Monday, 31 October 2011

Grand Designs and Lofty Ambitions....Part 5

I really think the Perry plastic idea is worth looking at in more detail and certainly the attractions of such an approach are many. They are relatively cheap - averaging around some 50p a foot figure - and being hard plastic means that all the usual soft plastic dramas can be neatly swerved. They would be far easier to convert than soft plastic figures - I am quite comfortable working with the medium - which opens up a lot more opportunities. As these are being considered for a pair of 'imagi-nations' the question of fine detail can be largely ignored. I pondered this whilst on the train this morning and reckon that a couple of boxes of each type - infantry, Zouaves and cavalry will be more than sufficient for my immediate needs. Artillery can be easily acquired from a variety of sources and of course, 28mm means that a whole world of period specific personality figures becomes available.

I am uncertain as to when Russia or Turkey changed their uniforms from those depicted in the Osprey Russo Turkish War 1877 to the more modern style but will happily use the aforementioned plastic ACW figures for an 1891 'imagi-nation' set up based on these two historical adversaries. From a numbers point of view I will be working to the 'Portable Wargame and a half' scale which means around 60 foot, a dozen mounted and two or three guns and my preferred size playing area will be a 12 x 8 Hexon battlefield. For the paint job I am thinking flat colours and Army Painter and should the results flying around on the net be anything to go by this technique could be a winner for my sloth-like painting dilemma!

Grand Designs and Lofty Ambitions....Part 4

Perry ACW Infantry or even soon to be Russian types

Despite the temporary setback in connection with my 54mm painting experiments I have managed to salvage much from the experience. I tried looking at the end result after a good night's sleep but this did not seem to make any difference to my opinion and so I have consigned the said figures to the nether recesses of one of my storage cupboards to take a look at them in a few days time. Perhaps the passage of time may soften my outlook somewhat!

I did have a very circuitous brainwave though as I pondered this project further. Without going into finite detail (which I will happily do once I have cemented the idea in place) I am on the lookout for some suitable figures to use for a Portable Wargame based pair of late 19th century 'imagi-nations'. This has been inspired via various sources and so I make no claims towards being original with the concept! This is also why I am hankering after an 'old toy soldier' style of figures as, in my opinion, this technique lends itself to the required figures. Using larger scale figures serves to enhance the effect.

The pair of forces I am looking at are Turkish and Russian based - originally it was to have been Greek inspired but I took the view that using the Russians would have a lot more historical resonance. I found myself thumbing through my Osprey Men at Arms on the Russian-Turkish War of 1877 and was immediately struck by a thought. The Russian line infantry of the war of 1877 look very similar to ACW Union troops whilst the Turks look very much like ACW Zouaves. The Turkish Egyptian troops were wearing what evolved into the later Turkish uniform of a plain fez, tunic and trousers but the line wore the more ornate uniform - as did the dreaded 'Bashi Bazouks' - at least in terms of similarity of cut. The Turkish line cavalry were dressed similarly to the Egyptian infantry which was in turn, very close to what a Union cavalryman was wearing. Visions of chopping and swapping around heads etc loomed large - which I am not averse to but it does add to the production time - especially in 54mm soft plastic.  However, using the Perry option would merely entail a minor paint job in each case (Green tunics for the Russians and some tweaking for the Turks) there would be the two protagonists - not so much historically accurate; more like close enough for the purposes of an 'imagi-nation'.

ACW Zouaves with the fez either plain or with a turban - how useful is that?!

This was fine up to a point but I had not reckoned on the Perry twins. Why not use 28mm Perry plastic figures as they produce both the infantry, cavalry and Zouaves with the option for changing heads etc already factored in?

ACW plastic cavalry - replace the kepi with a spare fez and voila! - instant Turkish/Egyptian cavalry; 'imagi-nation' for the use of!

This is for me very dangerous ground as Perry figures are very detailed and may not suit the painting technique I want to use but - and again in a very circuitous way - I am sure that a flat colour scheme in conjunction with Army Painter would work out very nicely - certainly if the various examples of painted plastic Romans kicking around on the net are anything to go by. Hold that thought, as they say!

So what does all this mean then? In a nutshell I think that using plastic Perry 28mm figures may - and I emphasise may - have the answer to the question of what figures I should use for this project. It is flying in the face of my original intention to use larger scale figures (ironically some might consider Perry to be 'larger scale figures'!) but it does have some enormous advantages - cost, hard plastic rather than soft and with much in the way of easier conversion potential. Again, the primary consideration will be the painting as I shall have to overcome a lifetime's phobia towards painting anything organic or highly detailed.

Much to ponder with this methinks.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Tried - Failed - Need to think again!

My experiments with painting the cheapo modern 54mm plastics were not exactly crowned with success. They looked abysmal in fact! I tried two techniques - the first being the traditional 'old toy soldier' style and the second  using the 'Army Painter' method. Of the two the latter was far the best but they still looked plain wrong in my eyes. Certain aspects were positive though - the use of a thick PVA undercoat worked nicely and even the acrylics were pretty successful in their application. I was also quite pleased with the bases.

With so many plus points you could be forgiven for wondering exactly why I am so despondent. I cannot answer that one fully other than I suppose because I had such high hopes initially that when the end result did not quite live up to expectations it came as a bit of a blow.

My thoughts are now looking at using simpler figures (simpler as in the level of detail) but with a flat painting style and gloss varnish which will capture the spirit of the look I am trying to achieve.

'Nil Desperandum' seems a very apt comment at this stage of the process!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Y Viva Espana!

The Spanish Heavy Cruiser Canarias - similar to the British County Class - the sister ship of the Baleares

Well I didn't see that one coming! Actually that is not strictly accurate as it was one that was on the horizon to tackle at some point - the naval side of the Spanish Civil War in 1/3000th. I had overlooked this project on my earlier post as being on the 'to do' list and it only came to light when I had a tidy up of some notebooks. Contained therein was a list of the models I would need and the quantities thereof. A visit to see my grandson (who lives very close to Navwar) provided the necessary motivation and so the said models were duly acquired and are now awaiting the tender mercies of the paintbrush and the file.

I have been interested in the Spanish Civil War for a number of years, initially the land side, but as usual with many of my bright ideas it  never really took off. I acquired some models in 1/200th (for the land side) but never got very far with them and so off they went some years ago. I had also considered 20mm at one point but again nothing ever came of this. I suppose the real reason for this apparent 'no show' was probably down to being averse to having to produce both sides but this is no longer an issue as having to do this is almost obligatory for most of my ideas!

I would like to tackle the land dimension of the war at some point but in the meantime I will be happy to make use of the blocks rather than models. However, the naval side is far easier to undertake - at least in terms of the amount of material needed.

Much of the information I have for this mini project has been gleaned from Bob Cordery's 'La Ultima Cruzada' - A Wargamers Guide to the Spanish Civil War (2nd edition) coupled with my recently acquired copy of Conway's 1922 to 1946 and a few websites devoted to various aspects of the war.

As far as rules are concerned I will probably use the extension to my 1890 to 1920 set when ready and so I will have to think about getting a move on with them! Seriously though, in terms of numbers the actions I envisage will be fairly modest and so therefore ideal for solo purposes or even club night games. The big challenge will be in factoring in the human side of personal quality versus material quantity.

More to follow once I have reacquainted myself with the Spanish Civil War part of my library!

Friday, 28 October 2011

I have been to....Saffron Walden in Essex

Sadly the castle is a ruin now but very evocative all the same

Taking advantage of the half term holiday and my daughter being away on another holiday, SWMBO and I decided to take a one night stay away. We headed into North West Essex and the old market town of Saffron Walden. We actually stayed in a 15th century hotel some ten miles way (more of which later) but the scenery in the area was lovely and so the drive was a real pleasure - a real 'Matt Munro: "On days like these" moment (remember the opening scene from the Italian Job with Michael Caine - but without the unfortunate end!).

Saffron Walden is quite simply, stunning. It has old buildings, a ruined castle, a museum, lots of twisting and turning roads and a whole assortment of shops and restaurants of interest. We explored the town over the two days and will be going back at some point - especially as Audley End house and gardens are also very close by. We were not able to visit Audley End due to time constraints but will certainly do in the future.

Audley End House - not my photo I hasten to add! 

Sadly, and in common with many other towns, the number of bookshops has declined and so there are now only two to speak of - an antique shop with a nice line in secondhand titles (nothing to tempt me though) and an Oxfam bookshop. I did strike lucky there though and picked up a copy of 'Cochrane' by Robert Harvey. Following on from reading 'Sharpe's Devil' this is a timely acquisition and very inspiring - although not in a good way as I feel another distraction coming on!

The nearest town of any size to where we stayed was the old town of Thaxted which is famous for a number of reasons. Dick Turpin had a cottage there, Gustav Holst composed the Planets suite in the area and even Sid James made a film set on location in the Swan Hotel ('Time, Gentlemen please!') - where we had a superb dinner yesterday evening.

The hotel we stayed at, whilst being a lovely building (Elizabethan) albeit in need of a little TLC; suffered from being directly under the flight path from nearby Stansted airport and so we did not get a great night's sleep! The gardens were lovely though and that made up for it.

I must confess that when I go anywhere in England and see any examples of our history in the flesh (or bricks, or wood, or stone or wattle and daub) I come over all patriotic and immediately think about the gaming possibilities! Luckily the urge usually passes although my thoughts tend to linger on the ECW for a few days after - no matter where I have visited.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Pausing for Breath....Part 2

I reread my post of yesterday and have realised that my 'to do' list is in fact a little more demanding that it first appeared. Glibly stating that I can cover everything from 1700 to 1945 using the block armies is perhaps a tad optimistic (although perfectly achievable with a little effort) and certainly does not reflect the work needed to scope a particular period for gaming purposes. I tend to look at games beyond the immediate table top battle and so an operational level will be my gaming norm so to speak - in effect a mini campaign - so as to provide some substance to the affair. As I touched upon recently my current thoughts are looking at using a plot map of 24 x 24 hexes which is 6 x 12 x 8 tables worth of terrain to fight over. In many ways the battle itself will be the easiest part of the undertaking as the drafting of maps, assigning forces and generating the objectives etc will require much thought and research; in short, the 'cerebral' part of the undertaking. Incidentally, this is also the technique I shall be employing for my various naval adventures although the ACW river campaign will see a very different shape to the map used.

Mention of the Naval War Game leads me nicely into the second part of the rules covering 1921 to 1945 and which will of course include aerial operations and submarine activity. I have a number of ideas around how best to assimilate this type of operation within the existing scope of the rules but this will be some way off being developed - simply because massed carrier battles do not feature largely in my long term naval game plan. The North Atlantic and the Med for sure but probably not the Pacific any time soon. I am confident that the core mechanics of the rules will happily stand being extended into the latter period - obviously with the odd technological tweak where needed.

My resolve around using the Airfix 1/1200th models is weakening by the day as cold, hard logic has been berating me for even considering using them - I certainly do not have the space for such things even in my new gaming facility! I think it will have to be 1/3000th when I eventually get around to it although I still like the idea of messing around with the kits in some fashion.

As far as painting figures is concerned well that is a whole new ballgame for me especially as my leanings are now firmly towards the larger scale of figures. Potentially this could be a major undertaking but it is a long term idea and so will not be rushed into without due consideration. I cannot emphasise enough the fact that it all hangs on the paint job. I realise this may not be such a big deal for most people but as the slowest painter in Christendom it behoves me to make sure I am completely happy with my decision concerning the method of execution.

The old chestnut of the Minifigs ships and how to use them is another consideration. The Med circa 1914 is perfectly feasible although they may well end up being used for a pair of 'imagi-nation' fleets.

The strangest thing with all of this list though is the fact that I am now very relaxed about the whole thing - it will all get done at some point and there is no great rush or urgency to do so; other than my own desire to do so. Having my own dedicated space in the house has given me not only the room to model and game but also to think and plan and not have to hurriedly pack everything away at the drop of the hat. It is curiously liberating….;-)

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Pausing for Breath

Every so often I have a bout of guilt-ridden re-organisation and sit down to actually detail that which is currently either 'on the go', in the planning stage or falling into the realm of being a 'flight of fancy'. Today has been no exception as I spent lunchtime reorganising some files on my net book concerning various projects I have been working on. I find this to be quite a therapeutic exercise as it enables a degree of planning to enter the process and, dare I say it, a structure around what I am trying to achieve. This is what the list ended up looking like:

  • The Naval Wargame 1890 to 1920. The rules are pretty much done although I want to get another couple of test games under my belt first. I need to complete the ship specifications for the fleets I own and design a ship chart but other than that they are good to go.
  • The ACW ships. I need to finish the painting of the last 32 models and then build and paint the next 24. Now that I have the space to have these 'out' whilst 'on the go' it will be a much easier task. Once completed they will fit in nicely with the block armies.
  • Block Wars - this has been made much easier by the fact that I am using existing rules rather than drafting a set from scratch. The only essential task is acquiring some suitable scenery and then that is good to go. I still have a set of khaki labels to mount on the blocks though but that is no more than an evenings work.This is also very much an open project as I could realistically tackle just about anything on land from 1700 to 1945 as the mood takes me.
  • 1941 North Atlantic. I have sufficient merchantmen, u boats and escorts for a convoy based game but would like to expand this to include the big stuff which means that the 1/1200th Airfix idea MAY be scuppered (the jury is still out on this).
  • 1914 in the Med using the Minifigs ships. I am still pondering this one as events may well overtake it!
  • 54mm figures. This really depends on the painting and how my experiments work out.

At first glance this seems like a large amount of projects to have on the go at one time but it is actually rather modest. The block armies can keep me occupied in respect of any land based campaign I want to undertake so the only issue concerns the acquisition of some suitable terrain. I will also have the Khaki block set to label as well but that is an evening's work at most. The Naval Wargame is virtually ready which will also help with the 1914 Med campaign should I proceed with it. The ACW ships are a repair and a paint job away from completion and the additional models should not be a problem to build. The 54mm project, assuming it gets off the ground, is a long term affair in any event and depends on the painting experiments being successful. The 1/3000th Atlantic convoy kit will be simple enough to put together although should I opt for the big ships (rather than down the Airfix route) it will become a different story altogether!

All in all then, the list of things I have to do or think about doing is in reality quite diverse but not particularly labour intensive - at least not at the moment. This is unusual for me, to say the least and so in the meantime I am going to try and ensure that these are completed as far as possible and that nothing else comes along to tempt me!

Which it usually does!

Somewhere in the Black Sea, October 1915....Part the Third

I have adjusted the Naval War Game rules in the light of the recent play test and am planning the next action to be fought. My original intention was to use the Bulgarian torpedo boat attack on the Turkish cruiser Hamidye as the scenario (am I the only naval gamer that has a Balkan Wars Bulgarian fleet in 1/3000th?) but have decided against this simply because it was an unusual action and would require some scenario specific rulings which I did not want to use at this stage. Historically the action took place at night and a brief account  can be found here: Bulgarian_torpedo_boat_Drazki

The plan now is to revisit the Black Sea although to wind the clock back to early 1915 before the Russians gained their dreadnoughts. This will mean the Turks taking on the pre dreadnoughts which is a game I have used for testing previously and it always produces a challenging action. There will be a good variety of ship types on show and so the rules will benefit from the increased exposure.

I am hoping to run this at the weekend and should I do so the after action report will of course follow on the blog with pictures etc.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Grand Designs and Lofty Ambitions....Part 3

Striding manfully into battle - the H.G. Wells way

I have mentioned about the experiments I am undertaking in developing a suitable painting technique for replicating the classic 'old toy soldier' look for my potential 54mm project. As these are going to be plastic obviously they will need slightly more care and preparation than metal types. I am looking at this as being similar to working with 20mm plastic figures only on a larger scale and so the plan looks something like this:

  • Wash the figures in warm soapy water, rinse and leave to air dry
  • Trim any flash and lightly score the underside of the base with some sandpaper (it provides a better 'key' for the adhesive).
  • Glue the figure to the appropriate base (1" by 2" for these particular figures).
  • Coat the figure with neat PVA. I am using full strength glue for sealant purposes as it has the effect of 'softening' the detail - which is important for the painting technique as most old style toy soldiers were light on physical detail.
  • Spray undercoat with an acrylic car primer spray
  • Paint in flat colours - no shading or highlights
  • Gloss varnish
  • Gloss varnish - a second coat, just to be sure....
The only concession I intend making to anything vaguely approaching 'modern' painting techniques is to flock the bases and the only reason I shall be doing this is because I want them to match my Hexon terrain tiles.

Assuming that this works out OK (and at this stage I am optimistic it will do) then I shall then be able to consider the next stage - what exactly I plan to do with the kernel of this idea....;-)

Grand Designs and Lofty Ambitions....Part 2

Whilst on the train this morning I took the opportunity to reread Little Wars by H.G.Wells via my Sony E book reader. It is a vastly entertaining read and whilst for my part I have no desire to clamber about on the lawn in a straw boater using 'firing' artillery (where is my soul? I hear you ask); I would defy any war games enthusiast, whatever their choice of period, not to be suitably inspired.

My own aspirations in respect of using larger scale figures for gaming with is a much more modest affair than the efforts of H.G. Wells and his contemporaries and are centred around the use of grid based rule systems and representative forces. Essentially I see what I want to tackle as being like DBA only using bigger figures. Allow me to expand on this. A typical DBA sized army ranges from 24 to 48 figures and is formed of 12 bases. Using larger figures, individually based and on a grid means that in effect the grid square or hex becomes the base. A DBA close order infantry base usually has 4 figures 'on it' so a 4" Hexon tile could have four 54mm figures 'in it'. Of course movement trays could easily be used - the 3" brigade squares used in Volley and Bayonet being a case in point. Cavalry is a little trickier in that it would be very difficult to fit more than a couple of mounted figures in a 4" hex although this would depend on the pose of the model. Artillery is easy enough as a gun and a few crew figures take up a hex quite tidily. As an example one of the representative forces I am considering requires a maximum of 48 infantry, 10 mounted figures, 3 guns and crews and a C in C. the Infantry is in 3 'units', each of 16 figures which includes an officer and a musician for decorative effect. This would give 12 'elements' or sub-units each of 4 figures - which is exactly how Battle Cry by Hasbro tackled this. The individual figures could also be used for skirmish games if required as well.

Terrain I envisage as being largely stylised and not strictly to scale and I am not unduly worried about this as I already have a number of simple but effective ideas for the same. A dozen trees and some home made building 'shells' would suffice and of course additional scenario specific terrain could be built as required.

I envisage using a 13 x 9 Hexon tiles playing area so with the entire army described above (which is not intended to be used all at once anyway!) would happily serve for the purpose.

The first 'army' would in  fact be even smaller - 24 foot, 5 mounted and a gun and crew being a good example and which is also the size of an 'army' for use with the Volley Fire grid based game; formerly available from Irregular Miniatures.

From a cost and convenience perspective I am actively considering the use of 54mm plastic figures - primarily those produced by Armies in Plastic as the range is fairly extensive and the style of the figures is relatively basic which will suit my intended painting style far more readily.

I want to paint the figures in an 'old toy soldier' style which will mean basic flat colours and lashings of gloss varnish. This is why I am currently experimenting on painting techniques with a bag of very cheap (and crude) 54mm plastic modern infantry acquired from a local pound shop (49 figures for £1 which is great value in anybodies language!). If I can get the painting technique to work and to look right then the project is far more practical especially given my sloth-like painting speed of anything remotely organic.

It may not be H.G.Wells in body but possibly in spirit!

Grand Designs and Lofty Ambitions

42mm 1879 types - 'Farsands of em!'

Since the recent move into my new den I have taken to spending a lot of time thinking about my enjoyment of our hobby and the ways in which I can fully exploit the potential of my dedicated space. This has been an interesting and surprising experience. It has also been curiously liberating because I have realised that many of those projects I have had in mind over the years that have been long suppressed by reasons of space can now be considered  in a practical way.

42mm Irregular Miniatures again - this time in 1870

I have always been fascinated with the idea of using larger sized figures for a war game - by which I mean 42 or 54mm. I have dabbled with these sizes in the past but for a variety of reasons was never able to make the idea a practical reality and so the acquired material was eventually disposed of in my usual ruthless fashion. The concept never left me though - it was the manner of execution that appeared to be an insurmountable problem.

Large armies would be expensive and time-consuming to acquire together with the associated problems concerning storage and of painting the said collection. My slow speed of painting would be a factor here as as well and given the additional fact that I would probably have to plough this particular furrow as a solo project meant that it was never really going to be a realistic proposition.

To a large extent many of these negatives are now no longer applicable. I have the space - not on a ballroom scale certainly but sufficient for purpose - to not only store such a collection but to be able to work on it and not have to keep packing everything away at the end of a painting/modelling/gaming session. Being able to leave things in situ is a bonus I had not considered but boy is a handy thing to have!

As far as figures are concerned this is also no longer the difficulty I had previously struggled with as the range of 42mm figures available is pretty good -  Irregular miniatures for one produce a large range of figures in this scale - and these have the added advantage of being fairly simply styled, rather like the old toy soldier look.

In 54mm of course the range of figures available is huge and so pretty much most historical periods could happily be covered by both scales if required. Looking at the range of figures now available in this scale in soft plastic, one can see all manner of possibilities for something a little bit different.

For reasons which will become obvious I am currently experimenting with painting some 54mm soft plastic figures in what can best be described as a simple, old toy soldier style of paint job. As a very slow and reluctant painter of figures I am hoping that by adopting this technique (down to the gloss varnish for the finish) I shall be able to look to tackle some modestly sized forces in a larger scale with the realistic chance of finishing them. It all depends on how the trial paint job works out.

More to follow.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Applying Oneself to the Eastern Question (Again)....

Side, Turkey - 8 months and counting!

It has been a busy weekend on the domestic front with lots going on and little of it war games related. I have just renewed my mobile phone contract and so my old Blackberry is now in the care of my daughter. This entailed getting the said device unlocked - no problem aside from the time to get it done, or rather getting to the place where it can be done. SWMBO needed to get her new glasses so an hour or so was spent in the opticians (which incidentally must be a record!) and then the usual shopping had to be done. My daughter is away for a week as it is the half term break and so a certain number of holiday related tasks needed attention on her behalf (meaning her old dad was a taxi service for the weekend - one of the less glamorous joys of parenthood!). The only down side of all the domestic round was the fact that every car journey I had to undertake involved traversing the gigantic earth moving project that is the Sadler's Farm roundabout(s) refurbishment which will be really good when complete but at the moment is a nightmare.

Once all of this was tackled it took us very nicely into Sunday and today was far easier although no less uneventful. Peace has broken out with out next door neighbours at last over their 30ft Leylandii (8 of them!) that block out almost all of our downstairs light. They will be losing half of their height in the next couple of weeks which will mean we will have our garden back. This has been an ongoing bone of contention for around 5 years so it is really good news that some trimming will be happening very soon.

We also managed to order a replacement programmer for our central heating system as the switch was faulty and it stubbornly refuse to be switched off - it would keep popping on with the slightest amount of provocation - even a heavy footstep was enough!

Finally, and best of all we have managed to book and pay for our family holiday next year. It would probably come as no surprise when I say that we are heading back to the Sublime Porte for a couple of weeks in July as opposed to the planned return to Corfu. The reasons for this about face are many and varied but essentially it was down to the simple fact that we could not get booked up for when we wanted to. We are heading to Side (pronounced See-day) straight after my daughter finishes her final exams at the end of June and although this is some 8 months away I can't wait!

There is much to look at in the immediate area of historical interest and so I will relish the opportunity to, at last, have a good rummage around the immediate locale. My fondness for all things Turkish means that this is a great holiday choice for me with the added bonus of great weather, good food (I love Turkish Meze style buffets), history by the bucket full and a really good price as well.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Work in Progress

You may recall my mentioning the fact I work as a contractor within the financial services industry and have been on a number of contracts since my redundancy early in 2009. My current contract was due to come to an end on 11/11/11 (I could not have planned that if I tried!) but this evening my boss informed me that they would need me until at least December 23rd and probably longer. I am very pleased at this turn of events and so will be able to keep the wolf from the door for a while yet!

Somewhere in the Black Sea, October1915...Part the Second

I was pretty pleased with the way the rules worked out but, as ever, in the cold light of day, there is a number of minor tweaks and revisions needed. There is nothing that would be deemed a 'show stopper' as such but there are a couple of points to consider. The two main points that stuck out concern damage and torpedoes. Taking the latter first (which is rather surprising seeing as they did not feature in the action - this was an oversight on my part, no doubt influenced by the heat of battle aka I forgot about them!) I have changed the torpedo rules or, more accurately, expanded them. There are now three sizes of torpedo - 14/15", 17/18" and 21/24" - each with increasing levels of range and lethality. The range runs at 1 hex for the smallest, 2 hexes for the interim and 3 for the largest. At range 1 a 4, 5 or 6 is a hit, at 2 a 5 or 6 and a 6 at range three. The smallest roll 1d6, the interim 2 and the largest 3 and in all cases a hit inflicts damage equal to the roll of a d6 with any such damage being doubled where the target is a PB, AC or PC. Simple but effective in game terms although don't quote me on the accuracy!

The rather more tricky issue concerns damage. The short but interesting life of the Midilli struck me as odd and I think I now know why. I am not a great fan of the progressive damage system typical of many naval wargames rules as history is full of examples of ships shot full of holes but still fully functioning. The system used by General Quarters was always one of my favourites as damage was usually either hull or weapons based with the occasional aside to the more technical bridge, steering, fire control etc. In the game the thing that struck a chord with me was not so much that the ship was fully functioning when it went under; more the fact that the opening salvo it received (5 hits out of a total of 7 hit points) did not appear to effect the efficiency of the ship other than to fill it with holes. I would have fully expected something to have broken under such a devastating pounding.

With this in mind I have decided on the following course of action. If a ship receives damage equal to or more than its Critical Point (this is usually a third of the total hit points a ship has) during a single game turn then it receives an automatic special hit. These vary in their effects from additional hit points to the loss of speed increments or weapons dice - even the looming spectre of a magazine hit. This will ensure that should a ship be on the wrong end of such a pummeling there will be systemic consequences.

A final point I realised (and I could not in all honesty claim credit for this) was that when firing at extreme range you need a 6 to score a hit. This is also the number that triggers the chance for a special hit. I think that is the potential effect of that curious phenomena known as 'plunging fire' taken care of rather nicely….;-)

The above tweaks have now been incorporated in the rules for the next play test which will see the action going back three years to the Balkan War and, for a change, the gallant Bulgarian navy will hoping to replicate its finest hour taking on the Turks.

Somewhere in the Black Sea, October 1915....

Imperatritsa Mariya in the Black Sea

Pamiat Merkuria awaiting her appointment with destiny

I have just come hot from my den after having completed the first play test of my latest attempt at writing a set of naval war game rules. Actually I am finishing this write up in the morning as it has taken longer to do than the action I have just fought - which is quite usual for these things in my experience! The test was a huge amount of fun and worked out pretty well although there are a couple of minor tweaks needed. I had a couple of changes of heart during the course of the day and so reverted to the original plan of using the Black Sea as a testing ground rather than the more usual Aegean. This was primarily because I wanted to get the dreadnoughts out rather than the usual collection of scrap metal the Turks use!

So without further ado....

The play test I set up pitted the newly commissioned Russian dreadnought Impertritsa Mariya escorted by the Bogatyr class protected cruiser Pamiat Merkuria against the Moltke class battle cruiser Goeben and the Magdeburg class cruiser Breslau, or to use their Turkish names: Yavuz Sultan Selim and Midilli respectively. The scenario has the Russian ships providing distant cover for a shore bombardment squadron of pre dreadnoughts attacking the Turkish coastal colliery industry. The two Turkish ships have sortied in order to intercept the bombardment squadron but had not reckoned on the intervention of the brand new Russian dreadnought.

The Russian ships looked something like this:

The Russian squadron with the cruiser in the van.

Imperatritsa Mariya - 21 kts (1/5), 24,000 tons, 10" belt and 3" deck armour, 12 x 12" (A6), 20 x 5.1" (C) and 4 torpedo tubes. In game terms she has 18 hits points.

Pamiat Merkuria  - 23 kts (2), 6,600 tons, 2" deck armour, 12 x 6" (C) and 2 torpedo tubes. In game terms she has 6 hit points.

The Turkish opposition looked something like this:

The Turkish squadron, again with the cruiser in the van

Yavuz Sultan Selim - 25 kts (2), 25,000 tons, 10" belt and 3" deck armour, 10 x 11" (A5), 12 x 5.9" (B), 12 x 3.4" (D) and 4 torpedo tubes. In game terms she has 16 hit points.

Midilli - 28 kts (2/2), 5,000 tons, 2" belt and 1" deck armour, 12 x 4.1" (B) and 2 torpedo tubes. In game terms she has 7 hit points.

The game uses a scale of 1" being 4,000 yards so a hex is 4,000 yards across the flats. This is handy because it is close enough to two knots (a knot being 2,025 yards) to make speeds and ranges relatively easy to calculate. The numbers after the speed refer to the number of hexes a turn a ship can move. The number after the slash is the number of turns during a game hour that the ship can use an extra hex. A game move is 10 minutes so a ship rated at 1/5 can move at a speed of 2 for 5 turns out of six. The mysterious code after the gun calibre refers of course to the rating system used by F.T. Jane so it can be seen that the Russian 12" out ranges the German 11" and everything else is pretty even (Bs and Cs) excepting the 3.4" guns on the Yavuz at a D rating.

Firing is very simple and is based on 1d6 per two barrels shooting. This is turn reduces as the range increases and the chance of hitting is reduced. The last hex of a gun's range requires a 6 to hit; the first requires a 4, 5 or 6 and the interim a 5 or 6. In certain cases the roll of a 6 will have the possibility of a special or critical hit. Normally a hit from a 4 or a 5 will inflict 1 damage point whilst a 6 will inflict 2.

The two forces were 9 hexes apart at the start of turn 1 - 36,000 yards.

Turn 1 - The Russians threw a 3 for initiative whilst the Turks replied with a 9. The Russians moved first and moved first with both ships maintaining station and at a speed of 2 (meaning the Russian dreadnought used 1 of its 5 turn bonus moves). the Turks followed suit but had no such problems as both vessels were faster.

Turn 1 after the first move with the Russians on the right (rather unusually....)

Turn 2 - The Russians rolled a 2 for initiative whilst the Turks could only manage a 3 but it was enough to ensure that the Russians had to move first. Again using 1 of the 5 move bonus points both ships moved forward a hex and then swung to port, moving a further hex on their new heading. the Turks however split their force with the Yavuz maintaining her course and speed (straight ahead at 2 hexes) whilst the Midilli went a hex forward, turned two hex sides to port and then moved forward another two hexes - using 1 of her 2 bonus moves. Her blood was up and the prospect of a seemingly easy kill in the shape of an old protected cruiser was a temptation that proved impossible to resist.

Turn 2 with the Russian stoically sticking to their task as the Turks attempt the naval equivalent of the Pasa Doble....

Turn 3 - The Russians rolled a mighty 11 whilst the Turks could only manage an 8; so for the first time the Turks had to move first. The Yavuz moved ahead one hex and then turned to port and moved a further hex in order to ensure her gunnery arcs were fully open. Meanwhile the Midilli eased off the throttle slightly and moved straight ahead two hexes - confident that her move had caught her opponent at a disadvantage. Both of the Russian ships, seemingly unimpressed with all this maneuvering elected to maintain both course and speed - meaning that the battleship had used a further 1 of her 5 bonus moves. Both sides had cleared for action and were waiting for the order to open fire. It would not be long in coming....

At a range of 3 hexes (12,000 yards) the two capital ships opened fire. the Russians were entitled to 4d6 and the Turks 3 with both sides needing 5s or 6s to hit. Great gouts of smoke issued alongside the strident crack and rolling boom as some 22 heavy guns opened opened, followed by 16 secondary weapons. Not a single hit was scored by the main batteries and the only damage inflicted was by the barrage of 5.1" shells that peppered the Yavuz at maximum range. Of the 3 dice rolled the Russian scored 2 glorious 6s which wreaked havoc on the unfortunate Turk. It was only two points of damage but it sent a notice of intent in no uncertain terms to the Turkish Captain.

Meanwhile, the two cruisers had closed to point blank range (1 hex or 4,000 yards) and the Turk was to pay dearly for underestimating her older opponent. the Russian cruiser swung her 8 x 6" at her younger adversary and let fly. Needing 4s, 5s or 6s with 4 d6 she rolled a 2, a 5 and 2 6s. The resulting special damage rolls for the two 6s came to nothing but with 5 damage points scored from a possible 7 the Midilli was in very serious trouble. Her reply was to roll a 6 and a pair of 1s so the Russian cruiser sustained a pair of damage points - small beer (or vodka) compared to what she had dished out!

Turn 3 with the cruisers slugging it out whilst the Russian dreadnought hovers menacingly in the background. Note the Mastermind pegs used as shell splashes.

Turn 4 - The Russian maintained the initiative rolling a 9 to the Turkish 7. The Turks were in serious trouble. the Yavuz was in good shape but the Midilli had been reduced to blazing wreck and it was only through blind luck that she had not been damaged in her vital engine room, or indeed her guns. As it was though she had to beat a hasty retreat as her damage total was below her critical number of 3 hit point remaining. The Yavuv thundered ahead and swung to port at the end of her move whilst the Midilli went forward a hex, put the helm hard over and turned two points to port and then, using the last of her bonus moves (remember she had 2 for the game hour of 6 turns) roared forward a further two hexes in an attempt to escape from her tormentor.

The Russian cruiser maintained her position off the rear port quarter of the blazing Turkish cruiser whilst the dreadnought circled the Yavuz and maintained her position.

The firing was largely ineffective with the Yavuz sustaining a further 2 hits and the Midilli a single point of damage. Neither Turkish ship was able to score a hit due to some truly abysmal dice rolls - no doubt due to the shattering morale effect of the Russian shooting.

Turn 4 seen from the Turkish side - the cruiser fight can be seen in the distance.

Turn 5 - The Turks won the initiative  11 to 9 although it hardly mattered. The Midilli bravely attempted to escape but was too close to her assailant to get very far and the two capital ships, as if by mutual consent, made no attempt to close the range or to impede each other's exit from the field of battle. The Russian cruiser opened fire on the gallant Midilli at point blank range and whilst only needing a single hit to sink made certain by scoring 4 - just to be on the safe side. Shot through with 6" shell hits the Turkish cruiser slipped beneath the waves having barely scratched her older but game opponent.

Turn 5 and the end of the Midilli - the black marker indicates a heavy hit (scored by a 6) and there are more markers than she actually suffered but sadly I have no 'ship sinking' models!

Conclusion - The rules appeared to work pretty well and I well satisfied at this early stage in their evolution. Movement, with the bonus move mechanic, flowed smoothly enough and with distances that felt about right for the playing area (13 x 8 and I need to enlarge this to the 13 x 9 so a larger table or a board will be needed in due course). Firing worked well although I need to revisit the heavy/special hit mechanic and also damage effects. I am thinking that hits from weapons 6" and smaller against capital ships should perhaps be less effective - seeing the Yavuz losing two hit boxes from 16 due fire from the Russian dreadnoughts secondary weapons was a bit of a shock! - this will need some further thought. Also, I need to think about the effects of damage as the Midilli went to her watery grave with her speed and armament intact which felt a little odd. Having taken 5 out of 7 points of damage from the Russian cruisers opening salvo I would have expected to have seen some detrimental effect to her capabilities after such a shattering experience. Again, I will need to give this some further consideration.

The use of the Mastermind white pegs as shell splashes for hit markers looks quite effective and serves as a nice visual reminder of the damage to be recorded - with the black version used for heavy hits.

For the battle itself little really can be added. The Yavuz would struggle to overcome the Imperatritsa Mariya in a straight fight all things being equal - especially if the Russian decided to engage at her at longer range as her artillery reached out to 5 hexes opposed to the Turk's 4. The speed advantage the Turk possessed was not really sufficient to make a major difference (it would certainly not be the case had the Turk caught the pre dreadnought bombardment squadron!) so the arrival of the Russian dreadnoughts in the Black Sea meant that the 'happy time' for the ex German ship was at an end.

The Midilli was perhaps a little unfortunate to have been caught so heavily in the first round of firing and at such short range by some truly staggering Russian shooting which ensured that there could only be one outcome. Her eagerness to engage the enemy was commendable but perhaps she could have been a little more circumspect in her approach.

In any event, questions need to be asked about the appalling quality of the Turkish shooting!

Great fun and more to follow.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

"Let's test again, like we did last summer...Whup,whup....Let's test again - testing time is here....!"

The train was as smooth as a ripe peach this morning and so I am cheerfully optimistic that this evenings test of the Naval War Game 1890 to 1920 will take place as planned. I was able to complete a few ship cards this morning during my journey and so I hope to complete the same later today. The only change is the choice of combatants as I am now reverting to Greeks versus Turks of the Balkan War vintage rather than Turks versus the Russians in the Black Sea during WW1. I also intend being rather more scientific about the testing program than on previous occasions and so plan to run a number of actions with varied forces to see how differing ship types fare against each other rather than having everything on the table from the word go. Common sense dictates that this is the correct approach to adopt but sadly my old friend common sense has been conspicuous by his absence of late!

I am rather excited at the prospect of this test for a number of reasons - not least of which is the fact it will be the first game in my new den and so will hopefully be worthy of the occasion!

Fighting on the Beaches....

Right - no more moping, shirking, shilly-shallying about or generally feeling sorry for myself in a 'woe is me' kind of a way! Tonight I plan to run a small play test of the Naval War Game 1890 to 1920 in my new den and thereby cock a snook and thumb my nose at public transport vagaries and shortcomings!

Whilst feeling particularly pugnacious in a Churchillian kind of way I can say that apart from 'Never surrendering' that this will be 'My finest hour!'

Well that is the intention anyway - it remains to be seen if it comes to pass though as I have yet to see if the trains have been fixed!....;-)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Am I Turning into Victor Meldrew?

"What in the name of sanity is happening to our transport system and the moral fabric of polite society?"
At the time of writing this it is 09:18 and I have been in the office for ten minutes. Nothing unusual in that but for the fact I am usually in the same place at 07:50.
Overhead power cable problems in the Bethnal Green area (a railway choke point if ever there was one) meant a full hour on my journey with the unexpected and added bonus of the world-renowned 'Stratford two platform shuffle' as we were unceremoniously dumped at the said station and had to rush between two platforms for any chance of train into London. The Tube (or subway to our American cousins) is usually packed at the best of times during the rush hour and the solid phalanx of commuters packed some eight deep meant that it would take an age to use that particular mode of transport.
Prior to this debacle I had the misfortune to be sat next to three admittedly rather attractive young ladies who spent the entire journey chirping away like so many fluttering Parakeets whilst I tried manfully to draft some ship charts. After the initial application of make up (ladies, should this not be done at home?) the three young ladies (and the inevitable comparison of products etc) then engaged in a communal texting session followed by the rest of the journey consisting of various discussions centred around work, boyfriends and the usual 'I turned round and said, and she turned round and said' (does anybody actually 'turn round and said'?) variety complete with hand gestures (and additional texting for verification of some disputed point).
I am not sexist and would still have taken umbrage if the three practitioners had been male - the point is I prefer to have a quiet journey where possible and keep very much to myself (as do many other on the train to be fair - it is usually far too early for idle conversation!) but this was not going to happen today.
Somebody should write a book on commuter etiquette to be issued when purchasing a season ticket and subject to regular testing by trained inspectors.
I take solace in the Delay and Repay form I shall be posting today - a small victory in the war against commuting!
Rant over but I still "Don't believeee it!!!"….;-)

The PS to this story is that I left the office at 16:00 GMT and finally stepped over the front doorstep at 18:35....

The five hours travelling time I have spent today would have sufficed to have gotten me to the Eastern end of the Mediterranean with sufficient time for a glass of Efes beer and a kebab.

Revising the Revised Revision (Again)

After the ahem, embarrassment of the previous version ( I still cannot believe I missed something so obvious!) of the naval rules I have managed to make good recovery and have finished the next version. It has been a curious experience to say the least especially as I have seemed to have been able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in such a deceptively easy fashion! Still, the proof of the pudding and all that - the acid test of the play test - is the next stage.

The rules are based very heavily on the model used by the various Command and Colours based games (Memoir 44/Battle Cry etc) and were first mooted as being suitable for a naval game during a chance conversation with Bob Cordery around 18 months ago (good grief Bob, was it really that long ago?). At the time our versions of the rules eventually went in two directions and I managed to end up following a couple of blind alleys and as a result consigned my version to the archives. It is funny though, when trawling through my various half cooked sets there was a lot of usable ideas - they just never seemed to be in the right place or at the right time - and the 'Memoir of Battle at Sea' (Bob's title for his set which I unashamedly borrowed - if I never said so then, thanks Bob!) was without a doubt one of the better ones.

In a nutshell all I have done is to expand the number of ships covered by Bob's original version and to tweak both the weapon ranges and movement distances to fit in with my 12 x 8 Hexon set up which means 1" equals 1,000 yards and two Knots equal a hex. Ships have a number of damage or flotation points from 20 downwards with ships having ranges of these as applicable - mainly based on older or weaker ships having numbers from the lower end of the range for the type of ship and newer or stronger vessels from the top end . Main, secondary (even tertiary) and torpedoes each have a number of d6 to score a hit which will then decrease as the range increases. This was not without a couple of minor problems but these have been overcome in a simple fashion and I will explain further after the test. I have built in a simple special/critical hit system which adds to the feel but not to the complexity and, together with combat overall, is about as easy to process as it can be.

I am really excited about the potential of this seemingly hastily thrown together set of rules - mainly because it looks so 'right' and is in tune with my overall vision of how these should look. Today I shall tackle a couple of ship cards and I hope to be testing very soon (possibly tonight but more likely to be Wednesday) with the results etc being posted to the blog and assuming all being with the rules themselves making an appearance later. The rules themselves cover two sides of A4 with a page of 'how I got to the numbers' and a page of examples (which I have yet to draft but should not take long).

For the record I have been pleasantly surprised by both the quantity and the quality of the comments I have received during this long running endeavor and so I can only say a very big and sincere thank you to all that have followed and supported my efforts along what has been a seemingly endless journey. Your collective patience has been been much appreciated!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Three Steps Forward....

I had the best of intentions this weekend, I really did! I had managed to factor in to the usual domestic schedule a couple of hours for gaming  (actually an afternoon) but when I got to the allotted time was unable to take full advantage. This was frustrating but the news was not all bad.

I wanted to sit down and give the Portable Naval War Game a play test but in order to do this I first needed to tackle some ship charts. This was where the problem arose. Try as I might I could not get these looking like anything other then quite complex - which is the complete opposite of my avowed intention. Whilst grappling with these I was of course referring to my draft rules and the appropriate copy of Conways but something did not feel quite right about the whole thing.

It was the rules.

Something I could not quite put my finger on just did not feel right and try as I might I could not see why. Then it came to me and I felt very foolish as a result! I won't bore you with the details but suffice it to say a ship with more guns would last longer than one with fewer - simply because every barrel has a hit box. This skews the length of time a ship can last and gives a big advantage to those ships that have three or even four calibres of gun on board. Adjusting the rules to reign this in would change a number of gunnery and damage related mechanisms which would in effect mean a complete redraft of the entire thing - except for the movement rules, of which I am very pleased.

After a moment's despair I abandoned all thoughts of testing the rules and instead set about drafting, in effect, a new set.

Am I disappointed by this turn of events? Yes and no, to an extent. Obviously it is frustrating but I would rather work on and from a rule set that captures the essence of what I am trying to game than with a set that has such an obvious shortcoming. Rules may fudge to a lesser or greater degree how aspects of a game translate our vision of what we are representing and this is fine but when they are just plain wrong, for whatever reason, that is a different matter entirely.

The revised or new set are in fact virtually ready and I was very surprised (as in 'I could have kicked myself!') I did not think of the system I have used beforehand. Especially as so much work had been carried out on this previously and all that was missing  was the final piece of the puzzle.

Yesterday saw me finding that piece....;-)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

12 x 8 and then 24 x 24

For pretty much all of my table top games I will be fighting on a playing area of 12 x 8 hexagonal tiles. I would have preferred 13 x 9 as this is the standard Command and Colours sized battlefield but my table will not run to the extra row of depth. 12 x 8 it is then and by a happy coincidence this is a nice multiple of 8 x 8 sized area derived from the ideas pioneered by Bob Cordery in both his Portable Wargame and his Morschauser based predecessor. Essentially it is the size of a chess board and a half.

I have a number of ideas beyond the use of a single 12 x 8 playing area - particularly using maps for plotting moves and thereby generating a tactical game. The approach I am looking at involves the use of 6 table maps each of 12 x 8. These can be arranged so that the total area mapped is 24 by 24 hexes and so the standard 12 x 8 table area will fit very nicely within the map as the action unfolds. The 24 by 24 map will be drafted as though it was a large playing area with all of the appropriate terrain duly positioned.. The forces involved will move at their standard table move rates on this master map and battle will be joined when the opposing forces have sight of one another.

This idea is very much in mind for use with a mini campaign and at this stage the first step will be to source a 24 x 24 grid for designing the area to be fought over.

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Table has Landed!

I was lucky enough to able to secure the drop leaf table from my local scout group and after much huffing and puffing I was able to get it into the loft and set up. After a quick polish and the addition of a blue tablecloth followed by three quarters of a box of Hexon the end result you can see in the picture above.

The table is a little narrower than I would have liked but it is large enough for a 12 x 8 Hexon playing area which is the size I shall be using for most of my gaming activities.

I hope to run my first game in the new den this weekend so once again I shall be taking to the high seas.

Solving the Great Conundrum....Part the Second

They say that 'Necessity, who is the mother of invention (Plato, The Republic)' is a great source of inspiration and of, to use the modern expression, the need to be pushing the envelope. This is certainly true in the case of 'Solving the Great Conundrum'. I needed a particular type of figure for my experiments and lo and behold - SWMBO, on one of her occasional forays into the wilds of Basildon, has today acquired the same for me. The omens are looking very encouraging thus far with all the elements falling inexorably into place. One cannot escape one's destiny and I suppose the Jedi amongst us will mention this fact with sagacious abandon.

I shall offer myself up to the dark gods of inevitability and thus continue my experiments….;-)

I am reminded though of one of my favourite quotes from Star Wars Episode 6…."The dark side of the force is the pathway to many abilities, some considered to be unnatural….."

Be careful what you wish for.

Solving The Great Conundrum

As a long-time war games butterfly it will probably come as no surprise that I am now actively considering taking the plunge and painting some figures again after having renounced forever doing the same a short while ago. I should point out that I remain very much committed to the block project and indeed, this will be the major part of my land based gaming going forward, certainly for the forseeable future in any event. However, and I am as surprised by this as anybody else, I really feel the urge to paint some figures again. This has come about primarily because of gaining my new den and the limitless horizons it offers to my imagination but I suspect the real reason lies much deeper. To be frank I have always enjoyed using model soldiers for games but in recent years have become very jaded with the whole business - primarily due in part to the sheer quality of most modern figures and my inability to do them justice with a paint brush. I have a rather curious outlook on such things as figures etc and how they are used. I much prefer to see a pair of armies of a similar standard of paint job and detail of casting engaged in battle than one of a 'Golden Demon' quality force taking on a hastily knocked up Minifigs S range bring and buy special.

Similarly, I am not a huge fan of diorama quality terrain. Terrain for me should be functional and fit for purpose naturally, but my own taste lies between such high quality  sculpted scenery and the pencilled terrain and books under a cloth approach. Using Hexon in many ways ensures that terrain is to a degree stylised in any event and this is fine for my purposes.

Games set in the rarefied atmosphere of show quality, superbly painted armies and diorama styled terrain are for me hugely inspirational rather than aspirational. I fully appreciate the skill demonstrated by such practitioners but can never hope to emulate the same. All credit though to those that can produce such games, thereby showcasing what can be achieved with the application of enthusiasm, hard work and talent.

Coming back then, to my own peculiar outlook, I feel very much as though for the first time in an absolute age I want to tackle something meaningful and longstanding. I am not talking about massive armies of hundreds of figures - nor am I looking at DBA or skirmish sized forces. As you would probably have expected this 'idea', project, call it what you like, will certainly not be a mainstream set up - such things are usually an anathema to me! It will most certainly be a long haul idea - simply because I have no wish to batter myself with unrealistic self imposed deadlines.

As you would have no doubt have surmised I do have a plan in mind for this. However, certain pre-requisites will need to be satisfied before I take the plunge and even then, the 'plunge' will be more like stepping in a pool rather than a leap into space. The idea I have is based on a succession of bite sized chunks - each of which is freestanding or can be used as a part of the whole. This has the attraction of being able to be picked up or put down at leisure which is an important consideration for my somewhat fickle nature. The main pre-requisite concerns the painting itself. I have in mind a particular technique to use and should this work then the whole project becomes viable - and this is coming from a notoriously slow painter!

I should point out that this 'grand design' is certainly not a new one - as near as I can recall this first saw the light of day around ten years ago - but several things have conspired recently to make it, if not a certainty, then at the very least a distinct possibility.

Potentially this could be an enormous undertaking but with sufficient diversity to ensure that it would never be dull. It would not suit everybody but as it falls very much under the remit of being a personal mission this is of little importance. I would be looking at providing all sides in any event and neccessity would very much require me to do so, for reasons which will become obvious in due course.

I will divulge the nature of this beast in time - subject to the aforementioned pre-requisite -  but suffice it to say that whilst the subject matter will certainly come as no surprise,  the method of execution may well do so!

Seek, and Ye shall find....

A curious thing happened on my way home from work yesterday. I was taking my usual path from the station to my house  which runs past a small allotment and a local Scout hut. I had just reached the Scout hut and was pondering drop leaf dining tables for my den when lo and behold - there was a drop leaf table sitting on a pile of material presumably destined for disposal in some fashion! The local Scout group appear to be having a refurbishment of their meeting place and so the table has obviously been deemed as being surplus to requirements. It appears to be in sound, clean and tidy condition and so I shall be contacting the sad Scout group with the intention of taking the same off their hands if I am able (and for a small donation as well).

The Scout hut was locked up and is surrounded by a large fence and although a contact telephone number is plastered all over the main entrance in the poor lighting (it was just after 6:30) I was unable to make this out. I should be OK this morning though and in the meantime I hope it doesn't rain!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A Suitable Adornment....

A chance comment on my recent blog post celebrating the launch of the new Man Cave by that celebrated bon vivant, wit and raconteur - Conrad Kinch of  Joy and Forgetfulness fame - has got me thinking about the decor of the said room. The mention from this most worthy of gentlemen was that the room was missing any prints and so I pondered this comment at odd moments during the course of a rather busy but dull Tuesday.

I have decided that this would be a good idea and so the search is now on for a suitable print or prints with which to decorate the walls. The only criteria I have at the present time is that I really want the print to be of something that would be readily identifiable with my own rather eclectic taste in military and naval history. A print that would be a reflection of the likes and interests of its owner and so very much along the lines of a personal statement.

I should like to express my eternal thanks to Mr Kinch for this suggestion - as the epitome of good taste and a an all round 'good egg' it comes as no surprise that such an idea was his - and so the hunt is now well and truly joined and with the added bonus the blessing of SWMBO, primarily as it will solve the annual Xmas present problem.

The many adventures of Conrad Kinch can be found here:

Joy and Forgetfulness

and to use the phrase of the man himself - Click to embiggen!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Back to the Balkans via The Portable Naval War Game

Yesterday evening saw me deciding on the direction of the Portable Naval War Game in respect of the first set of ship cards I would need to produce for testing purposes. Previously I had gone down the road of attempting both the Grand and High Seas Fleets on the grounds that as they were the largest historically (I am not sure about the Germans or indeed how you would even confirm such a statement - tonnage or sheer numbers!) they would furnish the greatest variety of ship types. Other navies could then be added by the simple expedient of copying over an existing chart and tweaking where applicable. The only downside to this is entirely of my own making in that the existing format for the ship cards I have thus far drafted would need a substantial amount of revision to bring them up to the new standard. It will be easier to start them again from scratch and so this is what I am going to do.

My plan then is to produce the ship cards for the 1/3000th Greek, Turkish and Black Sea Russian fleets simply because they are the fleets I own and are ready to use. I will be adding to these over a period of time - I am thinking of the French navy - and so the available cards will be expanded in due course. In any event I have included the details required for the construction of ship cards within the designers notes of the Portable Naval War Game so it would be easy enough to furnish the ships of those navies as yet not covered.

I intend making the rules available over the net in some form but have to decide what that will be. This will not happen though until I have at least one test game under my belt

If all goes to plan then I shall undertake a play test over the coming weekend (I am not going to SELWG) with results etc posted as usual on the blog. It will also be the first game I undertake in my new den and so it is, for me anyway, a fitting choice of protagonists.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Inspired and Feeling Industrious

Now that the great loft move is more or less complete it is with some relief that I can now apply myself to the various projects I currently have on the go. To recap these are as follows:

  • ACW River operations
  • Balkan Wars using the blocks
  • 1914 Mediterranean
  • Operation Barbarossa - again, using the blocks
I have been thinking about the Balkans and the 1914 Med ideas and am expecting to be revising these as they are a little close to one another in many ways. I want to make use of the Minifigs ships I have for the naval dimension but am being lured into period specific fictional forces rather than the historical types. I will have to give this some thought.

The ACW kit will be the first of these to be tackled as I really want to get this finished  - especially as I will need to make some more models as well. The land side will of course be using the Portable Wargame and the blocks so that will be one facet I will not need to worry about.

Operation Barbarossa will be an interesting one and at this stage I am undecided how I will tackle this but there is no immediate rush and I am sure a solution will present itself in due course. Assuming this works out in whatever shape or form it eventually takes I would then like to explore some Western desert type action but that is a long way off.

I have a few other ideas to toy with (I am still thinking about the best way to game the North Atlantic in 1941!) and I am quite sure there will be a few surprises along the way but the great thing for me now though is the fact that at last I can experiment properly with rules, games and periods without any of it impacting on the domestic routine! 

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Man Cave 2 - Where Pigeons Dare.....

At long last - Mine, all mine....

At last my relocation to the loft is now complete and so Man Cave 2 is officially open for business! I am really pleased to at last be in my own den - safe in the knowledge that once the hatchway is closed all is safe and secure and more importantly - all in one place! The room is not complete at this stage though as I need to source a drop leaf table from somewhere for gaming on. I have a small 3ft by 2ft table that could be used for small games but obviously something more substantial would be needed for by preferred 12 x 8 Hexon based games. This is a small disadvantage at the present but is certainly not one I shall complain about!

The work station - no excuse for not getting any painting done!

All of the units you see come from IKEA from their IVAR range and our house has acres of the stuff dotted around. It is cheap and can be configured in a variety of ways and so is ideal for a gaming collection. Floor space is pretty generous and measures 18ft by 10ft so fitting the aforementioned gaming table will not be a problem although the drop leaf variant will be he ideal solution.

1805: Austerlitz by Robert Goetz published by Greenhill Books (ISBN 1-85367-644-6)

We had a flying visit to Lakeside shopping centre to day and my disappointment at seeing the legendary Airfix Sink the Bismarck set on sale in Modelzone was more than offset by the acquisition of three books from the Works (home of the legendary sets of blocks I have been using). Two of the titles are for Xmas but the one that wasn't I was really pleased to get and for an absolute song - £3.99. The book in question is by Robert Goetz and is about that most famous of Napoleon's victories: Austerlitz 1805. There is not a lot to be said about the book other than the fact that it is an ideal wargamer's title - maps, biographies, orders of battle, plans and all the detail associated with the campaign all presented in a readable and pacy style.

Well I have got to fill up the empty space on the bookshelves somehow....;-)

PS 'Where Pigeons Dare' refers to the view from either of the two loft roof windows - one overlooks the low level roof of our lounge extension which, when the sun is high, is the preferred roost of one of our three cats. A pair of pigeons have taken to preening themselves on the said roof and so it will only be a matter of time.....

Friday, 7 October 2011


'Precioussss.....we loves it...'

You may recall a few weeks back the sorry tale of my 6 Sink the Bismarck sets that were, ahem, lost in transit. Well half of the refunded proceeds went on a copy Battleship Galaxies and the other was sitting around, waiting patiently for a chance to shine.

Well the chance to shine came in the shape of two volumes of Conway's Fighting Ships covering 1906 to 1921 and then 1922 to 1946 which have been eagerly snapped up and have joined the 1860 to 1905 volume in my new Man Cave library! I am absolutely delighted to have these in my collection and the mileage I will get from them is enormous.

Arriving as they did this morning, after what can only be described as a miserable week at work, they gave me a welcome boost for the weekend and have timed their arrival nicely with the completion of the Portable Naval Wargame rules. Just the job for the umpteen million ship cards I will need to make and now do not have an excuse to avoid the same!

LONG LIVE....The Portable Naval Wargame!

The rules are drafted and a few sample ship charts are now ready for me to test them at some point over the weekend. Overall they can best be described as a fusion of Jutland, Paul Hague's Sea Battles in Miniature, Morschauser and with a dash of Charles Grant (senior) thrown in for good measure.

Movement is based to a large extent on Barry Carter's short move/long move idea - this models speeds on a grid far more accurately - and has been helped considerably by my realisation that a knot equals 2,025 yards. Given that a Hexon tile is 4" across the flat sides and the nominal scale of the game is 1" equals 1,000 yards  then you can see that to move one hex or 4,000 yards requires a speed of 2 knots (2 x 2,000 yards (rounded for ease) equals 4,000 yards). Calculating ship moves based on this rationale then was pretty straightforward.

Combat requires 1d6 to be rolled for every pair of barrels or tubes being used with scores from 4, 5 and 6 to a 6 being needed to score a hit depending on the range. Range also effects the number of hits scored as hits are halved at extreme range  (5 hexes or 20,000 yards), doubled at ranges 2 and 3 (8 to 12,000 yards) and tripled at 1 hex.  In combination with the increased chance of hitting as the range comes down the multiplying of hits scored serves to represent the shorter range and higher rate of fire of lower calibre weapons and the increased accuracy. A fudge I know but it works well and is in fact the system used in Avalon Hill's Jutland.

Damage or hit points are scored at the rate of one per hit and these are then recorded on the ship's hit record chart. The player owning the ship can choose where the hits are scored - either flotation or weapons - which will lead to some interesting choices needing to made based on the tactical situation.

That, in a nutshell, is a basic overview of the rules and following on from the testing I hope to tackle at some point over the weekend I shall be looking to upload these for general usage.

Is the last time I shall have to post describing yet another set of homegrown naval rules for this period?

I hope so!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Doing the Simple Things - Simply....

It has been a busy day for a variety of reasons but the big news is that I have finally managed to draft the all new, all singing and dancing Portable Naval War Game rules (part 1 - 1890 to 1920). I am really pleased to have gotten to this stage so quickly and I can put this down to all the spadework the umpteen previous versions I have been working on!

Just a quick update with more to follow later.

BTW, 'Doing the Simple things simply' has without a doubt been the mantra for this set - for reasons that will become obvious in due course.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Tinkering with Naval Gunnery

After having returned home last night from a college viewing with my daughter (she will tackling A levels next year) I had little time for anything gaming related last night although I was able to give some thought to firing systems for use with the Portable Naval Wargame.

Originally I was considering using a 'range reduced number of d6' - similar to the usual method seen in Battle Cry and Memoir 44. Simply put a unit has a number of combat dice that are rolled and this number usually drops by one or more for each hex of firing range. I have decided against this as it tends to reduce the maximum firing ranges as the unit takes damage e.g a ship with a combat dice score of 8 could have a maximum range of 8. Say it loses 1 die as a result of damage. This will mean it has seven dice thereby reducing the maximum range to 7. I realise this could be tinkered with but in my opinion the maximum range of a gun should not be reduced due to damage - unless of course the gun itself is damaged in some way. Taking this further, if the forward turret on a typical dreadnought was rendered hors de combat for whatever reason that should not mean that the fully functional aft turret should be penalised for range as a result.

I have therefore, settled on using a set number of d6 for each ship based on the simple expedient of having 1d6 per two barrels firing. Typically then, a battleship will have a number of d6 for the main guns and for the secondary weapons e.g 4d6 for the 8 x 15" on a QE class battleship and 3d6 for the 6 x 6". Having settled on the number of weapons firing I now need to consider exactly how they score a hit and the effects of the same.

Thinking cap time again....;-)