Wednesday 31 August 2016

Crimean War at Sea

Something for the long ferry journey home tomorrow. I know a bit about this, having read a few general history books on the Crimean War, but I'm sure there's a lot more to learn. I'm particularly interested in the naval war in the Baltic as I can see this fitting in very well with my 1864 project, and Tumbling Dice do some lovely transitional steam models too. It is probably going to be a story of blockades and shore bombardments, with the occasional clash between gunboats and patrol vessels, but still with some potential for a 'what if?' scenario or two.

Saturday 27 August 2016

Ile de Batz Fortifications

A few photos from our camping week which included a day trip to the Ile de Batz, just off shore from Roscoff. The first few are a small bunker complex on the SE corner of the island, over looking the approaches to the old port of Roscoff. The water was a fantastic shade of aquamarine as you can see. The second lot are of a small two gun redoubt on the adjacent point, which was originally constructed in the 1600's to control the anchorage and harbour approaches. They had a bit of a pirate problem at the time, so the battery was a useful deterrent and was subsequently used throughout the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. A nice day out!

Friday 26 August 2016

Torpilleur 275

I spotted this fantastic model of a French torpedo boat in the local maritime museum across the river a couple of days ago. It's about 1/40th scale or thereabouts and entirely scratch built. There's a very interesting set of explanatory notes alongside the display which details its service as a patrol, anti-submarine and life boat during the First World War. I wouldn't fancy going to sea in one of these, especially in bad weather, as it must have been like riding a torpedo armed metal surfboard.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Iron Stars

Colin of the Down Amongst the Lead Men blog has invited me to have a go with Iron Stars, the VSF space warfare game published by Majestic 12. When this set of rules and miniatures from Brigade Models was first released, a fellow club player tried to get me to take the plunge but my will power was too strong. 

Now, I quite like the idea of a small flotilla of British spaceships, especially as a new version of Iron Stars is soon to be published, which means that there may well be some new ships on the horizon from Brigade Models. Colin already has Russians and Austrians, so the British Empire seems like an obvious choice.

At the moment it looks as though the Iron Stars range has been sidelined, with the British battleship out of production leaving only the light cruisers and destroyers. I think I will be able to get away with these as a small flotilla, however, without the need for anything heavier? There's a nice little flotilla set to start me off too.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Chateau Taureau

We visited this fantastic coastal fort in the estuary approaches to Morlaix on our camping trip last week. I've always wanted to see this particular fort, so jumped at the chance to take the boat from Roscoff for a tour there and back again. The fort itself was designed by Vauban but constructed after his death, with a few cost cutting changes to the plans which made it less than effective. The lower case mates for the cannon filled with gun smoke, for example, which meant that the gunners couldn't see anything for at least half an hour after firing.

The fort was upgraded several times over the following three hundred years including the installation of Gribeauval mounted cannon on the upper level in the revolutionary period, followed by quick firing Hotchkiss anti-torpedo boat guns in the 1890's and even 20mm anti-aircraft flak cannons by the Germans in WW2. All of these developments were clearly explained in the various display boards  and the visitors guide, which isn't always the case in my experience of visiting sites like this in France. It was very similar to the English Heritage approach, which made it a very informative visit.

It's well worth a trip if you are in the area.

Sunday 21 August 2016

The Great War at Sea

A 99p purchase for the Kindle a while ago that I saved for reading over the holidays. The author has written a  well paced chronological account of the course of the First World War at Sea, which I'm hoping will follow the narrative approach taken in his study of the Russo Japanese War, The Fleet That Had To Die. This is an interesting subject which should make for an engaging read, while I continue to ponder my pre-dreadnought, Victorian naval options.

Saturday 20 August 2016

Rise of the Battleships

I've been off camping for a few days so have been off the radar with no access to the internet. As a result I missed the chance to download these new pre-dreadnought rules for free. However, they are now only two quid at Wargame Vault, so it's not a big deal.

They are designed for fast play with a handful of ships per side, so look very suitable for the sort of thing I'm thinking about. They also cover a broad time frame from the 1860's through to around 1900, so spot on for my 1/2400 Tumbling Dice 'what if?' British and French ironclad fleets.

The author, Rory Crabb, has also published a set of modern naval rules that look like they might be more user friendly than some other rules for the period. There are some good after action reports on his website which are well worth a look if this is your cup of tea:

Sunday 14 August 2016

Sail and Steam Navies

This set of rules has had some excellent reviews and is available as a bundle with several sets of colour 'print and play' ship counters on Wargame Vault. It's not cheap but does give you everything you could possibly want for ACW naval and riverine games in one package. I decided to get the bundle as a result, although it wipes out any other major acquisitions this month.

The ship counters are really well done but I think the ship record sheets are even more impressive, as they are full colour and very well designed. This is a good excuse to get some ACW naval warfare underway in the near future, which is something I've meant to do for years. I have a box of Peter Pig and Thoroughbred 1/600 scale ship kits somewhere too, so this is a good opportunity to make use of them!

Saturday 13 August 2016

Magasin de Presse


As usual I've collected a few interesting magazines while on holiday, with the latest Special Edition of Aerojournal and Los! on top of the list. These are both packed full of colour profiles, plans and photos, so excellent reference material for painting and scenarios, even if you have to do a bit of translation.

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Grand Fleets: Tsar and Emperor

I've added this Russo Japanese War naval rules supplement to my existing collection of rules, as I really liked the look of them from the preview and thought they'd fit in well with my tentative plans for pre-dreadnought era games.

I particularly liked the fact that they come with a set of pre-prepared ship data cards to use with plastic card holders and wipe off pens, which will save a lot of hassle. I had to do this myself for Victory at Sea, which was a bit of a pain.

The main Grand Fleets rules are also designed for both WW1 and WW2, so there's plenty of scope to use them with my 1/3000 scale French fleet too, for example. They are also on special offer at Wargame Vault, so well worth it even if only for scenario material.

Saturday 6 August 2016

The Fleet That Had To Die

This is the latest book on the holiday reading list and it really is very good indeed. The author has a narrative style that really brings the extraordinary voyage of the Russian Second Pacific Squadron to life but without sacrificing historical detail or depth. It's a fascinating if tragic story that I was familiar with already but that I now have a much more developed understanding of, especially the various stages of the voyage and the difficulties faced by Admiral Rozhestvensky, many of which were caused by his own government.

Of course, this is inevitably tugging me towards an RJW naval or, as an alternative, a pre-dreadnought imaginations 'what if?' project of some sort. I have a stockpile of potential rules that I've accumulated but would need to decide which of the several miniatures ranges and scales would be the best fit? In the meantime, I've been rifling through my pre-dreadnought rules collection and scouring the catalogues of Tumbling Dice, War Times Journal and Navwar, to name but a few of the manufacturers with potential miniatures in a variety of scales.

I also found this, which has really grabbed my attention!

Thursday 4 August 2016


I was reading the latest edition of the Naval Wargames Society newsletter the other day and picked up a reference to this American Civil War riverine campaign, which is designed for any set of ironclad rules rather than a specific system. I thought it looked interesting and might give me some ideas for a mini-campaign for the Second Schleswig War in the Baltic. It's not the same set up at all but the mechanics are what I'm really interested in as well as things to include such as repairs and reinforcements, weather effects and so on. I'm also interested in 1/600th scale ACW naval gaming as well, so it will be a useful resource either way. I'm starting to think that the rest of 2016 may well have a distinctly nautical focus?

Wednesday 3 August 2016

The Whirlwind Fighter Project

As I've mentioned before, one of my favourite aircraft of the Second World War is the Westland Whirlwind, so much so that I've written several scenarios for Bag the Hun Two in which it is the star player. Despite it's shortcomings in reliability and performance, together with it's limited operational life and relatively early retirement, it was a formidable aircraft and performed very well in it's ultimate role as a low level ground attack and anti shipping fighter bomber.

I was very surprised but also very pleased to find out that there is a project to fund and build an exact non-flying replica of a Whirlwind using as many original components as possible. So, if you have any Whirlwind bits and bobs lying around in your garden shed or at the back of your garage, I'm sure they'd be very keen to know! You can find out more about it and even sign up for membership via the link below or via the link on the sidebar opposite:

Tank on Tank

I've been playing the Tank on Tank: Westfront hex and counter boardgame over the last few days and there are some after action reports over on my other blog, Tea and a Wad Wargaming:

This is a really simple but enjoyable tactical WW2 game and, I think, would make an excellent basis for a show participation game using miniatures and Hexon terrain, perhaps using 10mm or 12mm vehicles mounted in troop sized units? It certainly models WW2 armour tactics very well and gives a fast flowing, exciting outcome with a minimum of mental stress, using easy to grasp mechanics and designed for pick up and play style gaming. Just a thought?

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Broadside and Ram 1864

I was really pleased to see that David Manley has produced a supplement for his fleet level ironclad rules Broadside and Ram for the 1864 Second Schleswig War. This is an on-going project of mine in 1/2400th scale using the Tumbling Dice Victorian naval range. I was planning to use Iron and Fire for this project but, as these rules are designed specifically for fast play fleet scale actions, they will be perfect for the Battle of Rugen and for the Battle of Heligoland. The content of the supplement is very much based on the material in the old Iron and Fire supplement, which I already have, but with new ship data for the Broadside and Ram system.

I was waiting to see if A&A Games Engineering were going to publish their sail and steam version of Grand Fleet Actions in the Age of Sail, which has been on their list of things to do for a while, but I will now use Broadside and Ram instead. I have all the models assembled for both the Danish and Prussian flotillas at Rugen, so I just need to get them painted to be ready for a game. I also have some merchants for blockade running and the relevant Austrian, Danish and Prussian warships for Heligoland, using proxy models from the Tumbling Dice British and French range. The 1864 naval war would make an excellent mini-campaign but I would need to work out a way to run it, perhaps using the Lissa Campaign in the rules as a basis for a series of linked games.

This is an excellent addition to the rules library and very good value as well. You can download the Broadside and Ram rules and the additional supplements from the Wargame Vault website. A big thank you to David for publishing the rules and the supplement, which I am looking forward to trying out when I get back from the holidays. In the meantime, I'm going to get some thinking done on the mini-campaign front, with a thorough read through of both the campaign material for Lissa and my reference stuff for the naval campaign in the Baltic in 1864. There are some great 'what if?' possibilities for a start!

Monday 1 August 2016

263 Squadron Whirlwind Missions [6]

It's the time of year again when I dig out my Bag the Hun Two scenario writing crayons and start scribbling down ideas. Over the last couple of years I've spent the summer holidays researching and developing a set of scenarios involving No263 Squadron RAF and it's Westland Whirlwind fighter bombers. The 'Whirlibomber' is one of my favourite fighter aircraft and it's short operational lifespan was nothing if not packed with action.

I have drawn heavily on the Squadron Operational Records Book and also a number of secondary sources, all of which have given me sufficient background information to create historically accurate yet playable scenarios. This year I managed to submit two of these for the Toofatlardies 2016 Summer Special, so it does pay off in the end, but I have at least half a dozen more in the development stage and there's no shortage of potential games to work on.

This seasons' efforts will revolve around anti-shipping and low level ground attack missions, which were the bread and butter for No263 Squadron in the Summer of 1943. The Whirlwind had been successfully tested with an operational bomb load in mid-1942 and this became a key weapon in the arsenal of the squadron as it perfected low level anti-shipping tactics alongside high level dive bombing techniques. A lot of these missions involved very low level hit and run attacks, escorted by top cover Spitfire VB's.

In particular, the pilots of No263 gained considerable success in Rhubarb and Roadstead missions against rail infrastructure targets and naval vessels at anchor in the ports of Brittany and Normandy in the Summer of 1943. This will be the focus for at least three separate scenarios based on the ORB, each one of a distinctly different nature but all involving very low level  attacks often under heavy flak or in challenging flying conditions.

I'll post more about each one when I've firmed things up and bit and filled in some gaps.


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