Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Denmark Strait, 24th May 1941....Game Number 53, Part 2



Bismarck sorties with some Bf110s providing air cover.


Today marks the anniversary of the of the Battle of the Denmark Strait in 1941, pitting H.M.S. Hood and H.M.S. Prince of Wales against the German Bismarck and Prinz Eugen.

H.M.S. Hood in company with H.M.S. Prince of Wales. Ill-fated ships, H.M.S. Prince of Wales was to be sunk by the Japanese.



The outcome of the battle is of course well known with H.M.S. Hood being sunk with the loss of all but three of her crew.

After a dramatic search and chase of three days the Bismarck was finally sunk by the combined efforts of H.M.S. KGV, H.M.S. Rodney and the cruisers H.M.S. Norfolk and Dorsetshire.

The Royal Navy rescued some 111 survivors, the Germans 5.

As with any wargame refight one should always reflect on the human dimension of what we are undertaking using models in the comfort of our own home.

At times like this I am reminded of a passage in the book The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer. The gist of it is “Too many people learn about war with no inconvenience to themselves. They read about Verdun or Stalingrad without comprehension, sitting in a comfortable armchair, with their feet beside the fire, preparing to go about their business the next day, as usual. One should really read such accounts under compulsion, in discomfort, considering oneself fortunate not to be describing the events in a letter home, writing from a hole in the mud. One should read about war in the worst circumstances, when everything is going badly, remembering that the torments of peace are trivial, and not worth any white hairs. Nothing is really serious in the tranquillity of peace; only an idiot could be really disturbed by a question of salary".

I would suggest rather than "writing from a hole in the mud" one could readily substitute "clinging to some wreckage adrift in the North Atlantic".

Something to think about, and to be thankful that one does not have to endure the same.



Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Naval Accessories

During one of my periodic sort outs in the man cave I rediscovered some shell splash markers produced by Litko that I had purchased but had never gotten around to doing anything with. My usual choice of shell hit marker for naval games has tended to be the black and white pegs you get with the game Mastermind - when stood on their 'head' they make perfectly usable hit markers. If you look back through some of my blog posted naval battles you will see them in action.

 
 
Litko acrylic shell splashes - they are currently $5.99 for 10 but I am sure I paid less for them. Mind you, it was a few years ago!
 
 
These are rather fiddly blighters to put together as the peg at the foot of the white splash is too large for the blue base. This means filing them down individually to fit. It is not difficult but tedious to do - and I have 40 of them. I have completed 20 and intend finishing the rest off over the next day or so. 
 
As I recall they are available in three sizes - those above are the smallest - which would be useful for varying calibre hits if needed. It is not urgent but I may get some explosion or fire type markers from them in due course.
 
I intend using these for my naval games going forward and they will make their debut with the Denmark Strait game I shall be fighting this coming weekend.



Monday, 21 May 2018

Changing the Rules of the Game

 
A quite splendid book and one that I need to add to my collection - especially as my copy seems to disappeared into the ether....(along with the Conways titles mentioned previously...)


How many of us, I wonder, have 'tweaked' a set of wargames rules? I am willing to bet that most of have at one time or another and I for one am an inveterate 'tinkerer'. I mentioned briefly in my last post about the ongoing gridded playing area for my forthcoming refight of the Battle of the Denmark Strait. I have the MDF board required and merely need to paint and grid it or I can use the cloth I have and just grid that as a stop gap.

Well, at this stage I am going to do neither.

I shall refight the battle on a normal playing surface - I say normal but perhaps for me that should be abnormal as pretty much all of my games these days are on a grid of some kind - using a scale of 3" to one square. This would give an average WW1 dreadnought a move of 9" whilst the 18" guns of Yamato would reach 27". For the size of models and playing area I am using that would be fine but with a critical advantage over the grid based version.

Manoeuvring. As in being able to - rather being able to more effectively.

At this stage all I would need to do is to change the rules for turning and think about how to tackle submarines and minefields though the latter two are hardly essential at this stage.

The biggest advantage of doing this for the Denmark Strait refight is of course the angle of approach between the two sides at the outset of the action. I can accurately set the forces up at the correct heading far more readily than using a square grid. It also means that considerations concerning firing arcs can be better reflected. I am not saying that I have abandoned the idea of using the square grid for Barry Carter's rules but in the interests of getting the action fought I may well use the non-gridded option.

In respect of the models I am using I shall be basing the remainder of the Royal Navy and Kriegsmarine ships over the next few days and the plan is to have them all painted (there are 52 ships remaining of which 28 are destroyers) ideally by the end of next month.

The range of ships available is limited and the quality variable (as are the scales between types) but for all that they scrub up rather nicely. I am looking forward to adding some missing ships from the Historical Boardgames range to increase the choice available but the big addition will be the Italians in due course. This will consist of ships, aircraft, tanks, artillery and infantry.

The key part of that last sentence is "in due course...."

Of course it is....

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Boot Sales, Battleships and a Cruiser

It has been a busy weekend and no mistake. To begin with Holly, my daughter, was back for the weekend from University and my Grandson was with us as well so it was quite a house full. SWMBO and I spent time on Saturday at our local Wickes planning the new bathroom as well as the usual weekly shopping round. then there was the small matter of the Royal wedding and the FA Cup final (a great way for Mr. Conte to sign off if that is what will be happening).

I had hoped to get a sheet of MDF cut but time was against us  - which was just as well as I discovered a 5ft by 3ft in the shed! All it needs is painting and grinding and will then be real to use. In the meantime though I could always grid the cloth I have or could even - and this came to me yesterday afternoon - use Barry Carter's rules without a grid and merely use multiples of 3" for movement and firing. I would need to add in some turning rules but I reckon this has some mileage in it especially as it would serve to open the table up for more manoeuvring.

I was able to finish the four ship models I will be using for the Denmark Strait refight so without further ado here are the stars.


The Mighty 'Ood. The model is 6.5cm long on a 8cm by 2.5cm base.


The ill-starred Prince of Wales. The model is the sole entry from Historical Boardgames from their Global Conflict game. Made from a softer plastic than the Axis and Allies models they still paint up really well.



The Royal Navy steaming hard for the Denmark Strait across a grey towel on the kitchen table....


The German opposition needs no introduction.


There is no doubt about it - the Bismarck was a very striking looking ship


I must admit I am not a great fan of this particular model as the forward superstructure looks way too heavy. She paints up well though and is a mere 5cm long.

Bearing in mind these are first and foremost gaming pieces from a board game and would certainly not win any prizes for detail I think they scrub up rather well and so I am happy in my decision to use these models for my WW2 naval games. If you look closely there are mould lines and 'soft' details but these are minor points when you consider the ranges they will be typically be looked at. They will not be to everybody's taste but I like them and so am happy to use them.

Earlier today SWMBO and I headed out to our usual local boot sale and there I opened my account for the year with the following two books.


£1.50 for the two which for a couple of hardback books is not bad.

The Panzer Army Africa title is a good primer of the army and campaigns fought by the Germans in the desert and includes a useful section on the fighting in Tunisia - which if you recall is where my 'What a Tanker' aspirations are.

The Vikings title is the accompaniment to the BBC series of the same name from a good few tears ago narrated by Magnus Magnusson. I remember watching that and really enjoying it and so I hope it will give me some inspiration - perhaps for Saga or even Lion Rampant.

So all in all it has been a productive and busy weekend and one that I have enjoyed enormously.




Friday, 18 May 2018

The Denmark Strait, 24th May 1941....Game Number 53, Part 1



 
Nothing like some inspiration in readiness for a table top refight!
 
May 24th is of course the anniversary of the catastrophic sinking of H.M.S. Hood by the German Battleship Bismarck in 1941 during the battle of the Denmark Strait. I have a modest selection of ships for both the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine being part of my Axis and Allies Boardgame miniatures selection, so I decided to push ahead and paint the main four ships that took part - Hood, Prince of Wales, Bismarck and Prinz Eugen - with a view to refighting the action. I suspect that there have been plenty of refights of this battle over the years so I offer no apologies for tapping into a well-worn seam! 

The battle will be fought using the rules outlined in Barry Carter's book Naval Wargames and the work of extracting the salient points to put together a play sheet is now complete. I shall get the damage cards ready for the four ships - Hood, Prince of Wales, Bismarck and Prinz Eugen - and then there is the small matter of a 3" square gridded playing surface. I have a cloth I could use although it is a little on the dark side. The plan is to get some MDF cut into 2ft squares and painted in a suitable colour with the grid added using a permanent marker. Carter himself used boards of 20" by 25" so using a two foot square board instead would be fine. That is the Bank Holiday job (and visit to Wickes) sorted then!

 
From the Axis and Allies 1941 set - HMS Hood

 
From the Axis and Allies 1942 set - Bismarck and Prinz Eugen

Finally, from the Global Conflict 1936 to 1946 set - A KGV class battleship
 

The models as mentioned are from those available from the Axis and Allies grand strategy wargame. the KGV comes from the Global Conflict game produced by Historical Boardgaming and compatible with the Axis and Allies range. They painted up very easily using my tried and tested black undercoat and drybrushed grey with blocked in decks method (courtesy of Tim Gow). The models are on 2mm MDF bases courtesy of Warbases with added names and ensigns as per my usual method for these things.

At the risk of offending the naval purist I have opted for a uniform early war overall grey finish with the British being in a darker grey than their German counterparts. The models were undercoated in acrylics, the grey was Humbrol enamel (simply because I still have tins and tins of the stuff!) and the decks were Vallejo. The grey was then selectively (and carefully) highlighted in a lighter shade of grey and then topped with white. Being a rather slothful type I did not even bother to wash the models before painting them (actually I forgot to do this) but there were no adverse effects in respect of paint coverage.
 
The models are not bad detail-wise but the upper works on both the Hood and the Prinz Eugen are a little on the 'heavy' side - especially the latter which does a passable impersonation of a modern US Ticonderoga class AEGIS cruiser! Still, let us remember that these are gaming pieces and not scale models after all! I hope to have pictures of the models up over the weekend , once I have finished the bases.

In the meantime I have been revisiting the book you see at the beginning of the post to get me in the 'zone' so to speak.



 

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Somewhere in the Sudan....

I made my usual flying visit to the club last night, primarily because my old friends Chris Hardman and Neil Fox were putting on a game of The Men Who Would be Kings. Neil was bringing along the British in the shape of the Firkarwi Land Field force under the command of Colonel Buck-Passer Cleverly (aficionados of Madasahatta will no doubt recall them!) whilst Chris was bringing along rather a lot of newly painted Bashi Bazouks and Egyptians. I did not see the game played to its conclusion but have attached a few pictures so you can take a look.

 
The British high command - Note the huge telescope....

 
The Egyptians and Bashi Bazouks deployed in the small village - each building was deemed to be able to hold a complete unit of 12 figures

 
Veteran Sudanese in Egyptian service - the best troops Chris fielded

 
The first of the Bashi Bazouks

 
A Gendarme/bodyguard type unit fashioned from Perry Plastic Zouaves

 
The British artillery supporting the advance of the redcoats in the distance
 
 


The buildings were a mixture of commercially available and scratch built items from the collection of Chris Hardman who also supplied the table cloth and other pieces of terrain.

Neil supplied the British and a more than passable impersonation of Colour Sergeant Bourne....

Sadly I was only able to stay for a few moves although I should mention that the Egyptians had rather a lot of reinforcement arriving - both horse and foot.

Both Neil and Chris are very good figure painters so seeing them locking horns over the wargames table always means the game will look good. Chris said he kind of got a little addicted to painting Bashi Bazouks and the numbers seemed to go beyond what he originally intended whilst Neil has in mind some additional cavalry for the British.

To finish up with Chris gave me a couple of TMWWBK laminated play sheets whilst Neil kindly gave me a copy of the additional rules he found on the net somewhere.

Many thanks chaps for these and also for the spectacle - sadly my photos have not really done it justice!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Looking Backwards and Going Forwards



First published in 1975 but available from John Curry as part of his History of Wargaming project


To support the rather mysterious 'mini project' mentioned in my last blog post I have been revisiting an old friend for inspiration. The old friend in question is the book pictured above.

Barry Carter's book is certainly old school and the fact that his rules use a square grid may raise a few eyebrows from die hard naval wargamers but for all that this is a cracking read. I had an ulterior motive when I picked this up to read as I wanted to look closely at his suggestions for rules - and I am very glad I did.

As a rule naval wargamers can be a rather pedantic bunch. I mean no offence when I say this but let's be honest, there is an element of geekiness about being able to quote technical specifications about one's chosen battlefleet - from main gun calibre down to bunker capacity via barbette armour thickness and wardroom cutlery. I have no problem with this and will spend many happy hours looking at technical specifications from Conways or Jane's Fighting Ships - it is all part of the fun really.

I mention the above with my tongue firmly in my cheek but it is true and it does serve to colour how we like to see our ships represented on the tabletop. I believe that Barry Carter would subscribe to this theory as his rules are quite 'intimate' in how they tackle ships. Firing is handled on a '1d6 per barrel' basis and damage is recorded by using hit points that increases as the firing gun calibre gets larger. Ships are given a 'sinking rate' which is not calculated based on any formula I can see - rather it is based on the gamer's own research on how durable a given ship would be. The author says "How the reader arrives at a sinking rate for each ship is a matter of personal preference. I like my battleships to have a rate in the range 700 to 1,200 points." There is small sample of selected ship types with his suggested sinking rates which can serve as a guide for other classes.

Aside from a small mini painting project in support of my next game I have also been stripping the rules out of Barry Carter's book into a convenient playsheet. Actually it is four sides of A4 but is far more convenient to use than thumbing through the book. This is virtually finished as all that remains are the sections on minefields and submarine operations

I shall be using these rules for my next game and the mini project involved pressing ahead with a number of WW2 ships from the Axis and Allies collection I have amassed. the ships are painted and varnished and I only need to tackle the bases and draw up the ship cards and that part is ready. I will also need to get a square gridded playing area sorted out. I have a cloth I can use but it is a little on the dark side however it will suffice in the absence of anything else.

I am rather excited about this and hope to be running the action over the forthcoming bank holiday weekend.