Saturday, April 30, 2022

April Roundup

After a couple good gaming weekends in March, things slowed down in April. In amongst other things I had to take care of, I was able to paint up some ships and play a game of Saga.

Since this blog is named Naval Gazing, it seems best to start with the ships. I finally got back to working ships for the planned Battle of Lissa games (early playtest photos here). I have five ships I'm working on: Re Di Portogallo (that's the big one in the middle below), Ancona, San Martino (both Regina Maris Pia ironclads), Varese, and Palestro (the smaller ships). All the ships are 1/600 scale from Bay Area Yards. Here they are after the initial paint work. 

Lissa ships ready for fitting out
After the paint work, I started putting together masts for the ships. They didn't come with any, so I had to make my own out of plastic rod. Here are a couple of photo with masts.
All masted up

Grouped a little closer, so you can see the masts a little better

As far as I can tell, the ships were all jackass-barque rigged. Meaning they were partially fore-aft rigged and partially square-rigged. With the masts in place, the next step is adding ratlines and rigging. 

In the middle of the month, one of my gaming group said that they were putting together a Saga army. All of the sudden several others chimed in that they already had armies and it was off to a new project. The base rules of the game are pretty easy, the real meat of the game comes from the faction battle boards. The battle boards give each faction their own advantages and actions. Players roll Saga dice and place them on their battle board to activate units and gain advantages in movement and combat. Most of the group already had armies for the Viking era, so I decided to get in with a Norman army. I chose the Normans because there was only one other person in group with Normans and I thought they could always double as Crusaders. While my army was on order, I had a chance to play my first game with a borrowed army. We started with 4-player game with two Viking armies up against an Anglo-Saxon army and Norse Gael army. I was one of the Vikings and faced off against the Anglo-Saxons.

The setup from the Anglo-Saxon view
I had some archers, a couple warrior groups, and a couple Hearthguards (aka Hirdmen). I was the least experienced player and was just trying to figure out how everything worked together. I did start off with some good early shooting dice for my archers. 
My borrowed Vikings looking for some leadership
One thing I didn't appreciate when we started was how different the battle boards are. The Vikings are a pretty basic melee army. The Anglo-Saxons are more of a big unit, sit and wait type army (I'm sure more experienced players will tell me I'm wrong, but that was how this battle went). After my initial success with shooting, I moved in for melee and my dice went cold. I threw my forces against the Anglo-Saxon shieldwall and bounced back. I know I made some mistakes in my attacks (they were too spread out) and my poor understanding of my opponent's capabilities compounded my mistakes.
Now there are a lot fewer Vikings looking for a leader
It was good to try out the rules, but I'm glad I didn't get a Viking army. The Normans have more shooters and charge/melee options, which I think will better suit how I play games.

On a personal note, April was a little more challenging. I had some test results that concerned my oncologist, so I went in for a CT scan and bone scan. The scans showed that my cancer was growing again. My oncologist recommended we start a new chemotherapy series as soon as possible (I had my first series last summer after my initial cancer diagnosis). So, I'm back in treatment and it will last until late July. This series will use some more powerful chemicals. In addition to the normal fatigue side-effects, it will really affect my immune system. That means I'll have to avoid large groups of people (especially if they are a little sick) until August. So, I won't be able to attend the Enfilade gaming convention in May. I had been hoping to attend for the first time in 2 years (technically, the 2020 convention was cancelled), but no dice this year. I was planning to help out with the Lissa game and the group decided to post-pone it until I can be there to help out. Needless to say, my gaming will be somewhat limited until August. But I still plan on painting and getting in a few small game sessions.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Down Mexico Way

On Saturday a group of us got together for the first big battle with our Mexican - American War figures. We started the project late last summer (I talked about it some in this blog post) and there was a smaller battle in February (from Kevin’s blog), but this was the first time most of us had gotten figures on the table. We were using the Rebels and Patriots rules from Osprey for the game. 

Dragoon charge at Recasa de la Palma
U.S. Dragoons charge Mexican artillery at Resaca de la Palma (U.S. Army in Action series from wikimedia commons)

I set up a game area loosely based on the Battle of Resaca de la Palma. We had six players, three on each side. The Mexican left set up to defend a small trail, the Mexican center was on the southern side of the Resacas, near the small hacienda, and the right was set up in front of the Americans. On the American side, the right flank set up to engage the Mexicans defending the trail, the left flank moved to engage the Mexican right, and the center group (me) was split between the two.

Initial setup for the Mexican left

View from the Mexican center

The game started inauspiciously for the Americans, with my first activation roll for my artillery went badly, forcing my artillery to shoot at American troops (I only caused 2 casualties, but at the end of turn 1 I was the best Mexican General).

The Mexican left played aggressively on the trail, trying to cross the resacas. This tied up the American right flank troops and some of mine. The Mexican right effectively stood their ground, inflicting casualties as the Americans advanced

Americans attacking the trail defenders

Americans moving up the road

Fairly early in the game the Mexican right rolled a double activation and used his light cavalry to charge my artillery. The cavalry killed forced me back with no losses. But the next turn my gun did some damage and then the American dragoons finished them off.

Mexican light cavalry on the charge

The Mexican center patiently waited for the Americans to come into range.

Mexican center waiting for the Americans

While the Mexican left tried to advance but was met with a steady wall of firepower from the Americans.

Mexicans advancing up the trail
Americans taking on the Mexican left
More fighting near the trail

The Americans continued to move up on their left and center. I had difficulty with my activations most of the day (I even rolled another friendly fire incident with some of my infantry firing on my artillery). I did get a few good hits in, but could never force the Mexicans back, they always bent instead of breaking.

Americans advancing into the Mexican right
More Americans trying to get into action
The Mexican right waits for the Americans

As we were approaching the end of the game, the Mexican cavalry in the center tried to charge my disordered infantry but came up just short and then stalled while I rolled off my disorder and shot up the cavalry with infantry and artillery, forcing them to retreat.

Mexican center sniping at the Americans
Mexican cavalry barely fails to make contact
American fire drives off the cavalry

On the American right (Mexican left) the American finally cleared out the trail. But the Americans were not able to clear out the crossing with the main road. 

The Americans clear out the trail
Game end, the Mexican still hold the main road

The Mexican right and left were pretty decimated at the end of the game, but the Mexicans held all the objectives. So, it was a Pyrrhic victory for the Mexicans. 


Overall, the game played well. The Americans are sort of squeezed at the start, but the Mexicans have a lot of area to defend. We did use equal forces, which gave the Mexicans an advantage (most Rebels and Patriots scenarios only give the on-board defenders 2/3s of the attacking force points). But even with that everyone seemed to think it was worth trying again sometime. 


It was fun to see a project start and come to fruition before petering out. I expect we’ll see these troops out again for some more battles.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Battle at the Bridge

A few of us got together for a Rebels and Patriots American Civil War game today. The scenario was a variation of the Widow Creek Bridge scenario from the rules, adapted for more players. The Union force was still advancing to take a defended bridge, but we added a ford downriver to allow for a little more maneuvering. The Confederate starting had a hasty breastworks at the bridge, but had to spread out forces to cover the ford. Confederate reinforcements would enter on turn 2.

The bridge defenders behind their breastworks
Holding the bridge was worth 3 VP, holding the ford was worth 1 VP, and holding the farm was worth 1 VP. To hold an objective, no enemy force could be within 12" of the objective. At the start of turn 10, the Confederates would roll a die to determine if the game would end. If the die roll plus the turn number was 15 or more, the game would end at the end of the turn. 

I was on the Union with some veteran line infantry and a medium artillery piece. My job was to take the bridge. The other Union player had lighter forces and would take the ford. 

Confederate defenses at the ford

My artillery aims at the breastworks

Things went well for the Union for the first few turns. I used my artillery and veteran line troops to fire away at the bridge defenders. My fellow Union player got to the ford and was holding off the Confederate reinforcements.

Plunking away at the defenders

Rebel reinforcements

Facing off across the ford
After being battered by my artillery and troops, the bridge defenders failed a morale check and headed for the hills. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't able to take advantage of this before the Confederates moved an infantry unit up to cover the other side of the bridge.
Getting across the breastworks and onto the bridge

Same shot from the Confederate point of view

My Colonel was taken out by a rebel shot, which delayed me from charging across the bridge. My partner at the ford was starting to take heavier casualties as the Confederate reinforcements advanced. 

Trouble for the Union at the ford

At the beginning of turn 10, the Confederate player rolled a 6, so the game would end at the end of this turn. I charged across the bridge, hoping to take it for the win. I was successful in driving off the Rebels.

My veterans drive off the rebels
But the Confederates got the last move and moved troops within 12 inches of the bridge. So my victory was negated. The game ended with a minor Confederate. Overall, it was a fun scenario, with each side having good and bad die rolls. Everyone had good time and we are looking forward to getting in some more Rebels and Patriots games.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Playtest and Model Show

On Saturday a few of the guys came over to walkthrough and test out some ideas for a Battle of Lissa (1866) game that they want to run at Enfilade 2022. So we set up parts of the Italian and Austrian lines and went through a few rounds of gunfire and ramming for a couple sets of rules. They will use 1/600 scale ships from the old Bay Area Yards line. Not all the ships are complete yet, but tings are starting to look good.

Austrian Ironclads moving toward the Italian line

Italian lead group

We got a good idea of how the different rules played and settled on which set they will use for the game.

Ramming Re D'Italia

I also spent a little time at the Museum of Flight looking through some scale models from the Northwest Scale Modelers group. There were a lot of models to be seen, but unsurprisingly the show was dominated by aircraft models. It is always fun to look at all the models they have. I enjoy looking at the models and know that if I hadn't found miniature gaming I would be putting models together for shows like this. But it is much more fun (and acceptable) to play with the stuff I put together and paint up. Here are a few photos from the show.

Bf-109F Tropical

1/2000 scale USS Yorktown in pre-WWII colors

A scene from Dr. Strangelove

A nice Kasserine Pass diorama


1/72nd scale USS Scorpion

A rarely seen Vultee Vengence

An RAF Baltimore bomber

I haven't been getting out much, so it was nice to go to the museum and see some of my favorite aircraft, like the Sopwith Triplane. 

A reproduction Sopwith Triplane painted up as the Black Prince
It also gave me the chance to look at the military ramp near the museum. Where I just happened to see a batch of P-8 Poseidon aircraft being prepared for the Royal Norwegian Air Force. You can even see the squadron insignia on the tail (the lower photo has a closer view). It turns out these aircraft are destined to join 333 Squadron of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The squadron has an interesting history and the Saint emblem is a newish logo.

P-8 Poseidon

A better view of The Saint
Overall a good weekend.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Belated DANG 2 - Black Sea Battle

We played the second of the mini-DANG (Dave’s Annual Naval Game) games today. Those of you that follow the blog will remember the games were postponed due to snow. We were only missing one person for this session. Today’s game was World War 2 coastal forces action in the Black Sea. The Soviets have launched an amphibious attack across the Kerch Strait (Note: Historically would have been part of the Kerch–Eltigen operation in late 1943). Soviet naval forces are supporting the attack with supply runs, bombardment missions, and minelaying to prevent interference from the Germans. The Germans are trying to stop the Soviets, while providing their own naval support. We used David Manley’s Narrow Seas coastal forces fast-play rules to resolve today’s action and Warlord Games 1/300 scale Cruel Seas coastal forces with a few scratch-built merchants.

Soviet ships preparing for the operation

The Soviets had a Project 53-U (Fugas) class minesweeper, 2 Project 1124 Bronekater armored gunboats, a pair of MO-4 submarine chasers for escorts, and 3 merchant supply ships (Note: Historically the Soviets would have been using Project 165 landing craft, but I don’t have any of those right now and so the merchants are substituted in). The Soviets started on the east edge of the board and basically had to exit the merchants, Bronekater gunboats, and minesweeper off the west edge. They had the option of staggering their entry over the first 3 turns but chose to have everyone enter on turn 1.

Soviet forces

The Germans had a pair of S-boats (S-30 class) motor torpedo boats (MTBs), an AFP flaklighter, an R-boat motor minesweeper, and three Italian MAS MTBs (Note: Historically these boats were turned over to the Romanian when the Italians left the theater. In this game I gave them a random quality and 2 of the 3 crews were green). The Germans we tasked with stopping any Soviet support from getting through to the beachhead. The AFP flaklighter and R-boat started on the west portion of the board, the S-boats entered on the northwest edge on turn 1, and the MAS boats entered the southwest edge on turn 3.

S-boat on the prowl

We used hidden units and dummies for the game. I was trying to give the players a chance to hide their intentions and try to scout things out. But being normal gamers, they moved straight into action.

German hidden ship markers

The larger ships sighted each other pretty quickly. So, the Germans knew right where the Soviet supply ships were and also spotted the minesweeper, while the Soviets spotted the German AFP. Early shots by the big ships were fairly ineffective, with each side only doing light damage to the other.

Soviet supply ships

Soviet minesweeper
German AFP bristling with weapons

With the supply ships spotted, the S-boats made their way to intercept and fired their torpedoes. On the other side of the board, the MAS boats moved on and launched torpedoes at the minesweeper, while the other two too long-range torpedo shots at the supply ships.

S-boats launching torpedoes at the supply ships

MAS boat launches torpedoes at the minesweeper

The Soviets tried to evade the incoming torpedoes. One supply ship was able to turn bow-on to the torpedoes and both missed. The other supply ship and the minesweeper were not so lucky, with both taking hits and drifted to a halt (Wrecked in the game rules). Even with these losses, the Soviets still had the Bronekater gunboats and two supply ships that could complete the missions to win the game.

Torpedo hit!
Minesweeper sinking

With their torpedoes shot, the German S-boats and Romanian MTBs began a retreat. The S-boats looked at reloading their tubes. But it would take 5 turns at slow speeds to do it and the Soviets would be gone by then. The AFP continued to blast away at Soviet ships, but was not having much luck. The R-boat decided to try to drop some depth charges in the path of the supply ships, hoping to disable or sink them. But the R-boat had to fight its way through the MO-4 escorts. 

R-boat in close action with an MO4 escort

On the other side of the board, the Bronekaters caught site of the fleeing MAS boat that had torpedoed the minesweeper and hit it squarely with a 76mm round, sinking the little boat. 

Bronekaters blast the MAS boat

MAS sinking

The R-boat was able to get in front of the supply ships and started dropping depth charges. It narrowly avoided colliding with one of the supply ships (only the paint was scratched). However, the supply ships were able to make their way through the depth charge patterns with only wet decks. 

Near-miss on the collision

In the middle of the board a fight was developing between the AFP and the Bronekaters. The AFP’s bad rolls continued, and it couldn’t connect any good hits on the gunboats. While the gunboats were getting hits on the AFP. 

AFP faces of against the Bronekater gunboats

At this point we decided to call the game. There wasn’t much the Germans could do to stop the remaining supply ships from getting off the board and the AFP was having no luck against the gunboats. With this in mind we gave the Soviets a minor victory.

Overall, the scenario played out well. The Soviets could have delayed the entry of their supply ships to allow the other ships to deal with the Germans before they could get into torpedo range. But it is hard to argue with the plan that won the game.

It was a fun game and everyone had a good time and enjoyed the rules, which lived up to their billing of fast play rules. The Warlord ships look good on the table, I only wish they were coming out with some more useful ships.