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!

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Getting Even Closer….

One of the recent new additions to the Union fleet - a ‘double ender’gunboat.

Lots more progress with the Portable Ironclads Wargame! I had a substantial photoshoot over the weekend  of examples of play togthere with drafting the accompanying explanatory text. This was a useful exercise as it highlighted a couple of points within the text of the rules that needed a little clarification. Aside from these pictures etc I was able to sign off on the main draft of the rules and so these are now in the hands of the editor in chief of the publishing empire that is Eglinton Books - Bob Cordery himself!

I will be honest, I felt dead chuffed to be sending the rules over and surprisingly even a little sad. The rules have been such a part of my wargaming for nigh on two years or so it felt like saying goodbye to an old friend. However, a line needed to be drawn and so I drew it! Joking aside I fully expect there to be numerous house rules and tweaks arising from playing experience and indeed, it would be very unusual if this were not the case given most wargamers tendency to tinker with rules. In many ways this is the bedrock of the entire Portable Wargame series - being able to tailor the system to suit one’s own specific interpretation of the history being gamed.

I have a further photoshoot planned for the chapter on modelling ships for the period - the text has been written - and then it is on with the battle report that will be included in the book. I have a few ideas for this   but just need to give them some detailed thought. Needless to say I am really looking forward to this! The final piece from me will be the bibliography and again, most of this has been written already and so merely needs a little tidying up.

In the meantime though, I am conscious that the models need to be finished as there are still fourteen left (actually fifteen now as I have decided on another model for the Confederates). Suffice it to say that this last model is a little different….

Sunday 23 October 2022

Getting Closer….

C.S.S. Virginia in action against a Union frigate….I will say no more….

Things have been moving along rather nicely albeit perhaps not in the way I intended! The Portable Ironclad Wargame needs a couple of photoshoots, a battle report and a bibliography and then it is done. The schedule for this is by mid November and I am confident I will be finished by then. 

I have been busy taking pictures to illustrate various parts of the rules - it is far easier for me to do this rather than draughting diagrams - and then describing what is taking place. I have really enjoyed this part of the project but it has come at a cost. I have not made any progress with the remaining models although given that my editor will be away for a week or so fairly soon hopefully I will be able to catch up then!

The picture above is a taster of what is to come - I will not offer any explanations as to what is represented   - and so I hope that the ‘eye candy’ will help to inspire some new ACW fleets among everyone that has taken a look at this so far using either commercially available models, 3D print files or scratch built.

For the record I have now settled on my Christmas present. I want to get a good quality 6ft by 4ft blue cloth with a white hex grid (4 inches across the flat sides) and some Hexon terrain to plonk on it.

I will need to have a word with Santa methinks….

Wednesday 19 October 2022

More on Napoleon’s War: The Hundred Days

The second game in the series that includes the Russians and the Austrians along with more French. The rules are an evolution from those in the 100 Days set and fix a couple of contentious issues. Luckily BoardGameGeek has some files that ring the changes!

I took a peek at BoardGameGeek yesterday evening in order to flesh out my knowledge around the Napoleon’s War series published by Worthington Games. It was certainly time well spent!

The Gates of Moscow set was a standalone game that included the Russians and Austrians (in green and white plastic respectively) and the game featured the following battles: Marengo, Austerlitz, Aspern-Essling and Borodino. The rules were the same as for the 100 Days although a couple of things had been changed in the light of playing experience. There are a few useful files on BoardGameGeek that ‘ring the changes’ which is handy and yes, I have downloaded them!

Worthington also released two Battle Packs that each featured four scenarios and map boards but no figures. Battle Pack Number 1 featured the following battles: Alexandria, Jena, Auserstadt and Busaco. Battle Pack Number 2 was focused on the War of 1812 and so included the following four battles: Queenston Heights, Chippewa, Bladensburg and New Orleans.

Mark Cordone pointed out that the figures are in fact the same as those included in the US version of Risk which are sadly not available in the UK.

The core system is fun in a Portable Wargame/Command and Colours way and it captures the flavour of combat in the period rather nicely. The use of action points which can be adjusted on a random basis each turn by a dice roll regulates movement and combat with a little more freedom than the card driven Command and Colours system. At least one does not have the situation of having a handful of command cards for the wrong sector! Personally I am happy with either system though.

The only downside I can see is that the game has been sold as a battle refight system in that the map boards are solely designed for the featured battle. There are no terrain tiles to customise the playing area or to do ones own thing although that would certainly not stop most gamers I know (myself included!)!

The map hexes are 40mm across the flat sides and it would not be beyond the capabilities of most gamers to produce terrain etc that could be used to supplement the maps.

In Conclusion

For me there is certainly some mileage in this system in terms of what it could be used for. A good example would be to use Command and Colours scenarios with the Napoleon’s War rules and troop types as the former are readily available on the net to download from a variety or sources.

I like them as a stripped back alternative to Command and Colours.

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Back to Waterloo

Worthington’s Games take on the Waterloo campaign of 1815

The rear of the bo which should give you a flavour of what is to come

The 1815 Waterloo campaign is one of my perennial favourites with a fondness for it going back to the days of Airfix armies, Bruce Quarrie’s Airfix Magazine Guide and THAT film. There is something about it that never ceases to inspire me although in many ways elements of it have always remained tantalisingly out of reach - primarily I suppose because despite all of the ink that has been spilt over the years about the campaign and the battle we only have a series of educated guesses as to what happened and when. I have dabbled with using figures and played numerous board games on the subject over the years and even attempted a version using Waddington’s Campaign as the basis. I also nearly took part in a 54mm Little Wars inspired refight so it is safe to say my interest in Waterloo is well established.

I noticed the above game advertised on one of the Facebook Marketplace groups and so I immediately made a beeline for it. 

The game uses a system that is very much Command and Colours light in that there are similarities to Richard Borg’s design but without the use of command cards. Instead of blocks there are three armies made of up of generic looking figures presenting infantry, cavalry and artillery made from hard plastic and scaled at between 15mm and 20mm. The armies are red, blue and grey and I am pretty certain that a follow up volume included the Russians in Green and Austrians in white. I also believe that there was a standalone expansion book that covered the war in 1812 against the USA. I will check BoardGameGeek later for confirmation. The game contains map boards for Wavre, Ligny, Quatre Bras and Waterloo itself. There are also some counters for use to differentiate troop types - skirmishers, heavy cavalry, horse artillery, that sort of thing - as well as for the three main commanders. The rules are very straightforward and games are expected to take between an hour or two.

The scenario cards - note the reinforcements for Quatre Bras and Waterloo….

The figures

The rules, play sheet and the counters.

The use of generic troop types means that the figures (120 in all) would be eminently suitable for a Portable Wargame style set up and when used in conjunction with any of the commercially available plastic figures for the period a pretty nifty set could be raised. I am not about to do that anytime soon but it is handy to have the wherewithal if required. In the meantime though, I will be able to easily get my Napoleonic Waterloo period gaming fix in a simple but effective way.

Certainly this is one I am pleased to have in the collection and I will look to try and tack down the expansions etc in due course.

Monday 17 October 2022

Another 2 Down….14 To Go!

The pair of ‘double enders’ - for identification purposes I have placed the flags in different places!

A better view showing the overall configuration of the type. I have seen images where the funnel was located further forward meaning that the design was not entirely symmetrical - I think I prefer this version although the location of the masts will be a giveaway as to which way they are travelling!

Aside from getting to SELWG yesterday I was also able to finish another pair of models for the ACW project. These are the famous ‘double ender’ gunboats that have enjoyed a somewhat chequered history as part of this project!  If you recall I had to order the appropriate hull shape from Warbases as the original models used my standard template - for the non nautical types this was pointed at one end and rounded at the other! - which did not look right. The original pair of models will now be completed as something else.

In common with many ships of the period the pictorial evidence is often contradictory. This makes life easier for me as it means I can quite simply go with whatever ‘look’ works best and so once again the pair of models above are ‘based upon’ rather than museum quality offerings.

The most famous of this type of ship was the U.S.S. Sassacus. 

I enjoyed building these two and so without pausing for breath it is on with the next batch - another pair of gunboats, this time converted civilian types for the Confederate Navy.

I am also more or less at the final stages for the published version of the rules. I need to get some pictures organised and then the stage will be set for the battle report that will feature. I have something in mind for this but need to finalise the details first and then find the time to fight it!

Sunday 16 October 2022

I Have Been To….SELWG!

 The haul. I opened the box for the Test of Honour upgrade - the unarmoured Samurai figure contained therein is really nice - so that you can see the contents. Note the book (top right) for which there is a related cunning plan….

First of all I have to say that it is far easier getting to the Lea Valley Leisure Complex than it ever was going to Crystal Palace! Fifty minutes door to door - a quick dash down the A127 followed by the M25 and voila! When I arrived there was a bit of a queue but nothing major. I was in shortly before opening at 10 and the first order of business was organising some trade for Dave Lanchester courtesy of David Carey, a good friend of David in Suffolk. Once this was taken care of I was unleashed on the venue and able to have a good mooch about as well as catching up with old friends, the first of which was Tamsin P!

The venue is fine and the mix of trade and games felt about right. There seemed to be a lot of people there - the bring and buy was mobbed - although a lot of traders said the gaming public were being very selective about what they purchased. A sign of the times methinks.

I took a few pictures and managed to catch up with Messrs Fox and Harbron from SEEMS who were busy fighting the Battle of Britain using Axis and Allies: Angels 20 and my old friend Chris Hardman who fighting a Peninsula War skirmish using Sharpe Practise. Another old acquaintance from the Newham Wargames Clun days - Derek Oram - was taking part with the Lardies ‘O’ Group WW2 rules, fighting a very nice looking Kursk inspired Eastern Front game. 

I only had two hours available so it was a real race to get around but I managed. The retail haul was very modest - the second edition upgrade for Test of Honour (the Samurai Skirmish game) and an expansion for the same with some additional scenarios as well as historical clan orders of battle. I also picked up a copy of Roger Crowley’s book Conquerors covering the formative years of the Portuguese overseas empire. Methinks there may be a game in there somewhere. 

The following is a selection of pictures from the show.

SEEMS like the Battle of Britain. A really nice looking aerial game using Axis and Allies: Angels 20 - with a few Mr Fox inspired ‘tweaks’.

The game blurbs etc together with the SEEMS crest.

A Napoleonic skirmish set in the Spanish Peninsula….

….organised by the The League of Gentlemen Anti-Alchemists featuring my old friend Chris Hardman.

The Empire striking back….

‘O’ Group on the Russian Front

All in all it was a good, albeit rushed visit but really worthwhile and I came away suitably inspired by the games on show and meeting up with many old friends.


Friday 14 October 2022

Fighting the ‘45 - WoFun Style

The Government contingent. Three regiments of foot, a regiment of Dragoons and the gun crews. There are also a few casualties as well - handy for recording losses or morale status etc.

The Jacobites. Two sprues of Highlanders, one of Lowland infantry and the Royal Ecossias Regiment.

There is something about the Jacobite Rebellion - in this case the ‘45 rather than the earlier versions - that has always struck a chord with me. I think it is once again the idea of asymmetric forces using differing tactical methods that appeals along with images of wild Highlanders rushing down heather-coated slopes into nervously waiting government soldiery that has ticked a number of boxes. Of all the periods of military history I have looked at over the years this is the one that I would most certainly never paint figures for - at least not in anything larger than 10mm and even that would be at a push! 

The WoFun 28mm Jacobite Rebellion 28mm starter army with artwork by Peter Dennis is a thing of beauty for sure. I have pretty much everything I would need figures wise although as with the ACW collection, there are a couple of other bits that I may want to add in due course. As projects go it is a little way off but I thought it would be good to take a look at what there is and more importantly, think about revisiting the Jacobite Rising section of the library - currently consisting of a couple of biographies of James Wolfe. With SELWG coming up on Sunday - my last show for the year - I will be swinging by Dave Lanchester’s book emporium to see what he has that may be useful.

As with the ACW collection I spent some time going through the box and for sure a few additions will be needed to make the collection more usable. Certainly a personality sprue as well as some artillery - I currently have government gunners and some draft horses but no guns (not that I would need many anyway). I would be keen to bolster the Highlanders as well. All things in time though and given the issue of shipping and customs etc I am happy to wait until I have worked out what I need for both collections and so can do the order in one fell swoop.

In the files section of the Portable Wargame Facebook group there are a few ideas for me to play around with when I get to it but there are a few other projects in front of it so tables full of kilt-wearing marauding  Highlanders are some way off at the moment but there is no harm in taking a look.

A number of year ago I was away on business in Edinburgh and stayed in modest hotel a stone’s throw away from the famous castle. In the hotel reception area there was a rack of tourist leaflets for various events in and around the castle and the city. My eye was drawn to a couple of leaflets describing a pair of living history talks that took place at the castle on a daily basis. These were both about the ‘45 from the perspective of a rebelling Highlander and a government redcoat. In each case the person delivering the talk was in period costume so there was a fully equipped Highlander with musket, broadsword, dirk and all the other associated paraphernalia and a very snappily dressed government redcoat, again with all the trimmings. I never went to either, my schedule did not permit it, but I was struck by one thing. The Highlanders talk allowed two hours whilst that of the redcoats was a mere 25 minutes or so….

Tuesday 11 October 2022

More on the WoFun ACW Collection

 I spent some time early this morning (up early as not sleeping well again) reviewing the contents of the ACW WoFun collection that Bob Cordery very kindly passed over to me - I will do the same with the Jacobites in due course. 

The figures are from the standard i.e. not Peter Dennis range meaning that they are individual figures and are of 18mm. The entire contents of the box are in the pictures that follow - note that there are a few missing figures from the sprues, these are in fact safe and sound in a grip top bag. Such is the usual quality of the cutting technique used by WoFun that having figures fall off the sprue easily is quite commonplace so care in handling is always a good idea!

1. The artillery and bases. I am uncertain about the artillery as experience with the ECW collection has not enamoured me to the MDF guns. I may replace these with models but for now they will suffice. I think it is the square cross section of the gun barrels that takes the due off for me! The bases in the bottom two pictures can fit up to 6 or 9 pieces.

2. The first four of the ten sprues - primarily infantry and gun crews.

3. The second four of the ten sprues - again primarily infantry and gun crews with the beginnings of the cavalry.

4. The final two of the tend sprues in the box. The ‘arme blanche’ so to speak or ‘donkey wallopers’ depending on your point of view….

There is a great selection of figures in this collection and I am looking forward to starting work on getting them table ready. I am undecided about using the supplied bases but will fall off that particular bridge when I get to it. In the meantime though, it is back to the ACW ships where the next batch of models are quietly waiting on their commissioning….

Sunday 9 October 2022

Oh WoFun we had!

18mm ACW WoFun goodies and the artillery park. The Jacobites will appear in a later post. There are ten sprues of figures in the box and the necessary bases. 

Some time ago I flirted briefly with the English Civil War using Wofun figures - the 2D plexiglass wargames figures that have become hugely popular since their original launch. Initially the collection was in 28mm and then 18mm. The larger size collection is now in the hands of Mr Fox and the 18mm are long gone - mainly because I could not get sufficiently ‘into’ the period. The English Civil War is one of those periods of history I feel I should be interested in but has never really taken off for me despite my best intentions. I am a huge fan of WoFun though and believe that hey offer a very good alternative to traditional figures and with the ability to be used straight out of the box.

At the present time (at least up until a week or so ago), I did not have any WoFun in my collection although it was always on the cards in some way in due course. Anyways, thanks to the incredible generosity of my old friend Bob Cordery, I am now the proud owner of an 18mm set for the American Civil War and a 28mm set for the Jacobite Rebellion!

Both of these sets are described as starter armies and are two differing styles. The ACW version features individual figures whilst the Jacobite Rebellion uses the Peter Dennis ‘multiple figures in one strip’ approach. The ECW sets mentioned earlier are both in the Peter Dennis style - anyone that has seen his ‘paper boys’ will be familiar with this - which works well for close order formations. He has also produced for WoFun an ACW set so one has the choice of styles to choose from.

The ACW 18mm figures are lovely and in one fell swoop successfully solve the dilemma of organising armies for the period. There is a great selection of infantry including some Zouaves, cavalry and artillery (16 guns and crews). In short, there is everything I will need for the period and in a scale that works really well for me.

As the ACW figures are individuals there are a number of options for basing I can consider. The bases supplied are designed for 6 foot so having a pair of these forming a unit would be a good shout. Some for the infantry are in firing poses (kneeling and standing) which would work well for skirmishers or even, at a push, dismounted cavalry. I will have a good look at various basing options I have and will see where that takes me. The collection is tailor made for the Portable Wargame and for me it now means that the land side of the naval project has some real substance to it. I had flirted with the idea of some armies made up of Peter Pig 1:600th scale figures but now do not need to. 

The Jacobite collection is lovely looking and again, this is a period I have flirted with on and off over the years. There would be no chance of me ever painting figures for this period so having these available is a real boon. I will have to re establish the Jacobite section of my library though - nothing drastic, just a couple of selected titles.

Many, many thanks once again to Bob - I am looking forward to ‘Portable Wargaming’ with them!

Friday 7 October 2022

New Additions to the Fleets

The U.S.S. Ozark (left) and the C.S.S. Selma - the latest additions to the collection

As a slight break from the previous six posts in which I described being at the final stages of the ship build and then went through various permutations of what needed to be done and when, I have last gotten off the mark with some completed models. In truth the previous six posts were probably not the most inspiring of reads BUT - definite progress has now been made and the fruits of this you can see above.

C.S.S. Selma showing off the substantial supporting framework designed to maintain the structural integrity of the hull

The U.S.S. Ozark - a monitor with benefits….

I rather enjoyed building these and am rather pleased with how they have turned out. For the C.S.S. Selma the supporting frames were commissioned from those wonderful people at Warbases, as was the superstructure for the U.S.S. Ozark.

The next nine models all have masts - luckily they are built - but the plan is to tackle the next four over the weekend.

Things are moving along at last!

Thursday 6 October 2022

ACW Naval Endgame….Part 6

No, not a laser armed City class gunboat (U.S.S. Carondelet) but an early picture used to illustrate the forward and aft firing arc as used in the rules. I am no longer using this particular image as I have improved the method for illustrating the firing arcs somewhat.

It has been a busy week with work and the home front but I have still managed to chip away at the ACW ships and the written material supporting the rules. The latter still have a final piece to be added - essentially a walk through example of play. Originally I planned to include examples in the relevant sections but at a rather late stage have opted to go down the walk through method. Essentially it manages to capture certain facets of the rules in a game context rather better than isolated incidents.

I am working towards this work being published as part of Bob Cordery’s Portable Wargame stable in time for Christmas and am confident that all will be ready soon.

The current batch of models are ticking along nicely with two being virtually complete and a further four merely needing some further paintwork. Of the five that will follow, two merely need some additional paintwork whilst the other three need rather a lot more although they are ready to complete. Once they are done I am really at the last stages. There are seven models at this phase of which four have been started and a mere three need building from scratch. Of these three one is an additional City class ironclad gunboat - I already have a pair but wanted an additional one to strengthen the Union river fleet.

In summary then, over half of the remaining models under construction for the collection are close to a tipping point in terms of readiness. The first six of these will be appearing on the blog very soon.

In other News….

Just as the wet room was completed (we have had the en suite bathroom converted into a wet room which is a whole lot more convenient for Laurel) so the central heating boiler decided that it had had enough and promptly expired. In fairness it is around fourteen years old and has had a problematic and injury prone history. It will not be missed and so the replacement will be installed next Monday. Whilst inconvenient we are lucky that the weather is not too chilly at the moment although should the temperature drop too much we have a couple of free standing heaters we could use if needs be. Hot water is not a problem as we have an immersion heater - used sparingly as these are expensive to run.

Needless to say the imperial treasury has taken a bit of a hammering of late but these things happen!

Sunday 2 October 2022

ACW Naval Endgame….Part 5

It does not look like a lot of progress but when you consider that the there has been two coats of paint on the funnels, pilot houses, the three right hand models from the top and bottom rows as well as the eight masts being sealed it has been a fairly productive couple of hours. The veritable forest of masts top left are for the frigate (bottom left) and the two sloops.

What a week it has been!  Aside from my birthday and the seismic financial markets wobble I have been able to get a little time in the man cave working on the remaining ships. Now it may not look like much has been achieved when you look at the picture above but it does represent a fair amount of preparation and indeed, something is at least finished. Funnels. All the funnels for the eleven ships you see have been painted. The pilot houses have also been painted with the exception of their roofs. I have also painted the support beams for the C.S.S. Selma. All of this lot will be varnished when finished prior to being fixed to their respective hulls. 

The four hull layers you see with masts temporarily in place are merely a convenient way of placing them whilst the paint is drying. These have been sealed and as a rule I do not usually undercoat them so painting will be next.

All of this preparation means that I am now well positioned to finish the first six models and with the next five at an advanced state of construction.

Its getting there!