Thursday 31 December 2020

2020 - The Plan in Review

As is customary for my blog, as as I sit here huddled in the cold (our  heating has failed, we need a new controller for he heat pump and there's no spares available until Tuesday) waiting for this dreadful year to come to a close it is time to review how things went against "the plan". 

So, here goes:

1) 10mm Vietnam - I have a load of new Pendraken figures to replace the older types I've had for a couple of decades. So #1 on the plan is to sort out the new figures, fix the various bits of broken terrain that I have and then make sure my rules are fit to use.

No progress on this at all, apart from working on some Swift boats, PBRs and aircraft thanks to Nick Hewitt asking me to 3D print a few for him. I guess I also got to renovate a whole load of old riverine landing craft and monitors that I've had in a box for a decade or so, but nothing happened as far as the replacement figures were concerned. The rules I'm using look ok so probably no need to work on them anyway.

1/200 Swift boats

2) 15mm Winter Skirmish and 20mm Burma Skirmish. Yes, I WILL get these sorted and ready to play. Rules need to be decided upon (fast and fun, not too serious), I may just end up writing my own for quick games at Berkeley Vale. That or heavily modify Bolt Action.

Lots of good work here. I decided to use my "Fireforce" skirmish rules for Burma and the "Winter Skirmish". I played  few games over the Summer and all seemed to be well. I also did well working on models, with plenty of new Russian Front vehicles for both sides coming out of the 3D printer.

15m Russian tractors. These ended up in civilian colours as they are destined for the "imagi-nations" element of my Spanish Civil War collection

3) Sci Fi Submarines - The rules I've used for my "Stingray" games are pretty stable now. I'm going to work on them to create a set of generic sci fi submarine rules (into which Stingray will fit), but I'm also going to look at a Victorian "subpunk" version, having found some interesting models to work with. Something different I guess. Both versions will have their own bespoke backgrounds (who knew, for instance that the British Empire, the French and the United States fought a clandestine war beneath the waves whilst also fighting off mysterious anarchists??)

These came on really well, at least the Victorian version has. With luck these will hit the streets very, very soon. I knocked up a good selection of models for submarines, sea bases, seabed crawlers and divers, again via the 3D printer. Good work here :)

4) WW2 coastal forces - I have a horde of new boats painted up as a result of getting this blasted 3D printer, so a major task will be to get them properly based. Then more games, especially some Pacific theatre ones. This will hopefully get me in a position to finalise my "Narrow Seas" campaign system as well.

The campaign system develops slowly, but the models are coming on well. I based up most of the printer "back log" - then went and developed a load of new models which then also needed to be based and painted. Pride of place I think has to go to the  Finnish coastal battleship Ilmarinen, a ship I've wanted to have in my collection for many years. Another 3D print that came out well. I also worked on Finnish MTBs, Russian and Axis craft for Lake Ladoga, RN MTBs in Hong Kong and a small set of WW1 British CMBs and German LM boats (along with a couple of RN monitors and  a German coastal defence battleship) so I can extend "Narrow Seas" back to the Great War.

Of course Covid put paid to just about evety plan I had to actually play games (along with everyone else's plans of course), so I spent a lot of time modelling, painting and working on various rule projects. In 15mm I painted all the 15mm Pacific WW2 models that I've had in a box since Peter Pig's XIV Army range was released, some 100+ vehicles, and printed a load more - mostly Japanese. The plan is to sort the figures out next Spring. I also blitzed a very large pile of 15mm Vietnam and AK47 figures (around 200) that have been sitting around for far too long (some of the Vietnam figures were original PP from the 1990s), and in fact that was a bit of the theme - hunt out odds and sods (or in some cases entire armies) that have been sitting in boxes and finishing them off.

On the naval front I revamped my ancient fleet action set of rules, created Greek and Persian fleets in 1/2400 and refought Salamis on the 2500th anniversary of the battle. The models were put up for free on Wargame Vault and to date over 200 sets have been downloaded. 

I picked up a set of Tywlite;s 1/1000 Russo Turkish naval war 3d model files, revamped them (some needed quite a bit of work), and created a load of new models to represent steamers and paddle auxiliary warships, then went on to create squadrons of hypothetical 1870s and 1880s ironclads and turret ships for an "imagi-nation" project I've had on the back burner for a while. But the Russo Turkish fleets themselves amounted to over 70 new vessels - all 3D printed.

Yes, I know the labels for Popov and Novgorod are the wrong way round: I've changed them already :)

Back on land I finally painted up the camp follower and farrier sets  bought at Devizes in 2019, finished off a half dozen stands of ancient Greeks for my generic DBA armies - and gave them some mythical opponents in the form of a minotaur and Medusa - printed and painted loads of new vehicles for AK47 (my warlords have a host of technicals and second hand armour to play with now, as well as a few new helicopters) and my "War on the Moon" set in 6mm is now just about complete (although lacking rules).

Out in space I printed a load of "original series" ships for Battlestar Galactica (bittersweet as only this week it was announced that Areas is having to pull the plug on the game as they've lost the licence). Sails of Glory also benefitted from the 3D printer magic as I made the 44 gun razees Indefatigable and Anson in 1/1000.

There are probably loads of things I've forgotten - Maunsell sea forts in 1/1200 and 1/600, Japanese and Australian WW2 aircraft, some long lost AW steam frigates, and many others. 

Modern subs in 1/1800 for "Conn, Sonar"

South Africans for AK47 - those Casspirs were horrible things to put together!

BAE P1216s in 1/300

The infamous "T55 Roadwheel" garden wall, as seen during my time in Eritrea in 2017

ex-Israeli M51 Super Shermans for AK47 - another vehicle I've wanted for ages

More boats in the "long ago" pile, a 688I SSN and Echo II SSGN in 1/700. The latter has a 3D printed lower hull as the plastic kit is made from is a waterline model

28mm Wild West ladies for when we get "Liberdy" going at Berkeley Vale again

RN MTBs from the 1941 Hong Kong squadron. I created the 3D files and printed these

Swedish "Visby" class corvette for my "Bulldogs Away" collection. The print wasn't brilliant so plenty of filler needed.

Laura's pony Domino immortalised in 15mm. The real thing did his best to kill Laura on several occasions this year.

Japanese Ka Mi amphibious tanks in 20mm. A good example of the cost-effectiveness of 3D printing; if I'd bought similar sized traditional models the cost of those models would have been less than a 1 litre bottle of resin - and these three vehicles only used a small fraction of the contents of the bottle. 

Ruleswise, apart from the ancient fleet action set I worked up a campaign system for the naval side of the Haitian Civil War ("Salnave's War") to accompany Spithead's models covering the war, statted up the Austrian and Italian fleets of the Lissa campaign for "Dahlgren and Columbiad", and completed a naval campaign system for the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, again finishing a project that has been on the go for a decade or so. I also started work on a solo board game covering convoy escorts in the North Atlantic in WW2. 

Of course I had planned to document all of this in the blog, but for some reason i never got as deeply into writing as I should have done. I guess there's various reasons for this, none of them satisfactory. Must try harder next year.

So there we are, not a bad year on the modelling and writing front - pretty dire on every other. 

Adios 2020, I won't miss you.

Friday 23 October 2020

Ten Years On

 Today is the tenth anniversary of my first blog post (As well as my birthday). I was planning to put up a long retrospective looking back over the decade, but alas I've not had time to put something together. And that has been something of a theme as far as the blog itself is concerned - lots of good wargamy stuff happening here (I've painted over 200 Peter Pig AK47 and Vietnam figures in the last week or so - figures that have been languishing in the lead pile for longer than this blog has existed) but I don't seem to be getting time to record my various successes here. I will try to do better :)

For now though I'd like to that everyone who has encouraged me to do this, from Steve Blease back in 2010 who recommended blogging as a way to increase motivation, to all of you who have taken the time to comment on my various ramblings here. I do appreciate your interest and I hope to be able to get you more interesting things to read in the future.

For now I'll end with a few photos of things I
have managed to paint up recently and take snaps of. 

Donnington "New Era" farrier and camp follower sets, to give me some camps and nice "background" for my various 15mm medieval DBA armies

I'm quite pleased with how the farrier's stall came out. Its a lovely set and full of character

My daughter's pony Domino finally immortalised in 15mm :)

Domino approves :)

"Grub's up!"

With the (hopefully) soon-to-be-reprinted "Pony Wars on the horizon I've been working on some bits and pieces to supplement the very large collection I bought from Stuart Barnes Watson back in the 90s. This is "Fort Neaf", which will be familiar to wargames in South London :)

Longhorns and bison for "Pony Wars"

Narrow Seas - A couple of Japanese targets escorts for my 1/700  PT boats to chase


Sunday 30 August 2020

LCT 7074

Last weekend saw the culmination of many years work on the part of friends at the National Museum of the Royal Navy and their supporting contractors in restoring and relocating LCT7074 to her new home at the D Day Story (formerly the D Day Museum) in Southsea. I had a minor role in this, sitting on the restoration project board and reviewing some of the technical aspects of the project. Last weekend, after a storm-affected few days of delay, 7074 finally reached Southsea, made landfall (with a few dramas) and motored down the Esplanade to the museum. Final fitting out is ongoing and should be finished by mid October. For me this was a pretty emotional few days and seeing her arrive at her new home really brought a tear to my eye. I thought you. dear readers, might like to see a few of my pictures from the event. For naval wargamers she now makes an excellent visual reference for those working on LCT and other coastal models :)

Friday 14 August 2020

Convoy Action Playtest AAR - HMS CROCUS, Spring 1942

This evening I’ve been playtesting my new solitaire convoy escort game. If you think of “B17 – Queen of the Skies” but driving a Royal Navy warship rather than a 4-engined bomber you are on the right lines.

So, its 1942 and we are commanding HMS Crocus, a Flower class corvette. Our crew is well trained but it’s the first time out for many of them (we have no “special” crewmen who would give us bonuses in certain situations). We have a full load of depth charges, a 4” gun,  a radar that seems to be working well and pantry stacked with hot chocolate!


I’m using the random generation system to determine the exact scenario, and it turns out that it is Spring 1942. We are escorting a Fast convoy from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Liverpool. The escort strength is normal, the weather is generally good. Our station is at the rear of the convoy.

As we are running a Fast convoy we have 5 game turns to play. The first is the North American coastal turn (“zone A”), we have 3 open ocean turns (Zone B), and one turn in the Western Approaches as we close with our destination (Zone C).

Each turn we roll for a random event, then for any encounters.

 Turn 1 – North American coast

Random event – we roll a 2, which means there is a Support Group close by. This increases our effective escort strength to “Heavy” for this turn.

Encounter - The die roll is a 4, which means no encounter. Alas the presence of the SG is for naught.
The convoy plows on into the North Atlantic

Turn 2 – Open Ocean Square 1

Random event  - we roll a “no event”. An uneventful trip so far. But maybe too quiet.
Encounter – the die roll is a 3. Doenitz’s boats must be hunting elsewhere

Turn 3 – Open Ocean Square 2

Random event – A 10 is rolled, +2 for Zone B = 12. Maximum German effort. We’ve run into an accumulation of wolf packs, and will have to roll twice for encounters.

Encounter 1 – Contact, and we have a possible submerged U boat contact astern of the convoy. Our ship is dispatched to confirm and engage.

Phase 1 - The CO uses the “step aside” tactic to help avoid any incoming torpedo, and to possibly give the impression that we haven’t seen the contact. Contact level is “probable”, but then our radar picks up a periscope – contact raised to “Positive”. The bridge crews’ eyes are peeled for any incoming torpedo, but nothing is seen.

Phase 2 – we are now closing on the U boat. Contact is maintained, no change. Which means he’s probably not going deep. We may have caught him napping.

Phase 3 –As we don’t think he’s going deep we set depth charges for Shallow and we run over the contact. DCs away! The sea erupts as the spread detonates. We commence a turn to re-engage – and see a damaged u boat broach the surface! (natural roll of 10)! Gun crews close up and we go to a surface action.

Surface action:

We move to the Surface Engagement Battleboard, with the U Boat at Medium range. We make 3 critical hit rolls to determine the damage that the U boat has suffered in the DC attack. 

Rolls are 2, 8 and 10. 2 is “no effect”, 8 is “20mm damaged” but the 10 is “hull holed, boat sinks”. The U boat just makes it to the surface in time to allow some of the control room team to escape to the water, but before more than a handful get out the boat sinks, taking the rest of the crew with her. We decide to pick up survivors; 5 German sailors are pulled from the sea. The skipper is not one of them.

Having claimed our first kill we resume our position in the screen.

Encounter 2 -  No encounter (d10 roll is 2) – a tense night as we skirt through the wolf pack, but the screen is working too well to let the U boat commanders get a shot in. The turn ends

Turn 4 – Open Ocean Square 3

Random Event: Die roll is 3, +2 for Zone B = 5: engine trouble. We drop out of the screen and slow whilst the chief engineer makes repairs. On completion we speed up to try to regain our place at the back of the convoy.

Encounter:  Die roll = 9, so there is an encounter. The encounter type die roll is a 6, so its another ASDIC contact.

Phase 1 - The contact is ahead and seems to be heading in the direction of the convoy, “step aside” won’t really work in this position so we move to close the distance rapidly. Contact quality isn’t great, only a “possible”. Radar isn’t spotting anything.

TORPEDO! – the lookouts spot the wake of a torpedo closing rapidly from ahead. We are already on the right heading to comb the tracks, a slight alteration and the torpedo passes down the port side. That was close. There’s definitely a U Boat there, but the ASDIC contact still isn’t great.

Phase 2 – contact is still “possible”. Since we know there’s a boat somewhere that means ASDIC is having a hard time getting an accurate bearing. Whether he’s going deep is anyone’s guess

Phase 3 – Set DCs for Deep (I have a feeling he’s there but went deep when he launched his torpedo). The DCs detonate, but there’s no sign of any wreckage. We turn to re-engage.

Reattack, Phase 2 – as the reverberations from our DC attack subside the Jimmy reports “contact lost Sir”. We execute and repeat the lost contact procedure several times but come up with nothing. And as we are currently detached behind the convoy there’s no additional ships there to help us. He’s probably got away.

Somewhat dejectedly we leave the scene and rejoin the convoy a few hours later. At least the enemy was submerged and not able to catch up. I wonder why he was dived though? Probably spotted us before we made ASDIC contact. But I guess we’ll never know. (we draw a playing card and keep it hidden until the game end; this will tell us what happened, after the war when the archives are opened)

At this point, play was interrupted for a few minutes.....

Turn 5 – Western Approaches.

We are almost home, but in many ways this can be the most dangerous part of the trip. But not this time.

Random event is 5, +4 for Zone C for a 9. Some of our escort detaches to assist another convoy. Not really what we want. But the encounter roll is a 5 “no encounter”, and so after a fairly eventful trip and one U boat and some of her very lucky crew “in the bag” we make it in to Liverpool for a quick turnaround before joining another escort force for a load of empties in ballast. No rest for the wicked!

But what happened to the U boat that we attacked in Turn 4? We turn over the card we drew in the encounter and it’s the 9 of Hearts. Its an odd number so he did go deep (we guessed right) and for a “no visible result” damage effect (the most “severe” that we caused) this equates to minor damage. The boat remained submerged, was not able to reach our convoy and itself returned home safely.

And so ends the log entries for HMS Crocus for this particular trip. Playing time (once I had removed the feline interloper who stopped play for a few minutes) was just over an hour. I picked up several areas where tweaks were needed, and a few additional elements that I worked up – rescuing survivors being the rime example.  It was a fun game and I think resulted I a pleasing narrative that had something of the feel of the Cruel Sea about it.

Right, I’m off to find come dark choccie and condensed milk – time for a large hot mug of kai!

Thursday 6 August 2020

INWarD 2020 - Fire on the Lake

Today is the International Naval Wargames Day for 2020, and the subject of my game is a battle between German and Allied steamers on Lake Tanganyika  sometime in 1915. To the North the Belgian steamer Alexandre Delcommune, Commandant Goor in command, is escorting two civilian steamers loaded with supplies for the allied base at Lukuga. Accompanying the Delommune is the Belgian patrol boat Netta.

Smoke is spotted to the South and within minutes the German steamer Graf von Gotzen and her consort, the Kingani, hove into view, under the command of Gustav Zimmer Their mission, to stop the supplies from getting though.
For the first few turns both sides close the range, the Netta heading to the West to try and draw off the Kingani, which is initially successful. But soon, the Gotzen draws into range of the Commune and she opens fire. The German opening fire is surprisingly good, and a heavy shell slams into the Belgian (loses 1 hull point). Belgian fire in return falls short.

The range closes, and Gotzen's next broadside scores two good hits. Delommune loses her heavy gun, more hull damage, and a hit to the boiler room which halves her speed. But from the Wast is heard the sound of petrol engines, as two British motor boats, Mimi and Toutou, speed in to draw the German fire.

For the next few minutes everyone's gunnery goes to pot as no hits are scored. But that lull is broken as Delcommune suffers two more hits from Gotzen. Her engine room is hit and Commune drifts to a stop, whilst hits low in the hull cause more flooding (by now she has lost 75% of her hull points). Mimi and Toutou have the range and a light shell hits Gotzen's 105mm gun, disabling it.

The British boats can only fire forwards so they speed past the German raider, their machine guns blazing but no damage caused. Both boats turn tightly and form up on her stern. Gotzen administers the coup de grasse on poor Delcommune, as her last hull points are shot away and the Belgian is in a sinking condition. The civilians on the steamers expect the worst, but fire from the British boats disables Gotzen's 88mm gun. Meanwhile Kingani and Netta trade shots, causing minor damage.
Gotzen switches targets to the annoying British motor boats, but they are small targets head on and very difficult to hit. Gotzen is not, and the British score more hits, causing a minor flood but more importantly disabling Gotzen's 37mm guns (she can still use rifles and machine guns).

Zimmer realises that intercepting  this cargo requires too high a price. With all his main guns disabled or with their crews wounded and out of action, and with the British boats seemingly able to lob 3pdr  Hotchkiss shells into him with near impunity he decides of break off the action. As Gotzen raises steam to disengage a Short seaplane makes its appearance and executes an almost perfect bomb run - but its bombs land either side of Gotzen which is doused in spray but otherwise unaffected.
As the Gotzen and Kingani leave the field the civilian steamers pick up the survivors from the Delcommune, whilst the British muse on the fact that they disabled Gotzen's last operational gun with their final round of ammunition.......

Saturday 6 June 2020

International Naval Wargames Day 2020

Its only two months until the 2020 International Naval Wargames Day. Celebrate the birth of the father of naval wargaming, Fred T Jane, on the occasion of his birthday. Play games, solo or with friends (covid permitting), and post your action reports here, on your blog or your favourite wargaming websites. Help raise the profile of naval wargaming by supporting INWarD 2020!