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....

Three Down and One to go

Two Confederates and a single Union ship. The picture serves to highlight the various permutations of build that can be employed from a modest range of pieces. There are a number of the paddle steamers built thus far that will be getting deck mounted artillery in due course and these guns are not from Peter Pig!

 The only reason that all four of the paddle steamers currently under the brush were not finished at the same time is simply because the fourth and final model has a more involved colour scheme. She will be finished later today and that will be it until the Warbases order arrives. There is a degree of preparation I could attend to in advance of the order arriving but nothing that is pressingly urgent. 

Once the final model that should have been with the batch above has been painted the collection will be at 39 models.

I wonder what steps I should take next....

Monday 12 April 2021

Repurposed and Refurbished Ironclads

Two slim hulled generic looking casemate ironclads with a single gun port fore and aft. Had I been building these from scratch I would have opted for three gunports along the broadside of the larger of the two and two for the smaller. Within the context of my rules it does not matter as the gunnery factor is based on gun types and number and often does not correlate with what the model looks like!

 Although I started the four paddle steamers first I have finished the two ironclads ahead of them. I am rather pleased with these although the gun port are the original versions which are larger than what I am using now - 5mm squares as opposed to the old 6mm size. This means for the Confederates I have two ironclads to build from scratch and one to convert and they are finished. I am still undecided about one of the two that want to build (the other being the smaller octagonal casemate ironclad) and am looking at C.S.S.Baltic or the famous C.S.S. Virginia. If I opt for the latter I will naturally build a U.S.S. Monitor.

Once the current crop of paddle steamers are painted (which will be today) I will have four more to build for the Confederates together with a commerce raider and a blockade runner and that, with the ironclads, will be them finished.

I am getting there!

Sunday 11 April 2021

Battling Against the Tide and Winning (at last!)

Two ironclads and four paddle steamers with the accompanying funnels, pilot houses and flagstaffs bringing up the rear on the milk carton lids! Note the artistic fusion of Humbrol and Vallejo!

 I must confess that I have found it a real challenge to push on with the latest batch of models for my ACW project. The Easter weekend, my ankle injury (now more or less healed) and the realisation that I will need another batch of pieces from Warbases (thankfully all under way now) are factors that seem to have conspired to apply the brakes slightly. We are where we are though and so after having ‘nibbled away’ at them over the last week I now have six models that should be completed over the next day or so - five for the Confederacy and a single ship for the Union.

The picture above shows the current state of play with these and I am certainly on the final lap despite the somewhat chaotic looking cutting mat. I used Vallejo black for the first time on the funnels and I have to say it is really lovely paint to use. I used it ‘neat’ rather than with water and it had a lovely and manageable creamy consistency. 

I am really keen to tackle some figures but want to get the ACW ships and the accompanying terrain finished first. The first figures I will be tackling will be for Star Saga and for practise purposes I shall use the figures from IMPACT first of all as these are quite basic looking.

Onwards and Upwards!

Thursday 8 April 2021

The Vexing Subject of Confederate Ironclads

The two newest additions to the Confederate ironclad cause - currently a ‘WIP’ as are the metal trees you see at the top of the picture. These are 1:300th scale and are, I believe, from Heroics and Ros and yes, I want to get some more of them!

When I have completed the Confederate fleet for my ACW project there will be a round dozen casemate ironclads of various types. Half of these will be ‘historical’ ships whilst the remainder are ‘based on’ types. I have not included the pair of C.S.S. Stonewalls in this - just the casemate ironclads.

Available from the Wargames Vault and anyone with an interest in naval warfare during the American Civil War should DEFINITELY read this!

If I have learned anything about the ships of the period it is that a substantial amount number of them we have no real idea of what they actually looked like. For sure there are many period photographs of some of the more well known types but an awful lot of the lithographs that appeared in the press were inaccurate and in many cases simply made up. John Wallis in his book on the subject has details of the actual ships that served - in many cases looking quite different from the original design - as well as those that were ordered and designed but not built or those that were started and not finished. It is a fascinating read about what might have been, much the same as using Z plan warships for the Kriegsmarine in WW2. 

The six models that are not based on anything particular are more indicative of the overall type rather than specific ships. I have no problem with this as it means that the models can be used for a variety of historical ships. I have opted for the following combinations and for each pair there are two models - a larger version and a smaller one.

2 x octagonal casemate - both with a 1 1/4” beam

2 x rectangular casemate - both with a 1 1/4” beam

2 x rectangular casemate - both with a 1” beam

The two narrow versions of the rectangular option have a single gunport fore and aft and four or three broadside gunports for the larger and smaller version respectively. For the 1 1/4” beam the four or three applies again on the broadside whilst fore and aft have two gunports in each case. All will be clearer once the two models you see above have been refurbished - rather promoted from being potential floating batteries - and the final octagonal casemate ironclad had been built. The largest on my Confederate casemates will be converted into something else manning there is room for one final model - and I am torn on this between two ships - The C.S.S. Baltic or the C.S.S. Virginia (meaning I would be obliged to make a U.S.S. Monitor....).

As it stands the ‘historical’ part of the collection consists of the following ships:

C.S.S. Arkansas

C.S.S. Manassas

C.S.S. Missouri

C.S.S. Georgia

I now have a clearer view of what the final composition of the Confederate fleet will look like as aside from the dozen casemate ironclads there will also be ten side wheel paddle steamers, a blockade runner, a commerce raider and of course the pair of C.S.S. Stonewalls. I am looking at a few small gunboat types as well which will make the final total heading towards 30 models.

Can somebody PLEASE tell me what this curious phenomena known as ‘project creep’ is?

Wednesday 7 April 2021

Making Changes

The two models that will be getting a facelift. Both will be reappearing as something rather different by the time I have finished with them!

After the ankle related incident of the Easter weekend it was with some relief that I was able to once again resume using the man cave located in the loft and working on my ACW naval collection. I currently have four models being painted - 1 for the Union and 3 for the Confederates - and the order is in with Warbases for the parts I need for the final batch. To finish up the ship models for this project I decided that some of the earlier models wold need refurbishing or replacing and so far this has been completed with the exception of the two models you see above.

The Confederate casemate ironclad in the picture was the first of the type I had built and whilst she has given good service (as the C.S.S. Secessionist) she is really too large compared to the other models used alongside her. I do not want to abandon her though so I am planning to remodel her into something rather more fitting. She will need a new hull and the gun ports will need to be removed and replaced. There is also the small matter of her funnel.

I will say no more at present as this will spoil the surprise!

Similarly the Union ship - based very loosely on the U.S.S.Galena but without the curved hull - is also going to be given a rebuild. This will be rather more involved as she will be growing a further mast and losing the rather larger funnel in favour of something a little more appropriate.

Again, I will say no more so as not to spoil the surprise....

My order into Warbases features some additional hull templates and some revised gun carriages as the type I ordered originally are better suited to fortress guns rather than ship borne. The revised version will look far better. There are also some ‘walking beam’ components as a number of ships featured this as part of their power plant. Originally i planned to make use of the version available from Peter Pig but as this is true 1:600th scale it is a little on the small side for what I want. For the record I estimate that I will be looking at around six ships that will feature this.

I am confident that the ships for this project will be completed in their entirety by the end of the month which means that I can then think about the terrain I want to build to go with them.

Tuesday 6 April 2021

There Be Pirates

Plenty of inspiration for all manner of games - both ashore and afloat!

I must admit to being rather fond of the idea of pirates and pirate gaming - probably as a result of too much Treasure Island on TV and Buccaneer by Waddingtons as a boy - and so I have been revisiting the idea in a small way as a self contained project. Naturally the naval side will feature first and so I am thinking about scratch building some pirate ships using my trusty MDF building method. Of course there are commercially available options from Peter Pig, Firelock Games and even the old Wizkids pirate game but I have a hankering to build some myself. This would be a small project in that I reckon no more than a dozen ships would be needed - a selection of pirate types, some merchantmen and a government presence to bring the brotherhood of the coast to account.

The Peter Pig rules cover both sea and land based games and of course there is also a range of 15mm figures in support. I like the idea of the land side in a small way - think HOTT or the Portable Wargame sized forces - so the whole project could be wrapped up quite tidily.

I have a small library on pirate related topics and the latest addition to this you see above for the princely sum of £5.99. Henry Morgan needs little introduction and his story is both fascinating and inspirational in respect of the gaming possibilities. I must admit that originally I was looking seriously at Blood and Plunder for the land side and Oak and Iron for the naval dimension but to be honest these would involve rather more commitment and resources than I would care to undertake. Keeping it HOTT/PW sized for the land side with a side dish of Galleys and Galleons by Ganesha Games for the naval dimension would be sufficient for my needs methinks.

As ever, much to ponder....

Monday 5 April 2021

“I Believe I can Fly....NOT!!!”

“I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky.....

Hmmm. This was the post I was going to write yesterday but figured I would save it for today - simply because the embarrassment factor would have subsided to manageable levels.

My Grandson has been with us for Easter and it was a double celebration as he was 11 on the first of April. He is a keen basketball player and so we purchased a cheap basketball for him as part of his birthday present. He was delighted and so we tool advantage of the lovely weather yesterday to go, as a family, to a local park to ‘shoot a few hoops’ so to speak.

For some inexplicable reason I have acquired a reputation of being accident prone (no laughing at the back please) and so whenever anything untoward happens it is usually greeted by the family with something along the lines of ‘oh no, what have you done now?’ Closely followed by ‘you should be more careful’ or ‘I’ve never known anyone be so accident prone as you’ (the later usually comes from my beloved who has known me long enough to know the truth of this....

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was attempting to take a long range shot at the basket, trotting backwards as I did - shades of the Harlem Globetrotters and the strains of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ going around in my head, whistling as I went - when the ground decided that it was going to part company with my right foot. When they were reacquainted it had to be said that Terra Firma definitely had the better of the exchange as I not only rolled my ankle but I also managed to do a triple barrel roll into the bargain and  so described a graceful arc over the pile of coats we had parked on the grass. 

My aerobatics had all the grace and poise of a sack of potatoes and so I hit the ground with a resounding thud although the family were impressed with the quality of the triple roll.....

I knew there was a problem straight away but I did not realise how severe until later. I was able to stand and walk and, being something of an authority on ankle injuries due to a long running one on my other ankle, was confident that I could walk it off. My fall coincided more or less with us coming home in any event and I was even able to drive with no major inconvenience. 

As the day wore on though so the swelling and bruising became more noticeable and the pain level went up by degrees.

I am well acquainted with the drill for these type of injuries so resolved to keep the offending limb elevated  with a strategically placed bag of frozen sweet corn, some cooling magic spray- the type of thing you see professional footballers being squirted with after looking like they had been shot by a sniper and arising, Lazarus-like from the dead - and, and this is something I very seldom do - an industrial quantity of anti-inflammatories. The family rallied round - the early good natured ribbing soon morphed into genuine concern with thoughts of a 5 hour wait in A and E looming large (my Kindle is fully charged for such an emergency - not that I am tempting fate you understand).

As I type this I still have my ankle elevated and the swelling seems to have settled down although the colours of the bruise are becoming rather kaleidoscopic in their hues. I can get around as long as I keep my foot flat on the ground and I am sure that in a couple of days or so all will be well again. It does mean that the man cave is out though as the ladder will be a challenge so no work on the ACW ships for a few days. 

It is a good job I have my lounge based library (two shelves in the cupboard) so at the very least I can catch up on some reading.

My Grandson topped the scoring list of baskets with yours truly coming last although for entertainment value I like to think that I ran out the winner.....

I also think that Michael Jordan or Lebron James have nothing to fear.....

Sunday 4 April 2021

Back in the Back of Beyond

Complete with all the fold out maps and a quite fascinating read

 That was close! A few posts ago I listed a selection of books for disposal and one in particular had slipped through the net and found itself being placed up for sale. This has now been rectified.

The book you see above is a veritable goldmine of a title. It is the official history of the operations conducted in what was Persia during the Great War. Turks, Russians, British, Germans, Indians and Afghans all feature and so the whole theatre is crying out for some Portable Wargaming. In many ways it comes across as being the last hurrah of the Great Game with the Russians trying to take advantage of the Turks who in turn trying to take advantage of the Persians whilst the British are trying to preserve the (pro British) status quo. The Afghans are doing what Afghans seemed to do best - plot, scheme and generally stir up trouble.

I know there is a whole ‘Back of Beyond’ following with figures available that are specific to the period but for me these are currently beyond my horizon. It is a tantalising prospect though!

Something else to think about.

Friday 2 April 2021

Moving With The Times....Eventually!

70891 Intermediate Green, 70910 Orange Red, 70927 Dark Flesh, 70940 Saddle Brown, 70950 Black, 70951 White, 70963 Medium Blue and 70997 Silver - a modest beginning but a significant one for me!

I have been a long time Humbrol paint man - since way in the early 1970s - and indeed, I still have a fondness for them as well as a sizeable collection of tins, many of them dating back until then! I have dabbled in acrylics for occasional projects with varying degrees of success - primarily for things like Battlefleet Gothic spaceships or the odd Battletech mech. I have not used them at all on figures as the only time I tried it did not end well. 

I have some 28mm figure painting plans for this year - very much at the skirmish level rather than full scale armies - so I have taken the plunge and invested in a starter set of Vallejo paints. Yes I know that the palette I have is very limited but for me this is very much a statement of intent so I will add to the selection as required. I should mention that I have been using Vallejo black, white and buff for some time and have been hugely impressed with them in terms of coverage and flow so it was an easy decision to make as to which paints to get. 

I will still use the Humbrols - I have far too many to replace in one hit - and reckon that I will still be buying them but the quantum shift is now in place and so acrylics will become a larger part of my painting armoury.

I feel as though I have finally caught up with the 21st century so better late than never!

Thursday 1 April 2021

Intergalactic Bargains

The base game contents....

....and all that really useful interior terrain - there are also some very nice doors of assorted sizes, just right for sealing off from marauding nasties

 I mentioned several blog posts ago about picking up a copy of Mantic Games Sci Fi style Dungeon Crawler - Star Saga - for a pretty good price via Amazon (£35 to be exact). The rationale behind this was that I really enjoy Sci Fi skirmishes and as this was also a grid based affair with an awful lot of stuff in the way of figures, terrain pieces and map boards it would be quite versatile - especially for use with things like Galactic Heroes or the forthcoming Frostgrave in space, Stargrave, To be honest other than glance at the rules and checking out figures I have done ver little with it so far as the ship building has taken priority.

I found out via the Stargrave Facebook page that Mantic were having a sale of sorts whereby you could buy the base game of Star Saga with a game screen (rather like the old Dungeon Masters screen, behind which were usually stored bits of paper, assorted dice and pens as well as cans of coke and the odd Mars Bar) and an additional set of the combat dice all for £24.99. For the record I would not ordinarily have purchased the screen, possibly not even the dice but the whole package was simply at too good a price to turn down so I didn’t!

It duly arrived yesterday and so now I have two full sets of the base game meaning some 70 odd figures and a whole shed load of interior 3D terrain all of which will be useful. I noticed that Mantic also produce some additional expansions with some additional figures but to be honest for the present this will suffice. The one additional expansion I did order though concerns creating one’s own characters and designing missions etc which is always very useful.

I now have more than sufficient material for some nearish future style Sci Fi skirmishes which can be expanded as required in due course. Naturally there is a cunning plan in place here but that will be for another day.

I should also mention that the rules for Star Saga, as well as the Jake Thornton designed larger scale skirmish rules called Deadzone (set in the same universe) are available to download for free from the Mantic Games website - and yes I have already!