Saturday, November 12, 2016

DANG 2016 - Planning

With November half over, I’m finally getting around to preparing for my yearly naval game: DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game). We had our DANG voting earlier this year and for this year's game the voters selected The Big Stick – The 1903 Venezuela Crisis.
Roosevelt's Big Stick in the Caribbean
The game will cover a hypothetical war between the United States and Germany over the Venezuela debt crisis in 1903. In the game the Germans have refused to accept arbitration to resolve the issue. They are continuing their blockade of major Venezuelan ports and have attacked several Venezuelan forts. President Roosevelt, adding his own corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, has dispatched a naval force to remove the blockade and prevent the Germans from occupying any Venezuelan ports. While the primary forces are cruisers, there will be an opportunity for both sides to get some battleships into the game. The Italians might make an appearance too.
While this was a cartoon from an earlier crisis, it seems appropriate here
I’m going to use 1/2400 ships from Panzerschiffe for the game, with a few substitutions for the German and Italian ships. Most of the ships will be close enough to the real thing, but some will require some minor alterations.

We will either use David Manley’s Fire When Ready rules or the recently released Admiralty Trilogy Dawn of the Battleship rules. I have played Fire When Ready, so I have a good idea of how things run there and I would like to try out Down of the Battleship before making a decision.
 
This is DANG’s fifteenth year (yes it is DANG XV, I think it is time to start numbering them like Super Bowls). Here are links to recaps of DANG from before 2010, the 2010 Lepanto game, the 2011 American Civil War river game , the 2012 War of 1812 Lake Ontario game, the Operation Landcrab game from 2013, the 2014 Cogs of War game, and last year’s The Shores of Tripoli game.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

2016 NHMGS Game Day at the Museum of Flight

NHMGS held our annual game day at the Museum of Flight on November 6. We were back in the museum’s main gallery under the Blackbird (not a standard SR-71, but the last surviving M-21 version) with our information table and four gaming tables.
An overview of the gaming area
The information table
As usual, we had two gaming sessions. The morning session had a Wings of Glory World War 1 game, a Cuban Missile Crisis game with the AirWar: C21 rules, a Star War Armada, and an All Quiet on the Martian Front game. In the afternoon there was a Korean War scenario using Check You 6 Jets rules, a Galactic Knights game, an Aztecs vs. Conquistadors game using the Quetzalcoatl Rampant rules (a variation of Lion Rampant), and an Old School Naval Action game.
The museum had a nice placard talking about us
And we got to game near a recently restored P-26 Peashooter
This year I was helping run the AirWar: C21 game and played in the Quetzalcoatl Rampant game, so I didn’t get as many photos as usual. But here are a few to give you an idea of how things went.
Wings of Glory WWI bomber
All Quiet on the Martian Front getting ready to go
Star Wars Armada
AirWar: C21 MiG-19s flying defending a SAM site
The American strike approaches the target
A MiG-19 lines up a shot on a Navy Demon
SAMs targeting the Skyhawk bombers
MiGs, Missiles, and Skyhawks
Old School naval getting set up
Quetzalcoatl Rampant Conquistadors moving to contact
The Spanish native allies move to attack the Aztecs
Gamer turnout was good, but I think the sunny weather (after a week of mostly gloomy rain) limited museum attendance. We did get a chance to talk with several people about our hobby and even the ones that didn’t stop to talk seemed interested in the painted figures.

The game day is always a good opportunity to show off the hobby to the general public and the museum is a really great forum for it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Japanese for Bolt Action

One of my summer projects was to start (and finish) the Japanese Bolt Action figures I purchased as opponents for my Australian troops from Brigade Games (you can see photos of them here).
Fresh off the boat and ready for action
In this case, I just went with a box of plastic Imperial Japanese infantry from Warlord Games, along with a metal medium machine gun and 81mm mortar. The infantry box didn't come with any bases, so I ordered some from Warlord and some Summer Tufts of grass to make them look good. I think the final results turned out pretty well, as you can see in the photos below.
Group shot of my completed Japanese
The infantry box has five sprues, each with six bodies and numerous heads, arms, and weapons to make 30 figures.
sample Japanese Infantry sprue (from Warlord Games website)
While there are only six body types (one prone, one kneeling, one crouching, and three running/walking fast) all the different head, arm, and weapon configurations can give you a pretty wide range of poses. For the most part, the castings were clean and the figures went together easily. Although I did seem to end up with a lot of my troops looking down toward the ground.
Examples of the different poses
The above photo shows a completed figure for each of the body types. Note that the middle figure is carrying a Type 99 light machine gun with a bayonet. I had to create a figure like that because, to me, nothing says Imperial Japanese Army louder than a guy with a machine gun charging because there is a bayonet on the machine gun (in most other WWII armies, the guy would be happy to just stand back and shoot you, but not the Japanese). There are also options for making grenadiers (see the figure on the right) by adding a Type 89 light mortar.

The medium machine gun and 81mm mortar support weapons are metal castings, but the figures did not seem a crisp and clean as the plastic figures. I don't have any other metal figures from Warlord, but I was a little disappointed with these. The figures did include multiple heads, so you can vary the figures a little.
MMG and 81mm mortar support weapons, along with a plastic figure with an anti-tank lunge mine
After putting all the troops together (which did take a little while), I got down to painting them up. Since I was planning on using the "dip method" (really brush-on the way I do it) on these guys, I kept the primer and most other colors fairly light. I used Vallejo Japanese Uniform (70.923) for the main uniform color, even though a couple of the painting guides I looked at said it did not match any Japanese uniforms. I also used a leather paint for boots and belts, light brown for webbing and bags, and olive drab for helmets and canteens. After that it was off to the dip for the Emperor's boys, then applying some grass and tufts to the bases. The tufts are interesting to work with. I never got a handle on using static grass (mine often just laid down), so the pre-made tufts were good for me.

Overall, I think the figures turned out pretty well and I ended up with good gaming figures. They seem to fit nicely with my Australians.
The boys playing "nice" together
I like the idea of some small battles on New Guinea and I think I've got enough troops to do those. But I might add some more weapons and troops to both sides in the future.
Banzai!
With the Japanese Imperial Army done, it is time to get back to some naval projects.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Book Review – The Conquering Tide

The Conquering Tide is the second book in Ian Toll’s Pacific War Trilogy. In this book covers the World War II in the Pacific from mid-1942 through mid-1944.

The first half of the book covers the Guadalcanal campaign and the American offensive up the Solomon Islands. While a lot of this is information you have probably seen or read before, Toll does introduce some new material that covers things from the Japanese point of view.

After the Solomon Islands, Toll takes a break from the island hopping campaign to cover the submarine war. This is primarily done by focusing on the patrols of USS Wahoo (SS-238) to illustrate what was happening in that part of the war. But there are a few other submarine stories there too.

The book then moves to the American attacks into the Gilbert and Marshall Islands in 1943 and 1944. These chapters show the evolution of American technology, tactics, and firepower from the battles around the Solomon Islands. Toll makes it pretty clear that the Americans were coming up with new ways of fighting, while the Japanese were stuck in pre-war ideas and spending too much time in inter-service rivalries. The book does point out similar inter-service problems on the American side, but it also shows how the Americans were able to work through those problems. The book continues with the campaign through the central Pacific with air attacks on Truk and the invasions in the Marianas Islands. The dominance of American carrier airpower is plainly shown in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (AKA the Marinas Turkey Shoot).

Throughout the book Toll interweaves stories from Australia, the United States, and Japan to show what was happening on and how the war was seen from the home front. This provides a nice balance with all the battles and gives a good idea of struggles the Japanese people faced during this time.

While most of the book covers what the admirals and generals were saying and doing, it still has lots of good operational and tactical stories too. As with the first book in the series, there are lots of first-hand accounts of the different actions.

Toll has become one of my favorite authors for naval history. His Six Frigates book was great and I enjoyed Pacific Crucible, the first book of the Pacific War Trilogy. The Conquering Tide bites off a big chunk of World War II in the Pacific and I found the first half (on Guadalcanal) to be a little slow. However, the rest of the book is good and brings out some new material. Overall, I would recommend reading The Conquering Tide and I think it is a good addition to books on the Pacific War. The one flaw I see in the book is that it really focuses on the drive through the central Pacific and says very little about the fight in the New Guinea area.

From a gamers point of view, this book provides lots of gaming fodder for naval, air, and land games. After reading the book I could see a number of interesting situations that don’t usually show up as wargames. The raid on Truk alone provides new air and naval actions, and there are a number of land gaming ideas around the different island invasions.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Silent Victory - Summer Solo Game

For my summer solo game for this year, I decided to try out the boardgame Silent Victory from Comsim Press. Silent Victory is a solitaire tactical level game placing you in command of an American submarine during World War II in the Pacific. The game system is based on The Hunters, where you command a German U-boat from 1940 - 43. To make set up and storage a little easier, I decided to use the VASSAL module for the game.

Silent Victory is played out in a series of patrols where you check for encounters, attack ships, and try to make it back to base. When you get back to base, you go through a refit where you can earn medals, along with getting upgrades for your sub and crew. Your job is to make it through World War II without getting sunk or relieved. The game has some role-playing aspects and does a good job of building a narrative of the action.

The game includes charts for the major classes of U.S. submarines used during WWII, except for the older S-class boats.For my game, I decided to start off in December 1941 in the Tambor class submarine USS Thresher (SS-200). I went with Thresher because she was one of the submarines that made it all the way through the war and I hoped that would help out my die rolling. Historically, Thresher went on 14 patrols, sank 17 ships totaling 66,172 tons. On 4 April 1945 she arrived in Pearl Harbor and become a training boat and was performing those duties when World War II ended.
USS Thresher in 1940 (from NavSource.org)
For my first patrol, I was assigned to head to the Empire waters off the coast of Japan. I loaded up my boat and headed off. The possible patrol areas are different depending on if you are based in Pearl Harbor or Australia. All the patrol routes have two outbound transit encounter checks, five on patrol encounter checks (on of which is a double check), and two return transit encounter checks.
Pearl Harbor Patrol Areas
An example of narrative the game can build, on my first outbound transit check from Pearl Harbor I rolled an aircraft encounter. I could just imagine jumpy pilots attacking any submarine without checking to see if it was friend or foe. In this case I was able to dive away and avoid the plane. As the patrol continued, I encountered a several small convoys and was able to sink a small tanker and two other ships. It sounds like a pretty easy patrol, but the historical problems with American torpedoes are featured in the game and you have to check for duds on each hit. During the patrol I fired 16 torpedoes for 12 hits, but 9 of the hits were duds. A whopping 75% dud rate. I actually had some really lucky rolls for torpedo damage and able to sink each ship with only one torpedo. I did take some minor damage during the patrol, but also earned a Bronze Star medal.
Thresher ready to head out on patrol #2
Patrol #2 was to the China Sea. I added four more ships to my total, earning a Silver Star medal. The torpedo dud rate remained high (10 duds on 16 hits), but I was able to sink a couple ships with my 3 inch deck gun too. 
One of my night surface attacks against two escorted freighters
On Patrol #3 I was sent to the Marshall Islands and also got orders to transfer to Australia (this happened through a random event roll). I only got two ships on this patrol and took some heavy damage that kept me in refit for a couple extra months. I took advantage of the extra refit time to add the SJ surface search radar and upgrade my deck guns to a 5 inch gun and 20mm AA gun. Additionally, since I had three successful patrols, I rolled for crew improvements and the crew moved up to Veteran status.
Australia (Fremantle) patrol map
Patrol #4 was to Indochina waters, where I sank the heavy cruiser Maya and four other ships. The sinking of five ships earned me a Navy Cross and while in refit I got word I had been promoted to Commander.
Upgraded Thresher with my new Commander stripes
Patrol #5 was to the Java Sea. This patrol I was feeling pretty good about things and decided to be much more aggressive in my attacks. It paid off with the sinking of six ships, but it also resulted in heavy damage to my sub. It was the first time I had really taken a beating and was worried I was going to lose the boat. I ended up having to go into refit for four months and I received orders back to Pearl Harbor. The rules say if your sub goes into refit for five months you are transferred to another boat. I just missed out on this, but I was okay, because I wanted to try to ride out the war on the same boat.

Patrol #6 was my least productive patrol. I was sent to the Marshall Islands and assigned lifeguard duty to pick up any downed aviators from carrier raids in the area. I successfully completed the lifeguard duty, picking up five downed aviators, but ship traffic was pretty slim. I only saw (and sank) two ships on the patrol. During refit I did get a new expert XO.

Patrol #7 was back to the Marshall Islands with a recon mission. The recon went well and I was able to add three more ships to my tally. The recon mission earned me a Navy Commendation, but I was passed over for promotion.

Patrol #8 was to the Marianna Islands for more lifeguard duty. I picked up six aviators and went on to sink five more ships. But it was another patrol where heavy damage forced me into a four month refit.  The extra time in refit takes away from being able to get out on patrols, but it does eat up time so that the dud rate for the Mark 14 torpedoes goes down and new torpedoes (the electric Mark 18) are introduced.

Patrol #9 was to the China Sea with a minelaying mission. The mission reduced the number of torpedoes carried on the patrol, but the improved and new torpedoes proved their value. I had no dud torpedoes and ended up sinking six more ships. This earned a Navy Unit Commendation for the boat and my crew improved to Elite status.

Patrol #10 was back to Empire waters and I was assigned to a wolfpack. Being part of the wolfpack didn't help out much, as I only was able to sink three more ships. But by this time in the war there weren't a lot of ships left to go after. This turned out to be the last patrol of the war for Thresher as the war came to an end.
Thresher at the end of the war
Upon review, I had a very successful war-time career, sinking 39 ships for 170,500 tons. This beat all the historical American submarines and was a decisive victory for me. There were a number of times I thought I wasn't going to escape the escorts after a successful attack, but in the end I turned out to have some very good luck. During the game I fired 128 torpedoes, had 87 hits, 37 duds (a 43% dud rate) and took 18 "shots" with my deck gun.
My VASSAL Patrol Log
Thresher's crew with her battle flag (from NavSource.org)
Overall it was a fun game. Each patrol took 10 - 30 minutes, depending on the number of encounters. Using VASSAL made it easy to put away and quickly pick up the game, along with providing some nice pictures for the blog. I will probably take another boat out for patrols before the end of summer and might even pull out The Hunters to get the German point of view.



Monday, July 4, 2016

July Update

With July here, I am making some plans for what to do with the rest of the summer. I will have my usual slow-down for summer yardwork, but I have a few gaming project I want to work on.

My first priority is to work on Japanese figures for Bolt Action. I have a box of Warlord Imperial Japanese Infantry, along with an 81mm mortar, Medium Machine Gun team. Hopefully that will provide enough figures to provide a good opponent for my Australians.
I have one semi-work editing/revision project on tap for this summer, but I really want to get my modern submarine rules done enough to ask for some outside looks/reviews. The main issue with these rules has been trying to come up with a way to use miniatures on the table, while maintaining the hidden aspect of submarine warfare. I think I’ve come up with a way to make it work, but now I have to organize all my notes and make it so that others can understand my ideas.

I’m planning some more solitaire gaming this summer. Although unlike last summer’s solo game, this year I’m going to try out the solitaire boardgame Silent Victory.
I picked up a copy when it first came out and I’m going to set aside some time to play. I don’t expect to have many (any?) photos from the game; but who knows, maybe I will take a few (or some screenshots of the Vassal version).

For extra-credit this summer, if I get the Japanese figures done as quickly as hoped, then I’m thinking about painting up some figures for Osprey’s En Garde rules. I have some old Swordplay! Figures from Task Force Games (back when they were trying to do something besides Star Fleet Battles miniatures). I’ve got about a dozen figures, which I’m hoping will give a couple small forces to skirmish around with.

Finally, to add a few more photos to the blog entry, I thought I’d post some photos of the Imperial Assault figures I’ve painted up. A while ago I picked up a used copy of the Imperial Assault game. I haven’t had much of a chance to play it, but I decided to go ahead and paint up the figures. I just used block painting followed by an application of stain (essentially the dip method, although I use brushes instead of the dip). This was a nice little diversion project done while I was painting up other stuff for Enfilade. The figures turned out pretty well (although I left a little too much stain on Luke, so he turned out a little dark, but not Dark Side).
First up, the Rebel side heroes and allies
The villains side
The Empire forces
I think it will be a little more fun to play with the painted figures (even with just a basic paint job).

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Book Review - War at the End of the World

War at the End of the World covers the often overlooked World War II campaign in New Guinea. There aren’t a lot of books (at least in the U.S.) on the New Guinea campaign, which always seemed a bit strange to me since it was a hard fought campaign that involved Americans and it could arguably be said that it was as important as the actions in the Solomon Islands.

The book starts out with the Japanese invasion of New Britain in 1942, then moves to Japanese and Allied operations on New Guinea in 1943, and ends with the last major operations on the western end of New Guinea in August 1944. The author, James Duffy, covers a lot of strategic and tactical aspects of the campaign and includes Japanese and Australian perspectives. The book has a good chapter on the fighting along the Kokoda Trail, but it still tends to concentrate on American involvement and especially on General Douglas MacArthur’s role. The subtitle “Douglas MacArthur and the Forgotten Fight for New Guinea” gives you an idea of how important Duffy thinks MacArthur’s leadership is in the campaign’s overall success. The book does do a good job of talking about the Allied strategy for outflanking and isolating groups of Japanese troops across the island to cut off their supplies; forcing them to either surrender, starve, or die of disease.

Overall, the book provides a really good overview of the campaign and battles. But it does not go too deep into any of the battles or get too detailed about the units involved in the battles. It does have a pretty extensive bibliography that can point the way for those that want more details. It is a good book and I would recommend War at the End of the World to anyone with an interest in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

From a gamer’s point of view, the book gives lots of ideas for land battles (I originally got it to get some ideas for my 28mm Australians shown here). It doesn’t have as much for the naval and air gamers, but you can still pick up some ideas.