Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Three little Timberclads....

New additions to the Union fleet - the three famous timberclads U.S.S. Lexington (foreground) and the U.S.S Tyler and U.S.S. Conestega

 The trio of the U.S.S.Lexington, U.S.S, Tyler and U.S.S. Conestega are now finished and have joined the ranks of the Union fleet. I rather like these and for any ACW river based set up they are pretty much indispensable. All three had very active careers and I hope that they will continue in this spirit when I get to use them!

The next batch is of a further five side wheel paddle steamers and things start to get interesting as the final two batches will feature some small gunboats and a number of ocean going types.

It is getting there for sure!

Monday, 29 March 2021

Back in the building and selling Groove

The work in progress - and a cautionary tale for the unwary!

  It has been a rather less fraught few days as what passes for peace and harmony descend once more on Chez Crook. Thus is quite normal in that after such an episode there is a period of relatively calm reflection by all concerned. At least now there is, dare I say it, a roadmap out of our particular situation so hopefully all will come good in time.

Needless to say little on the gaming front was achieved after the completion of U.S.S. Benton - the three timberclads sat patiently on my modelling desk waiting their turn for being built - but I have sorted a few bits and pieces out. Below are the pictures of the books that are to be disposed of - this is for two reasons really  as I need to raise some funds for some more immediate projects and also I am looking to reorganise the man cave at some point. Once this is done I shall have less storage space so I need to be far more efficient about what I have to hand

All the above are hardback and are in good condition with the dust jackets.

If anyone wants any details about any of the above then drop me a line at  roguejedi@btinternet.com

I will be happy to combine postage and ‘do a deal’ for multiple purchases.

On to the building....

The picture at the head of this post needs little by the way of explanation - there are the three timberclads merely awaiting sealing, undercoating, painting, final assembly, ‘flagging’ and varnishing - but the two pieces of dowel rod at the bottom of the picture tell their own story....

At the beginning of last week I realised that I was coming to the end of my supply of what I thought was 6mm dowel rod. This is the size I have been using for funnels on a big chunk of the collection. Anyway, to cut a long story short I ordered a pack of ten x 30cm 6mm rods from Amazon (it cost £4.20) and these duly arrived quite promptly. It was only after I had cut 6 funnels, each of an inch in length, that I thought ‘Hang on, they look a little on the thick side!’ Sure enough they were thicker than the size I had been using. 

You can probably guess what had happened. The size I was using was in fact 5mm - NOT 6mm. That will teach me to measure stuff beforehand. I ordered the correct size vis my daughter’s Amazon Prime and so they arrived yesterday and work could resume.

The 6mm size will certainly get used - they seem a good size for cruiser types - but it was a tad frustrating!

Looking more closely at the cutting mat in the picture you can see three milk container tops. These have the two funnels and the pilot house for each model lightly glued on - I paint these off the model and glue them in place one the hull and decks are painted. The model on the left is in two parts (it will be the U.S.S. Lexington when completed) as I have to paint a very narrow strip of deck alongside of the superstructure so it was easier to tackle this separately.

All being well these three will be ready in a day or so and then it is on with what should be the final batch of side wheel paddle steamers.

It is getting there!

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know....

Big, bad and not something you would want to bump into on the broad reaches of the Mississippi...The U.S.S. Benton

 I did not expect to be writing this post just yet - more likely it would have been in a couple of days - but one must strike whilst the iron is hot. The domestic situation has taken a significant turn for the better and although it is very much early days one must hope that at last the right route to normality has been found.

I will say no more about this at present but thank you for your thoughts and message of support - as ever they are very much appreciated.

I have finished the first model of the final batch of ships for the ACW project. The great slab you see above is the U.S.S. Benton which started life as catamaran snag boat before being converted into a great hulk of a casemate ironclad gunboat. She will be accompanied in action by the U.S.S. Essex and the two city class gunboats I have - the U.S.S. Carondelet and the U.S.S. Louisville. Together they look something like the below:

Guaranteed to give any Confederate river based fort something to think about - as long as it is at the right elevation for the guns to reach!

The three Union timberclads are currently under construction and now that what passes for normality has resumed at Chez Crook I can press on with them. 

Onwards and upwards and all that!

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

The English Civil War - Portable Wargame and WoFun Style

I have the above book, the Wofun 18mm armies and a modest library for the period - what could possibly go wrong?

 This will be a short post for reasons I will mention later as well as being the last for a week or so.

I received a large parcel from Romania today being the remainder of my 18mm ECW armies as well as a whole box of samples for a forthcoming range that I have been sworn to secrecy about. I now have a complete set up for the ECW in 18mm covering most of the options for the English and Scottish theatres. To say I am delighted is an understatement but the real work still needs to be done - the bases and edging. Neither task will be difficult but they will be time consuming. In truth this was always going to a project for the second half of the year so it means that I can fully finish the ship building before I go all pike and shot.

My absence from the blog for a few days - a week at tops - is simply because I have a domestic situation that requires my attention. Life sometimes gets in the way of our hobby and this is one occasion where I must step back to attend to it.

I shall respond to any comments but it may not be as quickly as usual so please bear with me.

See you all on the other side.

Building Progress

The great slab that is the U.S.S. Benton and the three timberclads. The small paddle box tops on the timberclads were a fraction too long and overhung the angled section so some judicious filing and shaping was needed to get then to fit, hence the light area ‘fore and aft’.

For a variety of reasons- mostly domestic and work related -  I have not been able to spend as much time on the ACW ship build as I would have liked. Progress has resumed and the results of which can be seen above. 

The huge chunk on the left is of course the U.S.S. Benton whilst the three others are the trio of timberclads - the U.S.S. Tyler, U.S.S. Conestega and the U.S.S. Lexington. All being well these should be finished in a few days and then it will be on to some more side wheelers for the river - 4 in all - and these will see the last of the types for both navies.

I must confess that the tank is beginning to run low in respect of my eagerness to get this phase of the project completed but I am now so close I must push on!

Monday, 22 March 2021

Impact, Galactic Heroes and Stargrave

 H.G.Wells meets Jurassic Park - as I recall I think this cost me 50p or so at a boot sale a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

I am a long standing science fiction and science fantasy fan. I have fought numerous skirmish level games  using 28mm figures although not for some time - the last outing was playing Space Hulk as I recall - and it a genre I am always looking to dabble once again in. I recently acquired the base game of Star Saga by Mantic Games and this represented a really good investment even if I only use the bits and pieces contained therein. The figures are lovely and I have seen some truly wonderful paint jobs on the net. I will get to them at some point for in the short term I wanted something more immediately available.

Enter stage left - IMPACT! I picked this game up at a boot sale a few years ago solely for the figures and terrain pieces that come with it. The basic game has a unit of human troops fighting an invading force of sentient and well equipped vaguely humanoid dinosaur types. Both sides have commanders, troopers and an assortment of heavy weapons - which fire missiles a la H.G.Wells. The figures are painted and are made from this rubberised plastic material - reminiscent of that used for the Axis and Allies warships from the collectible miniatures game.

The Human troops - I added to both sets of figures via eBay so there two of the base game and one from Wolf Ridge expansion set. They are not the best figures but they will suffice for what I have in mind.

The game board (there are 6 of these) and three of the hard plastic rocky outcrops with the slots for the figure bases readily in view

The sentient dinosaurs (sounds like a rock band!) - the heavy weapon types are very Triceratops looking and the weapons are very biologically styled, rather like those of GW’s Tyrannids

With the best will in the world I would not use the figures as they are currently adorned - and coming from someone that can best be described as a reluctant figure painter - but I reckon that even I could have a good go at these figures! My plan is simple - I will base the figures and repaint them into something a little more appropriate. The only downside is that in basing them they will not fit into the firing steps on the various pieces of terrain you see - they are 19mm across - that comes with the game. No matter, I am sure I can manage to disguise the holes with some filler etc!

Stargrave from the same stable as Frostgrave - I am really looking forward to this!

I want to use the figures with Galactic Heroes and also Stargrave (think Frostgrave with technology) when  it is released. It will certainly be something different in any event.

Friday, 19 March 2021

The Last Lap

 My order from Warbases arrived this morning so I now have all the remaining pieces I need to complete the ACW collection. I have identified the models I want to build so now it is just a case of getting them built! The collection when complete will consist of 52 models and given that is near enough six months again that I started this effort means that an average of two models a week is not too bad at all. First I have to build them though and more by chance than design there are only three ships that will need masts!

The first ships I am building are very much river facing rather than coastal and there will models for both sides. For the most part the advantage will be the Union in terms of the models remaining - in fact two thirds of them will be for the North.

The hull template you see in the centre will be for the U.S.S. Benton - I placed the U.S.S. Louisville (left) and the U.S.S. Essex (right) so you get an idea of the size of the U.S.S. Benton. Think of her as a city class gunboat on steroids....!!

This is the Thoroughbred Models 1:600th scale version of the U.S.S. Benton - mine will feature straight, angled sides and ‘purely representational’ levels of detail....

The above three are for the U.S.S. Tyler, U.S.S. Conestega and the U.S.S, Lexington - stalwarts of the Union river fleet.

Thoroughbred Minatures 1:600th scale U.S.S. Lexington....

....and the U.S.S. Tyler/Conestega

Aside from the above I have a selection of paddle steamers to build - no stern wheelers as yet although I may add a few in time - and then it will the last of the coastal bits and pieces.

One of things that has been an absolute godsend in terms of information although I only came across it a couple of days ago is the book you see before you available from the Wargames Vault.

Everything you wanted to know about Confederate armoured warships but were afraid to ask! 

John Wallis, the author of the above has not only written a peach of a book he is also a thoroughly nice chap into the bargain! The book covers the design and development of every armoured warship the Confederacy used complete with scale plans as far as known, a state by state summary of the types designed, ordered, built, abandoned or turned into something else. Even foreign orders feature. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone that has an interest in the warships of the American Civil War and as an aside if anyone is thinking of an ACW 1866 style set up (in the same vein as a WW2 1946 affair) then this would be very useful indeed!

A quick glance through the pages (sadly it is only available online and at over 230 pages is a big printing job) has given me a lot of comfort around my ‘generic’ looking models - the chances are that all of them featured in one form or another - either as designs or early versions of existing, known types - so it is good to know that I am not that far off the historical base!

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

The Hunt for a “Hellish Machine”....Game Number 65

 Rumours abounded of a ‘hellish machine’ devised by the Rebels for use along the lower reaches of the Mississippi. In order to ensure that the waterways were kept free from Rebel interference a small Union flotilla was tasked with finding and, if possible, destroying the Confederate ship or any others they found.

With the U.S.S. Carondelet leading followed by the U.S.S. Queen of the West and the U.S.S. Switzerland, the Union column snakes its way along the lower reaches of the Mississippi

The Union force comprised the U.S.S. Carondelet, the U.S.S. Queen of the West and the U.S.S. Switzerland. The former vessel had overall command of the expedition and the two accompanying rams were to provide support to the gunboat.

The C.S.S.Manassas turns its face the oncoming Union ships with the C.S.S. Little Rebel ready to provide support

The Confederate force consisted of the C.S.S. Manassas with the C.S.S. Little Rebel as escort. The Confederate ships were similarly tasked with patrolling the waterway and clearing any Union forces present if possible.

Turn 1. No firing so straight on to initiative. Union 1 Confederate 3 - the Union are forced to move first.

The Union formation, with the U.S.S. Carondelet in the van, followed by the U.S.S. Queen of the West, separates out slightly (the U.S.S. Switzerland is the slowest of the three ships) as they attempt to head off the Rebels. Meanwhile the two Confederate ships form up en echelon in readiness for tackling the Union flagship.

Turn 2. The U.S.S. Carondelet opens fire with 2d6 with no modifiers for penetration/armour (both are +3)  so straight dice are rolled scoring a 1 and 5 meaning a single point of damage for the C.S.S. Manassas. The damage roll is a 5 meaning that the steering has been hit reducing her from 3 turns to 2 per turn. The C.S.S. Manassas fires back at the Union flagship, again with an even score - PF2 and AF2 - and scores a 6 and a 5! As the hits were non penetrating there is still a chance that a shot may have gotten through somewhere. For non penetrating critical hits a d6 is rolled and if the score is lower than the number of hits scored then a critical ht is rolled for as normal. With two hits scored a dice of 1 was needed and a 5 was rolled so no critical. The two hit locations came up as 1 and 2 meaning three points of damage across the Flotation Point with the option that 1 could be taken against the armour. The three points were recorded against the Flotation Points - heavy damage, but nothing fatal. C.S.S. Little Rebel also fired at the U.S.S. Carondelet and missed. On to initiative. Union 2 Confederate 5 - once again the Union are forced to move first.

As the U.S.S. Carondelet swings clear of the approaching the Rebel ships the U.S.S. Queen of the West is rammed by both Confederate ships! The C.S.S. Little Rebel rolls 6, 5, 3 and 1 scoring 3 points of flotation damage whilst the U.S.S. Manassas rolls 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2 for a further 4 points of flotation damage - 7 in all! As both Rebel ships scored damaging hits the Union ship is able to roll against them to represent the possibility of self inflicted ramming damage. She scores 2 points against the C.S.S. little Rebel and nothing against the C.S.S. Manassas. The roll for ‘locking together (for the U.S.S. Queen of the West and the C.S.S. Little Rebel) was a 3 so they are able to separate. All vessels are able to make a free turn away and next move may only travel at half speed.

As a result of the ram attacks the U.S.S. Queen of the West has reached her Critical Point and so must now attempt to break off the action at best speed and head for her start line. The position of the ships after their free turns is shown below. This is the only time that ships are allowed to occupy the same squares - the rationale being that they have separated and are attempting to get clear of one another. 

Turn 3. The only firing is from the U.S.S. Carondelet at the C.S.S. Manassas which is duly missed. Initiative rolls are Union 4 and Confederate 6 - once again the Union have to move first.

Whilst the Confederates are still to move the Union rearmost ram, the U.S.S. Switzerland crashes into the barely moving C.S.S. Manassas and inflicts a further 2 points of flotation damage for nothing in return. Meanwhile the U.S.S. Carondelet (out of view at the bottom of the picture) continues her wide turn whilst the battered U.S.S. Queen of the West limps away from her two enemies. The Rebels have yet to move.

The C.S.S. Manassas gets away from the U.S.S. Switzerland who now finds herself under attack from the lurking menace of the C.S.S. Little Rebel! The Confederate ship scores two 6, a 3 and a 2 causing four points of damage on the Union vessel. By way of a return she receives a single point but the two ships manage to separate, albeit now facing the same direction alongside one another.

As the U.S.S. Switzerland and the C.S.S. Little Rebel separate so the C.S.S. Manassas prepares to rejoin the fight.

Turn 4. Both the U.S.S. Switzerland and the C.S.S. Little Rebel open fire at point blank range (meaning each roll an extra d6). Both have a gunnery factor of 1but the Rebels have the slight advantage of a penetration factor of 1 as opposed to 0 for the plucky Union ship. The Union score a 6 and 4 meaning 2 hits for 2 points of damage. No critical is rolled (a 2 came up when a 1 was needed). The hit locations were guns and engines meaning that the C.S.S. Little Rebel lost her single point of broadside artillery and one off her speed. The return fire was also two d6 which came up a 1 and a 6 meaning a critical hit was scored (the penetration/armour modifier was +1). The point of damage was recorded against the speed and the critical hit was a 5 - a flood! The already slow U.S.S. Switzerland was in deep trouble! Initiative for the Union was 3 and the Confederates 5 so yet again the Union had to move first.

The battered U.S.S. Switzerland attempted to get away from her assailant but to no avail as once again the C.S.S. Little Rebel rammed her scoring two 5s, a 4 and a 1 leaving the Union ship perilously close to sinking and over her Critical point. By way of a return the Rebel ship did not get off lightly as her own hull was seriously damaged and she too was now over her Critical point - worse still the two ships were now locked together!

Turn 5. The U.S.S. Switzerland rolled a 1 and successfully secured the flood. Both her and the C.S.S. Little Rebel rolled to separate and scored a 6 and a 5 so the tw battered wrecks were able to push themselves clear of each other. Both sides, despite their damage, then open fire on one another - this being the only opportunity a ship that has passed its critical point can fire at an enemy. The U.S.S. Switzerland scored a 6 and a 5 for two hits located as guns and steering - the rebel ship now did not have any operating artillery and could only turn twice a move rather than 3 times. Her return fire came up with a 6 and 2 meaning that there was a critical hit to roll for. This came up as a 1 meaning 2 points off the armour rating or 1 form each of the armour and floatation. The latter option was chosen as her armour factor was only 1. 

Both the U.S.S. Switzerland and the C.S.S. Little Rebel were in very poor order having both reached their respective critical points as well as having received other damage. At least the former was facing the correct way in order to make her escape, albeit it at a speed of 2?

Turn 6. Only the U.S.S. Switzerland was able to fire so she promptly did so, scoring a 5 and 4 for two hits on the hapless C.S.S. Little Rebel. The hits were locations were 1 and 4 meaning flotation/armour for the former and engines for the latter. This was enough to sink her - she only had a single flotation point left and no armour rating - and the roll for the duration was a 5 so in that number of game turns she would slip beneath the waters of the lower Mississippi. For initiative the Union rolled 5 and the Confederates 4 so  the Union opted to move first.

Endgame. The sinking C.S.S. Little Rebel desperately attempts to reach the shore before sinking whilst the C.S.S. Manassas circles around and presumably will pick up survivors. The two Union rams - The U.S.S. Queen of the West and the U.S.S. Switzerland are both badly damaged and in need of repair whilst the U.S.S. Carondelet has also suffered although not to the same extent as the remainder of the Union force. The Union dare not engage the C.S.S. Manassas with the ships to hand so a more powerful force will be needed to tackle this ‘Hellish Machine’ in due course.

The Combatants


This was a test of the revised version of the rules I ma drafting and I have to say that it has worked out rather well. I am happy with the combat mechanics of firing, ramming and damage - but want to nail down the whole turning thing as I think I may have over egged it slightly. It is all small beer though so no major problems to incorporate the appropriate revisions.

From the point of view of the game itself the early turns were critical. The Confederates certainly made the right call in making for the U.S.S. Carondelet as with her artillery silenced it would have been a huge advantage to the rebels. As it was she was effectively taken out of the fight by turning away to be able to reengage on more favourable terms. The U.S.S. Queen of the West was fortunate to survive the attentions of both rebel rams but again, was able to power her way out of immediate danger whilst the sluggish U.S.S. Switzerland laboured into action. Her ongoing battle and ultimate victory over the C.S.S. Little Rebel was a brutal slugfest and she was lucky to survive - but survive she did. The C.S.S. Little Rebel had a magnificent action right up until the moment she was sunk - in retrospect going after the U.S.S. Switzerland repeatedly proved to be her undoing although perhaps her captain could be forgiven after the battering he had administered to both the Switzerland and the Queen of the West.

The C.S.S. Manassas could have been more effective but all the action was taking place whilst she attempting to rejoin the fray. Having said that she is a dangerous vessel and I am sure that had the action continues she could probably have accounted for one, maybe both of the Union rams.

I am really pleased to be on the home stretch of this project in terms of the shipbuilding and the rules as it has been enormous fun. 

Meanwhile, back to octagonal casemate ironclads....

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

One more to go....?

The final version of the C.S.S. Georgia and a small, generic casemate ironclad. I have a similar small octagonal casemate ironclad to build and then one final model of the type for the Confederates for the ‘big finish’. 

 Following on from last post and the struggle I had building an octagonal casemate ironclad I took the opportunity to step back into my comfort zone to crack on with some of the easier elements of the ‘loose ends’ section of the building programme. I needed to rebase the C.S.S. Georgia, build a further two smaller casemate ironclads - one conventional shaped and one octagonal - and then tackle three floating batteries - the decommissioned old style models.

Well, I have tackled the C.S.S. Georgia and the smaller conventional ironclad you see above and am pleased that I did! The C.S.S. Georgia will only ever be used as a floating battery but historically in this capacity she certainly gave the Union pause for thought. She is pretty imposing looking and to be honest I wish I had built her to this size and standard to start with. I have rather a soft spot for her and after having watched a very good documentary about her on YouTube even more so.

Once the smaller octagonal casemate ironclad has been built I shall have room for one more for the Confederate cause and am currently looking at either the Virginia or, more likely, the Tennessee.

The final batch of models for the Confederates will include some more side wheelers, a commerce raider, a blockade runner and some gunboats and as soon as my order from Warbases is in I can crack on with them.

For the ACW ship building project there is a definite end in sight!