Tuesday 29 September 2020

First Sino Japanese War Fleets

I have now received the Chinese and Japanese starter packs from Tumbling Dice, with some extra models thrown in for free by Paul, which was a really nice surprise. The models are superb and very crisp, with loads of detail including separate funnels, masts and fittings, which makes them a bit of a fiddle to build but very nice to look at once they're finished. As there are only a relatively small number of ships involved, especially for the Chinese, I quite like the idea of making this my next 1/2400th scale pre-dreadnought project even if it has more of a later ironclad theme, at least for some of the older Japanese and Chinese warships? 

Sunday 27 September 2020

ACW Grey River Gunboats Painted

I managed to wangle an hour or two this afternoon to finish painting the three lightly converted Tumbling Dice 1/2400th scale river gunboats that I started last weekend, so that I can actually play a scenario or two of Dahlgren and Columbiad. They turned out okay but not as sharp as I would have liked, with some dodgy blurry brushwork and not a lot of detail, despite my rather rushed efforts at highlighting. They will do, however, at least for some games to learn the rules properly. 

I decided to name two as fictitious Confederate river gunboats, the double ender CSS Starling and paddle ram CSS Thornton, while the last one has been launched as a generic Union sidewheel gunboat, the USS Robinson. I'm now going to paint up another half a dozen or so, then give it a rest as I would like to move on as quickly as possible to the pre-dreadnoughts. I've enjoyed this project which appeared out of nowhere but really should be getting back to the actual plan!

British Cruisers of the Victorian Era

This is currently available as a digital download for the Kindle at a reduced price of about a tenner. I'd put off getting it for a while but decided it would be a good idea before the price tag went back up. It is an excellent reference source for Royal Navy warships including sloops, corvettes and frigates of the mid-Victorian transitional and early ironclad era, as well as the light, armoured and protected cruisers of the later Victorian period. There's a lot of detail here covering armament, propulsion, armour, hull design and service history, so you definitely get your tenners worth of useful reference material including lots of photos, line drawings and plans. I'd much prefer a hardback copy but at less than a quarter of the asking price you can't complain. Brilliant!

Saturday 26 September 2020

Clearing the Decks

It's been a bit quiet here over the last few days, as I've been working long hours and have had little time free for painting or wargaming. This weekend it's also the other half's birthday, so we'll be busy celebrating, but I'm hoping to crack on with the 1/2400th scale ACW project nonetheless. I've decided to concentrate on painting the river gunboats rather than completing the bridge terrain module, as the latter isn't essential and I still haven't worked out exactly how to go about it.

In the next month or so, I have some more contract work to do but after that it's a bit of an unknown, so I may well have a few days or even a week at home to make up lost time. I'm going to focus on the 1/2400th scale pre-dreadnoughts and late Victorian ironclads in the last part of the year, as I have started both of these projects and really want to get them to the point where I can play a scenario or two before the end of the year.

I've also bought two 1/2400th scale starter fleets for the Sino Japanese War from Tumbling Dice, to add to the mountain of pre-dreadnought lead that I already have under the workbench. I've had a long term interest in this conflict after taking part in a 1/3000th scale game of the Battle of the Yalu River many years ago at the club, in which I commanded the IJN Matsushima. I didn't achieve much, firing only one shot from the massive main gun and missing, but I really enjoyed the game so have thought about wargaming it myself for a long time.

So, look forward to more pre-dreadnought painting in the not too distant future, assuming I can clear the decks and get cracking, pushing my other air and land wargaming projects over into 2021.

Tuesday 22 September 2020

The Perfect Captain

You may have heard that the Perfect Captain website is going to shut down soon, which is a real shame even though I never quite got round to playing any of the rules that they produced over the years, despite my best intentions. I rediscovered my interest in wargaming about twenty years ago as a direct result of the Red Actions! rules that that were published by the Perfect Captain team, with my first newly painted 15mm figures being some Peter Pig Red Army Cheka troops based for the rules. It's a real shame that the website will now be switched off, as it was a great source of inspiration and beautifully presented, as well as offering some innovative, inspirational rules for unusual periods for a minimal outlay, with the funds going to humanitarian causes. I for one owe them a massive debt of gratitude and I really hope that someone will step into the breach to pick up the cause. 

Monday 21 September 2020

Confederate Grey Gunboats WIP

I've finally got round to painting the 1/2400th river gunboats that I converted from Tumbling Dice models a few weeks ago, starting with three Confederate gunboats in a basic grey paint scheme. They look terrible at the moment, having just been given a basecoat to block in the hull, decks, funnels and guns, but they will tart up nicely after they've had a wash and some highlights. I'm stupidly busy at the moment, getting up at 5.45am and not really stopping until at least 8.00pm most days, but I'm determined to keep the ball rolling with the ACW riverine project.

Sunday 20 September 2020

MiG Alley Solo

I finished just about everything for my Wings at War MiG Alley project back in March, so have the aircraft, flight stands, terrain and ground targets that I need for a full game. This was always intended to be a multiplayer project, designed to take along to the club for an evening of air warfare wargaming, rather than something I would play at home, either solo or against the sprog. 

However, I've had to re-think the focus of the project in the light of the current situation, in which I won't be able to attend the local club, even if it still keeps running for the foreseeable future. Instead, I've decided to scale it back to a solo wargaming project, with fewer aircraft on the table but still using the rules as written, which are neatly designed to be flexible in terms of the size and victory objectives of the game. 

I am now planning to run a series of irregular solo games at home, gradually building up the numbers of models in use and varying the mission profiles, in order to make the most of all the work I've put into the project. I only need to sort out the sea and river terrain to be able to get started but that shouldn't be too difficult as I have a cunning plan!

Tally Ho!

Saturday 19 September 2020

Judge Dredd Rides Again

My starter set of the Judge Dredd miniatures game arrived a couple of days ago but I opened it yesterday as an end of the week reward for five days of work. It's a very glossy and well presented set of rules, with some really nice miniatures and accessories, although I'd prefer metal figures to the resin ones that are provided. Nonetheless, I decided to add the Judge Dredd figure complete with his Lawmaster bike to the set, as you can't really have a game without its eponymous hero!

Thursday 17 September 2020

Aces and Eights

The local club re-opened for games a couple of week ago but the recent rule of six restrictions have resulted in some changes to the set up beyond just masks, hand washing and wiping down surfaces. The club room has a divider, so we're using it to separate the room into two 'bubbles', each capable of hosting six people in various configurations, although the smaller annex can only fit a multiplayer table of four, six or three, as there isn't room for two tables of two. 

This means we can keep the club and venue afloat, at least in the interim, with sufficient income to pay for the space and enough room for twelve players, albeit with sensible precautions like social distancing, face masks, disinfection and careful handling of figures, terrain and dice. Unfortunately, as I currently work in a school of eight hundred students and sixty teachers, I won't be attending on club nights, primarily to avoid infecting others who may be more vulnerable.

It's just not worth the risk.

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Do You Want Fries With That?

Here's my latest cunning plan for scratch building a railroad trestle bridge in 1/2400th scale. It's a mesh basket thingy for cooking chips, frites or fries if you are not from round these parts, that you can find in Poundland and other el cheapo outlets. They are made from some sort of oven proof plastic stuff, which may or may not be cut-able, glue-able or paint-able, but I'm going to find out. It's probably not going to work but it will be worth a try!

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Generation Kill

I don't watch a lot of television as a rule but the lockdown meant that I had the opportunity to catch up with some series that I'd previously missed. This included the entire Game of Thrones saga, which I thoroughly enjoyed, together with the HBO mini-series Generation Kill, set during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I have one more episode to watch, which I'm hoping to have time for this evening once the kids are in bed, so I'll be looking for something similar to occupy my evenings. It's just a shame it only ran for seven episodes but I'm now going to read the book instead, so back to my usual habits. If you haven't seen it, it is well worth it and I'm hoping that the book is just as good, if not better.

Monday 14 September 2020

Bridge Over Troubled Water

I've now glued, filled and sanded down the two cork tile river banks that will form the landscape on my modular railroad bridge terrain tile, so I can now start working out exactly how to scratch build a typical ACW era timber trestle bridge. I've had a few ideas about how to so this, from gluing together plastic rod into trestle supports (very fiddly) to cutting up some plastic mesh and using it to make the bridge structure (probably doomed to failure), but I'm sure I can come up with something that looks the part. In the meantime, I can at least get the river bed painted and do some more sanding and texturing to smooth off the contour lines.

Sunday 13 September 2020

Modular Cork Tile Terrain Ideas

I've spent the entire weekend doing jobs around the house, so have had almost no time to spend on the ACW river terrain section that I've been working on, apart from some farting about with the railroad embankments which have been a bit of a pain to get right. However, all this cutting up of cork tiles has got me thinking about using the same approach for my stagnant Sandbox Skirmish post-colonial project, which stalled last year when the board I had built for it warped out of shape.

The cork tile and mdf panel method I've used on the river terrain seems to have worked well, so I have come up with a plan to make a selection of terrain modules for a semi-desert, arid setting, based on 15mm modern skirmish wargaming with the No End In Sight rules. The idea would be to make a laminate of an mdf baseboard, then a double layer of 4mm cork tile, allowing me to cut into the top layer to make gullies, ditches and dried up stream beds, for example. 

On top of the laminated layers, I can also add additional cork tile contours to model higher areas of ground, raised banks or roads, with everything designed to fit together at the margins, making a truly modular terrain system. This is nothing new, of course, but the cork tile is ideal for the purpose, being cheap, readily available and pre-textured for a cracked, arid ground surface. The whole lot would be painted in artists acrylics to avoid the warping that I've found happens when I used emulsion paints.

The theme would probably be North African, very much like the terrain in Mali or Niger, with a largely flat or gently rolling profile covered in scrub, acacia trees, grass tufts and the like. This way I can use the boards for a generic North African or East African setting, ideal for my 15mm French or US forces, or for the Gulf region including Aden. The terrain I've already made can be adapted to match, along with my British figures and vehicles, so nothing I've already done will go to waste. I could even use it for AK47.

Sounds like a plan to me?

Saturday 12 September 2020

Tarting up Terrible Tufts

Tarted Up into Winter Tufts

A while ago I bought some cheap desert and scrub tufts from a seller on eBay to use for my 28mm Beja bases, as they were much less expensive than the Army Painter and Gamers Grass ones that I normally use. When they arrived, I was disappointed to find that they were a bit too big but also very synthetic looking, with a nasty plastic shine not unlike a really cheap suit. After a failed attempt to dry brush them, I shoved them in my scenery box rather than in the bin. I've now ordered some proper tufts for the Beja so the ones I originally bought are surplus to requirements.

I had an idea today. I wondered if I could use some rattle can spray paints to upgrade them to something useable, so gave a few of them a blast with a combination of Halfords Camouflage Green, Camouflage Khaki and Appliance White, to create some pretty nifty winter tufts, albeit rather large ones. I think they look pretty good and the paint doesn't rub or drop off, so I'll have a go repurposing the rest of the brown tufts that I have as well as the buff coloured desert tufts, which will get a blast of green paint for use in the jungle, once I've popped up to Halfords tomorrow.

The winter tufts are now looking for a purpose, so I may use them for my 20mm What a Tanker! scenery or for my 28mm Battle of the Bulge terrain, which is a project that I haven't put together yet despite having a full platoon of US figures and armour already painted and based. Another option would be to use them for some 28mm Lion Rampant War of the Roses scenery, but I doubt I'll be tackling that project any time soon so they'll probably go back into storage until I need them. At least they won't be in the bin!

I Am The Law

The Judge Dredd starter set is on sale for thirty quid at NorthStar this weekend, so I decided to order one as it's a twenty quid saving on the full price. I haven't done anything with my Strontium Dog starter set yet, despite it gathering dust for a couple of years, but the idea will be to use the block gang figures from the Judge Dredd set for both. It's a very good deal and, as I'm a big 2000AD fan from way back, it will eventually be an actual project, perhaps for those dark dystopian days ahead when I need cheering up. Drokk!

Friday 11 September 2020

All Along the Watchtower

I've been rethinking my plan to reuse the river terrain I've built for French Indochina wargaming in 1/600th, with the focus on amphibious operations by the Dinassaut units. I thought this was a good concept but the figures are so small that they don't really have a visual presence, even though the various landing craft and vehicles are really neat. Instead, I've been thinking of using my 10mm Pendraken French and Viet Minh figures to do platoon and company level games, with the scale neutral river sections repurposed and some bespoke terrain boards scratch built to match.

One thing that pushed me in this direction was a fantastic article on the watchtower and bunker fortifications that were constructed by the French. This has given me the inspiration to scratch build at least one terrain tile featuring a watchtower and associated defences, together with some road sections, a village and some paddy fields, all on the super cheapo Poundland mdf boards that I've stockpiled. I think this would look great if I can pull it off, with a 3' x 3' modular board being the eventual outcome, incorporating some of my river sections for extra mileage.

Thursday 10 September 2020

A Bridge Too Far

I've been really busy with work and other stuff over the last couple of days so haven't had time to do any more on the 1/2400th scale modular river terrain project. This evening, however, I managed to scrape back half an hour or so to start building the railroad bridge section, using the usual cork tile layers to construct the contours of the terrain, with some sections of Brigade Models railway track roughly placed as a guide for the embankments. It's a start but I have a long way to go!

Tuesday 8 September 2020

Bridge Over the River Why?

It looks a bit dodgy but it may actually work?!

I've been playing around with a Poundland mdf board and some Brigade Models railway track to plan out a visually interesting but useable layout for a trestle railroad bridge. I changed my mind and decided to use a full length board to give me more room for some curved railroad tracks and to allow for some realistic river bank curves, while keeping the railroad embankments to a sensible width and height. 

The bridge itself needs to be tall enough to allow the gunboats to go under whilst not being too high that the bridge looks out of kilter with the rest of the terrain. I'll use a lot of clump foliage to blend in the embankments to the lower levels, which I also think will look pretty effective. I'm going to order a least one more pack of bridges, so that I can have two spans of the girder section which will be painted as a wooden trestle structure rather than an iron bridge. 

I'm also going to try to scratch build some tiny trestle supports for the track bed, channelling my inner railway modelling structural engineer, so it should be a total **** up!

Monday 7 September 2020

Chatanooga Choo Choo

I now have some lengths of curved and straight railway track in 1/1000th scale from the excellent Brigade Models Small Scale Scenery range, which I'm planning to use for a railroad trestle bridge for my modular river terrain. The idea is to use a half width board, which will be 15cm x 30cm in size, as a slot in section featuring a central island and two spans of trestle bridge, with a raised embankment on both sides to lift it high enough for the gunboats to paddle their way underneath. I have also got a pack of the Brigade Models girder bridges that I can use for one of the two trestles, which will add to the overall visual effect. 

Sunday 6 September 2020

IWM WW2 Military Fiction

I usually only read non-fiction but thought I'd go back and read these two books published by the Imperial War Museum, as a bit of a change from the usual military history and autobiographies. They are both based heavily on the wartime experience of the two authors and although fictionalised give a very authentic account of the experience of the Poor Bloody Infantry and tank crews during the campaign in NW Europe. They are also very well written and an easy read, so a bit of light relief from the heavier historical volumes that I usually wade through. The cover art is also brilliant and very evocative.

Saturday 5 September 2020

They Think It's All Over

I was having a tidy up under the workbench today when I re-discovered two shiny metal pencil boxes containing my unfinished 1/600th scale aircraft for the 1969 Football War between Honduras and el Salvador. What you see here is pretty much the entire air forces for both sides in the so-called 100 Hour War, with the El Salvadorian aircraft on the left and the Hondurans on the right. As there are so few, I'm thinking of finishing them off after the ACW ironclads have been painted, to give me some much needed painting practice before I tackle the Bombers Over Germany project later on. 

I'm also hoping that the Wings at War variant that I wrote for the Football War - Corsairs and Cavaliers - might actually be published before the end of the year, although I might need to nudge Paul at Tumbling Dice to see what he's thinking about in terms of a possible release date. It's been hanging about for a year or two now and Paul has told me it's on his 'to do' list for 2020, but he's got a lot of other things on his plate at the moment so I'm not holding my breath. At least I'll have some aircraft lined up to use when it does get published!

Modular River Terrain Smorgasbord

I've now scratch built a total of seven river terrain boards, giving me a total length of about six feet or a variety of other smaller configurations, which I can lay out as required for specific scenarios. Apart from one board which has a gun battery built in, they are all non scale specific, so I could use them for 1/2400th scale all the way up to 1/600th scale before the river channel becomes too narrow for riverine actions. 

However, if I go on to make some regular terrain boards to use alongside the river sections, there's no reason why I couldn't use them for land based games in 6mm, 10mm or even 15mm at a push. I have a few more 1/2400th scale specific tiles to build including a bridge, a town and an opposed gun battery, but I'm thinking of making these half width boards that can slot into the existing river sections but take less time to construct and less space to store.

Friday 4 September 2020

Autumn Action Plan

It's back to work next week and I was in today for a briefing, so things are returning to the new normal and wargaming fun may well be in shorter supply. Nonetheless, I've been thinking about my plans for the next three or four months and have some very clear ideas about my projects for the Autumn, most of which continue my Give Us the Ships initiative of the last couple of years

1/2400th ACW Riverine

This came out of nowhere thanks to two weeks of quarantine and some enjoyable play test games of Dahlgren and Columbiad over the holidays. I have almost completed the modular river terrain for this and have painted some of my scratch built ironclads, so only need to paint the remaining gunboats, rams and transports to be able to run a game. I'll also convert the Andy Callan simple ACW rules to 1/2400th scale, as they are spot on for the sort of low key, beer and pretzels flavour game that I'm looking for.

Bombers over Germany

This is my other plan for when the ACW project has been wrapped up, but its still in an early stage of development, with only the aircraft in their bare metal state and nothing actually started beyond a quick skim of the rules. I will use this as a break from my naval themed pursuits and I'm really looking forward to painting the B17's, Thunderbolts and Lightnings in their olive drab mid-war camouflage schemes. The crosshairs will be aimed firmly at a club multiplayer game at some point in 2021.

The Back Up Plan

No plan survives contact with the 'list of things to be done around the house' so, as a back up plan I have several enticing options including the 1/600th scale Steamer Wars WW1 boats, the 1/600th scale Dinassault French Indochina amphibious warfare idea, the 1/2400th scale Late Victorian ironclads and even the 1/600th scale Football War aircraft, assuming my Wings at War rules get published at some point in the near future (watch this space for news about that).

Thursday 3 September 2020

1/2400th Riverboats and Barges

I made these a few days ago but forgot to show them, so here are a couple of the Tumbling Dice sternwheel paddle river boats with a little light tweaking, to use as transports for my Union flotilla. I've also made a handful of supply barges using some spare bases and plastic card, two with loads of coal and one with a stack of timber for fuel, the latter made from chopped up sections of cocktail stick. They are pretty big for 1/2400th scale but in the Dahlgren and Columbiad rules, each barge can carry a company of infantry, so they can't be too small either! 

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Andy Callan's ACW Ironclad Rules

Andy Callan is getting a lot of positive reviews for the free set of War of the Roses rules bundled with Wargames Illustrated this month, punningly titled Never Mind the Billhooks. I bought my copy today and I think they look great, apart from the figure count which is a bit steep for me, unless I use 15mm figures. Anyway, Mr Callan has written quite a few sets of innovative rules over the years, one of which is his Noddy simple rules for American Civil War riverine wargaming, which you can find here:

These are just what I am looking for, so I will give them a tweak for 1/2400th scale and try them out on my river terrain with my own gunboats and ironclads. I really like the simplicity of the system but also the way in which there is a lot packed into a what is essentially a couple of sides of A4. A couple of quotes sum up what I like about Andy's approach:

''What was needed though, was a set of rules that would reflect the slap bang wallop of the real thing''.

''It's easy to see where Noddy comes into it - measurements are in inches, only one type of dice is used, ships and guns are classified into a minimal number of categories and chance plays a major role in the proceedings...''.

I think they would be particularly good for games at the club, where I can act as an umpire with one or two players a side. All I need to do is type them up, make some minor edits for scale, add some illustrations and create some ship profiles, then it's Full Steam Ahead!

Turret vs Broadside

This is being published at some point before the end of the year and it looks really interesting, especially as have a lot of 1/2400th scale ships for the French and British of this exact period, including HMS Captain of course. It's a fascinating period of experimentation and engineering, with rival ideas about the development and design of ironclad warships causing more than a little friction, if not down right hostility between the two approaches to the problem. I'm looking forward to it!


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