Slowly H.M.S. Superb approaches the entrance to the harbour of Navarone. A picture of nautical innocence but for how long?
Slowly H.M.S. Superb approaches the entrance to the harbour of Navarone. A picture of nautical innocence but for how long?
From Columbia Games - the first game in the series covering the Western Front 1944/45 at battalion level. There is a further volume covering the Eastern Front. Nothing for the desert or the Far East as yet though.
At last I finally managed to lay my hands on a set of the above - as new, still in the shrink wrap and less than half the retail price!
Combat Infantry is Columbia Games entry into the tactical WW2 board game arena and features battalion level formations plus support assets for the Germans and Americans. There is also an Eastern front version and presumably other theatres and nationalities - including the British - will feature in due course.
The units include Company and Platoon HQs, rifle squads, company level machine guns, mortars, anti tank rockets (bazookas and panzerschreks), battalion level engineer, snipers, tanks, anti tank guns and both artillery and air support. In short, all the usual bits and pieces one would expect for a battalion level tactical game. There are also man made defences and some twenty terrain types to fight over. There are also two geomorphic map boards to fight over but no terrain tiles or overlays in the style of Memoir 44 for the former or Advanced Squad Leader the latter.
….one for inland.
In common with other Columbia Games games the units are represented by blocks which serve to add to the fog of war as they are intended to be deployed with their backs to the enemy until activated by either a platoon or company HQ. The blocks are rotated to show the strength of the unit at the top of the block and different units have different strength points. For example, a US rifle squad has a strength of 4 whilst it German counterpart has 3 - the difference being a reflection of the diluted manpower situation facing them in the late war period.
A US rifle squad - assumed to be 12 men strong as opposed to 9 for the Germans. Initially I thought the blocks would be a little on the fussy side in terms of the amount of information on them but they are quite clear compared to those of Advanced Squad Leader in my opinion!
Combat uses a D10 rather than a D6 and units typically have a firepower rating which determines how many they roll - this is the ‘F’ number on the counter, along with a myriad other numbers and symbols.
Units have to be activated by the appropriate command level in order to do anything so the tactical implications of what to do and when are clearly catered for.
There are half a dozen scenarios included in the game which is quite modest and given that there are only a couple of maps one could be forgiven that the repeatability would be quite modest but I reckon when one factors in using other maps - for example those from Axis and Allies, the miniatures game - there is certainly a lot of mileage from this set. I have already thought about figures - perhaps 6mm or even 3mm - so I am really pleased to have acquired this.
I will certainly look to get the Eastern Front version in due course as between the two sets my tactical WW2 grid based gaming will have a firm foundation to take forwards.
I should also mention that the rules including examples of play are a mere 12 pages long and there are some suggested solo rules. Interestingly enough there is also a few side bar comments outlining what the game does not include and why - always useful to know the thought processes behind a game design.
That is now three Columbia Games I need to spend some time labelling the blocks for!
Although it has yet to see action I thought it might be a good idea to give a quick run through of how I built the model - actually I noticed that I had series of pictures at each stage of the construction process and so it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity!
1. The first step in the construction process. Two complete ‘not quite Jenga blocks’ with two three quarter length versions at either end and a quarter sized piece for the lookout tower.
Simple to build and the only time consuming part was placing the shutters and gun carriages. The gun barrels are 10mm long and my technique for making these is to paint a cocktail stick black and when dry I carefully file the end into a round shape. This is then repainted black and when dry a 10mm piece is cut off and glued to the gun carriage - 5mm of the barrel on the carriage and 5mm ‘overhanging’ to represent having been ‘run out’.
I hope this little insight into how I built the fort is helpful and I will also look to do something similar for some of my ship models at some point.
To my eternal shame I have not read any of the Hornblower series although I have read some of the the other titles by C.S. Forester. The film is a cracker though and as well as Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo also featured Christopher Lee, James Robertson Justice and a young Stanley Baker.
Following on from the completion of my new fort the next step was of course to get it into action. Inspiration for naval scenarios can be gained from many places and in this case my point of reference is the 1951 film Captain Horatio Hornblower, starring Gregory Peck, Virginia Mayo and Robert Beatty. This was in turn was based on three books from the Hornblower series by C.S. Forester - The Happy Return, A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours. C.S. Forester is also credited with writing the screenplay for the film, most of which was shot in the UK, including Rye in Sussex. There are also another couple of sources for the scenario - tenuous links I know but that make perfect sense to me…
So, how did this work out? Well, what really started this latest flight of fancy was the fact that the sister ship of the Royal Navy ironclad H.M.S. Superb was the Turkish ship Messudieh. In the film Hornblower’s 74 gun ship of the line is H.M.S. Sutherland - a captured French ship. In other words a (class) of ship that served under two flags so to speak. The rest was easy. I could use H.M.S. Superb in the role of H.M.S. Sutherland (under two flags etc) and the four Turkish ironclads I have currently built became the anchored ‘targets’. I would need a fort and the only one I currently have is Confederate flagged. This provided the spur to build a Turkish fort to guard the anchorage. Obviously the Turkish lookouts could have easily mistaken H.M.S. Superb for the Messudieh - especially if she was able acknowledge the recognition signal from the fort previously obtained by the interception of a small Turkish cutter.
The Bombardment of Alexandria, 11th to 13th July, 1882
Of course the British and Turks did not go to war in 1879 although the former certainly did with Egypt in 1882 which of course included the bombardment of Alexandria by the Royal Navy Mediterranean squadron, in which H.M.S. Superb took part. It is also worth pointing out that the British ship spent a number years being modified after she was compulsorily purchased on 1878 by the government and so was not in service when this action was set. I have used the original Messudieh specs for H.M.S. Superb as found in David Manley’s excellent supplement for the Russo-Turkish War.
I shall be building more ships for this particular 19th century match up - seven more for the Royal Navy and four for the Turks - these will be the main fleet units although I fully expect there to be some supporting vessels as well.
H.M.S. Superb - Size: Large, Speed: 4, Manoeuvrability: Medium, Hull Factor: 4, Armour Factor: 6, Hit Points: 12. Guns: (F) 2/3, (P, S) 4/4, (A) 2/3
Feth i Bulend and Mukaddeme-i Hayir - Size: Medium, Speed: 4, Manoeuvrability: Medium, Hull Factor: 3, Armour Factor: 6, Hit Points: 9. Guns: (P, S) 3/4
Feth-i-Bulend and Mukaddeme-i Hayir
Avnillah and Muin i Zaffir - Size: Medium, Speed: 4, Manoeuvrability: Medium, Hull Factor: 3, Armour Factor: 6, Hit Points: 9. Guns: (P, S) 3/4
Avnillah and Muin i Zaffir
The fortress - Adler Kalesi - Size: Large, Hull Factor: 4, Armour Factor: 4, Hit Points: 12. Guns: (FW) 4/4, (P, S) 2/2, (AW) 4/4.
The Turkish Fortress of Adler Kalesi
Rules and Scenario Specific Points.
The action was fought using the Portable Ironclads Wargame but with a few hints as to what to expect in the next book! The observant amongst you will notice mention of Manoeuvrability. This featured in David Manley’s excellent Dahlgren and Colombiad rules and were applied by using turning devices. For my rules I have managed to allow for varying turns depending on the ship’s manoeuvrability - high, meaning that a ship can make its first turn at no cost and one movement point thereafter. Medium is as per the existing rules i.e. a turn equals one movement point and for low manoeuvrability a ship has to enter two hexes before it turns. I shall be using a system of markers for turns that go over the end of a move - these are currently being designed.
You may also note that the maximum armour factor is 6 as opposed to the 5 in the book. This is the optimal armour rating for the rules and is designed mainly for ships built from around the early 1870s - the rationale being that developed construction techniques made for more effective protection.
One other rule I shall be making use of concerns firing arcs. I have tidied these up from the original and so they are now far less confusing to use. This is not a change for change’s sake - rather it is me realising that the revised version is actually far simpler to understand than the original and, I believe, is closer conceptually to Bob Cordery’s ACW rules in his book Gridded Naval Wargames. Anyways, I will try it out and see how it goes. It will feature as an option in Developing the Portable Ironclads Wargame.
Somewhere, off the southwest Turkish coast….
Captain Hadley Hornblower - the grandson of the Admiral of the Fleet, Horatio Hornblower - surveyed the wine-dark Aegean Sea for any sign of enemy shipping, indeed of any shipping, for this cruise had been anything but eventful. For some ten days H.M.S. Superb had been criss-crossing this small corner of the Aegean Sea hoping for a sight of the four missing renegade Turkish ironclads - even though he was under strict orders to avoid engaging the enemy until the rest of the squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Sir David Leighton (known by the lower deck as the “Buzzard” after his rather large nose), was able to concentrate. Hornblower’s instructions on this point were crystal clear and so he needed to be mindful of his actions. Thus far though, nothing had come to pass and all was quiet so Hornblower revisited in his mind the events that had led to the situation he, his crew and his ship now found themselves.
The Russo Turkish War had recently ended in an ignominious defeat for the Ottoman Empire but there were some, especially in the navy, that felt that the Sultan and his cronies were to blame. Kemal I Fateful - an admiral in the Ottoman navy - one of the new breed of modern naval officer that found defeat a bitter pill to swallow - had taken matters into his own hands and, together with some similarly disposed brother officers, had decided to offer their services, along with their ships, to any foreign power that would take them. After a long and frank exchange of views (that very nearly came to blows) the general consensus was that Egypt would offer a safe haven as well as suitable employment and remuneration. So with this destination in mind the four ships would make their way to Port Said. First of all though, they needed to take on coal and so the first port of call would be the small, out of the way island of Navarone, safe under the guns of the formidable fortress the castle of the eagles or the Adler Kalesi as it was known locally.
“Sail off the Larboard bow!” Came the cry from the foremast. Hornblower immediately looked in the direction indicated. “Looks like a local cutter Captain, should we order her to heave to?” Hornblower was about to speak when two signal flags ran up the foremast of the small and innocuous looking Turkish ship. “Mr Shrub, do we recognise that signal?” Asked the captain, his telescope still trained on the the Cutter. The first officer shook his head. “It must be a recognition code captain - and if we don’t know the correct response he will take to heels - look, he is hoisting more sail!” Hornblower had already decided that the enemy ship must have mistaken H.M.S. Superb for their own ironclad Messudieh - an understandable mistake given that they were sister ships and had not seen their flag. Her captain was probably unaware that the Turkish warship was currently in Black Sea but even so, the cat was out of the bag and Hornblower could not allow the Cutter to escape and give warning as to her whereabouts. “A shot across her bows Mr Shrub, if you please” he said, urgently. No sooner had the order been given that a strident crack rang out followed by a plume of gun smoke.
No sooner had the shot fallen in the sea than the Cutter hastily hove to. “Well done Mr Shrub, have a boat sent over to take the ship and bring the crew aboard - I want to see her captain in my cabin”. He turned and headed below.
The interview with the Turkish captain was brief and he was unusually cooperative - probably due to the (unfounded, but theatrically effective) imminent threat of personal harm offered by Hornblower who now knew several previously undisclosed facts. To begin with he had the Turkish recognition signal although for how long it would be valid for was unknown. He also learned the destination of the enemy cutter - the small and out of the way island of Naverone. Finally, and most tellingly, that the cutter was carrying a cargo of coal - and coal could mean only one thing - steamships, in this case most likely the four missing ironclads.
“Mr Shrub, put a prize crew aboard the cutter and send it find the rest of the squadron. In the meantime we will head for Navarone at best speed and have the sailing master make me a Turkish flag!” Hornblower was convinced that he had found his quarry and that there was no time to waste in catching up with them -despite orders to the contrary, he could not wait.
Two days later H.M.S.Superb sighted the small island of Navarone and so Hornblower and his crew made ready for action and for the execution of his outrageous and possibly career-ending, plan.
To be continued….
I was able to spend some useful time in the man cave over the course of this weekend - time that proved to be well spent indeed! To begin with I was able to take a selection of pictures for the forthcoming Developing the Portable Ironclad Wargame book - a couple of which I will need to reshoot but only due to some ‘continuity type’ errors so nothing major. It was very satisfying doing this as in many ways it helped with the clarity of the ideas I am working on - seeing it laid out on the floor helped to reinforce the impression that I am certainly on the right track!
The big plus though, was that I was able to complete the above fort which will feature in my next battle using the Portable Ironclad Wargame rules and some of my optional rules. I had hoped to have done this over the weekend but ran out of time to do so. No matter, it will be done next weekend.
The fort itself, rather like the earlier ACW version, was built from two full length ‘not quite’ Jenga style blocks (originally available from The Works in the UK - they were called Tumbling Tower or similar but are Jenga in all but the name), two three quarter length pieces for the shorter walls and a quarter length section for the tower. The shutters, main and side gates and the gun carriages are from laser cut grey card courtesy of Warbases and sized at 5mm square for the shutters, 10mm square for the main gate and 10mm by 5mm for the side gates and gun carriages. The main gate lintel and the wall atop the main structure and the tower is from balsa wood strip. Gun barrels and the flagstaff are from wooden cocktail sticks with the flag a 1:600th scale offering printed for me by Tony at Brigade Models. The whole thing measures 85mm by 45mm and is 40mm tall at the tower.
The model was painted overall Iraqi Sand with Deck Tan being used for the walkways and Medium Sea Grey for the gun carriages and black for the gun barrels and the flagstaff. All colours are from Vallejo.
So what it is for?
Well, I have a naval scenario planned to feature this model and without giving too much away lets just say that it has been well named - it is known locally as the Adler Kalesi - the castle of the eagles….
This is not the post I expected to be writing - sadly my naval encounter will need to wait an extra day or so - but it is a post that has given me an enormous amount to think about!
Indulge me a little, if you will, as this personal history is relevant to this post but it will help to things into context.
When Irregular Miniatures first launched their 2mm range (back in the 1980s I recall) I was hugely excited at the prospect of the potential these models would have. I remember buying substantial amounts of the horse and musket range along with ancients when these came out - at the time I was still on the end of my WRG 6th edition adventures - but never really had a clear idea of what I was going to do with them. Was it a step too far for the mainstream? Possibly - but for me the seed had been sown.
Anyways, fast forward to the current century and I have continued to dabble in the 2mm and 3mm world which means in my case buying stuff, doing nothing with it for one reason or another and then selling it on. Having said that I still have a bag of Peter Pig ACW figures from their Hammerin’ Iron range that are looking for some TLC at some point….
The seemingly monotonous round of buying stuff, hanging on to it for six months or so and then offloading it showed little sign of abating but the 3mm stuff still lurked in the collection - unloved but promised to better things at some point.
The ‘some point’ was running an idea past that all round good guy and brush master extraordinaire Lee - as in A figure painting therapy project
Some time ago I approached him with an idea about painting some ACW stuff for me for the naval project. The idea was to use the Peter Pig troops for the land side in support of the ships. Anyways, we bounced a few emails around but for reasons too boring to discuss it never happened. We stayed in contact though and like many other bloggers I have really enjoyed seeing his various painting projects and just staying in touch.
Imagine my surprise then when a cryptic message from Lee arrived earlier in the week telling me that a package was en route and arrived yesterday - the contents of which you can see above.
So, a pair of DBA armies - Late Roman and Ancient Briton in 3mm. What can I say? Where to start?
The two armies are quite incredible to look at - Lee’s skill with a paintbrush is very much at the Olympian level of awesomeness - and the models really ‘pop’ off the bases. They are recognisable as what they should be and the only thing I will do will be to add them to a slightly thicker base for ease of handling.
The figures themselves are from the range produced by Oddzial Ozmy and available from Magister Militum in the UK. There is also a whole world of other periods covered in this scale and the models themselves are outstanding.
So what does all this mean then? Well for one thing the use of 2mm and 3mm armies has certainly come along leaps and bounds since those early days of Irregular Miniatures. We now have dedicated rule sets for the scale - Strength and Honour for ancients springs to mind, their game at salute was incredible to look at - and it seems that more and more gamers are looking long and hard at the scale. Ray Rousell , a dyed in the wool 28 and 15mm gamer, has been busy beavering away with some 2mm armies for the battle of Almansa 1707 and they look outstanding - his rules of choice being Volley and Bayonet. There are many others in the blogosphere that have dabbled or are dabbling in these smaller scales so to speak so the scales seem to be easing into the mainstream alongside their larger counterparts.
Seeing the armies that Lee very generously sent me ‘up close and personal’ has really given me a lot to think about along with the pang of regret at all the stuff I had in this scale that has long gone! I need to dig out the Peter Pig ACW blocks and have a mess around with them methinks! Packing a base with small figures certainly helps to make the twelve elements of a DBA army look rather more like a real army as the pictures above show.
My sincerest thanks to Lee for this incredible gift - there will certainly be some DBA games in the near future - and for showing me just how good these models can be made to look. He does work on a commission basis but currently has, unsurprisingly given the quality of his painting, a pretty full order book for the next century or so so I consider myself to be doubly fortunate!
Cheers Lee, I owe you a beer or two!