Friday 30 December 2022

Christmas and Looking Forwards

The two volumes of Samurai Armies of the Late Sengoku period are absolutely superb - they are rather like Ospreys on steroids - and Lion Rampant would be my choice of rules for the large scale skirmish style of game. Mr Fox very kindly sent me an army list of Japanese troop types for use with Lion Rampant and these will be perfect for my needs (he really is a great chap!). The other two Osprey titles are in support of my plan for a Russo/Polish style set up based on the board game ‘Strike of the Eagle’.

No dice and blocks for units and cards. A quite superb map, top quality components and just the ticket for the budding Japanese overlord!

The Memsahib struck gold with this one!

I have had a great Christmas, albeit rather more busy than expected! There has been an unending round of domestic chores - the ones that cannot be easily fitted into a working week - that have now been successfully completed and one rather large personal project, more of which later in this post.

The family surpassed themselves on the prezzie front and so two of my projects for next year have been very nicely supported. I have previously mentioned about a Samurai project of one sort or another. I have the wherewithal to tackle this in two scales - 20mm via Shogun and 28mm via Warlord Games - along with potentially a naval dimension. I am still very much at the planning stage with this and in truth it has not gotten past the ‘I want to do something Samurai related - either Shogun or Last Samurai based’ stage but we shall see!

The Russo/Polish War is not something I would ordinarily be thinking about but it has a lot of potential in a number of ways - at least from the perspective of how I would game it. Strike of the Eagle by Academy Games is a block based ‘point to point’ card based game that looks really good and translating the blocks into figures would not be to much of a challenge methinks. I have a few ideas about this that I will detail in a further post.

A place for everything and everything in its place….for now at least!

The man cave was due a major reorganisation and general tidy up and so I was able to undertake this gargantuan task and over the course of a couple of days completed it. The amount of old rubbish that has been consigned to the recycling (or non recycling) was an impressive three bags worth but I feel a whole better for having a clean and tidy workspace after the ACW shipbuilding frenzy.

I have of course been thinking about the Portable Ironclads Wargame and the next steps and to be sure, there are few ideas I am playing around with. For now though, I want to enjoy a few games, finish the last six models and think about 2023 and what comes next.

Wishing you all a very happy news year!

Tuesday 27 December 2022

The Return of the Seven

The Union gained an “Old Navy” frigate and a modern sloop. the collection now has two frigates, two old and two new sloops.

The Confederates gain a new commerce raiding sloop and four ocean going gunboats - ideal for coastal operations.

After a couple of minor varnish dramas and some fiddly touching up, the next seven ships for the ACW collection are now completed and ready to join their respective fleets. I set myself a goal of finishing the final six models before the end of the year but somehow think I am not going to make that! Still, after all is said and done the collection now sits at sixty six models with enough diversity of types to satisfy a wide range of potential scenarios.

If I am honest I think that I may have overstretched myself with this lot - working on three or four models at a time is probably more than sufficient - as seven ships really took a lot longer than if I had worked on them as a three and a four. Still, they are completed and will be seeing service soon….

Sales of the Portable Ironclads Wargame continue at a steady rate so many, many thanks to all that have supported this endeavour. I hope that the wait was worth it!

Saturday 24 December 2022

“I Saw Seven Ships Come Sailing By….”

I was hoping to get them flagged and varnished before Christmas but time was against me. The two at the top are both for the Union - another frigate and a sloop. For the Confederates there is a commerce raiding sloop and four gunboats - these are more coastal/seagoing types with the two with white paddle boxes being earmarked for something rather special in the new year….

Not quite the Three Ships of the famous Christmas Carol but in honour of the festive season it was the best I could do at short notice!

The latest additions to the ACW collection consist of a frigate and sloop for the Union and a sloop and four gunboats for the Confederates. I have six more models to build - three of which are half built anyway - and that will be it for now for the main combatants. I will look to build some mortar rafts and flat boats next month but anything more exotic will have to wait. I want to fight a few games with the rules and am looking to get a larger cloth organised to do so. I am also looking forward to getting some terrain pieces made.

It has been quite a year. Laurel and her major surgery, yours truly adjusting to working from home in a new job coupled with caring duties, my daughter dislocating her knee last weekend and the small matter of completing and getting published The Portable Ironclads Wargame. Phew, and then some! Mercifully I have gotten over the four week long chesty cough that really knocked the stuffing out of me and so am looking forward to Christmas with the family and just kicking back with some good food and drink, some trashy TV, some family board games and thinking about nothing much.

However you choose to spend the Christmas season I wish you peace and goodwill and hope to see you all in the new year!

Merry Christmas.

All the best,


Tuesday 20 December 2022

Forests of Masts and Spars

Work in progress

Progress thus far at this stage has been pleasurably easy - no rush, just dabbling as and when the domestic schedule permits - and so I am now at the tipping point of the seven models you see above. The guns will be mounted this evening (they are the white sticks - top left by the superglue) after having been painted and then the hulls are complete. The cutting mat at the top contains the masts for the three fully rigged types (the three hulls on the left of the picture) whilst the masts for the four other gunboats are currently placed in a hull template for ease of handling whilst painting. I will varnish the completed hulls first before adding the masts as it protects the finish during the sometimes quite physical tussle involved in placing the masts.

Should all be done by Christmas in any event.

Sunday 18 December 2022

Last Steps, First Steps

Waiting on fitting out and then it will be the great mast fest to finish off. The sailing rig for all of these is assembled and so merely needs painting and fixing in place - this is not difficult, just time consuming. You can just about make out the next three models in the top right of the picture, the final two have yet to be started.

Now that the Portable Ironclads Wargame is out in the world and the last of the models I wanted to build are close to completion I am now thinking more and more about what comes next. I have mentioned previously that I have a number of options to think and so it is simply a case of deciding which one and then cracking on with it. In the meantime though, I certainly want to get a few games in whilst finalising plans and from choice these will probably be very different to what I will eventually be settling down with.

I want get my Samurai head on for next year so the boxes of 28mm and 20mm figures will get some attention although this will not be hitting the tabletop until the middle of the year at least. Methinks I will be very much going back to school in respect of painting figures as my technique has not evolved since about 1972!

For now though, there is the small matter of a dozen ACW ships that have been earmarked for the collection. Seven of these are very well advanced as you can see in the picture above. Of these there are three for the Union and four for the Confederates. Of the final five the Union get a single models whilst the Confederates get the rest. This little lot will take the collection to 72 in all. I will need to build some mortar rafts and possibly some flatboats but that can wait until the new year as a kind of tidying up exercise.

Onwards and upwards as they say!

Thursday 15 December 2022

It’s Here!

The softback version - I shall be getting a hardback in due course. Really impressed how it has come out!

My copy of The Portable Ironclads Wargame arrived today - many thanks Bob - and I am hugely impressed at how it looks! Seeing something that began as an idea and turned via scribbled notes, Word documents, emails and PDFs into a physical published copy is a truly great feeling!

It is a curious business this publishing lark. Ordinarily one would submit the text and then get some author’s copies for final review before ‘pulling the trigger’. We (Bob and I) were advised that these copies would not be available until January which was a blow as we wanted to go to print in time for Christmas. We were fairly confident that all was well with the book (famous last words!) and so went to press ahead of the arrival of the author’s copies. The upshot of this is that the book can be purchased and hopefully enjoyed before the author has sight of it - a fact the Bob rectified by the simple expedient of ordering a couple of copies - one of which is above. I am really pleased he did! The larger format works very nicely with the rules and text - bear in mind that everything I prepared was via my iPad - and the pictures look very attractive indeed. I am really pleased with how it has turned out.

I have plans for taking the concept forward in time but for now I am looking forward to seeing how gamers find the book and seeing what they do with the rules. For now though, I have a few models to finish off for the ACW collection so will look to do this over the Christmas break as I have now finished work until January. I would love to be able to say that I am looking forward to the rest but the Memsahib has other ideas on the subject….

Tuesday 13 December 2022

The Portable Ironclads Wargame - Published!


It took a while but we finally got there!

At long last and after several minor speed bumps along the way I am at last delighted to say that the Portable Ironclads Wargame is now available!

The details of the book are as follows and yes, it is available via Amazon:


Hardback:        ISBN 979 8 3673 7158 1 (Price = £19.99)

Paperback:      ISBN 979 8 3673 6389 0 (Price = £9.99)

Kindle and PDF (Price = £4.99)

The PDF version is available via the Wargames Vault (click the link to find it)

The book contains the following:

  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Acknowledgements
  • A short history of the development of the early ironclads
  • Wars in which ironclads saw action
    • American Civil War
    • The Second Schleswig War
    • The Chincha Islands War
    • The Third Italian War of Independence/Seven Weeks War
    • The War of the Triple Alliance/The Paraguayan War
    • The Boshin War
    • The Russo-Turkish War
    • The Peruvian Civil War
    • The War of the Pacific
  • Designer’s Notes – How I got to Where I got to and Why!
  • The Fundamental Rules of Wargaming
    • The First Rule of Wargaming
    • The Spirit of the Wargame
    • If in doubt ...
  • The Rules
    • Sequence of Play
    • Combat Resolution Overview
    • The Rule of 1 and 6 – Gunnery or Ramming Attacks
    • Firing
    • Movement
    • Ram Attacks
    • Mines and Spar Torpedoes
    • Damage and Sinking
    • Forts, Shore Batteries, and Offshore Defences
    • Ship Specifications
  • Examples of Ship Specifications: The American Civil War
    • Union Ships
    • Confederate Ships
    • Generic Vessels
  • Examples of the rules in action
    • Firing Arcs and Firing
    • Ramming
  • The Rules in Action – More Trouble along the Missenhitti
    • Introduction
    • Six months later …
    • Setting the Scene
    • Dramatis Personae
    • Blueberry Bend, at the Confluence of the Missenhitti and Yahoo Rivers … November 1863
    • In conclusion
  • Modelling the warships of the American Civil War
  • A Review of the Fleets
    • The Union Fleet
    • The Confederate Fleet
  • Final Thoughts, Further Thoughts, Errors, and Omissions
  • Bibliography and sources of information
I am beyond excited about this and wish to thank Bob Cordery for all of his efforts in helping me get this over the line - especially given the events of this year with Laurel and more recently my daughter who managed, two days ago, to dislocate her knee!

The list of people I want to thank also includes David Manley, Angus Konstam, Arthur Harmon, Alan Saunders, Simon Wilson, Mike Haught and everyone that has followed this project for the last two years. The support and good wishes I have received has been truly inspiring and I am very appreciative of all of it - especially when my attention and enthusiasm has been flagging.

It has been an epic journey for me and I hope to make this the first of a number of titles so watch this space and many thanks once again!

Saturday 10 December 2022

Preparing for Action….Portable Ironclads Wargame Style

Given that the Portable Ironclads Wargame has been proofread and amended - just a couple of additional tweaks to have it ready for the grand order of the proof copies - I have been spending some time working on the remaining models and planning some additional refurbishments. The painting modelling tray currently looks something currently looks something like this:

A cryptic shot of the work station. The grey hull and the pair to the right are destined for the South whilst the others are headed North. Note the models under construction on the left.

After an exchange of messages with that very nice chap and authority on the armoured warships of the South, John Wallis, I shall be refurbishing some of the Confederate casemate ironclads into closer historical ships rather than generic. Of the six models I have built in this category four can be readily adapted by the simple expectant of removing some gunports or repositioning the existing ones. This will actually be quite easy to do and so over my Christmas break I shall get them duly repurposed.

The original six models.

These two need the gunports removed entirely and the newer smaller sized versions added.

The left hand model merely needs to have a pair of gunports removed and some of the decking painted over. The one on the right I need to think about but I have a few ideas.

The other refurbishments are chiefly confined to adding gun barrels to deck mountings which are easy enough to do, albeit a little fiddly. These will receive some attention after the remaining models that are currently being built are finished.

The Portable Ironclads Wargame

Not to long go now! 

Wednesday 7 December 2022

The Portable Ironclads Wargame

As mentioned in my previous post I wanted to share a quick update in respect of the Portable Ironclads Wargame.

This is the draft cover for the book - it may well be different in its final version - and it will be available in hardback, softback and digital form.

At the time of writing the book is being proofread with the expectation it will be heading off for the printing of proof copies in the next week or so. Assuming all is well it should be available fairly soon after that. Be still, my beating heart….

Am I excited by this? 



Thursday 1 December 2022

“The Road Goes Ever on and on….”

The tree in its customary position - still more prezzies to go underneath!

It is a curious feeling. All the text for the Portable Ironclads Wargame is being edited and there are only another dozen ships left to build and then, for now at least, it is done. It has been my constant companion for over two years - at least this version has - and I know I need to draw a line under it and tackle something else. Therein lies the problem. I have so many things in various stages of planning that it is difficult to decide which way to go and for me that means the likelihood of a poor decision being made! 

If I am honest I think my immediate ‘post ironclad’ aim is to really get some games in. I am not fussed as to which as I feel as though I need to binge on a wide selection of stuff to gain a recalibrations of focus. I will set some boundaries though - to start with I will not be looking to start anything that is new, new!

I have more than enough ‘stuff’ to work with so all I need to do is to ‘shake the snow globe’ and see how this settles down and in what direction. I do not feel the urge to explore anything outside of what I have already set down previously but I do need to work out the best direction to take in whatever direction I end up taking.

In the meantime though, preparations in Maison Crook for the festive season are under way and so the decorations went up last weekend. The Memsahib assisted with the tree from her chair - she has to rely on that and her frame as standing for long periods is very taxing for her. It is nearly a year since her surgery and needless to say it has been a long and tiring, painful and stressful time for her and the adjustments to most areas of our lives have been far reaching. The overriding concern is how much she will recover and how long it will take. She was supposed to have a consultation with her neurosurgeon last week to see how things are against the plan but this has been cancelled and rearranged for a later date.

Work has been insanely busy and I an also suffering from a miserable head cold so am looking forward to using up some holiday time later in the month. In fact I am off from 15/12 until the new year so I hope to recharge and refresh the brain cells for the new year. 

I am signing off for a couple of weeks, only until I have some news about the Portable Ironclads Wargame, and then it will business as usual. 

See you all soon!

Wednesday 30 November 2022

The Portable Ironclads Wargame

A quick update as to the progress on the above title. The final text has been passed over to the editor in chief for some cosmetic formatting tweaks and then it it over to the proofreader for him to work his magic. All being well it should be available very soon but in the meantime, here are a couple of tasters:

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Cossacks, Polish Lancers and Zulus

The front of the box….

….and the rear. Note the blocks and the map detail - very useful for the budding Portable Wargamer looking for a readily usable map of the region….

You may recall a while ago I picked up a copy of the above board game which covers the Polish - Soviet War 1919 - 1920. This is a card driven block based game that uses a map that is town to town based rather than using hexes - rather like Columbia Games 1815 game Napoleon. It looks really good fun and is designed for two to four players. Given rather more pressing priorities - ACW ships and the final work for the Portable Ironclads Wargame - the game has sat on the shelf awaiting some attention. At this stage the two card decks - one for the Poles and one for the Soviets - are still in their shrink wrap, the counters are unpunched and the blocks have yet to be labelled. I had also made a mental note to read up on the war in order to add some historical context. There are a couple of Osprey titles covering the war - both of which are on the Christmas list - but I seemed to recall seeing the book below in a branch of Waterstones some years ago and so after a little digging was able to track down a copy via eBay for the princely sum of £4.21 including postage. 

A small A5 sized hardback edition by Adam Zamoyski - I reckon with the brace of Osprey titles currently on my Christmas list and the useful notes on the war contained in the game above I will have pretty much everything I need for a Portable Wargame experience.


One of the ‘long way down the road’ projects I am planning is a late 19th century Colonial style set up using the figures included in the board game War in the Age of Imperialism by Eagle Games. The basic European style infantry figure (of which there are a couple of hundred in the box!) is pretty close to a Zulu War British infantryman in a standing firing pose. I added a box of Hat Industry Zulu War British Infantry Command, together with their very nice Colonial artillery and the inevitable Gatling gun set. Ideally I wanted to get the Hat Industry Unmarried Zulu boxed set containing 60 figures but this is as rare as hen’s teeth at present. The ESCI and also Call to Arms Zulus are nice albeit a little fiddly in terms of assembly. To be honest I kind of parked the idea for the time being as I figured that hopefully when I am ready to pull the trigger they will be more readily available.

The contents of a most welcome Jiffy bag! Bob mentioned that the shields and spears were missing but that is not too much of a problem and is easily rectified. I was particularly pleased with the number of riflemen included for reasons that will soon become apparent….

Anyways, a chance exchange of emails with the painting machine that is Bob the Old Painter ended up with a small Jiffy bag arriving of some ESCI Zulu War figures to get me started with. I mentioned to him that I had a cunning plan with these and so now can unveil the beginnings of an idea.

The tribal figure included in War in the Age of Imperialism is a splendid looking fellow but there are only 16 of them - hardly enough for a Impi! Well, the plan I am thinking about is to use the above in conjunction with the aforementioned tribal figure to set up an African tribal imagi-nation called tentatively the Mazuti. This is a fusion of the Masai, Zulu and Ashanti types. The army will have fierce warband style warriors backed by skirmishing firearms equipped warriors and some as yet to be organised mounted types. The Mazuti empire will be based in central Africa but will have an outlet to the sea but again, I have not gotten as far as planning it out yet.

That is the kernel of the plan though but it will be a while before anything tangible happens with it. Or maybe not….

My thanks to Bob for the figures and rest assured they will be used in one way or another!

Friday 25 November 2022

Time is your greatest adversary….

Two pairs operating in a welded wing formation - I wonder where they could possible be heading and why? 

I will say no more. Ok, then I will. No clues but a teaser of the action being played out for the Portable Ironclads Wargame. Trust me, so far it has been great fun. I cannot see any of those pulling 10g though….

Wednesday 23 November 2022

War in the East - an Absolute War

The front of the box….

….and the back

I recently acquired a couple of secondhand boardgames at a very good price and in excellent condition - particularly the subject of this post as it was unpunched and still in the shrink wrap. One of the pair has been earmarked as a Christmas present so I am not at liberty to divulge any details but the other one is now ‘in the public domain’ so to speak.

The Russian Front in WW2 needs no introduction from me as a topic of wargaming interest and indeed, over the years I have fought games on the subject from all levels from skirmishes up to strategic boardgames. The above definitely falls into the latter category and it has piqued my curiosity in many ways.

The nicely rendered map board - note the use of areas rather than the more usual hexes.

To begin with, the map uses areas for movement rather than hexes which, along with a low counter density, makes for a pleasantly spacious and uncluttered playing surface. There are no dice for combat resolution, instead cards are used which also add specific tactical or strategic options. I must admit that having played the old Avalon Hill classic Russian Campaign many times I will interested to see how the approach in this game works out. I should also mention that the solitaire suitability is quite good as well.

The two counter sheets - the top features the units whilst the bottom are various game markers

Production wise the game is top drawer. A fully mounted map board and oversized full colour counters add to the look of the thing and the rules and playbook seem fairly straightforward although somewhat illogically the basic game rules require some of the regular rules to work properly - a point made on BoardGameGeek. For all that it is something I shall look forward to setting up and tackling in due course - a world away from 19th century ironclads for sure!

Sunday 20 November 2022

In Karma Waters….

U.S.S. Carondelet on the left, U.S.S. St.Louis in the centre and the U.S.S. Louisville on the right - the traffic light flotilla….

Partially inspired by Boy George and Culture Club and their hit single Karma Chameleon I present the trio of City class ironclad gunboats sporting funnel bands of “Red, gold and green….red, gold and gree-ee-een…!” Well the video was based on a riverboat set during the 19th century so it had a certain whimsical appeal to me….

The U.S.S. Atlanta

The C.S.S. Mississippi and the C.S.S. Atlanta

The C.S.S. Mississippi - once again she was underpowered, incomplete and eventually burned to avoid being captured by Union forces. Her very existence, along with the C.S.S. Louisiana, influenced Union strategic thinking as their deterrent value was substantial

On a more serious note the above trio of ironclads have also been commissioned. A brace of the C.S.S. Atlanta - one with each flag so the Union get to use her as well (and they did!) and the C.S.S. Mississippi - a rather large casemate ironclad being at the same time as the C.S.S. Louisiana. The brace of Atlantas still need to have a spar torpedo assembly fitted.

Next up are three more fully masted types before we head back down into gunboat territory and the final brace of ironclads - a pair of C.S.S. Tennessees, one for each side.

Friday 18 November 2022

The Final, final additions….

The C.S.S. Tennessee - note the shape of the casemate and the integral pilot house.

To paraphrase the eminent archaeologist Dr. Indiana Jones - “Octagons, why’d it have to be octagons….!”

I think it is fair to say that the ACW project has very much been a good example of project creep! I shall be drawing a line under it once the final batch of models have been completed but, inevitably, there has been a minor twist in the tale. The batch of 15 models that I have been working towards completing has now morphed into 17, simply because I have decided to add two copies of the C.S.S. Tennessee to the collection. Why two models? Well, after she was captured at Mobile Bay the Union repaired and recommissioned her so having two models, one under each flag, makes sense (at least to me anyway!). This will take the collection to 72 scratch built models - and there are still holes in the respective fleets!

There is a certain irony in this as when I originally embarked on this project - we are now in the third autumn of its duration - the plan was to build around a dozen models that were designed to be generic and with the option to swap flags as required. So here we now are - building duplicates of models instead of swapping flags to allow for captures and with a collection six times the size of the original plan!

Meanwhile the other four ironclads have been varnished prior to final assembly and flags (and painting funnel bands for the City class) and so will be making their appearance shortly.

Stay tuned, as they say….

Thursday 17 November 2022

Still Moving Along (and with the Gnawing idea in tow….)

The current state of play. Just a few pieces of tidying up to send to and then the final assembly, varnishing and the all important raising of the respective ensigns are all that remain. Next up will be the three on the right - the masts are assembled and ready to go (and have been for weeks now) and then we are left with eight to go.

‘Twas a dark and stormy night’ - at least that is how it sounded in the man cave this evening as the rain lashed against the windows and the wind picked up. We had the mists earlier in the week and so are currently waiting on the ‘mellow fruitfulness’ to arrive - Autumn is definitely here methinks!

I had a good session with the paintbrushes in the man cave which meant that the armour colour was added to the four ironclads. All that now remains is for some tidying up of the odd area of overpainting and then the final assembly can take place. These four will definitely be ready for action at the weekend. Nearly that is, in the case of the pair of Atlantas. I say nearly because for these two I have yet to work out how best to model the spar torpedo they carried. I will certainly be adding this but my early attempts have so far ended up looking way too ‘heavy’ for the model.  Once I have this worked out it will be simple enough to add them later.

The gnawing idea continues to tease me. It is one of those that absolutely has no logic to it but then again, how many wargames projects have? That was a rhetorical question! Seriously though, It is something that would require a subtle rethink of my building process - you would have probably guessed that it is a naval endeavour - but, and this is the issue I am grappling with, it would open up something else if I pursued it, something that is definitely on the ‘to do’ list.

I am quietly hoping that I can weather the storm of enthusiasm over this idea so that what passes for normality in my world will resume. Time will tell. 

Monday 14 November 2022

Painting and the Gnawing Idea

Once the ironclads are finished the frigate and sloops (the three on the right) will be ‘deck finished’ - including varnishing - prior to the masts being added. The craft strip contains funnels, pilot houses and a paddle box for the City class gunboat (on the left) waiting to join her two sister ships (at the top of the picture).

As is now my custom I retired to the man cave for a little brushwork this evening and whilst it may not seem like much I was pleased with the progress. The four ironclads now have their woodwork painted and all the deck fixtures have been second coated. The next stage will be the armour and the final assembly followed by varnishing and the ensigns. I also took the opportunity to go over the green funnel bands of the U.S.S. Louisville (top left of the picture) so they are now more obviously, well, green. For the record the next ship in this class will have yellow funnel bands.

Work on the battle report continues apace and I hope to be fighting the planned action this weekend, by which time the ironclads should have been commissioned. 

The gnawing idea continues to gnaw - no details as yet but it will require a similar approach a to that of the ACW and industrial quantities of MDF….

Sunday 13 November 2022

Pictures, Painting and an Idea

A brace of City class ironclad gunboats - in this case the U.S.S. Carondelet (with the red funnel stripe) and the U.S.S. Louisville (sporting green funnel stripes). Note the octagonal pilot house - not angled as per the historical original but a closer representation than the square block I used previously!

I was able to spend some time in the man cave this afternoon tackling a couple of bits and pieces in relation to the forthcoming Portable Ironclads Wargame book. I needed to get a couple of pictures organised to support one particular chapter and also for the front cover. This was great fun to do and the results are currently with Bob for his perusal. I also managed to get some work in on the seven ships currently being painted. The four ironclads have their decks painted so the armoured bits and pieces are next. As part of this I was also able to refurbish the pair of City class gunboats I had built some time ago. They now have an octagonal pilot house although it is not sloped as per the original. It does look a lot better though. There is one more currently being painted so there will be three of these ‘Pook’s Turtles’ in the collection. The three ships with a full sailing rig will be next, shortly followed by more gunboats for either side.

I have also nailed down some more details for the battle report that will feature in the book and am looking forward to fighting it and writing about the resultant mayhem.

Now about the idea….

Saturday 12 November 2022

The Battle of Lissa 1866

A welcome addition to the library and possibly the inspiration for another project? You may think so….I couldn’t possibly comment…. :-)

When I first saw the above book advertised my curiosity was naturally piqued! It is very much a book of two halves in that the first is devoted to the evolution of the ironclad warship including the introduction of steam engines, shell firing artillery and armour spanning the period from the end of the Napoleonic Wars via the Crimean War and the ACW up to the battle of Lissa itself. The second half covers the Italian and Austrian fleets and the campaign and battle itself. 

Needless to say for this period the indefatigable David Manley has published an excellent set of rules and a campaign supplement for Lissa - the rules are called Broadside and Ram and are a step up from Dahlgren and Colombiad in that they are designed for fleet level actions rather than lower level.

The prospect of building the fleets for this is a tempting one but to be frank I am quite close to being ‘ironcladed out’ so will pass on it for now - but it may feature at some point and in a different way from the ACW project.

So….back to the models and writing!

Thursday 10 November 2022

The Magnificent Seven

From left to right there is a frigate, two sloops, the C.S.S. Mississippi, a pair of C.S.S. Atlantas and a City class ironclad with two painted sisters at the rear, awaiting their new pilot houses. The wooden strip at the top of the picture contains the funnel, pilot houses and the paddle box for the City class. These are mounted on double-sided tape for ease of handling whilst being painted.

No, not the film - nor the Samurai version, magnificent though it is! I am of course referring to the seven models in the picture above. These seven models, once completed, means that there are eight left to go of which four are next under the brush, three are under construction and one exists as an idea!

I was able to get the hatches painted and also the hull white lining on the two sloops but time ran away with me in respect of sealing the masts. No matter, I shall attend to them tomorrow, along with the decks. There is a fair amount of work remaining as far as painting is concerned but it is all manageable and more importantly, I am looking forward to it.

Who would have thought it? Me looking forward to painting something….

It’s All in Black and White….

Definitely a ‘before’ shot! I wonder what the idea behind this picture might be?

I was able to spend yesterday evening in the man cave, paintbrush in hand, and it was quite a productive experience. I was able to undercoat the three remaining casemate ironclads as well as the accompanying funnels and pilot houses. I was also able to paint the ‘herringbone hull template’ for the last frigate and as a result the hull for this is now assembled. The two sloops were masking taped and the white lining added. Finally, I was able to paint the funnels for the casemates although I will need to add yellow stripes to the City class pair. None of this was particularly taxing but it took rather longer than I thought it would. Having said that it was a good way to unwind after the rigours of the working day.

I am trying to make a habit of spending some time in the evening in the man cave as it is a great way to ‘take the edge off’ as work has been extremely busy over the last couple of weeks. Oe of the things I have noticed whilst working from home is that there is no filter between being mad busy and then being, well, at home. Previously I would have had the train journey to wind down on - usually with a book or catching up on some TV via my iPad - so a quick trip into the loft serves much the same function. 

The plan for today then, is to paint the pilot houses which will mean that the two city class ironclads that are currently missing them will be finished and can be put away. I will then be painting all the deck hatches etc across seven ships (the four casemates and the three fully masted types) before tackling the decks themselves. If time permits I will also seal the forest of masts I have for the frigates and pair of sloops.

The title of this post came about as despite spending some three hours in the man cave, the only two colours I used were, you guessed it, black and white!

Tuesday 8 November 2022

Marking One’s Card

That is the hard bit finished - now preparation for the painting.

To be strictly accurate in this particular case my card has already been marked - simply because Warbases have done so! Aside from bespoke MDF pieces they also have a very useful sideline in cutting 1mm thick grey cardboard - the type of thing that is usually backing a notebook or writing pad. The sizes I have found incredibly useful - not to mention saving a huge amount of time - are the 5mm square, 10mm x 5mm, 10mm sure and 20mm by 10mm. All of these have featured in the models built thus far, usually as gun port covered or hatches. 

C.S.S. Atlanta - note the spar torpedo assembly in the side profile picture

Yesterday evening, after another busy day with work stuff, I retired to the man cave after dinner to add the aforementioned card 5mm squares to the pair of Atlantas and the City Class gunboat. There were 33 in all, 15 for the City class and 9 each for the two Atlantas. My usual method is to pencil in where the lowest part of the gun port will be and use the roof of the casemate as a reference point when sighting them on opposite sides. This was all well and good with the symmetrical arrangement of the City class, less so with the Atlantas. The Confederate ship appears to have had three equally space gunports along her starboard side looking forwards whilst the port side had two slightly more forward and one to the aft. No matter, it all added to the fun! One thing I do have to think about for the Atlantas is the spar torpedo assembly. I do not want this deployed as it would make the model far too long so the plan is to build this in the travelling position which appears to be straight up at ninety degrees to the hull, possibly angled out at forty five degrees. I need to think about this and some more Google Fu will doubtless be needed.

The plan for today is sealing and undercoating so all four (including the previously readied C.S.S. Mississippi) of the final batch of casemate ironclads will be ready to paint. 

Sunday 6 November 2022

Just in Case, Mate….

Four casemate ironclads currently under construction - the two painted City class gunboats On the right) are currently waiting on their new octagonal pilot houses.

After having accrued rather a lot of brownie points on Saturday I was able to spend some time in the man cave working on the remaining models. The brushes stayed in their jar so centre stage were the knives, assorted files, pencil and ruler, my trusty bradawl, steel ruler and two types of adhesive. It was the turn of the casemates for three ships - two C.S.S. Atlanta and a City class gunboat. 

My technique for building casemates is an exercise in brute force. A central block of the appropriate size then has the four sides angled up against them. The brute force element is the filing and shaping of the angles - and this is vigorous work indeed!

All was going well until one of the casemate sides of one of the Atlantas split along the grain just as I was filing it into position. 

Oh flip I said. Oh shake my fist in anger I ejaculated! After much muttering under my breath and roundly cursing a cruel fate, I set about replacing the damaged side - this involved measuring out and cutting a new piece, all this after removing the glue etc from the original effort. It was swiftly done and after much flam and paradiddle the new piece was securely in place. All’s well that ended well but it did put me a little behind as I had intended to get the gunports and hatches in place as well but sadly time was against me.

The sealing and undercoating will follow and then of course, the final painting.

Saturday 5 November 2022

Planning for the Final Chapter(s)

The Rayleigh shipyard in action. Sort of. I shall close of the casemates tomorrow and then it is adding gunports and hatches. Funnels, pilot houses and flagstaffs are painted off the model and added later.

It has been an insanely busy week with work and the usual domestic round. I say usual domestic round because it is now usual following Laurel’s surgery. Whilst the children do what they can when they can due to work that is largely confined to the weekends. So it falls on my shoulders to tackle the usual weekly routine stuff that previously would have been Laurel’s domain. I am not doing everything but still a fair amount, simply due to what Laurel is unable to do being still largely wheelchair and walking frame bound. For her, standing for any length of time is a challenge and quite unsettling as her left leg still tends to have a mind of its own and decides to give up the ghost at odd moments. Needless to say I tend to fret about her like some kind of mother hen whilst she is perambulating - usually without any need but one never knows! We have a catch up with the neurosurgeon at the end of the month so can see where she is against the plan so to speak.

Anyhow, all this has wreaked havoc with my time, especially as work has been flat out.

I am no nearer finishing the models than the last time I wrote although I was able to undercoat the C.S.S. Mississippi - that is as far as I have got! Actually that is not strictly true as I also managed to get the casemate sides for the two models of the C.S.S. Atlanta and the final City class gunboat cut out and assembled. I also took the opportunity to remove the box-like pilot houses for the two City class I had previously built. The reason for this is quite simple - I now have the correct octagonally shaped versions although without the angled sides. When the one I am building is finished I will have three of them, so along with the U.S.S. Essex and the U.S.S. Benton I have a pretty powerful squadron for use along the rivers.

What I have done though, is to have decided to split the battle report into two chapters. The first will cover the scenario from the perspective of the scenario and the rules whilst the second will cover the battle itself. For the latter the plan is to write it largely as a battle report (complete with the obligatory purple prose!) with only the occasional reference to the rules. I was looking back over some of my blog battle reports and they are quite variable in terms of the amount of rules or of the narrative displayed. Writing the battle as an action rather than an exercise in the use of the rules will make it rather more interesting methinks although I shall reference certain rules where appropriate.

I also need to take a couple of additional pictures to support the existing chapters so will look to get that done tomorrow.

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Planning for the Final Chapter

“Dagger attack….!”

I have completed as far as possible all of the text for the Portable Ironclads Wargame with the exception of the battle report which will also be included. Originally I had planned to include two or three such reports of increasing complexity but this is no longer viable, mainly as I no longer have the time available to do this properly. I have settled on one action and hope that I can make it sufficiently interesting/inspiring for those that have persevered with the project.

It is fair to say though that this is something I am really looking forward to doing! Thus far I have nothing concrete decided upon although an idea has been gradually coalescing for a scenario. Including a battle report seems to be trickier than I first imagined mainly due to wanting to strike a balance between playability and the need to use as many facets of the rules as one can for illustrative purposes. It is a conundrum for sure, but a pleasant albeit challenging one to have.

Thoughts about the Battle

The action will definitely be taking place on the rivers rather than being coastal or high seas based. It will not be a historical refight of anything, rather it will be a typical, ‘based upon’ style of action. My thinking at present runs along the lines of a small Union force tasked with neutralising a small Rebel fort that is rumoured to be supported by an ironclad and other naval assets. This would involve around half a dozen ships or so and a fort - perhaps with some offshore defences. The trick here is not to get it too complicated as it could then potentially run on for too long. I will set a game turn limit in order to force the pace slightly. For the Union time will be their greatest adversary….

Provisionally the Union will have a monitor and an ironclad gunboat with a couple of side wheelers to make up the numbers. The Rebels will have a casemate ironclad and a gunboat along with the fort etc.

I am two minds as to how to best to write up the action. I would prefer to go down the battle report approach, describing it as though it was an actual battle rather than a rule description exercise. I suspect that the final draft will have elements of both especially given my fondness for the occasional bout of rather florid purple prose!

This is where my thoughts are currently headed and in order to get the battle fought and the write up written I really need to get a wriggle on. 

Time is my greatest adversary….

Monday 31 October 2022

25 x 5mm Cardboard Squares

Mad, bad and dangerous to know - the C.S.S. Mississippi under construction.

The C.S.S. Mississippi features twenty gun ports which for my model are each of 5mm square cardboard. There are then five hatches also of 5mm card so that is twenty five 5mm squares in total. It was not difficult to do but care is needed for sure - that and a steady hand with a good set of tweezers! Of all the models I have built this is the most amount of 5mm squares I have used on a single ship. Mercifully the remaining casemate ironclads need rather fewer!

Sunday 30 October 2022

The Build Goes Ever On and On….

C.S.S. Mississippi under construction. 

An artist’s impression of what she may have looked like when completed - note the fearsome looking broadside.

Bit of a smorgasbord in terms of effort this weekend. I tidied up the last of the text for two chapters of the Portable Ironclads Wargame and worked on the pictures supporting one of them. I have the battle report to design and write - looking forward to this for sure - and I am going to pen a ‘final thoughts’ type of piece as there are a few things I would be keen to wrap it up with.

C.S.S/U.S.S. Atlanta - an ironclad ram also armies with a spar torpedo

The building continues apace and perhaps rather unsurprisingly I have changed my mind about some of the final models. There is a surprise addition in the shape of C.S.S. Livingston - possibly one of the oddest looking ships in a period of odd looking ships - and I have temporarily shelved the idea of making the C.S.S. Baltic. In its place I am building the C.S.S. Atlanta - two of them. The ship was captured by the Union after running aground and so served in both navies. The model you see under construction is not that of the Atlanta but it does use the same hull form. This will be the C.S.S. Mississippi - a truly fearsome looking proposition that fortunately for the Union was not completed.

Unfortunately I only have one size of hull template in this shape so it means that the Atlanta will be as long as the Mississippi when in reality she was some sixty feet shorter. Still, using a grid based rule system renders size differential largely a point moot point! My version of the Atlanta will be lower in the casemate than the Mississippi and with sharper angled sides - not to mention with far fewer gun ports - so will look noticeably different.

The only difference for the Union version will be the ensign.

Check out the above from Spithead Miniatures - the C.S.S. Livingston looks pretty odd, about as odd as the C.S.S. New Orleans!

The C.S.S. Livingston is a real oddity to look at and looks like fun to build (and to use in action) so I shall look forward to making her. 

I definitely need to get some serious modelling/painting time in for a final push - and before I get inspired to build anything else!