Friday 31 July 2020

1/600th Scale Modular Riverbank and Lakeside Terrain

I'm going to need some new scratchbuilt terrain for my 1/600th scale Steamer Wars project, so I thought I might as well 'kill two birds with one stone' and design it to be used for 1/600th ACW ironclad games as well. I've made my own coastal terrain modules before, so will use the same method again but change the scenery to something like the shores of Lake Tanganyika or the Yazoo River, which are not that dissimilar in terms of ground finish and vegetation, even if the water is a completely different colour.

I have in mind a series of modular terrain sections that could be used as shoreline or river banks, very much like the ones that I saw used at Colours a few years ago for Russian Civil War riverine actions. I think this was a Naval Wargames Society Steamer Wars demonstration game and very good it was too, so if I can do something similar I will be chuffed. I really liked the clever design of the river shore sections, which were used with two foot square river boards, arranged to create a realistic series of bends and meanders. What a clever idea!

Thursday 30 July 2020

USS Monitor vs CSS Virginia DAC Playtest

I'm now on holiday in Brittany, which may or may not last a few weeks depending on which side of the fag packet Boris and Dom have been scribbling on, so I've got everything ready for a playtest game of Dahlgren and Columbiad, using the print and play counters that I prepared before I left home. I thought the easiest way to learn the rules would be to try them out over the holidays with the laminated paper counters, so that I am up to speed when I return and can use proper metal models, in 1/600th for riverine and coastal ACW actions but also in other smaller scales. The first game I'm going to play will be a very loosely historical scenario based on the ironclad clash in Hampton Roads between the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor, which seemed like an obvious choice. I'm going to play it out tomorrow, once I've read through the rules one more time to brush up on the various mechanisms, with more scenarios to follow if it all goes according to plan. Full steam ahead!

Wednesday 29 July 2020

The Phantom Flotilla

I'm now re-reading Peter Shankland's excellent book on the Lake Tanganyika campaign, having originally read a tatty old paperback copy that I bought second hand many years ago, the one with the action packed front cover art that really makes you want to wargame it.

That's a bit more like it!

The digital copy I'm reading now is far less dramatic, with a blurry photograph of Netta complete with Spicer Simpson semaphore signalling away like a deranged scarecrow, in a skirt obviously. It's a great book in either format and full of interesting anecdotes, useful details, contemporary photos and action reports, so well worth a look. His books on the Dardanelles E1 submarine operations and Malta Convoys are also excellent.

Monday 27 July 2020

USS Monitor and CSS Virginia

I've got a spare space in my box of stuff that I'm taking on holiday which is just the right size for the 1/600th scale Thoroughbred Miniatures double set of USS Monitor and CSS Virginia that I originally slated as a project back in March this year. If I get bored with assembling hordes of 1/2400th scale ironclads and men of war, I can now give myself a break with some much larger model construction, which should also be a lot easier on the eyesight!

Sunday 26 July 2020

New Tumbling Dice Victorian Naval Ships

A couple of new packs have materialised in the 1/2400th scale Tumbling Dice ASV Victorian naval range, with a definite South American focus. The first is a pack of two Large Gunboats, which I assume are for the Chilean and Peruvian navies of the War of the Pacific, although they could equally well be generic warships to complement the existing Crimean War era gunboats. The second pack is clearly aimed at the aforementioned conflict, with two of the Canonicus class monitors that the Peruvians acquired second hand in 1868. It will be interesting to see if they are modelled with masts as delivered or without as they would have been deployed in the war. I've added both packs to my latest order, so will find out what they are like after I get back from my holidays.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Barbettes in Broadside and Ram

French Barbette Mounting

I've been thinking of ways to incorporate the barbette armament of later French and British ironclads in Broadside and Ram. A good example would be HMS Temeraire, which combined fore and aft 11'' barbette mounts with a central battery, which also allowed for limited fore and aft fire. The barbette guns were trainable and had a similar arc of fire to turrets but the central battery was designed primarily for use as a broadside. 

The solution that I've come up with is a bit of a fudge but is in keeping with the spirit of the rules, which aggregates all armament into a basic Attack Factor or AF, ranging from one to five. To keep it as simple as possible, I am suggesting that ships equipped with barbette mountings cannot use the 360 degree arc of turret equipped ironclads, many of which were monitors with no masts or rigging to get in the way, but can instead fire in a 45 degree arc from either beam. 

HMS Temeraire

In the rules this is the standard arc of fire but I have changed this to a 22.5 degree arc, so a 45 degree arc is a distinct advantage over conventional broadside ironclads. It does not, however, allow for end on fire, so I may also allow ships with fore and aft barbette mountings to fire directly ahead or directly behind. If the barbettes can fire fore or aft, this would be a quarter of the full AF, rounded up for simplicity.

I think this is a fairly reasonable compromise and means that barbettes are less effective than turret mountings, while still having an advantage over broadside armed warships. It also means that central battery firepower isn't ignored, as would be the case if I just used the turret fire mechanism from the rules. I'll give it a try and see how it works but may just stick with a basic 45 degree arc of fire to keep things as stripped down as possible?

Friday 24 July 2020

Lake Tanganyika Useful Links

Alexandre Delcommune
Cecil Rhodes
Baron Dhanis

As well as reading Mimi and Toutou Go Forth and The Phantom Flotilla, both of which are really interesting, I've been doing some web trawling for useful sources of information. There are several really good sites if you do a simple Google search, so I'm sure they will be familiar. However, one I have found that's off the beaten track is this one:

.....which includes photographs, dimensions and armament for most of the Belgian craft on Lake Tanganyika at the time. This is really good for model conversion and scratch building for a start, as well as being a valuable resource on the various activities that the Belgians got up to, or not as the case may be. 

A Question of Naval Scale

I've been thinking of starting a small collection of 1/1200th scale ironclads, primarily to supplement my existing 1/2400th scale fleets, but for smaller 'skirmish' naval actions. I do already have a lot of 1/600th scale kits from Peter Pig and Thoroughbred for the American Civil War, but most of these are for riverine or coastal warfare rather than the open ocean. I have, therefore, a niche to fill and there's plenty of options available, be it Spithead Miniatures, Red Eagle, Navwar or the lovely Langton Miniatures range. I did once have some Navwar ACW ironclads and three of the French ironclads from Red Eagle, or Skytrex as it was then, but these went to eBay years ago, so the decks are clear. I thought I'd keep it to an absolute minimum, so have decided to get the USS Kearsage and CSS Alabama from Langton Miniatures as a starting point, as this would be an ideal historical action to recreate in 1/1200th scale using Dahlgren and Columbiad. 

Thursday 23 July 2020

Dahlgren and Columbiad Plastic Clad Ironclads

I decided to laminate all of the counter sheets that I printed yesterday, ready to be cut out over the holidays for some self taught, instructional games of Dahlgren and Columbiad. These are all designed for Sail and Steam Navies by David Brandon via Wargames Vault, but are useable for any set of similar rules:

I think they are really top notch and an excellent way to try out some rules before investing in shedloads of lead. They're also very good value at about three quid a set, although the Danish and Prussian supplement is a little bit more expensive. I'll be using my counters for the Battle of Jasmund with Broadside and Ram as well, so its two for the price of one. Brilliant!

Tumbling Dice Lake Tanganyika Models

The ever reliable Mr Sulley posted off my order of 1/600th scale models for the Steamer Wars Lake Tanganyika project in double quick time, so they arrived in the post yesterday. I now have the whole range of models including the Graf Von Gotzen, Fifi / Kingani, Mimi and Toutou et al, with some additional generic models that I can use for some of the other assorted craft. I've also been rummaging for 1/600th scale models that I could adapt or convert, with an old Skytrex Isles Class trawler as a potential basis for the Baron Dhanis.

Belgian Lake Steamer Baron Dhanis
Graf Von Gotzen (back), Baron Dhanis? (front)
ACW gunboat

I'll need to modify the stern, add some decking and a bridge but it's the right size and shape, so I think it will work. The Baron Dhanis didn't actually see action in 1915 but it's a useful 'What If?' model to have, especially if I arm it with a forward deck gun in place of the existing mounting. I've also got a Peter Pig USS Fuschia ACW gunboat that I think could be adapted into one of the other small lake steamers without too much chopping about but using plastic card and strip to add as superstructure, bridge and decking. It's worth a try?

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Dahlgren and Columbiad in Cardboard

As it looks very unlikely that I'm going to have painted my 1/2400th scale Prussian warships by the weekend, I've taken a short cut and downloaded a set of print and play card counters for the Danish and Prussian fleet in 1864, which I can cut out, mount on card to use for the Battle of Jasmund. I have also printed out some sheets of ACW ironclads and screw warships from the same publisher, to use not with Sail and Steam Navies but as a rules learning tool for Dahlgren and Columbiad instead. I'm now debating whether or not to laminate them or just to stuck them onto card? Anyway, it means I'll have plenty of counters to use and a load of potential scenarios to try out over the holidays, just needing a glue stick and some scissors to get set up!

Royal Navy Later Ironclads

HMS Ironclad or a Battleship?

I've been swamped with decorating jobs over the last couple of days, so haven't had time to get any painting done on the Prussian ships and gunboats, which means I'm unlikely to get them finished before we head off to France. I have, however, sorted out and packed up some Tumbling Dice 1/2400th scale later British ironclads to assemble and base over the holidays. These are all from the 1880's, so half way between broadside or turret ironclads and actual pre-dreadnoughts, which raises some very interesting questions about which rules to use with them? I have decided not to take my proper British pre-dreadnoughts with me, however, as they are a bit too fragile once assembled to survive the journey back again. I'll tackle those when I get back home but, in the meantime, I should have two new later ironclad squadrons to add to my earlier French and British fleets. 

Tuesday 21 July 2020

SMS Arminius in 1/2400th

Having broken my converted model of SMS Grille and discarded my converted model of SMS Prinz Adalbert, which was a bit rough and ready, I thought I'd replace them with a model of the Prussian turret ironclad SMS Arminius. This was a very straightforward job involving the Tumbling Dice model of HMS Scorpion, of which I had a spare casting, with just the main mast removed. The Arminius was slightly shorter than the Scorpion but in other respects is a spot on match, so an ideal addition to the Prussian flotilla. Unfortunately, she didn't see action in 1864 as she hadn't been commissioned but she did sortie out against the French blockading fleet several times in 1870, albeit without any actual action. It's a great 'what if?' however, especially if I can somehow convert models for the other three Prussian ironclads in the Franco Prussian War.

Monday 20 July 2020

French Later Ironclads

I've packed up my 1/2400th scale Napoleonic British ship models today to take on holiday but had a little space in the box, so I've bunged in a selection of later ironclads for the French c1875-1885 or thereabouts from the Tumbling Dice Victorian naval range. They are not quite as weird as the subsequent French pre-dreadnoughts but you can see how it all ended up the way that it did!

Sunday 19 July 2020

Prussian Ships for the Battle of Jasmund 1864

This is my painting project for the next few days, a selection of Prussian warships and gunboats for the Battle of Jasmund in March 1864, together with the Danish frigate Sjaelland, all in 1/2400th scale. These are Tumbling Dice proxy models, as the Hallmark converted royal yacht Grille had to be sent to the repair yard after one of the masts broke off. The gunboats are all completely the wrong design, if not the right size compared to the actual ships, but they will do as I doubt anyone will notice. I'm aiming to get them finished by the end of the week, given some free time and a fair wind!

Mimi and Toutou

I'm reading this at the moment, having been inspired by Matt's Steamer Wars project on his excellent Shell Splash blog. This is my sideline project for the summer holidays, assuming my order from Tumbling Dice arrives before we leave for France. I already have a few of the 1/600 scale Tumbling Dice coastal warfare models, so have just topped up with the specific boats involved on Lake Tanganyika. I also have a cunning plan to convert some 1/600 WW1 aircraft into Short 827 seaplanes for the Belgians, if I can pull that off? The rules will be Steamer Wars, which I also already have, so this is a very low cost, low maintenance holiday project. Perfect!

Saturday 18 July 2020

Give Us The Ships Review

In January, I set out my plans for naval wargaming in 2020, continuing my successful strategy over the last couple of years. It's now half way through the year and I've had a look at progress to date, which has been less than spectacular despite some things being ticked off the list. As a result, I've decided to re-focus my project plans so that the latter half of the year sees some projects finished.

The top three projects will stay in place, as the focus of my workbench modelling and painting this year. These are:

1. 1/2400th scale Prussian, Danish and Austrian ironclads for 1864 (40% complete)
2. 1/2400th scale Napoleonic Naval French and British fleets (25% complete)
3. 1/2400th scale French and British Pre-Dreadnoughts (25% complete)

I'm hoping to get more of the 1864 ships painted this week, while the British Napoleonic ships will now be the assembly and basing project for the Summer holidays in France, having done the same for the French last year. The Royal Navy pre-dreadnoughts will probably also be taken along and glued together at the same time. I enjoyed assembling the Tumbling Dice models while away, so it's a good use of the downtime.

The three projects on the bottom of the list will be mothballed, cleared away and sent to the loft as they are very unlikely to even get a look in. I'll pack them away until I've completed the three 1/2400th scale projects, which I'm aiming to get done by the end of the year. I do have one other secret project that I'm thinking of squeezing in, however, as it isn't very time consuming or expensive. 

Friday 17 July 2020

Back of Beyond Battle Photos

I introduced my son to  an al fresco game of Contemptible Little Armies in the Back of Beyond today, with the Bolshevik Third Workers and Peasants Shock Brigade attempting to capture an oil well from the Texaco Expedition. I set up the scenario as a Meeting Engagement to keep it simple but I did give the Texans a ruined building as light cover from the Red's field gun artillery and big scary tank. The game was a bit disjointed, as we were interrupted several times but in the end we played at least a dozen turns, resulting in a Bolshevik victory on points but a Texan victory on units routed or destroyed. I haven't got time for a full write up, so here are some pictures to show you how it all played out.

The usually useless Schneider CA1 tank did surprisingly well, lasting until the final turn when it broke down, but the improvised and unarmoured vehicles of the Texans did their usual chocolate teapot impression, apart from one which went the full distance. The Bolsheviks lost two infantry units routed and the Cheka suffered heavy casualties, as well as having the field gun crew machine gunned in the final turn. The White Russians and Texan Oilers only lost a couple of figures each, so got off very lightly. In the end, the Reds failed to capture the oil well but the Texans will have to walk home, having lost almost all of their vehicles, so a tactical draw of sorts (at least that's what Comrade Commander Igor Tubugerov will put in his report).


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