Monday, 29 April 2013

The Matter of Size Mattering....

I fully intended posting the climax of the battle of Kara Deniz as a single post. Unfortunately, it has gotten so big and involved that it needs to be split into two parts. Ordinarily his would not be a problem but due to the way the narrative has unfolded there are no natural breaks in the text. This has meant that I have had to redraft elements of it and so it will not be appearing just yet.

I will say though, that it was a very good action indeed and enormous fun to fight.

In the  meantime though, I am still looking long and hard at the thorny question of ancient galleys and how best to set up a hexed playing surface. I am not in the position to buy a hex mat so will probably make my own. I have sufficient material available to do this so it is really just a case of getting around to it.

I have also given some further thought to the WW2 aircraft collection and now know what I need to acquire - both for the Middle Eastern project and the Pacific. For the latter I shall be concentrating on the early war period rather than the 1944/45 'Turkey Shoots' so the Japanese the fighters will be the Zero and the Oscar. For the Allies F4 Wildcats, P40s and Brewster Buffalos will be the mounts of choice.

I did have an inkling to tackle the Fleet Air Arm in its various guises over the course of the war - Martlets and Corsairs to begin with - simply because of the variety of potential opponents that could be used on a multi-theatre basis. I will avoid this for the time being though due to the stockpile of other things that would need to be completed first.

I have also been following the various small scale model adventures of a number of gamers across the blog universe with a great deal of interest - these shall remain nameless for the time being - as so I am having a bit of an inspirational moment or two. Should I decide to dabble in a small scale I shall of course report it here and name the guilty parties....;-)

Saturday, 27 April 2013

"The Road goes ever on and on...."

For a variety of reasons it has been a very challenging week - and not in a good way either. Various employment seeking activities and the associated dramas together with brushes with assorted officialdom have meant that I am now feeling somewhat wrung out by it all. I am sure that next week will be better (it couldn't be any worse - although I do not want to test that particular theory!) and so in the meantime I have resorted to my favourite morale boosting activity of sorting out the projects I have on the go and planned for the year. Although it does not actually deliver anything tangible in the short term it does have the effect of cheering me up and so is something I set great store by.

This year will be dominated by ships. I have the four fleets for WW1 to complete - Fezia, Rusland, The Royal Navy and the High Seas Fleet. I will need to add to these but not too much and in any event this is not essential for the moment. I will also have the ancient galleys to tackle but will certainly need to add to the collection in order to complete the set ups planned - Greek and Persian and for the Punic Wars. I fully intend tackling the accompanying land side using Command and Colours Ancients so this can in fact be ticked off the list (the land stuff that is). Galleys for the 16th century will feature but I am torn between these and the Minifigs ships based pre dreadnought set up I have. The former will need investment, the latter less so.

I also have the small matter of some aircraft to attend to for use with the Axis and Axis aerial combat games and this will certainly need not only investment but some paint work as well. This will also have an impact on the Middle Eastern project which in all probability is not going to kick off until late in the year.

I am also pondering about painting some figures because I really want to get back into that using my 'new' painting technique.

Lots to do then but the important thing for me is that each of these is within reach (except the 16th century stuff) and requires only modest financing to complete - an important consideration at the moment.

In the immediate future though, I have the last of the coastal defence battleships to complete and the write up of the third and final part of the Battle of Kara Deniz.

Then we shall see what we shall see....;-)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Galleys in the 16th Century

The Battle of Preveza, 1538

As regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware I am very interested in the history of the Ottoman Turks. It is also fair to say that the 'golden age' of their efforts and achievements was probably from the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to around 1650 at a stretch. The sixteenth century was probably the best of this - and one could argue that only under Sulieman the Magnificent was this true. In fact, after his death the empire went into a long and protracted decline but that is not really the object of this post. I have long desired to game with an Ottoman army or navy when it was a force that was taken seriously on the global stage and so the sixteenth century would seem to be the best time to consider this.

In the sixteenth century, the war at sea in the Mediterranean was dominated by the galley. True, they often carried guns and routinely used slaves/captives/convisted crminals for the propulsion but essentially the tactics were little removed from that of the ancients - except that the ram was more likely to be a close range forward firing salvo of cannon fire followed by a boarding. In fact the ram was not a ram at all, more like a spur to sink into the opponents upper works thereby forming a boarding bridge of sorts. It was deemed better to capture ships than to sink them. Gunpowder had made the biggest difference though - both from the point of view of ship-borne artillery and that of personal firearms.

I have many ideas in connection with how I want to tackle this (although not immediately - I have far too many things to do in the interim) and once again, Navwar will be the supplier of choice for the ships I shall be needing in due course. As with the ancient galley period, I have a small but fairly complete selection of books on the period so when I eventually tackle it I will not be short of inspiration.

On the subject of inspiration, the following battle looks like it might be fun to have a go at it in due course - and no, it is not Lepanto!

Battle of Preveza

This also has the added attraction (for me in any event) of having been fought on my birthday - 28th September. Now I wonder if I could set myself the challenge of readying the models for both sides in order to attempt a refight of this action to coincide with my Birthday later this year?

Mmmm, much to ponder here methinks....

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

More on Ancient Naval Warfare Rules

The Persian King of Kings surveys the action at Salamis

In my recent post on Ancient Naval Warfare Rules I mentioned the old WRG fleet action set and the 'cut down' version of the same that appeared in the book Salamis by Richard Nelson. Essentially these rules have been doctored to suit the battle of Salamis but in my view would suffice for the actions fought during the entire campaign.There is but a single ship type considered - the trireme - although these are of varied effect and usage depending on the nationality represented. As far as I am able to ascertain the only other type of fighting ship that could have been involved in the campaign is the smaller pentekonter so these should be added into the order of battle as being representative of some of the smaller contingents involved.

My plan at this stage is to extract the tactical rules from Richard Nelson's book and type them up for use as a standalone rule set. Whilst the models are being readied I will also have to give some thought to a hexed playing surface with hexes around 1 1/2" to 2" across the flat sides although I could make use of Heroscape tiles in the short term.

My collection of models for this period as it stands at present for this campaign consists of eight Phonecian triremes (they have built up sides compared to the traditional version), eighteen conventional triremes and eight pentekonters. I want to increase these to 12, 24 and 12 respectively so this will give me a reasonable number to play around with for various rule sets.

The big attraction for me with the whole idea of warfare under oars in this period is the conflict between the boarding and the ramming school. One side wants to get close to board whilst the other does not - instead they want to drive a nice neat little hole in the side to sink the ship in question.

As projects go this is very self-contained and I have most of what I will need readily to hand. Once the current batch of pre dreadnought coastal defence battleships are completed I can then give this my undivided attention - with some Command and Colours: Ancients land battles in support using the new Spartans expansion for the Hoplites and the other elements from the Eastern Empires set. Assuming all goes well with this project I will then give some thought to the later Punic wars on a similar basis as I have the nucleus of a set up with some galleys for both sides. The aforementioned Command and Colours game has the Carthaginians and Republican Romans in the base game as well so that will add another dimension for me to explore. The number of ships available for this particular project will need bolstering however, but that will the worry for another day.

That's the plan anyway....;-)

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Economics of the Unemployed Wargamer

I have posted occasionally about the ongoing unemployment situation I am currently experiencing and how it has impacted on me - both personally and in the pursuit of my hobby. The job search is still ongoing and I am pursuing a number of alternative forms of employment - moving off at a tangent from my previous career in compliance and operational risk. I am sure that I will get another job in due course but it is proving to be an onerous struggle and to be honest, it does get me down on the odd occasion - usually when I have spent an exhausting day talking to recruitment agencies and getting nowhere.

I have been very fortunate in that my family have supported me and my partner has been an absolute rock in this respect. I am also fortunate in that the members of blogdom have provided me with much in the way of encouragement, support, advice and occasionally a good laugh as well.

There has also been a tangible benefit as well in that I have also been fortunate enough to have many gaming friends that have not only been generous with their time and support but also with selected unwanted material that has been passed on to me.

I am lucky, and I count my blessings in that respect.

As far as my hobby is concerned the last six months have been an object lesson in how to manage expectations. I have been able to invest in new items but only at the expense of trading out long dead project material. My library has has been downsized by about 40% and the proceeds turned into a variety of things for a number of projects. Luckily the projects I am working on - mostly naval but with the Middle Eastern project and some aerial stuff - are all at an advanced stage in terms of the material I have and so the need to buy in more kit has been greatly reduced.

My collection is now leaner and with this comes a degree of, for me, clarity of purpose. This is a rare experience for me and one that I am actually enjoying. Of course I will still get the odd 'ooh shiny' pang of wanting to splash the cash but I have now become very self controlled - even my partner has noticed this. Even at boot sales I have been restrained and with this comes a heightened awareness of the real value of things and whether or not I want them because I need them or because they are there.

Like I say, I am fortunate, blessed even.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Naval warfare from Alexander to Actium

Hellenistic and Roman Naval Warfare 336BC-31BC

This will serve to give me some additional background to the wars of the Successors, the Punic Wars and those of the later Republic of Rome

There are few pleasures in life to be the acquisition of a new book. So it was this morning when, by virtue of the finance gained by some selective eBay disposals, a newly acquired title dropped through the letter box and added a degree of lustre to the day. The above book fits in quite tidily with my small but nicely formed library on ancient naval warfare and will provide some additional background to the era covered. I quite fancy the idea of the Punic Wars afloat and so will look to tackle something for that period in due course - in conjunction with Command and Colours Ancients.

The aforementioned eBay disposals have also funded an Osprey Vanguard title that should be arriving in a couple of days as well as the last of the Stonewall Figures 1/2400th scale models I need for the four fleets I am working on. There is also suffcient change from the disposals to enable me to acquire the last ships I need to complete the Greek and Persian fleets so it has not been a bad few days - it serves to deaden the effect of the ongoing unemployment saga anyway!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Not Quite Salute....

I did not attend Salute this year - nor have I done so since it was last at Olympia! My reasons over the years are many and varied but on this occasion there was one reason only. Finance, pure and simple. It would probably cost me the best part of £30 to travel to the show and to pay to get in and given my (still) unemployed status this is a big chunk of money spent even before hitting the trade stands! Sadly I cannot justify that kind of outlay at present.  Assuming I am in work by next year then I will certainly be giving Salute 2014 a visit - and you can bet on that!

For me, a piece of Napoleonic nostalgia

In the meantime though, the boot sale season has started up again in earnest - despite the recent snow and wet weather. SWMBO and I managed to fit in three boot sales over the course of Saturday and Sunday and I was pretty successful in two of them. To begin with I picked up a copy of the Blandford title: 'Uniforms of Waterloo' by Philip Haythornthwaite. I have owned this book in the past and wanted to reacquire it in order to add it the 1815 section of my library. It is a very nice title and I recall using it a lot when I was painting Airfix Napoleonics back in the mid 1970s.

The image came from Amazon - my camera is currently in the lounge and I am in the other room....

I also picked up a copy of 'Scrimgeour's Small Scribbling Diary 1914 to 1916' and subtitled 'The Truly Astonishing Wartime Diary And Letters Of An Edwardian Gentleman, Naval Officer, Boy And Son'. I am really looking forward to reading this as it gives a great insight into the lot of a young midshipman during the war. Sadly the author lost his life on HMS Invincible at Jutland in 1916 aged a mere 19 years old.

The final title was a paperback copy of 'The Fort' by Bernard Cornwall and set during the American revolution. This is not really my period but the book has been highly recommended so I thought I would give it a spin. Bernard Cornwall needs no introduction so I will not bother to do so - it does look like cracking read though and very inspirational in terms of the action depicted.

Finally, I also picked up a couple of packs of 1ft square cork floor tiles - with nine tiles in each pack. Needless to say I have a cunning plan for these, details of which will remain a closely guarded secret for the time being.

My entire boot sale expenditure for the weekend came in at £3.40 with the books costing £1.50, £1 and 50p respectively, with the two packs of cork a mere 40p.

Not quite the retail marathon that is Salute but satisfying all the same!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Ancient Naval Warfare Rules

A Zvezda Greek Trireme - in action the main sail would have been left on the beach and the smaller boat sail deployed as and when needed.

Now that I have the ancient naval bit between my teeth I should give some consideration to the thorny question of rules. I am rather fortunate in this respect in that I have a number of sets readily to hand and have no intention (nor inclination) of writing my own set! There is also a choice of hexed or free table rules in the mix as well and indeed, some of them have originated from the most unlikely of sources.

The sets I am exploring for my own use are as follows:

  • De Bellis Navalibus - a DBA inspired set by Daniele Varelli
  • Ram and Oar - Fleet Action in the Ancient World - a set based on Volley and Bayonet by Jesse A. Scarborough
  • Greek Fire and Roman Fury - a Fire and Fury inspired set devised by Dave Manley
  • Naval Wargames Rules Fleet Action - by Richard Nelson - this is the WRG set that also appears in a cut down version in his book: Salamis.
Each of these sets are attractive in different ways - I should also include the rules from the old Avalon Hill board game Trireme by Ed Smith - and so I will have some fun messing about with them.

The first thing though, is to get some painted.

I am reasonably happy about this in terms of colour schemes etc, but the big problem I am having concerns the models themselves. The Navwar range is pleasant enough but the ships come with a mainsail. This is no bad thing but for the fact there is a great big hole in the deck to fix the mast into. As a general rule the mainmast was usually left on shore when action was imminent but if I did that I would a series of nice looking models with holes in the deck. I could fill them but this would be tedious so all of my models will be unhistorical looking as they will have the mast and sail in place regardless! This will be quite handy because I plan to add symbols to the sails for identification purposes - I will probably use some 15mm scale shield transfers intended for Hoplites. 

I have more than sufficient models to cobble together three DBN sized forces - possibly even four - so that will probably be my first port of call for the rules I will mess about with.

Justified and Ancients....

Greek-Persian duel.jpg

A suitably heroic interpretation of a Greek Hoplite smiting one of the Persian host

At the back end of last year I acquired a huge selection of blocks from the Command and Colours Ancients game from Tim Gow. The blocks were from each of the expansion sets to which I added the final expansion set number six - The Spartans. After having labelled each of the sets and stored them in six boxes they have sat on the shelf awaiting some inspiration on my part.

Last Wednesday night at the club we ran a small test of the rules which was only partially successful (it was not finished and inevitably some things were incorrect - nothing whatsoever to do with the fact I was being slaughtered  when we packed up for the evening!) but what it has done is to ignite the slow burner of ideas for this year.

As I have this huge selection of blocks for use you could be forgiven for thinking that I would be spoilt for choice as to what to 'do' first - Punic Wars, Macedonian adventures, Greeks and Persians, Romans of various sorts or barbarians by the yard. This would usually be my dilemma but his time, rather uncharacteristically (at least for me anyway) I have an instant plan in mind - and it is also one that I have mooted previously.

The Persian invasion of Greece which included the 300 Spartans, Salamis and the dust up at Plataea has long been of interest to me and with the blocks available I certainly have more than sufficient material to fight the land actions thereof. The final expansion set covering the Spartans also tackled the nuances of Hoplite warfare and so is far more representative than the original game. Obviously this is of prime consideration when gaming with an army primarily composed of Hoplites of various quality!

I am also in posssession of a small collection of Navwar 1/1200th scale ancient galleys as well as some really good reference material on naval warfare in the period so fighting the war afloat would not be too difficult to organise. I reckon that another dozen or so packs of ships (Navwar triremes are two to a pack) will be more than sufficient for my needs and would be good fun to paint up. Rod Langton has some lovely resin 1/1200th scale terrain pieces that would be useful (bear in mind that most naval battles of the era were invariably near the shore) and so i reckon that this is a very viable mini project.

Richard Nelson's book on Salamis contains a fast play set of rules based upon his WRG Fleet Action set that would serve for  a good game - he has also scaled the fleets at Salamis down to a grand total of a little under 60 models all in - and at this stage all I would need would be a suitable hexed playing surface to use them. Hexon is too large for the models as a 1/1200th trireme looks a little lost in the middle of a hex tile as ideally a hex around 40mm across the flats would be ideal. I have enough Heroscape sea tiles to put together an area equal to 13 x 9 hexes which would be usable for a start although there was a really nice 5ft by 3ft hexed mat featuring hexes the same size as are used with Heroscape (these are roughly 45mm across the flats). It was on eBay for  while but I have been unable to see it since. As I own a great wadof Heroscape tiles this would be a good investment methinks as I have a number of ideas that really need to make use of smaller hexes - also the smaller hexes take the Command and Colours blocks far more readily.

Much to ponder here methinks....;-)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Painter's Progress....Part 8

I put this picture up on its own simply because I rather liked it! You have got to love those French inspired Russian built battleships!

I have managed to finish the eight pre dreadnoughts for Fezia and Rusland so all I have for the current batch of models are the coastal defence warships which are already on the painting tray. I have two squadrons of four ships for each side and the plans are already in hand for the inaugural fleet action - coming to a blog near you soon....;-)

The Fezian battle squadron comprising the aforementioned Nusretieh and the three ex Teutonian Pommern type battleships.

The Rusland opposition - a pair of Fujis and a pair of Shikishimas (they are the ships with three funnels).

All of the above models are from Viking Forge and although they are quite detailed the castings suffered from mould lines and a fair amount of flash. For the record the military masts were a pain - as was cleaning up the turrets!

I have now painted 70 ships so far this year and have decided that my goal will be to paint at least 365 in total. I have more than enough ideas to fill this total and that does not include the previously mentioned Pacific set up. All will be revealed in due course.

Finally, I was unsuccessful in my recent second interview - because the person that I was being employed to replace changed their mind and decided to stay put.

Disappointed and annoyed does not even begin to scratch the surface!

Monday, 15 April 2013

The Painter's Progress....Part 7

For the record, I only intend running this series of posts until the current batch of models is complete - this of course being the pre dreadnoughts for Fezia and Rusland.

At the time of writing, the first eight of these are now at the 'ship's boats and funnel tops' stage which I am hoping to complete today with the basing etc tomorrow. The knock on effect is that my planned game will now take place later in the week but that should not be a problem. In any event I will need to get the fleet ship charts readied.

Mention of the ship's boats has reminded me of two points - firstly, on the models I am painting their is a prodigious quantity of them and secondly, I am never sure what colour to paint these. I tend to go for lifeboat white but that assumes they are upside down when of course for the most part they would either have covers on or be open to the elements. If they have covers then what colour should they be?

A tricky one to be sure but at the scale I am painting I will probably stick with the white versions as they add to the look in my opinion.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Painter's Progress....Part 6

I spent some time this afternoon having a bit of a tidy up of the painting tray. to begin with, I gave eight of the pre dreadnoughts some work with the decking and so should be able to finish them off tomorrow all being well and with the basing tackled on Monday. They should be in action on Tuesday, again, assuming nothing untoward gets in the way.

I also took the opportunity to clean up sixteen Stonewall WW1 German dreadnoughts and seven for the Royal Navy. I am awaiting a couple of replacements for the Royal Navy but made a start on the models in any event. For the Germans there is four of each of their main classes - Nassau, Helgoland, Kaiser and Konig (I know I need another Kaiser!) and for the RN the King Georges and a trio of Bellerophons received similar treatment. All very constructive I must say and very satisfying to complete.

I know you have seen it but I could not resist showing it off again!

The models that I was being very coy about in the previous post in this series are of course, Bismarck and H.M.S. Renown and they both featured in the recent Battle of the Norwegian Bend (as opposed to the Denmark Strait....). These were a pair of samples Mark at Stonewall kindly sent me wit my recent order. Bismarck was a delight to paint, Renown less so as the casting was a little soft around the edges. I shall be acquiring more to go with these in due course!

The 'not-quite-as-good-a-casting-as-Bismarck' model of H.M.S. Renown

I also had a moment of sheer whimsy as I rediscovered a box of goodies I acquired from Tim Gow some while ago. I won't give anything away (and I doubt if Tim will remember what it is) but it has just gone to the top of the painting pile after the pre dreadnoughts have been finished. It is self contained - meaning I won't have to add anything to it - and will provide something a little different for me to game with and an excuse to paint something a little more colourful....;-)

Still no word on the result of my second interview either....

Thoughts on Ships and stuff

Flat Top - the Avalon Hill version of the Battleline game designed by S. Craig Taylor (sadly deceased). Without a doubt this is one of my all time favourite board wargames

After the frenzy of gaming and painting warships of recent weeks, culminating in the action yesterday with the only two WW2 models I currently own, I have been giving some thought to what comes next. The most important decision I have taken is that 1/2400th will be the scale for anything 1895 and after - I really like the models - and that I will be making use of Stonewall models primarily, with a smattering of Panzerschiffe for the odd models I need to fill in the gaps. Aside from the Fezian and Rusland set up, together with the WW1 RN and High Seas Fleet, I will be tackling WW2 - I have two ships already so it would be rude not to add to them - and I have surprised myself by actually considering a Pacific set up.

The reason for this is tied in with my long time fondness for the old Avalon Hill boardgame Flat Top. The game covers carrier battles in the Pacific during 1942 although not the Midway operation. Contained in the box are loads of counters covering ships and air assets, task force organisation charts, the rules, a huge mounted map board of the area covered and, best of all, a pad of pre printed plot maps. The plan is simple and essentially means acquiring the models for the ship counters. The map is used for strategic moves and the models come out to resolve the tactical battles.

There is a school of thought that has the view that carrier actions or air strikes against a surface task force do not make for good naval games. I disagree with this because with the right mechanics a carrier strike can be great fun to fight for both players. It also give you the chance to paint up some aircraft models should you wish (which can be easily arranged). Back in the day when I was regularly playing Flat Top amassing great aerial armadas to knock out carrier task forces was hugely enjoyable although not for the faint hearted as the volume of anti aircraft fire a full sized US carrier group could put in the air was truly formidable!

I am also currently amassing a selection of aircraft for the Pacific theatre using Axis and Allies: Angels 20/Bandits High, so having the ships for the naval side extends my coverage of the theatre somewhat.

The great thing about this year of the Pacific War is that the US Navy was not quite the juggernaut it was to become later on and so requires care in how it is handled. For Japan of course it is a war of diminishing returns and so both sides have differing overall objectives which makes for a fertile background for wargames. As an aside, the Flat Top plot maps would also be very useful for any manner of small scale naval  mini campaigns - WW1 'hunt the raider' style games spring to mind.

For the time being though, my focus is on the Fezian and Rusland fleets with the WW1 British and German set up. When I get to WW2 the RN and KM will follow first of all but I will also need to consider the fleets for the Turkish involvement in the Middle Eastern project.

Mention of WW2 of course means the use of airpower and so that will also be something to consider for the rules I am using - the action yesterday was fought a set designed to 'end' in 1920. One to ponder for later in the year methinks.

Friday, 12 April 2013

The Battle of the Norwegian Bend, April 1941....Game Number 38

Somewhere off the coast of Northern Norway, at around 8,000 feet....

A photo reconaissance Spitfire

Thus far the flight had been mercifully uneventful. A quick transit over the North Sea and then a succession of visits to assorted Fjords in the hope of finding a large warship. Nothing. Not even any anti-aircraft fire for his troubles. The whole coastline seemed to be asleep. He was just entering the final Fjord of his journey when he noticed something. Below him was a very small fishing village with the usual array of small craft moored up safely in the harbour. He was just thinking how picturesque it looked when he saw a very large tanker berthed alongside the edge of the Fjord with what looked like a long and snake-like boom in the water. This had to be it, he thought. Why would a small fishing village need a tanker and a boom? His mind pondered this discovery. Refuelling a large ship - that had to be it! In any event he was getting close to the time he would need to return home and so he throttled back, banked and turned for a second look. There it was, a huge tanker that was riding high in the water, meaning only one thing - it was empty. He was convinced that he had found the lair of the beast and so headed out to the open sea at full throttle to report. With a sense of urgency he switched on his radio. "Rhubarb control this is Pot Roast 5, do you read me? Over".

R.A.F Glenfiddich, Northern Scotland....

The nasally clipped tones of the pilot of a lone reconnaissance Spitfire crackled into life in the radio room of the R.A.F. base. The air within was stale with sweat, cigarette smoke and the occasional waft of aviation exhaust fumes. Tension permeated the very fabric of the small wooden hut and assumed an almost physical form. It had been a long night and for little result. The duty officer switched on the mike. "Pot Roast 5, this is Rhubarb control, reading you loud and clear, over". The junior aircraft man made some fine adjustments on the bank of dials in front of him. The sound of static crackled on, the volume dwindling and increasing in response to the turn of the dials. "Rhubarb control, I arrived too late for the party and narrowly avoided taking part in the cleaning up"...."The cloud is low and so am I - I am returning home, over and out". The crackling stopped and silence once again reigned supreme. The duty officer sighed. He turned to his subordinate, his face a mask of stony resolve. "Get me the Admiralty and quickly, we have missed her in the bad weather so the ball is with them now!"

On the bridge of H.M.S. Renown, somewhere off Northern Norway....

Meanwhile, one hundred or so miles north of the where the Spitfire had passed, H.M.S. Renown continued with her patrol. Her captain was aware that the newest German battleship, Bismarck, had supposedly sortied and that it was his job to try and pin her down. He was not concerned about the finding of her but he was very concerned about becoming drawn into a fire fight against 15" shells with little more than light cruiser level armour for protection. As he scanned the horizon to the south through his binoculars he considered once again the dictum of Jackie Fisher about "Hitting first, hitting hard and keeping on hitting". He silently prayed to himself that should his path cross with the mighty Bismarck that his ship would be able to do just that. The alternative, being involved in long and drawn out gunnery duel, would leave only one winner and he doubted if it would be his ship.

On the bridge of K.M. Bismarck, somewhere off Northern Norway....

Her captain was troubled. So many things had been rushed concerning this operation. His ship was alone, without any escort, not even a cruiser. Her orders were contradictory - avoid action but engage with full power if needed - and even the mission itself was vague. Essentially he was to take the Bismarck around Iceland and home. This was purely for propaganda purposes, to demonstrate the impotence of the Royal Navy in the face of German naval might. As a student of military history he was reminded of Jeb Stuart's ride around the Union Army during the American Civil War. It made for great headlines but added little or nothing to the war effort. He was also reminded of how it ended for the Confederacy as well.

His ship was powerful one and he was confident it would give a good account of itself if it came to battle. The only problem was that he could ill afford a pyrrhic victory. By a strange coincidence he found his mind wandering back to what he had read about Jackie Fisher and something half remembered about  "Hitting first, hitting hard and keeping on hitting". If his officers and men were to ever see their homes again he would need to live up to that mantra.

The Norwegian Bend, 300 miles off Tromso in the Norwegian Sea....

H.M.S. Renown plunged on through the icy seas in a south westerly direction on the final leg of her sweep. Thus far she had come across nothing at all. Despite this her captain had the nagging feeling that he had overlooked something vital and so was about to order a minor change of course to double back when a shout from the radar room was heard.

"Contact heading North West!"

Everything seemed to happen at once as a flurry of bearings and speeds were urgently passed to the bridge. It was not one of theirs for certain and so could only be the missing German battleship.

"Sound Action Stations Number 1, ready all weapons and prepare to engage!" The Executive officer saluted crisply and barked out a succession of orders. H.M.S. Renown was going to war.

Dismay was the overriding emotion on the bridge of the Bismarck as she simultaneously discovered she was not alone. The enemy warship was not supposed to be there and was between her and home so would have to be engaged and dealt with, and quickly as well. Actions stations sounded and the great ship swung about to identify and engage her unexpected adversary. her captain pondered the identity of the enemy warship and hoped it would be an older ship rather than one of the new King George class battleships.

Almost simultaneously the two ships opened fire....


K.M. Bismarck in overall plain 1940 grey - one of the two sample 1/2400th scale models I received from Stonewall Figures. Not a bad casting and paints up very nicely indeed.

K.M. Bismarck - Battleship, Heavy Armour, Speed 4, Flotation points 45 (Critical 25 - this is high due to reluctance to sustain irreparable damage), 4 x Heavy Gun Dice, 6 x Light Gun Dice (3 on a broadside) and 8 x Light-1 Gun Dice (4 on a broadside).

Royal Navy

H.M.S. Renown - again in an early war overall grey scheme. This is not as 'crisp' a model as the Bismarck but still paints up very nicely and as a gaming piece is hard to beat at the price.

H.M.S. Renown - Battle Cruiser, Light Armour, Speed 4, Flotation points 30 (Critical 10), 3 x Heavy Gun Dice and 5 x Light Gun Dice (3 on a broadside).

The Battle of the Norwegian Bend, somewhere off Tromso in the Norwegian Sea....

The opening move sees the Renown speeding across to intercept the Bismarck who immediately turns in to face her enemy. The opening exchange of fire at maximum range was ineffective.

Whilst the Renown slows down with the intention of holding the inside of the Bismarck's turn once again the guns boom out - with devastating effect on the thinly armoured British ship.

Renown fights back and damages her assailant - but will it be enough?

Renown continues her turn but the Bismarck manages to cut across her bows and lets rip with another damaging salvo

Renown is real trouble now as her attempt to stay on the inside of the Bismarck's turn has left her stern on to the full weight of the enemy ship's broadside

Once again the Bismarck pounds the hapless battle cruiser as she speeds past her and away to safety. Renown has now suffered damage sufficient to take her within critical level and so she would be forced to break off the action.

The Captain of the Bismarck, despite the hammering administered to the hapless Renown, has no idea as to the whereabouts of the rest of the Royal Navy and so decides that heading home would be the most prudent course of action.

The from the wreckage of the bridge of the Renown with the smell of electrical fires and burnt cordite clinging thickly in the air, the Captain, with his hand in a bandage from a shrapnel wound, surveys the departing Bismarck with a mixture of pride and relief. Pride in the fact that his ship went head to head with a much more powerful opponent and stood up to a fearful pounding in the best traditions of the service and relief that at last it was over and that he could take his battered command to home and safety.

Bismarck had suffered very minor damage but more importantly, at least as far as her commander was concerned, was the fact that she had been spotted and so her mission was compromised. Of greater significance though was the question as to why on earth a commander of such an inferior ship would willingly engage such a superior opponent? Once again he secretly marvelled at the uncompromising attitude of his opponent and pondered a doom laden future against such an implacable enemy.


I used my version of the Portable Naval Wargame and it worked out pretty well. The Germans needed to brush the Renown aside and so with great aplomb. The Renown did all that could be expected of her but was badly let down by the shooting and her decision to try and turn inside the Bismarck. She was also very unlucky with her initiative rolls as she only won this on a single game turn. The German ship maintained full speed throughout and in retrospect perhaps Renown should have followed suit.

Renown was both brave and resolute and so the mighty Bismarck effectively blinked first.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Painter's Progress....Part 5

Today I managed to apply the first dry brush to the 16 pre dreadnoughts and then had a slight change of plan. I am now going to tackle these in two batches of 8. The split is between the coastal defence battleships and the front line versions. I am doing this solely because it will be quicker and it also will mean I can get them into action much sooner. For the record, I am tackling the bigger ships of the two types so the small coastal defence battleships will have to wait until next week.

The small 'pure pleasure of painting' project is at the varnishing stage and the basing will be tackled tomorrow. I am rather pleased with the way it has turned out although half of it has suffered from being a fairly poor casting. All being well I will have them up on the blog tomorrow.

Still no word re my second interview of yesterday - hopefully I will have some news tomorrow but I suspect it will now be next week.

I am not keeping my fingers crossed simply because it makes holding a paint brush rather awkward....;-)

The Chaco War - 1932 to 1935

The Osprey title covering the conflict

I have a confession to make. Were it not for the fact that Bob Cordery (Chaco War Blog Posts) has an interest in this war and had not only devised some rules but also produced some unit counters to use instead of figures (and thereby sowed this particular seed) it would have in all probability completely passed me by. I had never even heard of it!

However, and for a variety of reasons, I am now the proud owner of the above Osprey title which will serve as a good little primer to the conflict. I also have another title on the war set to one side and the news that our friends at Irregular Miniatures have launched a 15mm range for the war has absolutely no bearing whatsoever in this not-so-sudden interest in a new period.

We have added a 15mm Chaco wars range.
CHAP 1Infantry rifleman advancingA
CHAP 2Infantry SMG man advancingA
CHAP 3Infantry LMG man advancingA
CHAP 4Infantry engineer/standard bearer (please choose tool or flag-pole)A
CHAP 5Infantry officer with pistolA
CHAP 6HMG & 2 crewF
CHAP 7CavalrymanB
CHAP 8Horse holder and horseB
CHAP 9Mortar & 2 crewF
Mountain gun & 4 crew
CHAP 11Field gun & 4 crewJ
Howitzer & 4 crew

CHAB 1Infantry rifleman advancingA
CHAB 2Infantry SMG man advancingA
CHAB 3Infantry LMG man advancingA
CHAB 4Infantry engineer/standard bearer (please choose tool or flag-pole)A
CHAB 5Infantry officer with binocularsA
CHAB 6HMG & 2 crewF
CHAB 7CavalrymanB
CHAB 8Horse holder and horseB
CHAB 9Mortar & 2 crewF
CHAB 10Mountain gun & 4 crewJ
CHAB 11Field gun & 4 crewJ
CHAB 12Howitzer gun & 4 crewJ
Also use our Renault FT17 tank from the WW2 range

100 piece armies (Paraguayan or Bolivian) £25

None whatsoever.


(If I keep telling myself this for long enough I may even begin to believe it....)

It is obscure, little known and features some rather novel troops with a range of odd equipment including biplanes and Vickers 6 ton tanks so in honesty, what's not to like?

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

"The Sultan took Tea as usual"....Game Number 37

The small Fezian port of Rize was the principle centre for the processing of the tea crop, for which the region was renowned. Enormous quantities of tea were shipped throughout the length and breadth of the Fezian empire via this small coastal town and from the earliest times, the small port was a constant target for raiders and pirates. After the recent action in the western Fezian Sea, Rusland decided that it would, for the time being, confine its raiding activities to the eastern end of the sea and so naturally, Rize suddenly found itself in the firing line once again.

The Rusland raiding force of torpedo boat destroyers.

Admiral Saltykov decided that a quick raid by destroyers to bombard the harbour would be sufficient cause for the Fezians to redeploy their naval forces in order to counter the Rusland threat. His cruiser strength was currently down to a single vessel as although the turrets on the Muravev Amurtski had finally been completed, the damage sustained by the Amiral Kornilov and Admiral Nevelskoi was still under repair. Rather than risk an untried ship Saltykov decided that blooding his destroyers would be a less risky option.

The Fezian patrol centred around the light cruiser Midilli.

Unknown to Saltykov was the fact that Fezia had already taken steps to extend her patrol lines to cover the approaches to Rize. Due to the shortage of gun destroyers (due in part to the torpedo based tactical methods championed by the Teutonian naval mission)  Fezia had taken to supporting her torpedo armed types with a light cruiser. At this paticular juncture, the cruiser Midilli, accompanied by two torpedo boats, had been detailed to patrol the approaches to Rize. The four destroyers that made up the Rusland raiding force was not expecting any enemy activity this far out and so the stage was set for an affair of light forces.


Midilli - Light Cruiser, Light Armour, Speed 4, Flotation Points 6 (Critical 2), 6 x Light-1 Gun Dice (4 on a broadside) and two fixed torpedo tubes (one on either beam).

Bodrum and Marmaris - Torpedo Boat, Unarmoured, Speed 4, Flotation Points 4 (Critical 1), 1 x Light-1 Gun Dice and four trainable torpedo tubes (two forward and two along the centreline).


Loknya, Levintsy, Ladushkin and Lyskovo - Torpedo Boat Destroyer, Unarmoured, Speed 4, Flotation Points 4 (Critical 1), 2 x Light-1 Gun Dice and two trainable torpedo tubes along the centreline).

The Game

I will be using my usual rule set for this action and guess what? I have already seen a couple of very minor points that will need to be, ahem, adjusted. The main one concerns unarmoured vessels such as destroyers. The Light-1 gun dice discards the -1 when shooting at these vessels so the usual two point heavy hit for a 6 applies as normal. Further along from this, I am considering rules for the use of destroyer divisions of four ships as complete units - this will be really handy when fighting large actions (which will follow in due course).

Somewhere to the north of Rize, in the Eastern Fezian Sea....

The Fezian patrol - the light cruiser Midilli flanked by two torpedo boats.

The Rusland raiders shake out into attack formation - the central pair will concentrate on the Fezin cruiser.

The Rusland destroyers complete their deployment with the central pair heading for the Fezian cruiser whilst the other two move out to either flank.

Meanwhile, true to their training, the Fezian torpedo boats form up on the unengaged flank of their supporting cruiser.

As the two forces close in the Fezian cruiser reverses course in order to engage the central Rusland destroyers as she passes them with her torpedo boats following in her wake. Shots were exchanged from both sides with the Levintsy taking minor damage.

At full speed the two sides manouevre for an advantage with the Ruland destroyers closing on the rear of the Fezian line as their cruiser attempts to open the range. The cruiser opens fire and slightly damages the leading Rusland destroyer. Despite several near misses, the Fezians escape unscathed.

The Fezian torpedo boat Bodrum snap fires a torpedo at the pursuing Rusland destroyers and succeeds in sinking the Levintsy - her hull simply split in two under the impact!

With one accord the two sides draw apart to reform and consider their next moves.

The Rusland ships form into line to renew the attack and to avenge the loss of one of their number whilst the Fezian torpedo boats again fall in with the cruiser.

In a seemingly desperate gamble the Rusland destroyer Ladushkin fires off a single torpedo, more in hope than expectation, and scores a telling hit on the Fezian cruiser.

Despite her damage, the Fezian cruiser fights back hard and manages to cripple the Lyskovo with salvoes of 4.1" gunfire

Disaster can be a fickle mistress - the torpedo boat Bodrum scores again with a torpedo and manages to send the crippled Lyskovo to the bottom. With a cruel twist of fate though, the Rusland destroyer Loknya manages to  torpedo the Fezian cruiser squarely amidships and she quickly sinks!

The final reckoning. The Fezians lost the cruiser Midilli in exchange for a pair of destroyers - all of which were sunk by torpedoes.

When the news of the loss of the Midilli reached the Sultan he was apoplectic with anger. His temper was legendary and his rage was only mollified by the Teutonian naval attache immediately offereing a replacement ship of the same class. His pride appeased the Sultan decreed that a press blackout would be imposed with the loss of the two Rusland destroyers being emphasised and with no mention of the Fezian cruiser. As ever the daily news would appear to the population as being calm, tranquil and with nothing out of the ordinary to report. "The Sultan took tea as usual" would be the official line but the glibness of the comment fooled nobody - possibly not even the Sultan himself.


It was fast, up close and personal. It was also the first time that torpedoes were used in an offensive capacity. The rules for these worked pretty well and to be honest, the Fezian cruiser was quite unlucky to be torpedoed twice at maximum distance - needing a 6 to do so at that range. I used the two Rusland destroyers that operated in the same hex (at least until one of them was sunk) as a single unit for damage meaning that any hits from gunfire must be alternated between the ships. In effect destroyers operating in such a fashion receive fire on an area basis.

So far then, my actions with this latest round of models have been limited to cruisers and destroyers. I am thinking that perhaps it might be an idea to get out the big guns and start wielding some battleships.

This will be the next action then - so I had better get the models painted!

The Painter's Progress....Part 4

Phew! I am glad that's over with - both the interview (and many thanks for all the good wishes - please feel free to uncross any extremities you may have crossed on my behalf!) and the small matter of the final assembly of the remaining eight pre dreadnoughts and the undercoating of the same.

Well I had to do something to steady my nerves....;-)

Seriously though, now it is the inevitable waiting game to see if I have landed the job - possibly I will know this week but more likely next.

All sixteen pre dreadnoughts are now undercoated - which is just as well as it hides the lake of super glue I had to use when fixing the thrice cursed military masts in place. I shall be starting the painting of these tomorrow (I am at the club this evening) so the plan is to try and get the lot finished by the close of play on Sunday. I need to come up with around eight fictional names for the base labels so a trawl through Jane's and Conway's will feature at some point.

Oh, and I also managed to fit in another naval action which will appear on a blog near you soon....;-)

The Painter's Progress....Part 3

In a surge of enthusiasm I managed to assemble eight out of sixteen pre dreadnought battleships destined for the fleets of Fezia and Rusland so am confident that the brushwork will begin in earnest (actually it will begin in my loft if I were to split hairs....) by the weekend. The two items I am painting for the sheer delight of it are also moving along quite nicely so I expect them to be ready before then all being well.

Meanwhile, this evening's entertainment beckons as once again at the club we will be taking to the air in the skies over France in 1940 - with the French providing the opponents for the Luftwaffe for a change.

In the interim though (and this is partially why this post is a short one), I have a second interview for a permanent job this afternoon, so much collective crossing of extremities from each and everyone of you would be much appreciated!