Tuesday, March 28, 2017

U.S. Ships for Enfilade Game

I'm continuing to work on my Enfilade 2017 projects. This week I completed the 1/6000 scale American ships for the Captain’s Edition Harpoon game.

The US ships came together and painted up quickly (I know it isn’t really that hard to paint dark gray on light gray, but it does take time). So, as of right now, I would say the project is ahead of schedule.

I painted up a couple Nimitz class carriers, some modernized Iowa class battleships, some amphibious ships, along with lots of escorting cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. I painted up all the ships in the packs, even though most won't make it into the game, which works out to 2 carriers, 40 other ships, and 8 subs. After taking the photos, I realize that I need to improve my camera work, since I was having a little trouble getting the camera to focus in on the ships. Here are a few photos of the different task groups.
A Nimitz class carrier (center) with (from left around the top in a circle) a Spruance class destroyer, Bunker Hill class cruiser, Knox class frigate, O.H. Perry class frigate, and A Burke destroyer
A Surface Action Group with an Iowa class battleship, a cruiser, destroyer and pair of frigates
The Amphibious Group with two Whidbey Island class LSDs and a couple Newport class LSTs with destroyer and frigate escorts.
U.S. subs to round out the force
I also painted up some air bases for the operational-level map. These are 2 inch modern airfields from Fight’s On.
Fight's On Modern Airfields

Next up is work on the task force, aircraft, and missile markers.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

More Soviet Ships

Work on my Enfilade 2017 games continues with the completion of the Soviet ships for the Captain’s Edition Harpoon game.

Since my last post, I completed the Kiev and Kirov classes, along with completing the carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, some Ivan Rogov amphibious ships, and a lot of escorting cruisers, destroyers, and frigates.
Here are some photos of the projected Soviet battlegroups for the game.
Kuznetsov battlegroup
With a penny for size comparison
Kiev battlegroup with a Slava cruiser
Kirov battlegroup with a Udaloy DD (right), Sovremennyy DDG (left) and Krivak II frigate (forward)
Amphibious battlegroup with a couple Ivan Rogov LSDs (center and rear), led by a Krivak I frigate (forward) and escorted by two Kresta I cruisers.
The 1/6000 Figurehead carrier pack with Admiral Kuznetsov comes with two carriers. But since the Soviets/Russians only finished one, I’ll follow their lead and convert the other into the Chinese carrier Liaoning.

I also painted up some Soviet subs, but the black on ocean blue just isn’t that impressive to look at.
Silent (and hard to see) but deadly
With the Soviets done, I’ll move on to working on the Americans next. I’m also working on some terrain for the operational-level map (airbases and coastlines) and thinking about how to work with the aircraft needed for the game. There will be a few other odds and ends for this game, but everything seems to be coming along.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Work in Progress and more

I've been getting together the miniatures I need for my Enfilade 2017 games. I'm starting off with the Figurehead 1/6000 scale ships for the Cold War naval game. I've got almost all the ships I need for the game (the rest are on order) and I thought I would start with some Soviet ships.

I decided to start with the bigger ships and picked out the Kiev class carriers (or heavy aviation cruisers) and Kirov class nuclear-powered cruisers. The Figurehead packs for these come with four ships in each pack and I decided to do them all, so that I don't have unpainted ships hanging around. I've got the basic colors for all the ships done, now I just need to do some touch-up work and do a light wash to bring out some details.
Four Kiev class, with the modified Baku (later Adm Gorshkov) in front
I think the decks on the Kiev class turned out okay. The lines aren't perfectly straight and there are places where the deck brown gets onto stuff that should be grey, but overall they should work. Especially considering each ship is only about 1 3/4" in length. You should be able to make out some of the aircraft on the deck too. Stuff like this makes me wish I was a little better at painted details, but my friends tell me that no one will be able to see (or notice) the details anyway.
Kirov class large cruisers
The Kirov class ships are much less interesting colorwise. They are just a basic medium grey with a deck brown deck. The miniatures are really well detailed though and you can make out the different missile hatches for on the forward launchers, which should really pop out after the wash.
Kiev and Kirov class for size comparison
Most of the remaining Soviet ships will be pretty boring from a visual aspect. But I have the other Soviet carriers to finish too, which will be a little more interesting to look at.

Over the weekend I stopped by the annual model show at the Museum of Flight. They usually have a good turnout and I always enjoy looking at the completed models that show up there. There is a fair share of aircraft, armored vehicles and cars, but there are usually a few ships and other interesting models. I grabbed some photos while I was there (none of these models are mine).
1/72 scale Gato Class submarine
A close-up view of the bridge
A P-8 Poseidon ASW plane with a target
A nice diorama of Tigercat converted for firefighting
A Kilo class sub
A nicely done model of the starship Enterprise with real lights
An interesting model of Robbie the Robot from the Forbidden Planet movie
I'm hoping to get into more of a flow with painting the 1/6000 scale ships, so I should be posting photos more regularly.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

First (mis)Steps into 2017

The first thing I wanted to do this year was figure out what projects to focus on for the first few months of 2017. I had listed several in my previous post and wanted to talk with others about some joint Enfilade projects too before making any decisions.

While contemplating what I was going to do, I got in my first game of the year. Which was a playtest of a scenario Kevin and David are planning to run at Drumbeat on February 4. It was an Aztecs vs. Conquistadors game using their Quetzalcoatl Rampant variant for Dan Mersey's Lion Rampant rules.

The scenario seemed good, with the Spanish and their Tlaxcalan allies raiding an Aztec village to grab food and trying to get out before the inevitable Aztec counterattack. I was helping to run the Spanish/Tlaxcalan side. We made planned to get some Tlaxcalan units out front to act a speed bumps, while the Spanish would act as "Fire-Brigades" to fill any gaps and cover the retreat.

As often happens, our plans didn't survive contact with the enemy. The plan probably wasn't too bad, but our die rolling to activate units was pretty bad. On my half of the table, by the end of turn 4 I had only been able to move 5 units.
Slow moving for the Spanish
I was able to get one Tlaxcalan unit into the planned position, but it was quickly overwhelmed by counterattacking Aztecs.
My high-water mark as one of my Tlaxcalan units makes a stand in front of one of the grain stores
Overall, it was pretty much a fiasco. You can read a little more about this action, and see some better photos, over on David's blog. I will point out that David's post will back up my claims of the bad die rolls:
"Dave and Bailey were plagued throughout the game by the most abysmal die rolling in the history of dice."

Which was followed up by:
"I'm not sure how to figure the Spanish/Tlaxcalan loss. Their die-rolls were legendarily bad. In the hall of shame for all-time poor rolling, they'd be on Mount Rushmore. They just couldn't get their units to do anything."

I'm just hoping I've gotten all (or a really large percentage) of my bad die rolls out of the way for the year.

I was able to come up with my plans for Enfilade, which will be my main focus for the next few months.
  • First up, Kevin and I will do a joint "what if" air game on the Cuban Missile Crisis covering a U.S. Navy airstrike on a Cuban/Russian missile site. It will be similar to the one we ran at the Museum of Flight, but with more options. I'll be painting up some Navy F-4Bs for this and handling the scenario set up, while Kevin takes care of the other aircraft. 
MiGs, missiles, and Skyhawks from the Museum of Flight game
  • I'm also going to do a "Cold War goes Hot" naval game. This will be a solo project and I'm going to use a variation of the Captain's Edition Harpoon rules with 1/6000 miniatures. For those of you that know the game, the rules are pretty simple and I think it should work pretty well in a convention setting.
On another note, between Christmas and New Year's I ordered some more submarine models from OKB Grigorov and they arrived not long after my Spanish got trounced. I ordered four American subs (most of which will just be used as display models) and a Russian Delta IV SSBN (which will be used with my submarine rules).
Cold War subs USS Tang, USS Barracuda, USS Cavalla (a long-hull Sturgeon) and USS Thresher
Soviet Delta IV (Project 667 BDRM)
I probably won't work on these until after my Enfilade projects are well underway, but it was nice to get them.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome 2017 - Good-Bye 2016

Following others, I’ll jump on the end of year – beginning of year blog post bandwagon. First up, I want to thank all of you that read my blog. I really have no idea how many people I reach (especially since Blogger's tracking stats seems to be pretty messed up for my site), but it is always nice to get comments from people about what I'm doing. So, thanks for reading.

Next, I'll do a quick review of the projects I wanted to get done in 2016.
1) Channel Dash project for Enfilade 2016.

This was a successful project. We got in the two games at Enfilade, one involving the air attacks and one involving the MTB attack. The air attack game went better than the MTB attack, but it was still a fun little project.

2) Finish the modern submarine rules.
Not completed. I’ve been toying around with these and it is time to do some serious work. I did some work on this and did paint up some more Cold War American subs. So I moved forward a little, but there is still work to be done.

3) Work on the Japanese opponents for my 28mm Bolt Action Aussies.
Successfully completed. The only things I didn’t do were add up the Bolt Action points to see if I have “balanced” forces (I'm not sure how much that matters) and add metal washers to the bases for the magnetic sheet storage container I’m using.

Odds and Ends: I did a few of these project in 2016. I painted up (and bought more of) the figures from Fantasy Flight’s Imperial Assault game. I’m hoping to get someone to try out the game with me or I might use the figures with Osprey’s Rogue Stars rules.
I painted up my Avarian ships for Galactic Knights and even got in a game against Kevin’s Terrans (although there are no photos of the battle to show my stunning victory).
On a non-miniatures front, I played a campaign of Silent Victory as my summer solo game. It was a fun game and I’ve run a couple more patrols for fun since summer. I would recommend this game or it’s sister, The Hunters, if you are interested in solo World War II submarine games.

So 2 out of 3 complete, with a couple side projects too.

Looking to 2017 
I haven’t really thought too far ahead for 2017. I need to come up with some games for Enfilade and there are some other projects I’d like to look at. As usual, DANG will take up the last quarter of the year and since I let the gamers vote on the project, it is hard to know what it will be.

For Enfilade, here are a few things I’m thinking about:
  • A game using 1/6000 scale modern naval miniatures using the Harpoon Captain’s Edition rules (with some modifications). I think this has real potential as a convention game. 
  • An air-sea game with PB4Y Privateers defending a US sub from Japanese ASW planes while the sub rescues a downed pilot (this is a historical event and you can look it up). 
  • Whatever Kevin and I can come up with as a joint project. This might be Cuban Missile Crisis stuff or something different. Let me know if any of these ideas sound particularly interesting. 
For my non-Enfilade projects, I’m looking at:
1) Get my modern submarine rules to beta and let a few people look at and comment on the rules. Although I’m not sure how far I will really cast my net for comments and testers. Stay tuned on this one.

2) Finish my Chinese Navy Type 054A frigate and some Japanese missile boats. I’ve had these models sitting around for a year now, so it is time to finish them up! This could even turn into an Enfilade project, depending on when I finish them and what else I can come up with.

Odds and Ends: These are mostly non-naval projects. I’d still like to do up some Crusades era armies for Lion Rampant, get some figures for the En Garde rules, and even some Cavalry – Indian figures for The Men Who Would be Kings rules. A lot of Osprey rules there, but it is what people in my area are playing. As usual, I expect that some other bright shiny game project will draw my attention. So I’ll keep my other options open for now.

On a personal note (and please feel free to skip this part), 2016 was a down year for me. I was unhappy most of the year and ended up switching jobs in November. While it might not be evident from my posts, my gloomy outlook impacted my projects and gaming (along with other things in my life) a lot more than I would like to admit. I’m really hoping that 2017 is a much better year and that I can pull myself out of the doldrums.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

DANG 2016 - The Big Stick

This year’s DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game) was The Big Stick – The 1903 Venezuela Crisis. The game covered a hypothetical war between the United States and Germany over the Venezuela debt crisis in 1903.
A nice colorized photo of pre-dreadnought American ships
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 Venezuelan forts at Puerto Cabello. President Roosevelt, adding his own corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, has dispatched most of the American Atlantic fleet to the Caribbean to remove the blockade and prevent the Germans from occupying any Venezuelan ports.

Everyone began arriving at my place around 9:00 AM and we spent the next hour catching up on things, talking about the projects we are all working on and planning, and munching on some breakfast snacks.

After a short review of all the rules (I came up with some basic operational rules for moving fleets and we used David Manley's Fire When Ready rules for the tactical game), we split up sides for the game, with Scott, Dale, and Charlie playing the Germans, while David S., Arthur, and Dave C. played the Americans. Each side then took some time to review their options, ships, and plan their strategy. The Germans were using the British Port of Spain on Trinidad as their main base, but they could start the game with some cruisers already in place at the Venezuelan ports (La Guaira, Puerto Cabello, and Maracaibo). The German fleet consisted of ten ships; three armored cruisers (Fürst Bismarck, Prinz Heinrich, and Vineta), four newer light cruisers (Gazelle Niobe, Nymphe, and Thetis), two old cruisers (Falke and Cormoran), and one colonial gunboat (Panther). A Seebattalion (marine infantry) unit was also available. The primary mission for the Germans was to blockade the Venezuelan ports, with a secondary mission of securing control one or more of those ports as an operating base for German expansion into the region. The American had their main base at Culebra Island and were ordered to disrupt the blockade and prevent the Germans from establishing control of a Caribbean port. The American fleet was made up of twelve ships; the cruisers Olympia, Chicago, Atlanta, Albany, Newark, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Marblehead, along with the gunboats Yorktown, Concord, and Bennington, and a converged Marine unit.

 At the start of the game, no shots had been exchanged between the Americans and Germans and both sides were informed that they should make the other side fire the first shot.

With the background set, each side was ready to select their options for the game (each of which cost victory points). The options for the Germans were adding two battleships to their fleet (but they would not arrive until day 6), put diplomatic pressure on the British to keep Port of Spain Trinidad open to German ships, put diplomatic pressure on the Italians to re-join the blockade effort, and ask the French to open up the port at Guadeloupe to German ships. The Germans chose to pressure the British and Italians. They decided not to take the battleships because it would take too long for them to arrive (and they cost a lot of victory points). The options for the Americans were similar to the Germans; adding battleships to their fleet (but these were available right away), put diplomatic pressure on the British to close Port of Spain Trinidad to German ships, put diplomatic pressure on the Italians to accept arbitration. The Americans chose to take the battleships and to pressure the Italians.

The game began with each side plotting movement for the squadrons. The Germans were concerned that the British would side with the Americans and close Port of Spain to them. They planned to rush all their ships, along with the Seebattalion, to Puerto Cabello and seize the port. From there they could spread out to blockade the other ports as needed, while knowing they had a secure operational base. The Americans knew the Germans had some ships already at Puerto Cabello, so they rushed a cruiser force with the Marines to the port, while sending the battleships to La Guaira to establish and anchorage and forward operating base.
The Operational Level map for the game
The two sides arrived at Puerto Cabello at close to the same time. The Americans announced they planned to enter the port, but the Germans said they controlled the port and put their ships between the Americans and the port entrance. The Americans decided to stay outside the port, but sent a dispatch ship to La Guaira to let the battleships squadron know what was happening. Meanwhile, the ships carrying the German Seebattalion entered Puerto Cabello, landed the troops, and seized part of the dock area at the port. On the diplomatic front, the British said they would consider whether to allow the Germans to continue to use Trinidad, but it might be a few days before the final decision was made. The Italians were convinced the Germans had the right idea and decided to re-join the blockade (The Germans made a great diplomatic roll). Two Italian cruisers (Giovanni Bausan and Elba) were ordered to join the Germans at Puerto Cabello.

The next day the American battleships arrived off Puerto Cabello and the Americans learned that the Germans had landed troops. The Americans announced they planned to send Marines to the port to protect American interests. The Germans agreed to allow one American ship to enter port, but that it would be watched by German ships. The Americans sent the old cruiser Atlanta, with the Marines, into the port, while the Germans sent the cruiser Falke and gunboat Panther. The Marines landed, established a defensive perimeter, and waited for further orders. During the evening, local Venezuelan troops contacted the Marines. The Marines reported back to the fleet that the Venezuelans sounded eager to do something about the Germans, but the Marines were unconvinced that the Venezuelans would really attack.

Day three began with both sides ordering their troops to bolster their defenses, while reports were coming in of Venezuelan troops massing outside the city. The Americans decided they wanted to send the gunboat Yorktown into the port, but the Germans said they would not allow this. As Yorktown approached the port, the German cruiser Cormoran blocked the way and aggressively maneuvered to prevent the American ship from reaching the port. Yorktown retreated to the main American fleet, but as she rejoined formation the Italian squadron appeared on the horizon.

The Americans sent the battleships and some cruisers to intercept the Italians. As the Italians closed, the Germans sent their light cruisers to meet the Italians. The Americans signaled the Italians not to come any closer to the port. The Italians ignored the signals and the Americans fired warning shots at them. Not expecting this type of a reception, the Italian ships began to circle until the German cruiser Nymphe joined them.
The German cruiser leading the Italians
The Germans told the Italians to follow them into port, while the Americans signaled they would not allow the Italians to pass. Inside the port, the American cruiser Atlanta was facing off against the old German cruiser Falke and gunboat Panther, but we decided to resolve the main fleet action outside the port first. With the stage set for action, we set up the forces for the Battle of Puerto Cabello and took a quick break to grab some food.
Getting the ships all in place
Surveying the scene
The Germans had three formations; one with the cruiser Nymphe leading the Italians, one with the other three light cruisers (Gazelle Niobe, and Thetis) that was near the Italians, and the final group with the three armored cruisers. The American also had three formations; a battleship – cruiser group that was intercepting the Italians, a gunboat formation, and a cruiser formation that was watching the German armored cruisers. The battle started with the Americans saying they had warned the Italians as the battleship – cruiser group opened fire, but only on the Italians. The Italians took some damage in the initial attack, but no major damage.
Italians under fire
While the Americans had tried to keep this from turning into an all out battle by only firing at the Italians, at this point it was clear that there was no stopping it and both sides opened fire.
Early moves by the Germans and Italians
The American battleships shifted their fire to the German light cruiser formation and the next salvo destroyed one cruiser with a magazine hit and put the second out of action.
American battleships watch their handiwork as the German cruisers go up in smoke
The American cruisers continued to fire at the Italians, adding more damage. German and Italian attacks on this side were not very effective.

On the other end of the table, the American cruiser formation, with Olympia, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Albany, engaged the German armored cruisers Fürst Bismarck, Prinz Heinrich, and Vineta.
German armored cruisers moving to attack the Americans
Both sides opened fire, inflicting minor damage on the other. The Americans did get some special hits on Fürst Bismarck, forcing the ship to slow down and fall out of line.
American cruisers under fire
German armored cruisers under attack
Back on the first end of the table, the Americans split their formation, sending the battleships after the German armored cruisers, as the American cruisers Newark, San Francisco, Detroit, and Marblehead finished off the two German/Italian formations.
American cruisers finish off the Italians as the battleships head for the other end of the table

One German light cruiser, Thetis, had only taken a few hits and used the smoke from her burning and sinking compatriots to escape and survive the battle.

Seeing that things were not going well, the German armored cruisers also decided discretion was the better part of valor and moved to disengage. Fürst Bismarck turned to block the American pursuit of the other cruisers. But the German captain failed a morale roll and decided to strike his colors instead of fighting to the bitter end.

With the situation settled outside the port, we did some quick die rolling to resolve the action in port. As the battle outside the port started, the Germans announced they were opening fire on the American cruiser. German gunfire was relatively ineffective and their torpedoes also missed, while American return fire damaged Falke. After a few more rounds of light gunfire damage, we checked to see if the Germans could see what was happening outside the port. A couple bad die rolls for the Germans led to their crews seeing Gazelle’s magazine explosion and the destruction of other ships. With the American battleships in view, the German ships and troops ashore decided to ask for terms of surrender.

Surveying the aftermath of the battle, it was a clear American victory. While the victory was not bloodless, the Americans had not lost any ships during the fight. Meanwhile the Germans only had three ships left and all had some damage. 
The victorious (but fuzzy) American battleline
After the battle, we talked through each side’s plans and options, along with possible repercussions of the war. There was some debate about which side really fired the first shot, with the Germans being quite literal in that the American fired first, while the Americans mentioned that the German occupation of Puerto Cabello was really the first hostile act. We all agreed that the Germans were blocked from any further adventures in the Caribbean. Beyond that we thought there were two basic paths Germany could follow. One was that the humiliation would cause them to redouble their naval efforts, so that maybe they would have a stronger, better navy during World War I. The other idea was that the Germans would abandon becoming a naval power, so the naval arms race with Britain wouldn’t happen and maybe World War I would be delayed or prevented.

With that, we ended the fifteenth version of DANG. Everyone seemed to enjoy the game, although the Americans probably had a better time with it. I always think pre-dreadnought actions are fun, but they can turn out a little lopsided too.