Sunday, April 11, 2021

A Diverson to Southeast Asia

Earlier this year several people in my local gaming group became enamored with the new line of Vietnam figures from Gringos 40. You can see some of the figures on Kevin's and David's blogs, along with their first battle report. With all the email's and blog posts, I found myself pulled into this diversion. Since this would be a skirmish game, I didn't want to just redo the same figures everyone else was doing. During the back and forth emails, we talked about other manufacturers that could be used with the Gringo 40s figures. I liked the look of the figures from Crucible Crush's Black Sun range. The rules and some of the figures in the range are definitely "Weird Vietnam War" stuff, but the U.S. Army and VC figures looked like they would fit in with the Gringo 40 figures. So, I took the plunge and ordered 3 packs of U.S. Army soldiers. 

 

Once the figures arrived, there was little in the way of clean-up or assembly needed (only 1 figure needed to have an arm glued on and there was little flask or mold lines). I did get  two duplicate figures instead of five different figures in the U.S. Army Rifles set, but I'm okay with that. Here is how the figures painted up. 

Radio operator (with added antenna), command type figure, and kneeling grenadier

The running men. The middle figure is the one that needed the arm glued on and he I added a pack of Marlboro cigarettes to his helmet

Advancing (one of my duplicates), M60 gunner, and firing soldiers

Advancing (the other duplicate), command (this is my favorite figure of the bunch), and a Grunt
Shotgun, high-carry advancing, and standing grenadier

All the figures, except for the shotgun soldier, have rucksacks. So they are out patrolling instead of sitting in a firebase. 

Group shot (although the front guys are a little out of focus)

I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. I'm planning on ordering the four VC packs, so I'll have both sides. But I don't expect to get any other figures. But who knows, since I wasn't planning on getting these guys. 

 

I think it will be back to some naval stuff after this. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Regia Marina

I've been a little slow in working on my projects, due to various reasons, but now I can report some progress on one project. 


Back in January, I had posted that I was working on the World War 2 Italian Fleet in 1/6000 scale. The Figurehead pack come with 77 ships, including all the major Italian warships and 40+ destroyers. 

A Littorio class battleship with an escort

I did a basic paint job on the ships in February, but it took a while to do some detailing and get the recognition stripes done. Part of the detailing involved putting camouflage on the ships, but with the ships being so small, it is pretty hard to see. I looked at several ways to do air recognition stripes (those are the red and white "barber pole" stripes normally on the bow of the ship). It was especially challenging to think about doing the destroyers, most of which were only a millimeter wide. After failing to consistently paint stripes, I finally settled on using a marker to do the stripes. I think they turned out pretty well, even if it felt a little like cheating. 

 

Here are some photos of the completed ships. My camera did have some trouble focusing on small ships with my lighting conditions, but hopefully it gives you a good idea of the final look. The mat in the photos has 2 inch squares, so you can get an idea of the ship size. 

Littorio class battleships

Conte di Cavour and Andrea Doria class battleships

Italian heavy cruisers
A representative group of Italian light cruisers

A few destroyers

The whole fleet

While the photos aren't that great, I think the ships turned out pretty well. I'm planning on mounting the ships on some clear plastic stands. That will give players something to grab when moving the ships and a place for me to put ship names.

 

I'm hoping to get the ships out for some action this summer.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

More Gaming Mats

After I got the naval gaming mats from TABLEWAR, I kept looking at their other mats to see which others I would want to add to my collection. I really like the mouse pad material mats and TABLEWAR has a 10% discount for returning customers, in addition to discounts for other occasional sales, making it a little easier to keep going back. Last year I picked up a couple Grassy Plain mats that we used in the Philippines game and over the past few months I've rounded out my collection with a couple Desert Planet mats and a Space mat. 

I tried to take some overview photos of the desert mats, but they didn't turn out very well due to lighting, so check the link above for a larger view. But I did get a few close up photos with some World War II North Africa tanks.

A couple early war 15mm British tanks

A work in progress 15mm Panzer III

The mat color is a more rocky desert color than sandy desert (a little more orange than sand), but they should look fine for any game. I've been thinking about doing some What a Tanker North Africa games and these mats will be perfect for that. 

I like the look of the space mat too. I only got one of these, since I don't really expect to be doing large space battles. The overview photo for this mat turned out okay, but the nebula colors are more vivid in person. My Galactic Knights ships look good against the background.

Full space mat

A few ships traveling past the nebula

When I ordered the space mat I also picked up a GEO mat with a 1.5 inch hex grid. I went the the white grid line since I expect I will primarily use it with the space mat, but it does work with the other mats too. The GEO mat is a transparent mat with the hexes printed on it. Here is how it looks with the space mat.

Medium size view of the hex grid

A closer view with a couple ships

The GEO mat is plastic, so it does cause a little glare. But nothing too bad. Here is how it looks with the desert mat. 

Desert hexes
And with the ocean mat.
You can see the glare a little more in this photo

Another shot with some 1/6000 scale ships

The GEM mat provides a little more flexibility for gaming, allowing me to play rules that have hexes without too much extra effort. 

One drawback is that the GEO mat didn't flatten out as much as the other mats, which causes a few 'waves' on the surface. So I may need to get some clamps to hold it flat. I also rolled it up with the space mat to see if that would help flatten it. 

Overall, I'm pretty happy with my mat collection. I can do sea, land (desert and green), air (using any of the ocean or land mats), and space games. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Book Review - Six Victories: North Africa, Malta, and the Mediterranean Convoy War

Six Victories: North Africa, Malta, and the Mediterranean Convoy War November 1941 - March 1942 provides an in-depth account of the naval action in the Mediterranean during fall 1941 and winter 1942. The book covers a critical period in the war from the arrival of Force K at Malta through the Second Battle of Sirte. The book's title is based on six key victories, three British and three Axis, that happened during this time. The author, Vincent O'Hara, draws from British, German, and Italian archives to cover the information from both sides. 

 

The book starts out with an overview of sea power in the Mediterranean in 1940-41and then moves to a chapter on communications, intelligence, and logistics. This second chapter sets the stage for the rest of the book and some new information (at least to me) on communications and intelligence capabilities for both sides. Most English histories of the war talk about Ultra and the British code-breaking skills, making it appear that the British had the upper hand. But O'Hara reveals that the Germans and Italians both had successes in breaking the Royal Navy's tactical codes and merchant ship codes. In the overall intelligence fight, O'Hara gives the Axis powers the edge, with statistics to back up his conclusion. The logistics portion of the chapter also has some interesting facts. The Mediterranean naval was was basically a war of logistics, with both sides trying to get supplies through the enemy to keep their forces in North Africa or Malta in supply. One thing that is rarely discussed is the port capacities for the destinations, which greatly affected the size and timing of convoys. In 1940, the two primary Axis ports, Tripoli and Benghazi, could only support off-loading five cargo ships or three cargo ships respectively. By December 1941, Tripoli had increase capacity to six or seven large ships, but Benghazi remained limited to three ships. These numbers were lowered even more by bad weather and enemy air attacks. This helps explain why Italian convoys were generally small and run more often than convoys to Malta. The final part of the chapter talks about the Italian Navy's fuel situation, which ended up limiting training, escort sizes, and operations against Malta convoys. 

 

With the stage set, the remaining chapters cover the action, starting with the arrival of Force K at Malta. The time period from the end of October through the middle of December 1941 was the high point of Royal Navy operations. During that time less than a third of the supplies shipped from Italian ports arrived in Libya. Shortages of ammunition and fuel forced the Afrika Korps to retreat four hundred miles. Then, in the space of thirty hours, this all changed. First, Italian naval forces broke the blockade by fighting through a major convoy that arrived in time to blunt the British advance; next, Force K plowed into a minefield that basically removed them from action; and finally, a daring attack by Decima (X) MAS, specialized Italian commandos, crippled the Royal Navy's battleships in Alexandria. The swing in fortune was immediate and dramatic. After this Axis forces would implement a blockade of Malta and maintain maritime superiority until the arrival of Anglo-American forces for Operation Torch in November 1942. 

 

Overall I found Six Victories to be a good read, especially for anyone interested in naval operations in the Mediterranean. Some of the battle descriptions are not as detailed as other books I've read, but the information on convoys and other operations more than make up for this. Vincent O'Hara has written a lot of interesting naval books and Six Victories is a good addition to that group.

 

From a wargamer's point of view, this book can provide some great ideas for setting up battles or a mini-campaign. It provides a good commander's eye view of the battles that can be used to implement some good "fog of war" rules for battle scenarios.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Looking Forward and Back

It has been a while since I last put up a post. Normally I would have been posting about the preparation and playing of my annual naval game - DANG (here's a link to last year's prep and game posts if you aren't familiar with DANG). However, the current COVID situation squashed that. 

 

So, what have I been doing? Well... not much. I've mostly been dealing with work and not finding much hobby motivation. I continued to mess around with some VASSAL and other computer games, but my miniatures projects have languished. 

 

As 2020 ends and we move on, it is time for the obligatory look back and ahead. 


A quick look back at 2020 

Most of my 2020 plans were focused on projects for Enfilade, the big local miniatures gaming convention. When that was cancelled, I didn't really have much to focus on. 

 

But my friend Kevin changed that by getting several of us involved in a 1/1250 scale pre-dreadnought project. My contribution to the project was a French squadron of battleships and cruisers. 

 

With indoor gaming opportunities being limited by COVID restrictions, I bought a pop-up canopy to set up for gaming on my lawn. 

 

This gave us a chance to have some small, socially-distanced gaming sessions through July, August, and September. This certainly helped make things a lot more bearable for me. 

 

The end of summer ended the lawn gaming (and is giving my lawn a chance to grow back) and since then, not much else has happened. 

 

Looking ahead in 2021

 So what is in the works for 2021? Right now I've got one new project in mind and then I will see which unfinished (or un-started) projects catch my eye. 

 

The new project I'm working on now is a 1/6000 scale Italian World War 2 fleet pack from Figurehead. The fleet pack includes all the battleships and cruisers, along with enough destroyers and escorts to fill out about any battle you would want to do. I will put some camouflage patterns on the ships, but I'm not really looking forward to painting red and white ID markings on the ships (especially for the destroyers and escorts). 

 

Other unfinished and un-started projects include (in no particular order):

  • Black Seas sailing ships. I have several frigates and brigs that are mostly painted, but still need the final mast assembly and rigging. I also have several unassembled 74s and more frigates/brigs. 
  • 1/300 coastal forces. While I bought a number of Warlord Games Cruel Seas ships, I was mostly able to limit my purchases to ships for the Black Sea/Baltic. I already have a lot of 1/600-700 scale ships for coastal force actions, but they were mainly for the North Sea, Channel, Mediterranean, and Pacific. So getting Russians and Germans works out.
  • 15mm tanks for North Africa. In 2019 I picked up a copy of What a Tanker from 2 Fat Lardies and have been slowly accumulating tanks. I like the game system, but I think it needs some more scenario drivers (other than just shooting up enemy tanks). 
  • Airplanes! I have a lot of unpainted planes and scenario ideas that I could work on. 

 

I also expect that I'll start some lawn gaming again once the weather turns nice in the spring. So discussions about what games to play will probably help determine what projects I work on. 

 

It looks like Enfilade 2021 will be moved from Memorial Day weekend (at the end of May) to Labor Day weekend (at the beginning of September). Hopefully things will be open enough to actually hold the convention. I expect to run the games I was planning for the 2020 convention then. But there is still time to finalize plans. 

 

As always, I try to remain flexible with my plans and expect there will be some new, bright/shiny game or object that will catch my attention.

 

While I know that it will be a while before things even start to get back to normal, I'm hoping for better days in 2021.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Bonus Battle on Lake Ontario

The weekend weather forecast was for warm sunny weather, so we planned to take advantage of the good weather to get in a bonus outdoor game. While the weather did not meet the forecast, we did get in the game. This time we brought out a blast from the past with Mark Waddington's scratch-built War of 1812 Lake Ontario ships. The ships made their last appearance at DANG 2012 and it seemed like time to pull them out again. This time we decided to try out the Form Line of Battle rules, using the Small Actions modifications for small and unrated ships. 

The British (left) and American (right) lines set up for action
The scenario had four ships from the British Lake Ontario squadron returning to their base at Kingston while five American ships moved to cut them off and force a battle. The Americans had a corvette (Madison), a brig (Oneida), and three schooners (Sylph, Scourge, and Hamilton).
American ships Madison (left) and Oneida (right)

American schooners (L-R) Sylph, Scourge, and Hamilton

The British had two corvettes (Wolfe and Royal George) and two schooners (Sir Sydney Smith and Beresford). The British ships were only armed with carronades, although most had some bow and stern chase long guns. Most of the Americans also had carronades, but Sylph and Scourge both had long guns as their main armament, with Sylph have three 32 pound cannons on pivot mounts. 

British line looking from the aft.

In Form Line of Battle (FLOB), each side has three phases - a Command Phase and two Action Phases. During the Command Phase a side carries out all their administrative tasks, such as reloading guns, fighting fires, cutting away fallen masts, and so on. In the Action Phases ships move, turn, and shoot, but a ship can only fire broadsides once per turn. The order of the phases is determined by card draw, with the first card draw for a side always being the Command Phase. This can lead to some interesting situations where one side gets to reload, move and shoot before the other side can reload. Additionally, movement distance is randomly determined per ship by rolling a number of D6 dice based on the ship's position to the wind. The ship can move the total of the dice or the distance of one die. The randomness of movement range makes it harder to keep ships in a line and the random movement order makes it tougher to plan your action. But, as I said, it does make for an interesting and unpredictable game. 

With our game setup, we started out with the British moving slow and trying to keep their line together. The American lead ship (Madison) rolled well for movement and decided to move quickly to block the British exit. The second ship (Oneida) tried to keep up, but this left the American schooners behind.

Madison blocking the way

With most of the ships armed with short-range carronades, the British decided turn on the schooners. 

The lead British ships (mid-left) turn toward the American schooners
They were able to close with the smaller schooners and hammer away at Sylph, causing the schooner to strike.
Sylph strikes after being blasted
The larger American ships were too far was to stop the attack, but quickly turned to close with the British.
Oneida watches as Sylph strikes
The schooner Scourge, after seeing what happened to Sylph, sped past the ships. But Hamilton's movement rows did not turn out as well, leaving her too close to the enemy as the British schooners caught up with the action.
Hamilton (center near the struck Sylph) in the middle of the British
Long-range (for carronades) fire from the larger American ships continued to concentrate on the Wolfe, the lead British corvette. But Wolfe was having problems of her own. In the FLOB rules you have to make a roll during the Command Phase to reload your broadsides and Wolfe had failed all reload attempts. So while she was doing good service by providing a target for the Americans, she was not doing any damage in return (Yes, I was running Wolfe and rolling badly). 

On the next turn Hamilton took the brunt of fire and struck too. But the British line was somewhat disorganized, with every ship acting on its own. 

Hamilton strikes after taking heavy damage
Madison and Oneida were still doing a good job of blocking the British exit. The British were not in good positions to support each other. 

Madison and Oneida (upper left) and Scourge (upper center) block the channel
Wolfe (damaged and still with unloaded guns) tried to make a run for the harbor, using one of the islands as a shield. 
Wolfe tries to limp away
Madison and Oneida blasted the British schooner Sir Sydney Smith and then turned to catch Wolfe. Wolfe finally reloaded her much diminished broadside, but the random turn order allowed the Americans to move and shoot first, finishing off British corvette.
Wolfe loses the last of her hull and strikes
The action was starting to wind down, but the American schooner Scourge and British schooner Beresford were still fighting it out. Scourge did get in front of Beresford, getting in one last shot before losing her last hull and striking.
Scourge gets in one final shot
At this point Royal George and Beresford decided to escape off the map, ending the game. The British lost two ships, one corvette and one schooner, and the others were damaged. The Americans lost three schooners and the brig Oneida was moderately damaged, but Madison was pretty much unscathed.
Madison and Oneida watching the retreating British
Overall, it was a fun game, even with my bad die rolling, and it was nice to get in a bonus outdoor game. The FLOB rules were easy to pick up and had some interesting twists. After the game we talked about using some of the Warlord Games Black Seas ships with the rules.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Philippine Finale

 As the calendar turns to Fall, we are coming to the end of lawn gaming season. But we were able to get in one more game on Saturday (despite an iffy weather forecast). This time Kevin brought his Philippine Insurrection (AKA Philippine-American War) game. Kevin had originally planned to run the game at Enfilade 2020, but since it was cancelled this was a good chance to get the figures out. 

Filipino Irregulars
Some Filipino irregulars set up to stop the Yankee imperialists

The game used Daniel Mersey's "The Men Who Would be Kings" rules, which led to a fast paced game. The Americans were making a three-pronged attack involving regular U.S. Army units, U.S. Volunteer units, and a naval landing party. The Americans trying to capture a Filipino supply cache and destroy as many Filipino units as possible, while limiting casualties. The Filipinos were made up of irregular and tribal troops with a wide variety of not very good weapons (except for melee combat). They are trying to delay the American advance and get as many supplies and units off the map as possible. 

Washington State Volunteers were pushing from the west
U.S. Army regulars with dismounted cavalry

We started out by going over the rules (most of us have played other Mersey rules, but these have a few different twists) and setting up the troops. With everything in place, we were ready to begin the battle. 

The battlefield and troops all set up. The Filipinos had to exit off the edge at the bottom of the photo

In the west, the Washington Volunteers began pushing the Filipino irregulars back, while the U.S. Army regulars pushed to close the escape route and the naval standing party steamed into the bay.

Volunteers on the attack
U.S. regulars move to push the enemy out of the rice paddies
The naval landing party (Marines and Sailors) coming in for a landing

The Filipinos had their tribal units (good in melee, but not ranged combat) picking up supplies to move off the board, while the irregulars tried to delay the Americans.

Filipino tribal infantry getting supplies and hoping to get into melee combat

American firepower did a lot of damage to the Filipinos in the open. Over in the rice paddies, the irregulars hid behind the berms, forcing the Americans to charge in to force them out. Meanwhile, some of he tribal units began making their way to the edge of the board.

Skirmishing continues in the west
Filipinos moving to escape
Army regulars clearing the paddies
Marines landing party being greeted by "friendly" natives

On the bay, the Marines were jumping off their boats and the Sailors had docked their gunboat and began unloading the Marine field gun. The Army and Volunteers continued to press the Filipino units back, but were taking their own casualties. 

Marines on the beach, ready to chase
The Marine field gun and sailors unloading
More fighting in the paddies

At this point, the Filipinos saw a chance to inflict some heavy casualties on the Americans as one tribal unit decided to turn around to attack the Marines, rather than getting the supplies off the board. 

Die Marine!

It looked like things were going to go bad for the Marines. The attack caused heavy losses, reducing the unit to half-strength and forcing it back. The situation did not looks good, but the second Marine unit was able to use superior firepower to stop and pin the Filipinos, giving the damaged unit time to recover.

Marine firepower blunts the attack

The heavy Marine firepower eventually wiped out the Filipino unit, leaving their supplies stuck on the battlefield.

Meanwhile the Army regulars drove off the Filipino irregulars, closing the easy retreat path. the Sailors moved to start taking long range shots at the other Filipino units.

U.S. regulars closing the door

The Washington Volunteers continued to press the Filipinos back to the regulars. 

Volunteers clearing out the bamboo forests

The situation was looking pretty bad for the Filipinos, but the still had some fight left in them. A tribal unit (with a fierce rating for extra melee bonus) slammed into an Army regular unit, wiping out the American unit. But American firepower again saved the day, pinning the tribal unit.

At this point things looked pretty bad for the Filipinos. They were surrounded and being pressed on all sides.

Filipinos caught in the crossfire of the Volunteers (left) and naval landing party (right)
Army regulars pin down the Filipino tribal unit

With most of their units pinned or destroyed and little chance of getting off the board, the Filipino players called it a game. They did get one unit off the board (although it was technically retreating) and killed an American unit. But they did not get any supplies off and most of their army was wiped out. So a pretty resounding American victory.

It was a fun game (at least from the American side) and it was great to see all of Kevin's figures and terrain on the table. 

We'll keep our eye on the weather for any more outdoor gaming opportunities, but we all expect this to be the last for a while. We are talking about next steps for games, but there are still a lot of variables out there. So it may be back to painting and in-progress work entries on my blog. Overall, I was really glad I bought the pop-up canopy and had the chance to do some lawn gaming.