Sunday 29 May 2022

Ch, Ch, Ch, Ch….Changes….Turn and face the strain….

You know that feeling you sometimes get when something is not quite right but you are unable to put your finger on exactly what? Well, this week, following a successful play test of the current version of the rules I was left pondering one specific incident and the implications thereof. 

The defining moment - the C.S.S. Virginia meets her fate at the hands of the U.S.S. Monitor - two thirds of her hit points lost in a single pulverising salvo

On the very last turn of firing the U.S.S. Monitor fired on the stranded C.S.S. Virginia. After the dice rolls from both sides the C.S.S. Virginia suffered six hits which, along with the three hits she had already sustained, was sufficient to sink her. It was great at the time (not for the Confederates to be sure) but it did give me pause for thought. 

After pondering this (and indeed some other multiple dice roll induced effects) I realised that whilst opposed rolls works well, having great fistfuls of them tended to veer away from my original aim, that of maintaining a closer ‘feel’ between the characteristics of the ship the model represents and the game mechanics. 

I was pondering this when I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. As it stands at present a ship is rated for the number and type of guns carried and these in turn have a penetration factor based on the effectiveness of those weapons. For example a rating of 2/3 means the 2 refers to the notional number of barrels and 3 is the penetration factor. The current version of the rules adds these two figures together which is the number of d6 rolled when firing, in this example 5. It is fun but what tends to happen is the whole dice extremity thing makes things, well, extreme. It just felt a little over the top, even for my admittedly elastic and somewhat theatrical perception of reality!

So, what to do? Well the solution was an obvious one but as is usually the way with these things, it arrived in a roundabout fashion. I have gone back to my original idea of rolling a d6 per gun factor with the penetration factor acting as a modifier to each d6. The higher the adjusted score for each d6 rolled the more potential damage points can be inflicted. I have also added in ‘the rule of 1’ whereby when firing the roll of a natural 1 is an automatic miss. I did this because otherwise it would be possible, with the appropriate modifiers, to be in automatic hit territory which I have never been entirely comfortable with - there is always what I like to think is the ‘bead of sweat rolling into the eye of the tank gunner just as he fires and so misses the target’ effect or, the element of the imponderable that is ever present in warfare.

Damage points are now on a sliding scale rather than the 1, 2 or 3 being a miss, 4 or 5 a single hit and 6 is two hits. The damage point scale now runs as follows:

1, 2 or 3 - No damage

4 or 5 - 1 point

6, 7 or 8 - 2 points

9, 10 or 11 - 3 points

12 or more - 4 points

So you take the gun factor which is the number of d6 you roll, add any penetration factor with any applicable situational modifier to each d6 and consult the scale for the potential number of damage points. The target ship uses the hull factor to determine the number of d6 to be rolled and then add as a modifier to each d6 the armour value. The scores are then read off the same sliding scale as for firing to determine how many damage points are negated.

The end result is a system that feels more measured in that the potential for eye watering amounts of damage is still there  - as it should be - but is more the exception rather than the rule. 

I need to incorporate this in the draft that will be sent off to my trusty testing team - their patience knows no bounds - along with some other bits and pieces just to finish it all off. Overall it is getting pretty close to being finished - at least I think so!

Models and Boards

Based on some images I found on the net and being hugely flummoxed by my efforts at painting the ‘sun ray’ effect seen on some paddle wheel boxes and despite the etched versions I ordered from Warbases, I decided to replace them with my standard plain design. I now feel far more likely to get these built and so work has resumed on them.

The new board. The white spot in the square shows the corner of a 6” square for comparison.

I also managed to get some work done on my new 3 x 3 board. If you recall the original version featured 6” squares but these felt a little on the cramped side. All I did was to repurpose the existing board with 8” squares - the board is roughly 2ft square - meaning that the reserve or manoeuvring zones are now off the board. Once again I used white sticky dots to mark the corners, hence the four you see in the pictures.

Two sloops in a 6” square - it is a little on the cosy side.

The same models in the larger square - far better looking in my opinion, it also adds to the illusion of range but I am thinking that bigger still may be the way forward for the size of models I have.

All in all then, progress is progressing, changes have been made in various ways but it is all to the good and I now feel far better placed to get things back further along the track.

Just need to crack on then!

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Hampton Caught….January 1862….Game Number 72

This evening I fought a Zoom based play test game using my Portable Ironclad Wargame rules and based on the second day of the famous Battle of Hampton Roads. We (agent X and myself) used the 3 x 3 version of the rules and aside from a couple of points arising it all went rather well. This will not be a full blow by blow account of the game so I will instead let the pictures do the talking for the most part. Unfortunately taking pictures in the man cave at night and under artificial light is a real problem in that shadows etc are very noticeable.

Initial positions. The U.S.S. Minnesota is stuck firmly aground although still able to fire. The C.S.S. Virginia moved first.

Surprise! The U.S.S. Monitor emerges from behind the stranded frigate and prepares to engage the Rebel warship. Firing sees the U.S.S. Monitor inflicting 3 points of damage on the Rebel ironclad (this should have triggered a critical hit but in the heat of the action was overlooked…) whilst the Confederate warship fired at the stranded Union frigate to no effect.

Deciding to focus on the U.S.S. Minnesota the Rebel ironclad made straight for her whilst the U.S.S. Monitor, mindful of the potential effect of the Rebel ram, maintained a discreet distance.

The two ironclads continued to blast away at one another with little effect but by dint of a careful manoeuvre the Rebel warship was now positioned off the bow of the stranded Union frigate at close range. 

The C.S.S. Virginia manoeuvred until she was virtually under the bowsprit of the Union frigate and at last she began to score hits against her. Meanwhile the U.S.S. Monitor blazed away with little obvious effect on the Confederate warship.

Despite the risk of running aground the Rebel captain decided to risk ramming the Union frigate. The Confederate warship closed in on the U.S.S. Minnesota only to hear an ominous grinding noise as the ship shuddered to a halt. She had run aground! Worse as to follow as with the groan of timbers and the squeal of overstressed metal she heeled over meaning that her guns could not be brought to fire! Seeing the enemy warship in obvious distress the U.S.S. Monitor commenced pouring shot after shot into the grounded rebel ship - in short order she succumbed to the overwhelming weight of Union gunfire. The C.S.S. Virginia was battered into oblivion.

It was a fun game to play and I was delighted at how the overall system worked against a line opponent! A few points requiring some thought and clarification arose but nothing major. Mention should be made of the freakish nature of the Union initiative rolls - they won every one - as well as the generally poor standard of Confederate gunnery. 

I am well satisfied that the gunnery system works and having opposed dice rolls really adds to the fun factor. A couple of things were missed but this did not present a great problem overall. I need to really clarify a few things as follows:

Firing arcs

‘Supporting’ fire i.e. using more than one firing arc to engage an enemy ship

Diagonal movement and firing

All in all it was a great way to spend and evening and my sincere thanks to Agent X for his efforts thus far and his continued ongoing support. Next time I will let him choose the dice as well….


Readying for Action - Return to Hampton Roads

The three ‘not so amigos’ - from left to right the U.S.S. Monitor, U.S.S. Minnesota and the C.S.S. Virginia.

This evening will see the first play test of the Portable Ironclad Wargame via Zoom and with a live opponent. We shall be using version two of the rules and version three (actually two and a half at present) is currently underway. The work that my very own testing dynamic duo - agents X and Y - have put in has been first class and has really helped the project along. Without a doubt it would not be where it is now were it not for their valuable contributions!

To keep things simple, I have decided to rerun day two of the Battle of Hampton Roads featuring the U.S.S.Monitor, the (grounded) U.S.S. Minnesota and the C.S.S. Virginia. We will be fighting this using the 3 x 3 variant of the rules which, to be honest, is slightly misleading really. The rules are those of the ‘full’ set with the only tangible difference being that the maximum gun range is two squares. I have yet to formalise the rules for using the reserve areas - I had half an idea about how this would work - but these will come in time.

All being well I will have an after action report of sorts for tomorrow although if it all goes spectacularly wrong then it may be something rather different!

Tuesday 24 May 2022

Boot Sales and Bone Spurs

I have to say that I have taken a vicarious pleasure in reading about Partizan last weekend - it is not a show I have been to but would like to do at some point -  although by comparison my own weekend was rather more sedate! 

Small and handy to have - no plans to tackle the period using figures….(not yet anyway….)


         Samples of the troop and character cards

Boot Sales

Laurel, Holly and I headed out to a boot sale on Sunday and it was quite a successful outing. We all managed to get some bits and pieces - mine you can see in the pictures - and best of all was whole pile of cheap fruit - a tray of twelve mangoes, four large punnets of raspberries and two of blueberries for five pounds - so we are now all feeling rather virtuous in a ‘five a day’ kind of way!

The first of the purchases I made is a card based game inspired by the Trojan War. It is largely a game of knowing when to influence fate and deploying your heroes in a timely way to support your troop cards. Simple and handy to have as well as fast playing. I was so inspired that I may well have to watch Troy again, maybe even tap into Homer once again!

Useful buildings to have around for the Green islands or, in the case of the right hand one, even the Middle East

The buildings are usually sold as cheap holiday souvenirs among the Greek islands - I already have a number of these - and so when I saw the four of these for a silly price I thought ‘well why not?’ OK so there are more churches than I would usually need but the small flat roofed house is handy. Indeed, I have used several of these buildings in a number of my games and they certainly look the part.

Bone Spurs

Way back in 1988 I damaged my left ankle. It was not a dramatic event as such - no skiing or sky diving accident - as all I did was to slip down two stairs and roll my foot so that it was at right angles to where it should have been. Miraculously I had not broken it but I had wrecked pretty much every ligament around the ankle. I remember the bruising was pretty spectacular and ran from the line of my toes to the back of my knee. Anyways, after some eighteen months being in and out of plaster it was more or less about as good as it was going to get. Since that time (and after extensive physiotherapy) it has given me endless grief and the the consultant I saw told me that in later life I would probably get arthritis in it and that surgery to fuse the ankle may be the only solution. It has not gotten that bad yet but it has really deteriorated over the last couple of years or so. It has now also impacted on my knee and hip. Later life is here so it seems!

A few weeks ago I had X-rays on my ankle, knee and hip and last Friday I visited the GP to go over the results. I have been referred to an orthopaedic surgeon as I now have a fairly substantial bone spur bang in the middle of the joint. Luckily it is pretty straightforward to sort out although naturally as a non life threatening condition I am fully expecting a bit of a wait. The one big plus is that the GP is of the opinion that once it has been ‘rebored’ (his expression, not mine!) my knee and hip will notice an immediate effect - the effect of the ankle injury carries up through the leg apparently over a period of time.

For the time being then, I will stick to my regime of only spending half a day at any given show - the rest of the time I shall spend with my leg elevated with a mug of tea and a good book (like that is going to happen!).

Sunday 22 May 2022

The Return of the Desert Loving Englishman

A fascinating read about a sideshow of a sideshow of a sideshow….

It is funny how an idea can morph into another idea which in turn veers off elsewhere - and then comes back virtually where you started!

This will be the last post on the subject of my planned Portable Pre Dreadnought Wargame - not because I have abandoned the idea - as I have gone as far as I am able to at present. I have designed the bits and pieces I will need from Warbases and so these will be ordered so that when I am good to go all the proverbial ducks will be in a row, at least as far as building the models is concerned. 

Calling the rules the Portable Pre Dreadnought Wargame is a little bit of a misnomer really as I fully intend for the core system to be usable up to the Great War but with a fairly significant caveat. I am not sure that the firing system will work effectively with dreadnought sized main batteries - there are limits to the number of d6 one can roll comfortably at any one time! I fully intend looking at the lower level of action - cruisers and smaller - which will make for far more tactically interesting games than endless lines of dreadnoughts duking it out, not that that isn’t fun in itself.

Some time ago I mooted the idea of an expanded Madasahatta style campaign which would loop in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula. At the time I even went so far as to acquire the models in 1:2400th from Tumbling Dice - sadly long gone - but I never followed the idea through. Well, after a bit of a rethink, and more significantly a degree of scaling the whole project back a tad, I reckon it is now far more viable. Besides, I want to build the models myself.

The Royal Navy in the Red Sea

The Royal Navy Red Sea Squadron played a major part in both supporting the Arab Revolt and preventing supplies being delivered along the coast in regions occupied by the Turks. They had little or no opposition to speak of - the Turkish navy was concentrated in Turkey - which was probably just as well given the calibre of what they were equipped with. However, by dint of some historical legerdemain we could allow a combined Turkish and German squadron to be maintained on the island of Madasahatta and Dar es Salaam. 

My plan is to assume that the Central Powers have a greater naval presence than historically and that elements of both the Turkish and the German navy are available. For the Germans I am thinking some of the East Asia Squadron (they went west rather than east!) with some older bits and pieces facing off against the Red Sea squadron and some other bits and pieces that the Royal Navy happen to have kicking about - including stuff from the China station and perhaps a dash of modern light cruiser.

For this to work I will have to take a piece of wargaming history (Madasahatta) and tweak it - just to be clear this will mean taking history and also an alternative history to make something new - but I reckon that there is definitely some mileage (or for something naval should that be Knotage?) in it.

To give you a flavour of things take a look at some of the ships of the Red Sea squadron.

H.M.S. Euralyus
H.M.S. Fox
H.M.S. Minerva
H.M.S. Clio
H.M.S. Espiegle (note that R.I.M Minto was similar)
H.M.S. Odin

And from the Royal Indian Marine


The above were used as troop and supply ships that were also fitted out as armed merchant cruisers.

All the above are very much Arabian peninsula facing so the whole East Africa set up will also need looking at and organising.

Forward thinking

There is a huge amount of potential with this idea and it would certainly give me a great variety of lower level actions involving fewer ships as well giving me plenty of ideas for models. Given that Madasahatta is also relatively close to French occupied Madagascar it means that the potential for adding in some French vessels is also viable.

As I have often said in the past and will no doubt continue to do so in the future - much to ponder methinks!

Wednesday 18 May 2022

Making Plans Before Plans Before Plans….

A German Wittelsbach class pre dreadnought battleship S.M.S Kaiser Wilhelm II. Although armed with 9.4” guns compared to the 12” guns of contemporary Royal Navy battleships it was felt that the increased rate of fire of the lighter weapon would offset the larger British weapons at expected battle ranges. It was for this reason that the German ships tended to have a weightier secondary and tertiary armament 

OK, I will be completely honest and admit that I have spent rather more looking at pre dreadnoughts than perhaps I should have! Aside from now being further convinced that it will be a good thing for me to tackle it has thrown up a rather delicious dilemma. I will go into that in more detail further down the post but before I do I wanted to throw in a quick ACW update - a ‘state of the Union’ address so to speak.

The rules, which are currently with the testing team - agents X and Y - have been turned into version 2. This is very much a halfway house as there are still some areas that need clarification and I am sure that a few other anomalies will be thrown up. I will stick my neck out and say that I am pretty confident the core system is sound but there is much in the way of player based testing polishing to be undertaken. I was scheduled to take part in a Zoom game this evening but as I had just finished version 2 of the draft based on preliminary feedback I figures it would make rather more sense using them for testing. We go again next Wednesday evening.

Work has resumed on the ACW ships but I am fully expecting to hit a snag with the current batch. These are paddle steamers but with the paddle covers being the more usual vented type - you know the kind of thing, the sun ray style effect that many of them had. I had ordered some of these to be custom cut by Warbases and they duly arrived but were not quite as I envisaged. I was hoping that the ‘rays’ would be cut right through the MDF but instead they are etched into the surface. I am really not confident in my ability to carefully ink these in but will give it a try. One idea I had would be to use a really sharp pencil and essentially fill in the etchings with graphite - failing that some Nuln Oil. I will see how it goes but reckon this is one of the reasons I have dragged my feet with these for so long!

The Russo Turkish set up is looking more and more like a hypothetical match up in the mid 1880s. I will have the vessels I need for the actual war itself but I am fleshing out the Russian fleet to give it some heavier metal than it had historically. At this stage I am thinking elements of the Baltic fleet and naturally the Royal Navy will have a representative squadron. I am pretty confident that once I have built the last of the ACW models completed the Russo Turkish set up will be pretty straightforward to organise as I have a lot of the bits and pieces I need already. This is all rather lovely and leads me nicely into the pre dreadnought project and the plan before the plan before the plan.

H.M.S. Canopus, a contemporary of the Wittelsbach class above. Designed with overseas service on the China station the class  carried lighter armour and were both smaller and faster than the preceding Majestic class. 

I have been looking at a lot of pre dreadnought era vessels from battleships down to torpedo boats and it has been a rewarding and enjoyable experience for sure. My dilemma is a simple one. Initially my plan was to model some representative second string, colonial style forces for five nations - Britain, France, Germany, Russia and Turkey. At first glance this would appear to be wildly ambitious but in actual fact as I am looking at small forces for each - say a dozen or so vessels - the entire set up will be around the same size as the ACW collection. I would also be building in matched pairs as far as possible so the British would be built alongside the Germans, the Russians with the Turks and the French would be separate. There is an alternative that has been tempting me though and is the cause of the dilemma mentioned.

I have been giving some serious thought to going full on ’imagi-nation’ for the pre dreadnought collection.  Of course this will mean coming up with two or three ‘imagi-nations’ to begin with! This I have no problem with and naturally from the modelling perspective it would give me free rein as to what I want to build in terms of designs etc - either actual historical types or ‘based upon’ interpretations. There is plenty of choice in this regard.

The historical option is very much geared towards colonial considerations which in my world invariably means Madasahatta. As an aside Bob Cordery has released a slightly revised version via the Wargames Vault as a PDF. I say revised as he has added his updated and coloured versions of the original maps which are worth the cover price alone but then I am probably biased! I wholeheartedly recommend this work - he has also added a number of his other titles to the Vault as PDFs - as being a great example of how an old school style campaign was organised and run. It was very much Eric Knowles’s baby and is chock full of irreverent and politically incorrect ideas - think of it as a wargaming version of a Carry On film and you will get the general tone of the content!

At this stage I do not have to make any decisions about nationalities, fictional or otherwise, but it certainly does not hurt to give it some thought. For now though all I shall be doing will be designing some essential MDF pieces for when I do pull the trigger. Hopefully by the I will have a clearer idea of what I am will be doing and more importantly, why!

Saturday 14 May 2022

The Portable Pre Dreadnought Wargame

H.M.S. Majestic in Victorian livery

Although I am some while away from actually building any models for the pre dreadnought era (I am calling this c.1885 to 1905) it does not mean that I have not been giving some thought as what I will be doing and how. I have made some preliminary sketches for some bits and pieces that Warbases will be cutting for me - mainly turrets and superstructure parts - and decided that the models will be built using my usual technique of layered MDF. I have also been giving some thought to the rules.

It is my intention to draft a set of rules covering the pre dreadnought era based on the ironclad version currently being tested - and these will also include a 3 x 3 option. In theory I can see little problem with this approach although the one thing that struck me was the potential for a serious amount of dice rolling. I have no issue with this and given the number of models I envisage using - probably no more than half a dozen or so per side - it would not be too onerous. Besides, using opposed dice rolls certainly adds to the ‘fun factor’ although I suspect some purists will sniff rather disdainfully at the notion!

Taking a modern pre dreadnought armed with 4 x 12” in two turrets, a dozen 6” and perhaps the same number of 3” for anti torpedo boat work, you have the potential for at least four sets of dice rolls (and the associated defensive rolls as well) being the two main turrets and half each of the secondary and tertiary guns. One of the key features of naval gunfire of this period was that everything fired as soon as it could which was why there were problems observe ‘what shot landed where’ from the forest of assorted sized shell splashes. I have no problem with this and certainly, rolling vast numbers of d6 when playing Axis and Allies: War at Sea was not a problem.

Many years ago I fought a vast number of actions using the set you see below. At the time I was using a 1:3000th scale French Navy which had some wondrously odd looking vessels in it. The rules worked well enough for the early part of the period but suffered when ships mounted more and more artillery - the firing system really bogged down and so I will be keen to avoid this with my own effort. That being said we had some cracking games with them!

A great set of rules but very much of their time. Very detailed and slowed up significantly with later ship types - definitely a challenge tackling something like Tsushima with them!

The contents….

….and one of the play sheets. Despite my comments to the contrary these were a good set of rules and indeed, I would be keen to get a copy if I could, if only for nostalgic reasons!

Thoughts on Ships

My plan is to build models that would ordinarily be ‘second string’ types rather than the latest units to enter service. This will mean older battleships, even rebuilt ironclads or those vessels specifically designed for overseas or colonial use. Many of these soldiered on (or should that be sailored on?) until the Great War and whilst no match for modern vessels would certainly be sufficient when engaging similarly aged and decrepit types!

I plan to build British and German types along with Turkish, Russian and French and whilst this looks like a huge undertaking the individual nationalities will be relatively small - I am thinking ten to fifteen models  at the most. There is also the question of pain schemes as well - pre dreadnought black hulls, colonial service white hulls or overall grey. Something else to consider anyway.

There is much to ponder over this project before I ‘pull the trigger’ but if I have learned anything over the last few undertakings it is the value of preparation! Before I get it though, the ACW needs to be finished, as does the Russo Turkish collection.

Wednesday 11 May 2022

(Play) Testing Times

The U.S.S. Monitor engaging the C.S.S. Virginia

The models to be used in the first test - U.S.S.Monitor, U.S.S. Minnesota and the C.S.S. Virginia

Following on from the last ACW naval action I fought I was able to get the first draft of the rules sent to my trusty play testing crew - hereafter known as Agents X and Y (at least until the rules are hopefully published when their true identities can be revealed to the world). This has proven to be an enormous help as I have already had much in the way of constructive feedback and so have incorporated a whole heap of amendments into the text. For the record these were for the most part requests for clarification or suggestions as to where certain things could be put - the lack of cohesion coupled with an anarchic sense of order seemed to be the main issues although the odd typo had surreptitiously crept in!

The proof of the pudding though, is in the eating, or in this case the playing! With this in mind (and at the suggestion of Agent X) I shall be taking part in a Zoom battle against one half of the team next Wednesday evening which I have to say I am really looking forward to!

I have been thinking about the scenario for the test and reckon that revisiting the second day of Hampton Roads would be a good shout - the number of vessels is very low - U.S.S. Monitor, the grounded U.S.S. Minnesota and the C.S.S. Virginia - so it means that we will be better placed to stretch the rules. 

I shall try to record the action but given that I shall be using my iPad for the Zoom part it means that I will need to use my phone for the pictures. No matter, I am sure it will turn out fine - he says, more in hope than expectation!

Assuming all goes to plan then I would be keen to move on to something a little more ambitious (aka larger!) at a later date. In the meantime though, and thanks to the excellent work of Agent X (Agent Y is busy picking over the nuts and bolts of the rule mechanics) I have undertaken a fairly substantial tidying up exercise of the rules and how they are set out and it certainly looks a lot more logical in terms of layout.

The biggest challenge I have though, is really all about the graphics. Inspired by the work of Agent Y, who very kindly sent me a suggested format for the firing arcs, I have been able to more or less complete the orthogonal firing arc diagram - now there is the diagonal to consider which will be rather more tricky methinks.

In the meantime though, it is back to the shipbuilding and once again extending my grateful thanks for the sterling work of Agents X and Y!

Sunday 8 May 2022

Models, Firing Arcs, Bright Ideas and Boot Sales

The laid down but never completed Turkish pre dreadnought Abdul Kadir

A rather smart artist’s impression of the completed ship


I was able to get some time in the man cave and so work on five of the remaining ACW ships has resumed. There are twelve in total, three of which are masted types. Currently under construction are a couple of Union double enders, a river monitor and a pair of Confederate gunboats. These have been under construction for what seems like an age - certainly since before Laurel went into hospital - so it was good to get some work in on them once again. I was even able to get some work in on the Turkish ironclad Messudieh - the sister ship to H.M.S. Superb. There are a couple of other Turkish ironclads to be added and then it will be on with the Russians.

On the subject of the Turks the pictures at the top of the post are of the laid down but never completed pre dreadnought Abdul Kadir. It is quite a simple design and was described as being the pre dreadnought equivalent of the Spanish Espana class dreadnought - small and undergunned compared to contemporaries but more than sufficient to keep their neighbours (primarily the Greeks) honest. I think it is a really smart looking design which may well find itself being used when I get around to building the pre dreadnoughts.

Firing Arcs 

My Portable Ironclad Wargame rules (including the 3 x 3 modifications) are currently with my very own dynamic duo of play testers (I am convinced they are probably regretting volunteering to help given my peculiar and somewhat anarchic writing style!) and they have already given me some very valuable feedback on certain elements of the rules. One key element was missing from the initial draft and as a result of this oversight on my part has delayed things a tad - profuse apologies to both of these worthies - I am of course referring to the firing arc diagram. 

I will be perfectly honest about this, my graphics skills are very modest and so I was really not looking forward to drafting these - orthogonally would have been fine (Excel is my friend!) but diagonally would have been beyond me at this stage. I was stumped at how to do this and at one point was considering drafting the arcs by hand and ten taking pictures of them! Luckily common sense prevailed and so I opted to set up a table with a model on it and mark out the arcs using some card. Crude but effective for the task in hand and with the option to get something rather more diagrammatically in place going forwards.

Of course, I did forget the turret option but given that that is, for the most part, roundabout 360 degrees (did you see what I did there?), it did not seem like a serious omission.

Forward (F), Aft (A), Port (P) and Starboard (S). U.S.S. Carondelet, a City class gunboat, sits in the centre.

The same arcs when the ship is facing diagonally - Forward (F - top left), Aft (A - bottom right), Port (P - bottom left) and Starboard (S - top right).

Forward Wide (FW) and Aft Wide (AW) with the C.S.S. Virginia in the centre.

Forward Wide (FW) on the diagonal….

….and Aft Wide (AW)

Centre line pivot guns can fire either port or starboard - in this case starboard, with a 90 Day Gunboat illustrating this…

….and on the port beam

Diagonally on the port beam and….

….and on the starboard

Bright Ideas

Whilst the above is a simple and short term solution and certainly needs to be tidied up slightly, it seems to hit the spot but does raise a few rules issues around firing and by extension, damage. I need to give this some thought before changing anything though. 

Boot Sales

Two rolls of self adhesive vinyl coloured plain black covering a total area of 200cm by 90cm - whatever could this be for?

For the first time in an age SWMBO, my daughter and I ventured out to a new boot sale, set in a Park and Ride facility just off the A12, some 15 minutes from home. It was nicely spaced out but the selection of bits and pieces on offer was not hugely inspiring. My daughter got a few bits and pieces and I was able to pick up the two boxes you see above. They each contain a roll of black self adhesive vinyl sized at 45cm by 200cm and designed for use as a blackboard covering. They are plain black and needless to say there is a cunning side hustle afoot….

By the way the cost for these two packs was the princely sum of £1.50.

I think the expression you are looking for is something along the lines of “Back of the Net!”

Wednesday 4 May 2022

Any (Gun) Port in a Storm….

Taken sometime ago during construction. All I did was to paint the edges of the hull ‘slice’ in white and then sandwich it between the lower and upper hull.

This shows the bespoke laser cut hull slice with the gunports.

I was having a quick trawl through my blog list this morning and read with interest the post by the prodigiously prolific painter of playthings - the legend that is Jim Jackaman - concerning the challenges of painting age of sail style chequer-board gun ports. I will not spoil the surprise of how he has tackled this - pop over to his blog to see how - but it did remind me of the same problem I had and how I came up with a useful little cheat.

At the present time there are four ships in the ACW collection that are essentially age of sail ships with steam engines. Their guns were mounted broadside style along a full length gun deck and the line of gun ports was painted white in contract with the black of the hull. The actual thickness of the stripe varied enormously - some had an additional thin line above the gunports and some featured this below as well. I have yet to do this but have already worked how. Essentially I will mask off the edges above and below the ‘white slice’ and then paint these in white. I have done this previously on my model of H.M.S. Superb to show the lower hull ‘bootstrapping’. It is fiddly but not too difficult as long as one is careful.

The Spanish 3-decker the San Josef - note the gunports have lines above and below the ports themselves

H.M.S. Superb - the lower hull in brick red was painted around the edges and then fixed to the rest of the hull as was the main deck level in white. The white ‘bootstrapping’ was added via the masking tape method prior to final assembly. This ensures that all the lines etc are neat and tidy

Whilst not a major issue for the ACW collection it will naturally need some more thought and practise when I eventually look to build for the age of sail. I would suggest that using the larger and simpler design of models that I do makes using this approach far more straightforward that on a smaller and far more detailed commercially available casting. 

My thanks to Jim Jackaman for prompting this foray into my ship building past - and for helping me to think about the age of sail once again (although it will not be escalated to full on project status for a while!). 

Tuesday 3 May 2022

Bank Holiday Bits, Bobs, Boats and Beaks

Maldon viewed from the promenade

It was a busy bank holiday weekend for a variety of reasons - mostly around shopping, the garden and paying a visit to Maldon to see some friends. We also managed to sneak in a cheeky takeaway so it was a pretty good weekend all said and done.

SWMBO had been making noises about the garden although given her current largely wheelchair bound status it fell on the shoulders of yours truly to provide the requisite manual labour (I usually only tackle the mowing and seasonal cutting back of the tree in the garden) whilst she directed operations. The hanging baskets are now, well, hanging, and are complete with trailing lobelia in a variety of colours. They always look good when they are in bloom and it gave SWMBO a boost getting it done - she did the potting and I did the hanging! We also tidied up the various herbs we have - no, not THAT herb! - so everything looks fit for the summer.

I was supposed to go to Navwar on Saturday to collect some bits and pieces but will have to do this next week instead - time has really not been kind to me this weekend - and for the record there is noting hugely enigmatic about the visit! I am merely picking up a few bits and pieces for me and a friend….

The stern…

….the bows and….

….the ‘For Sale’ sign. Try as I might I could neither negotiate the price down nor could I see any fitting points for artillery!

Maldon on bank holiday Monday in the sun was busy but luckily where we were situated was in the large Promenade Park along by the Blackwater Estuary. There lots of Thames sailing barges in evidence - including one that had been newly refurbished and was for sale. £325,000 was the asking price and she looked lovely for sure. There are cruises organised during the summer months from Maldon which would be something to look forward to in due course.

Not quite the Mediterranean or the Caribbean but good fun all the same methinks!

There were also rather a lot of these handsome chaps present in the Promenade Park Pond - you can even feed them by hand, which I did!

On the gaming front I have spent numerous odd moments finally typing up the Portable Ironclad Wargame rules and I can now say that (at last!) they are finished! I shall be sending some copies out for testing purposes to those that are in the know so for now that part of the project is at a convenient break meaning that I can (at last) get back to some boatbuilding!