Thursday, December 31, 2009

Age of Dreadnoughts

I've finally pushed my World War I naval project back to the fore. Over the holidays, I pulled out the GHQ ships I purchased months ago and finished up the painting, basing and labeling. Michael and I have taken the opportunity to play a couple of games with the collection. We're using Age of Dreadnoughts from Mongoose Publishing, itself a variation of Victory at Sea. While not the most detailed set of naval rules out there, and with no particularly innovative rule mechanisms, AoD gives a fun game that presents enough tactical challenge to make this aging brain work (but not too hard). Why WWI naval? There's something about these "castles of steel" (as Winston Churchill described them) that evokes some sort of odd romanticism in me. From a gaming perspective, I like to describe it (facetiously) as Napoleonic naval gaming with coal-powered ships and longer ranges. Fire control, ranging, and sighting were still relatively rudimentary, forcing gunnery officers, more often than not, to plot their firing by shell-splashes! Ships operated in squadrons that tended to remain in close formation to maximise firepower and command control. Orders were transmitted by flag signal and signal lamp (wireless sets were fitted in most ships but were used for strategic control rather than tactical direction).

I've based my collection on the order of battle from the Battle of Jutland in 1917. While I don't plan to ever have both fleets entire for the battle (yeah, I say that now), modelling historical OBs gives a certain feeling of order and continuity missing from my Napoleonic collection. Here's my collection so far (all in the glorious detail of GHQ 1/2400):

Grand Fleet

2nd Battle Squadron
  • HMS King George V (BB)
  • HMS Ajax (BB)
  • HMS Centurion (BB)
  • HMS Erin (BB)

3rd Battlecruiser Squadron
  • HMS Invincible (CB)
  • HMS Inflexible (CB)
  • HMS Indomitable (CB)

1st Destroyer Flotilla
  • HMS Galatea (CL)
  • 8 x destroyers
HMS King George V. The bases are magnetic and custom-cut by Litko.

1st Destroyer Flotilla, led by HMS Galatea.


III Battle Squadron/5th Division
  • SMS Konig (BB)
  • SMS Grosser Kurfurst (BB)
  • SMS Kronprinz (BB)

II Battle Squadron/4th Division
  • SMS Hannover (BB)
  • SMS Schlesien (BB)
  • SMS Schleswig-Holstein (BB)

II Scouting Group
  • SMS Elbing (CL)
  • SMS Pillau (CL)
  • SMS Wiesbaden (CL)

VI Torpedo-Boat Flotilla
  • 8 x torpedo-boats
II Battle Squadron/4th Division. These are pre-dreadnoughts of the Deutschland class. By the time of Jutland, these ships were antiquated at best but remained in the main battle line. They are hampered by short-range main armament but enjoy plentiful secondaries. At long ranges they are severely vulnerable to the British guns but if they can get in close their superior secondary armament and host of torpedoes (fore, aft, port and starboard launchers!) can cause some serious problems for the Brits. To make matters worse, they have the 'poor sub division" trait in the rules which doubles any flooding or torpedo damage. Ouch!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Western Irony!

A few years ago I built some buildings for Daniel's 28mm Western Gunfight collection. You can see the small Western town we created in the photo below.

It's only been the last few months when Daniel has taken a renewed interest in this project. When I visited him and his brother at Royal Military College a few weeks before Christmas, we played a small Western game. You can see some pictures here. While there, Daniel showed me a new building he had been working on, a massive hotel! When he arrived home for the Christmas break, he brought the finished item with him. This is an amazing piece of work, as can be attested from the photos below.

Daniel's hotel, measuring about 15" x 12", and perhaps 8" high.

Although it's hard to see, there is a notice beside the main door advising cowboys to leave their sidearms at the bar!

The gun shop attached to the hotel...and yes, that is a 6 foot wooden Indian out front! The sign is handpainted, with the stitching included to model three canvas sheets added together and hung by ropes.

The rear of the hotel. The clapboard siding is made from individually laid boards (as is the fence). The log gun-shop is made from real bark!

A view of the interior of the second floor. The walls are papered and the floor boards are individually laid. The entire floor pulls out to reveal a fully furnished main floor.

Now here's the irony. Walking into Daniel's room at RMC and seeing his hotel was a bit of a shock since I had bought the Old Glory hotel at Fall In! and was in the process of assembling and painting it as a Christmas gift. His town would now have two hotels! It was gratifying to see his happy face on Christmas morning as he opened the box with the hotel.

This hotel is almost as large as the one Daniel scratch-built (and the two bear a striking resemblance in plan and form, even though there was no cross-pollination). Although I didn't have the same fiddly work as Daniel had with his creation, this model presented some challenges. The second floor detaches as an entire piece as does the main roof and the roof on the side shed. In order to make the second floor piece fit snugly into the corner created by the covered veranda took some creative finagling. The resin casting itself was rather crude in places and required some extensive carving and sanding to make things fit and look "right."

The barrels and various crates scattered about the base are 1/35 scale items borrowed from some Force of Valor WWII sets.

The rear yard is scratch-built from balsa and various pieces of scrap plastic and resin.

As an added bonus, I also finished up another smaller building for his collection, this time a hardware store. Both this and the hotel are made of resin, and the hardware store in particular required little fiddly work (unlike the hotel).

I find the posters really finish off these models. These are from Gary Chalk's excellent article in Wargames Illustrated.

Daniel's 10-year old sister, Diana, also got into the act. She decided to paint up some tipis for Daniel's collection as a Xmas present. We did some internet research and Diana picked the colours to conform to our idea of a historically-correct Hollywood western movie set (yes, that is an oxymoron, I'm sure).

These are "soft" resin models from Old Glory and take the paint quite well. Diana did all the painting on these and I finished off the groundwork. Now, if I could only get her to paint horses for me...

When we get all the buildings together for a game later next week (hopefully), I'll take some pictures of the entire town!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

1813 Campaign: Battle of Braunschweig

We played the latest battle in our 1813 Campaign this last weekend, this time between the Army of the North (Russians) and Le Grande Armee (nord). The strategic situation has changed considerably since the beginning of the campaign (as is expected, of course). The French have made considerable gains in the south, taking the Base of Operations of the Army of Bohemia at Prague in Turn 9. In the north, the Army of the North under Bennigsen has been slowly but steadily pushing back the French northern wing, commanded by Marechal Ney, centered on Erfurt. Looking on the map below, you can see the original starting positions of the armies on the bright green lines and the current positions along the yellow lines (note: these are generalized positions).

Farthest north, a Russian force under General-Leutnant Osten-Sacken has been pushing against an isolated French force under General de Division Sebastiani, commander of 2e Corps d'Armee. Osten-Sacken was finally able to bring Sebastiani to battle at Braunschweig. First up, the order of battle:

Army of the North
CinC: General-Leutnant Osten-Sacken

IX Corps
  • 15th Divsion (infantry)
  • 9th Division (infantry)

XI Corps
  • 10th Division
  • 16th Division

I Cavalry Corps
  • 1st Division (dragoons)
  • 2nd Division (hussars)

Le Grande Armee (nord)
CinC: General de Division Sebastiani

2e Corps d'Armee
  • 10e Division (infantry)
  • cavalerie (light cavalry)

Division Lefol (infantry/cavalry: division de marche)

Garrison (infantry)

Battle of Braunschweig: First Phase

The French commander elected to try and hold the high ground in the center of the field with the garrison troops while threatening the Russian right flank from the village on the opposite bank of the river. While the French command was superior in quality to the Russians, the troops were another matter. Sebastiani's divisions had been beaten before and, to make matters worse, were out of supply. The previous defeats and the supply situation produced a number of "down" modifiers when calculating the unit characteristics. Conversely, the Russians had received a number of "up" modifiers. The Russian plan was fairly simple: pinning the French light cavalry while assaulting the high-ground position in the center. The Russian attack developed quickly and the French annoyance on the opposite river bank proved nothing more than a mere itch that needed a quick scratch.

A view along the Russian lines (figures from the collection of Steve Thomson).

Battle of Braunschweig: Second Phase

The French cavalry was quickly routed from the field and the garrison troops in the center overwhelmed by numbers and combined arms. The French division on the opposite bank quickly turned and moved back out of harm's way when it saw the tide of battle fast approaching.

In this Decisive Victory, the French lose 35 National Will Points and the Russians gain 3 NWPs. The French divisions will receive a"downgrade 2 units" modifier and another "downgrade 2 units" modifier for the pursuit (the available Russian cavalry outnumbered the French cavalry by more than 2:1). All the Russian divisions receive an "upgrade 2 units" modifier. The French must retreat to either Hanover or Gottingen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Carlist Wars: British Auxiliary Legion

I have plans to add a few battalions of the British Auxiliary Legion to my 28mm Carlist Wars project but these are a fair distance down the priority list. Fortunately, my son Daniel was looking for a something to paint and decided to take a crack at the command figures. The results you can see below. I haven't finished the basing on these but couldn't wait to post the pics. I'd like to say that I taught him all he knows but he's far outstripped his teacher! Hopefully they'll give me some incentive to get going on the infantry, and maybe some lancers as well (as soon as I order them). You can see the lancers here on the Perry Miniatures site.

Mounted officer. A fine job on the shading of the horse colours.

Aide to the commander. Daniel's recreated a map with some nice detail.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

French & Indian War w/Sharp Practice

I was able to play a fun game of Sharp Practice (from Too Fat Lardies) on Friday night with Steve Thomson and his very nice 28mm French & Indian Wars collection. As an introduction to the rules for Steve, we decided to keep the scenario simple: a small Indian village with a group of Indians "at home" attacked by a Colonial force of rangers and colonial regulars under the command of George Washington (the pictures of whom unfortunately did not come out well); to the rescue come another group of Indians and some French regulars. But the scenario was actually rather secondary to just learning the rules. With that in mind, some pictures below with little in the way of an After Action Report:

Indians holding the village. All the figures and buildings are from Steve's collection. The figures, I believe, are from Conquest Miniatures. Behind the one long house you can see a "Blind." These are hidden units (or dummies) as yet not spotted by the enemy. Steve has made up some very nice textured bases with counters marked with ID numbers and national colours.

An Indian war party working its way along a stream bed hoping to outflank the colonial regulars (sneaky Heathens!).

The same war party debouching from the woods and engaging the colonials in Fisticuffs!

A colonial Ranger group led by the intrepid Major Rogers (leading from the rear).

Sharp Practice is a card-driven system that focuses on the actions and initiative of the Big Men in a battle, those men who, while not necessarily heroes in the normal sense of the word, influence the nitty-gritty happenings in combat. Each turn involves the turning of a deck of cards that essentially is directed at the abilities and actions of these Big Men. If the "Tiffin" card (or Tea Break) is flipped, the turn is over and the deck is reshuffled, regardless of whether some Big Men have been activated or not. While this adds a certain tension to a turn, (which I like), not knowing if any or all of your plans can be carried out, it can at times become overly restrictive (interesting coming from a Piquet-ophile). I think next time we'll use an optional second Tiffin card in the deck. In this version, the turn ends on the appearance of the second Tiffin card. Still some tension, but fewer turns ending on the first or second card flipped. Otherwise, the system is great fun and has a number of possibilities for conversion to other periods and genres. I'm sure I heard Steve musing about using SP for his 28mm modern collection!