Wednesday, 24 August 2011

ACW Adventures in Basing No.1

Just an update on where I am with basing of my old Union army.  I've still a long way to go but blogging beats basing, so here is a picture of some of the stands I've made.  As you can see these figures are really old Airfix ones but they have sentimental value for me (most of my armies are very old) and nostalgia aside, they look just as good based up as some of the (cheaper) metal figures that are out there.
They're on 40x30mm MDF stands I got from ebay and the main basing is sand that came from an East Lothian beach (Gullane).  As the marine scientists amongst you may know, practically everything to do with the oceans is in some way related to the rotation of the earth and the position of the moon (it doesn't rotate obviously) and in this case the sand came from a discrete band lying just above the high-tide mark, no doubt there precisely because of the aforementioned planetary shenanigans.  It's not really relevant to the basing story but just represents some vague folk-memory from when I was on a field trip to the marine research station at Millport that just popped into my head.

Anyway, the sand has quite a lot of shell fragments in it which make it quite rough and textured, as well as varying the shades quite a bit (no need for dry brushing).  Also, some of the larger fragments of shell I was able to incorporate onto the stands representing bits of debris or dead wood.  After the sand was dry I put on some Javis Autumn Mix static grass (everything was stuck on with PVA glue).

I've quite a few more bases to get on with (including the Confederate Army now) so it'll take a while, but the next time you see these should hopefully be in action on the battlefield.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Black Powder

Aside from adventures in basing our old ACW armies (I'm about halfway through doing the Union army), I've been reading a few things including Black Powder, which arrived safe and sound from Amazon last week.
The rules have been reviewed a fair bit in various places so I'll not say much more here, other than so far I've found them enjoyable and interesting to read.  I like the command constraints mechanisms they offer, for example, although I might adopt some of the house rules out there after reading the discussions on the BP Yahoo group.  I may also put down some of my thoughts on the rules once we've played them a few times.

However, I have to say that they did grab me straight away with the faux pompous style (at least I hope it's faux) and in fact there is quite a bit of humour throughout: even the 'Black Lung' cigarette cards on the front are faintly amusing.  I expect such cards come with the cigars one is supposed to puff on furiously whilst playing in the billiard room.

So, some play testng in the offing, I predict, perhaps even with the ACW troops I'm re-basing...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

ACW Additions

As you may (or may not) have noticed from a couple of much earlier posts on this blog, I have a venerable plastic 1/72 ACW Union army based for Circa 1863 rules (sort of), that gets out now and again.  Although the Circa 1863 rules were good for their era (published in 1978) and we've had some great grinding ebb-and-flow games with them, it is time now to move on and, having considered various rule sets, I have decided to rebase them for (Regimental) Fire & Fury.

Obviously at this scale the standard infantry 1" by 3/4" basing in RF&F won't work so the bases I will use will be scaled up more or less proportionately to 40mm x 30mm (and so on for cavalry, etc.), as the rules recommend.

Actually, basing seems to be far less of an issue with modern rules and therefore I'm confident, if RF&F does not turn out to be satisfactory, that the basing will probably do for Black Powder (once I've had a look at it) or some other rule set yet to be discovered.

However, looking at what needed to be done I came across a bag of unpainted figures and impulsively thought that I might as well paint them up to bulk up the existing forces I have.  I often shy away from painting figures but actually this time I enjoyed it (and finished them in two evenings). I must be maturing.
They've been around for a while and I wasn't sure what they were but a quick look at the informative Plastic Soldier Review site revealed that they were mostly Revell with the odd IMEX thrown in.
The paint job isn't that spectacular (or indeed totally finished) but I wanted to make them fit in with the plainly painted figures I already have (that's my main excuse).

Also, although there is a lot of detail, folds and so on, on these figures, the standard shading techniques doesn't seem to work as well as it does on larger metal figures, I think because the plastics are a lot more realistic in their proportions and have much shallower folds and generally less pronounced features (that's my second excuse).  Or, I'm just rubbish at painting (truth will out!).

Adventures in basing to follow.

Monday, 15 August 2011

DBA Boards

Not the most exciting thing to post about but I finally got around to making a new 24" x 24" DBA board.  My main interest has been in armies from Asia Minor and the ancient Middle East and therefore one side of the board is supposed to be 'desert'.  It's actually a bit more orange than this photo indicates but it was a bit driech when I took the photos.
The obverse is for 'temperate' regions although I don't have any DBA armies for those parts of the world (yet).  It's amazing though what you can do with some old hardboard and emulsion tester pots lying around the house.  Not really happy with the green top coat however (though it's not as lurid as the photo indicates), so will probably improve it later (once I can get to B&Q).
I collected a few ancient armies back in the early days (DBA 1.0), but have found, going to the current edition I have (DBA 2.0, although I understand it's up to 2.2 now), that there was a rethink in the lists at some point which means quite a few of my armies don't fit now and I can't remedy the situation without buying more figures.

All this presages my vague thoughts of doing a DBA campaign again (we did a great one back in 1994 using the old matchbox chest of drawers method for concealed movement); and whilst we wait for DBA 3.0, I thought to hell with it, I'll just use my old 1.0 lists and maybe employ the Berthier Campaign Manager this time (could be a solo project).

Of course nothing may come of this but at least I've got two sides of a board to play on now (not at the same time, obviously).

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Claymore 2011

I managed to get to SESWC's Claymore last weekend, as I have tried to do each year whenever possible.  I think the first one I went to was in about 1980 when they used to hold it in Adam House in Chambers Street; and the purchase of my first flat in Edinburgh in the mid-90s was no doubt subconsciously influenced by the fact that Claymore was by then using Meadowbank Stadium, just across the road.

The venue is now the spiffy new Telford College at Granton a mere 20 minutes cycle (it's downhill) from where I live on the southside (did anyone spot me in my black and green cycling gear?) and the event is bigger than ever, but just as friendly and accessible.

The problem with Claymore though (or should I say the problem with me) is that I find that I am probably too out of step with the way things are in the hobby now, in that there weren't really any games on display this year using the rules, scales or periods that I play (or would like to play).  I suspect though that this is because when I finally get into a period it can take me a decade or so to get the armies up and running....

However, it is great that such an event is organised in the capital every year and there is always inspiration to be found somewhere, even if you realise it later on, so kudos to SESWC for organising Claymore and running it so well.

Despite my slightly negative feelings about it all (I was worried there that I may be turning into Keith Flint) I did manage to achieve something and that was to find the last book in the five-volume Tank Battles in Miniature series, written by Messrs Quarrie and Featherstone, that I've been collecting fitfully for the last five years, and here it is:
I can't remember which vendor sold it to me but he kindly offered to double the price when I incautiously mentioned that I'd been looking for this for ages in order to complete the set.

And the delayed-reaction inspiration?  Well, I've ordered Black Powder and intend to expand into what will be a totally new period for me.  More of that later (see you in about 10 years!).

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Attack on Pola No.2

I described the scenario and reproduced the briefings for this fictional engagement in an earlier post and so here is the battle report for the Attack on Pola.

Russian forces comprised five ironclads plus two blockships, which they would try to sink at the entrance to Pola Harbour (just the blockships, that is).  The Austrians also had five ships, plus three shore batteries at their disposal.  The map below (done in MappingBoard) shows the playing area, which is supposed to be located on the Croatian coast in the Adriatic.  Not a lot of detail really, but then it is mostly sea.
The Russians entered at the southwestern corner of the board keeping well away from the coastline in order to avoid alerting the shore batteries.  Despite this, the Russians' first act was to fire on the shore batteries, thus alerting them.  This also had the effect of setting the clock running for when the Austrian ships would appear, which they duly did.
Getting closer to the harbour mouth the Russians started to turn towards the objective and the Austrians also turned to starboard in order to try to cross the Russians' T and bring all turrets to bear.  The Austrian ships and shore batteries were starting to get the range and quickly put Captainski's (i.e. HMS Captain's) after turret out of action (if you have Paul Hague's Sea Battles in Miniature you'll know that the Russians seem to get hold of British Admiralty blue-prints rather readily....), whilst the Russians kept firing, and missing.
A few turns further on and the Russians managed to destroy a shore battery but Captainski was still suffering damage and sank by a deck, thus losing headway.  The Austrian ship Edelweiss (the one with all its washing still up) crossed the Russians' T and poured more fire into Captainski, whilst the rest of the Austrians sailed southwards and parallel to the Russians with the intention of getting full broadsides in (not entirely successfully).  Meanwhile, the other Austrian squadron, which had been sitting with steam up in Pola Harbour, appeared on the table behind the headland.
Nevertheless, despite the Captainski falling out of line to starboard, shadowed by the now damaged Edelweiss, the Russian van continued its inexorable progress toward its objective (destroying another shore battery in the process) whilst the Austrians continued to sail past them the wrong way!  Turn round dammit!
A move later and the badly damaged Edelweiss finally sank the Captainski!  At last, a result for the Austrians (me), although with the rest of the fleet either heading the wrong way or not yet clear of the headland things were perhaps not going that well.
Meanwhile at the mouth of the harbour the situation was getting awkward with the Russians trying to get in and the Austrians trying to stop them.  With enough speed now gained, the Austrian battleship Liszt rammed and sank the blockship Spirit of Dunoon.  However, the other blockship (Frieda) and the Russian box-battery Carolinski managed to slip into the bay between the headland and the otherwise occupied Liszt.
As if this wasn't bad enough, the Russian box-battery Polanski got a direct hit on the Edelweiss and finally, after a very long run of dud die throws, the Russians managed to ignite her magazine and she blew up
Always slow burners, the Russians were now getting into their stride and, despite taking some last minute damage, opened the sea cocks on the Frieda and sank her right across the entrance to Pola, exactly where the scenario required.  To add insult to injury the Austrian breastwork monitor Silesia was sunk close to the headland as she raced back towards the harbour mouth, too late to do anything about it anyway.
Totting up the scenario victory points the Russians had got one blockship in position, sunk two battleships and destroyed two shore batteries, earning 60 points overall.  In contrast, despite getting first blood, the Austrians only managed 15 points by sinking a battleship and a blockship before it could get into position.

Overall, it was a successful game - from the point of view that we had a scenario that was interesting (I think, anyway), had a clear objective and was worth fighting for - and also from Geoff's point of view specifically because he won the battle so emphatically.  Furthermore, the simplified version of  Paul Hague's ironclad rules allowed us to finish the game in one evening even though there was a bit of re-familarisation to be done.
Finally, the ships fought well, including the old cardboard ships (some now 30 years old, such as Caroline, above) as well as the newer vessels made especially for the occasion. So, look out for further clashes in this era, although perhaps it's time to get back onto dry land after all this naval stuff and get some toy soldiers out again for our next outing.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

River Boat No.2

There seems to have been a naval theme over the last month or so (and it's not quite over yet) and contributing to this I finally got around to finishing off the Darkest Africa river boat I'd been working on.  Over the black undercoat (see earlier post) I added a base layer of dark grey to the 'steel' areas (Revell Acrylic Mouse Grey) and gave the 'wooden' areas a rough layer of my trusty Raw Earth (from a Fired Earth tester pot).  Here is Coppletone's Col. Spalding (or is it Rufus T Firefly?) trying it out for size.
You can see that I've added more detail to the wheel house since last time including panels on the doors, a window frame for the front and a couple of louver-like vents.  All additions were made from strips of thin card (old business cards).  I also added some planking to the side wheels (just some scored cardboard).  Most of the woodwork was then painted with another tester pot emulsion, this time Farrow and Ball's "James White" (I wonder if they do a "James Brown"?), and then highlighted here and there with some normal white acrylic.
Steelwork was painted with progressively lighter shades of grey (although you can't really tell) and the windows were done with some gloss Revell Ultramarine Blue.  Decks were painted with Revell Dark Earth.  Finally, after re-scoring the planking on the side wheels (as it had got a bit clogged up) and a bit of touching up, I dry brushed the Raw Earth with some James White.  I then daubed rust spots and staining on the cabins and other white areas using thinned Revell matt Brown (an orange-brown, actually).
Overall, it's turned out not bad and it is now looking like a suitably disreputable riverboat rust-bucket on the upper Limpopo or wherever.  I'm tempted to tinker a bit but will probably just leave it as I've other things to do, including making a deck gun of some sort and maybe even adding some crew.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Attack on Pola No.1

Here are the briefings I prepared for the naval battle we fought this week using Paul Hague's Sea Battles in Miniature ironclad rules.  Battle report to follow.

It is 1897 and the Greeks and Turks are fighting for control of Crete. The fleets of the Great Powers keep station in the Aegean warily watching the outcome of this conflict....and each other. Meanwhile, in the confusion, the Russians see a chance to get their revenge for the humiliating defeat previously inflicted on them by the Imperial Austro-Hungarian Navy by striking at their very heart in the Adriatic (I don't know what the Royal Navy was up to letting them slip out of the Black Sea - must have been the cuts).
Russian Briefing
Your mission is to mount a surprise attack on the main Austro-Hungarian naval base at Pola (now Pula) on the Croatian coast (across the Adriatic from Venice).

Your force will consist of a large squadron of battleships (5 No.) plus two blockships (Frieda and Spirit of Dunoon) that you must try to sink across the narrow entrance to the great harbour at Pola.

Austrian forces are likely to consist of a similar number of ships which are expected to be at anchor at Pola, if that is, you can get there without alerting them. There are a number of shore batteries comprising 10” guns (or so your spies tell you) on the headlands around Pola which are perhaps not as watchful as they should be.

Russian Winning Conditions -  If you get both blockships in position and close the entrance to the harbour (at the narrowest point) then you have an outright win (30 points per blockship plus a 30 point bonus). If you get one blockship in position then you will be awarded 30 points. 10 points are awarded for each Austrian warship sunk or incapacitated. 5 points are awarded for each shore battery put out of action.
Austrian Briefing
The Russians in their usual manner have not been subtle in their approach through the Adriatic and have been spotted coaling off Corfu. You surmise that they may be making for your main base at Pola (again, so far so predictable) and therefore you have been keeping one squadron patrolling in the Adriatic whilst the other remains on standby in Pola harbour with steam up for immediate sailing.

At the start of the game the Adriatic squadron (3 No. ships) will secretly dice to see when it appears from the north, rolling a d6 at the start of each move to see whether it comes onto the table that move, adding +1 for each additional move to the score (a total of 6 or more is required to enter). This squadron will enter at maximum speed.
The same is done to determine when the shore batteries spot the Russians and open fire, starting dicing from when the Russian fleet first comes into long range (60cm in this case) (assuming they're actually trying to be stealthy).

For the squadron in port (2 No. ships) throw a d5 from when the shore batteries first open fire. This is the number of moves before they can be placed on the table as they start to exit the harbour. They can only come out line ahead starting at minimum speed (2kts).

Austrian Winning Conditions: 10 points are awarded for each Russian warship sunk or incapacitated and 5 points are awarded for sinking a blockship (that doesn't block the harbour).

Wargaming Airborne Operations

I've had a copy of this 1977 Donald Featherstone book for a few years but the last time Geoff was round he expressed an interest in it, and as we've been in WW2 skirmish mode recently, I managed to get a copy for him from ebay (it's his birthday).
It's another one of those classics with lots of exciting pictures of barely or even unpainted plastic figures, paratroop drops using bits of tissue paper tipped out of a box and brilliant cardboard cutout gliders (that really glide!).  Such a contrast from today's slick presentation and requirements for this season's models and rule supplements (I digress).

Also, if you notice, every word of the book's title on the dust cover has a hyphen in it, which is quirky, to say the least.

Anyway, using the ideas in this book we have very successfully re-fought the D-Day landings and Operation Market Garden (And Crete?  I can't remember).  I even have a model of the Arnhem bridge in 1/72 scale somewhere...
...which looks remarkably like the one featured on pages 146-150 of the book.

Wait a minute.  Three posts in a row about books?  What's going on here?!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Ironclads in the Adriatic

After seeing my post on the rather one-sided tussle between the Russians and Austrians in the Adriatic, Geoff suggested that we give Paul Hague's Sea Battles in Miniature Ironclad rules another outing this week, perhaps to allow the Russians a chance of revenge.  In case you don't know Sea Battles in Miniature, it looks like this:
The rules are rather simple but I like to think of them as the naval equivalent of Brigadier Young's Charge! or Donald Featherstone's rules that 'classic' wargamers are understandably fond of.  Furthermore, the ship designs included within the book for scratch-building are also rather stylised (although based on Fred T Jane's drawings), which fits with the simplicity of the rules. Nothing wrong with that (it makes them easier to construct for one thing) although my ships are nowhere near as fine as this chap's.  Speaking of which, here are a couple of merchantmen I made this weekend for this week's scenario.  They are about 90mm long.
Hulls are balsa and the white bits of superstructure are pieces of polystyrene pizza-base, shaped to fit.  Add some cardboard hatch covers, match-stick funnels and pins for masts and voilà!
And here you go, a basic paint job as is befitting.  One or two other things to make but these shouldn't take long.  By the way, I can't tell you more about the planned scenario as I don't want Geoff to know what he's up against until he gets here....