Welcome to my blog. I have upwards of 100 projects in various stages of incompletion or total abandonment, so you may well find something of interest. I try to post about everything I do, not just what goes according to plan, so it's a blog all about stumbling along in a roughly forward direction rather than reaching the destination, with lots of ideas for potential projects that will probably never see the light of day!
Over the holidays I sketched out some ideas for a counter factual clash between the Royal Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy, prior to the outbreak of the Russo Japanese War in 1904. This may seem a bit far fetched but, before the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the latter were seen as a significant potential threat to British interests in South East Asia and specifically in China. Although Russia was the bigger problem, the increasing economic and military strength of Japan together with her obvious ambitions for regional expansion, seemed equally worrying to the government.
If the Alliance had not occurred and the British had instead backed the Triple Intervention in 1895, then it wouldn't be entirely off the wall to have some sort of diplomatic 'incident' between the two rival powers. How about an alternative Boxer Rebellion in which Japanese forces stood by while the foreign legation was overrun? Or the Japanese mistakenly torpedoing a British cruiser or battleship in error, thinking it was Russian? This would then open up the possibility of a naval clash of some sort, perhaps even drawing in other countries with competing interests in the region like the USA, Russia and Germany.
...or perhaps not?
If the diplomatic relationship between Japan and Great Britain had nose-dived instead of blossomed, then the Japanese navy could still have acquired it's pre-dreadnought fleet from British yards before things deteriorated into conflict. As most of the shipbuilders concerned were private firms they would meet Japanese orders regardless of the position of the government, while at the same time building warships like the Canopus class pre-dreadnought battleships in response to the rising naval strength of Japan. The Japanese also bought warships from Italy, the USA, France and Germany and were constructing their own battleships by 1905 too
Anyway, the initial idea now is to build up a force of pre-dreadnought warships for the Royal Navy using the composition of the China Station fleet c1904, as a basis for the project. This is relatively straightforward and, on paper at least, would create a small but powerful naval force with some modern battleships, armoured cruisers, protected cruisers and torpedo boat destroyers. I have worked out that I can cover just about everything from the Tumbling Dice 1/2400th scale range as well, except for a couple of light cruisers.
I decided that I'm going to purge the lead pile over the next few weeks, with a load of stuff that I'll never get round to heading off to eBay to find a new home. The first instalment includes a British and French Napoleonic plastic bonanza of Victrix box sets, which I bought a few years ago to use with the original edition of Sharp Practice when that first came out. Although I like the idea of some skirmishing in sunny Spain, this will never happen, so it's all got to go. I'll be keeping my Perry plastic ACW pile for Sharp Practice 2 instead. I'm also selling off a couple of boxes of Wargames Factory Roman legionaries as well, as these have been gathering dust for far too long and I'm more likely to scale down to 10mm or 15mm for any Ancients project.
I arrived home today to find an unexpected parcel containing the 1/600th scale Chinese Nationalist insignia that I ordered from Dom's Decals back in January. This sort of postage time isn't unusual for Dom and, as long as you are aware that the stuff you've ordered will arrive at some point, there's no problem. I know that the decals business is very much a part time side line for him, so I'm happy to wait as the decals are really good and he's the only source in 1/600th scale anyway! At least I can now get on and finish the F-104 Starfighters for the Flashpoint Taiwan mini-project, so that I can then use them against the Chinese Communist MiG's and Beagles that I've already completed for Target Locked On!
I'm heading home over the weekend, so before I set off I've done the usual trawl of the newsagents for wargaming and military magazines. There are loads to choose from but I've narrowed it down to three of the usual suspects - Vae Victis, Los! and La Fana de l'Aviation, all of which have some interesting articles this month as well as some cracking artwork. On the way, I'm also going to try to grab a copy of Militaria, which has an Indochina uniform article on the 1er BPC, together with the current edition of Aerojournal. Au Revoir!
This really would make a brilliant miniatures game for a show, using 15mm Zvezda and PSC tanks and Hexon terrain instead of card counters and a hex map. I think I may put this idea forward at the club as a suggestion for the participation game at Warfare this year?
I went for a walk on the beach this morning and took some photos of the bunkers at the northern end of the industrial complex at Treguennec. These bunkers and associated structures were part of the defences of the aggregate extraction works nearby which supplied material for the construction of the Atlantic Wall in Brittany and Normandy. These bunkers were originally located in the dunes but eighty years of erosion have left them at the low tide line, with the inevitable consequences, although they are still quite well preserved. A really interesting site and well worth a visit, especially on a lovely sunny day like today.
One thing about the holidays is that I have the time to sit down and read through a set of rules properly, rather than just doing a quick skim read in between doing other less interesting things. I've been reading through Rise of the Battleships, the second re-formatted edition of which is now available via Wargame Vault.
The new version has been tidied up a bit, with an improved layout and design in line with Rory Crabb's other rules, which has made them easier to navigate. I thought the original set was well laid out and easy to read already but I guess the devil is in the detail. It certainly looks more professional and has a few tweaks and explanatory bits, which can only be a good thing.
I have also been sketching out a second 1/2400th scale fleet to use against the Japanese pre-dreadnoughts that I have collected from Tumbling Dice. This will be a British squadron rather than the obvious Russian option, which would seem to be counter intuitive but actually makes a lot of sense from a semi-historical, counter factual perspective. I'll explain more about how that works later.
I am conscious that a bad case of mission creep has started to cloud my judgement of late, with too many ideas whizzing about to be healthy. I should really be sticking to naval gaming this year, with a bit of aerial gaming thrown in for variety, not 15mm or 28mm skirmishy stuff, whether it's colonial, post-war or modern. I need a bit of a reality check, as I think I've definitely been over cooking the 'ooh shiny' project pie in the sky.
So, in an effort to come back down to earth and stick with what I've told myself to do, I've decided to postpone anything terrestrial to the Summer holidays and the latter half of the year. Instead, I will be concentrating on my 1/600 scale WW2 coastal warfare project, my long in the tooth 1/2400 scale 1864 Schleswig Holstein naval war project and my latest nautical interest, the Tumbling Dice 1/2400 scale pre-dreadnoughts. I will also be doing some more 1/600 scale modern and Cold War aircraft for Target Locked On!
I think this makes a lot more sense than chasing my tail with unrealistic and over enthusiastic sidelines.
I'm a big fan of model aircraft in wargames, so have been keen to incorporate some close air support in the 15mm Aden and Radfan project. This was an easy thing to do, as the RAF provided a very effective air to ground attack capability in the form of two squadrons of Hawker Hunter FGA.9 ground attack aircraft. These were tasked with strafing, bombing and rocket attacks on rebel targets especially hill forts, towers and sangars. These were particularly effective and often mentioned in accounts of the campaigns as being instrumental in breaking the enemies ability to fight on.
I also happen to have two Revell 1/144th scale kits of the Hawker Hunter FGA.9, a model which is hard to find and now out of production, despite being released only a few years ago. I would normally use 1/100th scale aircraft for this sort of thing but, as I'm trying to do this for minimal outlay, it makes a lot of sense to use what I've already got in the plastic kit pile. The smaller scale also gives a very effective forced perspective, which makes sense when you consider the relative height and speed of the jets in relation to the ground.
There are no rules for close air support in No End in Sight but I'm sure I can work something out using a mash up of the rules for Supporting Fire and Air Assault. In the Fireteam rules, fixed wing aircraft are included and there is a straightforward mechanism for calling in air strikes on ground targets, which is ideal for the situation I'm focussing on. You can even determine the type of ordnance that each aircraft is using against the target, so I can feature the use of 3'' rocket rails or SNEB pods and ADEN cannon in the strafing role.
I've been wondering what to do with the box of Perry Miniatures plastic Beja warriors that I've taken on holiday to glue together over the Easter break. I don't want to use them for The Men Who Would Be Kings or similar rules, as that would require many more figures than the box set provides, for which my 15mm lead pile is more than sufficient.
Instead, I have been looking for the colonial equivalent of a Western gunfight rule system much like A Fistful of Lead: Reloaded. In fact, this was my first port of call, with the Horse and Musket variant being an obvious option for colonial skirmishes in far flung corners of the British Empire. I really like these rules and reckon they would be great for small scale skirmish actions in the Sudan.
However, I remembered that I also have a copy of the old WRG skirmish rules, Fire and Steel, which I acquired many years ago for just this sort of thing. These would be perfect for colonial skirmish games with perhaps ten to twenty figures a side, exactly the right size for a box of plastic figures to cover. I'll have to dig them out and sketch out some ideas but, in the meantime, here's an excellent overview of the rules, albeit from.a now dormant webpage:
I picked up the latest copy of Flypast in the airport today, only to find a feature article on my favourite WW2 fighter aircraft, the Westland Whirlwind. This includes a range of photographs and a detailed coverage of Whirlwind ops for both No137 and No263 Squadron, the two units which flew this iconic but much maligned aircraft.
I have written several scenarios for Bag the Hun based on the ORB of No263 Squadron, a couple of which have even been published in a Toofatlardies Summer Special. I have several more scenarios up my sleeve so may well have a go at writing at least one more over the holidays, now that I've been inspired by this excellent article.
I'm of holiday for a few days so will be packing some stuff to keep me occupied on rainy afternoons. I vaguely remembered buying a box of Perry 28mm plastic mahdist figures ages ago on a whim, so had a rummaged in the loft and found them. These were originally destined for PITS in 28mm but I shelved that idea. I hate assembling plastic figures but thought this would be a relatively painless diversion over the Easter break, with a view to some low level colonial skirmish gaming of some sort, perhaps using a variant of Fistful of Lead: Reloaded, which is a splendid set of rules.
I set up another scenario for SRFSB this afternoon, with a destroyer on convoy escort intercepting a lone S Boat as it tried to penetrate the convoy defences. The destroyer was a Hunt class I, HMS Exmoor, while the S Boat was an S-38 class, S-47. The Kriegsmarine were given three dummy markers, which would only be revealed after being spotted, while HMS Exmoor was deployed as normal. The idea was to represent a typical night time encounter somewhere in E Boat Alley c1941.
In Turn One the three dummy S Boats deployed in line abreast at the Eastern end of the table, while HMS Exmoor positioned herself at the Western end on a course at right angles to the approaching torpedo boats. There was no spotting as both sides were almost a metre apart, so well out of range. In the movement phase, HMS Exmoor moved first as a Very Large ship, performing a 15 point turn to starboard which brought her onto a reciprocal course with the enemy. The three S Boat markers advanced at slow speed toward the convoy screen, with the southern most boat accelerating to Fast in order to gain a lead.
No doubt alerted by the engine noise from the last S Boat manoeuvre, or perhaps from a radio intercept by the HEADACHE W/T operator, the captain of HMS Exmoor ordered a star shell to be fired by the forward 4'' guns. This burst in between two of the S Boats after deviating by 20cm to the South West of the intended target. So far, so good for the crafty Kriegmarine but the destroyer captain was definitely onto something.
In Turn Two the afterglow of the star shell enabled a successful automatic spot attempt for the Royal Navy, with the range now down to 75cm. I rolled a D6. Using an ad-hoc approach, I determined that on a roll of 1-2 the target would be the real thing but on a 3-6 it would be a dummy. The result was a 2, so the dummy markers were removed and S-47 was revealed. I suppose I could have kept the other two markers on the table but, as I was playing solo, I went with the easier option.
Now the fun started, with the Royal Navy moving first due to the relative size of the destroyer compared to the S Boat. The captain ordered a 15 point starboard turn to bring HMS Exmoor onto a right angled course, crossing the bows of the approaching enemy. This would enable all guns on the destroyer to bear at the risk of exposing the flank of the ship to a torpedo attack. The commander of S-47 increased speed to Fast and accelerated toward the destroyer, ready to fire a salvo of torpedoes before the enemy had time to realise the threat and could blow his craft out of the water.
In the firing phase the S Boat was out of range but the destroyer could bring both 4'' twin mounts into action, the quad Pom Pom being also out of range. The range was 40cm requiring a modified 10+ on a D20 to hit. The aft gun crew scored an unmodified 1, so failed miserably, but the forward crew rolled an 18, which was modified down to a 12. A Hit!
The damage dice were rolled then modified due to target size and weapon calibre, to give a score of 5 and 15 for the hits from the twin 4'' mounting. This caused a Heavy Damage and Wrecked result so, taking the highest level of damage sustained, I rolled for the impact on weapon mounts, speed and manoeverability. All the gun mounting on S-47 were knocked out, probably due to flying splinters and blast, whilst speed and manoeuvre ratings were reduced two levels to medium. Ouch!
However, the immediate torpedo phase meant that S-47 could fire a spread of two 21'' torps directly into the path of HMS Exmoor, at a point blank range of just under 40cm. I decided to use the alternative torpedo rules, so placed two torpedo markers 15cm in front of the S-Boat, in a spread pattern based on the triangular template I had pinched from Action Stations. These would hit home next turn.
In Turn Three, the captain of HMS Exmoor realised the danger and ordered an immediate hard turn to port, in order to comb the torpedo tracks. This looked like it was going work as the destroyer was now positioned neatly between the two oncoming torpedo markers. In an attempt to get away as fast as possible, the commander of S-47 ordered a full starboard turn of 18cm, with a final 2cm forward move away from the on-rushing destroyer. With all of the 20mm guns knocked out, the S Boat was incapable of defending herself so could only hope to out run the enemy (I would have laid some smoke floats at this point, if they were in the rules).
A salvo of forward 4" fire splashed into wake of the S Boat as it disappeared into the darkness. I had rolled a measly 5 to hit, which when modified down to 3 for the small target, meant that the shells had missed. Perhaps the gunners had been put off their aim by the sudden swing to port, or by the two torpedo tracks that were bubbling their way down the port and starboard sides of the ship. Who knows?
Whatever the reason for their poor aim, the torpedoes now found their mark. In the alternative torpedo rules if a torpedo travels within 5cm of the target a potential hit could occur. I rolled a D20 for each of the torpedoes, modifying the score for target speed and size, with a final result of 11 and 21. I needed 14+ so one of the torps had hit, perhaps as result of its magnetic proximity fuse actually working for a change. A damage modifier of +11 minus 4 gave a base modifier of 9. I rolled 2 on the D6, giving a total damage score of 11. This was just enough to blow the bows off the destroyer and send her to the bottom.
I really enjoyed this game and thought it gave a very historical outcome. In fact, the real HMS Exmoor was sunk by a torpedo hit from S-30 in February 1941 in just this way, although with a hit to the stern rather than forward. It was great to try out the rules for torpedoes which seemed to work very well and to have a go at using a destroyer sized ship, rather than just small coastal craft. I didn't have to work anything out either, which meant that there was no head scratching involved.
Thanks again to David Manley for a cracking set of free fast play coastal warfare rules!
(I forgot to take any photos again so here's one of HMS Exmoor instead)
It's the Easter holidays so time to catch up on some reading, with this optimistically titled book at the top of the reading list. I have Mike Snook's book Go Strong into the Desert, which is brilliant, so I'm looking forward to this one, especially as a source of inspiration for colonial skirmishy wargaming. Yet another use for my desert terrain or even that dusty box of plastic zulus?
You may be interested to know that Tumbling Dice have just added thirty two British warship packs to the 1/2400th scale Age of Battleships range. There are no pictures on the website yet but I'm sure they are just as nice as the Japanese pre-dreadnoughts I already own.
The Royal Navy packs include battleships, armoured and protected cruisers, light cruisers and destroyers. I may well get some of these instead of the Russians, to use in a fictitious Anglo-Japanese naval conflict, even if that would have been extremely unlikely to the point of being a bit daft:
I played an enjoyable solo game of Schnell Rules for Schnellboote this morning, although I forgot to take any photos. The action involved a returning rotte of two S-38 E-Boats being intercepted by three Vosper 72'6 MTB's somewhere off the Hook of Holland c1942. I used dummy markers for both sides with an extra one thrown in to add some confusion. At the start of the game the Kriegsmarine were advancing at slow speed in line abreast from the West, while the Royal Navy were crossing the Germans T in line astern at the Eastern end of the table.
In Turn One and Two both sides approached to just outside spotting range, so nothing much happened. In Turn Three the Germans spotted the dummy MTB, which was removed from play, followed by a real MTB which was successfully 'de-cloaked'. The British then spotted all of the S Boats due to their larger size. Both sides then opened up but the range, speed and target sizes made hitting anything other than a barn door a waste of time.
In Turn Four the range closed to medium and the two forces ended up in a turning fight in the middle of the table. At this point, with several multiple weapon mounts blazing away, I decided to reinterpret the firing rules to speed things up. I rolled one D20 to hit regardless of the number of barrels per mount firing, which seemed to make sense, but multiple D6 damage and fire risk dice, determined by the number of barrels in action. This made more sense to me than rolling individually per gun mount to hit.
In the firefight, the 20mm cannon of the S Boats were concentrated in a cross fire on MTB 76, which took a pounding to be 'Wrecked' with all gun mounts knocked out and speed plus manoeuvre reduced to medium. Luckily for the crew a fire was avoided but, nonetheless, the boat was a total write off and had to make best it's escape. The S Boat commander decided to let it go, choosing instead to hunt down the other MTB's, which had failed miserably to hit anything and were heading in the opposite direction by the end of Turn Five.
The Royal Navy had clearly decided to cut and run, realising that twin HMG's were no match for multiple 20mm cannon. As they raced for the Southern edge of the table at Very Fast speed they were persued by the S Boats, which attempted cut them off at close range. Unfortunately, some bad dice rolling and the difficulty of hitting the very small MTB's with their foot down, meant that they were able to slip away into the darkness undamaged by the end of Turn Six.
This was a definite win for the Kriegsmarine and an embarrassing defeat for the Royal Navy, which lost one wrecked MTB without even scratching the paint work on the S Boats. In their defence, the British were outgunned and would probably have been better off avoiding contact in the first place. No wonder this was a job for the MGB's in 1942. It also highlighted the mutiple gun mount glitch, which I've resolved by reading the rules in a slightly different way. The game was good fun and gave a realistic result, despite having to interpret the rules here and there, so I'll be setting up another one soon.
With my change in jobs this year, to be an educational mercenary, I've been forced to cut back on my wargaming projects and significantly reduce my expenditure. This means that I have been looking for ways to double up or even triplicate the use of terrain, rules and figures in order to squeeze out the last drops of time, money and effort, rather than starting anything new.
The current focus has been on using my existing desert terrain as a platform for skirmish level games in both 28mm and 15mm, with an emphasis on the latter to keep the cost down. This is one reason why I've been planning the No End In Sight based project for post-war platoon level campaigning in Aden and other hot locations in the Cold War.
Today I had another idea. This would involve re-repurposing the 15mm Peter Pig colonial figures that I amassed (no exaggeration there!) for Patrols in the Sudan over a decade ago. I actually have a Madhist army for PITS and played a few games back in the day, but haven't used it for ages due to a lack of interested opponents at the club.
I do have plenty of spare figures for the British and Mahdist, however, including Hadendowah, Camel Corps, a Naval landing party, British and Egyptian infantry, artillery and some extras like heliograph teams, engineers and baggage. Quite a lot in fact. So, I thought to myself, why not use them for colonial skirmish games with Dan Mersey's The Men Who Would Be Kings rules?
It's just an idea at the moment but it would be virtually cost free and would help to reduce the lead mountain, without the need for loads of painting or vast numbers of bases. I'd like to have a crack at PITS again or possibly even Death in the Dark Continent with these figures but, as a realistic project, the skirmish option is far more likely to fit.
I was really impressed with the Blotz 15mm middle eastern compound that I ordered a couple of weeks ago so, as it was pay day yesterday, I've ordered a wider selection from the range including some single storey buildings and a couple of the smaller walled features. I will now have enough for a proper built up area for modern skirmish games in North Africa or the Arabian Gulf, as well as other uses like near future sci-fi or AK47.