Monday 31 August 2020

Kearsage vs Alabama

I finally got round to playing the Battle of Cherbourg scenario that I wrote for Dahlgren and Columbiad over the holidays this afternoon, once again using the card counters that I printed out for playtesting. The game went to nine turns before a raking shot by the USS Kearsage smashed the CSS Alabama to matchwood, even though up to that point both ships had only suffered limited damage. The game literally revolved around both ships in a frenetic turning match, which was not unlike the actual battle with both sides fairly evenly matched. 

The damage did begin to tell after a few turns, with some flooding and light damage for both ships that was swiftly repaired, only to spring up again in subsequent turns. The CSS Alabama successfully rammed the USS Kearsage twice but failed to board on both occasions, which scuppered Captain Semmes plans to overpower the Union sloop and use her as a replacement for his worn out privateer. If the game had lasted another turn, the Alabama would probably have been able to escape with heavy damage, but luck was against her and she was wrecked by gunfire in Turn Nine. 

The rules worked okay but a couple of things cropped up that left me scratching my head. The first was the mechanism for ramming, which seems logical until the damage to the rammer had to be worked out. This just didn't make much sense but I think we got it right after a fashion. The second thing that I thought needed a tweak was the gunnery modifiers, with no pluses for firing at close range or for raking fire, which seemed a bit odd? I may well add these to the list and try them out, with a +1 for crossing the T and  +2 for close range fore, which I think will be pegged at less than 4 inches?

And apologies for the terrible photos!

Modular River Terrain Ticklist

The Red River, scene of Admiral Porter's de-pantsing in 1864

I've worked out the list of river tiles that I need to construct to complete enough for my solo campaign, although for one off games I have a fair set up already. The ones I need to make include:

* A double gun battery (one on either bank).

* A half section with a Bridge (probably a railroad trestle).

* A Left Hand Bend.

* Two sections of Bluffs (left and right banks).

* A section with wooded banks.

* A section of marsh.

* A section of narrows.

* A tributary.

* A dead end / shallows.

This is quite a lot but I can take it one step at a time, perhaps making two or three sections as and when required. I've ordered some of the Brigade Models 1/1000th scale American buildings to use for the town section, together with some railway tracks and girder bridges that I can use to make a trestle bridge. This will be quite a big job but I'll aim to get another three or four sections completed over the next couple of months, probably starting with the left hand bend, the narrows, a section of woods and the tributary, as they are all relatively simple.

Sunday 30 August 2020

Dahlgren and Columbiad in 1/2400th

I've converted the movement templates and firing arc templates for Dahlgren and Columbiad from inches to centimetres, so that I can use the models I've painted for some more practice games. The rules are written for 1/1200th scale but can easily be switched to 1/2400th by using centimetres for movement and ranges. To shrink the templates to the right size you just need to print them at 39.37% using the printer settings, so it's an easy and quick thing to do, with a bit of cutting out and laminating to protect them. Job done!


I've been thinking of ways to squeeze extra mileage out of my river terrain and, although Vietnam Brown Water riverine actions seemed like the obvious thing, I have switched focus to something similar but far more interesting. I'm a big Indo China War enthusiast and have existing plans for 15mm and 10mm wargaming, using No End In Sight, so it's an obvious choice to look at smaller scale riverine actions by the Dinassaut units in Indochina. 

I had thought about this before but not in 1/600th scale, in which it would be possible to model the tactics and formations used by the Dinassaut convoys on anti-Viet Minh operations. In fact, it just so happens that I have a small selection of 1/600th Skytrex (now Heroics and Ros) amphibious craft in the leadpile, which I had no use for after acquiring them in a bundle for coastal warfare games. As you can see, they scale really well with the terrain and can easily be converted into the modified versions used by the French. 

I can add some more boats from Heroics and Ros and get hold of infantry and vehicles for both sides from Oddzial Osmy. There's a lovely model of an LVT Alligator including crew, half of which I can waterline for amphibious operations, as well as some Vietnamese civilians, US WW2 infantry for the CEFEO forces and possibly WW2 Japanese for the Viet Minh. I can also get some of the Brigade Models Vietnamese village buildings, which I can incorporates into some paddy field land terrain tiles to fit alongside the river sections. There's also air support from Tumbling Dice!

I was thinking of Fivecore Company Command as the rules, so it would, be a company / platoon level game with each stand representing a section of infantry and vehicles being at 1:1 scale. It would all be very small but I quite like the idea of a compact, portable but visually impressive set up, especially as it is also very cheap compared to the larger scale alternatives. I think this is worth my time and effort to develop further, so will continue my research and development.

More Modular River Terrain

I've started on the next four modular river boards for the ACW naval project, with three stretches of straight river channel and one right hand bend with bluffs, which is what I rolled up on the river generation table in the rules. I've also used a spare sabot base flipped upside down and sanded to make a little island. I'm debating whether to incorporate some shore batteries into the terrain or to have them as separate drop on features? This basic set up of five tiles will be enough for some practice games but I will follow on with a left hand bend, some wooded river banks, a section of narrows, a minor tributary and a section including a small town with a wharf, which can double up as a ferry pier. I'm hoping to get the four sections on the workbench completed over the bank holiday weekend.

Saturday 29 August 2020

Modular River Terrain

I put together a prototype modular river section for my 1/2400th scale Messing About on the River solo campaign yesterday, using some 30cm x 30cm cheapo squares of mdf that I bought half price from Poundland ages ago, where they were on sale as twee message boards. I painted the river in a combination of raw umber and coffee acrylic paint, then added a couple of layers of gloss varnish. The river banks were cut out from 30cm square cork floor tiles then painted and textured with lots of different type of flock, tufts and clumps, something I haven't used before but which ended up looking better than I thought it would. I'm happy with the overall design, so will crack on and make another three or four modular sections over the next few days, ready to slide together for a game. I'll try to keep them as scale neutral as possible, so that I can also use them for 1/600th or even 1/300th scale wargaming, with Vietnam or French Indochina riverine actions a distinct possibility?

Friday 28 August 2020

Biting the Bullet with Bombers over Germany

It's almost the end of our time in quarantine and it's not been too bad, although the novelty is definitely wearing off and we're all desperate for a decent bit of fresh air and exercise. I've also got exactly a week before I have to go back to work, so to cheer myself up I have ordered a load of shiny metal things from Tumbling Dice for Bombers Over Germany. 

After some thought, I decided not to do the Battle of Britain despite having all the models required, as I can do that later on. I also rejected the late war Defence of the Reich option, which seems daft given the focus of the rules and all the whacky jet aircraft that the Luftwaffe can deploy, but there is a method to my madness.

Instead, I've opted for the mid-war 8th Air Force daylight bombing campaign over France c1943, partially due to my existing interest in this subject but primarily because I can have a selection of my favourite escort aircraft including P38H Lightnings, birdcage P47B Thunderbolts and even Spitfire Mk IX's for the RAF. The Luftwaffe also get mainly Fw190-A3/4's but also Bf109-G's, Bf110-G's and even a handful of  Me410's as interceptors.

The bombers will be B17F's without the later G model chin turrets, so classic mid-war aircraft in olive drab rather than the slightly boring bare metal finish of the late war period. I already have four of these but have ordered ten more to make up a slightly small but perfectly large enough bomber box formation. There's a opportunity here for some interesting unit markings too, so fun to do if I can pull it off.

I'm also going to recycle a load of hex flight stands that I saved when I switched over to magnet basing for 1/600th scale aircraft. For this project I'm going back to rigid wire stands in mdf hex bases but using longer 100mm wires for the extra height effect. I have a pack of spears that I can use for these, so again a cost cutting option that will look really good and much less stress than all those tiddly magnets.

I'll set this project aside for some point in the next few months, once the 1/2400th scale ironclads have been completed and launched, but I'm looking forward to it already!

1/2400th Scratchbuilt Ironclads Painted

I've painted four of the scratch built ironclads for my Messing About on the River solo campaign including the USS Benton, USS Essex, USS Lafeyette and CSS Arkansas. They look okay but it would have been nice to be able to highlight more of the details, which is something that my limited painting skills aren't quite up to. The bases aren't quite what I was looking for either but they look fine at arms length, which is where most of them will be viewed from during games. I've added an additional drybrush to tone down the gloss effect a bit since the photos were taken, although the flash does make them look more shiny than they really are. I now have nine of the scratch built and converted river gunboats to paint over the weekend, leaving the transports and barges for later.

Thursday 27 August 2020

Convoy Action off Ushant - A Broadside and Ram Scenario

August 1872.

A convoy of French warships, stripped of their armament and loaded with arms and ammunition supplied by the United States, is approaching the port of Brest. In an attempt to slip through the British naval blockade, the two transports and their attached escort have sailed close inshore using a heavy sea fog to mask their approach. 

The wind has freshened at a critical point, just as the convoy nears the Ile d'Ouessant, revealing the three ships to a Royal Navy patrol squadron approaching from the South. However, the French have dispatched a powerful escorting force from Brest to rendezvous with the convoy and escort it safely into port.

Set Up

This scenario uses a 5' x 3' table. 

The French convoy enters on Turn 1 from the West. It consists of the Magenta and Solferino, both stripped of their main armament and reduced to AF 1. They are escorted by the Gloire, which is fully armed. The convoy Commodore AP rating is +1.

The Royal Navy squadron enters on Turn 2 from the South. It consists of up to 60 points of warships of the players choice. The squadron Commodore AP rating is +1.

The French escort squadron enters on Turn 3 from the East. It consists of 60 points of warships of the players choice, at least a third of which must be coastal defence vessels. The escort squadron Commodore AP rating is 0.

Special Rules

At the start of the game a heavy sea fog restricts visibility to 6''/12'' but will clear on a D6 roll of 4-6, which should be made from Turn 2 onward at the start of each turn. 

The Royal Navy squadron may only change from a reciprocal North-South patrol line if in visual detection range of an enemy ship. 

The French escort squadron must attempt to link up with the convoy but may divert to intercept the Royal Navy patrol if it is detected. 

If the identity of a group of ships is not detected they may not be fired upon until positive identification has taken place. This applies to all spotting whether by the French or British. 

If the fog clears, the visibility rules and restrictions will cease to apply.


The French must get the convoy off the Eastern end of the table to achieve a major victory. 

If only one of the transport ships makes it across the line, even if damaged or silenced, it will be a minor victory. Any other result for the French is a defeat.

The Royal Navy must shatter (sink) both transports for a major victory. 

Any other result is a minor defeat. If any Royal Navy ships are crippled or shattered and the transports both escape it will be a major defeat. 

Arise to Conquer

I'm reading this at the moment, partly to recharge my air wargaming batteries but also because it's one of the few first hand accounts of the Battle of Britain that I haven't read before, at least as far as I remember. I have an idea for a Bombers over Britain variation, using the 1/600th aircraft I collected for Scramble for Britain and the Bombers over Germany rules, but it's all a bit sketchy at the moment, so some relevant reading might push me in the right direction?

Wednesday 26 August 2020

1/2400th ACW Base Blocking In

I've started painting the ACW riverine boats with an overall blocking in of Foundry Spearshaft Shade on the bases. I chose this colour after a bit of a palette test of various potential shades, as it's a nice opaque finish and I can drybrush it up to bring out the texture on the bases, followed by a wash to add some definition. I don't know how well it replicates the actual muddy colour of the Yazoo but I think it looks suitably brown. It's also a fairly close match for artist's acrylic Burnt Sienna, which I can use to paint the modular river terrain sections that I'm planning to scratch build.

Tuesday 25 August 2020

1/2400th French Torpedo Boats

I haven't neglected my late Victorian ironclads despite all the recent ACW scratch building, with a flotilla of torpedo boats a la Jeune Ecole. These are Tumbling Dice models of Le Normand Torpilleur De Haut Mer or ocean going torpedo boats of the mid-1800's, so ideal for patrols in the Mediterranean or La Manche against the perfidious British. I ended up with eleven of these for some reason so I rounded out the force with a flotilla leader, in the form of Bombe, a torpedo gunboat. 

I have no idea if the French were using flotilla leaders at this stage but it seemed like a good way to avoid an odd number of boats. The torpedo boats are actually really lovely little models and have an integral sea base, which should make painting them a piece of cake. I'll be using them for Dahlgren and Columbiad rather than Broadside and Ram, unless I can come up with some simple rules for locomotive torpedoes for the latter?

USS Essex and USS Benton

USS Benton and USS Essex

USS Essex

USS Benton

USS Benton Under Construction

1/2400th USS Essex and 1/600 Peter Pig USS Essex

These are probably the last two scratch built 1/2400th scale ironclads that I'll be making for a while, as I have enough for my campaign and need a break! I started out making the USS Essex but realised that I'd used too thin a plastic card for the hull, so rather than binning it I reshaped it into the USS Benton. I then restarted the USS Essex with a thicker and thinner casemate.

It was all going really well until the gun ports when I decided to use a thinner plastic card rather then my usual 0.2mm. The problem was that as soon as the glue was applied the plastic card melted or the hull itself deformed, making a right mess of the front end of the USS Benton and one side of the USS Essex. 

Then some of the little buggers decided to fall off and had to be reapplied, which made it even more of a hassle. I've tidied it up as much as I can but it has spoiled the overall finish of both models, so I'll go back to my previous approach of thicker card, lightly sanded down once applied. At least they're both spot for scale!

Monday 24 August 2020

Bombers over Germany

I was browsing through the 1/600 Air Wargaming forum, looking for Bag the Hun alternatives, when I found these fast play rules for WW2 bomber missions, aptly titled Bombers Over Germany.

They look really good and although hex based they seem designed for formations of aircraft, with relatively large numbers of bombers and fighters on the table. They are definitely not over complicated but still have plenty of detail including a rather nifty critical hit system. I think they are potentially great and ideal for multiplayer games. 

And they're Free!

The Tumbling Dice models used to illustrate the rulebook are beautifully painted and based on homemade wire and hex base stands, so nothing too complicated to replicate, apart from the paint job. I also already have some suitable models in the lead pile but would need to get some more to run a full game, so another excuse to order some new shiny things. 

An exciting project for 2021!?

Sunday 23 August 2020

1/2400th Ironclad Scratchbuild - USS Essex

I'm still not entirely happy with my Union ironclad for the Messing About on the River Campaign, so I'm going to have one more go at a scratch build, this time something a lot easier than the USS Lafeyette. I've picked the USS Essex as she scales out to 32mm x 7.5mm, making her big enough to be a decent size and with a design that isn't too hard to replicate. She also fought the CSS Arkansas twice, so that's as good a reason as any. I have some DIY jobs to do tomorrow but should be able to spare some time at the workbench to get her completed, after which I'll move on to painting the models that I've assembled.

1/2400th Ironclad Scratchbuild - CSS Arkansas

I'm getting the hang of this scratch building malarkey. Here's what I knocked together this afternoon as a 'big boss' for my Messing About on the River solo campaign. I chose the CSS Arkansas as she was the archetypal Confederate casemate ironclad ram hidden up a tributary of the Yazoo, which ties in very nicely with the campaign. I also had a spare base almost exactly the right size for the job. I think I need to find a way to model the gun ports more subtly but otherwise I'm quite pleased with the end result. This is almost the last of the scratch built models for the moment, so I'll be moving onto the painting next and some modular river terrain construction.


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