Tuesday, 26 January 2016

End of (Another) Era, For Now

I have just finished editing my last edition of the NWS journal "Battlefleet before handing over the reigns to Stuart Fieldhouse, the new editor. I took over from Jeff Chorney in 2014, having previously edited the journal in the 1990s, but the plan this time was always to act as "caretaker" until a permanent editor could be found. Such is the way of things I'm confident that I'll end up doing it again in a few years.

I've enjoyed this second stint, but happy to be handing over to a new editor (who, unlike me, has professional editing experience!).

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Pre-Dread Plan Continues

The pre-dreadnought element of the 2016 plan continues apace. This week I've managed to get my German squadron sorted out (four battleships, four armoured cruisers, two protected cruisers) and the worktop currently has a mixed bag close to completion (two British armoured cruisers, three Italian ACs and a PC, two Chinese cruisers that I missed last week, a Greek cruiser and two French battleships). Next up will probably be my Turks and a host of generic torpedo boat destroyers.

On other fronts I've just about managed to get the next edition of Battlefleet completed for the NWS. This will also be my last as editor, a volunteer having come forward to take over. I wouldn't be surprised if I pick up the job again at some point in the future but not for a good number of years.

With Battlefleet done and dusted the only other big planning activity I have on now (apart from a "special project") is the Naval Wargames Show in Gsport, July 2nd and 3rd. There'll be more on this later, but we are shaping up to have another good selection of games there this year :)

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Chinese Steam Navy in 1/3000

Part of "The Plan" for 2016 is to sort out my 1/3000 pre-dreadnought fleets and to get some games in (plans are developing for a Summer weekend campaign...). The first task here was to fix up my US ships, some of which needed finishing after being started three years ago. But the first "big" job was to sort out the Chinese. Navwar brought out three Chinese fleet packs, two of which covered the period up until the Sino Japanese War. I bought these when they were first released which must be at least a dozen years ago, maybe more. So a week or so back I started prepping and assembling them. Many of the models come with masts and sails so they are a bit tricky in 1/3000 - more than one has now been modelled with a "reduced rig" - and most of the ships needed that addition of masts and fighting tops to give them a pre authentic pre-1900 look. So a lot of time spent with a hand drill, pins and clippers sorting those out.

Painting was completed during the week and this afternoon I finished basing them up, so I now have a rather large (in terms of numbers) Chinese fleet ready to square off against my Japanese. Alas no photos as its really gloomy here at the moment, but to provide at least some pictorial input here's an illustration of one of the Chinese battleships.

With the Chinese done its back to the European powers for the next squadron, could that be the Kaiser's fleet hoving into view?.......

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Boats of Thunder

I took Dave Schueler's "Thunder Boats" to the BV club last night for a bit of light hearted water based racing mayhem. A minor crisis meant I had to dip out at the start for nearly an hour, when I came back the chaps had read the rules and played through a short race with three boats. They picked it up with no problems but thought it would be more challenging - and fun - with more boats, so we each played two boats and put eight on the table.

This proved to be great fun, although we were perhaps a bit cautious in that not many "pushes" were attempted until lap 2, upon which more fun and incident occurred and things seemed rather more satisfying. We ended up with two dead boats at the end, both crippled by engine damage. Modesty prevents me from saying who won :)

There was an observation that the leading boat soon finds themselves with an advantage and it becomes hard to catch them, but I guess that's not entirely unrealistic and I guess it drives the following boats to push their engines to catch up - and hence the lad boat needs to push to stay in the lead. As it was I'd built up such a good lead by the start of the last lap that I didn't need to push at all (my second boat went from 4th to 6th as it was caught up in traffic, then suffered an engine blow out as I pushed to make up lost time).

Of course being wargamers the chaps wanted to blow stuff up and shoot things, which got us thinking about a variant with mines, flaming oil slicks, harpoon guns etc. And the system does seem to lend itself to a variety of racing games (pod racers, Mad Max), so watch this space.....

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Schnellboote - Book Review

Although perhaps not as well known outside coastal forces aficionados as the Kriegsmarine’s U Boat and battleship forces, the Schnellboot force fought a long, successful and distinguished war against the Allies throughout the Second World War, earning a well-deserved reputation for excellence and dedication. Books on coastal forces are rare and, when covering the German perspective, have tended to concentrate on the boats themselves rather than the operational side. This innovative new book from Seaforth that I have just finished reading redresses the balance, offering detailed operational histories of the various Schnellboot flotillas in the Channel, Norway, the Baltic, The Mediterranean and Adriatic, and in the Black Sea. 

Looking from an operational view the coverage is necessarily high level, but particular operations of interest are covered in detail and this makes for a number of gripping stories, many almost completely unknown in English. Notable amongst these are the gun engagement of a surfaced Russian submarine carrying evacuees from the Baltic States, the blockade of Tobruk and the interception of ships and craft escaping the capture of the port by the Afrika Korps, and a mission to torpedo the wreck of the battlecruiser Gneisenau in Gotenhafen whilst it was being used as an artillery observation post by the Russians. 

Detail on the boats themselves is brief, but easy to supplement with the many technical books that are available. An interesting aspect covered in this book however are the progress of developments, refits and tactics that were developed as the war progressed. 

Covering as it does an aspect of naval operations not previously covered in an accessible form this book is an important addition to the body of coastal forces literature, and should be essential reading for anyone interested in the wars of the “Narrow Seas”. It is also particularly well written for an operational history and is quite gripping – difficult to put down once you have started!

Monday, 4 January 2016

First Game of 2016

I headed over to the Iron Acton club yesterday evening for the latest instalment of Chris Haigh's Wings of Glory campaign, We are plying mid 1916 and our RFC squadron has some experimental Nieuport 17s to play with. this of course was an excellent opportunity to give a run out to one of my N17 repaints (I managed to pick up five a couple of years ago for a fiver each, promptly repainted two as Belgians and three in RFC makings).

It was an uncharacteristically successful evening. The first scenario saw the dreaded Hun having to pick up a spy from behind our lines, with three Haberstadt fighters escorting a two seater for the pickup. With some deft manoeuvring (and having cleared my jammed machine gun) I lined up on the two seater as it was taking off after making the pickup - drew the "bang" card and blew lane and spy to ashes. Alas my Nieuport was set on fire as I made my exit but I managed a crash landing and walked away from the wreck.

In the second scenario the tables were turned as the RFC had to pick up a heroic secret agent from behind the Boche lines. The Hun obviously didn't learn from our text-book hacking of their mission as they were all over the place. Mr Bond was extracted without drama (apart from his ride suffering a  minor fire on its way in to land) and we shot down two of the enemy's scouts for no loss (although my Nieuport did take a severe pasting and my pilot was wounded).

Alas I couldn't stay for the third mission, but my spies tell me it was another glorious victory for the Royal Flying Corps. So a good start to the year, the first of many games I hope.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Plan, 2016

As 2016 gets under way I've put together my annual 6 point plan for the next 12 months. If previous years are anything to go by this will be a good indication as to what I won't get done :)

1) River Plate at the Naval Wargames Show

I'm going to run River Plate at the next Naval Wargames Show in Gosport using the freebie NWS rules that I wrote a few years back. It'll be fought on the lawn in front of the museum using 1/600 models and the same ground scale, so that visitors can get an impression of the actual distances that these battles were fought over. So his means I need to build the models and develop the visual aids (and get some looong tape measures!). As a stretch target I'll do the same for Denmark Strait.

2) Coastal Forces

My "Action Stations" collection needs sprucing up, a load of models need to be repaired and in some cases finished, and I'd like to get some games of this in - haven't really played it for ages. And the same for Bulldogs Away, a lot of work needed to renovate my collection here, plus a whole load of "new" (i.e. bought ages ago and not done anything with) models to sort out (plus a few genuinely new models coming soon)

3) Form Line of Battle

As above, I still have a need to sort out some galleys and Xebecs for the 1/450 collection, then get in some more games of this

4) Pre-Dreadnought

Inspired by my recent RJW mini campaign, I'll sort out the various fleets and squadrons that I have had unpainted for a long while. Starting with the Chinese, then the Americans, French, Germans and Italians.  Then I'll work on the development of the DBA style rules and the campaign system with a view to either running the RJW as a PBEM campaign, or some sort of one day campaign, possibly with a hypothetical setting.

5) Burma Skirmish

Yes, I will sort this out (honest!)

6) Iron and Fire

As with FLoB, track down the unpainted models, get them finished and get some more games in! And look to formalise the ship date for the 1854/55 Baltic campaign, now that I've bought Stuart Barnes Watson's collection of ships for this.


I'm sure there will be things that will distract me from this. I'm guessing Wings of Glory, Fire and Fury (I actually have some terrain for this that needs painting up and finishing, so being distracted by this is almost certain), the Berkeley Vale club's Roman chariot race campaign, DBA, thinking about a game for the Thornbury IPMS show and Blast Tastic etc....