Tuesday 29 September 2015

Galleys and Galleons

The title of this post refers to a newly published set of rules for small scale naval engagements between the fairly primitive ships of the 1500s up to the pirate ages of the early 1700. Published by Ganesha Games, it uses their classic initiative dice activation system and a rather neat little set of sailing rules for lateen rig, square rig and galleon rig.

Jon happened to have a copy of this that was surplus to requirements, which he generously passed on for negligible cost.

A quick glance through, an After Action Report posted online for inspiration, and I was hunting around for my Demonworld 'Empire' ships, purchased some time back from Ral Partha Europe.  I picked up the fleet pack, but really, the cogs were too early to be suitable, so these will be added to to create a flotilla for use as naval elements in DBA/DBMM.

So today they got stuck down to some 'Polemos' 60 x 30 bases. A squirt of black car primer and a quick paint job. Tomorrow they will get ink washes on the rope work, and I will add some acrylic gel and white highlights for water effects.

Two Galleases and a Galleon. No real published scale, and at first I thought nearly 1/2400, but on closer examination, they are probably much closer to the 1/1200 scale.

I will be having another look at the Demonworld stuff, they aren't particularly cheap, but they are nice simple casts, they assemble easily, and the detail is good.

Friday 18 September 2015

I blame John...

Also resold by Italeri
So when John came over to play some Signal Close Action last night, I showed him some of the USMC stuff I have been doing, and he posed the question: "Do you have an OpFor?"  errrr...  well... no.

This led to looking up websites, checking plastic figure availability (amazingly limited for Cold War period Warsaw Pact)..  and identifying that the ESCI Russian Special Forces (Spetsnaz) were really the only decent option.

Unless you went for the Orion 'Chechnya' period figures - which you would need a couple of boxes of, and look to have some very weird poses. (Including a man urinating? what the?)

Some bizarre figure choices ruin otherwise a good set.

So this morning, I idly looked up the online pricing for a suitable Spetsnaz force..   

S-Model do the airborne BMD fighting vehicle…  2 models for $16 + postage.. same seller has the ESCI figures for $11.95..   plus a T64 from Modelcollect.. 

Pricier at $23, but shipped free.. 
and you can’t do without the iconic Mi24 Hind attack helicopter…    $18 inc postage on ebay for the excellent Zvezda kit from a seller in Lithuania..  

Aaarrrrgggghhhhh… too shiny. I have no willpower. Thanks John.

My pocket is lighter, but I will have a matched opponent…  now all I have to do is postulate an American Marine landing somewhere desert’y in 1980 opposed by airborne Spetsnaz forces..   the T64 will have to be a blow in…    
Maybe the Spetsnaz have been sent to support the Socialist Yemen regime, with the T64 offloaded at port..   the Saudis ask for help, and a Marine MAU is sent to help..  ok.. there’s a scenario.

And this morning the postie brought me another LVTP7 (the dragon model from Hobbyco in Oz, a special at  $6.95) plus a diecast CH46 transport helicopter all the way from Poland. USMC Transport won’t be an issue…

Thursday 17 September 2015

And an actual game - "Reef T'gallants Mr Mosely!"

So I realised it has actually been a long time since I reported a game. Well, I played a really fun game tonight, of 'Signal Close Action - Quick Play' by Langton's. Signal Close Action is designed to allow you to play Napoleonic naval battles (- preferably using Langton's excellent miniatures of course).

The full version of Signal Close Action is extremely detailed, and (in my view) you need to be an actual skilled sailor, and to play very frequently to make anything other than single ship actions playable.

Signal Close Action - Quick Play is greatly simplified, but gives a really good game - it has a fun narrative quality, and works well with a few ships a side. We haven't tried using more than four or so ships each, but the squadron rules would let you handle quite a few organised into relatively homogeneous groups. The whole game is handled with minimal book-keeping - unusually for naval games, and works quite elegantly.

Mechanics are 'I Go - U Go', - in each player turn declaring intended actions -  the sailing settings (turn/direction, increase/decrease sail), fire (at hull or rigging), assemble boarders, fight fires and so on. This can be by squadron or single ships. Three normal d6 are then rolled, and the result checked against the action chart to see whether the intended action was successful or not. Extreme dice rolls can lead to either very bad consequences, such as a gun exploding during a broadside, or an extremely good outcome, such as a particularly well-laid shot knocking out an enemy's steering. The rolls are affected by crew quality and the current levels of damage to the ship.

John came over with some British ships, and I grabbed my trusty French. We decided to randomly determine crew quality, with the increased chance of French crew being poor sailors being compensated for by my having a 64 gun vessel as well as a small 74 and a 32 gun frigate versus the British with their 74, 50 and 32.  As luck would have it, the French crews were all 'Average', while the British frigate crew were 'Good' - but unfortunately for John, the 74 had a 'Poor' crew. The scene was the West Indies, wind from the South the French and British squadrons on a converging course, being careful of the shoals and cays that were frequent hazards in these waters.
The French 64 and Frigate round a cay leaving the British frigate behind.

SCA immediately lived up to giving us an intriguing game..   the French frigate crew managed to fluff a turn, and collided with their own '64...   immediately causing damage to both ships rigging, and leaving them hove to, while the British sailed serenely towards them...  (a roll of 3 on 3 x d6 is never good...  but at this stage I still had time to disentangle myself.

The British frigate had steered upwind, and was clearly taking the wind gage so as to be able to work around the back of the French squadron and rake the sterns of the bigger ships. As is correct historically, any frigate tangling with a 74; unless with some massive advantage, will simply be blown out of the water. The French couldn't afford to break up their main line of battle. so sent their own frigate to intercept. Both frigates started to deal some damage to each other as the two-deckers closed. The British leading with the 50 gun 'Centurion', followed by the 74 'Swiftsure'.

British 2-decker
A melee between the two lines of 2 deckers traded some damage, but with an angled line the French were concentrating their shot on the leading Centurion - hoping to damage it enough to be relatively ineffective and allow them to concentrate on the more dangerous Swiftsure.

Shots were traded for some time before the lines passed with the French trying to beat upwind to better position while the British ships maintained formation. Overall the French had the best of it, as the poor crew of the Swiftsure could not easily find the mark, and were forced to endure a broadside at close range from the French without reply.

Not quite all was going the way of the French Admiral however; the frigate was trapped between the upwind frigate and the main British force, took serious damage and was forced to turn tail and run..  exposing herself to a possible stern rake from the British frigate...   which instead experienced a horrific explosion on the gun deck as a carelessly swabbed 18lb gun blew itself to bits..  causing serious damage and starting a fire. (The British ship had in turn rolled a total of 3 on 3 x d6, while attempting to fire, and then to add insult, rolled a total of 3 on 3 x d6 for the effect).

With the cumulative damage, the frigate was barely an effective fighting force, not only with her port broadside badly reduced, but the other damage and crew losses making her less useful (for each 'defence capability' or 'DC'  lost on one side of the ship, that broadside is reduced in effectiveness, and for each DC lost, the dice roll on the ability chart is at -1). She gamely kept fighting, (having passed a morale check), but was then hit by a broadside from the 64, and finally hauled down her colours.

Manuevering to avoid the shoals, and seeing a collision with the French frigate inevitable, the captain of the Swiftsure made a virtue of it and assembled boarders - only to find these beaten off by the smaller ship...  (the boarding check is a simple table, but the poor crew quality and the previously sustained damage of the Swiftsure allowed the smaller crew to repulse boarders..)

The French crew now attempted themselves to board the much larger British warship, but these too were beaten off...  Finally, the Swiftsure broke off contact to pursue the French 74..   leaving the French frigate now stationary and damaged, to be finished off by a stern rake from the Centurion, that left it little more than a waterlogged hulk...  

Now with the two frigates out of action, the virtually undamaged French 74 had set a converging course for the Centurion as it passed beyond the stern of the hulk..    reaching close range the French gunners poured in a murderous broadside..    and the Centurion exploded as her magazine was struck!.

The end...

The second last dice roll...    18 on 3 x d6, indicating a particularly well-laid (or lucky) shot...  The last dice roll was 16 on 3 x d6. The worst/best imaginable...   and the Centurion was gone.

With the virtually untouched French 74 and the damaged 64 to contend with alone, the Swiftsure's captain elected to withdraw, leaving the French victorious and in possession of the surrendered Briton.   

I have told John to get some new ships..   his just seem to be terminally unlucky..  I did manage to miss one stern rake myself with a roll of 5, but after the first clumsy collision, I didn't get the disastrous low ability rolls at critical times. He was even unlucky with the crew gradings, as the probability of a Poor crew was higher for the French.. not only that, but his most powerful ship.

The final murderous dice roll was really icing on the cake, an already damaged 50 gun ship stands little chance against a virtually intact 74, so he needed some serious luck there,(not unlike the luck I had really..) to turn things around, and with the effect of poor crew quality exacerbated by the damage she had taken, the Swiftsure was going to struggle even against the smaller French 64.

Great gaming fun.. thanks John

Progress, sort of...

Sometimes I think that life would be easier if I just stuck to one thing at a time. But then I guess I wouldn't be a wargamer? As occasional readers of this blog may have noticed, a lot of stuff gets started, WIP ...  sort of progresses, and then I get distracted by something else. Of course work gets in the way, completing magazine articles for a Defence magazine, consulting work on service governance.. all the humdrum stuff, but usually it's a great inspiration, a chance sighting and the current project(s) get sidelined or slowed.

I'm determined to get a few things finished though. The Italian Condotta for DBMM, the US Marines of 1980, and the Medieval Germans c 1260 for DBMM.

Maybe it's typical of the way I work, lots of things on the go, a little bit here, a little bit there. So in the interests of keeping going, here's a couple of things on the table...

1/72 Diecast M48 getting an initial re-spray. I have given up finding any of the MARS/Galaxy 1/72 kits, so these will be stray Bundeswehr tanks rounded up to give additional armour support to the USMC. I suspect they will be easy prey for any half-modern Warsaw Pact armour, but I have a plan for that.

Of course, having Marines, I need Marine decals, and there aren't any in the spares box, so I printed some up on decal paper; and while I was at it, printed off decals for my Condotta flags & banners. Very pleased with how these came out. Inkjet on best photo setting, paper by Renascent, and a couple of sprays with Dullcote to fix the colours. Very much looking forward to getting these applied.

I did mention I had a plan for dealing with Warsaw Pact armour?  Here it is. The might AH-1J Seacobra attack helicopter, complete with unguided rockets, TOW, and a 30mm Vulcan cannon. The screen image in the background is the colour scheme I am aiming for, so a fair bit of airbrushing and weathering to do..  and of course, the decals... The canopy is white with PVA so I can airbrush - as the trick worked beautifully last time.

On the right the venerable A4 Skyhawk, US Navy support - a smaller scale diecast, but I may use the Father Ted argument...   "this one is far away".  Ideally it should also be in USMC livery, but they were pretty boring, so this one will do as is.

I am still expecting another couple of LVTP-7, and a CH46 Seaknight diecast, so my Marines can ride to battle in style, but that's it, no really, that's it...   a complete platoon, armour, air and transport.

And finally, did I mention I am easily distracted?  

So the Curtiss seaplane was incredibly cheap from a hobby shop seconds sale, and if you have one 'Porco Rosso' plane, well, you have to have the man himself. A quick trip to Hobbylink Japan and a few bucks and a couple of days later...  Maybe I will have to get some Pulp figures?..  hmmmm.

"Oh look...   shiny things...."

Tuesday 8 September 2015

US Marines 1980

A casual comment by a friend that they were doing some Cold War stuff in 20mm caught my attention. Jason is using Bolt Action, but there is also the Too Fat Lardies Chain of Command (CoC) - now on special at 20% off for the WWII version, and the possible release of the Lardies 'IABNM' (I ain't been Nuked Mum').

Well, I already had some bits and pieces, and 20mm is dirt cheap. So looking at what I had, and what was out there, I figured I could do a quick and dirty USMC platoon plus supports. I don't much like the 'Super-Tanks' - and for someone of my vintage, Cold War is always going to be say 1979 - 1984. Add to that the super-cool MERDC camouflage, and it was an easy choice. I had toyed with the idea of BAOR (British Army of the Rhine), but someone else locally was already collecting that. Marine Amphibious Unit 32 used M60, LVTP7, Dragon ATGW, Cobra attack choppers and Sea Knight Helicopters, plus various support options such as 106mm Recoilless Rifles.

First up, a 1/72 M60A1 tank.. this was a MARS (Galaxy) kit, supposedly of a M60A1 with reactive armour, but I already knew from the review on 'OnTheWay' models, that it didn't have the reactive armour.

Note the amount of green stuff. Not an easy kit to build. The tracks are too long and melt with superglue, none of the turret rails or attachments actually fit into the cast 'depressions' (not holes). But it does have the look of the thing.

 Quick squirt of the PSC 'British Green' for an undercoat.

Get busy with the airbrush, I used the Citadel Base Colour XV-88 for the tan, Citadel 'Zandri Dust' for the sand, and Citadel 'Eshin Grey' for the 'black'. Plenty more work (chipping, weathering, added gear), but a good start.

For the Marines themselves, I grabbed a box of the excellent, ESCI 'Modern US Soldiers' - 'Modern in this context circa 1980'ish. Lovely casts, practical poses for wargaming, and 50 figures in the box gave me enough for 3 x 13 man squads, a command group, spare torsos for the M60A1, plus additional ATGW teams with the Dragon missile.

'Hey man, you think command has figured out where we're going yet?'
One of the appeals is that the Marines can use the unusual LVTP7 amphibian, readily available cheap as a pre-made model. This one clearly needs a repaint! - In the background is a Blackhawk, just being introduced at this time. This one is another pre-build, from a magazine, and in Desert colours. Some more repainting required. Ideally, it would be a CH46, but those are either hideously expensive or impossible to obtain. Obviously this UH60 is brand new, and being trialled.. ;-)

And as every bloke knows, you end up with a heap of change over time, so I raided my coin bucket. I like to base my plastic troops, to give them a bit more stability, and also so the figure itself doesn't get so much handling. A decent undercoat and acrylics really helps prevent the old flaking paint problem, but every little helps. I could have bought bases, but Australian 5 cent pieces are an ideal size, and work out way cheaper than washers or custom cut bases.

So - PVA on the coins - later they will get a PVA and sand coating to really make them solid. You might note that the windows of the Blackhawk have gone white. I thought about this for a while, as the pre-build has clear plastic window pieces, and I could have just oversprayed, then painted them in blue, but I am trying an experiment. I have painted over the clear plastic with PVA. Once this has dried, I will do the repaint, then try and peel off the PVA. I haven't tried this before, but I have read about it.

And yes..  success..  the windows peeled off easily, and the 'mask' worked perfectly.

Sweet Rides!

And the grunts got their bases coated with PVA + sand, next step, a dry brush with a pale olive green.

I have a Huey Cobra attack helicopter and two more LVTP7 on the way (pre-builds), cost, next to nothing, and I reckon this will be a cool little unit. Not sure about game effectiveness, but these are big squads, loads of firepower, and they're Marines...  'Ooo-Rah!'

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Condotta - WIP

Just a couple of shots of work in progress.

Artillery park..  pretty much done other than basing, I do like how the gabions have come out on the base, but I think I may have to add an additional highlight to the wicker.

Militia spearmen, these will be combined on bases with crossbowmen, and a row of pavises to make up Bw(X) in DBMM terms, a mixed formation of bow and spear that can shoot, but isn't as vulnerable as unsupported bowmen.  Unusually I think I am going to have Bw at the front of the base with the long spears behind. I think it will look better, the spear points will protrude less so handling will be easier, and I think it will look cool. Only three of these bases are allowed in the army.

Ox-cart. Quite pleased with how this is turning out, I need to add highlights to the peasants tunic, touch up a couple of spots, and of course the base still needs a lot of work, but this will be very useful as baggage for any sort of medieval army. In the background is the Ducal tent, which has some base colours applied, but needs a lot more work. On the right you can just see the 'pig on a spit' base and the top picture shows this and the 'defend the loot' base. Both need very much more work.