Saturday 31 October 2020

A Little Light Reading

 Oh yes indeedy!

Take a look at the goodies above! Freshly arrived this morning courtesy of a very smooth transaction these will provide a welcome reinforcement to the book shelves.

I am rather taken by the Official History of Operations in Persia - especially with the fold out maps - and although it will be a dry read will certainly have plenty of ideas. The two Marlburian titles will be very useful for my planned WSS WoFun outing and the Chinese naval book will give me some ideas for the pre dreadnought phase of my building project. Allenby’s War I have owned before but sadly is one of those titles that mysteriously vanished from the collection some years ago. Tip and Run covers the Great War in Africa and this is a subject that partially inspired the famous Madasahatta campaign. Finally the WW1 air title will be handy to have when I drag out my copy of Richthofen’s War or Aces High to play at some point.

The above came about as the result of some of my recent disposals and so represent another example of churning through my collection. Going in the opposite direction was a few non Waterloo Napoleonic titles. There is a further disposal that is worthy of mention. 

The 30mm Spencer Smith ACW collection has moved on. In fact, it has gone home which is only fitting and so Old Painter Bob will be taking the collection to the next level in ways that I could not have.

All is well.

Friday 30 October 2020

More WoFun and Games

More ECW goodness. At this stage all I am planning to do is to add another couple of guns and (possibly) a Scottish contingent

 The second part of my 28mm ECW WoFun order arrived yesterday and, with the exception of a couple of guns, is now table ready for action. I say second part deliberately as I am still pondering the Scottish side of the civil war with the Covenanters, Montrose and the Irish Brigade. The jury is still out on that one but I must admit I am weakening by the day!

The collection you see consists of the following:

8 x 48 figure infantry units

8 x 24 figure cavalry units

2 x 24 figure dragoon units

6 (soon to be 8) guns and crews

10 x command figures.

To put that into context we are talking about a collection of over 600 28mm figures that are table ready and that work out - allowing for shipping and everything else - at around less than 50p a piece.

Let that sink in for a moment.

It has taken me around three hours in total to press out the figures and bases and to assemble them. That included fixing the artillery rather more permanently and ‘colouring in’ the base edges. Quite by chance I have a really useful Letraset permanent marker which is identical in colour to laser singed MDF. A quick run around the edges and the base is completed. 

That is my famous edging pen and a selection of bases so you can see the edge issue and how I have gotten around it. Does colouring the edges of the bases in a permanent marker qualify me as a figure painter? (Tongue largely in cheek!)

Note to self: Make sure I order another one of these!

Despite being knee deep in ACW ironclads I have still found some time to think about what I shall be using the ECW figures for and there are a number of options to think about. I rather fancy a hypothetical set up based on a fictional West Country county which will be a lot of fun to do. I have a couple of rules sets to play around with in any event but my most pressing need is suitable terrain. From my stock I am able to furnish trees and possibly hedges but that will be it. I need to source some buildings but at this stage I am thinking about scratch building some representational types - farmhouses or similar. Oh and walls, lots of walls.

For me, and my legendary reluctance to paint figures, the prospect of raising two armies for any period and to be honest, in any scale,  of 300 pieces or so would not even enter my wildest dreams. With this product I am able to do so and so as I have mentioned previously, it is an absolute game changer for my enjoyment of our hobby. 

Meanwhile, back to the ACW ships!

Thursday 29 October 2020

Something Wicked this way comes....again!

The U.S.S. Potomac - newly commissioned and awaiting her paintwork

A rather better representation of the original U.S.S. Roanoke

 Despite my avowed intention to avoid where possible building actual ship models as opposed to representative types the temptation to build the model you see above was more than mortal man could endure. Under normal circumstances I would not have dreamed of building such a monster but given that I am enjoying building anything with a turret at present (I am really looking forward to the pre dreadnought part of this project) it seemed rude not to.

With this in mind I present the U.S.S. Potomac based on the U.S.S. Roanoke. The original ship was a sister of the C.S.S. Virginia of Hampton Roads fame and although their paths never crossed after their respective conversions it is fascinating to speculate how they would have fared against one another.

The model is ‘based upon’ rather than super detailed and took me around twenty minutes to build. I am rather taken with it and it will become the flagship of the monitor fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Douglas Mortimer who, now that his teeth have been attended to, is eager to get back into action.

I have one other monitor to build to complete this part of the collection and it will be a single turreted version. I have the U.S.S. New Ironsides on the stocks to build and am still mulling over the next three Rebel ships. I have in mind an idea for at least one and am also thinking about some small ironclads. Once this phase of the build is complete I shall be looking at gunboats and various permutations of paddle driven types.

It is great fun building these though and I am thoroughly enjoying myself!

Final Thoughts for the Time Being

A three turret monitor? It would be rude not to - so I will!

After some fairly intense work on drafting my tweaked version of Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames ACW rules I reckon I have now got the main donkey taken care of. Following my post of yesterday I ran a further play test incorporating the changes proposed and it worked like a charm!

The main effect I was trying to achieve was the ‘two ironclads battering away at each other, Hampton Roads style’ which meant the odd hit being scored and a gradual wearing down of the ships in question. The rules reflected this really well with long range shooting being for the most part ineffective but with the odd hit going in. The two ships cancelled each other out to a great extent but the overall flavour of the action felt as though the pace was right. I actually fought for 8 turns and when I eventually packed up both ships were still full of fight, battered but hanging in there.

There is still work to do and I need to consider the following:

Firing modifiers
Provision of Critical Hits
Shore Batteries
Mines and other obstacles

This is all to come but for now I am drawing a line under things whilst I get some more ships built. I am keen to do this if only so that I can increase the variety of types I can use. Mind you, of the two models I currently have under construction Only one of them constitutes being a different model to the selection I already have!

Wednesday 28 October 2020

The Mist is Slowly Clearing

 Can you tell what it is yet? There are two models to be built from the selection of bits and pieces you see above - both for the Union.

As a result of an email exchange with Bob Cordery and a blog comment from Archduke Piccolo my thought process has been set happily back on track in respect of the rule tweaks I have been experimenting with. 

In the first instance Bob drew my attention to the ship section in his recent book The Portable Colonial Wargame - a title I had completely overlooked! In this Bob outlined the formula he used for calculating ship flotation values which takes into consideration length, breadth, construction material and level of protection. This is really helpful although I have sneaked in a further construction method. Bob used a factor of 0.25 for wooden ships and 0.50 for Iron/Steel ships. I added in 0.375 for those vessels that used wood and metal for construction. Using two of my models as guinea pigs I was able to come up with the following hit points.

Union Monitor

10cm long by 2.5cm wide - 10 x 2.5 = 25

Iron Construction - 25 x 0.5 = 12.5

Heavy Armour - 12.5 x 2.0 = 25 Flotation Points

Confederate Casemate Ironclad

10cm long by 2.5cm wide - 10 x 2.5 = 25

Wood/Iron Construction - 25 x 0.375 = 9.375

Heavy Armour - 9.375 x 2.0 = 18.75 (19) Flotation Points

I think that is a fair representation between the two types so this would ordinarily be the standard I would use for calculating Flotation Points except for one crucial area. If I opted to use this as well as allowing for the effects of gun weight versus armour type I believe that I would in effect be counting the defensive capability twice. 

What I wanted was a system whereby the armour value had to be overcome in order to score damage rather than incorporating the defensive capability of the ship into its flotation points. In many ways you could call this the ‘Star Trek’ approach - defensive shields have to be overcome in order to effect damage.

With this mind I have dropped the armour modifier to Bob’s formula. This has the effect of bringing the flotation point totals in the above examples to 12.5 or 12 for the monitor and 9.375 or 9 for the casemate ironclad. To allow for the protection value of the armour a damage roll is made following a successful hit.

Archduke Piccolo with his comment nudged me a little further along a direction I had been seriously considering but had not explored fully. I am going to use a very simple firing method in that each gun rolls a single d6 to hit the target and having done so the target ship rolls for the effect of the said hit. There are three range brackets - short, medium and long with the scores required to hit the target being 4, 5 or at short range, 5 or 6 at medium and a 6 at long range. There will be situational modifiers as well as an allowance for using rifled weapons. Once a hit or hits have been scored then the effect rolls are made. The damage table is very simple in that 1 through 3 are misses, 4 and 5 are a single damage point and a 6 or more is two damage points. This is the standard damage template that Bob used in Gridded Naval Wargames.

To represent the effect of armour the following modifiers are applied to the damage effect rolls.

A heavy gun rolls as per the standard table when engaging heavy armour but gains a plus 1 to the damage roll when engaging a medium target and plus 2 when engaging a light target.

A medium gun rolls as per the standard table when engaging a medium armour but gains a minus 1 when firing at heavy armour and gains a plus 1 when firing at light armour. 

A light gun rolls as per the standard table when engaging light armour but gains a minus 1 when firing at medium armour and minus 2 when firing at heavy armour.

All guns firing at an unarmoured target will score as follows: 2 through 5 equals one point of damage and 6 equals 2 points.

In all damage rolls a natural 1 is always no effect and a natural 6 is always the usual 2 damage points unless there is an applicable negative modifier in which case it drops to a single damage point.

The above system is something I have used before with a set of Pre dreadnought rules so I know it works satisfactorily. 

I will need to test this further and so will organise a further action for later in the week. In the meantime though, I have the small matter of getting a couple of new ships built.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Letting the Tail wag the Dog

 Things that make you go Hmmm....

I should know better, I really should. I have allowed myself to be sucked down the complexity rabbit hole with my efforts to ‘tweak’ Bob Cordery’s ACW rules and am getting myself in a flat spin with unnecessary levels of complication.

I stepped back from the process and reckon that I have now found a workable compromise that addresses my needs.

If you recall the original firing system employed by Bob was based on the ‘x number of d6 at range 1 reducing a by a d6 for each hex’ This means in simple terms that more damage is likely close in and also that larger guns have a longer reach. This is all very straightforward and accurate and I certainly have no problems with the approach per se. Where it got a little fidgety for me was that there was such a wide variety of naval ordnance in use as well as protection levels of the myriad ship types in service I did not feel this was represented sufficiently for my taste.

I want to reflect both varying weapon calibre and protection levels and so am focussing my efforts on these elements. The first change I shall make is that there will be a single range for all weapon types - an idea borrowed from Andy Callan’s ‘Noddy’ rules. For the recent play test I made this 8 hexes but on balance this seems a little on the long side so I am scaling this back to 6 hexes. I am going to stick with the gradual reduction of firing dice that Bob used but it will be used in a different way.

I am going to maintain the ‘heavy, medium and light’ categories for weapons and protection levels and in the case of the former this will determine the number of firing dice thrown. Taking a heavy gun as requiring 3d6 you can see that Bob’s Turreted Monitor has a base roll of 6d6. This works out spot on as the two guns contribute 3d6 each. Bob has a maximum rage of 5 hexes for this type so it means at range 5 the monitor will be rolling 2d6 to hit. By extending this out to the desired 6 hexes it means that the monitor will be rolling a single dice to hit at maximum range.

Where this gets a little more complicated is when you start looking at at gun types. At the ranges used on the rivers and inland waters even the smallest naval artillery had quite a reach but if you, for example, adopted the dice reduction method to a single gun rated at 3d6, 2d6 or a single d6 the ranges would equate to 3, 2 or 1 hex which is clearly not what I want. The solution is quite simple and I do not know why I did not think of it sooner!

As I am looking at individual guns firing all I need to do is to assign range bands per type of gun that allow for range degradation. With this in mind I am using the following.

Heavy guns roll 3d6 at ranges 1 or 2, 2d6 at ranges 3 or 4 and 1d6 at ranges 5 and 6

Medium guns roll 2d6 up to range 3 and 1d6 at ranges 4 to 6

Light guns roll 1d6 throughout 

The effects reflect the fact that lighter and more handier guns have a greater rate of fire which is why they can still cause damage at a long range due to the sheer volume compared to such things as muzzle loading 15” guns.

Firing will be based on the number and type of guns multiplied by the d6 rolled for the range. There will be modifiers but these will be applied to the overall salvo rather than by individual pieces unless that is the only weapon firing. I have assumed (and this is how Bob works it) that all guns will engage the same target when firing. This will of course mean that the number of d6s rolled will vary from ship to ship but the ship record card will ring the changes.

As far as damage is concerned my thinking at present is to allow a heavily protected ship to roll 3d6, a medium protected ship 2d6 and a lightly protected ship a single d6. This is the same as I used in the previous play test.

I want to try this out using the same set up as previously but I will not write up the action for the blog as it is really a play test of a play test.

Overall I think I am pretty close to completing this stage of the rules although I want to add some provision for critical hits albeit at a fairly simple level. 

Onwards and upwards!

Monday 26 October 2020

Breakout and Pursuit?....Summer, 1864....Game number 59

 Following on from the recent successful attempt to break out of the Blackwater River by the C.S.S. Secessionist the Confederate command decided that a further ship should force the patrol lines and make their way to Immobile Bay. The two ironclads still up river at the small port of Hullbridge were now complete and ready for action although one was to be retained for local defence alongside the various other gunboats in in use. The C.S.S. O’Hara (Captain Butler commanding) was therefore ordered to make the attempt. As an aside Captain Butler had campaigned rigorously to make the attempt as he had important business in Immobile Bay that was vital to the Confederacy.

It was known that the Union employed monitors to patrol the junction with the Missenhitti and it was believed that due to the damage sustained by the U.S.S. Hiawatha in the recent battle with the C.S.S. Secessionist that only a single ship was immediately available.

What the Rebels did not know was the identity of the ship that was tasked with protecting the vital Blackwater junction.

The Combatants

The U.S.S. Senator

U.S.S. Senator

Protection: Heavy
Speed: 2
Armament: 2 x Turret each with 2 x Heavy Guns
Flotation: Value: 20 
Critical Point: 7

The C.S.S. O’Hara

C.S.S. O’Hara

Protection: Heavy
Speed: 2
Armament: Forward 1 x Medium (R), Broadside 1 x Heavy, 1 x Medium (R), Aft 1 x Medium (R)
Flotation: Value: 12
Critical Point: 4

The initial dispositions.

Turn 1. There was no firing from either side. The Union rolled a 1 for initiative opposed to the Confederate 3 so they moved first. Both sides maintained course and speed so moved 2 hexes straight ahead.

End of Turn 1. Note that the distance between the two ships is now 8 hexes or maximum gun range.

Turn 2. Both sides are able to fire - all firing is simultaneous - and do so. The U.S.S. Senator opens fire with her forward turret with two heavy guns. These roll 3d6 each but deduct 1d6 for the range meaning that 5d6 are rolled in all. The scores are 1, 2, 3, and two 5s so there are two potential hits on the Rebel ship. The Rebel player now rolls for his saving throw. As a ship with heavy protection he is able to roll 3d6. He rolls two 5s and a 6 meaning that he has ‘negated’ 4 hits - as he had only suffered 2 the damage was comfortably avoided. The Rebel ship fires back. Her forward gun is a single medium rifle so 2d6 are rolled. The 1d6 deduction for range is offset by the additional d6 for being a rifle thus reflecting the weapons accuracy. The Rebel ship rolls a 1 and a 2 so misses entirely. For initiative the Rebel ship rolls a 5 whilst the Union rolls a 6 so the Confederates move first. Both ships turned so as to enable their full broadsides to be brought to bear with the Union ship looking to occupy the centre of the channel.

End of Turn 2. Both sides attempt to get the most amount of guns to bear on their opposite number. The Union certainly have the advantage in this case with their turret mounted artillery.

Turn 3. The C.S.S. O’Hara opens fire with her forward facing medium rifle at a range of 6 hexes. Again she rolls 2d6 with 2d6 being her base roll, minus 1d6 for the range and plus 1d6 for being a rifle. She rolls a 1 and a 6 meaning that there two potential hits arising from he roll of 6. The 1 is of course a miss. The U.S.S. Senator rolls 3d6 for its heavy protection saving roll. The roll gives a 1, a 2 and a 6 meaning that the two potential hits have been negated. It is now the Union turn to fire and with both turrets able to bear it could potentially be very effective. 

Rule on the fly. I have decided that turrets must be fired individually and that gun types can only be massed if they are of the same weight. Also, rifled weapons are fired separately. The deduction for range is applied to individual guns. Light guns may always fire at long range with 1d6 but do not get the bonus for being rifled if applicable. I will need to think about this further.

Each turret has two heavy guns meaning a base of 6d6 each. However each gun loses a d6 as they are smoothbore weapons firing at long range, This means that each turret fires 4d6. The U.S.S. Senator rolls four 3s, two 4s, a 5 and a 6 meaning there are 5 potential hits. The C.S.S. O’Hara rolls her 3d6 to save and gets a 3, a 5 and a 6 meaning that she saves 3 out of a possible 5 hits. Two hits are recorded on her damage chart. Both sides roll for initiative. The Union roll a 1 whilst the Rebels roll a 6 so the U.S.S. Senator moves first. Both vessels turn into one another with the Rebel ship desperate to bring her full broadside to bear. This far she has been fighting with a single rifle so is heavily outgunned.

End of Turn 3. The two ships readying to exchange broadsides. The damage markers are for show and are removed at the end of the turn with the damage recorded on the ship chart.

Both ship continue to fire with the C.S.S. O’Hara still relying on her forward medium calibre rifle. Again she rolls 2d6 as the range is still long. She rolls a 2 and a 6 meaning there are two potential hits. The U.S.S. Senator rolls to save and scores a 3, 4 and 6 so the hits are discounted. She returns fire with 8d6 and scores an incredible two 1s, a 4, 3 5s and a 2 6s for 8 potential hits! The C.S.S. O’Hara rolls to save and scores a 6, a 5 and a 3 meaning that she negates 3 hits but still suffers 5.

The C.S.S. O’Hara has now sustained 7 out of 10 hits which means she is now 1 point below her critical level and must therefore break off the action as best as she could.


Whilst I am happy with the firing system I need to rein in it a little. A salvo firing double turreted monitor seemed to be overly effective so I need to think further about the gun multiples. An idea that occurred to me was to restrict heavy guns to only being able to fire every other turn (Andy Callan employs this in his ‘Noddy’ rules) or to allow damage savings rolls against each source of incoming fire. For example, the monitor would resolve the fire from one turret (including target saving rolls) and then the second turret (again, including savings rolls). Remember that during the period there was not really much in the way of centralised fire control. 

On balance I am thinking that allowing saving rolls per incoming attack may be the best way to handle this - certainly the C.S.S. O’Hara may well have appreciated it!

Sunday 25 October 2020

More on the ACW Naval Rules

Something a little unusual currently on the stocks - possibly two of them....The Confederates would certainly have appreciated having them on side! 

I think I am about ready to give my tweaked version of Bob Cordery’s ACW rules from his excellent book Gridded Naval Wargames. The nub of my thoughts I outlined in my previous post and after further consideration and endless jotting down of bits and pieces (with the occasional scribbling out) I have got to just about where I want to get to.

The next step then will be a test run but it will not be the last as I am conscious that at present the variety of model ships I have to use is quite limited. I have a further four ships currently on the stocks but these are very much at the top end of the spectrum being both well armed and armoured. Once these four are ready I shall be looking at the other end of the scale - gunboats of various sizes.

Further to my post of yesterday it is probably a good idea for me to outline what is what in respect of the various categories I am using where they differ or are in addition to Bob’s originals.

Ship Categories. The only real change here is that I am expanding out the Steam Frigate and Steam Gunboat categories to allow for armoured vessels in the former case and varying degrees of protection in the case of the latter - tin, timber or cotton. There will also be a bigger range of flotation points in play to reflect the various sizes of ship in use. A further tweak will be to record if a ship is fitted with or configured as a ram.

Ship Speed. One hex per 4 knots of speed - originally 5 but in retrospect I think 4 will allow for better modelling of specific types.

Flotation Points. 1 point per hundred tons up to 1,500 tons 1 point per 250 tons thereafter. the critical point is typically one third of the total so a vessel with 15 flotation points will have a critical point of 5 so when it has sustained more than 10 hits it must look to its own safety and break off the action where able to.

Protection. Heavy - armoured warships with proper plate armour, Medium - light armour or tin clad, Light - timber or cotton clad and unprotected - little or no armour.

Armament. Ships should have a diagram showing the location of their guns and these are rated as Heavy - 8” or 100 pdr plus, Light - 18 pdr or smaller with the Medium category being everything else. Note that guns classed as Rifled should be noted with the letter ‘R’ in brackets at the gun location e.g B H R is a bow mounted heavy rifle.

The sequence of play is identical to that in Bob’s original rules and the only procedural change really concerns firing. Bob used a sliding scale so that the number of dice rolled to hit reduces as the range lengthens. This is a tried and tested technique as it replicates both the reduced chance of hitting a target the further away it is and also the reduced damage effect when you do. It is both a simple and elegant system. As my version is differentiating between gun types a system that reflects these in needed. The approach I have adopted owes more than a passing nod (no pun intended, well maybe it was!) to the system that Andy Callan used in his venerable ‘Noddy’ rules for ACW riverine warfare from way back in 1984.

I have adopted the following range bands. Point Blank is range 1, Effective is ranges 2 though 4 whilst Long is 5 through 8.

Each gun rolls the number of d6 indicated by its type - 3 for heavy, 2 for medium and 1 for light. The number of dice thrown can be modified by a number of factors so, for example, at point blank range an additional d6 is rolled whilst at long range one dice less is thrown. An additional d6 is added if the salvo includes any rifled weapons firing at long range.

But what of light guns that only roll a single d6 firing at long range? I hear you ask. What indeed. The key part of this is that ships may only engage a single target with all the guns that bear. This may mean multiples of varying weights of ordnance. The addition or deduction of a dice for range applies to the entire salvo - not to the individual gun unless that is all that can fire. This means that for the light gun if it was on its own would not be able to hit a target at long range (unless it was a rifle gaining an additional d6).  

Once the number of firing dice have been rolled and the number of potential hits determined this is where the protection level of the target comes into play. Based on the protection level of the target ship the owning player rolls saving dice based on 3d6 for heavy protection, 2d6 for medium, 1d6 for light and none for unprotected. The chance to negate a hit is the same as for scoring one i.e. 4 or 5 negates a single point whilst a 6 negates 2 hits. I have changed this since yesterday as the system I was planning on using meant that the more hits you scored on the target the more chance they had to negate them. By setting a limit based on the protection level of the target this is not so much of a problem.

I considered allowing for the effect of different calibre of weapons opposed to varying levels of protection but to be honest this would have added a further layer of complexity that would not be in keeping with the spirit of the rules. I have assumed that any calibre of weapon has the potential to cause damage to any vessel regardless of its protection level. Remember that damage control during this period, especially in the face of the new technology in use, was very much in its infancy and so many of the safety features of later warships simply were not available.

The first of my play tests will feature ships that have yet to see action and it is worth pointing out that the after action report will not be filled with my usual purple prose - it will be strictly business. Well almost!

Saturday 24 October 2020

Developing Gridded Naval Wargames for the ACW

A great primer for the river battles with the follow on volume - Gunfire around the Gulf - extending the coverage to the sea.

I know, I know, they are old hat now but I still like looking at them!

The ACW naval rules in Bob Cordery’s book: Gridded Naval Wargames are great fun to use and give an excellent game as written. They are the product of much experience in respect of rules writing as well as a thorough knowledge and understanding of naval warfare of the period in question. It is fair to say though that the ship types depicted in the rules are pretty generic. This is fine up to a point but for the gamer that wants to drill down into the period then the application of some additional ‘chrome’ or detail moves away from the optional to the essential.

For me one of the attractions of the ACW from a gaming point of view is the incredibly diverse range of ships in use on both sides. From purpose built warships down to hastily requisitioned and armed civilian vessels the range in use by both sides is huge. Whilst I want to ‘ring the changes’ I most definitely do not want to go down the ‘rivet counting’ road of naval wargaming - this would be contrary to the spirit and flavour of Bob’s rules - and so a careful balance needs to be stuck with any additional features.

The more I read the rules as written the more confident I am that what I am doing will achieve that correct balance. To put it more succinctly, the rules will expand Bob’s original concept in a sympathetic way, there by preserving the all important ease of play and period ‘flavour’.

My additions will mean a degree of work on the part of the user in that a knowledge of the ships being represented will be useful. This is for a number of reasons. Speed, size, armament, and protection all play a part and will be needed for the ship record card.

I propose to detail the the four areas as follows.

Speed. Ships will be able to move a single hex for every 5 knots of speed. I need to think about turning as some ships were notoriously unwieldy to manoeuvre whilst others were quite handy by comparison.

Size. This is basically tonnage and overall dimensions. I will be using this as the basis of the number of hit points a vessel has but as yet have no specific formula in place. I am tempted to use Bob’s figures as the baseline for the types I shall be using and just tweak these up or down to suit. Certainly it would save a lot of work!

Armament. This will be one of the two biggest changes to Bob’s rules. Ships will have individual guns and these will be rated as heavy, medium or light. They will also have the positions noted on the ship record chart. I intend using the data cards from the Yaquinto game Ironclads for this information, either that or the ship data charts from David Manley’s rules. Under normal circumstances a heavy gun rolls 3d6 to hit, a medium gun 2d6 and a light gun a single d6. Firing will be as per Bob’s rules although with some additional steps in the process - nothing major, just to incorporate the revised weaponry.

Protection. I have no intention of working with armour penetration or hit location rules as this would be contrary to the spirit of Bob’s rules. All ships will be classed as having the following protection levels: Unprotected, Light, Medium and Heavy. My plan at the moment is to combine the protection level of the target ship into the firing process. Essentially the firer rolls the number of dice required by the weapon type and the range etc. Let us say that the target ship has a medium level of protection. The firer rolls, for example 4d6 and scores a 4, a 5 and a glorious 6 (meaning two points of damage - the 4 and 5 are but singles or 4 damage points in total). The target ship has been hit by 3 dice. It does not matter what weight of artillery has caused the hits - it is the protection level of the target that is important. A medium protected warship rolls the number of dice equal to the number of dice that hit but minus 1 dice. In this example then, the target was hit by three dice but has a saving roll of two dice. The chance to negate hits is the same as scoring them - a 6 negates two hits (not dice) and a 4 and 5 single hits. The target ship rolls their two dice and scores a 4 and 6. This is in effect 3 ‘saves’ so taking these from the hit points scored means that the target ship has sustained a single point of damage. Ships that are lightly protected roll two less dice to negate potential hits whilst unprotected ships do not have any saving dice. Obviously a target ship may roll well and negate all the incoming hits.

I rather like the mechanic of opposed dice rolls and certainly think that this is in keeping with the spirit of the original rules.

All of the above are very much works in progress and so I need to spend some time writing then down (tidying my thinking as I go!) And also to think about trying them out. Another outing on the Missenhitti River may well be in order.


Friday 23 October 2020

Thoughts on the Missenhitti River

The inspiration for the Missenhitti action - chock full of rules and ideas for building one’s own ships as well as some actions fought using the systems therein

The contents

 Well the inaugural action has been fought and there are plenty of positives to take from it, and a few things for me to work on going forwards.

The Physical Stuff

This was the first game I have fought using my Hammerin’ Iron gaming mat and I was pleased at how it looked although it is a little darker than I would routinely use. As it represents a stylised stretch of river naturally the banks will play a part in reducing the area available but this is fine and certainly well suited to the majority of actions I shall be fighting. I used my MDF hills to add some variety but these are smaller than the hexes of the mat - 4” as opposed to 4 1/2” across the flat sides. I shall order some MDF hexes of the appropriate size for terrain purposes in due course. I will also look to make some shore batteries and forts etc but this is a way off as I want to focus on the ships for the time being.

I was really pleased at how the ships looked on the mat and am now committed to the style of models and paint job I used for my future naval scratch building projects (of which there are a further two after the ACW)

The Rules

I had planned originally to use a variant drafted by Mr Fox of the ACW set contained in Bob Cordery’s excellent Gridded Naval Wargames book but for the life of me I could not lay my hands on them! The rules I ended up using were my own spin on Bob’s original set which are very much a work in progress but showed a lot of potential. 

There is much to be done with them but I am trying to stay as true to the original concepts as far as possible. The only amendments in place at this stage concerned movement - I increased the speed of both the monitors and the casemate ironclad from 1 to 2 - and firing. 

The firing system I am working on takes elements from Andy Callan’s venerable set so that guns are rated as heavy, medium or light. Each gun rolls the number of d6 equal to its size so heavy weapons roll 3d6, medium roll 2d6 and light 1d6. Hits are scored in the normal way - 6 equals 2 points of damage, 4 or 5 equals 1 and 1, 2 and 3 are no effect. I allowed a reduction of the number of dice rolled depending on the range which varied according to the gun size. I used 6, 4 and 2 hexes being heavy, medium and light respectively but am looking to refine this. It worked well for this action but made for a speedy game. 

At the conclusion of the game both the CSS Secessionist and the USS Hiawatha had but a single damage point remaining and were both required to break off the action. As a game outcome I have no problem with this at all but it seemed a little to easy to score telling damage. Given the close ranges that most of these actions were fought at I am satisfied that hitting the target would be easy enough. What I am less convinced of is that every hit will score damage - especially when dealing with fully armoured warships. Having said that, if a hit ‘found it’s way in’ then the outcome could be severe as ships of this vintage were not built with the damage control and safety features of later vessels. In many ways damage was ‘all or nothing’ when considering ironclads duking it out. I also believe that the old chestnut of the ‘critical hit’ is something that is hugely significant in this era as much of the technology was new, untried even and above all, fragile. 

How would this be allowed for? I have a few ideas I am playing around with but have yet to fully develop. The main thing I want to do is to stay as close to the original rules as I can because I believe the core concepts are sound and work well. With this in mind the only immediate change to the firing process will be to categorise gun types on a given ship as heavy, medium or light and with their own dice roll. 

I do not want to get involved with armour penetration tables - these would be inappropriate to the feel of the rules - but I do want to be able to reflect the effects of it when a ship is fired upon. The easiest way would be allow the target ship to have a saving throw. Say the firing ship scores hits with three dice. The target then rolls the same number of dice in an attempt to negate them. This will result in some, all or none getting through to cause any measurable damage. This would be a very simple fix. However, I am thinking about the wide variety of ship armour present - from fully armoured ironclads down to wooden and unarmoured civilian ships pressed into service, not to mention the various other ‘clads’ - tin, cotton and timber. 

As far as critical hits are concerned I really want to avoid huge tables detailing every part of the ship’s anatomy. My thoughts at present are limited to hits affecting the following areas - bridge, power plant, steering and weaponry. I am also considering having ship specific damage points although using Bob’s ideas as the norm so some will be better or worse as research dictates.

All of these points are looking to add a degree of personalisation to the sship types within the broad categories listed in the book. The ACW from a naval perspective had such a diverse range of craft in use that I believe reflecting these differences is important. It is easy to add detail but the trick is to add in such a way that it stays true to the original concepts so as not to overbalance the rules.

It is a tribute to the strength of the core concepts of Bob’s rules that they can stand a fairly robust amount of tinkering without breaking!

In Summary

I thoroughly enjoyed the game and am looking forward to both building more ships and also to developing the rules further to better reflect what I want from my games. I am satisfied that the ships look as I want them to and that this will be my build standard going forwards - easily offended purists look away now!

The rules have given me a solid foundation to work on and I am going to enjoy the process of honing them to suit my needs.

My thanks to Bob Cordery for not only excellent book and rules system but also for the priceless gift of the Missenhitti River.

....Also my apologies to Mr Fox for losing his version of the rules....D’oH!

Thursday 22 October 2020

Return to the Missenhitti River....Summer, 1864....Game Number 58

For the most part the mighty ‘Grandfather of the Waters’ - the Missenhitti River - was under the control of the Union having been secured over a lengthy campaign through the Confederate heartland. It was not entirely free from interdiction by Confederate forces though and so required constant patrolling to ensure the safety of the river traffic. The Rebels would often launch raids from the numerous tributaries and creeks along the rivers meandering banks using a variety of craft and so a watchful eye was needed by the patrolling Union forces.

USS Hiawatha (with the white turret band) and the USS Pocahontas patrolling the mouth of the Blackwater River where it flows into the mighty Missenhitti.

One such patrol, consisting of two single turret monitors - the USS Hiawatha and the USS Pocahontas - had been tasked with ensuring that the mouth of the river Blackwater was kept free from Confederate interference. It was known that the rebels had been building a number of ironclads of various sizes and in numerous locations and that the upper reaches of the Blackwater, currently still in Confederate hands, was considered to be an likely area where such work could be undertaken.

What the Union did not know was the full extent of the rebel ironclad programme in this area. 

Earlier in the year the casemate ironclad CSS Missenhitti inconclusively engaged the Union monitor the USS Admonisher. The rebel ship was damaged and withdrew but unfortunately she ran aground on an uncharted sandbar and as the river level was falling the decision was taken to salvage what could be readily removed and to fire the hulk. The armour, artillery and the all important machinery was safely taken further upstream and formed a valuable resource for the raw material challenged Confederacy. The CSS Missenhitti would fight again across not one, but three vessels.

Of the three vessels at various stages of construction the first to be completed was also the largest. The CSS Secessionist was a conventional casemate ironclad modelled after the CSS Missenhitti but larger. The decision to build such a large ship was driven by the need to break the Union stranglehold on the river but it was not without its problems. The river was currently at a high level and so was sufficient for the passage of such a large vessel but, if she could not break into the main river she would risk being trapped upstream as the waters fell. The plan was for her to break into the main stream and to head for the coast. There she would seek refuge under the guns of the Rebel port of Immobile Bay. The CSS Secessionist was accorded priority in materials, construction and manpower as the Confederates raced to get her ready for action. Work on the smaller ironclads - the sister ships CSS O’Hara and CSS Wilkes - continued as well as could be managed under the circumstances. It was fortunate for the Confederacy that both of these smaller vessels would be ready soon after the CSS Secessionist - mainly due to the efforts of the wealth and influence of the two plantation owners after whom they were named.

Hugging the banks where possible the CSS Secessionist noses along the Blackwater River, seeking an opening to make her bold dash into the Missenhitti.

As soon as she was ready the CSS Secessionist was ordered to break into the Missenhitti and make her way at best speed to Immobile Bay. Engaging the patrolling Union forces was not her primary mission but should she have to then she was to use maximum force to fulfil her orders.

At the mouth of the Blackwater River....

Captain Beauregard Gaylord surveyed the opposite bank with satisfaction. Thus far there had been no sig of any Yankee activity - either on land or on the river. It was just as well he thought, as the CSS Secessionist was not quite the mighty man of war that the ‘politicos’ thought she was. For sure she was large and spacious with a powerful battery of four heavy guns and eight mediums and well armoured with it but her machinery was secondhand and worn. It had taken a minor miracle to get her running at all but so far she was holding her own. He was counting on getting some much needed spare parts when they arrived at Immobile Bay and then he would give the Yankees something to think about! With that comforting thought in mind he went back to surveying the route they would be taking, all the while the rhythmic thump of the engine taking him closer to his destination.

Commander Douglas Mortimer of the USS Hiawatha was in good spirits. The patrol had been uneventful and he was looking forward to heading back to base for some much needed rest and relaxation as well as having a particularly nagging toothache attended to. So far he had kept the worst of it at bay with copious quantities of scotch whisky and clove oil but at long last he would be able to get it dealt with.  All they now had to do was to circle the small island ahead (known locally as Gambler’s Rest as it was a favourite place for marooning card cheats and scoundrels) and his small command could head back. 

Commander Mortimer’s dental woes were about to be forgotten as his pilot shouted out urgently “Smoke off the port bow!”

The opening positions

Simultaneously the same shout was made in the pilot house of the CSS Secessionist as what looking like a Union monitor hove into view, seemingly heading straight for them. Gaylord issued a flurry of orders as the guns were readied and deep in the bowels of the ship the engineers and stokers went to work with a will and a silent prayer that the ship would hold together.

Mortimer, fuelled by rather more whisky than may have been prudent immediately ordered full speed ahead and bore down on the enemy ship. Meanwhile, the USS Pocahontas, appeared puzzled by the sudden change of course that the flagship had taken - as yet the enemy ship was invisible to her - but prepared to follow her in any event. She would not have long to wait to find out why.

Turn 1. As the CSS secessionist rounds the point she spies the Union ship bearing down on her.

Gaylord weighed up the situation in an instant. He ordered full ahead to ensure that he would be able to engage the enemy with a full broadside rather than with only his forward guns. Whilst the broadside battery was lighter there was more of them and the rate of fire was higher. He hoped to be able to deluge his opponent in a storm of fire. Mortimer meanwhile ensured that the turret was kept centred on the enemy ship which required constant adjustment as the range closed. The USS Pocahontas then had her first glimpse of the enemy.

Turn 2. As the range closes both sides ready for action as best as they can.

Almost simultaneously the CSS Secessionist and the USS Hiawatha opened fire to telling effect as both scored a single hit apiece. The USS Pocahontas desperately tried to close on her sister ship to provide support and made ready to engage as soon as she was able. Meanwhile the rebel ship turned to run along the opposite bank whilst the USS Hiawatha closed in.

Turn 3. Like two prize fighters the engaged ships circle one another, each looking to secure an advantageous opening. Note the white hit markers signifying a single hit. 

Aboard the USS Hiawatha all was not well. The pounding she has taken at virtually point blank range had caused a myriad of minor problems that had threaten to overwhelm her crew. Armour plates had buckled, leaks had sprung just about everywhere and casualties were beginning to mount.Commander Mortimer new that it would be inviting disaster to go in so close again so reluctantly he ordered the ship’s helm over to try and move out of range of his tormentor. The USS Pocahontas, racing to follow has also engaged the rebel ship at extreme range and was delighted to see her shells strike home. The gunners on the CSS Secessionist had been magnificent and the pounding they had given their Union opponent was rewarded by her turning away. Under normal circumstances Gaylord would have turned the ship to finish off her opponent but his orders, and the rapidly closing second enemy warship determined otherwise. However, In their haste to engage the rebel ship the Union force had committed a grave error.

They had left the black door open....

Turn 4. The battered USS Hiawatha turns away from the CSS Secessionist whilst the USS Pocahontas makes ready to engage more closely.

Despite her damage the USS Hiawatha manages a parting shot against the CSS Secessionist along with the speedily arriving USS Pocahontas. Commander Mortimer, praying that his battered ship will hold together long enough for him to be able to fall back, urges his crew onwards - ‘Don’t give up the ship!’ He exclaims, his voice hoarse from shouting over the din of battle and two many cigars accompanying his whisky. Meanwhile, aboard the CSS Secessionist, Captain Gaylord surveys the wreckage of the gun deck and plans his next move. He has much to think about.

The CSS Secessionist was ordered to breakout into the Missenhitti river but this early encounter Has left her captain in a quandary. His ship is sorely pressed and has extensive damage. Should he turn back or press on and trust to luck that he can evade any further entanglements? With the noise of battle, the clang of shot and shell striking metal, the cries of the wounded and the ever present strident crack of naval artillery, Gaylord makes the only decision he can.

Turn 5. The USS Hiawatha limps away from the fight as the equally battered CSS Secessionist attempts to blast her way past the fast approaching USS Pocahontas. 

Almost as quickly as it started the action dies away to a tarnished and violated quiet. The CSS Secessionist trades passing shots with the fast approaching USS Pocahontas and such is the accuracy and effect of her fire the Union ship swerves away from her collision course. Did she ever intend to ram the rebel ship? Certainly the subsequent court of enquiry felt that she should have. As a result her captain never served afloat again despite the fact that ramming a ship that was not only larger than you but that also muster a crew to board far more readily than a monitor could. The USS Hiawatha continued to limp away from the scene but her commander’s fate was a very different  one to that of his former colleague - higher command and accolades followed (as well as the much needed dental work).

The CSS Secessionist was a wreck, a moving wreck to be sure but still a wreck. Her captain marvelled at the fact her engines had held up under the strain of action but she was in no condition for a rematch. Fortunately for her the nearest Union ship was heading in the opposite direction and the other was too knocked about to be a threat. Gaylord would head at best speed to Immobile Bay and hope that he could make it unchallenged.

Turn 6. Endgame. The CSS Secessionist has found the open door but at what cost? She has gotten to the Missenhitti River but is a parlous condition. Her captain will be hoping for a safe and uncontested passage to Immobile Bay and also that the necessary repairs could be effected. Given the current situation the Confederacy found itself in the likelihood of either was slim.

It was a fun game to fight and I shall post an after action, after action review in my next post. The models looked really effective and the simple styling and paint job will be my standard going forwards.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

....And Confederate Ironclads

The CCS O’Hara (left), the CSS Secessionist (centre) and the CSS Wilkes (right). The two smaller vessels are near sisters differentiated by the CSS O’Hara having its pilot house set further back. This was due to confusion over the measurements used during construction - imperial being read as metric!

The first of the Confederate warships arising from my current project have finally appeared. Much like the Union ships featured earlier they are ‘loosely based upon’ rather than representing specific vessels. For both sides all I need to do is to varnish them and organise the flags. They will be appearing in action - at least some of them will be - later in the week.

The largest of the three has been christened the CSS Secessionist whilst the two smaller near sisters are the CSS O’Hara and the CSS Wilkes. 

All six virtually ready for action

As I have mentioned previously, these six models, whilst pretty simple to build, did give me a few problems along the way. I like to think it was because I was a little out of practise on the modelling front as well as working in a larger scale and with newer materials than I previously used.

I have really enjoyed these first steps back into ship building and am looking forward to adding to this particular collection - and I am looking forward to the next two mini projects along similar lines.

Union Monitors....

Despite my best efforts to the contrary these are quite simple to build! There is little one can do with an ACW monitor in terms of super detailing but they are quite imposing all the same. These are (from the top) the USS Senator, the USS Hiawatha (with the white turret band) and the USS Pocahontas - all of which are currently serving on the Missenhitti River.

 I know I said that the first time you would see these would be in action but I was feeling pleased with how these came out and so thought I would share them!

These are the three monitors that I have built as part of the planned ACW Naval collection. The single turret models are loosely based on the Passaic class of monitors whilst the twin turret version is based on the Monadnock class. The key part of the last sentence is ‘loosely based on’!

The hulls are pre cut 3mm thick MDF from Warbases with the large hull being 5” by 1 1/4” and the smaller 4” by 1”. The turrets are 20mm across and are made up in a laminated style of three sections - the middle of which has indentations for two gun barrels. I have not added the muzzles as the weapons in question are inboard for loading purposes. The pilot houses are 10mm circular bases again, 3mm thick. the funnels are cut from dowel rod - 8mm and 5mm thick for the large and smaller funnels respectively. The deck hatches are 1/4” square and are cut from the lid of a magazine tub! They are painted overall Humbrol Matt 79 with acrylic black for the funnels and white for the turret bands. The models merely need a coat of varnish and the flags to be complete but as yet I have not organised the latter!

Next up will be the Confederate opposition and I hope to have these completed in the next day or so.

Monday 19 October 2020

The Further Adventures and Misadventures of a Ship Builder

I have been after this for some time so it is a welcome addition to my painting collection.

 It has gotten to the stage whereby I seem to be contriving to trip over every obstacle that - real or imagined - appears on my modelling table! There is nothing major for sure - just a seemingly endless succession of small irritants. The six models Under construction will be finished this week But I managed to shoot myself in the foot yesterday with the purchase of a bottle of the above during a flying visit to Basildon.

Games Workshop Nuln Oil is essentially a black wash and I have been keen to try it out as I have seen some really quite special Results when used on machinery - tanks, weapons, robots etc. Personally it looks like a machine oil black so Is not has harsh as a pure black wash. I have a couple of painting projects I wanted to try this out with when I suddenly thought about weathering ironclads.

There is no doubt in my mind that this would be perfect for the correct sort of model. By correct I mean one that is detailed and therefore warranting an in depth ‘shaded, highlighted and washed’ level of paint job. Not by any stretch of the imagination do my models fall into this category!

I gave the two largest models a coat of this and whilst it provided an excellent foundation for the aforementioned ‘shaded, highlighted and washed’ level of paint job I would be less than honest if I said that the detail of the models I am building would be worthy of it. Left on its own it looked pretty awful but  with the appropriate attention would look fantastic. This was certainly not part of the mission plan For what I am building.

Why did I do it? Probably because I could and that curiosity got the better of me. All was not lost though (only a day or so) as it meant that the second coat of paint I was mulling over became essential rather than a perhaps. I am pleased that I applied the second coat as it has given the base colour a deeper richness as well as providing a better smoothing out of any surface imperfections. I am using primarily Humbrol enamels for these models - Matt 79 for the monitors and Matt 40 for the casemate ironclads.

Nuln Oil will be a very useful addition to my paint collection - just not for the rather simple looking models I am currently building!

Cunning plans afoot with these bits and pieces and indeed, some only occurred to me when they arrived!

In other news my order from Warbases arrived and it is a doozy! It is really satisfying seeing one’s plans turned into reality and these pieces (there are naturally multiples of each item!) are going to be really useful with my shipbuilding plans. For now I have a couple of bits and pieces to think about to complete the MDF collection and one these have been scoped out I will be well placed for the three projects I have in mind. 

Friday 16 October 2020

On the Home Straight - For Now!

Finally at the painting stage. Three Union monitors and three Confederate casemate ironclads. The latter have the funnels and pilot houses waiting to be painted before fixing - mainly as I need to paint the wooden roof of the casemates. I hope (fingers crossed!) to get these painted over the weekend and in action next week.

 I have tripped myself up on a couple of occasions during the construction of the six models you see above. From my perspective it is worth me pointing out just where things want a little awry for future reference and whilst there was nothing too dramatic it proved to be chastening experience on a couple of occasions!

My previous models were constructed largely with balsa wood for the hulls and main parts of the superstructure and a combination of craft sticks and coffee stirrers. Odd bits and pieces featured and I remember using plastic card for the gun port covers.

Balsa wood I found ver easy to work with although it needs careful handling. It is easy to shape and could be sanded as required very easily - in fact my building process always allowed a couple of millimetres hear and there so that the models could be sanded into shape - particularly when building angled casemates. 

The models I am building now are on the face of it easier as a certain amount of the material was pre cut (the hulls and turrets although there will be more). However, this advantage was initially squandered as I tried to build the models using my old ‘allow a couple of mill here and there and sand to size’ technique. MDF does not take filing very well! No major disasters but a degree of careful trimming with a very sharp knife put things to rights. The lesson here is to make sure that all measurements are a lot more accurate than I previously did. 

I did struggle with raw material as much of what I used previously I no longer have - mainly on the plastic side - so I was forced to improvise. The gun port covers and deck hatches are cut from the lid of a magazine tub! 

For what I  shall be using these models for they have come out rather well. I thoroughly enjoyed the building process and several valuable lessons were learned. I have owned out the painting schemes I shall be using and they will not take long to get into fighting trim. I am not finished with the naval side of the ACW by any means and have plans for around another dozen models. This was certainly more than I envisaged originally but my plans have evolved slightly.

I am looking forward to the next two ship building projects. The first of these will be some ocean going Ironclads from the 1865 to 1885 period - probably centred around the late 1870s. I have a hankering for some naval imagi-nation style gaming involving those two doughty adversaries Fezia and Rusland. Following on from that - which will feature around two dozen models - I shall be looking at the pre dreadnought era, agin this will be from an imagi-nation perspective and will probably be featuring Fezia and Rusland once again but who knows?

In any event it is really good to be back building ships again and with the new techniques and the advantages of laser cut MDF, it should be a lot of fun. That’s before I even get to the table top!

Thursday 15 October 2020

The English and American Civil Wars and Beyond

Not quite finished but getting there. These are the three Union monitors that will provide opposition to the Confederates. I need to add a few fittings for detail but the design is such that that there is not a great deal one can add! 

 I am pleased to report that my modest list of disposals (at least at this stage) has continued to meet with a degree of success and so I have been able to order everything I need to complete the 28mm ECW WoFun project. Many thanks to those readers that took a fancy to come of the bits and pieces - it is much appreciated.

In many ways this is a project that is completely at variance with how I would usually do things - I tend to acquire books and rules at the outset - so having two large and gaming ready armies at the beginning is a pleasant change! It has thrown up a rather delicious dilemma though.

Many years ago, when I was first seriously looking at the ECW as a gaming period I read a biography - I cannot remember who it was by - of Montrose and of his campaigns. I rather liked the idea of salvo firing Irishmen and charging highlanders but I never got around to taking it any further. Fast forward to now and WoFun have a selection of models covering the Scottish campaigns  - Covenanters, Highlanders, Irish and cavalry within the ECW range. It would not take a lot to add these in to the existing set up but I am unsure if this would be the right thing to do.

I am committed to adding to my Wofun collection (at least for those periods that use Peter Dennis for the artwork) but my current thinking is to look at something different. I would like something either ancient or horse and musket and if it is to be of a similar size to the ECW set up it will require being properly resourced in terms of finance and the associated background material.

My thinking at present is looking at a particular period but with a twist. Currently available is a range for the ‘45 and also for the War of the Spanish Succession. I am seriously considering a set up for the latter but with selected elements from the ‘45 range so as to cover the ‘15 (and the ‘19) if required. This would certainly maximise the use of the armies and I already have some good background material on the earlier Jacobite wars. In a way this has highlighted my reservations about adding the Scottish element to the ECW collection. How many armies featuring charging highlanders can one person field? It is all very much in the ‘thinking about’ rather than the planning stage and would not feature until next year in any event. I may even revisit the potential of the Scottish part of the Civil War but for now it needs to be put to one side.

In other news the ACW ironclads are moving to their final stages. The build has taken slightly longer than I anticipated, mainly due to some domestic duties but also because I have needed to relearn some old construction tricks as well as developing some new ones! It is all coming together though and so the plan to get a game in with the collection is still very much on the cards for sooner rather than later. I will be finishing all 6 models and the ‘grand opening’ so to speak will be in action in a game setting. I am really keen to get my Hammerin’ Iron mat out and so that will provide the scenic backdrop.

Monday 12 October 2020

Slowly but Surely....

U.S.S. New Ironsides. Not in my original building plan but would be straightforward enough to cobble together. She would certainly give the Confederates something to think about!

A combination of domestic circumstances and travelling kept me away from the man cave for a lot of the weekend so my ship building plans were delayed somewhat. All is well now though, and I am back at the ‘sealing’ stage of the two Confederate ironclads.I hope to have these two undercoated first hing in the morning so that the painting can commence. Whilst that is underway I will get the three Union Monitors built. Assuming all goes to plan I hope to be getting them on the tabletop by the end of the week.

I probably mentioned that Warbases are currently working on my second batch of ship jumble and whilst the main bulk of this will be for the post ACW ironclads I do have a hankering for adding a couple of ships to the ACW - for some reason I have been looking long and hard at USS New Ironsides.

Down the line at some point I shall be tackling some pre dreadnoughts and the associated escorts but for now I want to focus on the ACW and the follow on Ironclads. There is no rush, I want to enjoy the process.

The great disposal is underway and so I am happy to report that some positive progress has been made. Gone are the 3mm bits and pieces, the Napoleonic naval stuff and the Risk figures - both lots - are currently being discussed. This will enable me to add to the WoFun 28mm ECW collection and assuming all goes to plan I may even be able to complete it. I say complete because at this sage I am only looking at the English part of the Civil War. Whether or not I venture not Scotland is a moot point - at this stage I am inclined not to as I rather fancy one of the Jacobite rebellions next. WoFun cover the ‘45 and also produce a range for the War of the Spanish Succession. It would not take too much effort to combine the two but this idea is neither fully formed, financed or likely to happy for a while. It is also for this reason i want to complete the ECW set up rather than diluting my efforts.

Finally, I would like to ask a question of the hive mind in general. I am looking for a good single volume overall history of the English Civil War so does anyone have any recommendations? I already have Lipscombe and Haythornthwaites classic title so any pointer s would be appreciated as the last time I read anything for the period it was by C.V. Wedgwood!

Many thanks in advance.


Friday 9 October 2020

Back to the Business in Hand

C.S.S. Palmetto State in action. This small ironclad is the very loose inspiration for the two currently under construction although when they are built the only similarity will be the layout of the guns!

 Work on the other two Confederate ironclads has resumed and I am hoping to have them built today. This will give me the weekend for painting as well as the construction of the Union monitors. My second order to Warbases is currently being readied and should be with me early next week. This will mean central battery ironclads and also broadside types as well as some smaller stuff - this is not for the ACW but something a little later, for no other reason than it will be fun to do.

It was suggested to me that perhaps a ‘how to’ blog post about how I have been making my ships might be a useful guide for those thinking about a similar project. I would be really happy to do this but rather embarrassingly at present I am still refining the building technique. To begin with I am no longer using Balsa Wood and at present there is a lot of improvisation of materials and techniques during construction! Once I have the process properly dialled in then I will be delighted to pen a post or two. It is certainly something I will be pleased to do.

Mention of Warbases has reminded me of what a splendid fellow Martin (Mr Warbases) is. When he emailed me after I sent my second set of diagrams he pointed out that he had made a mistake with the original batch. One of the hull shapes was 1/16th of an inch out. I had noticed it but it really was not going to be a problem as far as i was concerned and I did not bother mentioning it. Martin however, had other ideas and so ‘fessed up’ to the minor error and so is sending me that part of the original order at the the correct size forward of charge. Now that is what I call quality service! The net result is I shall only be using Warbases for my bases and other small MDF bits and pieces going forwards.

Well done Martin and Warbases and many thanks once again!

The recent ‘Dreadnought’ moment has set in motion a number of events of the ‘massive disposal to raise monies for more WoFun’ type. The main thing will be to clear the decks and rest assured that although I am not giving the stuff away it will be modestly priced. I am listing at a general level what there is and should anyone be interested in anything please email me at and we can see what we can thrash out.

NOTE: Everything is unpainted, unassembled and on the sprues where applicable!

20mm Metal Napoleonic Naval - British and French crews including command, boarders, gun crews, British Marines and naval guns. These are all Newline. There is around 150 figures give or take and 10 guns

20mm Metal WW2 14th Army and Japanese - Each side consists of 50 to 60 riflemen plus lmgs, hmgs, light and heavy mortars, command and gun crew. Also there are 14th army engineers and Japanese anti tank infantry. In total there is around 200 figures including artillery - (around 8 14th Army and 6 Japanese). The figures are a mixture of FAA (14th Army) and Frontline for the Japanese.

15mm Metal WW1 Arab Revolt Irregular Miniatures. Around 60 Turkish infantry, two machine guns and crews and two field guns and crews, a dozen cavalry and a command including a staff car. The Arabs have around 60 foot and a dozen each of cavalry and camelry. There is also two hard plastic PSC German 105mm howitzers and crews.

20mm Risk Medieval Semi Hard plastic Figures. There is two of each of the four armies that come with the game.

12mm (?) Risk Hard Plastic 18th century and Napoleonic figures. There is a couple of full sets of the former and one of the latter.

30mm Spencer Smith kepi wearing ACW infantry and cavalry. Originally planned to use for a Pacific War style set up so also includes a couple of Krupp FPW guns and a rather nice kepi wearing French mounted general using Binoculars. Around a hundred foot and 20 mounted with the guns.

1:600th/3 mm Tumbling Dice infantry (close and loose order) cavalry and artillery for WW1. There is also a selection of vehicles produced by Oddzial Osmy - British male and female tanks, Whippets, A7Vs and Rolls Royce armoured car. Brigade Models Middle Eastern buildings and Oddzial Osmy produced palm trees and trench sections. There is also some Peter Pig ACW artillery and command as well some terrain from the Hammerin’ Iron range - a couple of forts and a rather nice resin farm complex.

Canny readers will have no doubt noticed that I have not mentioned the 30mm ACW Spencer Smith painted collection. For the time being this is staying put and indeed, I want to paint the final pieces for it to finish it off. I have yet to consider its ultimate fate but for the foreseeable it is not going anywhere, at least not until the painting is finished and I have been able to get some games from it.

As mentioned if anyone wants to know more about any of the above drop me a line.

Thursday 8 October 2020

That Dreadnought Moment....

The first of the all big gun battleships - H.M.S. Dreadnought 

On the 10th of February 1906 H.M.S. Dreadnought was launched and in one fell swoop rendered all other battleships currently in service obsolete. Although not quite as historically significant I enjoyed my own personal H.M.S. Dreadnought moment yesterday. The arrival of my WoFun 28mm ECW starter set has been the the most significant thing in my personal Wargames journey since I first set foot in the New Model Army Limited way back in the 1970s. For me it has rendered all my conventional figure based gaming aspirations obsolete.

How is that for over the top dramatic impact?

Seriously though, it has really given me much to think about and has served to hasten a decision I had more or less already made and have been obliquely mentioning in the last few blog posts. 

My decision is more evolutionary than revolutionary and involves what is for me the ongoing issue I have with painting Wargame figures. Therefore, and this point on, I am not going to bother, unless it is for something very low level - man to man skirmishes or something like Space Hulk or Heroquest. Naturally ships or anything non organic is exempt from this as I enjoy both basic scratch building and painting the results thereof. 

Simply put then, no more painted wargames armies will be produced by me (no great loss there since the last ‘army’ I painted was a 15mm DBA Ancient Numidian army using Essex figures roughly 20 years ago, give or take!) so Elvis has well and truly left the building!

No more time spent on trying to justify calling a collection of three dozen figures an army, no more time spent looking through figure catalogues or ruing the one key figure missing from x companies range, no more poring down long lists of paints and wondering about the merits of gloss/matt/satin/acrylic/enamel/oil or anything else. No more worrying about flocking, filling, shading, washing, highlighting and varnishing and spending hours painting bases etc.

For those that enjoy the collection and painting of figures I have nothing but respect and admiration but simply put, I do not.

From now on if I want a visually appealing spectacle of a game I will use Wofun - pure and simple. The block armies will have their place as will the board games but for a tabletop battle with massed armies it will be WoFun. Personally fielding an army painted by Peter Dennis is no bad thing - he can do it far better than I ever could!

Levity aside, this is a really big deal for me because, to be frank, I have been wedded to the idea of using figures for as long as I can remember so cutting them out entirely, despite really not enjoying that part of the gaming process, has been a surprisingly difficult call to make.

Wofun has given me a really viable alternative to the use of figures and it is one that I intend to embrace as fully as I am able.

On the face of it it probably seems expensive and for sure, a look on the website shows some fairly hefty looking price tags. However, consider this, The 28mm ECW starter set is Euro 117 plus Euro 32 for the bases. Call it Euro 150 for convenience. For that you get 4 x 48 figures infantry regiments, 2 x 54 figure cavalry regiments, 8 x guns, 32 x gunners and 16 assorted mounted command, 17 if you include Prince Rupert’s dog....

A stirring scene indeed. Fifteen sprues worth of 28mm Landsknechts. These are from the collection of Andy Callan and the picture is used with his permission for which my grateful thanks are given. Andy assembled this lot over the course of yesterday afternoon....

Taking an average box of 28mm plastic infantry with 40 figures as an example one would expect to pay around GBP 20 a box. So £100 would get you 200 infantry. So far so good. Add, say 10 boxes of cavalry to give you some mounted commanders and a couple of boxes of artillery and you could easily get to getting on for some GBP 300 not including bases (unless you used those provided) and you still have to paint them. Allow for the paints, scenic materials and the time to ready them for action and then think about just how much that army has really cost. Naturally this is offset by the enjoyment factor which varies from person to person. The essential thing is, however you slice and dice it, WoFun is actually not that expensive overall but obviously is still a sizeable investment for anyone. It is also ready to use on the table top in an incredibly short time.

You could say that I am comparing apples with oranges and up to a point I would agree but the essential truth is that this is a viable way of fielding meaningful looking armies on a table top - in a way that would add bulk and substance to such things as Command and Colours or Portable Wargame style battles. Representing a C and C block or a Portable Wargame strength point with a single figure or a base of figures is not a new idea and is certainly effective. A WoFun base typically has 8 foot or 6 mounted figures which really adds substance if you are using them on a ‘one base equals one block/point’ basis.

In a way I am very fortunate in that I am not heavily invested in any particular scale of figure so making the leap into a new style of gaming representation is probably easier for me than for many. Certainly if I had sizeable collections of traditional figures I may not be quite so gung ho.

For now there are many things for me to consider. I want to add to the ECW collection for completeness and so am getting an order together. I will look at another period to use WoFun for and I am also looking at adding to the block armies. I also need to think about disposing of those figures that I do have in order to finance the new additions. Terrain will need to be addressed so I will have a think about that along with the rules I will be using for the ECW.

On a separate note work has resumed on the two Confederate ironclads and so the build of these should be completed tomorrow. Whilst they are being painted I will be building the Union Monitors and in the meantime a new order has gone into Warbases for the next phase.

It has been an eventful couple of days for sure but I finally feel as though I have found my particular niche.

Let the games commence!