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 :)

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Rory McCreadie

This morning I learnt of the death of one of my dear naval wargaming friends, Rory McCreadie. A dedicated age-of-sail gamer as well as an authority on medical practice at sea at those times, Rory had been ill with cancer for a while and was working on a "goodbye" in the form of a Trafalgar refight. Facebook friends had seen his collection grow over the last few months and earlier this week his collection of ships for the game was completed. Alas, Rory succumbed to his illness this weekend and so he won't get to see his models in action. But the intention is to continue with the game in Poole in his honour, which will make this year's Trafalgar day a very, very special one indeed.

Fair winds and following seas Rory, we will miss you.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Scallop Wars!

Readers in the UK and possibly farther afield will have been aware of a fracas off the Normandy coast between British and French scallop fishermen in an incident described as the "Scallop Wars". Of course this was too good an opportunity to miss for the creation of a special scenario for my "Cod War" rules, and so a couple of days back I posted this on Wargame Vault. Its just a bit of fun, but watch out for updated versions if and when the story develops.....

Find it here (its a free download)

"Scallop War" - Wargames Vault

"Cod War " - Wargames Vault