Sunday, 21 May 2017

Tumbling Dice 1/2400th British Pre-Dreadnoughts: Battleships and Armoured Cruisers

ABB1a Centurion Class BB (rebuilt)

ABB5 Canopus Class BB

ABB14 Cressy Class AC

ABB15 Drake Class AC

I promised to post some photos of the Tumbling Dice 1/2400th scale British Pre-Dreadnought models a while back but just didn't have time to get it sorted. So, to make up for my wayward time keeping, here are some pictures of a couple of the battleships and a couple of the armoured cruisers, warts and all. The armoured cruisers and very imposing models, especially the Drake Class which is half the length of HMS Centurion again. I like the exaggerated detail on these models, although others might find it a big over the top, as I think they will paint up very nicely indeed with a simple wash and dry brush technique. I'll add some photos of the protected cruisers, destroyers and gunboats tomorrow.

Prototype River Sections Finished

Before the wash and gloss varnish

After the wash and gloss varnish

I decided to paint the water in shades of green, with a blend from dark to light toward the edges of the river bank. This looked good when I first applied the various green shades but has been lost in the wash and varnish stages, which is a shame but not a complete disaster. I added a couple of coats of gloss acrylic varnish and some Gamers Grass Moss tufts to break up the banks and cover a few dodgy bits. I think the end result is OK, so will crack on and make a few more river sections over the next week or so, of I can find the time.

Modular River Terrain Test Continued

It's been a busy morning but I've now started painting the two prototype sections of modular river tiles, following the tried and tested method that I've used on the desert terrain. I'm now waiting for the GW Agrax Earthshade wash to dry completely, before I can add a light dry brush to the river banks. I'm hoping to get at least a basecoat on the river itself by the end of the day, although I'm unsure if I will paint it in shades of reflective blue or a muddy brown?

I've also ordered a rather cool plank and post bridge to go over the river from Supreme Littleness Designs. This has a nice western look to it, despite being designed for Napoleonics, Seven years War, Malburians et al, so I think it will fit in very well. I'm sure there's a scenario or two that I can devise featuring a bridge, no doubt involving some blowing up with dynamite! When it arrives, I'll work out the best way to base it and paint it, so that it fits in with the rest of the river sections.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Royal Navy China Station Fleet Extras

I was having a closer look at the China Station fleet list c1900-1905 that I devised a while ago, when I realised that I'd omitted some significant warships from the line up. The most obvious of these were the protected cruisers of the Diadem Class, HMS Argonaut and HMS Andromeda, both of which were stationed in the Far East in the time frame that my list covers. I'm not sure how I missed them but I did, so I have now edited the list to make sure they are there!

Notice the pair of single gun mountings

This class of protected cruiser was unusual in having no large calibre main gun turrets but instead were armed with pairs of secondary calibre 6" guns behind shields fore and aft. It was all very controversial at the time and obviously wasn't repeated, being far less potent than even a single large calibre mounting. Anyway, I've added them to the list and have also ordered two 1/2400th scale models from Tumbling Dice to fill the gap (ABB19). I've also ordered some B class torpedo boat destroyers, which I left off the original list as well.

Modular River Test Sections

I turned out a couple of test section of the modular river terrain today but, due to the damp weather, I've had to wait for them to dry out before I can undercoat them. In the end I abandoned my cunning plan to use string as foundation for the river bank edge and just slapped on a mix of PVA, filler and sand with a few stones pressed into the surface for good measure. The river was textured with acrylic modelling paste which is the bit that is still drying out, much to my annoyance, otherwise I would have sprayed both pieces already with Halfords Ultra Matt Khaki, ready for painting tomorrow.

Friday, 19 May 2017

River Wedges with Wiggly Edges

I had a nice email from Tony at East Riding Miniatures today. He's come up with a simple solution to my bendy river conundrum, in the shape of some curved 'pie wedge' sections of different radii, based on an order that another customer made for some road sections. The idea will be to modify the dimensions to be compatible with the 4'' wide river sections that I already have, with a slight wiggle to the outer curved edges to give them a more riverine look. I think this is an elegant solution and from a commercial point of view is also less wasteful and more economically viable. Perfect!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

An Inflexible Link

I was browsing through the Kindle Bookstore yesterday, when I came across this autobiographical account of the naval career of Lt Cdr J.A.Brander, who I had never heard of before.

There are a number of reasons why this attracted my interest, not least of which is the parallel life and times of my maternal grandfather, who also served during the Boxer Rebellion on the China Station as a Royal Naval engineer artificer.

Not only that, he later became the engineer in charge of the naval yard in Falmouth after the First World War, so there's a Cornish connection too. I also have an old photo of him in his full dress uniform which is almost identical to the one on the front cover.

This interesting little book was only a couple of quid and obviously relevant for my 1/2400th scale Pre-Dreadnought China Seas project, so a good find all round.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Bendy River Bits

I contacted Tony at East Riding Miniatures to ask him if he could design and laser cut some river bend templates for my desert river scratch building terrain project. As expected, he emailed me back with a thumbs up and some suggestions for the format, shape and size of the various curves. He's going to do some designing and test cutting tomorrow, so I'm hoping that he'll come up with something by the end of the week. I'll keep you posted on how he gets on and, in the meantime, will crack on with the first stage of construction, which will involve some string, glue, scatter material and a lots of textured filler.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Across the Rio Grande

I enjoyed making the cactus bases for Fistful of Lead: Reloaded games the other week, so thought I'd carry on with my desert terrain scratch building efforts. In the rules there are a number of campaign scenarios, one of which features a river crossing by a renegade gang, who are attempting to escape the posse that are hot on their heels. I like the sound of this but don't have any river sections, apart from some winter ones that are not exactly suitable for the Mexican border. What I do have are some lasercut 2mm mdf river templates from East Riding Miniatures, which I will be using to create a 3' plus length of river 4'' wide, including a handy removable ford section. I may also ask Tony at ERM to cut me some bends to match the straight sections that I already have, so that it doesn't look too regular.  

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Back to E Boat Alley

Way back in late February I assembled and undercoated a number of coastal warships in 1/600th scale for use with Schnell Rules for Schnellboote. These were also to fill in the gaps in my existing collection of MTB's, MGB's, S Boats and trawlers. I went off to do other things in the interim but have now dusted off four of the models in an effort to get them painted over the next couple of weeks. I have two Raumboote, now with torpedo tubes neatly removed, an M35 minesweeper and the Hunt Class I destroyer escort that I've already deployed in it's unpainted state for a couple of scenarios in E Boat Alley. Unfortunately, other things have got in the way this weekend including six hours of volunteer car parking for the kids scout troop yesterday and a four hour cricket match this morning, so I haven't been able to get them underway just yet.

Biting the Dust in the Back of Beyond

Circle the's just not cricket, you know!

Unfortunately, I've come to the decision that I'm not able to continue umpiring or running the Back of Beyond club campaign this summer, due to a clash with my son's cricket training and matches which are taking up both Tuesday evenings and most weekends. This is a real shame as I've enjoyed the games that I've played even though I've lost them all! I'm also not going to be running any more campaigns for the foreseeable future, as I just don't have the time to set them up or to oversee them, not to mention the fact that my chosen games of AK47, Bag the Hun and Fistful of Lead: Reloaded aren't top of everyone's list when it comes to club interests. C'est la my other half would say.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Monroe's Legacy

I've been reviewing the various sets of pre-dreadnought rules that I have on my hard drive this week, taking some time to read them through to get a flavour of the mechanics and to test the waters, so to speak. I have about half a dozen assorted rules from a range of publishers, so there's no shortage of options to choose from or to play around with, which is one of the benefits of naval gaming as you are not tied down to any basing regimen or complicated terrain requirements.

I've also been perusing a number of rules sets that I don't already own, with particular reference to the Naval Thunder Pre-Dreadnought variant and The Admiralty Trilogy Group's offering, Dawn of the Battleship. These both look really interesting, especially the supplement for the latter that covers pre-dreadnought scenarios involving the precursors of the USN Great White Fleet, both historical and counter-factual, Monroe's Legacy. 

I've read through a sample of one of these fictional scenarios and it is both well thought out and realistic, with some cracking ideas that would provide for a very engaging game. This could be a model for my own solo mini-campaign ideas for the South China Seas, who knows? The cost isn't prohibitive but I'd be looking to get both the rules and the scenario supplement, so it could add up to quite a bit.

On the other hand, it's pay day tomorrow and I've just had my contract extended to the end of July!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Coal Scuttle Brigade

I had a dog eared old paperback copy of this book and read it a couple of times but have lost it somewhere in the pile of stuff up in the loft, so I was very pleased to find a digital copy for 99p the other day. It is a cracking read and full of the sort of tough action you'd expect from the East Coast convoy merchant ships and their crew, not to mention the wavy navy which dominated the trawler, frigate and destroyer escorts. It's also packed with scenario material and useful information that makes all the difference to a realistic game. A good read and definitely worth the minimal outlay, even if the original 1970's artwork on the cover had been replaced with a rather uninspiring photograph.

That's more like it!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Old West Terrain Board Ideas

All this cactus terrain construction has got me thinking about knocking together a proper, custom made desert terrain board for Fistful of Lead: Reloaded and other skirmish games in hot places. I normally just chuck a beige coloured cloth over a table but, now I have a half decent set of terrain pieces, I thought I might as well have a permanent but portable desert terrain board as well.

The majority of scenarios for FFofL:R are on a 3' x 3' area, so not too big to be a single square board, as long as it isn't too hefty. I could make one out of wooden battens and mdf sheet but, I thought I'd try out a 100mm x 100mm stretched artist's canvas frame, which would be very light and is designed to be painted on after a skim of acrylic medium to add some texture.

The only problem would be that the canvas is a bit 'bouncy' but with some expanded polystyrene sheet cut to size and fitted inside the frame, I reckon it would be far more rigid. It's worth a try and, if I can find a cheap one in The Works or Hobbycraft, then I think it could work really well. It would definitely be better than a cloth and I could match the texturing and colour scheme to my existing terrain.

Monday, 8 May 2017


It's cricket training and matches for the sprog on Tuesday evenings from now until the summer holidays, which means that I won't be able to get to the club for any convivial wargaming other than the few occasions when he's not involved. This is only about three or four days between now and August, so I am well and truly stumped! Any games I can get to will have to be 'off the cuff' or something I can just throw together at short notice if rain stops play, so it will be a case of fitting in the gaming around the cricket rather than the other way round. It also means that I'm going to have to knock the club Back of Beyond campaign on the head early, although I'll try to set up one last big multiplayer battle if I can to wrap it up. Bugger.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Old West Cactus Scatter Terrain Finished

I blitzed the last couple of stages on the cactus scatter terrain this evening, adding a mixture of Gamers Grass Dry Green and  Light Green tufts, together with a few sprigs of Army Painter Meadow Flowers, to add a bit of colour. I left these to dry while I painted the abandoned wagon wheel in various dusty shades, then over brushed the tufts in Foundry Boneyard to tone them down a bit. I'd like to add some more but I think that's it. I'm quite pleased with the overall effect and can't praise the plastic resin cactus more than enough, as they are easy to work with, perfect for 28mm and very good value for money at only £9 for twelve bases worth. Fill 'yer boots! main_page=product_info&cPath=254_262&products_id=2060

Old West Cactus Continued

I've now painted the actual cactus in a combination of Foundry French Gun Olive Green Shade, followed by a dry brush in Foundry Phlegm Green Light and Army Painter Necrotic Green, which took ages to do but looks the part. I now only need to do a bit of tidying up here and there before I can add the tufts to finish off the bases. I'm quite pleased with these so far and am now thinking of adding some other scatter terrain pieces including some rocky outcrops and scrub.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Old West Cactus Bases Painted

I finished painting the bases on the cactus scatter terrain pieces this afternoon, with the end result looking not too bad. I copied the same approach that I have used on the rest of the desert terrain in my collection but the match isn't spot on for some reason, not that that's a major problem. I'll paint the cactus plants themselves tomorrow and add some tufts, static grass and the like to finish them off, ready for another game of A Fistful of Lead: Reloaded. I think the Bad Times in the Badlands scenario would be perfect for the cactus debut!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Baltic Air Policing NATO exercises

There's been quite a lot of air activity in the Baltic States of late, with USAF F-35A's forward deployed to Estonia for familiarisation exercises and the multi-national NATO exercise Ramstein Alloy 4 in Lithuania. The brilliant The Aviationist website has some outstanding photos taken of the latter, featuring Dutch F-16's and German Eurofighter Typhoons, which have given me some more thoughts about painting the 1/600th scale Oddzial Ozmy planes that I have based for Target Locked On! I may even dig them out this weekend and have a go?

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Pre-Dreadnought China Station Royal Navy Fleet

HMS King Alfred

I've spent some time over the weekend working out the various potential permutations for a Royal Navy China Station pre-dreadnought fleet. This is based on various online sources and the relevant titles that I have on the bookshelves, so isn't just plucked out of thin air and should bear some relationship to the actual deployment of warships on the China Station c1900-1905, the time bracket for my proposed solo mini-campaign. I've also worked out the various codes from the Tumbling Dice 1/2400th scale range, so that I can order a few battleships, cruisers and torpedo boat destroyers as a starting point. I think that 1903-04 offers the most scope for an interesting mix of warships, with potential for a naval clash against my Imperial Japanese.
HMS Centurion

Royal Navy China Station Fleet c1900-1905
Pre-Dreadnought Battleships                                                                         
HMS Centurion (Centurion Class) 1894-1901 / 1903 – 1905                            

HMS Barfleur (Centurion Class) 1898-1901                                                                    

HMS Goliath (Canopus Class) 1900-1903 / 1905 (recalled)

HMS Albion (Canopus Class) 1901-1905 (relieved HMS Barfleur)

HMS Ocean (Canopus Class) 1901-1905

HMS Glory (Canopus Class) 1900-1905 (refitting 1901-02)

HMS Vengeance (Canopus Class) 1903-1905 (relieved HMS Goliath)            

Armoured Cruisers

HMS Cressy (Cressy Class) 1901 -

HMS Hogue (Cressy Class) 1904 -

HMS King Alfred (Drake Class) 1903 -

HMS Leviathan (Drake Class) 1903-1904                                                                   

Protected Cruisers

HMS Iphigenia (Apollo Class) 1900 / 1903 -                                                         

HMS Thetis (Apollo Class) 1902 –                                                                              

HMS Sirius (Apollo Class) 1903 -                                                                             

HMS Dido (Eclipse Class) 1900 – 1901                                                                   

HMS Talbot (Eclipse Class) 1902-                                                                                              

HMS Eclipse (Eclipse Class) 1903                                                                             

HMS Bonaventure (Astrea Class) 1901 – / 1904

HMS Astrea (Astrea Class) 1900 - 1901                                                              

Torpedo Boat Destroyers
HMS Arun / HMS Dee / HMS Itchen (River Class) 1904                               
HMS Erne / HMS Errick / HMS Exe (River Class) 1905                                         

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Old West Cactus Basecoat

I've been out at the sprog's cricket match most of the evening, so haven't had time to do anything apart from an undercoat on a couple of the cactus bases that I prepared over the weekend. These have been sprayed in Halfords Ultra Matt Camouflage Khaki ready for dry brushing and washing, once they've thoroughly cured. I'll just do these two as test pieces for the moment so that I don't muck up the whole lot in one fell swoop! It's all a bit unexciting and beige at the moment but should look better after the next stage.

Monday, 1 May 2017

15mm Sci-Fi SWAT APC

I was in Poundland today when I spotted these Hotwheels toys near the check out. They're supposed to be some sort of X Ray scanning rescue vehicle but I thought that, with the big yellow plastic arm removed, they would make pretty good SWAT trucks or APC's for the 15mm GZG Sci-Fi police figures that I bought in the Xmas sale.

I picked up three of them and drilled out the plastic rivets on one, to separate the plastic body and inner section from the metal chassis, so that I could remove the big yellow arm thing. After re-assembling the parts I reckon I could either add a crew figure into the top hatch or a weapon mount from the GZG or Brigade Models accessories range, to create armoured riot response vehicle for SWAT transport and fire support.

They would also do as generic transport or cargo vehicles for military use. Not bad for a quid each!

Old West Cactus Basing

I didn't get the cactus bases painted today but I have blended them in with a mix of wall filler, PVA glue and sand, followed by a sprinkling of model railway ballast to add a bit of texture. I'll sand them down a bit tomorrow when they have completely dried then basecoat the whole lot in a desert khaki shade to match my other terrain, ready for some washing and dry brushing. I think they will look pretty good, especially if I also add some tufts and weeds around the bases.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Plastic Cactus

I was looking for something manageable for a weekend project when I found a box of plastic resin cacti which I bought at Colours last year then forgot about. They are actually produced by Shell Hole Scenics as 20mm cacti, for use with their Mexican Revolution range of figures, but I thought they would be perfect for the Wild West in 28mm too. I've based them up on laser cut small irregular terrain bases from East Riding Miniatures using some cheap liquid superglue to fix them down securely.

I'll add a mix of Polyfilla and PVA to blend them into the bases tomorrow, then add some sand and small stones for texturing, before I basecoat the whole lot in Halfords Ultra Matt Khaki. I'll then be able to paint and dry brush the bases and cacti to match in with the rest of my terrain for A Fistful of Lead: Reloaded skirmish games, which I'm planning to take to the club again in a couple of weeks time.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Pre-Dreadnought China Seas Campaign Map

I've been thinking about ideas for a simple solo pre-dreadnought naval campaign, based on a counter-factual clash between the colonial powers in the South and East China Seas. This would be very much along the lines of the campaign approach from Victory at Sea: Age of Dreadnoughts, perhaps using the operational campaign variant from the Far Flung Seas supplement, depending on the scope of the campaign. If it was just an Anglo-Japanese clash the latter would work well but, for a wider campaign involving the German, Russians, United States, Chinese and French, the multiplayer system in the core rules would be better.

Anyway, it wouldn't be tied down to Victory at Sea and could be based on a different system or approach. I like the look of Rory Crabb's Rise of the Battleship rules and have also been looking at Naval Thunder as a possible option.  Regardless of the rules, you always need a good campaign map to plot movement and gain a strategic overview, so I was pleased to find this one online. It is a contemporary (c1898) map of the colonial possessions in the region and, although earlier than the time period I'd like to focus on, it does provide a handy map on which to base any campaign planning. This is all a bit hypothetical at the moment but it's a good start.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Burma '44

I'm reading this at the moment, having flicked through a paperback copy on the ferry and then downloaded a copy onto the Kindle. I don't tend to buy paperbacks anymore, preferring the digital option especially as I now can read books on my phone, thanks to the Kindle App for Samsung. I do, however, still buy proper hardbacks when I can afford them, as I do like the heft and ease of reading of a proper book.

This is an excellent account of the battle for the Admin Box and fits in well with my existing background book work on the campaign in Burma, which I have long wanted to game and which is a fascinating subject in its own right. It's very similar in style and approach to Feargal Keane's Road of Bones, which is another cracking read but which focuses on the Kohima and Imphal battles. I can definitely recommend both titles if you are a 'Forgotten Army' enthusiast.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

TD Japanese Pre-Dreadnoughts: The Cruisers

ABJ8 Tsushima
ABJ9 Suma
ABJ7 Asama
ABJ5 Idzumo

A second instalment of photos of the unassembled, what you see is what you get, Tumbling Dice 1/2400th scale pre-dreadnought era Japanese warships. This time I have some pictures of some of the armoured cruisers and light or protected cruisers. I've dropped the central superstructure section into some of these so that the overall profile is more evident. I really like the armoured cruisers, the Idzumo and Asama, both of which are really hefty and outsize many of the pre-dreadnought battleships. I'm sure they will pack a pretty good punch as well.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Wargames Soldiers and Strategy 90

I have a little bit in the latest edition of Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy, although if you blinked you'd probably miss it. I submitted an article on the De Havilland DH5 which was a bit late and didn't make it into the 1917 theme section, mainly due to the fact that there are two really good articles on aerial warfare already included.

Anyway, the editor did use a couple of hundred words from my blurb in the introductory article and was nice enough to credit me, so I now have something published in the mainstream wargaming press (even if they spelt my name incorrectly). I also got a bit of pocket money and a free copy of the magazine, which was a bonus and much appreciated. Thanks Guy.

I'll get my act together next time and submit something well ahead of the deadline so hope to get a proper article published, if it's good enough, at some point in the not too distant future. This issue is actually really good and you should check out the 2mm Siege of Portsmouth article by Mark Backhouse in particular, as it is well worth it if only for the stonking terrain.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Anglo Japanese Naval War 'What If?' c1904

What if this never happened?

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.

Just an idea but I think it has potential.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

For Sale (one careful owner!)

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.