Friday, 14 May 2021

Frigates, Sloops, Masts, Spars and the C.S.S. Webb

A speculative plan of the C.S.S. Webb - note the twin ‘walking beam’ engines. Her paddles were powered independently which meant that at low speed she was very manoeuvrable but much less so at full power

 Work has begun on the next batch of five models for the ACW project. I have also settled on what he remaining models after these five are completed - and a small order to Warbases was needed to furnish the appropriate parts. Allowing for the time it will take to build the five currently under construction and four of the remaining ten models I should have the pieces I need for the final half dozen.

Summing that rather convoluted paragraph I have sufficient material from stock to build nine of the remaining fifteen models with the final six following once the Warbases order arrives!

The five currently under construction are all fully masted and so will take a little longer to complete. Building masts is far easier than building octagonal or curved casemates - even box casemates come to that - but one has to be careful as it cannot be rushed. So I have fifteen masts and five bowsprits to tackle - luckily they will all be more or less the same design so an assembly line of sorts can be used.

I am building three ships for the Union - a frigate and two sloops - and a pair for the Confederates - a commerce raider and a blockade runner although the latter may not even require the full sailing rig as I have yet to decide which one I shall build.

The top down view showing how by using the ‘stepping’ of the masts and spars along with use of the stylised fighting tops helps to make for a far stronger join due to more surface area being in contact for gluing

A view from the underside again showing the intentionally larger ‘sticking’ points. Also showing are the raw materials I use and a mast built for the now abandoned third 90 Day gunboat that will be repurposed for a Confederate ship

For services as a model in the pictures above it is only fair that I show the C.S.S. Stonewall in all her glory! It seems like a long time ago that I built this particular model and her sister ship!

My mast building technique is quite stylised and the end result is pretty robust. I use Bamboo barbecue for the masts and wooden cocktail sticks for the spars. By using MDF cut fighting tops in strategic positions I am able to get a good area for glue coverage so the spars have a larger area to be stuck to. Where a spar is free standing I carefully file a shallow recess on the upright so that it ‘sits’ in rather than on the mast. Again, the area is larger so that the glue has more surface to bite on. I use superglue exclusively for my masts.

Why the C.S.S. Webb? Well, she lasted a long while to start with and by virtue of having two walking beam engines was pretty fast in a straight line. I am currently gauging opinions as to how fast she actually was but she was able to break out from the Red River and breeze along the Mississippi at a fair pace until confronted by by a Union sloop. At this point her crew ran her aground and set fire to her.  She was originally built as an ocean going paddle wheeled tug but was equipped with a ram and a spar torpedo in addition to her artillery when the Confederates added her to their forces. 

I have settled on the models I shall be building for the final batch of fifteen with the sole exception of the Rebel blockade runner. I shall send some time thinking about this over the weekend but for now it is one with the mast building.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Filling in the gaps

The last of the Confederate casemate ironclads

 I was really not looking forward to building the last of the Confederate ironclads. Building the larger version of the ship you see above was frustrating enough but the smaller version was a different order of pain altogether! In theory it should be easy enough - just ensure that the top octagon matched the bottom one - but the slightest deviation on the angles throws the whole thing out of alignment.

That is what happened. 

Assembly of the ‘cross’ of the casemate was easy enough, it was the angled faces that caused the problems. The problems were largely of my own making as I do not have any material I can use for the angled faced that is thin and flexible enough. I thought I had some appropriately gauged plastic card but no, only the thick stuff. I tried several alternatives but none worked as would have liked and so in a moment of desperation I opted for the nuclear option - and promptly filled each angle with filler!

The filled casemate prior to final sanding. Unconventional perhaps but it seemed to work out well enough!

To my surprise and delight it actually worked.

By carefully building the filler up in layers, allowing it to dry thoroughly and then lightly sanding I was able to get a pretty smooth finish. Once the gunports are in place, the whole thing sealed, painted and varnished you would hardly notice the difference!

The two octagonal casemates types - little and large!

For all the pain involved I am rather pleased with how she turned out and as mentioned, she is the final ironclad for the Confederates. I have built a dozen of which six are modelled on historic ships:

C.S.S. Virginia

C.S.S. Georgia

C.S.S. Louisiana

C.S.S. Missouri

C.S.S. Arkansas

C.S.S. Manassas 

Of the above the Georgia and the Louisiana were little better than floating batteries but having said that they certainly look suitably imposing.

The six historical types - from the top left we have the Virginia, the Louisiana and the Georgia whilst in the bottom row the brown and rusted Arkansas is joined by the Missouri and the Manassas

The other six models are more generic looking and so will serve as required - either as historic or ‘imagi-naval’ style vessels.

These are the six generic types that be used as required

As an aside rechecked the number of models the collection will consist of as I must have miscounted. It actually comes to 59 whereas I was convinced it was 60. Since I am sixty years of age I shall sneak in another model for the Union so there will be a model for each of my years!

The full dozen in all their glory. There are now 45 models completed with 15 to go

On with the next batch!

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Madasahatta in the 17th Century

Madasahatta in 1914. Over two hundred years previously the landscape would be very different although the settlements that would eventually become Port Maleesh, Bluchershafen and Port Victoria were already established.

 For sometime I have been thinking about pirates and Madasahatta - although not simultaneously! The 17th century came to the fore with my acquisition of Oak and Iron by Firelock Games. This includes a selection of 1:600th scale 17th century ships of various types that could be readily supplemented but the expansion packs available as well as those from the very nice range produced by Miniairons. That all round good egg The Jolly Broom Man added to my collection a selection of models from them and they are really very nice indeed (many thanks once again old chap!). My interest in the whole pirate thing was originally from the naval side but now is more in terms of having a land dimension as well using those very nice figures produced by Peter Pig.

I have finally ‘pulled the trigger’ and taken delivery of sufficient Peter Pig 15mm Pirates to give me two HOTT/PW sized forces that will also include a contingent of Barbary Corsairs. Whilst I have sufficient models for the Pirates and likely government opposition I shall need to avail myself of some Xebecs for the Corsairs - Warlord are launching some in their Black Seas range but these are 1:700th. I rather like the variety available from Miniairons so will probably use theirs.

So where does Madasahatta come in to all this?

Well, as a ready made environment for gaming it has plenty of potential. By winding the clock back some two hundred odd year to the latter end of the 17th century then a very different picture emerges of what Madasahatta looks like - before the Colonial period and later.

To begin with, the island would be largely unexplored but with some key players already making their mark on the landscape. Bluchershafen was originally a Dutch settlement with a garrison and was a vital staging post en route to the Dutch East Indies and their spices. Although a strong position and adequately garrisoned the Dutch were content to keep themselves to themselves but woe betide anybody attempting to interfere with their spice trade. 

Port Maleesh was a Barbary enclave owing allegiance to the Sublime Porte. Privateering was rife and the slave markets in the merchants quarter were well renowned for the quality of their merchandise and the speed with which they could fleece the unwary.

Port Victoria was a pirate stronghold operated by the Brethren of the Coast (Indian Ocean Chapter) and modelled (rather unsuccessfully it must be said) on the fabled pirate utopia of Libertalia.

From this little lot the following emerges. The pirates will pick on anybody but are wary about being too obvious when it comes to the Dutch or the Barbary Corsairs. The Dutch will pick up the odd prize here and there but for the most part are more concerned with their lucrative spice trade. The Barbary Corsairs will take on anybody as long as they have a local superiority - occasionally that are very dangerous when the Sultan is behind them.

So the scene is being set for a variety of raids, privateering and general mischief making in the early days of Madasahatta.

That is the plan in any event but first of all the ACW ships need finishing.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Fifteen to go....

 C.S.S. Virginia. The brown ‘V’ on the foredeck was designed to divert water away as she had a very low freeboard. The grey section at the stern was 2” armour plating used to protect the steering.

I was able to finish the last of the ‘purpose built’ historical Confederate Ironclads meaning that I now have 11 built with one remaining and that one is next on the assembly line.

The C.S.S. Virginia needs little introduction from me but I will share some of the building details. Her casemate was rounded at both ends and thus far the only way I have successfully been able to model this is by using layered Balsa wood cut and sanded into shape. The U.S.S. Essex has one curved end but thus far I had never attempted tackling both ends. Happily it worked out fine but I did take the precaution of having a number of breaks whilst shaping them which certainly helped with my concentration!

The pilot house should really be a conical affair that follows the line of the casemate but my version does not. Nor does my version have gunports of the correct shape - I opted for my tried and tested 5mm square pieces of card - and as for the armoured stern section (to protect the steering) it is probably the wrong shape. She looks quite stocky but as I am working to a 6” maximum (two grid squares in my ACW naval rules) she is about as large as I can go. For all of this she looks ‘like what she is supposed to’ so I am happy! I am quite chuffed with how she turned out.

Of course if you are going to have the C.S.S.Virginia then it would churlish not to have the U.S.S. Monitor in the same picture!

The ‘Fifteen to go’ of the title of this post of course refers to the number of models I have left to build for the project. There are seven Confederate and eight Union ships although by Friday the Confederate numbers will be down to six as I complete the final casemate ironclad.

Of the fifteen models four of them will required a full set of masts and spars, three of them are ironclads and the remaining eight are gunboats of various types.

We are getting there!

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Something New

Boot sale bargains and a first for me in the audible books stakes 

It is Sunday so once again SWMBO and I headed out to our local boot sale and today I was able to pick up a couple of bargains. The book cost me the princely sum of 50p and it has more than sufficient information for my needs for when I get to WW2 (again).

The audio book is a new one for me as I have never listened to one before! There are six CDs contained in the set and so the plan is to upload it to my iTunes account so that I can listen to it via my iPad on the train when I return to the city in July.

I suppose that it was somehow inevitable that my first foray into the world of audible books was The Seven Pillars of Wisdom given my interest in Lawrence of Arabia. I have a hardback copy of the Seven Pillars, a Kindle version, the film Lawrence of Arabia and the soundtrack so I guess this completed the set!

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Next Steps

The work in progress - the white section is plastic card and needs further shaping but bear in mind that this model is, as usual, based upon rather than historically accurate!

A bird’s eye view and profile of the C.S.S. Virginia

 After having completed the pair of 90 Day gunboats for the Union I decided that next up will be the remaining pair of Confederate casemate ironclads. When complete I will have a round dozen of them - six modelled on actual ships and the remaining six more generic in design. Of the final two I am building one of them is of the smaller octagonal casemate type whilst the other is the famous C.S.S. Virginia of the Battle of Hampton Roads fame. Pictured above is where she is at for the moment - in other words at a very early stage of construction.

She will be the longest ship in the collection and indeed, I had to modify a standard hull template to allow for the rear overhang designed to protect the steering. I am more or less happy with the hull and the real work will be building the casemate as she is curved at both ends.

I already have the U.S.S.Monitor built so the prospect of refighting the battle of Hampton Roads is a tantalising one and I shall certainly give it some thought. 

Once I have finished these two ironclads I shall revisit the Union as they will be getting a further City class gunboat and one other. I have narrowed the choice down to two ships so I will doubtless change my mind a few times before I get to build them!

Friday, 7 May 2021

....And then there were two....

The two 90 Day gunboats ready for action

So these are the two 90 Day gunboats duly completed and ready to chase down blockade runners and other nefarious types although they were not the speediest of vessels.

There are 17 models left to build to complete the project and I have until the end of June to finish them.  

Like I said yesterday, no pressure then....

Thursday, 6 May 2021

90 Day Gunboats

There were 23 of the ‘90 Day’ gunboats built for the Union and they had short but active service lives. Being built from unseasoned timber certainly did not help with their longevity!

 For the record I have built two of these but this is the only one that is finished as the guns are not ready for the second. It has been a learning experience assembling the artillery and so I am better prepared for the next batch!

To be strictly accurate the ship should have gunwales but I have yet to work out an effective way to model these. I gave the whole problem some thought and I reckon I have an answer so watch this space. 

I will have a brace of similar looking Confederate vessels to build but these will be slightly different - three masts and 6 guns to be exact!

I am rather pleased with how she turned out and after tomorrow there will be 16 models left to build.

I have a deadline of sorts in that I shall be back in the office from July 1st so I definitely want t have all the models built by then.

No pressure then....

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

More on Deck Guns and Gunboats

Gun locations on a 90 Day Gunboat. The two sizes of gun can be clearly seen - the larger calibre centrally mounted pivot gun and the three other smaller pieces. 

After some experimentation  I came up with a solution for making smaller calibre artillery pieces using the standard naval gun carriage. It is very simple. I merely cut the spacer and trim back the lower rear edge of the carriage and use a slightly smaller piece of cocktail stick for the barrel. I am using 10mm for the larger calibre and 7.5mm for the smaller which gives enough visual difference between the two types.

One thing I have settled on is that I shall paint cocktail sticks black and will cut the gun barrels off as I need them meaning that all I have to do will be to shape the rear of the barrel and touch it up in black. This will be easier than painting them after having cut them out!

These are easy enough to make but are quite fiddly all the same. Having said that they are an essential feature on a number of vessels I am planning to build (and retro fitting some existing models) so having a simple template to work with is hugely advantageous.

Going forwards the same basic principle could be used with other vessels although for earlier types I would want to make a more typical looking gun carriage - for example the usual Napoleonic style nava carriage. Something to think about anyway.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Deck Guns and Gunboats

A naval gun carriage - MDF style!

 It has been a quiet, family focussed bank holiday weekend - our grandson was with us - so very little gaming related ‘stuff’ has been tackled other than trying out my newly cut gun carriages for the ACW naval project.

Many of the vessels in use during the ACW featured deck mounted artillery - either purpose built and designed that way or when converted from civilian use - so I needed to be able to include these on some of my models. Originally I planned to use the guns available from Peter Pig in 1:600th but these look too detailed as well as being too small. I came up with with stylised design for a deck mounted naval gun carriage and duly ordered the same from Warbases. These arrived a short while ago and as my latest batch of models features gunboats on which this type of weapon featured it made sense for me to take a look at how they went together.

Essentially there are two carriage ‘cheeks’ and a central spacer. This is deliberately longer than the carriage pieces to represent the railed pivot style mount that some of this ordinance employed. If the guns are fixed in place rather than pivot mounted then all I would do would be cut the central spacer back to the edge of the carriage ‘cheeks’ and then pare the smaller edges back a touch. This would serve to differentiate the larger artillery from the smaller and when the first of the ‘90 Day’ gunboats are ready you will see what I am rambling on about.  The gun barrel itself is furnished from a 1cm long piece of cocktail stick with one end filed into a curved shape. The size of the spacer to which the two carriage cheeks are glued is exactly the same width as a standard wooden cocktail stick - a cunning design feature for which I can take no credit for!

The beginnings of one of two 90 Day gunboats currently under construction. The masts are not quite finished and are not fixed in place. The remaining three guns on this class of vessel are of a smaller calibre with one mounted forward (you can see the drawn location) and the other two mounted on either beam near the rear mast. The ‘pivot gun’ you see will be about an inch further forward in the final version - the funnel will be where the gun barrel is!

I currently have a pair of ‘90 Day’ gunboats for the Union and a couple of similar types for the Confederates. Each of these will need four gun models. 

I am really pleased with how these have come out and whilst in the pictures they are unpainted and indeed, in the case of the ship, unfinished, they look pretty good and fully in keeping with the level of detail I have been working to.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Monitoring the Confederates

 Union monitors. The two new additions are on the right of each row with the U.S.S. Monitor at the bottom.

An end of sorts. I have completed the Union monitors for the ACW naval project and these cover a nice range of the types that were completed. In truth the collection is rather top heavy with a triple and two double turreted types as opposed to three single turret versions. I am not overly concerned by this as the likelihood of of them being used at the same is remote but it is nice to have the choice.

My version of the U.S.S. Monitor

I opted for the U.S.S. Monitor as she is such an iconic ship it would have been rude not to include her - along with the C.S.S. Virginia when I get to her.

The C.S.S. Louisiana - note the two wheel houses. She had two paddle wheels and two screws to aid with manoeuvring. This was not an efficient method of propulsion as the lead wheel interfered with the following one and created eddies around the rudders making her difficult to manoeuvre.

For the Confederates I have converted the generic large sized casemate ironclad into the C.S.S. Louisiana, She was one of two large ironclads (the other being C.S.S. Mississippi) that, if completed with a decent power plant and the requisite artillery, could potentially have been rather effective. As it was and like the C.S.S. Georgia, she was used as a floating battery during her short career. Very imposing looking though.

Union monitors and a Confederate casemate ironclad

For good order sake the three models completed today are shown above. The next batch of models will be seven strong - three for the Union and four for the Confederates - which will see the last of the Rebel gunboats commissioned.

That is 42 models completed.

Pretty darned good I reckon!

Napoleonic Forward Planning

Useful reading material for a future project - but which one?

 My plans to undertake a Napoleonic naval based project using a combination of Black Seas models and 15mm figures for the land elements are kind of in hand although I do not expect to be doing anything towards it until the new year. I have two possibilities to consider, the first of which would enable me to use much of the scenic material (still yet to be acquired) that will be used with the 17th century pirate set up - namely Caribbean looking. The second idea - and the one I originally planned to tackle using 20mm figures - featured the Eastern theatre of the Spanish peninsula circa 1810 and later. I do not profess to be an expert in either so I am relying on the two books you see above to provide me with some useful background. 

From a practicality perspective I am thinking that the Spanish option would be easier to organise - certainly from the perspective of suitable figures if nothing else - as well as being different from the Caribbean. Finding suitable models for the forces involved during the earlier years of the Napoleonic Wars, especially pre 1805 and ‘overseas, colonial types’ may prove to be challenge larger than I would care to take on. Bearing in mind that the land forces will be modest - I am looking at combined arms style operations, raids and similar - I may be able to ‘wing it’ in terms of figures but will have to wait and see.

For more information on the two books see below - front cover and then the rear.

I have plenty of time to think about this particular project and indeed, the ships will be tackled first in any event. I want to enjoy the experience as the ships I fully intend rigging and finishing them to as high a standard as I can. This is why there will not be too many of them!

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

“A Cheesebox on a Raft”

Up close and personal - The U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia trading short range shots during the Battle of Hampton Roads 

Ok then, I have not followed my ship building plan entirely but it is still heading in the right direction! Yesterday I began work on the first models of the final batch for the ACW project. The first of these featured a reworking of the largest of the Confederate casemate ironclads into something a little more historical looking. Work on this has progressed to the undercoating stage so she will be making her appearance in a day or so. Whilst I was waiting on some glue to dry I decided to tackle a couple of additional simple models that were part of the programme but were originally intended to be built last of all. The two ships are for the Union and are both Monitors.

The first of them is the famous U.S.S. Monitor herself - and she must have taken me all of five minutes to build! She has the distinction of being the only model in my collection that does not have a funnel! I will also be building the Confederate C.S.S. Virginia at little later although she will require rather more work than her famous adversary. The other monitor is another twin turreted Monadnock type. By adding these two models the Union monitor strength will be six vessels from the enormous triple turreted white elephant the U.S.S. Roanoke down to the originator of the the type, the U.S.S. Monitor herself. 

As with the mystery Confederate ship I am working on the monitors will make their appearance in a day or so. This will be three models down and seventeen to go!

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

ACW Naval Endgame and Black Seas

Thoroughbred Miniatures double ended Ferry adapted as a gunboat. Note the ‘walking beam’ engine assembly 

The ‘walking beam’ as translated by Warbases

It was a good day yesterday and for the first time in several weeks I actually feel quite positive about the future. The ongoing domestic situation took a dramatic turn for the better yesterday and at last (despite a last minute hiccup of an administrative nature) the steps are in place to address and hopefully, in time, resolve the issue. The change in the atmosphere at Chez Crook is noticeable and certainly most welcome! As an aside a big thank you to all those that offered their best wishes during this ongoing episode - it has been much appreciated.

My Warbases order arrived and as you would have seen from my blog post of yesterday I am at last in the position of being able to complete the ACW naval project - at least as far as the ship models are concerned. The last phase will be - perhaps unsurprisingly - rather larger than I originally intended and is looking like it will be nudging some 20 models! Some of these will be quite straightforward to build, others less so. There are also a couple of rebuilds factored into this although I am having second thoughts about one of them. 

A number of the ships I will be building feature the ‘walking beam’ assembly as well as deck mounted artillery. Both of these are quite fiddly to put together so my plan is to assemble the whole lot en masse and then add them to the models as required. I would prefer to get all the fiddly stuff dealt with in one batch especially as I have to shape some 25 gun barrels from cocktail sticks in two lengths! I shall look to do these two tasks first of all methinks as I have yet to work out the building order of the remaining ships.

The picture you see at the head of this post is of one of the double ended ferries pressed into Union service. A fair number of these were used and I am planning on building three of them. I shall also be adding to the Union another couple of monitors, another couple of city class gunboats (possibly just one with the U.S.S. Chillicothe - I have yet to are a final decision on this), three ‘90 day gunboats’ and a couple of fully masted types. The Confederates will be getting another couple of ironclads, four more gunboat types (again I have yet to decide on which) a commerce raider and a blockade runner. If this all seems a little fluid then I hold my hand up - guilty as charged! I have not been able to nail it down as tightly as I would liked to have done for obvious reasons.

The two models currently earmarked for rebuilding. The Confederate casemate ironclad will definitely be reconfigured but the jury is out on the Union ship as it may take rather more work to change.

Finally, a big shout out to Warlord Games Customer Service. If you recall I was gifted an untouched and unused copy of Black Seas a short while ago, along with some other bits and pieces, from that very nice chap The Jolly Broom Man. Unfortunately one of the Brigs had a gun barrel sheared off - a small thing but  quite noticeable. More from hope than expectation I contacted Warlord to see if I could get a replacement - for which I was happy to pay for I might add - and lo and behold they came back to me within a couple of days, acknowledged the issue (they needed to know the packing slip details) and sent me a replacement free of charge. During the exchange of emails I rather cheekily asked about getting one of their sheets of Spanish flags and to my surprise and delight they popped one of these in with the replacement Brig sprue.

Really good service from Warlord - especially considering that it was a rather speculative request!

For the Black Seas Napoleonic project (when I get to it) I reckon I have a pretty good starting point although at some point I will add some Schooners and perhaps cutters. It is a way off yet so I will park it for later consideration. 

Taking all of the above into consideration I am feeling rather more energised than I have for sometime so let us hope I can translate this ‘feel good factor’ into something tangible!

Monday, 26 April 2021

“These Beams are made for Walkin”

The ‘walking beam’ assembly. This has been cut from 2mm thick MDF and the struts etc are all 1mm wide. By trimming the bottom section of the supporting frame (and making the necessary adjustment to the diamond and the two rods) I can vary the size to suit the dimensions of the ship being modelled.

Lots to tell. The domestic situation appears to be in a sate of suspended animation in that what was supposed to have happened thus far hasn’t. We are currently in some kind of NHS holding pattern so we know that we will be getting down to terra firma - we just don’t know when! In the meantime we are hanging in there and hopeful that things will take a turn for the better sooner rather than later.

It was the first opening of our local boot sale yesterday so SWMBO, my daughter and I headed over to try and grab some bargains. The ladies did rather well but yours truly came away with nothing. There was not even something that I might have thoughts about buying but that is how they go sometimes.

The front cover....

....and the back telling what it is all about

My copy of Gamma Wolves arrived and pretty darned good it looks as well. I particularly like the fact that I can use just about type of mech I want which is good news - especially since I have a box of Heavy Gear plastics to play around with. 

Better still my final ACW order from Warbases arrived. I am absolutely delighted with the parts therein - Martin has done a wonderful job on the ‘walking beam’ assembly that was a common feature on the inland waterways of the USA. I managed to break one whilst getting the diamond shape cut out so care is needed - luckily I ordered rather more than I am likely to need (a round dozen whereas I reckon on building only half of that). I also have a rather more effective looking naval gun carriage for deck guns which will feature on a number of the models I am building as well as being retrofitted to some of the existing models.

The Man Cave Part 3 - The Return of Order

I have also been able to get the man cave reorganised and it feels a whole more sensible in terms of the layout. Whilst the man cave is spacious it is less than ideally laid out. There is the chimney breast which would not be so bad if the radiator had not been placed on the wall opposite. In an ideal world I would have my bookcases along the longest wall (which is where the radiator is) but have to use the end wall instead. This has the slope of the roof to contend with so the final configuration is a tall centre unit flanked by two smaller versions. It works well and gives me some additional shelving meaning that ‘stuff’ can be far better organised. 

As part of this task I also went through and sorted out a load of bits and pieces that have now gone - either to the tip, charity shops or selective disposals. This also freed up some space so the whole area now feels rather more spacious and less disorganised.

Now that this task has been completed I can focus my attention on the remaining ACW ships - and I am really looking forward to this!

Friday, 23 April 2021

There be pirates! (Again....) with Racing Cars?

Just the thing for the aspiring pirate - now where did I put that plank?

 I have been working like the clappers since before 8am this morning poring over and populating some work related spreadsheets. I am now taking my lunch and in order to help my brain recover I thought I would share some pictures of Oak and Iron - the pirate ship board game from Firelock Miniatures and is the nautical tie in with their 28mm skirmish game Blood and Plunder. In truth I had kind of forgotten about this game but am glad to be reacquainted with it. 

It has been tricky to get a hold of and is expensive compared to Black Seas and with fewer models therein.  There are 6 ships in the base game and these are much simpler to put together compared to the Warlord offerings - there is a one piece hull and the masts, complete with moulded on sails and some rather nice self adhesive flags and that is it! None of that intricate gluing, painting, rigging and fiddling about with that one is required to do when assembling the brigs and frigates that come with Black Seas! To be honest though, the Oak and Iron models are pretty basic compared to those from Black Seas but appear to paint up well enough so that will be a good place to start for me methinks before graduating to the ‘big boys ship models’ from Warlord.

The 6 ships from the base game....

....and the accompanying data cards. These are in the same order as the models in the previous picture and for scale purposes the squares you see are 4” across

It is possible to buy additional ships but again, these are not cheap but in the interests of completeness I suspect I shall need to invest in some in due course.

It is a real shame that these models are as expensive as they are as they would be ideal for the Dutch Wars but of course you would need loads of them!

As for the rest of Oak and Iron the components are top notch. I like the card fog banks/islands/rocky outcrops and also the 3ft square gaming mat - which is better quality than the Black Seas version methinks. I am rather spoilt for choice in respect of rules for this project as aside from the Oak and Iron set I also have Peter Pig’s Pieces of Eight, Ganesha Games Galleys and Galleons and finally Mad for War recently published by The League of Augsburg.

For the land side I am equally spoilt for choice in that there is of course the Portable Wargame, Pieces of Eight, HOTT or even something One Hour Wargame based. It will be a while before I can get that organised but at the very least I shall be able to get some pirate ships on the go in true Errol Flynn tradition.

Seat of the pants motor racing - none of that downforce nonsense to worry about and when crowd safety meant a few hay bales....

The racing car part of this post is really to pick your brains with. I am currently watching the John Frankenheimer film Grand Prix starring James Garner. I am a bit of a Formula One fan and really enjoy seeing those old mid 1960s era racing cars doing their stuff. As an aside I also really enjoyed Steve McQueen’s film Le Mans. Does anyone know of a producer of metal cars from that era in say, 1:200th? I seem to recall a motor racing game out some years ago that produced a range of then current F1 cars (this would have been around 1993) as well as a set for the 1950s. I am really looking for the mid 1960s as for the most part the cars all looked the same overall and were not plastered in sponsors logos. I have fond memories of playing Waddington’s Formula One which was an excellent game and one that I need to add to my collection again!

Perhaps I should have word with that very nice Mr Kay at Irregular Miniatures....

Thursday, 22 April 2021

It’s oh so quiet....



There has been very little gaming activity over recent days - mainly due to the ongoing domestic situation which has cast a pall of all-pervading gloom at Chez Crook. Being British naturally we soldier on - or not in this particular case! We are slowly coming out of the current malaise so all being well this weekend should see a return to what passes for normality. In any event SWMBO and I are heading to our favourite boot sale on Sunday so hopefully some bargains will be found which is always good for the soul.

I found a very useful Humbrol to Vallejo conversion chart and was delighted to see that many of go to enamels have a direct acrylic equivalent - particularly in respect of the shades of grey I use. No prizes for guessing what will next be on the shopping list!

As a result of another visit to IKEA I am now the proud owner of the storage unit we were using downstairs as a show rack. It was used as bookcase originally but will now being seeing service as a more general unit in the soon to be reorganised man cave. 

My Warbases order is in the queue so as soon as it is ready I can crack on with the last of the ACW ships which I am hoping will galvanise me into finally painting and gridding my 6ft by 4ft table. I am also thinking about ‘spotting’ the playing mat that comes with Black Seas and then getting it laminated. Spotting means using small sticky dots to mark the corners of the squares and are not as intrusive looking as grid lines. The Black Seas mat is glossy paper which I cannot imagine surviving for long so laminating it makes sense and would certainly be cheaper than buying a bespoke mat.

I have taken the decision to not scratch build the ships for either the pirates or the Napoleonic projects. By using the models from Oak and Iron and Black Seas I will have to hone my painting which I don’t mind and am indeed, quite looking forward to it - even the rigging!

The giant stompy robots I have are probably not going to be used with Heavy Gear, at least not in the short term. The models are lovely but they are not cheap. I have instead opted to try out Osprey’s Gamma Wolves as you can use anything with the background. As the models are technically 1:144th I have also been looking at sources of 10mm figures to go with them and happily Pendraken oblige.

All in all then this is really a bit of a nothing kind of post but I am still looking to the gaming future and making plans despite life throwing up the odd speed bump!

It may be oh so quiet but let’s hope for some noise soon....

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Caribbean Dreams

There be pirates....

 One of the great and enduring things about the blogosphere is the willingness of others to share ideas and offer thoughts and opinions on matters of personal lofty contemplation. In my last post I mentioned about the choice I was facing between two projects - pirates and the Napoleonic Wars - set in the age of sail. I am unable to decide between them as, in truth, I would really like to tackle them both despite the similarities. Both will involve a small number of ships and a land element - the latter being Portable Wargame sized.

After carefully thinking about it I think I may have found a good compromise - and the comments from my previous post have certainly helped to point me in what I think may be the right direction (thank you chaps, as ever much appreciated).  

I will be tackling both the pirates AND the Napoleonic Wars set against the backdrop of the Caribbean.

The plan at this stage is to use Black Seas for the latter and Oak and Iron for the former as far as the ship models are concerned. I would have liked to have built these myself but for a variety of reasons it makes more sense for me to use what is readily available rather than starting from scratch. Although I am not a huge fan of 15mm figures as a rule I will be using this as the scale for the land stuff - the Peter Pig ‘Pieces of Eight’ range being the first post of call. I will need to think about the Napoleonic land side but that will be later rather than sooner but I have been casting covetous eyes at the range available from Stonewall Miniatures - they are really nice! The Napoleonic ship models I fully intend rigging and so this will be a slow burner - especially as I have something else to fit in beforehand and in advance of starting either of these two related projects.

Once I have the last of the ACW ships built I shall look to paint up the Oak and Iron ships from the base game - I may need to add to them at some point just to round out the variety of sip types available - which will at least enable me to indulge in all manner of piratical shenanigans. I have a cunning plan in respect of the troops for this so will be needing to get an order for Peter Pig together sooner rather than later so as to strike whilst the iron is hot.

Needless to say with this reshuffle there will be casualties. I shall be parking the Russo Turkish War naval set up to one side. I am not abandoning it but it will have to wait before I can tackle it as I really want to get some age of sail games in.

Monday, 19 April 2021

A Nautical Conundrum

Warlord Games 1:700th scale metal Schooner Squadron 

It has been a busy few days with lots of domestic stuff ongoing - much of which has been rather challenging  in one way or another. Despite this the grand sort out of the man cave has begun and whilst there will be some gaming related disposals overall these will be quite limited. It is more about making the contents of the man cave far more accessible and above all, organised.

I have been landed with a rather delicious dilemma though. My recent acquisition of a pristine copy of Warlord Games Black Powder naval variant Black Seas (courtesy of the Jolly Broom Man) has given me much pause for thought. I really enjoy age of sail games and indeed, my plan was to try and build some ships for the period using my MDF system. You may recall that I had a copy of Black Seas from some time ago but to be honest I was not hugely taken by it. The models are lovely but at the time I did not feel confident enough in my modelling skills to do them justice and in any event I was distinctly underwhelmed by the rules.  Even then my thoughts had centred on my favourite set of rules for the period - Ship ‘O the Line (the forerunner of the board game Wooden Ships and Iron Men by Avalon hill) from way back in the 1970s. 

I had plans for tying in the low level naval action - primarily frigates and smaller - with some land operations and so acquired a selection of 20mm nautical types together with marines with a view to tackling some combined operations on the Eastern front of the peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. It was grand scheme overall but for a variety of reasons it kind of fell by the wayside and so the embryonic forces were quietly disposed of.

Now here is the thing. For some unknown reason I now feel far better prepared to take on assembling, painting and even rigging the models from Black Seas. I can only put this down to the confidence gained as a result of my ship building - I realise this probably sounds rather quaint but I really feel in some way empowered by the experience. The number of models involved will be small and therefore far more manageable. Even the land elements would be quite modest in terms of numbers - we are not talking massed Napoleonic armies after all, effectively naval landing parties or raiding forces.

My problem is that I also have a liking for something pirate based as in the typical 17th century version. Again, I would be looking to tie in the land side for this and I also thought about making my own ships for the project. 

My dilemma is simply that I am unable to choose between them as I cannot really justify having two conceptually similar age of sail set ups. The Napoleonic Wars would have a certain degree of regularity about it in that I would once again revisit the land dimension and the naval games would be really enjoyable. I would even look forward to making the ship models - they are really lovely in my opinion and worthy of my best efforts (including rigging). The pirate side would be a little more anarchic for sure but again, overall would offer a similar types of experience.

Crucially I now have the ships for the Napoleonic period and gaming wise it is far more of a known quantity. I also have a better starting point than previously in that I can position the land side far more efficiently - meaning I can do it how I like rather than attempting to work around an existing collection. Black Seas comes with three frigates and six brigs and so for my plans merely needs at this stage a further frigate. I note that gunboats are available as well as Schooners, Cutters and Bobs Ketches so at the lower level as far as ships are concerned the project is well served. I could not see me heading to the dizzying heights of first rate ships although a box of 74s may be in order at some point....

But what of the pirates? This really is a tricky one as I would enjoy getting some pirate ships organised as well as fighting some of the raids in the Caribbean. There is plenty of choice as far as figures are concerned and the anarchic nature of it all has a certain whimsical charm for me. Besides, we are talking about pirates here....

Of course, let us not forget that French privateers were very active during the Napoleonic Wars....

I need to think about this some more although it must be said that the Napoleonic Wars does have its nose in front, or should that be bowsprit?

Friday, 16 April 2021

Of Wargaming Generosity, Sailing Ships, Stompy Robots and IKEA....

Available from Amazon and I am certainly looking forward to reading  this - gotta love some big stompy robot action!

Apologies in advance but this will be rather a long post so settle down with a cup of tea and a chocolate Hob Nob and enjoy!

It has often been noted on his blog and on others that most wargamers are a generous lot. We have all at some time or another either been the recipient or donor of items that only a wargamer would appreciate. This could be books, rules, games, figures, unbuilt models or indeed, pretty much anything we need for our hobby.

This week I have been on the receiving end of two such examples of wargamer’s largesse and so I would like to describe them for you.

Ashley Pollard, author, archer, bon vivant, with and raconteur is fond of science fiction games that involve fighting robots or anything AI related. This includes things like Battletech, OHMU (remember then?) Heavy Gear, OGRE or anything similar. After an exchange of emails  and to cut a long story short, she had a sort out of bits from her collection that were surplus to requirements that she very kindly passed on to yours truly. A box full of cybernetic mayhem arrived earlier this week that  have only just gotten around to sorting out properly. 

The two player starter set for Heavy Gear and....

....the box of goodies that Ashley sent me! Note the two hover tank sprues

For the most part the models are from Heavy Gear and I have to say that they are really nice. From the selection available I could readily field two forces for some ‘giant stompy robot’ action but I have a feeling this will be the thin end of the wedge. I would be keen to expand the selection I have and so am casting cover tours eyes at the two player starter set for Heavy Gear - as soon as funds permit.

There is a bag of personal weapons included that are designed for customising the models but I am thinking that some of these would also serve as weapons on 28mm Sci Fi figures - very handy with the imminent launch of Star Grave.

I mentioned that Ashley is an author and as I am a bit of fan of ‘gritty’ style Sci fi novels (think Aliens or Blade Runner) will certainly be taking a look at her Bad Dog series.

What can I say other than many, many thanks Ashley - this has given my Sci Fi mojo a major shot in the arm!

But it didn’t end there.....

This morning saw the arrival of the second parcel I was expecting - this time courtesy of that renowned man about town, rake and ne’er do well (actually a jolly nice bloke with a great line in amusing escapades...) The Jolly Broom Man. 

This was able that few in the telling involving as it does 18mm ECW Wofun and Medieval Cogs. There is a tale behind the latter but I will save that for another post but suffice it to say as the result of  his ‘I am never going to get around to using that’ type of clear out I am now the proud owner of a pristine copy of the base game of Black Seas: Master and Commander, together with some scenic bits and pieces - gotta love a lighthouse - and a rather nice looking resin casting of a Tudor Great Ship. Well it is ship, I think it is Tudor and it s certainly great so qualifies....

The funny thing with all this is that I now feel rather more confident about tackling an age of sail ship than I would have done prior to the great ACW build fest - despite the fact that there has been no rigging involved on those ships that have needed it! Perhaps some refurbishment may be called for in due course.

This was a most welcome addition to the collection as I have a hankering for something age of sail related  but was originally looking at building the models myself. That may still be an option but for now at least I can think about just painting and rigging some models as the building part will take care of itself.

Of the Jolly Broom Man I can say only this - many, many thanks old chap and suffice it to say the creative cogs are turning!

The two examples above of the generosity of wargamers helps to give one a warm and fuzzy feeling (for various personal reasons they gave me a huge boost this week) especially during these difficult times we find ourselves in although hopefully not for much longer. There is a lot to be said for passing on old and unwanted stuff to someone else that could be interested and so I continue to be proud to be a participant in a hobby where this incredible generosity still has a place. “Quod Severis Metes”

Of IKEA....

Just to show that it is not all rock and roll at Maison Crook SWMBO and I headed to our local IKEA at Lakeside to pick up six new chairs to go with the dining table. We only had to cue for some 35 minutes to get out and the new chairs went together easily enough with no missing pieces or bits left over.

What a week it has been....

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Preparing for the final act

Loosely based on the C.S.S. General Stirling Price - the elongated hatch cover on the foredeck will be mounting a gun in due course

 I have built as much as I can do for the ACW project in advance of the final order from Warbases. The last link you see above and so the Confederate River Defence Fleet is moving along nicely.

I have built 39 models so far and now reckon that I have a further 15 to build to complete the line up. These are all straightforward with the only tricky little number being the small octagonal casemate ironclad I have still to build. The final two models I shall be building for the collection will be the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia which is kind of fitting in a way as it was those two that really started my interest in the naval side of the ACW.

I will be looking at holding a formal fleet review once the last models have been built but for now you can see the full collection - plus the two Turkish ships and H.M.S Superb.

Union ships forming the top three rows whilst the Confederates are the bottom four. The start of the Russo Turkish War is on the left in the tray.

I have in mind an off the wall naval project - something by way of an indulgence and a cheeky way to tackle a period that I would never dream of painting the land side for....