Saturday, 4 August 2018

A Right Bloody Mess on the water

As always my gaming focus swings wildly.

With the release of Matthew Clarkson's magnificent tome A Right Bloody Mess in 2017 and more recently Mana Press's Maximilian 1934 rules and the wonderful supporting ranges from Eureka Miniatures (OK plugs over now!) my mind has turned to 'what if?' conflicts in the parched plains of this great, big brown land of ours.

I have been experimenting with Eureka Miniatures 'The Cars that ate Murrumbeena' range and there will be posts to follow on that. Today is just a little taster of the riverine consequences of this civil disturbance in Australia in the 1930s. Currently a work in progress.

My mind has been turning to monolithic dredges from the gold mining era being hauled across dry landscapes by traction engines to fight battles in the ephemeral, mineral leaden lakes of the interior - my take on American Civil War Cotttonclads - but I need to start a little smaller than that!

USS Morning Light - an American Civil War Cottonclad
Today I give you a peek of my first addition to the riverine fleet for ARBM - the converted wool barge Willandra.

The Murray Barge Dart
The Willandra is based on a real barge of the late 1800s (but no accurate dimensions could be found - so I faked it). She was built in 1879 and plied the Murray-Darling rivers as a barge for the Paddle Steamer Alert. These barges and the whole riverine transport system slowly declined with the spread of the road and rail network and many boats fell into disrepair. Now, I diverge from history.

With the outbreak of hostilities in the 1930s (see Matthew's ARBM) the road and rail network was again compromised by the warring factions. The massive (although ephemeral and unreliable) Riverine transport network of the Murray-Darling Basin flourished again. Old barges (once towed by Paddle Steamers) were retrofitted with diesel engines and pressed into service - valued for their shallow draft in these rivers full of sandbanks and snags.

Here we see the owner of sheep station at Minindee along the Darling River in NSW on a run down to the market in Mildura to sell some of her high grade Merino wool - in great demand again for uniforms as the various militia kit up across the region!

But, soon enough, as resources become scarce due to the break down of trade across this huge continent, the trip to market becomes fraught with danger from attacks by land-based militia and even the occasional attack from small watercraft. Only last month an aged paddle steamer was sunk in the Murray River by spar torpedo boats from a timber-cutter gang turned feral in Barmah! The militia need uniforms so the wool must get through to the markets. Thus, the first 'woolclad' gunboat on the darling River is born - the Willandra! More to follow...

The Hotchkiss Gun, Nordenfelt and Wool Bales are all from Eureka Miniatures, The Willandra is scratch-built of cork, MDF and plastic card. The other figures at from Bob Murch - Pulp Figures


Monday, 28 May 2018

Preparations for first try of C21 Air War

As previous posts have hinted at, my first venture into modern aerial combat gaming will be a Falklands War project. I'm easing myself into the genre using Air War C21 rules by Wessex Games.

The first scenario will be a hypothetical encounter between a section of Sea Harriers intercepting a section of Argentine Dassault Mirage III's over San Carlos Water (Bomb Alley) on 1 May 1982, as the air war above the Falklands was just beginning to escalate

Gaming time is rare at the moment (study, work, yeech!) so it may take a while - besides, I'm still rereading the rules. Here's a few atmospheric shots of the table. Simple, but effective for 'whatever is at hand' set up!
Sea Harriers!
San Carlos Water looks cold in the last light of day!
Great late afternoon light has added some atmosphere to this shot.

Argentine Dassault Mirage III
Argentine Mirage III's (foreground) close in on the Sea Harriers (top left) for first contact with the enemy.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Retun to Ulsan - 14 August 1904

My favourite pre-dreadnought action is the clash of Vice Admiral Karl Jessen Vladivostok Independent Cruiser Squadron (armored cruisers: Rossia, Rurik, and Gromoboi) and Japanese 2nd Fleet under Admiral Kamimura (four armored cruisers Izumo, Azuma, Tokiwa, Iwate, and two protected cruisers Naniwa and Takachih) off Ulsan in the Korean Strait on 14 August 1904.
The Imperial Japanese Navy close in on the Vladivostok Cruiser Squadron on my newly made
naval gaming mat.
It's a great scenario for a relatively quick game (although pretty challenging for the Russian player) and a good one for testing out new rules. For me, it highlights the great range of outcomes possible in naval gaming. I've played it about eight times now and each game has been quite different. Only one or two, by memory, have see the Imperial Russian Navy prevail, alas!

Now, to get yourself in the pre-dred mindset I can always recommend watching the clip from Turning Point (that you all know so well, I'm sure) if you can put up wth the soundtrack:

Not being a devotee of the rivet-counting end of naval wargaming rules, my go-to rules for a fun game (especially when playing solo) are Coaling Stations by Twylight Games. What I like most is the card-based order mechanism where each squadron allocated a series of individual orders (move, turn, fire, make smoke, evade etc) by placing the cards in the order you wish to enact them, and then the player rolls against their allocated command rating (7 inferior commander, 8 average commander, 9 superior commander) using 2d6 and if the roll is equal to or less than the command rating, that number of orders are put in place.
In this case the IJN protected cruiser squadron (command of 9) had rolled a 6 and were able to put all four orders into action. They have to be performed int he order they are laid out in (L to R in this picture).

Alas, in this case, the shift to flank speed meant they steamed right past the Russians (top of picture) before being able to launch their torpedoes!
So, if you have a command rating of 8 for your squadron and you lay out five orders (eg. cruise speed, fire main guns, fire secondary guns, turn 90 degrees and make smoke), a roll of 7 means you get to move forward at cruising speed, then for your main guns only that turn.

It's an interesting and easy to use mechanism. I place my cards for each squadron face down in order (top to bottom) before rolling against the commend. Sometimes I accidentally mix up the order which I put down to fog of war style mistakes by the crew. As you will see below, sometimes this has devastating consequences.

So, here's a photo-story of how the game played out.

The fleets sight each other
First IJN salvo mostly straddles the Russian cruisers, but one shot finds its mark.
Naniwa and Takachih swing to port to close on the Russians.
The second IJN salvo bites hard at the Russian cruisers
Vice Admiral Jessen steers to port to try and distance himself from Admiral Kamimura's heavy guns.
Another IJN salvo starts to slow the Russian cruisers. Naniwa and Takachih close on the rear of the Russian line of battle in the hope of coming within torpedo range.
Naniwa and Takachih pull within range of their primary guns and start to hammer the
tail end of the Russian line.
The effect of the furious salvos from the IJN must have interrupted communications - no Russian orders are passed on this turn.
Jessen's gunnery officers finally receive the command to open fire as the stokers shovel coal for all they are worth. The Russian armored cruisers swing back parallel tot he IJN and open fire. Alas, to little effect.
Another salvo from the Japanese takes out a forward turret on the Gromoboi.
Rurik receives more hot stuff from the protected cruisers. The Russian fleet is badly damaged and
only limping along.
Lines of command in Admiral Kamimura's division are winning the day for the IJN, four orders are executed in one turn!
Jessen orders a punishing salvo - with several shots penetrating the Japanese armour.
But, it is too little, too late?
Fore form the main and secondary guns of the IJN protected cruisers hits home with devastating
effect on the Rurik.
Five hits and the Rurik is slowly sinking from the damage.
Steaming past the Russian line, the Takachih bring her starboard side torpedo tubes into action.
Jessen orders his crippled ships to make smoke in a last ditch attempt to avoid destruction.
Another Japanese salvo (not pictured) sends the Rurik, and Gromoboi to the icy depths. But then disaster strikes the IJN. After exercising excellent command under fire, Admiral Kamimura's orders are misinterpreted and his armoured cruisers are ordered to steer hard to port and slice through the Naniwa sending her to the bottom with all hands.
Admiral Kamimura reels with the shame of ramming his own ship as the IJN prepares to
annihilate the Russians.
Takachih avenges the loss of her sister ship by dealing a fatal blow to the Rossia.
As always, Coaling Stations and the Battle off Ulsan gives exciting results! However, a Russian victory seems always just beyond reach in this scenario.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Sea mat - ready for action

Having spent the last few weekends focused on study, I decided to treat myself to an hour in the shed today to finish off my third gaming mat. My 2mm Thirty Years War project (see previous post) requires more attention than I can give it at present, so I was looking for an easy task.

I've had a sea mat half-made for some time and wanted to get it done to encourage me to return to some naval gaming. It's been some time since my 1:2400 Russo-Japanese War, Second Balkan War Ottoman and Greek fleets and WW1 ships have seen any action.
I've been pleased with the results I've had from gaming mats constructed from a painter's drop-sheet with acrylic caulking compound applied to provide some texture.
For this mat I used a dark grey caulk which provided a good base color. Over this I laid a wash of ultramarine blue then, after that dried, I picked up the texture with a dry-brush of off-white acrylic house paint. Once the paint was dry I applied an acrylic, semi-gloss clear sealant I purchased from an automotive supplies shop (for another job).
The result is a moody sea with a slight hint of reflection provided by the sealant (it was looking a little too matt without that). Someone with more patience than I would, no doubt, find the ideal method to provide the impression of the white caps on the waves. Perhaps using a sponge might have been the way to go?
For less than 2 hours work in total (not including drying time), I'm happy with the outcome and can't wait to get the ships out (well, I already have, as you will see!).

Update 22/04/18
The mat will be good for my air war over the Falklands project too.
Argentine Mirages send some 'hot stuff' towards a Vulcan bomber and its escort.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Thirty Years War in 2mm - basing using 17th century military texts

I've had a Thirty Years War (TYW) project in 2mm on the 'back burner' for a long time. A very long time! As I have mentioned in a previous post, there are some terrific 2mm gamers out there who I am 'leaning on' heavily for this project.
For instance, for the 2mm enthusiast I thoroughly recommend a wander around Sydney Roundwood's blog (Roundwood's World) and check out his wonderful Lützen (1632) and Nördlingen (1634) projects in 2mm. I liked the result so much, I have shamelessly copied the winter basing Sydney has used. After all, Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness!
What I love about 2mm as a scale, one small bag contains a few weekends of work!
Hmmmm. So, what to do with them...
However, I have added my own mark to the project by indulging my interest in 17th century military theory when basing the 2mm blocks. Rather than limiting myself to the standard approach of pike with two wings of musket, I have sought to reproduce the various deployments outlined in tomes such as Richard Elton's The Complete Body of the Art Military (1650) and Collonel (sic) William Bariffe's Military Discipline, for the Young Artilleryman (1657).

While in many cases the deployments of foot troops discussed in these manuals tend towards the theoretical rather than actually reflecting those used in the field, it helped me better understand the texts and posed interesting challenges in working with the blocks and the space available on the base.

Overall, the main Irregular Miniatures blocks I used for these bases were:
  • RBG7, 45 figure 1-2 pike/shot unit (15 pike/30 shot);
  • RBG12, 3-rank Forlorn Hope - 15 figures;
  • RBG33, 15 figure Pike block;
  • RBG25 Command - 2 figures;
  • RBG9, Swiss/Landsknecht pike unit (40 pikes);
  • BG2, Infantry in three ranks (24 figures) (these are from the Horse and Musket range; but make great musket units);
  • Oh, and of course, the Tercio! - RBG10, Tercio (100 figures 40 pike/60 shot).
What rules, you ask? I have yet to track down a set of rules that I am totally happy with for either TYW or ACW gaming in 2mm. Nevertheless, for TYW, I have been considering Polemos ECW, the 2 by 2 variants from the 2mm Yahoo Group, Jackson Gamers' English Civil War Rules 'Charge yr Pike! and the free older version of Father Tilly (version 3).

My basing scheme is using a 50mm x 25mm bases (c. 2"x1") for foot and cavalry with each foot base being a regiment and each cavalry base a squadron. Command and artillery (and possibly detachments of shot) will be on 25 x 25mm (c. 1" x 1") bases. So, basically, a scaled down Polemos basing system.
For larger regiments of foot I used the RBG9 pike block with wings of two blocks of BG2 for the musket. In come cases I  used some RBG12 as musket either deployed forward as the Forlorn Hope or to the
rear as reserves.
When laying out the regiments I found it very useful to rule up the base to help with positioning the pike and musket blocks (RGB12 and RGB33 in this case). It gave them a nice, crisp military feel.
In this case, I'm laying out 'a squadron or third part of a Swedish Brigade' as described by Bariffe, in Military Discipline..., p. 172.
All three squadrons deployed in the style of the Swedish Brigade.
Rather than laying out some units in with their pike to the left or right (depending on their flank), and with musket in reserve at the rear, I based all of the three squadrons as laid out on p. 172 - assuming the commander would deploy as necessary!
Bariffe goes on to describe a series of deployments for 'imbattelling larger numbers' (Military Discipline..., p. 130. In the next series of bases I have adopted various forms of the 'double Crosse-Battle.' In describing these forms of deploying regiments/squadrons of foot, Bariffe notes they '...may bring most hands to the fight, with conveniency, so that one part of your Battle doe not cumber or hinder the other...' (p. 130).
In this second form, after the musketeers have '...fired once or twice over, the Front-division of Pikes may move forwards, porting, until they range-even with the front of the Musquettiers, and there charge their Pikes: The Musquettiers still continuing their Firing. The Reer divisions of Pikes, in the mean time facing to the right and left-outward, and sleeving-up the flanks of the Reer-division of Musquettiers; there in like manner charging their Pikes. either to the front or flanks...' (p. 132)

Finally, below are a few pictures of my first attempts to pain some of the above bases. I have gone for fairly generic colour schemes. I have used the same approach as my ACW 2mm basing where I paint a discoloured patch to the rear of units to represent their footprints in the frost/snow.