kind or another. It is a far cry from Squad Leader or more especially, Advanced Squad Leader. The main practical advantage for me at present with this game is that I can satisfy my South Pacific itch prior to getting the models ready. The scale of the game is such that replicating it successfully using figures would be very simple - and that is the ultimate plan.

In conclusion

The production quality for both games is outstanding, especially with the Guadalcanal game mapboards and both have an awful lot of potential beyond the contents of the respective boxes. The counters for Guadalcanal are 1” square and so are not only very tactile but easy to read. I am looking forward to giving this a go and besides, Chi Ha tanks versus Stuarts was always going to get my vote!

The Navies of Madasahatta in the World of 1891

A striking picture of the German pre dreadnought S.M.S. Brandenburg launched in 1891 and commissioned in 1893.

 I have recently been exchanging emails with Bob Cordery about many things including Jacklex figures and Madasahatta. The latter needs no introduction but it is worth pointing out that Bob had previously factored the island in to his huge imagi-world of 1891. If you have not seen this then you should check out the downloads section of his blog and be prepared to be impressed! Many of Bob’s colonial games have involved Zubia whilst my own have used both Fezia and Rusland On the odd occasion.

Madasahatta in 1891 was quite different from when Eric’s campaign picked up at the outbreak of WW1 and so whilst Bob is reworking Eric’s original map into his, what I call, ‘Barbarossa style‘ I thought I would have a play around with some back story for it. I have a couple of ideas for this but these have yet to be formalised or finalised. The one thing that I did get to thinking about though, was the naval dimension.

The Royal Navy and the High Seas Fleet were very different animals in 1891. The German fleet was young, small and hugely outnumbered by the British. If one were to use the historical make up of the respective fleets the Germans would be in for a short and exciting life. Clearly this would not be a lot of fun so a degree of compromise would be called for. 

Compromise? Hang on, I thought this was supposed be an imagi-nation style set up? Did I miss the email?

The navies of the world in 1891 are certainly an interesting mix of the good, the bad and downright awful! Having said that the previous decades of experimentation in respect of naval design - together with the ‘influence’ of the ‘jeune ecole’ - were gradually starting to settle down into recognisable types. What I would look to do then, would be to tweak the fleets to capture some slightly later ships from what was built in the years leading up to around, say, 1900. This would give the fleets a little more to play around with. I would also ensure that the qualitative, quantitive and design differences were represented. For use on an imagi-nation style navy this will mean building ships that are ‘based upon’ rather than strictly accurate. I am expecting to have a lot of fun with side of it especially as the numbers involved will be modest.

As I see it there are three forces to think about - British, German and Turkish. My feeling is that the Turkish fleet will be quite antiquated with old ironclads and coastal defence style battleships with assorted frigates used for cruisers. Historically the Turks had some rather useful ironclads some 25 years earlier...The Germans would have a small presence but it would be of high quality. It would also be undergunned compared to the equivalent Royal Navy types. The British would be suing some good quality 2nd line stuff in conjunction with some modern units. Given the location of Madasahatta there is much potential for ‘Hunt the raider’ style operations as well using naval forces for support of land actions.

I already have some ideas in mind for some of the ships themselves - remember this would be a great opportunity for using second line vessels with the odd modern warship thrown in - but the initial shipbuilding efforts will be based in the ACW as I am keen to finish this project off first of all.

Saturday 19 September 2020

Imagi-Navies and the power of MDF

The sketch featuring the turret idea and.... generic hull templates. The plan is to use multiples of these to build up the hull to the desired height on a laminated basis.

 Regular readers of his blog will no doubt remember the great ACW shipbuilding project I undertook several years ago now. I fashioned some fifty odd river vessels including casemate ironclads, stern and side wheel gunboats and all manner of bits and pieces. It was great fun to do at the time and indeed, some of the models even appeared in a few of the games I fought. The models were recognisable as what they represented although whilst tidy looking were quite crude, with little in the way of detail. They looked the part and certainly did not disgrace themselves when used alongside my block armies.

I have also mentioned about the great ship building program undertaken as part of Eric’s South East Asia naval campaign. Many ships were conversions of existing models but a fair few were built from scratch by all the combatants. I know the models I built made use of components from other kits and the inevitable spares box that eventually grew to be large enough to have its own post code!

It was all great fun and is something I really enjoy doing. I do not profess to be a super detailed diorama quality modeller by any stretch of the imagination but I can turn out simple looking stuff that is effective. I have, over time, scratch built three fleets of dirigibles for use with the game Aeronef (using aircraft bombs from various scales of kit to provide the hulls), the ACW ships already mentioned as well as some Sci fi stuff, starships, grav tanks and similar. All good fun and incredibly satisfying.

One of the things that is always a problem when scratch building models is consistency. By that I mean when one needs to make the same model multiple times. I have managed to get around this by copying hull templates by stacking them up and sanding them together or by making sure that I have sufficient raw material in the quantity I am likely to need for multiple copies.

The one thing that really stumped me though, was turrets. I am talking about early circular turrets. I had a whole raft of problems with these. Getting them the correct size and shape gave me untold amounts of grief and I could never get them right. 

I think I have hit upon an idea though that will render this problem a thing of the past and if it works out will revolutionise how I build model ships or anything that needs a turret.

My ship modelling technique uses primarily balsa wood with things like coffee stirrers, ice lolly sticks, dowel rod and plastic odds and ends. Making the hull involves drawing the shape out on an appropriately sized piece of wood, cutting it out roughly and then sanding it to the desired shape. It is oddly satisfying but it takes time. I also had an idea about this as well and again, as with the turret idea, if it comes to pass it will save me a massive amount of time.

In each case what I have done is to sketch out what I want and have then sent these over to those very nice people at Warbases. They are going laser cut the desired shapes in MDF and all I then need to do is to use the hull and turrets (if required) to produce the ships I want. The saving in time will be enormous and the consistency of shape and size will ensure that the finish is really slick looking. I opted for circular turrets to begin with as these are typical of the ACW period and later although I will happily use them for the pre dreadnought era. 

On Imagi-navies....

I mentioned earlier that my models tend to be ‘based on’ rather than historically detailed. This does not bother me and indeed, for the ACW makeshift warships were very much the order of the day - especially for the Confederates. I will be making representative ships for both sides and I plan to have some that can be used either side by the simple expedient of a change of flag.

I envisage making gunboats for the Colonial period - there is an idea behind this - and also tackling some ships for the pre dreadnought era. The types modelled will be representative and there will be an obvious nod to the actual navy being depicted on the tabletop. The names will be fictional but will look recognisably like those of a given nationality. 

The ACW models will be first though, and I have a couple of ideas around what will be built. In the meantime though, I will need to wait on Warbases to get the order to me and then the fun can begin.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

The ACW in a Box (actually 3!)

Advancing in column of fours, a regiment of Union infantry march out to engage the rebels. 30mm Spencer Smith ACW figures painted by Old Painter Bob and organised as per Charge!

I think I am have finally hit the sweet spot in terms of the size and the look of the armies that I want to raise. Inspiration has come from many sources and if I am honest in my case I think it has been a combination of many threads. The biggest single influence has been Command and Colours, with a frisson of DBA (and its various derivatives) and of course, the continually evolution that led to the Portable Wargame series.

For the most part my interests are focussed on grid based games but with the added attraction of Dan Mersey’s ‘Rampant’ sequence and also the offerings from Neil Thomas.

I took the decision that all of my armies going forwards would be based individually to accommodate  various rule sets and that using movement trays is my solution for rules that are base driven rather than figures. Naturally this meant that Due consideration would need to be given to command and supernumerary figures, not only for the look of the thing but game use as required.

My interpretation of the ‘Formation in a box’ idea as championed by Bob Cordery and doubtless others! This is the Union box and the Rebel equivalent is identical

I have also imposed a limit on the physical size of the armies I will raise in that a single box file will be home to the entire collection of core troops. The picture above shows what I mean. However, wargamers being wargamers, there is always a margin for ‘project creep’. For me that means for the ACW collection the third box will contain the ‘specials’ - Zouaves for the Union, Texans for the Confederates and sharpshooters for both.

The above force can be sliced and diced in a variety of ways to suit any number of rules sets which is of crucial importance to me. The ACW collection is certainly stylised in the fashion of those wonderful Kurz and Allison prints but that does not bother me one jot. It may offend the ACW purist but again, it does not bother me one jot. They look lovely and I am really pleased with them. When I get to building the ships that will support them I am aiming for a similar ‘cartoon’ style - more ‘based upon’ than historically (or should that be hysterically?) accurate.

Once again many thanks to Old Painter Bob for his incredible generosity and interpretation.

Monday 14 September 2020

Return to Madasahatta

A fitting tribute to Eric’s campaign and a piece of wargames history.

A map of the island and for fuller details I suggest buying Bob’s book - you certainly would not be disappointed!

It is funny how things go around in cycles and then when they come into focus occasionally generate an idea or two. Madasahatta is course the island setting for the famous 1914 based campaign run by Eric Knowles in the late 1970s that I was lucky enough to take part in. My involvement was minimal as I only appeared at the very end of the campaign but it was very much one of the wargaming highlights of my life. Bob Cordery, another survivor of the campaign, coordinated the surviving documentation about the island, it’s topography, dramatic personae and the combatant forces and also penned a brief biography of Eric Knowles which he has published via Lulu. It is not a campaign history as such although the two campaign newspapers feature therein.

Bill, Eric’s son, has the remnants of the forces that were used and amongst these feature quite a few Jacklex figures. Jacklex have a new lease of life and new management and Mark Lodge, the new proprietor, is looking to expand the range. Thus far he has added the French in Mexico and, perhaps more significantly in the context of this post, German colonial troops. There are also Sudanese infantry which could double as Askari. Add in the ‘modern’ artillery models available in their US in Mexico range and you have a veritable smorgasbord of gaming potential.

In many ways Madasahatta was almost a Colonial campaign, featuring as it did British and German overseas troops and various varieties of tribal types - think Zulus and Mahdists/Afghans with some European settler types (Boers by any other name) and you can see what I mean. The fact it was set on an island meant that the naval dimension featured  so in many ways Madasahatta was a fusion of late 19th and early 20th century warfare.

I had flirted with an idea to shape an updated version of Madasahatta to include East Africa and the Arabian peninsula but this kind of grew out of all proportion to what I originally intended so I quietly shelved the idea. However, like a burr under the saddle, the lingering and siren call of the island is never far away.

In many ways raising forces based on the original organisation for the campaign would serve to satisfy many a gaming itch. It would be difficult (but not impossible) to refight the campaign but I am thinking that instead it makes a wonderful canvas to embark upon on one’s own Madasahatta adventures. Almost a kind of ‘Carry On’ style distraction. There is sufficient variety of forces therein to satisfy the most jaded palate or seasoned Colonial gamer.

At the opening of this post I mentioned about circles and such like and so it is worth mentioning that I saw a number of Jacklex figures in various parts of Eric’s Ottoman Turkish army of all things and I was struck by the elegant simplicity of the figures. The fact that the range is a going concern and with new models being added means that as a distinct possibility Madasahatta could reappear once again as a viable gaming setting.

Sunday 13 September 2020

Boot Sales, Billhooks and a nod to Charge!


I picked up these three in hardback for 50p each! There is a fourth volume but as my knowledge of the War of the Roses is limited to playing Kingmaker some 30 years ago I figured it might help get me up to speed. In any event it coincides with the below previously mentioned!

As well as being a thoroughly decent chap, Mr Callan writes exceedingly good rules!

With grateful thanks to Old Painter Bob for the various add ons he very kindly completed for me above is a complete Charge! Style artillery battery for the 30mm ACW project. 

The pickings at out local boot sale have been rather slim recently and today was looking as though it was going to be the same. Luckily, as we entered the final row we came across a whole smorgasbord of miscellany which included several crates of hardback fiction. I came across the three above and with thoughts of both Andy Callan’s excellent rules and the gentle persuasion of the renowned Trebian, I snapped them up. Would I ever game the period? To be honest it would be fun to do so but it is certainly not on the immediate horizon! Having said that, the temptation to throw some cash at a couple of Perry plastic box sets may prove to be irresistible!

The nod to Charge will be the first picture in an occasional series - occasional in that it depends when I can get the figures out - showing the 30mm ACW Spencer Smith collection organised as per Messrs. Young and Lawford’s classic book. At full strength each army will consist of an 8 figure cavalry squadron, three 16 figure line companies, a 16 figure ‘elite’ company (Zouaves for the Union, Texans for the Confederates), a 12 figure sharpshooter unit, a 2 gun artillery battery and a single gun and crew. On top of this lot are the command, musicians etc.

With the exception of the soon to be finished Texans and the two sharpshooter units, everything has been painted by Old Painter Bob.

They look really nice and I am looking forward t getting them into action at some point.

Friday 11 September 2020

Naval Scales or Does Size Matter?

A selection of WW1 ships in 1:3000th from the collection of Alan Cook

A 1:1200th scratch build by yours truly (with apologies for repeating the picture but I am rather chuffed with it!)

More 1:1200th goodies from the collection of Eric Knowles.

Regular readers of the blog will be aware of my fondness for naval games. In fact, I would go so far as to say that of all of the types of historical war game that I have ever taken part in, the naval version (I could also say the same about aerial and Sci Fi) was directly a result of joining the Newham Wargames Club way back in the late 1970s. It was not something that I ever gamed back on the Isle of Sheppey so being introduced to it by a combination of Messrs. Fox, Hardman and Knowles has given me a lifelong interest.

My first introduction was to WW1 using 1:3000th models and General Quarters Part 2. This then moved along to WW2 (in the same scale) and I also dabbled in the Pre Dreadnought era, again in 1:3000th, using a very detailed set of rules called The Devil at The Helm. These were great fun but when you got to the late pre dreadnought period, when ships were routinely festooned with an abundance of ordnance of a bewildering variety the system slowed down to a snails pace. In those days I built up a French navy fr the period 1895 up until about 1920. It was huge as in those days building up an entire navy seemed like a good idea....

Winding the gaming clock  back I was also first introduced to Napoleonic Naval via a set called Action Under Sail which quickly gave way to my favourite set for the period - Ship O’ the Line. These games were fought using 1:1200th scale ships. I tentatively started to build a Russian fleet for the period but it never went very far and the effort was abandoned when Eric launched the South East Asia Naval campaign using 1:1200th scale models and Fletcher Pratt rules on a table top.

Looking back I learned several valuable lessons although I did not fully appreciate them at the time - in fact I did not even realise that I had learned anything until very much later.

I like warship models but I am not a great modeller. The 1:1200th range produced by Airfix and Revell would be about the limit of what o would be comfortable building and using but in their raw form are a little on the fussy side with lots of fragile parts designed to catch clothing or fat fingers with equal aplomb. The same thing applies in my opinion to fully rigged sailing ships of war. Lovely to look at for sure but probably way beyond my concentration level!

Fast forward to today and where am I at in respect of naval wargames.

The largest playing area I can manage at home would be around 6ft by 4ft. The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that my recent game was fought on the floor in the man cave with its conveniently coloured carpet (not my idea I hasten to add but very handy all the same!). It was not a particularly comfortable experience! So, the table top it will be then.

I own a number of naval board games that have large scale fleet actions as their core topic. These include Avalon Hill’s Jutland, Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Flying Colours by GMT and you could also include the Yaquinto Ironclads family at a push (think Lisa’s) - more of which later. I also own the Avalon Hill game of Bismarck which includes both a hexagonal battle board for the intermediate level game and counters to use a la Jutland style for the advanced version.

Whilst fighting my recent game it struck me that using models is all well and good but it does raise a number of problems, especially for games involving dreadnoughts. It is obvious that even 1:3000th scale models are hugely over scale on a tabletop but they do look nice. For more accuracy 1:4800th or even 1:6000th would be better but whilst these models are nice to look at they suffer from availability in the UK. I know that there is an extensive range of 1:6000th models available from the US but these are not cheap and when you tack on the tender ministrations of HMRC become unpalatably expensive.

If I was going to go to that scale, which works a whole lot better in my opinion than 1:3000th for large scale actions, I would make use of the counters I have from the aforementioned board games.

I mentioned Ironclads with a caveat. For sure there were some large actions in the period but given that ranges were a lot closer using models is absolutely fine. I will be using the counters from the game either with a variant of Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames rules or any of the appropriate offerings from David Manley for larger fights.

Taking all of this rather rambling post into consideration - of course, anybody can model their fleets to whatever degree they like - I have settled on what I think will work best for me in terms of the games I intend to fight.

Age of Sail - probably no more than half a dozen or so models per side and as ranges are quite short then anything from 1:450th to 1:700th (don't ask me to rig anything though!). Anything larger will be counters based.

Ironclads - primarily the ACW And again with no more than half a dozen or so models a side so scratch builds are the order of the day and these will not be scale specific. Again, anything larger will be counters based.

Pre Dreadnoughts/WW1 - this is a tricky one in that I shall be using 1:3000th for when both sides feature dreadnought formations but for anything else - I am thinking for ‘Hunt the raider’ style cruiser  type games - 1:2400th. I envisage using anything up to perhaps a dozen models a side, with anything larger being counters based.

WW2 - Typically around half a dozen ships per side so I would probably opt for 1:2400th or 1:3000th with counters for anything larger

There is of course the 1:1200th angle which is certainly something I would like to use but this would certainly be less than half a dozen or som models a side.

One of the advantages for me of looking at this in the way I have is that what I need to acquire is very modest. I will no longer be raising whole fleets, rather I will be looking to get a good representative selection of models that will cover most eventualities and will give me sufficient variety. It will be goodbye to my previous naval megalomania!

Thursday 10 September 2020

By Dawn’s Early Light....The North Sea, 1914....Game Number 57, Part 2

I have stepped back from my original plan to increase the movement distances above and beyond the Jutland standard so will instead be using the movement gauge provided in the game. I have stuck with the increased gun ranges though, mainly because of the size of the models.

The British, led by the flagship H.M.S. Lion steaming north east....

....whilst the German, S.M.S. Derfflinger in the van, are heading due south

Aboard the bridge of S.M.S. Derfflinger the atmosphere was tense with anticipation. As far as Von Dervall could make out the British were attempting to head him off as as to prevent his force from reaching the safety of home waters. Whilst he was confident in respect of the quality of the ships under his command he could ill afford to get involved in a long drawn out action, especially as further smoke has been spotted to the rear of the British formation. Weighing up his options, Von Dervall decided that he would give the British a bloody nose - on his way back to Wilhelmshaven and safety.

Aboard H.M.S. Lion, Rear Admiral Inept stomped pugnaciously around the bridge, muttering curses under his breath as to the whereabouts of H.M.S. Tiger. He had ordered the turn that had separated the formation and rather than wait for the required acknowledgment had immediately gone to full speed to engage the enemy. The Commander of H.M.S. Lion - Captain E. Fishant - had pointedly mentioned to his Rear Admiral that the signal had not been acknowledged but, must to his chagrin, had been overridden. Being humiliated in front of his own bridge crew was not something he expected and his further interactions with the rear admiral were clipped and bordered on insolent, dripping as they were with sarcasm. It was wasted on Inept though as he blithely disregarded anything that did not agree with his overall plan.

Turn 1. Both sides maintain course and speed - the battle area marker is used to orientate the initial deployment and is normally in conjunction with the hexagonal plot maps supplied with the game.

Turn 2. Maintaining their existing course and with a combined speed in excess of 50 knots the two lines thundered towards each other.

The lines of great warships drew inexorably closer and within all was a veritable hive of activity as both sides made ready for action. Almost simultaneously the great gun turrets moved to face their enemies; their muzzles questing through the rapidly clearing morning haze, ready to unleash their deadly payloads. The range came down, called off at thousand yard intervals - “18,000 yards, 25 knots, course steady as she goes....17,000 yards, 25 knots, course steady as she goes....16,000 yards, 25 knots....”

Turn 3. At a little under 16,000 yards the German line swung south east and opened fire at H.M.S. Lion scoring a hit. Still the British came on.

First blood to the Germans as S.M.S Derfflinger scores a hit on her opposite number, H.M.S Lion.

The range had dropped to a little under 16,000 yards when Von Dervall snapped into action. He ordered the helm of the Derfflinger over to the south east, thereby opening his firing arcs. He also ordered the formation to reduce speed by ten knots which meant that he unsuspecting British would be in imminent danger of having their T crossed. The manoeuvre was superbly executed and the line was barely adjusting to its new heading when the great guns of the flagship thundered out across the tranquil early morning sea.

With a reverberating boom H.M.S. Lion shook as a German shell struck home. A great gout of smoke rose from the base of ‘A’ turret and obscured the bridge with cloying and acrid smoke. Hands reached out for anything that would steady then during the juddering vibration of the hit. Quickly the bridge crew resumed their duties as a deluge of damage reports, each one more urgent than the last, came in. Captain Fishant rattled out a string of orders to restore the ship’s fighting ability as he took stock of the damage. Thus far this was limited to a reduction in the speed of the turret traverse gear and some minor casualties. Fortunately the guns were pointing in the correct direction at the time the shell struck.

Fishant quickly realised what the Germans had done and that on their current course and speed they were sailing into a carefully laid trap. It was imperative that he could even the odds against them otherwise there was the making of a real disaster on his hands - and one month of his making.

Rear Admiral Inept surveyed the situation unfolding before him and did not hesitate. “The enemy has slowed so we must close the range and tough it out with them!” Fishant was aghast. Continuing on the present course was to court disaster as the deployed German battle line would be able to bring All their guns to bear with but a single ship able to reply - a damaged one at that. Fishant resolved not to waste lives by forcing a bad position and so made the only decision he could. He ordered the flagship to north west, in effect in the opposite direction to the Germans. It would be a passing engagement.

Turn 4. The German line, deployed on its new heading, is able to submit the British flagship to a punishing salvo but H.M.S. Lion, using her forward guns only, is able to retaliate, scoring a hit on S.M.S. Derfflinger 

The entire German line concentrates its fire on the first ship in the British line - the luckless H.M.S. Lion - but the Royal Navy are about to fight back.

The first hit on the German flagship.

Unfortunately 26,000 tons of warship travelling at 25 knots is not the most manoeuvrable of vessels so there would be some agonising minutes before the line assumed its new heading. Sure enough the Germans gleefully took full advantage and so the British flagship seemed to disappear under a forest of mast high shell splashes as 26 heavy guns - the entire German battleline - subjected her to salvo after punishing salvo. The ship was battered by successive hits and very quickly had her two forward turrets put out of action. Already carrying some damage A turret jammed completely whilst B turret was able to range in on the German flagship and was able to score a hit before being silenced.

Inept was apoplectic with rage at Fishant’s decision to turn across the German line and was about to voice his displeasure when the first of the latest round of German shells arrived. The shock of impact as the superstructure was hit knocked him off his feet and as he fell he caught his head on the edge of the chart table. His head was badly gashed and he was clearly unconscious. Under Fishant’s instructions the Rear Admiral was taken to the sick bay and in truth, he was pleased he was out of the way. His ship was sorely hit ‘Twixt wind and water’ but thus far nothing had damaged her machinery - a fact of which he was immeasurably grateful for as the British line prepared to run the gauntlet to safety.

Meanwhile H.M.S.Tiger was gamely trying to rejoin the battle line, all the while Captain Hyde-Bowned was desperately trying to find out what was happening ahead. There was plenty of gunfire for sure, but he needed to know where he should be aiming to position his ship.

Despite the minor hit to his flagship, Konteradmiral Von Dervall was well pleased with how things were playing out. His ships had made excellent practise against the leading British ship and had scored some telling blows. Most importantly though, was their decision to turn in the opposite direction to his meaning that they had abandoned any attempt to cut them off from their base. He had bloodied the nose of the enemy flagship and was feeling pleased with himself and his command when  the world seemed to fall in around his ears.

Turn 5. To minimise any further damage H.M.S. Lion swings her helm and is now heading north west - the opposite direction to the Germans. In doing so both sides are now able to engage their opposite numbers with full broadsides.

The excellent German gunnery batters the British line as the two sides speed off on divergent courses.

Despite the hammering she received from S.M.S. Derfflinger the British flagship managed to score some telling hits on her assailant.

As the British line assumed its new heading each ship opened fire against its opposite number, as fast as the great guns could be reloaded. A veritable blizzard of steel obscured the German ships as great gouts of shell splashes rose all around them. H.M.S. Lion, using her remaining two turrets straddled the German flagship and scored several hits whilst H.M.S. Indefatigable, the second in line, managed to hit S.M.S. Moltke. Only the final ship in the line, H.M.S Invincible, failed to register a single hit.

The German response was to engage their opposite numbers and they did so to telling effect. H.M.S. Lion was reduced to a shambles above the waterline with all her main guns out of action whilst the other two ships suffered minor damage.

Meanwhile, H.M.S. Tiger saw in the distance her squadron altering course and so Hyde-Bowned ordered her helm over to rejoin the formation as soon as she was able. Privately he was not looking forward to meeting with the Rear Admiral as the mistake would be laid firmly at his door.

Captain Fishant wanted to get as much distance between his ship and the Germans as possible considering the battering they had taken. For sure they could outgun and outnumber the Germans but every shell that hit had a cost. They could keep the Germans hemmed in which would work in the long term but would not deliver the ‘second Trafalgar’ that the public, and their flamboyant but currently indisposed rear admiral, so desperately craved.

As the respective lines passed in opposite directions and the range opened so, one by one, the great guns fell silent. There were contrasting emotions on the opposing flagships. The Germans were jubilant at causing the Royal Navy to break contact and with their noses bloodied for good measure. Only Von Dervall had any misgivings which he kept to himself. His ships may well be better than those of the Royal Navy but they had more of them and a greater weight of broadside for the most part. He was sure he could win an even fight but even the victor would need to count the cost of lives lost and damage sustained. One thing he was certain of, the British currently had 10 battlecruisers whilst he could manage 5. The long odds were in their favour and Von Dervall, for the first time in his career, felt the cold fingers of ultimate defeat reaching into his soul.


The game was short - 6 turns in fact - as the tactical system in Jutland assumes one move equalling 10 minutes. I used a variant firing table that did have any allowance for critical hits which was shame really as these certainly would have added to the flavour. I had forgotten just how much fun Jutland is to play but it it is not perfect - a fact of which I have been aware of for sometime. I have written pages and pages of planned ideas with this rule set and to be honest in my opinion it would not much to make it a really good system to use for naval battles. This is something that I would class as a mental project rather than a full blown one - the work can be fitted in as and when.

For now though it has given me a pleasant way to spend a few hours and I hope to revisit it again at some point.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Six Months Later....

A big surprise although knowing me, probably not!

Since early March of this year, when lockdown was introduced, I undertook what could only be a massive programme of DIY and on a personal note, looked to base the Del Prado collection. It has been a tough six months. Aside from my own brush with a mental health issue there has been a number of domestic challenges to be dealt with, all of which have taken their toll in one way or another. A staggered return to work in what can only be described as a very uncertain economic climate, a period of tropical weather and almost continuous running battles with assorted tradesmen has let me with little time for the fun stuff.

I should also mention the ongoing sorting out of Eric’s collections (happily coming to the end of a significant chunk of it), the sorting, packing and wrapping has eaten into the little hobby time I seem to have had. It has not all been unremitting gloom though. I managed to get a game in - using the Del Prado figures - And have kept up with the blog after a fashion. As is my usual default position during such circumstances of minimal time I tend to do a lot of thinking.

The Del Prado collection is no more. I have sold it in its entirety. The reason behind this was quite simple really and will probably strike a chord with many gamers. The collection features figures from what appear to be various designers and they vary from true 25mm to slightly bigger than 30mm. If you are using large units and the disparate figures are kept sufficiently far apart on the tabletop then it is not really a problem - after all, back in the day this was quite commonplace amongst our model armies due to limitations on what was available. Nowadays though, there is little reason to adopt such an approach and significantly, when one is using a smaller number of figures (Portable Wargame, DBA and Command and Colours I am looking at you!) any figure scale or style discrepancies become more obvious. This is something that acts like a burr under my saddle - whilst I have no problem fighting battles with abstract unit sizes (by that I mean the PW or C and C standard of 4 infantry, 3 cavalry and a gun with 2 gunners) I prefer it that the figures themselves are of a common stock.

With the best will in the world the Del Prado collection does not have this - and the more I looked at them the more noticeable it became.

The collection was too large for my needs and the effort required to get it closer to what I wanted became more and more challenging. Was this the collection I wanted to fight my Napoleonic battles with? With each passing week the answer became clearer - it was a no.

Once I have made a decision (about pretty much anything to be honest) I tend to act on it quickly and so after a couple of emails the transaction was concluded and so once again I am knee deep in bubble wrap, Jiffy bags and brown tape packing up a huge collection for onward transmission.

So now what?

One of the things that I have had much exposure to over the course of the last two years sorting through Eric’s collections is the value of using 20mm figures. Wind back to the early 1970s and my early efforts in raising painted armies revolved around what could be furnished from using 20mm Airfix figures. I suspect I was not alone in this! Moving to 25mm (eventually morphing into 28mm) was a way to raise your game and also to gain exposure to a wider range of figures than were available from Airfix - at least that is how it seemed back on the Isle of Sheppey.

Eric used a lot of 20mm Higgins figures in his WSS armies and also his Napoleonic collection. Most of this has all gone to its new home(s) but I have to say that seeing figures of this size certainly brought back many happy memories of painting up Airfix figures long ago.

I have availed myself of the 20mm WW2 bush hat wearing British and now have some opposition in the shape of a similar sized Japanese force. I like 20mm for WW2 and indeed, it is a scale that I feel comfortable with - from the painting side as well as for storage. It is my intention to use as my gaming standard what I call the ‘100 piece army’. Whilst not carved in stone I want my armies to be of around this size which will allow me to use my chosen rule systems and army size quite happily. Both of my 14th Army forces abide by this although given the subject matter there will be a need for some vehicles meaning that it will live in three box files rather than two.

The Napoleonic Wars

You could be forgiven for thinking that I have now abandoned the Napoleonic Wars but I can say categorically this is not the case! Inspiration (if any was needed) came from an unexpected source in that the well known blogger, Bon vivant, wit and raconteur, MSFoy of Prometheus in Aspic fame  very kindly sent me a box of Newline 20mm Napoleonic naval crews that were surplus to his requirements. They are quite splendid fellows so instantly thoughts of combined operations - raids, cutting out actions and similar sprung to mind. I have always liked this type of game/mini campaign and with the activity in the Mediterranean in support of the War in Spain this would be something that could potentially kill several birds with one stone. Inshore naval activity involving coastal convoys (no, not in 20mm!) would make for some great games and then the resultant land side could be bolted on. The allies made much use of shipping troop formations to silence shore batteries, raid some objective behind the lines or act in support of the Guerillas. In short, there is much to think about and for me and for sure it will tick a number of gaming boxes.

One thing for certain though, if anyone had said to me at the beginning of the year that I would be thinking about painting 20mm Napoleonic naval figures and raising Spanish troops I would probably have scoffed at the very idea!

Tuesday 8 September 2020

WW2 Indian Troops

After having removed the bush hat wearing figures from Eric’s 14th Army I decided to sort out the remaining Indian infantry. As was usual with Eric’s collections the variety of figure manufacturers on show was, as ever, plentiful! I have identified the Foundry offering but have no clue as to the others.

These are the smallest figures and are also the only ones wearing trousers rather than shorts. Note the vast array of prone riflemen!

No mistaking these from Foundry although I am unsure about the SMG armed NCO. Eric had converted a couple of prone Bren gunners into Boyes anti-tank riflemen.

This is the biggest batch - both in numbers and size

There are plenty of figures here and Eric had them all organised into units from platoon down to section level. Mine will not be quite so organised as I shall be using the figures on an ad hoc basis or rather scenario specific.

I also came across this fellow.

This is a mystery. He is 20mm hard plastic and is a British infantryman but I have no idea where it is from.

I have a small Battlefront order of some British bits and pieces to finish them off and so all that will remain will be some vehicles, some terrain and of course, painting it all. First of all though, the ACW collection needs some TLC.

Tuesday 1 September 2020

The Balkan War Afloat

Whilst in something of a naval vein I noticed that the indefatigable Mr. David Manley has been ‘at it again’. He has just written and published this rather spiffy tome which is, as is usual with output, a stonkingly good piece of work!

Available from the Wargames Vault this is a really great publication covering, as it does, a smallish war that is ideal for a mini campaign and would not cost vast amounts of money to set up.

The PDF contains a potted history of the war and the combatants, the Broadside and Salvo fast play rules and a campaign system including a map and the appropriate counters etc. I am probably biased but this is a Great War to fight naval battles in as the numbers are modest which makes it ideal for solo play or a club mini campaign. Just to help out I have listed the ships available and their proxies from the Navwar list as follows:


N8704 Hydra, Psara and Spetsai
N8732 Georgia’s Averoff
N8754 Aetos Class - Aetos, Hierax, Leon and Panther
N8152 Thyella Class - (use Austrian Huszar Class - Thyella, Lonchi, Nafkratousa, Spendoni
N3511 Keravnos Class - (use German V1 class) - Keravnos, Nea Genea
N1529 Niki Class - (use British C class) - Aspis, Dora, Niki, Velos


N5722 (use Japanese T67 class) - Drazki, Smeli, Hrabri, Shumni, Letyashti, Strogi


N8P10A Mesudiye
N3112 (use German Worth class) - Torgud Reis, Hayreddin Barbarossa
N8P08 - Asar-i-Tewfik
N8P33/33A - Hamidiye, Mecidiye
N8P32 - Peyk-i-Sevket, Berk-i-Sevket
N2521 - Samsun Class - (use French Durandel class) - Samsun, Yarhisar, Tasoz, Basra
N3508 - Muavenet-i-Milliye class (use German T/S165 class) Muavenet-i-Milliye, Yadigar-i-Milliye, Numune-Hamiyet, Gayret-i-Vataniye
N4702 Akhisar/Antalya class (use Italian Saffo class) - Akhisar, Alpagot*, Antalya, Urfa, Ankara*, Tokad, Drac, Kutahya, Musul 

*Sunk by the Italians in the 1911/12 war

N5722 Demirhisar Class (use Japanese T67 class) - Demirhisar, Sultanhisar, Sivrihisar, Hamidabad

The codes are the Navwar numbers and hopefully these are still the same. You may want to check some of the names - the Ottoman Steam Navy is a pretty good for this - as there are many ways of spelling these and naturally sources do not always agree!

For the non-naval gamer I cannot recommend this highly enough as it is manageable, tactically challenging and a great introduction to naval wargames.

By Dawn’s Early Light....The North Sea, 1914....Game Number 57, Part 1

Battle cruisers opening fire

The following game is dedicated to the memory of Alan Cook who recently lost his long battle against illness. Both the models and the copy of the Avalon Hill game Jutland were donated to me shortly before his death in the hope that good use would be made of them going forward. Unfortunately I was unable to get a game organised before his death but I hope that the following will serve, in a small way, as a fitting tribute to his memory.

R.I.P. Alan Cook

Somewhere in the North Sea, Autumn 1914....

H.M.S. Tiger

Captain I. M. Hyde-Bowned of H.M.S. Tiger was not in a good mood. His ship was bringing up the rear of the line and due to a faulty interpretation of a signal from the flagship had missed the turn ordered some fifteen minutes earlier. This had been rectified but the ship was now some way behind where it should be. To make matters worse, the rest of the squadron seemed to have gone to full speed so Tiger had to work up from the 12 knots she was making in order to merely hold station, let alone catch up and assume her correct station. Under his breath Hyde-Bowned cursed his squadron commander as being a hot headed fool - why did the flagship not wait for an acknowledgement of the signal? Why had they suddenly gone to full speed? These would be questions for another time he mused as all the while the great ship thundered ahead to reestablish contact with the remainder of the squadron.

H.M.S. Lion - Flagship

Whilst the Tiger was busy attempting to catch up with the rest of her squadron the bridge of the flagship, H.M.S. Lion, was a flurry of activity and of tense anticipation. Ever since the turn had been ordered in response to a sighting of heavy smoke and the ship cleared for action the buzz of excitement throughout had been tangible. The ‘hot headed fool’ of a squadron commander, Rear Admiral R. U. Inept,  had ordered full speed ahead (to maintain formation the order was for 25 knots) and had also instructed the accompanying destroyer escort to follow at best speed to the rear and off the aft quarter on the port side. The last thing he wanted was for smoke interference across the great ships firing arcs. Inept was champing at the bit to engage the enemy as recent muted, but nonetheless rumbling discontent in the press, due to his handling of the battlecruisers, had cast something of a pall over what had thus far been a stellar career. Inept was destined for high command but even so, a telling victory would allay any fears as to his suitability as well as cementing his place in both society and public opinion.

The approaching column appeared to consist of three heavy ships with a small escort all heading due south at what appeared to be around 24 knots. Inept’s squadron was steaming north east and ideally wanted to come between them and their escape route back to German waters. It would be a race to make sure that did not happen.

S.M.S. Derfflinger - Flagship

With his command on the return leg of yet another fruitless sweep just outside of Norwegian waters, Konteradmiral Noel Von Dervall was delighted at the reports of heavy smoke coming from the South West. He reasoned that this was a small force as the speed it was travelling at meant that the so called Grand Fleet would be left far behind. This was an important consideration as he had no wish to engage with superior numbers of heavier metal than he had at his disposal. It would be battle cruisers and knowing the British ships as did was confident that he could beat them. Whilst his orders did not permit him to engage the enemy unless in overwhelming strength he was able to do so in self defence. The British were attempting to get between him and Wilhelmshaven so he would need to either avoid them entirely or to fight past them. The former held little appeal and so the order to engage the enemy was given. From the bridge of the Derfflinger the orders went out to the rest of the squadron as the three ships made ready for battle.

The Opposing Plans

The Royal Navy aimed to cut off the German line of retreat and then rely on their heavier artillery to beat the Germans. Inept knew that H.M.S. Tiger would enter the fray at some point which would give them an additional ship advantage. Moreover, their weight of fire was superior as only one of the three German ships carried 12 inch guns whilst half of the British ships Mounted 13.5 inch guns. With the Royal Navy between the Germans and their base it would only be a matter of time before superior numbers and weight of fire would tell.

The Germans had no intention of being trapped by the British and in Von Dervall they had a commander that was not afraid to engage the enemy with his full force or required. Once his squadron was ‘base side’ of the Royal Navy he could dictate the course of the action as he knew that they would not dare follow the Germans too closely for two reasons. Firstly they would not want to be too close to the main High Seas Fleet base in case of a sortie by the fleet and secondly, there was always the risk of submarines or even minefields.

In either case, both sides would desire a speedy conclusion to any action.

The combatants. 1:3000th scale ships by Navwar as painted and based by Alan Cook. The only change I will make will be to repaint the bases to my usual standard with the name and ensign added and undertake any minor touching up required. 

The Game

The battle was fought using 1:3000th models and a slightly tweaked version of the rules from the Avalon Hill game Jutland. The firing rules assume a scale of  1 inch to 1,000 yards meaning a maximum daylight sighting range (again, within the game) of 24,000 yards or 24 inches. For movement a movement point equals 5/8th inch or 2.625 Knots.

For firing ranges I am going to use a scale of 2 inches to a thousand yards and for movement I am going to use the simple expedient of taking the ships maximum speed and dividing this by three to give the movement distance in inches.

The ships will be starting initially deployed at maximum daylight range (24,000 yards) with the Germans facing due South and the Royal Navy North East. Initially H.M.S. Tiger will be out of sight and off table, similarly there will be no light ships, destroyers or light cruisers, involved. All other rules remain as per Jutland although I am using the updated version which allows for secondary gunfire and a slightly different damage system.

Part 2 will see the action fought.

To be continued....