Monday 30 November 2020

Union Monitors Along the Missenhitti River

The four Union monitors sporting between them 7 turrets! To be honest there is not a great deal you can do with a monitor although I have seen some incredible paint jobs across the internet! I will be adding flags in due course and the turret bands are in fact white but came out cream looking under the lighting in the man cave.

 I have not gotten as far as I would have liked with painting the current batch of models - real life threw up a couple of issues - but I have managed to finish the last of the Union Monitors so she can join the rest of the squadron as the flagship. The U.S.S. Potomac (based on the U.S.S. Roanoke) joins the U.S.S. Senator (based on the U.S.S. Monadnock) and the U.S.S. Hiawatha and Pocahontas (based on the Passaic class). The U.S.S. New Glory (based on the U.S.S. New Ironsides) will be finished next followed by the two Confederate ships. In the meantime I need to think about the last two models I shall be building for this batch - one for each side. 

The U.S.S. Potomac on the lookout for Confederate ironclads

The use of Warbases for the laser cut hulls and turret pieces was definitely one of my better ideas and whilst I have intentionally made these models very simple, indeed toy-like, they have come out rather well. As mentioned I plan to build a further two models for this batch before moving on to the Colonial style gunboats etc for use with Madasahatta. The building techniques will be similar and I must confess that working ‘by eye’ rather than pursuing anything remotely close to scale is a hugely enjoyable and liberating experience! 

Saturday 28 November 2020

ACW Fleet Lists

I know the Confederate Naval Ensign was different to the above but the picture is quite evocative.

As the current batch of four ships are currently ‘under the brush’ I thought it might be a good idea to list the ships of the collection and their names. I have opted for hypothetical names so any resemblance between them and anything historical is purely coincidental and not intentional! Having said that the models are very much ‘based upon’ actual historical types and their names/classes are in brackets.

Union Fleet

U.S.S. New Glory (U.S.S. New Ironsides)

U.S.S. Potomac (U.S.S. Roanoke)

U.S.S. Senator (U.S.S. Monadnock)

U.S.S. Hiawatha and Pocahontas (U.S.S. Passaic type)

Confederate Fleet

C.S.S. Cheops and Sphinx (C.S.S. Stonewall)

C.S.S. Secessionist (C.S.S. Louisiana/Mississippi any of the larger Confederate casemate ironclads really)

C.S.S. O’Hara and Butler (pretty much any of the small to medium sized casemate ironclads with a single gun port fore and aft)

The Confederate fleet is far more fluid in respect of the inspiration for the models and I intentionally kept the casemate ironclad designs simple for ease of construction. I plan to add a small ironclad to the Confederate fleet but then it will be gunboats and converted merchant vessels including paddle driven types. The same will apply for the Union in respect of gunboats etc although I am toying with an obvious deep water type. 

I have not read too much about the blue water naval operations of the civil war but I know there was a lot of activity so I am thinking that the old naval standby of ‘hunt the raider’ may be fun to do. Another alternative would be a Confederate attempt to get one of their newly European built ships back home.

I had even thought about building a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea style Nautilus....

As ever plenty to think about!

Friday 27 November 2020

Madasahatta: “There is nothing a German Officer cannot do”

General Freiherr Wilhelm Von Boozy, Iron Cross (First Class) with his ADC, Trottel, seen on manoeuvres in Germany prior to their transfer to Madasahatta.

When we last visited Madasahatta we had a situation whereby the French had set up a small landing  stage midway along the Northern side of the Ogopogo Delta. This was garrisoned by a detachment of the French Foreign Legion and had been set up to ensure that the flow of French gastronomic comestibles to El Toupee and the French Embassy in Port Maleesh was uninterrupted. The arrangement suited everybody - Makmi Anoffa continued to ‘turn a blind eye’ for as long as he received his percentage. Jacob Geltmeister, the principle German trading partner, was excluded from this cosy arrangement - El Toupee was his enforcer after all - and so, with his boss, General Freiherr Wilhelm Von Boozy, Iron Cross (First Class) - the governor and military commander of the German Colony of Hansaland - they made their plans to disrupt this cushy little number thereby ensuring that French comestibles would attract the higher tariffs (of which a percentage would find its way into the coffers of Geltmeister and Von Boozy).

The German Response

Whatever his shortcomings as an individual (which were many and varied) Von Boozy was no mean commander. He was well aware that any overtly military action would attract the attention of the British and he could ill afford the potential diplomatic repercussions. The honour of the Fatherland demanded some action against the accursed French for this outrage (actually as his income stream for the usual tariffs on French goods had been interrupted, Von Boozy was also a financial pragmatist) and so he resolved to do something about it.

After an exceptionally chilly ice bath, a strenuous workout and a large helping of Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, Von Boozy, his faithful Dachshund, Hochhetzen at his feet (being a small dog that was as high as he could reach) and his obsequious ADC Trottel set to work over a large map of the Ogopogo Delta.

Unknown to all but a handful of the German High Command the dense and seemingly impenetrable jungle on the northern side of the Ogopogo river had in fact a long and meandering narrow stream that started due East of Gindrinka’s Kraal and emerged very close to where the unsuspecting French had built their small landing stage. The stream was overgrown and infested with all manner of disease bearing insect life,  poisonous plants, venomous snakes and crocodiles - and that was in the easy stretch - and so was largely unknown and unused. It had been ‘rediscovered’ by the famous Boer big game hunter Isaac Maarten Bloemingdeer whilst on a hunting trip and who, at an exorbitant fee, had offered to act the guide for the German expedition. The stream itself could just about support a small launch so Von Boozy would need to use three of these meaning that a platoon would require three vessels with Bloemindeer in the leading craft along with the platoon commander, Oberleutnant Dieter Von Trumpf.

Oberleutnant Dieter Von Trumpf was a highly regarded and efficient officer currently assigned to the 1st Battalion Askari Infanterie stationed at Festung Teufel charged with watching the Breakneck Pass. Is record was exemplary, mainly because he possessed that rarest of qualities - an almost pathological unwillingness to deviate by as much as one iota from the text of the German Army Officers handbook. If it was not in the book then it could not be done. He could be relied upon to follow any orders given to him without question and to the letter. This endeared him to Von Boozy who would not tolerate any displays of initiative from his junior officers. Von Trumpf was fully convinced of the fundamental correctness of German military training and doctrine and through the sacred and hallowed pages of the various field manuals he regularly carried about his person (even, it was rumoured, in the bath!) and via them his oft repeated mantra of ‘There is nothing a German Officer cannot do’ was nothing short of a statement of bald fact. He was also a royal bore of the first order. 

When selected by Von Boozy for command of the landward part of the operation he immediately consulted the relevant section of ‘Schlieffen’s All the World’s Battle Plans’ and drew inspiration from the text therein. Truly he would be striding in the shadow of giants and as long as the right hand sleeve of the right hand man brushed the right hand or northern edge of the waterway all would be well because Schlieffen had said so and his word was gospel.

Isaac Maarten Bloemingdeer (his business card had his name as I.M. Bloemingdeer) was a first rate hunter and tracker and was a well known personality - both on the island and across Africa. He organised hunting parties for the rich, famous and richer still and so his services were eye-wateringly expensive. Von Boozy had nearly turned him down flat until Geltmeister pointed out the advantages to having someone that could actually find his way about through the trackless jungle of the expeditions route. The cost could be written off as expenses and the potential long terms gains far outweighed the short term bill.

The naval side would be rather more straightforward. A German merchantman would anchor in the road stead and would send three small picket boats - with a platoon sized landing party - to attack the landing stage under the guise of ‘clearing out a nest of dangerous pirates and criminals’. The small matter of the French Flag would be airily dismissed as being ‘false colours’. A gunboat was to be made available to support the landing and the plan required the landward assault to arrive simultaneously with the naval one.  This was going to depend on how well Bloemingdeer could navigate the meandering, fever ridden waterway through the heart of darkness....

On the face of it the plan was a sound, if complex one. The French would be assailed from all sides and quickly overwhelmed. The landing stage would be destroyed and any comestibles carried off as seized contraband. In the confusion of battle mistakes are made and the so the party line was that it was all a case of mistaken identity. In the meantime though, the diplomatic part of the operation had began with the first of a series of strongly worded notes to the authorities at Port Meleesh as well as making anti-piracy overtures to the British. Von Boozy considered the diplomatic smokescreen to be of pivotal importance as it was imperative that everybody acknowledged the aggrieved status of the Germans in respect of how badly smuggling was impacting on the finances of the colony (no mention of course being made of Von Boozy or Geltmeister’s involvement in the said trade) and that they had the right to protect their property and the lives of their countrymen, by force if required.

Von Boozy had gambled on the indifference of the authorities in Port Maleesh and that the British would be unconcerned unless there own traffic was in anyway impeded. In this he was correct as smuggling and piracy were almost a way of life in the Arab Concession and the British were far enough away not to be overly concerned by low level German naval activity.

Both the Arab Concession and the British had overlooked one small thing in all this bluster and German sabre-rattling. 

The object of all this diplomatic ‘flam and paradiddle’ was not any old gang of smugglers or pirates - it was the French.

To be continued....

Thursday 26 November 2020

Undercoated and ready to go

No prizes for guessing what I will be doing this weekend! The items on the green milk bottle lids will be fitted in place once painted - same with the masts.

The four models I have been building are now undercoated and ready for me to start painting. The two Union vessels - the three turreted monitor and the ‘not quite U.S.S. Ironsides were by far and away the easiest to build of the four but that was mainly due to the construction involved in the masts for the two Confederate ships. 

I am some way from realising the Essex based ACW project - the first port of call will be doctoring a map - but I have made a start with some ideas for place names etc. To be honest getting this part of the project done will probably require the most effort but I am looking forward to tackling it. Supporting the ship models will be the block armies which will be having a minor upgrade in due course. 

As mentioned previously I will build a further two models for this group meaning that I will have twelve in all which will be fine for this phase of the project. When I get back to the ACW I will be looking at gunboats and similar with some paddle steamers for good measure - at present this will mean another dozen ships.

In the meantime though, research has begun on the Madasahatta shipbuilding programme - which will be primarily low level stuff - gunboats, tramp steamers, coasters and assorted inshore craft. I am really looking forward to this and so will also need to continue the evolving story concerning the activity along the banks of the Ogopogo River delta.

So at present I have a great selection of model making, writing and planning for my various projects, all of which are good fun and so I am thoroughly enjoying myself!

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Ship Shaping and Brigantine Fashioned

Nearly there! The overall sailing rig I am happy with although it is a little on the ‘heavy’ side. I have also yet to decide about fitting the top spars. The ‘heavy’ style of construction was for practicality as much as anything as it ensures that they masts etc are reasonably sturdy

One of the two internet guides I used - this is a paper model, and very nice it looks as well!

Thoroughbred Models 1:600th version 

It has taken a little longer than I planned but I certainly did not want to rush the process! I have finally completed the four masts for the two Confederate ACW ironclad rams based loosely on C.S.S. Stonewall. These have been built with strength in mind so lavish quantities of glue and cunningly placed pieces have been the order of the day. They are not strictly accurate but certainly pass muster as looking more or less what they are supposed to. 

The main differences - I am not going into fixtures and fittings etc and am only mentioning the big stuff - are the hull form in that I have not been able to represent the ram bow and tumble home of the original and the fighting tops are the wrong shape. These are larger than they should be as they play a clever role in adding strength to the whole thing as the spars are for most part glued directly to them as well as the masts. Once the mast assembly has been sealed prior to painting this will provide another layer of strengthening to the whole thing. The subsequent paint and varnish will also help.

I have used strategically placed Blu Tack for the photo shoot as some of the pieces will only be added once the hull has been painted. This includes the funnel, masts, ‘turret’/gun house and the bowsprit. 

I learned a lot from making these masts and for sure there are a couple of things I could have done differently but it is all part of the learning process.

I have two of these at this stage of building and have decided that they will maintain their undercover names of Cheops and Sphinx. I have also taken the liberty of using the turret/gun house as a turret. The Confederates had ordered a pair of double turreted ships that became HMS Wyvern and Scorpion so my two ships really represent a hypothetical composite type that could have been built. 

I can at last get these sealed and under coated prior to painting, along with the USS New Ironsides and the three turreted Roanoke - both of which I need to think of names for although the monitor will be the USS Potomac.

I shall be using the paper model colour scheme above for the two Confederate ships as well as the USS New Ironsides. The plan is to then build two other models - one for each side - so that I have a dozen completed and then the ACW will be parked for the time being. I shall return to it as I need to build around another dozen models but first up will be some models for Madasahatta.

I am really enjoying myself with this model making - it is hugely therapeutic!

News of the Crusades


Oh yes indeedy! I am really excited about this expansion so hopefully I will not have too long to wait before it is available

Command and Colours: Medieval is the base game in what I suspect will be a large series covering the wars of the late Roman Empires up to the Renaissance period. I acquired a copy of the base game in anticipation of the expansions that would cover the periods that would be of most interest to me. This would be the period of the great Arab Conquests and of the Crusades in the Middle East as my primary interests and for the latter I have quietly amassed a good selection of reading material with the avowed intention of gaming it at some point.

There have a been a few Crusades near misses over the years in that I have looked at a few rule sets and even got as far as buying some as well as a selection of figures but thus far this has come to naught. What of Command and Colours Medieval then? Well, to be honest the period of the base game - the wars ‘twixt the Late Romans/Early Byzantines and the. Huns, Goths and Sassanid Persians - are interesting but it was not for them that I originally purchased the game. It was always acquired as the stepping stone onto other periods of greater interest for me. Having said that I have retroactively picked up some reading material about the period to round out my knowledge and to put the scenarios into some kind of context but it was always a kind of ‘take it or leave it’ interest. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the acquisition of some reading material has led me to develop rather more of an interest in the period than initially - such is the way I routinely get seduced into projects!

Chronologically one would have expected the first expansion to cover the period up to the Crusades so the early Arab Conquest and the rise of the Vikings etc would feature. This I would have really enjoyed but Richard Borg and the team at GMT Games have pulled a rabbit out of the hat in the shape of the first expansion being described as part 1 of the Crusades. The expansion is currently in what is known as P500 status meaning that once it gets to 500 advance orders then it goes to press. Take a look at the blurb from the GMT Games website and you will see what I mean.

I am really excited about this expansion as the Crusades are probably my favourite period from the medieval world (the Arab Conquests come a close second) and to have it ‘Command and Coloured’ is a great development. Best of all I still have a ton of Risk: Europe medieval figures (roughly 20mm and very generic looking) that could serve for the period with little difficulty. I am now rather pleased that I hung on to these as they had been earmarked for disposal!

All being well this will be certainly something to look forward to next year at some point.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Madasahatta: The Naval Dimension

A superb set of rules with a neat campaign system for refighting the naval battles on Lake Tanganyika during WW1.

The first supplement extends the coverage into Europe

 Before the next instalment of the adventures and misadventures of the island of Madasahatta I thought it would be a good idea to outline my thinking in respect of the naval dimension. When the campaign itself was fought, way back in the late 1970’s, the models were 1:1200th and the rules of choice were Fletcher Pratt. The number of models used was small although representative of everything from dreadnought battleships down. Using the models on a tabletop worked well as the number of models in use was very small. In many ways it worked rather too well which led us into the following South East Asia naval campaign which, although enormous fun to fight, really stretched the rules beyond that which was practical as they did not handle fleet level actions particularly well - typically there were too many models in too small an area.

Some of the naval actions are recounted in Bob Cordery’s Madasahatta book and suffice it to say that although they were enormous fun they were all low level affairs with few models in evidence.

So what of Madasahatta before the events of the famous 1914 campaign?

To me this falls squarely into the realm of Colonial cruisers, gunboats and the odd old ironclad or obsolete battleship. Small, purpose built patrol vessels or extemporised warships from whatever was to hand would be the order of the day, perhaps with the occasional flag showing visit from a modern warship. This is pretty much how I am going to play this. Needless to say the ‘real world’ naval situation can be replicated in a small way so the British would be the dominant force although from a quality perspective perhaps not quite premier league status. They would have the numbers and the prestige. Old and second class cruisers, gunboats and the odd old battleship as the flag would be about right.

The Germans would have a very modern and efficient but small force. Anything large that would impress the locals, regardless of any tactical value, would be used to fly the flag - typically an old cruiser or similar. With Teutonic thoroughness they would also have earmarked vessels for conversion into armed merchant cruisers should the need arise. They also possess a number of torpedo boats.

The French are limited in what assets they can deploy mainly as they do not have an official treaty in place allowing them to bring in warships. Having said that, they have a number of small craft for patrol and escort duties and a couple of purpose built but old gunboats. 

The Arab concession maintains a small navy but this is chronically underfunded, undermanned and, if the Germans had their way, under their control. It is made up of a mixture of vessels including two ironclads currently rusting away at Port Maleesh and a number of smaller craft. As a force it is of negligible fighting value although the Germans have offered to take it in hand to bring it up to date - something the British naval attaché has taken a dim view of.

Gaming Implications

This will not be a campaign of great squadrons of dreadnoughts fighting it out. It will be low level stuff with the odd cruiser fight in extremis - remember that technically there is not a war on as such. All sides are not above using small craft to patrol and police their interests and the incidence of ‘mistaken identities’ to justify opening fire is quite high. As long as no one side gains the upper hand then the status quo is maintained and such ‘incidents’ are politely dismissed. All are aware of the dangers of escalation though so keeping a lid on things works to the advantage of everyone for the time being.

David Manley’s collection for Lake Tanganyika - this lot could readily be transported to the River Ogopogo on Madasahatta!

Given the scale of actions I envisage fighting and the type of craft typically being used my first thoughts went to David Manley’s excellent set of rules: Steamer Wars and the River Wars supplement. These are designed for low level fights in rivers and lakes and by extension I reckon that inshore would work just as well. When the bigger stuff comes out then I would look to use another set - probably something from the Gridded Naval Wargame although I will think about that as and when it happens.

In the meantime though, I have the last of the current batch of ACW ships to finish building and then it will be on to Madasahatta for some shipbuilding.

Monday 23 November 2020

On WW2 in the Pacific and Vietnam ‘65

Memoir ‘44 Pacific style. The playing pieces seem to made from a harder plastic than those from the base game. I have a plan about these in any event.

I have lacked a degree of focus recently in that I have seem to have been flitting from one project to another without any apparent rhyme or reason but there is a plan of sorts in play! One of these that has been neglected slightly is of course the WW2 in the Pacific - specifically Burma or the islands around New Guinea. If you recall my original intention was to make use of the 14th Army figures from Eric’s collection and then to add some Japanese and US Marines. I fully intend to expand the action by adding the naval dimension using Avalon Hill’s Flat Top and possibly even taking to the air in some fashion.

A while back I picked up a copy of Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal bu Academy Games. This is a sumptuously produced tactical level board game that focuses on the fighting on the island during those critical months of 1942. It is a lovely looking game but I think I may have pulled the trigger too quickly when I acquired it. I may have been better getting Combat Commander: Pacific with the New Guinea supplement for a broader coverage as it not solely focussed on the US Marines. I was thinking about this when the answer of course came from a completely different direction!

Memoir ‘44 is a light WW2 themed board game that I have enjoyed countless times although it does lack depth. This can be rectified very easily and indeed, I know of many gamers that have done so in order to make it more ‘wargamey’. The first iteration I used of this was devised by Bob Cordery a few years ago and was called MOMBAT - Memoir Of Modern BATtle. I fought many great games using this system and tweaked it quite happily to suit my own requirements. I own a fair amount of Memoir ‘44 stuff but the me thing that eluded me was the expansion for the Pacific. I say eluded me because I did own this a few years ago but it went during one of my periodic reorganisations. In recent times it has been really hard to get a hold of and has advertised for silly money in places like eBay.

A lovely looking game and really well produced but sadly too limited in its scope for what I wanted. Its disposal has served to finance the replacement Memoir ‘44 pieces though so all’s well that ends well!

I saw a brand new copy of the Memoir ‘44 Pacific expansion that was listed on eBay at what I thought was a really good price - £25 - so I watched it and at the appropriate time slapped in a bid. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I won it and indeed, I was the only person that placed a bid despite there being some 13 watchers! I also ordered a copy of another expansion called Through Jungle and Desert which includes scenarios and special rules for combat in both environments. The Jungle part of this expansion features the British retreat through Burma which I am currently reading about so is a welcome addition to the collection - or at least it will be when it arrives!

Aside from the scenarios and preprinted maps there are also some jungle and desert specific command cards which will be very useful.

In common with my usual hobby modus operandi I first of all disposed of some items to fund these two new additions (actually three but I will get to that in a moment) and so Conflict of Heroes went to a new home. It was a break even sale so no harm was done to the budget!

Whilst the film took a number of, ahem, liberties, the combat scenes were well done and even Hal Moore himself said that it was the first Vietnam film ‘to get it right....’

The final acquisition from the sale proceeds was a replacement hardback copy of We Were Soldiers Once....And Young by Lt. Gen. Harold (Hal) G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway detailing the action in the Ia Drang Valley in 1965. I really enjoyed this book (if enjoyed is the right word) in that it gives a very good account of the brutal, close range nature of this battle and how it was fought. I have long wanted to game this operation in some form and indeed, I penned a blog past about some years ago. The Pacific expansion for Memoir ‘44 includes some very ‘Nam terrain types - caves, jungle, paddy fields etc - so there is room for a lot of crossover in terms of elements of the rules. Again, it is a project that I would enjoy doing that in theory would not take a lot to set up but for the present I would need to use proxies of some kind.

The film of the book starring Mel Gibson is a visceral experience once the shooting starts and really gives a harrowing impression of what a close in firefight using modern automatic weaponry must be like. There is a haunting Scottish lament that features in the film and it really plays on the senses. 

Sgt. McKenzies Lament

Lay me down in the cold cold ground 
Where before many more have gone 
Lay me down in the cold cold ground 
Where before many more have gone 

When they come I will stand my ground 
Stand my ground I’ll not be afraid 

Thoughts of home take away my fear 
Sweat and blood hide my veil of tears 

Once a year say a prayer for me 
Close your eyes and remember me 

Never more shall I see the sun 
For I fell to a Germans gun 

Lay me down in the cold cold ground 
Where before many more have gone 
Lay me down in the cold cold ground 
Where before many more have gone 

Where before many more have gone 

In memory of Sgt. Charles Stuart MacKenzie
Seaforth Highlanders - killed in action 1917


Thursday 19 November 2020

ACW Naval Progress

The three models currently under construction. The stump of a bowsprit is on the cutting board simply because it became very camera shy and refuse to stay in place unless glued! Forget scale and accuracy but they are fine for what I am going to be using them for.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that work on the next batch of ACW ships had been progressing, albeit very slowly. This was true for a couple of reasons. First of all the situation with my brother and his family - they are recovering slowly but surely which is really good news - and from a more practical perspective I was waiting on some bits and pieces from Warbases. To be honest I could have furnished these pieces myself if push came to shove but having the requisite items laser cut and above all accurately so, meant that waiting it out was a far more attractive option! There was also the fact that I had changed my mind as to the identities of the two Confederate ships I was building.

The Warbases order duly arrived yesterday and so I was able to attend to the details I needed to in order to get the ships back on track.

The small grey squares you see are cit from what Warbases call ‘greyboard’ - it is basically 1mm thick cardboard - of which they have a small supply. I will let you into a secret at this point. No matter how straight I measure a line I always seem to mess it up when cutting it - mainly for small items. The gunports you see above and things like hatch covers (usually) are the worst offenders for me and over the years I have lost count of the number I have messed these up and had to start again. Having someone else doing this for me meant that a potential headache could be avoided which is no bad thing - as an aside I also have problems painting straight lines so things like cross belts etc are a special form of torture....

The models above are not completed as the funnels are not fixed, neither are the two turrets/gun houses (I have gone with the turret option) and the light pole masts. I mocked these up so that you could see the bare bones of what I am building. The sailing rig for the two turret rams will be fun to do but durability will be the aim rather than accuracy. 

As a reminder the broadside battery ship is loosely based on the U.S.S. New Ironsides whilst the two Confederate ships are inspired by the C.S.S.Stonewall although strictly speaking the turret should be a fixed gun house. In a sense then, that are a fusion of two types that the Confederates COULD have had - namely the H.M.S. Wyvern/Scorpion and the two C.S.S. Stonewall types. I don’t think it is stretching the historical situation too much and besides, it will be fun to use them!

I also took the opportunity to add some hatches to the Confederate ironclads (two on each, one on the foredeck and one aft) and a single hatch to the U.S.S. Roanoke - there was little space to add anything else on this model.

Once these are built and painted I will have ten ships ready for the ACW. I will add a further pair to bring it up to the dozen and then this phase will be complete. I am not finished though as I need to add around a dozen lesser types - gunboats of various sorts mainly although a couple of specials may appear.

My next building project is something altogether different as there is the small matter of some nefarious dealings along the Ogopogo river that need attending to....

To be continued....

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Madasahatta: Carry On Up the Ogopogo

The reworked and updated Madasahatta map - superbly done by Bob Cordery and based on the original version. It certainly looks a lot clearer! The Ogopogo delta is in the bottom right of the map - notice Port Maleesh and also the extent of the jungle that borders on Hansaland territory.

For reasons lost in the mists of time the forces of France never appeared in either Madasahatta or the follow on South East Asia naval campaign, both of which were organised by Eric Knowles. Given the Colonial reach of the French historically this was rather surprising. As a gaming setting the island of Madasahatta has much to commend it for both Colonial and early 20th century games and so the following is an attempt to add a further chapter to the tumultuous and turbulent history of that tropical paradise.

 My aim is to incorporate the French in some fashion - not as major players per se but with enough presence to ensure that the Germans have a minor distraction to contend with. I have tried to do this in keeping within the spirit of Madasahatta but at the same time adding a little historicity. The following then, concerns the Arab Concession and the French involvement with it. Imagine a city rather like a casbah on steroids, where temptations of the flesh and senses are to be found in abundance and available cheaply on every street corner and in every square and where the saying ‘money can’t buy everything’ is unheard of. A seething flesh pot and cesspit of a city where every pleasure, however sensual, gluttonous, debauched or depraved or material thing can be found for a price and where the traveller is always welcome - until their money runs out that is.
The Arab Concession, notionally under the suzerainty of the Sultan of Zanzibar (in turn under the suzerainty of the Fezian/Ottoman empire), had largely ignored (and in turn has been ignored by) the various machinations and jockeying for position undertaken by the Colonial administrations of New Surrey  and Hansaland. They have continued to plough their own furrow, since time immemorial, dealing in slaves (very much ‘under the counter’ these days) gold, guns, ivory, Daz, Mars Bars and other dangerous goods via the seething flesh pot that is Port Meleesh. Although technically neutral the Arab Concession has been observed as leaning rather more towards German interests - largely due to the somewhat dubious nature of the dealings between Jakob Geltmeister - the local representative of the government funded Hansa OST Afrika trading company - and Makmi Anoffa - the principal Levantine trader in Port Maleesh as well as the Sultan of Zanzibar’s representative - in a large variety of assorted trade goods and as such this has attracted several strongly worded memoranda from the British Governor, Sir Charles Buckpasser-Cleverly.
These have been largely ignored by the Arabs, safe in the knowledge that as friends of the Sultan, the Germans will have their back. The reality however, is a little more complicated.
The wig wearing, vain and brutal de facto enforcer of Port Meleesh, El Toupee, is a firm Francophile. Whilst serving as a doorman at a French Restaurant in Algiers - the Michelin rated El Grande Fromage - he developed a fondness for French cuisine and so when invited to act as a minder or ‘fixer’ by Makmi Anoffa he insisted on bringing the entire kitchen staff from El Grande Fromage with him. To a man they joined him - fear of broken legs etc being a powerful incentive - forcing the owners to close the restaurant down. Protests to the French Consul were in vain and indeed, the main consular concern was that French nationals were going into a lawless environment (Port Maleesh had been likened to Dodge City on a bad Saturday night) with little or no protection. The risk that the secrets of fine French cuisine could be obtained under duress was a serious matter so, after consultation with the French Colonial Office, it was decided that for the honour of France, a detachment of the Foreign Legion would be sent to Port Maleesh to provide security for the kitchen staff.
So the French embassy in Port Maleesh gained a first class catering arm as well as a company of the Foreign Legion for protection. It also ensured that El Toupee could satisfy his taste for the finest in French cuisine
It was an unwritten rule in Port Maleesh that all goods passing through were subject to a very minimal tariff that swelled the coffers of the ‘Port Maleesh Home for retired Traders and Entertainers’ - in reality these were split between Jakob Geltmeister and Makmi Anoffa - with El Toupee tasked with ensuring that such dues were collected in a timely fashion. Needless to say, El Toupee’s uncompromising hard line approach was so successful that this inevitably resulted in a sharp rise in smuggling and it was not long before the banks along the Ogopogo delta were a veritable hive of illicit activity. Geltmeister and Anoffa actively (albeit surreptitiously) supported this clandestine activity - mainly because their ‘consideration’ was unofficial and therefore not officially accounted for.
Due to the relative shallowness of the Ogopogo delta large ships would anchor in the road stead and their goods would be transferred to local craft for onward passage to Port Maleesh. A steady stream of Dhows of various sizes would be seen, travelling to and fro, along the delta but not all would unload at Port Maleesh. There were a few secluded inlets that were used for the unloading of smuggled goods and in some cases the larger gangs of these cutthroats were quite open about their activities. Rumours that these were on the payroll of Makmi Anoffa were rife but nothing tangible could ever be proven. It was pretty certain that Geltmeister himself also dealt with these bands but with both business partners turning a blind eye to the trade all was well - as long as neither gained the advantage. 
Into this happy arrangement ventured El Toupee. The French catering staff under the auspices of the famed chef, Phil Et O’Steak, had been struggling to replicate the dishes for which they were famous due to the impossibility of obtaining the requisite ingredients. The duty that had to be paid on imported French cuisine - especially wine and cheese - was especially steep (this was at the behest of Geltmeister as his immediate superior, General Freiherr Von Boozy, positively loathed anything and everything about the French) so El Toupee decided to do something about this state of affairs and so would go into the smuggling business himself in order to ensure that his gastronomic tastes would continue to be catered for.
It was very easy to organise but when the commander of the Foreign Legion got wind of it he insisted, for the honour of France, in providing an escort to any and all cargoes of French delicacies. 
Makmi Anoffa soon came to hear of this but rather than incur the displeasure of his minder took the pragmatic view that a happy enforcer was a willing enforcer and so turned a blind eye to it (subject to a small consideration naturally).
Geltmeister, largely for the benefit of his belligerent superior, gave a good impersonation of being an aggrieved entrepreneur but was far too shrewd a businessman to be bothered for long. Live and let live as far as he was concerned so as long as his ‘considerations’ continued to roll in he would carry on as before.
To keep the French delicacies ‘off the books’ so to speak, El Toupee had to maintain the front of these items being in effect being smuggled goods. Makmi Anoffa still took his cut but significantly the Germans were excluded. Anoffa maintained that under diplomatic law there was nothing he could do so the protests of the Germans about a French presence went unanswered - but not forgotten.
To maintain the smuggling front the French constructed a small jetty, midway between Port Maleesh and the entrance to the Ogopogo delta on the northern side with a couple of buildings for storing goods and a blockhouse for defence. A single platoon formed the garrison with a couple of machine guns and a 75mm artillery piece emplaced overlooking the facility. Once unloaded the goods would be taken overland by native porters to the embassy itself, under guard by the men of the legion. The tricolour of France fluttered over all, defiant in the breeze.
To further support their efforts the French converted a couple of small motor launches into gunboats to provide an escort to the Dhows carrying their goods. So it was that the French went into the smuggling business - all officially unofficial naturally....
To say that General Freiherr Wilhelm Von Boozy (Iron Cross, first class) was not best pleased by this flagrant insult to the flag of the Fatherland was rather like describing the eruption of Krakatoa as some minor seismic activity - he was apoplectic with incandescent fury - more so when he discovered that despite his strongest protests the Arab Concession merely shrugged their collective shoulders (mainly in the hope that the furore would abate so that business could could continue uninterrupted) in the face of such Teutonic remonstrations.
Von Boozy was not a man to take this perceived insult to the honour of the Fatherland lightly and so resolved to do something about it. Once his fury had subsided - a combination of ice baths and strenuous exercise calmed him down somewhat - he summoned his officers for a top secret and highly confidential planning session - the object being to remove the French from the Arab Concession without attracting international - especially British - attention.
To be continued.....

Sunday 15 November 2020

ECW Books and Rules Ideas

A trio of ECW goodness - a couple of oldies but goodies and the later Stuart Reid title.

 My brother and his family are improving albeit slowly. They appear to be over the worst but given the ability of this virus to spring surprises even with the finishing line in sight our collective fingers continue to remain crossed.

I have not been doing very much gaming related but this afternoon found some time to review what I have in terms of background reading material and rules for use with the 28mm WoFun ECW collection. 

As far as books are concerned and aside from the splendid atlas of the civil war recently published by Nick Lipscombe my library is fairly modest but sufficient for my needs at present. In addition to those titles depicted above I also have a copy of Devon and Exeter in the Civil War and also a copy of Stuart Reid’s All the King’s Armies - currently still with Dave Lanchester until such a time as when we are able to meet again at a show. I know there are Ospreys and Helions aplenty as well as a whole welter of other titles about the civil war but this lot will suffice for the time being.

The new and the old once again. I am huge of Mr Wesencraft and will try to source a hardback version of this once we are back in show mode.

As far as rules are concerned I have a number of options to explore. I suspect I am not alone in being a bit of a rules squirrel when undertaking a new project and so this has been no exception! Currently in pole position are a Command and Colours variant penned by our very own MSFoy that look better every time I read them! They are available as a download from his blog along with the command and ‘Chaunce’ cards and a very handy non command card based system derived from his Napoleonic ‘Ramekin’ set. Pop over to his blog to see these - he is a very nice chap as well!

‘For King and Parliament’ are from the ‘To The Strongest’ stable and appear to have some very well thought out ideas in them. There is some quite superb eye candy contained in the pages and to me these look like a set that means business. I will certainly be trying these out once I have a few simpler games under my belt. That it not to say that they are complex, rather it is because they have a greater level of detail that I may not appreciate at first run out. The Command and Colours set are very familiar mechanics  wise so it makes sense going with what I know best at the outset.

The Wesencraft book is an old friend for sure that I had long forgotten about until a set arrived through the post from my old gaming friend Chris Hardman. There is a wealth of good, old school ideas herein as well as a large number of historical scenarios to try out.

The other rule system that will doubtless feature in due course will be the Portable Pike and Shot Wargame when it is published. I am really looking forward to this but in the meantime I have more than enough to be going with. I jus need to get some terrain sorted out!

Thursday 12 November 2020

WoFun: Basing House Rules

Before (left) and after. The guns are located on the base via two small lugs on the bottom of the wheels. These have now been removed. I can now deploy as many or as few gunners as I like around the piece which I think looks better - I am not a fan of huge artillery bases!

My brother and his family are feeling better albeit only marginally. This is better news for sure although it is early days so fingers are still being crossed.

It is probably not surprising that I have been less than enthusiastic about anything gaming related but I have managed a few quick wins which is always good for the soul.

I have been thinking about the 28mm ECW WoFun collection and have made a single change that may well be the thin end of the wedge in that it could possibly lead to fairly substantial variation. 

I really do not like the artillery bases. They feel flimsy and do not like much in the way of movement - the gun comes out of its locating holes as do the gunners and so this has moved on from being a minor irritation to something requiring action. I have decided to base the gunners individually and leave the guns themselves off any kind of base. Since I will be mostly fighting my games on a grid this hardly matters and it is far more practical. 

You can see the dragoon command (bottom right) using a single strip on a 40mm by 30mm base

It got me looking at the infantry and cavalry bases, especially when I recently acquired a couple of dragoon regiments. At the present time all the infantry and cavalry figure strips are deployed two deep on a 40mm by 30mm base. The command strip for the two dragoon regiments is based on a single strip rather than the twin version. It occurred to me that using a single strip base rather than the twin version would have a number of practical advantages. 

The main one would be to double the number of bases making up the units. This would mean that detachments could be modelled more effectively as well as unit formations. It would also enable me to tackle the assembly of the bases in a rather more permanent fashion - the picture below will help to explain my plan.

You can see the fixing lug on the figure strip in the left. The base on the right shows clearly how this works whilst the base in the centre is one of the 40mm by 30mm single strip bases.

For the most part the Wofun figure strips have a single small fixing lug that fits in to the slot in the base. The rest of the strips at least the ‘feet’ part effectively sit on fresh air as the slot is some 35mm long. Essentially the small lug is the only part of the strip holding it upright. It occurred to me that a slot of some 15mm would allow for the fixing lug (these are not always in the centre so 15mm covers the range of locations - centre or offset to the left or right) to be used but that also the ‘feet’ of the rest of the strip would be contact with the now ‘closed’ area of the base. This would a more permanent fixing solution could be used with the strips being glued into place. Warbases could do this readily enough although of course it does then mean that the bases would need painting/flocking. 

It would not be a difficult task to tackle but it would be time consuming and of course their would be the cost to consider. I need to think carefully about this but it is certainly an option.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Walk Like an Egyptian....

A very attractive paper model of the C.S.S. Stonewall 

 First of all many thanks to all for the kind words in respect of my brother and his family. There is little or no change to speak of in respect of my brother although his partner and their son are definitely on the mend. As I am sure you can imagine, fingers are still firmly crossed.

Note the ram bow and the forward firing gun port. There were two others on either beam of the armoured fore castle

The model from the Thouroughbred Miniatures range

In the meantime though, I spent some time reorganising my ships that are currently under construction. There are now three. Originally there were two but I decided to add a further model to the Confederate part. The plan was to build H.M.S. Wyvern (after she had been taken into the Royal Navy, originally ordered by the Confederates under the cover name El Monassir - for the Egyptian navy - and to be renamed C.S.S. Mississippi upon delivery) but I had a change of heart and have instead opted to build a pair of models based on the C.S.S. StonewallIn keeping with the Egyptian cover story the Stonewall Jackson and her sister were ordered as the Sphinx and the Cheops.

I say ‘based upon’ for these models intentionally as they are not going to be exact replicas. 

My Confederate navy will be a mix of types - some more historical than others - and by adding some ships that were ordered but not actually delivered for one reason or another it will help to even the odds slightly. Besides, the models look too good to ignore - that is my story and I am sticking to it!

Profile view with the full sailing rig. When used inshore the rig would probably have been reduced

A diagram showing the pivot based gun arrangement in the bow and the aft fixed turret.

The curious thing about the C.S.S. Stonewall was that although she looks like she has a turret in actual fact she does not. The circular structure aft of the funnel was designed to house two guns that could be moved around internally on rails to face in the required direction. The guns were muzzle loading so would have to have been ‘run in’ to be reloaded and could then be redeployed as the situation required. Similarly the single forward mounted gun could fire directly ahead - useful when launching a ramming attack - or either port or starboard. Strangely enough, and I stand to be corrected, the 1:600th scale model available from Thoroughbred Miniatures appears to have a turret with the two gun barrels poking out facing forward. Everything I have seen about this ship points at the circular casemate idea rather than a turret so that will be the option I go for.

So the Rebels will be gaining a couple of armoured rams to operate against the Yankees which will certainly add to the fun.

The C.S.S. Stonewall has an eventful career, as did her sister, and if you click on the link above you can see exactly how.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Closer to Home

 It has been a challenging week or so since my last post. I have spent very little time on anything gaming related apart from catching up on some reading. My heart has not really been in it simply because of some domestic stuff that is ongoing.

My younger brother, his partner and their grown up son all tested positive for Covid 19 and my brother has really been suffering with it. I have been in daily contact with him and he condition has swung first one way and then the other, somewhat alarmingly in fact, but at last he may be at the corner. I am not saying turning it because this virus has a nasty tendency to spring a surprise and start again - at least it has with my brother. We remain hopeful.

His partner had a similar bout although it did not last as long although her experience was also a horrible one. My nephew was a major concern as he has an autoimmune disorder that requires very careful monitoring. He has to take steroids on a daily basis and this might explain why his symptoms thus far have been relatively mild.

My brother Facetimed me from his sick bead and it was deeply disturbing experience. He looked awful and it was a real shock I can tell you.

As a family we have been fortunate so far. I know of some friends that have had the dreaded virus - the husband in one case, fortunately now recovered, is still feeling wrung out by the whole experience, as is the daughter of our Devon based friends - but we are still hale and hearty.

It goes without saying that at the present time we should all take care in our everyday dealings - regular hand washing, social distancing and wearing of masks where needed - and if I needed any prompting in this then the image of my little brother on his sick bed acts as a sobering reminder.

Take care all - it is always darkest before the dawn.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

The Naval Wargames Society

Battlefleet - and yes, that really is Volume 38!

 I have been an occasional member of the above for a few years now and always look forward to receiving the email for All Guns Blazing - the Ezine of the society, which is a good, albeit brief read. The journal is the thing but of late has experienced a real struggle to get published due to the paucity of articles. it’s this in mind next spring will see the final edition of the physical Battlefleet - so I will certainly try to get some naval articles penned for inclusion!

The journal arrived this morning and as usual is a real delight to read due to the range of topics covered.

The contents are featured below.

Certainly a real mixed bag of content and I shall enjoy taking some time out to read it.

There is a society website - and also a Facebook page. If you have any interest in naval wargames it really is worth a visit.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

The Parting of the Ways

The end of an era - and the start and support of several new ones! 

I have been busy of late with work, ship building, tinkering with rules and assembling WoFun stuff. I have also caught up on some reading, tidied the man cave once again, posted out a whole lot of disposal stuff and indulged in the odd splash of retail therapy. There is also another task I am engaged in that should come to light in due course so I will say no more at this point.

Mention of disposals leads me conveniently into the reason for this post and the clue is of course the picture above. These are now heading out the door meaning that my sole involvement with the Napoleonic  Wars will be the old perennial favourites of 1805 afloat and 1815 in Belgium. Naturally I shall keep my copies of The Campaigns of Napoleon as well as The Anatomy of Glory but that will be it for the period.

The books you see above are very modestly priced as follows:

Wellington’s Army and the Sharpe Companion - £7.50 each

Everything else EXCEPT for the Atlas of the Peninsular War - £10 each and the aforementioned atlas £25

Note that these prices to not include postage. If anyone is interested drop me an email

Meanwhile, back to the ships!