Sunday, 15 January 2017

Mad Max and the Thunder Boats From Hell

After thinking about this idea for a few months I decided today to crack on with my "Mad Max-esque variant on Dave Schueler's "ThunderBoats" hydroplane racing game. I've played the original for a while now and its a lovely game, but some of the locals at the BV club wanted something with more "risk" in it - by which of course they mean shooting.

So I'm working on an overlaying set of rules for various weapons such as rockets, mines, mortars and personal weapons with which boat drivers can do combat as they navigate around a course (I'm thinking "Death Race on Water" here), with a view to running this at the Naval Wargames Weekend in July, and maybe at Thornbury in August. And this morning saw me in the man cave knocking up the first batch of prototype boats. Still some way to go but I think thy are shaping up nicely....

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Something Different for X Wing

Tonight's painting drive has concluded with a bevy of new fighters for X Wing, but not what you'd call "regular" types. I had a small splurge on Shapeways just before New Year, the models arrived on Friday and painting has just completed. This time I thought I'd recreate some happy memories of sci fi TV series gone by, and some of my favourite SF starfigher types.

First up, a pair of Thunderbolt heavy fighters from "Babylon 5".

I'm not sure, but I think the Thunderbolt is just about my favourite SF starfighter.

Next, and coming close behind the Thunderbolt in terms of personal favourites, a flight of Earth Directorate Thunder Fighters from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century". Two of these are basic types, one is the 4 seater variant often seen in the series, the other two are additional variants that made occasional appearances.

Of course the ED fighters would be rather out of it without some opposition so I also have a flight of four Draconian Hatchet heavy fighters, also from "Buck Rogers"

All I need to do to finish these off is to raft some flight stands. All of them are fitted with rare earth magnets (in the photos they are sitting magnetised on top of 4" nails stuck into champagne bottle corks which makes them easier to paint). I suspect that nail based flight stands will be the order of the day.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Red Lion

About 25 years ago Liz and I went to a model railway show where my brother was exhibiting one of his wonderful layouts with his model railway club friends. Liz liked some of the buildings he'd made, especially brick building made using thin card "bricks" from punched computer cards, and half timbered walls mad by gluing the "timber" over a card wall and then infilling with plaster to get an authentic plastered wall effect. She liked them so much that she decided we would have a go at making something like that ourselves, and so she set about building a model of an old English country pub, half timbered, half brick (obviously extended sometime in the 1700s). We'd work in 15mm so that I could use it for wargaming when it was finished. We used clear plastic from easter egg packaging and coarse brass mesh to give the windows a leaded window look. 

After a cracking start the project languished once we'd finished and assembled the walls. It sat like a half finished Greek house for ages, and successive house moves saw it put away in a box and then forgotten about. Occasionally it would be found again, I'd thin about finishing it, and then it would be back in its box as other "priority" jobs came a long. 

As 2016 ended I found it again, and this time decided that 2017 would be the year that I would finally complete the project. A liberal application of Das modelling clay over a card roof saw the structure completed, and a new base was made from mounting board, painted, sanded and flocked, and hen a low fence and pub sign post made from cut down match sticks. The pub was christened "The Red Lion" with a sign made from a scaled down photograph. After 25 years the project was complete! I may do some more work on the base sometime, but for now the pub is ready to form the centrepiece of my 15mm ECW terrain collection. 

I think it was worth the wait.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

First Models of 2017

As the daylight wanes here at Cambridge HQ the first models of 2017 have been completed. To be fair these should have been the last models of 2016 but I ran out of time :)

The biggest is a renovation of the Skytrex Felixstowe that I completed some years ago. Alas time hd taken its toll on this model, several of the struts were dropping out and it was obvious that a rebuild was necessary. But I also had a spare Shapeways Felixstowe from when I was sent a damaged print a couple of years back, so I decided to cut out the central section of the Shapeways model and graft the wings and upper fuselage on to the Skytrex model in place of its original wings. All went well and the result was, I think, a success.

Of course now I had the nose and tail of a Felixstowe going spare, so I decided to make a vignette of a crashed aircraft, with thoughts to use this as the "objective" in a Wings of Glory rescue scenario. I may put some more work into this piece to add further details later but for now I'm happy with the result

The other four models left to finish were a pair of Spad XIVs and a pair of FBA Type Hs, all seaplanes to add to my burgeoning seaplane/flying boat collection. Lovely models, especially the FBAs, and I hope I did them justice. Still a bit of work to do on the Spads as I have mislaid my stock of aircrew figures.

So, 2017 off to a flying (ha!) start

2017 - The Plan

The new year is but a few seconds old, but here’s the plan for 2017. In true civil servant style, fully analysed and costed (and likely to go horrendously over budget and/or be tossed out the window at some point!)

Renaissance Galleys

I will continue to revise my squadron level rules, then work on the fleet action set to bring them to the same standard, and finally a campaign system catering for both fleet and squadron level games. No specific terrain or other bits and pieces needed except maybe an ornate fortification or two, and no need for any new models (any odds and sods I find to be finished off though). As a “stretch” target I may sort out some of my Valiant Armada era models as suitable Mediterranean roundships or visiting English and Dutch raiders.

Fast play 19th Century

Continue to develop the rules for pre-dreads and WW1. Possibly develop a set of ship stats and a campaign system for the pacific War between Chile and Peru (probably sits best with” Broadside and Ram”. Look to push the B&R system back to cover the 1850s, possibly earlier.

WW2 Eastern Front Skirmish

Now “Winter Skirmish” as I have a US Army to finish, so the objective here is to sort out the Americans, knock up the requisite play aids for Operation Warboard and then get some games in. Also, sort out a few more terrain bits and pieces (slushy tracks, icy rivers and a European farmhouse based on the old Airfix La Haye Sainte, one of which I have kicking about somewhere.

Form Line of Battle

Yes, I WILL get some 1/450 xebecs and galleys sorted out

Iron and Fire

I have uncovered some more 1/1200 models (plus there’s some new ones from Pithead to do) so aiming to get these all finished. Then to embark on a programme to pre-generate ship cards in I&F format for all my models

Coastal Forces

As last year, I intend to spruce up my existing 1/600 collection and get a few games in. A stretch target will be to revise my fast play 1/1200 rules.

Other Bits and Pieces

There is the distinct possibility that I may be involved in running a 75th anniversary Battle of Midway game

The Naval Wargames Weekend – I’m thinking “Stingray” and “Thunder Boats” this year. Possibly “Mad Max on Water” if I get time to find and sort out the models

Burma Skirmish is an ever present reminder of long term plans that don’t get anywhere so I may well push on with this. Mainly infantry to sort out here, and the Matchbox Japanese are already painted. 

I’d like to get my 28mm Roman racing chariot finished, and then get the BV club chaps to run some more games

 I’d like to finally finish off the 15mm old English inn that Liz and I started making about 25 years ago. The roof has remained unfinished for 23 of those 25 years. If I could get that done it would be an ideal centrepiece for my 15mm ECW collection

And I’d quite like to get some DBA, Fire and Fury and Napoleonic Fire and Fury games in too (oh, and my Sudan game too – been in the box for far too long!). 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

2016 in Review

So, as 2016 (a truly dreadful year) comes to a close we have the traditional review of “the plan”. How did I do this time?

1) River Plate at the Naval Wargames Show
Success, at least in terms of preparation. All the models were completed, two sets of rules sorted out, long tape measures sourced, large flags to stick in the lawn of the museum made. Alas the weather didn’t help, with rain coming just as we had set up so the game was scrubbed. But at least the preps were completed and we got some photos of the game to show what it would have looked like. I may try to run this again in 2017.

2) Coastal Forces

I got  a bit of his done. Some models spruced up and a batch of new ones purchased when Stuart Barnes Watson sold off his collection. I also got my North and South Korean models finished off (inspired by my visit to Pyeongtaek in the Spring). Ore work needed here in 2017 though.

3) Form Line of Battle
Almost total failure, with none of the projected models sorted out. I did however manage to refight the 1811 battle of Lissa on the island of Lissa (now Vis) during the summer.

4) Pre-Dreadnought
A big push here at the beginning of the year. I painted up my Chinese fleet and then sorted out US, German and Italian squadrons as well as sprucing up my French and British. The rules are working OK and I’ve sorted out a WW1 version as well which seems to give sensible results and plays very quickly. Not much progress on the campaign rule front, although what I have for the RJW seems to work well as is. Another area for progress next year.

5) Burma Skirmish
No, I didn’t sort it out at all. However, I did work on an alternative….

6) Iron and Fire
My remaining 1/600 ships were duly painted and completed, and a clutch of new models bought in. other than that, not much progress and the formalising of the ship data for the Crimean War didn’t happen either. However, this period may be developing in another direction in 2017.

So, a pretty typical year in terms of goals hit and missed due to circumstances and distractions. But some of those gaming distractions were pretty successful in their own right, in particular….

Broadside and Ram

Prompted by the 150th anniversary of the battle of Lissa I published a set of fast play tactical and campaign rules which have been moderately successful (and which have spawned a supplement covering the Second Schleswig War). They got a good run out on the 150th anniversary itself as we refought the battle on the island of Vis. The basic system is similar to that used in my pre-dreadnought set so I can see this being developed more in 2017.

Eastern Front Skirmish

One of my favourite WW2 setups when I was at school was the Eastern Front in winter, with whitewashed tanks and troops in greatcoats or snow camo gear. In those days I used 20mm plastic models. I decided to recreate this, but this time in 15mm (taking advantage of the lovely models from Zvezda and PSC). So now I have a German and Russian force (both mustering a strong platoon or a weakened company plus supports) all painted up and ready, and after Reveille in November I also have a US force which needs some work to bring up to scratch. I also have all the terrain sorted, steadfast some roads and tracks. Looking to run this with Operation Warboard next year.

Other honourable mentions include: Wings of Glory (I attended a number of shows helping to run participation games and we won the “best participation game” award at the Thornbury IPMS show again (my 4th win in the 4 years that the show has been running with a wargame content), Medieval naval (a clutch of old models that were lost became found and finished off), 1/1200 ancient galleys (again a box of old models found and repainted) and last but not least my 1/1200 Renaissance galley project launched in December, something I’m really enjoying working on.

Other fun stuff this year included the Naval Wargames Weekend in Gosport, the Jutland centenary games at HMS Flying Fox and the National Museum of the Royal Navy. The Vis anniversary trip and a lovely Cod War game with my friends in Frome (which I’ve just remembered got me knocking up additional markers aircraft and a few ships for my own collection here).

Peter Colbeck's Marlburian campaign weekend - getting into character

1/1200 model of HMS MErmaid, the last major outstanding unit for my RN Cod War collection

Wings of Glory at Beachhead in February

More ACW loveliness completed during the year

Scenic bits for "Stingray"

Louis the foal, born in May (and a real surprise when he appeared!)

Jutland at HMS Flying Fox.....

... and at the NMRN

Wargaming in education - "Tactics Night" at University College London

"Thunder Boats" at the Naval Wargames Weekend

A collection of naval forts from Brigade, one of my painting "splurges" in the Summer 

Trawling markers for "Cod War"

and some aviation assets for both sides (thinks - what happened to the Wasps?)

Snoopy and the biohazard Sopwith Snipe at Warfare in November

So all in all, not a bad wargaming year and plenty of distractions from various elements of “real world” nastiness that intruded at regular intervals. Now to plan for 2017……

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Eve of Lepanto

A fun evening at the Berkeley Vale club last night and a welcome chance to get a game in after a few weeeks of enforced absence. Dave N and I took to the Mediterranean yesterday as we tried out my fast play Renaissance galley rules. "Lanterna", a set that some readers may be familiar with,  is a set I wrote some 15 years ago  which were featured in Wargames Illustrated, but which I had largely forgotten about in the intervening decade. A chance find of my old galley collection and a bag of unpainted models that had languished in a box for a decade got me painting up a new mass of ships and fired my interest in developing the rules further, so what we played with was a slight tweak of the original.

Dave and I set up between a string of islands in a fairly traditional linear formation. My fleet had the initiative in the early stages but I wasted the opportunity and over extended which allowed Dave to sweep in and fire the opening shots, which were quite telling as two of my galleys and my Lanterna (flagship) succumbed to incoming fire and were wrecked. I pushed ahead into melee with my right flank, my left holding off and shooting Dave's ships from a distance. 

My flagship and galleass in the centre, a gaggle of bergantias in their wake

My right wing closes to attack. Gaps indicate loses in the gunnery phase of the previous turn, and where has my flagship gone?? (sunk!!)

On both sides the casualties mounted and for a while it looked as though my attack on the right was bearing fruit, but Dave's ships on his right shattered my left wing and my galleass (the Renaissance version of a battleship) succumbed to a boarding action from three enemy galleys and surrendered. As the battle ended my two surviving galleys on the right boarded and destroyed Dave's last Capitan (large galley), but were then hit by a hail of fire. With defeat inevitable my remaining ships surrendered.

My right wing engages. Green markers indicate ships that have fired their main guns (slow reloading), red markers indicate ships that have suffered heavy crew casualties

Near the end. My left wing and centre has been wiped out, only my two galleys on the right (attacking Dave's Capitan) survived to this stage

A fun and very quick game, played to a conclusion in about an hour (one of my aims was to have a set that was quick and easy to play, and suited to aa one day or weekend campaign). I think the rules worked well, as with all things a number of quick and easy improvements were noted and have been embodied in the next draft of the rules.

Thanks to Dave N for an excellent game.