Monday 29 August 2011

The Naval Wargames Weekend, Gosport

Liz, the kids and I have just returned from Gosport where we took part in the naval Wargames Weekend (organised jointly by the Naval Wargames Society and the Explosion! Museum of naval Firepower). We had a great time, and we hope the other attendees did too. There were a host of games presented over the weekend.

Stuart Barnes Watson staged a refight of the battle of Koh Chang in 1/1200. Some lovely, and quite rare, French and Thai models did battle amongst the islands and fog banks, with the French this time coming off distinctly second best.
Across from the Thai action, Battlegroup South had an awesome 1/700 Pacific War game with impressive models and terrain featuring a quiet Japanese anchorage that as about to receive the unwelcome attentions of the United States navy. This was a lovely game that earned many admiring comments during the two days.

As did the Solent Wargames Association’s “Sun, Sea and Sandwich” game, a 28mm Wars of the Roses naval game on Saturday. Many large cogs did regular battle, and several members of the public were co-opted in to command ships and to do their best for York or Lancaster.

The SWA changed games for Sunday and shifted forward in time and down in scale to cover famous surface actions of the Royal Navy in WW2, principally the sinking of the Bismarck and the Battle of the River Plate. General Quarters 3 rules were in use, and the games played with some lovely 1/2400 models.

Across the way Mark Barker’s “Inshore Squadron” put on an excellent demonstration game base don the 1811 battle of Lissa. Mark’s team always put on a  lovely show with some very fine models and this was no exception. Malcolm Smalley’s “Clear For Action” computer moderated rules were in use, and the action (at least on the first day) went true to form with a glorious victory for the Royal Navy (at least that’s what the RN commanders told me!)

Dave Sharp views the French and Venetian squadron, approaching its doom at the hands of the Royal Navy
NWS chairman Jeff Crane and family brought along a “Man o War” game, reminding players and public alike that naval wargaming isn’t restricted solely to historical genres. Alas Jeff was only able to stay for a short while, but it was good to see his MoW models in action again.

The next game on the list was an innovative recreation of WW2 damage control by Jim Wallman. In this game the players take on the role of Damage Control Officers on board HMS BELFAST, marshalling their scare resources in terms of equipment and manpower to fight fires, control and pump out flooding, limit damage and restore combat efficiency in an RN cruiser under fire. One of Jim’s participants was a serving RN officer who has done this kind of thing for real, and who said the whole thing had  a most realistic feel to it. Praise indeed!

Jim advises a member of the public on the intricacies of RN Damage Control

Wayne Pocock and Nathan Girdler planned to refight the battle of Hampton Roads in 1/600 using a variety of rules. I’m not sure how this turned out, but at the start of the day Monitor and Virginia were seen doing their best to cause damage by shot, shellfire and ramming using Jason Gorringe’s “Smoke on the Water” rules.

For my own part I had (overly) ambitious plans to run 4, possibly 5 different games over the weekend. In the end this didn’t quite work out. Saturday began with my “Wings and Waves of War” variant on the popular WW1 air combat game, wherein a brace of RN 55’ Coastal Motor Boats attempt to escape from German air attack. In the first game my CMBs successfully fought off a pair of Hansa Brandeberg W.29s; in the second action I took the Germans, now reinforced by a pair of Albatros W.4s. The RN force (commanded by Laura) was assisted by the arrival of an RNAS Camel. This time, despite sinking one of the CMBs by gunfire, my W.4s were savaged by fire from the boats (one going down to the dreaded “bang” card after suffering very little damage), whilst the Camel pounced on the W.29s. In the end the RN prevailed as my last W.29 was shot down, but not before the last surviving CMB had been heavily damaged.

Game #2 featured my “Privateer” game using 1/450 pirate ship models. This ended up as a static display, with plenty of discussion with passes by on the models, conversions and the rules.
Game #3, on Sunday morning, was the first run out of my rules covering Medieval small ship actions. The game was based on the battle of Sandwich (August 1217) in which an English squadron under deBurgh engaged a French force under Eustace the Monk. The rules worked well (although some areas for improvement were identified), and were certainly quick! Eustace once again succumbed to the onslaught of the English fleet, his flagship being surrounded and captured whilst other Englsish ships ransacked the French transports.

Game #4 was to have been my Cod War participation game, and game #5 the 1/600 model – and ground – scale recreation of the River Plate battle, but time did not permit these to come into play.

Overall the weekend went well. For a “first attempt” it was successful although as in all things we identified a number of areas where it could be better. The general consensus was that it was a worthwhile event that we will run again next year. Arranging the event at the same time as the Surface Warships Association’s display day at the museum was, on reflection, not wonderful as it meant the wargames were on display in the Grand Magazine – a lovely venue but very dark; ext time we will probably run the event on a  different weekend with games in the conference centre (which is large, light and airy). Moving away from the bank holiday weekend should also improve attendance, being more “family friendly” for potential participants (In fairness the location and date, and hence the non-availability of many NWS members and players was a result of the short timescales in organising the event).
So, in summary, a good weekend of gaming, and (for me at least) an excellent opportunity to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. Watch out for announcements about the event in 2012!

1/72 radio controlled “Flower” class corvettes, Surface Warship Association

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Preparing for Gosport

The NWS games weekend is at the Explosion museum at Gosport this weekend. I've just about got everything I need together for this now. I'm taking an interesting (I think) collection of games to play over the two days.

1) Medieval naval - Fleet action and small scale actions, probably running a scenario based on the 1217 battle of Sandwich. I'm using my home brew rules for this, using 1/1200 models from Outpost Wargames Services rounded out with GW "Mighty Empires" cogs, and some navwar transports.

2) Privateer - An age of sail variant of "Man o War", using Peter Pig 1/450 models (see my previous entry). I've run this at shows several times and it is a lot of fun.

3) Cod War - 1/1200 non-warfighting off Iceland in 1973. Again, I've run this a few times at shows in the past and it is a lot of fun. I might try one or two of the more "aggressive" scenarios between the Icelandic Coast Guard and some of the UK support ships that don't involve trawlers (but planty of ramming and "firing" at each other using fire hoses!)

Icelandic Coastguard Vessel "Aegir"

UK Protection and Support Vessel "Lloydsman"

4) Wings and Waves of War - Wings of War with seaplanes versus Coastal Motor Boats. 1/144 models from (the now defunct, sadly) Nexus, Riviresco (W-29 seaplanes) and F-Toys  (Albatros D.IIIs converted into W.4s), and CMBs from Rod langton

5) River Plate - Using the NWS freebie rules (which hopefully should be available sometime after the show), 1/600 models outside on the lawn, with the ground scale equalling the model scale. Intended to give players and viewers an impression of the rea distances involved in WW2 naval warfare. Thinks - maybe we should do this with moderns one day, 1/3000 Harpoons fired out to 60 metres or more!)

Hopefully the weekend will be a lot of fun!

Saturday 20 August 2011


One of the games I'm hoping to run at the Gosport wargames event next week is a refight of the battle of the River Plate in 1/600, using the same ground scale as the models. Simon Stokes is providing the models he used for one of the NWS games on board HMS BELFAST a few years back (most welcome as, although I've got Graf Spee in 1/600 I've not had time to make AJAX or ACHILLES). Of course, whilst Airfix do a nice model of SUFFOLK (which can be used for CUMBERLAND, en route from the Falklands to join Harwood's squadron at the time of the battle, and present at the time of Graf Spee's demise) they never got around to making a  model of EXETER. Whilst I could have done what Simon did and run a "what if?" game based on Graf Spee breaking out of Montevideo, I really wanted to recreated the original battle.  To solve this conundrum I decided to attempt a conversion based on a spare AJAX hull that I picked up many years ago. The model was pretty ropey, but given that I was converting or scratch building everything from the weatherdeck upward this wasn't really a problem. A spare SUFFOLK kit provided the 8" turrets and a multitude of detail. The results, whilst never at risk of winning any prizes for accuracy, provides a passable reproduction of EXETER, and should be fine for the game.

Tuesday 16 August 2011


We are just under two weeks away from the Naval Wargames Weekend at the Museum of Naval Firepower in Gosport. I'm taking a few games along with me and I've been sprucing up the models for these over the last few days, and will be doing the same for the next week. Time permitting I'll be doing a scatch built 1/600 model of HMS EXETER, but for now I've been working on new ships for my "Privateer" variant of GW's "Man o War".

I've had "Privateer" available as a participation game for many years now. In essence it is "Man o War" played in a historical(ish) setting, using Peter Pig 1/450 scale models from their "Pieces of Eight" range. The basic rules are tweaked  abit to avoid some of the less realistic aspects of the original rules but only very slightly. The variant retains the fun and playability aspects and is very quick to explain and play out. The last trip out for the game under the NWS banner was at the Exeter wargames show in 2004. Not much has changed since then, the system still works fine. However, I've recently obtained  a large pile of Peter Pig ships and some others, partly with a view to covering the St georges Caye campaign of 1798 (which guaranteed the safety of Britain's colony in Belize). I've also got a coupel of the pirate xebecs from the old "Pirateology" range (now looking for some of the Junks in that range, rare as hen's teeth in the UK!)

This first shot shows a PP schooner conversion. The original vessel is a topsail schooner with a squre rigged foremast. martin Goddard kindly sent me several spare aft masts from this kit and, with soem careful cutting and shaping, it is possible to fit one of these in place of the original foremast. I've mad eup 4 of these types of vessel which make ideal additions to the privateer fleet.

Pic #2 shows one of the Xebecs. I've got two of these. The hull needs cutting down, and some minor paintwork needs to be done to the sails and masts to make a better looking model, but apart from that these can be used almost straight from the box. In the game setting one of the two is configured as a spanish frigate, the second as a Barbary pirate.

The final new items are a couple of shore batteries, of which this is the better one :)

The battery is made from Peter Pig guns and crews protected by a spare front face from a Thoroughbred 1/600 floating battery. all placed atop a hillock made form balsa coated with filler, with some foam bushes represnting nearby undergrowth. Honestly, it looks better in real life than in the photo! I was hoping to make a small fort but time is against me (alternatively if anyone can suggest an existing model I'd be most happy to hear from you!)

These show just a small postion of the new collection of models. The new additioons comprise two large warships, a dozen smaller warships, schooners and sloops, the forts, a couple of small junks and dhows, and a selection of boats and gunboats (converted from Irregular 1/300 boats - a bit out of scale, but they do seem to fit nicely with the PP models).

The project for the rest of the week (apart from the EXETER) is sorting out the 1/1200 Medieval collection, ready for the Battle of Dover scenario. More on this later :)