Tuesday, 16 August 2022

The Final Countdown


Part of growing series of 3D print files produced by David Manley and available from the Wargames Vault. I have a number of these pictures as they are an invaluable resource for the budding model making.

Following on from my previous post I have sat down and taken stock of where I am at in respect of the ACW project. I have started on the tweaks required with the rules and have also sat down and looked at the remaining models I will need to build. I rather surprised myself when I took stock of the models I nee to build - there are far more of them than I thought! I have a dozen ships to make and then it will be mortar rafts and flatboats. The latter will be used as towed transports whilst the mortar rafts will be used on a scenario specific basis - mainly as targets!

I was also taking a look at the models I was planning to retire and now reckon that some minor refurbishment should get them up to the required standard. I also have a number of gun barrels to add to some of the gunboats.

All in all there is still some work required to complete the project but I have at least identified what needs doing and overall it does not appear to be too intimidating - especially as there are currently ten ships at various stages of construction currently underway.

Another task I will need to address concerns the playing area - I need to spot grid a cloth I have earmarked.

It is all finally coming together!

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Return to the Missenhitti River….Game Number 74


One of my ‘go to’ books on naval wargames - and the inspiration for much of my ACW project

When I set out to develop what would be in effect an advanced set of Bob Cordery’s ACW rules in his book Gridded Naval Wargames little did I realise what a protracted process it has turned out to be! The core system I am satisfied with but the firing/damage mechanism has given me no end of frustration. I have tried several variations on a theme with results that have been OK but that have always seemed to lack the ‘Cordery-esque simplicity’ of the original to a lesser or greater degree. After what seemed like quite a while I revisited Bob’s book and the answer more or less presented itself - actually it was whilst laying awake at 3am during a very hot night but his book kind of reinforced the idea!

The system now is very close to Bob’s original but with the added chrome I wanted in respect of varying gun/armour combinations. Essentially a ship x number of gun dice that can fire in a given arc. The number of gun dice is reduced by range (smoothbores and rifles are different) and the standard 1, 2 or 3 are a miss, 4 or 5 are a single potential hit and a 6 is two potential hits. Damage rolls are based on the same d6 convention as the ‘to hit roll’ except the number of d6 rolled is based on the number of potential hits scored. It is possible for the adjusted damage roll to equal more than 6 due to the gun penetration vs armour modifier so in this case a further d6 roll is made with the chance of scoring an additional damage point being equal to or less than the excess. For example the firing player scores a single potential hit which requires a damage roll. Let us say he rolls a three to which is added a plus 4 (this would be something like like a monitor firing at an unarmoured wooden ship) making 7 in all. Taking the 6 as 2 points of damage their leaves a 1 (7 - 6 = 1). This means that an extra d6 is rolled needing a 1 to score an additional damage point. One could also use this when rolling to hit as there is a plus one modifier per gun dice when firing at point blank range (1 square).

In a nutshell the firing player rolls to hit and then rolls to convert the hits into damage points with the chance of scoring additional damage depending on how powerful his artillery is against the target type. 


The opening of the original engagement. 

I wanted to try this out and so rather than fighting game number 73 (which, never fear, I shall revisit) I opted instead to try something different. With this in mind I decided to refight the battle from Bob’ s book to see how the results compared. Once again then, we go back to the Missenhitti River where the Union monitor the U.S.S. Admonisher is attempting to force a conclusion with the newly built Confederate ironclad the C.S.S. Missenhitti.

The Ships

U.S.S. Admonisher - Speed 3, Hull Factor 3, Armour Factor 4, Damage Points 9, Gun Factor (T) 3, Penetration Factor 3

C.S.S. Missenhitti - Speed 3, Hull Factor 3, Armour Factor 3, Damage Points 9, Gun Factor (FW) 2 Penetration Factor 3 (R), (P, S) Gun Factor 2, Penetration Factor 3 (R) and Gun Factor (AW) 2, Penetration Factor 3 (R). Ram Bow.

The Initial Starting Positions


U.S.S. Admonisher (top right) and the C.S.S. Missenhitti (bottom left) move to engage.

Turn 1. No firing and the initiative rolls are 2 for the Union and 4 for the Confederates who opt to allow the Union to move first.


End of Turn 1. Mindful of the shorter range of his heavy smoothbore guns the captain of the Admonisher attempted to close the range to the Confederate ironclad who in turn was content to maintain a watching brief over her adversary.

Turn 2. Both ships opened fire at a range of 4. The U.S.S. Admonisher rolled a single d6 to hit scoring a 5 meaning a single damage roll. Her penetration factor of 3 nullified the armour factor of 3 so a straight d6 was rolled scoring a 2 for no effect. The Confederate rifles rolled 2d6 to hit at that ranger scoring a 3 and a  5 for a single damage roll. Her penetration factor of 3 is not enough to overcome the armour factor of 4 so the damage roll suffers a minus 1 modifier. The roll was a 4 reduced to 3 meaning no effect.

Initiative was 4 for the Union and 1 for the Confederates so the Union allowed the Confederates to move first.


End of Turn 2. The Confederate ironclad appears to be content to keep the Union ship at arms length - presumably to maintain the superiority of range her rifles give her - but the Union ship is intent on closing the range.

Turn 3. Both ships open fire at range 3, each rolling 2d6 to hit. The Union roll a miserable 1 and 2 whilst the Confederates rolls a 2 and a 4 meaning one damage roll, again at a net minus 1 modifier. The roll of 1 failed to register.

Initiative was 2 for the Union and 4 for the Confederates so the Union ship was asked to move first.


End of Turn 3. Both sides now seemed intent on closing the range which should favour the Union but does the Confederate captain have a trick up his sleeve?

Turn 4. Both ships continued firing at each other as fast as the guns could be loaded. Again in each case the range was 2 and each ship rolled 2d6 to hit. The Union scored a 3 and a 4 meaning one damage roll whilst the Confederates scored a 3 and 5 which again meant a single damage roll. The Union roll was a s straight d6 and scored a 3 for no effect whilst the Confederates rolled a d6 with a minus one modifier. They rolled a 4 which was reduced to 3 meaning once again no effect. Both ships were scoring hits but not  causing any damage.

Initiative was 6 for the Union and 5 for the Confederate. The Union Captain, mindful of his opponents ram, opted to move first.


End of Turn 4. By virtue of some canny manoeuvring the Union captain was able to maintain the range against his opponent whilst keeping a careful eye open for any possibility the enemy would attempt to ram him.

Turn 5. Again both sides opened fire at a range of 2 meaning 2d6 to hit for each. Each scored a single hit but the damage rolls were abysmally low - a 1 for the Union and a 2 for the Confederates!

Initiative was 5 for the Union and 6 for the Confederates who opted to allow the Union to move first.


End of Turn 5. Still the circling continues with neither side able to secure an advantage. Any damage inflicted could be potentially decisive although so far most gunfire has been largely ineffective - hits are being scored but the armour has been doing its job.

Turn 6. Again the guns roared out - 2d6 each at a range of 2. Whilst the Union ship missed entirely the Confederates rolled a 6 and a 3 so the 6 means two damage rolls, each at a minus 1. A 6 and 5 came up which become a 5 and a 4 meaning 2 points of damage on the U.S.S. Admonisher - first blood to the Confederates!

Initiative was 4 for the Union and 2 for the Confederates. The Union moved first.


End of Turn 6. Despite the damage received the U.S.S. Admonisher was galvanised into action as she swung around as tightly as she was able in order to engage the Confederate ironclad at point blank range. The C.S.S. Missenhitti followed suit and so both ships were heading towards one another and meaning business!

Turn 7. At range one both ships opened fire. The Union ship would roll 3d6 whilst the the Confederates would roll 2. In addition a plus 1 modifier to each hit dice is applied. The Confederate ship, perhaps taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of the enemy warship at such close range missed entirely - she rolled a 1 and a 2 whilst the Union rolled a magnificent 4, 5 and a 6! These became a 5, a 6 and a 7 meaning that there was a chance of a further hit (7 - 6 = 1). The roll of 3 was too much as a 1 was required. Nevertheless there were 5 damage rolls to make - each of a straight d6 roll. The 5d6 came up with a 6, a 4, a 3 and a pair of 2s meaning three points of damage in all.

Initiative was 1 for the Union and 4 for the Confederates.The Confederates opted to move first.

 


End of Turn 7. The Confederate ship was unable to gain a favourable ramming position and so continued to turn with her opponent, hoping to be able to open the range slightly. The Union ship dogged her every move as once again her guns made ready.

Turn 8. At point blank range once agin both ships opened fire. This time the Union scored a par of hits whilst the Confederates score three after rolling a 4 and 6. The Union scored a single point against the Confederate ship whilst in return her three d6 rolls came up with three 4s - each of which had a minus one meaning no damage inflicted!

Indicative was 6 for the Union and 5 for the Confederates. The union opted to move first.


End of Turn 8. The close range circling continues with the advantage swaying between the two adversaries. Thus far the Union had the better of the engagement but it was still too close to call.

Turn 9. Both sides fired at point blank range (meaning a plus 1 modifier per gun dice) with the Union rolling a pair of 6s and a 5 and the Confederates a pair of 5s! This meant that the Union was rolling for 6 damage points and the Confederate for 4 - either way this could be decisive. The Union scored 4 damage points rolling a 5, three 4s, a 3 and a 1. The Confederates rolled a 6, a 4, a 2 and 1 meaning a single point of damage scored (bear in mind the minus one modifier).

At this point the C.S.S. Missenhitti was down to a single remaining damage point so she would have to break off the action as best as she could, assuming her critical hit roll allowed. This then came up as a 6 meaning that she had caught fire!

At this point I called a halt to the action and so the picture for the end of turn 8 was how it ended. Fortunately both ships were facing away from each other and towards their own start lines!

The Union had ensured that the Confederate ironclad would not be able to threaten the great fleet of transports and gunboats being assembled along the Missenhitti and also that the damage she had suffered would mean a lengthy period of repair - assuming such facilities were available at the modest river port of Pratt’s Landing. The U.S.S. Admonisher had fought a gallant action but would also need extensive repair work before she could resume her station. One thing was certain though, the Confederates had been both fortunate to escape and unfortunate to have engaged such a tactically adept opponent. 

Afterthoughts

This was rather an absorbing action and in many ways reflected the first great ironclad clash at Hampton Roads in 1862. Both ships were slow and with similar speeds. The Union had weight of fire but shorter reach whilst the Confederate had a longer range but less ‘punch’. It was only when the Union were able to get to point blank range that they could employ their advantage to best effect. The Confederate ship could have attempted a ram attack but the only occasion she was able to do so was not in an optimum position. 

I am satisfied with the firing and damage rolls and believe that this version best follows on from Bob’s original. All I need to do now is to tabulate the firing dice deduction by range - one table for smoothbores and one for rifles - and also to tidy up the firing arcs. I reckon then I will have gone about as far as I can - the play testers may think otherwise though!

Once again I am indebted to Bob Cordery for the inspiration his book Gridded Naval Wargames has provided and I hope that this action is a worthy follow up!

Saturday, 6 August 2022

War in The Land of the Rising Sun


The Japanese gaming options - old and new. Command and Colours for the tactical battles using the figures from Shogun with the board game providing the strategic backdrop. An idea for latter methinks….

After a selective search over a couple of months or so and assisted by some of my customary wheeling and dealing, I was finally able to source a copy of the old Milton Bradley board game Shogun, complete with slightly over 400 1:72nd scale hard plastic figures. Aside from being an excellent strategic game, the figures are rather nice in a way that appeals to the reluctant painter - modest levels of detail and stylistically ‘simple’ looking!


The figures in the game - there are five colours with the Ronin figure in Grey - they can be used by any faction, hence the neutral colour - and the solitary Ninja in black (naturally)

There are a number of ideas floating around with the acquisition of this game. To begin with there is the the traditional ‘age of war’ - the late 16th century - which is the focus of the board game. There is also the ‘Last Samurai’ to consider. Now I know that the film took a number Hollywood style historical liberties but as a visual spectacle for me it ticks all of my unworthy Western perceptions of the Samurai!

In keeping with my 1:72nd fetish I have an idea that will address a couple of things. I am now looking for a copy of the Eagle Games ACW game - similar to their War in the Age of Imperialism - as the kepi wearing infantryman could, at a pinch and with some paint conversion, serve as Japanese regular infantry as well as Union and Confederate types.

All of these ideas are very much Portable Wargame facing and the challenge of using cheapish and simple  figures to realise these ideas is one that I will relish.

On the subject of International Naval Wargames Day….

There is an after action report to follow - you will be able to see how Captain Butler got on - but that will be for tomorrow.


Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Finding the Last Samurai….


Now just what is this latest bout of insanity about? Another supplement from the indefatigable David Manley available from the Wargames Vault

Despite the inevitable Hollywood historical liberties taken with the 2003 film The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe, it was and remains a superbly entertaining and visually impressive film. From what I have worked out it seems like the film was a kind of fusion of elements from the earlier Boshin War and the later Satsuma rebellion. Be that as it may it was a cracking film!

My knowledge of the period is sketchy at best but it certainly appeals to the romantic in me - probably for all the wrong Hollywood inspired reasons! The idea of massed Samurai fighting in traditional style against a modern army has all the prerequisites of a game I would enjoy - mainly due to the asymmetric nature of the forces involved. Having said that the ‘rebels’ were not short of firepower per se although much of it was not quite premier league standard. As for fighting in full on Samurai regalia well lets just it looked great in the film…. For the earlier Boshin War there is also a naval dimension to consider which would not require much to either set up or to extend into the latter rebellion.

The land side would be in theory relatively straightforward to organise - especially if one was not too precious about historical accuracy. I actually think that just raising the forces a la The Last Samurai would give an entertaining game - almost Colonial like in many ways.

It is a period that I would like to learn more about so as to see exactly what history was lost from the film and who knows? Maybe something to go with the ships may be in order - and yes, there is a diabolically cunning plan afoot….

You probably know what is coming next….

….probably not quite in the way you envisaged it though….

In other news….

The three ACW ships have been sealed prior to undercoating and painting. The former I will do tomorrow so the painting proper will commence on Thursday. Expect a review over the weekend!

Monday, 1 August 2022

Fitted Out…Nearly!


Component parts for each of the three ships. The two Union ships are at the top of the picture - the Frigate on the left and the sloop on the right - with the Confederate sloop at the bottom.

My new ‘modelling time’ regime appears to be working well. Essentially, during the week I am now able to spend early evenings - around half an hour or so - up in the man cave before relaxing with the Memsahib and Netflix or similar. 

This evening my efforts were directed at the hulls and the deck fittings. These are quite basic and are usually limited to random hatch covers or gun mounts. I also now add a square to mount the funnel on - simply because it looks better than having the funnel merely stuck straight on the deck. Gun barrels are added right at the very end once the model has been assembled and painted.

The next step will be to seal the component parts prior to undercoating and painting. If I crack on I should be able to have these finished by the end of the week which will be a kind of milestone in a way as this will be the last of the fully rigged models for the project.

Let that sink in for a while….


Sunday, 31 July 2022

Even More Masts, Even More Spars….


Again, none of the masts are fixed in place - they are merely there whilst the glue dries. Deck fittings next - hatches, funnels and deck mounted artillery - and then sealing and painting.

I seem to have gotten a bee in my bonnet in respect of building ships with masts - incidentally this augers well for the age of sail in due course - and so spent a couple of hours this afternoon making the masts and spars for the remaining pair of sloops. The plan now is to get the hull deck fittings tackled next - that will take all of half and hour or so - before the ‘sealing’ and painting. 

I want to get these models finished in advance of the five that I have half painted for no other reason than it will mean that I will have completed the ‘masted’ section of the collection. 

Wow! That will be the first part of the project done and dusted…(pauses to take a deep breath…)!

For the record I will have built ten ships  - four Confederate and six Union - that have a full sailing rig and yes, I am rather pleased with how they came out!

Saturday, 30 July 2022

More Masts, More Spars….


Good to be building masts again for sure!

It has been a mad busy day today so painting was off the agenda but building was not! There are a number of things I could/should have worked on but I had the urge to tackle some masts and spars - the result of which you can see above. It takes around an hour to build three masts and a bowsprit and without a doubt, it is a hugely therapeutic and relaxing way to spend the time.

The usual technique and materials - bamboo skewers for the masts, wooden cocktail sticks for the spars, custom cut MDF fighting tops and lashings of superglue. 

The hull you see is not the final destination for this rig, I was merely using it to hold the masts in place whilst the glue was drying. In fact the final destination for this lot is for the second Union frigate - the rig for the sloops is lighter by comparison.

All being well I hope to get some painting in tomorrow but at least everything with the final batch of models is moving in the right direction, albeit as meandering as the ‘Great Father of Waters’!

Thursday, 28 July 2022

This is not the post you are looking for….


Curiouser and curiouser…

This will be a bit of mixed bag of a post as a few things have traversed the crosshairs so to speak.

Should be fun and hopefully generating plenty of naval wargames after action reports across the blogosphere. The picture is courtesy of JJs Wargames 

I have yet to fight the battle mentioned in my previous post but there is a very good reason. August the 6th is the International Naval Wargames Day so I have decided to fight the battle then in keeping with the occasion. Besides, I am not quite ready to fight the action as there are a few administrative issues to tackle first.


I remember reading the book and watching the above TV series and even the film version - basically an edit of the TV series that was brutally short, roughly a quarter of the size of the original.

James Clavell’s epic novel Shogun needs little introduction from me, neither does the 1980s TV adaptation starring Richard Chamberlain and the late, great Toshiro Mifune as lord Toranaga. I note that a remake of the TV series is in the offing, spread over ten episodes and coming out later in the year I believe. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the original TV series and so am looking forward to the new version. Back in the day (late 1970s and early 1980s) the novel of Shogun was hugely influential at the Newham Wargames Club in respect of providing some good background material for use with the Bushido role playing game - it was huge fun and many hours were spent in the company of Ronin, Samurai, Ninja, Shujenga, Yakuza and peasant characters. 

I am still on the hunt for a cheap copy of the Shogun/Samurai Swords board game - the one with four hundred 1:72nd scale plastic figures in.

I was moving a few bits and pieces around in the man cave when I came across the gaming mats you see below. These were originally from the Axis and Allies WW2 collectible miniatures game. They are double sided and with hexes around 3” or so across (I forgot to measure them so will do the next time I am upstairs) - ideal for 15mm which of course they were designed for. I have used them a couple of times for some block based gaming, the last of which was here.

As a reminder this is what they look like.









You can see that there are two distinct styles in respect of the artwork used so the sets do not really fit together well but that is a minor point. There is more than enough variety of layout for my needs though so I shall certainly be hanging on to them.

Work on the ACW ships has moved along slightly and now that my replacement tin of MDF sealer has arrived I can make further progress. I have been looking at some smaller gunboats, mortar rafts and flat boats. There are a few other models to consider so I will need to get some drawings over to Warbases for some bits and pieces.

I reckon that has just about covered everything for now!

Monday, 25 July 2022

Gone, With The Wind….Game Number 73….Part 1


The combatants - at the top the frigate the U.S.S. John Adams, below the two sloops the C.S.S. Tara (left) and the U.S.S. Slattery (right)

Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, a day south of Mobile Bay….

Captain Butler, commander of the Confederate commerce raider the C.S.S. Tara, surveyed the two rapidly approaching Yankee vessels with trepidation. His ship had been racing along under full sail, bound for Mobile Bay, until earlier in the day when it dropped away to little more than a breeze. Initially this was not a problem as he had planned to make the run into Mobile under cover of darkness so as to avoid any patrolling Yankees. That plan had been scuppered by the appearance of a pair of Yankee warships - a frigate and a sloop by the look of it - and so he ordered the engines started and full steam ahead.

It was not long before not one but two problems arose. To begin with his chief engineer informed him that the remaining supply of coal in the bunkers was dangerously low - there would be sufficient to get to Mobile but that would be about it - and that any attempt to out run the Yankees would deplete it entirely. The second problem was that the shortest route into Mobile from their current position would mean having to break through the Yankee patrol lines in broad daylight - right across the path of the approaching  enemy ships.

Captain Butler pondered his limited options. It was a big risk but if he could slow one or preferably both of the oncoming enemy ships he could then make straight for the extensive defences at Mobile. He was confident that the C.S.S. Tara could outmanoeuvre the frigate but the sloop would be a different matter. Taking on two ships would be a risk but he was confident in his ship, his crew and more importantly, his gunnery. The approaching enemy formation - line ahead - was better for sailing than for fighting and so he reasoned that the C.S.S. Tara should be able to get her blows in first. With his decision made he ordered the guns manned and the helm put hard over. 


Starting positions.

Captain Wilkerson, commander of the sloop the U.S.S. Slattery, had spotted the Rebel raider heading towards the north east and had immediately deduced where she was heading. A quick exchange of signals with the closely following frigate, the U.S.S. John Adams, meant that both Union warships were now heading on an intercept course with the enemy raider. Captain Wilkerson fully expected the rebel ship to run before them which would lead her straight into the path of other friendly patrolling ships. He felt confident that the Confederate ship was heading into a trap.

Neither Captain Wilkerson, nor the commander of the U.S.S. John Adams, were quite prepared for what happened next….

Action in the Gulf of Mexico

Overview

I wanted to fight a quick action using my newly renovated 2ft square gaming board - now with 4” squares and with models occupying two rather than just the one. I opted for the high seas rather than the rivers for the simple reason that I had the models to hand! Seriously though, battles at sea usually have the potential for more manoeuvring than the rivers so this would make a better test for the change in the rules. Besides, it would be fun to do!

The action itself will be fought tomorrow so expect the AAR on Wednesday at some point, all being well. 

To be continued….

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Dotting the Skies and Crossing the T’s


Now a 6 x 6 board but with ships occupying two squares rather than one so would still work for 3 x 3 style games - probably better than using the original 8” square grid. Note the ‘T’ being crossed….


The two ships again showing the ‘increased’ playing area.

OK I know it is not really a board for use in aerial games - I will be doing so though - but as a small footprint playing area it has stood me in good stead! Following on from the decision to revert to using two squares per model rather than one I took the opportunity this afternoon to add the additional dots to the board. Now it is not perfect by any means but this is really test bed until I organise something a little more permanent. The ships on the board are of course the two sloops I refurbished earlier in the week and are there just so you can see how it looks.

Downstairs Work Station

Whilst the majority of the collection resides in the man cave I took the decision to organise some bits and pieces that I could tackle in the lounge at my temporary work station. Just a tray full of bits and pieces as I have a mast and spar building session planned. The three ships you see will be replicated so I needed to measure the masts and spars and get them assembled as these will be the next batch of models after the ones I am currently painting are finished.


The tray of goodies. A knife, ruler, cutters, emery board, superglue, bamboo skewers, wooden cocktail sticks, MDF fighting tops and the obligatory cutting mat.


My temporary home office with a view out on to the garden


The view from the patio doors. If you look closely you might see one of the cats - clue: they are black and white!

Not shown here but also dragged out of the man cave my copy of Dahlgren and Colombiad and By Sea and By Water so that I can make a start on the new ship specification charts.

All in all then, not a bad way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday.


Saturday, 23 July 2022

The Scale of the Revision


David Manley’s excellent campaign supplement for his Dahlgren and Colombiad rules - both are available from the Wargames Vault, as well as the rest of naval wargame rules.

I was able to spend some time yesterday going through the draft of my ACW rules to see what needs to be done to incorporate the two square per model revision. As expected there is a fair amount of work but I have managed to trim a lot of the incidental text within the rules. The main areas of revision that are left are firing arcs and the ship specification charts. The former I am prepared for and the latter will give me an opportunity to expand them quite considerably. As you may recall the original list of these was modelled on those contained in David Manley’s excellent Dahlgren and Colombiad rules. The campaign supplement supporting these rules - By Sea and By River - contains a far more extensive list of ship specifications which is also broken down by vessel types. This will prove invaluable to anyone that is new to the period.

Firing arcs are now far more logical in their application than using the previous single square method but obviously I will need to redo the explanatory diagrams. This is not difficult to do (especially now that I worked how to design them!) but it is time consuming. No matter - it will all come to pass in due course but for now though, it is back to the ships.

Friday, 22 July 2022

All Square and Everything to play for….


An earlier action fought using the ‘two square - one model’ convention. A Confederate ironclad commerce raider attempts to evade her Union pursuers

There is a final piece of the puzzle to add to the ACW/Ironclad rules I have been developing which should see them finished or at least at the final draft stage. It is not a huge change per se but it will require rewriting a substantial amount of text which of course takes time. No matter - the end result will be worth it and more importantly it means that I would have been honest with myself about how I wanted to do this!


Single square action loosely inspired by Mobile Bay. Great fun to fight but moving down a tricky path.

I am reverting back to using two squares for a model rather than having them in a single square.

I rather allowed myself to be swept up in the Fast Play Portable Wargame 3 x 3 frenzy of a while back - mainly because I saw it as a bit of challenge to see if it could work (it did and surprisingly better than I expected it to) - and this had the effect of making me look at the rules from the wrong starting point. In effect I was looking from the bottom up rather than the top down. What I should have done was to have the main set of rules WITH a 3 x 3 variant rather than vice versa. 

It is by no means a major change to the rules - this is where they started from originally - rather it is more of a ‘pressing the reset button’ kind of thing.

As mentioned previously the use of two squares for a model was something I originally saw in an old age of sail set of rules called ‘Ship ‘O the Line written by the late S. Craig Taylor of Flat Top (and other board games) fame. The rules were originally written for use with miniatures and were eventually redeveloped and simplified to become the hex based award winning Avalon Hill board game Wooden Ships and Iron Men. 

So what does this mean?

The most significant thing about this revision is that more of the playing area will be available to use. Using a single square meant that a model ship appeared to be taking up an awful lot of sea room/table space which in turn meant that close range combat within a square - gunfire or ramming attacks - became quite clumsy to work out in respect of arcs of fire or point of impact etc. It felt really cumbersome in operation.

Ship speeds can be modelled far more effectively - essentially movement allowances are doubled - and manoeuvrability is enhanced. The latter may not be wholly accurate but it does make for a better game. 

Gunfire ranges are now tidier as they can be shaped far more effectively to the type of weapon in use. It also means that firing arcs are far more logical looking.

In Closing

This is a revision that in my mind is quite simple but in reality will mean a fairly extensive redraft of the rules to incorporate. I am not unduly concerned by this as I absolutely believe this is the correct thing to do to get the rules to where I want them to be and to be honest, it is something I should have considered sooner but hey ho, we live and learn - besides, it is all part of the fun!

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Two Sloops or the Sloop of the Day


Refreshed and ready to take to the high seas once more - a pair of modern sloops, previously used as the  U.S.S. Kearsage and the C.S.S. Alabama

Whilst the five ACW ships currently being painted are waiting patiently for some TLC I pressed ahead with the paint refurbishment of a pair of sloops. The two models above have seen service when I refought the Kearsage/Alabama action. The only difference is my version of the white edging commonly applied to the top of the hull. I think it looks rather smart although is probably a little on the thick side.

As mentioned previously, my usual method for painting this type of effect is to paint around the edge of the layer of MDF before assembly. This ensures a really sharp finish. To achieve the above after assembly meant breaking out my trusty roll of Tamiya Masking tape. I have no idea how long I have owned this but I remember buying from Beatties the model shop when it was in High Holborn and pre Model Zone! It still works a treat though and I have loads of it left.

Once the temperature has dropped a little - the man cave is rather warm at present, even with the windows open - I shall get the other five attended to as well as starting a great mast building exercise for the remaining frigate and another pair of sloops.

It is good to moving forwards again though!

Monday, 18 July 2022

“The Dreamers of the Day….”


Part of my T.E. Lawrence library - gotta love a Rolls Royce armoured car!

So today is scheduled to be the hottest on record and with a Red weather warning to boot. I have some spare time today but suspect that the man cave may well be out. So what does one do whilst trying to keep cool? I shall probably catch up on some reading and so one of the two titles you see above will be the choice for today.

Reading about the campaigns of Lawrence in the desert whilst the country bakes in circa. 40 degree heat - I have previous form for this only the last time it was Seven Pillars of Wisdom - may be considered by some to be mildly eccentric but I like to think of it as method reading….

I have had a hankering to game something Arab Revolt based for sometime although it is not currently on the radar, at least not in the Lawrentian sense - Arabs will of course appear in Madasahatta but these are not going to be nomadic Bedouin types though. Having said that it might make sense to use Bedouin style Arabs as there would be more flexibility with them. Something to think about anyway.

The title of this post comes from a quote from the Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph by T.E. Lawrence as follows:

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”

That could be describing a wargamer in many ways, especially when contemplating yet another new project!


Sunday, 17 July 2022

A Single Double Ender….


A Union ‘double ender’


The top down view shows the symmetrical outline of the hull and the paddle boxes centrally fixed. Sadly my pair of these ships will not look very much the above….

Despite the ‘disastrous heat’ (a prize will be given if someone can name the actor and the film that the phrase in commas came from - please don’t expect any fancy!) I was able to get into the man cave and crack on with some painting and modelling. 

The modelling was limited to organising the fighting tops, masts and spars for the frigate and pair of sloops I need to build and sorting out the funnels for four of the five models currently being painted. I should point out that this part of the build has been rather haphazard as opposed to the well organised earlier efforts. It has caused me a couple of issues but to be honest I will live with them as neither are ‘deal breakers’.

To begin with two of the Confederate gunboats I am building have been constructed slightly out of synch. Each model has a white hull top strip that I would normally paint before assembly. For example, a hull with four layers of MDF would have the top layer edged white with the other three layers in black or whatever. Once painted the white strip would then be fixed to the lower hull. This approach ensures a razor sharp line. Sadly on this occasion I had assembled the entire hull, including paddle boxes meaning that I would need to paint the stripe freehand. Out came my trusty and seemingly inexhaustible roll of yellow Tamiya masking tape which was duly applied to the two gunboats. It worked a treat and so now the hulls look suitably smart and business like. 

I also planned to do the same on two completed models mentioned as being refurbished on my previous post - a pair of sloops, one for each side. Again te masking tape came into play and it worked really well. All I need to do to the pair of sloops is to varnish the new stripe and they are then both ready for action.

The building issue concerns the rather nice looking model you see at the start of this post. As a ‘double ender’ this class of vessel was pretty manoeuvrable due to being able to be conned from either bow or stern by reversing the engines - very handy in confined spaces or if needing to make a quick getaway. The bow and the stern are the same shape and the paddle wheels and associated machinery were centrally located. All this is obvious from the numerous pictures of this vessel and other like it.

Obvious to all that is, except me….

I have two double enders under construction that are simply wrong. To start with I used a standard hull template which is, to put it unscientifically, pointed at one end and curved at the other. I also have the paddle boxes slightly off centre and more to the aft of the vessel. In short they are single double enders….

I was a little disappointed by this but given how approximate most of the collection is to any perceived reality I can live with it - when they are finished they will look the part anyway. In a game situation all I need to do will be to turn the model 180 degrees if it changes its direction to take advantage of its double ended configuration. After all, at least the pointed end will show the direction it is currently travelling in…

(Note to self: Look a little more closely at the pictures next time….)

Saturday, 16 July 2022

Back to the Main Event


Confederate hardware - the ironclad may well be retired but the jury is still out on that


The quick and easy fort I knocked up - I shall build another like this and then something larger


A selection of Union ships

Right then, after all my profound observations, soul searching and general thinking about ‘stuff’ it is now back to the main event in earnest! I mentioned about the remaining models to be built for the ACW project  and so I thought it would help to detail where my thoughts are with this final batch of ships. Aside from the new builds there are some models that need some refurbishing - nothing major, just a few additions here and there.

Union

To Build

1 x frigate (under construction)

1 x sloop (under construction)

2 x ‘double enders’ (under construction)

1 x Ozark (under construction)

1 x Varuna

1 x City class gunboat

To Refurbish

2 x City class gunboats (change of pilot house and repainting of funnel bands)

1 x sloop (additional deck guns and white hull lining)

3/4 x paddle steamers (addition of artillery)

Confederate

To Build

3 x Casemate ironclads (one replacement and two new types)

4 x paddle steamers (all under construction)

1 x sloop (under construction)

2 x blockade runners

To Refurbish

8 x paddle steamers (addition of artillery)

In addition to the above I shall look to build some mortar rafts and another couple of forts - one large and one the same as my previous version depicted above.

I currently have ten vessels under construction and a further seven that will be new. Of the vessels currently under construction five are at the painting stage - these should be ready in a few days - whilst the others have at least been started.

In tandem with the current painting and building I also need to get some combat example shots to illustrate the rules and so it will be nice to have some new models for this.

The finishing line is in sight!

Friday, 15 July 2022

Evolving the Schwerpunkt


Four of the most useful titles in my library for the ACW project. Battles and Leaders is also very helpful as is Mahan’s Gulf and Inland Waters. There is also the Gibbons title for plenty of eye candy.

As anyone that knows me will undoubtedly testify, I usually have a rather short attention span when it comes to the majority of my gaming endeavours. The one thing recently that I have persevered with and for far longer than I would have expected is of course the ACW naval project. For sure I have had the occasional dip in effort - real life has seen to that - but I have always come back to it, if not with renewed vigour then certainly with  a very definite idea of what comes next. I think in many ways this project has evolved and developed by accident and I believe that because of this it is why I have stayed with it for so long.


A lot of paint and MDF has been expended since this picture was taken! U.S.S. Carondelet (top right) is earmarked for a minor refurbishment - the pilot house is going to be replaced with an octagonal version and the funnel bands will be repainted.

When I first set out on the project it was only ever going to be around a dozen or so models and would be using a variant of Bob Cordery’s ACW rules found in his excellent book Gridded Naval Wargames. Writing my own rules would come rather later. 

What changed? Well, to begin with, the associated research I was undertaking was pretty inspiring and so I soon found myself looking at specific vessels - which in turn extended the building program so as to include them. I suppose that makes me guilty of the heinous sin of project creep!

It didn’t stop there as inevitably my horizons expanded beyond the campaigns along the rivers so as to include coastal areas and the high seas. These were never part of the original plan so again, a degree of escalation ensued. As an aside, building fully masted ship models for the ACW has given me the confidence and techniques to tackle some age of sail gaming at a later date - a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one (no prizes for guessing which film that quote came from….)

The building continued until I reached the point - I think I had three dozen models ready at the time - where I wanted a set of rules that would better enable me to model the unique attributes of specific ships. It was at that point that it all became a rather more serious undertaking than merely cobbling together a handful of generic looking models!

Since then work has continued apace and the models are again being built (and indeed some will be replaced) and the rules are pretty close to where I want them to be. I have needed to resist the urge on occasion to ‘tinker’ with them though!

I have had some wobbles along the way - not so much with the overall direction of the project, more to do with the occasional sticking point during production as well as real life dramas - but then have consciously made a determined effort to press on.

So here we are, nearly two years on, with a collection when complete of some seventy scratch built model ships, a set of rules, some terrain pieces and a custom built playing area. 

According to Google Translate ‘Schwerpunkt’ means ‘Main Emphasis’ and as you probably know historically it was a term used by the German army to indicate the point of maximum effort of a military operation, typically used when discussing the finer points of Blitzkreig. It assumes that all resources and effort are applied at the point of contact - the tip of the spear if you prefer - when engaging the enemy. In this case I used the term to best describe my approach to the ACW project and how the scope and scale evolved over time - call it a form of tactical flexibility if you like - but crucially stayed ‘pointing in the same overall direction’ as at the outset.

If I sound rather pleased with myself with this project and the progress thus far then I offer no apologies because by and large I am. It has been enormously satisfying in respect of the modelling, the gaming and the writing about it but most of all I have proven to myself that I can take something on of this  magnitude and be able to stay the course to see it through - this after years of stopping and starting a myriad of projects. Had I planned something of this size from the outset it may well have been a different story but I like to think that by persevering with this project I have taken my first steps into a wider universe, simply because I have proven to myself that I can do it!

Some of the more ambitious projects I mentioned in my previous post will certainly not be started with a view to having everything from the outset. Take Madasahatta 1891 for example. Yes I plan to have a number of Portable Wargame sized armies and the associated naval support BUT, and this is the key thing, I fully intend to tackle it in bite sized chunks which will serve two purposes. Firstly, it will enable me to ‘silo’ those parts I am tackling until completion and secondly, it will enable me to maintain the enthusiasm required as I move between the various strands making up the overall project. I was able to do this with the ACW project as the overall set up is made up of separate but linked strands - river based vessels, those that served at sea and on the rivers and finally the blue water element. Add in the rules and terrain considerations and you can see that there was enough diversity to maintain the  enthusiasm - which was crucial for me!

We all have our own way of working and so what is good for one may be less so for someone else. For me the key thing is to have an overall ‘big picture’ but with numerous self contained chapters that can be tackled independently if required. That has been the key lesson I have taken from the ACW project.



Wednesday, 13 July 2022

A Head Full of Good Intentions


One of my top ten military books and a constant companion since the early 1970s


A charity shop find for a mere £2 - I have not played it as yet but it is fully complete and is likely to be games at some point


Set up and ready to go. Seeing this map still giver me the same thrill as it did way back in the 1970s!

I am not sure why but for some reason I am feeling unusually optimistic about the various projects I have either on the go or at the planning stage - or even those I am ‘just thinking about’!

I think resuming work on the ACW ships and the rules has kind of acted as a form of ‘motivational reset’ and so many of the others bits and pieces I am looking at suddenly seem to be more achievable. Am I kidding myself? Possibly, but one should make hay whilst the sun shines (it has certainly been doing that over the past few days!) and so I have organised my plans into some kind of order which I have listed below. When I say order I mean what I am going to do with the idea - not necessarily when it is going to happen!

ACW - Ships, rules and assorted battles

As mentioned work has resumed on the ship models and I have in mind some additional work in respect of certain refurbishments. Some earlier models will be retired and newer models built to replace them - there are more retiring than will be replaced - along with some terrain pieces. The rules need some combat examples and then they will be off to the play testing team for what I hope will be the last time. I also want to look at getting some land actions in - Portable Wargame style and other sets.

War in the Pacific

I rather fancy building the ships for this as it would be a quite self contained mini project. I reckon a dozen  or so models would suffice and naturally I would use my ironclad rules as a starting point. I may try some of the land battles using ‘It’s Getting a Bit Chile’ by Trebian (currently in the Wargames Vault sale) and my block armies.

Russo - Turkish War

I am thinking that the naval side of this may not happen as planned despite having started on the models. No matter as the Turkish ships will certainly feature as part of the Madasahatta: the Prequel project. For sure there is plenty of scope in the Russo Turkish War - probably more so from a gaming perspective than occurred historically - but I am thinking my efforts would be better employed a little later than 1877/78. I have fought a few land actions from the period which have been great fun and may dabble again with the block armies at some point but for now I think it is safe to say that the period is parked.

Samurai

You may recall me mentioning my acquisition of a copy of Command and Colours: Samurai Battles. The latter half of the 16th century in Japan is a perennial favourite of mine - I blame Akira Kurosawa and James Clavell - and so I am quite keen to get some games in with this. I am also looking to get hold of a copy of the old Milton Bradley game Shogun that has over 400 assorted Samurai era foot figures (sadly no mounted but the figures fit perfectly with Zvezda 1:72nd scale figures) with a view to painting up some representative forces. That in itself is a mighty bold statement from someone that is ordinarily a reluctant figure painter at best! Seriously though, a brace of Portable Wargame sized forces or even tailoring something to suit the Command and Colours version is not beyond the realms of possibility. Detail wise the figures in the board game are probably the only one I would consider painting in any event.

If anyone has a copy of this game or would be happily to sell some of the figures please let me know!

Charge!

I still rather fancy trying this using the block armies but there would be some work to do beforehand in respect of terrain. I will get to it at some point but have no idea when!

 Waterloo

There is an air on inevitably that I will revisit this campaign at some point. At the present time I am thinking about the blocks and a large scale map - large enough for me to use my 6ft by 4ft table, thereby satisfying my inner Napoleon… Of course the map would need to be prepared but one get a little detail like that get in the way of such a grand design. 

Madasahatta

This is going to be the big one. Aside from the naval dimension I am looking at the armies using the War in the Age of Imperialism figures supplemented by other ranges of 1:72nd plastics. Very much in the planning stages (and yes, I am already having problems with this, mainly around ships) and I am looking forward to this. It will be a slow burner and a long runner.

Colonial/VSF

You know I mentioned that the standard infantry figure from the WITAOI board game looked very much like a Zulu War period figure? Well, as a little side hustle I am seriously concerning a Portable Colonial Wargame Zulu War set up. The VSF part is a ‘side hustle of a side hustle’ in that I rather fancy using the Hat Biblical era Sea Peoples as Red Martians for some Space 1889 style gaming and yes, Sky Galleons and Cloudships will feature.

DBA/HOTT

I have an awful lot of plastic Risk: Medieval figures (loosely based on Viking, Byzantine, Frankish and Saracen types) that are crying out for something to be done with them - the only problem is that they are quite small so may look out pf place with certain 1:72nd scale plastics. I will look at his more closely in due course but for now my thinking is very much along the imagi-nation route.

WW1 and 2

For WW1 East Africa and the Arab Revolt continue to inspire and will feature in one capacity or another - for the former the Lake Tanganyika campaign and possibly something involving S.M.S. Konigsberg. I raher like the idea of something aerial but that would be some way away.

WW2 presents a whole world of challenges - mainly due to the fact that I am interested in many facets of the conflict. I am unsure what I would tackle although Wing Leader: Victories certainly has some potential. 

I fancy some special forces style games - SAS, SBS, SOE etc which will mean very much skirmish level. If I am honest I am thinking that board games will satisfy the bulk of my aspirations in respect of WW2.

Sci Fi

A few ideas are currently being considered. Mechs - gotta love a large stompy fighting machine - are certainly on the agenda as well as some kind of skirmish set up. I am aware that Dan Mersey has a Sci Fi skirmish set from the ‘Rampant’ stable which should be fun. I also have the small matter of starships to consider - I have some models but am planning on building some for something rather unusual - I will say no more for now.

Age of Sail

I am confident that my building technique would work just as well for the age of sail as it does for the steam and sail period. I have a couple of ideas in mind for something Napoleonic related in a modest way - no Trafalgar sized slugfests - involving Frigates and smaller, possibly with the odd ship of the line for good measure. There may even be some shore raids in evidence using 1:72nd plastics but this will be for another day. The challenge I have at present is designing a hull template although I have a stack of Warlord Black Seas models I could play around with.

So what is missing?

The obvious omission is the whole pre dreadnought thing. Madasahatta will be a late ironclad/early pre dreadnought set up (currently I am looking at the period 1885 to 1895 for the ships) and for sure there will be a few historical liberties taken with what is available to the combatants. Naval combat in the Madasahatta world will be relatively low level in turns of the amount of material - remember that this is essentially a Colonial style set up - and will feature ships that are for the most part ‘second division’ types with the odd smattering of more modern vessels, typically ‘showing the flag’.

In closing

The above is very much a work in progress and by no stretch of the imagination is carved in stone. It is merely a snapshot of where I am at in terms of the current crop of projects and ideas. I have to say that I find it very therapeutic to sit and plan these kind of things and to be honest it is the first time I have really felt like doing so this year. I am sure that these ideas will wax and wane in terms of feasibility over time but it does not hurt to indulge one’s imagination from time to time. Some of these will be tackled, some will be discarded and no doubt newer ‘Ooh shiny!’ Things will appear but that is half the fun!