Sunday, 9 December 2018

Cruel Seas - QLR

I've had a day to go over the rulebook for Warlord's new naval game "Cruel Seas"(in between sorting out various equestrian issues) and I thought I;d share my initial observations here before posting a fuller review later in the week. My first impressions are good - in general its an excellent set of introductory rules that is an ideal route in to naval wargaming, which is something I personally think is a great thing. It is wargaming very much in the "Boys Own" / "Commando Picture Library" vein, so its fun and fast but with some aspects that would have those more read in to the subject thinking were a bit "odd". And the potential for some truly odd counter-torpedo tactics (but I'll keep schtumm on that to see if anyone else spots it :) ) 

That said I have several pages of notes on various aspects which struck me as odd, unclear, quirky or just inaccurate. As a few tasters, the intro mentions 1/300 as being a good scale to use because the boats look wrong without crew - none of them come with anything recognisable as crew figures, and there has already been a lively debate over parking your S100 close in front of an MTB to force a collisions as being a valid game tactic in disposing of the smaller craft. 

I think the choice of craft is odd (sizewise I still think 1/300 is to big and it would look better in 1/600 but then again its Warlord, has Bolt Action for inspiration and I've always thought that BA looks better in 15mm than 28 so the precedent is there :D ) - but in the choice of craft for the starter set Warlord have gone for four types that didn't encounter each other that frequently (MGBs and S Boats sparred frequently - MTBs had better things to do with their time for the most part). And in the data tables the lack of RN MGBs and Russian gunboats (but 4 varieties of riverine craft) are the most outstanding aspects , but there are others. 

But, bottom line for me is that, as with Warhammer Trafalgar (with which it shares some hazy characteristics) if its popular and gets new blood into the genre then its a good thing in my book :)

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Berkeley Vale BSG

Ares' new Battlestar Galactica game made its debut at the Berkeley Vale club last night. A few pictures from the action (which featured an impressively statistics-breaking number of double 1s for gunnery rolls).

So, how did the game go? We played two games, swapping sides between the two. In game #1 the Colonials won 2-1, in the second it was 2-0 to the toasters.

Everyone agreed the models look lovely. We had the expected "what were they thinking??" comments when the graphics on the various cards were examined (orange text on a  brown background in small font? Realy?) And amongst my chums there was a distinct feeling that the game itself, whilst is a bit too fiddly (especially the rotating fighters), and so perhaps this isn't going the be reappearing at BV in the near future. That may change with more familiar and easier play - and when there is more variety in available craft, so I'll hang fore on this until I have a few raptors and heavy raiders. But for now its parked in the bay. Which is a pity as it is a beautiful looking game.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Reveille 2018

Today was the last day of the wargaming show season, at least as far as my involvement and visits are concerned, as I went to the Reveille show at Lincombe Barn in Bristol. Not the largest of shows by any means but one of the friendliest. I didn't have much tome to spend at the show due to family reasons but I did get to catch up with some good friends and played my first game of "What a Tanker", so I at last have had a chance to see what all the fuss has been about :) A fun game, I got to drive a Crusader II around and victimise a PanzerJager 1 for several turns before finally KOing it. A fun game, I'm not sure it has all that much to do with actual tank warfare but I guess a lot of the "oddness" that was apparent in the game can be put down to "friction" and the fog of war. And the main thing was that it was fun! Well, for everyone apart from the poor guy with the PanzerJager who found himself stuck on 1 activation dice for pretty much the whole game before I killed him.

Alas no photos from the show, as I said it was a flying visit and I only realised I'd not taken any snaps after I was on my way home.

I also picked up a couple of copies of the latest Wargames Illustrated with the freebie "Cruel Seas" MTBs and S Boats included.I got one set of each, so I now have a chance to give thema  closer examination. More on these next time.....

Monday, 19 November 2018


Yesterday after the Reading show I posted the following on one of the many Facebook wargaming forums, prompted by the sight of racks upon racks of wargaming stuff being sold in transparent plastic packaging.....

This week I saw several news items and reports about supermarkets and single-use plastic packaging. Going around Warfare in Reading today I was suddenly struck by the massive use of single-use plastic packaging in wargaming. Not very environmentally conscious, are we?

The response was, to be honest, quite surprising . And some of it quite unpleasant, which TBH I found a bit of a shock. 

I do of course understand that some wargamers are adept at turning every bit of junk into something wonderful, and I myself do chop up clear plastic packs to use as windows, helicopter rotors etc. but I'm also sure that many do not. And it just struck me that whilst the retail industry in general is getting a bit of a bashing for excessive use of plastics in packaging the wargames industry doesn't have the same qualms (and some of the packing was quite ridiculous - three 28mm figures in a pack that would take a dozen or more).

Some respondents on the site thought I was pushing some political agenda (rang-tans anyone?), or that I was "imposing my values" on people (what a ridiculous notion). Instead I was just trying to get people to think a bit. Some did. Some just ranted. And some were just downright offensive. It was an interesting exercise.....

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Warfare 2018

I spent today at Warfare at the Rivermead Centre in Reading, helping out on the Sails of Glory game. As usual a good time was spent chatting with friends, many of whom I hadn't seen for a long time. I also got to take a look at the forthcoming "Cruel Seas" 1/300 coastal forces game from Warlord - an interesting game on which I will share my thoughts in due course.

I also took along the new BSG game to show to my Wings of Glory chums. VERY impressed they were.

Forget "Galactica 1980", we had "Galactica 1918" :)

A goodly selection of games on offer, I snapped a few (the playmobile Vikings game was clearly my favourite!)

Game of the day :)

An excellent participation game of the siege of Bristol

Our own "Sails of Glory" game, wherein we introduced a number of new players to the game

Shopping was a bit of a bust - there were a few specific things I was after but none of the traders that covered them were there. I did get a new blue hex mat from Magister Militum double sided with two hex sizes, and smaller hexes than my current mat), a dice bag from young Katie who always has her craft stall at the show - and that was about it.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

So Say We All

Alan Paull picked up a copy of the new Ares "Battlestar Galactica - Starship battles" miniatures game at the Essen show the other week. I've just opened the box and wow, the models are lovely! The rules are rather good too. No playing tomorrow as its Armistice Day and I don't wargame on that day, so my proper run-out with them will have to wait. But it will be worth it.

Also picked up today from Alan - "The Cousin's War" by David Mortimer and "Northampton 1460" by Graham Evans.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Americans at Jutland

I have just returned from a very enjoyable two days at the National Maritime Museum in London where I took part in an unusual "refight" of Jutland.

Not the 1916 battle we all know and love of course, this was a hypothetical "Second Battle" set in 1918 and featuring some of the US battleships that formed the 6th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet. The occasion was a game staged by the staff of the US Naval War College and was using the NWC's rules from 1922 (astute readers will recall the NWC ran a refight using the rules on the centenary of the battle). The game formed the evening entertainment within the museum's "First World War at Sea - Conflict, Culture and Commemoration" conference and whilst the umpiring team were all seasoned wargamers form the US and the UK the players themselves (with one or two notable exceptions) were the learned ladies and gentlemen from the conference who had probably never experienced wargaming before.

We closed up on Wednesday evening for an umpires' training session during which we became intimately familiar with the rules. Deterministic by nature, there is no rolling of dice in this game. Which initially sounded a bit stale and not conducive to a good time, but we soon found out in the game itself that the injection of the "human factor" more than made up for any perceived issues on the "fun front". Between admirals with very definite plans and shades of micromanagement through poor handwriting leading to miscommunication of orders, signals going missing, smoke screens laid in the wrong place, confusion over which ship an admiral leaving his stricken battleship was going to set up his flag and captains "taking the initiative" (or as we saw it, disobeying orders) there was more than enough confusion and hilarity to keep us all going. Oh, and an endless supply of nibbles and drinks provided by the museum staff.

The rather large (and lovely) movement templates

The High Seas Fleet, arrayed for battle (numbers of ships were limited to the number of players)

Each player had a ship control sheet - and a badge to make it easy of us hard-working umpires to find our respective ship's captains

The nerve centre of the operation, where all record keeping was conducted

Rear Admiral Jeff Hardy, USN, 56th President of the Naval War College, opens the event

Peter Pellegrino takes centre stage....

The view from the gallery 

Jim Wallman receives vital operational updates (maybe...)

The German planning conference - Scheer lays out his complex plan

The result of his complex plan (chaos!)

The end of the evening - fewer ships on the floor, note the solid, disciplined Allied line....

As the night drew to a close so then did the battle. Who won? The Germans were definitely on the end of a hiding, their complex plan and dodgy use of smoke contrasting with the ruthless efficiency of Innes "Jellicoe" McCartny's handling of the Grand Fleet. Despite losing two battlecruisers early on the RN and their US allies coolly dished out retribution on a regular basis, with five German ships sunk at the end of turn 4 and others in a poor way.

German scoreboard....

And the Allies

But it wasn't about the winning, it was the taking part. This was a historic occasion, watched over by such maritime luminaries as Nick Jellicoe (grandson of the Admiral himself), Professor Andrew Lambert and Professor Geoffrey Till. And from the US Naval War College, Peter Pellegrino made an excellent senior umpire and an awesome Master of Ceremonies. a presentional and teaching style that was quite inspirational.

So, a lovely night, enjoyed by all. And it was great to be there with good friends Stuart Machin, Bob Cordery, Nick Bradbeer and Jim Wallman. We are all looking forward to the next one :)

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Finishing off my Napoleonics

Many years ago I got a couple of Figurehead 1/2400 fleet packs covering Trafalgar which I got painted by A&AGE when they offered a painting service I added a few extras, and then got a Danish fleet at anchor to do Copenhagen. After picking up a pile of unpainted models on Ebay I did a few, but then the project languished in a box for ages (th Copenhagen project was in 2001, so we are talking 18 odd years here).

Trafalgar weekend this year was also Rory McCreadie's memorial game which we fought out using his collection of 1/2400s (Tumbling Dice). Returning from the event I reminded myself about the lead pile in my own collection. Inspired by the game (and working on a fleet level set of rules for which 1/2400 is ideal) I resolved to finish off the remaining models. This afternoon I accomplished this as ten new Spanish SOLs, a similar number of Spanish frigates, ten merchants, two American frigates and a host of unrated ships came off the painting table.

These will win no awards if looked at up close but when viewed from a short distance as the wargaming gods decree they look perfectly reasonable.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Rory's Trafalgar Weekend

This weekend was Rory McCreadie's memorial battle of Trafalgar wargame. Rory's birthday was on October 21st but alas he died before seeing the game he'd so keenly wished to see become a reality.

The game itself was played on the 20th at the Entoyment shop in Poole (it was my first visit, what a lovely place!). We fought out the battle using a modified version of Osprey's "Fighting Sail" which plays a lot better than the original - still quite bloody as more than one 74 went from pristine to shattered in a single broadside, but less so than the original. I commanded the rear third of the Alied line, playing the role of Gravina and Alava, facing off against Cuthbert Collingwood's Lee Column. Africa attempted to engage the head of  or line but that was sheer folly and she was reduced to matchwood very quickly. Our fleet admiral decided that offence was the best form of defence and so we headed upwind slightly to close the range and attempted to commence a "hook" around the rear of where we expected the British lines to be.  The was never really going to work but it did mean that Collingwood and his leading ships sailed into something of a cul de sac and were quickly overwhelmed - for the second Traf refight in a row plying the allies Royal Sovereign was the first ship I captured. As the rest of the Lee Column came up the battle descended into a fierce close quarter battle. As in the real action I wasn't really sure what was going on elsewhere, other than to see that our middle squadron and the head of the British Weather Column shot each other to pieces (Victory pierced the line, the following ships were not so fortunate) and the head of our line doubled back in an attempt to get into the action which was starting to be successful as the game ended.

Fighting Sail uses a fleet morale system, with each side having a morale point level based on their starting forces which is eroded through damage and ship loss - when a sides morale points fall to zero the fleet disengages and the battle is lost. The scores for both sides tumbled and things could have gone either way but in the end our gunfire began to tell (and I made some wicked saving throws to stave off some heavy damage at the end), and it fell to one of my Spanish 74s, Montanes, to fire the broadside that finally reduced the British score to zero and to secure victory for the allies.

The game itself was great fun, played out in very good spirits. Rory would have been very pleased with the result!

I stayed over on Saturday night and on Sunday we played out a game between the Royal Navy and two pirate factions. The governor and his daughter were heading home to England with the fortune he had amassed whilst in the East Indies across a dangerous stretch of the Indian Ocean whereupon they were set upon by Chinese and Arab pirates. A fast, furious and fun game ensued, in which the Governor's transport was captured by the Chinese, then by the Arabs, follwoing whicjh a see-saw battle of boarding and counterboarding saw the prize change hands 6 times. In the end the Chinese were victorious, the Arab ships being heavily damaged and the Royal Navy sloop and schooners crippled, but able to escape to tell the tale. Another jolly good game, and literally laugh-out-loud fun!

Thursday, 27 September 2018


Fifteen years ago I bought a large box of battered and broken 1/600 WW2 warships. I was putting together the moderls for the NWS 60th anniversary refight of North Cape and the wrecks were  a useful source of spare parts for other models that I was renovating. In amongst the wrecks was a half decent model of Manxman, the fast minelayer from WW2. I thought that would be an ideal model to do up to go with my 1/600 coastal forces models.

Fast forward 15 years (and two house moves) and the model has been languishing in a box all that time, waiting for her refit. I came across the model by chance and decided now was the time. A quick application of hacksaw to the lower hull to make a waterline model, some rugged wire masts as befits a wargaming model that may encounter ham-fists, a scenic base and a rummage through the spares box to replace a few missing items and she was ready for the paint shop. I applied a a representative disruptive camouflage scheme, a light black/brown wash, dry brushing of the ship and the sea, and some additional wake and all finished :)