Monday, 23 January 2017

Flashpoint Baltic Update

This little project has been side lined a bit over the last few weeks, as I've been busy with its Cold War counterpart, Flashpoint Taiwan, and with my coastal forces projects. I haven't forgotten about it, however, and will be making a start on the 1/600th scale modern jet fighter models as soon as I have some time to spare. I feel more confident about painting these, now that I've had some practice with the PLAAF planes, and have a much better handle on the approach I'm going to use. Anyway, I always try to keep up to date with the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission, which has now passed over to the Dutch from the French Air Force, so even more uses for the F16's in Target Locked On! than before. I may even have to add some more to the ones I've already based up?

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Schnell Rules for Schnellboote! After Action Report

As promised, here is a brief after action report on the play test game of David Manley's Schnell Rules for Schnellboote! that I played during the week. This was an early war encounter in the North Sea between a convoy escort detachment of a Fairmile B M/L and Round Table class trawler and a rotte of S26 class E Boats, probing the convoy defences in search of a weak point (the S Boats were actually S9 class models but I don't think that made a big difference to the scenario, as the factors are pretty much the same).

I set the game length at ten turns, after which the approach of dawn would mean withdrawal for the Kriegsmarine, but it lasted to turn five before I decided on a mutual withdrawal. This took about an hour of time to play out, which seemed about right for a fast play set of rules. I used the turn circles rather than turn templates but added a compulsory forward move before a turn could be taken, based on the rules for the latter. The map above shows the initial deployments.

Turn 1

In Turn 1 the S Boats spotted the dummy trawler, while the dummy British M/L and trawler 'spotted' the real S Boats, although this was by a process of elimination as dummies can't spot real targets, only other dummies. This meant that no actual counters were removed from the German side, only the dummy British trawler being eliminated from the game.

In the initiative phase both sides moved forward at a crawl, with the British advancing very slowly by 10cm and the Germans by 15cm in a straight line. There was no firing as no real targets had been spotted and the range was too great for most of the gun mounts to fire or to actually have a chance of hitting anything.

Turn 2

In Turn 2, the German S Boats attempted to spot the British M/L dummy, which was revealed to be a fake target and removed from the game. This meant that the Germans now knew the real location, if not the specific identity of the British M/L and trawler. The British attempted to spot the 'real' S Boats but both the M/L and trawler were out of spotting range.

The initiative was won by the Germans who passed it over to the British. The trawler and M/L increased speed to slow and continued their advance toward the S Boats. The German also increased speed to medium but decided to split into two rotte, with the dummy counters turning to starboard and the 'real' S Boats moving straight ahead.

There was no firing again due to the range and visibility.

Turn 3

In Turn 3 it started to kick off. The 'real' S Boats both attempted to spot the British and both achieved a successful identification, forcing the M/L and trawler to 'de-cloak'. The British also successfully spotted the real S Boats, so I decided to remove the dummy ones from the game at this point. They really should have stayed on table but I didn't think this was necessary as I was playing solo.

In the initiative phase, the British chose to move first advancing the trawler forward at maximum speed, while forcing the S Boats to move first in the small craft phase.

The first S Boat performed an S shaped turn to bring its port side firing arc to bear on the advancing trawler. The second S Boat continued forward then moved in an a wider S shaped starboard turn, aiming to line up its bow torpedo tubes on the starboard flank of the trawler. The M/L moved last, accelerating to medium speed and lining up on the first S Boat with it's forward guns.

In the firing phase, the M/L discovered that it's 2pdr forward gun was out of range of the first S Boat, so was unable to cause any damage. The trawler, however, scored a direct hit on the first S Boat with its bow mounted 12pdr gun (I used the factors for an 'up to 3'' gun for this) causing heavy damage and knocking out both torpedo mountings. It also lost a level of speed but did not catch fire.

In the return fire on the trawler, the first S Boat also scored a direct hit with it's twin and single mounted 20mm cannon. This knocked out the 12pdr mount and slowed the trawler down to a maximum very slow speed but again caused no fire to break out. The second S Boat also attempted to open fire on the trawler but was out of range. 

Turn 4

In Turn 3 the British won the initiative and forced the Germans to move first, although the British trawler had to move before them due to its larger size. With both torpedo tubes out of action, the damaged S Boat decided to retreat at maximum speed, turning to starboard and accelerating away from the battle. However, the second S Boat now moved into a flanking position to fire it's torpedoes at the British trawler, which had advanced forward and turned two points to port. The British M/L increased speed to medium and turned to port before advancing in pursuit of the retreating S Boat.

This led to a very narrow miss between the trawler and the M/L, largely due to the wide turning circle of the former and the over enthusiasm of the latter. In the end, the two RN craft scraped past each other in the darkness, no doubt causing a few heated words over the W/T and some rather nasty scratches on the paintwork. There are no rules for collisions, accidental or otherwise, in Schnellboote! so I may have a go at working some out based on the rules in Bulldogs Away!

In the firing phase, the damaged S Boat was also out of range and rapidly disappearing into the mist, so the M/L tried to bring its bow mounted 2pdr into action, only to find it was out of range too. The trawler opened up with its starboard 20mm at the second S Boat but missed due to a low D20 roll and the modifiers for a small target. The second S Boat held its fire as it now had a cunning plan!

The turn ended with an attempted torpedo launch by the now perfectly positioned second S Boat. Unfortunately, this turned out to be just inside the minimum range for a torpedo attack, leaving no time for the weapons to arm and run their course!  This was not a good day for the crew of S34! In frustration, they decided to withdraw to fight another day, leaving the trawler to lick it's wounds and hopefully drawing the M/L away from the damaged S Boat.

Turn 5

In Turn 5 the British won the initiative and moved first, with the trawler advancing forward and turning two points to starboard again. The S Boats were forced to move next, so the damaged one accelerated to fast speed in the direction of Holland, while the other S Boat also accelerated but in the opposite direction to draw away the M/L. The M/L obliged by pulling a tight turn to port away from the damaged S Boat and onto an interception course with the decoy.

In the firing phase, the trawler opened up with its aft 20mm Oerliken on the second S Boat as it sped past but missed as it was moving too fast. The S Boat fired back with its twin 20mm cannon but also missed, as it was itself moving too fast despite the target being the size of a barn door. The M/L opened fire with everything it had at the same S Boat but failed to hit despite rolling a 17, as the modifiers cut it down to an ineffective 8, which was not enough at that range.

The game ended at this point, as both sides decided it was time to withdraw.

The Results

I decided this was a draw. The British trawler and first S Boat were both heavily damaged, with the torpedo tubes knocked out on the latter making it impossible to attack the convoy. The trawler had lost it's forward gun, which also severely limited its ability to defend the convoy and itself. The M/L and second S Boat were undamaged but, with dawn approaching and fuel running low, neither could afford to carry on the fight, especially as the convoy still needed protection.

The Rules

I really enjoyed this game and found the rules easy and quick to use. There were only a couple of points that I needed to work out and for which I had to make up my mind, using the rules and common sense as a guide:

1. I measured firing range from the relevant mounting to the centre point of the target.
2. I wasn't sure about the rules for multiple gun mounts (firing per mount?)
3. I need to work out some basic rules for collisions.
4. I don't think dummies 'disappear' once all the real targets have been identified.

Other than that, it was all plain sailing and a lot of fun! I'll have a crack at another game at some point soon but really need to paint up some coastal merchant ships before I can run a proper convoy attack scenario. In the meantime, I'll have a go at those rules for collisions and rams!

Thanks to David for writing such neat set of rules and making them free to download too!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Flashpoint Taiwan PLAAF Finished

I added the splendid Dom's Decals Chinese Communist insignia decals to the PLAAF aircraft this morning, which proved to be far less fiddly and much easier than I expected. With a liberal splosh of Decalset the whole operation took about an hour, which I thought was pretty quick given the tiny size of the decals and the number of aircraft to be decked out. The only thing missing are the buzz numbers, which I can't get hold of for 1/600th scale.

The PLAAF MiG-19's, MiG-21's and Il-28's are now ready for a play test game of Target Locked-On! although I'm still waiting for my order of Chinese Nationalist decals and Tumbling Dice F104 Starfighters to arrive from Dom. As a first attempt at 1/600th scale painting I think they're OK, so I'm now ready to try something a little more complex than bare metal finish, with the Flashpoint Baltic fighters on the apron ready for painting.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Schnellboote: A Complete Operational History

A timely digital download for my coastal forces reference library this evening, with lots of useful background information on the development and deployment of the various Schnellboote flotillas in the Channel, the Baltic, the Black Sea, Mediterranean and North Sea. It was only 99p too!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

S Boat **** Up

I realised yesterday that I had mis-labelled four of my ex-Skytrex, now Heroics and Ros models as S26 class boats instead of earlier S9 types with the unenclosed forecastle. I don't know how this happened but I've now corrected it by re-labelling them all as pre-S26 class boats, which in their various marques looked like the classic Airfix E-Boat kit of my youth. They are now useable up to about 1941, so perfect for East Coast convoy raiding and escort duty off the Dutch coast. I've labelled them in the range 18 to 25 as the models have torpedo reloads which were carried on these boats during the war. Phew!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Happy Birthday to Me!

I had a really nice day off for my birthday today, which also included a very enjoyable solo play test game of Schnell Rules for Schnellboote! for which I will write a full after action report tomorrow. The game involved a convoy escort of a Fairmile B M/L and Round Table class trawler seeking out a pair of S26 class S Boats that were attempting to penetrate the defences of an East Coast convoy. Although it didn't end with a clear victory for either side, it really felt like the real thing and seemed to reflect what I have read about such night time coastal forces actions. A good game!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Narrow Seas Game Plan

It's my birthday tomorrow and, by an unexpected twist of events, I have the day off from my new job as a supply teacher. Woo hoo! To make the most of this fortuitous opportunity, I've decided to spend some of the morning on a play test run through of Schnell Rules for Schnellboote! using my early to mid-war  S9 and S26 class E Boats against my RN Fairmile B ML's and Vosper 72.5' MTBs. I haven't worked out a scenario yet but it will probably be a simple encounter at night, somewhere in the North Sea c1942. I'm looking forward to trying the rules for spotting, movement and firing, so that I can get a firm grip on the rules mechanisms and the 'feel' of the game itself. It will also be good preparation for a potential three or four player club game at some point next month.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Soviets for Schnellboote!

I haven't got any Soviet torpedo boats amongst my coastal forces but, given my current interest in all things Baltic, I thought I'd do a bit of background reading up on the subject. I've also put together a contact marker for Soviet use, with a rather splendid G5 torpedo boat as the motif. These were very small and very fast but had the disadvantage of having a stern launched torpedo system, very much in the same design as the British CMB's of WW1. I'm pretty sure that's where the designers picked up the idea. Anyway, there are a couple of packs of early and late war 1/600th scale G5's available from Heroics and Ros, from the old Skytrex range, so I may get a few for use against my E Boats.

Flashpoint Taiwan PLAAF Base Shades

I only had time to get the bases painted on the 1/600th scale Chinese Tumbling Dice aircraft for Flashpoint Taiwan this afternoon, having to help the sprog with his cooking homework instead. I decided to use Vallejo Pastel Blue rather than my usual Citadel Electric Blue, as I only have one very ancient bottle of the latter and I want to save it for my 1/285th Bag The Hun planes.

I haven't been able to source a match for Electric Blue so the slightly grey Pastel Blue shade will have to do. I quite like it, as it's quite toned down and less vibrant than the usual sky blue shades. All  I now need to do is add the decals and spray varnish the models, then I'll move on to the coastal warfare merchant shipping, while I wait for the other aircraft to arrive from Dom's Decals. I'm still really not happy with the canopies but...they'll just have to do!

Mighty Midgets

This supplement for the Command at Sea rules system caught my eye on Wargame Vault, so I downloaded a copy for use with other miniatures coastal forces rules. The supplement includes thirty one scenarios, from the Pacific, North Sea, English Channel, Baltic and Mediterranean, many of which at the lower end can easily be set up for 1/600th scale narrow seas action. There also a 'roleplaying' style campaign system for the English Channel and the Pacific which I can mine for ideas for club campaigns. It's a little bit pricey for what you get but it's very well put together and packed with lots of useful stuff. Recommended.