Tuesday 31 January 2017

East Coast Convoy Tug, Lighters and Coaster

I snatched an hour or so this evening to add a tug, two coal lighters and an 800 ton coaster to the merchant fleet. The tug will represent HMT Growler, although it isn't a perfect match for the real thing. I only had two coal lighters in the bits box, so I think I may order a few more to make up a full string of barges. I wonder how they turn when under tow and what happens when one of them gets hit by a torpedo or sunk by gunfire? I'll have to check the rules. The coaster is also a very simple model, which has started me thinking about the potential for scratch-building something similar?

Sunday 29 January 2017

East Coast Convoy

I spent a pleasant couple of hours this afternoon gluing together the first half of a coastal convoy for Schnell Rules for Schnellboote scenarios. This consists of a 2800 ton and a 2500 ton tramp steamer, a 1500 ton collier and a rescue tug, all from the old Skytrex coastal forces range. The tug was an after thought but I enjoyed putting it together as it didn't involve lots of fiddling with bits of steel wire, which I used to replace the masts and booms* on the merchant shipping. I now have a coastal tanker, another 1500 ton collier and an 800 ton collier to do tomorrow. I may also add an escort trawler or perhaps a tug and some lighters, if I have the time.

*( I know the booms should really be laid flat on the hatch covers...but that didn't look right, so I have glued them in the 'up' position, which I think looks much better)

Stand By For Action

I read this as a tatty paperback years ago and thought it was great, so I decided to update my copy to digital with a download of the latest edition of Commander William Donald's autobiographical account of destroyer escort work on the East Coast Convoys. This really is one of the most riveting and absorbing first hand explanations of the battle against the enemy on the North Sea coastal convoy routes and, in particular, along 'E Boat Alley' during the early war years. Highly recommended, even if my digital copy doesn't feature the cracking artwork of my original tatty paperback version!

Friday 27 January 2017

Knights of the Sky 1917

I had to postpone the club game of WW1 dogfighting that was supposed to happen this week to early next month, so it is now going to run on the 7th February. It's a club favourite and uses a great set of 'house rules' called Knights of the Sky. At the moment, it's looking like the German Imperial Air Service will dominate the skies over Ypres but, with a bit of encouragement, the RFC should be able to scrape together some decent opposition. I plan to take to the skies in my trusty Harry Tate, which might be slow and steady but packs a pretty hefty punch, thanks to a Vickers up front and twin Lewis guns for the observer. Tally Ho!

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Vorpostenboote and Destroyer

I've had a rummage in the coastal forces box and have dug out some re-enforcements for the Schnell Rules for Schnellboote project which I had prepared last year but didn't get round to painting. First up are two Skytrex, now Heroics and Ros, Vorpostenboote(VP) armed trawlers for the Kriegsmarine. These are the same models with a few minor variations to make them a little different visually. They will be useful as convoy escorts for the Germans and as MTB / MGB hunters.

Second, is a rather splendid Skytrex Hunt I destroyer, which will be perfect in the opposite role as convoy escort for the British. I really like this model and plan to paint it up in a rather fetching dark grey / light grey camouflage pattern. It will represent HMS Exmoor, which was sunk by a torpedo fired by S30 on the East Coast convoy route in February 1941. I'll get started as soon as I can but I've also got half a dozen coastal tramp steamers, colliers and a tanker to clean up and assemble, which may take a bit longer to get organised?

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.


Saturday 14 January 2017

Schnell Rules for Schnellboote Turn Indicator

I decided to knock together a Turn Indicator for Schnell Rules for Schnellboote!, which you can use as an alternative to the Turning Arcs provided in the rules. The Turn Indicator is marked with a 60 degree line, which is the maximum turning angle allowed in the rules after a minimum forward movement, dependent upon the size of the relevant craft. This should in theory be a quicker and more convenient way to manoeuver, without having to fart about with cardboard bananas. I've also banged together some more record cards, this time for the USN, IJN, Regia Marina and Soviet Navy, which may come in handy if I expand my activities beyond the North Sea and Channel Islands.

Red Tobruk

A new book on the reading list this week, with both coastal warfare and fleet level wargaming in mind. This book is an autobiographical account which includes a wide range of actions from Norway, the East Coast and the Western Approaches to the Eastern Mediterranean. I have a Skytrex Hunt Class I destroyer in 1/600th on the workbench at the moment, so destroyer convoy escort action is definitely on the cards. At some point I also want to add a second 1/3000th scale fleet for Victory at Sea and Naval Thunder, with lots of destroyers for skirmish level games.

Friday 13 January 2017

Flashpoint Taiwan PLAAF Progress

Aside from all the coastal warfare resources I've been churning out, I've made some in-roads on the 1/600th scale Tumbling Dice PLAAF Cold War era aircraft for Target Locked-On! including a Foundry Chainmail basecoat, followed by the canopies in Vallejo Andrea Blue with a Deep Sky Blue highlight. I had already tried using the same approach for this that I use on 1/285th scale aircraft but it was far too muted and looked rubbish, so I went for a much brighter colour contrast.

I also black lined the panels with a 0.05'' fine liner pen, which was a bit hit and miss but far easier than using a brush! They look good enough from arms length and so I'll crack on and add the decals tomorrow before painting the bases and adding a few finishing touches. I probably won't bother black lining the canopies as it's just too fiddly in this scale. I'm now waiting for the F104 Starfighters and Taiwanese decals to arrive from Dom's Decals before I tackle the other half of the project.

Schnellboote Raus!

I've just finished laminating and cutting out the various counters and templates for Schnell Rules for Schnellboote, ready for a play test this weekend. I've added a firing arc template and torpedo firing arc template from 3rd Edition Action Stations!, to make it easier to judge angles of fire during the game. I've also cut out and laminated some 20cm circular fluorescent star shell markers, using some craft card that I found in the kid's hobby box, and pinched some simple torpedo markers from Victory at Sea: Age of Dreadnoughts

Now all I need to do is work through the rules and think up a basic encounter scenario, which should help me to fill in some of the grey areas e.g. when can you turn, do you need to move forward a minimum distance when using the turning arcs, as you do when using the 60 degree angle turn method? (answers on a postcard please!). I may well try out both movement and turning methods to see which works best or even combine the two, if that doesn't screw up the mechanics in the process.

Thursday 12 January 2017

'Blind' Markers for Schnellboote!

I realised that I'd need some markers for Schnell Rules for Schnellboote, as the game begins with all craft appearing as unidentified blinds, each with a corresponding dummy blind to add a bit of extra confusion. This is a simple way to replicate the difficulty of identifying what was going on when opposing coastal forces bumped into each other on moonless nights somewhere in the North Sea or English Channel.

It's a bit like blinds or 'bogeys' in Bag the Hun, which I have used many times before to simulate the 'fog of war' for scenarios. Anyway, without any other guidance to hand, I decided to make up some rectangular laminated markers for both sides, with a representative picture of an MTB or S Boat on the front and a blank reverse on which to write the identity, false or otherwise, in dry wipe pen. I think they should do the job!

Schnellrules for Schnellboote!

One of my renewed projects for 2017 is WW2 coastal warfare, which I've been meaning to get around to for a long time. A couple of years ago I painted a couple of opposing RN and Kriegsmarine forces for this, using 1/600th scale models by Skytrex and Tumbling Dice. I'm now in the intial stages of adding some coastal merchant ships and larger warships for the British, ready for a game next month at the club. 

I've decided to use David Manley's free quick play rules Schnell Rules for Schnellboote!, as they are ideal for the low complexity, easy to use and fast action style multiplayer games that I'm hoping to introduce at the club. I have updated my copy to what I think is the latest version (2.3) and have also designed a rather spiffy front cover for my print out.

To make life straightforward and record keeping down to a minimum, I've also word processed up some record sheets for the Kreigsmarine, Royal Navy and Merchant Navy, which can be printed off and laminated for use with dry wipe markers. I have made these fairly generic, aside from an ensign in the top right hand corner, but have yet to try them out so may have to edit them a bit later on.

I'm looking forward to re-booting this long overdue project in February, once I've finished the aircraft for Target Locked-On!


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