Tuesday 30 May 2023

Beneath the Claws of the Eagle….Game Number 75, Part 3


Slowly H.M.S. Superb approaches the entrance to the harbour of Navarone. A picture of nautical innocence but for how long?

The view from the Turkish Fortress. 

As H.M.S Superb entered the harbour mouth, Captain Hornblower was already thinking about how he would be able to get his ship away after his audacious attack. His approach would be straightforward but engaging the furthest Turkish ship may be problematic as he would already be needing to make his turn to exit the narrow confines of the harbour by then. He would defer that decision until the last possible moment. Everything was ready - it would take time and infinite precision but, he felt sure his plan could work.

Turn 1. No firing and no need to roll for initiative as the Turks are unable to react until after H.M.S. Superb has opened fire. She makes her best speed - much to the surprise of the commander of the Turkish fortress - Mustafa Popoathim - although he reasoned that given the size of the ship she would need the widest possible amount of ‘sea room’ to enter the harbour. Little did he know….

End of Turn 1. H.M.S. Superb turns in the mouth of the harbour in readiness for her attack run. Still the Turks have little idea as to what is about to befall them….

Turn 2. No firing and the initiative is still very much with the Royal Navy. Captain Hornblower immediately ordered a reduction in speed - all perfectly natural when entering a harbour - and by virtue of some adroit manoeuvring had positioned the ship off the stern of not one but two Turkish ironclads. Inwardly he cursed at the speed he had entered the harbour - a knot or two slower would have given him more lead time to engage the enemy but, with the fortress now ranged across his stern speed was now essential.

End of Turn 2. A sight that would gladden the eye of any Captain during the age of sail - targets anchored and with their sterns ripe for the raking! The Turkish flag aboard H.M.S. Superb continued to flutter gallantly in the early morning breeze….

Captain Hornblower, his eyes never leaving the tempting stern of the first Turkish ironclad, waited until the last possible moment until, with a mental swallow he gave the order. “Raise our flag Mr Shrub and open fire as your guns bear!” No sooner had he uttered the words than the first shots crashed out from the great bulk of the English warship….

Mustafa Popathim stared aghast at this incredible turn of events. At once he gave riders to the garrison to make ready to engage this English interloper.

Turn 3. H.M.S.Superb opened fire with a full broadside into the stern of the leading Turkish ironclad - in this case the Avnillah. Her gunnery is 4/4 meaning that she rolls 4D6 each with a penetration factor of plus 4. The armour of the Turkish ship is rated as 6 - she is a modern ironclad - but as the fire is coming in her stern this is reduced by 2 meaning 4 overall. Due to the range the guns of H.M.S. Superb add plus 1 to hit. The rolls are a 6, a 5, a 3 and a 1. The 1 is discarded as an automatic miss (the rule of 1 and 6) and the 6 generates a further roll which also comes up as 6! Sadly this is followed by a miserable 1 but it means that there are two natural 6s that mean four potential damage rolls, a 5 that goes to a 6 due to the range which means a further two damage rolls and a 3 that goes to a 4 meaning that there are SEVEN damage rolls to make! These are all at evens as the penetration factor of the guns from H.M.S. Superb are rated 4 and the armour of the Turkish ship is reduced from 6 to 4. The 7D6 come up with two 6s, a 5, a 4, a 3, a 2 and a 1. The two 6s result in an extra roll at the same odds and come up with a pair of 5s. That is an incredible 8 points of damage inflicted on the Turkish ship which means that her critical point has been reached. the obligatory critical hit role comes up with a 5 which is a flood. As this generates an automatic point of damage, making 9 in total, the Turkish ship slowly sinks and settles, ignominiously, at her moorings!

End of Turn 3. With a truly shattering broadside the first Turkish ship literally disappears under an avalanche of heavy calibre shells (the white counters represent the bubbling resting place of the hapless Turkish ship). A ragged cheer goes up from the crew of H.M.S. Superb but her captain knows that retribution will be following - and swiftly! 

I should have mentioned this earlier but under the rules of the scenario the Turks are unable to fire until the game turn after the Royal Navy does. The ships at anchor do not have cold boilers but they will not be able to move other than to pivot. To reflect the shock of the Royal Navy appearance the Turkish ships may only fire or pivot after rolling a D6 equal to or less than the current game turn - this is in the first phase of the turn. 

Turn 4. The only firing comes from the fort as the forward batteries of H.M.S. Superb are out of effective range of the next enemy ship - they could hit it but would not be able to cause any damage at that range. The fort rolls 1D6 with a plus 1 because it is a fort firing. The roll is a 5 going to 6 so there are two potential damage rolls. The armour of H.M.S. Superb is a 6 but she is being assaulted from her stern so this gets a minus 2 making 4 in all. The dice modifiers are even. The scores are a 5 and 4 so the ship suffers two damage points from her total of 12. There is no initiative roll so H.M.S. Superb moves.

“Mr Shrub I want to lose some way so one quarter speed please!” Captain Hornblower, his thoughts always one step ahead, was looking at the next Turkish ship and a way out  - the fort was now active and he knew that once they had the range measured it would require some deft manoeuvring to get away. He had little time to think about this though as his ship slowed as she drew level with the stern of the second Turkish ironclad. “Fire as your guns bear men!” The shout was eagerly taken up by the crew despite the ominous series of bangs and thuds as heavy calibre artillery found the stern of H.M.S. Superb. “A damage report if you please Mr Shrub, it appears the enemy now knows who we are!” Mr Shrub hurried aft to see the extent of the damage.

Meanwhile, the gunners of the Turkish fortress, seeing the first of their shots striking home on the enemy ship prepared to administer more of the same. H.M.S. Superb would be caught like a rat in a barrel….

End of Turn 4. Despite the damage sustained from the Turkish fort Captain Hornblower has positioned his ship off the stern of the second Turkish ironclad - the Muin-i- Zaffir. 

The view from the fort - Mustafa Popathim, seething at the deception and humiliation visited on him, urges his gun crews to aim true at the enemy warship.

Turn 5. The fort opens fire once again with 1D6 with modifiers of plus 2 - one for the fact that it is a fort firing and two because the target is a large ship - something overlooked by the gunners in their initial salvo. The remaining Turkish ships, after the loss of the Avnillah, are suddenly galvanised into the action - at least as far as they are able. The fort rolls a 4 which, with the plus 2 means that there are two potential hits to roll for at evens. The rolls are a positively miserable 1 and a 2. H.M.S. Superb opens fire - 4D6, each at plus 2 (plus 1 for range and plus 1 for the the fact that the target is at anchor) - giving a 6, two 5s and a 3. The 6 is an automatic reroll which come up a 2 so with a plus 2 means a further potential damage roll (which with the 6 means three already). The two 5s each go to 7 so with the 6 which goes to 8 (plus the 2 going to 4) means we are looking at 7 potential damage rolls BUT as ther are scores over 6 - two 7s and an 8 - there are three more rolls to make, The sevens require a 1 and the eight a 2 - and only one of the 7s rolls a 1 so there is further potential damage point meaning 8 rolls in all. The scores are a 6, a 5, two 4s, a 3 and three 1s. That is 5 damage points before the reroll of the 6 - which comes up with a further 6 and then a 5 - an extra 3 damage points meaning 8 in total. The critical roll is a 5 which is a flood and an automatic damage point. Like her sister ship the Muin-i-Zaffir slowly slips beneath the waves! Two enemy ships engaged and two sunk!

End of Turn 5. With the element of surprise H.M.S. Superb continues to wreak havoc amongst the anchored Turkish ships. Her devastating broadsides have so far accounted for two of the enemy ships but - how long can the luck of her captain last?

As the second Turkish ship slipped beneath the waves Captain Hornblower, oblivious to the cheers f his men, considered his next move. The ship had been ranged in by the enemy fort and he assumed that only his sudden reduction in speed has caused their aim to be awry judging by the forest of shell splashes that had dosed the ship forward. In an instant he made his decision. “Mr Shrub, have the forward batteries on standby as we will engage the next ship head on!” Mr Shrub hurried forward, urging the gun crews as he did. 

Turn 6. Once again Mustafa Popathim urged his gunners to wreak the Sultan’s vengeance upon his enemies (forgetting that the Royal Navy were actually doing the Sultan a service by taking out these rebels) and so the guns spoke once again. 1D6 at plus 2 comes up with a 4 making 6 so two potential damage rolls. These come up as a pair of miserable 2 for no effect. H.M.S Superb opens fire at the next Turkish ship in line with her forward battery as she prepares to cut across the stern of the enemy ship. These are rated as 2/3 so 2D6 are rolled at a range of one hex. A double 6! This means that the scores are a pair of 8s so that means a pair of additional rolls for the two 6s and then a pair of rolls for the scores of 8 requiring a roll of 1 or 2 for another potential damage roll.  The two 6s come up with a 5 and 3 so there are a 7 and a 5. The two “over 6” rolls are are a a 4 and a 5 so are of no effect. Taking all this into effect we have 4 damage rolls for the pair of 6s, 2 damage rolls for the 7 and 1 for the 5 or 7 in total. The rolls come up with a pair of 6s, a 5, two 4s, a 3 and a 1. This is 7 points of damage in total but the pair of 6s generate a further pair of rolls - these come up with a 1 and a 3 so although being severely damaged the Turkish ship - the Feth-i-Bulend is still afloat.

Despite the blistering salvo H.M.S. Superb was able to pour into the Turkish ship Captain Hornblower knew that the time had come to beat a hasty retreat. He could see the remaining Turkish ships making ready for action and the enemy fort was starting to get the range to his ship and so, mindful of the damage they could cause, decided that discretion would be the better part of valour and so ordered the helm hard over to starboard so as to withdraw.

As the great ship ponderously leaned into her starboard turn, H.M.S. Superb crossed the stern of the next Turkish ironclad the Feth-i-Bulend, unaware that, although she had been badly damaged, she still had her teeth and was about to use them.

End of Turn 6. Despite being battered into a nearly sinking condition, with steam and smoke billowing from every hatch, door or porthole, the Feth-i-Bulend was still afloat and ready to fight. Meanwhile, H.M.S. Superb prepared to beat a hasty retreat.

Turn 7. The fort resumed firing at maximum range meaning a single D6 with a plus 2 (one for the fort and one for the target being a large ship. the roll was a 3 modified to a 5 meaning one potential damage roll. This was a 4 so a further point of damage was scored on the Royal Naval battleship. The Feth-i-Bulend opened fire at a range of one but with only 1D6 due to the arc. This was at plus 2 (the target being adjacent and a large ship) and the roll of a 6 was most welcome! The additional roll for the natural 6 was a 4 which moves to a 6. The natural 6 plus the two making 8 meant that a further roll of 1or 2 would result in a further damage roll. A 1 was scored! This meant that the number of damage rolls was as follows: two for the original roll of 6, one for the ‘plus 2 over 6 roll of 1’ and finally the additional roll of 4 which moved to 6 meant that a further two damage rolls or five in total.  All of these would be at minus two overall as the target being adjacent (and therefore minus 1) despite the penetration of 3 against the armour of 6 ordinarily being a minus 3. Two 6s, two 4s and a 3 were rolled - meaning a further two points of damage - 6 minus 2 equals 4 for a two points of damage - the 4s and 3s being discounted. Considering the battering the Turkish ship had received this was outstanding gunnery. 

Captain Hornblower decided that his ship had done enough and now looked to secure the best possible route to the open sea. “Mr Shrub, full steam if you please and have the crew make ready to salute the fort as we go past!” The first lieutenant saluted and hurried away to ensure that the Captain’s orders were executed in a timely fashion. “Starboard your helm and a keg of rum to the crew that takes down that Turkish flag! A ragged cheer forum the gun deck followed as the great ship continued to heel into the turn.

End of Turn 7. After putting her helm hard to starboard H.M.S. Superb made ready to run the gauntlet passed the Turkish fort into the open sea and safety.

“Mr Shrub, a damage report if you please”, asked the Captain, his eyes never moving from the fort and its heavy artillery. Mr Shrub gave the only reply he knew his captain would want to hear. “Engines and pressure fine, artillery all in order and the crew ready to comply!”. Captain Hornblower allowed himself the smallest of grins but caught himself before his officer noticed. “Harrumph” he spluttered. “Thank you Mr Shrub”. The great ship moved steadily forwards.

Mustaf Popathim had seen the carnage the English ship had caused and knew that unless he was able to rectify the situation he would likely find himself in sack dumped in the Bosphorus. He ordered his gunners to once again intensify their fire against the rapidly approaching bulk of the enemy ship.

Turn 8. The fort continues to fire at H.M.S.Superb. 1D6 at plus 2 to hit and rolls a 4 making an adjusted 6 to two potential damage rolls. These are both at minus 2 and the rolls are a 1 and 6! The 6 means a further roll which is a 5 and so not enough but the two points of damage continue to eat away at the British ship. There is no return fire. H.M.S. Superb positions herself to run the gauntlet past the fort via the main channel.

End of Turn 8. Whilst the Turkish ironclad at anchor continues to belch great gouts of steam H.M.S. Superb prepares to run the gauntlet to the open sea and safety.

“Full steam ahead, Mr Shrub if you please, make ready to fire on the fort when we pass!” The great ship, steam and smoke issuing from her torn hull, open hatches and gunports and with her decks seemingly a mass of tangled and superfluous rigging but still coming along at close to her top speed, presented an awesome spectacle - a sight that moved Mustafa Popathim to exclaim “The English ship is dead but doesn’t know it - no wonder these English rule the waves, their hearts of oak are now hearts of iron!” He shook his head sadly and give the order to his gunners to intensify their fire. The claws of the eagle would tighten around the throat of the English ship.

Turn 9. The fort continues to rain fire on the luckless English ship. As the range reduces so the number of D6 creep up - it is now 2D6, each at plus 2. A 6 and a 5! The natural 6 extra roll is a 5. The original 6 and 5 go to 8 and 7 so there are two chances of potential additional damage rolls - the scores of 4 and 6 are too high, a 1 and 2 being required. There are four potential damage rolls each at minus two. A 6, a pair of 4s and a 3 result in a single natural 6 roll scoring a magnificent 6 for a further point of damage. H.M.S. Superb has sustained two points of damage in all, making 9 in total. She does not fire back but continues to steam as hard as she is able for the open channel.

End of Turn 9. Battered, but with her steaming ability unimpaired, H.M.S. Superb makes the deep water channel en route to the open sea and safety - has she done enough to escape after her audacious raid?

“Mr Shrub, damage report if you please” Captain Hornblower knew that his ship had been sorely tested as shot after shot had battered his hull but so far her engines were still running and he offered up a silent prayer of thanks to the stokers for their efforts in maintaining the ship’s speed. Mr Shrub, minus his hat, his face and uniform streaked with soot and his right arm sporting a bloody looking bandage made his report, knowing through experience of his captain what he would want to know first. “Engines and steering fine but not sure how long this speed can be maintained due to casualties and damage to bunkers. Enough crew available to man half a broadside should you wish as crew told off on damage control duties. Overall sir, there is nothing major but there is a lot of minor damage that needs attention”. The Captain pondered this for a moment. “Very good Mr Shrub, please have Mt Etienne report to me and then go below to the surgeon to have that wound tended.” Mr Shrub knew better than to argue and so left the captain to find the second lieutenant.

Hornblower knew that the ship needed to be out of range of the fort as soon as possible because she could not carry on indefinitely under this weight of fire. It would be a race to clear the channel before her damage took its toll.

Turn 10.   The fort continued to fire at the English ship. The range is 2 so 2D6 are rolled with plus 2 to each - 1 for the fort and 1 for the larger target. A 3 and a 5 come up which are adjusted to a 5 and a 7 meaning three potential damage rolls and a 1 in 6 chance of a further roll.This comes up at 4 which is too high, a 1 being required. The damage rolls are at minus 2 being the difference between the fort penetration factor (4) and the target armour (6). The three damage rolls are as follows: 6, 5, and 3. Only the 6 counts for a single damage point but there will be a further roll. This comes up as a 6 for a single damage point as this is rolled at the same modifier as for the original damage roll. As there were three original damage rolls the maximum number of natural 6 rerolls is limited to three so the second 6 can be rolled again - fortunately for the English ship the score is a mediocre 3 so no effect.

H.M.S. Superb has sustained a further two points of damage making 11 in total which is her critical point. She rolls for the obligatory critical hit and scores a 5 - a flood! She takes an immediate pint f damage which is sufficient for her to reach her damage point total and so she begins to sink - right in the middle of the main channel! The roll for the number of tuns to sink comes up with a 4 meaning that she skips beneath the waves after four turns.

End of Turn 10. With her hull riven through and her pumps unable to manage the sudden influx of tons of boiling, foaming seawater, H.M.S. Superb begins her final journey - to the bottom of the main channel leading into the harbour of Navarone.
Captain Hornblower, the wreck of his ship around him, needed no one to tell him that H.M.S. Superb was doomed. The instant the ship shuddered violently under the impact of heavy shell hits and the telltale lessening of speed as the way fell off of her told him all he needed to know. All that remained now was the safety of his officers and men. The main deck was a confused jumble of tangled rigging, splintered wood and twisted, scorched metal. “Mr Etienne, order the crew to abandon ship but send a gun crew to me at the double!” Mr Etienne picked his way through the shambles of what had one been the main deck. 

The ponderous bulk of H.M.S. Superb wallowed as she settled but Captain Hornblower wanted to make sure that his ship could still be a thorn in the side of the enemy. It was essential that the ship could not be salvaged - especially her machinery and artillery - so he ordered a gun to run inboard and fired at maximum depression through the ships engine space and underside. He quickly outlined his plan to the assembled gun crew. “Quickly now, raise her up as far as we can - used blocks or anything if you have to!” The crew bustled, heaved and cursed as the huge gun barrel was gradually tilted towards the main deck. “Ok men, over the side, quick as you can” Captain Hornblower made sure that the men were over the side and without pause fired the gun. The effect was immediate and dramatic. A cavernous hole appeared in the main deck followed by a great gout of steam. The gun, recoiled and ran completely off her track to finish laying on its side pointing, almost accusingly at Hornblower himself. Then, almost lazily, it rolled off the deck, over the side and into the water, disappearing instantly. The captain took a final look around and, despite the loss of his ship, felt sure that he had done the right thing and that when the rest of the squadron arrived it would be mission accomplished. Without further ado, Captain Hornblower of H.M.S. Superb, climbed over the grab rails and jumped into the sea and an uncertain future.

Mustafa Popathim saw the great ship slew to a halt and settle by the bow along with the ant-like scurrying of the crew as they jumped for safety. He ordered the gun crews to cease firing and the troops of the garrison to head to the shore to pick up survivors. Although he had successfully stopped the English ship it was at a grievous cost - a cost that he may yet to pay with his life.


OK, cheesy I know and on the face of it quite contrived but never let that get in the way of a great game -and this was just that! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and all that was missing was a good soundtrack to accompany the action. Having said that there are a few elements of the rules that with hindsight could be tweaked ever so slightly. There is a danger in doing that - think of Maverick in the Darkstar when it hits Mach 10 - so I shall ponder these points further. Not changes as such, just a better understanding of what works and how. 

Although it was freakish luck that saw three ships reach their critical point and then all roll the same critical hit - number 5 which is a flood - I have no issue with that. I am of the opinion that should a flood occurs then there will be an instant impact on the ship so allowing an automatic damage point feels about right. Think of it as being the straw that broke the camel’s back!

My plans to expand the Royal Navy and the Turkish fleets have moved up the project list so the prospect of an 1879 war between the two makes for an interesting prospect.

All in all then, it was a really enjoyable way to spend some time over a few days.

Sunday 28 May 2023

Beneath the Claws of the Eagle….Game Number 75, Part 2


H.M.S. Superb, sporting the Turkish ensign (don’t look too closely - she is under the Royal Navy flag!) cautiously approaches the guarded entrance of the harbour of Navarone. Note the four Turkish ironclads anchored in the harbour.

Another view of the same. 

Captain Hornblower, his eyes glued to the remorselessly approaching Turkish fortress, gave no outward sign of being perturbed at the audacity of his planned undertaking. He could sense the tension present in his officers and crew but was mindful of appearing unconcerned. He knew that everything was as ready as it could be and the guns were primed to open fire at his command. Aside from the rhythmic, steady beat of the ships engines, all was reassuringly quiet.

Suddenly, from the tower of the Turkish fortress the recognition signal flags run up the flagstaff and snapped urgently in the breeze. The question black barrels of modern heavy artillery thrust forwards from their embrasures and Hornblower knew that any mistake now could be fateful. If he was concerned he showed no sign of it.

“Mr Shrub, have the recognition signal run up!” The command was instantly obeyed. First lieutenant Shrub whispered to second lieutenant Etienne. “Five guineas says that we will be tackling the fort before the ships”. Etienne smiled and said “Done, it is about time I took some money off you!” They shook hands, each with a grim smile.

All eyes were fixed on the Turkish fort as the ship steamed, ever so slowly, into the mouth of the harbour. 

The Turkish garrison commander, Mustafa Popathim, was hugely impressed at the sight of the latest Turkish battleship honouring his modest command by paying a visit. As soon as the great ship had been sighted he had instructed his staff to make ready to receive the captain and his officers for a grand banquet (thereby sending a gentle reminder to the admiralty that his service fully merited a recall to the high command) and so, feeling suitably honoured, gladly ordered the recognition signal to be acknowledged.

Captain Hornblower breathed an inward sigh of relief at the sight of the answering flags from the Turkish fortress. Maybe, just maybe, this ruse de guerre could work. In the time it had taken for his ship to draw parallel to the fort Hornblower’s resolve had hardened. His ship and his crew were ready and so with an audible “Haruumph” he gave the order for the crew to prepare for action….

To be continued….

Friday 26 May 2023

Combat Infantry or Block Based WW2

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.

The back of the box featuring a selection of the units included.

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.

The ‘coastal’ map and….

….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!

Tuesday 23 May 2023

More on Patrol and Dark Attack 54mm Fantasy Figures

Following on from my recent boot sale acquisition I thought it would be good idea to share pictures of what the actual models look like on their sprues and so here you are.

The box art from set 5001

Minotaur Renegades

Elite Paladins

Centaur Scouts - these are rather cleverly sculpted in my opinion

Dark Warriors

The box art from set 5002

Orc Warriors

Elf Squad

Tomb Guards - got to have some animated skeletons!

Dwarf Squad - I thought it best to have another picture between them and the Elves for safety sake….

I have already given some thought to the make up of the opposing sides and any reader of fantasy literature will probably be able to work this out but if not my plan is this:

The Forces of ‘Good’ or ‘Light’

Elite Paladins (naturally!)
Centaur Scouts

The Forces of ‘Evil’ or ‘Darkness’

Dark Warriors
Minotaur Renegades
Tomb Guards

Simple.straightforward and definitely stereotypical! The models themselves have prominent detailing which will help with the painting considerably. For my own part I will probably go with a more muted palette than the box art suggests - I am not a huge fan of overly garish looking fantasy figures, the odd splash of colour works well enough, just to brighten the figure rather than saturate it in colour!

Hark at me, worrying about artistic aesthetics!

Whatever next? :-)

Monday 22 May 2023

Back in the Building Business….Part 4

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.

2. The second step involves placing the shutters, main gate, side doors and the gun carriages from pieces of grey card. The lintel over the main gate and the wall around the top of the tower and the main gun platforms are fashioned from balsa strip.

3. After coating the model with sealer and then undercoating in white the real painting can commence. I used Vallejo Iraqi Sand for the walls.

4. The finished model. The walkways are painted using Vallejo Deck Tan - actually rather a grey shade. The gun barrels and flagstaff are made from wooden cocktail sticks painted black. The flag was printed on self adhesive paper by Brigade Models and is 1:600th.

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.

Sunday 21 May 2023

“Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!”

Fantasy in 54mm (hard) plastic no less and a terrain pack that has a very gothic look (clue in the title methinks) about it

The types and the poses - they are all sporting rather more armour than I would have liked as well some unfeasibly large weaponry - rather like GW on steroids - but for all that they look suitably heroic

Sorry to say but part two of my planned naval game has not taken place so you will have to wait until next weekend to see how it goes. Time has run away from me this weekend, not helped by dealing with an infestation of ants in the kitchen, organising bits and pieces around the house, booking tickets for a concert - which means I shall be missing Broadside next month - along with a raging toothache! Fortunately the latter is now somewhat under control and I think manageable until my next dental appointment in a few weeks.

Laurel and I made our first trip to a boot sale this year and I managed to score the collection you see 

Examples from the box sides of some colour schemes….

….they look suitably ‘fantasy mainstream’

I have what I call a long distance relationship with fantasy - naturally I enjoyed Lord of the Rings and am also rather fond of the Conan stories. I have never really looked at fantasy as a big battle option and to be honest am not sold on Warhammer or its descendants. Hordes of The Things appeals due to its versatility and the fact that you can pretty much use anything. On balance I think I prefer a more skirmish based approach - probably a throwback to all those games of D and D back in the day and more recently, Heroquest (not the latest version though).

This little lot cost me next to nothing and in truth there is everything I need to rustle up some fantasy mayhem and to be honest they will be fun to paint. I just need to hunt down some rules to use with them.

For the record I will get just one more box - the set that has the orcs and skeletons in, simply because in my experience you can never have too many of either in a fantasy fight! 

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Beneath the Claws of the Eagle….Game Number 75, Part 1

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.

The Players

Royal Navy

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

H.M.S. Superb

Turkish Navy

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….

Monday 15 May 2023

A Turkish Delight - ‘Not Quite Jenga Block’ Style

The view from the front….

….and the rear….

….and finally end on. Simple to build and stylistically in synch with the model ships that will be used along side her.

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….

Sunday 14 May 2023

The Positive Impact of Largesse

Ancient Britons - chariots, skirmishers with cavalry and the all important warbands in the rear

How outrageously good are they?

Late Romans - the legions ready to do battle

So there is the full panoply of the Late Roman army - six bases of the legion, including the C in C, four bases of auxiliaries flanking the artillery and two cavalry units - light on the left and the heavies on the right/

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!