Saturday 30 July 2016

More Confederate Gunboats

I returned from my break on Vis to find an email from "Wargamer 6" at Spithead Minatures with some pictures of what is hoped to be their latest set of releases. This time the subject is the Confederate defence fleets at New Orleans and Commodore Hollins' flotilla at Island No. 10.

As with the recent Memphis release the models are beautifully constructed and full of character. My Memphis collection painted up very well (expect to see them in a forthcoming blog entry) and I'm sure these will be no different.

The eventual release of these models depends on enough potential buyers "signing up" at Spithead's website. If you are tempted by these then head on over and send them a message via their "contact" page:

Thursday 28 July 2016

Battle of Lissa, 1811

As well as the 1866 battle of Lissa I also refought the 1811 action whilst on the island of Vis last week. The plan had been to run this as a regular game with my NWS chums, but alas various stomach bugs and ailments befell the valiant travellers which wiped out the last 2 days of the trip. I awoke with a fever early (3am) on the Saturday morning before we were due to fly home and decided that I wasn't going to have carted all those models to the island and back without using them, so I ran the game solo on the bedroom floor.

The game was a hard fought, spirited action. The British line tacked early, heading downwind and avoiding the head of thewindward allied line which turned late and found itself out of position for a good while (apart from the Venetian Bellona which turned and joined the leeward column). However, this was not before some superlative long range shooting crippled Active, a blow from which she never recovered. Their early tack allowed the British to concentrate on the leeward ships and allowed Active to attempt to escape, at least for a while.

The opening stages. A brown towel represents the northern coast of Lissa

The British line has tacked and is heading to the East

Battle is joined against the leeward column

The three British ships still in fighting order eventually forced the leeward ships to strike, but whilst doing so Favorite and Flore had caught Active and forced her surrender in a boarding action. But this left Favorite vulnerable to a counterattack and she was boarded quickly by Hoste's flagship, Active. The battle of the commodores ended in a swift British victory; Hoste would be joined by his foe for dinner in the harbour at Lissa that evening. Seeing the game was most definitely up, Flore broke off the action and headed to Hvar and safety.

Towards the end of the acion. The field of battle is strewn with struck allied ships.

The rules in use were "Form Line of Battle" and I fought the game out using Ares 1/1000 models (they come in rather nice boxes which make them ideal for carriage by air - I suspect my 1/1200 white metal models would have suffered in transit, even if well packed).

Ship Stats for the Battle

Windward Column
Favourite (40) – French, 5th(Sup), Gunnery Class A, Experienced, +1 Crew Unit

Flore (40) – French, 5th(Sup), Gunnery Class A, Experienced, +1 Crew Unit
Bellona (32) – Venetian, 5th, Gunnery Class B, Poor, +1 Crew Unit

Leeward Column Danae (40) – French, 5th(Sup), Gunnery Class A, Experienced,
Corona (40) – Venetian, 5th(Sup), Gunnery Class B, Poor, +1 Crew Unit
Carolina (32) – Venetian, 5th, Gunnery Class B, Poor, +1 Crew Unit

Amphion (32) – British, 5th, Gunnery Class A, Elite
Active (38) – British, 5th(Sup), Gunnery Class A, Elite
Volage (22) – British, 6th, Gunnery Class D, Elite (Carronade armed)
Cerberus (32) - British, 5th, Gunnery Class A, Elite

Thursday 21 July 2016

Battle of Lissa, 150 Years On

This week sees the 150th anniversary of the battle of Lissa, fought on 20th July  1866 between the navies of Italy and the Austro Hungarian empire. Lissa was the first and indeed only ironclad fleet action, and the sinking of one of the Italian ironclads (Re d'Italia) by ramming erroneously focussed naval tactics on ramming for many years afterwards.

To celebrate the anniversary a team from the Naval Wargames Society has been on the island this week, and yesterday on the anniversary we refought the battle. Using Stuart Barnes Watson's lovely collection of 1/1200 models we staged the battle in the utility room of the villa that has been NWS HQ (it was quite cool, plus the floor was a nice blue grey colour, although nothing like the bright, vibrant blues that we have been seeing in the seas around Port George recently.

The original plan had been to use my "Iron and Fire" rules (we used them for a previous NWS Lissa refight some years ago) but in the end we went for my "Broadside and  Ram" rules that form part of my recent Lissa publication. This was a good move as we fought through 25 turns in the afternoon before we had to close up.

The battle itself proved to be a reversal of history, and a black day for the Austrians. The ironclad division accounted for itself well and fought a slugfest with its Italian counterpart. Many ships on both sides were damaged but none conclusively apart from the Austrian Don Juan de Austria which caught fire and after some time blew up and sank. But to the North Persano's leading ironclads faced an oncoming tide of heavy Austrian wooden ships and faced them off with deadly fire (Nathan's gunnery rolls were generally excellent). Soon Kaiser and the other Austrian heavies were burning and shattered, and as losses mounted Teggethoff decided the day was lost and the Austrian fleet moved to withdraw.

The rules worked well, we fought the game to a concusion in 5 hours (which were punctuated by a number of breaks, so more like 3-4 hours of playing time)and the overall feel was just right.

So the first game drew to a close, and as I write we are looking to state a refight of 1811 Lissa before a tour of the island.

Sunday 10 July 2016

Coastal Defences

Some Brigade Models sea forts have been sitting on the shelf in their packing looking at me for a while, so over the last week or so I've been slowly painting them up and they are just about done now. The models are resin with some details in white metal. The surface finish of the resin seems a bit rough on initial inspection but they paint up very well, giving very respectable results. I'm extremely pleased with them and I think I'll be adding to my collection when I see them hopefully) at Colours in September.

The forts of Portsmouth, two incarnations of Southsea Castle in the foreground, two versions of No Mans land Fort at the back (one as built, the second with the five turrets as originally designed), St Helen's Fort in the middle and Spitbank Fort to the right

Southsea Castle, 1544 to the left, 1850 to the right

A closeup of St Helens and Spitbank, the former modelled at an intermediate tide (the rocks surrounding the fort are completely covered at high tide)

No Mans Land in its two versions - I may get a second "as built" to give me all of the models for the seaward defences as in the 1850s

Moving to the American Civil War, this is Fort McRee with an added scenic base

The landward side of Fort McRee

Fort Moultrie, a lovely casting that has obvious utility outside the Civil War era

Friday 8 July 2016

Steamer Wars Goes To Russia

The second of three supplements for Steamer Wars has just gone live on Wargame Vault. "War on the Great Rivers" covers  naval engagements on the Dvina, Volga and Kama river and the lakes of Russia during the Civil War. The supplement includes a host of new rules covering mines and torpedoes, troops on shore, land based features and targets and the riverine environment.  Data tables are included for many new ship and vessel types from the navies and irregular forces of the Bolsheviks, the White Russians and the Royal Navy.

WotGR is available for a mere $2.50

The third and probably final supplement covering additional African lake scenarios will be some time coming now, so likely to appear in early 2017.

Sunday 3 July 2016

Naval Wargames Weekend 2016

I've just got home from the 2016 Naval Wargames Weekend at the Explosion! museum in Gosport. As usual a fun mix of games and chat with like minded naval wargamers over  a couple of days, although quieter than last year due to some of the regulars experiencing illness and family issues (or, in one notable case, forgetting they were coming!). That said it was a lovely weekend, everyone who attended enjoyed the event and we had a decent number of wargaming visitors and members of the general public who were attending the museum popping in to see what we were about.

Some pictures from the event for your delectation, the programme of games is in a previous NWW post (David Fleck wasn't able to make it so we missed out on seeing his lovely Anglo Dutch Wars game).

River Plate in 1/600 using the same ground scale as model scale. Opening salvos at 30m on the lawn. Unfortunately rain stopped play!

Harwood's squadron for the River Plate game

This is what a 30m "on table" range looks like!

Rory's packed Napoleonic game, using Warhammer Trafalgar rules

Peter Colbeck's Mediterranean pre-dreadnought campaign, based on my RJW campaign and tactical rules

Gary Mitchell's "Dreadnought" variant of Osprey's "Fighting Sail"

 Mark Bachouse's excellent "Seige of Portsmouth ECW game. Beautiful terrain

A close-up of Portsmouth and the Round Tower in Mark's game

One of the new exhibits 

Andy Jose driving rebellious Red Russians in Simon Stokes Russian Civil War game

Another view of Gary Mitchell's "Dreadnought" variant of Osprey's "Fighting Sail"

The Anglesey Hotel, HQ for some of the team

All the years I've been coming to the museum and I have never noticed this weather vane

The battle of Memphis in 1/1200

Dave Sharp's "Joint Stock Company" game (aka "Plucky Brits attempt to pinch a Spanish galleon)

More action at Memphis


Powerboat racing at its best :)

We are looking forward to even bigger and better things in 2016, although it will likely be with someone else at the helm. After 5 years organising the event I feel it is time to pass the baton to someone else who can bring something fresh to the weekend. Fingers crossed a volunteer pops up soon.

Friday 1 July 2016

Tactics Night

This week I got to take part in an interesting "professional" wargaming activity that I thought my readers might be interested in. Some of you make know I'm a naval architect as well as a wargamer, and part of my job involves lecturing to and supporting the MSc. naval architecture and marine engineering courses at University College London. Part of the course involves a ship design exercise where students are given a set of requirements and a budget and then have to design a ship within those constraints. Due to the nature of the course a number of the ship designs are warships, generally advanced types looking 10-20 years into the future (so there are lots of UAV carriers, ships with rail guns and laser weapons, stealth ships, trimarans, etc.). In the last couple of years the ship design exercise has been topped off with "tactics night", a wargaming event where the students get to see how their designs might fare in action, achieved through the medium of wargaming. I have encouraged and supported this approach and earlier in the year took part in a short wargaming exercise where the students in one team  learned the shortcomings in their design as it was at an early stage and received some very valuable pointers for improvement. So I was rather pleased to be asked to lay the OPFOR in Tactics Night 2016, along with two of the UCL research staff, Santiago and Veronika. The students used their ship designs from 2016, we used some of the designs from the 2015 exercise.

3D printed models of the forces engaged

Things look tense in the OPFOR command centre

The scenario was fairly straightforward, the students had to escort an amphibious force to an amphibious area of operations in preparation for an assault, aiming to reach one of three beaches along a 100+ nautical mile coastline (we didn't know exactly where they were heading). Our smaller force had to stop them, a "green" force of neutral merchant ships was there to confuse the issue, and the game was played within a strict time limit of 3 hours (representing the political will of Blue force - not achieved the aim by 9pm? You lose!)

A simple yet effective set of rules was developed by UCL's Dr Nick Bradbeer that translated the ship designs into workable wargame stats and layouts. The game was played out on the floor of the main naval architecture lecture room with excellent "dressing" provided by Lucy Collins, one of the research assistants, in the form of red lighting, "ops room" screensavers on the room's computers and sound effects, so there was quite an atmosphere! Our OPFOR team was in the same room but closeted behind a screen and moving our forces on a map. Nick also did wonders creating 3D printed models of  the ships taking part.

I won't describe the game in great detail, only to note that there was a tense and extended search phase where our respective UAVs and UCAVs sought to find the enemy - a phase that we won as we located the students' carrier and hit it with an all out 18-missile strike (some appalling die rolling by our side for weapon hits but enough to achieve a mission kill), and the neutrals came front and centre as one of their merchant ships was boarded and captured, and a second was inadvertently blown to pieces having been close to one of our stealth corvettes during a missile attack - the missiles decided the large radar target was a better option than the ghostly radar trace and homed on the merchant rather than the corvette. With world opinion turning against them, plus a burning carrier, the game was up for Blue Force and the game ended just before the 9pm deadline.

It was an excellent night, thoroughly enjoyed by all. And from the players perspective it was an excellent learning opportunity, one that we will develop and continue in future years.