Friday, 27 January 2023

A Battleship Kickstarter

A wise man once said “How do ya like them apples?” Or as Dr. Oscar Parkes himself said on page 689: “To those of us who remember the rigged ironclads in Reserve, and have followed battleship development from the old Royal Sovereign, there is something infinitely pathetic in the passing of man’s most wonderful creation afloat.”

Since the publication of The Portable Ironclads Wargame I have been in something of a funk hobby-wise. I always intended signing off at publication on the ACW project and then looking to tackle something else with the Samurai being the main focus. In the meantime I have fussed around a few other ideas and have also fully intended getting some games in but I have found it very difficult to get motivated in any particular direction. More and more I am realising that I have a degree of unfinished business in respect of the whole ironclads thing and this has really acted as a kind of brake on tackling anything else.

So what do I do?

Well, there are a few models outstanding for the ACW project - ships and terrain - which will serve to draw a line under this particular phase of the overall idea. However I had a couple of other ironclad based ideas to play around with - War in the Pacific, the Boshin War and possibly something Russo Turkish - but these were always planned to be tackled much later.

Further down the line I was also looking to extend the system into the pre dreadnought era but this would require some major building work beforehand as I would be making the models from scratch. 

I am going to tackle the unfinished business of the ironclads project but in a different way than envisaged. There are a couple of book ideas in the planning stage - no details as yet - which will serve to fully wrap up the ironclads. This is something I always intended doing so is not anything new. What is new though, is the choice around the models I shall be looking at building. I had flirted with the idea of something Lissa based but now reckon that I have some rather more fun to look at. 

I can lay the blame for this idea at the feet of two worthies from the blogosphere. In the first instance and the reason for this post, is Mr David Manley.

I met up with him for a couple of beers up in town and as ever the conversation was illuminating and the company convivial. The book you see above, considered by many to be the definitive word on the design and development of the British Battleship, now has pride of place in my naval library, courtesy of the aforementioned Mr Manley. I have no words to describe how gobsmacked I was have been given this - it truly is a magisterial work. Thank you Mr Manley, I only hope that my future naval endeavours will be worthy of this magnificent gift!

The book itself is a great doorstop of a tome. It has 701 pages and 450 plans and photographs. Covering the period from the Warrior to the Vanguard it describes with technical detail every single battleship built for the Royal Navy as well how the designs came about, foreign contemporaries, service histories and much, much more. I can see me getting an awful lot of use from this!

The second source of inspiration would be Jim Jackaman. The reasons for this are simple. He has built many ironclads models for the English and French in 1:2400th and has fought a number of really interesting battles set in the English Channel. I shall be revisiting his blog for further inspiration for sure and will no doubt be perennially distracted by his myriad other projects! For now though, I shall be trawling through his blog for his ironclad stuff.

Just the one for now and due for a change in the paint job. H.M.S. Superb, sister to the Turkish ironclad the Messudieh.

The Plan

I rather fancy building some Royal Navy and French ships for use with the Portable Ironclads Wargame. Some blue water action would make a change from the swampy bayous of the ACW. Most of the ships will be one offs so some careful preparation would be needed but I reckon it is a goer. It would be nowhere near as large as the ACW collection in terms of numbers but the variety of ships will be interesting to build for sure. I already have one for the Royal Navy: H.M.S. Superb.

So it looks like my naval itch will continue being scratched for a while yet - like that was ever even a choice!


Sunday, 22 January 2023

Reaching for the Skies….

I saw the original version of this a couple of Salutes ago. I never picked up on it at the time but following the hefty discount offered for the Air Strike edition by Warlord - £25 including a box of Spitfires and Me109s - it was a temptation I found hard to resist. 

I have long enjoyed playing aerial wargames of one kind or another although for the most part these have been using hex and counter set ups - Air Force, Dauntless, Richthofen’s War, Wings, Ace’s High and Air War. My biggest foray into using models was undoubtedly via Axis and Allies: Angels 20, and at the time it was a huge amount of fun. The models are 15mm scale and so visually it was pretty impressive to look at and worked well for fighter level plane to plane combat. 

More recently I have been thinking more about air combat from the perspective of formations - sections and squadrons etc. The board game Wing Leader: Victories covers this but to be honest I really fancied using models in some way.

Enter stage left, Blood Red Skies, produced by Warlord Games.

I rather like the look of these for a number of reasons. To start with the scale works well - they are very much formation driven but with the all important individuality so important for the budding fighter pilot. The rules lump all manner of manoeuvres into a rating for agility and use the concept of advantage/neutral/disadvantage to determine how the games work. Advantaged planes act first and only disadvantaged planes can be shot down. There is a whole raft of plane, pilot, theatre and nationality related traits that impact on how the aircraft work within the game - the all important ‘feel’. 

The models, at least those I have, the aforementioned Spitfires and Me109s, are a little disappointing. They are cast in a resin like material in 1:200th scale and whilst the detail is not bad - certainly good enough for me - there are some issues with warping with the wings. Of the models I have warping in a single direction is not the end of the world but when it is two directions - on the same wing - it is a whole new world of pain.

To be honest I rather fancy tackling this using 1:600th models so will be taking a long look at Tumbling Dice for inspiration (and probably a dent in the wallet as well!). Using models of that scale will necessitate using a different basing arrangement together with copious numbers of dice frames. 

The Airstrike rule book contains the original rules as updated along with revised scenarios, additional rules as well as the Mig Alley supplement for the Korean War. 

As a side hustle Blood Red Skies has much to commend it. I will not need very much in the way of material - I am looking at the Battle of Britain - and painting the models will be very straightforward in the scale I am looking at.

Something else to ponder then….

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

More on the Samurai Project

From the Osprey rules stable - skirmish combat in Feudal Japan, designed for forces of around 4 to 20 figures a side so similar in scope to Test of Honour

I have previously mentioned that this will be a slow burning project and whilst I have yet to start the actual work involved with the figures it has not stopped me undertaking some essential research aka looking at sets of rules! 

I had somehow missed the above but my old friend Mr Fox had very kindly reminded me of this and emailed me a few handy roster sheets I could make use of. Anyways, the last of am Amazon gift cad was duly mobilised and so I am now a proud owner of a copy of the above. At first glance I think I would prefer these to Test of Honour but that could merely be due to the ‘Ooh shiny’ factor than any sensible comparison!

Certainly a set worthy of consideration.

In other news….

I have yet to fight the battle set up in my pervious post and due to circumstances beyond my control this is more likely to be at the weekend.

Work on the remaining ACW ships will be resumed shortly - mainly because there is unfinished business in respect of my Ironclads itch. I will say no more….

Monday, 16 January 2023

Tabletop Titivation

I figured it was about time I revisited the block armies and also to make use of one of the small sized Axis and Allies maps. 

It has been quite a while since the block armies made an appearance and so I decided to cobble together a small action just to get a game in. The battle itself has yet to be fought but I wanted to post this to help with the motivation to actually get it done!

I shall be using a variant of the rules found in Battle Cry - the ACW Command and Colours game by Richard Borg - that Bob Cordery came up with and that predated the Portable Wargame. They are suitably generic and so would work readily for what I have in mind. I will explain the details in the battle report.

Setting the Scene

The action pitches a Blue reinforced infantry brigade against a slightly smaller Red force. In each case the light companies have been taken from their parent formations and have formed combined skirmish battalions - the Blue force using theirs as a screen for the regiments of the line whilst the Red have theirs deployed in the wood so as to harass the approaching columns.

The Red force are defending the town and for a variety of reasons are required to spread themselves across the whole frontage. The only real reserve is arguably the cavalry currently supporting the light infantry ensconced in the woods. 

The Blue force are relying on a quick attack against the Northern end of the town where, it is hoped, they are able to make the most of their numerical advantage. 

The battle report will follow shortly, certainly in the next few days.

Sunday, 15 January 2023

The Portable Impact Xenos Rampant Wargame….Part 2

As mentioned in my previous post here are the sentient reptilian/dinosaur-like opposition for the humans. Their weaponry is very bio-looking and from the make up of the force they tend to rely on larger figures to carry the support weapons rather than the mechanicals the humans use.

Reptilian heavy weapons

The full collection

The individual figures at close range. Interestingly enough they all have a Velociraptor-like large slashing claw on their feet. They are really horribly painted and I am looking forward to banishing those garish colours!

After a closer look at both sets of models I will definitely need to get a further set to round out the collection so a quick trawl through eBay will be in order methinks. Then to think about colour schemes.

I am looking forward to this - it should be a fairly compact project that should not need much work but will serve as a good figure painting training exercise for me.

Looking forward to painting figures? Moi? Who would have thought it?!

Saturday, 14 January 2023

The Portable Impact Xenos Rampant Wargame

Only kidding, there is no such animal as the title would suggest but in my defence I tend to view just about type of wargame imaginable through the lens of the Portable Wargame! For the future a Portable Wargame Sci Fi Skirmish set of rules may be an option - not from me though as I have way too many other things on the go!

Anyway, I mentioned in my previous post about Xenos Rampant - the latest addition to the ‘Rampant’ stable - and about how I had in mind to tackle a refurbishment of some pre painted figures to use with the rules, or with Galactic Heroes, the set from the ‘Fistful of…’ series. There is of course Stargrave and Five Parsecs from Home - the latter I do not currently have but have the great advantage of being designed for solo use.

The figures I am planning on refurbishing will in fact serve several purposes. Not only will they enable me to game some Sci Fi actions but more importantly it will give me some much needed figure painting practise. 

The figure game Impact was originally published by Drummond Park and was released in two sets. There was the first version and then a standalone set call Impact: The Battle for Wolf Ridge. Both featured two set of figures - humans and sentient reptilian/dinosaur types - with heavy weapons that fired small plastic missiles - ideal for Little Wars if you were so inclined. The figures are made of a kind of rubbery substance that reminds me of the material used to make the ships in Axis and Allies: War at Sea except for being ‘shiny’ to the touch. As you can see in the pictures, the paint job is fairly basic, and so for me to say that I could do better than that means that we operating from a very low level of artistic interpretation! 

Various devices. The model on the left could be used as some kind of armed engineering droid whilst that in the centre could be a combat model. The models on the right could serve as a patrol drone or sentry gun style robot. Note the firing buttons - I shall be removing these.

The selection available. I will probably pick up another set (cheaply available on eBay) to round up the number but it is worth pointing out that everything I have for this collection has cost me so far around £2.50!

A closer look at the figure selection. The chap on the bottom right of the picture reminded me of a Byzantine greek fire operator! All suitably heroic looking but they could certainly use a better paint job.

In the next post I shall show the reptilian types - they are quite nice but incredibly garish looking so my plan will be to dial this down a notch or two.

In terms of terrain I am currently torn between a dry, arid, desert-like set up or something swamp and jungle like. I need to think about this carefully, mainly because it will Impact (no pun intended….oh alright then, yes it was!) on the selected colour scheme for the human force.

I also need to think about the best way to prepare theses figures for painting.

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

….And Now For Something Completely Different….

Definitely a no-brainer in terms of my ongoing interest in Sci Fi stuff as I have coveted a copy of this since its was first announced!

I mentioned last year that I was keen to get some games in this year whilst readying further projects. By far and away the largest of my planned projects is the Samurai in one form or another. It whatever shape I finally settle on for this - I am exploring a number of options - it will definitely be a slow burner so I have a couple of contingency plans in place for some smaller ‘quick win’ style undertakings.

I want to paint some figures and for me this is quite a big deal. You could be forgiven for thinking that starting off painting something so potentially tricky as 28mm Samurai may be a step too far for someone that has not painted a single figure for over fifteen years - and you would be right! I need to do something to cut my teeth on so simpler stuff would be the way to hone my technique (which is still firmly rooted in Humbrol enamels circa 1972). I have a few ideas to dabble in and none of these involve water!

Circulating in the Foreground

Xenos Rampant/Stargrave/Galactic Heroes (From the ‘Fistful of Lead’ stable - I enjoy Sci Fi skirmishes and it is a genre I have had a lot of fun with in the past. There are a myriad of figures available in all manner of mediums and scales although for me 28mm works best. I have a pile of figures for the old board game Impact that feature human and dinosaur/reptilian infantry and support weapons that are ready painted. The figures are made of a rubbery resin material - not unlike that used for the old Axis and Allies: War at Sea 1:1800th scale WW2 ships - and would certainly need a better paint job so I may attempt to refurbish these. It will cost next to nothing and will give me some valuable practise. 

Battle Suit Alpha/Gamma Wolves - An extension of my fondness for Sci Fi extends to the use of ‘Mechs  as there is a lot of fun fighting with large stompy fighting machines! I have a selection of yet-to-be-assembled plastic ‘mechs from the game Heavy Gear Blitz - roughly a dozen or so - that could easily be put together to use with the above rules although I would need to think about some scenery for them to fight over (the same applies to the 28mm figures).

Anything Starship related - This is probably the last on the list of Sci Fi ideas to mess about with. The main reason is that for the most part it is a little close to naval gaming and I am trying to ease off of that for a while! Having said that I do have a couple of ideas to play around with - one rather novel in my opinion - but this is unlikely to be anytime soon. 

RCW and Russo Polish War - Hmm, this is an interesting one. Both of these would be ideal Portable Wargame material but in truth I do not feel that at present I have sufficient knowledge of either to run with it in a meaningful way. I have sufficient material to read up on and given the scale and complexity of both it would be worth spending some time on research as in both cases operations were far from straightforward in terms of execution and the forces used. Having said that the board game Strike of the Eagle is crying out for some TLC and as this was going to form the basis for anything figure related I may well stick my toe in the water in some figure related fashion.

The Default Option

It never ceases to amaze me how certain periods of military history can become so ingrained in a wargamers DNA that they can be left for long periods of time and then revisited without breaking into a sweat. They are almost like a pair of comfy slippers in that immersing oneself in them again little or no effort - neither does moving on from them because they are always there. In my case this tends to be Napoleonics - actually the 18th century and Napoleonic period if I am being accurate - or WW1 or WW2. 

At the present time I am more likely to be looking at matters horse and musket related but more from the direction of playing out scenarios than looking at specific campaigns. My blocks armies allow a degree of anonymity in terms of the forces being depicted - this is the classic ‘army red vs army blue’ Kriegspiel style approach - so just playing out some games using them without tying them to any specific campaign may be just the ticket to satisfy my immediate need to get in some games without all the research preamble one would usually undertake. I have a substantial number of scenarios to try out of varying sizes so it would simply be a case of picking what I fancy and setting it. The rules of choice would be the Portable Wargame in one form or another and I would look to use the pre printed and laminated map sheets I have from Axis and Allies: The Miniatures Game. These I have used on many occasions and they are a quick and easy way to set a game up - which is just what I want at present.

Small, Large Scale Ideas

Over recent years there has been what appears to be a huge upsurge in gaming using very small scale figures - I am thinking of 3mm and 2mm. There are some quite fantastic models  available in these diminutive scales - from individual figures to blocks of troops. ‘Lee over on his blog has produced some quite exquisite looking Romans for a DBA project he has on the go and the level of detail he has achieved is unbelievable. This is a great scale for having units that look like, well, units. Serried ranks of foot and horse really work for rules in the DBA or Portable Wargame stables as one may only have a dozen or less units BUT they look solid and visually ‘right’ in the way that a calling a dozen figures a battalion does not. 

3mm Barbarian style infantry suitable for Celtic types

From the hand of brush master ‘Lee - how outrageously good does that look?

I have used both of these pictures without Lee’s permission but I doubt if he will mind! Thanks in advance Lee!

I have often flirted with these smaller scale types and indeed, have a selection of blocks from the Peter Pig ACW Hammerin’ Iron range but as yet have done little with them. Flags may be an issue but I am sure something could be done.

Aside from commercially available figures there is always the old standby of making one’s own kit and if I learned anything from the ACW ship building it is that anything is possible with a little imagination. One of the numerous FaceBook groups I belong to - Super Cheap Wargaming - has a gentleman by the name of Will Coster amongst its members. Well, Will has been busy scratch building units for the 30 Years War using Balsa wood and card and they look simply lovely. He followed up his original post with some information about how he made them and needless to say it has gotten me thinking - not for the 30 Years War though! He very kindly gave his permission for me to use some of his pictures so here we are. 

Under construction - the ‘pikes’ are 10mm cubes available from the famous South American River

The finished article - they look really effective and the trick is definitely to keep to the impressionistic approach.

I have bags of material that could be used in this fashion to produce armies from all manner of historical periods. I think I know now why I kept that industrial sized bag of matchsticks….

Sunday, 8 January 2023

Full Steam Ahead: The Bay of Destiny….PIW Game Number 1, Part 2

 A closer view of the scene at the end of the second turn. The U.S.S. Metacomet (carrying her ensign on her aft gaff spar) is about to be battered by the Confederates from three directions whilst the leading Rebel gunboat - the C.S.S. Gaines - is about to receive a full broadside from the U.S.S. Hartford. Meanwhile the Union monitors are about to further engage the fort.

In the previous post the respective plans of the two fleets were outlined and it is safe to say that the old maxim of ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy” is about to be ably demonstrated! 

The scene at the start of the action. The Union forces are approaching from the left whilst the Confederates are on the right. Both sides are operating in two divisions.

Turn 1. There was no firing from either side and the Union player was deemed to have the initiative as the attacker  and so opted to move first.

The situation at the end of the first turn. The two Union monitors (U.S.S. Tecumseh and U.S.S. Winnebago) are approaching the fort whilst the flagship (U.S.S. Hartford steams directly to the centre of the channel. Her two escorts - the U.S.S. Sassacus (off the bow of the flagship) and the U.S.S. Metacomet (off the starboard bow of the flagship) have raced ahead to secure the centre f the channel. The Confederates are looking to engage the central Union force from what looks like both sides.

Turn 2. Both sides opt fire where they are able. The Confederate C.S.S. Gaines engages the U.S.S. Metacomet at a range of two hexes with her FW 2/3 artillery. She rolls 1D6 to hit with no modifiers. She rolls a 5 meaning a single potential damage point. The Union ship has an armour factor of 0 so the Confederate damage roll will gain a plus 3 for the penetration factor. The roll is a 4 making 7 in total. That is two points of damage and a 1 in 6 chance of a second. The roll of 5 is too high as a 1 was needed. The Union ship fires back from her starboard broadside (rated 2/2) with a single D6 and scores a 4 meaning one potential damage point. Her penetration factor is 2 and the armour factor of the C.S.S. Gaines is 1 so the Union gains a plus 1 to the damage roll. The roll is 3 which with the plus 1 makes 4 in all or a single damage point scored against the Confederate ship. 

The C.S.S. Selma opens fire against the U.S.S. Sassacus with her FW 1/2 artillery at a range of 3 with a single D6. The roll of 2 is a miss. The Union ship returns the compliment and scores a 4 meaning a single potential damage roll. The penetration (2) versus armour (1) is a net plus 1 so the subsequent roll of 3 with the positive modifier takes the score to 4 for a single damage point.

Both the Union monitors open fire at the fort. The U.S.S. Tecumseh rolls a D6 and scores a 4 for a potential damage roll. The penetration (4) and armour (3) give a plus one damage modifier overall but as the fort is classed as small there is a minus 1 applied so the damage dice is even. A 5 is rolled meaning the fort takes a single point of damage. The U.S.S. Winnebago opens fire with her forward turret. Her roll of 3 is not enough to register a hit.

The rolls for initiative are as follows: Union 6, Confederate 5. The Union opt to move first.

The situation at the end of he second turn. The Union monitors continue to move into a favourable position to bombard the fort. The twin turreted U.S.S. Winnebago moves around to open the firing arcs of both turrets. Meanwhile the two Union gunboats have reversed course and fallen into a line of battle but the Confederates have manoeuvred in such a way so as to have three ships heading off the Yankee interlopers. Unfortunately in doing so the lead ship - the C.S.S. Gaines - has found herself at point blank range under the port broadside guns of the U.S.S. Hartford. Ominously for the Union, the ship bringing up the rear of the snake-like Confederate line is none other than the ironclad the C.S.S. Tennessee.

Turn 3. All three Confederate gunboats open fire on the U.S.S. Metacomet - in each case using their respective broadside gunnery factors. The Union ship has an armour factor of 0. Starting with the C.S.S. Selma she has a factor of 1/1 so rolls a single D6 with a plus 1 modifier for the range of 1. She rolls a 3 which then goes to 4 so gets a single D6 damage roll at plus 1 for her penetration factor. She rolls a 6! This goes to 7 meaning that she gets an additional 1 in 6 chance for a further damage point. She also gets a single re roll due to the natural 6. This comes up with a 1 so no effect. The roll for passing 6 (remember the total was 7 hence the 1 in 6 chance of further damage) comes up with a miserable 2. Overall then, the U.S.S. Metacomet has suffered 2 points of damage but her ordeal has only just begun.

The C.S.S. Morgan opens fire at point blank range with her broadside of 2/1. Again, each D6 gains plus 1 for the range. The rolls are 3 and 4 which adjust to 4 and 5 or 2 potential damage rolls, each at plus 1. Snake Eyes! A double 1! Doubtless the crew of the Union ship are breathing a huge sigh of relief but they are not of the woods yet as the C.S.S. Gaines also opens fire with a single D6 at range 2. A 1! After a bright start the standard of Confederate gunnery has dropped off alarmingly - perhaps the gun crews were too astounded at the apparently foolhardy nature of the Union attack to aim accurately….

The final Confederate ship to fire was the ironclad C.S.S. Tennessee at the U.S.S. Sassacus at the range of 2 hexes. The guns of the rebel ship are rated at 2/3 so she rolls a single D6 to hit. A glorious 6! The quickly taken natural 6 roll is a 2 so no effect. She has two damage rolls each with plus 3 for penetration - this could get very messy. A 5 and a 4 are rolled, adjusted to 8 and 7. That is 4 points of damage already and a 1 in 6 and a 2 in 6 chances of further damage points. A pair of 4s means nothing extra. However, as the damage scored is one point in excess of the hull factor of the Union ship (which is 3) there is a roll on the critical hit table to be made, which comes up with a 1 meaning either one point off the armour factor or a damage point. As the ship is unarmoured a further damage point is scored making 5 in total.

Both the Union gunboats have taken heavy damage.

The U.S.S. Hartford opens fire with a full point blank broadside at the C.S.S. Gaines. The Union guns are rated as 4/2 and due to the range gain a plus 1 to hit. She rolls a pair of 3s and a pair of 4s which adjust up to a pair of 4s and a pair of 5s so four potential damage rolls are required. The Confederate ship has an armour factor of 1 so overall the U.S.S. Hartford gains plus 1 to each damage dice. She rolls a trio of 5s and a 4! These adjust up to a trio of 6s and a 5 meaning 7 damage points in total! There is also not one but two critical hit rolls to be made as the hull factor of 3 has been covered twice by the damage scored and then a further critical roll for reaching her penultimate damage point (eight points out of nine). The critical rolls are a 1, a 3 and a 5. The 1 is taken as armour damage so the rebel ship no longer has the benefit of any protection. Critical hit 3 is engine/steering and requires an additional D6 roll. The score of 6 means a permanent reduction of speed of 1 or costing 2 movement points to turn a single hexside. The Confederate ship opts to take the steering penalty which is duly noted on her damage chart. It is academic though, as Critical hit 5 is what sends her to the bottom due to a flood as a single damage point is taken immediately. As she only had a single point left for her, the war is over - at least it will be three turns as her sinking roll was a 3.

The U.S.S. Metacomet fires at the C.S.S.Morgan at a range of 1 with her 2/3 FW artillery. Each D6 gains a plus 1 for range. A 2 and a 3 are scored, adjusted to a 3 and a 4 meaning only a single damage roll at an overall plus 2 (her penetration of 3 against the armour of 1). She rolls a 2 which adjusts to 4 meaning a single point of damage is scored against the Confederate ship.

The U.S.S. Sassacus ignores approaching ironclad and instead fires at the C.S.S. Selma at a range of two hexes with her FW 2/3 artillery. She rolls 1D6 to hit scoring 4. Her damage roll is an overall plus 2 and she rolls a 6! This adjusts to 8 meaning a 2 in 6 chance of a further damage point. She rolls a 1! So in addition to the two damage points for the 6 she has an extra point AND a reroll for the natural 6, This is a 2 which adjusts to 4 meaning a fourth point of damage is inflicted on the Confederate ship in addition to which she will require a Critical hit roll (4 points of damage sustained against her hull factor of 3). The roll is a 2 meaning the loss of either a hull factor or a damage point. She opts to take the damage point meaning 5 points in total.

Fort Beauregard, ignoring the looming presence of a pair of Union monitors, opens fire against the passing U.S.S. Sassacus. Her artillery is rated 3/3 meaning she can use 1D6 at range 3 but gains a plus 1 for being a fort firing - being land based makes for a steadier and more accurate gun platform. She rolls a 5 which is adjusted to 6 meaning two potential damage rolls. She rolls a 6 and 4 which are adjusted to a 9 and 7 for her penetration factor of 3 against the 0 of the Union ship. This proved to be fatal. The four points of damage - 2 for each roll having passed 6 - are sufficient to sink the Union gunboat following on from the heavy damage she has suffered from the Confederate ironclad. There was no need to roll for additional damage rolls nor for any Critical hit. Her sinking roll was a 6.

Finally, the two monitors fired at the fort starting with the U.S.S. Tecumseh. Her 4/4 artillery at a range of two means that she rolls 2D6, each at minus 1 as the fort is small. She rolls a 5 and a 1. The 5 adjusts to a 4 meaning a single potential damage roll. She gains a plus 1 for penetration of 4 over the ‘armour’ of 3. She rolls a 5 which goes to 6 meaning 2 points of damage are scored.

The U.S.S. Winnebago opens fire with her forward turret at a range of three hexes meaning that she rolls a single D6, again at a minus 1. She rolls a 5, adjusted to 4 meaning a single potential damage roll. This is a straight D6 roll - 3 penetration against 3 armour - and she rolls a 4 for a single damage point.

The rolls for initiative are as follows: Union 2, Confederate 6. The Confederate opted to allow the Union to move first.

The situation at the end of the third turn. Both Union monitors are now in position to bombard Fort Beauregard although the U.S.S. Winnebago would have preferred to have been slightly further forward - the sinking U.S.S. Sassacus rather spoiled that idea! The U.S.S. Metacomet is frantically holding station whilst what looks like the entire Confederate navy is passing by her as if in review! Meanwhile the U.S.S. Hartford, having settled accounts with the C.S.S.Gaines is about to tackle the C.S.S. Selma although help is on the way in the shape of the C.S.S. Tennessee. Note the sinking markers around the U.S.S. Sassacus and the C.S.S. Gaines.

Turn 4. Sinking markers are removed. Both the C.S.S. Morgan and the C.S.S. Tennessee ope fire against the U.S.S. Metacomet. The C.S.S. Morgan fires at range 1 with 2D6 from her starboard broadside, gaining a plus 1 for the range. She rolls a splendid 6 and a 5, adjusted to 7 and 6. The natural 6 roll is a 3, adjusted to 4 meaning that she has five potential damage rolls and a further 1 in 6 chance for the 7 - this was a 3 so a failure. The five damage rolls are at an overall plus 1 per D6 - penetration is 1 opposed to armour 0. She rolls a pair of 1s which are immediately discounted, a pair of 3s and a 5 meaning there are now a pair of 4s and a 6. This is four points of damage which means two things. She has to roll for a Critical Hit for the damage and a further critical hit as she has reached her critical point. The critical hits are a 5 and 2 but the result is largely academic as the Flood critical hit - the roll of 5 - causes an immediate damage point which is sufficient to caused the gallant gunboat to sink in six turns (she rolled a 6 for her sinking rate).

The U.S.S.Metacomet ‘spitting her last breath at thee’, in this case the C.S.S. Selma. Opens fire at range one with 2D6, each gaining a plus 1 for the range. She rolls a 6 and a 4, adjusted to 7 and 5 with a natural 6 re roll - scoring a 5 which adjusts up to 6. This means five potential damage rolls and a 1 in 6 chance of a further point of damage - which is missed due to a throw of 4. The damage rolls have an overall plus 2 modifier. The dice come up with a pair of 3s, a 4, a 5 and a 6. These are adjusted to a pair of 5s, a 6, a 7 and an 8. That is a truly spectacular eight points of damage - even before after 6 damage rolls (which are a 4 and a 5 and so both failed). The C.S.S. Selma has been sunk and unsurprisingly, given the battering she has just received rolls a 2 for her sinking rate.

Fort Beauregard opens fire against the U.S.S. Winnebago at a range of three hexes so rolls a single D6. The roll of 2 is not enough to score a hit. U.S.S. Tecumseh fires with 2D6, each at a minus 1. Annoyingly she rolls a pair of 4s which are adjusted to 3s. The U.S.S. Winnebago opens fire with both turrets at range three and so rolls 2D6 each at minus 1. She rolls a 6 and 4 meaning 5 and 3 or a single potential damage roll at evens. She rolls a 4 so scores a single point of damage.

The rolls for initiative are as follows: Union 2, Confederate 5. The Confederates opt to allow the Union to move first.

The situation at the end of the fourth turn. With the channel between the two minefields currently blocked with sinking ships, the C.S.S. Morgan heads for open water and safety. Meanwhile the U.S.S. Hartford manoeuvres gingerly around the edge of a suspected minefield, painfully aware of the approaching Confederate ironclad. Meanwhile, the two monitors continue to pound away at the fort.

Turn 5. Sinking markers are removed. The only firing concerns the fort and her two assailants. Again Fort Beauregard fires at the U.S.S. Winnebago - rolling a 5 adjusted to 6 so two potential damage rolls at evens. She rolls a 4 and 6 for 3 damage points. The U.S.S. Winnebago returns the compliment rolling 2D6 each at minus 1, the resulting pair of 3s being insufficient. U.S.S. Tecumseh then fires with 2D6, again each with a minus 1. She rolls a 6 and a 5 adjusted to 5 and 4 or two potential damage rolls. The natural 6 roll is a 2. The two damage rolls are at overall plus 1 and the dice come up with a 1 and a 4. A single damage point is scored. 

Initiative rolls are as follows: Union 3, Confederate 5. The Confederates move first.

The situation at the end of the fifth turn. The only movement as such was from the C.S.S.Morgan as she loops back towards the bay - keeping a healthy distance from broadside of the Union sloop. Meanwhile the Union flagship is content to hold station on the edge of the minefield although the approaching Confederate ironclad is never far from the thoughts of her captain. The monitors, with grim determination, continue to pound the fort. Surely it cannot last for much longer?

Turn 6. Sinking markers are removed along with the C.S.S. Selma and the C.S.S. Gaines. No sooner had the C.S.S. Selma slipped beneath the waves than the C.S.S. Tennessee immediately opened fire on the Union flagship at a range of three hexes using her starboard battery rated at 2/3. Her to hit roll of 2 was not enough. The U.S.S. Hartford does not have any effective artillery that it can use at that range against such a heavily armoured target.

Fort Beauregard continues her fight with the U.S.S. Winnebago and rolls a 6 to hit, adjusted to 7. Her additional natural 6 roll is a 5 adjusted to 6 meaning that there are four potential damage rolls and a 1 in 6 chance of scoring another. The roll of 3 fails. The damage dice are even and come up with three 2s and a 4 so a single point of damage is scored.The U.S.S. Winnebago fires back. A pair of 3s is not good enough.

U.S.S. Tecumseh rolls a 2 and 4 which are adjusted down and so miss.

Initiative rolls are as follows: Union 4, Confederate 6. The Confederates move first.

The situation at the end of the sixth turn. Aside from two ships slipping beneath the waves the only movement came from the C.S.S. Morgan - biding her time before making a rush to the channel and home - and the C.S.S. Tennessee who appears to be positioning herself to take full advantage of her own artillery in such a way so as to minimise the effect of any incoming fire.

Turn 7. Once again the sinking markers are removed from the two stricken Union gunboats. The C.S.S. Tennessee opens fire on the Union flagships at a range to two hexes with her FW 2/3 artillery. The roll of 2 is insufficient to trouble the Union sloop. At maximum range of four hexes the U.S.S. Hartford fires off a full broadside against the skulking C.S.S. Morgan. The roll of 4 is sufficient for a single potential damage roll which in turn is a miserable 2. At least the Confederate ship knows the sloop is keeping a watchful eye on her progress!

Fort Beauregard continues to fire at the U.S.S. Winnebago. A roll of 4 is adjusted to 5 meaning a single damage roll at evens. The roll of 3 is not enough to trouble the monitor who duly returns fire from both turrets. Again the rolls of 4 and 2 - each with a minus modifier for the size of the target - are not enough and so the U.S.S. Tecumseh picks up the baton. She rolls 2D6 and scores a 6 and a 5! These are adjusted to 5 and 4 meaning two potential damage rolls. The natural 6 roll comes up with a 5, adjusted down to 4 for a further potential damage roll, three in total. She rolls a 6 and a pair of 1s. There is an adjustment of overall plus 1 making the 6 a 7 so there is a 1 in 6 chance of an additional hit point which is emphatically failed with the roll of a 6. Two points of damage are inflicted on the fort which has now reached its critical point. The roll of 4 is gun damaged so the fort’s artillery factor is reduced to 2/3. The end is in sight.

For initiative the rolls are as follows: Union 4, Confederate 1. The Union opt to move first.

The situation at the end of the seventh turn. The U.S.S. Hartford creeps cautiously forward keeping a careful eye on the Confederate ironclad that appears to be doing the same to the Union sloop. The C.S.S.Morgan can see gap opening up shortly which will enable her to get back to the safety of the bay. The end is near for Fort Beauregard as her walls have taken a fearful battering from the Union monitors for little return.

Turn 8. Sinking markers are removed from the two Union ships. The C.S.S. Tennessee opens fire on the U.S.S. Hartford at a range of two with her 2/3 rated artillery and so rolls a single D6. The roll of 3 is not enough. The Union flagship holds fire as her artillery is not enough to damage the ironclad.

Fort Beauregard is silent (due to her critical point having been reached she can only fire in self defence at a range of one) but the two Union monitors continue to pound away. The U.S.S. Winnebago rolls a 1 and 4 for two misses whilst the U.S.S. Tecumseh rolls a pair of 5s. These are adjusted down to a pair of 4s which means two potential damage rolls each at plus 1. She rolls a 4 and a 5 adjusted to 5 and 6 meaning three points of damage. The Confederate battle flag is hauled down and the white flag of surrender flutters forlornly in the breeze. At a heavy cost the Union had secured the victory.


With the surrender of the fort the Union flagship immediately turned away from the bay to head towards the retiring monitors whilst collecting survivors from the two gunboats en route. The C.S.S. Morgan took advantage of the departing Union ships to make best speed into the bay and safety, alongside the C.S.S. Tennessee. The Union forces could now push up to the mouth of the bay with impunity - the site of the fort would soon be occupied by Union troops - unless the Confederates could mount some kind of offensive. With an ironclad and a gunboat being all that was currently serviceable it would need all of their ingenuity to devise something that would be feasible.

Plans were afoot….

The Game

Everything worked well and it was good to see an old school full broadside doing some damage! Wooden ships are incredibly vulnerable and this was ably demonstrated by the fate of both unarmoured Union gunboats. The protection of the two Confederate ships - level 1 - worked after a fashion but when faced with heavy calibre smoothbores or rifles merely delayed the inevitable. Heavy rifles are murderous at range assuming they hit.

The Union plan was only partially effective despite securing the victory. The sweep into the bay did not materialise despite the charge of the gunboats in an attempt to force the channel. The unplanned Confederate attacks from either side of the bay proved to be an effective deterrent, albeit a costly one. The C.S.S. Tennessee was underused although her low speed meant that she was best employed as a mobile long range floating battery. 

A few issues arose that I need to think about - nothing major, just stuff that may evolve over time.

All in all then, it was not a bad way to spend a few hours on a Sunday.

The Confederate fleet…

…and the victorious Union.

Monday, 2 January 2023

Full Steam Ahead….PIW Number 1 Part 1

The initial deployment of the two sides - the Union approaching from the left whilst the Confederates are on the right with Fort Beauregard at the top of the picture.

Happy new year one and all! Now that the man cave has been tidied and the Portable Ironclads Wargame has been unleashed on the wargaming world I decided to see in 2023 with what will be my inaugural game, post publication. I had a hankering to tackle something loosely based on the battle of Mobile Bay - the model of the C.S.S. Selma and the two new gunboats were a bit of a clue, as well as the planned building of the Tennessee (times two - one for the Union) - but at a smaller scale so we have a Union force consisting of a sloop for the flagship, a brace of monitors (one being double turreted) and a pair of gunboats. The Confederates have a casemate ironclad, an armoured gunboat  and a brace of converted steamers sporting some artillery. There is also a fort covered by a minefield as is the other side of the channel. As per the Return to the Missenhitti in the Portable Ironclads Wargame I have placed white counters to indicate the possible presence of a mine or mines - this is determined when a ship enters the hex.

The view from the Confederate side of the Bay….

….and from the Union - the U.S.S. Hartford steaming at full speed and no doubt damning the torpedoes!

As this is the first ‘official’ game I have played since publication I will be explaining things in some detail in respect of how the rules work - despite best efforts there are a couple of minor points of contention in the example contained in the book so I hope this will serve as useful clarification. Essentially the example in the book contained a case of mistaken identity as the stats used for the Union frigate were in fact those of a sloop!

The Bay of Destiny

Fort Beauregard stood at the entrance of Thorpe Bay and controlled the approaches in and out of the inner basin. It was protected by minefields and supported by a small naval patrol consisting of an assortment of gunboats - three in number, the C.S.S. Selma, Morgan and Gaines - and the newly commissioned ironclad, the C.S.S. Tennessee. This small force was all that stood between the approaching Union fleet and the closure of the last remaining port available to the Confederacy. 

The Union forces tasked with closing this last hole in the Confederate coastline were substantial. It was estimated that the available naval forces had something like a six to one advantage although naturally not all could be brought to bear at once. Natural wastage through patrolling, chasing suspected blockade runners, refitting and repair meant the available strength to use directly on operations was greatly reduced albeit still powerful. For the operation against Fort Beauregard and the inner basin of Thorpe Bay it was decided to use five ships. A pair of monitors would engage the fort whilst the remaining three would sweep the basin, destroying any enemy shipping contained therein. The flagship of the attacking force was to be the sloop the  U.S.S. Hartford, accompanied by a pair of double ended gunboats - The U.S.S. Sassacus and the U.S.S. Metacomet. The two monitors tasked with subduing the fort were to be the U.S.S. Tecumseh and the double turreted U.S.S. Winnebago. The Union force was well aware of the rumoured presence of an as yet unidentified ironclad but thus far, despite intensive efforts, had been unable to confirm or deny any such speculation.

The scene is set - let the battle commence!